November 14, 2016
For an amount of time impossible to measure, Jack remained nothing—Spread atoms, at one with the Multiverse. He wondered if he’d ever reform, but when the bliss of creation wrapped his essence in its warm arms, he wondered if he wanted to.
Then he slammed into the pavement so hard his body rolled until he came to a halt with his back against a bench in the middle of a sunlit avenue of shops.
An older woman rushed up to him. “Oh my, are you alright,” she begun, but then moved back upon seeing his strange layers of armor along with the huge war hammer strapped to his back.
He tried to clear his head, but random colors compromised his vision and he couldn’t think clearly. Through the fog, he did realize the woman as well as the other people lingering about hadn’t gone all, ‘Invasion of the Bodysnatchers’ on him yet.
Using the bench, he managed to get his feet under him. Others gave him peculiar glances and he realized if an officer showed up the chances of all humanity turning on him again would be high.
He stumbled away. Under the glare of the sun, he felt like an out of place freak. Dozens of people shopped and made their way to their jobs, while he looked like a reject from a Renaissance fair.
Spying a break between shops, he made for it and came out into a large parking lot. People still strolled about, but he felt less under a microscope. As his vision cleared, he spotted a sign for the Lexington Pharmacy.
Rubbing his forehead, he said, “Ahhhh, I’m twenty miles out into the suburbs.”
A small strip of woods ran along the other side of the parking lot and he made for it.
As he power walked to the comforting green, his mind went back to how he had arrived here.
Obviously, this isn’t my home world if for no other reason I encountered an incarnation of myself. Then his gut clenched. Tynilia. What will they be doing with her? Phillip seemed nice enough, but the other Jack’s woman looked fierce, she might not take kindly to her man being blasted into atoms and flung across Boston.
I need to get back there.
Reaching the woods, he discovered it was an urban trail. Even as he stood there, joggers and bicyclists cruised by.
“Excuse me,” he said to one of the passing people. He’d picked a younger man and the fellow regarded him, like Jack must have been half mad.
He chuckled, “Yeah, dude, what’s the matter lost your directions to the costume party?”
“Pretty much, but can you tell me what direction this bike path goes?”
“Uh yeah. If you go left you’ll head down into Concord and Acton. Head right and you’ll end up in Boston eventually.”
“Thanks,” Jack nodded and after readjusting the hammer on his back took up a slow jog toward Boston.
Come Back next Monday for more of Jack’s Brand Spanking New Adventure!
November 7, 2016
Jack and Tynilia kept to the alley and back streets, but every time they encountered someone, the individual or group would turn their way and give them a glassy eyed stare before walking in their direction.
“Jack, I’m really reconsidering my choice to accompany you back to our planet,” she said, as they jogged past a group of cooks smoking behind a restaurant. Each of the men dropped their cigarettes and started to powerwalk after them.
“Yeah, it doesn’t seem like we’re trapped in a zombie movie, minus the gore.”
“What’s a movie?”
“Never mind, but I hear what you’re saying,” he said as he grasped his lover’s hand and took them down a narrow alley to their left. “I just need some answers. If this somehow is my world, then it would be my duty to save it.”
He stopped and looked back at the gathering crowd of eighty people on their trail. His hands rose while he chanted a few words under his breath.
“And if it isn’t your world?”
Summoning the strength of Yig, he felt thankful, his God’s presence remained, but it did feel weaker than usual. Whatever planet he might be on, the Stalwart Gods appeared to be losing.
“If it isn’t my world…” a wall of earth erupted through the pavement and blocked the end of the alley. Sand a gravel rained down, but for the moment they had stopped their pursuers. He turned to her, “I like the idea of helping every decent world in their battle against Vile and I’m happy I was able to help turn the tide against that bastard on your planet, but if this isn’t my world… I think I’m inclined to leave. My own planet needs me. After I help my world, if I can, then we’ll worry about being intergalactic Stalwarts,” he grabbed her hand and they took off at a half run, “but until then, I need to get home.”
“I hope this isn’t your world then.”
* * *
Although it remained early, Phillip’s pub, the Baccanaght, was open. Jack grabbed the handle and rushed in. A few boozehounds drank at the bar and within shaded booths. A few working men looked like they’d dropped in for a liquid lunch.
Everything within Baccanaght gleamed in various tones of tans and browns. Jack could feel the mystic strength which flowed through the place and as he led Tynilia between the pool tables to the bar, he noted the costumers within the establishment didn’t look at them any stranger than normal people should when confronted with a sexy Mayan sorceress and a tall man wearing armor with a four-foot hammer strapped to his back.
