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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 31 - The Healing of Lawboy
Taragl sat lost in meditation in her small, cozy cottage. A still form lay on one of her medical cots nearby, strained breaths the only outward sign of life. For two days she had sat this vigil with little rest. For two days she had done everything in her vast ability to remove the demons plaguing this disheveled shell of a man. And for two days there had been no noticeable improvement. Taragl was starting to get discouraged.
With a sigh, she stood and went to the small table next to the suffering man's cot. Once again she took her stone of healing from it's box and placed her free hand on the man's forehead. Opening her mind to the stone, she yet again looked for a way to break through to him.
Lawboy wandered in blackness, unaware that it WAS blackness. Voices taunted, unseen, yet they meant nothing. In the darkness, things pulled and snagged on his arms, his face, his hair. Thoughtlessly he brushed them away. Only one vision focused his thoughts, filled his every awareness.
"Home..." he wailed pitifully. "Take me home. Please."
The voices mocked him, but he didn't notice. On he wandered in a void without limit, without destination. The agony of his longing was an eternity of misery.
"Where is my home?" he begged. "Please. Take me home."
Ethereal tears began to flow as he shambled, lost. Lost in mind. Lost in heart. Lost in every way a man could be.
"My heart can no longer take this," he thought to the emptiness. "I need my home. Why can't I find my home."
A wordless wail flew into the nothingness, answered by the jeering voices. Lawboy felt himself drifting, senses fading. He didn't care anymore. His home was lost, never to be found. He didn't want to live without his home. Weeping, he held his arms open to the void.
Taragl gasped slightly as the draw on her mind and energy through the stone increased. Opening her eyes slightly, she looked upon the face of complete torment beside her. Tears ran freely from tight-clenched eyes, soaking the pillow. She could feel his life presence fading quickly.
"No you don't! I've spent too much time and energy to have you die on me now!"
Closing her eyes once more, Taragl poured every ounce of strength and love she had through the gem, willing the man to live. She was dimly aware of Obi-wan appearing and placing his large hands on her shoulders, lending his own strength as well. Forcing all of her concentration into her task, she pushed herself to her limit--and beyond. Suddenly, she was falling. Falling into a brilliant green cloud. Down and Down. And in the rushing wind of falling she heard voices.
Lawboy heard, the penetrating, echoing voice, but only dimly as onward he rushed to an end of everything.
*AMBASSADOR OF EARTH. HEAR ME NOW* the voice crashed into his existence, a rushing boom.
Lawboy stopped his mad plummet, drifting slowly now, listening, but not responding.
*Lawboy.* the voice said, gentle now. *Your home awaits you.*
Slowly, he 'turned' toward the direction he had come from. A light, barely seen tint of green filled the emptiness there. Hesitantly, he reached with his ethereal hands. "Who are you?" he said, tears still flowing. "Can you take me home?"
*I can not take you home, friend, but I can show you how to save it. Come with me and we can stop the destruction of your world.*
"How?" said Lawboy, still not moving, although the tears had stopped. "Who are you?"
*All of your questions will be answered in time. But you can not stay here. If you do, you will die. I must not remain either. The one who brings me here is weakening. Please come with me.*
"But, what of Azchel? What of the terrible things I have done under his control? This world will never forgive me!" Lawboy hung his head, forlorn, but started moving slowly toward the growing green light.
*Those who need you, those YOU need, will understand. For the rest, they will learn to in time. You must think of your home now! I offer you a way to save it, but you must come NOW! I can not stay longer. Follow me to life.*
Lawboy followed the receding light through the blackness. As the light moved faster, Lawboy began to run.
Chapter 32 - Journey's End?
Benmax climbed quietly up the small hill before him, crawling the last few yards on his belly. According to his map, the Healer's cottage should be just over this rise.
"Crawling around like a common slug..." Ben grumbled to himself. "If I ever get out of this mess, those freaks will know what it's like to crawl through stickleberries. And another thing, why in the WORLD are there so many BUGS in this stupid forest! I have a mind to...bloody Aglar...stuff their heads up...dung beetles..." On and on Ben muttered as he crawled to the top of the hill.
At the top, he stopped, stifling a curse as he plucked a sharp thorn from his nose. Parting some tall grass, he gazed down to the large hollow beyond. There. Finally, there was his destination. A small wisp of smoke rose from the chimney. Good. They had were still here.
Knowing that the approach of a Gecko would not be met well from the dwellers within(all had been warned of Obi-wan's massive strength), Ben made his way back down the hill, cursing everything in sight and most things that weren't as he plucked thorns and prickles from various places. When he reached the bottom, he made his way through the trees toward the Healer's home.
"They blasted better well appreciate what I am doing," he grumbled. "See if I'll be letting every beast on the planet hate me."
As Benmax neared the cottage, he began to sense...something...within. A call to his mind similar to that of the Sunstone he now had hidden deep in his tunic pocket. Was it the True Heart? He quickened his pace a bit, wanting this journey to be over.
"But this will not end the journey," he said to the surrounding plants. "This will just make the journey all the more perilous."
With a large sigh, Ben left the covering trees and approached the cottage door. What awaited him on the other side?
Chapter 33 - A Change of Heart
...Obi-wan slumped back to a chair as he felt the release of the stone’s grip. Wearily, he looked to his wife to see how she fared. He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw that she was holding her head in her hands, and smiling at him. Suddenly, the quiescent figure on the table arched is a great spasm. A bright green beam of light erupted from the man’s chest, and then, just as suddenly, was gone. Tara gasped when she saw the small, pale green mark that was left behind...
...Peering cautiously through the window, Benmax saw the final flash of green light, and understood what had happened. The True Heart had a new master, now...
...The fleeing light seemed to disappear into the depths, and Lawboy felt despair as he was left again in the void. In mute panic, he wildly sought the path out of the darkness.
*BE CALM, MY SON. I AM WITH YOU AGAIN* The calm soothing voice seemed at once quiet and penetrating.
<Where did you go? Who are you? What’s happening?!!>
*WE ARE THE EGAR, WE ARE ONE. WE WILL HELP YOU, FOR A PRICE*
<Help me? A price? But, I have nothing.>
*AS WE SHALL DO FOR YOU, YOU SHALL DO FOR OTHERS. THAT IS OUR PRICE. DO YOU ACCEPT OUR GIFT?*
<I don’t understand, but I do want your help. Please help me to get home.>
*WHAT YOU SEEK, IS NOT WHAT YOU DESIRE. LET ME SHOW YOU YOUR TRUE PATH*
Like a whirlwind, images and memories roared through his mind. Fear, anger, hurt, joy, happiness, and love assaulted him with chaotic abandon. Then, like a curtain, a green haze filtered out the strongest emotions, and allowed him to evaluate his past.
*YOU ARE NOT YOUR PAST. YOU ARE THE SUM OF YOUR PAST AND WHAT WILL BE. YOU MAY BE MORE THAN YOU WERE, IF YOU SO CHOOSE*
Understanding flooded his tortured soul like a soothing wash. He could be more than he was, he WOULD be more than he was.
*YES, NOW THAT YOU HAVE SEEN OUR GIFT, DO YOU ACCEPT THE PAYMENT?*
*THEN RISE, AND TAKE UP YOUR TRUE PATH, GREEN STONE WEILDER*
Suddenly, Lawboy found the path to consciousness, and started toward the light. As he began to wake up, a searing pain gripped his chest, and then was gone. And he awoke...
Chapter 34 - The Earth Mother
...Lt. Savia trudged along wearily behind the animated sprites. How could such little creatures have so much energy? Didn’t they EVER get tired? Their exhuberant laughter grated on her nerves as they ran along in front of her. So intent on her misery, she didn’t notice when the others stopped.
"Hey! Watch it!" shrilled Pahel50, "Look where you’re going, you big-footed oaf! You almost stepped on me. Besides, we’re here. Hmph! Humans."
Still recovering her breath, Savia looked around her. They were in a small thicket with a rounded knoll in the center. "Okay, we’re here. Now what?"
"Now this." Pahel50 lifted her hand to her lips and blew a shrill whistle on two fingers. The wind picked up and started to echo the peircingly clear tone, and then a low rumble started somewhere in the distance, completing an oddly comforting harmony. Savia couldn’t believe her eyes as the grass on the knoll split. The crack in the ground widened until a low, dark cave was revealed.
*WELCOME* The voice was at once comforting and grating, pleasant and terrible, calm and excited.
"Well, come on!" laughed Pahel50, "She’s waiting!" She led the questors into the small, musty hillside...
