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!
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.
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 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
November 2, 2015
“I hate to say it after we’ve been through so much and with our allies still out in the forest,” Jack started, “but it’s nice to have a quiet night sitting by the fire without the darksiders creeping around.” Looking over at Tynilia, he added, “no offence.”
She smiled, “None taken, because I know exactly what you mean. Believe me, you don’t know the half of what an ass Stalker can be. Shadowknife alright, but hanging out with any Xemmoni leaves me edgy.”
“I agree with you,” Huth said, while tossing another log onto the already raging fire. Despite its size, the blaze struggled to dispel not only the building chill, but the enfolding darkness.
“I’m concerned over them being gone for so long though,” Jack muttered, “But not half as concerned over what might be happening to Vel.”
Vel-Linna’s seizure had lasted a good two minutes, but when it finished she was back to her staring into nothingness. After a while, it grew too eerie to watch her in the darkness and the three of them have moved her over to the sleeping area Jack had cleared out.
Her flesh was clammy and covered with sweat when they had laid her down. The poor woman had let them recline her onto the furs, but her eyes had remained open. Her endless stare gave him a chill and they had returned to the fire.
Tynilia played with a small stick, which held a smoking ember as she spoke. Her eyes glowed yellow in the darkness. “Keep in mind, my brave friends of Yig that we folks that embrace Darkness might prefer to hunt at night and if they found us a good meal it might take a while to carry it back through the forest.”
No one replied to her statement and the silence was only disturbed by the low hum of insects and the crackling fire.
It was Huth that broke the quiet. Since he could finally converse with the others, he seemed more interested in being heard. “What will we do if they fail to return? All the known lands count on our success and we have already become delayed. With Vel-Linna in such a state, we have difficult choices ahead. I just want to make it clear that I will refuse to leave her behind. I shall carry her if I have to.”
Jack rubbed his temples. “I’m not much of a ‘leave someone behind kind of guy.’ Besides, even in her current state, she still saved us all for the Dead God. Nope, she’ll be coming with us. Maybe her fever will break and we can all catch a break,” he tried to smile.
The group fell into a melancholy silence again. A pained groan came from Vel-Linna, which didn’t improve anyone’s spirits.
Huth shifted positions. “I should probably check on her.” He was just starting to stand up when they all heard a movement from outside of camp. It sounded like a stirring of leaves.
A moment later one of the most beautiful females Jack had ever witnessed sauntered into the firelight. Her body was covered with a few strategically placed plants of vibrant colors and little else. Long flowing hair graced her like a golden waterfall and her face could have made a goddess jealous. Despite her wild nature, she walked more like a stripper heading onto stage than a creature of the forest.
For once no language barrier existed for Jack was able to understand her words when she said, “You need not fear me, which you should appreciate for there is little that remains benign within my forest of late.” Her sudden appearance had left them all stunned, which gave the beautiful woman a moment to regard each of them in turn.
Her gaze settled on Jack. “Are there two men of suspect morality part of your tribe?”
“Ah, yes,” her looks proved more than enough to leave Jack fumbling for words. “They were out trying to gather us some food.”
“Hunting my creatures, you mean.” Her eyes blazed green for a moment, then chilled. “Your hunters have become the hunted and like most hunted things may soon become a meal for the Angry Ones.”
“The Angry Ones?” Tynilia said, trying to wrest the woman’s attentions away from Jack. It didn’t work.
“Yes they are the eaters of man flesh among other atrocities. Your men will perish without aid. I can only take one of you with me. You,” she pointed a slim finger at Huth, “stay with the infected one and try to ease her suffering.”
She pointed at Tynilia.
Jack’s mate took a step forward. “Hold it right there, you half naked bit-”
But her words became lost in a whirlwind of motion. Jack’s body twirled until he felt his existence slipping away. Soon he had become one with the molecules of the forest and his camp became lost to him. Darkness overcame his senses and he knew no more.
To be continued next Monday
October 26, 2015
As soon as Jack woke up, he knew his team was going to need another day to recover from their encounter with the Dead God. In addition to the loss of two members of the group, Vel-Linna showed no signs of being able to escape the dazed trance that claimed her faculties.
Add to this the loss of much of their equipment and extra food and it became obvious that a day of rest along with repairing their gear and hunting for food would be required.
It hurt Jack to think that every lost day set the armies of Darken closer to the camp of the Tezcatlipoca Stalwarts, but some things couldn’t be helped. Theirs was not an easy journey and if they weakened themselves further, they wouldn’t be able to help anyone.
So after they had dined on their meager breakfast of dried fruit and lizard meat, Jack gathered the others around him. He ran his fingers through his dirty hair and figured adding a bath to his to do list wouldn’t be the worst idea.
