“L’yophin, what happened to her?”
Soltana was afraid. One moment Quill was her plucky self, the next she stared off into nothing and fainted.
L’yophin had knelt down, checking her vitals.
“She is well. I am unsure why she fainted,” L’yophin said as he shouldered her and took her to the cart.
He placed her down gently, knowing she would be uncomfortable. They continued their journey.
Soltana was now truly curious what had happened, but she kept up the journey. They had begun to move again, getting deeper into the mycelium
“I hope she is alright. I was hoping she would tell me more. Something is troubling her.”
“Why don’t we confront her?”
“She will tell us when she gains our trust. We can wait.”
Her power was still good, even with the added weight of the cart. Her chassis had proven to be a work beast.
Power: 4421/5000 QC
She was still good on power and would probably go strong all the way to Hive Vulnerado.
“When do you think we should tell her?” L’yophin asked.
“I’m not sure if we should. Who knows what she will do if confronted?”
“I say we cease beating around the shroom and speak to her.”
“And what if she flees?” Soltana countered.
They had little idea if she would flee or become violent.
“Then less trouble for us.”
“L’yophin, please. You know she’s a Seal holder. We need her.”
L’yophin suspected something was off when he grabbed Ruth in the tub. He said nothing, going off of Basil’s warning. And so, they kept it hidden, telling Basil early in the morning when L’yophin crushed the Laoch. It was a small thing that gave her away. They were taking a risk in trusting her, but she had not attacked or even made an attempt to harm L’yophin. They were on a razor’s edge. If they confronted her, she may flee. She may attack. She may accept it and reveal herself peacefully. Right now, Soltana wanted to take the passive approach. L’yophin wanted to opposite
“She may eat me, you know?”
“Has she made an attempt? The time in the bathtub was the perfect moment to attack. No one would have been the wiser,” Soltana explained.
“Or maybe she already has. Basil did tell us of her pawn ability. You would never know.” L’yophin explained.
“Would that now rule out that you were eaten?”
“Reverse manipulation,” L’yophin said with a shrug.
“Basil also theorized she wanted to remain isolated so she could grow. If you were eaten, you would delay the travel to Hive Vulnerado forever.”
L’yophin grunted but had no more arguments.
“Plus, Basil did say he could sense them, now that he knew what to look for. He’d point you out in an instant,” Soltana explained.
“Unless he was a pawn too.”
“Then at this point, it is pawns all the way down and I’m the only one not taken,” Soltana replied thoughtfully.
“Is that joke? You made joke!” L’yophin congratulated her with a spidery smile.
They continued down, following the road. The mycelium began to break up, showing more moss and stones and a canyon in the distance.
“This is where things get interesting. Wish Ruth was awake,” L’yophin said worriedly.
“Why is that?”
“Canyon is good for ambush. No other way around.”
“Then let us hurry!” Soltana coaxed.
They made their way along, seeing the canyon looming in view. The descent was gradual, with Soltana feeling the cart put more pressure on her.
I agree with L’yophin, I hope she awakens.
Soltana pondered on the tenuous situation. It was too dependent upon Ruth, or Quill. She was trying to calculate the equivalent of the trajectory of a pulse sabot ricochet. Part of her agreed with L’yophin to confront her and let Ruth be the one to handle it. On the other side, if they confronted her, as Basil described Diniel did, She would run, or possibly hurt someone in a frenzy. Basil described earlier that morning how Diniel revealed her true name and she went berserk, fleeing into the dark.
For now, she could only process what to do with Ruth or Quill out of commission. The priority would be to get to Hive Vulnerado and then decide.
L’yophin pulled out his energy rifle as they closed in on the canyon. Soltana trundled along with the cart scraping and wheeling behind, the stamping of fibered crab legs and squeaking of wheels resounded along the quiet canyon entrance. The rock outcroppings and stalagmites grew massive, with tiny glowshrooms dotting the area. There the black sky of the Underrealm began to glow, the stars peaked out. The ceiling glow worms had awoken. The glowshrooms song had begun, a fitting bridge to their transition.
“So you suspect she was the scarfed gob the entire time?”
“It makes sense. If she saw one changing, she may have wanted a diversion. She may have suspected others would be searching for her.”
“Good cover being in group of gobs. May not have expected us to take her in. If you didn’t advocate… She may have…” L’yophin trailed off as he turned back to the trail.
“I would not think of that.” Soltana urged.
It was possible she would have lost L’yophin if she allowed him to clean the gobs from his estate.
“But if she dangerous, we need Diniel,” L’yophin suggested.
“I’m… Not sure. She had ample opportunity to turn you. Or the others.”
“How do you know they aren’t pawns? Could you tell?”
“That is a good point. They may all be Ruth…”
“We need to confront her.”
“But if she is aggressive?”
“We need to trust her. She may reveal herself to us!”
Soltana noticed L’yophin was dragging his limbs suddenly. The rifle went loose, dragging along the ground.
“L’yophin, are you well?”
The spider turned, his eyes in various states of open and closed; all unfocused.
“L’yophin!” Soltana cried out.
The spider grasped at his head and began shriek a horrible chittering cry.
Soltana trundled over, unable to assist.
“L’yophin, what’s happening?”
The spider flipped to his back, limbs thrashing as he gripped his head in agony.
L’yophin let out before going back to his thrashing.
A large silhouette appeared just above the spider. The form rippled, revealing a black and semi-transparent image.
The form rippled again, revealing a semi-solid form, Soltana’s processes skipped a cycle as it loomed over the still spider.
The form rippled a final time, revealing the terrible creature in front of her.
Whatever it was, it had active mantilla as a biological function, making it invisible.
It was a large centipede, with each segment being ten feet in height and seven feet long. It had several hundred segments. The body snaked up above L’yophin’s downed form, curling around a large stalagmite. The tail snapped its vice-like jaws. It could have cut the cart in half easily. She calculated it was well over one hundred feet in length. The disquieting head examined its prey, the white chitinous face was a stretched featureless death mask, hollow and black on the inside. It chittered, like the revving of an engine. It peered at Soltana, cocking its head. She felt it focus in on her, pressing her with an ability she had no words for.
It had no effect on her.
It looked back to the downed spider as it skittered off the large stalagmite, the tail trailing behind. Each of its legs were large multi-jointed claws, with the reversed rounded layered protective chitin focusing on its stomach. It bent down, examine the Dugrum.
Anger welled up inside Soltana.
The desire to protect burned inside of her.
She needed to act.
Power welled up in her from before at the mine. Her eyes were the focal point as twin red solar cannon energy shot from her eyes, through the leg that was raised and ready to strike, through the torso, and out the other end to score a melting blast point in the rock.
The Daer-seehn shrieked, the sound of a thousand screaming children and the revving of a massive engine. It backed off, seeing the fallen charred limb that was only just attached to it, its side smoldering from two directions. And yet it still stood. It peered at Soltana with its impassive mask.
She knew she made it angry.
If she could only detach from the cart, she could lure it along.
She focused her eyes again, firing another twin beam of solar energy. The Daer-seehn juked to the side, the beams clipped just the side of the carapace, doing little. The Daer-seehn stood still, gazing at her.
She had no time to act. It focused on her and she felt herself flying backward, yanked by invisible strings, with the cart as the fulcrum. She smashed into the rocky road head first. She felt her chassis crumple around the adamantite skull. She felt her nerves tear, the metal warp, and L’yophin’s beautiful creation consigned to ruin.
Warning: Critical damage sus-
Soltana didn’t have time to process the message as she was forcefully powered off.