...Lawboy brought his eyes into focus and sat up. He absently rubbed at the warmth of the mark over his heart as he looked around. The stone walls and the two other occupants of the room were eerily illuminated by the mixed glows of the torches and the green gem. With a flash of inspiration, he gestured to the stone and said, "Come." With silent grace, the stone lifted out of it’s ornate box and floated to his outstretched hand. "Thank you for your kindness, and for saving my life." he directed at the exhausted couple. As he spoke, his voice seemed bolstered and enriched with undertones of peace and kindness.
Tara dropped her head in respect, "The Healer." Her voice was rough with exertion and awe.
"This won’t do at all. You’ve been sorely treated by the stone during my ordeal. The soul of the stone wanted to let you know that it is pleased by what you’ve accomplished with your limited undertanding of it’s powers. It wants to thank you for your patient safekeeping."
A pale green nimbus enshrouded the weary pair. As the glow deepened, their vitality returned, and they started to laugh with wonder and joy.
*You have a visitor and companion at the window, Lawboy* the voice echoed in his mind. *Why don’t you invite him in?*
<Certainly. What a fine idea.> he silently returned.
"Hello, friend. Won’t you come in and join us?" The startled couple whirled quickly, just in time to catch a small, dirty gecko as it fell through the window.
"Hi, I’m Benmax. Nice ta meet you." And he smiled...
...As they trudged down the dank tunnel, Savia seemed to feel the walls closing in upon her. She shuddered as another piece of moss brushed her hand. She wrapped her arms tightly around her and sighed. As she breathed in, the musty earth scent flooded her nostrils, and she had to stifle a sneeze.
"Never DID want to be a girl scout." she muttered under her breath. "Give me a nice, clean spaceship with filtered air. Now, that’s living!"
Suddenly, like someone had thrown a switch, the tunnel was gone, and was replaced by a large stone room, roughly circular, with a high ceiling lost in the gloom above. Scattered about the room were various dusty volumes in various states of decay. Sitting on a stone bench in the middle of the largest pile, was a lovely, motherly figure.
*Sorry about the mess. I don’t have much time for housekeeping anymore.*
Both sprites immediately bowed in respect, but Savia stood her ground defiantly. "She’s the earth mother? She doesn’t look so tough."
With eyes blazing green, the figure dropped it’s book and stood up. *It’s been a LONG time since I’ve tolerated anything like THAT, little sister!* She took a couple of strides forward. *You’re not going to like it much if you get me angry.*
Lin jumped up to Savia’s shoulder and clamped her hand over her mouth, as Savia started to retort. Wispering furiously into Savia’s ear, the sprite had a appalled look of horror on her face.
Then, Savia turned a rosy pink, and had the grace to look abashed. She shook Lin’s hand from her mouth, and apologized. "I am sorry, my manners have slipped. I’m not really comfortable under the ground. Can we start all over? My name is Savia."
Slightly mollified, the motherly figure relaxed and the blazing eyes dwindled to a soft glow. *Yes, yes. That’s all right. I’m a little short-tempered, myself. You can call me Maxxy.*
"Nice to meet you, Maxxy. We’ve come-"
*Yes, I know why you’ve come* interrupted the figure. *We currently need something from each other. Let me save some time, and tell you a story.* With a negligent flip of her hand, she waved three stone chairs into existance. *Have a seat, this will take a while.*
Savia and the sprites settled down into the surprisingly comfortable seats and waited for the story to begin...
Chapter 35 - Mother's Day
...*She came in a flash of light from the sky. I wasn’t sure what it was at first. The loud crash and the flames kept me away for a long time. But, curiosity overcame my natural instinct to run. Cautiously I approached the twisted wreckage and started poking around. Then, I heard the crying. She was hurt badly, and could not move. When she saw me, she yelled, and I ran away. But, she cried out again. I couldn’t understand her, but I knew she needed me. I wasn’t much more than an animal at the time, but I knew that she wanted to be held. So I took her into my arms, and cradled her. With only her eyes, she showed me a bright, shiny object, lying in the wreckage. She pleaded for me to pick it up. With surprise, I found it was a shiny stone. As soon as I touched it, my mind exploded.
Alien images and concepts cascaded through my mind. I couldn’t make any sense of anything, I thought I had died. But then, slowly, I began to comprehend the ‘language’, and how ‘words’ could mean pictures of things in my mind. I learned her ‘name’, and that she came from ‘far away’. She explained to me that she was dying, and that she needed my help. As payment, I would be able to many new things, ‘magic’ things. She asked me to promise not to fail to do as she asked. I agreed. I still don’t understand the process, and I don’t think she really knew what was going to happen, either. I took the gem, and placed it on her forehead.
I vaguely remember seeing the light of the gem flare up, and then the fusion began. Words will not suffice to describe what happened to us then. The end result was a hybrid consciousness, with all of our knowledge pooled. Neither of us existed as we were. I became as I am now.*
"Who was she?" Savia didn’t know that she had spoken aloud until Maxxy looked in her direction.
*She was Egar, and her name was Lyssa.*...
Chapter 36 - Waiting and Wandering
Killy paced distractedly on the edge of the small camp, staring to the east. Waiting. Every nerve in his being screamed at him that waiting in one area for so long was not a good plan.
*HAVE PEACE, KILLY.*
The Bloodstone spoke to his mind. He still wasn't used to that communication.
*AS DANGEROUS AS IT SEEMS TO STAY, WE MUST. THE OTHERS KNOW TO LOOK FOR US HERE AND HAVE NOT THE GUIDANCE OF THE DREAMER.*
<I am afraid for the safety of my companions> Killy thought in reply. <Our enemies can find us just as easily, if not more so.>
*TRUST IN US, YOUNG TOAD. IT MUST BE AS WE SAY, DESPITE YOUR MISGIVINGS.*
Killy sighed and continued his pacing. From somewhere behind in the camp, he heard an angry shout. GreyEyes this time, he thought, although this waiting had them all on short tempers. If the others didn't arrive soon, it might come to blows. The blue and white gems had refused to link with anyone here, insisting that they find the chosen ones for their bonds.
So much had to be done. So much. Killy stared into the empty distance, all senses alert.
brigit ran shaking fingers through her damp hair. She was cold. Cold to the very bone and beyond. Warmth was but a fond memory, hidden somewhere in her fevered mind. Wrapping her wet cloak around her, she started walking once more.
How long had she been wandering this swamp-cursed land? How long had she searched for a trace--any trace--of her friend? It seemed forever, though it could not have been more than a week.
At first, it had seemed that she was always just a step behind. A mudskipper was not the easiest creature to track, but it was not beyond her skills. All the way to the mountains she had followed, trying desperately to overtake the driven ambassador, to no avail. To a cave she had followed, where she found signs of a violent skirmish. Assuming her friend was still on his mount, she once again set off on the mudskipper's trail.
"Where are you, Lawboy," she asked the surrounding trees, the deep pools of murky water, the rank mud. But no answer came, other than the soft sounds of penetrating rain.
She had lost the trail of the mudskipper days ago. Unsure where to look, she had wandered in widening circles, searching for a sign. Nothing.
Where are you, my dear friend?" she asked again. The cold and fatigue numbed her mind. Onward she wandered, not sure anymore where she was going, only what she was looking for.
Chapter 37 - The One-Armed Bandit
Mr. Ebaneezer looked out over the assemblage and snorted, "Sheep!"
<Those sheep will turn vicious on you soon.>
"I know, but with Lawboy missing, there's no one to lead them down the desired path."
<You're wrong, of course.>
"Wrong? I don't think so. Who's silly enough to risk the king's displeasure in Lawboy's place?"
<Whomever leads will be the next king.>
"Small compensation if you fail and swing on the gibbet."
<So, you have to make sure that you don't fall.>
"Who? Me? Nah. I'm the behind the scenes guy. Besides, who would follow a one-armed leader?"
<I can help you with that.>
"What?! Who are you? What are you?" Ebaneezer whirled around and peered into the shadows to no avail. The disembodied voice was gone. After a moment of quiet contemplation, he passed it off as too little sleep and a late dinner of spiced rum and slug pizza. He shrugged.
<Just think about it.>
Mr. Ebaneezer shivered and with his eyes wildly scanning around, walked away...
...His Imperial Wartiness, The High Toad, sat on his throne and contemplated his image. He had made Helpful Ted erect the tall looking glass in front of him hours ago, but so far, his ruminations had not cured his melancholia. "Well, you handsome devil," he muttered to his reflection, "I wonder if Ted has some good news for us, for once." He reached his jewel encrusted hand out and pulled the velvet bell-pull.
