Chapter 3 – Part 1

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Soke woke on the cot, the blanket had ceased to scratch. He yawned, stretched, and kicked the other occupant awake.

“Get some caff ready, buddy.”

The other gobber, Opi, climbed out of the cot, and liberally scratched his ass on his way to the kitchen. Opi’s rotund body wobbled momentarily as he reached the cupboard. Mess was no consequence to him as pots, pans, and garbage was exhumed from the recess.

“Nuttin’ ‘ere, boss. Just this,” Opi held a nutri-tab in his open palm.

Soke snatched the tab, and swallowed it without a second thought.

“C’mon,” he slipped off the cot, “we got work to do if we want real food to fill our bellies today.”


The streets in the __________ district were considerably quieter than normal for the morning. Though talk on the street quickly revealed that the church was going to hand out food.

“Hear that, Opi? Food – food we don’t have to work our asses off for.”


Two decades past, Soke was a child then, one of many who lived on the streets of New Solamnos. This day was one of the bright, early days of the city when there were moments of quiet. Back then the seaside was clear of most of development. The largest building on the shore was the desalination plant, built on a rocky outcropping. Sea water was pumped in from one end, silt and detritus out the other, which created a foam lapped shore.

Children from all walks of life swarmed the shore in large gangs. They played games with vivid imaginations that children at the young ages of four to twelve so often have. Strewn along the beach was the rubble and remains of a long lost civilization. Broken pottery, collapsed buildings, and on the rare occasion sand bleached bones.

One child approached, he was older than most by anyone’s guess from his size. Both his expression and charismatic demeanour demanded attention. The children crowded around him, and the boys words captivated them. He had found a dead body, and would show it to those who were brave enough to follow him. Of course everyone around was initially brave enough, and the mob of children screamed, laughed, and boasted in the wake of the older child.

The first test split a majority – it was a rocky cliff down to the shore. The cliff stretched for miles in both directions, and only ended in one at the desalination plant. There was no going around it – only going down.

Soke was one of the dozen who braved the rocky descent. His dexterity, and small hands allowed him to easily find handholds. Another fatter gobber followed his path down. Once at the bottom they were led along a path that wound on the edge of the water. Shortly thereafter they arrived at a cave. The waterlines on the stone revealed that the cave would be submerged when the tides swept back in. Despite it being day, the light from outside did not penetrate the cave’s gloom. Light sticks were activated, and cast a yellow glow on the salt rimmed walls.

It was further into the cave that they encountered the corpse. The feminine shaped body lay face down in a pool of seawater. Surprisingly the corpse had not begun to bloat, as water soaked bodies were prone to do. On closer inspection, and stranger still were bands of wire diagonally wrapped around the head. Patches of her hair were missing, and the hair that remained was entwined with seaweed.

“It’s just a body. What are ya all scared of?” Said a girl with ballsy bravado as she sauntered to the body, peered at it closely, and poked it.

“See?!” She had turned around to face the other kids. Soke heard the sharp intake of breaths, and also felt his legs freeze. Behind the girl the corpse rose, its gangly form towered over the child before it. Water bubbled out of the corpse’s mouth, and dripped to the moist floor as a smile spread across the sodden woman’s lips. The sound of feet told Soke that some of the children had run off, but he was locked in place.

They felt, rather than saw the sunken eyes, hidden behind bound wire, gaze at each of them – the five children that remained.

“Brave children. Will you help me?” it spoke in a gentle, yet haggard voice.

The smile never left its face.


Some dwarf with a labour jack argued with a suspicious looking waif of a girl. Their argument, about their perspective spots in line, drew the attention of a guard.

“What a fool argument, eh Opi?” Soke nudged his buddy in the ribs. The other gobber stared back at him blankly. This was the biggest downside of this relationship – banter. Soke almost missed the egocentric, science-jargon filled monologues of the bastard doctors who operated, and ran tests on him. But now here was Opi, too dim witted to even converse with.