“Jack! By the wine soaked beard, what in Hades happened to you?” Phillip called at them from behind the bar. His concern blossomed into a smile. “And who’s this lovely young flower of darkness?”
“Darkness,” Tynilia said, placing her small hands on her hips.
“Well you do follow Tez,” Jack said under his breath.
“True,” she said, while looking around. “So far this is the best place you have taken me to.”
“Glad to hear it,” Phillip said with a warm smile and placed a glass of wine on the bar in front of her. Jack received a pitcher of Harpoon and a clean glass.
He released a breath he hadn’t know he’d been holding and the couple sat at the bar.
Phillip let a few sips make it into their tired forms before he said, “So ah, Jack, you need to fill me on what happened to you. Who’s your beautiful new friend and why are you, uh, wearing armor, my brother.”
Seeing his friend and being within the mystical safety of Baccanaght helped Jack relax, but he still wasn’t too sure how far he should go with his explanation. Tynilia stared at him as he began.
“Well you remember when we went up against Vile Darken in the commons? What did you see that night?”
“Vile who? What battle?” He chuckled. “Did you start drinking before you came here.”
His stomach clenched. Phillip seemed the same, but something remained off.
Jack tried to cover his tracks and allowed himself a half-laugh. “You like my act so far. Ty and I will be performing in a LARP near Quincy Market. You know, it always helps to make a few extra bucks.”
“Um, okay. I thought you were about the last person I knew who is hurting for money though.” Phillip gazed at him for a long moment. “Jack, I like the new look, I really do.” His eyes quinted, “but how did you get your hair so much longer?”
“Yig allows me to…”
“Oh yeah, the Yig thing.”
At least he knows who Yig is, Jack mused and took another sip of his ale.
Behind him the door to Baccanaght opened.
Tynilia looked back before he had a chance. “Oh no Jack, JACK! Look out, run!”
Whipping around, he had just enough time to see a couple had entered the pub. The woman was a gorgeous young brunette with a slim body and an easy stride. But with her was…him. Another Jack Primus, in his usual outfit of leather, jeans, and boots.
Then it hit him. Reality twisted. He knew two incarnations couldn’t occupy the same space, but had never experienced what happened when they did and he heard Tynilia cry out as his existence tore apart and was he flung out into the Multiverse.
Come Back next Monday for more of Jack’s Brand Spanking New Adventure!
October 24, 2016
The half-jog through the busy streets of Boston while covered with medieval weapons and garb, proved to be anything but easy. They avoided the police, various gangs, and drunken jocks when they could, but had a few close calls.
While moving through the streets, something felt off to Jack. He couldn’t put his fangs on it, but he noticed small things. He hadn’t remembered as many video screens in the streets. The small screens played the news while he waited for a red light to change. Could we have somehow landed back on Earth, but in the future? Maybe there’s a difference in how time moves on the various worlds. But-
Tynilia drew him back to the present. “What sort of magick causes these squares full of people to talk? Are they real people shrunk in there or do people use necromancy to trap ghosts within?”
She was getting a few strange looks, but then again they’d gotten such throughout the whole walk. He shifted his war hammer, which might have made Thor jealous, and grasped Tynilia’s hand when it became time to cross the street.
“I’m starting to understand things. The white glyph means continue and the orange hand indicates to continue would mean being crushed under the square death eaters.”
“You were the one that told me that your people fuel the metal boxes on the remains of dead animals.”
“Yeah, I guess that’s right.” He maintained his hold on her small hand. “Around here though, you’d be better off calling them cars.”
They had to move off Commonwealth Avenue and head south to get to Phillip’s Tavern. He had just turned in the right direction when they rounded a corner and almost bumped into two thick set police officers.
“Hold on here, boyo. It isn’t Halloween yet.” He had a few inches taller than his partner and sported a thick mustache.
“Yeah,” the second said. “I’m going to need to scan you.”
For once Jack felt as confused as Tynilia for he had no idea what was being asked of him.
“Come, laddie,” the second cop said. “Pull out your personal.”
Jack remained confused, “My personal?”
“What, you hawked it so you could dress up like some renaissance fair reject?” This caused them both to chuckle, but then their mood turned serious as the taller one ordered, “Alright, we tried to play nice, hands on the walls and spread em.”
