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Keith Collard Jun 2013

The Quest for the Damsel Fish  by Keith Collard

Author's  Atmosphere

On the bow of the boat, with the cold cloud of the dismal day brushing your back conjuring goose bumped flesh you hold an anchor.  For the first time, you can pick this silver anchor up with only one hand and hold it over your head. It resembles the Morning Star, a brutal medieval weapon that bludgeons and impales its victims.  Drop it into the dark world beyond the security of your boat--watch the anchor descend.
        Watch this silver anchor--this Morning Star--descend away from the boat and you, it becomes swarmed over with darkness.  It forms a psycho-metallic grin at first as it sinks, then the sinking silver anchor takes its last shape at its last visible glimpse.  It is so small now as if it could be hung from a necklace.  It is a silver sword.  
Peering over the side of the boat, the depths collectively look like the mouth of a Cannibalistic Crab, throwing the shadows of its mandibles over everything that sinks down into it--black mandibles that have joints with the same angle of a Reaper's Scythe.  

I am scared looking at this sinking phantasm.  I see something from my youth down there in this dark cold Atlantic.  I see the silver Morning Star again, now in golden armor.  I remember a magnificent kingdom, in a saltwater fish tank I had once and never had again.  A tropical paradise that I see again as I stare down into the depths.  This fish tank was so beautiful with the most beautiful inhabitants who I miss.  Before I could lift the silver anchor--the Morning Star--over my head with only one hand, turning gold in that morning sun-- I was a boy who sat indian style, cross legged--peering into this brilliant spectacle of light I thought awesome.  I thought all the darkness of home and the world was kept at bay by this kingdom of light...

Chapter  1 Begins the Story

The Grey Skies of Mass is the Name of This Chapter.

                                                      ­­                        
    
 Air, in bubbles--it was a world beauty of darkness revealed in slashes of light from dashing fluorescent bulbs overhead this fish tank.
Silver swords of fluorescent energy daring to the bottom, every slash revealing every color of the zodiac--from the Gold of Scorpio to the purple of Libra combining into the jade of the Gemini. 
In the center, like a dark Stonehenge were rocks. The exterior rocks had tropical colors like that of cotton candy, but the interior shadows of the rocks that was the Stonehenge, did not possess one photon of light. The silver messengers of the florescent energy from above would tire and die at their base.  The shadows of the Stonehenge rocks would stand over them as they died.

 
          When the boy named Sake climbed the rickety wood stairs of the house, he did so in fear of making noise, as if to not wake each step.
   Until he could see the glowing aura of his fish tank then he would start down that eerie hall, With pictures of ghosts and ghosts of pictures staring down at him as he walked down that rickety hallway of this towering old colonial home.  He hurried to the glowing tank to escape the black and white gazing picture frames.
                    The faint gurgling, bubbling of the saltwater tank became stronger in his ear, and that sound guided him from the last haunt of the hallway-- the empty room that was perpendicular to  his room.   He only looked to his bright tank as soon as he entered the hallway from the creaky wooden steps.  Then he proceeded to sit in front of this great tropical fish tank in Indian style with his legs folded over one another as children so often would sit.
  The sun was setting.  The reflections from the tank were beginning to send ripples down the dark walls. Increasing  wave after wave reflecting down his dark walls.  He thought they to be seagulls flapping into the darkness until they were overcome as he was listening to the bubbling water of his tank.
                " Hello my fish, hello Angel, hello Tang, hello  Hoomah, hello Clown and hello Damsel … and hello to you Crab...even though I do not like you," he said in half jest not looking at the crab in the entrance of the rocks.  The rocks were the color of cotton candy, but the interior shadows did not possess a photon of luminescence.  All other shadows not caused by the rocks--but by bright swaying ornament--were like the glaze on a candy apple--dark but delicious.  Besides the crab's layer in the rock jumble at the center of the tank which was a Stonehenge within a Stonehenge--the tank was a world of bright inviting light.
                The crab was in its routine,  motionless in the entrance to his foyer, with his scythe-like claws in the air, in expectation of catching one of the bright fish someday.  For that reason the boy tried to remove the crab in the past, but even though the boy was fast with his hand, the optical illusion of the tank would always send his hand where the crab no longer was.  He did not know how to use two hands to rid the crab in the future by trapping and destroying the Cannibal Crab ;  his father, on a weekend visit, gave the Crab to the boy to put into the bright world of the saltwater tank, which Sake quickly regretted.  His father promised him that the Crab would not be able to catch any of the fish he said " ...crabs only eat anything that has fallen to the bottom or each other..."

         A scream from the living room downstairs ran up the rickety wood and down the long hall and startled the boy.  His mother sent her shrieks out to grab the boy, allowing her to not have to waste any time nor calorie on her son; for she would tire from the stairs, but her screams would not, allowing her to stay curled up on the couch.  If she was not screaming for Sake, she was talking as loud as screams on the phone with her girlfriends.  The decibels from her laugh was torture for all in the silent house.   A haughty laugh in a gossipy conversation, that overpowered the sound of the bright tropical fish tank in Sake's room that was above and far opposite her in the living room.
               " Sake you have to get a paper-route to pay for the tank, the electricity bill is outrageous," she said while not taking her eyes off the TV and her legs curled up beside her.  He would glad fully get a paper-route even if it was for a made up reason.  He turned to go, and looked back at his mother, and a shudder ran through him with a new thought:  someday her appearance will match her voice.  

              Upon reaching his tank,  Hoomah was trying to get his attention as always.  Taking up pebbles in his big pouty pursed lips and spitting them out of his lips like a weak musket.  The Hoomah was a very silly fish, it looked like one of Sake’s aunts, with too much make up on, slightly overweight, and hovering on two little fins that looked incapable of keeping it afloat, but they did.  The fins reminded him of the legs of his aunt--skinny under not so skinny.’

               The Tang was doing his usual aquanautics , darting and sailing was his trick.  He was fast, the fastest with his bright yellow triangular sail cutting the water.  Next was the aggressive Clown fish, the boy thought she was always aggresive because she didn't have an anemone to sleep on.  The Clown was strong and sleek with an orange jaw and body that was built like a tigress.
  Sake thought something tragic about the body if the  orange Clown and the three silver traces that clawed her body as decoration -they reminded him of the incandescent orange glow of a street lamp being viewed through the rainy back windshield of a car.   The Clown fish was a distraction that craved attention.
The Clown would chase around some of the other fish and jump out of the water to catch the boy's eye. 
                 Next is the Queen Angel fish, she is the queen of the tank, she sits in back all alone, waving like a marvelous banner, iridescent purple and golden jade.  Her forehead slopes back in a French braid style that streams over her back like a kings standard waving before battle, but her standard is of a house of beauty, and that of royal purple.

                    Lastly is the Damsel Fish, the smallest and most vulnerable in the tank.  She has royal purple also, rivaling the queen. Her eyes are lashed but not lidded like the Hoomah.  Her eyes are elliptical, and perhaps the most human, or in the boy’s opinion, she is the most lady like, the Hoomah and the Queen Angel come to her defence if she is chased around by the Clown.  Her eyes penetrate the boys, to the point of him looking away.  

                      Before the tank, in its place in the corner was a painting, an oil painting of another type of Clown donning a hat with orange partial make-up on his face (only around eyes nose and mouth there was ghost white paint) and it  had two tears coming down from its right eye.  The Clown painting was given to him by his mother, it seems he could not be rid of them, but Sake at first was taken in by the brightness of the Clown, and the smooth salacious wet look of the painting. it looked dripping, or submerged, like another alternate reality.  The wet surreal glaze of the painting seemed a portal, especially the orange glow of the Clown's skin without make-up.  .  If he tried to remember of times  before the Clown painting that preceded the Clown fish, he thought of the orange saffron twilight of sunset, and watching it from the high window from his room in the towering house.  How that light changed everything that it touched, from the tree tops and the clouds, to even the dark hallway leading up to his room.  The painting and the Clown fish did not feel the same as those distant memories of sunset, especially the summer sunset when his mother would put him to bed long before the sun had set.  
Sake did not voice opposition to the Clown.
Then he was once again trapped by the Clown.  
            The boy was extremely afraid of this painting that replaced the sunsets , being confined alone with it by all those early bedtimes.
Sake once asked his mother if he could take it down, whereas she said " No."  That clown would follow him into his dreams, always he would be down the hill from the tall house on the hill, trying to walk back to the house, but to walk away or run in a dream was like walking underwater or in black space, and he would make no distance as the ground opened up and the clown came out of the ground hugging him with the pryless grip of eight arms.  He would then wake up amid screams and a tearful hatted clown staring somberly down at him from the wall where it was hung.  Night made him fear the Clown painting more;  that ghost white make-up decorating around the eyes and mouth seeming to form another painting in entirety.  He could only look at the painting after a while when the lights were on, and the wet looking painting was mostly orange from the skin, neck, and forearms of the hat wearing clown.  But the painting is gone now, and the magnificent light display of the tank is there now.  

                Sake pulled out the fish food, all the fish bestirred in anticipation of being fed.  The only time they would all come together; and that was to mumble the bits of falling flakes: a chomp from the Clown, a pucker from the Hoomah, the fast mumble of the Tang, and the dainty chew of the Damsel.  The Queen Angelfish would stay near the bottom, and kiss a flake over and over.   She would not deign herself to go into a friendly frenzy like the other fish; she stayed calm, yet alluring like a flag dancing rhythmically in the breeze, but never repeating the same move as the wind never repeats the same breeze.  She is the only fish to change colors.  When the grey skies of Mass emit through every portal in the house at the height of its bleakness, her colors would turn more fantastic, perhaps why she is queen.

                 He put his finger in the top of the watery world; the warmth was felt all the way up his arm.  After feeding, his favorite thing to do was to trace his finger on the top of the warm water and have the Damsel follow it. She loved it, it was her only time to dance, for the Clown would descend down in somewhat fear ( or annoyance) of the boys finger, and the Damsel and he would dance.  The boy, thought that extraordinary.

                     Sake bedded down that night, to his usual watery world of his room.  The reflective waves running down the walls like seagulls of light, with the rhythmic gurgling sound and it's occasional splash of the Clown, or the Hoomah swooping into the pebbly bottom to scoop up some pebbles for spitting making the sound "ccchhhhh" --cachinging  like a distant underwater register.  The tank’s nocturne sound was therapeutic to the boy.

                      Among waking up, and being greeted by his sparkling treasure tank--that was always of the faintest light in the morning due to the grey skies of Mass coming through every portal to lessen the tropical spectrum-- the boy would render his salutations " Good morning my Hoomah.....good morning Tang, my Damsel, and your majesty Queen Angel.....and so forth.  Until the scream would come to get him, and he would walk briskly past the empty room and the looming family pictures of strangers.  His mother put him to work that day, to "pay for the fish tank" but really to buy her a new cocktail dress for her nightly forays.  The boy did not care, the tank was his sun, emitting through the bleak skies of Mass, and even if the tank was reduced to a haze by the overcast of his life, it only added a log to the fire that was the tropical world at night, in turn making him welcome the dismal day.
                  On a day, when the overcast was so thick, he felt he could not picture his rectangular orb waiting for him at night. He had trouble remembering what houses to deliver the paper.  He delivered to the same house three times.  Newspapers seemed to disappear in his hands, due to their color relation to the sky.   Leaves were falling from the trees—butterfly like—he went to catch one, he missed--a first. For Sake could walk through dense thorned brambles and avoid every barb, as a knight in combat or someone’s whose heart felt the painful sting of the barb before.  He would stand under a tree in late fall, and roll around to avoid every falling leaf, and pierce them to the ground deftly with a stick fashioned as a sword.  He could slither between snow flakes, almost like a fish nimbly avoiding small flakes.  
                  After he finished his paper-route , he went to his usual spot under an oak tree to fence with falling leaves.  As the other boys walked by and poked fun he would stall his imagination, and look to the brown landscape of the dry fall.  The crisp brown leaves of the trees were sword shapes to him.  He held the battle ax shape of the oak leaf over his eye held up by the stick it was pierced through, and spied the woodline through the sinus of the oak leaf lobe.  The brown white speckled scenery, were all trying to hide behind eachother by blending in bleakfully; he pretended the leaf was Hector’s helmet from the Illiad—donned over his eyes.
“ Whatchya doing Sake?” asked a young girl named Summer.  Sake only mumbled something nervously and stood there.  And a pretty Summer passed on after Sake once again denied himself of her pretty company.  He looked to the woodline again, a mist was now concealing the tall apical trees.  It now looked like the brown woodland was not trying to retreat behind eachother in fall concealment, but trying to emerge forth out of the greyness to say "save us."

“ Damgf” he uttered, and could not even grasp a word correctly.  His head lifted to the sky repeatedly, there was no orb, and the shadows were looming larger than ever; fractioned shadows from tree branches were forming scythes all over the ground.
             He entered the large shadow that was his front door, into the house that rose high into the sky, with the simplicity of Stonehenge.  He climbed the rickety petrified stairs and went down the hall.  Grey light had spotlighted every frame on the wall.  He looked into the empty room, nothingness, then his room, the tank seemed at its faintest, and it was nearing twilight.  He walked past the tank to look out the window;  the back side of the house seemed like a tower, being on a hill it was dizzying to look down this side.  He felt like the only boy in the world, he could see off distant,  grey  clouds were overtaking the tree tops and buildings.  Out his door in the hallway were shadows painting  the portraits black, and the dust that was swimming in front of the empty room— came together to resemble a flowing Sunday dress, as if it was underwater.  He slammed the door, and closed his blinds, turning off the light.  The waves came back, the gurgling was stronger, and then he sat Indian style in front of his tank.  He was alerted to something wrong.  
            The Tang was there, Clown, Angel, and Hoomah but no Damsel. Looking in the usual refugiums of the Damsel, she was not there.  His eyes lowered to the rock alter--pink on the top, a multitude of dark polygonal faces on its facade..  In the main shadow, there motionless, the dark crab, unblinking with both it's scythe claws upward.  In its grasp the Damsel, writhing and squirming, but it was firmly grasped by the tail.  His hand plunged down, and grabbed at a mirage, the crab had already retreated with the Damsel.  
          He wanted to plunge his fist in into the dark alter of rocks, but was afraid of the murkiness.  His hand felt the coldness near those rocks, and the hair-like touch of algae growing on the inside of the rocks.  " She's gone," he whispered to himself.  All the fish floated in a baffled muse staring at the boy.  The clown hid in the back, the boy knew the clown was the cause of this.  
                    He felt he was sinking to the bottom of the sea.  Out of his brooding darkness, gliding specters swam up to him, and stared at him as he sunk away.  He felt the tremendous undertow of huge things swimming by.  
The grey skies of Mass outside had made its way into his house, completely filling up his room.  He felt like he reached the bottom of the cold dismal sea while the grey filled to the top of his room. The tropical tank was but a faint shining fishing lure in the monochrome of his mind, a mind that relied on the palette of a bright world to emit some light--  
               His mother's scream woke him from his misty malaise, he walked down the long hall, staring at the pictures this time, the black and white pictures started to disappear with the onset of the grey skies  that were of the same color. The rickety stairs creaked with an all new slowness from his tread.  They sounded like muffled moaning from fathoms.
                     " You need to give me more money for the tank, it is costing more," said his mother deceivingly.  Her heart was caught by another shoe or dress, the boy knew.  He assented and added , " I'll give more money, and turn off the tank."  He left, his mother too bestial and short sighted to be perplexed.  Two days surpassed, he did not feed the fish, nor clean the tank, and then he unplugged it, silence came over the room.  He went to bed at a sunset that was not there.  He held up a dried oak leaf, and placed it upside down on the glass over the grey expanse, the oak leaf looked like a Trojan helmet staring down the bleak expanse, but then Sake crumpled it, and let it fall like flakes of fish food.
  He thought of the Clown fish, and he thought of the old painting.  Slowly and slowly he fell into sleep,  slight liquid disturbances were heard, from the fish trying to get his attention--  the pebbles chinged  from  the Hoomah; but they have betrayed him, letting his Damsel be snatched up, her elliptic eyes disappearing into that cave--and he had failed too. Now he had no escape from the grey skies of Mass.
            More and more, the drip drop sound became louder, Sake who was in half sleep—rolled around on his bed. He pictured a giant crashing tear in his sleepy daze--he fell  fully into sleep.  Nightmares haunted him, he looked and looked for the Damsel in impenetrable grey light, until he came upon a dark portal, and he was too afraid to enter.  He suddenly missed the other fish, and called out to them. "I’m sorry my fish, come back."  His words were gargled in the dream-state, and he could not move as he intended to.  
                  The image of the Damsel disappearing into the rock alter, slowly as a sandbar is overtaken at high tide made him wake mid scream.  The reflecting light was running down his walls again, the sound of the tank echoed off his walls as if he was in an underwater cave.  The tank was on, and lit somehow, and the crab was in the entrance again with the Damsel in its claws.  The air in his room was distorted, like the area above the surface of something hot; the dust particles swam around as if in liquid light; every time he blinked the tank was closer to him.  It was also growing bigger, merging into the room with the mandibles and fore claws of the black crab spreading around his vision.
             Sake froze in fear ; the seagulls of light increased down his walls, the gurgling became incessant; he crawled under his comforter and closed his eyes.  All sound stopped.  He opened his eyes, and threw off his comforter, his bed was gone and he was standing.  No longer in the same world.

Chapter 2 The Land Of Chimes

"O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has withered from the lake,
And no birds sing."--La Belle Dame Sans Merci, Keats

He felt millions of firm but gentle breezes gliding past his body from all points of the compass.  The sound was source less--the sound of an indefatigable exhale.   Was he in his bedroom still? No, he was in a cave.  In an opening like that of a nave of a church, or a foyer, with a high ceiling of jumbled rock with cat-holes of light that came through as spot lights.  Under his foot were pink and red pebbles that suddenly glowed brighter, then waned, as if a tree branch was above it swaying-- but there was only rock.  
          “Where am I?" he tried to say to himself, but his words were unintelligible to himself.  He went to move his hand to his mouth, and missed his face completely and very slowly.   Looking around at the dark shadows that lined the bottom of the foyer like dark portals, he felt as if he was in a school's foyer awaiting punishment from a principle.
                 He looked up at the upper walls, the dark cavities looked like eyes, blackened hollow eyes.  Behind him, a portal had grey light coming into it; possibly the outside entrance—he thought.  He made his way, slowly and confusedly, he could not walk properly. I must be dreaming.   He heard eerie echoes from one of the dark portals—almost like sobbing stretched painfully to laughing.   He attempted to walk to the sound , loneliness beckoned him.   His feet sinking in the pebbles, with the fractioned light waving off the bottom and be speckling the dark rocks above him-- he reached the dark entrance ; the abutting rocks swaying with green algae to an undetectable breeze-- he felt the air grow colder.  This is just a dream, he told himself in order to brave the dark entrance, but his words were jumbled.  He then clumsily walked into the portal, toward the sound--hoping it would be something that would hug him in this scary cavern, and assuage his fear and lonlieness.  He looked at the sides of the rock portal as he grabbed onto them to walk, and was frightened deeply, he felt the complicity of the rocks, as if they served as the tools in a pagan sacrificial chamber, with the sacrifice paid by the opposite of the uncaring, planet old, jagged rocks--and what came to Sake's mind, was feminine glass smooth beauty.  " Help me," Sakes mind said, as that thought induced in his mind, but he did not address it to anyone, and so get's returned to sender.

Coldness seized Sake, he took under ten steps but he felt fathoms away from the foyer.    The sound changed drastically—a drilling sound, as if a distant shuttle was departing the bright earth’s gravitational field and into the starry sky.  The chamber was empty, with eye-like cavities running up  walls flickering with green algae.  The algae and the red pebbles on the cavern floor were the only way he could see; they created a contrast with the darkness that was perceptible, but most of all the ground was not dark. He heard a voice again coming from another cavern.  
He stumbled, almost falling just to get to the other entrance to find another human being in this unknown place.  The entrance filed down to a rock hallway, the algae touched his forearm, he pulled back from the silica feel.   The rock jumble wall stopped, and he turned the corner.  Colder than the previous cavern by a degree, but a lip bluing degree-- tiger stripes rippled in vertical reflections along the walls, giving the cavities momentary and replenishing reptile eyes.  He could not make out anything in the chamber, it was bigger than the proceeding one and it did not have green algae nor red pebbles.  
In the center of the cavern was a fire, dying down only to kindling, then back up in a yellow flash that lit up the chamber like a flare, and shrinking  down again as the tiger stripe reflections returned on the walls: as if the fire in the center was running out of energy.  The fire lured the boy before he knew he was moving towards it; it was a beacon in a world of darkness.  He neared…the beacon spoke , “ Hey you, help me, get this trap off me.”
  “ Mmmgmgglllloooo” came out of the boy’s mouth, even if he could have spoken he would have been unintelligible still from sheer shock.  The radiance shined brilliantly, not at all blinding to the eye, but the opposite; the fire was the size of him.
“Hurry up Cucumber, before they come back,  bite down right here,” said a long needle mouthed  flickering flame . Sake just sat there staring at the glowing, rippling form.  “  “ Hurry up you stupid cucumber, I can still find the Damsel--”
Sake felt the cold on him again, around the intensifying luminescence of the fire;  a droning sound, that was distant yet audible became known—almost like druidical monks conducting a ceremony underwater in a black cauldron.  The Damsel is still alive... he mumbled to himself, shaking nervously.  He saw the net only when the fire died down, it was cinched through a eyelet with a weight like tackle, he pulled one side of the working end and with his other hand loosened the cinch of the net on the fire.   The fire was in utter surprise at the boy’s method of rescue.  “ I never seen a cucumber with claws,” a  yellow circle forming a mouth said as the monkish droning became louder.  “ Come on, the Damsel must be here,” it said as it rose off the floor, hovering , rippling in the air---brightening the immediate vicinity.
The fire darted away from the boy and into the next chamber, Sake watched as the rippling torch flew off into the other opening abandoning him, and hurried after it--afraid the darkening cavern was going to devour him.  He mumbled and stumbled after it—the mumbles would have been shrieks and cries if translated.  As he passed a cavity in the wall he noticed something bright down deep in it, like a white hot stone from a fire thrown into a well.
He chased after the talking torch. “ Damoiselle, where art thou?” the giant torch yelled.  The droning was becoming ominously thicker; he could not keep up as he watched the torch disappear into another chamber.  Suddenly the cavern started to brighten.  The light was coming from somewhere hidden.  Seeing movement, Sake looked up at the far wall of the cave, the mumble  “ Mmmblllerrf,” translated to “ Uh Oh.”
First alerted to the movement by the swaying green algae on the far wall, he noticed a more spasmodic motion that was the converse of the rhythmic and mindless algae.  It moved again, the purple outline came into view with the sparkle of a diamond being turned in the hand—for the deep purple mirrored sideways against each other—was blinking.  My Damsel, said his startled mind.
The searching torch in his hot neon negligence did not see the wall that captured the Damsel , searching other chambers in flickering haste, sounding the dark cavern with taunts and yells—blinded by anger.  Sake took a step closer to the wall, then heard a ‘click ‘noise over the monkish droning of the foreboding cavern.  The rest of the outline from the Damsel’s tail came into view.
The protrusion at the base of the rock jumble wall was not a rock, but a giant crab with both its black scythe claws up in the air as if conducting a ceremony in a lifeless stare, as if it had been in dark polluted harbor sludge for eternity.  One claw clutched the almost lifeless Damsel around the yellow band she had on her tail fin, the other was held around her body.  It looked ready to close on the purple-diamond-studded corset that was the Damsel’s body.  The smaller rock jumble stacked above and on the back of the large crab, was made of smaller crabs, packed tightly—with their baby scythes sticking out.  ‘Click’ He now knew where that sound was coming from.  It was the open claw, clicking closer to the Damsel’s body.  ‘ Click.’  The claw was three clicks away. All the little stacked crabs on the wall closed their claws at the same time as if snapping to attention: reminiscent of a black clawed iron maiden--that sent chills down Sake’s spine in the already ice cold cavern.  He stepped closer, the giant dark crab’s mouth –hooks and scissors—looked like a  carousel of torture.  ‘ Click.’  Only one click away from the Damsel.  Sake could reach out and touch her, but the wall of scythes scared him to immobility.  He closed his eyes and looked away in anticipation of the fatal click.
He heard a different sound, a “ clack,” as if the claw was opening back up.  He was looking at the back wall away from the wall of rhythmic algae adorning the snare-trap-still crabs.  The crevices in the far wall now looked like deep recesses, the eye shaped recesses now had pupils—glowing white hot dots.  He looked back at the crab, the claw was all the way open again, but then ‘click’ and it started the process over.  Sake looked away.  If he could only walk correctly he could run to the wall save her.  He could not do it with his eyes closed, it scared him too much.  He looked back at the wall, the pupils in the crevices were glowing brighter, almost getting angrier.  They dilated, glowing white hot.  Then the eyes emitted a white hot pebble attached to an arching branch.  Hundreds of glowing stones came out of the walls, then the branch that held them slowly came forth.  
The corner of the room lit up with color, it was the torch returning from its search.  “ Run Cucumber, they are coming,” it said to Sake has it rippled past him.  
He began to see what  the branches coming out of the walls were attached to, a silvery metallic scowl of a fish’s head.  And that fish was the Deep Sea Viper.  The whole wall was a ’grin with shiny and rusty razor blades.  Sake suddenly felt fathoms deeper, with no chance of hope.  
The torch was flying  past him, Sake grabbed onto the bright blur that was cool to the touch, and held on for dear life as he looked back at the chamber fill up with rusty (or blood stained)metal  of hundreds of Deep Sea Viper.  They all turned there razor over-bites in unison at the fleeing morsels, and shrugged off their lethargy, remembering their proclivity—to devour.
“ Let go of me Cucumber….” Said the fire, as he took the wrong direction back to the foyer.   “Mmmmblerf,” cried Sake to tell him it was the wrong direction.  The Vipers darted down the rock hall, scraping and sparking off the rocks, they were fast.  Sake saw what it was that dangled from their foreheads, he thought it was a glowing shrimp, but it was a glowing skull—their lure.  As soon as the silver filled up the hall and Sake could see the Viper’s black dead eyes up close, he let out a muffled scream and the torch picked up speed, turning and twisting at 90 degree angles, then soaring down a straightaway only to turn again.  The fire’s soaring speed was kept down by the turns, and that was a good thing for the boy, his grip barely held on at the roller-coaster speeds.
  Sake  could not bear to look at his assailants anymore, he looked forward—but that was just as daunting.  The fire flew at jagged walls, only to turn at the last second—Sake could feel the green algae’s cool wet touch on him as the fire pivoted and darted down the rock halls.  If the vipers were a mustang cobra, then the torch was the fire in the cylinder, unhindered by chassis—fast as an explosion.
They came into a cavern that had red and white pebbles as ground, but to sheer horror, the only exit out of the room was emitting the metallic silver light and a painful scraping sound.  “ We’re trapped”, said the fire but the boy pointed to the high walls that had a cat hole and was emitting grey light.  “ I cannot climb that high with you on my back.”  Sake got off and started climbing the wall , which was easier than walking on level ground.  To the boy’s surprise, the fire could not go upward in the same speed as it went horizontal.  The chamber started filling up with clashing armour, which was the vipers scraping into eachother as the fire was rippling upward slowly .  Sake reached there first, and was silhouetted by the light coming from the other side, he grabbed hold of the bright creature that was having difficulty rippling upwards, and pulled it up and into the narrow passage.   As soon as the fire was on level ground it shot forward pushing the boy out of the narrow passage as if the fire was the primer and the boy a bullet just as the vipers were filling into the tunnel; before Sake knew it, he was falling down into the foyer.
Sake looked beside him, the torch in dark caverns, was a magnificent Tang in light.  The Tang startled himself up,, the vipers were coming still.  “ Get on Cucumber,” said the Tang, and the boy  climbed on clumsily putting a foot on the Tang’s face.  “ You oaf,” his voice almost honked from the boy’s foot in his nose—a saxon nose in human scale that gave the bright creature an utmost humanness and its scales on the downward taper of his forehead resembling a slicked back neon hair.
The yellow neon fish exhaled after feeling the boy’s full weight, “ you must be one of those coral cucumbers,” he said exasperated. The sparking sound was closing.  The Tang cracked his body like a whip, and gave the boy a momentary vertigo ; the powerful ripple distorted the air behind them, and sent a seismic ripple through the pebbly ground; the closing vipers were knocked into shock.  Sake watched the grey light of the entrance coming at him as the barrel of a cannon, as the incendiary round that was the Tang shot forth with its payload of mumbling boy.  ; they shot out of the opening and the landscape opened up,  he looked back, the cave was retreating from proximity with the imperceptible increments of low tide--even at high velocity.
He hung onto the streaming hair of the Tang with all his might, which was severly weakened in this new land.  The ground below his feet took the form of liquid metal at high speed; the surrounding landscape was a nuance of grey on silver.    “ What were you doing in Crabaltar, that is no place for cucumbers, in all my journeys around the Saccade, I have not seen one like you… have you seen any other knights?” said the aerodynamic face, unaware that his passenger could barely hold on let alone answer him.
The boy’s legs were streaming in the wake.  Wind that was so thick that it was causing the boy to smile, was forcing him off the inverted saddle.  “ Slooooow dooown….” he yelled, but  even if it was unjumbled, it was absorbed by the dense streaming wind.  The yellow streak  that the boy was falling off of even had words that were aerodynamic, “ I must come back another time, it will be dark soon and much colder, the vipers can go much further when it is cold, but at least I have brought back a nice cucumber for the queen…
“ I am the only to make it out of Crabaltar alive, someone has laid a trap in there, that is how I was captured, they are lucky I was traveling without my cuirass, I wonder how the Hoomah is doing, if he is the hunter that he says he is….. I say, I never saw a cucumber with starfish on it, you will be a rarity in the Coral Kingdom…and a mighty fine present for the Queen” the speed talker did not notice that the boy’s starfish were losing their grip.  “ Blllrrrrffff” the boy’s mouth sputtered, as he lost his grip and fell into the strong slipstream, tumbling over and over until sliding in debris strewn ground slowing his speed before his movement was stopped by a mound of rocks.  He watched as the flame became smaller and smaller, dying down as it disappeared into the grey horizon.  “ Come Back…don’t leave me” he tried to yell, but to no avail.
Running after the Tang’s direction his foot was caught by something and he fell; the sound of melancholic chimes rang into the silent wasteland.  Not seeing what caught his foot, he got up, only to trip again.   This time he saw, but only for a second as the outline of the line sparkled amongst the greyish background.  It was a fishing line of some sort.  He reluctantly scanned his environment and goose bumps flared up on his skin.
The level plane was studded with mounds of rust colored rocks, choked and strangled with silver line, and stabbed all over with barbed hooks.  Metallic scales littered the ground, with slices of rust color seeping up between the wreckage.  It looked as if a great battle took place, and the good guys lost.   He stepped on the metallic ground and a depressing chime sound emitted then was swallowed by the bleak expanse.  At that point he saw a shadow exhibit over the ground, moving sinuously and fast, it then disappeared.  Try to keep my steps on the rust-- his instinct ordered him.

