March 28, 2016
The remaining four members of the team sat around a shallow campfire in silence. They had found a small cave just big enough to fit them, but not big enough to keep out the howling wind and the bitter cold.
No one spoke. The loss of Huth had hit them all hard. Jack was no exception. Huth was the first person he met on this strange world that hadn’t tried to kill him. They had problems getting along at first, but in the end the both grew to respect each other, but now he was gone.
He looked over at Tynilia, who had at least stopped weeping, but still rejected any attempt he made at comforting her. Shadowknife and Stalker kept up a silence bordering on the profound. He couldn’t say he was sorry, when Stalker mumbled something about trying his hand at hunting again, and Shadowknife joined him. Yet as soon as they were gone, he realized that this left him alone with Tynilia. He wondered what she might have expected from him and wondered even more if he had what she needed.
He felt relieved when she broke the silence. “Do you still think we have any hope of finding the Lava Dragons?”
“We’ve gone through so much. We have to be close now.”
A humorless laugh escaped from her. “Close… how can you say that? We can’t even be sure they still exist and even if they do, there’s no real reason they should help us. Hell and balls, there’s no real reason they shouldn’t just eat us.”
Jack gazed into the fire as he spoke. “I guess it comes back to, we have to try. If there is a chance that it could work, we have to try. We’re talking about the fate of your whole world here. If we don’t stop Vile now, he’ll become unstoppable soon enough.”
She also refused to look his way. “How do we even know if the villages are still there? We might be struggling to rescue people that aren’t still alive.”
“I’m sure there are more people on your planet and they all need saving too. Left unchecked, Vile will destroy all that’s decent and good on this world and then just drain it of all isn’t energy and resources so he can use them to move on to the next place. Unchecked, he will leave the whole Multi-verse in ashes.”
“Sometimes I wonder if that might be what we deserve.” He sighed. “We struggle and struggle and then what, just grow old and die. Maybe it would be better if we didn’t exist at all.”
His mouth felt dry and no words came easily. “Perhaps the struggle is what life really is. The desire to strive, do better, make things better.”
“Well, I think it just sucks. I…”
She paused looking past him. Outside the night had just begun to blanket the land. Her voice became a whisper. “Jack, what’s that behind you?”
He turned. In the distance, he saw that one of the mountains glowed in a fiery light.
His voice dropped too. “Looks like an active volcano. We couldn’t see it during the day. There on the side, it looks like lava is flowing. That has to be it. They both stood and she let him embrace her. “We found it Tynilia. We found it!”
“Now we just have to do the impossible.”
To be continued next Monday
March 14, 2016
Jack tried to think quickly as he and Tynilia watched the colossal robotic machine chase Huth across the tundra toward them. There had to be something he could do to destroy it, but nothing came to mind. He had already discovered that his Earth powers of Yig proved limited when trying to work on the frozen ground. He could still use his abilities on snow, but the wind had blown most of the snow away from the western slope.
Two explosions ripped through the mountain silence. One landed behind Huth, but the other hit only a dozen feet from where Huth sprinted up the slope. Jack watched in horror as his only remaining ally of Yig spun in three circles before his body slammed into the frozen ground.
Thankfully Huth still had the strength to return to his feet and continue his mad run toward them.
“What the hell was that?” Tynilia cried.
“It’s called a missile and they’re closer to the types of weapons one might see on my world.”
“Glad I’m not from your world, but how can we save Huth?”
Before he had a chance to answer, he saw two dark forms flying at the massive construct. Stalker and Shadowknife started off their attacks with offensive spells, but neither of their mystic assaults appeared to have hurt the thing. They switched to flinging spears at the giant robot, but might as well have been tossing beans against a tin can for all the harm they appeared to be doing.
Two more missiles crashed into the mountainside near Huth. He was knocked off his feet again and took longer regaining his footing this time.
“He isn’t going to make it,” Jack said through clenched teeth.
“Hell, I don’t think any of us are going to make it,” she called back.
Jack slammed his axe into the earth. “I have an idea, but you aren’t going to like it.”
“I wouldn’t have expected it any other way.” As spoke, he saw that the robotic thing had stopped firing missiles as he closed the gap between it and Huth. Soon its one hundred foot strides would eat up any head start Huth had gained.
“I’m going to become a snake and I want you to fly over that thing and drop me on its head.”
“Are you out of your mind?”
“Probably,” he replied, but then started to transform himself into a serpent before she could have time to argue.
He lost track of the battle as his body shrank and his sense of hearing disappeared, but he had no trouble feeling the vibrations of the machines huge footsteps and the felt damn close.
