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The Toad Saga
by Kilnamar and Quizzard
© Chris Martin and Travis Roper  All Rights Reserved.
additions by waterlin,Scrooge, brigit and WhyKnot

"The Battle of the Lily Galaxy"

Twead Saga II:

Chapter 1 - The Return of the Leapii
by Quizzard

The Battle for the Lily Galaxy had no definitive winner, only losers. The mighty had fallen, for not only had Sir Twead perished, but also the mighty hunter. Twead's captains had rushed the dread lizard in his moment of triumph, and felled him with a frenzy unmatched by the Pirhanas of the Soapbox Legion.

When the dust had settled, only a few grim survivors remained...

The Ambassador of Man paced in his opulent apartment in the castle of the High Toad. Muttering to himself, the Man could just be heard by a small eavesdropper in the garden below.

"Where are the troops I sent for? I can't believe that we're losing this opportunity for easy conquest. Nearly every ablebodied soldier has been annihilated in that skirmish with the upstart, Twead. Victory (and the governorship) should be MINE! I have to get through to the high command soon..."

With a blare of trumpets, the High Toad swept into the Ambassador's abode.

"Ambassador Lawboy! There you are! We've been searching Our Royal grounds for you for days. We've missed you(and your gifts, heh, heh) at Our Royal Dinner table."

"Ahhh, Your Highness! I've been searching my wares to find a suitable gift for your Royal Hoppiness. I believe that I've just now realized what that could be." The Ambassador walked over to a corner and opened a large case with the curious Man word 'Amway' on it. "Here Sire, the most fitting gift for Your Royal Person, it's a pair of Air Anyman Hi-tops, guaranteed to make noise when anyone insults Your Magesty!"

"How wonderful! How do they work?"

"Please, Your Imperial Wartiness, I cannot divulge the method by which these shoes ascertain insult, for I am unaware of the criteria. I am certain of their function, for they sound off constantly while I read the dispatches about the unfortunate unpleasantness abounding in the soapboxes."

"Quite right, can We try them on now?"

"Surely, Your Amphibiousness, let me show you how to lace them up. Your Highness must make sure to lace them tight, so that the patent leather is unmarked, and less susceptible to contrary opinions of what is objectionable."

Softly, and with great care, a small toad made it's way out of the garden, wondering why it's king would worry about such a spurious gift, when the Ambassador was obviously up to no good. He hurried off to find somebody who would listen to him...


Chapter 2 - A New Hero Arises
by Kilnamar

The young Toad, Killy, made his way carefully from the Royal Garden, through pathways that most did not even know existed. He had been quite an explorer when he and his family had lived at the Palace.

The destruction of the Amphibian army had been unexpected. And now...his father dead, his mother in hiding. Angrily, Killy began to spout what he thought of the High Toad. Even here, far from the open window, he heard the monarch's shoes begin to screech, and the resulting surprised croak. With a laugh, Killy kept up his slander. How long before that fat Wart would discard that gift for some peace?

As he cursed, Killy turned his thoughts to the matter at hand. It was clear that Ambassador Lawboy would not give up. No, the proud messenger from Earth would not rest until the world of Amphibia was under the control of his evil Emperor.

At the edge of the gardens, Killy rejoined his waiting companions. These loyal friends who had journeyed and fought with him on this important mission.

"What news?" asked Babytisa quietly, followed by Greyeyes' welcome.

"It is as we feared," said Killy. "The ambassador continues his mission here. The High Toad still roots for gifts. Oh, and remember to curse that miserable excuse of a Toad out loud now and then. Killy smiled.

Killy looked to the last of his three companions. Fly20 stood a ways off from the others. Aloof and quiet as always, the general was not the same since that fateful battle. But he was forever loyal to the Resistance, and Killy knew he would die for its cause.

"Come, my friends. We have a long journey ahead of us. We must find those we can trust and stop this vile invasion once and for all. That fat wart, cjoh, will rue the day when he decided our world was worth a pair of shoes."


Chapter 3 - Dark Forces Regroup
by Quizzard

...With a startled croak, the not-so-beloved High Toad, whipped around and faced the open window.

"What?! Who? How? Guards!" bellowed the High Toad Cjoh over the squawking of his hi-tops. "How do you shut these things up, Lawboy?!"

"Assassins! Protect the King!" roared Helpful Ted, the Leap Guard Commander as he leapt on the outraged Monarch.

With swords drawn, the Royal Leap Guard surrounded the King and swept him from the room. When the raucus din had subsided, the Ambassador sat down and put his head in his hands.

"Thank heavens! I finally got rid of that awful gasbag, and especially his horrid noise-maker shoes." fumed the Ambassador. Thoughtfully, he raised his head and stared out into the garden. "Unbelievable. They kill half their population, and they're still spoiling for a fight. Maybe I can use this...hmmmm...."

...Meanwhile, on the other side of the garden, a young hand-maid watches from the shadows, too horrified to move.

"Oh my goodness...such language! And about our King, no less! What horrid pond scum he must be...kinda cute, though." breathed Mamie.

Shouts and banging surround the young maiden as soldiers scurry about, looking for the intruder. Lady Mamie broke her stupor to point the soldiers toward the toadlet's path, but stopped. Wondering what could possibly be wrong with her, she again stood silent as the soldiers passed...

...Back in the Ambassador's apartment, an evil gleam lit up Lawboy's face.

"Drkhrt! Get in here!" screamed the black-hearted representative of humanity.

"Yes, sir. What can I do for you today?" queried the instantly appearing aide.

"Communications with Earth are down. I need someone to take the ship back to Earth and find out where the invasion force is."

"When shall I leave, sir?"

"Immediately! And send in that dim-witted communications expert. You know, the one who can't spell. I NEED to talk to H.Q.!"

"Yes, sir, right away, sir. Will that be all, sir?"

"Are you still here? Why isn't Jaydogg here yet?"

Drkhrt scurried out into the hall muttering softly. "Now I'll have to find a more permanant way to disable the communications..."


Chapter 4 - Vision
by Kilnamar

Killy and his companions left quickly at the shouts of the frantic Leap Guards. They didn't slow until they were safely into the Arnamahs Swamp. There they would have no trouble hiding.

As they slowed to a walk, Killy burst out in laughter. "That fat wart probably hit his head on the palace roof when those shoos started howling! How I wish I could have seen his ugly face!"

The others chuckled with him as they made there way. It was good to laugh after so much misery these past weeks. Hearts grew lighter as for the first time they began to see hope.

On through the day they journeyed, keeping a close watch behind them. Apparently, the High Toad hadn't considered them worth following.

"Let's set up camp here," Killy said as dusk began to darken the sky. "Fly20, Babytisa, you two take first watch. Greyeyes and I will relieve you when the moon caps the sky."

As Fly20 and Babytisa prepared for their guard duty, Killy and Greyeyes settle down under an ancient tree to sleep. Killy lay awake, staring up through the branches at the star filled sky. Tears filled his eyes as he thought of his world, his home, his loved ones. "I won't let them take you from me," he whispered as his eyes closed.

***********
"Killy. Killy, arise."

Killy's eyes snapped open. With a slight panic, he looked around, his eyes trying to pick out shapes in the gloom. Sometime as he slept, the sky had clouded over. The surrounding swamp was a mixture of shadows and utter blackness.

Again the voice that had awakened him came.

"Killy, arise."

The voice came from above him, in the tree. The voice was so soothing, and the panic drained from the young Toad. Slowly, quietly, he stood. There was no sign of his companions, but for some reason it didn't bother him.

Straining upward, Killy peered into the branches above him, seeking the source of the voice. Only shadows. "Who are you? Where are you?" he asked, moving closer.

"I am a representative of the Land. Listen well, for I have little time here."

The branches shook slightly. Killy wondered what could cause the whole tree to move in such a way. Still, he could see nothing.

"The Land cries out in fear, young Killy. Its life hangs in the balance. We seek one who is true of heart to bear our cause. The Land must not perish."

"I don't understand!" cried Killy, growing frustrated at the hidden voice. "I am on my own mission of great importance!"

The tree shook again at his words. "Young Toad, your mission is but a small part of the troubles that threaten this world. Take up our cause and you will see an end to the fears you face."

Killy looked around again, searching for his friends. He felt the first drops of the waiting storm strike his cheek.

"You must save us," the voice wailed, becoming faint. "Listen to your heart. The Land depends on you."

"Tell me what to do!" Killy screamed, rushing to the gnarled trunk, thinking to climb and face this messenger. He stopped short as his hand touched the bark. It was warm! A great blast of lightning lit up the sky, throwing shadows in a writhing tangle across the clearing. Killy looked up...and stared into the eyes of the tree itself! "Nooooo!" he screamed again, throwing himself back, as thunder shook his being, filled his head.

As he fell to the ground, Killy heard a last whisper from the voice. "Follow your heart, young Killy. Follow your heart..." And his frantic mind collapsed into welcome darkness.


Chapter 5 - A Dark Journey
by Quizzard

Drkhrt looked at the tiny pile of personal effects and sighed. "I can't believe I have to leave this beatiful world so soon. I won't even be able to return, after they find out what I did. Why can't we just leave these people in peace? Sometimes humanity disgusts me." With a deep breath, Drkhrt grabbed the carisak and fled to the spacecraft. "I'll have to come up with some kind of plan to disable this offensive. This society MUST be left alone. I'll protect it with my life, if I can."

"Yours is a lonely path, but you will have to prevail. We need you as a champion of the Land." a soft voice sighed in the trees.

"What? What was that? Who's there?"

"Your heart knows the path. Do not falter, and you will prevail. Save us, save us, save....usssssssss......" As the soft voice trailed off, a wellspring of hope boiled up, and Drkhrt knew that somehow, someway, THIS land would be saved...

...In the servant's quarters, a bewildered maid pondered her inaction. Lady Mamie had never before failed in her duties, and clearly, this time, her lack of action was close to treasonous. Dismally, she searched her soul for the reason why.

"Lady Mamie, Lady Mamie?" a querulous voice broke the silence.

"Ooops. Yes? What is it?" she shook herself out of her reverie.