“Did he just suggest we have sex with them?” Tynilia demanded. “How foul. You are a horrid man.”
“And you are about to meet some horrid women after I lock you up. That’s it Bernie, cuff them.”
“By the scaly,” Jack started as the beefy cop grabbed him. He fought back against the man for a moment and then said, “Screw it,” and dropped him to the pavement with a single punch to the jaw.
“Don’t kill him, Ty.”
She nodded, drew her spirit dagger and smashed the man on the top of the head with the pummel. The second cop joined the first unconscious on the pavement.
Then something odd happened.
Every person within sight, stopped what they were doing and stared their way. A moment later they all began to power walk toward them.
“I don’t like this.”
“This is your world?” She asked. “Why were you in such a hurry to return? So far I can’t say I’m enjoying my stay.”
“I’m starting to wonder…” He drew closer to her. “How about you teleport us as far as you can that way.”
“I thought you said such displays would damage these people’s minds.”
Jack looked at the glazed over eyes of the dozens of people heading their way. “Somehow, I don’t think it’s going to matter.”
Tynilia moved in and embraced Jack. A puff of inky smoke surrounded them for a moment and then they reappeared a few blocks to the south.
“We’re close to my friend’s place. Let’s just get some answers from him.”
Tynilia looked at a new group of pedestrians who stared their way briefly before power walking toward them. “Yes, we’ll either get some answers or have to kill him.”
Come Back next Monday for more of Jack’s Brand Spanking New Adventure!
October 3, 2016
Tynilia’s hand found his as she looked on in awe at the buildings which towered over the pair. Even though Jack had seen many of the larger cities in the US and had lived in Boston more than a while, after his stay of such a different, low-tech world, the sight of such a bustling throng of modern people left him with a strong case of cultural shock.
He could only imagine how Tynilia, who grew up in a small, stone-age village must be feeling.
Her words restated his thoughts. “Are we safe here? I’ve never seen so many people in one place. If they turn against us, we won’t stand a chance.”
He chuckled. “Most of the people from my world aren’t like that.” However, looking down at his tattered clothes, which barely covered his half shredded chainmail, and certainly not his oversized battle-axe, he realized there was some cause for concern.
Tynilia didn’t fit in to well either. Her obsidian tipped spear hovered over her tight doeskin dress and most of her was adored with black feathers, charms, and various small animal bones.
“Now that I think of it, sometimes our law and order types aren’t too keen on weapons like ours being out in public.”
“We can’t discard them?” she questioned as worry mixed with fear over her petite face.
“I think not,” he said, as he moved her through the crowds by the hand. They received quite a mix of glances passing along the busy city streets. Some folks ignored their outlandish garb completely, while others stopped and open mouth stared. Children laughed and pointed, which caused him to make a face or growl their way. Their eyes grew large, while they shrieked, and hid behind their parents.
Tynilia proved far less jovial and asked, “Where are you taking us, somewhere safe I hope.”
“I hope so too. There’s the T, but with these weapons. Shit, I’m pretty sure my wallet was torn off in that battle with the Faceless God.”
“What’s a wallet?”
“Nevermind, let’s see we’re near Commonwealth Ave. You probably aren’t ready for a car ride yet.”
“What is a car?”
“See those big squares of metal almost smashing into each other, those are cars. Think of them like ah…advanced wagons where we use dead animals to power them instead of live ones.”
“Says the woman who worships Tezcatlipoca the lord of the darkness, night, death and-”
“You may stop. Focus on keeping us from being killed.”
“I’m more worried about getting arrested. Are you up for a walk?”
“How far and where too?”
“My friend Phillip has a bar. If anyone can help us, he can. Although when I last left here, we were in the middle of a battle with Vile Darken.” He looked around, “Although, from the looks of things, Vile must not have caused too much trouble.”
“So this is normal.”
“Yeah,” he said, “Come on let’s get going before some cops stop us and if they do we’re both heading to a Comic Con, okay?”
“Yeah, and for once, you had better let me do all the talking.”
Come Back next Monday for more of Jack’s Brand Spanking New Adventure!
June 13, 2016
Jack hugged Tynilia’s unconscious body as they both plunged to the ground. The trees rushed up to meet them and Jack attempted something he had never done before. Becoming a snake might save him, but he would never do anything to allow Tynilia to be harmed, so instead of becoming a snake, he transformed his right arm into a long serpent tail. He hadn’t done this before, but Yig loves heroes and fools and his arm grew into a twenty foot tail and as they started to crash through the branches, he used his prehensile limb to entwine a tree.