"You rang, Majesty?"
"What news from the kingdom, Captain?"
"Well, Sire, for the most part, all is peaceful. The people still gather to protest something or other."
"What do they want?"
"I'm not sure, Highness. There doesn't seem to be any unity of complaint. However, it is my opinion that a fire is smoldering, and all it would take is one hot-head to start a rebellion."
"What are you doing about that?"
"I've circulated guards in disguises through those gatherings. They're ready to grab the first fool to stand and address them."
"Does that loud-mouthed upstart attend those meetings?"
"No, Majesty, none of my guards has heard anything about him for months."
"He can't have disappeared, Captain! I want you to find him!"
"Yes, Your Toadness, we're working on it."
"Has the Ambassador returned any messages?"
"No, Sire. It seems that the Ambassador has left the Embassy, and no one seems to know where he is. His secretary has left to try to find him."
"Would they like some help tracking him down?"
"No, Your Highness. The Embassy staff was very emphatic that it be an internal matter."
"Well, Captain, keep me informed. Dismissed." The High Toad watched as Helpful Ted bowed and retreated. Then he returned his gaze to his reflection. "Cjoh, old boy, you just can't get good help these days..."
Chapter 38 - The Call of Love
"Did you hear that?"
"I hear nothing."
"Shhh! Be patient!"
"How long should I wait?"
"There! There it goes again!"
"Are you mad?? I heard nothing!"
"Ugh. Are you deaf AND blind?"
"Hey now. If you're going to be rude about it..."
"I'm sorry, father. I just hear it so clearly."
"Describe it to me."
"You're POSITIVE you don't hear anything?"
"Positive. Nothing out of the ordinary, that is."
"It is like a gentle voice, but not a voice. Ugh. How do I explain it. It's like singing, but no words. No, that isn't it either!"
"Take your time. Speak with your heart as I have taught you."
A deep breath in the darkness.
"It is like the feeling I get when you call me your angel. Like the feeling of the swallow chick when its mother comes to snuggle close. Like the soothing of the river to a crying babe. that's it, father. It is the sounds like pure emotion. it sounds like Love FEELS."
"My dear child... It is your destiny calling you. I knew this day would come."
"I don't understand, father."
"You do, daughter. Deep inside, you do."
A soft, sad sigh.
"Then I must go. And you can't come with me, can you?"
"No. I can't. For obvious reasons, and for your own good."
"Father, how much can you see? Do you know when we shall meet again?"
"I'm afraid not. My vision is limited. I see only what will be, not when it will be."
"I will leave at first light. Oh Father, how I wish you could hear this."
"If it is as you described it, then I feel it in your loving words, angel. It is enough."
More rustling from an embrace.
"Your sightless eyes see far more than mine ever will, Father."
"perhaps. But your heart sees more still. Come. You should rest now. Your journey will be a difficult one."
"I love you, Father."
"Oh how I love you, angel."
Just for a moment, both hear the sweet call of pure Love from the distance, lulling them to sleep in its soft coo of peace.
Chapter 39 - Taken
Dawn came, wet and chill, as an odd pair set off on their journey. A human...a gecko.
Lawboy turned once and waved to taragl and obi-wan, the couple standing under the slight protection of the cottage. They would begin their own journey before long. With benmax's news of the approaching Aglar squadron, they knew they must flee. Despite Lawboy's invitation for them to travel together, taragl had decided to travel to the royal city and see if her healing arts were needed.
And so they waved farewell and went on their separate ways.
"Finally, we are on our way!" benmax said excitedly. "I thought I would be stuck there waiting forever! Come on, let's hurry!"
Lawboy watched the energetic gecko zip ahead. Continuing at his regular pace, he soon lost sight of the lizard in the surrounding trees. Lawboy let out a small sigh. It was going to be an interesting trip.
What's the matter?" he heard as benmax came rushing back. "Are you still sick? Do you need to rest? Why don't you heal yourself? Let's run!"
As the gecko started to run off again, Lawboy tripped him. "Hold on, ben! There is no sense spending all our energy and arriving to spent to be of any help! Now go at a decent pace or go on without me!"
benmax got back up, wiping mud from his nose. It was clear the lizard's pride was hurt. "Well, you didn't have to do THAT. Sheesh, such a violent person. A simple, 'wait up' would have sufficed."
"Very well, I'm sorry," said Lawboy, rolling his eyes. He watched as the gecko continued to brush at nonexistent dirt. "Lead on, friend. Just take it a bit slower, ok?"
"Ok," ben said tersely, and started ahead once more. "Blasted humans..." he grumbled, "...slow as quarknigs...if I had legs that long...be there by now...dares to trip me...never get the mud off...curses on humans...."
"What's that you're saying?" asked Lawboy from behind.
"Ummm...I'm just repeating an ancient gecko chant. Yeah. It's a real good one." benmax turned back around and made an ugly face. "Curses...slow human...ambassador schmassador..."
And the unlikely pair walked on into the cold, wet morning.
Killy peered into the nearly pitch black of the overcast night, sheathed sword in hand. The rain had stopped in the early afternoon, but the clouds remained, a constant threat of more to come.
Killy listened hard. What had awakened him? He saw nothing, heard nothing, except the sounds of the night. The fire was out under the hastily built lean-to in the center of the camp.
No answer. It must have been nothing. Perhaps an animal, or perhaps he was just letting the stress get to him. With a last look, he turned to go back into his shelter.
*WARE, KILLY! THE DREAMER WARNS OF DANGER!*
Killy winced as the powerful message exploded in his mind. Feeling a strange sensation between his shoulder blades, he threw himself to the ground, just as something flew over and destroyed most of his shelter.
"Ware the enemy!" he yelled as he regained his feet, sword drawn. "Protect the gems!"
Killy ran half blindly in the dark to GreyEyes' shelter, where the White Eye and the Moonstone were kept.
*TO THE LEFT!*
Killy stopped short and dodged to the side. he saw the dull reflection of light from a blade as it sliced the air just in front of him. "Ware the enemy!" he yelled again as he faced his attacker--a huge shadowed form.
Just then, light exploded in the camp, momentarily blinding him. As his sight adjusted, he saw another of the forms setting the source of light onto some kind of pedestal, a brilliant orb of some sort. Past the light, Killy could see more--many more--of the...Aglars!
"Ware! Aglars are amongst us! Ware!" he screamed as he faced his enemy, now also recovered from the blast of light.
Killy's mind came to a clear focus as the Bloodstone filled his mind with images, strategies. His sword was a blur as it parried the Aglar's ferrocious blows, then thrust up violently to take the huge foe in the throat. Barely aware of dodging the falling body, Killy turned to meet another attacker, dodging between the lizard's legs to come up behind and leap on its back. A Swift slice nearly removed its head. Killy jumped, hit the ground and rolled as the second creature toppled, lifless, blood spraying.
"To me!" he yelled above the sounds of fighting. "Join ranks! To me!"
GreyEyes rushed from the other side of the shelter Killy was using to ward his back. He could see blood on her arm, but it still held her sword. Seconds later, a large Aglar came from the same direction, a large barbed, moving spear device of some sort in its grasp.
*BEHIND YOU* came a warning from the Bloodstone.
Killy whipped around to find two more Aglar approaching from that side. "Back to back!" he yelled to GreyEyes. "Keep them in front of you! Avoid direct blows!"
Killy stood his ground as the two giants approached him. The creatures were bold in their confidence that this little Toad was no match for them. That was their first mistake. They made there second mistake when one of them rushed ahead of the other, eager to crush this tiny amphibian.
Quick as lightning, Killy jumped forward, rolling to a stand directly below the lumbering creature's legs. A quick thrust straight up, inside the protecteive thigh armore, and Killy jumped back. The Aglar roared and grabbed at its crotch, doubling over in agony. Killy moved back in and finished the shreiking beast with a swift sword blow below its helmet.
The second creature slowed, approaching warily now. Killy risked a quick glance over his shoulder. GreyEyes was having a hard time against the huge Aglar she faced, barely managing to parry its powerful weapon to the side. He could tell she was growing weary.
He faced his own attacker once again. The giant lizard was armed with a huge knotted pole, handling it as if it weighed nothing. Cautiously it approached. Killy had some satisfaction from seeing that it kept its legs well together. The Aglar took couple of casual swings, testing. Killy dodged them easily.
"You will never win, dog of Azchel!" Killy yelled.