The direction the Tang was going was already lost by the boy after he tripped on the line. “ No, no , no” he cried, only to be horrified to what his words were converted to in echo by the burial grounds he was in--” lay down don’t fight it.”
  He set off in the direction he presumed, passing foreboding mounds and webs of strung diamond line.  His foot yanked a line, and a hook the size of its target (his head) whistled through the air at him, he ducted and it sunk into a mound, piercing both ends into the rock torso.  Metallic scales covered the rock’s head, a head  of a stainless steel-osprey with no eyes.  His heart raced as he fell back, stepping on the scales that rang like a lonely chime ornamenting a grave.  The shadow on the ground appeared again, then disappeared, causing Sake to look above him in expectance of a monster, but nothing was above  in the sky that resembled the depths.
“ Ugggrrrh” he muttered as he tried to balance his steps, to steer clear of the metallic scales and the diamond lines that could wrap around and strangle him if not for his slow gait.  He passed a lobster trap, in industrial dimensions, two bars were bent away from each other.  He shuddered then tripped again, the diamond line wrapped up his shin like a reel, but it did not have a hook on the end, only a weight, Sake could not get it off, and so left it.
He felt like something was watching him, even worse, following him--on top of the feeling that the scales would assemble themselves into Vipers, and the lurking thing high above him would dive down on him. Getting nowhere fast, he sat down, and started crying.  His tears swam out of his eyes, and collided with a mound—embedding  the word 'beloved' in the mound altar as if the tears were chiseled dates, that then leaked downword forming the sentence “ lay down to rest.”  A carousel came to the boys mind, for trident hooks and lures dangled out and away from the mound.
Out of the corner of his eye he thought he saw some color, “ please let some color or light come, please” he cried, putting his head in his hands.  Then he saw it, through his arms, two hovering yellow half circles, that retracted sharply into nothing.  The color looked out of place, he stood  to survey  what he thought he saw, “ who’s there?” he gurgled, but nothing stirred.  He turned now, to put distance between him and the apparition. " PING" He stepped on a scale that chimed ominously in the cryptic landscape bedecked with sepulchers of rock mound in all form of strangulation; he was not stepping with care now.  He looked back to see a faint portion of yellow before it disappeared.  “ Who are you, what do you want?” he yelled and pointed at his follower.  Then the two yellow half circles returned and then quickly disappeared, confirming his suspicion.  Then it spoke,
“Sponge, keep your mumblings down, you are going to attract Viper, or let alone the Mahi Mahi. What are you doing so far away from the Coral Kingdom, in this cold wasteland?....nevermind that, I do not speak sponge…do not fear me…”  The flitting half circles then seemed to move horizontally and upward; under one of the yellow half circles now ran a yellow paint streak conjoined with a pink one.  Metal scales bound together like chain mail fell to the ground off the apparition.  Sake now saw what the two yellow half circles were--two eyelids, and then saw the crescents of shock white and yellow on the body that was attached to the face that had pastel war paint.  It was the Hoomah who cloaked himself by covering up his tropical streaks with the viper scales, for in between his streaks of pink, yellow and white was his body color of grey—which already blended in perfectly with cemetery bleakness of the landscape.
Ecstatic at not being alone, the boy approached the hovering Hoomah, with its two small wings not flapping, for they had the proportion of a T-Rex’s arm is to its body, and could not viably keep the powerful stout Hoomah in the air, but paid heed to an old custom and now just rippled in the slow manner of a boxer snapping his knuckles.  Gravity was not the same in this dark world, with distant constellations of neon plasma and the hovering Hoomah confirmed that fact.  He was double the size of the Tang, and had  lipstick of yellow which he sucked in when cloaking himself.   A boxers nose was on the declivity of the long snout, in human scale, also giving presentation to rugged humanhood, . 
 The giant lips spoke,” Sponge, go in that direction, hurry before the lights set and the Vipers come, it is already getting late for it is much colder--.”
Sake just wanted to hug the magnificent hovering body, and stay with him, but the large lidded eyes looked at him, as if to say “easy sponge,” so the boy backed off.  But he did not want to leave his presence and the direction the Hoomah gestured was foreboding with its strangled mounds and giant prisons of lobster traps.  “ Oooh, it’s getting colder,’ the Hoomah shuddered, “ Now go Sponge,  the Mahi Mahi already heard your clumsy chimes,” but the boy did not listen, just gurgled idiotically, and in his excitement stepped on another chime, but this chime was Sake’s earlier fear, for it reared its decomposed looking head sheathed in metal blades, and opens its jagged jowl while rousing itself from slumber.  The Hoomah went to one of the mounds, and freed a hook from the mound’s torso with his powerful mouth, as the Viper was recoiling in sadistic joy at the sight of Sake; its overbite of jagged razor poised.  
Sake flinched and put up his arms to guard his face--that the Viper was eying with salivating desire--and gurgled helplessly.  The Viper’s arm length body straightened and shot at its prey, and in turn was preyed upon by the hook that the Hoomah blew at crossbow speed , piercing the viper  with the sharp and dull end through its body sticking it to the torso rock mound.  The Viper made a nasty scream, then fell to pieces, clanging and chiming off the other assorted scales.  The giant shadow re-emerged on the bottom and a distant shriek sounded, that even though afar, had bone-setting captivation; something horrible lurked above in the depths, and came closer with the sound of chimes.
“ I am going to give you a good start Sponge…darkness is almost here, and this place will be swarming with these ,” with those words , the powerful lips that were already cloaked again--for the warrior had donned his camoflauge taken from slayed viper--revealed a bright red tongue inside and suctioned up the boy, and after a deep inhale, blew the boy through the air barreling at catapult speed, but not before hearing from the owner of the blinking yellow eye lids in deep confident tuba baritone , “ Tell our Queen-- I will find her—alright Sponge .”
Chimes rang and then were swallowed up by the desolate land.  A skid trail twenty long was behind him, that connected the flat stainless steel graveyard land to a rolling land he was now in.  Littered still with scale but not dangerous tackle, the piedmont milieu was decorated with more natural objects: shells, conches, and swaying plants of red and blue.  He badly wanted to go back to the Hoomah, who was somewhere behind that grey impenetrable light, and suddenly felt cowardly for being so afraid amongst the stalwart, and for escaping away from the Damsel.    
Off distant, the blue and red plants suddenly started swaying, as if a breeze was snaking a path through them, making its way towards the derelict boy.  Sake braced himself, for what he thought would be a cold breeze, as the nearest plants rose ten feet higher into the air.  No breeze came.  
The foreboding path deterred Sake to traverse to the side of the swaying alley, and as if a breeze had started from his location, arose and went back down the alley, and the once swaying plants became still.  
Standing before a new lane,  the same breeze came, enlivening a new alley of plants, the nearest ones rising into the air.  The boy gulped.  But this was the direction the Hoomah pointed with his snout, so he proceeded.
Chapter 3 A Stunning Land
" This quest is not for thee."--Tennyson, Holy Grail

An almost inaudible whisper came and Sake turned as if he was tapped on the shoulder: “ hope and change I care for you.”   The sound came from a large waving blue plant, but the boy did not see anyone around it.  He resumed his awkward pace, this time a red plant on his right rose up well over his head.  “ family together I work for you.”  The sound had to be coming from inside the plants, Sake looked at the plants, they looked harmless and even inviting with color far different then where he had just been.  He kept to the center of the path well away from the still upright neon plants.  He passed another red plant, “ united with her, love forever.”  He paused to look at this blue plant, it had took the form of a house, a tall house; a mother ,father, and daughter were in the doorway.  “ join us, forever, hope, change.”  The red plant rose up even higher behind him, “Come inside, let us help, unite, forever.”  The red plant took the form of a little girl made up of slithering tendrils.  She animated and started skipping with a pony tail of tendrils streaming .  Sake was mesmerized, he held his arm out to touch the red image made up of adroit tendril, and the image held her hand to him fingertip to fingertip; the girl burned his finger, he brought back his hand and crossed his arms to smother the searing pain.  But the image was still there, “  not leave me here alone Sake come stay in with me.”  Sake walked away down the corridor as goosebumps flared up his back and more plants waved to the air.
“ Son, I am for you, come let give you hug, it’s had  too long, me  your mother  back together,  like old times, now come hug, yes we can.”  The blue tendrils even darkened the 5:00 o’clock stubble on Sake’s father’s face.  Sake was mesmerized, “ You’re not my father,” he whispered to himself unconfidently  as he held out his arms and headed into the blue tendrilled siloutte of his father, “ Good boy, forever, we can,” whispered the plant.  Sake felt the stubble of his  father’s face just like old times, a sting full scratch against his face. But the boy saw something in the center of the waving plant, that was busy assembling most of itself to allure the boy.  “ My promise to-- a whole new land” said the fatherly image with arms going around the boy.  Sake saw what they were in the center of the plants; tendrils that have assembled themselves into coffins, with portholes where one could see skulls with bits and pieces of bright colored scale still on it.  One head opened its jaw to reveal tendrils inside—probing and nestling--sending the boy retreating out of the blue tendrils .  Away from the now upright swaying blue neon plant, he felt the scratchy sting from the stubbly blue beard, and as it flared up, his vision pulsed blue. His finger and his face hurt in alternating turns, as if the plants were in alliance, to not waste a pain receptor of their prey.  Economical.  Sake looked back down the corridor, the plants were almost fighting with each other, like teachers and priests arguing over the souls of children.  They interfere with each other, thought the boy unconsciously.
“Don’t you want be family, and change,” the tendrils were already assembling themselves again as they rose upright.  Sake turned, and hugged the center of the path out of the reach of the red and blue tendrils.  Behind him, a red plant whispered “don’t leave me”, he looked back to see tendrils start to coil around her and drag her back into the center, the person being dragged was the young girl “ Noooo,” Sake yelled, and fell to his knees.  The father image assembled again, yelling “  son, never, forever, come back to past for a better future.”  A door formed and the tentacles acted out someone being dragged inside a room.  Sake turned to move on, a red and blue tear swam out of his eyes in a snakes swim, knotting and crushing itself into obscurity.
He quickened his pace, estimating the length   of the tendrils and walking down the middle out of their reach.  They all rose up as he came before them, “ value me….family first….hope” and as he passed them they could be heard saying “ value, death, forever….depths.”  Some sent beautiful faces out to kiss him, saying “ oh what  marvelous handsome little ….what fine hero  be someday….come  gather  your  insides inside…” They were relatives of his, and so strangers that just made him quicken his pace--at times angling himself like he was doing the limbo, so he would not feel the heated touch of the red and blue plants.
He was almost out of the dangerous corridor.  There was a giant red and blue plant, intertwining to form a mesh gate, leading out of the seductive  alley.  Their tendrils were high and numerous enough to grab the boy;  Sake looked back at all the still slithering apparitions behind him, and decided he could not make it back the way he came. The red and blue intertwined plant  ahead of him was massive,  and foreboding, it was the Magnificent Anemone--it was getting darker out too, the darkening atmosphere brought forth more plants with the buzzing and sputtering  of neon signs being turned on in a bar window, sending a reminiscent chill down Sake’s spine.  A blue tendril sign read “ Damsel,” a red one said “ Ours.”
“ I need armour” he said to himself--a tactic he recalled from his brief encounter with the Hoomah .  The remembrance of the Hoomah, gave him the will to carry on, and shake off the visual stunnings of the anemones.  He feared the Tang, but admired the Hoomah’s wise face with the pastel war paint.
There was plenty of armor lying around: shells, metallic scales, conches, lime green seaweed.  He wrapped his arms and legs with the seaweed, weaved the metallic scales into them using the diamond line that wrapped around his leg like a reel as he tripped over it earlier. He saw a scallop shell inside a plant to his side, he could not get it out without something, for the plants would surely burn him.
As he worked, he felt the slithering tendrils on his shoulder or back, but as soon as he turned in surprise, there was nothing there.  He sawed the diamond line with a jagged shell,  like he was playing the harp.  A melancholic sound emitted,  the tendrils sang in his ear to the tune of his sawing—obliiiiiviooon--they sang, he looked over his shoulder startled—but nothing was there.  His face burned from the neon plant’s stunning, he badly wanted something to protect his face.  Back in the bottleneck of the corridor, where the plants converged dangerously close, where he had been seduced and seared minutes before, was a conch shell and hook the size of Sake’s arm on either side of the alley he realized now.  I do not want to go back there…I cannot,  whimpered Sake as he stared off at the conch.  But the conch beckoned him, with its glowing bone white knuckled fist,  -- looks that looked out of place, and defiant to the neon plants.  
Sake stumbled towards it, mumbling this is gunna suck over and over again.  The plants let him in then re-animated again.  The conch was under a blue plant, the hook a red one.  
“ The outcome not  does look good forever.”  Sake turned round, to see where the voice was coming from.  It was a hospital room, no face could be clearly seen.  They were gathered around someone in the hospital bed with a doctor telling a prognosis.  The image stunned him, his heart palpitated in his chest and he struggled for air.  The hospital bed lowered into a cavern below the anemone, as if a casket being interred. Sake clutched his heart.  “ The court  now session for oblivion.”  The plant behind him turned into a courtroom, with a woman crying at the stand, her face buried in her hands.  “ The divorce is now always, and he is forsaken, always and for oblivion.”  The woman on the tendrilled stand lifted her face, and was streaked with her make-up in a clown like manner.
Sake was immobilized, he should not have come back down the corridor.  He stood, as if a spider bit him, and he was dissolving from the inside, but the painful images came undone, and released the boy.  One tendril even snapped its fingers to awaken him from his stunning. “ Awaken my poor boy,” whispered from all angles of concealment in a woman’s blithe voice.   He aroused, shook his head, remembering his aim, to get armor.
He took step by cautious step for the hook, but still was aloof, his feet were struggling to learn this world’s gravity, an enslaved collage of color on both sides of extreme, oblivion black and the interplanetary blinding lightning color, with the lifeless neutral point the grey metallic scale color of viper.
Expecting the neon red plant, that was a still-picture of a five thousand degree fire to come alive and ensnare him, he moved to the hook the size of a side sword under the red glare—his shadow emblazoned behind him in like a dark socket, outlined by a bright arterial glare; but the plant did not animate, and Sake grabbed the hook, and retreated back to the aisle.  
On the other side of the aisle, the conch sat, in white knuckle defiance staring down the blue plant, almost keeping it at bay.  Sake followed after the barb of the hook in which he led with, and hooked the conch closer to him while keeping his eyes on the blue plant.  He hastened out of the aisle to the opening before the giant magnificent blue-red anemone.  “ I hope this fits” he uttered pathetically as he slipped the smooth opening of the conch over his nose, and as if destined, it locked onto his nose and chin.  He removed it, and with one of the sharp knuckles on his new face mask, he sawed the diamond line on his leg, and through two convenient holes in the conch, he fastened it back onto his face.  It glowed white knuckle hot, and cooled instantly the sting on his face from the blue plant.
“ Much better,” sake said, and to his surprise, his words were converted to a deeper voice, rectified and pressed together from fathoms, and it was sand crystal clear.  He used the hook and released the scallop shell from the site of its demise, but a fated demise for its body would serve as armor for this boy and the world it’s in.
He approached the intermeshing barricade, with the scallop shell held in front of his vulnerable torso, the viper scales shining on his shoulders and limbs, and the conch strapped around his face like a hounds helm; his hands were still vulnerable though, and there were spots not covered by the viper scale, but those spots were padded with extra sea weed.  He lifted his hook to start slashing at the barricade but it began unfurling in the same manner of two tendrilled coral snakes releasing eachother from an interlocking kiss, the more they pulled back the wider they opened and louder they hissed, venom dangled out their fangs, but was actually the illusion of the anemone.  
A long arcade of ornate fluted columns opened up before him  with the live pulsing contour of a dragons throat.   On the slightly unstill columns,  were torches made of the same deadly anemone material, waving with what looked to be red and blue neon tinted deep sea centipedes; legs and incisors opening and closing.  Sake stepped reluctantly into the long hall, and the red and blue tendrils formed overhead and behind him, imitating a bar coming down to lock the two doors to a palace gate.  He gulped.  The plants did not seem to be interested in him, other than drawing him further into the swarming palace.  He stepped at a cautious pace; his hand  still stung from the blue plant which seared him earlier.  As he walked, he looked into the recesses in between the columns—shark bones, with tendrils waving out of sockets as eye lashes-- blinking, dilating, watching the boy.  He looked to the other side: great jaw bones, long since dead, came alive with wicked waving red tongues.  There were knights also, fallen in death, the tendrils polishing their armor as they spoon fed from the remnants that once wore them; a trigger fish was splayed between two columns, bone armor with an indentation that said ‘ Clan Hoomah.”  The other side, a knight propped up—was a butterfly fish, with silver armor indented with ‘ House Of Tang.’
Chandeliers came down from the ceiling, spinning, and emblazoning blue red lozenges on his scallop shield; Sake looked at his shield, it now bared heraldry of a knight dying, and already being buried with dirt by the parents; the motto of the shield said Only Death Shall Set You Free.
The boy looked around in awful trepidation as he passed down the long hall, the light emblazoning the deathful illustration on his shield departed.
  He pulled out the barbed hook from his belt, as he reached a foyer.  The tendrils formed vases, paintings, sculptures of Spartans, Athenians, Romans, all  gesturing for mercy from their unseen slayers.  The stair case formed, and came unrolling down to the boy.  He climbed, with awkward gait.  Every footstep sizzled off the red treads, his shoe tips sizzled from contact with the blue risers.  He picked up his speed to get off the grand staircase before they burned through his shoes.  Upon reaching the top, the first sound other than deadly nestling came, “ Come my boy, ahah, come forth, let me see what a strong brave boy you are,” the sound was coming from directly ahead of him.  
On a couch of red tendril, an orange and white body laid with utmost hedonism.  Fans of blue connected to the side walls , were waving  and cooling off the boy’s addressor.   It was very warm inside, and past the couched madam, were flambeaux torches, that were burning fuel of decomposition.  
An orange clown, lightning bolted with white, laid horizontal on a waving, caressing couch.  A blue tendril came and fed her a flake, a red one wiped her mouth.  “ Oh such cute armor, conch, and viper skin, ahah, such a warrior, even better than the those Hoomah’s.    Come, my boy you must be hungry.”  The drawing room turned its walls into a kitchen, the Clowness got up, a spectacular dress of blue, a french braid of red formed under and above her, her orange nose, in human dimensions wrinkled every time she spoke suggesting snobbery.
  The palace came forth to unfurl her red carpet, as she went up to a red blue stove, with pans that were sizzling with viper bodies in them—their dead eyes bubbling in the heat provided by the plants scorching sting.  “ You must be hungry my brave warrior, that shield is heavy as your legs look, perhaps you would like some poached conch wrapped with seaweed, served on scallop shell.”  As the queen of the red blue palace trailed her flowing dress and flowing French braid, the tendrils formed her arms and picked up the plates, that were of the same variety that made up Sake’s armor, helm and shield.  Sake dropped the long hook, and dropped the shield.  He could be devoured any second, those statues in the earlier foyer, were pleading mercy from the Clowness, and so would he.
“ Are you going to kill me?” asked Sake, and he was surprised to realize that through the conch on his mouth, he could speak bravely and intelligibly in the face of death.  The Clowness laughed, “ kill you, oh poor boy, that would be rude of me,  me and you need each other.  You’re here to rescue the poor Damsel, and stop this ooohh bitter cold from coming , with all this grey, how blazay.”  
The Clowness moved with her wavering blue dress behind her to the other wall, “ The coral kingdom my boy, is what’s at stake, and we cannot let Crabaltar penetrate into the kingdom, but I say, night is falling here, my palace keeps me warm, but my palace likes the cold, and it takes all my power  to hold them back from your warmth, they turn everything bone cold in the end hahaha, you need to get to the warm Coral Kingdom, and fast, for the vipers are coming along with other cold depth creatures.  The Queen is already sick you see,” the tendrils formed to show a magnificent looking Angel fish lying in her bed, with colors turning fantastic.  “ Oh poor queen, and all this wrought after the Damsel disappears into the cold realms.  All those yellow fins, and still they cannot save her,”  the Clowness’  dress wrapped around her tight, her red tendril hair spiraled up, a microphone came forth from her servants, a chandelier came down with stinging fluorescence.
The back wall formed the posture of a red organ ironically, for the whole palace seemed like a thriving organ.  The side wall formed blue drumsticks and banged on blue drums,  the Clowness, looking miraculous and stunning from the boy’s viewpoint, took the blue microphone and said in a transatlantic singing voice: “ Well show me the way, to the next little girl, for if we don’t find that little damsel girl, I’ll tell you we must die.  Oh the viper moon , and we are losing our good old mama queen, and if that little girl has died, from the mahi mahi there will be nowhere to hide, oh show me the way to the next little boy.”  The Clowness stopped, and gathered herself up, lying on her caressing couch exhausted, her slender servants rushing out to her. Sake could see green droplets of what looked like mucus sweat coming from her face and body—be telling something world old of the young Clown.  “ You see boy, someone has to find the Damsel, or coldness will reign, and the coral will petrify, oh how all the bright fish won’t stand a chance against the vipers, they’ll be sought out and devoured. (as she said that, a tendril mimicked the act, with the red tendril being the remains).  No one wants that, and then there is the Mahi Mahi.”
“ What’s the Mahi Mahi? Asked the boy still in the same exact spot, afraid to move.
“Oh the Mahi Mahi, if the vipers and other deep sea creatures rule the night, it is the Mahi Mahi that reigns supreme during the day.  She has a barb in her heart, her lips are studded with a hundred hooks, and her ears dangle line connected to hooks scouring the floor for flesh.  She was scorned, and slithers down from  the depths, when she descends, she screams, and anything that moves, is….(a tendril drew a knife motion across the Clowness’ throat) has a worst fate than my tendrils(the tendrils formed a large cavity somewhat of a stomach with blue tendril inside imitating the scream painting).  No one can remain in place after her tormented scream ahaha.”  The tendrils formed a horrific hook studded fish swallowing down from the depths, with everything scurrying out of the way.  Then they untangled, and wiped the Clowness’ face, and powdered her nose.
“ It will be a lonely cold path my boy, you will need everything you have to make it here, the Damsel, well, it does not look good for her.”
Sake looked at the hedonic Clowness, her audacity filled him with anger, that anger devoured his fear.  This world is not different from mine, lonely, and cold.  That thought creeped from his head, and through the conch over his mouth to say in a whisper “ I will save her you witch.”  The conch over his mouth translated his naiveté into defiance, invoking a sense of symbiotic alliance with his armour, in turn invoking a sense of futile hope, that if he had known someone believed in him as his armour did, he would have walked back through those rows of neon plants, that sounded like every preacher, teacher and politician of his life speaking their own selfishness.  The neon plants were like the teachers and priests fighting over children that were throwing paper airplanes while they talked, thinking of things afar.  During the day the teacher would talk of things en masse, and at night, the priest would conduct mass; he wanted to be gone from the state of mass altogether; all had nothing to do with Sake’s internal battle, he was suffering, and alone--abandoned.  That is when the grey skies of mass came, when the teacher talked of oblivion during the day, and the teacher of “hell” at night.  The two colors of this world thought Sake.  But the color he had seen on the Tang and Hoomah, were different he thought.
They were one of the same for Sake,  cold neon blue and cold neon red, and they both fought eachother, as they do most likely at home.   The Clowness had built her palace with an entrapping mockery of color, of vehemence  and callousness.  It was true, the red and blue ferns were of a different spectrum, and had a different purpose than the tropical ones.
“So, what are we going to do with our warrior, “  a hall formed on the far end of the drawing room, with descending stairs, “ we need to help you get to the Coral Kingdom, oh that poor Queen, missing her Damsel, oh boo hoo.” Her couch wiped her eyes. “ Go, my boy, get to the Coral kingdom, tell her that the Clowness offers her premises if the cold disrupts her kingdom, and beware the Mahi Mahi.”  A blue tendril picked up his scallop shield and gave it to him, as he was being moved away from the lounging Clowness on descending escalator.  Sake looked back, her French braid swirled upward, and a red tendril dangled a sizzling viper in her mouth.” Better Hurry Buddy boy.”  He looked forward in breathing a sigh of relief to be leaving her domicile.  A door unbarred and he was out of the palace of the Clowness.

Chapter 4 Land Of the Egg Eaters
" ...and you shall slither on your belly, and eat dust"

