January 28, 2015
The swamp eagle, which carried Jack in his serpent form, circled the giant dinosaur once and then flew toward the west. Since Jack had little control over where the eagle took him, he entwined himself around the creature’s legs and tried to enjoy the ride as best he could. It proved no easy task. The endless plain of gravel offered little to distract him and each gust of desert wind sent his stomach lurching.
After perhaps an hour of flight, Jack saw the pyramid topped city that had already caused him much distress. At first he thought he might be headed that way and dreaded the outcome, but the eagle veered to the south and avoided the city by a good half mile.
As the giant bird continued his flight to the southwest, Jack’s curiosity built. The desert of gravel was slowly being replaced by larger boulders. These in turn spread into shallow canyons and dry washes. Small mountains rose further south. They appeared more rugged and barren than the hills he’d seen to the north. Still anything seemed better than the empty rolling wastes.
The hills grew larger and more pronounced. As they swept up higher, Jack spied a primitive castle build into a large mountain. Thick rocks created an outer wall that protected an inner courtyard and several stone buildings. Behind the courtyard the mountain continued into large straight spires of rock.
He figured this was his destination, which was why it felt so strange when the eagle landed in the rough road a good hundred yards away from the castle’s granite doors.
Jack hesitated, but when the eagle gave no indication that it would be moving again, he slipped off the bird and resumed his human form.
His nearly naked body reminded him how this world had robbed him of his meager possessions and he sighed as evening fell onto the land.
A few moving forms on the wall confirmed that the castle held life, but they seemed in no big hurry to communicate with him. After an annoying five minute wait, the doors cracked open and two guards in black chainmail exited, but made no move toward him. A moment later a familiar figure passed between the guards and sauntered toward him like she got paid for every second she delayed him.
“Tynilia,” he said. “Nice to see you again. I’m glad you made it through our last adventure unharmed. As you can see,” he said, gesturing toward the shredded remnants of his clothes, “I faired less well.”
It had been quite the understatement, for Tynilia looked more like a high priestess and less like the servant girl he had met her as. A headdress of ebony feathers graced her olive skinned face. A tight black furred animal skin covered her hips and chest, if only barely. Jewels and gems clung to her wrists, ankles, and ears and matched the colorful lines of paint that decorated her exposed flesh.
When she didn’t reply, he said, “May I come in?”
“No, you may not.” Sensing his confusion, she went on, “I suppose I will need to explain it to you, since you haven’t figured it out for yourself. I’m not sure how much you know about Vile Darken’s incarnation and the individuals we call the Everywhere Heroes, but you should, since you are one of them.”
“I know more than you might imagine,” he said, while crossing his arms.
“Is that so?” She tilted her head slightly. “In that case you must know that no two of the same incarnations can come into close proximity to each other. If this happens, a reaction occurs that teleports each of them a good distance away from each other.”
“Wait, you hinted there was another of my incarnations here. Is that how I was rescued? The other…uh, me, was brought in close enough to the torture chamber that we were both sent flying?”
“Perhaps you aren’t as incompetent as you appear…” she eyed him, “But at this point that isn’t saying very much.”
After rolling his eyes, he said, “So I take it the other me is in there, so I can’t go in.”
“So then what is the game plan? Or do we not have one?”
“First, you will be given food, armor, and weapons.”
Looking less sure of herself for the first time since they had met, Tynilia said, “Then I am to bring you to the dark lords of the forest, my people, the followers of Tezcatlipoca.”
“So it is back to the jungles for me?”
“For now at least. We need to form an alliance if we are to have any hope of combating Vile and his army.”
Jack had seen Vile’s army and doubted much could stand in its way, but he kept such thought to himself.
Tynilia regarded him for another moment. “If we are in agreement, I will leave and return with supplies for you.”
“I agree to you proposal, what other choice do I have.” She turned to leave, but he yelled at her slim retreating form, “But do me a favor, bring me the closest thing you people might have to an ale, because I have a feeling its going to be a long cold night.”
January 12, 2015
Jack coughed out the dust caking his mouth and struggled to sit up. His body felt twisted and torn and he almost quit before getting to his hands and knees. Looking around did little to help. It appeared he had made it back where he had started this mess. He was into the middle of the endless desert of gravel that Mythcul had called The Flat Death.
Never had he been in worse shape both inside and out. The Ripperkah, under the rule of another damn Vile Darken, had tortured him to the edge of death several times, having him use nearly all his mystic strength just to stay on this side of breathing. He had kept a small amount hidden from them and he used this to heal himself as much as he could.
It proved enough to allow him to get to his feet. He could see nothing in any direction.
He wore little but the last tatters of his jeans. Gone were his boots and anything close to a weapon. But to be without water and food might have been the hardest blow. He had to face it. He’d lost the battle with Vile Darken on his world twice and now he’d lost to this world’s version of that dark beast.