“I know we’ve been through a lot and even with our impossible timeline, I think it would be in our best interest to take a day to reconstitute ourselves.” Looking around he saw mixed reactions to the news, but when no one complained, he went on.
“The way I see it, we have several things that need doing. First off, we need more food, so a hunting party should be organized.”
Stalker nodded, “I’m more than happy to head that one up.”
Jack eyed him. “Okay, but let’s figure the rest of this out. Vel is in a seriously bad state. Instead of having a powerful shaman, we have a walking mentally wounded. If we could get her mind back in working order, she would go from being a liability to a strength.”
When no one offered up an easy solution to this, he continued. “I would also like to see some of our gear repaired and other more mundane preparations made.”
Tynilia caught his eye. “I could also try to teach Huth the language spell. I know there aren’t as many as there used to be, but this barrier and the need to translate is getting old.”
“If this is the case,” Shadowknife began, “then I will take up the hunt as well. Fresh meat will aid many of us.”
Jack nodded toward the Xemmoni, although his dark continence left him wanted to find a patch of sunlight. “Okay, it’s settled them. You two will set off hunting, while Tynilia and Huth work on the spell. I’ll try to get the camp in order and repair what I can and we’ll all see what we can do for Vel throughout the day.”
* * *
The day turned out to be more relaxing than Jack would have imagined. Vel-Linna ceased her vacant staring when sleep overcame her at last. Knowing she needed her rest, Jack chose to hold off on any attempts to reach her inhibited mind. Instead he focused on fixing their bags and back packs while taking breaks to stretch his legs and gather up some fire wood.
He started a small fire around mid-day. Tynilia and Huth moved next to it, but it seemed like their spell would never be completed. Since Vel-Linna still slept, Jack began to clear them a more comfortable space under the rocky overhang. Rocks we tossed out into a parameter around camp, while branches were either thrown into the fire or used to build up a makeshift crescent protecting their position.
By the time the sun had begun to set, the hunters had still not returned, but Jack had created a three foot barrier around their campsite. With the rock wall guarding their backs, Jack felt more secure than he had in a while.
He was just finishing up a wooden spear for himself, when Tynilia said, “Thank the vacant throne, finally.” She and Huth got to their feet and strolled over to him.
With a rare smile, Huth walked up to Jack and shook his hand. “Good eve to you, Primus. We converse at last.”
“Nice for us all to be on the same page. It sure has been a long time in-”
His sentence was interrupted by a long drawn out scream erupting from Vel-Linna. When she looked over at them from her seated position, Jack thought he saw that the light in her eyes had returned, but then a moment later she went into a seizure.
To be continued next Monday
September 14, 2015
The scattered warriors regained their footing and looked own into the stygian pit that loomed beneath them. Jack could still make out Vel-Lenna’s cries mixing with the insane buzzing of the horrific creature that had just flown into the deep hole with two of their party grasped within its warped hands.
“We have to rescue them,” Jack said. “Vel is still alive and Quez could be as well.”
“From that thing?” Stalker said. “I’m not one to back away from a fight, but I’m not suicidal either.”
“A minute ago, you wanted us all to head down there,” Tynilia said, with a hint of awe in her voice as she gazed in the direction of the pit.
The remaining six members of their team gathered together and tried to read each other’s expressions in the dim dancing light. The gruesome statue of the foul beast hung over them and the pit like a sick reminder of what they would face if they traveled below.
Tynilia spoke again. “We can’t just leave them, can we? I know I wouldn’t want to be abandoned down there. Besides we’re going to need every one of us to make it to the Lava Dragons.”
Jack looked at her, but spoke to everyone. “We’re going to rescue them for more reasons than we need them for our quest.”
“If we lose three more of us trying to rescue two, how will that help out cause?” Stalker asked.
“I…” Jack started and then paused.
“What is it?” Shadowknife asked in a low voice.
“I think I sensed someone casting an earth spell below.”
“That means she’s still fighting,” Tynilia said.
“I’m going to head down there right now,” Jack said. “Either way it will be one less evil beast haunting your world. Who’s with me?”
“If we are going, I think we all should go,” Shadowknife suggested. “I doubt staying up here would increase one’s safety. We already know that the creature has means of reaching the surface.”
Huth nodded without saying a word and began to descend the steps.
“Hold up Huth,” Jack said. “So I’m following him.”
Tynilia looked uneasy, but she moved behind Jack.
“I will go, as will Strike.”
“You’re all a bunch of fools,” Stalker started. “But there’s no way in hell I’m staying up here alone.”
* * *
The narrow staircase lead down into the complete darkness. They had fashioned some torches, but the Tezcatlipoca warriors as well as the Splinter Darcarre could see through the blackness or so Jack had been told.