The trick worked and he stopped their decent, but at the cost of almost dislocating his shoulder. He bit back a cry while lowering them both to the jungle floor. But their problems were all but over for a ball of fire four yards wide connected with the forest. Some luck found them for it passed eight feet over his head before exploding into a mass of liquid flame.
The jungle above his head was ablaze as well and dark embers fell around him like snowflakes of death.
“Primus I come for you! I know a slippery Yigling like you won’t be dead yet. But soon you will wish you were. Perhaps I’ll start by making you watch me rape your mate to death.”
Jack growled through clenched teeth as he saw the black and purple form of Vile float into the burning jungle. He shot up his hands and the trees came alive grasping and clawing at the Overlord.
“Please don’t waste your child’s tricks on me,” he laughed and with the move of his arms the trees blasted into splinters like they had been caught between twin hurricanes.
A moment later the point of Jack’s throwing knife took him in the forehead, but bounced away. It hadn’t hurt Vile, but it sure seemed to throw him into a greater rage. “You devolved bastard! You think you are so mighty.” Vile drew his smoking cutlass and lowered himself through the flaming canopy until his feet rested on the ground twenty feet before Jack.
Vile Darken marched toward him. The air dissolved at the touch of his saber and foul burning black drops spilled from the curved blade. “I will dispatch you myself. I will need no Bestows for the likes of you.”
Jack set his jaw while swinging his giant axe up into a two handed grip. “I’ve waited for a chance to do this for a long time.”
With an insulting casualness, Vile back handed toward Primus with his cutlass.
Jack blocked the blow, but at the price of the tips of one of his axe’s crescents of sharpened steel being cut away. “I’ve had this axe a long time,” he said, but he had a hard time not imagining what the blade would do to simple flesh.
When the blow moved past him, Jack held the axe vertical and smashed Vile in the back. Vile tried to laugh, but Jack hit him again and pushed him head first into a tree. He came around with the lower handle of the axe and sent it into his cheekbone. Vile tried to take a step back but was pinned against a tree.
The axe blade came up and hit Vile in the center of his chest. For any normal man it would have been a killing blow, but Vile Darken has not been a normal man for a long time.
With his dark bearded face only inches from Jack’s, Vile roared as his eyes burned red. “Idiot! Why do you bother?” Disregarding his earlier boast, he used some type of telekinetic Bestow to fling Jack back against a tree of his own.
Jack grasped through broken ribs and then fell forward onto his hands and knees.
Vile kicked the axe away.
How could he have moved so fast? Jack wondered as he drew forth his blade of Yig.
“I tire of this. Snakes don’t need limbs do they, so let’s lose a few of yours.”
Jack had started to roll away, but the cutlass swung down and removed Jack’s left arm just below the elbow.
Jack screamed in both pain and terror as he gazed down at his severed limb.
Vile leaned over and said, “Now for the other one.” Jack threw his knife, but Vile just batted it away.
Without warning, Jack felt himself being flung away from Vile. At first he thought it was an attack, but then he heard Vile curse. Jack tumbled to a stop near Tynilia’s unconscious form.
Despite his grievous wounds, he detected a strange buzzing. He looked down at his remaining hand and it appeared to be vibrating. Moving, but then fading only to return and start wavering again.
Then he heard his own voice crying out to him. “Heal Ty, my brother. Escape, it will be up to you to finish this!”
He looked back and saw himself, this world’s incarnation of his soul, his body, his essence, his power. The other Jack dressed like a Mayan warrior. Green feathers clung to his buckskin pants and jerkin. He smiled his way as he fought Darken with a mace headed spear.
“Heal her awake and flee. You’re this world’s only chance.”
“I am this world’s only chance, only chance to do anything other than just die!” As he spoke Vile’s cutlass broke the Mayan Jack’s weapon in half.
“No wait. Don’t do this.”
“My world, my sacrifice, now save my girl!”
Fighting against unconsciousness and knowing he needed some healing himself, Jack placed his hand on Tynilia and focused his remaining Ki into healing her. When her eyes fluttered open he used the last ebb of his mystic strength to heal his arm enough that the bleeding caused.
“Tynilia, we have to go.” His voice sounded worse than he felt.
“What’s happening.” Her eyes took in the battle. “Oh no, my Jack.”