"May we come in and talk to you for a minute?" giggled a young voice.

"Yes, yes, of course. What is it, Sexy?"

Three young maids flew into the room and surrounded the quiet traitor. "We saw you in the garden, and we have a couple questions for you. Did you see him?" asked Sexy23.

"What did he look like? What was he wearing?" demanded Cyndy10.

"Does he have a girlfriend?" sighed Auburn23.

"Hold it, what are you talking about? Who? Does who have a girlfriend? The King? Of course he does."

"No silly, the dark voice from the garden. I'm sure you saw him. You know, the one who described the King so eloquently." laughed Sexy. "We wonder who he is."

"I'm sure I don't know!" retorted Mamie. "I didn't get a good look at him. At least not a good enough look at him."

"Well, tell us what you DID see. I'm all trembly with anticipation." breathed Cyndy.

Helpful Ted was on his rounds, when the excited young voices caught his attention. In shock, and then horror, the captain listened to the details about the brigand in the garden. When he had heard enough, he stomped his way back to the King. "Imagine finding such an obnoxiously foul mouth so appealing. I wonder what they are so intrigued by, they don't act like that when I explain to them about the best methods to tie their shoes. Well, I'm going to put a stop to that. The council and I will make sure that nobody will find such slander appealing, anymore."

The hubbub in the castle was dying down, but noone could forget the brash toad in the garden with the slanderous tongue...


Chapter 6 - A New Dawn
by Kilnamar

The bright light of a cloudless morning sky shone through tangled branches, sparkling and dancing on the scattered pools of water below. In the distance was the soft hum and buzz of life.

Killy awoke, swimming slowly from his deep slumber. For a moment he lay peacefully, staring at the pattern of visible blue above. Stretching, he rolled to his side and prepared to rise. His eyes met the large hoary tree from his dream and he instantly jumped to his feet, looking around wildly. It had been a dream, hadn't it?

He started to call out to his friends, and realized that he was alone. It was as if they had never been here. With his mind whirling in confusion, Killy began a quick search of the surrounding area. No traces. No sounds. Nothing.

Bewildered, the young Toad sank to the ground, thinking. It had to have something to do with the dream. He remembered his companions being gone in his dream. "What is happening?" he whispered to himself.

"The answer to that should be clear, Killy," came a soft, high-pitched voice from behind him.

Startled, Killy whirled and stood, reaching for his sword hilt. Nothing there.

"Down here, silly Killy," the voice giggled.

Killy looked down and beheld a tiny, beautiful...what WAS she?

"I'm a Wood Sprite, of course" she said, as if reading his mind. "You may call me Lldy." The Sprite stood, fists on hips, looking Killy up and down, calculating. "Tsk tsk. The things the Elders give me to work with," she muttered under her breath.

"Ummm...Miss...ummm...Lldy..." Killy stammered, at a loss for words.

The Sprite giggled again and nimbly leapt up on a nearby tree stump. "Sit. We have a lot to talk about, my young Toad friend. The Hamadryad could not tell you all you must know, and our time is short."

Killy listened as the magical creature expounded on the tasks they desired of him, clarifying the Dryad's words and adding her own. Through the morning and into the afternoon they talked, and as night approached, finally there was silence.

Killy sat, breathless, steeling himself for what he must do. The Land needed him, but would he and the others they had chosen be enough? Together, the frightened Toad and the wise Sprite began their journey.


Chapter 7 - The King's Rage
by Quizzard

...The High Toad seethed as he sat in his council chamber, the discarded shoes thrown into the corner. The audacity of the intruder had inflamed as none had since, well, Sir Twead. The King's head still reeled from that disaster. Now, some other young upstart was going to do it all over again. Well, NOT IN THIS KINGDOM, NOT AGAIN!

"Helpful TED! Get IN here NOW!"

"Yes, Your Majesty! Here, Your Wartiness!"exclaimed Ted as he slid into the chamber.

"Why haven't you found that toad yet?"

"You see, Your Highness, whenever you have a young amphibian in the prime of his life, and unknown physical description, it becomes necessary..." Ted's lengthy explanation was cut short by the King's exclamation.

"Shut UP! Just tell me why. WHY?"

"Oh. Well, Your Waspishness, Your Royal Leap Guard is waiting for specific information about the alleged perpetrator. All we have is *gulp* gossip, as a source, and as you know, that type of social interaction is totally unreliable." gasped Ted, "The Leap Guard can't get any straight answers out of Your Royal subjects."

The High Toad threw his hands into the air and screamed, "Why can't they get answers to their questions?"

Timidly, Ted explained, "Because Your subjects are afraid to be wrong, Your Rightness, and have their I-credits taken away."

"AAAARGGGGHHHHH!!!!!!" bellowed the Great Toad, "Threaten to take away ALL of their credits if they DON'T answer!"

"Your wish is my command, Highness!"

"And take that bootlicker, Charles, with you. He'll make sure to delete all of the adverse reactions to the credit losses!"

The glossy boots started screaming in the background, and the credits were about to hit the fan...
 

...The spaceship sped along through the vast emptiness of the void between the galaxies, and a quiet human brooded upon her options.

"No, that won't work. I'm sure that they won't believe that I'm the sole survivor of a battle against superior weaponry. And besides, they'll probably want to send MORE troops in retribution." sighed Drkhrt.

Out of the silence, a small voice piped up, "Why not tell them the truth?"

"What, who's THAT! Am I hearing voices again? I must be crazy."

"You're not crazy." the small voice gurgled, as a tiny watery figure suddenly appeared, "I'm here to help you on your mission. My name is Lin, I'm a water sprite!"

"Uhhhh, okay. Let's suppose that you're NOT a figment of my deluded mind, and ask how you can be here, if there's no water? Aren't you supposed to stay by your stream, or something?"

"Oh, that. Well, you see, when you filled your canteen at the lake by the landing area, I kinda hitched a ride." gleamed Watersprite Lin.

"I guess that means I can't have a drink, now, doesn't it?"

"Well, we're going to have to talk about that..."


Chapter 8 - On the Other Side of The Universe
by Quizzard

The fall and the rise of Mankind has been the subject of many fine historical works, none of which caught the main thrust of the changes that Y2K brought about. Everyone laughed about it, thought they were safe, until the truth came crashing home. No, it wasn't the planned-for disasters, it was the views and attitudes which changed when nothing happened.

You see, the scramble for personal security, as people everywhere stockpiled their generators and their food, forever destroyed any sense of community that humanity had managed to hold on to. Even after the crisis was passed, people refused to return their money to the banks, content only when they had their grubby hands on their material wealth. The banks, with no money to invest, had to close their doors, and the stock markets crashed. The resulting mass hysteria and food shortages caused crisis after crisis, and the military had to take over.

All in all, the battles were scattered and of short duration, and the casualties low. The end result was world domination by a council of the previously democratic nations. The democratic model was once again resumed, only this time, on a global scale. special interest groups found power and wealth as never before, and the rot settled back in to the new leadership. On a positive note, with the armies only remainig as a peacekeeping police force, more effort was turned to the conquering of space travel. Mankind swiftly overran it's small solar system with colonies. Still, the ever growing population outpaced the new resources, and Man had to find a way to bridge the voids between solar systems.

Then in the year 3199, according to the official sources, faster than light travel was found to be possible, and the first prototypes built. A rousing success, the ships made travel to the neighboring galaxies a matter of months, rather than eons. Mankind was ready for the next giant leap.

The astronomers of this time managed to apply the new subspace technology to their telescopes, and new information poured into their computers. Suitable sites for colonization were explored, and to their surprise and consternation, alien life was detected. And that's when the debates began. They lasted for decades.

Finally, the Consortium for the Development of Mineral Sources, or CONDOMS, managed to gain approval for an exploratory mission to the alien planet. Presumably, to ask for permission to trade technology for the incredible mineral wealth the astronomers were sure the planet possessed. A ship was outfitted for the journey, and a hand-picked crew of hardy negotiators was sent on it's way. However, two months after the arrival of the team on the distant world, communications ceased. The silence was almost unbearable...


Chapter 9 - Twilight in Amphibia
by WhyKnot

Twilight descended upon Amphibia. It glowed with the twinkle of lights from the massive fortress of the High Commander. All the treachery in the universe could not dim the glow of energy flowing through the area.

WhyKnot, former Captain of the Newts stood cautiously absorbing the beauty of her former home. Banishment of friends to distant galaxies, deaths of comrades from battles of yore and the specter of unknown hovering over the current time all collected to make WhyKnot even more wary. What fate was to befall the land she loved was at the forefront of her mind.

As the night darkened and was banished by the increasing brightness of the shop windows, WhyKnot ventured on to the main thoroughfare of Amphibia. On the corner of Delight and Main was the popular local bar, Wing of Bat. In the back room was heard the melodic tones of poetry from andwarr, Lawboy and brigit. Each had their own brand of melancholia that seemed to be flowing like a raging river through Amphibia. WhyKnot paused for a moment outside the swinging door debating whether to enter. With a shake of her tail, she scurried away before she was tempted to add her voice to the mix.

Three doors down was the one and only gourmet restaurant in all of Amphibia. A juice bar offered wheatgrass specials. Few patrons occupied this part of A Snail's Pace. The hum from the other side of the bar came from a full house clamoring for the newest shipment of fermented barley extract. Every table was full in the dinning section and a quick glance at the reservation book showed this would continue well past midnight. The food was renown throughout several lands. Shitake stuffed tortillini seemed to be the most popular dish at the moment.

Strolling on with growling stomach WhyKnot continued her quest. She was to meet her new contact at the Toadstool Emporium at quarter past the hour. Would it be that small toad that was seen sneaking away from the garden of the High Toad or would it be Killy? WhyKnot was only certain of one thing: she would know the amphibian by his energy. She had no time to spare to quiet the rumblings due to two days without nourishment. Too much was at stake. There would be plenty of time for eating once the High Toad was exposed. Just desserts for his ever increasing thirst for bribes would be for the resistance to free Amphibia once and for all from his tyranny.