Thrusting wide at the beast's side to distract it, Killy drew his dagger from his belt. As the Aglar brought its massive weapon back to block his sword blow, Killy rushed in and impaled the dagger through its hand and deep into the wood. With a howl of pain, the foe tried to drop its weapon to cradle its wounded hand. The blade held fast in the wood and sliced through the remainder of the creature's hand before finally breaking free and falling to the ground. Another howl escaped the lizard's lips, and it turned to run.
"Final mistake," Killy muttered under his breath. With a deft move, he hurled himself at the retreating monster's knee. It collapsed in a wailing heap, still holding its wounded hand. A swift swing, a short gargle and it was over.
Killy stood and looked around for more enemies. The camp was silent.
*BE WARY, KILLY. THE AGLAR ARE NOT KNOWN TO GIVE UP*
Where was GreyEyes? Where were Fly20 and Babytisa? Killy walked over to where GreyEyes had been fighting. The Aglar's weapon lay shining on the ground, along with traces of blood.
"GreyEyes!" he shouted. "Babytisa...Fly! To me!"
There was no answer. Killy walked among the shelters. Here and there a dead Aglar lay. Fly's handiwork, it appeared. As Killy approached GreyEyes shelter, he heard soft weeping. He ran the last distance, past a dead Aglar just outside, and ducked inside.
GreyEyes knelt on the floor, cradling a still form in her lap. Tears ran down her face to drop onto the lifeless body.
"No...," Killy gasped, not wanting to believe what he was seeing. "No. Please no."
He dropped to his knees on the opposite side of the body, reaching with a shaking hand. He withdrew it quickly, all hope banished that this was not reality.
"Oh, sweet Babytisa. What have they done to you...?"
"She was dying as I arrived," GreyEyes said, her voice thick with crying. "She came here to get the gems, but they were already gone..."
Killy hung his head in sorrow and weariness. <We have failed you> he thought to the Bloodstone. <You trusted us and we failed you.>
*NO, KILLY. YOU HAVE NOT FAILED US. I FEAR THIS MUST BE TO REACH THE END WE DESIRE. FEAR NOT, YOU HAVE NOT FAILED.*
Killy opened his eyes and looked at Babytisa, then looked up at GreyEyes. "The Bloodstone says this must be."
GreyEyes sighed as more tears rolled down her cheeks. "How many will be lost before this is over? How many precious lives?"
Killy moved next to her and put his arm around her, rsting the other lightly on Babytisa. "Many, I fear. Far too many."
And they both wept.
Chapter 40 - The History of the Egar: Part V
...*The Egar were old, and thought themselves wise. They broke into groups and spread out among the stars, in search of new knowledge. They had studied the Earth for millenia, and had moved on, satisfied with the development of the local life. One group of primates, in particular, showed promise by crafting simple tools. But I digress.*
Maxxy paused Pahel50 passed around some earthenware mugs with sparkling clean water.
*The new galaxy afforded some new excitement. New mysteries were waiting to be uncovered. Quickly, the group settled down with the ease and practice of many uncounted centuries working together. It wasn’t long before something totally unexpected showed up on the sensors. Seven heavy concentrations of incredible psychometric power were discovered on a small planet with an amphibian phyla proving to be the dominant intelligence. Two entirely different phenomena, never before recorded, and both on the same planet! New avenues of investigation opened up almost continually as we began to study. Mynar soon identified the sources of the energy to be seven stones of a material never before seen. Harder than any known substance, they were impervious to any methods of investigation, other than observation. Mynar was soon concentrating excluively on the gems. I soon joined him in his investigation.*
*We must hereby note, that we are speaking in the first person, singular. This arises from Lyssa’s individual memories of what happened. This is HER story.*
Maxxy paused to see if the others understood, and then carried on.
*At first, when the purely physical asesment of the gems yielded no results, I got discouraged. But then, we moved on to the psychometric aspects of the stones. Then, things started to happen. The most obvious thing, was the color change involved when the stones were held in a bare hand. The stones seemed to echo the color of the aura of the one holding the gem. That was curious enough, but Mynar also proved that they augmented certain abilities. He was beeter able to use the stones in this way, but I achieved nominal mastery of the gems. At this point, Mynar began to change. His precaution of keeping the psychic augmentation a secret until we understood more about it, seemed prudent. But soon, he became irrationally protective of the stones. One night, well into our rest period, I wandered into the lab after something I left behind. I found him sitting in the midst of a strange geometric pattern, with the six smaller stones laid out at the points. He was sitting cross-legged in the center, holding the largest gem in his hand. A strange, dark nimbus seemed to flow up around him from the drawn figure on the floor. I tried to ask him what he was doing, but got no response. Alarmed, I tried to remove one of the stones.*
*The moment I touched the stone, my mind merged with Mynar’s. I was appalled at the malevolent intent I found in his diseased subconscious. He wanted to use the stones to recreate the universe in his own fashion. That image was appalling. *
*With every shred of my being, I decided that this could not come to pass. No sooner did I try to wrest control of the stones from him, then he recognized my presence. I was totally unprepared to face the crushing weight of his assault on my mind. Only my limited mastery of the minor stones allowed me any chance at all. Still, I was blasted across the room. Somehow, I managed to retain my hold on the stone.
The forces unleashed by the broken diagram were staggering. Searing pain shot up my arms, and the impact of my head on the wall caused a bright light behind my eyes, and then everything went dark.*
*When I came to moments later, I became aware of debilitating pain in my arms. Then, recognizing the danger I was in, I looked up to see if Mynar was coming at me. What I saw shocked me to the core.
The black aura that had surrounded him was shredding and streaking off through the walls like tattered ribbons. Mynar was locked into immobility in the center, with a frozen scream of horror, rage, and agony.
Then, like a wax figurine in a fire, his image melted and flowed into the stone in his hand. As he entered, the stone became darker and darker. As the final shreds of his existance flowed into the stone, the last ribbons screamed out into the abyss, and the now black stone fell to the floor with a dull thud.*
Maxxy paused and considered the appalled faces of her rapt listeners. Taking a deep breath, she continued.
*For a long time I sat and cried in terror and agony. Finally, I painfully crept over the place where Mynar had been. The pitch black stone sat quietly, in denial of the entire brutal tragedy. Cautiously, I reached for it.*
Once again, she paused as if the memory still burned with fresh agony.
*Even after all I had been through, I STILL was not prepared for the next instant. HE was still there! Inside the stone, somehow, still alive! He came at me with a fresh assault, and somehow, luckily, I was able to withdraw my hand. When the racking sobs subsided, I came up with a plan. I grabbed a lead-lined box, and a heavy work glove. I put the glove on, and hoped it was enough protection as I gingerly placed the now onyx stone inside. I HAD to protect the other members of the team from that malevolent evil. I took the box toward the runabout bays.*
*As luck would have it, I ran into Garik on my way. Knowing that he would never believe my story, and would try to study the dangerous gem, I ran away. Knowing he would follow me, and not quite sure what to do, I continued my journey to the bays. I grabbed the first heavy thing I found, and clubbed him over the head. I dragged him back into the corridor, then reentered the bay. I placed the box in front of the doors, then headed out of the air lock. I sealed the lock tight, then hit the manual override for the main bay doors. The doors started to open, and the box was sucked outside. Then the klaxon began.*
*I had failed to remember that there were two air locks to the shuttle bays. With the outer seals broken, and the other inner seal open, all of the air inside the ship was rushing out into space. I had condemned my shipmates to suffocation. Passed beyond endurance, somehow I made my way to the escape pods and crawled inside one. I hit the emergency release, and passed out.*
With this, Maxxy stood up, and paced around the room, letting the full impact of the story sink in.
"And the pod brought you to Earth?" The question was more of a statement. Savia shook her head in disbelief. THAT story was almost too much to believe...
Chapter 41 - Here she is...
...Prncss sat in front of her mirror and fumed. here it was, Sunday night, and She, the High Toad’s daughter, didn’t have a date. It was INTOLERABLE! Even those bumbling brothers, Swords and Swillpig, hadn’t come to call. However was she supposed to maintain her image if she wan’t constantly, and visibly, courted by every eligible male in the kingdom? Suddenly, a wicked gleam entered her eye as the germ of an idea sprouted...