The ground graduated into capsules of red and blue interspersed with upright anfractuous plants that have been stunted from growing to maturity—almost strangled to a gnarled state; Sake owned the only luster of the plain—with chain scale he wore as a doublet.  He thought about dropping the scallop shield, it was tiring his arm, but a gigantic shadow slithered over the land in the distance—the size of cloud, and there were no clouds above in the depths, only impenetrable grey light.  It was cold, and getting colder.  The brightness to his rear—that was the Clowness’ domain-- was slowly receding with every distorting wave that blew across the plain.
Something rippled across the ground to his front, then off to his side.  He pulled his hook out, and raised his shield, and walked on with clumsy gait.  Another ripple.   He turned, but saw nothing.  He turned back around, and dangling out of from the ground in front of him was a blue and white striped snake, with blue eyes that had the flicker shape of a candle—hypnotic  blue pupil silhouettes that opened up and swallowed  a small remaining portion of itself, then waved and and laid down—snake eyes of a continuous liquid motion staring into the shocked green ovals of the boy.
“ And who is this?” the serpents voice was sedated, its snub jaw barely moving, but revealing small rows of fangs.  Sake held his shield between the approaching snake and him.
“ I am passing through, to the, to the Coral Kingdom, so get out of my way,” the boy’s voice quaked and in turn was rectified by the conch and its ages old veteran calcium, “ Out of my way” said the boy’s facemask, but his eyes betold of hesitation, which a snake always capitalizes on.
“ Oh you are, are you” the snake’s voice was more haughty and drawn out.  “ You do not want to be mon ami, we do not get many visitors.”  Sake squinted  and looked around him when the lethargic snake said ‘we.’  “  My name is Caviar, what is yours?” the snake twisted itself up putting its small head on level with with the boys.
“ My name is, is Sake, I have to go,” Sake could see a vaporous blue breath coiling in and out of the snake’s mouth.    He turned and went to sidestep the solicitous snake, but the reptile was to circuitous and slithered through the red and blue capsuled ground and twisted up to eye level with the boy, mesmerizing Sake until he shook his head and turned around with his shield over his back, to head back to the domain of the Clowness.  The ground rippled before him and up sprung a red and white snake.
“ Who do we have here Caviar?”
“ It is a new friend, introduce yourself Caliente.”  The boy was turning clumsily in both directions with his shield to face the two threats at once. The latest arrival, was not sedated, talked fast, and twisted its body like a barbershop sign causing the boy’s eyes to cross.  “ Please stay amigo” said the red striped snake—vapors were protruding from its nose holes forming large fangs, then retracted by dissipating; his pupils could have been the psychedelic looking hyacinth seeds if not for lacking the third dimension-- kidney shaped and white, bespattered with all shape of capillary red.  The snake came up to eye level of the boy and widened his lids revealing his blood shot hyacinth eyes.  The red smears seemed to come forth out of its elliptical white dimensions: intertwining…climbing, kissing…then knotting, tightening…strangling, swaying, and stilling.
Sake was gorgonized.  A scream came down from up in the depths and snapped him out of it, just as Caviar was slithering forward targeting a chink in the boy’s armor.  The large shadow enveloped Sake and his venomous interlocutors.  He looked back at Caviar, his eyes were neon now in the shadow—with the same liquid blue metal, but no longer the ladylike form waving goodbye and laying down, but of an even more hypnotic motion, a morphine drip of tears…drip….drop.  Sake shook his head…shut his eyes, but still saw the elliptical drip drops  reflecting on his black eyelids.  He raised his shield to the approaching Caliente—whose eyes ever brightened in the shadow,  projected a film from the iris—capillary streaks were in a fight with each other; one streak struck the other, and picked it up and carried it off…back into the two dimensional realm of Caliente’s eyes.  
The shadow flitted across the land and out of sight, the snakes hypnotic eyes lessened in intensity.  “ Come on, let us have a kiss, a kiss is all we miss,” said Caviar in his sedated tone.
“ Yes, one hiss of our kiss, will be delish,” said Caliente with smoky tendrils fuming out of his nose holes.  Sake turned sharply, and heard the “ting” off his scallop shield.  Caliente went forward to kiss the boy, but was intercepted.  " Please, leave me alone," begged the boy.  He turned again, this time it was Caviar slithering down low for a fatal kiss, Sake dropped his knee and his heavy shield downward cutting the snake in half.  Blue egg capsules squeezed out of the snake’s innards.  
“ Nooo, Caviar,” Caliente’s hyacinth pupils were now arcing, binging with lunacy.  The snake bent its body sharply and thrusted, pushing the shield and the boy backward.  It recoiled for another strike almost like a fencer,  Sake’s arms were tiring—the snake formed a ninety degree angle then sprung, tapping off the shield, it recovered and thrusted again, and again—Sake was grunting every time he lifted the shield, and he was losing sight of the red and white snake because his shield was steaming from the coral snakes kisses.  “ One kiss is on your list, oh don’t worry it will be so delish,” taunted the snake’s voice, the boy could not locate its source.  Sake took a step back and sunk up to his knee, he had stepped inside an upside down conch.  He heard movement to his right and posted his shield up and in turn heard the “ting” sound emitted off his shield.  Ting…ting Ting…the snake was inexhaustible.  The boy’s  leg was beyond his shield, and his other leg was  inside the conch; he felt the small but devastating bite on his leg,  gashing the snake across its face with his hook, he stunned the snake momentarily.
“ Nooo, “ the boy said, knowing the snake possessed some kind of venom.  He brought the wounded leg back under his body inside the conch, took a step backwards, and as if descending a staircase, lowered into the conch, then stumbled inside its winding staircase. The shield falling over the entrance sealing it shut.
He fell onto the first landing, and then tumbled in a slinky motion finally stopping on hard-smooth-level ground.  Grabbing the the hound conch  guard from his mouth and tearing it off, he fell to his knees and breathed in deeply.  There was a long dark corridor ahead of him, faintly visible due to the pink color of the giant underground conch tunnel.  Boom….boom boom…his heart thudded.  
Putting one hand on the floor, putting himself in a three point stance, he lifted himself to his feet and trudged forward.  The corridor curved subtly—taking the bend, the ambiance changed drastically and took on the form of the lower levels of an aquarium, pink light reflecting down the dark walls that were equipped with large ports.  Lumbering with the disregard that someone with high fever has, he came up to the first port, it was painting, a living painting that drew him forth.
It was a coral palace, an electric lighted playground almost, neon green palm’s waving tendrils that formed an arcade leading up to a throne where a most striking and beautiful queen sat—she was adorned with every color of the rainbow, and had a crystallizing white traces growing over her face that wore a veil of royal purple.  At her feet, mid bow, were two warriors in shining  and bone armor, the Tang and the Hoomah.  
The boy was entranced with the moving painting, and went to walk into it.  As his nose was a hair away, he saw what made the painting move, little hermit crabs—some with scarlet legs and some with blue legs--  busy scurrying around tracing the magnificent colors, their shells glowing to the color they were painting; their hooked claws like assembly line lasers emblazoning the pink creamy white walls of the conch.  “ So beautiful,” said Sake in his delirium, then rolled along the wall to the next painting, it was the Damsel as the center of attention in a ballroom, suitors and handmaids in the motion of the minuet around her.  Her purple corset shined brilliantly, her elliptical eyes modestly aimed down as if she was mid dance, the Hoomah was in the background, body still, with eyes fixed wondrously on the Damsel.  The Tang was beside him, looking with considerably  more affection at the Damsel; but there was a large brooding golden knight in the background—the only one adorning the vain color of gold, the color which with all its ostentatious and glare was considered a cheap imitator by the lush neon and pastel colors around him, and the void above in the depths at the golden knights shoulders in the open air court hall seemed to distinguish the golden glare to a rusty imperceptibility;     the rest of the knights were in a form of silver, bone or steel.
  Sake went to walk into the picture, but stopped upon seeing the hermit crabs busy rendering another mirage paintings.  Hand over hand along the wall, he came upon the next painting.  It shined with the colors of Caliente and Caviar’s eyes.  It was the Clowness, on a lush red anemone, with blue tendril chandeliers over her, there was a parrot fish perched beside her attending.  Sake backed away from the painting, the Clowness’s stare was that of aspiration, and a colder grimmace than Caviar’s.  The painting started its transition with lava lamp fluidity; showing the Clowness surrounded by little clown babies, and with machine motion, the painting depicted the little clowns being gobbled up by their mother.  Sake tucked his chin into his neck, “ Mmmblurf,” he mumbled, which was surely an expletive starting with “ What the...”
The next painting was dark, barely perceptible, a nocturne of perhaps a barge on a dark stormy ocean.  No, it was a bed in a room.   A boy was being painted on the bed, with his eyes looking forward unblinking at something bright in the corner; the hermit crabs painted his forehead glowing hot, and there was a blue capsule on the bed stand, that looked like medicine.  The painting started glowing red hot, and blinding.  Sake covered his eyes, only to notice he was losing his vision—as if staring into a solar eclipse.  He fell to his knees, and listened to the peaceful inner humming of the conch, he could just lie down and not worry anymore but as he was descending down, on the inside of his eyelids something was being painted, it was purple and beautiful.  Dancing in the wind, it was the Damsel, and she gestured for him to get up and go get the antidote—so he got to his feet, and followed the walls of the conch back to the winding stairwell he fell down, where the inner humming of the conch mixed with the thudding of his heartbeat, along with the tinging sound  that was Caliente striking the scallop shield in his red hot fury.  Now Sake would have to face the snake blind, to obtain the capsule outside on the ground that was shown to him in the artwork.
  All form of expression fell from the boy’s face, he sat stoically, wiped the sweat droplets from his forehead-- put back on his hound conch mask, strapped it snug and climbed up the stairs to the tapping shield.
Thud…tap….thud(of his heart)…tap(of the shield).  He listened, gaging the pattern of the enraged snake.  Putting his feet on the shield and his back against the inside wall, he readied himself.  Tap…tap…tap, tap… all he could see was the snakes pupils now in his blindness, the hyacinth seeds, the red lines strangling and slapping each other, one always overtaking the other. Tap….he straightened his legs with all his might, sending the shield upward.  The decibel of the snakes jaw hitting off the shield was attuned by the boy’s ear.  He scrambled out, feeling the ground, holding capsules to his eyes, almost pressing them to his eyes.  “Dam, only red” he said after making out the aura of the capsule.  Rustling came from behind him, Caliente was over his stunning, Sake had to turn and ready his shield, he could not gauge where the lethal snake was, he swiped the air with his hook to get his stalker to betray his location.
“ A miss, but I won’t miss with my kiss…another miss, can’t find the source of hiss,” laughed the snake toying with the vulnerable prey.  “ A kiss is on your list.”
The snake lunged but the boy reacted in the microsecond stopping the strike, Sake backed up against a stunted tree.  There was  capsule dangling from one of its branches above his head, and the boy saw that it was blue.  Instinct kicked in quick for the boy, he swiped at the capsule hanging, and hooked it in, retreating behind the tree, he squeezed it over his mouth and swallowed the juice.  “ A kiss is all I wish,” came the snake around the tree.  Sake wobbled backward, and readied his shield in the wrong direction—baiting the snake to strike while watching the now visible red and white snake unblinkingly feigning being blind.  Caliente lunged at his exposed neck line, where the boy was expecting him, the hook came upward through jaw ,tongue and brain.  Sake used the tree to help remove the lifeless snake from his barb.
“ Ya, You can kiss my butt snake,” said the conch over the boy’s mouth, which was almost near to the boys own words….surprising Sake as he stowed his hook in his belt to free his hand to rub his eyes.  Everything was tinted blue.  A cold breeze stirred through all the gnarled trees.  The grey horizon was darkening.  The capsuled wasteland was awakening from its lethargy in a red and blue glow, like lava meandering over cindering blue coal.  He looked down at his hooked sword, it was steaming with red fluid at its tip.  A lacerating scream came from the darkening depths.  Sake sliced some thin switches from the tree, and picked up some red capsules and strapped them to his belt, then retreated to the conch entrance and sat down.  It was if that loud tormented cry was tolling for the oncoming night, Sake knew it was the Mahi Mahi, but was not particularly worried about it, for at the moment the stars were descending from the depths as the ground lit up, and things could be heard scrambling for hiding spaces.  The blue tint lessened to a smaller degree, or so he thought.  Taking refuge back in the underground conch he pulled the shield three quarters over the entrance, watching the lights descend like coins falling to the bottom of the sea.  Two lights sped for each other, sparks ignited.  More broke their descending methodic speed and darted for prey on the lit floor.  He made eye contact with a psycho razor grin, then pulled the shield all the way over the entrance.

Chapter 5 Night Of The Viper
" I had a dream, which was not all a dream, the sun was extinguish'd and the stars."--Darkness, Lord Byron.

His footsteps rang into the hollow curving chamber of the conch, he turned the bend to find that the previous paintings on the left were now gone.  The interior walls of the conch were blue now and not pink.  He doffed his conch from his face, and walked in a brusque manner to the first painting.  
The hermit crabs were arcing with blue lightning diagonally from each other, assembling a blue hour glass, that then turned sideways forming the Damsel’s elliptical eyes.  Tremendous sadness and shame assailed the boy’s heart.  He walked on to the next painting.
It was Crabaltar, with its entire dark crevice, the hermit crabs were hot pink as they were working slowly to lazer  the jumble of rocks in the same  nominal speed of a photocopier.  Next to the pink lines was infinitesimal darkness, and the real picture came into the boy’s view.  The shadows formed the Crab in the interstice of the Stonehenge-like rock jumble--with its scythes upward, with the Damsel in his claws, she was dripping hot pink.  He moved on quickly from that painting.
Adjacent, was a painting almost bordered itself by reflective blue waves, Sake could not make out where the conch ended and the painting started.  The hermits left the canvas blank, until its viewer stepped fully in front of it.  There were many painters assigned to this piece, and it would be massive.  Twilight lines started the head and forehead: Siberian white stripes,  ranks and ranks of clashing silver scale, nebulas of red dots.  As the massive beast was being filled in, studs and studs of hooks came into perception, dangling from the massive lips.  Trident anchors of barb hung from the gills, diamond line strangled around its throat. A giant spear or harpoon protruded from its chest. The artwork enlivened, startling Sake backward, it swam the depths, with a tortured look on its face.  It grew and grew, taking up the entire tunnel, then it screamed revealing trident hooks on its tongue and tonsils.  
Covering his ears, “ arrrrrrrrrr” he screamed, which was only a whisper under the shriek of the Mahi  Mahi on the conch wall. He tried to retreat away from the growing monster, running around the bend to the unexplored corridor, the beast followed in length and torturous echo. Tear drops were landing on his shoes, he fell forward in front of a painting that was just before a rising spiral-staircase at the end of the conch.  The sound and sight of the Mahi Mahi vanished as Sake kneeled, crying, before another painting, denoted by the flurescent arcing, suggesting it was warming up--
The hermit's painting assembled the image with the reticulate pattern of the human iris.  But it became apparent that it was coral, a giant massive brain coral, with a frontal lobe of bright green, right of red, and left of blue, underneath was purple. It was an oracle of some sort, a ‘Coracle.’  The purple was flaring more than other parts and was leaking into the grey matter grooves and spilling out of its section.  Three figures came into view at the base, the forward one was a boy, in armor, scallop shield and straight sword; to his rear was the Tang in a shiny cuirass with a dorsal sabre and pectoral dagger; next to him, the block body of the Hoomah, in his mouth like a toothpick  was a barbed hook-- the war paint of yellow and pink dripping from his right eye, his lids were wide open and he is staring intensely at the interaction of the boy and the coral.  
Battle erupted on the painting, showing only the Hoomah and Tang back to back.  The big body of the Hoomah spit bolts and barb at assailers of pscyho grin as they screamed with sadistic seizure from the impalement they recieved.  The glowing skull lure of a thousand vipers were surrounding them from the darkness.  It was as if the two knights commanded the spotlight on a dark stage with the audience grinding their teeth of flint.
    As the vipers lunged forward, the two fish moved too quickly to be perceived correctly, the Tang was a forge bedecked with silver swords fresh from the flames;  and the Hoomah:  who’s bone armored body resembling the shape of a cross bow with the sight rising just under his large mouth screamed baritone at the demonic hoard with a powerfull  war cry shockwave that bought his armor  time to load the next bolt.
  The attackers were limitless, and occasioned with bigger deep sea creatures; spinal cords connected to bear trap brown scale heads, their jaws wide and ready, as their tongues slithered in front as their form of lure for their prey: they were the Gulpers.
   Sake stepped away from the painting, it was so intimidating, and immediatly felt cowardice at not being brave enough to want to help the suicidal duo in their last stand.  He clenched his fist, inspired, commanded by the travesty of the besieged.  
The Tang became maimed first, a gulper bit out a chunk of his tail fin in its fast jaw spring lethality.  The Hoomah blew air from its powerful mouth blowing the assailers off the Tang then rammed a gulper with a barb sticking out of his lips, like a prow of a trireme at ramming speed.  But a viper took advantage of the Hoomah’s distraction and bit between his bone armor.  Bright yellow lids widened at impending death.   The vast glowing lures from the approaching darkness that surrounded the spotlighted arena formed the outline of the Crab, in the interstices of the viper skull lures.  The two tropical warriors could not be seen anymore, only wagging tail fins of the voracious vipers, as the glowing lures became inordinate, as the stars in the black expanse.  I rather die with them, then be enchanted by the viper like everybody else—thought but did not speak Sake, for fear that the painting's depicture would be given materialistic merit by his words, making it an actuality, rendering him alone.  Then the thought of the tendrils from the Clowness’ palace wearing the two fallen knights armor came to mind, infuriating him.  The depravity and onslaught of it all.  
The painting reverted back to the Coracle, but no one was standing at its forefront anymore; purple was spilling out from the coral and engulfing the entire canvas until all was of one color; in turn the whole tunnel glowed with the royal color, then in one blink the tunnel was empty except for blue waves of light interspersing the walls. The tunnel was quiet.  Sake continued looking at the spot where the artwork was, something about it, something fated about that depicture that told him he must re-unite with both knights before it is too late.
He climbed the stairs past the point where the last painting was, and found a cat hole to look out of at the top.  The glowing bait of the prowling vipers dashed and cruised the black expanse.  Struggles could be heard at intervals, but otherwise it was tranquil.  Sake sat on the step, and was resting his back against the wall, when he heard his name being called from the darkness.  He looked to first see a flowing dress, ghastly white, then a frail arm, “ Saaaaake” the voice was childlike, or was a child-like predator.  The flowing dress and the frail hand moved over the loophole, Sake saw what it was.  The skinny arm was a tentacle belonging to the translucent dress of a jelly.  The head came into view, and Sake whacked his head against the back wall; the jellyfish had a globular head, that en-sphered a dissolving viper head; the psycho grin and black eyes of the viper became the jelly’s face.  “ Disgusting,” whispered Sake, trying to be barely audible to this dark world.  He moved four steps down, and rested, until he fell asleep.
His dreams were loneliness, the black expanse beyond the conch poured into his mental panorama as a black cauldron pouring out black fluid.  In dream, he felt the strength of an undertow when something massive swam by him, but paying no attention to him.  He searched for a glimmer, as he was sinking, or rising… pure vertigo, pure pure vertigo in a never ending cold black universe.  Then the feeling came, as a blacker essence came forth in the abyss,  it was the crab’s scythe , and it clicked close foretelling the boy that death: is oblivion.  The boy screamed at the form, the ultimate tragedy leading to his ultimate shame, he screamed the words “ The Coral Kingdom” the claw clicked open, only to close again; he couldn’t believe it, all were subject to the cannibalistic realm of the crab, the realm of ‘ In the eye, out the mouth’ , he screamed for light, and there came forth a glimmer, a sparkle, a glimpse of hope.  It fluttered to him, and a halo of light illumined from a beacon,  it was the glowing skull lure that was arched from a vipers forehead, it was squirming into his black panorama to devour his hope, it writhed and gnashed, Sake woke up.  
A viper was writhing through the cat hole, it was breaking its own teeth to get inside in a metallic frenzy.  Sake stepped to the intruder, and drove the barb through its brain.  The view to the darkness was now blocked by the dead viper.  He was almost glad it had waked him from that dream.
Before he sat down, he saw a cleft in the shape of a oak leaf in the conch’s wall, and immediately thought of a sword, looking down at his hook his brain was moved by the thought he could straigten out the hooked weapon he held in his hand.  Arising, he stuck the hook in it with an upright position; the barb fit inside as a key into a tumbler; Sake then bent it straight, leaning every ounce of meat and bone on his body.  
The dream maddened him still, and the sound outside the conch, had the sound from inside his dream.  He lopped off the viper’s head and carved the vipers ribs, making a cup hilt for his handle.  He had to pry the ribs out, for they were metallic, and the sound was that of claws scraping down a chalkboard.  Sake had a scowl on his face as he worked, but he was still aware of his fear of the vipers carcass coming alive like a mesh mower and dicing his arms off.  He finished the work and quickly wiped the sinewy white guts on his coral snake blue greaves--not wanting any part of the disgusting predator's flesh on him.  " Eeeck, "he sneered, without his conch on.
A painting came alive on the wall, it was a blue-red lazer outline of a sword, almost like a mold.  Two hermits were spaced apart with their claws facing out, almost beckoning Sake to put his sword on their hooks.  
He went up to the wall as if he was summoned and placed the sword onto the hook like projection of the red and blue hermits within the lazer sword outline  More hermits came,  the mold outline exploded with spectrometry of a diamond flooded with electrons;  the hermits fashioned the hilt to the shaft with green laser precision first, grooving the handle and making a pommel.  Red lasers gave the forte, shell cutting sharpness by smoothing out the barb. ‘ Sake’ was laser etched into the debil of the blade forming a blood groove;  the lights ceased.   Sake picked up his modified rapier that was still hot and returned to the step to sleep, thinking all the while, that if he ends up in that dream of tragic darkness again, he will have his sword to sink or see with.
The night was over, and the shell was back to its creamy pink color due to the bright rays of light coming in from their unknown starting point, and refracting down the shell tunnel. He put his hound conch back over his face and picked up his custom rapier, and with a slow and achy gate made his way back to his shield at the entrance to the underground layer.  Using his rapier to hold up the shield, and thus provoke any enemies, he made his way back to the land of stunted growth .  There was already movement under the surface, and what he thought a large tree, was a strangled sapling seething with more bi-color coral snakes.  He looked back to the direction of the Clowness’ domain, and pondered going back, “ I would not stand a chance getting by there…then there is Crabaltar,” he felt cowardly, due to his pragmatic conclusion that he wouldn’t stand a chance alone in either domain.  The Damsel would have to hold on.
It was much colder, and that fact was hindering the snakes, they huddled together to keep warm.  There was barely any capsuled fruit around, “They must have gobbled up em all, to not feel the cold, or feel  warm, dumb snakes” thought Sake.  He proceeded in the direction of the Coral Kingdom, his balance much better, but now weighed down by a heavy sword.  Caviar’s body was still strewn on the ground, Sake stopped to use his tough hide to reinforce his shoes, and making blue greaves and boot gaiters.  He approached Caliente’s body at the base of the swarming tree, the snakes reared their heads, and put their pupils in unison, making a blue red motion picture of Sake getting devoured.  Sake looked away, and using his rapier, fetched the body and fell back.  The snakes were helpless from their cold lethargy.  Strapping muscle shells to his knees with the red snake hide and diamond line,  Sake did not worry about the coral snake's  little teeth anymore.  The armor, felt personified to Sake, maybe because at one point it was alive, and thus he felt better for putting the coral snake hide at his feet, and the calcium conch knuckle on his mouth.  It fortified him against the loneliness of the landscape; from the depths above, the grey impenetrable light behind, and the faint infra-red and ultraviolet stars growing from the horizon in the direction of his travel: which did not possess the deceiving color of the anemone’s spectrum but something by the light of a liberating x-ray.

Chapter 6 The Hunting Mire
"Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
                                For Thine is the Kingdom..."--T.S Elliot


Trudging along, the landscape molted its previous colors.  Even more depressing than the land of chimes—was this land of sockets, cesspools, and seaweed.  The boy’s leg disappeared into the mire up to his knee, he ripped it out using his shield as leverage.  He  used his shield as a boat over the rotting ground with his long rapier as an oar; a journey worse than Virgil and Dante in hells river choked with drowning moan.  The gaping wounds from the oar would send up fuming gas that would send him slipping off his shield into the muck.   Sake looked behind him, to his horror, was vast muckiness, it had crept behind him in a high tide stalk, furthering him in the muck more so than he had thought.  A sense of return was out of question.
Sake suddenly felt like he fell inside the dank deep disgustingness of an outside toilet.  Or swimming in the dissolving enzymes of his own liver, in brown excruciating bile.  Almost too much for the boy, his nose and mouth burned, he suddenly needed someone, anyone….he was too young for a landscape that betold : in the eye and out the mouth.
  He struck his sword for another laborious row on top his scallop shield to keep his body moving in the burping land.  The muck made a noise, a  moan.    Sake readied his weapon, but the glimmer of silver came up from the dankness, it was a knight, the Dragon Goby, that wore a silver masquerade mask that connected to a large silver bladed serrated horn that emitted from his forehead just over the knight’s nose..  The rest of his body was submerged, but one could tell from the countenance of the unfortunate knight, and the languid fluttering of his lower jaw, that he was in pain, and mortally wounded.
“Where are you wounded, let me get you on my shield, I am a friend of yours knight,” said the boy, in self-deceiving hope that he would not be alone.
“ I…I have…failed…Damsel…the prawn…go before…” Sake began trying to dig out the stricken knight, only to find big clawed, slender crustaceans devouring his lower body.  They were prawn, and they were voracious.  A claw stuck through the eye behind the silver masquerade mask,pulling the unfortunate knights eye inside the socket.   Sake fell backward in horror and splashed in the muck.  They came for his exposed eyes, one prawn almost speared his oval right through the epicenter before Sake caught it with his hand and flung it.  Flopping his belly on his shield, the prawn scurried up his back, they snipped at his snake hide, but it proved as durable as his viper chainmail.  As quick as he flung one from his face, another would scurry onto him for his eyes.  Another wound in the muck opened and a stream of prawn came out, covering Sake and weighing down his shield.
“Ahhhh, “ he screamed in utter desperation, his scream was not tempered by the conch, for the conch knew the gravity of the situation,  as a prawn snipped the diamond line holding the white knuckle conch felling it as another prawn crawled in his mouth and cut off his scream.  He flung it with lightning reflex as he was being weighed down into the fowl undersurface.  Reaching for his rapier,” no use” he thought, as he let go of the hilt.  It would have just opened another wound for prawn to come out if he pulled it out and he could not even wield its weight in the strength sapping muck.
  “ The red capsule” whispered a voice in his mind. Flinging prawn off his belt, he uncovered the red capsule, and as his vision was being blotting by the pincers of the prawn, he held the capsule over his head with his eyes closed.  The smacking’s and sucking’s of the prawn were in his ear.  A prawn snipped his ear on the lower lope making a bi-lobe, Sake grunted in pain, but the prawn’s claw was so sharp as to be almost done by a professional surgeon with a scalpel cutting the cartilage in half.  His fist clenched, breaking the hyacinth streaked capsule over his head; it was as if Caliente’s eyes leaked their capillary blood shots from the capsule, wrapping round the prawn like snakes, boiling their shells instantly, turning the prawn from maroon to bright boiled arterial red.   The surviving prawn scampered off, perhaps the coral snakes were predators of prawn,  and the fumes of the capsule were more than enough for them, the opposite smell of the methane decay they cherish.  
He caught his breath, caught his rapier, and steadied his shield  Barely alive with his ear dripping blood on his shoulder, and the hyacinthe lines of the capsule squirming off to find prawn or fade away.  He looked back down at the poor knight, and grabbed his silver masque,  and detached the blade and slipped it off the knights horned forehead.  The blade was hollow as to fit over the Dragon Golby knights horn making a sharp horn even  deadlier.   He used it as a scabbard to sheath his rapier diagonally across his back, affording extra armor, and tied the silver zorro type mask along with the snipped off conch on his mouth and nose-- effecting a total face mask with visor; for he almost lost an eye to those things and was still squinting from the encounter, but now he looked out through a horizontal slit with the visor in the flipped down position.  The conch clenched white knuckle hot again, and burned off all the savage muck.  The conch steadied the boy, who was still not in possession of his mind and body, after that close encounter.  Sake was shaking his head, as his right eye shed a tear, and his left ear shed a droplet of blood.  “ I’m not going to make it out of here,  and there is nowhere to make it to, “ said Sake, despondent, for the horizon of ethereal glow was out of sight, blocked by distorted rising gas of methane or the vile fountains of prawn nest—which resembled pagan sacrificial altars, with the top most part a dark offering plate….they were empty at the moment.
  He rowed on with without his prior coordination, he so wanted to be gone from this foul land.  Upon looking around he spied many yellow fins poking up out of the muck.  An unnerving thought came to him, “ how did they fall into mire if they can hover above it?”  Then the scream came down from the depths, and the green brown abscess that was the quicksand seaweed mud frenzied itself in burping bubbles.  There was nowhere to hide or run.  Sake said “ oh no” but his conch said “ready yourself.”
The massive shadow slowly stalked over the cess; the black shadow lacing the land in slithering darkness.  Sake flipped down his new visor over his conch and scanned the greyness.  He felt so cluttered and hindered from the muck on him, and the wobbling shield he was on that would not stay still due to his nervous legs.  “All the knights must have been sitting ducks” thought Sake, he raised his rapier in a futile taunt to the depths above him.  The shadow and scream told him that his sword would be esteemed as straw by the behemoth.  He plunged his rapier into the mire to see if he can make any sort of a getaway, but the dank land and the Mahi Mahi were in symbiotic cahoots—he could not row anywhere.
The scream tore through the land, splitting the muck into divided wake, foretelling the boy which way it was coming, as he covered his ears.  “ Nooo, please God,” he muttered in futility as he saw the mouth wider than he saw in the hermits painting, he could not jump out of the way, the hook studded mouth spanned two to three of his jumps on solid ground.  He saw the trident hook on the ghastly tongue wiggling in anticipation of bathing in minced boy.
The gape was becoming larger and larger, until Sake smelled the stank breath, and thrusted his rapier onto his shield and pole vaulted with all his upper body strength out of the swooping  beast’s jaws.  His head banged off the side of the cold lip of the beast.  He splatted into the muck, as the beast’s  velocity and slip stream caused the mire to churn sending the boy struggling to keep his head above it.  A prawn went onto his face, braving the red capsule, but Sake’s helm proved sufficient.  He churned and slapped maniacally.  The large shadow was returning,  the scream split the muck, Sake ducked into the disgusting cesspool as the massive undertow went by him overhead sucking him sideways under the surface.  He could hear the Prawn sucking their lips, in  momentous unison, and snipping at his cordage to rend his flesh.  He had to get out of there, he surfaced his head, breaking into air with a sucking sound, he saw a diamond line trailing the massive body, a trident hook on the end.
The rapier was an arm’s length away, he reached for it, skimming his fingers off it.  The giant shadow turned round, Sake finally grasped the rapier and used the handle to pull his shield to him.  He climbed atop, hooked his feet into the handle, held his sword backwards, “ Alright Mahi Mahi, COME ON, COME GET ME “ yelled the boy in a voice rectified by the veteran calcium of the conch.  The gaping mouth came after the scream, he quickly regretted his taunt, “ On second thought maybe we can be friends” said Sakes mind,  but Sake held his place, almost like a sacrificial boy on the plate of the behemoth who esteemeth his bones as straw.   The trident pierced tongue was almost on his conch helm.  The last possible second Sake flattened himself, and felt the prickling’s of the Prawn as he raised his rapier above the muck with all his strength, and the diamond line streamed by , Sake caught the trailing trident hook with the hilt of his rapier and was violently spun up and around, skiing on top off the muck, then the shield lifted up onto into the air.  He was waterskiing behind a battleship, the wake of which was enormous.  Sake’s stomach dropped as the great beast ascended, he could see a great harpoon in the chest of the Mahi Mahi, and past that sight post was a glowing kingdom, as the beast was starting its turn, Sake released his rapier from the trident and he coasted at missile speed in the direction of the glowing city.  But the shield he was using as a wake board spun around, so he was flying backwards, looking at the massive seamless pivots of the Mahi Mahi cruising the lonely depths, with eyes fixed downward, bestudded and bejewled with swaying chain and hook, resembling chimes of a lonely graveyard. A beast eager to pass the pain to someone else, and replicate itself.
Sake tried to spin around, but to no avail, he awaited his toboggan to smack into an implacable object at any moment.  
Chapter 7 The Coral Kingdom  
" every tear shall be wiped from the eye forever"

Skidding and sliding, Sake came to a violent stop; but not a life threatening abrupt stop. A Jetstream of unknown properties slowed his descent.  Then the land slowed him down, one tumble, one scratch, and one “ahh” at a time.  Unlike in the other lands, there was swaying warm growth here.  He had smashed his hound conch mask off glimmering lime green coral, it slid off his face like a jigsaw puzzle.  The shield skimmed over the ground until it smacked into a pile of yellow coral cracking in half.   He flipped up the silver visor, and gurgled an expletive--he would not be able to speak.  As he was feeling his head, he heard scurrying behind him, he drew his sword while he was still sitting and unsheathed it then accidentally let go of it and it sailed from his hands.  He was discombobulated to say the least.
“ What is that…is it plankton…no it’s a sea slug.”  Sake was looking at a gang of peppermint colored shrimp musing over what he was.  “ No it’s definitely a sea cucumber,” said one confident shrimp who came forward and gave a little nibble on Sake’s foot, then started spitting . “ Uggg, no it’s definitely a sea slug.”  The motley gang moved on away from distasteful boy, lumbering over pizza anemones, and non-stinging purple carpet anemones humming a song that Sake could not discern.  
The shadow at his feet was unfamiliar, but it was his—he turned his head to see where the powerful source was that was casting shadows askew from the festive plants and crustaceans.  His eyes followed a pebbly road busy with traffic: shrimp, starfish, algae, butterfly fish all scrambled down the highway toward a palisaded coral palace, that had a white marble coral grand staircase that tiered down three levels surrounded by columns spiraling with pink green phosphorescence.  Sake looked down the road at the incoming traffic—bleak greyness with something lurking in it, was causing an exodus.
He joined the traffic, ducking out of the way of algae and fingerlings soaring by.  The coral off to the side of the road was cindering like hot coals fighting to stay alive, of all color—blue, green,pink, yellow—pulsing was a better word .  “The cold, “Sake thought, “it’s from the cold.”  Something caught his eye out to the side of the road; it was coral in the shape of Trojan soldier, with only one arm,the other had broken off long ago,  and it  was holding a spear that had green algae swaying from its tip and from the helm running the long way down the helmet like a plume was bright green seaweed.
  It did not pulse, but stayed its grooved gangrene color with the T opening of the Trojan coral helmet staring down the grey bleakness—implacable..  The redoubtable man size coral was more impressive up close, “ An Atlantean knight” Sake gurgled.  Only the helmet had joint lines, thus being able to detach; Sake doffed his silver visor, and reaching up for the ancient green coral helmet, grasped it and donned it over his head.  “ I like,” the boys words were sharp and distinct as a Lacedaemon bronze sword.
He had to make his way across the highway still, and waited for an opening, and stepped onto the road.  He was immediately spun around by a turtle, “ Hey watch it buddy” the turtle jeered.  Then a jelly fish splatted onto his face and a sea horse hooked into his lips giving him a fish hook. “ Get out of the way,” they all said in some form or fashion.  A blue bottle jelly smashed off his helmet breaking to pieces. “ Well the helmet works,” he mused as he stumbled and spun, as he made it to the far side of the road that was flowing with Bostonian-like commuters.
Leaving the fleeing passerby’s, Sake stood at the base of the grand marble coral staircase that was blushing with pink blotches;  it looked more precious then Aventine marble; the fluted columns were electric eels sizzling as they spiraled up and around thin coral poles, dazzling bluish black electric devotion and loyalty.  The bespattered boy, in snake hide boots, climbed the stairs.
At the first landing, he looked back, the landscape tableau was spectacular, abuzz with life, warmth—the radiation was captivating; there seemed to be a pattern to the sway of the plants, or a gravitational pull and push from the bright bodies, inducing all color of voltage into their surroundings and even up into the depths as spotlights.  But, something ephemeral was invoked into Sake, as if the Kingdom wasn’t going to be there much longer, “ So pretty” he whispered, so the Trojan helmet would not hear his effeminate words.  He looked aft beyond the road, he now saw what was lurking in the grey bleakness, causing the exodus, it was Crabaltar.  He hastened his speed, to get to the top of the grand staircase.  His eyes came on level with a  foyer, smooth as ocean glass, that absorbed every spectrum from  the kingdom below and before it.
The court silenced, as the boy stepped forward—his viper boots sounding off the aventine coral floor, smoother than ocean glass.  The throne to his twelve o’clock was empty, there was a dozen bodies standing before it with serious looks on their faces, one was the Tang.  “ This area is off limits to cucumbers, the rules haven’t changed in the wake of these events,” the Tang said squinting, surveying the boy with suspicion due to his armor and the full palette of bespattering it had.  There was a parrot fish in the center of the gathering, Sake recognized it from the Clowness’s palace as he approached the hostile Tang.  “ Flee like the rest of the commoners, this assembly is for loyal fighters, therefore for Royalty,” barked the Tang,” knights do not migrate, so join the migration, migrant.”
Two silver blades sprung like switchblades from the Tang’s cuirass armor; Sake didn’t process the knights warning, for the Tang was still a beacon to the boy.  “ I am here to help rescue the Damsel, I am…”  before the boy could finish the Tang came at him with lightning speed, Sake turned his back, and heard the sound of metal clashing against his sheathed rapier on his back.  Le Tang recoiled and lashed Sake across the face, knocking his Trojan helm off.
The knight that was thermite hot now betwixt his silver cuirass armor-- and ready to make a point to the intruding boy, and draw it across his face in a disciplinary slash.  Sake froze, unable to speak without his helm that was clanging over the super smooth Aventine floor and clanging down the grand staircase.  
That is enough Le Tang, he comes in peace,” the stout body came forward, wearing a helm of shark jaws, the upper serrated jaw hung down over the yellow eyelids, the lower jaw under the Hoomah’s long snout; the Hoomah looked as if he was swallowed whole from the tail end by a skeletal shark, with the jaws closing above his eyes and below his snout; but in fact was a shark that was severed of life by the Hoomah, dismembered, and hewn as hand crafted bone armor  .  He was wearing a necklace of shark teeth also,  and there were long bones of rib cage fashioned to sharp deadly bolts running the length of the stout hunter’s body that served as armor and missile.
“ We do not have time do deal with cucumbers Hoomah, the Queen’s color is changing drastically, and you waste time stopping my slash…” the others present were forming a circle around Sake.  One knight, who looked like he was wearing a bandana bandito mask but in fact was only wearing its natural tropical tribal pattern of black to yellow,  puffed up like a body builder who only does upper body, then he whipped himself like  a cat o’nine tail in the air. It was a formidable knight, perhaps the strongest, for its body was now an offensive weapon, with his now stern small face on the bludgeoning surface of the mace, and his duel yellow fin served as chain.  “ Blunt, squish this intruder, we can use his oil to shine our steel,” ordered Le Tang.
“ Le Tang, he looks like an ally, he wears our colors, and smells of slayed viper, so shut your hubris, I care not of your rank nor honor,” said the Hoomah as four bone bolts projected out and over the lower shark jaw from his pectoral , ready to be loaded into the powerful mouth.  His armor had a bone-action mechanism of hand crafted simplicity, and the primordial provenance of a great hunter.
Le Tang’s pectoral and dorsal blades split open, forming a razor sharp X.  The circle backed up, the parrotfish spoke, “ The Hoomah of the lower class has insulted an aristocrat, Le Tang, proceed."