Chapter 10 - The Continuing Saga
by brigit

The tired Ambassador let his broad shoulders droop; without witnesses, his face fell into the long shadows of too much self-awareness. Eyes turned towards the gardens, gardens which he knew full well he could not save, he allowed himself one imperceptible sigh.
A weary hand wiped away the sweat that gathered continually on his brow. Gods, he must be feverish... a low breath caressed his ear... what ? what was it saying to him? He shook his head wearily, brushing foolish fancy aside. No time to be giving way to fever-dreams...
He slipped a great bruin's hand into the inside pocket of his light summer cloak. It was still there, the ribbon from his mother's hair, the one he had taken before the casket closed forever, a silky strand of sweet memory.
What would she think of him, here, now? Would she understand what he was attempting, what had to be done, in order to save this tiny planet, yet allow his superiours to believe that they had won some victory?
If only there were someone, anyone, who might listen to him, allow him the great luxurious relief of letting down his guard, if only for a space...


Chapter 11 - Dark Nemesis
by Kilnamar

On the high, jagged mountains far to the east of Toadia--accurately named the Iron Hills--stood a shadow. If any had been near to view the sight, they would have been unnerved by the way the shadow resisted the sunlight, absorbed it. Slowly, smoothly, the shadow moved higher up the cracked, broken slope, melting in and out of fissures and piled stone. As it reached the highest point, it stopped, and took form--the form of a man.

The man-shadow gazed out across the wide land below him towards the distant green of the Toadia swamps. A soft hiss came from the form, followed by a violent wave of a pitch black arm. And far below, the ground trembled as if smitten by some unimaginable power.

The shadow pondered the events taking place on this world, events that reached farther than only a few of its inhabitants had ever imagined. The Land faced the greatest trial of its existence, and those it had chosen to represent it were pitiful at best. Still, it would not do to be too confident so soon. Some care had to be taken. Many a confident warrior had fallen due to underestimating the foe.

With another hiss, the shadow began to lose form once again. The time was near. The Land would feel his power and weep. As Azchel began his slow decent from the peak, his dark power reached forth into the Land--testing, prying.

And the world shuddered at the Shadow's coming.


Chapter 12 - The Puppet Strings
by Quizzard

...Brigit's mind was in a whirl. Never before had she disregarded one of the Ambassador's edicts. Now, here she was, leading a mysterious stranger towards the Ambassador's apartment, knowing that he didn't want to be disturbed. She wondered how the man with the dead, black eyes had convinced her that the interruption was necessary. She didn't even remember his name...<You don't need to know my name, Bridgit, just take me to your master>...Yes, this was an urgent matter, and the Ambassador would totally understand. Of course he would forgive the disobedience.

Her hand seemed to move of it's own accord to strike the ornate entrance.

"What? Go away! Who is it anyway?<sniff>" grumbled the Ambassador, from inside. "I told you I was not to be disturbed."

"It's Brigit, sir. You have an important visitor."

"Nobody's THAT important on my poetry day." came the muffled reply. "Just a minute. I'll be right there."

While they waited, Brigit hear some subdued banging, and a large honk as Lawboy cleared his nose. "Are you okay, sir?"

"Yes, yes. Fine. Well? Who is this important visitor?"

<You have no need of my name, Ambassador. We have much to discuss.> Suddenly, the corpse-eyed man swept past the startled Brigit, and into the room. The door boomed as it slammed shut. <That will be all, Brigit, thank you for your service. You needn't remember my visit.>

With a shudder, Brigit turned and started to return to her desk in the embassy. Then, with a suddenly puzzled look, she stopped and looked around, as if noticing where she was for the first time. Shaking her head, she quickly started again to get back to her work...
 

...The young officer's eyes glazed as he stared at the monitors. Space duty carried some good wages, but the hours were interminable. "Whistle while you work...hum de dum dum dum de dum... Darn! Four more hours until sleep cycle." he said as he glanced at the chronometer. Then the flash caught the corner of his eye. "Oops! Looks like overtime, now. At least SOMETHING'S happening." He depressed a button on the console. "Sir, we have a situation...the CONDOM ship is returning."...


Chapter 13 - The Long and Cold Silence
by Quizzard

...The buzz created by the return of the CONDOM ship was heated, but soon fell limp as there was no communication. The cold silence of the ship in response to repeated attempts to establish contact chilled the initial general interest, and public attention turned elsewhere. It seemed that the rush of the holiday season, and the preparation for the celebration of the fourth millenium stole all of the time people had to spend on contemplating the fate of the mission to the stars. The ship was forgotten by all but a few, the listeners at the outpost...

"Condom ship, condom ship. Come in, condom. This is Venus Intergalaxy Alert/GReeting Authority. We are tracking your trajectory, and are prepared to assist you in docking. Do you read?" the voice, bored by repetition, droned on. Again, patiently, Lt. Savia strained to hear something, anything, in reply.

"Uh, Hello? Can you hear me? Drkhrt, DRKHRT! Damn! I don't know how to work this thing. Hello! I hear you. Can you hear ME?" piped a small squeaky voice.

Stunned, Savia couldn't speak for a moment. "CONDOM ship? Is that you? Who IS this?"

"OH! Good. You can hear me. I'm afraid that the pilot is feeling under the weather. Could you please send somebody out here to help us? OH, I almost forgot. Send a LARGE bucket of water, too. And HURRY!" Watersprite Lin almost cried in desperation. "I'm about to wither away to nothing."

"Don't worry, CONDOM ship. If anyone can get a ship up to you in a hurry, VIAGRA can."...
 

...Brigit was in a state. The Ambassador had always been a little moody, but now it was almost impossible to be around him. He perpetually had an unclean leer upon his face, and had taken up to visiting disreputable people in dark alleys. The alleys left a lingering odor in his clothing, and it was impossible to wash it out of her hair when the Ambassador got too close. And today, that queer one-armed toad, Mr. Ebaneezer, was in conference with Lawboy in his office. Not that the toad was repulsive, but he was always making passes at her. She shuddered from the thought.

"BRIGIT! Clear my afternoon schedule. I have to visit the troops, uh, I mean, the common toads today. I have to read some more poetry that I just created."

"Very well, sir. Shall I tell them down at the Wing of Bat that you're coming, sir?"

"No, dear. Mr. Ebaneezer assures me that I'll have a large audience, and they know I'm coming."

"Very well, sir. Will there be anything else?"

"No, Brigit. I'm gonna be just fine. hehehe."

And in the dark alley outside, a dark shape pulled itself together, and smiled in satisfaction...


Chapter 14 - Allies Meet
by Kilnamar

The small Toad stepped quietly into the Toadstool Emporium. Trying to appear casual, he began to browse among the wooden shelves of goods. Absently, not really seeing it, he picked up a tightly wrapped bundle of dried Algrad Flies and pretended to appraise it.

The young Toad turned casually at the sound of another entering the small building. That must be her. She bore the sign. Acting disappointed, The Toad set the package of flies down and made his way farther back among the shelves.

"Well met, friend," he said softly, as the Salamander passed by slowly, peering at the goods on the opposite shelves.

"Well met," she replied, keeping her back to him.

"You may have already guessed that Killy could not come. His quest has led him elsewhere. I was sent in his stead." Slowly, he made his way around the shelf the Salamander browsed until he was directly across from her. "Do you have the gem with you?"

"Yes," she replied, "and glad I am to finally pass it on to you. I tell you, this stone is unnerving."

"That must be expected. The Egar Gems are renowned for not staying with one master for long."

The Toad watched as the Salamander inconspicuously removed a tiny wrapped bundle from her pocket. Feigning interest in a crate of pressed lilies before her, she leaned closer and set the precious package on the shelf. With a shaking hand, he reached for it.

As soon as it was in his hand, the images came. In an instant his mind was filled with unknown scenes: Toads fighting Toads. Toads fighting other Amphibians, Reptiles and other creatures. Always fighting. And over all, a shadow.

The Toad shuddered at the scenes of carnage. How grateful he was for the dulling effect of the gem's wrapping. With a great effort, he dropped the carefully placed the stone deep in his pack. "Now the burden is mine," he managed to say faintly. "Thank you, friend. Thank you for this grand task you have done."

"This I would do and more for the good of the Land. It's beauty can not pass. We mustn't let it."

"Peace be with you then," he said, choking on his emotions, "for the Land may yet need your services again."

And with those final words, the small Toad made his way from the store. WhyKnot followed a few minutes later, after purchasing something to satisfy her empty stomach.

*********************

Azchel, the Shadow-man smiled. At least as close to a smile as his chaotic features would allow. Things were going just as planned. Lawboy was firmly back under his influence, despite the ceaseless efforts of his magical friend to break through to him. She would be a troublesome one, but he had not the time to deal with her now.

Far off to the east he felt it--one of the Egar Gems had been found by these pathetic creatures. Perhaps by chance, but perhaps not. In any case, he couldn't risk that they knew of the stone's true power or, worse, that they should find the other gems.

Returning to his shadow form, Azchel paused only to be certain that his spells remained secure on Earth's ambassador, then disappeared into the night.


Chapter 15 - A Passing Torch
by Quizzard

...Lt. Savia couldn't believe the whirlwind of activity created by the news of contact with the CONDOM ship. A whole pack of CONDOMS, ten in all, were released to celebrate the unbroken return of the star voyager. A wild party was planned, as soon as they could revive the drunken pilot. There was much speculation as to the identity of the visitor from the far away galaxy, and why she was so thirsty for water. Still, it was Lt. Savia in the VIAGRA ship which finally induced contact with the runaway prodigal wanderer. Savia performed the difficult docking maneuver, and approached the airlock with trepidation. This was about to make history.

*clank* *rumble, rumble* *clunk* *WHOOSH* *creeeeaaak* The sounds of the airlock sent shivers down Savia's spine. Then, at last, the path was clear, and Savia entered the interstellar ship, and found...nothing? Oh, wait, there was the pilot, slumped in the corner, and singing softly to herself. The number of empty liquor bottles told the story of her condition all too clearly. But, where was the owner of the mysterious voice? Savia searched from room to room, and found no one. Walking back to the bridge of the ship, Savia almost tripped over a spilled canteen on the floor.