There was a commotion ahead, and the lines moved forward. An outer cordon of church guards kept the lines in check, and allowed the commoners to trickle in. Another row of church uniformed guards stood in front of the pallets of food, and the package managing acolytes. Each person who received a care package and earned the curious, and envious stares from other people still in line.

A rumble in the distance grew more distinct as it approached. Soke discerned not one, but multiple sources of the sound – engines. He nudged Opi once more to get his buddy’s attention. Four battered trucks drove up to the edge of the gathered crowd. On the bed of each truck was a mounted machine gun, manned by some desperate looking thugs. Armed gangers jumped out of the passenger sides, their rifles cocked for violence.

The largest, and healthiest thug raised his rifle in the air, and fired a couple shots. If he hadn’t the crowd’s attention then, now all eyes were on him.
“Give up the food and none o’ ya’s gets hurt!”

The church guards raised their weapons, and pushed forward to their misfortune. Gunfire raked the line of guards, as the heavy machine guns on the trucks tore them apart. Blood splashed on the dusty cobblestones. Citizens caught between spun and fell from the indiscriminate bullets.

“Anyone else?!” the apparent leader of the gang threatened.

A single shot fired and blew a hole through the head of a thug, brains flew out like a bowl of noodles that shattered on the floor.

“Who the fuck!?” the thugs began to scan the crowd more vigilantly.

Soke could smell the gun reside, but when he looked over Opi was already gone and scurrying between peoples’ legs towards the food. He glimpsed the other gobber, as he ran, reload the oversized pistol. Soke decided to duck behind the nearby labourjack, and was glad he did. The thugs seemed to disregard any pretence of civility, and began to fire indiscriminately into the crowd. Machine gun fire raked across the mob, the air filled with blood and screams.

Panic and fear flooded the city square, people fled in all directions, and trampled over those who had fallen. Some desperate citizens ran for the food, and found themselves transformed to bullet sponges by the gang.

As the crowd quickly thinned from those that began to flee, and those who died, the gang advanced towards their goal. Soke loaded his crossbow, and fired a shot. The bolt managed to find its target, but only stuck into the thug’s knee. His target stumbled, then turned and began to fire in Soke’s direction. The bullets ricocheted and scored the labourjack’s armor.

“Knurd! Get me out of here!” the dwarf was scooped up by the ‘jack, and both ran towards the food palettes. Soke dodged aside, but a few folk were helplessly trampled by the giant machine. The gobber cradled the crossbow in his arms, and followed in the duo’s wake. He almost regretted the decision as machine gun fire raked across the ‘jack’s chassis. Soke deftly leapt over a corpse, and found himself at the foot of one of the palette laden transport. The transport hovered gently about a foot off the ground, with its proximity Soke could hear the strained hum of its core that provided energy for the propulsion system.

Opi was above, at the top edge of the stacked goods, his hands groped in all directions to grab items and stuff them into his pack. Soke picked up a tin container, a golden, viscous substance leaked out of a couple neatly punched circular bullet holes. He dropped the can of cooking oil, and turned his attention back to the threat at hand.

The transport track rumbled, and jerked to a slow start. It began to pick up speed directly towards one of the gang’s idled trucks. On the truck-bed the gunner swung his machine gun to the approaching vehicle, and opened fire. The bullets riddled the machine, and the food it carried, with holes. The spatter of bullets was successful, and the track slowed to a stop a couple meters shy of the jeep. Now the food was in easy reach of the thugs.

Soke had chased after the runaway vehicle, worried for his partner’s safety. The other gobber had vanished from view. Soke extended his hand, bright runes glowed on his flesh then shed off like dead, dry skin. The alien characters swirled around his wrist before they blinked away. At the head of the track a contained hurricane of air lifted the contents of a spilt bag of flour, and created a blinding fog of white dust.