He words hurt him even through the fog of pain. Was she really his? How had he allowed himself to get so close to another man’s woman, even if the other man was him?
She flung her spirit knife and if struck Vile in the back of the head and then reappeared in her hand. The other Jack fought Vile with everything he had. Weapons flew all around the pair. He’d drawn blood from several wounds he given to the Overlord. Tynilia flung her dagger again. Jack wanted to aid his incarnation, but it was already too late.
Mayan Jack smashed his mace into the side of Vile’s head, but Vile growled and swung his weapon cutting that Jack in half at the waist.
Tynilia Screamed as Jack struggled to his feet.
She threw her spirit weapon again.
“It is too late. We have to go. Take us back to the dragons.” She hesitated. “Come on Ty, let’s burn this fucker to the ground!”
A second later only a mist of inky smoke remained was witness to Vile’s cursing.
Come back next Monday to see if Jack and Tynilia can somehow survive.
May 16, 2016
The king of the dragons had a name impossible for humans to pronounce, but translated to Thunder’s Flame. The number of other dragons surprised Jack and amounted to far more than he could have imagined. The Lava Dragons proved to be no myth, quite the opposite, they thrived in their hidden mountain refuge.
The dragons loomed like endless towers of red and gold, but even these colossal figures stayed dwarfed by the titanic might of their King. The size of a city, Thunder’s Flame remained difficult to perceive. Jack had a hard time wrapping his head around being in the presence of such a godly figure.
Wings the size of soccer fields flapped around them. Growls and serpentine whispers filled the caves with loud noise. Claws and long tails scrapped over piles of coins and giant mounds of treasure as the pair waited for things to settle down.
Tynilia gripped his hand like she was suspended over a cliff and he had never seen her look so terrified. Her self-confident bravado had felt her and she clung to him as a woman already doomed.
When things quieted down to about as much as Jack could expect, he stepped forward and spoke in the loudest voice he could muster. “King Thunder’s Flame and all the rest of you noble dragons please heed my words. I, Jack Primus, hail from a world far different from your own, but despite this, I wish to save the planet you call home from the otherworldly evil that has ventured here and now grows like a cancer threatening to destroy all that you hold dear.”
Booming voices interrupted him. “Destroy you maybe, but never us.”
“Nothing of your kind could ever be a threat.”
“Let the ants eat away at each other. Whole empires could fall and we would not feel a difference.”
“Your words ring true,” Jack shouted, “but The Darken will not stop with us. He stops at nothing short of complete power and domination. I have no doubt that you and your kind are the mightiest creatures on your world, but will even you be able to withstand the might of an entire planet pitted against you? And even if you could, would you want to? Would you enjoy seeing your mates and younger ones fall to his hand in a war without end? And I know this from experience, if your own planet’s resources fail to bring you down, he will bring the might of other planets to bear upon you until you are forced to flee your homes and have nothing left but your lives.”
Voices murmured, but he didn’t give them a chance to build. “Or you can work with me to defend your world before it is too late, strike now and with might such as yours, you can end the war before it begins. Leave him stinging so harshly, he will have no desire to return and face your strength again. Do this now or wait to the end and fight him at a hundred times his strength while no chance for allies remain. What say you?”
Thunder’s Flame paused and for once all the dragons grew quiet. Silence ruled the caverns while they waited. Minutes stretched as a warm sweat collected on his back and armpits. Tynilia’s grip tightened.
At last the king of the Dragon’s glowing eyes regarded him and he spoke. “You words sing of brave intentions and wisdom, but we have seen nothing for ourselves. I will send my son, Thrashing Storm back to your mate’s homeland to see if your words ring with truth as well.”
Jack smiled toward Tynilia before bowing deeply. “We could ask no more your majesty and thank you for the kind offer.”
“Rest up, we will celebrate with you tonight for you will leave at first light!”
Jack turned to Tynilia, “Hey, if nothing else we don’t have to walk back.”
Come back next Monday to see if Jack and his allies can somehow survive.
May 9, 2016
As the colossal dragon drew enough air into its lungs to fill a stadium, Jack knew he only had seconds to act before he and Tynilia would be burned into ash. His mystic strength remained at a low ebb after healing himself and Tynilia, so he would only have one chance to save them.
Without thinking the possibilities through, he once again assumed the form of a serpent. This time he became the largest snake he could manage. As he transformed, he felt the last of his Ki drain away. This had better work, he thought to himself, because I don’t think my axe will do the trick against a five hundred foot long dragon.
