An ancient terror from across the Deadly Desert would return to make footfall in Oz... and our heroes Yunoo the mysteriously gifted and Clunks the seasoned traveler are here to make it so! but will require assistance from the most reluctant of villains...
Amongst other major projects in the works by Charles Shearer is this third entry in his Oz series of all-ages illustrated prose, founded on and continuing the work of L. Frank Baum. With the turns of the plot mapped out and a few chapters written in full, much remains before this book will see completion. A sampling of presentable bits is presented on this webpage for your perusal...
If the noise could be spelled in our language ...which it can not... then the series of letters would now be presented.
Instead, it will simply be explained that the sound was the idle snarling of a terrible and ferocious beast, passing through the rustling underbrush without a single bit of regard for stealthiness. In fact, this creature was 'loud' to the eyes, as well: its bold pattern of pitch-black and vibrant yellow fur was in sharp contrast with the blue tint of this lush locale's grass and leaves.
But let us not fault this brutish predator for such lack of concern, for there was no need in this secluded pen: any traveler who might be hapless (or hopeless) enough to set foot therein would first have already ignored the posted warning signs on the ridge above, and then nevertheless climbed over the gate and descended the ladder into the forested canyon which served as the enclosure.
How remarkable, then, that such a person did arrive on this day! and the imprisoned Beast of the Canyon could not have been more pleased about it. With astonishment, the creature had spotted the visitor as a silhouette on the ridge high above, watched the fool descend the ladder, and was now hungrily approaching the poor fellow.
The hunter and the hunted were staring each other in the eyes. The beast then lumbered its massive bulk upward to stand upon its hind legs, displaying the entirety of its formidable size. Lunging forward, the beast was now trampling at speed over the remaining distance. In merely a few moments more, a gruesome scene was sure to occur.
The apparently hapless trespasser's response to the launch of this onslaught, I must say, was underwhelming: he simply held up a shield which was no bigger or sturdier than the lid of a saucepan. This modest martial implement, in truth, was not even worthy of withstanding a sword-blow from an average human, let alone the teeth and claws of a massive monster on the rampage.
And no tooth or claw did touch it. Stumbling and sliding to a halt, the beast set its forepaws heavily upon the ground and wore a baffled countenance. It looked ahead, and then to the sides, as well as making several glances behind itself and even upward at the ladder on the canyon wall. As these views were not helpful in dispelling the confusion, the beast then sat down with a thud, beginning to feel quite embarrassed.
"What was I doing, just now?" the creature asked himself, in a growly voice. "If I wanted to practice my pouncing... all well and good! but I would have informed myself in advance."
The Beast of the canyon then gave a sigh, adding: "At least no one witnessed this."
But of course, you and I both know that someone had indeed observed the entire performance: the visitor was still in attendance, though apparently unseen and forgotten, holding the minuscule shield toward the monster.
The beast was still pondering aloud with snarly mutterings, believing himself to be quite alone and thus not overheard: "I excavated some nice cheddar from the mine, then I re-sharpened my claws on the northwestern-most cornbread tree... but that was nearly three minutes ago. How can I offer no account of such a length of time? Simply unprecedented!"
Several times, the monster turned and began walking away. But on each instance of this, the noise of footsteps and rustling foliage caused him to excitedly turn again toward the source of the disturbance, whereupon he found nothing of notice and had suddenly forgotten his purpose.
"Oh, goodness!" the perplexed creature commented aloud. "I must be losing my mind, from being eight years and ninety-two days a resident ...or prisoner... of this locale. I might again become light enough to climb out via the ladder, if only the edibles here were not so delectable and entirely undefended."
Entranced by his own mere mention of the canyon's natural foodstuffs, he closed his eyes and thought about how the pancake-batter spigot never runs dry, and how well the salt-begonias complement the peppercorn-stalks, and how the baked-potato tree so conveniently droops over the butter pond. He took in deep whiffs, smelling all of these ingredients, as well as the great many other ones which the canyon offered... as well as one which it did not:
"Meat!?" the creature exclaimed. "Why, I did catch wind of a rare morsel, to-day! But it was five-and-a-half minutes ago, when I noticed the meat-creature descending hither. Whatever became of it?"
Still with his eyes closed and now relying not one bit on his sense of sight, he sniffed the air in every direction, actively seeking the quarry in question through scent alone.
"It was here... and still is!" the creature bellowed between deep, deliberate breaths. "Alive. Male. Not an animal. Nor exactly an Ozite, either. Getting farther away. Running! Climbing!"
With drool trailing behind him and his eyes still closed, the monster burst forth at full speed, following the meat-scent and the scuffling noises. Reaching the base of the ladder, he opened his eyes to look upward, but neither saw nor heard anything of interest. If only he could have perceived what was on the ladder, just barely within the reach of his mighty claws, he would have been quite interested, indeed: the trespasser was gripping the ladder with one hand, and holding out the little shield with the other.
The monster was quite perplexed, in regard to what had been happening during the last few minutes; he could offer himself no rational account for why he was staring at the ladder from such close proximity, nor why the fur of his chin was matted with drool.
"That settles it: I have gone completely bonkers in here!" the Beast of the Canyon lamented. "Must be Food Madness. Starting on this very day, I am embarking upon a strict regiment of greens, and nothing else, to reduce my girth to an escape-worthy weight."
The sizable brute then happened to glance aside, making a pleased snarl upon noticing that a donut bush was beautifully in bloom.
He added: "Or to-morrow."