“ A costly mistake Hoomah Hoomah, the Queen is sick, the cold bleakness and vipers are coming, and the Coracle forewarned us that it is all for the Damoiselles’ sake, and I have to waste time to slay you as Saccade is overpowered by disgusting son’s of…,” Le Tang spinned in place faster than a garbage disposal.
The boy could do nothing but watch, as the Tang who was arcing with incandescence and the Hoomah, who seemed to blend in with the marble calcium color of the court due to his bone armor covering his tropical camo streaks, which was one of the hunters natural methods-- were getting ready to battle; making Sake’s stomach drop in fear and horror for it was like he finally found his brother and father and instead of jubilation--was violence and destruction.  The land flickered down below.
Ready to slay each other, the two knights alternated in anticipatory strike of one another encircled by the other knights of the court.
“ I need my helmet” thought Sake, but he heard it clang down the stairs.  The parrotfish was edging the knights on, “ Lets finish this, hurry!” he haughtily ordered.  The boys eyes squinted as he spied the look alike from the palace of the Clowness.  It had her audacity, unabashed, and most of all—trespassing.  Sake unsheathed his rapier behind his back, and held it like a javelin, his cursive name in the debil of the blade was oscillating with red current in eye like capillary lines.  He did not have his coral helm, but his rapier was made of instinct.  He launched it at the fight provoking Parrot of the Clowness.  It sailed and hit its mark, pinning the parrotfish to the sloped wall of the calcium court in steel-to-bone grip.  
A horrible scream emanated in the court, witchlike, and nasty.  The parrotfish uncoiled in red and blue tendril, revealing itself as anemone.  The knights attention was all on the screaming creature.  It spoke as it uncoiled around the rapier, “ you will all serve me, when the cold comes” and terminated in a horrible laugh.  The tendrils struck outward, the knight Blunt crushed it into the Aventine with his powerful mace body.
The rapier leaked its cursive voltage up the curving calcium walls of the court.  A picture emitted-- canvassing the entire forum, walls, palisade, and floor.  It was the Damsel, wavering, in royal purple.  The crystals on her corset body refracting the lost spectrum of light, lost to the mortal eye.  
“ It is the hermit's painting,” exasperated Blunt.  
“ It is the Damoiselle,” barely muttered Le Tang.  His fiery light--lashed between silver armor--died down, tempered by the one of two things capable thereof—lethal defeat, and the pristine innocence of a maiden.
The ceiling turned to black body light, as the moving painting now resembling the Stonehenge boulder stack of Crabalter.  That came into existence around the Damsel, until she was entombed, and then engulfed by shadow the color of oblivion.
Sake suddenly turned back, to look across the open side of the court, facing the coral kingdom down below, and to the source of the exodus—which was the brooding Crabaltar.  Walking down the first tier of the grand coral staircase Sake retrieved his helm, which fell to the position of staring down Crabaltar once again—gangrene in stark contrast to the white coral and pink blushing stairs.
He donned his helm, “ I am migrating that way, “ he yelled in, his voice rectified by the coral grooves of his helm making him sound unlike a boy.  The sound waves caused serpentine slithers of red capillary light on the stairs.  He was enraged by the thought of the Damsel being back there,  and returned to the foyer, not looking at the other knights, and went to pull his rapier out of the wall but failed pathetically.  Crying, he resolved to die trying to pull it out, the knights surrounded him in curious awe.   His hands were bleeding ,but the color of his blood was blue, as if still inside him. It dripped from the blade.  Frustrated he gave up, and yelled “ you cowards,” what are you waiting on, let’s go save her….”
“ Cucumber, desist from your stupidity, you do not need a blade, go, we will venture to the dark palace of the cannibals, we now know for sure she is there,” said Blunt Mace, as he turned to look at Le Tang who inturn collapsed his blades with a sorrow induced face.  He was there at Crabaltar, and he failed to find her.  
The knight known as Blunt Mace,  wore no armour, for that was his weapon, to entrap enemies by feigning weakness, then puffing up to the shape of a  mace-like club, with his little face staying the same size in his natural bandana mask; if Clan Hoomah were hunters, then Blunt was the trapper from ‘Club Puff” a long line of trappers, and bludgeoners, who served as the palace guards; the boy felt as if a titan was going to descend his hand to wield the ball  and mace shaped knight.  But as strong as he was, he could not pull the rapier from the wall, and Blunt Mace knew this, so he beckoned Hoomah Hoomah forward.  
Hoomah blew with his powerful lips, the boy across the foyer, who slid on his backside to the other side.  He put his lips on the hilt of the weapon and pulled it out, then spit it across the court towards the boy.  It clanged with dissonance.  “ You have much to learn Sponge,” torted the hunter.
“ I am not a sponge, or a cucumber, I am a boy, A BOY.”
The knights convened amongst themselves, ignoring the crying boy. “ We must go to Crabaltar now,” said a yellow fin, and they all morosely agreed.  For one only had to look forward past the kingdom, to see the impending coldness, and the virtual impossibility of surviving out there.  
Le Tang only looked at the exodus, as the other knights deliberated.  His color intensity was completely flat.  “ The hermits know the future,” he said not taking his glance of Crabaltar.
The boy’s helm quenched his sobs, by hollowing out the quaking voice, to a warriors blithe.  He composed himself, “ The hermits painted more, a giant Mahi Mahi, a Clowness in a giant anemone, and a giant coralcle,” he uttered to the Hoomah.
“ The Boybummer doesn’t know what he is talking about,” said Le Tang, still not moving his stare.
“ But the Boybummer is right,” said Hoomah, “ we must consult the Coralcle, for the Clowness is involved, who can command the creatures of the cold, and the Mahi Mahi patrols past the land of chimes now.”
The court ceiling erupted in rivulets of royal purple, as if the high ceiling was the bottom of a purple stone brook, unrolling curtains of purple light down the sloped scallop walls.  The calcium floor unfurled a blushing pink carpet of light in the smooth luster of marble coral.
“ That will be tough, my knight, the Coracle is past the Land of Blennie in the Goby Desert,” said the brightness, that came forth to be the Queen, held up by two servants, a dazzling snowflake was crystallizing and dissolving in the skin of her face, on her body was tropical green, twining over the field of royal purple, to blinding levels then disappearing to start all over again: a sign of the cold.
“ I have dreamed of someone coming from afar, someone that I could not see, but felt, felt his presence standing guard over me, and once the finest maiden in our court, the symbol of our purity disappeared, I prayed for you to come, and here you are.”  The servants placed the Queen Angel on the throne.
“ My Queen, you should be in your chamber resting,” said Le Tang with deep concern.
“ There is no time for that, the Damsel needs to be restored,” the Queen Angel said faintly.
Sake was in complete awe of her beauty, even more beauteous than the paintings, he thought of the Damsel when he looked into her royal purple, and saddened immensely.   He got up and  took a knee in instinctual deference, and said “ My Queen-- Le Tang, Hoomah Hoomah and I will go to the Coracle and find the answer, and stop the Clowness and her plans, I have seen it in the hermits painting,” the boy could picture himself kneeling before the queen in this lofty court, and felt supercharged with the feeling that he was being knighted.  But the Queen looked ready to swoon, and every time her color traces roared then faded, the palace flushed, and the land pulsed.  In that moment, the grey bleakness felt like it would suddenly thrust from afar right to the royal party and palace replete with voracious metallic viper, and other monstrosities from up in the depths.
“ It will be dark soon, and too dangerous. If the hermits have only painted you three at the Coralcle then only you three can go according to their depiction; the corals still have enough light to keep the vipers at bay , so we will have our traditionally fete for our guest,” she motioned for her servants to start the preparations.
“ A feast of fete for our guest, get up my warrior, your tears are cold, I know what they hold.”  The Queen Angel got up from her throne, her body entirely royal purple, she clapped and said, “ Ready the Pavillion.”  Her servants soared down to the lower landing, overlooking the lower Coral Kingdom, smoldering beyond the spiraling columns of electric eels and the crowded highway’s pastel passengers;  they took giant feathery algae in their mouths and tickled the frescoed ceiling of coral, in turn the coral high ceiling erupted in color and unfurled robes and tassles of light down the walls.
The warriors formed a circle around the Queen and Sake, who was blushing beyond his mask.  Hoomah puffed his lips and blew Sake’s helmet off; Le Tang whipped forward slashing the lines holding up his bespattered snake hide and viper mail; a servant slipped on a purple vest studded with sparkling diamonds onto Sake, the diamonds turned to prism of fantastic color.  The highway stopped moving and anxiously looked up the marble coral stair case.
“ I am not as good a dancer as the Damsel, but I can still do the minnow-ete,” said the Queen, as  the landing beneath engulfed in purple circles of light; the parapet surrounding the lighted floor undulated  in digital display of blue and red.  The vaulted coral walls reflected a human profile of ocean glass behind the queen for Sake to mimic in dancing. The entourage started swaying in unison, to an invisible breeze; a drip drop sound percussed from the palace in fast rhythm and echoed of the many vaults of the palace: one drip drop sound was converted into an orchestra by the amazing amphitheater  powers of the coral’s grooves.
The reflection told Sake to put his arm across his stomach to bow and he did so; then told him to turn the opposite direction of the Queen…bow, lift his leg, turn….move his hands.
“ Do not forget to smile my dear prince,’ said the dancing Queen with her dainty lips.  Sake smiled without showing his teeth, as usual.  The Coral Kingdom beyond, watching in adoration cheered “SMILE CUCUMBER” .  Sake showed his teeth, eliciting a “ handsome boy” from the Queen.  He felt like he was on Mount Olympus, among shimmering ambrosia, shiny goblets, the stuff he has read about in the Iliad ; for once he did not feel in the fathoms.  The Queen pulled up her slender body like folds of a dress, changing the dance, there was no reflection for Sake to follow, and he improvised.  Hoomah and Le Tang nodded in uniform sway, smiling for the first time in a while seeing their Queen vibrant and dancing as the Damsel.  The coral spotlighted the two dancers, the walls and palisade turned ivy green, with white veins forking their way to leaf like symmetry ,then the rest of the Coral Kingdom beyond sent up neon spot lights in a show of finale.
The lights toned down, and the traces returned to the Queen, as she was helped off to her throne.  Sake stood in place, looking around, “ So beautiful” he thought, then he saw the distant glow of the vipers patrolling the bleak cold as deceptive stars of light that was their skull lures.
“ That is why she is Queen,” said Le Tang, “ because even in the midst of the oncoming darkness, she inspires us and leads us like a beacon.”  The Hoomah looked at the Tang who was staring deeply at the Queen, then at the coral walls unfurling banners of light that portrayed the Damsel.  A tear emitted from the fiery yellow warrior and was swept away , and the Hoomah for the first time saw something other than anger from the vehement young knight.  
The highway of colorful refugees began moving again as the Queen was led off to her chamber.  The knights’ just sat down on the glowing white stairs, next to their custom armor as the Coral Kingdom died down, and the palace became fainter.  Sake sat down too on the white marble steps  pulsing to stay lit and put his helm back on. They all watched the distant vipers, dashing like shooting stars until the ones not on guard fell asleep.  Sake saw that the Hoomah was just staring  forward at nothing, in deep muse, with a solemn face, his big eyes motionless in his big sockets; the pastel war paint streaking down from his eye looked like two upside down feathers up close..  Sake wanted to break up his morose concentration, and so asked “How did you get that scar on your stomach?”
Big eyes rolled to look at the boy, the yellow eyes blinked, the long snout flexed—Sake was ready to gobble up his words, in sheer admiration of the calm warrior.  The big eyes looked forward again.  The mouth moved.
“That is, a dark tale Boybummer.”
Sake finally relented on his new name, out of sheer exhaustion trying to explain that he was a boy.
“ Well, I sat on one of you by accident, that’s how I got these scars.”  
Sake started laughing, “ I am not an urchin or whatever you think I am.”
The Hoomah’s face became serious, and the boy became aware of the Hoomah’s spiritual connection with the land; the coral kingdom down below rippled with a barely perceptible vision--it was a knight, adorned with shining blond armor, with two sabre fangs coming up from its lower jaws, the upper smaller fangs the same width as the scars on the tale teller.  “ Our best knight, who worshiped the Damsel’s beauty and youth, was named Sabretooth Blennie."  

Chapter 8, The Tale of The Fallen Knight and the Clowness
" It is better to reign in hell, than serve in heaven."--Paradise Lost, Milton

The boy was not watching the Hoomah now, he was watching the land below, pulsing a faint image.  He could not hear the narrators deep baritone voice no more, just watch the story unfold in light.
“ The Sabretoothe taught Le Tang the skill of speed, and thrust.  I was just an ambassador in the court, an onlooker, not yet knighted.  Jousting matches, fin to fin, and other competitions were held, the contestants motivated with unsinkable buoyancy due to who sat by the Queen—the Damsel.
“ He defeated all, and stood alone in the winner’s circle, but the Damsel did not change the shape of her elliptical eyes due to his feats.  Blennie became boastful.  He was from House of Tang, and wore the “t” symbol in blond gold across his massive pectoral.  The rest of the knights wore silver, due to the long belief of what happens to gold in the depths—it joins the sad gold streaks of the bestial Mahi Mahi. The knights, wear silver, fashioned from the spines of the metallic viper.  So whosoever shall don armor, cannot do so until slaying a brood of viper to accumulate enough spine.  But Blennie, did not want to be on par with the other nights, and had more than enough viper silver.  He ventured to steal the gold scale from the Mahi Mahi.  Only he could survive the encounter,being strong enough to climb to her heights and knew the weakness of the beast and her blind spots.  He put her in her current position with a barb to her heart. He made the House of Tang “t” into blond gold.
“ Le Tang joined the competitions thereafter, and was defeated every time by the golden sabers Blennie, he tried and tried, but could not defeat Blennie and those defeats made him faster and sharper.  Blennie became audacious and insolent, demanding the Queen give him his prize, but silencing himself at the moment of her anger: when her frontlet formed to fire red on her forehead.  So Blennie took out his energy for the Damsel, descending up to the depths, spotlighting darkness with his golden armor, hunting for challengers; one day he returned, and I noticed he had a mark on his neck, as if he received a searing kiss.  He grew violent in the kingdom, as his golden armor was losing its shiny finish as if it was growing a patina of decay similar as if crab entrails inside out.
“ He rushed at the Damsel as she was dancing, Le Tang interceded and was deposed.  I fought the Sabretoothe, and lost, getting pierced by his top sabers,he was much more powerful and bigger than before.   He fled with the Damsel, no one knew where he went, we knew  from the coral that she was still alive, we did not know what possessed him,  but we had our theories.  The day she disappeared, the Mahi Mahi turned possessed also, screaming down, attacking, everything, laying waste to everything.  Le Tang blamed me for failing against Blennie, and I do feel like I lowered the prestige of Clan Hoomah.  Now the kingdom has lost its separation from the depths, and it looks to blanket us.  No one has seen the Sabretooth Blennie since and lived.  They say he is guarding the coralcle, no one knows. “
“ It was the Clowness that got to him huh, who is she, what is her deal?” asked the boy trying to seem calm hearing the narrators words.
“ Her hot vanity and ice cold soul control the magnificent red blue anemone, she is extremely jealous of this palace, and might, I suspect, have made a deal with the Dark Crab.
“ She is world old, much older than she looks.  She is a link, between the darkness and the light, her palace a waystation from Crabaltar and the Coral Kingdom-- she keeps the viper brood from filling the depths completely and cannibalistic crab, lobster and prawn from becoming the squirming floor.  That is her purpose, to balance the light creatures against that of the dark, in her powerful filtering palace.  She does not do that because she wants to, but has to, her palace breaths our air, she breaths the viper and crab’s exhale.  She needs the warmth, her palace the cold.  She cannot move out of place without jeopardizing her being.  Her vanity and lust could destroy this kingdom instantly if she could move, and Crabaltar would emit infinite creatures from the depth if she was removed.  She has come to the Queen’s aid before.  But, I suspect she has wrought all this, by introducing something new,” the Hoomah looked at the wide eyed boy, “  something we were not ready for.”
The corals resumed their slight pulsing, the boy was in awe of the Hoomah, he did not know what to say, and did not feel as if it was proper for him to advise him, this veteran.  Sake looked forward, and said passively “ does everything in this land try to eat ya, I don’t wanna know what lays ahead anymore, I did fine in those cold lands when I didn’t know what was coming…I was sharper because I expected the worst…and seen the worse, the Damsel in that thing’s scythe,” the boy looked down upon thinking about it.   Hoomah turned his big eye to the boy and said, “there is one more monster, terrible, worse than Blennie and the Clowness,” Sake looked worriedly at him as the Hoomah continued, “ it is the stink slugs, they stink so bad…” the Hoomah started laughing at the surprised boy.  “ Sake, you have done more than meet the criteria of a knight, and Le Tang told me after the Queen fell unconscious that he was glad you were coming with us than one of the other veteran yellow fins….you caught on to the business of facing down death, and even excelled to the next level.”
“ What is the next level Hoomah?”
“ It is to be the same warrior in life as in death, at home and on the field of battle, if you laugh in the court, then you have to laugh in the field staring down the enemy.  You said you expected the worst, seen the worst, your life has been warfare just like many, but you know it to be so, others do not….and you are far below military age, and that only means one thing—“
Sake interrupted Hoomah, “ How do you laugh at the enemy, if they are so annoying, always yelling and trying to kill you and all,” Hoomah looked at the striving to smile  boy, who was already catching on, and said “ I usually tell them ‘ you dropped something’ and when they look down I bury a hatchet fish in their head, then that will make me laugh, but that only works with more than one enemy, so someone is alive to see you laughing.  Then there is the Le Tang way, use big fancy words , calling them the sons of codswallop—he’s always saying son’s of something, son’s of slugs, son’s of barnacles…. “ Hoomah was chuckling as Sake was shaking his head to that cheesy joke.
Sake was watching the glowing viper skulls descending from the distant depths as if stars, and stood up and punched in front of him, as if to strike a deadly blow to one.  “ Those…those nightmare creatures, why do they want to hurt and devour, they have no purpose…..Blennie, the Clowness, what is the point of them, I never hurt anyone, I don’t want to control anyone…I want to go now, slash right to Crabaltar, burn down the Clowness’ palace, and rip apart that crab.” Sake’s helmet was pulsing green as he spoke staring down towards the viper starscape. “ Such lonely depths, ugly depths, they take the only thing you have…what doesn’t turn to viper in the depths? not knowing what way is up….they take your light, your beacon and drop it to the depths, and you watch it sink, you chase after it only to turn into the thing harming her (he paused)…..they do not even let me have my fable, where the girl lives, and there is a father and mother that teach light, not darkness, what is the point of these wicked things…” the boy was still standing, staring at a kingdom in sleepmode ambience. " The Mahi Mahi, I hate her, her shriek is horrible, but I know she was once beautiful, and so I hate life, for making me hate her, and what it has done to her...." The coral helm rectified his voice to the sound of steel being sharpened on stone.
Hoomah looked at Sake who was staring off distant, and pitied the boy, for the Hoomah knew the boy was a good looking specimen of his species, and youthful, almost princely looking, yet his green ovals showed a desire in their elliptical curve, to be destroyed, and not just adequately, but completely, as if they wanted to be burned at 1 million degrees, destroying the atoms of the soul
  “ Your helm helps you speak, so listen to your own words, have a beacon when you are in the depths, an image of an angel, so as not to turn psycho mad, like viper and Blennie, the Mahi Mahi, and the Clowness.  They have some of our color, but not our luster, making our camo burn brighter in infinite darkness, and perceived hopelessness, we know what is good by seeing the horrible and wicked, that is the point of the wicked, to let it be seen as a warning to the good, to not bear resemblance.”
“ But I have no beacon Hoomah.”
“ You do, a false beacon, it is your anger, as like Le Tang, that does not allow you to see things correctly, and why he could not see the Damsel at Crabaltar.”
Sake sat down next to the sage that was the Hoomah, the boy felt his words, but could not understand them yet.  But, he felt that understanding, was why they were making the next journey to the Coralcle.
“ I need to find my beacon,” said Sake becoming drowsy.
“ You need to get sleeping,” replied Hoomah Hoomah as he puffed off Sakes helmet, and the boy chased it down the stairs, mumbling “mmmblerf” the while.
  “ Get some rest Sake, we depart for the Coracle at first light,” and with that the Hoomah laid down next to his shark armor and started snoring in howitzer caliber.
Sake put back on his Coral Trojan helmet, and not needing to speak anymore took it off again with the Hoomah getting the last laugh. Resting his head against the de-energizing stairs, one thing was  still on his mind, it was “ why was the CLowness doing this, and what had the Damsel to do with it?”  He looked out at the coral down below, like filaments aglow with only static electricity, he looked at the distant vipers with their glowing death head lure," Disgusting creatures, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were enslaved and whipped on by their own lure" he thought…"Slaves."
The morn came, and the knights were already up before the boy, staring off down the highway with horror.  It was Crabaltar, and it was in view now, and seemed to be coming closer with every distorting breeze.  The line of warm and cold could be seen in the sand, as a dark rain cloud rains on the other side of the street.  “ We must make haste,” said Le Tang somberly.
They were in the full armor, looking on the flashing Queen, bedridden and barely conscience, she labored to speak, “ My nights, let us say a prayer:
Build me straight, O worthy Master!
Stanch and strong, a goodly vessel,
That shall laugh at all disaster,
                                                       ­      ­     And with wave and whirlwind wrestle!*"
With her utterance, she fell into unconscious sleep, Le Tang fell to his knee at her side.  The rest left, then the Tang.  Sake was turning to leave, and the Queen Angel spoke, “ Sake, when you feel the cold of the world attacking from the past and the future, sit down at the fire and warm yourself, “ then she fell back to feverish sleep.  Traces of chiseled font etched on her body like that of cracking glass; the color of silver rain over orange incandescence.
The ones to remain and protect the palace and Queen were in line at the top of the grand coral staircase, they made way for the three voyagers.  Le Tang said “ wait” and went to grab something, returning with a neon yellow shield emblazoned with a lowercase  lime ‘t’ , “ this is the shield from the house of Tang, take it Boybummer, you will need it,” and the boy took it, and they descended the staircase with armor, weapon, and bone rattling.
Chapter 9 The land of Sand and Sabre
                      " What do you know of Behemth, who esteemeth your sword as straw."--Book of Job