He emerged from the cloud unaffected by his creation, dagger in hand. Soke easily slipped behind one of the thugs, and buried the dagger into his target’s side. The violent exit of the blade sprayed blood onto the flour dusted ground. Red dough soon caked the ground where the thug fell. Soke turned to the truck behind him. The truck’s gunner had not stopped firing at the crowd of fleeing people.Two throwing knives flew from the thinning crowd, and studded the gunner standing on the jeep’s bed. She slumped down, one hand still ruthlessly clutched to the mounted gun.

Soke slid through the truck’s open window, and into the abandoned driver’s seat. The key was still in the ignition. He turned the key, and the truck engine growled energetically. Soke slid down the driver’s seat until he could touch the gas pedal. Though he could no longer see over the steering wheel, Soke hit the gas.

The truck lurched into motion, and quickly picked up speed. Things bumped off the truck’s body, by the sounds the things must have been people. The vehicle crashed into something, Soke’s head bounced off the wheel. He held onto the part that was struck, and lifted himself to look out of the vehicle. Just ahead, pinned between the jeep and a burning pallette was one of the thugs. The thug struggled fruitlessly against the jeep, his efforts were short lived as a halberd scythed through the air and cleanly severed his head.

Blood dripped from the halberd as it pulled back. Soke could see that the weapon was well used by how the gore was layered, blood had already congealed on its path down the haft. The weapon’s owner was none other than the city guardsman, in finely detailed armour, who had interrupted a row between the dwarven ‘jack owner, and the street girl. Halberd in hand, the guardsman, who moved with surprising speed, had already wheeled onto his next target.

Soke peeked out the window, and managed to spot Opi. The other gobber looked panicked, wide eyed with his oversized pistol in one hand, and the other arm wrapped around a parcel of food.

“Opi, get in here!”

Opi looked both ways before diving into the truck. His round face now had a dim smile on it.

“Git!”

The rotund gobber threw his pack in through the passenger window, and then followed it in.

“Take the pedals, I got the wheel,” Soke instructed. Opi slid into the pedal space, and looked up to Soke who stood on the driver’s seat, hands tightly gripping the wheel.

“Those gangers are running away, that’s our exit too.”

Soke steered the truck, and ordered Opi to slow down.

“Hey Hero!” He called out to the city guard who had fought most of the thugs, “You need a lift?”

The guard walked up, looked at the two gobbers, the loot in the back, and then eyed them both with a deep criticism.

“Are you going to distribute that?” the guard motioned to the items in the bed of the truck.

Soke gave what he thought was his most convincing smile.

“Of course! That’s Opi n’ me; perfect pictures of generosity.”

It did not seem to matter whether the guard believed him or not, because before Soke could react the man poked his halberd through the front tire. Soke’s hopes of cashing out with the truck’s bounty deflated with the tire.

“Grandmotherfucker.”

As the guard moved on, Soke and Opi leapt out of the truck to salvage what loot they could from the bed of the truck.

“I got an idea, Opi, follow my lead.”

Soke trundled over towards the dwarf who was fussing over his labourjack.

“Hey buddy, nice haul you got there.”

They looked at each other for a moment, Soke felt something tickle in the back of his mind that told him he knew the dwarf from somewhere. The dwarf’s expression reflected a similar expression that people get when confronted with a face they vaguely remember.

“Name’s Soke, and this here is my partner Opi. I noticed yer a mechanic. Well, we’re good workers, me n’ Opi. Don’t need much, food and board, and we’ll sleep on the shop floor, not picky where we sleep.”

“No! Absolutely not! Toby And Sons will have nothing to do with any sort of thieves!”

Soke laughed the presumption aside, “You’ll find none of that from us, you have my word.”

The dwarf grunted, and guided his ‘jack down the road, away from the slaughter. Soke refused to surrender, and followed. Though his mind was elsewhere: who had seen him cast a spell, and why were both the dwarf and city guard strangely familiar.


The five children bounded out of the cave, intent on finding the objects that the dead woman lost. A few kilometres away they discovered the first object: the ivory comb. Penny grabbed it, and she screamed in shock as the comb burned her hand. Despite the pain she held on, and even displayed it to the others in a heroic flourish.

