Friday, March 18, 2011

Chapter 49

A Clash of Powers

          Charles Longstreet sat on the hood of his stolen car, awaiting Babbidaz’s return.
He had felt nothing upon seeing the remains of the destroyed station wagon. True, it had been his for ages; but not long after Mike and Callie had taken it, he had stopped thinking of it as his. It was Mike and Callie’s wagon...but no more. After only nine days in their possession, the wagon had definitively bitten the dust.
Babbidaz appeared out of the woods, carrying a body.
“I get the distinct feeling I’m not going to like this bit of news.” Longstreet said.
“The boy fell. I didn’t catch him in time.” Babbidaz explained.
“And the two creatures?” Longstreet asked.
“One I killed; one got away.” Babbidaz answered.
He shimmered into his slightly less alarming persona, as he set Edward’s body on the ground before Longstreet. “I brought the body in case you wanted to resurrect the child.”
Longstreet considered it. “No, he’s too young. They’re not very informative when you bring them back from the dead too young. They tend to come back drooly and messy; good only for shock value.”
This was true, as the girls he had resurrected in Metromax had proven. But that wasn’t the real reason he decided not to bring the boy back. He was no longer sure that the black molasses currently solidifying in his veins could turn the trick anymore. He was not even sure he’d be able to stand unassisted for another twenty minutes. All body warmth and energy seemed to be draining from him at a frightening rate.
“I wanted him alive.”
“Sorry.” Babbidaz said; though he didn’t sound at all apologetic.
“Okay, well, no use crying over spilt boy. Let’s see if you can smell where my kids went off to.” Longstreet said.
Babbidaz walked over to the destroyed station wagon, and sniffed around the inside. He could make out four separate scents. One of them he recognized as the dead boy’s. He got out of the wagon, and sniffed around outside of it.
“They were attacked.” Babbidaz said.
“I coulda told you that.” Longstreet snorted.
“A force of about thirty or so foul-smelling creatures smashed the vehicle and took the four of them---“
“Four?” Longstreet asked, “Where the hell do Mike and Callie recruit these kids to help them all the damn time?!”
Babbidaz pointed to the woods. “---that way.”
“Lead away, then…and hurry,” Longstreet said, “I don’t think I have much time.”
The two ran into the woods.

Mike, Callie, and Jon were picking the dark red berries off a Jandraberry bush they had found, when Callie suddenly swooned. Jon caught her, and laid her on the ground.
“Callie! What’s wrong?!” Jon shouted.
Callie didn’t answer. Her eyes were wide open, but she seemed to be in the grip of a powerful vision.
Mike, who had been working on another bush a few paces away, ran over to the two. He looked down on Callie, with a look of concerned alarm spreading across his face.
“Mike, what is it?!” Jon asked, “What’s wrong with her?”
“She’s not alone in her mind,” Mike replied, furrowing his brow, “She’s receiving a message of some sort, but---“
Callie came to with a gasp, cutting him off. She looked at Jon, and then at Mike; then broke into tears.
“What is it, Callie?” Jon asked.
Callie seemed unable to answer him at the moment; instead, she put her face in her hands, and wept openly.
“Oh no…” Mike said, as the waters of Callie’s mind at last cleared enough for him to see. The color drained from his face.
“What?!” asked Jon, getting frustrated.
“It’s Edward,” Mike said, “He’s dead.”
“What?! How?”
“He came to me in a vision.” Callie said, lifting her tear-streaked face and speaking at last, “He said our father is here; and he’s brought a Morrtog with him.”
“The Morrtog killed Tullam,” Mike continued, in a dead voice, “And Edward sacrificed himself to save Bell.”
“Bubba Death came for him at last.” Callie whispered.
“Oh man…Edward…” Jon said, as the weight of it sunk in.
“He said for us not to grieve,” Callie continued, “That the choice was his to make. He’s safe now, where no danger can ever reach him again.”
“But we’re not.” Mike said, “Dad is on his way.”
“I’m done running from that man.” Callie said, wiping her tears away with her hands, “But it’s the Morrtog that worries me.”
“We’ll deal with it.” Mike said, “Like we dealt with the Frellam.”
“Thing is,” said Jon, “This isn’t the Frellam encampment; you can’t go tossing fireballs around, Mike. You’ll start a forest fire.”
“Crap. I didn’t think of that,” Mike said, “I guess I could always just break his mind---“
“I wouldn’t try that either.” Callie said, “I remember Mr. Blessure trapping Mr. Balooda in HIS mind. Dad’s Morrtog may or may not have the same power; but if he does, trying to mind read him might be iffy.”
 “That does cut down our options a tad.” Mike said.
“I suggest we find as many branches as we can, and weaponize them.” Jon said, “As a sort of back-up, in case we have an interruption of service, magic-wise; if you get my drift.”
“Good idea.” Mike said.
“But how do we sharpen them?” Callie asked, “We don’t have a knife.”
“You don’t need a knife,” Mike said, “You have a Ma’jai.”

