What’s Kraken, Part 2
The Heroes liked to travel by train. The seats were comfortable and gave ample leg room for the tall ones, the drinks were cheap, the scenery was great once they left the kingdom limits, and it beat riding horses. Quil wanted to reserve the VIP area, but since it was a last minute booking, the VIP area was not an option. Reese commented that she liked riding coach anyway. The others were ambivalent to how they traveled; they were thankful that the train was air conditioned.
They didn’t have any trouble finding seating because as soon as people realized who they were, they gladly offered their seats to them and sat elsewhere. Quil felt slightly guilty about this, but Jaco was only too happy to accept on the team’s behalf, much to Quil’s chagrin.
Once the team sat down, Reese noticed Everett was staring out the east facing window. He appeared more agitated than usual. She gave him a soft pat on the head and asked, “What’s wrong, Everett?”
Everett took out his flask and took a gulp. “We’re not going to get there in time.”
“Why do you say that?” Andrada asked. She pressed the button that allowed her seat to lean back. “This is the fastest train on the continent.”
Everett shook his head. “There’s another train in the south that’s faster, but that’s not really the point, is it?” He tightly gripped his satchel to his chest. “Whomever is behind the theft of the statue is working fast against us. I can feel it.”
Quil was never quite sure how to assuage Everett’s constant worrying, but he felt that as team leader, he should say something comforting and inspiring. “Everything will be fine. You’ll see.”
Everett glanced at him with an eyebrow sarcastically raised. “And the sun will come out tomorrow? Was that supposed to make me feel better?” He could tell by the slightly saddened expression on Quil’s face that it was supposed to. The poor sap. “Well, you suck at it. Stop it.” Quil shrugged his shoulders.
Everett returned to the window and looked for any sign of impending doom on the horizon. He knew that time was against them. It didn’t matter how fast this train was; they were going to be too late to stop anything. He felt his stomach tighten. He wouldn’t be able to eat anything for a while. All he could do was hope that things didn’t go to shit too badly to where they wouldn’t be able to clean it up.
The train zoomed through the countryside all through the day. The team mostly rode in silence after Everett’s prediction of doom. They all thought about what might be awaiting them when they got to the Hyleian Mountains. Without a lot of information, they didn’t know what they might be stepping into, hopefully nothing too deep.
It wasn’t until night fell that they all felt a strange energy in the air. They couldn’t put their finger on what was going on, but they knew it wasn’t good. Everett took another sip from his flask as if to say, ‘I told you so.’ There was nothing they could do about it. They had to just endure the uncomfortable feeling until it went away, if it would go away. No sleep was had by anyone.
Tidas ran as fast as he could through the forest, occasionally taking small breaks, until he finally reached the village of Lagrimos just before nightfall. He fell to his knees and panted heavily just outside the village border. He hadn’t run like that since secondary school. The coach always pushed him to run faster than he thought he could. He chuckled because it appeared the coach had prepared him for this day.
There were some people working the fields nearby who saw him approach. They called out to the others to let them know that a stranger had arrived. A few minutes later, two men came over and helped him off the ground. One of the men kept asking him if he was okay and if he needed water. He couldn’t get enough air to properly respond yes to all of his questions. He just concentrated on not passing out.
The two men escorted him to a small single room house. He was surprised by the bright yellow walls and teal carpeting. While he wasn’t an interior designer, he knew better than to paint a house yellow if he had teal carpeting. Maybe the people who lived here were color blind, that would certainly explain it.
The men led Tidas to a soft bed that had a red cover on it. Again, the colors were striking. He sat down and gladly accepted a glass of water. He quickly gulped it down and asked for another. The taller of the men gladly obliged.
The shorter of the two crossed his brawny arms as he examined Tidas. “What business do you have here?” he asked, his voice was deep and commanding.
“I’m here to meet someone to give something to them,” Tidas wasn’t thinking clearly otherwise he wouldn’t have revealed his purpose. It wasn’t until he finished the second glass of water he realized what he’d done. A chill traveled down his back as he thought about the possible consequences. Would his employers threaten to break his legs, arms, or neck? It was best not to think about that too much right now. Maybe these men wouldn’t care.
“Oh, that’s fine.” the man said. “We’ve been expecting you. Someone else arrived today looking for you.” He offered Tidas a warm smile. “They’ll be here any minute. In the meantime, relax.” The two men regrouped by the front door. “Fred and I will be right outside if you need anything.” The two men left the house and could be heard talking excitedly.