"Hey, watch it, buddy!" the small, hoarse voice was just barely audible. "Did ya bring my water, I'm parched here."

"Huh?"

"Stand and gawk later, right now you'd better pour me into some water before I turn into dust and haunt your nasal passages for the rest of your life!" Too dumfounded to argue, Savia picked up the canteen, and returned to the other ship, and the five gallon canister stored there. "Ooooh! I feel it! Don't worry about a glass, just let me have it!" Savia twisted off the lid of the canister, and poured in the remaining liquid from the canteen. There was a tiny splash, and the voice, slightly stronger, piped, "Give me a minute to freshen up, then we can talk."

Dazedly, Savia wondered how to write this up in the report...
 

...The rally lasted for hours, and Lawboy's words lashed the crowded room into a frenzy. Everywhere, mumbles and murmers were growing in volume as THE MAN spoke out against the King. Soon, the spectators would be whipped to the wild abandon of the mob mentality. Sadly, a small figure in a dark, hooded robe, shook his head and turned to leave. Killy wondered what kind of game the mammalian snake was playing, and what would he have to do to counter it. The troubling dreams that the Egar Gem had brought to him, had not forwarded a glimpse of this, and Killy was at a loss for what that meant. He HAD to find another of the dream jewels. Maybe two, together, had the power to foretell the best path for the land to take. He started running....


Chapter 16 - Origins: Part 1
by Kilnamar

Killy ran through the shadow-filled streets, never daring to stop and rest. Time was growing ever shorter, as the attitude of the people showed. Citizens everywhere were becoming confused and paranoid, not knowing who the true enemy was or who to believe.

When Killy reached the edge of town, he kept running. For what seemed like hours he ran. Finally, he saw his destination nearing. With a last panting burst, he sprinted the last few yards into a dense thicket and fell gasping to the earth.

"That is hardly the position for a hero," Lldy's small voice squeaked. "Suppose a Nog Wumb was to find you at this moment. Why, you would be helpless, silly."

Killy looked at the Wood Sprite, blushing slightly. Along there whole journey, the faery creature had been 'instructing' him on the finer arts of stealth and fighting. Rising slowly to a kneeling position, Killy sighed, still breathing heavily. "You're right. I'm sorry. It won't happen again."

"I'm sure it won't," Lldy giggled. "Now tell me, how goes the affairs in town?" The sprite took a seat a few feet from the Toad so she didn't have to strain her neck to look him in the eye.

"Things are fast getting out of control," he said. "The ambassador is whipping the citizens into a frenzy. It is only a matter of time before they do something crazy."

The small sprite's shoulders slumped. "Are we even now too late?" she said to no one. She folded her arms on her upraised knees and lowered her head. Almost immediately, she raised it again, staring intently to the east.

At the same moment, the visions in Killy's head from the Egar Gem changed, becoming stronger, more clear. He 'felt' something in the same direction the sprite gazed. Something that drew closer.

Something entered the thicket, the soft swishing of branches the only sign. The sprite was on her feet immediately, beckoning for Killy to flee with her. But Killy gave a calming motion with his hand. "It's ok, Lldy. It is our friend. He has found us at last."

The sprite stared suspiciously as another small, cloaked Toad silently joined them. "Well met, friends," he said as he pulled back his hood. "My mission has been successful. WhyKnot delivered the Egar Gem as she promised." He held out a small trembling hand to Killy. "Take it. Please."

"May honor always be yours, young shysock," Killy said, as he gently reached and took the second of the priceless stones from him. For a few moments he just stood, holding a gem in each hand. Already the images were much stronger than before. The visions of battles and fighting from shysock's stone blending as one with the visions of guidance from his own.

"Killy," said shysock, "you know I will do anything the Land asks of me, but..."

"It's ok," Killy said in a whisper, his concentration on the two gems growing more and more intent. "You have done more than anyone could have expected. I know you want to return to your family. Go in peace, my dear friend."

Shysock looked down briefly, then shook his head and straightened his back. "My mind tells me to stay and aid you, but my heart tells me to be with my loved ones. I will follow my heart, as you do." And with that, he disappeared into the night.


Chapter 17 - Origins: Part 2
by Kilnamar

Killy watched his young friend fade into the night, then returned his gaze to the Egar Gems. His original stone glowed with a soft blue light, while the one shysock had passed on to him glowed red. The light from the two stones mixed and danced together, giving the queasy impression of blood flowing from his palms.

"It is time," he heard Lldy whisper in awe. "It is time to join the stones."

Slowly, as if fighting some invisible force, Killy moved his hands together. As the Gems neared each other, their light grew, not reaching any farther through the dark night, just becoming more intense.

And then they touched. And, to Killy, the world seemed to explode.

***************************

Killy floated in blackness. He was disoriented, not knowing which way was up. In panic, he tried to twist around, to find some point of reference. But if he moved, he could not tell.

Slowly, after what seemed hours, or perhaps days, he began to notice a change in the forever blackness. Grayish shapes began to form, joining together, becoming ever larger and more clear until he gazed upon a huge sphere.

As time passed, Killy saw the sphere grow more clear. Shapes formed upon it, and at last he realized he was looking upon a planet! Paying more attention to details, he watched intently for more changes.

On and on he floated. His mind must have wandered, for when he returned his awareness to the planet, he was shocked at the difference. Somehow he was at once able to see the entire planet and the close up details at the same time. The world was beautiful and wild, untainted by pollution or technology. Mountains, valleys, swamps, deserts--all were pure and clean in their newness. Killy looked upon a world in its beginning.

More time passed. Ages seemed to come and go. The virgin world flourished, becoming rich and lush. Killy's heart ached at the beauty, wishing more than anything that he could just set foot upon this breathtaking vision before him. No, he could not do that. he could not taint it's purity, even to enjoy it.

Drifting, ever drifting, Killy basked in the glory of the globe before him. How long had he been a spectator? Years? Millennia? Eons? It didn't matter. All that mattered was that he was here to witness something more beautiful than he had ever imagined.

And then something caught his eye. Something moved in the blackness surrounding the planet, aiming toward it. What was it? Killy strained to see. It was a ship.

"No!" he cried, voicelessly. "You can't defile this place!"

But his plea went unheeded, unnoticed. The ship continued to its destination. It's engines shot vile fumes into the delicate atmosphere. Plants died under the massive weight of its landing.

Killy watched horrified as beings--were they Toads??--left the ship and began to build upon the land. The Toads flourished and multiplied, feeding off the amazing richness of the planet. Killy watched and his soul wept.

From that time on, the planet was different. Although still intensely beautiful, some luster was lost, some richness spoiled, some life withered. The Toads didn't seem to notice, ever growing and expanding on the hurting planet.

Killy was not sure exactly when, but at some point he began to notice something else. A shadow. The Shadow moved among the Toads, and where it went, the land suffered. Where it went, the Toads began to defile the world more profusely.

And then other life began to appear--lizards, insects, fish. Killy was not sure if they came from the Toads, or if they had their own origin, unknown to him. And the Shadow continued to flitter among them all. For awhile, all the planet's inhabitants lived and thrived peacefully. The degradation of the beautiful world continued. But then fighting began.

Killy watched, heart breaking, as battles and wars tore across the surface. creatures of all form fought and died in a seemingly endless, wild frenzy of blood and hatred. And always, the Shadow was there, where the atrocities were most severe.

Drifting and drifting. Killy watched time pass, through times of peace, and great wars. The land suffered. He could feel its pain and anguish. In agony over its suffering, he poured out his heart to it. Willing it to survive.

A great war broke out, more violent and bloody than any so far. The surface of the planet seemed a single mass of writhing, fighting, dying bodies. The Shadow was there, larger than before, more powerful. The land screamed in pain and terror, the violence of its parasites draining its very life.

"Hold on!" Killy screamed. "Don't give up!"

And the land fought back. A brilliant light burst forth from the center of the world. new beings formed. Beings of light, of love, of purity--projections of the last remnants of the planet's innocence. Killy watched as Toads and others began to group around them, upholding them. Small in numbers at first, then growing beyond number.

The shadow and those who stayed with it fought bitterly. For an unknown amount of time, the balance of power swayed back and forth. But in the end, the Land was victorious. The Shadow fled as the last of its minions died or surrendered. An intense silence permeated the world.

Killy watched in wonder as the inhabitants of the planet knelt as one and pledged their lives and service to the Land. It began to thrive and become beautiful again.

For many centuries the world knew peace. Until, once again, a ship approached. The new arrivals brought great gifts to the leaders of the world's inhabitants. Once again, Killy noticed the Shadow at work among then, weak and faint at first, but growing stronger as hearts were turned toward power and prestige.

Some fought against the atrocities taking over the world. But what were so few against so many?

"Father..." Killy whispered, as he saw that fateful battle take place.

As Twead and Quizzard fought, the rest of the world seemed to hold its breath, and as they fell, mayhem erupted. Once again, Killy saw some of the Bright Ones at work on the planet, gathering those who would fight to preserve the Land. And the Shadow worked more furiously, growing in power and blackness till it seemed to cover all the world.

"Killy." A voice echoed in his head, coming from everywhere. "You see the peril of the Land. The Shadow grows close to overwhelming. If he does, eternal night and misery awaits us all."

The terrified Toad stared at the scene of horror taking place on the planet. Already, the Bright Ones seemed to be dimming, fading. "NO! This can't happen!" Killy screamed. "You can't let it win!"

"The Land is losing power. Soon, it will be unable to withstand the Shadow's might."

"There must be some way, some THING that can be done," Killy whimpered.

"There is little hope, but there is some, brave Toad. Already you and others are being guided on missions of vital importance. Soon the time will come when all will come together and understand. For now, watch and learn of your enemies."

"Who are you?" Killy asked, for the first time feeling himself grow sleepy.

"I am the creator of the Bright Ones. I am the Land. Save me, Killy. Save me. Return me to the beauty i once possessed."

As the voice faded, Killy watched the events on Amphibia, absorbing information, forming plans. He would not fail. If it meant his life, he would not fail.