Just as he figured he was about to be smashed into a ribbon of guts, his body was swooped up seconds before the ground fell away. Tynilia’s flying proved to be a wilder ride than he would have liked. They arced through first missile and then a stream of scarlet flame. He wanted to cry out, but could find the breath to hiss as they passed through a cloud of inky smoke and almost ran into the forty foot arm of the massive robot.
Eight seconds later, Jack felt himself falling. Looking down, he saw the head of the construct rushing toward him. The robot’s body proved to be so unexpectedly hot that he almost lost control and slid off, but with a combination of tail and fang, he held onto the head of the thing. Once he had a grip, he returned his form to that of a human.
The wind rushed by him and he struggle to maintain his hold on the back of the metallic monster’s head.
And that’s when the machine exploded.
The only thing that kept him from being incinerated instantly was the explosion had occurred in the lower part of its body. The shockwave sent him spinning through air in insane circles.
The whole thing had been a trap and as he started to plummet toward the frozen ground two hundred feet below, he wondered if that would be the last thought of his life. As he fell, the extent of his wounds became evident. Most of his body was covered in second degree burns and much of his armor and supplies had been destroyed.
Something slammed into his back like a brick wall and he gasped out as he was pulled up by his armpits while only a dozen feet above the earth. “Got you,” Shadowknife said with a grunt.
Figures, saved by a Xemmoni, he thought to himself.
Shadowknife flew him to where Tynilia wept as she kneeled before the still form of Stalker. He felt the heat of the fire wash over him as he drew near and it caused his burns to blaze with more pain. Once they set down, Jack could see that Stalker looked like he still breathed. So what was…
Then he guessed it. Huth had been caught in the explosion, nothing of him was left. As Jack watched the fire burning away the permafrost, he said quietly, “Half of us gone.”
From behind Shadowknife added, “And then there were four.”
His statement only made Tynilia cry louder.
To be continued next Monday
March 7, 2016
The first thing Jack sensed upon regaining consciousness was the heat and crackle of a fire. He moaned as the full extent of his injuries began to hit in like a tumble down a cliff.
“Oh, you’re awake,” Tynilia voice said, “Lucky thing you aren’t the only healer in the group or you’d have never woken up.”
He moaned. “I feel this bad after being healed?”
“Go ahead and heal yourself more, if you have to, but save some for me. Huth used most of his on you and Shadowknife’s skills were stretched pretty thin trying to help the rest of us.”
Sitting up, he saw she was the only one that shared the fire with him. The sun was just painting the western sky with a sea of violet clouds. The snow covered pass had taken on an indigo sheen, which faded into a pale turquoise as he watched. They must have moved him to a space between a cluster of man high black stones and a good sized pile of firewood rested near the small blaze. Most of the men’s gear also land in piles about their new camp.
“So everyone else is alright?”
“For the most part. There was some argument over whether the Yeti-men should be skinned and/or eaten. In the end Shadowknife and we Tezcatlipoca follows outvoted Huth and the other men when back to do the deed, while Huth set himself to collecting fire wood.”
Jack didn’t speak for a moment and it was Tynilia that broke the silence. “With every delay, I can’t help but wonder if The Darken’s forces have reached my village or maybe destroyed the enter resistance.”
“Well, that other me, seems to be a pretty crafty fellow, hopefully he’s keeping the majority of his forces where they can’t be easily reached.”
“Yes, this world’s incarnation of you does have some skills.”
“It must be strange to know, well intimately, two versions of the same man.”
He saw a grin she failed to conceal. “It’s had its advantages too.”
“Care to try to make use of some of those advantages before they others get back. It’s been a while since we were alone.”
She laughed. “I thought you said you were wounded.”
“I’m feeling better.” Jack moved a bit closer to her and the fire. “Now, just let me heal myself a bit and-”
A shout interrupted him. It sounded like Huth. Even though he could finally understand the man’s native language, he seemed to be yelling something that didn’t translate well.
“That doesn’t sound good,” Tynilia said as they both rushed to their feet.
He healed them both as they hurried out of the ring of stones.
They both stopped in their tracks for neither could believe what they saw. In the foreground Huth sprinted toward them as fast as the snow covered mountain would allow, but what loomed behind him caused Jack to wonder if he wasn’t still asleep and having a nightmare by the fire.
Crashing through the snow was some type of automated machine. It was roughly human in form, but its chest had a wide rectangular shape and round arms which ended in fingers almost as long as Jack stood tall. The thing, which should not have been allowed to exist on this primitive world of magic, stood over a hundred feet tall.
“Vile must have sent it after us. I heard rumors he trades creatures and technology with his incarnations on other worlds.”
“How do we stop it?”
“I have no idea.”
To be continued next Monday