Almendra, a Beautiful Psionic Wasteland

Seventy-Second Day on the Surface

DAY SEVENTY TWO

Today was the day we finally escaped this horrible place. I’m still unable to walk, so Thraenor carried me around all day. After a meager breakfast Cehos led the way back to the small hallway we passed by yesterday. There to our left was a second door. Cehos looked positively ill so Ishitari examined the door in his place. She quietly opened it, hinges creaking softly. From the quick glimpse I got of the room, I saw a skeletal creature with multiple heads and wings sleeping at its center.

She looked over her shoulder and put her finger to her lips and shook her head. She backed away and silently closed the door. “We should move on.” She whispered.

“What, don’t think we could take it on?” Sandstorm chuckled.

She glared at the half giant. “Our group has multiple members in no condition to fight a creature like that. If we can avoid a confrontation in here, let’s do so.”

“Fine, fine.” Sandstorm sighed. “Let’s find the thing we came here for and get the hell out.”

We left the slumbering beast as it was and returned to the room we’d slept in. There Cehos suggested we follow through an unexplored door on the Eastern half of the room. Just as we opened the door, a thunderous crack shook the whole place. Some of the others swore.

The hoard of undead outside must’ve broken through the stone door.

We sprinted down the hallway to another room in hopes of getting as far away from the entrance as possible. Eerie purple light trickled out from beneath the door frame. By the Queen I hoped this was the last room we had to search through. Cehos approached cautiously, an arrow locked in his bow. He partially disappeared from view. The nearly silent whirr of an arrow and the roar of an angry owl bear told me we were not alone. Sandstorm went in after the red head, mind blade already drawn.

Thraenor flew me to the door where I could see better. By then Cehos had fired a couple more arrows and killed the first of three owl bears. Ishitari tumbled in and blasted a ray of light into the second about to lunge for Sandstorm. In a second the half giant’s mind blade tore through that same owl bear, nearly doing it in. Thraenor carried me inside, darting for one of the far corners to keep me at a distance away from the fight. As I prepared a power Cinna charged in, livid. Her fire ray slaughtered the second owl bear. My electric lance ready to fire, I struck the last of the beasts. It fell with a painful cry and did not rise again.

Sitting atop a large table at the center of the room was the object we came for. A brilliant ball of violet light bathed the whole place. Sandstorm unceremoniously shoved it inside our bag of holding. “So how the hell are we going to get out of here?”

“We need to get into a defensible position first,” Ishitari began, “Preferably the South side of the outer wall. You could use that pick of yours to break down the walls and escape.”

“Any other takers?” Sandstorm asked the lot of us. When no one else had any better plans he laughed a little. “Alright then let’s do it. It’s the best chance we got.”

Thraenor volunteered to find the best location where we could dig our way out. We returned to the room we’d slept in last night. There he gently sat me down on the floor and propped me up against a wall close to the others. He left silently through a Northern door and did not come back for some time.

“Follow me, I think I found something.” He beckoned hastily on his return.

Thraenor picked me up again and led us to the corner of a narrow, right-angled hallway situated right up against the outer wall. Siphoned off by a door at either end it was the ideal place to defend ourselves against the hoard. Cehos created a series of fire traps at both doors, designing them to detonate once they found us. While we waited I gave him my caltrops. I figured we needed all the delays we had at our disposal and it’s not like I’d used them at all since I took them from my basement several months ago. As Cehos occupied himself with making the traps, Sandstorm began to chip away at the outer wall.

Less than a half hour passed when I heard the low moan of hundreds of undead. Nails scratched on walls and wood. The whole building was amok with them. Doors a couple rooms over splintered apart. They were getting close. We all got in position. Minus Sandstorm, too preoccupied with digging our way out of here. The hallway was tall enough for Thraenor to keep me far out of reach above their clutching hands. We floated less than ten feet away from the Eastern door. I took a deep breath. If the traps failed I knew what I had to do next. I anticipated the worst.

Dozens of bodies launched at both doors almost simultaneously. In a split second Cehos’ first fire bomb tied to the Northern door exploded. The floor above us shook violently and for a moment I feared it might collapse all together. Chunks of stone the size of a person crumbled the door frame to bits, crushing a number of undead along with it. Even amongst the rubble I still heard more undead on their way.

“Good,” Ishitari grinned, “That’ll prevent any more from coming through there. For now at least.” Traps at the other end went off as well, but unlike the other door they were not enough to keep the horde from destroying the Eastern door.

“Now use your barrier!” Thraenor exclaimed. I nodded. He lowered me to the ground where I erected the first of three. While he hoisted me back up I tossed one my water vials at it. The more undead eliminated the better. A couple tense seconds ticked by. Dozens upon dozens of undead tried passing through it, zapped to death in moments. These barriers only last for so long. Just before the first one broke I created the second, combined with another water vile. Soon enough I’d made my third and final barrier.