They worked fast.
Time was of the essence, and they knew it. Within five minutes, they had gathered ten branches. All but one were considered too thin or brittle to use as a spear, so they were broken into smaller pieces, so Callie could hurl them into the air, like projectiles.
Mike created a small power sphere he used to scorch spear points onto both ends of each piece of wood they had collected. When done, he squeezed the sphere until its power reabsorbed into his hand.
“Waste not, want not.” he said.
The stakes were spread out in a row, on the ground. 
Jon took possession of the one good spear.
“Now we wait.” Mike said, “Remember: the Morrtog is the greater threat; but it’s ignorant of our abilities. The element of surprise gives me one free shot. So I’m gonna try to take it out with my first sphere, but if I fail…it’s gonna be all out war with this thing.”
“Understood.” said Callie.
She glanced at Jon, beside her. He nodded.
They were ready.

Charles Longstreet stopped, and leaned against a tree, no longer able to go on.
“They’re close!” Babbidaz said, “Owwm! Eyowwm! Eyowwm! Very close! I can smell them from here; your children and the other one. They are alone! I don’t smell the creatures that attacked them.”
“Which means they must have escaped their captors.” Longstreet said, “Tricky little bastards, they always find a way! Well, I’m done playing Sinestri’s game.”
“Yes. Sinestri wanted me to kill them, true; but not quickly. It was important to him that I terrify them first of all.”
“So he could watch them die in horror and despair from wherever the hell he is, I suppose. I don’t know. I’ve never really known.” Longstreet said, “All of my hostility toward Mike and Callie came from his Malevolencia. I know this; but knowing changes nothing. It once burned in my veins like lava; giving me fury and purpose. Now it runs like cold syrup. It saps my strength and blunts my will. That’s why Sinestri had me bring you forth, I think; my usefulness to him is at an end.”
“What do you want me to do?” Babbidaz asked.
“No more games!” Longstreet said, “Go after them, Babbidaz! Kill them all, and bring me their shredded remains! I want to see their dead faces before darkness takes me.”
“As you wish.” Babbidaz said.
He changed into his true form, and disappeared into the woods; to follow what would be his master’s final command.