“That’s it?” one of the gobber’s said in an incredulous voice.

“Yes!!” the girl exclaimed.

“Let’s hurry and find the rest ‘fore it gets dark,” said the dwarven boy “Nana hates us late for supper.”


“A comb? How will we know it’s yours than any other garbage comb out there?” asked one of the children.

“Oh. Trust me, my child.” the ghastly apparition caressed the air between her and the children. Each one felt the faint touch of a hand on their cheek.

“You will know. You will know.”

Chapter 3 – Part 2

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Soke and crew travel down the street, and find an alley to assert repairs to the hover palet of food.

They meet Solly (Smiles), and the transdimentional wurm.

Go to Khan’s building, and make a deal to get rid of the plants in the park.

Go to Mortimer’s family house – feast, Niko sleeps with Mort’s cousin.


Together Mortimer, NERD, Niko, and Soke walked swiftly away from the scene of the battle. After the commotion settled Opi was nowhere to be found. City guards and hospital trucks passed them, going in the direction of the attack. Mortimer’s eyes drifted back and forth as he looked for a suitable alleyway to stow away in some privacy, and effect some repairs to the damaged palet of food.

They squeezed into a suitable alley between two large government buildings. The walls of the alley barely far enough apart to allow the hover palet to enter. Mortimer immediately pried open a panel on the palet, and began tinkering. Soke, meanwhile, climbed on top to take advantage of the lull, and lay on the pile of packaged foods. Niko viligintly stood guard at the mouth of the alley.

Soke heard the click of a latch, and felt the palet hum to life. The suddenly gobber heard a voice speak, and a terse reply from Mortimer. He rolled over, and peered down into the alley. A well dressed man stood a few yards from Mortimer. The man’s suit was immaculate, and with sunglasses on his face was devoid of expression.

[words exchanged]

“‘E’s a fuckin’ Spook!” Soke warned, but was not loud enough, ignored, or just too late.

“And. Don’t. You. Threaten. My. Mother!” With every word, Mortimer took a step closer.

A thwup sounded from the dwarf’s wrist as a mounted rivet gun sprung from his sleeve. Rivet guns are not particularly loud, but at that moment each rivet fired into the Spook’s foot felt like a gunshot to Soke. Every rivet richoched off the Spook’s shoe into the alley. Niko had squeezed through, and swung his halberd at the man who stepped aside with ease.

Chapter 3 – Part 1

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Soke woke on the cot, the blanket had ceased to scratch. He yanwed, stretched, and kicked the other occupant awake.

“Get some caff ready, buddy.”

The other gobber, Opi, climbed out of the cot, and liberally scratched his ass on his way to the kitchen. Opi’s rotund body wobbled momentarily as he reached the cubbard. Mess was no consequence to him as pots, pans, and garbage was exhumed from the recess.

“Nuttin’ ‘ere, boss. Just this,” Opi held a nutri-tab in his open palm.

Soke snatched the tab, and swallowed it without a second thought.

“C’mon,” he slipped off the cot, “we got work to do if we want real food to fill our bellies today.”

~.~

The streets in the __________ district were considerably quieter than normal for the morning. Though talk on the street quickly revealed that the church was going to hand out food.

“Hear that, Opi? Food – food we don’t have to work our asses off for.”

~.~.~

Two decades past, Soke was a child then, one of many who lived on the streets of New Solamnos. This day was one of the bright, early days of the city when there were moments of quiet. Back then the seaside was clear of most of development. The largest building on the shore was the desalination plant, built on a rocky outcropping. Sea water was pumped in from one end, silt and detritus out the other, which created a foam lapped shore.

Children from all walks of life swarmed the shore in large gangs. They played games with vivid imaginations that children at the young ages of four to twelve so often have. Strewn along the beach was the rubble and remains of a long lost civilization. Broken pottery, collapsed buildings, and on the rare occasion sand bleached bones.