... Mr. Ebaneezer sat in the corner of the dingy pub and brooded. For the tenth time he wondered if the serving wench was EVER going to refill his mug. That other thought intruded, and he had to make a conscious effort not to think about the fantasies which the disembodied voice had planted in his mind. Daggonit! He wasn’t the leader type. He preferred to be in the background, where he could cast acidic commentary at the leader. But still, leadership has it’s perks, he thought, as the young waitress passed, and shuddered at his appearance. And, if that voice wasn’t just a figment of his imagination, and could actually replace his missing limb, well, that’d be good, too. Bah, humbug! If there was a way to replace his arm, he’d have found it long ago.
*Have you been considering my offer, Mr. Ebaneezer?*
Startled, Ebaneezer almost dropped his long-empty flagon. Frantically, he searched the bar for the source of that deadly quiet voice.
*Over here, my future king.*
Slowly, he turned his gaze to the other side of the small booth. Sitting calmly, with a knowing sneer on his face, was a dark figure.
"Who are you?" The whispered words dripped anxiety.
*My name is Azchel, and I’m the answer you’ve been seeking...*
...WhyKnot was tired. The journey back from her self-imposed exile was exhausting. She didn’t look forward to airing out her modest home, but it had to be done. That musty smell always caused her such terrible headaches. She had to take care of that first, although she also felt impelled to research the current political situation. She’d returned for only one purpose, she had to tell her secret to somebody, and she wanted to make sure she told the correct one. Some things had to be brought to light, and she was going to do it right...
...Spudman smiled as he finished bedding down the animals. It had been a gorgeous day, and the potatos were coming along nicely in the west field. Well satisfied, he whistled a tune as he locked the barn door, and headed toward the house. Sometimes, life just didn’t get any better than this...
... "Have you had enough , yet?" Swillpig huffed through a busted lip and swollen left eye at the equally bloody figure in the dirt.
"No, but you can quit if you want to, wussy." the retort whistled through Swords’ busted teeth. "I’m gonna beat you, anyway."
"We’ll just have to see about that!" grunted Swillpig as the brothers rushed at each other again...
Chapter 42 - The Chase
"Do you think anyone survived?" benmax asked in a strained whisper. Shaking his head, he tossed the cooking pan he held back to the ground, wiping his hands absenltly.
The pair walked through the mostly destroyed camp, stepping over th remains of shelters and dead Aglar. Very little remained standing--a pole here, a log stool there.
"What is this?" asked Lawboy, bending to retrieve a long spear-like device with some kind of mechanism on its tip from the damp ground. I've never seen anything like it."
benmax broke his stare from an already rotting corpse to look at what Lawboy held. "It is called a Stalryke. A favorite weapon of the Aglar captains. A very nasty thing indeed." ben shuddered. "Once impaled within the victim, those blades expand and begin spinning. It isn't long before..."
"I get the point!" Lawboy interrupted, dropping the weapon back to the ground.
"We should take that. It is very powerful." benmax added.
Reluctantly, Lawboy picked the spear up again, and they continued searching the camp, looking for clues. The muddy ground made tracking easy. Following some smaller sets of prints, they walked a small distance from the camp and found what appeared to be the remains of a funeral byre.
"All is not well," Lawboy stated, looking back the way they had come. "But there is only one byre, so perhaps there is hope. At least two of our allies must have survived. We must find them."
They returned to the camp and scoured the perimeter for more traces. Before long they found what they were looking for--A large path of heavy footprints in the mud, heading to the East. Following the trail, and fresher were two more sets of prints, these ones small.
"Our friends give chase. I can think of only two reasons for that. Either the Aglar took captives, or they took the Gems.
"Either way," intoned banmax, "we must give chase also. Let us only hope that these Aglar do not meet up with Connecta's squadron."
"You mean these weren't them?" Lawboy asked, shocked.
"Oh. No." benmax looked at the ground, embarrassed. "I saw the dead captain of this group back by the remaining shelter. It was not connecta."
Lawboy frowned at the gecko for withholding such crucial information. ben continued to look at the ground, feigning as if his pack needed continual adjustment.
Finally, Lawboy sighed. "Let's go, my friend. We may have a hard chase before us."
As the companions moved onward, neither of them saw the small shape that broke from the cover of the Aglar's broken light globe to flit noiselessly after them.
"There." GreyEyes pointed down the low hill to a small hollow in the land. Carrion birds already bickered and flapped over their prize.
"What do you think it is?" asked Killy.
"Hard to tell from this distance. The Aglar tracks run straight to it. There appears to be more than one, whatever they are. We need to get closer. Does the stone warn of any danger?"
"None," Killy replied. "But be careful, nonetheless. Yesternight's attack was almost without warning."
GreyEyes nodded, then rose and began trotting down the hill toward the feasting birds, Killy following close behind, sword ready. As they neared the carnage, vultures and crows screeched angrily, reluctant to give up their meal. A sharp sound from GreyEyes sent them all flying, some landing nearby to watch warily.
They stopped short of the scene of battle, stomachs turning queasy at the site of bird-pecked gore.
"They appear to all be Aglar," GreyEyes stated, holding a hand over her mouth and nose. "Wait. Over there." She pointed to the far side of the carnage.
Carefully making there way between the fallen bodies, they approached a smaller shape among the dead giants. GreyEyes stopped as she recognized the torn cape, noticed the unique blade still clenched in the dead fingers.
"Fly..." she managed to gasp out, then she fell to the ground, head bowed.
Killy approached his fallen comrade, jaws clenched tight. Looking down at the empty sockets, the torn flesh, he felt nothing but rage. Rage at the Aglar. Rage at Azchel. Rage at everything that could allow this atrocity to happen.
"I will have your head, you black-souled murderer!" Killy screamed at the sky, now a taunting blue. "You will die for what you do! I will rip out your black heart and send your soul to Hell! I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU! I...." Killy's voice broke as great sobs shook him. "I hate you..."
Chapter 43 - Brotherly Love
... Psykomom studied the limp forms on the ground to make sure they were still breathing before starting her speech. "I hope you two are proud of yourselves. Look at you , lying there like bloody piles of rags. What have you proved here, except how painful a severe beating is? Was it worth it? Is SHE worth it? Were you even able to pick a winner? I don’t know how you could. It looks like you both lost to me. Now what? You’re gonna expect me to be sympathetic and tend your wounds. Am I right? Of course I am. Well, let’s get something straight, I’m NOT cleaning up after you THIS time. If you two are man enough to fight over a woman..."
"Enough, already. We heard you!" complained Swords.
"Yeah, you’ve made your point." grumbled Swillpig.
Psykomom shook her head sadly. "Then get up, you’re embarrassing me. I want you to go inside and get cleaned up before your father gets home."
"Yes, mother. We’re coming." The pain in their voices wasn’t just because of their wounds...
..."I’m not quite sure what you’re asking me to do, Your Highness." Helpful Ted, the Captain of the Royal Leap Guard scratched his head in bewilderment.
Prncss stamped her feet in frustration. "I want you to help me set up a contest, with a date with me as the grand prize!"
"But why, Your Highness? You date young men all the time. Surely you have no problems meeting anyone, do you?"
"Yes, I mean, NO, of course not! But I’m tired of having to weed out the losers among all of the potential suitors. I want to date only the finest young men. I think a contest will save me a lot of wasted time."
"Aren’t you a little late to start thinking like that?" Ted grumbled under his breath, "You’ve already dated most of the kingdom."
"What was that?" there was ice in her tone, "I couldn’t hear you."
"I’m sorry, Prncss. I was just wondering what kind of contest you’d prefer." Ted’s tone was placating. "Do you want a Trial of Arms, Wrestling , Running..."
"No, no. None of that. I want the most popular date. The one that the other girls will cry over with envy."
"Oh, a popularity contest. How would that work?"
"We’ll have a vote. Yes, that will work. We’ll let everyone make nominations, and then vote on the winner. The one with the most votes goes on a date with me."
"Who will do the nominating?"
"Oh, just work out the details for yourself. But don’t take too long. I’m lone- , I mean, my suitor must be lonely for my company. Now, get going!"
And so it was that the first Know the Princess Pageant was created...
...Norris set down the tray of empty flagons and wiped her brow as she glanced at the few remaining patrons. Knowing that she wasn’t going anywhere until the place was empty, she cast about for ideas to evict the drunkards, without reducing the size of her tips. Her wandering gaze fell on the poor bastard in the corner with the missing arm, and she cringed. She had forgotton about him. It was awfully dark over in that corner, and it was hard to see. As a matter of fact, the shadows seemed especially dark over there. Was that shadow in the shape of a man? As she peered closer, a chill swept down her spine, and she shuddered. Shaking her head against the chill, she turned back to her work...