Jack’s hand reached out to stabilize himself as he stepped over a half crumbled stair. The stone wall felt wet and he could have sworn it shifted at his touch like a lung drawing in air. Before they had lost sight of the orange halo of light above a stench had already begun to fill their nostrils. It smelled part rotting corpse with a mixture of feces and other things somehow worse. It left them gagging.
Every inch of him screamed out that this place was wrong. He knew instinctively that his powers of Yig were weakened here. He wasn’t sure what Vel-Lenna had attempted to do, but if the malign forces blocking his abilities were any indication, he doubted her attack could have been to successful.
Twenty minutes later found them still descending. Jack began to question his sanity. Could they really be going this far into the earth? How could such a long staircase have been constructed? Why would anyone make a tunnel like this to help the monster they had seen escape? Had it been worshipped like some sort of mad god?
This and other questions would have to wait for no one wanted to be the first to break the building silence.
And yet the stairs went down.
The stench grew as they pressed on. He was just wondering if he should allow the group a break when the buzzing started again. Low and dull at first, but them like an explosion he grew to horrific volumes and came right toward them. The idea of fighting the giant toadish fly from a three foot staircase filled him with dread.
Huth cried out something.
“He says he can see the bottom,” Tynilia translated.
“I can see it too,” Stalker yelled.
“Make for it!” Jack shouted. “We have to get there before the thing in the dark reaches us. Go. Go!”
To be continued next Monday
August 31, 2015
The eight mismatched heroes approached the remains of the ruins with slow careful steps. Although the structure stayed obscured by the plummeting rain, they saw towering grey blocks leaning in a haphazard manner. Pillars both whole and broken stood upright or more often on their side. Darkness lurked within half destroyed building and gapped like the mouths of titanic monsters as they pressed in past the first outskirts of the ruins.
Lightning crashed like it aimed for them and again Jack wondered if it may have an unnatural source. They struggled through the rain and the litter of large marble stones when lightning stuck close enough for the thunder to leave their ears ringing. The blast also illuminated the giant stone heads that covered the slopes of this land, which Tynilia had called The Valley of the Decapitated Gods.
Knowing that their only goal was to find shelter from the building storm, Jack searched for a place large enough to hold all of them, but after two failed attempts, Stalker rushed past him. He had images of the man of Tezcatlipoca being swallowed up by some foul thing, but instead the tall man returned two minutes later.
His dark face turned toward them. “I found a bigger building that has remained intact. It is dry inside and even has enough tinder and stray wood to get a fire going.”
Jack spied a dead log and snatched it up and a few of the others followed his example as the tried not to loose Stalker through the rain.
A black door stood high enough to let one of Vile’s dinosaurs pass through. Stalker lead the way heading over to some dry leaves he must have spotted earlier. Before long he got a small fire going, while the others tried to shake off the rain.
Jack tossed his wet log over the fire and found a dry branch with leaves still clinging to it. It went up easy, but Jack knew the light wouldn’t last long. He moved to try to take in the rest of what appeared to be a huge open space.
Tynilia and Huth followed him as he traveled deeper into the structure. Almost at once, arcing rows in rows of granite benches loomed bone white out of the darkness. The benches bent like gentle crescents and stretched further than they could see before him.
Shadowknife caused them to jerk when he appeared out of the darkness. “It appears we have entered a temple of some kind.” He glanced Tynilia’s way. “Perhaps once this was a home to one of your decapitated gods.”
She shivered and hugged her little arms closer to herself. “They aren’t my gods.”
Behind them, Quez and Vel-Lenna continued to stoke the fire and its weak illumination began to keep some of the blackness at bay. Yet shadows still lingered like giant moving things as outside the storm continued to rage.
Stalker called to them from the center of the lingering dark. “There’s an alter up here, but something even more strange.”
Before they could reach him, he had lit some type of stone pedestal. It must have had enough lingering oil residue, for a fire moved in an eerie blue dance within a concave bowl.
Three things struck Jack. The first was the size of podium. A man standing behind it would have to be twice Jack’s size to use it. Behind this was an alter, also oversized, which was covered in ancient stains. Towering over all this was a statue weathered by time, but no less horrid. Six beetle eyes spiraled out from a bloated fleshy head, which clung to a body more toad than man. Foul wings fit for the back of a fly lay limp across its back. Six appendages all ended in taloned hands, although only the front four were arms, while the back two resembled the reversed legs of a canine.
“I don’t remember seeing that one’s head out there,” Jack said.
“Perhaps it is because he never lost it,” Shadowknife suggested.
“Over here,” Stalker called out again. Strike stood at his side as the man of Tezcatlipoca pointed his spear down into a well of darkness. “What do you think this is?” he asked as the others drew in.
Below them a pit stretched sixty feet across. The circle had been braced with stone brickwork, but stranger still was the thin staircase that spiraled down into the impenetrable darkness.
“Someplace I sure don’t wish to go,” Tynilia said.