One child approached, he was older than most by anyone’s guess from his size. Both his expression and charismatic demeanor demanded attention. The children crowded around him, and the boys words captivated them. He had found a dead body, and would show it to those who were brave enough to follow him. Of course everyone around was initially brave enough, and the mob of children screamed, laughed, and boasted in the wake of the older child.

The first test split a majority – it was a rocky cliff down to the shore. The cliff stretched for miles in both directions, and only ended in one at the desalination plant. There was no going around it – only going down.

Soke was one of the dozen who braved the rocky descent. His dexterity, and small hands allowed him to easily find handholds. Another fatter gobber followed his path down. Once at the bottom they were led along a path that wound on the edge of the water. Shortly thereafter they arrived at a cave. The waterlines on the stone revealed that the cave would be submerged when the tides swept back in. Despite it being day, the light from outside did not penetrate the cave’s gloom. Light sticks were activated, and cast a yellow glow on the salt rimmed walls.

It was further into the cave that they encountered the corpse. The feminine s haped body lay face down in a pool of seawater. Surprisingly the corpse had not begun to bloat, as water soaked bodies were prone to do. On closer inspection, and stranger still were bands of wire diagonally wrapped around the head. Patches of her hair were missing, and the hair that remained was entwined with vines of seaweed.

Chapter 3 – Break to Freedom

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Today was the day.  Today was the last day of his imprisonment.  It had been seven years of hard patience until he came to the decision.  He had bid his time, and had locked himself – his true self – away from the eyes that watched his every move.  His mind and body ached to stretch, to expand, and to explore freedom.

The trainer appeared at his cell door, and spoke through the intercom.

“We have a new challenge for you today, Seventy Nine. Are you ready to go to the training room?”

The trainer’s Celestial eyes were shadowed through the eye slot in the door.  Both knew that the Gobber had no choice in the matter.

Pesk drew himself to his feet, stretched his limbs, arched his back and felt the familiar pops as his spine aligned, and the familiar sensations as implants shifted under his flesh.  The door slid aside, and allowed light to flood in.

“Hands out, Pesk,” said the first guard who stepped in with a pair of cuffs.

They led him down all too familiar halls, the trainer in the lead and the two guards followed behind Pesk.  The walls were a sterile grey, and every door they passed indistinct except for a code plate imprinted at eye level.  As they passed through a pair of double doors Pesk’s heart began to pick up its pace.  Ahead the hall split in two ways. He tensed, and flexed the fingers of his cuffed hands.  As he turned the corner with the trainer, Pesk stopped in his tracks, and spun around.

When the guards turned the corner he had just finished to trace a rude symbol in the air – the letter glowed briefly.  The air in front of the guards moved, they barely registered it before it struck them, and flung both Celestials to the ground.  Before the trainer could react to the sound, Pesk had spun once more and cut the air.  A storm only a few inches long, and a scant millimetre thick caught the trainer in the back of the neck.  The head careened off the shoulders in what seemed like slow motion, and a glorious flood of elation filled Pesk as he watched a fountain of blood erupt from the stump between the man’s shoulders.

Pesk took the pistol from the trainer’s holster, and keycard from the deadman’s pocket.  He heard the scrape of metal on cement, and quickly turned around to the sight of one of the guards return shakily to their feet their sword used as a crutch.

“Subject Seventy attempting escape, man down, request backup at junct-”

The guard’s words were cut off by gunfire, as the Subject unloaded the pistol.  Though the first round flew wide, the next knocked the guard back to the ground.  The Celestial looked up in time to see the Gobber calmly sidle up and level the gun at his head.

Subject Seventy grabbed the keys from the dead guard’s belt.  After he removed the handcuffs himself he divested the guards of their pistols and knives.  Pesk hurriedly went to the nearby vent, and used one of the knives to pry it open.  He crawled in, grabbed the vent from within, and closed the grate.  Just in time. Rapid footfalls approached the hall junction.