After what felt like an eternity of anxious waiting, the moment of crisis at last arrived.
Mike saw the Morrtog first, while it was still far off; it galloped on all fours in it’s true form, headed right for them.
“It comes alone.” Mike said, “Damn, it’s fast though.”
Mike held his hand behind his back, and created as concentrated a power sphere as he could muster. Small, but incredibly powerful; its color went from sparkling blue to a bright burning red.
Sekari. They are called sekari. The thought streaked across the sky of his mind, out of nowhere, like a forgotten memory.
Mike did not know where this information came from, but he was as sure of its truth as that of his own name. But now was not the time for such conundrums; he shook his mind free of the distraction, and focused on the pressing matter at hand.
“Here we go,” he said, “EAT THIS, BITCH!”
He flung the crimson sphere, the sekari, at Babbidaz. It crackled with energy and shrieked like a missile toward the Morrtog.
Babbidaz saw it, and tried to jump over it, but a second too late. The sekari hit him in the stomach, and the explosion at contact threw him backwards into a tree with such force, that the tree snapped in half. Both Babbidaz, and the broken half of the tree fell backward.
“YES!” Mike exulted.
The Morrtog writhed and doubled over in pain. His entire midsection was in searing, piercing, burning agony; and for a creature born in the burning lava hellworld of Xalix, that was saying something.
Why didn’t my idiot master tell me his children were magic users?! Babbidaz wondered. Now he would have to change tactics. Alright, let’s try this again, Babbidaz thought, and got back on his feet.
“Mike, he’s up again!” Jon said.
“Damn!” Mike replied, “Get ready!!”
 The Morrtog looked at them, smiled, and jumped; shooting up like a rocket and disappearing into the tree’s dense foliage.
“Uh oh.” said Mike.
“Do you see him?” Callie asked.
“Yeah, he’s moving toward us.” Mike said. He marveled at how sharp and clear his eyesight had become.
Mike sent into Callie’s mind an image of what he wanted her to do. Callie nodded.
“Okay…NOW!” Mike said.
Callie sent the stakes at her feet flying straight up at lethal speed into the tree cover above them, in a wide cone of dispersal. This worked too well, as the Morrtog fell from right above them, with a stake lodged deep in it’s thigh. The three managed to avoid getting crushed by the heavy mass that hit the ground with a painful “THUD”, but they were all knocked off balance and onto the ground; even as the stakes returning back to earth rained down all around them.
Babbidaz moved fast. He sat up, took the stake out of his thigh, and hurled it at Callie. The stake impaled her in the left shoulder, and Callie screamed in pain.
Jon, who had fallen closest to the Morrtog, reached for his spear; while Mike, who had fallen furthest from Babbidaz, sat up and sent a streamer of fire from his fingertips, direct to the Morrtog’s face. 
“CALLIE! JON! MOVE!!” he yelled, as he summoned a sekari into his free hand to slam into the Morrtog.
Before either could do any such thing, Babbidaz freed one of his hands from shielding his face, and viciously plunged its talons into Jon’s back.
Jon’s eyes rolled upward in their sockets, and his mouth opened in a silent scream Mike could hear in his mind, as Babbidaz picked him up and used him as a shield against Mike’s fire.
Mike stopped the fire.
Jon’s eyes closed and his head slumped forward.
“NOOO!” Callie screamed in fury.
Babbidaz turned his head to see her. She had the stake impaled in her shoulder fly out at him, and bury itself into his eye.
Babbidaz roared in pain. He dropped Jon face-down on the ground, grabbed the stake end, and yanked it out with a yowl.
It turned to attack Callie, but she had already rolled out of the way; and with a clear shot at last, Mike released his massive sekari, and blasted it at Babbidaz point blank.
This exploded Babbidaz upwards and backwards, and when he landed, Mike ran over to him, and did it again.
“DIE BASTARD! DIE!!” Mike shouted.
Babbidaz was sent flying into the air again.
As Mike continued to do this, Callie went to Jon; the intense throbbing pain from the flesh wound in her shoulder but an afterthought. She lifted the ripped and bloody back of his shirt, to survey the damage. She sensed that he was still alive, but fading fast.
Then she remembered something.
“MIKE!” she yelled, “COME HERE QUICK!!”
Mike stopped. He looked down at the Morrtog; it didn’t seem like it would be getting up any time soon. He ran back to Callie, already seeing what she had in mind.
She thinks I can heal Jon the way Sparo healed me, he thought, Who knows? Maybe I can. I don’t think I’ve reached yet the limits of my power.
“I know what you want.” Mike said, kneeling down beside Jon, “I don’t know if I can, but I’ll give it a shot.”
“He’s still alive, Mike.” Callie said, “You were dead when Sparo brought you back.”
“I’ll try, Cal.”
Mike focused his power into his hands. He allowed the energy to remain unintentioned; he merely gathered it together.
He then placed his hands on Jon’s wounds, and channeled the energy into them. When a green haze tinted his vision, he realized he was seeing the Voss Vedu’un with his eyes open. He could see it flutter with every thought, like a mist at the slightest breeze. He directed the energy to do its healing work, and the Voss Vedu’un obeyed.
After a moment, Mike removed his hands and saw the wounds start to close up.
The torn flesh sealed itself to its former unscarred appearance, as if nothing had ever happened to it.
Jon groaned and stirred.
“You did it!” Callie cried.
“Don’t sound too surprised.” Mike replied.
They helped Jon turn around and sit up.
He blinked his bleary eyes. “Was I just stabbed?” he asked, as Callie rained kisses on his face, still oblivious to her own bleeding wound.
“The Morrtog ripped up your back pretty bad.” Mike said.
“How am I alive then?” Jon asked.
“My whizbang Ma’jai powers.” Mike replied.
“Oh…” Jon said, “Thanks.”
“Don’t mention it,” Mike said, “Ever.”
Jon then saw Callie’s wound. “Callie, what the hell?”
“What? Oh!” Callie said, remembering the bleeding, throbbing, hole in her shoulder, “Oh yeah. That does hurt a bit.” she said, and immediately fainted dead away.

She wasn’t out long, but when she came to, Mike had already healed her shoulder wound.
“Wake up sunshine.” he said.
“Aw damn, I fainted, didn’t I?” Callie asked, sheepishly, “I always swore to myself I’d never be a ‘fainty’ girl. Was I gone long?”
“Nah, you’re back just in time.” Mike said, as he and Jon grabbed her arms and helped her to her feet.
“In time for what?”
“Round two.” said Jon.
Callie followed his gaze. Some distance away, where Mike had left him, the Morrtog was slowly getting to it’s feet. It looked worse for the wear; but not quite enough. It brushed itself off, gave them a look with it’s good eye, and started galloping towards them on all fours.
“Are you ready?” Mike asked his sister.
The stakes that had fallen to the ground all around them levitated into the air, every one of them, and gathered themselves in front of her.
“Oh yes,” she said, “Let’s end this.”

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