“Pah,’ Stalker started. “You’ve been spending too much time with the Yiggites. We of Tezcatlipoca seek out the rewards of Darkness.”
“As do we Darcarre,” Shadowknife said. “But that does not mean that danger and death do not also lurk there.”
A scream sounded, long and female. As one, the others looked back for its source. A giant form came their way. It charged at them like an avalanche of buzzing flesh blocking out the light of the fire behind it.
The group was forced to dive to the side or risk being knocked into the pit. Jack had just enough time to see the limp form of Quez in the colossal beast’s left hand while a still screaming Vel-Lenna was grasped in its right.
He saw a flash of a jeweled colored eye as the thing flew over his head and dove into the pit.
No one appeared to be immune from the shock and terror of what they just witnessed as they hurried to their feet.
“She’s still alive and Quez might be as well, we have no choice but to go after them,” Jack said, looking at the pit and then back at the gruesome statue. It could have been a trick of the light, but Jack could have sworn he saw an insane grin on the beast where none had been before.
To be continued next Monday
August 10, 2015
The team of eight warriors was assembled. Jack would have liked to have called it a team of eight Stalwarts, but since two of their members were Splinter Darcarre, that title didn’t fit. He just hoped that they all shared a common goal.
Great, he thought to himself. Two Xemmoni and two Tezcatlipoca worshippers, not sure which of those two I trust less, but then he made a pinched face. One of the latter two, he was dating, so perhaps he should try to be more open minded. Although with the glares Stalker gave him, it was hard to be sure.
Drawing a deep breath, Jack poked at the embers of his fire while taking in the rich scents of the damp forest. Green vines weaved themselves through the old trees and around weathered stone. Small animals moved through the fallen leaves while birds sang a thousand tunes as they darted through the canopy. So much life flowed around him if proved hard to believe they remained caught within an epic struggle, which if they lost, could mean the end to all he beheld.
Again, he regretted that the old shaman Mythcul wouldn’t be accompanying them and Jack had walked out of his lean-to into the early morning to find him. Instead he found himself being approached by his lover, Tynilia, who had apparently stayed up all night, for she had never joined him, and the Splinter Darcarre Shadowknife. Each figure clung to the checkered shadows created by the emerald leaves that whispered overhead.
“We’ve come up with a plan,” She said, without as much as a hug or hello.
He attempted to contain his frustration that she felt the need to make decisions without him, but yet it was their world not his. He was only a hitchhiker here. A hitchhiker drawn into a war they couldn’t hope to win, unless this insane idea of enlisting the aid of the distant Lava Dragons could somehow work.
Like usual, Shadowknife didn’t feel the need to add any words, so Jack asked, “Well, what is it?”
“I have been far north of this place, in the direction we need to head. The plan is, I teleport Shadowknife to an old set of ruins. Once his familiarizes himself to the area, he will be able to return. We will do that now and then rest. Then at sunset, we will have just enough energy to transport our new group there.”
Showing some affection, she moved forward and ran her hand over his arm. “But once we are done, we’ll be exhausted again. Both he and I will need to sleep before we are ready for travel.”
Jack found her hand and gave it a comforting squeeze, then tried to smile. “Sounds like a good start, but I was secretly hoping we might gain more of those Wyrens we flew before.”
She looked sorrowful and gazed at the grass beneath her sandals. “Their use is rare and I’m afraid most have already been lost in the war against The Darken.”
Jack nodded. “Then at least your plan will give us a head start. But with us traveling on foot that gives the small forces of Yig and your tribe little time before they could be overwhelmed.”
The ebony figure of Shadowknife spoke. “Your words stay true, but if we are somehow not devoured by the Lava Dragons and if they do in fact still exist, then our journey back would be brief.”
Jack looked puzzled, so Tynilia added, “What he is trying to say is if we can somehow succeed in our mad quest, we’ll be returning on their backs.”
Jack did manage an honest smile this time. “So no matter how the cards fall, I only have to worry about walking one way.”
She nodded, but he could tell she looked tired. Acting on impulse he took her nibble form into his arms.
“Jack, Jack, what are you doing?”
“You look beyond exhausted and we might not have a lot of privacy soon, so I think I’m going to tuck you into bed. I haven’t been up long and my final day of tasks can wait a while longer.”
“But I still need to show Shadowknife the place to the north.”
“It can wait a few hours. I don’t want you in the wilds while you can barely keep your eyes open.”
She smiled up at him before giving him a kiss. “Can I share a secret with you?’
“I think I’m starting to like you more than your incarnation.”
“It might be the strangest complement I’ve ever received, but I’ll take it.” He laid her onto the comfortable mat of moss he had collected. Her body felt so warm and soft as he moved over her and for a long while their problems were forgotten.
To be continued next Monday