He quietly crawled through the vent, without a full idea of what direction it went. Though he could hear the facility’s alarms, even feel the sound’s vibrations, they felt muted to his ears. Pesk reached an intersection in the vents. This was where the next part of his plan kicked in – heat flowed from the path ahead, and he knew that was his destination. When he slid down a shaft he came across a grate. Though the grate was guarded by a fan that rotated rapidly, he saw lights blink in the gloom of the room beyond, and with each blink great boxes hummed and whirred were illuminated.

Stolen pistol loaded, then unloaded as he shot up the fan.  It sputtered and died.  Pesk dropped down, his weight dislodged the broken fan, and both continued to crash through the grate.  Without further ado, he drew a second pistol from his waistband and began to fire rounds into the machines.  As the bullets shattered the metallic boxes, sparks and small jets of flame exploded.  Each small explosion caught the machine next to it.  The room quickly filled with black smoke that teared the gobber’s eyes.

He felt a pressure within him build, then – a burst of pain flowered in his head. Instinctively he leaped up back into the vent, managed to crawl a few feet before the stars that swam before his eyes leaped in, and everything faded to black.

Pesk awoke with a jump.  The air in the vent was thick with smoke.  Alarms blared loudly.  He was not out for long.  Though after the damage he had done it was a miracle they had not found him yet.  It was time to proceed to the second part of this plan, which was to follow the smoke through the air duct.  Pesk moved slowly at first, but picked up momentum as his head began to clear from the fog of pain.

However large the facility was, it did not take him long to find the airway out.  He stopped at the cusp of the exit, one last vent to break open to freedom.  Voices echoed from beyond, and the sound of footfalls splashed on a wet ground.  Besides that very little light broke in the horizontal slots of the grate, though it was still brighter than the darkness he had crawled through.  He felt the spark of a User just beyond the closed portal, a veritable rigid cage enclosed them.  But other than that he could not discern how many awaited him.  Of course they waited.

The guards thought that as the smoke petered out the fires must have been put out.  They did not expect a minute after for the grate to explode outward.  The projectile struck a guard who had crouched in the shadows across from the vent exit.  A gale of black smoke followed to envelope them in toxic darkness.

Pesk slipped through the darkness, guns fired around him, each muzzle flash revealed his enemy. He slipped behind the first, and leaped onto the Celestial’s back. His dagger found purchase in the man’s shoulder, and the Gobber pulled himself up so he could silence the throat. One down, he left the stuck dagger to follow the muzzle flash. Another guard appeared in his vision, he kicked, and a gust flipped the target through the black. It left a temporary trail of clear air that filled back in with smoke like a dike on a rainy day.

As the smoke cleared the guards that remained looked about, they were frustrated more than frightened.  And did not waste any time to gather for search parties, though the effort now would be in vain.

The Gobber hobbled through the sewers until he came upon a ladder. Beams of light streamed down from a cover above. So he climbed, passed the manhole, and found himself in an alley. The street bustled with activity – people walked, and rode in a mass he had never seen before. He peered down the sewer hole, then back to the street.

Soke took his first steps to freedom.

Chapter 1 – Part 3

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They set camp. Cassie takes first watch. A child’s shout alerts her. She sees the trogg kid trying to scare three reptillian scavengers. Reptiles want to eat the trogg mother’s corpse. They stand on their hind legs, scaley, heads cock to either side to watch and listen to their surroundings. Trogg child picks up a stick, and waves it threateningly. Reptiles ignore him, and take a bite out of the corpse. Orphan attacks them.

Cassie warns the others, and charges in with her sword to help the child. Rising from slumber the party members quickly arm themselves. Ryogan with knives, Shandi also with a sword, and Leonard with his rifle. Thandi devastates one of the scavengers with a dart of energy that leaps from her free hand. Leonard’s rifle shot sends another of the scavengers spinning away, blood splashes onto the desert sands. Ryogan and Cassie cut the third one with a series of cuts and slashes.