Chapter 18 - The New Torchbearer
by Quizzard

...The tiny being climbed out of the bucket in a stately, if awkward manner. She placed her hands on her hips, and cocked her head back. Looking Savia straight in the eye, she declared, "Well. Now that the necessities are done with, let's have a look at you. Hmmmm. You don't look like a hero, but I guess you'll do. Whoever told you to cut your hair that short? It's hard to tell that you're not a boy. Anyway, we've got to get going. We have a lot of work to do, and we're not getting it done just standing here."

"What? Hold on a minute. What are you talking about? Who are you? No. What are you? How did you get here? Am I hallucinating?" sputtered Lt. Savia.

"Oh, my. We don't really have time for this, but here we go. I'm talking about saving a planet. My name is Lin. I'm a water sprite. I got here by stashing myself away in Drkhrt's canteen. No, you're not hallucinating, unlike that poor girl I rode here with. She really couldn't hold her liquor. It's not MY fault that she only brought one canteen. Really, the trip took a month, and she didn't think to check her supplies. SHE ought to choose her champions more carefully."

"Wait, I'm confused. I don't understand what you're talking about. Who's SHE, and what planet, why does SHE need champions, and just what exactly are you again?"

"Oh, goodness. I'm gonna have to tell you EVERYTHING, aren't I. Well, do you want the long version, or the abridged?"

"Abridged, but feel free to fill in if I ask questions."

"Okay. You see, the land is in trouble..." The sprite talked on and on. Savia didn't believe a word at first, but found herself drawn into the exotic tale with every passing minute. She found herself wishing that she could do something to help this small creature and her planet. And so the hook was taken, and the sprite started reeling her in...
 

...Helpful Ted trod down the path with a determined expression on his face. People, especially Ambassadors from other planets just didn't refuse audience with the King. This was the fifth summons that had been sent, and refused. Ted really didn't want to be the bearer of this message, but he was the Captain, after all. Who else could do it? Maybe he could get one of the members of the board...no. It was his job. He'd bear the consequences, even if it meant his Lord's poor graces...

...Lawboy sat in his chamber, with only one small candle set against the gloom, and brooded. In the corner, the shadows changed, and elongated. The gllomy room became still, like a tomb, and a harsh chill sent shivers down his spine. "Welcome, Lord Azchel. I've been expecting you."

"Do not call me Lord. I desire not to rule. That shall be your place. Call me, rather, master. For I hold the keys to your destiny, Lawboy."

"Yes, master. How shall I serve you today?"

"Something troubles me. I have felt the presence of some items of power, which might hinder my goals. They have been hidden for eons, but have started to appear in the most awkward places. I need you to gather together the last of them, and hold them from the son of the upstart. Should he gain possession of those gems, I shall be quite unamused."

"Surely, this can't be that important. Soon, I'll have that pipsqueak's head on a plate, and he'll be no more bother. It's only a matter of time."

"YOU HAVE NO TIME! I have been patient with you so far, but you have failed to apprehend him. Soon, his trainers will make him invincible to you, and I'll have to step in. I can't have that at this stage of the game. Do not fail me in this, AMBASSADOR. You will not like the consequences." The words dripped like venom, and Lawboy cringed.

"Yes, master. What are these items, and where might I find them?"

"Pay attention, and do not write these directions down. I cannot have the enemy getting to them before you. The next Egar Gem is the White Eye, and it can be found in a cave at the base of the Dragon's Teeth mountains, far to the west. Go there quickly, and hold that gem safe. I'll return when you have attained your goal." The words faded like the echos in a morgue, and suddenly, the shadow was gone.

*click* "Oh, shoot!" a quiet voice chirped. There was the sudden pattering of little fleeing feet.

Lawboy launched himself out of the chair, but the intruder was gone. No help for it now. It was to be a race to the cave, and he'd better win. He couldn't lose this one, or there might not be another...


Chapter 19 - Hop, Skip, or Jump
by Quizzard

...The rough trail twisted over the top of the mountain, and began its torturous descent toward the western foothills of the Dragon's Teeth. It felt like Lawboy had ridden on this errand for years, rather than just one week. He grunted as the mudskipper lurched again, and the raw patches on his rear flamed up anew. Gingerly, he reset himself in the saddle, and hung on. His grim visage twisted in agony and determination. He could not rest, for although he had seen no sign of his adversaries, he could feel their eyes upon him. He HAD to get there first. He had no desire to disappoint his master, or feel the consequences. What he wouldn't give for a good horse right about now. The large lizard-like mudskipper lurched again, and a soft moan escaped his lips...

...Killy had a momentary sense of pity for the man when he heard the cry of anguish. He knew that there was a trick to riding a mudskipper, especially over rough terrain. But then, reality intruded itself, and his resolve tightened. He WOULD not fail to get the next Egar Gem. The visions tortured him, but he could not let go of his quest now. He knew what the stakes were. He turned to Greyeyes, "Is everything ready for when the Ambassador retrieves the gem for us?"

"Yes, Killy. He won't posses the gem for even 5 minutes after he exits the cave. He doesn't have a chance."

"Good. We don't have much time. He should have the gem soon. Then we'll take it, and hustle back to camp. This has taken too long already. Who knows what's happening back there. Besides, the Nog Wumb reside in this range, and we don't want to mess with them." The others shifted uneasily at that news. "Let's move. I don't want to be too far behind him when he retrieves the gem."

With almost no noise, our heros descended the pass behind the travel weary figure. Soon, the next chapter would unfold in the history of amphibia...


Chapter 20 - Grey and White
by Kilnamar

As the group of companions waited somewhat impatiently for Lawboy to complete his task in the cave, Greyeyes watched Killy surreptitiously from the corner of her eye. He and his small sprite companion had rejoined them a few days previously, with news of an urgent mission that required their assistance. All of them could tell that the young Toad had changed. "What is happening inside that head of yours?" she thought to herself. Gone was his humor, replaced with an almost fanatical sense of duty. If only he would smile now and then, she would know everything was ok.

********************

Lawboy grunted as he squeezed through a particularly narrow part of the crevasse he navigated. All was dark, save for the pallid glow cast by his tiny lantern. Grumbling under his breath, he forced his weary body through, his once fin clothes now ripped and muddy.

"How is it that I got drafted to this vile quest?" he grumbled aloud. "This is the task of a warrior, not a man of words such as I."

After about an hour of squeezing, crawling and cursing, Lawboy finally found himself in an ever widening passageway. Hurrying, he jogged forward. The passage opened into a huge cavern, the walls extending beyond his meager light in all directions. Above him was shadow and echoes of echoes lost through time. Resting for a moment, he considered which direction to go.

With a shrug, he marched straight ahead, toward what he perceived as the center of the vast open space. His instincts were accurate, as usual. There, about 200 yards from where the passage entered the cavern, rose a dias. And on the dias shone a brilliant light. The White Eye.

Lawboy moved forward slowly, in awe of the ancient gem. Strange how the light was so bright, but seemed to not extend beyond a few yards. Climbing the first steps of the dias, he knelt and removed a small box form his travel cloak. A box marked with arcane symbols and warded with strong spells--or so Azchel had assured him--to protect him from the gem's power.

Opening the box, he leaned forward, the Egar Gem bright in his wide eyes. Following the Shadowman's instructions carefully, he closed the box around the stone without touching it. The cavern immediately seemed thrust into complete blackness. After a few moments of waiting, Lawboy's eyes readjusted to the ruddy light of his lantern. And he saw a sight that raised the hair on his neck and had him running, screaming back the way he had come.

********************

Greyeyes watched the cave entrance impatiently. How long had the Ambassador been inside now? Two hours? Five? It seemed like a hundred.

Moving softly, she approached Babytisa, her companion also showing signs of agitation. "How goes it, friend?"

"How long must we wait for that buffoon?" Babytisa exclaimed in a harsh whisper. "I still think we should have gone in for the Gem ourselves."

"As would I," said Greyeyes, "but we have to trust that Killy's visions show him what we can not see ourselves."

Babytisa mumbled something that could have been agreement, and returned to watching the cave.

Greyes returned to her post, glancing at her companions as she went. Fly20 waited tensely off a distance from the others. Ever fiber of his being intent on what must soon happen. Killy lay flat against the ground in a shallow depression, having chosen that central location of the group for himself. The sprite was nowhere to be seen, as was usually the case. They were ready. If only that blasted Earthling would get on with it!

Even as she finished her thought, a loud scream split the air. She looked around, bewildered, before deciding it must have come from the cave. Out from its mouth burst a barely recognized form. The Ambassador's clothes were nearly shredded, his body scraped and bleeding in numerous places. Screaming again, he ran for his mud skipper.

Unfortunately, that was right toward them. Killy jumped to his feet and Lawboy, looking back over his shoulder, collided with him. They collapsed in a frantic pile of waving arms and legs. Immediately, the other companions were there, pulling the Ambassador off and helping Killy to his feet.

Fly20 held Lawboy tightly against his kicks and screams.

"Let me go, you fools! It comes. It..." His eyes widened and his words were lost in another wordless scream.

Alarmed, the companions whirled toward the cave. And a monstrosity of black spikes and slime erupted from the dark interior.

"The Wog Numb!!" Lldy screamed.

Greyeyes jumped as the sprite popped into view right next to her. Recovering quickly, she ran to the side, out of the huge beast's path. She was dimly aware of her other companions doing the same. All except Killy. She watched in horror as her young friend stood calmly, facing the monster's approach. "Killy!" she screamed. "Get out of there!"

"Curses!" spat Fly20, off to her left. Thrusting the Ambassador aside, he made ready to go to Killy's aid.

But it was too late. They were too far away. And then the unimaginable happened. Just when the Nog Wumb was about to trample the Toad into the ground, Killy shifted to the side, dropped to one knee and thrust his sword violently upward into the charging creature. The sword rammed home and the jolt threw Killy away to land in an unmoving heap a few feet away.

The beast let out a sound that Greyeyes could not describe. A scream, but not a scream. Thunder, but not thunder. The sound so intense it seemed to shake the ground. And then it fled, disappearing back into its cave.