Even shifting his feet hurt as the gravel dug into his arches. How the hell am I going to have any chance walking through this crap without any boots? Son of a…
Then he thought of something. How had he gotten here? He’d been about to be tortured by Vile himself, when he had vanished and reappeared here. Nothing like that had ever happened to him before. Someone must have aided me. That Tez girl, but how could she have such impressive powers. Wait, Devo can teleport and he is a follower of Tezcatlipoca.
A roar thundered over the plains. His body went rigid. Something must have caught his scent and it sounded like something huge. Within seconds another roar came and Jack could spy a dark shape hurling itself toward him. From what he could see, he had to figure it was another T-Rex or something close enough to it to not really matter too much to a weaponless man trapped in the open.
No use to even try to run. I could become a snake, but the thing could still sniff me out or crush me without trying. Still some chance is better than no…
The loud screech of a bird interrupted is thoughts. It was an eagle. During its next circle he saw the curved beak and bright green plumage. “Hey, buddy,” he cried out to the swamp eagle that brought him down from the mountains.
Another roar let him know they might only have seconds left. He looked over his shoulder and saw the dinosaur was closer than he’d thought. “I hope you’re thinking what I’m thinking,” Jack said. “We’re only going to get one chance at this.”
Dropping to the ground, Jack transformed into a Green Mamba. The dinosaur’s next roar sprayed thick strings of saliva, which splashed the ground around Jack’s serpentine form. As a snake, the dinosaur’s footfalls felt like the world was being torn apart. Jaws big enough to shallow an SUV reached down for him.
Seconds before they closed, the eagle swooped down and spirited Jack away. Now he just had to hope the eagle knew where it was supposed to be going.
To be continued next Monday
January 5, 2015
They must have somehow sensed he had gained conscious, for as soon as he did, five huge Ripperkah were sent into his black cell. Ripperkah favor edged weapons and they cut with savage stabs and thrusts. Soon almost every inch of him bled and the Xemmoni topped off their abuse with moral stabs to his stomach. Jack was forced to heal himself or die and then they would just start over again.
He quickly realized they were trying to get him to spend all his mystic reserves, so as the third beating drew to a close, he only healed himself just enough to stay alive. Perhaps figuring their job was done, the five scarlet covered Ripperkah spat on his near naked body and left the room.
He managed to get into a seated position and dragged himself through an inch of his own blood, which had collected on the floor. Taking in his surroundings didn’t leave him feeling any better. The cell itself, even the door, was constructed from what looked to be a single piece of black obsidian. He didn’t need to waste any resources checking to see in his Mold Nature spell would work on it. The substance felt completely corrupted and he knew from experience that his spells would be all but useless against it. The door looked as close to sealed as glass could get. He might have been able to sneak through as a small snake, but didn’t favor his chances of making-
The door slammed open revealing Vail Darken backed by enough Xemmoni to start a small war. Feathers, skulls and tattoos covered his body from crown to boots. For again only his knee high pirate boots and cutlass disturbed the image of him really being from this world, that, and the waves of reality melting power that emanated from him.
“Primus! You dog of light. Do not think that I am unaware of what has occurred in your world’s Boston and what you have fled from like the coward you are. It is because of you we still have this war, that we still have all of you! Dealing with one of you on this world is annoying enough, but to have to survive two. Such is intolerable,” a baby eating smile passed across his bearded face. “But will, in the case, luckily be short lived.”
“Can’t really knock a guy for engaging in self preservation.”
“Oh don’t even start with your heroic quips. I’m in no mood. All I need to know is where the scroll you have stolen is located.”
Jack knew that he had hid it in the last place they had camped before they had reached Mythcul’s village. He had been afraid that it could have been a beacon to guide others there and didn’t want to endanger them. He would have destroyed it if he could have, but the thing seemed indestructible. But he remained happy he had done something to it, for if it was still in his possession he, and many of the heroes fighting Vile across the Multi-Verse, might all already be dead.
“I left it in that tunnel that stretches between planes. You know, the one with all the round doorways. I’m sure a man such as yourself has been there.”
“Yes, of course I have, but I don’t believe even one as stupid as you could do such a thing.” He smiled again—a smile which spoke of agony, misery, the end of all things good. He leaned in closer and Jack saw the insanity that leaked from his dark eyes. “You know out of all of the everywhere heroes, I think I might hate you the most.” He pulled a jagged obsidian knife from his belt. “I’m really going to enjoy this.”
But before Vile could inflict his first cut, the world around Jack exploded in a prismatic ball of bright light. One moment he was about to bleed out his life, the other he lay face down in the dust of a sand driven desert.
Again he managed to get himself into a seated position. No one was near him. Nothing was near him. In every direction an infinitive stretch of nothingness stretched.
Forcing his abused body to his feet, he said, “Ah… I guess this is an improvement?”
To be continued next Monday