“ Get on Cucumboy,” said the Hoomah, “ you are to slow.”
The boy got onto the stout body, the Tang not able to support the weight, from his size or ego.  The coral below the moving Hoomah looked to the boy like rain falling down the back window of a car at night, under a street light—but not silvery translucent ,but a spectacular neon array.  Le Tang was out in front, his glow coming from under his silver cuirass weaponry was warning off the encroaching bleakness that was closing in like a tunnel but leading the way to the Coracle.  Sake looked back, the pizza anemones and purple carpet anemones were becoming distant.  He felt as if the tide came behind them, and locked them on an island sandbar; the palace, a lighthouse showing how dangerously distant they were.  They were transitioning into the Golby desert.
“ We have to hurry Hoomah, ‘ the Tang yelled from out in front,” we must pass through the Land of Sand, the other route is shut out by the cold and most likely cold water creatures.”
Making circles shapes  of his mouth, the stout Hoomah chugged along with shield bearing boy.
Realizing the Hoomah was tiring, and not able to keep up with Tang’s pace, the boy called a halt.  “ We must stop, and catch our breaths,” the boy helm called out ahead to the neon silver array on point.  “ There is no time,” called back from the knight on point.
“ There is time,” said the fatigued Hoomah, “ let us bivouac for a moment, so we are full strength upon arrival.”  
Sake dismounted and put down his shield, and stabbed his rapier into the center of a sandy circle surrounded by low lying green-red coral. His arm was  tired from the heavy shield. The Hoomah dropped his shark-armor and rested on the ground.  “ You are a bunch of weaklings,’ scoffed Le Tang.
“ We do not burn with the same fire as you,” rejoined Hoomah.  Le Tang made his way back to the sandy circle and sank down into the sand.  Sake was looking at the grey expanse that was the closer of the two sides that enclosed them.  
“ What is going to happen to the Coral Kingdom when the cold darkness comes?” asked the boy.
“ The coral will petrify, all else will go into hiding,” answered the Hoomah, “ the land will be a wave less colorless place, like that of the Land Of Chimes and  anything with color will be the imposturous cold water anemones.  The original color and history of the great coral kingdom, will be petrified in the coral…we should have set out earlier  but the parrot clouded our plans, a defeatist and detractor.”
Sake dropped his viper chain mail armor, a slight chiming rang out; the shadow came forth from something high above them; Le Tang turned to a fire in the looming shadow that engulfed them, and only the neon war paint of the Hoomah could be seen, especially the two paint spills of upside down feathers distending from his right eye.  The boy looked up in apprehension of the great beast.  “ Don’t worry, she will not come if you do not do that again” said Hoomah calmly.
New deep sea creatures were swarming in the grey misty wall. Brown sperm bodies with enormous gulping heads.  They unhinged their jaws, gaping open only to clamp back down with bear trap efficiency.
“ Why does she come for the sound of chimes?’ asked Sake ignoring the rancid raucous of the deep sea creatures.  Le Tang was stirring as he sat, anxious at the question.  “Why did she come for the knights back in that land of muck?”
The Hoomah was taking up pebbles in his mouth and spitting them out—his way of relaxing.  “ She comes with the sound of sword also, she is haunted and in turn haunts the land during the day, she swoops down on any metal, for they sound like the land of chimes—“
“ But why has she turned into a beast after the Damsel disappeared,” interrupted Sake.
“ Because the vipers torture her, grinding their rusted razor blade teeth, and flaunting their glowing skull lures, but they can only do that at night, when they amass —“ before the Hoomah could go on a hideous gulper  poked its head out of the grey mist and disgorged a hideous tongue wagging taunt.  Le Tang shot forth closed the distance and sliced off its head.  The decapitated head was still blinking and snapping its jaws , it happened so fast.  Sake thought of the painting in the conch tunnel, where darkness and its minions surrounded the two knights and instantly trembled, for he was with them now on that dark stage.
“ When Sabretoothe Blennie kidnapped the Damsel,” the Hoomah went on,” the Mahi Mahi hunted in blind rage for the sounds of metal , chime or sword clash .  She grew enormous swallowing the male species, a shadow of her former self she is now.”  The massive shadow came back, reducing Le Tang back to a flickering flame and the Hoomah to neon war paint.
The Tang was calmer now that he vented his internal forge that was his anger slaying the deep sea creature.  “  Cucumboy, I will say this, you are here with knights, to do battle, you are a knight by association now, as the rest of the kingdom is fleeing, you are fighting, I am sorry before for saying otherwise, “ said Le Tang who finally doffed his silver cuirass.
“ What is making the Clowness do this, does she really want to have a world of darkness, with nothing  but these, these creatures,” asked Sake, gesturing to the approaching masses of coldness.
Le Tang spoke, “ She is a witch, who would gobble up her own children, as to not waste any of herself on them.  Jealousy and envy occupy her, she wants to be adored, and served.  She will not give up her cold-water palace of anemone to live amongst the commonage, and will not live under the Queen Angel, for she thinks herself to be an Angel worth serving.  She has learned the dark secrets, every life she has destroyed gives her the mucus to stay young, and command the anemone.  A corruptor of youth, and destroyer of whole families, she was confined to the cold water domain, but now, as we have found out, has found a way to unleash the deep sea depths on us, all to satisfy her vanity--”
“ All this, so she can be Queen, but there will be nothing left, only Viper,” interrupted Sake.
“ She wouldn’t care, the mucus in her pores are an ancient evil, as old as the coral, when the land was divided, and she was confined to the cold realm by her own vanity, for her palace needs the cold, she could have gave it up to come to the Coral Kingdom, but she would not deign before a more noble light, as that of the Queen Angel,” explained Le Tang.
“ We have to stop her, we have to stop this,”  said Sake desperately as he pointed at the towering wall of grey.  “ How is it linked to the Damsel and Crabaltar?”
“ That is why we are going to the Coralcle is it not,” answered Le Tang sarcasticly, “ if not for you Sake, the Parrot would have sent us  to her for help in our desperation,still, we did not know she was commanding this cold front.  But what we do know now is that Clan Hoomah and House of Tang do not serve hags, right old Hoomah?” said Le Tang in a jocular voice, attempting to bury the hatchet fish with the older veteran—for they were pressed together, literally, by a vast army of enemy lurking on either side of the narrowing sand road to the Coralcle.  The evil gliding things in the two walls had compressed them together in camaraderie, as it was just them three versus a vast jaw snapping horde.
The yellow lidded warrior responded with a “ Hooooomah,” that had the baritone force of a tuba.
“ What is your clan, or house Sake?” questioned Le Tang.
“ I do not have one, I am all alone,” answered the boy.
“ Well, then that is better, you are the originator, you can be House of Cucumboy,” quipped Le Tang.
  “ I think I’ll find a better name,” rejoined Sake.
              “ Or Clan Sponge,” said Hoomah and all three chuckled, their laughs momentarily drowning out the deep sea creatures salivating asseverations off in the enclosing bleakness.
“ Take off your helm boy, it is not good to always wear armor” said Hoomah.
“ But I will not be able to talk,” responded Sake.
“ You cannot talk without it because you had no one to talk to, you know us now, so you can talk to us,” said Hoomah as he spat a pebble.
He took off his helm, and went to talk, “ mmmbleerrf” was the only thing that came out of the boy’s mouth.  “ Well a good mmmbleerrff to you as well” responded Hoomah, as he and Le Tang erupted in laughter.  “ Hey I thought you said I could talk without my helmet” said Sake putting back on his lime green Trojan helm.
“ Well maybe you have an accent, trying saying ‘mmblerf’ now, and see what comes out”
“ Lumpsucker” was the word that came out of the boy’s mouth, Le Tang almost doubled over.
“ Now take off your helm and say ‘lumpsucker’ ’” advised Hoomah.
“ Stinkbutton” came from the boy’s lips.  They all started laughing.  
“ Clan Stinkbutton it is,” bellowed Hoomah, as all three bivouacers rested into the sand, resting before battle in the corridor of bleak mist and gliding, screaming  things.  Perhaps why they were talking more now--to break up the eerie hollowness of the desert, and the lacerating screams of the rising walls of gray on either side of the corridor leading to through the desert to the Coracle.
“ Learn the pattern, and you’ll be able to talk here, but only with people you trust, but the helm gives your tongue clarity for now,” replied Hoomah.
The shadow returned, slithering over them , and the three warriors illuminated once again: Sake’s gangrene coral Trojan helmet and blue viper skin gaiters on his shins, Hoomah’s white shock streaks on his body and pastel face paint, and the solar flare of Le Tang’s body.
The viper’s glowing skull-lure branching from their disgusting metallic foreheads seemed pathetic in comparison to their colors, thought Sake.  But the boy once again thought of the hermit’s painting, these two knights being overwhelmed by the hordes of nightmare creatures on that dark stage spotlighted by the combined skull light of a thousand vipers.  He wanted to hug both warriors, so so badly, he did not want to lose them, as the painting was becoming ever more likely as the Mahi Mahi patrolled above, and the deep sea monstrosities were closing in with the gray walls.  The Atlantean helm Sake wore rectified his young quaking voice, but viewing the two tropical knights through the ‘T’ of his helm made him realize, that the only way he could be close to these knights, was being back to back against the odds,always outnumbered he was to be, if he wanted to be like these foremost warriors… the ‘T’ viewpoint he received from the gangrene coral resembled an upside down sword projecting on the two tropic warriors, being a sword still in the forge on Le Tang, and the bright shining steel after it hardens in air when on the Hoomah’s shock white stripes.  He would mimic these knights, he said to himself—be has lethal and confident as Le Tang in the face of death, and as calm and pluck as Hoomah Hoomah who would not let impending disaster jolt him from his pebble spitting hobby; and most of all, to not be changed from the depths.
An oblong balloon inflated from the sand near the knights, Sake roused to his feet, “ A coral snake,”  called out Sake.
“ That is just a Goby boy, don’t worry, they’re  only cleaners,” said Le Tang nonchalantly.
The oblong blue-green balloon spoke, “ Hello my wayfarers, might I offer a free grooming,” solicited the Goby.  “ No thanks Goby, be gone, we are on serious business if you haven’t noticed,” answered Le Tang.
“ I can go for a cleaning,” responded Hoomah, and the Goby called out, “ Hey Zumba, grab the kids,”and three more Gobies ballooned out from the sand.  “ Yay, a Hoomah,” the child Gobies rejoiced.
The Gobies swarmed the Hoomah, nibbling his scale, and cleaning him.  Hoomah laid back in pleasure as they caressed him.
“ How bout you, you look like you need a cleaning.  Are you a Flounder?  Anyways, your pretty dirty,” said the father Goby.
“ Ah, I don’t know, I’m a boy, and not sure if I can be cleaned,” answered Sake unsurely.
“ Go on Sake, it is imperative that a warrior remains clean, and it is very relaxing,” advised Hoomah.  “ Well I guess so,” said Sake as more Gobies emitted from the sand and swarmed onto him.
Sake began laughing and rolling around as they tickled and poked him.  He rolled and rolled till when Hoomah thought he would roll into the bleakness suctioned him up and placed him back into the sandy circle.  “ Wow, this Flounder could feed the whole Goby nation,” rejoiced a Goby.  Le Tang just watched shaking his head the whole while.  Le Tang was all business, or vengeance.
The two were laughing and crying so loud as to drown out the deep sea creatures stalking in the over watching bleakness.  Hoomah was more professional about it, and only emitted short tuba sounds.  A Goby pulled a green ball from the boy’s ear, “ wow, we are going to save this for a holiday dinner,” delighted the oblong Goby.
The Gobies left the Hoomah, having depleted their scales of crumbs, and joined the foray on the boy.  Sake was in ecstasy, a Goby was mumbling his eye lids, and pulling food out of his teeth.  But the Hoomah warned, “ Be careful Sake, many warriors have not made it back from the Coracle due to their overindulging in Gobies, they have forgotten their mission, and became Goby addicts, roaming the Goby desert, rolling around in mud to get a cleaning, only to starve to death or get eaten by vipers.”  As he said his warning, Sake was still laughing, until he caught the distant view of a viper, just staring at him from the greyness, as if it was waiting,   The image of the Damsel came into his mind.  “All right, that’s enough,” Sake said as he brushed the Gobies off of him.  One Goby that squeezed under Sake’s viper gaiters on his shoes was rolling a green ball of toe jam back to his hole saying “ Wow, boys are good eating.”
“ You will be a formidable warrior Sake,” said Le Tang, “ You do not possess the lower classes addictive personality, you are in control of yourself.”
“ Well, let’s get it on , the walls are closing in,” said Hoomah—and they put back on their armor.  Le Tang went back ahead on point.
The land graduated from streaming dark sand to wavy blond sand, there were protrusions from the sand everywhere.    A whale bone-yard, that was what it resembled.  The behemoth bone stabbed upward out of the sand in sabre curvature.
The bones were sparse at first, so they only had to walk around them, but then became a bone bramble, and Le Tang kept catching his cuirass on one of the hooking-bone sabres. Hoomah worked slowly and methodically for he was much bigger.  Sake, who before could not even walk in this land, had no difficulty at all.  He felt it was just another graveyard, where he was raised.
The white grey bone started to show signs of patina, even signs of gold specks—which had a physical reaction in the two tropical knights, for their eyes scanned their environment more rapidly—for  every rib a certain width apart resembled the two sabre fangs of the Sabretoothe Blennie.
He followed after his rapier, pointing through every rib cage slat first.  Le Tang was still bravely out in front on point.  Hoomah still methodically pivoting his stout body around the bone wreckage.
At points, they had to crawl over dense bone huts.  The deep sea creatures could not be heard in this land, making it only sound with the scraping of the knights armor on bone.  A bone outcrop collapsed, and the whole party whipped their heads to scan for a threat—but it was nothing.
Then the land became a little less dense with bone obstacle.  Sake’s rapier was shaking violently as he led with it.  “ Le Tang is one brave knight being out in front,”  thought the boy, recalling the knight in Crabaltar, recklessly touring the cavernous layer in flaring daring; the boy was beginning to see the benefit in being dangerously debonair like Le Tang—anger was less painful than fear and feeling.
No one spoke as they moved forward through the wasteland, for their ears attuned for the sound of movement.
Le Tang was passing under slanted fangs in the form of a bone arbor  all color of decay, patina, rot, and bedecked with gold fillings.  The Hoomahs eyes widened, the spacing of the sabre fangs that hung down above Le Tang  were the same distance of the scars on his chest.  It was him… “ Tang move” he yelled, as another set of fangs sprung from the sand beneath Le Tang looking to meet their smaller but still enormous upper jaw that once pierced the Hoomah.  Hoomah blew the Tang out of the way as the teeth that was the Sabretoothe’s locked shut, and the sand disgorged the huge body of  Blennie rising into the air: tiger striped with gold over green patina and block rot, its eyes were black spilt egg yolks underneath its mask.  The party backed up and the creature that was once a knight spoke in a hollow long dead sepulchral breath as if a sinking titanic finally reaching its sight for internment—gives its last metallic stretching moan.
“ The Coldwater Clowness is making her way for the Coral Kingdom  for the Queen, and then the Crab’s claw will close around the Damsel making the Clowness beautiful ruler supreme, and you will be still alive to bow to her, in my prison, peering between my ribs begging for oblivion .”
All were in horror of the morbid knight, especially Le Tang who had nothing to say for once.  They did not want to be addressed individually by the long dead tone of the eternally damned knight.
“ I will be first knight and only knight, for I was the strongest, and should have been given the Damsel, I have served the House Of Tang long enough under the Queen Angel, I shall command the Viper Brood as their King, and my clade of sabretoothe goby shall live as long as the Dark Crab.”
The dark knight was ten times the size of the Hoomah now—five  lances in length.  
“ You are a disgrace Blennie, look at you, you resemble the disgusting creatures of the depths, your soul has been digested by the dark crab and spit back into this land.  The Clowness will fail, she cannot survive without the Coral Kingdom you disgusting son of a urchin, she needs the warmth caused by our breaths and deeds to live,” yelled Le Tang.
“ Le Tang, still thinking that there is good and evil.  What do you think will happen when the tropical light is gone, the vipers will be the light, and they will change, they will don your armor after you are slain, they will be the warm vipers, exhaling a warm breath for the Clowness, they will be the knights, they shall teach and preach through the depths, this world will be two shades of viper, not light against darkness, but black light against oblivion.  The Magnificent Anemone shall be the palace, after the cold takes over balanced by the warm cadaverine rising from the slain tropical bodies.  All hail the beautiful Clowness,  and all thankness goes to the Cannabal Crab of Oblivion.”
“ Blennie, we shall stop the cold, and rid your legacy,” gritted Hoomah Hoomah.  Sake was motionless, pointing his rapier at the dark knight thinking “ this is futile, we are going to die,” the boy thought.  
“ Blennie, your armor won’t stop me from wearing your heart,” said Hoomah.
“ I have dibbs on his tongue,” said Le Tang as he sprung his blades and split them into the “X” form.  Sake heard the bone mechanical sound of the Hoomah’s custom armor—the shark jaws closing more over his face, and pectoral bolts spearing forward under the lower shark jaw to be ready to spear or spew.
The massive rotten jaws opened--readying to strike.  Hoomah’s armor loaded forward then back, putting a long bolt into his mouth, he spit in rifle velocity at the tonsils of the dark knight but was stopped by  a rotted saber; Le Tang spiraled through the air and carved a sparking gash in its armor, but the powerful beast bent its tail sending Le Tang to the ground—crashing into bony debris.  One of his sabrers  bent as the fiery body crumpled on the ground..  But Le Tang got up, and reversed his blades forward—they now looked like  a clutching claw of an eagle.  “ I will gut you Blennie,” he said as he flared up between his silver cuirass.  Le Tang attacked again barely dodging the snapping sabers, and was head-butted violently to the ground.
  The Hoomah’s shark jaw helm loaded another long bolt forward and the Hoomah sucked it into firing position but the Sabretoothe dove for him causing him to evade out of the way; the Blennie was back on him and ready to swallow the Hoomah whole but for Sake, who ran forward to pierce the blond chest armor with his rapier only for his sword to fling off the tough armor and out of his hands; the act bought the Hoomah some time, as the focus now was on the boy.  He backed up before the salivating dead beast.  Sake backed into a tunnel of bone, with the Sabretoothe crunching forward to get the fleeing morsel.    The boy ran to the end, that was gated close with bone.  He could not fit through the slits…the beast closed on him—squeezing its body in the tunnel it then writhed, snapping the bone hallway to dusty debris that made a smoke screen of marrow. It opened its jaws, Sake looked away.
A yellow lid showed in the slit of bones blocking Sake’s escape, “DUCK” ordered  Hoomah.  He blew  a bolt through the slit  striking the monster in the left eye sending it recoiling backward in anger.  “ RUN, NOW, BOTH OF YOU, I’LL DEAL WITH THIS DISGRACE.”
Running by the huge body and into the dusty cloud of marrow, Sake found Le Tang and helped him up, “ lets go,” he uttered.  
“ Im not leaving , this is my battle ,” scoffed the injured Tang.  The occupied Hoomah yelled with baritone force “GO NOW,” the force of the Hoomah’s yell blew the boy and the Tang back, crashing through bone—a good stone throw from the battle.   Sake pulled Le Tang up.  Le Tang conceded the fight to the Hoomah, “ All yours big guy,” he muttered in respect to the veteran warrior who looked to be evading the mammouth sized Blennie , but in actuality was stalking him.
They ducked and weaved under and around bone, while the Hoomah was doing the same behind them, avoiding the thundering clamping strikes of the Sabretooth.   The beast moaned, struck at the Hoomah, missing by a pectoral fin width, snapping the bone protrusions in half. Sake understood what that the Hoomah was doing, waiting till the monster showed the other eye so he could spit his barb into it.  A thunder clap, the snapping of bones, were the sounds  as the Hoomah narrowly weaved in and around bone.  
“ Get on, “ commanded LeTang as the bone became less dense allowing easier movement, and the boy got on and they cruised under and around bone to the direction of a faint blue-green and purple beacon off distant.  Sake looked back, he lost his rapier back there with the struggling warrior.  Hoomah looked to not stand a chance, but the calm determined look on the Hoomah’s face re-assured him that he did.  He did not even blink  his yellow lids as he barely retreated from the rotted giant overbite and weaved into another patch of cross bones.  Sake turned his head frontward--saddened, but  knowing there was not enough time.  Another moan, thunderclap, and snapping of bones emitted from the battle taking place well behind them.
Horrid sounds of battle slowly lifted as the land opened up to baron blond sand: the Goby Desert . Sake heard the labored breathing of Le Tang, and dismounted.  “ What are you doing Sake?” get on, we have to make haste,” commanded the ailing neon warrior.
“ You’re injured, don’t worry I will run,” replied the boy.
“ Your about as fast as a periwinkle Cucumboy, get on, or I will go on without you,” said Le Tang.  The boy ignored Le Tang’s bluff, and started to run over the rippled dunes to the faint distant trace of a purple beacon.  “ Sake, I guess I am going to have to carry you,” said Le Tang.  But as he approached the lumbering boy, he froze.  Sake looked back at him with a blue and red eye—the eyes of the anemone.  “ What is wrong Le Tang?” asked Sake.  
Le Tang looked to the approaching walls of bleakness, there were anemones flaming beyond the grey mist—hexing upward to the depths with their demonic digits.  They were perched on top of lobster like silhouettes, awaiting the bleakness to move forward and allow them to move up with it.
“Sake, nothing to win, in world of evil, oblivion is painless, serve the Clowness,” they droned, but only the boy could hear.  They formed pictures, half concealed from the mist that froze the boy-- his eyelids unblinking over his blue and red eye.  “ The world is ice and fire Sake, serve the Clowness, and wield both, they abandoned you, the ‘t’ on your shield and your parents, your teachers, the state, they are one side of the spectrum, serve her Sake…”
Sake’s head started sweating and burning up, his hands became ice cold.  He fell to his knees.     “ See, the world is evil, it is they that are killing you,  killed your soul…” Sake fell lifeless to the sand, his red and blue eyes projecting upward.  “ Serve the Clowness, serve oblivion, and serve yourself, all others already do, but only one side, you will have both, you will die if you don’t, and not from us….let us show you then,” the anemones formed into memories at the base of the grey wall.  
“ This is from  Venice,” it was the image of a priest addressing children in the animation of anemone.  He was talking about his garbs and gesturing to his gold skull that resembled the viper lure around his neck.  
“ See Sake, you asked for light, and this man of red was occupied with the glimmering viper gold hanging from his neck,” the anemone spoke to the mesmerized boy in the accumulated voice of many whispers. “ Worship this or go to hell,” the priest finished.  The anemone undid itself.
Another anemone spoke, already mid animation.
“ Children, we come from apes,  when you die, there is oblivion, we are ungrateful towards society, there are kids dying around the world ….”  It was the visage of a teacher, addressing pupils.
“Ah, but are there not children dying under the teachers nose, loving so far, is so despiteous, making you feel so alone, you do not have to join the viper brood as the teacher or priest, the Clowness will care for you, you can be different from viper,” spoke the anemone.,” you do not even know who is your father and they want you to hug apes.”
“ Serve the Clowness, for she serves the Crab, the Crab wants to enlist you, you will never shed a tear again if you do.”
Le Tang was strapping the hallucinating boy’s foot into his cuirass in the same manner as a foot in a stirrup as the anemone spoke personally only to Sake.
The boy was being dragged by Le Tang, who then picked up speed as to not drag the boy off the sand.  Anemones were replaced by vipers and gulpers, with their gaseous methane hisses.  “ Hold on boy, I’ll get you away from her power,” yelled the speeding Le Tang as the boy’s eyes  projected red and blue—as his head turned they scanned the immediate air like a copy machine.  Red blue skin glowed inside the ‘T’ slit of his coral Trojan helmet.  “ HOLD ON,” desperately cried Le Tang.


  The glowing brain coral became immense, blinding  Le Tang who was dragging the boy.  He reached the base of monument sized brain coral.  The anemone’s light instantly ceased in Sake’s eye as his gaze fell on the Coralcle that was the only outcrop in the sandy wasteland.  “ Where am I,” asked Sake as he got to his feet and looked at the Coralcle that was aglow in purple light that sent out purple haze in the immediate surroundings.  His feet sunk in the sand as he approached then stopped.  The grooves of the Coralcle were rivulets flowing with energy.
The Tang , after seeing the boy was alright, approached closer to the monument.   His flare between his cuirass was completely drowned out by purple light.  “ HOW DO WE SAVE THE DAMSEL?” he yelled impatiently.   Nothing came back.” HOW DO WE STOP THE CLOWNESS AND THE COLD?”  Still nothing.  “ DAM YOU, HELP US, WE HAVE JOURNEYED HERE AND THE PALACE IS IN DANGER.”
Le Tang scowled, and turned his back to the glowing edifice.  “ We wasted our time, let us rejoin Hoomah” he said to the boy who was just staring at the brilliant beacon with light running its grooves as electrons run an elliptical track orbit.  The misty cloud around the glowing object seemed charged.  
Sake doffed his helm, and walked closer to the Coralcle, as if summoned.  Le Tang watched curiously, rippling in the barren desert breeze.  The boy just stood there, and the Coralcle spoke with the combined voice of a billion microscopic whispers and from a region, that was only heard by the boy.  It glowed red from within, in what resembled its mid brain, the hypothalamus of the coral.
The Coralcle spoke no words, but spoke hyper light, and transferred this light to the boy. His eyes dilated and undulated rapidly.  The capillary hypnosis of Caliente’s  and Caviar’s eyes could not compare to this.  Sake felt the message, as high above the Mahi Mahi screamed by.  Take the barb from her heart, put it in yours, then put it in Crab and Clowness alike, and command the gray, was the message to the boy.
A life time of pain was erased from Sake’s eyes.  The Coralcle photo copied from left to right and right to let over the paper whites of the boy’s ovals.  The searing kiss of the anemone was gone, for now.  Sake turned from the dimming Coralcle and faced the sandy expanse closed in from
  walls of misty bleakness  gliding with monsters; darkness was enclosing, and  Le Tang flared up ever more, as did Sake’s helm and blue viper skin gaiters over his shoes.
There was a lacerating scream back in the sabre land where they left the Hoomah, that woke Sake from his paralysis.  It was no telling if it was a death throe or victory cry.  He so badly wanted to go back for him, but Sake knew that coldness was coming; they were boxed in on both sides, where beyond the darkening gray mist were concealed vipers and gulpers of the dark depths.   Le Tang had swallowed all his pride to be able to not sail back and help the stricken Hoomah; his bright neon body was rippling with cat o’nine tail vehemence.
“ We must take the barb out of the Mahi Mahi,” said the boy to the Tang.  Le Tang unsprang his blades, “ we won’t need weapons this time, only armor,” said Sake as walked confidently—matching his voice.  Le Tang followed the boy into sandy wasteland that was the Goby Desert.  
“ We must lure her, “ the boy said while taking of his viper mail. He began waving his viper chain mail like a towel, the chime sound rippled into the wasteland that was quiet as a graveyard and bounced off the impending grey curtain and rose up into the depths.  “   Le Tang, was spinning all around, in trepidation of their vulnerable position—in the open, attracting the locomotive strength of the Mahi Mahi.    “ Sake, I have plenty of weapons and javelins in my armory, how bout we go…”
“ When it comes lay flat as you possibly can, tuck that big nose of yours in, and then we give chase and remove the barb before she ascends…”
Le Tang interrupted the boy,” Big nose, look who’s talking,” the Tang gestured towards the boy’s codpiece,  Sake laughed, and so did Le Tang not fully understanding why.  It was nervous laughter, and suicidal quips, that make heroes out of warriors.
They whipped their heads in a direction of something coming down the narrow passage between light and greyness--that was in line with them and the Coral Kingdom.  It was the long immense jetstream shadow of the Mahi Mahi.  “ Don’t worry Le Tang, I’ve done this before,” he said as he waved the viper mail.  “ That’s very comforting,” quipped Le Tang in an apprehensive look at the daunting shadow.  “ We have to try to hold in place when she screams, and not become dislodged,” said the boy as he looked down the corridor caused by the approaching cold—a corridor that darkened from the corralled massive Mahi Mahi above in the depths.
The sand began to tumble toward them; small whirlwinds of rip currents started dancing upward—then the passage before them between the greyness became occupied by the never-ending procession that was  Mahi Mahi’s body uncoiling downward for its nose dive; to level with the bottom for its screaming prowl.
” Ready Tang,” …Le Tang made an X  motion with his body like a fencer, crossing himself in the sign of the House of Tang with a look on his face of bloodless determination.
It darkened, as if a wave was rising over their heads, the scream came, a slit in the sand came at them with flaring sides forming a V.  “ Remove the barb from the heart,” repeated the boy in his head as the viper mail flew from his body as the first destructive decibel of the scream reached them.  He went down to a three point stance, Le Tang began speeding in place so he would not be dislodged.
They were blasted with sand, that pinged off their armor, Sake covered his ears, and began sliding backward as he was out of three point stance.  Le Tang held him in place by speeding with all his energy.  They were being moved back slowly, the Tang was rippling with lightning speed and yellow energy that was being pushed to its max amperage.  “ I can’t keep up,” gritted Le Tang, as his body began to flicker like an incandescent light.  “ GET READY TANG.”  The trident pierced tongue between the hook studded lips took up all of the narrow passage, the lower lip was exactly Sake’s body width from the ground, but hooks and tackle reached further, carving the sand like a thresher.  He would have to dodge barb and beast.
The giant upper jaw was over them as Sake flattened forward as the lower jaw contacted the plume on his coral helmet almost knocking it off.
They were under the belly of the great beast.   It was as if he was crawling under a moving locomotive, there was no space to move, a barb had hooked his shirt sleeve and ripped it off, another one caught the other sleeve giving the boy a vest.  He dug his head into the sand to be able to look up; the view was of a concrete wall, grout lines of scale, stabbed with hook and spear—a never-ending story of beast.  Barely being able to turn his head forward and seeing a shining harpoon slicing the ground in half, he moved to his right and it flew by him almost cutting him in half.  He could not see Le Tang behind him who unsprang his chest V blade—digging into the ground to remain in place.  The boy’s foot was on Le Tangs head.   Le Tang dodged the deadly hooks and barb, as a fencer parries.  
The beast began to lift in the air, Sake had enough breathing room to turn and yell, “ GET READY.”  Le Tang retorted inaudibly under deafening noise of the beast “ A cucumboy telling me to get ready.”
The behemoth was high enough that no protruding hook on its belly would cut them in half.  As if they rehearsed it, they got up in synchronization, Sake hooked his snake skin boots in the Tang’s silver decking –using them like stirrups to hang on.  Le Tang whipped and rippled, rearing himself like a horse and gave chase to the ascending beast; but the sound breaking scream of the Mahi Mahi was slightly faster than the sound breaking speed of the not full strength Tang; the Mahi Mahi was raising more into the air, the long barb was becoming out of arm’s reach.  “ FASTER,” screamed Sake.  The Mahi Mahi was screaming into the air…“ FASTER.”
Le Tang cracked the sound barrier with whiplash ferocity and rippled so quick that Sake was losing his grip on the silver.  Sake had to take his hand off to grab the barb, and he could barely hold on with two, realizing this Sake yelled “OVERSHOOT IT LE TANG” and the fast thinking Tang grasped the command.  It was almost becoming out of reach, the speeding Tang overshot the target, Sake let go of the silver and he became sucked backward into the jetstream crashing into the barb, and as he bounced off it; he clasped it in a bear hug, the Mahi Mahi was rising faster now, the wind blew off his helmet and undulated the flesh on his face—he put his feet on the scaly belly and pulled, it was in there deep.
“ Ahhhhh,” Sake screamed in his exertion, he was now high above the ground, Le Tang was a ground fire down below.  “ Ahhhhh,” his scream was as desperate as the Mahi Mahi, it pulled loose;  Sake tumbled downward  in a radial pattern  with the long lance like barb, as if he had a parachute that didn’t fully employ—still neck breaking.  The fire on the ground was darting every which way to line up with the falling boy….. “ Shiiiiiiit,” yelled Sake in utter horror.
Sake closed his eyes in expectation of smashing into the ground.  Then smash…he crashed into the slow climbing Tang who put on the afterburner slowing their descent but it was still a too deadly rate, Sake saw the ground a blink away and closed his eyes, but the last second when they were above the ground Le Tang shot forward and tore into the sand like a comet crashing and digging into the earth.
He opened his eyes, darkness, they were in a ten foot hole; the lance was glowing red—where it was submerged in the Mahi Mahi-- behind them at the mouth of the trench they created.  The far off scream graduated into a smoothing glissando of feminine voice—no longer tortured. The Mahi Mahi was at peace and sounded beauteous.
They clamored out of the trench and returned to the lance sticking out of the ground.  The grey that was closing from both sides of the horizon, like towering waiting waves--darkened, they could see the glow of the vipers; both sides were a spear throw away from them on either side now, and the remaining light glowing ahead of them in between the encroaching darkness—was the Coral Palace.
He slowly grasped the lance, a shudder ran through him, he felt the pain in his heart and quickly pulled back his hand— it was glowing as if right from the forge but the tip was shedding ice blue glacial tears.   The Coralcle’s message came into his mind: put it in your heart, then Clowness and Crab alike.
The walls of darkness moaned in unison “ You will fail, and she will die”-- it was a gaseous sound, of decaying methane. Sake grabbed the lance and pulled it from the sand.  The pain was extraordinary, it was the anemone’s kiss  and Blennies bite, but he held on, to return the painful capacitance of the lance to the Clowness, and finally , god willing, to the Dark Crab.
Ignoring their demonic hecklers, they got their armor together, Sake putting on his Coral Trojan helmet, as Le Tang unbent one of his blades.  Sake mounted without saying words, and rested the lance in line with the aerodynamic neon yellow body.  He hoped that they would come across the Hoomah Hoomah on the return journey, but deep down did not think that would be so.

  The tip of the lance coming over Le Tang's eyes was the cue to floor it for Le Tang, and he cracked his body like a whip, speeding down the narrowing passage with demonic droning from both sides.