Frantic, Greyeyes and her companions rushed to Killy's aid. As they approached, he shuddered slightly and then sat up. Other than a small trickle of blood running from his temple, he seemed unharmed.

"You are crazy! You stupid Toad, you could have been killed!" Greyeyes snarled in fear-caused anger.

Killy stood and brushed himself off, leaning for a moment on Fly20's offered arm. "It was the only choice," he said softly. "Quick, the Ambassador has fled. We must catch him."

With a start, Greyeyes realized that Lawboy HAD disappeared. He must have taken off when the fight ensued.

In a rush, the companions grabbed their belongings and prepared to set out. It would be a long, hard chase to catch the Earthling on a mud skipper.

As Greyeyes, knelt to close her pack, something called to her mind. A soft, gentle cooing. Looking around, she spied an ornate box lying in the mud close by. She approached it slowly and knelt again. Reaching with a shaking hand, she grasped it. Almost without knowing what she was doing, she touched a series of symbols on the box surface, and the lid snicked open.

"Umm...Killy," she said softly.

As Killy and her other companions stopped their rush and turned toward her, she dumped the content of the box into her open palm. A shout of joy, love and release exploded in her mind as tears streamed down her face.

"The White Eye...." Killy whispered. And the companions stood in awe fo the greatest of the Egar Gems.


Chapter 21 - The Call of the Wild
by Quizzard

..."Show me the way to go home..." the voice wheezed and cracked with exhausted desparation, "I'm tired and I wanna go ta bed. I had a little drink about an hour ago, an it went right to my head..." The last vestiges of rational thought had fled Lawboy when the mudskipper had tossed him in flight from the Nog Wumb. His rational mind couldn't deal with the sight of that terrifying figure, or the thought of the reception of his master when he failed to return with the gem. A wild cackle escaped his lips as again he broke into song, "Well, the toad's got my bauble with the light of the moon. My master's gonna get me and I'm mad as a loon. How'm I gonna get home, my ship's not here? My goose is gonna get cooked, soon, yeah. You know it's gonna get cooked soon..." The pitiful figure stumbled off into the night, still humming 'Cat's in the Cradle' by Harry Chapin...
 

...Lt. Savia decided not to write about the tiny water sprite in her reports, so the Earth had a new legend to talk about. The mystery of what happened to the CONDOM mission, and the strange communication from the ship on it's return journey raged like wildfire through conversations in all walks of life. Noone noticed Savia's new habit of carrying a canteen with her everywhere.
Drkhrt was treated for alcoholism and space-sickness. A new disease thought to be caused by faster than light travel. The stories she related about tiny people and huge battles with magic landed her a long rest in rooms with upholstered walls. She did look good in white, even if she was always hugging herself.
Savia was finally released from her debriefing, and allowed a vacation. She and her new companion set of on a journey to the natural wonders of the landscaped nature preserves. The only places on Earth where nature was allowed to grow freely, as long as it didn't overgrow the asphault trails. With each new exotic location, Watersprite Lin grew more and more despondant. She took to sighing at the sight of every pruned tree, and concrete banked river.

"What's the matter with you? You haven't spoken for hours." queried Savia.

"(sigh) Your planet is so stifled. I don't understand how anything can grow when you've destroyed the power of your land. There's no sign of anything free to grow, anywhere. Where are your sprites, gnomes, dryads and the other natural creatures?"

"There never were any. Why do you think I kept you a secret? They'd lock me up in the looney bin if I started talking about magic creatures. They're only stories from legend."

"You're wrong, of course. I know this planet had bright people here at one time. Even your legends had to start somewhere. Besides, the Egar put life into all of the planets. Why should yours be any different from ours?"

"That's a name I haven't heard you say before. Who were the Egar?"

"That's a story that takes a while to tell. You see, the Egar...did you hear that?"

"No, what?"

The sprite suddenly dashed off toward a small grotto. In bemusement, Savia followed...


Chapter 22 - It's Not Nice to Fool Mother Nature
by Quizzard

...When Savia caught up with the small sprite, she was shocked to discover that there were two, instead of one. The tiny beings were excitedly chatting back and forth so quickly, that it sounded like a foreign language. Savia couldn't tell which one was Lin, until she noticed some slight differences. The new sprite, for one, had brownish hair, and her color, or lack of it, was slightly dirty. Curious, she approached the animated mythical beings. "Hello."

"Oh, Savia! Meet my new friend. Her name is Pahel50..."
 

...Sadly, the tall earthy figure watched as the poor wretch below cackled insanely. He had seen few creatures like this one, but he could tell that this one wasn't right in the grey matter. He twirled his gnarled fingers through his long beard as he pondered the small creature's plight. Maybe, just maybe, there was something that he could do to help the wretched thing, but should he? He deliberately set his mind to the task, and set off to capture the crazed Ambassador of Man. Obi-wan was sure that his wife wouldn't like it, but he had to do something, didn't he?...


Chapter 23 - Tempest
by Kilnamar

Somewhere, deep in a chamber below the black weight of the Iron Hills, the Shadowman howled in frustration. Terrified minions scattered into the darkness, squeals and whimpers drowned out by their master's rage.

"That fool has failed me for the last time!" he growled.

"Master, what does this portend?" asked the small, trembling creature before him--the Gecko had brought the news of Lawboy's failure.

Azchel paused, remembering the frightened messenger's presence. "Fools! I am surrounded by fools and whimpering parasites! Go! Take a squadron of Aglars and bring Lawboy to me!"

"Master...must it be the Aglars?" Benmax blanched. "Would not a squadron of Geckos suffice?"

"You DARE question my command?" Azchel roared, standing from his throne. Eyes of black turned crimson in the near pitch darkness of the chamber.

The Shadowman approached the cowering servant. Lightning fast, his hand struck, becoming shadow as it went.

"No, Master! PLEASE!" Benmax screamed as the hand of shadow entered his chest. His eyes rolled back as he convulsed, blackness pouring from eyes, nose and mouth.

Disgustedly, Azchel removed his hand and let the twitching Gecko fall to his knees. "That is your one and final warning," he said softly, evilly. "Question me again and you will beg me to take your life! Now GO! Bring the ambassador of Earth to me. ALIVE, or YOU will take his place as an example to the others."

The Shadowman turned and flowed back to his throne, sounds of the fleeing slave behind him. Taking his solid form for a moment, he grasped the large black gem that hung by an intricate chain around his neck--the Tempest. Looking into its midnight depths, his mind linked with the stone's presence.

"The enemy has gained possession of our arch rival," he thought.

"Fear not," the gem answered, "for it takes long to master one of us such as you have done. Those who defy us can still be quelled before they gain the knowledge and experience they need. Until that time, we must do what we can to ensure the enemy does not obtain the last two gems, and if possible, reclaim those they do have."

"Yes," Azchel chuckled. "Time it takes, and time they have not."

And with that, the Shadowman lost form and passed from his lair out into the world. These upstarts of heros would NOT ruin his plans. He had waited far too long for that.

 Re: Tempest by waterlin on 2.1.00 12:50 PM
 

oooh, how chilling kilnamar...this is wonderful! i have been waiting to see what would happen next, glad i did not have to wait long...


Chapter 24 - When the house is a'rockin
by Quizzard

...Trying to dispel the unease that was tickling the hairs on the back of her neck, Taragl paused in her ministrations to the wounded animal. The injury was small, and well on it's way to recovery. Still, even that small satisfaction was dulled by the impending sense of doom. Then the small rodent squeaked again, and she returned to her task of binding up the wound. Finally done, she invoked a small incantation to speed the final recovery, and then patted it on it's way. Slowly, she stood and cast her mind around to find the source of the ill omen, but it was still too nebulous. Then, she caught the faint tendrils of a familiar mind, and turned to go inside and start supper. Rarely did Obi-wan return so early from his forays, but when he did, it usually spelt trouble. And, of course, it was always easier to deal with trouble with a full belly...
 

...Pahel50 continued her tale with ever greater vigor when she realized that her audience was truly interested in the telling. "You see, in the dark years, just about all of our kind disappeared. We were driven to small preserves, and many of us grew sick with pollution. We thought that there was little hope. But then, when the spaceships started leaving, we started expanding again, and trying to recover the Earth's former beauty. We were allowed to reproduce again. And now, I'm the 50th sprite to be born in this millenium. The Earth Mother made a big deal about my conception. She said that there was something important for me to do, but wouldn't tell me what. I thought it meant that I was to take charge of the recovery, but, as you can see, there's not much for me to take charge of. So, here I am. Now, tell me about YOU. I know just about everyone, but I don't know you. Where did you come from? And, how do you stay so clean?"

"Well, it's a long story. Are you sure you're ready to hear it?" Watersprite Lin cocked her head and waited for the answer.

"Sure, I can take a break. There's not much more for me to do here, anyway." She politely returned the rapt attention she was shown during her narration, and soon was totally engrossed in the plight of Amhibia. Watersprite Lin talked on into the night...
 

...Killy sat and stared at the three gems on the table before him. The Light was painfully bright, but didn't seem to brighten the gloom around him. For hours, it seemed, he'd been sitting there, trying to fathom the function of the White Eye. It wouldn't allow itself to be held at the same time as either of the other two gems. He grunted in frustration. He needed more information about the gems, he needed an instruction manual. Unfortunately, none existed. He moved to pick up the red and blue gems to put them away, but as soon as he touched them, the Eye flashed, and the voices began...


Chapter 25 - Egar Beavers
by Quizzard

...Killy experienced a flash of disorientation as reality faded away. Suddenly, he stood in the formless void. He knew he was not alone, yet could see nothing. When the words came, he did not hear, so much as EXPERIENCE them. *WE ARE MANY, YET WE ARE ONE* The words echoed down to the core of his being. He was not afraid, yet could not stop trembling in awe. *WE ARE THE EGAR. WE ARE THE BUILDERS, WE ARE THE MAKERS, WE ARE ONE. BEFORE THIS UNIVERSE BEGAN, WE WERE. THROUGH TIME BEYOND MEASURE, WE HAVE TRAVELLED THE STARS. LONG HAVE WE SAT VIGIL, AWAITING THE RETURN OF THE ACCURSED. IS IT TIME? ARE YOU THE ONE?*

"Wait. I don't understand. I..." Killy felt his mind explode as the many searched his soul. The sum of his life experience was lifted and examined. It seemed an eternity of agony as his life was displayed for the Egar. Then, suddenly, it was over.