Tidas was expected and the village people knew about it? He didn’t see that coming. Did the village people know about the statuette he stole? Were they in on the plan? This was just too bizarre.
Suddenly, he felt something move in the satchel. It startled him. He took the satchel off and threw it across the room before he could stop himself. He could hear it vibrate on the floor. He got up from the bed and slowly approached the satchel. It was visibly shaking. He reached down and picked it up. He opened it and pulled out the statuette. It shook violently in his hand. It tickled and caused him to giggle a little bit.
He felt a sense of dread wash over him as him examined it. There was a weird energy being released from it. Every fiber in his body told him he shouldn’t be touching it, that he needed to be as far from it as possible if he wanted to live. He listened to this sense and put the statuette back in the bag. Whatever it was doing, he didn’t want to be a part of it. He tossed the bag on the bed and headed for the door.
The door opened and he was met by the two friendly men. “You’re leaving?” the taller one asked.
“Just needed some air,” he lied.
“You will remain where you are,” said an old woman’s voice. The men separated to reveal the woman who had spoken. She was a really old woman, maybe eighty years old. She wore a long, tattered brown robe, and dirty sandals. Her stringy grey hair flowed onto her shoulders from the hood she was wearing. She looked like the quintessential wicked witch one might have seen in children’s picture books. “I’ve waited all day for you. I would hate to see you leave now.”
Tidas took a step back to allow the woman to enter. The men smiled at him and closed the door behind them. Tidas didn’t want to be alone with this woman, but it appeared he had no choice.
“Do you have it?” she asked, holding her grey, veiny hand out.
“Yes,” he replied.
The hand beckoned. He gave the woman the bag. He didn’t want to touch the statuette with his bare hands ever again. He watched as the woman hurriedly opened the bag and retrieved her prize. The statuette was still now. Somehow the woman’s touch had calmed it. He was amazed.
“You have done well,” the woman said. She grinned to reveal that despite the stereotype, she had a mouthful of glistening white teeth. She stared into the eyes of the statuette and licked her lips. She chuckled as she went through the plan in her head.
It was a few seconds before the woman realized that Tidas was still there. She gazed at him with her glassy eyes and smiled. “You must be waiting for your reward, aren’t you, dearie?” She signaled for him to come forward. “Don’t be afraid.”
Tidas didn’t trust this woman as far as he could probably throw her. He wanted to push past her and run out the door. Once he decided that was the plan, he found that his feet would not obey him. He found himself slowly approaching the woman. When she commanded him to kneel before her, he was on his knees instantly.
The feeling of not being in control of his body frightened him. His heart beat faster. There was a chill that caused goose pimples to rise on all over his skin. His eyes found their way to the woman’s. He didn’t like the malevolent glint they had in them. He also didn’t like the wicked smile she wore. He wanted to wince and turn away as the woman placed her hand on his forehead. His eyes immediately widened, and the pupils dilated. He instantly felt lightheaded.
“Sleep,” the woman whispered.
Tidas had no choice; he had to obey. His eyelids suddenly felt heavy. He struggled to keep them open, but they eventually shut. He fell to the floor, the impact softened by the teal carpet. At first, it felt like he was just going to sleep, but after a few seconds, he had difficulty breathing, then he stopped all together. It was as if his body had somehow forgotten how to breathe. Suffocation was instant. His body convulsed for a minute before it ceased. A minute later, he was gone.
The woman looked away from her work and held the statuette above her head. She laughed as she stared the relic in the eyes. “Oh, the horrors we will unleash!”
Her laughing was interrupted when her talkie rang. She stopped laughing and answered her device. “Hello?”
“Is it done?” asked a soft woman’s voice.
“Yes, mistress. I have the statuette.”
“Excellent, Maltrice. Begin working on removing the spell. I want total chaos by day break.” And with that, the line was dead.
Maltrice put the talkie in her robe pocket. She eyed the statuette and grinned. She was going to enjoy unraveling the Master spell that guarded it. If Mistress wanted to see chaos, her wish was Maltrice’s command.
She promptly sat down next to the body and set the statuette down in front of her. She closed her eyes as she waved her hands over it. She felt the positive energy swirling around it push against her negative energy. It started off strong at first, but as her power continued to interact with it, the positive energy weakened. It was only a matter of time before it was eradicated entirely. There wasn’t a Master spell she couldn’t break. She wasn’t a supreme witch for nothing. She just had to be patient. Time was definitely on her side. She hoped to meet the deadline, but what she didn’t want to tell Mistress L was that Master spells take time to break. Things would happen by mid-afternoon at best. The mistress may be upset, but she will be pleased with the results.
