Friday, January 14, 2011

Episode 26: The World According To Xoe

"Hit the deck, Ben!"


Ben dropped to the ground ahead of me...just in time for one of the huge gears thrown by the automaton-clocky-thingie to thud directly into his back. Crap. The only person who had any idea of what was going on around here, and he was out like a light. And glowing strangely in the silvery-grey mists that wrapped around us.

I skipped up to his side. Pulse steady, okay, that's a start.

"Hey, Kobayashi! Can you help me out with some healing here?"


BBBBBZZZTfooorm? Oh no. Xeno.

I whipped around to see the clock-thingie dangling by one hand from the tree perched on a ledge above us. Xeno was screaming incoherently, which usually meant that he'd just shot something. Yep, he had the wand pack out and was wiggling his fingers with glee. Didn't need to see the frost on the gear-based behemoth to know he'd shot it with something. Ice, instead of fire, thankfully. Last thing we needed was to torch an imaginary interstitial plane while our guide was unconscious.

Takemiya swelled to gigantic proportions - damnit, would that man PLEASE stop wearing such loose pants if he's going to do that? A gnome's-eye view up his trouser cuffs is NOT pleasant - and brushed the clockwork creature off its branch...causing it to crash to earth just ahead of Xeno and Longbottom. A tiny cog bounced off it, whacked Xeno straight in the forehead, and hurtled into the dome that Ben had said represented the temple.

It cracked.

Xeno folded double, tongue lolling out (he has such a tendency to drool when he's unconscious, ugh) and was sucked into the gap. Longbottom and Takemiya followed...

I spun around, yelling at Kobayashi to hurry up and heal Ben, and jammed one of my cheap daggers into the ground, hanging on for dear life as the crack opened wider, sucking me towards it. Crap crap crap craaaaaaaaap...

What the hell? What was this, some sort of stadium? An arena? Shit, where would the lions come in? Probably straight ahead. Maybe behind. Thankfully, Giant Takemiya was behind me, so they'd get to chew on his ass first.

Tak was distracted, his shiny metal head lifted off his body and spinning around gently in the air above the earthen pyramid we'd somehow landed on. He muttered something about "Saladin and Iriyen are here" and then resumed floating.

Okay then.

Xeno - definitely unconscious - Longbottom, and Kobayashi were heaped up to the side of the pyramid. No sign of Ben. Not good. I whipped out a pair of daggers and peeked around Tak to see if Iriyen and Saladin were there, like he suggested.

And wound up staring at myself. Crap crap craaaaaaap.

What the hell? What was this, some sort of stadium? An arena? Shit, where would the lions come in? Probably straight ahead. Maybe behind.

Maybe from the GIANT FREAKING METAL-HEADED TAKEYMIYA sitting on the earthen pyramid in front of me.

I looked around. Xeno was still with me, and...Iryien?

"Hey, what are you doing here? We were looking for you!"


Suddenly, she spun around and walked down a passage behind me, where I could just make out Saladin and another figure. She reached out towards the other, shadowy figure, and Saladin grabbed her.

"No! You can't touch her!"

I looked closer, peering through the gloom with my infravision. The shadowy figure resolved into...another Iryien. Huh. Well, that could be interesting. One looked right - she was wearing the armour we'd given her as part of her payment - and the other looked...pretty much the same, sans armour. They were staring in fascination at each other, reaching out to touch...

Touch. Huh. Well, we knew now that we could have doppelgangers in the same place with no problem, but touching...that could be interesting. I took a quick look around the arena and noticed myself, daggers in hand, peering out from behind the giant metal-headed Takemiya in the center.

"Xoe, get down!" I yelled. "Just in case!"

I ducked just in time to feel something whistle over my head. I risked a glance over my shoulder and saw Saladin, looking oddly green, recover from the backswing of his death-scythe. Wait, now Saladin was trying to kill me? He finally snapped. All that baby-killing and soul enemas and the whole "absorbing death" thing finally pushed the druid over the edge. Great. We made this guy our leader why? We'd probably have better long-term survival chances listening to XENO, for heaven's sake. At least Xeno knew when to scamper.

"I really don't want to kill you, damnit," I muttered, flinging a knife half-heartedly at Saladin. He ducked. Oh well.

Takemiya, by his side, launched himself at me, kicking faster than my eyes could follow. Takemiya? What? With a human head again? And...metal legs? Oh shit.

I sprang out of the crouch I'd dropped into when the other me yelled, whirled around, and stabbed Leggy Tak in the back. Ow, shit, the metal extended further up than I'd expected, and the feedback resonated up the dagger into my arm. I jumped back and hid behind Giant Tak as he slowly tumbled backwards onto the pyramid platform. Shit, someone hit him, too...

Blood. Blood blood blood blood vodka blood...


Damnit, the fake monk's thigh was chewy. And the fake Xeno's head was really damn hard.


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