While he changed, he drew himself up as high as his new body would allow, it was still like a worm looking up at an eagle, but it proved to be the best he could accomplish.
The dragon hesitated. Glowing golden eyes glared down at him. It tilted its head like a confused puppy for a moment and jets of steam poured from its nostrils as it closed its massive jaws.
Jack realized, as he swayed there, that one of the drawbacks of his plan would be his inability to converse, but who even knew if these dragons spoke?
He detected movement behind him and saw Tynilia dropping to her knees and then bowing until her head pressed against the floor. She stayed there long enough for Jack to wonder what she might be doing. The moment stretched and then grew longer.
He couldn’t be sure if he should remain in serpent form or try some other plan, but felt that given the situation he should place his trust in his lover.
After another long pause, she raised her head from the floor. “You can become a human again, Jack.”
After he returned to his human body, he regarded the titanic dragon for a few seconds and then turned to her. “What did you do?”
“I conversed with the dragon telepathically.”
“You can do that? Why didn’t you ever tell me?”
She flashed a slight smile his way. “A woman has to keep a few secrets. Besides it might have made you nervous if you knew I could read your thoughts.”
His face grew stern. “Have you done that?”
“Oh course. Don’t worry, you passed. Why do you think I trust you so much?”
He coughed and jerked his thumb at the dragon towering over them like a scaled mountain. “What about this guy?”
“First off, she is a she, and she thought your little trick was adorable by the way, but I’m thinking it saved us. That and they fact that we are a mated pair, also gave her pause. Especially when I told her I was pregnant.”
His jaw hung open while he fumbled for words. “What? Huh, wait what?”
She smiled at him. “Sorry handsome, what did you think would happen? You are quite a potent specimen.”
“By Yig’s scaly beard. I ah… maybe we should talk about that later when an army destroying dragon isn’t waiting on us.”
She couldn’t keep the smile off her face. “I agree. She is calling for a…friend to watch over her eggs while she takes us to meet their king. She says we should prepare ourselves for he’s the truly powerful one.”
“If he’s much bigger than her, I hope he aren’t too small for him to notice us.”
She laughed and seemed happier than he’d seen her in weeks. She slipped her hand into his and they followed the dragon as she led them deeper into the towering cavern.
Come back next Monday to see if Jack and his allies can somehow survive.
April 25, 2016
As he and Tynilia plummeted toward the river of churning lava flowing below them, Jack quickly realized that he couldn’t count on her flying ability to save them this time for one of the boulders of ice must have knocked her unconscious.
As the raging flow drew near, Jack saw a ledge to the northern side of the cliff. Not pausing to consider his chances, he became a giant serpent. As they fell, he quickly wrapped his tail around Tynilia. Live or die, at least they would share the same fate.
Looking to the north, his serpentine eyes spied an elongated pillar of ice centered in the middle of the ledge. The flowing magma bubbled less than a hundred feet away, but he had the time to make one attempt at reaching the icy pillar. His body struck forward with his neck creating an arcing C. He managed to get part of his body around the narrow pillar, but it had a slick surface and when Tynilia body fell past him, her weight began to pull her with him. He panicked as he slipped away from the pillar. His upper body slid over the icy ledge and in seconds he would be plummeting to his doom.
At the last moment he thought of something and opened his mouth wide. He had become a reticulated python and he slammed his rows of dagger sharp teeth into the ice below him. He continued to slide. Eight feet, Four feet. Two feet. At the last moment, he hit an elevated lip of ice and his teeth held.
He almost couldn’t believe he still lived, but wasted no time in drawing Tynilia’s unconscious body onto the ledge and then crawling onto it himself. He remained there panting long after he had returned to his human form.
Once Jack had caught his breath, he looked around, but saw no obvious signs of danger other than being trapped on a narrow icy ledge situated over a raging lave flow. He got to his feet and then moved Tynilia as far away from the edge of the ledge as possible, which he guessed was only about a dozen feet.
Once he felt she would be about as safe as she could get, he returned to the edge and looked around again. Through the large hole created in the layer of ice that had once covered the river, he could see the tunnel through which they had entered the area Due to the angle he couldn’t spy the passage the group had headed toward, which he guessed remained roughly over his head.
He still had his backpack, which had some rope. He might be able to rig a way up there, but he figured that the risk might be too great to bother when Tynilia could just fly them up there as soon as she regained consciousness.