Chapter 10 Final Chapter: Crabaltar
" Come father, let us embrace."--Excaliber

                    As Le Tang shot through the narrowing passage, Sake suddenly became aware of something, there were two towering walls that enclosed them and the Coral palace, and Crabaltar was only on one side..  The walls no longer resembled the Grey Skies Of Mass, but oblivion interspersed with sliding monsters.  Such Pain, he thought again, looking at the lance glowing, deflecting the rushing air like a boat prow,; and suddenly the lance made him recall painful things, and those painful things were the best days of his life.  He gripped Le Tang’s weapon accoutrements making him rear, swivel, then crash into the ground.  Sake became lost in thought, staring at the lance glowing, upright in the sand--
Images of him deftly catching snowflakes, rolling to catch a leaf flying to the ground, or stabbing a shopping bag whipping through the cold air with a newspaper… every season was gray, cold and alone, then he remembered he was not always alone…there was a warm youthful Summer, replenishing, and he walked away from the sunshine and sat indian style in front of a world he thought he was in control of, then there was the Crab, infiltrating his kingdom of light.  .  A world, where he was no longer deft in hand or confidence, unable to talk, chasing strangers to hug him.  The crying clown painting in his room came to mind, and his mother crying with make-up smeared down her face.    Then he thought of the Damsel, in that Stonehenge within a Stonehenge, that pagan, disgusting vile place, surrounded by vipers.  She belonged in the Coral Kingdom, and he had to put her there all the time forever…and he would put a sword upward through viper breath closing their mouths, so they never again have the audacity to assail the kingdom; and end the mirage that is the Clowness, her falsity, her pretension of bringing happiness, she works misery and a lifetime of craving and vanity.  Then there is the Dark Crab, polluted sludge within a shell, just like his once human followers are shells of their former human-hood….the Crab made the Clowness who she was , who in turn made Blennie.  
The Crab, a cannibal worker from the underworld, not fit to scurry among the upright in the light.  
Sake looked at the other wall of approaching darkness, and it scared him-- it was the future.  
Le Tang was shouting, but Sake couldn’t hear him, just looked at the approaching darkness.  He felt cold, oh so cold…and abandoned.  The landscape darkened, Le Tang was completely back to torch form.
When you feel the darkness pressing from the past and the future, warm yourself by the fire.  It was the voice of the Queen Angel in his head.  He snapped out of it with Le Tang’s shout.
“ You have nearly wrecked us.”
Sake looked at him, a blazing fire, went to put out his hands as if to warm them, but stopped.  Le Tang was his future, a future of revenge and vehemence.  Sake could not give that up, he was only a boy, and boys do not know forgivness, especially from teachers that wear the glowing skull lure of viper round their necks.
Walls running all the way up to the depths laughed and screamed at the two knights—they  appeared to show hideous teeth while they laughed and screamed then let way for another  volley of screamers.  The walls were a javelin throw away from either side now. Sake became enraged.  “  Let us go, and finish off these mutants,” said he, as he  pulled the lance out of the sand and mounted Le Tang.
The neon warrior in silver armor said nothing, and appeared less vengeful than the boy for the first time.  In life as in death, said Sake to himself, repeating the Hoomah’s words.  They went forward, through the bone brambles, no sight of the veteran hunter, nor Blennie.  They slowed a bit, but after concluding that a tropical warrior had been felled, they sped on to the faint pulsing image of the Coral palace that was without a doubt under siege.  They both said nothing, enraged at the apparent loss of their fellow knight.

Light came into view.  Hope?  No, for it was the Clowness’ magnificent anemone, surrounded by shining armor and yellow fin laying lifeless on the ground still smoking from a hot tendril touch .  Her massive anemone stayed in the dark towering waiting wave of coldness, and  it was atop a giant lobster—under her control—black eyed, and soulless, a lobster from miserable polluted sludge.  Crabaltar was behind her, inching closer with every blink.
“ Run this hag through, and sever her head” ran through the boy’s mind faster than the Tang was moving.  Le Tang tacitly approved.
They charged straight forward with the lance glowing lance leading the way.  The front row of blue and red anemone mobilized and formed a line mocking colonial era troops…tri corner hats and all, and pointed muskets with tendril bayonets protruding from the ends.  Sake pulled back on the Tang and they stopped just short of their deadly reach.  The bayonets went to attention, and formed a path for the besieging baroness.  She came forward with legs of anemone covered with red knee high jack boots and blue riding pants, and a blue-red fencing mask that quickly unformed to show her orange face.
“ Oh, my poor knights, you tried so hard to save the Queen, but she is almost within my grasp, so maybe you might think of serving me.”
“ We would never serve a hag from the cold water realm, you are an usurping peasant in temporary clothes, “ sneered Le Tang, moving clockwise around the red and blue troops, who in turn moved  their bayonets to follow his throat.
“ But my poor Tang, you have already helped me, with your anger, and you boy, yes I know what you are,” she stepped down closer to address Sake who was standing still unlike Le Tang, “ You have unrolled the carpet for me, letting the cold in, and I am Queen of the Coldwater, and now to be Queen of the Petrified Coral Kingdom, and then ruler of Saccade, and I will replace the knights with vipers, and they shall be more colorful than their monochrome cold water cousins, and they shall balance the temperatures.”
“ They are not tropical warriors, but imposters , and it will not work, the knights are the vipers opposite, evil cannot be evil’s opposite,” gritted Sake with the help of his helm.
Sake held the lance over his shoulder, he did not know what to do, for surely her anemones would intercept it.  They would have to slay each tendril, there was no other way.  “ Enough talking old hag,” said Sake and with that gambit, Tang sprang his sabres then they split into their X as he raced forward slicing a row of red musket men in half.  Sake moved forward, and speared a blue coat in the chest.  The Clowness went back into her field attire and fencing mask, “ Fools” she laughed.
Le Tang hacked and hacked them down, and Sake leaned in for a thrust , pulled back, and speared again,  but every assembled soldier they dispatched, it was only scratches to individual tentacles.  Le Tang was hacking his blades dull, he could not penetrate into the defense of the Clowness.  His yellow body was sending small curls of smoke where the tendrils had reached their mark, he was losing the war of attrition.  Sake’s armor was more complete,  but not having the Tang’s speed left him more vulnerable, a tendril wrapped around his wrist, “ Aaaaarrrr,” he yelled and stabbed through it with the lance. He was using the weapon as a bat just to stay alive now, he was retreating, and Le Tang was still hacking nowhere.
A soldier bayoneted through Le Tang’s tail, another grabbed hold of his fin, Le Tang sliced one off him, but another came.  “ Fall back,’ Sake yelled, but it was too late, the soldiers were on Le Tang; the Clowness was laughing haughtily now. They took off his armor and held him by the tail, which was smoking from the hold; the bayonets now all trained their points at his chest, he was helpless.  Red tendrils put on the Tang’s blades and ornament, and formed to the front.
“ What about now, will you render your service , haha,” taunted the Clowness.   “ You are just a boy, can’t even speak without the help of your helm, how would you expect to beat me.”
Sake wanted to throw the lance, but knew it stood no chance, unless something cleared the way first.  Le Tang was screaming from the burn, but he was still yelling “Hag” at the top of his lungs.  The  giant lobster moved forward towards the palace stairs and stopped, awaiting the cold to move forward again.
“ Serve me Sake, you will live greatly I assure you, we will be the most brightest in the land of Saccade, no one will rival us.”
“And the Damsel?” asked Sake as he noticed something in the cold wall, but it was not a viper, it was a yellow lid and it blinked at him, implying “get ready.”
“ The Damsel will go to oblivion painlessly and my palace and I will be the brightest in the kingdom of  fifty shades of Grey,” and with the Clowness’ remark the Hoomah rushed forward from the darkness where he was concealed by the besmearing of his body with the Sabretoothe Blennie’s black heart.  Hoomah bull dozed into the anemone, making a way for the harpoon, the red and blue tendrils first stung his shark bone armor, then slipped it off and slapped at his scale, but the warrior still rushed forward, all the tendrils formed together to stop the hulking Hoomah.  Sake watched for any lane to open up and throw as he moved forward diverting some attention away from the Hoomah and the captured Tang.
The soldiers retook tendril form and left Tang under two guards, one guard was mid thrust with a bayonet to Le Tang’s heart.  Le Tang whipped free and whipped the guard in half, then cut the tendrils in half that stole his armor by pressing the collapse mechanism only he could work, and Le Tang was back in his armor slicing the tendrils off the dog pile on the Hoomah.  Sake walked to the right of the ferocious foray, and had the Clowness in his sight, with only two tendrils standing guard, he poised the lance that was hot with magmatic pain.
“ Haha, boy, you can’t harm me,” as she said that Sake squinted under his Trojan coral mask and took three steps forward and launched.  The two tendril guards grasped the lance, but before they could slow it down, it struck home, pinning the Clowness to the lobster.  She looked at Sake in horror, mucus formed on her face and body, the tendril’s left her attire.  Her eyes looked up to the depths then she split from the lance in two gelatinous globs, splattering on the lobster.   The anemone returned to its lifeless sway.  He could not believe it, they defeated her.  Sake ran around the lobster, to look for his compeers.  They were at the base of the anemone, he pulled them out by their fins one at a time.
Both were in rough shape, but Hoomah  had ribs exposed.  Le Tang raised himself to a fin, and looked at the Hoomah.  The Hoomah’s big eyes were looking forward and not blinking when Sake cried  “ you’re alright ” the big eyes came down and looked at Sake.  Tears were swimming out of the boy’s eyes.  Hoomah spoke: “ You will be the first of your line, protect it… do not waste a kill, now go save her,” and with his last breath he made his last joke and blew Sake’s helmet off.
He stood up, and closed his eyes, not moving.  The loss of his mentor, was his final lesson.  He fought with all his might to hold back his tears, as if Hoomah was still watching him…As in life as in death… and that thought wiped all expression from his face and unleashed him from his brood.
Sake picked up his helmet, and retrieved the lance.  He could not bear to look at Hoomah, he rather look at the redoubtable approaching Crabaltar.  He turned and faced it down, as the Trojan coral before him, it was at the doorstep to the Coral Kingdom.  "Don’t waste a kill"  he said out loud.  He  lifted up the lance and brought it down on the lobsters leg.  Cracking and prying it off, then reaming it out. He shoved his hand up it, and with his now claw armored arm he snipped off anemone, and put it all over his armor. He worked lifelessly, as if he was a mortician doing his own art.  Battle hardens the heart.
“ I’m coming with you” minced Le Tang.  Sake just shook his head, he knew Le Tang still could not move anyways.
The cold breeze caught his Trojan algae plume, and his red blue anemone swayed off his arms and torso in medusa lethality, ready to sting flesh from him .
He walked toward the towering dark wall after his anemone glow entered first.  The dark creatures of the fathoms silenced their demonic laughs, “not so tough anymore.”

A Deep Sea Gulper went to clamp Sake, but Sake’s armor bit into it, sending it scampering off singed and yelping like a beat dog as he walked to the entrance of Crabaltar.  He needed no torch, the anemones light searched into the darkness and his lance was the equivalent of fifty torches .  He passed into the foyer, where it all began, then passed into the first dark portal.  The crevices emitted their glowing eyes of vipers, the anemones singed and stunned them.  The vipers screamed in Sakes face as they burned from the sting, he did not blink, just head butted them with his helm or ripped out the stunned ones from his armor and crushed them underfoot as he walked down the long narrow passage.  He stood up to his knees in dead viper.  He took a knee before the Damsel’s chamber.   More vipers screamed down the hall, then screamed in their painful retreat.
As he took a knee, he took off his blue-red light anemone to stand guard at his rear as his lime green helm lighted the path to his front.  The lance was a magmatic rivulet in his hand, glowing to unseen proportion in the dark enclave.
He closed his eyes, “ Power and speed, be hands and feet” and walked into the chamber with  his eyes still closed remembering the Crab’s claw will close on her if he sees it.
He heard a click, and knew the claw was only one click away from the Damsel, he walked at the Crab, and heard the rock wall behind the Crab coming loose with baby crab.  Sake did not stop.  He climbed on top of the Crab; the wall of small crabs came over him, he still did not stop his ritual.  The Crab’s free scythe came up slowly and pathetically to pierce Sake in the side, it did not get deep.  Sake still did not make a noise, but raised the lance with both hands, he stabbed down through the cannibal’s exoskeleton, prying each way to open the wound.  The exoskeleton made a cracking noise that echoed off every wall. Then he opened his eyes and stuck the lance through the claw that held the Damsel and snapped it off by  giving the lance a hard boot, ripping  the black scythe claw to the floor  . The Damsel fell slowly to the ground like a feather.  He buried the lance through the crab’s brain and the baby crabs fell off him.  
He stepped down and picked up the Damsel, as the whole place begin to buckle.  He walked over uneven ground of dead viper, and into the foyer as one of the gigantic rocks overhead fell behind him blocking the entrance to the Crab’s layer.  He walked out of Crabaltar as the place began to crumble..   Rock tonnage fell with thunderous force, sending out aftershocks.
Outside was already brightening; he walked with her in his arms past the giant dead lobster to the Coral Palace that was becoming alive again.  He walked past his fallen mentor, but  Le Tang was not there.  The grand staircase lit up in a white hot glow from the first touch of Sake’s snake skin gaitered boots, the Damsel opened her eyes, and looked at her hero as he climbed the stairs. “ You are free,” said Sake looking into her eyes.
“ Ma frère” she said, “ you are free,” and she quaked in his arms, her heart ceasing from beating .  He stopped on the stair landing, looking downward; the stair case flickered and so did the whole kingdom, he then proceeded to ascend the stair case and the staircase responded by glowing its white aura continuously.
He reached the open hall, servants and hand maids were there with a royal bed, he placed her on it.  They took her within the palace, as the Queen was being led out to her throne.  Coral parapets were energizing and forming purple wavelengths undulating in soothing sine waves along the palace--in healthy heartbeat rhythm.
Sake turned around and doffed his helmet, holding it under his arm. He had to see this unimpaired and not through the ‘T’ opening of the Trojan coral..  Life was returning to the Kingdom, the corals glowed, light came from the depths.  The Mahi Mahi glided over the kingdom, no hook nor barb in her face--she was beautiful, and strong, and her shadow brought forth magnificient light displays on the corals.
  He stood looking at the impressive vista, the court filled behind him, hailing him as a hero.
  The Damsel’s image was projected from the corals onto the sky and onto the palace walls.  Sake heard a drip drop sound, just as he saw Le Tang beyond the palace, he had his armor back on, and he had only one fin.  He rendered a salute—a three stroked fencing slash with his body- -smiled, then collapsed his blades and turned.  Le Tang became a wandering fire.
Clan Hoomah came to claim the body of Hoomah Hoomah, a procession longer than the kingdom, and a body worth more than Alexander the Great’s.  One particular clan member led the procession, he was young, with the same neon war paint through his right eye—two upside down feathers.  No one in the procession showed any expression, other than austerity, Sake remembered the Hoomah’s words…” In life as in death,”  and smiled at the sight of the clan, all austere faces with : lips of jokesters, minds of hunters, and hearts of mentors.
He thought he heard the Queen Angel hailing him, he turned, and the drip drop sound became louder.  He stood on the glowing marble coral landing, holding his helmet, as the highway of returning colorful refugees came from both directions to hail the knights.  An elliptical constellation twinkled up in the depths.  He felt as if he was being pulled away from the kingdom, as if the journey was over.
“ Sake, can you hear me, Sake, honey, are you awake.”
He opened his eyes; he was in his bed, his mother was attending him.  He sat up, his tank was back on.  He looked at his mother, she looked like she had been crying.  “ Sake, you had a high fever, you--you called out things in your sleep.  I turned  your tank back on, there is breakfast for you when your ready—and Summer is waiting for you” she turned and left.
Sake stumbled out towards his tank.  Waving like a magnificent banner, was the Queen Angel .  The rock jumble in the middle had collapsed; on it, a neon scallop shell, with a lower case’t’ indentation in the center.  He turned to the window and smiled.  The overcast was being pierced by a thousand swords of light, the reflections running down his dark walls slowly diminished, and returned to their source.

Afterword


My Angel In Heaven

I am tired and want to die,
I am not Atlas, but still
try to hold up the sky.

But it is not your sky I hold up,
it is her heaven, over violent sea.
she needs my help--I need help,
sunset-- I am down to knee.

If my arms weaken--
I lost faith,
my young angel,
will disappear into ocean--
without trace.

Every morn I stand,
some days refreshed;
when ocean is quiet,
and clouds resemble
Sunday dress.

My angel in heaven,
sea spray can lash my face,
wind can howl in my ears--
I will still hold your heaven in place,
from falling in the ocean of tears.--KjC

Journal of Darkness: Assassin and Deceptress


Nov 21, 2011, 8:17:32 PM by ~OmegaWolfOfWinter
Journals / Personal




(description of storyline: all characters in this work are dragons, with the ability to change into a human form. they live in present day society, but have a base in the middle of the desert. there is a library with the history of the world, which is operated by stacra, an organization to preserve the peace in the world. there is a rival organization, the dracra, who wish to take it over. the dracra is led by a dragon named Darkheart, a dragon who has haunted the Scar line for millenia.)
"... sahsa...."
what was that mumbled sasha, a small town girl in modern day USA. she was nearly asleep when the voice called to her.
sasha was usually described as a freak. she was a dragon fanatic, and she carried her favorite books wherever she went, Brink of Insanity: journal of the Wild and the Broken; and its companion, Blood curse:  journal of the Destroyer and the Savage. they told of dragons living in new york who had to bear a family curse and sought a way to release it. the author was only known as "Lucian".
"....sasha...."
i'm sure i heard it that time...
"....come to me sasha...."
she didnt know why but she felt as if she absolutely had to find the source. she was barely clothed but quietly snuck out, leaving small footprints in the snow.
"....sasha!...."
she felt panicked. as the voice grew louder so did her heart, beating quickly in her ears. some sort of animal instinct took over and she somehow Managed to run on all fours. her whole body began tingling, her skin writhing. she looked back and nearly choked: wings and a tail... had grown from her body. her whole body turned white as scales etched their way into life over her skin. her body began elongating and enlarging, becoming streamlined and lizardlike. she was transforming...
"...yes!... just as you said, master...."
"...quiet, kovu..."
sashas vision went dark as she stumbled, barrelling through the snow. when she looked up, she saw an enormous dragon, with scars just like the ones in her book. "she will be a fine student."
sasha was dumbfounded as she saw her parents walk up behind them. "greetings, master Lucian, kovu." said her father.
"and you, rydon."
"y-you...know...?" stammered sasha.
"all will be explained in the morning, sasha," replied her mother.
sasha felt tired and her eyes shut as the ground came up to meet her.
sasha sat alone at the picnic table, surrounded by lucian, her father rydon, her mother sophia, and kovu. "so... you're all.... dragons.... like in my books..." she gestured to the two books.
lucian stepped forward and placed a hand on the books. his hand glowed and the glossy books turned to worn, leather journals. "yes, we are dragons. sasha. and you have done well guarding my journals."
"your... journals? but i thought that these were best-selling novels..."
lucian chuckled, "no no. young one, there are only two other copies of each of these in existence."
"wow..."
her father spoke up now, "so what are you here for, master? is it time for her to leave us?"
"leave?! what do you mean leave?!"
rydon looked worriedly at lucian and then at sasha,"you are dragon, and it is tradition for you to be trained."
"but what if i dont want to leave?!"
her father began to become angry,"its not your choice!"
"then whose-"
lucian's eyes glowed red in anger, "rydon, haven't you taught your daughter respect? surely you would know of my ways by now."
rydon nodded, "i- i'm sorry, master. i don't know whats come over her."
sasha ran, shifting to her new dragon form and flying away. darkheart had warned her of this, that lucian was a dictatoria leader. she asked herself, "why had her father taken his side? why did this have to happen so suddenly? and most of all, what was she going to do next?"
darkheart had given her directions to meet her after lucian made contact. sasha flew, tired as she was not used to the extra limbs.
once she reached the spot that darkheart had told her, she waited and thought things through.
once darkheart arrived, she spoke, "i want to join you. i beleive everything you've said."
darkheart chuckled, "i knew you would dear girl, lucian is the same as his grandfather, they both hounded me and tortured me, for their own twisted ways. i've tried to keep as many as possible from falling into their cluthces. i wasn't able to kill scarheart, as he captured me and forced me into his own body as an energy slave. he tortured me even there, and after he died, lucian, his grandson, got me. he too tortured me."
sasha looked at her in sock, "thats terrible. i didnt know..."
"you couldnt have, darling. those evil dragons keep everything from those who should know."
sasha stood, "i want to be trained. by you."
"really? i warn you, it is quite tough. not all survive. you must be willing to do whatever it takes to stop those vile dragons."
     *     * 3 years later
sasha was 20 years old, and it was time for her to take on her first big mission: infiltrate lucian's schol and learn everything she could.
sasha had already talked to lucian, apologizing for her behavior so long ago. lucian had seemed hesitant but allowed her in. *foolish old bat.
she thought. she had been at the compund for a year and a half now and had become familiar with their ways.  sasha would often wonder why she was doing this, and she remembered, darkheart had said that lucian killed sashs's father. she always looked at him with scorn and wished to kill him. but she restrained herself and kept on the facade.
today she felt especially hating towards every master she came in contact with. she passed tsai, lucian's right hand dragon, as he went to talk with the master. she tried to eavesdrop but they were speaking in an ancient, coded language. she growled and her white scales flashed in the sun.


"Lucian, somethings not right about that youngling sasha... she's always watching us, like she's gathering information."
"yes, tsai, i know. i know exactly what she is."
"what?" tsai looked skeptical.
"she's an agent, an informant. for darkheart."
tsai stared, incredulous."wha?! how do you know?!"
"ive been under the influence of darkheart before, as have you. something about sasha is of darkheart's doing."
tsai nodded "even still, is she possessed by her or under orders?"
lucian thought for a moment "i beleive under orders..."
both stared as lucian's son, kovu, walked up to sasha.
       *        
"sasha! hi!" kovu had taken a liking to sasha since his father took her as an apprentice.
"oh, um. hi. kovu..." i cant let my emotions get in the way of my mission! "how have you been?" sasha felt herself blush under the gaze of the drake. he wasnt half-bad to look at, and she often caught herself watching him.
"i'm doing great, training with tsai is always fun. what about you and master lucian?"
her eyes darted to her master, her target, then back at kovu. "you mean you're... dad?"
"yeah... my dad... but we students can only call them by their designation. even master scaleweaver calls some elders master."
sasha's ears pricked up as she heard scaleweaver's name. she was assigned to gather information on all of the masters. i must make madame darkheart proud... i am worthy... she must see that...
"is... something wrong, sasha?"
she caught herself, "n-no i'm just tired is all... just tired..."
her master lucian came toward her what a fool, he doesnt even know about me... "sasha, i need to speak with you.... alone."
kovu difpped his head and backed away respectfully.
"sasha, come."
she swallowed her pride and said, "yes... master..." and followed him.
once they were outside, lucian turned to her and said, "i know, sasha. i know that darkheart sent u here to gather information on us."
sasha's eyes widened and her mouth dropped. she thought hard how?! how does he know?! this cant be possible....
"i-i dont know what youre talking about, master..."
lucian turned on her with a peircing gaze, and made her wince as he studied her. "there are better ways to lie, youngling... but not to me. ive known for quite some time now."
sasha felt her legs give out beneath her. she sat, looking into the dust, listening incredulously at lucian. "how... how do you know?!?!"
sasha ran forward, clawing at lucian's throat. she was instantly frozen in place, an immensely strong spell holding her legs in place.  "let me go, lucian!"
"its master to you, youngling. and why would i let you go? you just tried to kill me." sasha struggled helplessly against her bonds. she saw lucian mutter something and felt her legs grow suddenly cold. she looked and gasped as ice started to creep up her haunches.
"lucia-master, please let me go... i was only under orders."
lucian chuckled, "how did darkheart get to you?"
"i can't tell you..."
"oh? then let me guess; theres another informant, a higher up in stacra, who told darkheart about you and she arrived, possibly a week before us? she fed you a story of stacra destroying the world and trying to take over the one that they created. she told you that she was only trying to help restore order. am i close?"
sasha felt naked under the gaze of the elder, who saw straight through her act and through her commander's plan. it made her heart quicken and her scales writhe. she felt a sharp pain as the ice crept up and chilled her thighs, creeping steadily upwards. "how... how can you know these things?! darkheart said you wouldnt be able to know... she said that you held her prisoner... that you tortured her... she said that you- you killed my father."
lucian shook his head and wiped something from his face, revealing gruesome scars. "she altered her face to look like mine... look, and know the truth." he placed a claw on her forehead and she gasped as a flood of memories flooded her, darkheart inside lucian's mind, taking over him, taunting him, and forcing him to do terrible things. she heard lucian say, "she tortured me, she held me captive. its true that stacra destroyed the world, but look also;" she saw the corrupt government of old, and their wretched attrocities. "they brought about their own destruction. we created the world you know, but dont wish it to be taken over, we merely want peace...We act as peacekeepers. darkheart seeks to enslave all to do her bidding. and your father died at darkheart's talons, not mine." sasha saw a gruesome scene as lucian tried to save her father.
she felt him withdraw, and felt the magic and ice withdraw from her, the ice's touch fading from her rump. she shivered and crouched low, warming her body.
"sasha, darkheart is a liar... she's been at it for thousands of years." he watched her shiver and said. "come, sit around the fire."
sasha noddded and followed close behind lucian, hiding her vulnerable state.
"i'm sorry, master."
"all will be okay, sasha... all will be fine.."
lucian brought sasha into his study under his wing. he had her sit down in front of the fire and draped a blanket over her. he sat down behind her, looking over the latest reports, waiting for her to speak. after a few minutes she sighed and looked back at lucian, tears forming in her eyes. "is everything you said true? Is darkheart nothing but a deceptionist?"
lucian looked up at her and nodded. "all of it was true. I'm sorry, sasha. darkheart is a gifted deceptionist and many of us have fallen for her tricks.  including me."
sasha turned back and looked into the fire with sad eyes, tears rolling down her cheek. she shuddered and took a shaky breath. lucian came up beside her and placed a comforting paw on her shoulder.
"darkheart forced me to kill my best friend... a she-drake named Clia... in front of her other followers to show that we must be able to turn on anyone to fulfill the mission..."
lucian nodded, "so I had heard... darkheart has become more cruel than ever."
"l-lucian, what can i do to make her pay?"
lucian thought for a while and then shook his head. "let me think more on this, sasha. for now, let no one know that you are an affiliate of darkheart, it could have deadly consequence. you may remain in here if you wish, or you may return to your own quarters. i have some things to attend to."
sasha nodded to him and gasped as everything went still and dimmed, even the fire seemed grey and frozen.
"wha-"
"sasha... you must tell me now, will you work with me?"
she was stunned. "where are you? what do you mean?"
"you want to get back at her, i know how to. but you must tell me if you will work with me."
"i-i will, lucian. but whhy ask now, and in this way?"
"because, there is someone here, that is going to try to kill you. he was listening to us and is going to attack you with magic. ive cast a spell that will give an apearance of death. just let the magic do its stuff and u'll do fine">
"but wait!"
"you must trust me, sasha."
all of a sudden, everything went back to normal, and lucian was gone, she could hear his fading footsteps.
what was that abou- wait! the killer... she kept facing the fire and listened as she had been taught to the clawsteps of the incoming dragon.
"is it true? you're one of them?!"
sasha turned and gasped, flashing him a shocked, innocent look over her shoulder. "what are you talking about, kovu?"
he was angry, and she was struck with fear. "i overheard you and lucian talking. i heard everything."
sasha turned to face him."y-you, heard everything..."
"then you are one of them! i cant beleive it... i cant beleive i trusted you."
kovu stepped forward and sasha's eyes shifted, trying to find a way out. "kovu, i- i can explain."
"you're nothing but a trickster, a deceptress! dont try to talk me out of this."
her heartbeat quickened, stricken with dread. "out of... out of what, kovu?"
he said nothing but uttered the death spell.
          