The sun was slowly rising in the east as the train sped toward Wrightstown, the final destination. The Heroes had stayed up all night wondering what was causing the strange feeling they were experiencing. It had unsettled all their stomachs. None of them could eat a bite, even though they wanted to. They were not the only ones; the rest of the passengers felt the same thing. Something was building, growing stronger, but none of them could put their finger on what exactly.
Quil had spent most of the night staring at the picture of the statuette. What was its purpose? What did the person who stole it hope to do with it? He regretted his need to look like he had things well in hand that he didn’t dare to ask questions. Did his father know more than he let on? He didn’t know, but he made a mental note to ask more questions next time.
As the sunlight hit the paper, it reflected the bright white into Quil’s eyes. He looked up to clear his eyes and they landed upon Reese, who sat across from him. She appeared to be studying him. It always made him nervous to see her staring at him in this way. What was she doing? Was she trying to look into his soul? Could elves do that?
“You seem puzzled,” she said softly. “What is troubling you?”
Quil shook his head. “I’m just trying to wrap my mind around this statuette. Who would want it? What do they hope to accomplish?”
Reese’s eyes focused in on him, her eyelids narrowed. “Do you not know? Your father said that the statuette held the power to repel the Gogo-Kraken. There is a high-powered spell cast on it to ensure it stays out of this dimension. It’s obvious that the person who stole it is hoping to break the spell and unleash the Gogo-Kraken upon the land.” She finally blinked and broke her focus.
“You didn’t know that?” Jaco asked incredulously. “Geez, babe, get with the program!” He snapped his fingers in Quil’s face. “To think you’re our leader.” He pretended to scoff in disgust. He squeezed Quil’s right thigh to let him know that he was joking, but not really.
“The strange energy we’re feeling must have something to do with the spell being tampered with,” Andrada added. “It’s been getting stronger the closer we get to it. Everett might be right, we might be too late.” She twiddled her thumbs as she attempted to release some of her nervous energy. “What will we do if the Gogo-Kraken is released before we get to the mountains?”
Quil didn’t want to think about that, but he knew that he had to have a plan in place, or at least pretend that he had a plan in place. “We’ll have to deal with that bridge when we get to it. Let’s hope that we are able to get to the monastery before that happens.”
Just as Quil finished saying that, the train lurched as the emergency brakes attempted to slow it down. The passengers were jostled in their seats, some even spilling into the aisle. The Heroes stood up as soon as the train came to a complete stop. They made sure that the people who had fallen were alright before they made their way to the front of the train. A couple of the ushers tried to reassure them that everything was fine, but they eventually allowed them to pass.
Only Quil was allowed to actually enter the driver’s cab. He slowly opened the door to see the conductor staring out the windshield quizzically. He looked outside and saw something was obstructing the way. It was a large multicolored bubble that seemed to be growing bigger with each passing second. Was this due to the statuette?
“What the hell?” Quil said, successfully startling the driver. “Oh sorry. What is that?”
The driver shook her head and sighed. “I’ve never seen anything like it. It just appeared on the tracks moments ago. I thought I could drive through it, but the closer I got, the more solid it looked.” She wiped the sweat from her brow and sighed. “I don’t know what else to do.”
Quil saw that the bubble threatened to bump into them. “You should probably go backwards for the time being,” he suggested. He was going to think about a way to surpass the bubble when he saw something move across the track outside. He focused on the movement and found that there was someone standing in front of the train. They were dressed in a long black hooded robe. He wasn’t able to tell if it was a woman or a man. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up as he saw that the bubble was threatening to envelope them. “Look out!” he cried out. He realized that it was useless because they couldn’t hear him. He gasped as he saw the person turn around and simply raise their hand. The bubble stopped growing instantly. Quil’s brows furrowed as he watched the bubble take the command. That person wasn’t in trouble, they were trouble, trouble that needed to be dealt with immediately.
“Keep the engines running. I’m going to take care of this,” Quil said as he left the cab. He raced through the cars to get back to his team. He found them in the observation car attending to the people who were frightened by the sudden turn of events. “Guys, we got work to do.”
