It wasn’t long before I saw something galumphing through the grasses with the gait of a bear, though on Earth you don’t get bears weighing in at about a thousand kilos. Of course I recognised it, who hasn’t seen recording of these things and the other weird and wonderful creatures of that world? The gravcar view drew lower and kept circling above the creature. Eventually it seemed to get bored with running, halted, then slumped back on its rump to sit like some immense pyramidal Buddha. It opened its composite forelimbs into their two sets of three ‘sub-limbs’ for the sum purpose of scratching its stomach. It yawned, opening its big duck bill to expose thorny teeth inside. It gazed up at the gravcar with seeming disinterest, some of the tiara of green eyes arcing across its domed head blinking as if it was so bored it just wanted to sleep.
A poor looking specimen, about the size of a Terran black bear, its head was bowed low, the tip of its bill resting against the ground. Lying on the filthy stone beside it were the dismembered remains of something obviously grown hastily in a vat – weak splintered bones and watery flesh, tumours exposed like bunches of grapes. While Jael watched, the gabbleduck abruptly hissed and heaved its head upright. Its green eyes ran in an arc across its domed head, there were twelve or so of them: two large egg-shaped ones towards the centre, two narrow ones below these like underscores, two rows of small round ones arcing out to terminate against two triangular ones. They all had lids – the outer two blinking open and closed alternately. Its conjoined forelimbs were folded mummy-like across the raised cross-hatch ribbing of its chest, its gut was baggy and veined, and purple sores seeped in its brown-green skin.
The creature was sitting in a stand of flute grass and in this pose its body was pyramidal. Its three pairs of forelimbs were folded monkishly over the jut of its lower torso, one fore-talon of one huge black claw seemingly beating time to some unheard song. Its domed head was tilted down, its duck bill against its chest. Some of its tiara of emerald eyes were closed. Obviously it was taking time out to digest its latest meal, the bones of which lay neatly stacked beside it.
The big gabbleduck was lolloping through the flute grasses.
“Moves like a grizzly bear,” he observed.
She marched forwards and round until she was standing directly in front of the creature. It was indeed massive: folds of flesh hanging down from its body and almost concealing its powerful rear limbs. When it moved through the flute grasses its three sets of two forelimbs slotted neatly together to form two composite forelimbs so it seemed to run on all fours like, as Jonas had observed, a bear. Now those forelimbs were folded on its chest, and sat like this it seemed some immense alien Buddha.
Its head was level with me. Anders chose that moment to groan and I quickly slapped my hand over her mouth. The creature was pyramidal, all but one of its three pairs of arms folded complacently over jut of its lower torso. In one huge black claw it held the remains of a sheq. With the fore-talon of another claw, it was levering a trapped bone from the white holly-thorn lining of its duck bill. The tiara of green eyes below its domed skull glittered.
The arm folded out and out. The wrongness I felt about it, I guess, stemmed from the fact that it possessed too many joints. A three-fingered hand, with claws like black scythes, closed on the blimp anchor and pulled. Seated on the peak, the gabbleduck looked like some monstrous child holding the string of a toy balloon.
“Brong da lockock,” it said.
Scrolling the text down moved the scene along to soon reveal the creature itself: it squatted in the grasses like some monstrously insectile hybrid of Buddha and Kali, with a definite splash of Argus in the ocular region.
At this point, the gabbleduck, with its multiple arms folded on its triple-keeled chest, turned its array of green eyes upon the pious brother.
Easing herself higher, Eldene peered in the direction Fethan was pointing. In the moonlight, it did not take her long to discern that something was nosing along the edge of a patch where the grass grew thickest. All she could see for a moment was a body like a boulder and a long duck bill swinging from side to side, then the creature reared onto its hind legs, opened out its sets of forepaws from the wide triple keel of its chest, and blinked its tiara of greenish eyes as it prepared for its latest oration.
“Y’floggerdabble uber bazz zup zupper,” it stated portentously.
The gabbleduck appeared as a pyramidal monstrosity looking down on the little man.
Stanton began to bring his stolen aerofan down into thick flute grass, saw something large thundering towards him with what he felt were not the best intentions, and quickly jerked the column up and away to get out of range. A great flat beak clapped shut with a sound like a mat being beaten on concrete. He caught a glimpse of an array of glowing green eyes below a domed head, the muscled column of a body with more limbs than seemed plausible, and a whiff of quite horrible halitosis. Pulling away, he heard something that sounded like someone swearing in a quite obscure language.
Cormac observed the curving row of slightly luminous green eyes set into the white dome of the creature’s head, as it watched them move on past it. When it was upright like this, those eyes were perhaps three metres above the ground. The claws terminating its multiple forearms were the size and shape of bunches of bananas, only bananas made of obsidian and sharpened to points glinting in the morning light.
The gabbleduck was mountainous: a great pyramid of flesh squatting in the flute grasses, its multiple forearms folded across its chest, its bill wavering up and down as if it was either nodding an affirmative or nodding off to sleep. It regarded Blegg with its tiara of emerald eyes ranged below the dome of its head.
The gabbleduck stretched out one limb and opened out a hand composed of talons like black bananas.
Mika now turned to see the massive pyramidal shape of a gabbleduck, squatting right at the centre of the grated floor, its multiple forearms folded across its chest, its bill dipped onto its chest. It gazed at Dragon with a tiara of emerald eyes ranged just below the naked dome of its head, then turned slightly to fix its gaze on Mika.