*YOU ARE NOT THE ONE, YET YOU ARE COMPANION. HAIL, WEILDER OF THE BLOODSTONE. IT IS GOOD YOU ARE COME. MAKE HASTE IN FINDING THE ONE, FOR TIME, EVEN AS YOU MEASURE IT, IS SHORT. GATHER YOUR COMPANIONS, AND GUARD THEM WELL. THE FINAL MEETING DRAWS NIGH*

Again, reality shifted, and Killy's head swam with vertigo. He opened his eyes and found himself back in his room, the three gems lying on the table before him. Dazedly, he reached for them again, but found he could not touch any but the red stone. Suddenly, like a hot poker against his skin, pain flared in his right hand, then subsided. With a muttered oath, he looked at it, and saw a circular mark, like a burn. The mark was blood red...
 

...Savia was unsure as to which point in the story she fell asleep, but she awoke to hear the end of Lin's narration.

"So, here we are, searching for help for the Land. But, we have no idea where to look."

Pahel50 slowly stood and paced in a circle. "Well, I'm not sure how to help you, but I know who can. Follow me. Let's go see the Earth Mother. It's not far."

So, shaking the sleep from her mind, Savia picked up her canteen, and followed the tiny sprite upstream...
 

..."I knew you'd be upset, and I'm sorry. But the poor thing wouldn't last long in the mountains in this state. I thought you'd understand." Obi-wan hung his massive head and shuffled his feet. He looked so much like a penitant child, that Taragl had to laugh.

"Okay, okay. You win. He can stay. I never could turn out a helpless animal. Wherever did you find the poor dear?"

"Oh, he was wandering around the foothills, not far from the lair of the Nog Wumb."

Taragl shivered. "Nasty creatures, those are. Not a shred of decency to them. Is that where he got that nasty bump?"

Obi-wan slouched even lower, "No, that was me. He struggled so much when I picked him up, that I dropped him on his head. He'll be okay, won't he?"

"Well, you big butter-fingered fool. Bring him over here and let me have a look at him." suddenly all business, Taragl cleared the table and brought out her medicine bag. Gently, Obi-wan picked up Lawboy and laid him out on the table. "The bump doesn't look bad. I'll be able to mend that. But, let's take a look at the mind." Humming a strange tune deep in her throat, she placed her hand on Lawboy's forehead, and gasped. "Oh! He's got the touch of Azchel on him. We're going to need something a bit out of the ordinary for this." Reaching down inside the corner cupboard, she grabbed a small box with intricate designs on it. She gingerly set it on the table, and lifted the lid. The room was suddenly diffused with a soft green light as she removed a bright gem from the velvet interior...


Chapter 26 - Color and Shadow
by Kilnamar

Benmax shuddered as he gazed over the Aglar encampment. The powerful creatures were unnerving with their strange inventions and the way they went about doing things. No other race on all of Amphibia were as feared. It was said they had never been defeated in battle, and he believed it.

With a sigh, he started forward, making his way to the Aglar leader's...house...he wanted to say, but he knew it was impossible to travel with house. Wasn't it? He eyed the strange building in the center of the camp suspiciously. Carefully, he made his way past complex metal "things" and gadgets--things he had no names for.

Finally he arrived at the commander's dwelling. Looking up at the roof far above, Benmax couldn't comprehend how they managed to fit this on one wagon. And yet each morning, it was gone, or shrunken, or folded onto one large, carefully covered wagon, where it would remain until the next camp was chosen. The Aglar never let he or any of the other Geckos see how they used their amazing things. Perhaps they didn't want their secrets stolen.

"Well, you can keep your crazy junk to yourself," he mumbled as he knocked on the great...metal?...door of the structure. Captain Benmax to see Commander Connecta."

The massive door swung open silently, revealing the dark interior. Unlike the other races that served Azchel, the Aglar LIKED the darkness, only venturing forth in daylight when forced to do so.

Slowly, he entered, not seeing who, if anyone, had opened the portal. Arms outstretched, he shuffled along, fearing a fall or bumped head or shin any moment.

"Far enough," came what benmax assumed was connecta's deep, guttural voice, and he froze in mid step. "Report."

"Umm. Commander, my Gecko troops are set on their patrols as ordered. The hunters are reporting plenty of game. At the rate we are traveling, we will reach our first destination in less than a week."

"Tell me something I don't know, fool!" the Aglar shouted.

Sure. How about: I can smell your breath from here, you slimy cow bait, thought benmax. Hoping the commander could not see thoughts as easy as what happened over the whole camp, he said aloud, "I have further information on the first Egar Gem, Commander."

"Very well. Speak on, and TRY not to babble."

Benmax scowled in the darkness. Babble? I'll babble you. I'll babble you right down that babbling brook outside. "The TrueHeart is held by a Healer, deep in the Great Forest ahead. It is doubtful that she realizes the importance of the stone, using its power to cure wounded animals and occasional wanderers. There should be no complications in taking the Gem."

"Good," the Aglar commander growled. "Return to your camp and prepare your...squadron...to move out at first light. Dismissed."

Dismissed? Like a common housemaid? Benmax turned and started back toward the door--at least he HOPED it was the right direction. A curse on all you freaks. May you all get an infestation of blistermites, you foul, fiendish...

On and on benmax cursed and insulted the Aglar in his head, all the way back to his own tent and continuing as he gave orders and prepared to sleep.

*-*-*-*-*

Benmax awoke sometime later that night, confused and disoriented. What had awaken him? He listened to the quiet noises of the night, but heard nothing abnormal.

As he listened carefully, a small sensation came to his mind, almost indiscernable--more like a feeling of being pulled. Shaking his head, he tried to clear his thoughts and return to sleep. But the pull came again, stronger this time.

Benmax sat up, without really knowing what he was doing, and exited his tent. Carefully, quietly, he allowed himself to be pulled. he almost turned back when he realized he was being led to the Aglar camp, but the force on his mind was too strong now.

Through the dark maze of gadgets he walked, and to his surprise, he found himself ALMOST understanding them. That contraption there--that could make starting a fire much easier. And that one--with the wheels and hammer-shaped weight could possibly be used to drive tent stakes.

Benmax continued, dreamlike, toward the center of the camp. Part of his mind screamed. Please don't let me wake them. Please! But none stirred. Skirting past the great main door of the commander's abode, he circled around to the rear of the structure. The force pulled and ben reached out and touched a panel just so, and it...folded...upon itself until it was nearly nonexistent, leaving a large opening. Quickly he ducked inside.

The interior was blackness, not even the starlight from outside seeming to penetrate. Blindly following the pull on his mind now, he stepped through the darkness. Another tug and his hand reached out, closing on a hard, sharp object. With his other hand, he reached as directed and touched the object above his other fingers. There was a soft snap and the object came free in his hand.

Now came a sense of urgency. Quickly, still blind, he followed the pull back out into the night, reforming the panel once again. Finally seeing again, ben looked down at what he held...and nearly dropped it in terror. It was the metal box that always hung from the Aglar commander's neck. What have I done, he thought. I will never be forgiven for such a thing!

In sheer panic, he ran. He ran past machines for chilling water. He ran past hole-diggers. All the way back to his tent he ran and collapsed to his knees beside his bedding.

With shaking hands, he held out the cursed box. What have I done! The tug came at his mind again, but he resisted. Again it came, and again he refrained. A third time, and he could resist no more. Carefully, but firmly, he twisted part of the box, then turned it and twisted another portion. Twist. Press. Turn. At last it opened. and a soft amber light burst forth, caressing his face and filling his mind.

"The SunSphere!" he gasped aloud. "But...but...it is supposed to be lost in the eastern swamps...how..."

Benmax dumped the bright Gem into his hand, and understanding came. The Aglar had possessed the stone for hundreds of years, using it's power of technology and understanding to overcome their enemies and become the strongest race on Amphibia. Azchel had been the first foe they could not overcome. And so they served him. All the time hiding the true source of their power from him.

Benmax chuckled. "And how did you plan to explain to the Shadowman why you could not recover the last of the Egar, foolish Aglar?"

Peering deep into the stone's brilliant depths, ben found understanding: of the Aglar camp, of even greater inventions beyond all imagination. And, finally, he understood why he must change sides in this conflict.

"So be it," he said, determined. Packing a small pack of rations and clothing, Benmax set off on his now urgent mission. He had to warn the Healer of the approaching army.

Without a backward glance, he disappeared into the night, easily avoiding the Gecko sentries.


Chapter 27 - The Egar - Part I
by Kilnamar

Deep under the Iron Hills, Azchel fumed in silence. Word had recently arrived of benmax's betrayal, and worse, the loss of the SunSphere. The Aglar captain had paid dearly for that secret, and for its loss.

*Time is running out, Shadowman. The Egar will soon be brought together in our enemy's grasp. You MUST ACT NOW!*

The Shadowman did not answer, held in his own silent rage. If he heard the Tempest's whisperings, he showed no sign.

*Very well. Stew in your misery, but know this: If the Five come together before we are prepared, WE CAN NOT WIN.*

Still, Azchel sat motionless, wordless. And the gem called Tempest gave up his pushing. Closing the mind link, he experienced his own rage, the rage that was his life. Alive in his anger and bitterness, he drifted back through distant memories...

************

Aeons ago, came a race into being. Fair and intelligent they were, beyond the comprehension of most mortals. They called themselves the Egar, the "Bringers of light."

Far into the universe was their reach, ever on their quest for self-perfection and seeking to satisfy an endless thirst for knowledge, wisdom and beauty. Worlds beyond number were visited, cultures and technology scoured and scrutinized for their best parts--parts that might be taken into the Egar's own lives.

