to Chapter 18: The Mountains of Mourn
Saturday, 19 July 2014
The False Moon War: Chapter 17
to Title and Contents
to Chapter 18: The Mountains of Mourn
Chapter 17. In the Name of the Old Ones
Rychek could hear Victor's voice as he returned to the spawning chamber. "....been very disruptive! Stay here where I can supervise you. And give me zat."
Victor took Scalenex's arm and relocated it into the shoulder socket with a wet sounding pop.
"I don't understand. Ze zombies have never had conflict between zemselves before."
Rychek looked at the impassive zombie Bob and grunted. "Only the barest rudiments of their pre-mortem personality?" he mused inwardly.
There was a flash of green and purple lightning outside, followed scant seconds later by a tremendous peel of thunder. This brought Victor's attention back to his experiment.
"What have you decided, Rychek of Lustria? Will you do zis small thing in ze name of science?"
"No. I do not do this in the name of science." Rychek was dripping wet. In his hands he held a large cube formed of some opaque material.
It had been only a minute's work to find the glowing cube beneath the turbid waters. One face emitted a soft silver glow that pulsed rhythmically, like a beating heart. The opposite facet had a hard cracked surface like a crust of yellowy brown clay.
As Victor lunged to snatch it away, Rychek pulled it back and held it above the waters of the spawning pool.
"I do this in the name of the Old Ones, and in the name of my kin: the Legions of Lustria, wherever they may be found." He drew his arm back to throw the cube back into the water.
"Just kidding. Here you go.” Rychek tossed the mystic cube carelessly towards Victor who scrambled to catch it safely.
"You idiot. The forces are like the opposite poles of a lodestone. If ze material breaks, ze release of energy would be... catastrophic!"
As Victor spoke the last word there was another flash of lightning with an instantaneous clap of thunder. Rychek and Victor both nearly jumped out of their skins.
The metal cable from the temple heights ran to a large wooden-handled switch. Victor placed the cube with one side in contact with the switch wire, and another facet touching a cable which snaked away to a clamp on the creature's gurney. This clamp held the wire in contact with one silver bolt on the monster's neck. The other neck bolt was earthed into the spawning pool itself by length of copper braid held by a matching clamp.
Atop the temple, metal lightning rods began to capture the wild galvanic energy from the magical storm. Lightning bolt after lightning bolt struck the sparking metal, as if the gods had made it their mission to destroy the unholy apparatus. The raging power was collected in a bank of massive capacitors. Suddenly the wind lulled and the thunder ceased. It was as if Olympus had just realized it had kicked an own goal.
Victor's glass lenses glittered as he watched a needle slowly creep into the red sector of a large dial. With an inhuman voice he shrieked, "I give you LIFE!" and closed the switch.
Blue, purple and green sparks arced across and through the mystic cube. It flared into a searing beacon of light. Silence followed. When Rychek's eyes readjusted to the dim cavern, he saw Victor standing expectantly over his creation.
The monster eventually twitched a huge clawed hand. Its unnatural eyes snapped open and a powerful moan issued from its throat. It swung its ungainly legs over the side of the gurney and wobbled to its feet, facing the scientist.
"I, Victor Franken-Necrostein, have given you life! .... I have made you!" Victor snatched up a silvered mirror and held it up for the creature to see itself.
The creature studied its face. It reached up with a clumsy hand and traced a row of crude stitches with one fingertip. "You... you have made me...." he turned his gaze away from the mirror and towards Victor. "You have made me....a freak. Come on! Kill me! I'm here, Do it now!"
Arnold piped up from the background, "Hey! That's my line!"
"What?" Victor was baffled. "I...I created you! You should love me!"
The creature advanced menacingly.
"Scalenex! Bob!" Victor called the two nearest zombies. "Restrain him!"
The pair of undead lizards grabbed the thing by its arms. With an anguished bellow it shrugged them off, then bodily hurled them across the chamber to crunch against the furthest wall, above the spawning pool. The creature sank to its knees and sobbed, looking at its deformed hands.
Victor shook his pointy head in frustration. "Another failure. I have created yet another monster."
"You. You did this." The creature looked up and pointed an accusing finger at Victor. "You are the monster!"
The scientist shrank back in sudden fear, only to find that his only possible path of retreat was blocked by the gurney. "Zombies!" he yelped, "Protect me! Destroy zem... destroy zem all!"
His silent guardians shambled forward with gaping mouths and grasping hands. The largest of their number was a decomposing orc warboss with an enormous flint axe. He quickly closed the distance to the creature's back and raised his cleaver, ready to deal a killing blow.
Arnold crashed into the orc from one side. The axe clattered to the ground as the half human, half machine twisted the orc's neck to a bone popping angle. The warboss was dead. Again. "You are terminated."
Rick O'Mortis applauded the extraordinarily apt quote but the two were swarmed by the other zombies. Arnold managed to thrust his head out from under the heap of mouldering assassins. "Get to the Choppa!" he pointed at the fallen orcish weapon before being dragged back under the seething mass.
Rychek was shocked out of his aghast paralysis. He seized the flint axe and began swinging wildly. Every blow lopped off an arm or a head, but still the zombies pressed inexorably forward.
The creature dragged himself to his feet and looked mournfully at Rychek.
"Brother?" The creature mouthed the word and looked at the diminutive lizard who was about to be overwhelmed. With a look of anguish, he snatched Victor high above his deformed head and then slammed the scientist's slight frame down onto the gurney.
The spitting copper wires were still connected to the capacitor array on the great temple. Bright tongues of galvanic energy arced across Victor's thrashing body as it closed the circuit. Between shuddering spasms he screeched, "I...just...want...to...be..loved... .."
The glass disks shattered out of their wire frames, and smoke poured from the empty eye sockets which had been hidden behind them. Victor was dead. Finally.