“Please tell me we get to kill something,” Andrada said with a grin that was a little too frightening for Quil to handle.
“It’s possible there could be some killing,” Quil said delicately. “Let’s go!”
Quil led the team to the nearest exit. They were greeted by a warm breeze that tingled on contact that let them know that something unnatural was about. They stepped off the train and made their way to the front of it. They saw the person and the bubble, big as life.
“What the hell is that?” Everett shouted.
“Well, it appears to be a giant bubble, Ev,” Jaco replied condescendingly. He ignored the death glare he received.
Andrada cracked her knuckles and reached for her sword resting at her hip. “The best thing about bubbles is that they all pop!”
They approached the robed person. They did not acknowledge the Heroes’ presence until Quil cleared his throat. They slowly turned around and faced them.
“I don’t know what you’re doing, you’re going to have to stop,” Quil declared.
“And you’re going to stop me?” the robed one said, the voice deep and gravely.
“You betcha!” Quil was excited for some action. He took a deep breath and prepared for a fight. His team did the same.
The robed one let out a chuckle before they raised their hand into the air. They whispered a foreign word and then suddenly lightning came down from the sky, which was clear blue and cloudless.
The lightning struck the ground around the Heroes, but none of them were hit. They checked their bodies and each other to make sure they were all okay.
“That was a warning, Heroes,” the robed one said. “Leave now and you may continue your lives until which time they will end.”
“Quit toying with us and get it over with!” Jaco shouted. He tensed his muscles and they began to enlarge and bulge. He grew in height as hair sprouted from his chest and extremities. Before too long, Jaco had fully transformed into a massive six-foot seven werewolf with deep black fur. His mouth hung open, issuing forth unpleasant dog breath and drool, which his teammates were accustomed to now. He stood ready to rip into some man flesh.
The robed one watched as Everett took out his bow and readied an arrow. Reese summoned her earthen warhammer and it materialized in her left hand. Andrada unsheathed her sword and let the sunlight glint off the blade. Quil’s fists began to glow bright pink. The robed one grinned as they tried to decide which one to kill first. The dwarf looked like an easy target.
Before the robed one could think of a spell to cast against Everett, Jaco roared and charged toward them. He sprinted right for them, teeth at the ready. Just as he was about to reach the mysterious robed one, they placed both hands in Jaco’s direction and an invisible force shoved him back, flinging him back toward the train. He gave a yelp as he collided with the windshield and slid to the ground.
“Jaco!” Quil ran to the werewolf to make sure he was alright. Jaco groaned for a moment before he found his way to his feet. “You okay?” Jaco nodded his head. He couldn’t speak in his current form. Quil returned his attention to the robed one. He felt that he owed them one.
Andrada and Reese both raised their weapons and ran for the robed one. Andrada brought her sword up and prepared for the downward strike as she neared them. When she got a foot away, the robed one simply flicked their wrist and she went flying backward, her sword falling from her hand. She landed on her back just next to Everett.
Reese stopped her approach just in time to avoid being hit by Andrada. She didn’t stop her hammer. She threw it at the robed one. It spiralled in the air as it raced toward the robed one. They tried to deflect it, but they found their magic was ineffective as the hammer slammed into the back of their head. The robed one gave two flips before they landed on their face. Reese summoned the hammer back into her hand.
Quil ran to arrest the robed one. He knelt down next to them and grabbed their arms and pulled them back. “You are done here,” he said, feeling confident that they had wrapped this up rather nicely. “You’re going to undo this bubble and then we’re going to talk about your involvement in…”
Suddenly, the robed one’s arms went limp, like cooked pasta noodles. A second later, the arms withered away and left Quil with a handful of sleeves. The entire body dissolved away leaving a puddle of robe. Quil threw the sleeves into the mass and stood up. He wiped his hands on his pants as if he had gotten something on them. He grimaced as he stared down at what used to be a person. How disgusting!
“Aww, is it over?” Everett asked. “I didn’t even get to shoot anyone!” He lowered his bow and arrow. “You guys got all the fun!”
“The next time you want to be flung about like a rag doll, I’ll let you go first,” Andrada said, standing up. She popped her back into alignment. “Are they dead?”
To answer that question, a loud boisterous laugh echoed through the air above them. They all looked up to find a man floating above the train. He was dressed in a white cotton bodysuit, like underwear. He had his hands on his hips as he laughed heartily.
“You can’t get rid of me so easily, Heroes!” the man boasted. “I am superior to you in every way!”