For millennia, the Egar knew peace. Who would dare oppose them? They possessed technology and superiority far beyond any race they contacted. Who would WANT to oppose them? For, in every case, their coming meant enlightenment and progress for all. For thousands of years they knew peace, prosperity and acceptance.

In their pursuit of progress, the Egar pushed their limits into new areas of space. Sharing what they had learned on the rare occasions they returned to their home world. In small groups they traveled, thinning themselves out to cover the most territory possible.

So one group of seven Egar found themselves, at the height of their race's reign, entering the verges of a yet unexplored solar system. Powerful, and intelligent even above the average members of their race, this group was highly respected among all of their kind.

Seven they were, as different from one another as was possible. Such was the case with most Egar missions, to ensure a broad range of expertise. Elysa, the Diplomat, was their undeniable leader, for she had progressed far beyond any of them in control of mind, body and spirit, a natural at negotiation and organization. Aruden, large and powerful, was their Arms Master--an expert on the warfare and tactics of thousands of worlds. Nyral the Dreamer guided their mission, her exceptionally intuition unfailingly leading them to amazing places and discoveries. Kuriel the Healer cared for the ships expedition's medical needs, and often, those of the worlds they visited. Garik the Builder was the ships Master of Technology, well learned in the vast and varying technologies found throughout the known universe. Lyssa the Bard traveled the universe seeking new music, literature and culture to enrich the lives of all the Egar. And finally, Mynar, the Mystic, seeker of magics and mystical powers. Together they traveled, varied yet alike in their search for that which was new. As they approached this new, uncharted solar system, all had great hopes for the treasures to be found within.

So they hoped.


Chapter 28 - The Egar - Part II
by Kilnamar

It seemed time stood still as the Egar ship cruised into the new found solar system. Through a motionless spectrum of crystal clear images it flew, like a silent intruder in a never-seen sanctuary.

For days the Egar made broad sweeps of the system, making a general log of the planets, moons and other objects. Probes were launched to gather information: soil and atmosphere readings, temperatures, everything. All was labeled, classed and stored in the limitless databases of the ship.

After the initial sweep, the Egar met in council to discuss the best way to go about a more detailed analysis in the following years they would spend there.

"This system is very promising," stated Elysa, the ship captain looking in turn at each of the others as she talked from her seat at the head of the table. "Already we have found things never discovered. The discussion is open for your reports and ideas on continuing."

Garik cleared his throat. "None of the planets or moons bear any life signs, Captain, perhaps due to the distance most are from their sun. I recommend our efforts be concentrated on elemental research and mineral structure."

"We can not be certain that there are no life forms here," interjected Kuriel. "In the Anjualn System we didn't discover it's life forms for many months."

"Noted," said Elyssa. "Nyral, have you anything to say?"

The ship's Dreamer adjusted her hair nervously, eyes darting from person to person. She made as if to speak, then stopped and looked inquisitively at the captain.

"What is it, Nyral? Speak freely."

"Captain..." Nyral began, then took a deep breath before continuing in a whisper. "I feel we should leave this place."

Startled sounds burst forth from around the table, to be hushed quickly by Elyssa. Intently, she looked at the Dreamer, a valuable member of the Egar team.

"Explain, please."

"I don't understand it, Captain. There is just an almost overwhelming sense of foreboding here. I can't explain it." Nyral placed her head on her folded arms before her and added a muffled: "I'm afraid."

There was silence for an agonizing few minutes, then the captain spoke. "Request noted. However..." Again, moments of silence ensued. "No. The possible discoveries here are enough to warrant some danger. We will go forth, but carefully. Are any opposed."

Elyssa looked to each in turn and received a negative response.

Nyral sighed, but straightened and gave a small smile. "My talents are yours to command, Captain."

"Good then. Are there other comments? Concerns?"

"I have a small concern, Captain," Mynar spoke for the first time. "Based on what we have discovered here so far, this system seems void of magics of any type. What would you have me do, then?"

Elyssa thought for a moment. "You will use your alchemy skills to aid Kuriel and Aruden in their study of the planets' structures. That is where most of the work will be needed in this system."

"As you wish, Captain."

"anything else?" the captain asked once more. "Nothing? Then let's get started! We have great possibilities of discovery here. And remember: be wary of danger!"

With that, the council adjourned and the Egar went their various ways to begin the in-depth study of this new, exciting place.


Chapter 29 - The Egar - Part III
by Kilnamar

For months the Egar studied, analyzing everything to the atomic level and beyond. Nothing the scrutiny of brilliant minds.

And then a discovery was made. A discovery interesting enough to involve all of the Egar. other studies were put aside while an answer was sought to this marvelous wonder.

On a large planet, far from the star it revolved around, some amazing stones were discovered. No, they were more than just "stones." They were...chips of life.

"I've never seen anything so beautiful," said Lyssa, leaning over the table where an assortment of the brilliant objects lay, and all murmured in agreement. Reluctantly she sat back in her chair, still staring at the stones longingly.

Elyssa stared at one of the larger gems--about 5 centimeters in diameter--on the table before her. She reached for the stone, then changed her mind and placed her hand back in her lap.

"Captain," said Garik, "they are harmless to touch. The stones seem to simply show the nature of the one in contact with them. Try it."

The captain hesitated again, then quickly snatched the stone and held it before her in her flat palm. After a few seconds a white light began to grow within the stone until it filled the large room.

"See, Captain?" Garik smiled. "The stone shows us the purity of your soul."

Elyssa smiled herself before finally passing the gem to Kuriel on her right. As the healer held it, green burst forth from her hand.

"Green," Garik whispered. "The color of life and empathy."

Kuriel handed the stone on to Garik. "Yellow, the sign of inventiveness and analytical thinking."

From Garik, the stone went to Nyral.

"Blue. Intuition and sensitivity."

Nyral reached to hand the stone to Mynar. The Mystic grabbed the stone and slid it along the table to Lyssa. Feeling all eyes on him, he snapped, "I've been studying these stones for weeks. I don't need to hold it now." He folded his arms stubbornly.

The captain shrugged and turned to Lyssa. The Bard was staring with rapture into the brilliant, purple depths of the gem she held.

"Violet. Creativity."

Lyssa held the stone for long moments before finally passing it on with a sigh to Aruden.

"Red. Strength and tactical."

Aruden held the stone for but a moment before placing it once again on the table with the others in front of Captain Elyssa.

"Amazing," she said. "It was as if part of me was drawn into the stone to make it shine so."

Nyral nodded in agreement. "It was almost...a bonding."

Silence encompassed the room as the Egar sat and pondered this amazing discovery.

"Enough of this!" Mynar's outburst broke the stillness. "So they are pretty. So what! They hardly necessitate all of us to study them! We should return to our previous arrangement and see what other discoveries this place holds!"

Again all eyes focused on him in shock. They eyed the Mystic warily. The man was usually calm to a fault.

"Pardon my outburst, Captain, but I speak the truth."

Elyssa sighed. "Perhaps you are right. But the rest of us will envy your study."

"I will be sure to keep you all informed of any new discoveries with the gems," Mynar said with a small smile.

Te captain stared at him for a few moments. "Right then. Let's get back to our work everyone."

Mynar watched as the other Egar left the council room, then moved to the head of the table and the stones lying there. For a moment he looked at them, pondering. Then, slowly, he reached out and grasped the largest of the gems in a shaking hand.

As the stone turned to blackness in his grip, Mynar smiled again. This time for real.


Chapter 30 - The Egar - Part IV
by Kilnamar

Daily life continued much the same for the small Egar mission. Each went about their studies and experiments, at times working together, at times completely isolated for days. All marveled at the rich and beautiful worlds they had found. Nyral continued to sense an unspoken danger, but came no closer to understanding it. Because no malignant problems arose, the Egar stayed.

Mynar continued to study in private the amazing gems that had been discovered. He left his laboratory only for the rare meetings held by the captain and, oddly, to enlist the aid of Lyssa. The two were very secretive about their work, seeming increasingly aloof from the rest of the team. Nyral tried often to read the Mystic's emotions and feelings, but as with many of the Egar, his mind was closed to her.

Days, weeks, months passed in deliberate monotony. When the Egar studied, they studied everything. Time meant little. They would spend as much time here as was needed to complete their discovery. Time went on with little event. And then something completely unexpected happened.

"Lyssa," Garik called to his friend as she emerged from the unlit interior of the laboratory she had frequented so much these past months. Upon getting closer, he was alarmed to see reddened skin and blackened, burnt sleeves above clenched fists. "Lyssa, what has happened?"

Lyssa turned toward him, eyes staring blankly. With a trembling hand she brushed singed hair from her black-smudged face. "Uunnnnhhhhhmmmm...." she wheezed, her throat scratchy.

"Lyssa, we have to get you to the infirmary! Are you hurt other than the burns? Lyssa? Come with me, please." Garik reached for her to start her moving in the right direction.

"NO!" she screamed, suddenly. "Stay away from me!"

She turned and ran, Garik following after, calling for her. As they came to a branch in the hallway, Lyssa tried to turn, but was running to fast. Losing her balance, she slammed into the wall and bounced to the floor. The force of the impact caused her hands to open, revealing two of the gems she and Mynar had been studying. One of the stones glowed a brilliant violet, the other seemed almost void of light entirely.

Shaking her head groggily, Lyssa regained her feet, hands once again clasped tightly over the stones.

"Lyssa. Please. Let us talk about this. What is going on? Did the stones cause those burns? Where are you taking them? Lyssa?" Cautiously, carefully he stepped closer to her.

"NO!" she screamed, and started running again, desperation giving her strength and speed beyond her normal ability.

Garik could not keep up, but still he followed. They were nearing the shuttle bays. Surely she wasn't planning on taking one of them? At full speed he rounded the last corner...and fell to the floor dazed, confused. Looking up through blood running into his eyes, he saw his friend, one of the bay's light staffs in hand.

"Lyssa...please. Let me help..."

The bard swung again and Garik's world went dark.


MORE!
Twead Saga II:  "Revenge of the Leapii"
Chapters 31-49

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