The Necro-scientist's zombie puppets froze in place. Some sagged to the floor of the chamber.
Arnold clambered out from under a pile of cadavers. He reached in with a gleaming metal arm and dragged Rick O'Mortis out from the heap. "Come with me. If you want to live."
Rick nodded his potato head vigorously and the pair left the chamber.
Rychek was left alone with the sobbing creature and the sound of water plinking into the spawning pool.
"I have destroyed my creator. I have no purpose."
Rychek gently turned the creature away from the smoking body. "He did not create you. You were brought to life in the name of, and through the power of, the Old Ones. Your purpose is their Great Plan."
"But... I don't know what that is."
"Neither do we," Rychek grinned, "But that has never held us back. Brother."
"I must.... consider this." the creature held his head high for the first time, towering over the skink. He turned and strode confidently outside.
"A little help? Please!" Rychek peered into the spawning pool to find the owner of this new voice. He saw a skink vigorously treading water and struggling to keep the nostrils of a white helmeted saurus warrior from going under. Bob, for his part, was thrashing his limbs ineffectually and threatening to drown both himself and Scalenex at any moment.
Rychek dived into the water, and together the pair of skinks dragged the waterlogged, but otherwise hale, saurus warrior out.
As Bob coughed and spluttered, Scalenex and Rychek launched into a curious ritual. They stood a few paces apart. Each in turn raised a claw in a circular motion. Next, they audibly thudded their tails on the cavern floor. They raised their head crests and flushed blood through the layers of chromatophores which occupied the skin flap, creating moving bands of colour. They did not glance away from each other for an instant.
Bob had recovered sufficiently to stagger back out into the lost temple city.
"Is everyone gone?" Scalenex muttered through clenched teeth.
"I think so," Rychek replied, risking a quick look around. "Yep."
The pair hugged shyly.
"Should we put that back?" Rychek pointed to the mystic cube which was half buried in the detritus surrounding them.
"You mean, reconsecrate the spawning pool to the Old Ones?"
A few minutes later the pair stood gazing at their handiwork.
"I really don't know very much about spawning pools" Rychek said. "Do you think it will work again?"
"After thousands of years of distilling nutrients from the earth, and then having all that lightning channelled into it from a storm of magic? Probably not." The water started to bubble vigorously. "Well... Maybe."
A mighty reptilian figure burst from the water and loomed over them. He was large for a saurus warrior, and the scales on his breast were marked with an unusual pattern of vertical lines.
"Brillinat! Thnaks gyus!" He grabbed each skink in turn by the claw and shook vigorously until their teeth chattered. His eyes lit up when he saw the discarded orc weapon. He snatched it, and a second later he was gone. From the temple concourse Rychek and Scalenex heard an illegible warcry and the sounds of battle. Distant voices were raised in protest. The exchange ended with a sickening thud.
Not long after, Joe entered the spawning chamber with Mahtis, who was dragging the unconscious spawnling by his tail.
Joe jerked his thumb over his shoulder at the mysterious saurus. "This guy just came out and started chopping up zombies. But they were already dead. Again. I couldn't understand him, so Mahtis had to calm him down. Wait...are you two holding hands?"
"No!" The two skinks hurriedly stepped apart. "We were just....oh good! He is coming round."
The marked saurus groaned as the light in his eyes returned. "Waht hpapende?"
"I've got this," rumbled Mahtis. "I speak Dyslexic. Woh aer yuo?"
The saurus grinned. "I ma Neatne, ehgit hnuderd nad tnhet fo ym swapning."
"He said, 'I am Naeten, eight hundred and tenth of my spawning.' " Then Mahtis asked, "Wyh era yuo hree bferoe yrou sapwnkni?
Naeten proudly thumped the blessed markings on his breast. "Alwyas Stirkes Frist!"
Before long, others of Naeten's spawning began to emerge. They all had unusual vigour and enthusiasm, and soon set the lost temple city of Dyslexia to rights. Teams of kroxigors toppled the lightning farm from the sacred heights and skink masons immortalized the heroism of Silverbolt and Rychek in stone.
Unfortunately, no future scholars would ever be able to interpret the meaning of the garbled glyphs.
Once the defilement had been removed from the great temple, a gap in the heavy clouds appeared. A column of noonday sun shone down on Bessie and her riders. The solar engine flared to life once more.
"Chotec blesses you." Scalenex lowered his crest in respect.
Rychek nodded to him. He turned to address Victor's creature. "May the Old Ones keep you in their path and in their Great Plan. Whatever that might be. Brother."
In reply, Victor's last experiment bowed with hands clenched over his heart.
"Freawlle!" Naeten waved enthusiastically, "Tkae crea wthi teh Orges!"
Bessie passed through the eastern gate flanked by an honour guard of gleaming saurus warriors.
"Goodbye, Scalenex! Goodbye Thing, Arnold and Rick! Godobey Nteane!" Mahtis called.
Rychek, kept his eyes fixed on the murky eastern horizon. He could not prevent a tear from rolling down his scaly cheek.
"Hey! Rychek," whispered Joe, "I think Scalenex just blew a kiss at you..."
Weeks of hard travel lay between the reestablished Temple City of Dyslexia and the Mountains of Mourn. Joe sat with Bob in their customary position at the back of the howdah. He tried to engage Bob in their usual kind of discussion.
"Surely the tastiest snack is dried ixti grubs." Joe was sure he was onto a winner.
Bob turned slowly to stare into Joe's eyes. "No." he murmured. "It's Brainz."
Joe spent the rest of this leg of their journey perched beside Rychek on Bessie's shoulder plate. He spent his time looking anxiously at the back of the howdah, rather than at the drab tundra that separated the adventurers from their goal.
to Chapter 18: The Mountains of Mourn