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Brutaka scanned the cavern with narrowed eyes. The glowing eyes of the insects all around made it feel as if he were trapped in some lunatic starfield. Behind him, he could hear Vezon humming softly to himself, as if out for an afternoon stroll.

“Do we fight our way out of here?” asked Lariska, hand on the hilt of her dagger.

Brutaka’s answer was to turn to Spiriah. “Okay. You control Rahi. Make them clear a path.”

“On one condition,” said Spiriah. “Once I do, I go free. I turn right around and march out, take the boat – if Takadox hasn’t already – and leave. And I never see or hear from any of you, or anyone associated with you, again.”

“I wasn’t asking you,” replied Brutaka. “I was telling you.”

“I am a Makuta,” said Spiriah. “Disgraced, perhaps; a victim of jealousy and prejudice, most definitely. But I will not be dictated to by some obnoxious, insane –”

Brutaka hit Spiriah a solid blow in the mask, knocking the Makuta over the side of the narrow bridge. Spiriah caught on to the span, just barely, and hung in space.

“I think this is what they call ‘in no position to deal,’” said Brutaka. He triggered his mask power, opening a dimensional portal in space just below Spiriah’s feet. “If I move that opening just a little bit further toward you, you’ll find yourself in a dimension full of beings made of solid light. Know what they eat there? Shadow. You’ll be a food bank for them, Spiriah, but I have to warn you – they’re always hungry. And they don’t close their mouths when they chew.”

Spiriah said nothing. Instead, he reduced his density and floated up and away from Brutaka’s portal. Then he drifted back down to the bridge and turned solid once more. “I’ll do it,” he said. “Then I leave. I advise you not to try and stop me.”

The Makuta concentrated, triggering his power to control Rahi beasts. Nothing happened, other than restless stirring among the insects. After a few moments, Spiriah gave up in frustration. “They’re already under the control of a more powerful will. It must be Miserix.”

Brutaka gestured toward the wall of insect life that blocked the way they had come. “Then I guess you’re not leaving.” He turned to Lariska. “And we’re fighting. You stay back with Vezon. Roodaka, Spiriah and I will lead the way.”

On Brutaka’s signal, he and his two powerful allies unleashed their powers at the insects who blocked the passage way up ahead. As quickly as the crimson creatures fell, more came to replace them. Worse, the ones behind were now skittering across the bridge, closing in on Vezon and Lariska.

“I have an idea,” said Roodaka, summoning a Rhotuka disk into her launcher. She fired at the insects up ahead, the power of her disk mutating them into unrecognizable creatures. An instant later, the other insects fell upon the unfortunate victims of her attack. The mutated insects were dead in seconds, killed for being different than the rest of the species.

Seeing that her ploy had worked, Roodaka repeated the process, this time focusing on the insects blocking the end of the bridge. As the mutations took hold and their former allies turned on them, an opening appeared in the wall of living creatures. With a roar of triumph, she led a charge across the bridge and into the tunnel beyond. The team didn’t stop running until they were well away from the cavern.

“Are they following?” asked Brutaka.

“They don’t seem to be,” Lariska answered. “Maybe they don’t like to leave their nest.”

“Or maybe they just know we have to go back out that way, so they can eat us then,” Vezon offered, cheerfully.

“Maybe there’s another way out up ahead,” said Brutaka.

“Or maybe we’ll get to like it here,” said Vezon. “A few grass mats, some cave drawings, the heads of my enemies mounted on the wall… it could be quite pleasant.”

“Brutaka!” Roodaka called from up ahead. “I think you had best see this.”

The team rushed through the tunnel to join Roodaka. She was standing at the tunnel’s end, looking out at another vast chamber. More specifically, she was looking at the largest occupant of the chamber, a massive dragon-like beast chained to the stone floor. All around it flew much smaller Rahi, darting and dodging the shadow hand that occasionally shot out from the creature’s chest.

“What… is that?” asked Lariska.

Brutaka shook his head in amazement. “Well, it’s about 40 feet tall, red and silver, with four legs, a tail, and a nasty disposition – and it’s who we’re here to rescue.”

“Miserix,” whispered Spiriah.

“All right, we can take him home,” said Vezon, “but don’t expect me to clean up after him.”

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