“Here they come!” I cried, firing an electric bolt and another bottle.

Some of the zombies slipped passed me and shambled toward the others. Cehos’ arrows cut down three or four. Cinna’s fire ray took out the rest. But more flooded through the door frame just as soon as those were gone. I shot another bolt, along with my second to last water vile. A flash of light and Ishitari killed a half a dozen more. We retreated to where Sandstorm swung his pick again and again. A third bolt erupted from Twisted Thunder, and after tossing the last of my water vials into the face of a zombie, Thraenor and I flew over to join my friends. One last swing and a thunderous crack. The ruins shuddered. Faint light trickled in through Sandstorm’s self-made tunnel.

“Come on, this way!” He called over his shoulder before darting through the hole. Ishitari removed a small stone statue of a griffin buried in her knapsack. Once outside, she threw it at the ground and the beast within roared to life. It spread its wings wide and looked to its master expectantly.

Thomytix pointed his thumb at the creature. “So, who’s going first on this thing?”

“Going first?” Ishitari snorted. “Thomytix there’s no time for that. We have to get everyone out now. Sandstorm help me get him aboard.” His armor weighing him down, it took a couple seconds for the half giant and the thri-kreen to get Thomytix sitting atop the griffin.

“I can carry this one here.” Thraenor said, taking me in his right arm and scooping up Cinna in the other. His gaze shifted to the red head. “I’m sorry, I don’t think I can carry you too.”

“It’s okay, I can get out of here myself.” Cehos grinned and rose a couple feet in the air.

Sandstorm jumped onto the griffin’s back and held out his hand to Ishitari. “Okay, now it’s your turn.”

She shook her head and pushed away his hand. “The griffin can’t carry all three of us. It wouldn’t even be able to fly with our combined weight.”

Sandstorm’s face paled. “No, Ishitari. Not again. We nearly lost you the last time!”

“I have the best chance of getting away from the undead and you know it.” She reasoned, shouting over the roar of the hoard. “I can jump farther than any of you can run, and most of them can’t even hurt me.”

“Fine,” The half giant spat. “Just go. Get out of here before more of ’em reach us.”

“Wait, Ishitari take these!” I cried, grabbing hold of her. One of my tattoos of distract and my last vigor tattoo sprung to life and jumped down from my shoulder to her forearm.

“Thank you.” She smiled, “I might need those. Go West into the Thak Desert, it’s the quickest way out. I’ll see you all in Aimi!” Ishitari smacked the griffin on the rear and it launched into the air. She waved to us and was on her way, disappearing into mists of the swamp in the matter of seconds.

Thraenor rose higher and higher away from the ruins, his grip tight around Cinna and I. A bit slower than the elemental, Cehos lagged behind by a dozen feet. Thank the Queen the massive swarm of undead funneled in at the entrance and only a sparse collection of them stood by where we’d broken out. The whirlpool at the center of the brooding lake spun faster and faster. The watery vortex whipped around till I could see the bottom. A pile of bones rose from the depths, taking shape into a colossal creature so massive it dwarfed the old ruins. A tight embrace of flesh and sinew weaved around the bones. Last came sickly orange scales that shone in the dim light of the approaching dawn. Twin horns pierced the back of its head.

The monster’s eyes fluttered open, its moss green eyes finding us in the dark. It roared and rose from the lake. Its quarter-mile long tail trashed about, uprooting trees from the soil like a person would bat away a mosquito. It turned towards us and roared again. Its tail sliced through the ruins as if butter, leveling the place to rubble.

Fearing he was too slow in the air Cehos dropped down into the swamp and sprinted for dear life. He managed to keep up with us for awhile. The griffin had sped away far into the distance, so it was only Thraenor, Cinna and I who stayed behind. I heard a yelp and Thraenor zipped down into the forested nightmare. Cehos’ foot had gotten stuck in the mire. Thraenor adjusted his hold on me and managed extend his hand far enough so the red head could grab it. Two tugs and Cehos was freed. He rose into the air once more, wiping away the mud on his boot.

The earth beneath us shook like a leaf in the wind. Whatever the beast was, it was gaining on us fast. We sped into the night. Ten tense minutes passed before I dared look back. The reptilian monster ceased its chase, changing its direction far to the East. I’d never seen such a thing in all my life. What power! I hadn’t even a clue what it could be from all my years of research!

“What in the Abyss is that thing?” I wondered aloud.

“It’s the tarrasque.” Cehos answered. “Strange. There’s only one in the world and its practically unkillable. Somehow someone somewhere must’ve recently killed it and it so happened to regenerate in that pool.”

“It regenerates?” I exclaimed, incredulous. “By the Queen…” That was the last anyone spoke until we reached the outskirts of the Thak Desert. I don’t think I’ve ever been this glad to see sand. We didn’t bother cooking any food and most of the others are sleeping already. No sight of Ishitari yet. I fear she won’t be as lucky this time around.

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