sasha let herself go, remembering lucian's spell. but as she did so, she thought about why she was doing this. *to make darkheart suffer...
she heard lucian in her mind. "you'll be going to death-sleep for a while, a few days to make it beleivable. now sleep, sasha... sleep and i will awaken you soon."
"o-okay, master lucian..."
"there is no need to call me master anymore, sasha. from now on, you no longer exist. which is why darkheart will never see you coming. its time... dont worry."
the death-sleep overcame her and she fell to darkness.
   * *
lucian ran downstairs and saw kovu standing over sasha's body. he put on a facade of dread and said, "kovu.... what have you done?!"
kovu looked at lucian angrily. "you were going to harbor a killer... i took care of the problem."
lucian became angry now, "no, you made more problems. you didnt think... you didnt listen. she was willing to help."
kovu snarled at lucian, "i did what needed to be done. I killed her for you, father."
lucian responded quietly, "you killed a helpless dragoness in cold blood. i have no choice but to arrest you for murder, my son." he muttered a binding spell and blocked kovu's magic. he watched kovu struggle for a moment then went to pick up sasha's seemingly lifeless body. he contacted her mentally, saying, "i'm taking your body in to the infirmary, i'll oversee your examination. in 2 days, i will wake you, when i do, be very quiet."
"yes, sir."
sasha's new appearance was stunning, quite different from the black color of her original scales, she now looked like each scale was a glittering saphire, and her horns and underside were now a shimmering silver. sasha was astonished by what lucian had done, he had also changed her voice and form, making her more slender and agile, he altered her voice in such a way that it seemed that she could charm the heart out of a rock. even lucian who had a mate of his own had to keep himself composed. but he was undoubtedly pleased that things were turning out well. lucian had to change everything about her, her eyes now a deep green, her draconic fingerprint being her tail-tip and spine, were changed to furry mane and a slender diamond tip.
she looked at herself in amirror and remarked how mature she looked.
"you may have to be put in certain situations which may have you exploit some... erm... feminine charms."
"so i'll have to...."
"only if you let it go that far. it depends on you. you said that you'd  do anything to get back at darkheart. these matters are up to your own discretion."
she thought long about this. "i want to get back at darkheart... but i also want to keep myself until i'm ready."
lucian thought this over and finally had a eureka moment, "i can make it so that you can remain as you are but still fulfill what is required."
lucian explained that he could put a barrier inside her to keep her cover but still remain pure. sasha nodded, this was a good plan. "this is a bit... different... but you can also seduce your target into a game of blindfold and make him think that such acts were taking place."
sasha smiled but then frowned as she said, "but what if he were to refuse?"
lucian chuckled and said, "as you are now, you should have no problem seducing him." sasha was feeling more confident about her new missions as lucian encouraged her. she felt a bit embarrassed as she exposed herself to lucian as he placed the barrier, but Remembered why she was doing this: to destroy darkheart. "you are no longer sasha. that dragon has died. from now on, you are akira. it is your new name, a clean slate, make it what you want it to be."
lucian gave akira a pack that only she could see, it contained a garment that looked exactly like her scales, but added a bit more to her lower regions, housing an area for a male member.
akira surprised lucian by embracing him. "thank you, for giving me a chance. any others would have killed me. but you saw that i was different and gave me an opportunity."
"there's no need to thank me, akira. everyone deserves a chance. now, theres a secret chamber in my study, inside you'll find your new quarters. theres a door to the outside. use that when you're on  an assignment."
"alright lucian, i'll do my best."
"i know you will, akira. i know you will."
Akira took to a new name and a new lifestyle, she was then called sasha. she took on a quiet lifestyle of study and peace around the stacra. around lucian, she felt more confident, and when he invited her to his study for an assignment, always asked how she was taking to her new tasks. she was completely open with him and often told him the extent of her feelings. he listened and commented every once in a while, but let her do most storytelling. lucian acted as therapist, friend, and father to akira. lucian often sent her to his grandfather's library, where the elder stacra were studying. she went to meditate and to train privately in the ways of the assassin and seductress.
she often saw kovu, scarheart's son and her "killer" around the stacra headquarters. he bore scars on his back and his wings, no doubt as punishment for killing her. she avoided him as much as possible. but couldnt keep away for long.
"sasha, how are you?"
she tried not to use too much of her skills on him, but did her best to play it cool.
"oh, hey kovu. i was just on my way to master lucian's study for a book."
she could see kovu's immediate change as he heard her voice. his tongue lolled and his eyelids drooped slightly. a shiver ran down his body and his wings shuffled. His tail twitched with anticipation. akira played along for a bit, she needed all the practice she could get. "where are you going, kovu?" she said slyly. she walked around him, brushing the tip of her tail against his chin and down his neck. kovu was like clay in her hands. "i-i'm not going a-anywhere sssasha..."
she flashed him a teasing look "oh really?"
someone called her name. "sasha. you're late for your lesson." it was lucian. he wore an unreadable look and waited.
"c-coming master lucian. goodbye kovu." and she ran to lucian's side, following him to the study.
"what were you doing, akira?"
she felt like a little girl doing something wrong, caught by her father. "i-i was
Just practicing, master."
lucian's voice was emanating urgency. "practicing? you practice on targets, not your fellow drakes. i understand wanting to hone your skills, but there is a time for that." he sighed and continued, "just dont let me catch you at it again."
akira looked down at her feet in shame. she snapped back up when lucian chuckled. "good job though, you had him in your claws."
akira smiled and asked, "what's the latest? you didnt call me for a study."
"you're right, i didnt. you're next target: a lieutenant named jackal. he knows about darkheart's inner defenses. do what you can. get as much intel as you can. but be safe. trust no one."
"yes, sir, lucian."
"get some rest, meditate, check your equipment. i dont want you to get hurt."
akira nodded, lucian was being careful, as always. it had been a month since her last assignment and she was nervous. she was always nervous. but lucian gave her strength.
The young sapphire dragoness lay on her back on her bedpad, practicing her best lines and poses. she double and even triple checked her weapons and equipment, cleaning and inspecting every inch. after that she meditated as tsai had shown her. tsai was the combat master and headed the technology division of stacra. he had designed her mating garment, allowing her to remain pure and still complete the mission.
after meditating for a few hours she passed into a calm state, subconsciously going over her assignment: seduce the target and retriece the information. seducing usually meant she had to feign sexual acts. she did so using the mating garment.
akira couldnt fall asleep, something had been buzzing at the back of her mind. she wondered if lucian was awake. she decided it would be best to check. akira tiptoed down the staircase and into the study, where she often heard lucian cry out in frustration at the reports.
Tonight was another of those nights, she could hear lucian 's fire breathing, a way of relaxing for him.
she quietly asked, "lucian? can we... talk?"
he set down a roll of parchment, a report. "of course, akira. come, i'll make tea."
akira sat in front of the small fire and took a small cup of steaming tea. "thanks. somethingss been bothering me, master."
lucian looked inrigued. "oh?"
"yeah... i ...i like kovu..."
"really? i had noticed some things going on, but hadnt been sure. So youve taken a liking to my son."
"yes... but...."
"but what?"
"he killed me...."
"hmmm yes thats right... i see your problem. youre afraid that he'll find out."
"exactly..." akira stared into her tea. "what should i do, lucian?"
"wait. wait for the right moment, then come out with the truth." akira nodded and yawned. she lay down on the floor in front of the fire, letting the fire warm her scales. she soon fell asleep. lucian covered her with a blanket and left, attending to his other duties.
Akira's dreams turned to nightmares. she saw a corridor painted obscurely with blood, and a dark doorway beyond it. behind her was a cliffside, and an abyss below it. it was deep night and only the full moon splayed its eerie light over the dragoness. dark thunderclouds often eclipsed the moon, leaving her to darkness. it began to rain, an unnatural rain, with loud, booming thunderclaps and blinding lightning strikes. something was approaching from the abyss, a dark winged form flew low and fast. akira ran down the bloody corridor, her claws stained crimson. she found the doorway and slammed the door closed as the form smashed into it. akira panted heavily. she couldnt see anything, but could tell that there were windows in the room. akira took a step forward, her claws tapping sharply on the stone. she stopped when she stepped in something warm and wet: blood. a pool of it. a single
bolt of lightning lit the room for a second, but the after-image told enough. it was kovu, and lucian,
Both were dying, blood gushing from numerous wounds. she ran to where they were laying, but found nothing there, only a pool of blood. "k-kovu... lucian..."
she heard a whisper behind her and she whirled around to find Darkheart standing in front of her.
"i see you've been cavorting with the enemy, akira. youve been a naughty dragon."
"no! you are a liar!" akira slashed at her throat, only to have darkheart dissipate into smoke. lightning struck again and she turned back to see darkheart slashing at a falling lucian. kovu came behind them and caught the tip of darkheart's needle pointed tail in his chest, protruding out of his back. he fell next to lucian. the blood began to pool and the 2 dragons coughed up more. they convulsed and fell quiet. "kovu!! lucian!!"
     *
lucian sat next to akira, apparently having a nightmare, she was shaking, and her face was contorted with fear and she whimpered every once in a while. lucian began to shake her awake when she began sweating through
Scales. after a moment, she jumped back and knocked over a stack of books. she was shaking uncontrollably. lucian stepped toward her, "akira, are you okay?" he placed a comforting claw on her shoulder.
she was tense. lucian extended a wing over her and ushered her closer. "come on. tell me what happened."
she explained to him what happened in her dream, towards the end she was crying on lucian's shoulder.
lucian comforted her and said, "the assignment's off. you need a break. you need some time to yourself."
"b-but what about the target?"
"there will be more targets, more opportunities."
akira nodded. they stood there for a while, and akira began to doze off. lucian escorted her up the stairs and into her quarters. he waited for her to fall asleep before leaving.
Akira woke up around noon, after a long dreamless sleep. she stretched her cat-like body and shuffled her wings, feeling a dull throb on her back from her collision with the books. when she looked out the window, she realized how late it was and tiptoed downstairs. lucian sometimes held a class in the study and she waited, listening first before entering. when she heard no noise, she entered the sun-lit room. akira jumped back when she saw tsai waiting for her.
"morning, akira." she looked at tsai, stunned that he knew her real name. she prepared herself for a magical and physical battle. only lucian ever called her by her real name. "don't worry, lucian asked me to accompany you to the waterfalls, he told me it was your favorite spot."
"but why?"
"he's giving you a fortnight to relax. he wants you to take time off. you may go wherever you want, wether here, the library, or the meditation island, lucian has granted permission to all."
akira smiled and nodded. lucian as always was looki
ng out for her. Akira looked out the open window and heard the waterfall calling to her. she inhaled deeply and said, "i'd like some time at the waterfalls."
"to the waterfalls it is."
        
akira was half submerged in magically heated water, the waterfalls rushing waters creating a massaging vibe around her. she lay her head on the warm banks, content to be massaged by the falls. Tsai had gone back to the base, leaving akira to herself for a while. she let her mind drift and her muscles relax, snoozing the day away. She slowly awoke to a rustling in the bushes near her. she raised sleepy eyes to find a grey wolf sitting in front of her. "hello, brother wolf."
to her surprise the wolf dipped its head in greeting. "you understand me?"
the wolf nodded. akira climbed onto the bank and shook the water from her scales. "come closer, brother wolf." the wolf did as it was asked, stopping a few feet from her. she noticed a rune on the wolf's shoulder. "you... youve been marked!">
The wolf nodded. "by who?"
the wolf raised a claw to the left side of his face, covering the eye. "elder scar?"
the wolf shook its head.
"master.... lucian?"
the wolf nodded, obviously happy. "is that why you're here?"
the wolf nodded again. he tapped the side of his head. "you want me to contact him?"
the wolf dipped his head. akira probed the area for lucian's presence. when she finally found him, she told him what was happening. "he said he'll be here soon."
the wolf nodded and lay down. akira stepped back into the water, warming it with magic. she dozed again until she heard the tell-tale wingbeats of lucian's coming.
Akira looked up and saw both lucian and tsai. Lucian regarded the wolf first, "Atlas, how have you been, old friend?"
the wolf made a series of gestures. lucian nodded. "akira, i see you are enjoying the time off."
she nodded and gave a small smile. "thanks for everything, lucian. it means a lot."
"i know. now rest up, akira. theres plenty of time for talking later."
akira nodded again and closed her eyes. she listened to lucian and tsai's quiet talking as she dozed off, listening to the waterfall.
        
tsai looked at akira. "she's asleep again."
"good... i dont like keeping things from her but its best for this to be between us. Atlas, your pack-dragons have news about her father, rydon?"
atlas growled an affirmative. lucian sighed, "i wish you could speak directly with us. is he alive?"
atlas growled again. "that is good. do you know where?"
atlas shook his head. tsai spoke, "so all this time, akira's been under the impression that her father is dead?"
"yes.... she wouldve
Try to go off on her own. she'd get killed. i dont know if i could bear it."
+      +          +
Akira slowly woke up when lucian tapped her horn. "its about time to head back."
she nodded and climbed onto the bank, shaking her scales free of water. they flew from the waterfall to the headquarters just as the sun set. akira felt very awake and asked lucian what she could do til morning. lucian responded, "you can do whatever you wish. feel free to look through my library."
akira spent a few hours reading, various texts about the history of dragons. lucian had late meetings elsewhere and left akira to do whatever she pleased. she soon grew tired of reading and climbed the secret stairway. it linked to her "quarters", the room used only for appearances. her quarters above lucian's study were her personal ones. she looked out the window and into the starlit sky. she opened the hatch to the platform she used for her missions. the night air was cool and welcoming as she took a deep breath. the stars twinkled, beckoning for her to gaze.
Akira accepted, climbing out and lying on her back with her wings spread across the platform, gaze directed toward the billions of shimmering lights above and beyond her. she was surprised by how many voices she heard on the dock below her. it seeemed about twenty or thirty drakes and she-drakes were working. she listened for a moment then returned to her stargazing. she felt calm, at peace when she saw a shadow flying in a jagged line toward the plateau. she sat up, realizing it was a dragon. she contacted tsai mentally, as lucian was off somewhere else. /theres a dragon flying in from the east, he's coming in fast/
no response came but she saw lucian's best friend run onto the platform and wait for the dragon to land. to akira's surprise, it was lucian. he flew right over her, drops of dark crimson hitting her, landing on her wings, her tail, her muzzle. he landed with a loud crash.
she was about to dive after him, but remembered she was supposed to be in her quarters._
She ran down the staircase and into her public room. she heard others in the hallway and ran out, toward the platform. she was stopped by some of the watchguards but tsai allowed her to come. "he's unconscious. he has multiple cuts and it appears that he was shot by a dragonbow."
"a dragonbow?!" the dragonbows were ancient weapons that was mounted to a dragon's tail and required expert marksmanship to use. "where was he going?"
tsai gave her a coded look, "i can't tell you." meaning he would tell her when they were alone. Medics came and took lucian to the infirmary.
tsai said for all youngers to return to their quarters. he gestured for akira to meet him in the study. she dipped her head and returned to the study through her public room. "how is he? where was he going?"
"one question at a time, akira." he sighed, "sit down, this may take a while. lucian as of now is unconscious, but the medics are healing him now. as to where he was going, he went to scout darkheart's location."
"He went where?!"
"he went to find darkheart. apparently he found something. he was conscious enough earlier to tell me we were safe."
a medic came in, a red cross tattooed on her shoulder. "he's going to be fine. he's conscious and will be back on his feet in a few days."
the two breathed a sigh of releif. tsai looked at the medic and asked, "may we see him?"
"of course. follow me." she stepped outside and led the tense dragons to the infirmary.
the were led to a massive chamber where lucian lay curled on a dias. he raised his head slightly before wincing and lying back down.
"lucian."
"master!"
"welcome both of you. akira, you know you dont need to call me master anymore."
akira remarked at how calm lucian was. he seemed almost giddy, but that was probably an effect of the pain spells.
"lucian, what happened?"
His clouded eye darkened, and akira thought she saw a faint glow in his scars.
"i found an abandoned fortress... i explored it a bit and triggered some traps. thats all.">
"i'm glad nothing else happened." said akira.
"as am i. akira once i have recovered, there will be another mission for you."
"as you wish, lucian. ive had enough time off."
"i figured as much. itll be a few days, but still, be ready."
Akira flew long and hard, her next mission across the globe in north egypt. it was far from the south american rainforests and waterfalls. she spent the past two days practicing her egyptian, sharpening her blades, and examining her equipment. She stopped only once to sleep and releive herself. she breathed a sigh of releif when she saw the tell-tale pyramids of egypt. "i can finally rest."
lucian's intel said that the target usually hung around a dragon tavern called the Silver Ankh. She landed on the outskirts of  town, placing the charm of concealment given to all dragons at birth to hide their true forms from humans. she walked toward the tavern, keeping an eye out for the target. when she saw nothing, she looked up and saw an ankh painted silver with a dragons scale in the middle. there was no door visible to humans. but was clearly visible to her. she stepped inside, and immediately felt every eye lock onto her, gazing at the slender form and seductive curves.>
She stepped up to the bar, a few spots away from the target. in her most vulnerable tone, she asked, "do you have any spare change for a weary traveler?" she touched his tail-tip with hers, beckoning him closer. this tactic made the target feel powerful over a "helpless" sasha.
"how can i help you, darling?" his eyes met hers and she leaned closer, stroking the soft scales of his neck with the back of her claw.
"could you give a lonely girl a good time and a place to stay?" she put her claw on his chest and felt his heart beating rapidly.
"i beleive those can be arranged. you can stay at my place, its not far."
she brushed his cheek with the tip of her muzzle, "then what are we waiting for?" they began their walk to his house, and akira began gathering information.
"what's your name?" akira asked dangerously.
"i'm called nicholas. and whats your name, my devilishly stunning vixen?"
"i'm called sasha. ive traveled a long way from home, i'm sooo tired, but i reeaaly wantt a good time
Tonight. think you can help me out with that?"
nicholas chuckled and replied, "i beleive i can help with that." the dragons engaged in a game, chasing each other around the house. when akira caught nicholas, she blindfolded him, moving quickly and quietly to put on the mating garment. she got into position and let the target have it. though she felt nothing, nicholas was having the time of his life. Akira found that in the moment of a male's ecstacy, his mind and body were most vulnerable. that was usually when she probed the drake's mind for information. she felt his member through the garment, felt how close he was to succumbing to her touch. his body tensed and she thrust one more time, crying out in fake ecstacy. she froze time with a spell and for a breif moment gathered the information from his subconscious. when the spell lost its effect, akira lay on top of nicholas, both of them panting. she looked back to the garment, the
artificial scales slick with sweat and nicholas' seed.
Akira was exhausted. she got up, nicholas' semi-erect member sliding smoothly out of the garment. though they were both about to sleep, she kept the garment on, for as she had found out, her targets often liked morning sex as well. she always felt awkward sleeping with it on, but it was for the mission, so she did anyway. she stumbled forward a few steps, collapsing on the floor next to nicholas. the time spell always took a heavy toll from her. Before she fell asleep, she contacted lucian, "i have the information, target will be terminated in the morning."
"good, theres a side objective if you are willing."
"oh?" lucian's side objectives were always... interesting. usually odd supply runs or contacts.
"I'll explain in the morning. you need to rest."
akira mumbled something and fell into deep sleep.
      *
the bright egyptian sunrise awoke akira, still in the garment. nicholas was still asleep, which made things easier for akira. a quick stab through the heart was all it would take.
She took out the dagger hidden in the garment and stepped toward the target. the dagger's blade shimmered in the morning sunlight. akira placed the tip of the knife over his heart and took a deep breath before plunging it deep into his chest. nicholas' eyes opened and he stared at her incredulously and reached shakily for the dagger. he was a moment from death and akira gave the dying dragon a slight kiss and "i'm sorry it had to be this way."
nicholas whispered, "thank... you..." the dragon went limp and his eyes closed. his last breath was shaky, sickening, pleading. finally, he died and akira removed the dagger. his last words intrigued her, but she pushed it away and contacted lucian.
/lucian, the target has been eliminated. what was the side objective you wanted me to take care of?/
/if you're willing, you need to find someone. her name is Sophia. You'll find her in the tallest building in cairo. when you find her, tell her that the black scale has turned red.>
she'll probably follow you back here. thats fine, just make sure she speaks to me directly./
/can do, lucian. be back in a few days/
akira turned, facing north towards cairo. it would be a five hour flight to the city. she sighed, "more flying... i hope i get a little while to rest once i get back."
"hopefully, yes." akira spun around to face the dragon. to her surprise, it was a handsome looking drake, with dark orange colored scales and muscular physique. he also had a tiger stripe design all over his body.
"who... who are you?"
"i'm an old friend of lucian's, he taught me a few years ago. can we talk on the way? akira isnt it?" she was stupefied. she readied herself for a battle, but the dragon said, "its okay, akira. lucian asked me to find you and follow you back to HQ."
akira contacted lucian. /theres a tiger scaled dragon here... he knows a lot about us. he even knows my name!/
/i see youve met sebastian. though most call him "Tiger"/
"you're called tiger? but your real name is>
Sebastian, isnt it?"
sebastian chickled, "quite right. We should get to cairo. sophia won't be there long."
"who exactly is sophia?"
he grinned and asked, "you don't know?" she shook her head. "then i'll let you find out for yourself."
she pestered him about it all the way out of the city. after that, they told each other how they met lucian. akira was hesitant to reveal her lifestyle, so she kept it to herself. they reached cairo and went to the tallest building, but found no one there. they waited until the sun began to set.
"you think we should head to base, akira? lucian is expecting us in a few days."
akira thought for a moment, then decided, "let's wait a little longer, lucian said she'd be here."
they were startled by a dragoness's voice behind them. "so, its time? has the black scale turned red?"
"sophia? yes the scale has turned."
the dragoness stepped into the light and revealed herself to be a sapphire blue noble from the old families.
sophia chuckled, "we better get>
Moving, i havent seen my mate in a long time."
"you're lucian's... mate?"
"mhm. let's get moving, shall we?"
      *
Akira, sebastian and sophia flew back to the jungles of south america, they were met by 2 medium sized dragons who escorted them straight to lucian's study. lucian looked rough and ecstatic at the same time.
lucian stepped toward sophia and kissed her lovingly, as if they hadnt seen each other in a long time.
sebastian looked at akira with a raised eyebrow and a lopsided grin. akira giggled a little, "whatch yourself, tiger boy. this kitten flirts back."
sebastian chuckled, "so i've heard, but does this kitten have a mate?" his voice sent a warm tingle through her body. he played at her level, at her game. he had immense will and restraint and could read her like only lucian could.
"no. but i'm always looking." she touched him with her tail, "what about you, does the big bad tiger have a mate?"
he purred a little, "why no i don't, but like you, i am always looking." he looked her in the eyes and akira felt a weakness in her tingling muscles. lucian and sophia were watching things play out and he whispered to her, "he's the only dragon i know that can play her game as well as she can. look how her wings are shaking, she likes him, but doesnt want him to know... yet... she'll try to play her way out and try to get him in her clutches."
sure enough, she did. now sebastian was feeling as she was, weak and tingly. he fumbled a little and akira smiled, and sebastian followed with a week grin. he looked nervous, then surprised as akira kissed him. she had surprised all of them. sebastian's wings fell to his side and his eyes closed as he kissed her back letting his long tongue wrap around hers playfully. sophia looked from them to lucian, who had a soft smile on his face. "i'm just as surprised as you. they only met a few days ago." sophia grinned and whispered something into lucian's ear. he grinned and blinked a few times, "i definitely wasnt expecting that."
akira and sebastian pulled away slowly, enjoying the touch of the other's tongues on their own. to each of them, they knew that the other was their soulmate. they had completely forgotten about lucian and sophia.
akira and sebastian looked nervously at the masters.
lucian spoke to akira mentally, "is he the one for you?" she nodded.
sophia asked the same to sebastian and he nodded.
lucian said, "well, sebastian, i was going to give you a room to yourself. but it looks like youve found your own. akira, don't be too rough with him."
the couple grinned and lucian dismissed them, turning to his own mate as they left. "to the room, my dear?"
sophia closed the door with magic and tackled lucian pinning him to the floor. he looked up at her and she said, "how about right here?"
lucian leaned up and kissed her, blowing out the lights.
      *
Akira led sebastian up the spiral staircase to her private quarters, the lovers moon shining white through the skylight. he nipped at her tail and she batted at him playfully. sebastian caught her and layed her down on her back with a deep kiss. she gasped as she felt something touch her nether regions. she looked and saw sebastian's ready member poised and waiting. her heart was racing along with his and he wrapped his wings over her. their tails intertwined and she nodded. sebastian kissed her again and she gasped as she found her mate.
      *
sophia lay on top of lucian, his member still inside her. they kissed passionately and lucian felt an urge come over him. sophia gasped and asked, "again?"
he spoke in old draconic, "i have missed you my love, and the lovers moon is high."
she growled softly, "so it is, my dear."
      *
akira woke up wrapped in sebastian's arms, his wings draped over her. she tapped him awake and they went down to the study where they found lucian and sophia asleep,
Wrapped in a warm embrace. lucian woke lucian while akira woke sophia. the masters blushed as they realized they were exposed.
lucian asked, "then you are mated?"
they both nodded. "we are."
the masters dipped their heads, "congradulations. would you like to make a public announcement?"
the couple talked it over, considering pros and cons, and decided to make an announcement.
it was decided to perform the ritual after the couple had bathed and prepared. akira and sebastian flew to the waterfall and bathed in magically warmed water. the masters arrived and split into pairs, lucian with sebastian and sophia with akira. sophia lavished akira with perfumes and putting flowers in her mane. lucian helped sebastian polish his scales, bringing out the deep black of the stripes. both akira and sebastian got their horns and teeth cleaned, and were given a gold and onyx ring to exchange. the rings were made to be placed on the others horn.
there was an hour until the ceremony was to begin and
The masters were giving advice to the couple as well as telling them the proceedings for the ceremony. when the pairs finally saw each other, sebastian's jaw dropped. "a-akira you look stunning..."
"you look so handsome..."
they stood there for a second, looking intently into each other's eyes.
tsai came up to them and said, "its time." he had become the preacher for the headquarters and presided over funerals and the proclomations of marriage. there was an altar set up at the front of the ceremonial hall, where all of the dragons had been summoned. akira and sebastian stood on opposite sides of tsai, looking out at the crowd. on que, the harpist began playing and the two stepped forward and faced each other.
sebastian asked, "are you ready?"
"oh yes. my dear."
tsai began: "dragons all, we are gathered here this morning to witness the becoming of one soul by two entities in a binding marriage.
        
As tsai finished and the rings were placed, lucian felt a dark energy from the crowd. there was a strong evil being born in the heart of one of the gathered. lucian could not pinpoint just yet who was turning, but as the crowd rose and started cheering, he looked for the one that glared at the couple in hatred: kovu, lucian's son. kovu muttered something and then froze, captured by something. from the rear of the hall came a large red dragon; it was scar, he had come all this way to see these two wed. the collective crowd turned and gasped, taking their seats and watching. kovu was the only one still up. "down boy." and kovu was forced to sit. scar continued up the aisle and stood in front of the newlyweds. he raised a claw and touched it to akira's neck where a silver necklace appeared. he did the same to sebastian and a black necklace appeared. "these are enchanted, they will protect
you from most magics and weapons."
both dipped their heads in thanks. finally he touched both of them on their left forearm where identical bands appeared. "these can hold enormous stores of energy, and can also link you to your mate at even extreme distances."
"thank you, grandmaster."
he turned and a shower of flower petals rained down on all of them signaling that the wedding was done. everyone but kovu cheered and the couple ran down the aisle followed by lucian and sophia. "its time for the lovers flight. circle around the compound twice and then return to my study."
the dragons flew, chasing each other in a game of tag, swooping upwrds and diving backwards, pulling out and hovering onto the landing bay. they walked back to lucian's study and found the masters waiting, all of them; tsai, ulrich, lucian, scar and others. lucian looked at his grandfather and sighed, "akira, sebastian, theres bad news. it seems youve made an enemy."
the couple looked at them oddly. "what do you mean?"
"kovu has disappeared. he was angered that you two became mates. no doubtedly he had feelings for you akira. and now it seems he has a personal vendetta against you, sebastian."
sebastian sat down, trying to take all of this in. "i- i don't even know him. i've never met him. apparently he's important but who is he? you guys obviously know who he is."
the masters collectively looked at lucian, who looked solemn. "kovu.... kovu is my son. he was sophia and my firstborn."
"your... your son?"
"yes... he's always been somewhat troubled... he was quick tempered and hot-headed. he was under the impression that he killed your mate. he has the scar's from his punishment, but it was for the greater good. we had to make it seem like akira was dead so she could fullfil her missions wuithout darkheart getting suspicious. i had to change everything about her. the woman you love isn't who she used to be."
sebastian turned to akira, "is this true? this is't the real you?"
akira placed a tender claw to sebastian's cheek. "this is me, this is who i am. the dragon i once wasis gone, and i'm glad. i was lost and confused. i tried to kill lucian... i killed for darkheart and i enjoyed it. that's not who i am anymore. i'm sorry that ive gotten you into this. dear, but we can overcome this... together."
sebastian placed his claw on her cheek, "i know we can. we can get through anything."
lucian and the other masters gathered around the couple and placed gave their blessings to the newlyweds, echantments, spells, advice.  finally, once each had given their blessing, the masters left, leaving only akira, sebastian, lucian, sophia and tsai.

2 days later

akira arched her neck as a breeze blew softly through the room, bringing sebastian's warm, musky scent to her. her whole body shivered in delight and  nuzzled him gently. "you smell wonderful, sebastian."
his body tingled as the same breeze brought him the sweet perfumed smell of his mate. he rolled over on the bed, putting him nose to nose with her. he scratched the soft scales under her chin and she purred. she kissed him for a while until lucian knocked on their door. the couple sat up and called him in. he looked tired, ragged, distant. he had looked this way since kovu disappeared. the new mates had been sympathetic to lucian and helped in any way they could. "any luck, lucian?"
lucian sighed and leaned against the wall. "none. he's gone. most likely to darkheart." in his tiredness, lucian looked young, it showed that he was vulnerable and worried. he was in a weakened state and could hardly stand. "lucian, you need to rest. be with your mate, relax a little."
lucian nodded, "yeah
i do need some rest. sophia has been getting after me to do so. i'm going to take her to the waterfalls and then rest up for a day or two. until then, you guys take over my class with sophia. she'll take you through it."
"sounds good."
lucian left with a tired goodbye and the couple returned to their romancing. they engaged in a game, the blindfold game that akira usually used on her targets. akira had a few seconds to hide and sebastian had to find her in 3 minutes. his reward if he found her: she would please him however he wished. but if he did not find her, he would please her. akira's heart raced and a sly grin crept across her face as sebastian crept closer and closer to her, she held her breath as he crept less than a foot from her tail. he was less than an inch away from her belly and she backed against the wall. her mate sniffed once and licked her, sending a tingle down her spine. "i have found you, dear akira. and its time for my reward."
akira untied the blindfold and
kissed him, leading him backwards to the bed. once they felt the padded bed behind them, they lay down and akira rewarded sebastian. sweat covered their scales, both panted and rewarded

1 hour later

The couple lay panting, covered in sweat and sebastian's seed. even as they panted, the reward had not yet been fulfilled. even as he thrust his shaft inside the cleft of her body, she countered with thrusts of her own, sending agonizingly pleasing jolts of energy into both of their bodies. with each thrust, a moan of ecstasy escaped akira's open maw and a low growl from sebastian. akira felt her body begin to tense as the climax came, just before sebastian's body arched and his muscles tensed. the release was so great that akira cried out in delight. she felt the seed overflowing inside her and spilling onto her mate and the bed. it made a soft squishing noise as they pressed together. akira thought that it was over, but to her surprise, sebastian kept thrusting. this caught her off guard and she came again, more energetic than the last. the electrifying spasms pulsed inside her for a
few moments, spilling more of her juices which mixed with his. sebastian wasnt finished. he thrust,
Again and again, building his own climax. she felt both of them tense, both of them rigid and waiting for the final thrust. when it came, both cried out amorously and stained the bed with their juices, which had long since overflowed. both lay quivering against each other, sebastian's semi erect shaft still throbbing inside akira's ventrality. akira collapsed on top of sebastian, exhausted from the climaxes. once she regained some strength, she lifted herself up, letting his shaft slide out. she dripped more liquids, both of them still very wet. she looked down at the heaving body of her lover and the puddle wet sheets he lay on. still panting, she said, "we're going to need neew sheets."
he laughed weakly, "no kidding. that was one hell of a reward."
the room smelled of sex and sweat.