...<What kind of creature are you? Am I going crazy?> Mr. Ebaneezer leaned forward to get a better look at his new companion. <We’re not even talking aloud.>
*No, not crazy. Just in need of a little help. It’s quieter to talk this way, and harder to keep secrets.*
<How do I know that you can do what you say you can?>
*Let me do something for you on a temporary basis. We can make it permanent after you agree to my terms.* Azchel’s sneer changed to an evil grin. *Let me see your prosthesis.*
<Well, okay. But be careful with it. It’s my favorite> Gingerly, Ebaneezer removed his wooden arm, and slid it across the table. <Now what?>
*Now, this.* Azchel seemed to grow as the candles sputtered and the room got darker. An inky blackness formed in the center of the table, and flowed into the now empty sleeve. The blackness assumed a general shape of an arm, and then took on form and solidity. Ebaneezer stared in shock at the new arm. He flexed it experimentally. It felt real. He picked up the empty mug and banged it on the table. The table jumped, and the flagon shattered. Ebaneezer laughed with glee, and swung both his arms around wildly. Azchel’s sneer returned.
<How is this possible?>
*I caused a minion of mine to help you out. It’s even better than your old arm. It can’t be hurt, never grows tired, and has certain powers of it’s own. Jaschem1, say hello to your new partner.*
The new hand passed itself in front of Ebaneezer’s startled face. He noticed a tattoo of a face on the back of it. Then the face moved.
<I’m looking forward to chatting with you while we’re working. It’s so exciting to have a new partner. I hope you and the master can come to an agreement. Well, this is only temporary, so I’ve gotta go. BEB when you’ve worked out the details.> and in a flash, the arm was gone.
With a cry of dismay, Mr. Ebaneezer stared at the place the arm had been.
<Bring it back! I’ll do it! Whatever you want, just bring it back!>
*Let’s not be so hasty, my friend. Why don’t I tell you what I want, before you say yes...*
Chapter 44 - May Day
...Everywhere you looked, there were flyers. In fact, it seemed every doorway bled from color. The cacophany of sights was almost enough to cause headaches. Everyone in the Kingdom was discussing the contest, and heatedly debating nominations. Official notices stating the nature and rules of the competition were handed out at the gates by the Royal Leapii. Brightly wrapped podiums were almost instantaneously erected for the potential nominees to argue their cases. The Princess looked out her window and smiled. Things were running smoother than she'd hoped. Prncss knew that now she was the topic of EVERYONE'S conversation. She sighed with contentment. Then, to her surprise, one of the flyers blew in her open dormer. She glanced at it where it fell on the floor. Her face blanched, and she fell to the floor in a mad scramble to pick it up. It read:
WIN A CHANCE TO MATE THE PRINCESS!
The typo glowed like the angry pimple on the nose of a pubescent boy. Unable to read past that awful declaration, she couldn't even see the rest of the document. With trembling hands she read it over, and over, and over...
...It was nearly quitting time, and the alley behind the printshop was already dark, except for the single guttering torch by the back door. The door opened with a bang, and a young man with a precariously balanced box stepped through. With a feat of amazing dexterity, he held the box in one hand, and locked the door with the other. He grunted, and shifted his hold, with the box before him. He looked down at the last of the printed flyers. As he saw his contribution to the festivities, his face broke into a broad grin, and he began to laugh. Apprentice Typsetter Squidd turned to make his last delivery, with his peals of glee echoing to the rooftops...
Chapter 45 - News
"Master," the cringing gecko said in a fearful whisper, "there is good news from the field."
Azchel looked up from his writing to give the lizard a cold stare. "You know I asked to not be disturbed," he hissed.
"Yes, Master," the gecko whimpered, groveling on the floor, close, but not too close, to the shadowman's form. "But you said you wanted to know when the Aglar had defeated the Toad."
Azchel continued to stare at the retched creature for long moments more, enjoying the torture his very gaze caused it.
"Very well. What news?"
The gecko rose, but only to its knees. "Two of the gems were captured, Master. And two of the Toad's companions were slain. However, eighteen of the Aglar..."
"Which two gems?" Azchel interrupted, eagerness in his viper voice.
"Uhhh...I believe the White Eye and the Moonstone, Master."
"Excellent! And what of the Toad and the other gems?"
"It is reported that the Toad still lives and carries the Bloodstone. connecta's squadron reached the healer's cottage, but it was deserted. They currently search for word of the other two gems' whereabouts."
*YOU MUST ACT QUICKLY. WE CANNOT RISK THEM RETAKING THE STONES.*
<Fear not> Azchel replied in thought to Tempest's promptings. <It will take a miracle to save them now. I will leave immediately.>
"Increase the production of weapons and armor. Soon we shall march and take what is rightfully mine!"
With eyes burning blood red, Azchel shifted to his shadow form and disappeared from the cowering gecko's sight.
"I hear you. I am coming."
The call of Love grew stronger the closer she came. It filled her being, resonated in her mind and heart. The rest of existence seemed to fade around that wondrous harmony.
"Why do you move away? It is difficult for me to catch up. Soon I shall need rest."
The song increased, filling her with new vigor, chasing doubts and weariness away. Onward her feet walked, and onward more. Over hills, through forest and field, across streams and rivers--ever chasing a phantom goal.
Chapter 46 - Mother and Son
"We have to catch them soon, Killy. Before they make it to the Iron Hills. The closer they get, the more likely they will have Azchel's entire army to back them up."
Killy nodded his head in response to GreyEyes' urging, but said nothing. They half walked, half trotted on a forced march after the remainder of the Aglar squadron. The young Toad had been silent and morose since discovering Fly20 slain. His entire focus seemed to be on catching the foe and destroying them. GreyEyes could see the fury deep in his eyes.
"Killy, you can't blame yourself for any of this. We are pawns in something far greater than you or me or any of us. You listened to the gems. They understand beyond our comprehension what needs to take place."
"But why couldn't they avoided those senseless deaths?" cried Killy. "We waited for some strangers to join us! Well, where are they? Certainly not here! We waited and waited, and then our friends died for it! For what? We are worse off then before!"
GreyEyes waited for Killy to fall silent before saying anything. Although his outburst was frightening, she was glad that he was finally talking and releasing those pent up feelings.
"You said the Bloodstone told you these things must be. Do you doubt its words now?"
Killy sighed, his shoulders drooping. "No. I doubt them not. But the pain is no less for knowing there is some purpose to it all."
GreyEyes gave him a supportive slap on the shoulder, and Killy gave her a pained half-smile back. Their conversation ended as they began the faster part of their march, saving breath for the effort. Both watched in trepidation as the peaks of the Iron Hills rose higher on the distant horizon.
Mom2B peered carefully out the window beside her bed. Had she heard a noise? She watched and listened for a few minutes more, then returned to her cozy bed, pulling the covers up tight.
She looked at the dark, shadowed ceiling overhead, the rough beams lit here and there by the little moonlight that came in through the window. As she looked, unable to sleep, she thought back over the past few months. So much had happened. So much that she wished could be different.
After the devastating battle between her husband, Sir Twead and Quizzard, Mom2B had been sent into hiding. Too much risk for the wife of Quizzard's arch nemesis to be out in the open and possibly taken.
So she had gone into hiding, shifting from place to place until she had ended up here on this large farm. Dilbert, the kind farmer had welcomed her to his humble home, provided her room and board for free, although she had tried to help out with the work around the place.
And now, her son, Killy, was off fighting this dreadful war in his father's stead. Only once had she seen him since his father's death. He had come to see her late in the night, in secret. Said he was on his way to the royal city with a few close allies to gather news of the war. She had urged him not to go, but he had insisted with assurance that there was little risk.
Since that time, she had only heard a few vague rumors of his actions and whereabouts. Something about sentient stones and being hunted by the Ambassador of Earth.
Each night her heart ached in fear and worry for her son. He was all she had left. If she lost him to this war also, she was not sure she would be able to handle it.
Rolling over, as if turning her back on the worries that haunted her mind, Mom2B pulled the covers even tighter about her. After a long while of staring into the darkness, her eyes finally closed in fitful sleep.
Chapter 47 - Dusty Road, Take Me Home
..."Piss on this! My contacts ASSURED me that I'd make it to the right place THIS time." WhyKnot grumbled to the trees. The trees didn't seemvery impressed. There was a philosophical question somewhere there, but WhyKnot wasn't inclined to figure it out. "I'm gonna SKEWER those finks! Three trips to nowhere after all of the travelling I've done to get back here. Well, I'm gonna beat the information out of them when I get back to town."