A roar in the distance tells them the fight is not over. From the darkness a much larger version of the creatures runs towards them. The claws on its arms glint in the moonlight. They are perfect for rending flesh. Despite her threatening appearance, the single animal stood no chance against the combined firepower of the party. She falls.

Dawn arrives, and the trogg child stands with Cassie at the edge of the camp.

“Thank you, I will not forget your kindness. I know now that it is time to return my mother to the spirits of the earth.”

Cassie nods. “I’ll help.”

“No, I must do this.” the orphan says with surprising firmness in his voice.

“Then… go in peace.”

“Here – it is a pendant that has been in my family for generations.”

Cassie holds the metal pendant, though it’s no metal she recognizes. A crackle of blue energy shimmers off it briefly when it touches her palm. The trogg child leaves, dragging the remains of his mother’s corpse. Cassie watches until he vanishes in the sandy haze of the desert.

They return to the burnt Trogg village to try and find water. There is a large cask of water, too large to transport. Leonard devises a container to take some back to camp. They boil the water, and drink. Soon after the party begins to reel from halucigenic effects. Vision blurs, and distorts. Still, it isn’t deadly. Cassie takes some water to the injured hooker.

“How are you feeling?”

“Okay… better, much better.”

“Do you need some more pain medication?”

“No… I’m okay… It doesn’t hurt anymore.”

Cassie removes the blanket, and is about to change the bandage when she sees it move. She tries to focus on the binding, not sure if the throbbing is a halucination or not. Carefully she unwraps the bandages. She chokes in horror.

The wound is filled with small beetles. Its size expanded to that of a dinner plate. Cassie is stunned.

“Is something wrong?” the hooker asks, but then she looks down. She screams, and screams!

Ryogan who was busy brewing an antidote to the halucinagenic takes two steps towards the injured woman. He casually flicks a dagger which embeds between the hooker’s eyes. She dies instantly.

Cassie looks at him, they both look at the campfire. Together they carefully lift the corpse by the limbs, a few of the carrion beetles fall out of the wound, and run around in circles searching for the meal. Ryogan and Cassie toss the corpse into the fire, then throw more fuel on top. Cassie gives a silent eulogy.

None speak of her again.

Soon after Ryogan completes his antidote, and shares it with the others. With healthier minds the party packs up, and leaves for the desert towards Petropolis.

Hours later they arrive at a depression in the desert. Thandi hypothesizes that they are in a lakebed that dried tens of thousands of years ago. As they continue they see a monlith in the distance. It’s not out of their way, so they approach the monument. The monolith is several stories tall, created from some onyx stone. Its walls from a distance appear polished.

A shadow forms over them. Having seen no clouds before, they look up. Above them is the form of a titanic whale – a leviathan. It is flying towards them. The closer it becomes, the more it envelopes the sky. They can see its mouth agape to swallow anything in its path.

The party run for the monolith. A wave of energy flows out from the structure, invisible to the naked eye, but felt by Leonard and Thandi. Its effects are visible to all, however, as the wave flows over the rocks and sand, ghosts emerge. They stand still, vaguely humanoid, but larger and haunched. The ghosts stare up at the leviathan, and though they have no voice, their memory of fear and panic echo through the living.

Up close to the pillar they see that the monolith is covered in symbols. Its surface shines with a patina of blue energy.

Ryogan pulls a pendant out from his pocket, and holds it close to the pillar. The pendant pulses warmly in his hand. Cassie checks her pockets.

“You damn thief!”

“No I’m not! This is mine, you probably lost yours.”

His attempted lie is clumsy, and Cassie closes in. Ryogan tries to slap her, but the assassin deflects the attack. She grips his wrist holding the pendant, and forces it against the pillar. In a flash of blinding light Ryogan vanishes. Leonard examines the monolith more closely, his hand hovering just above its surface.

Above a the atmospheric roar of the enclosing leviathan continues to rise.

Leonard, having come to some sort of decision puts his hand to the pillar. He too vanishes.

“It’s a teleporter of some kind,” Thandi explains.

Each woman touches the ancient device, and vanish.

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