“Oh great, we got a braggart,” Everett said. “Well, let’s see you brag about this!” He raised his bow and released an arrow in the man’s direction. He gasped as he watched the man snatch the arrow out of the air before it hit him.
“Ha, you see!”
The arrow then exploded, and a blast of ice hit the man in the face. The man lowered so that he landed on top of the train. He snapped the arrow in half while his face defrosted. “You will pay for that, little man!” His eyes glowed a bright red. He raised his right hand and made a fist. Instantly, Everett was raised ten feet off the ground, clutching his throat, gurgling. “You will be the first I send to the afterlife.”
Quil reached out his right hand and a stream of pink light shot from it. It raced toward the man and hit him square in the face. Sounds of sizzling were heard as the light seared the man’s face. The man lost his concentration and the magic holding Everett diminished, dropping the dwarf to the ground. Reese and Andrada ran to him as he gasped for air.
As the man suffered from his burns, Quil noticed that the strength of the bubble shield also weakened. Quil knew instantly that the shield was a concentration spell. He just had to break the man’s focus on it and it would disappear. That should be fun.
Quil turned to Jaco and issued the command, “Up!” Jaco grunted as he picked up Quil and together they leapt on top of the train, where the man was laying on his back clutching his smoking face. Jaco set Quil down gently. Quil gave him a few pats on the belly. Jaco panted joyfully. “Good boy!”
Quil took a cautious step toward the man. He could tell that the man was recovering as there was not as much smoke coming from his face now. In a moment, he would be up to his old tricks again. That could not be allowed to happen. He could tell that Jaco knew this as well. If Quil gave the command, Jaco would finish the job and things would settle down. But Quil wanted to question the man and for that to happen, the man needed to be taken alive.
“Jaco…” Quil uttered, intending to tell him to stand down. Before he could finish his sentence, Jaco ran down the top of the train and tackled the man. His long claws ripped into the man’s soft body before Quil could stop him. Quil shut his eyes as blood and viscera spilled down the sides of the train. When Jaco had had his fill of blood and guts, he turned to Quil and smiled with his dripping tongue hanging out like some dumb puppy. Quil opened his eyes and saw this and his heart skipped a beat. “Good… boy.”
The man was still conscious. He gurgled something as he spat up some blood. Jaco turned around, grabbed the man’s head, and beat it on the roof until he was cured of being conscious… and alive.
The bubble shield disappeared instantly, and the train was free to follow through. Quil looked down at his teammates on the ground and gave them a thumbs up. They gave him uneasy looks for they had seen the gore dripping down the side of the train. They knew nothing good had happened. Quil grinned weakly and shrugged his shoulders. All in a day’s work, right?
After the Heroes gathered together to check wounds, they alerted the train staff of the mess on the roof. It took about an hour to clear up before the driver was given the go ahead to continue on to their destination. The passengers in the car where the blood and guts ran down were terrified and inconsolable. Even though the worst had been cleaned up, the images were burned into their minds forever. For this, Jaco, now in human form, felt completely awful. The other Heroes tried to console him, but he was just as inconsolable. The rest of the ride was traveled in silence.
Maltrice hadn’t moved all night. She worked diligently on cracking the Master spell on the statuette. The two men who lived in the house offered her water and food, but she declined; her concentration could not be broken. She knew that she was behind schedule, but she was so close.
She felt the life force of her comrade dissipate into the wind. She hadn’t expected the Heroes to dispose of him so soon. It didn’t matter. He had given her the time she needed. She was only minutes away from completing her task.
Her talkie rang, but Maltrice ignored it. She knew it was Mistress L, but not even she could stop her now.
She waved her hands over the statuette, that was now floating in midair in front of her. She could sense that the barrier was weakening, shriveling until finally, the barrier snapped. This released a large wave of magical energy to fly out in all directions and pushed Maltrice back into the wall, over Tidas’ body. The statuette fell to the floor, broken with a slight crack.
Maltrice pushed back her hood and revealed her decrepit face, she had a wide, toothy smile on it. She had done it! She grabbed her talkie and answered it. “It is done, Mistress.” She immediately hung up. She closed her eyes and held the talkie to her chest. She listened to the panic that was starting to arise outside. The sound of the fabric of time and space being torn apart was like a pair split pants, only louder. It was music to her ears. The end of the world was coming… and she helped. Now she could go to sleep. She had earned it.
To be continued…
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