"Peace, WhyKnot. They were only following my instructions."
WhyKnot whirled as her sword leapt into her hand. Then, in a flash of recognition, the sword tip fell, and her mouth dropped open...
...Savia stood up from the stone chair, rubbed her abraded posterior, and paced the room. "I guess you're story's no harder to swallow than the fact that I'm travelling with local and interstellar sprites." She paused, and gave Maxxy a wry grin, "I suppose you're gonna tell me that you created them, too." and pointed at the two watery figures.
*No, of course not. The stone created Pahel50 and the others. I assume that one of the other stones created Lin and her ilk. The stones are linked together in a fashion beyond MY/OUR understanding.*
"I guess that explains a few things, sort of. But why?"
Maxxy shook her head sadly and shrugged. *Your guess is as good as mine. My feeling is that the stones are part of creation, and brought the magical creatures into being to watch over all of their children.*
"Okay, you've explained all of my questions so far, except one. Why? Why are you telling us this? Lin came to you for help, not to get History 101."
*Oh, the history lesson wasn't for her,* Maxxy chuckled softly, *it was for you. You're going to need it to complete your task.*
"Whoa, hoss! Simmer down now. I need it for MY task? What task is that?"
*Well, simmer down yourself, missy. It's a long explanation for a simple thing...*
...CRASH! BANG! BOOM! Mr. Ebaneezer giggled and danced with glee as he destroyed everything in his path with his new arm. He marvelled at it's strength and endurance. It looked like a normal arm, yet was as strong as 10 men, and never seemed to get tired. The only drawback was it's weight. It was so heavy that he had to lean a bit when he stood up, and the strain on his shoulder was causing a small ache in the base of his neck.
<Quit complaining. You'd put on a few pounds, too, after getting as old as I am.> The tattooed face on the back of his hand took on a pained expression. <Are you going to continue playing, or is it time to get to work?>
"I'd forgotten you could speak. Are you going to do that often?"
<Only when you get sidetracked. We have a job to do.>
"I didn't mean any disrespect. It's just that it's gonna be awkward to if you want to have a conversation around people. It's hard enough to explain that I've gotten a new arm, let alone that I talk to it."
<Noone but you can hear me,and you don't have to talk out loud, either. Just think what you want to say.>
<Oh, my. A quick learner. That's always a good sign in a future king.>
<Was that sarcasm?>
<Just a reminder of what you promised the master.>
<Yeah, oh. I think we'd better get started. The master isn't known for his patience.>
Mr. Ebaneezer sighed, and rubbed the sore shoulder with his left hand. <Ya know, Jas? You're starting to be a real pain in the neck...>
Chapter 48 - The Race
*YOU ARE CLOSE NOW. YOU WILL BE ABLE TO REST SOON.*
(But I am so tired) the woman thought back as she continued her quick pace, slowly gaining on the retreating voice. (Why do you not stop and wait for me?)
*THAT IS OUT OF MY CONTROL FOR NOW. YOU MUST COME TO ME.*
Sometime in the past day or two, the beautiful song that had been calling to her had become a voice--a voice that spoke directly to her mind. Somehow, the voice maintained the harmony of the music she had heard before.
(Don't worry, I won't give up) she thought wearily, and quickened her pace.
*BEFORE THE SUN SETS, YOU SHOULD FIND ME.*
Overhead, the sun rose slowly to its zenith.
"These tracks are fresh. Not more than a couple of hours ahead of us now."
Killy rose from where he knelt beside GreyEyes to study the Aglar tracks. "Then let us catch these dogs and lay them by the heels. Before night falls, I want those stones back in our possession."
"How many Aglar would you say are left, Killy?" GreyEyes looked around at the churned trail. "Maybe a dozen or so?"
"That seems about right. Maybe a couple more or less. Regardless, they will not stop us. They will pay."
GreyEyes looked up at Killy a bit uneasily. "Be careful not to let your rage control you, my friend. That could harm you more than the foe."
Killy shook his head in dismissal. "Let's get going."
GreyEyes rose and they started off again at a slow jog.
Overhead, the sun rose slowly to its zenith.
"Blast...they are moving fast!" Lawboy stated, breathing hard.
The Ambassador and his Gecko companion had been pursuing their allies almost non-stop since they had left the ruined camp. The human was growing weary beyond measure. benmax showed little or no sign that the forced chase was even exerting him.
"If they keep up their speed, we will never catch them," ben said, running backwards to face the panting earthling as they talked. "It's a good thing we aren't chasing a band of Geckos."
ben started skipping backwards, a mockery of Lawboy's obvious fatigue.
"Stop for a minute...ben," Lawboy gasped.
The pair stopped and ben waited somewhat patiently as the human regained his breath.
"It is clear that you are much faster than I," Lawboy said, ignoring the Gecko's satisfied smirk. "So here is what I propose. You run ahead and catch up to them. Tell them my story and that I am following as fast as I can. Tell them I have been chosen to wield the True Heart."
"Are you sire that is a good idea?" asked benmax. "Before you told me not to run ahead."
Lawboy ignored the Gecko's sarcasm. "There is no other way. I cannot keep up even this pace."
"Alright," benmax said. "Any other messages you want me to deliver for you?"
"No. Just go. And benmax? Please lose the attitude."
benmax sputtered for a moment, then turned and zipped off along the Aglar tracks, disappearing over the next rise almost faster than Lawboy could follow.
"Someday that Gecko is going to drive me insane," Lawboy muttered to himself.
"Let's hope that isn't soon."
Lawboy jumped at the sound of the small voice, whirling around. Seeing nothing, he turned in a slow circle, holding his knife out in a guarding stance.
"Just what are you going to do with that?" came the small voice again, "make me into a sprite on a stick?" The voice giggled.
Lawboy whipped around to where the voice came from. Nothing. Wait, did she say "sprite?" He looked down to find a beautiful, tiny being staring up at him, a crooked smile on her face.
"Yes, down here, Healer."
"What?...but...who?" Lawboy spluttered.
"What? I'm a wood sprite. Who? My name is Lldy. And you are the recently changed ambassador of Earth. Now that our introductions are finished, can we get on with this journey?"
The sprite turned and started to run lightly along the path benmax had taken, but Lawboy called after her. "Wait! You can't just poof out of nowhere and expect everything to be all normal and everything! Where did you come from? Why are you here?"
Lldy stopped and placed her hands on her hips. "We haven't the time to stand here and talk, earthling. If you must have answers, then we can talk as we go. Now come on!" And she started out again.
Lawboy ran to catch up. The tiny sprite was amazingly swift.
"I have been following you since you left Killy's camp. I didn't show myself because of the Gecko. I don't care if he is an ally, he still makes me uneasy. As for why I am here, that should be obvious. I'm supposed to be aiding Killy in his quest, but some oaf of an Aglar managed to fall on top of me back there and keep me trapped till about the time you came along. I have to catch Killy before he does something rash. Now run ambassador. Run like you have never run before. Draw your strength from the True Heart!"
And run he did, drawing on reserves of his own strength, augmenting them through the Egar gem. The miles rushed by.
Overhead, the sun rose slowly to its zenith.
Chapter 49 - The Plan
"There," Killy pointed. GreyEyes nodded agreement.
They had caught up with their foe faster than expected. The sun was only half way on its downward journey to the horizon. Hiding in a small copse of trees, the companions had watched the enemy, gauging strengths and weaknesses, counting, waiting for a chance to strike.
They were surprised and discouraged to see that another squadron of Aglar, along with a troop of Geckos had joined those they were chasing. They now numbered some 40 Aglar and perhaps 25 Geckos. Far too many for the two of them to attack head on.
So they sat and watched, looking for a place to strike, looking for where the gems might be held. And they believed they had found it.
"The two central structures must be the Aglar captains. The gems are in the one on the left, with the red banner."
"Alright. Now, how do we get through all those Aglar and retrieve the stones?"
Killy whirled around, sword drawn before he stopped, to find a Gecko rushing towards him at full speed. Killy moved forward to meet the rush, keeping the trees between himself and the Aglar force. The lizard saw the sword and tried to stop, letting out a strangled squeak as it fell head over heels. Killy moved in for the kill, but the Bloodstone cried out in his mind.
*HOLD, KILLY. HE BEARS THE SUNSTONE! HE IS NOT AN ENEMY!*
Killy stopped in mid swing over the cowering Gecko, holding his palm out toward GreyEyes' to stop her attack as well.