Still what had happened to the others? If they had survived it wouldn’t be such a leap of faith to assume Shadowknife and Stalker had survived too. He’d seen neither of them falling with them.
Jack took off his pack and set it under Tynilia’s head and then placed his cloak over her. She moved while mumbling something, but showed no sign of waking. He used some of his precious Ki to heal her a small amount, but needed to keep some in reserve. Who knew what else they might be forced to face before he had a chance to rest. Her breath became more even, but she remained asleep.
He was thinking that perhaps he should just join her in resting, when he saw a figure appear within the tunnel that led back the way they had come. He recognized Shadowknife at once. The Darcarre waved down at him and Jack thought it might have been the first time he’d ever seen the Xemmoni smile.
Then Jack tensed. A black shape moved behind Shadowknife. Before Jack could warn him, the figure grabbed Shadowknife by the hair, jerked his head back, and slit his throat.
Shadowknife hovered for a moment and Jack wondered if there was a way the Darcarre could cure himself before it became too late. But then the tip of a spearhead appeared through his chest and a second later the form behind him kicked Shadowknife not only off the spear but into the pit. Jack could only look on helplessly as his ally fell through the air and hit the lava below with a splash of burning steam. A brief fire blazed, but within seconds nothing remained to prove Shadowknife had ever existed.
Looking back up at the ledge, it shocked him to see Stalker standing there with a murderous grin that spread over his blood drenched spear.
“Hah, worm of Yig,” he called down to him. “I see you and Ty survived. I might find a use for her, but you I will leave to rot. Do not attempt to follow me, for I will soon be the one commanding the Lava Dragons. I’ll leave you alive just long enough to witness the doom of all who dared oppose The Darken.”
“But how could you betray your own people?” Jack managed to get out, despite his shock.
“That’s just it, my people will be spared, while the rest of the races are wiped out or allowed to become our slaves, the followers of Tezcatlipoca will bask in the glory alongside the forces of Darken.”
“You’re mad if you think he will honor any bargain he made with you.”
“I tire of this. Look to the skies and see your doom, Yigling,” and then without another word, Jack’s former ally flew off toward the lair of the Lava Dragons.
Come back next Monday to see if Jack and his allies can somehow survive.
April 4, 2016
Stalker and Shadowknife had seen the glowing fires of the active volcano and they returned to the cave. Some luck had found them because they had slain a small rabbit like mammal before their return. Jack stoked the fire while Tynilia grumbled about being forced to do woman’s work while she gutted the small creature.
“So what is the plan now?” Stalker asked from the shadows. He’d wrapped his fur cloak around himself until his entire body was obscured, save his face, which rested in shadow.
Jack had been sharpening his axe, but paused as he looked his way. “I’m not sure what you expect me to say. We march there tomorrow. We should be able to make the journey in a day. Once there, we find a safe way in and try to figure out if these Lava Dragons are more than just a myth. If they are real and still breathing, then we’ll work together to figure out a way to communicate with them.”
Stalker didn’t let the matter go. “Even if we can communicate with them and they also don’t try to eat us. And we can also find our way into an active volcano, what makes you think they’d be willing to help us?”
“If I can get them to see that Vile will be coming for them later, when he’s stronger and has put down all his other enemies, perhaps they will be smart enough to relive that this is their best chance to eliminate a threat that will one day be finding them.”
Shadowknife spoke up. “I do not mean to dash water onto our goal, but I believe you are assuming they will think like humans and use logic, which in both cases seems unlikely.”
“Well we didn’t come all this way to give up now in sight of the place,” Jack stated. “All we can do is give it our best shot. None of these issues are new. We knew what we were getting into before we left.” He looked around the cave. “Are some of you having seconds thoughts? Would you have us turn back and face Vile’s dinosaur mounted horde with our axes and spears?”
Tynilia joined the discussion. “I don’t think anyone is suggesting that, Jack. We just want to have an outline, a plan.”
Jack paused and rubbed his temples. “Okay, I hear you, but I really think this might be a one step at a time process. First we get in. Then we see if they even exist. We try to talk to them and do they best we can with what we got.”
“And if that doesn’t work?” Stalker asked.
“They we try to escape with our lives. Now let’s cook that wannbe rabbit of yours. We’re going to need an early start. One way or another I have a feeling this will be our last day of hiking for a long while.”
The small group regarded each other and the silence was only interrupted by the raging wind.
To be continued next Monday
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