<Please explain> Killy thought to the Bloodstone. <And why didn't you tell me sooner?>
*PLEASE BE PATIENT, KILLY. WE ARE NOT OMNIPOTENT. I COULD NOT FEEL THE SUNSTONE'S PRESENCE TILL HE WAS CLOSER. CERTAIN EGAR ARE LINKED STRONGER THAN OTHERS.*
Killy stared at the lizard a few more uncomfortable moments before loudly sheathing his sword. "Speak quickly, lizard" he said. "Convince me not to kill you."
"I...I...I'm a friend!" the Gecko pleaded. "I...we...we are here to help. P...p...please don't kill us."
"What do you mean 'us' ", Killy hissed, reaching for his sword again.
"He means me, you big oaf, Killy. Now get your hand off that blade before you hurt yourself."
Killy jumped as the small wood sprite popped into view between him and the Gecko. For a moment he backed away, as if from a ghost.
"What's the matter? Forgot I existed already? Hmph."
"N...no. I mean...we thought you were dead!" It was Killy's turn to stammer. "How...? Why...?"
"Some oaf bigger than you had me stuck, but we'll talk about that later. Right now we have some Egar to rescue. And that must start with you trusting our new friend here." She reached back and elbowed the lizard. "Stand up and give your message already."
The Gecko got slowly to his feet, brushing off damp dirt absently, not taking his eyes from Killy's and GreyEyes' weapons. "Umm. Hi. Umm. I'm benmax," he said. "Wielder of the Sunstone," he added with a bit more confidence.
"Yes, yes. I know that," Killy said sharply. "Get on with it."
"Yes. Well. I have a message for you from Lawboy, the Earth's ambassador. He says..."
"What? You come bringing the words of that evil fiend? How dare you?" Killy drew his sword again and aimed it at the lizard's chest, despite an angry yelp from the sprite. "You're not doing a very good job of convincing me, gecko."
Benmax swallowed hard, but stood his ground. "The ambassador is a friend also, sir Toad sir. He bears the True Heart. He has changed and he seeks to aid you against Azchel! My message is that he is not far behind, and brings a weapon that will aid greatly against the Aglar."
Killy sat heavily on the ground, sword limp in his hand. GreyEyes kneeled next to him and placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. Lldy and benmax watched patiently as the young toad pondered what he had just heard.
Finally, he stood. Slowly, he held a hand out to benmax. "Welcome, friend. Forgive my misgivings, but these are hard times for trust."
benmax took the extended hand firmly, a small sigh of relief escaping.
"Very good. You have grown since we last spoke, Killy," said Lldy. "So tell me--what is the plan for rescuing the other gems? Please tell me you have a plan."
"Well..." Killy said, looking at GreyEyes. "We were just discussing that. It will be very difficult at best."
The companions entered the copse of trees and crept to where they could peer out at the enemy ranks.
"Connecta is here?" benmax whispered harshly. "Oh bite and bother! If any of them see me I am a goner!"
"Wait," said Killy. "You were a part of the Gecko troop with connecta?"
"I was their commander!" benmax wailed.
"I see," Killy said absently, ignoring the Gecko's labored gasps. He glanced over at GreyEyes. Seeing the same light in her eyes, he started to smile. "benmax, my friend, it is very fortunate that you have joined us."
benmax must have heard some hint of Killy's plan, because he fainted dead away.
Behind them, the sun neared the horizon.
<I'm coming. I'm almost there. Just a little longer.> the woman said deliriously.
*SOON. SOON YOU CAN REST*
The woman shuffled on, at times almost falling, but always going onward.
As she walked, a sweet melody played in her mind, comforting her.
Chapter 50 - The Guardian
by Kilnamar on 12.5.00 5:29 PM
Killy fought against the terror that filled his mind. Fought it with a vengeance. And yet the fear crept inward, aimed at his heart, seeking to freeze the organ that gave him life. A gasp of pain and exertion hissed through his lips as he strained to turn his head away from the roiling shadow. He was barely aware of an agonized moan coming from his left side. GreyEyes. He heard
nothing from the Earthman.
We have failed, his mind wailed. Inside his head, the voice of the Bloodstone screamed in a mixture of rage and fear.
All of these thoughts happened in a brief second, and then action erupted around them. Aglar warriors, alerted by the noise and light burst forth from their structures, hastily pulling on armor and readying weapons.
The horn call continued to sound to the east, a rough sound that seemed to intrude on the slick silence of the camp. And into sight, burst a ragged band of Geckos. Through the haze of his hypnosis, Killy could hear the high pitched yells of benmax, urging them on. Within moments, the small lizards collided with off-guard Aglar. For a moment, the unbelievable happened. The Aglar were pushed back! But everyone new it was only a matter of time until the tide changed. The Geckos were just not a physical match for Aglar.
Killy continued to fight. With every ounce of strength he tried to break the shadowman’s hypnotic power. If the Geckos didn’t get help soon, they would all die.
Amid the confusion a small form suddenly stepped into the space between Killy and the shadow. A small, ragged form hidden inside a tattered cloak. The shadowman did not seem to see, staring intently at the companions, especially GreyEyes. He knows she holds the Gems! his mind shrieked.
Killy watched in amazement as the small form turned to face the looming shadow, like a snowflake against a midnight sky.
And then the form spoke, starting in a small, whispering voice and growing stronger. “Azchel. Kinslayer. In you was our darkest day discovered, and against you, we shall find our starlight. Hear me Azchel, for I am come to finish what was started millennia ago!”
Abruptly, the hold on Killy’s body left, so suddenly that he toppled forward on his face. Scrambling wildly, he rose to his feet, shakily drawing his sword. After a moment to gain his balance, he turned to GreyEyes and Lawboy. They also were rising slowly to their feet, shaking heads and breathing fast.
“GreyEyes, with me to the wee one! Lawboy, aide the Geckos!” he yelled, and turned back to the scene before them without waiting to see if his orders were carried out. Slowly, they crept forward, one going to either side.
The small form stood before the great shadow unwavering, arms now upheld. Killy watched queasily as the shadow coalesced and took the form of a tall man. A man that seemed uncertain.
“Guardian,” he hissed, “you are far from your home.” He took a bold step forward, but the form did not move. “A pity. You should have stayed there. I had hoped to not have to kill another of your race.”
“Your viperous words scare me not, Kinslayer. The time is drawing near. If I am slain, another shall come to replace me, and another and another until you are destroyed.” The form lowered its arms and pulled the hood back.
Killy gaped at the unexpected sight of a young woman–or perhaps not young–her age seemed unreadable. Slightly pointed ears and sharp features formed a face that was at once beautiful and wise.
Azchel glanced over her head to the fighting that was raging through the camp, as if seeking aide. “Have your powers grown so much that you imagine you can beat me?” he laughed evilly. “I learned the ways of magic before your world existed!”
Slowly, but growing more confident, the shadowman stepped towards her, shadows seeming to flow out of his fingers to form dark clouds around his hands.
The woman stood unafraid against the oncoming attack. Abruptly, her head whipped sideways. A brilliant light burst forth from where GreyEyes continued to creep closer–from her tunic pocket. Reaching out, the woman beckoned. “I have come. Show me.”
GreyEyes’ hand seemed to move of it’s own will, reaching into her pocket and bringing out the brightly glowing bundle that contained the Egar gems. The cloth fell away, and nearly unbearable light streamed through the camp.
The woman muttered a word and motioned, and the gem rose from GreyEyes’ palm and flew towards her outstretched hand. The combining of the two was like the fitting of the last piece of a puzzle. The two became one somehow Killy could not define.
“No!” Azchel bellowed, rushing at her with rays of darkness bursting from him.
“Close your eyes!” the woman screamed.
Killy barely had time to shut his eyes before a searing light seemed to envelop him, so bright his eyelids offered little protection. Gasping, he fell to the ground and hid his eyes beneath his arms. For a few moments the light blazed, and then there was darkness and quiet.
Killy cautiously raised his head and looked around. The first thing he noticed was Lawboy and benmax stumbling toward them, blinking rapidly. The small woman stood gazing beyond the camp, staring into the darkness. GreyEyes rose from the ground, removing her cloak from her head.
Killy looked around in wonder. The shadowman was gone. There were no more sounds of fighting. All was silent and dark, save the pure glow from the White Eye, still clutched in the woman’s hand.
Together, they walked to stand behind her. With a sigh she turned and looked up at them, eyeing them in turn. “I am the Guardian. My people have sent me, as prophesied, to fight the shadowman, the Kinslayer. “My name is Solana.”
The companions stared in awe at the woman before them. At their new source of hope.
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