The couple was getting up as sophia knocked. akira turned to sebastian who still had his member out, "put that away, hun." he used his will and forced it back into his body.
he looked under her tail and chuckled, "and what about you, dear? youre still out." he teased her by licking the exposed flesh once. she jumped, giggling, "not now, sebastian!" she forced herself to close, her parts away from sebastian's teasing tongue.
sophia was waiting patiently at the door. she smelled what had transpired and said, "quite a wild time i see, well, its customary for the newlyweds to go on honeymoon right about now, but with lucian out on leave, it looks like it'll have to wait."
"thats fine, sophia. we'll be glad to fill in for master lucian." sebastian filled in for lucian's flight class as substitute master.

the dragons had free reign over the skies since the humans went underground. some dragons went along with them to keep tabs on them and usually reported every month or so. sebastian's
Job was to take thee recon class and gather the reports. it would take 3 days to gather them from the posts. akira and sophia were training the fighters and the quards. akira and sebastian hated to leave each other, but had a duty to fulfill. when they got back together, they immediately went on honeymoon, traveling to the sandy beaches of former venezuela.
Kovu pounded furiously on the door of darkheart's citadel. it had been built into the side of a mountain and at this time of year, the blizzards were blinding and disorienting. kovu's deep red scales stood out among the white and his sight was fading as the hypothermia started kicking in. he never noticed the 3 white sentries following him. they let him suffer as they were warmed by the furs they wore. they watched him shiver and let him collapse unconscious before dragging him inside. the sentries were female, like most of darkheart's students. they had been deprived of male contact and set about searching him, probing him and exploring his body. they went about this for a while until darkheart appeared from a wiff of smoke. she wore dark black furs and purple silks. the sentries were off duty and went to their quarters, murmuring about this handsome young drake they found. darkheart
called her advisor to her side and the two set to waking the unconscious dragon.
His eyes fluttered open after a spell murmured from the advisor. he stood at attention, only to crouch in embarrasment as he realized that his member was in plain view. darkheart said, "do not worry, young dragon. it was those naughty sentries that woke your sleeping member." kovu stood again as the 2 examined him. they noted his muscular physique and his strong wings. "your name is kovu, you are dear lucian's firstborn."
kovu stared at his claws, "i-i am. i left his compound because... because..."
darkheart leaned forward and whispered, "because of a dragoness, am i right?"
Kovu stuttered, "y-yes. i loved her.. but apparently she didnt love me the same way; she mated and is now wed. there is nothing left for me there."
darkheart was intrigued, "really? and you think we can reform the poisoned mind of one of lucian's teachings?"
kovu was willing to go through anything. "i have dispatched one of your own in the past. a spy named sasha."
darkheart turned on him, razor sharp claws at his
Throat. "you! you killed her! the pride of the citadel... killed by a mere apprentice. no doubt you used strong magics."
"aye. i did. though they were afterwards wiped from my memory and i was whipped a total of two hundred times."
darkheart did not seem impressed. "if you had been in my citadel, you'd have been whipped a thousand times. each scale would have born dozens of scars, if you had any left. we will reform you. but i warn you, i will be twice as punishing to you as you are lucian's only male heir and because of the death of mine finest student. your first test: find your own quarters. i care not whom you are quartered with, so long as any misdoings solve themselves. if you can manage to find room, then we will train you. you must work hard to find a male quarter, but you must work harder to aquire a female's quartering."
"female?"
"i care not what transpires. if anything were to happen, either you have fought well, or she has allowed you. now go, you have one day."
Kovu spent the next few hours in the cold corridors asking for room. most wouldnt open up, but some listened, though unwilling to give up part of the room. toward nightfall, the corridors began to gather ice. kovu found it harder to move and even stay awake. he knocked lightly on the last door and fell at the dragoness's feet. she looked at him with sympathy "and who might you be?"
weakly, he replied, "i'm... kovu... i'm... looking for a place to stay..."
this dragoness was sympathetic and brought him in, covering him with a blanket. "thank you..."
"i'm leiks, you're the drake that the 3 Whites found. they say you've got quite a body."
kovu's heart raced and he backed against the wall as he realized where she was going. "well, i-ive..." he was cut off as she kissed him.
"show me, please." she rubbed against him softly, tingles going through his body. he felt compelled to give himself to her, and did. on that night, he mated with his new companion. though darkheart did not care for it Kovu felt that he and leiks should be wed. the next day, they were. it wasnt much of a wedding, but it was a wedding nonetheless. only darkheart and her advisor were present.
from then on, he and leiks would train together, live together, fight together.
"kovu, what did darkheart want?" leiks lay seductively on the bed, waiting for kovu. he smiled and lay down next to her.
"we have a mission. we need to see the advisor before we leave. we are to gather information on an assassin. we don't know who he is or what he looks like. so we have to be on our guard."
leiks nodded and got on top of kovu. "when do we leave?"



Akira woke up in a cold sweat. she had seen kovu with a she-drake, interrogating one of her contacts. her contact was on the brink of death, and she still said nothing. akira had seen the contact die for her. "hun, whats wrong?"
akira got up, "its kovu. he's killed one of my contacts."
sebastian got up after her, "how do you know?"
akira looked over her shoulder at him, a tear in her eye. "i saw it in a dream... he tortured her."
sebastian embraced her as she cried. the contact had been one of her closest friends. "we'll find him."

Kovu struggled to stand as darkheart's advisor wiped the blood from her whip. "you were only to interrogate her, not kill her. be thankful Her Mistress finds your skills worthy, otherwise you would not be standing at all!" she turned to leiks who was being held back by the 3 whites. "your turn, dear leiks. let her loose."
the 3 whites pushed her into the circle. the advisor raised her whip and swung once. kovu wiped the blood from his eyes and grabbed the whip. "stop. take it out on me."
the advisor growled and raised the whip again. "wait, keha. lets take him up on that offer. leiks, you will deliver the punishment."
keha glared but handed over the whip. "how-how many?"
darkheart smirked and replied, "two hundred and fifty lashes."

leiks carried kovu to their quarters, blood trailing behind them. leiks was crying as she set kovu on the bed. "kovu... kovu..."
"leiks... i- i can't move leiks..."
"you don't have much energy left, my sweet. and you lost a lot of blood."
leiks tended to
Her mate's wounds, saying, "please, we can't keep going through this. lets go to your father."
"no! i can't go back... my father... he won't accept me..."
leiks looked him in the eyes and said, "yes he will, kovu. just give him a chance."
kovu looked tenderly at his wife, "alright... next chance we get, we're leaving."
leiks smiled, "thank you, kovu."
kovu could barely fly, and leiks had to guide him. they flew for a whole day and night, until they saw the rainforest cliffside of the stacra. they were met by a few guardians who recognized kovu and beckoned him in. the first to see the two was lucian and sophia. "son! you've come back!"
"i-i am, father." leiks stayed at the back of the study, keeping quiet until all had gathered. the last to arrive was akira and sebastian. "brother, it has been a while."

this is a book i'm still writing.
Alex  Jul 2011
Unforgiven Love
Alex Jul 2011

She told me she loved me,
that I've no need to fear.
I believed all the lies
that she breathed in my ear.

I pulled her in close,
closer than anyone before.
I tried not to cry
or she wouldn't love me anymore.

I couldn't hold back,
forever stalked by self-pity-
I wept, and she left.
Translucent comforts pierced through me.

She hates me now,
a bit more every day.
I've not given up yet-
I want her to stay.

Perhaps she will wish,
once I'm hanging lifeless from a tree,
that she'd loved me forever,
as I begged for it to be.

emma  Jul 2013
Self Hate
emma Jul 2013

The residue of vodka lined the empty bottle.
A deep inhale of smoke,
an exhale of problems.

Lightheaded I fumble,
clasping a cold lifeless piece of metal.
I cried "save me"
release all my demons.

I am safe for now,
drowning in a sea of crimson security.

*trigger warning*
RH 78 Sep 2015

Why is there a little boy lying on the beach?
Washed up.
Lifeless.
All for a new life too far to reach?

Why is there a little boy lying on the beach?
Terrorists
Heartless.
What happened to the human rights we all preach?

Why is there a little boy lying on the beach?
Traffickers.
Gangs.
Displacing people no home and no speech.

Why is there a little boy lying on the beach?
A son.
No future.
We hang our heads and weep!

Broken hearted and deeply affected by pictures I saw in the news depicting the lifeless body of a little boy no older than three who was photographed washed up on the shore line of Turkey. The result of further illegal human smuggling, people trafficking promising to get families to Europe on a false promise. All too often, people are put into small boats unable to sustain the weight of all the people put upon it and not fit for purpose. This is yet another shocking event in the wake of atrocities taking place in North Africa where the displacement of millions of innocent people continues. Governments are too busy counting the pennies and quarrelling amongst themselves in addition to wasting precious time as gangs and smugglers take advantage of the situation by sending people to their death profiting from the desperation of families searching for a place to call home. When will this end? RIP to the little boy, his brother and mother who all perished.
Madisen Kuhn  Apr 2014
limerence
Madisen Kuhn Apr 2014

i guess you only like girls who are broken
and want to be hurt, like your hands
around her neck, want
bruises and cuts
in the shape of a heart,
inhaling and choking on your affection
like she needs it to breathe

translucent skin stretched across
veins that pump nicotine and you
you, you, you, you, you

judgement clouded by hyper-dependent
infatuation and the need to heal her
hollowness, although you’ll only ever be
another teardrop on her pillowcase
while she hums herself to sleep
with midnight lies

“the loss of you would be the loss of my life”

and the saddest part
is that i almost let myself fall
back into becoming that
lifeless, empty girl
once more because i thought it might
make you love me again.

written on 3/22/14
JR Potts Jun 2015

Callie was drawn apart from the rest, a grayish graphite figure on an empty white sheet but for me her isolation had always been a source of romantic mystery. I tailed her the way most other boys followed around the popular girls and for the majority of our youth she had kept me outside her arm’s reach. It was our last summer before college and I walked to her house each day, even in the rain to lie on her bedroom floor listening to records. There was a flower stand by her home and I think I brought Callie a sunflower every day that summer. At first she refused them but by August she was sitting on the steps, waiting for me. It was my persistence or perhaps her fatigue; I will never know entirely but she finally gave into my love, almost reluctantly like an outdoor cat in need of a place to nestle.

I don’t think a day of college passed without me talking to her because long distance romances hold on to that new-love smell a lot longer than other relationships. We were only three and half hours apart but from the way I wrote to her you would have thought a war and two continents divided us and it persisted like that for all four years until we both graduated; the following April we were married. On our honeymoon we hopped in my Jeep Cherokee and took Old Route 11 south to Louisiana. I find it funny how a linear flow of events given time becomes a fractious collection of moments; the smell of gasoline at a truck-stop, a strategically placed kiss on the upper neck just below the ear, a song that made her smile, the highway disappearing into the horizon line or a beautiful sunset watching us instead- as we were too preoccupied with one another’s eyes. I remember somewhere near Jefferson City a levee in the heavens must have broken open, rain cascaded down as though God again intended to flood the world. We pulled over to wait out the storm; we talked of the future as newlyweds often do. You know silly things, cat or dog, the number of kids and just as we were deciding the name of our first born that song, the one that made her smile came on. Callie dragged me into the backseat, held me down and undressed me like my clothes were on fire. She sat atop me, pulled my head against her bare breast and demanded that I tell her she was the only thing that mattered. She was the only thing that mattered.
  
Three years after that road trip Callie had a miscarriage and again I found the distance between us grew unbearable. She didn’t want to talk about it and eventually my voice; even in our small apartment was drowned out by the morning traffic report, closed doors and the slow drip in the kitchen sink. While we were falling apart, the world was coming together, technology was growing exponentially and the connection between everyone else was growing stronger. The News became less about robbery, rape, or murder, more about scientific and medical discoveries. Diseases, the ones that had plagued humanity since our conception were being cured weekly and then almost daily. I remember it so vividly, it was like the gates of paradise had been opened, and we the exiles of Eden were once again invited to indulge in the fruits of the Gods.

You'll remember that it began as a lottery; soon the meaning of money became so inconsequential in comparison to the value of the nanobots. In the pursuit of immortality people spent whole paychecks, took out loans and even sold their homes in the hopes of winning a chance to be injected. Some even died trying, but Callie and I just went on living the way we always had like ghosts who haunted the same home but never knew the other existed. When she wasn't painting I would find her in bed weeping. I would lie beside her and hold her until she stopped, or until she succumbed to the sleep that often eluded her. Eventually the bots became so abundant that it was no longer left to chance and it was a choice. For the first time in a long while, Callie and I sat down at the dinner table and actually spoke. We weighed all the possibilities and at times even argued. I still remember her hands, they sat atop the table in the shape of a spaded shovel and mine rested in hers. She told me, with tears running down her cheeks that she did not want to live forever and though I was scared of dying then, I was definitely more afraid of losing her. So we agreed to live out the rest of our lives, not as members of the hive-mind but as individuals tethered together by a bond we believed stronger than any machine.

A few years later, Callie and I were moved to the designated living accommodations for people like us, people who had opted out of the injection. From a distance the structure looked like a massive pearly-white fang climbing out from a dense rainforest canopy to an empty blue sky but as we got closer we realized the exterior of the structure was coated with these barnacle-like pods. We had a garden patch on our balcony and for a couple summers I grew sunflowers there. We made love regularly and we were happy for the first time in a long while but outside the compound the world began to change so rapidly, centuries of innovation occurred within an instant; it was like watching an ocean of fireworks explode into a tornado that built entire cities and just as quickly made them disappear. Life was measured in milliseconds and we watched from the outside; our hands intertwined as though they were bound by awe, or perhaps fear.

Eventually Callie would withdraw from me again; her dejection pulled at her slowly and I was forced to watch it drag her under. I wrestled with the black sea that brood inside of her, but nothing I possessed could stop that dark tide from taking her. One morning I awoke to an empty bed, I expected to find her in the tub, a warm bath drawn, her wrists slit and her lifeless body soaking in a puce pool of blood, but instead I found a hand written letter on the kitchen counter. The words trembled on the page the way I imagined her hand must have as she wrote it. Each line was harder to read as tears streamed from my unblinking eyes. She had gone, not to the arms of another, not to die, but to be one with the rest of all mankind inside the machine. I guess Callie believed in those final days that the cure to her sadness was the singularity. Her decision filled me first with sadness then anger and now…

I must look foolish to you, this stubborn old man atop this mountain of pride and you’re probably asking yourself why I still deny the collective intelligence of all life. As far as I can tell I am the last of my kind; everyone else has either died or joined you in the ether. I know she’s in there, I know she is a part of you now, whatever you are. I imagine her body was little more than a lemming or worse, just some raw material. Her consciousness probably of no importance to you, but to me Callie was the heartbeat of the heavens, the universe unraveling, collapsing and again being reimagined by the eyes of God. She wasn’t always happy, but our love was a sunflower standing alone in a desiccated field of blackened soil, struggling yet surviving. I won’t allow it to be swallowed up by your enormity, turned into some singular binary bit and forgotten. I choose to die because as she was then, she is now, the only thing that has ever mattered.

In struggling with my own occasional bouts of depression, I wanted to write a story from the perspective of person enduring their lovers depression. I have always been a fan of hard scifi and decided I would mend the two together.
Filmore Townsend Nov 2013

quandering, pondering
and whiskey has become
first and only desk liquor. now
digressing to the Blue Eyed
beauty writ of this the final
page of notebook. and now,
reflecting on this early hour.
an hour when the goat's
head stares thru to soul
with always lifeless eyes. stares
thru this soul with lack of
energy, with entire days'
lack of consumption. and with
ease this one has been long
and gone in falsified attraction
of angelfaced Blue Eyed
matriarch; this one patriarch.
thought entirely conceived. contrac-
epted by reality of situation. by
reality in general sense, yet words
spew unfiltered with lingering hope
behind slanted smile. shying stares,
all the while watching from eyes'
corners. voices of all but her's
fall deaf; vessels otherwise mute to
concerns not of the Blue Eye's. and
here this one finds self lost to rom-
anticized thoughts knowing they can
be found sterilized via logic.
contradicting always, yet
no brass holding finger locked to
joint. and realizations of actual
place spears forehead; spears fore-
brain. disrupting what is preconceived
concerning entangled souls. hair falling
aside temples. point of restraint, this
one must end before depression catches
hold; this one calling abrupt ending.

Thandi Joyce  Jun 2014
Blue
Thandi Joyce Jun 2014

Colorless and yet so colorful.
Such depth you hold, boldly you stand out. You reside in the skies and the deep seas, without you they seize to exist.
Such royalty you are, you linger peace and serenity visible within a colbat glass. Indigo plants spit you out on the wings of lycaenidae and let them stand out with such radiance feeling so blue, how you strike me with calmness.
You bring life to the lifeless.
Without you there is darkness .
Blue you give me life. By Mpho TJ Thibile

Jophielley Apr 2015

Breathing the misty air, a cloak drops to me,
the sunlit drops fall to my eyes like flower petals,
fading the evening star falls,
hitting me,
for it is no more than a longing night imagining your lifeless eyes...

This actually needs some works but if anything I'll way.
Keith Collard Jun 2013

Centipede Valley (A tale of infantrymen in Hawaiian--Twain Style)


'Welcome to the 25th Infantry Schofield Barracks Hawaii' the sign read as the taxi van rode past. The only thing in the boy's mind was of guns, tanks, soldiers, and grenades. He accompanied his father who had used his veteran credentials with the Coastguard to gain admittance to the base; and thus able to reserve a round on the famous 'Schofield golf course." They were on vacation, and left the women at home.

    The boy, expecting to see an army division rappelling down the buildings that the van was streaming past, was scrutinizing every person, vehicle and store. He thought he saw a humphvee, but it was just a hillbilly driving his spray painted doorless Ford Bronco with his flip flop clad foot hangin over the side. The boy spied a soldier in camoflage uniform with what looked like a rifle,"wooweee ,a rifle." But as the van closed on the pedestrian soldier,it was revealed that he was carrying only a loaf of french bread. Then another soldier,"wowee,a bazooka," but only a folded up beach chair.
Then a helicopter screamed overhead, the boy scrambling to position his head to see the still-hidden helicopter was ready to tear the roof panel off, "Hey easy Ben," said his father at the other window. The helicopter came into view,"must be an Apachee," he thought as his eyes came to discern a sign trailing from the helicopter ..."60% off flip flops at Kemoho's market."  The boy sank down in disapointment.

           He begged his father in order to come with him. The father agreed but with the surrender conditions being "Im playing golf, your going to watch me and be a good boy then we are leaving."

              They were on a tough schedule and had engagements with the rest of the family.The father promised him that they would visit Pearl Harbor and the Coast Guard base.  Ben would enjoy the battleships at Pearl Harbor, but he had heard from his friends that the rockstars were the "infantry." They were the 'Billy the Kids' of the miliitary; guns and mischief, and most of all....glory. But he would only see them and their toys from a van--and then a golf course.  That was straight 'malarkey'to him, and that was what his mind kept repeating.

           The van pulled up parallel with the side walk that was lined with a chain link fence. Palm trees rowed the inside of the fence, and the boy could see the lime green grass of fairways-he sighed. His father tipped the taxi driver, and grabbed out his club bag; they procceded down the sidewalk in direction of a shadow, which was the 'Scholfield Golf' club buiilding. The boy looked across the streeet at a  barracks, tiered with balconies, he could see men in fatigues moving about on them,"wowweee,grunts." But they were only brandishing mops and brooms. "Malarkey."

              They entered the air conditioned building, the boy became sleepy as he waited by his father's side who was checking his reservation in the golf store. "Alright sir, if you want you can sit out there on the verandah with complimentary drinks untill we bring your cart up to you."

         Re-entering the stone paved fenceless verandah, they took a seat at a round table with an umbrella. The humid heat woke the boy back up. A vantage of bright green grass, palm trees,and men hustling back in forth in white docker pants opened up before them.

     There was a grey haired man sweeping up the tile of the verandah within earshot of the father and son. The boy watched the old man sweep up something in his dustpan, then bend down and put it in a zip lock bag that he produced from his pocket.  The boy's curiosity was ignited, he had to know what it was, maybe a spent shell casing, or a tripwire; he jumped down from his stool and approached the old man.

          "Excuse me sir," what was it you picked up, a shell casing?"..... the old man just looked at the boy and smiled, and continued sweeping. "Ben, don't bother that man please," admonished his father.
               Ben walked back to his chair,and picked up his coca-cola,and pretended as if his curiosity was quenched. He watched the old man, sweeping and sweeping, untill he bent down to pick another object up. The boy flew from his seat and closed on the old man.
"Ohhh man mister, what is that thing , a dragon?" At the old man's feet was a coil of something, corrugated, black with a red neon tinge, incisers and mandibles the size of paper cutters. It was dead whatever it was, but its shell was still intact; and so was everyone of it's hundred legs, its fearsome face was preserved amid a deathly stare with blackened eyes.

"Don't worry, it's nothing, just a bug sonny," said the old man who packed it away in a zip lock bag.
"Then why are you collecting them in ziplock bags?"
The old man hesitated, then he sighed knowing it was futile.
"If I tell you, you cannot freak out.  Im supposed to rid these creatures from the guests sight."
" I won't freak out--that thing looks like one of those chinese new year dragons they parade in the streets."
"It ain't no dragon son--it is a Centipede."  But to the boy, it reminded him of those Chinese dragon parades.  It was massive.
The boy was hailed back to where his father was sitting. " Ben leave that man alone, he has a job to do."
The boy thought the old man and his centipede to be a riddle of the highest importance. He sensed a story, before he knew what a story was. He looked at this man inquisitively; he looked to be Hawaiin ,maybe South American, but he also had a martial stare.

       The old man looked at his watch and sat down at table at the corner of the stone paved verandah, bordered by bright green grass.  Ben saw centipedes now in the design of the old man's hawaiin shirt.
          Producing a mango from his pocket, the old man proceded to strip the tough skin and spit out the peelings onto the grass as Ben's attention was broken by an employee. "Excuse me sir, there seem's to be a slight problem ya, there's only one golf cart available, and we have to fit you and someone else on there, but there is your son?"

The father's face froze.  "oh, my son, oh yeah" he mumbled as he watched the beautiful tropical neon course ahead of him."  The groundsworker who was finishing his mango was paying attention to the whole interaction.  He watched the boy scanning the greens, it made the old man smile.

" Excuse me sir, I think I can help out, I can babysit the lad right here, and tour the golf grounds with him, I finished my duties....."

The father looked at the old harmless man.  The hawaiin accent on him, and hawaiin shirt on him, rendered him as harmless as puff the dragon.  No one has ever commited a misdeed in a hawaiin shirt, and that resonates in the subconscience of visitors to the Hawaiin chains.  For Captain Cooke(the first anglo visitor to Hawaii) was boiled in a pot by shirtless Hawaiins.

" Sir, I can vouche for my employee....."  It was in agreement, the father sped off.
They had two hours to kill.  Just enough time for a story.
" So Ben, Im Edison, would you like to hear a story--" the boy interrupted him, " About the infantry?"

    " Yes, the infantry, Hawaii, and dragons."  The scene was too unreal.  The tropical tableau panorama behind the old man--that made the old man's hawaiin shirt seem to disappear and make his head float--was pastel portraiture with palm outlines bursting with their leaves amid a light blue sky.  The old man mumbled his lips every other second, possibly from denchers.  The boy watched the floating head mumble, mumbling faster and faster readying for a story, captivating the boy.  He came to see the infantry, and he would see them in words.  No illusion this time.

                                                         Centipede Valley


" The story of Hawaii, is a story of short dynasties.  The first known dynasty was the Rat dynasties.  Like Attilla The Hun's followers, the rat's followed their king; down the ropes and piers from the ships and overwhelmed the populace.  The set up Rat colonies, fishing centers, and cheese vendors."  The boy interupted the old man, " How can rat's set up cheese vendors?"

        " They just did, ' Cheese for Sale' was screeched on every block, now if I can continue my story lad." The boy nodded, sorry for slowing down the story.

        " The Hawaiians tried to battle back, arming themselves with brass knuckles of sea conches, and throwing jellyfish at them, but it was of no use—there  were to many.  Then the other dynasty came, the Python Dynasty.  Instead of scurrying down the ropes, they spiraled down at night.  They were a clever bunch.  They would play dead, and wait for birds who were hungry for a meal, then  ' crunch'  and the bird would be a knot in the snake's ropey body.  The pythons also ate all the Hawaiians roosters.  At the height of the island’s empire, every Hawaiian had a at least five roosters per household.  Every sac and backpack was alive and moving as the roosters were carried about on the street. But the Python's ate them making only one rooster per household.  The next dynasty was even more clever than the Python--the Mongoose Dynasty.  They ate all pythons with lightning speed.  They didn't scurry nor spiral down the ropes--they lolly gagged down them.  Stopping to stare in the water, for a clam or fish they could eat, they were cocky sons of....
"By the time the Hawaiins raised their jelly fish at them sitting on the ropes, they already ate the belly button lint out of your belly button.  They were crafty.  But their downfall was that they were not unified.  Their kingdom fractured, but they remained on the island.

"The last known dynasty, did not take the rope, but the plank.  Drooling, huffing, and snorkeling--snorting up every barnacle on the pier in the two minutes they arrived on the island--the pig.  They quickly broke their bonds and took to the mountains and jungles.  But something came during the pig dynasty, that was the real scourge of the isles.  And it is this dynasty, that my story starts, with two infantry members, from opposite ends of the empire--Seattle and Boston, who arrived to the island not knowing their position on the Hawaiian food chain.

" When Boston first walked into his barracks latrine(bathroom) he was overwhelmed with how humid it was, like he just entered an iguana tank.  The ceilings were painted green with mold, the floor kept a semblance to checkered tile due to the heavy mopping of soldiers armed with ammonia. He noticed he was not alone.  There were geckos on the ceiling, running around eating giant flying things.  The geckos did not bother him, he has seen them in Florida, and perhaps that was there these fellas had come from.  He walked over to the sink, for he needed a shave for the first formation.  The barracks was old, and used as an overflow for departing service members, or newly arriving ones.  It is rumored to still have 50 caliber holes in its foundation from Japanese Zero's.  

"He looked down into the sink, there was a Gecko's tail, writhing in the sink--not attached t anything.  The drain was open, it looked like the cave to a malevolent beast.  And it was, a black tendril, or serpent, quickly emitted from the dark drain and grasped the writhing Gecko tail in its mandibles and retreated back into the drain.  ' What in holy .......' Boston whispered as he stepped away from the sink.

"Meanwhile, Seattle walked up to his new room, and used his card key to open his barracks room.  The door swung open, and on the floor in front of him, was a large cockroache on its back, apparently dying of over-eating.  It bicycle kicked the air, and doggy paddled.  It's belly was huge, and it's face said ' I lived a good life.'  Seattle could only muster the words, ' well that ain't a good sign.'

"Seattle and Boston were roomates for only a month before they became bickering enemies, likened to England and France--coming only together under rules and regulations and enforced peace treaty.  It started with a bag of potatoe chips.  'Seattle, you can't come home drunk and leave potatoe chips all over the room.  This ain't the mainland, we are gunna get eaten in our sleep by cockroaches.  Every night you explode a bag of potatoe chips all over the couch.'  It was true, they had a black pleather couch given to them be an eager barracks member, and if you sat down on it, you would always hear a crunch.

" ' Whatever Boston, you keep leaving your cherry dip around attracting ants.  You fell asleep with a dip in your mouth and you woke up with goat-tee of ants. ' And so it went, it was two male humans in a barracks cage.  One, a North Eastern Humano, the other a North Western Humano, both ill-disposed to each other.  One more afraid of ants, the other cockroaches.  

" But then in a sign of peace offering, Boston introduced Seattle to his Fillipino girlfriend's sister.  They went on a double date, and then Seattle went on two other dates after, with just him and her.  But then Boston was getting pestered by his girlfriend to 'have Seattle call her sister," or he was getting pestered by " What , Seattle don't like my sister no more ya?"   Boston always dodged the question, knowing the rules.  Then one day, Boston had to go up to his room with the two sisters in his car.  But they followed him up at the last second, and ambushed Seattle, who was really upset by this and left the room and barracks.  That incident could have been water under the bridge, except for what happened.

"When Seattle returned to his now empty room, he opened a draw and removed his sneakers from them, for he still had on his flip flops.  He put on his sneakers without socks and was walking down the barracks stairs when he felt it.  It was like a nail just went through his foot.  A medic in civy's (civilian clothes) was behind him watching him.  " You alright buddy," he said.

" I just stepped on a nail or sumthin," said Seattle.

He shook his sneaker, nothing.  Looking at his foot, he saw two fang  puncture marks in between his big toes.  His vein near the bite was surfacing like a snake all the way up his leg even up to his forehead, he felt dizzy.  He shook the sneaker one more time, harder.  Inside, now, was a coil, or a nest of black cobras, but it was not many cobras, but one centipede.  " what the f...."

The medic looked in, " That’s a centipede, highly toxic, if you get really ill come to the Aid Station," he said then left.

"Seattle burned in a fever that night, having dreams of the scorned Fillipino girl haunting him, holding centipedes over him, doing a witch-like curse on him.  Seattle was lucky, most react alot worse from the bites.  He blamed the scorned girl for putting it there, and most of all--he blamed Boston.

"And that is only one side of the story, for soon after, it was Boston who would become livid with Seattle.  One night, Boston was sitting on the pleather couch, with his girlfriend, when they fell asleep on it watching TV--they had the room to themselves.  When they awoke they were covered in cockroaches.  The girl ran out of the room and Boston's life forever.  Upon lifting up the couch cushions, there spied, was a massive moving cockroach galaxy.  " Seattle," Boston gritted through his teeth.
" Mister when are we going to get to infantry stuff--" whined the boy.
" Very shortly my lad," said the old man, producing another mango from his pocket and resuming his story.

" Seattle and Boston quickly rose through the ranks, and commanded  teams in the same squad.  At that time, they got their own rooms, and one would think that would make them get along better, but that was not so.  The only thing that assuaged the wise remarks of Boston, and Seattle's feverish temper, was that they had to get along if they lived together, and now they don't.  And now they both have a four man team competing against each other, when they are in the same squad.

" Boston's number one on the team was a kid named Mango.  He was the go-to guy for Boston, and made his team look good.  Seattle's number one guy was a soldier named Biggin who made Seattle's team look good.  
" Well, one night, their whole platoon were siting under double canopy in the complete dark.  They were in full battle rattle( ammo and body armour) readying their equipment and eating some rations in anticipation of a live-night-fire training exercise.  Those exercises were always dangerous, involving all the platoons weapon systems: machine guns--light and medium, grenade launcher tubes(under rifle) , at-4( disposable rocket launcher), hand grenades, banglomores( used by combat engineers....all in precise cordination with eachother.)  All the muzzles orientated in an L shaped pattern on a mock bunkers, trenches, and fighting positions.  All had to shift fire, as friendly teams bounded forward.  Extreme pressure.

"The platoon, is awaiting for the squads to get called up, for this night is a squad level exercise, tomorrow is platoon.  Boston's and Seattle's team have not gone in the 'hole' yet.  Boston is prepping his night vision, and after he put the batteries in he scans his dark surroundings.  All the teams are sitting or laying down, with their ammo vests on.  Most are dipping, or eating; some have took off their ammo vests attached to their body armour (as to keep it ready and put together to don it quickly) and are airing out their shirts and allowing precious oxygen to reach their backs as not to get cellulitis from a zit.  The back and trapazoids of an infantryman are under constant pressure of their gear, and that is where the most sweat is produced; in 99% humidity a zit will work its way back into the body, spreading from the sweat that pools.
  “It is dark.  There are green 'chem lights' in the middle of the perimeter, illuminating  the trash collection point.  The air smells of hot sauce from the soldiers meals, and fortunately the soldiers cannot smell eachother at this point, but the smell would be the equivalent of lumberg cheese.  But something can smell their cheese.

"As Boston is scanning his fellow platooners in green black night vision, his team member Mango is eating chicken out of a packet, he is wiping his hands all over his ammo and vest as he feels for a spoon he keeps in his grenade pouch.  Boston scans right, and notices Biggin, swatting near his ear, like there was a fly there. Boston turned the knob on his nightvision to focus, it was a pig in his ear eyeing the hamburger meal Bigin was eating.’Holy sh.....’

" Before Boston could finish his sentence, the chem lights attached to the trash collection point come alive and hauled ass for the woodline.  Mango yells, ' aww my chcken, and my.....' he didn't finish what he said, silencing himself.

" The platoon sergent barked and all had to put away their food.   Mango came up to Boston,  'Buston , that pig ran off wit my grenade.'   Sheer horror, for to lose grenade was a serious crime, and to lose one to a pig was a hazard.  " Your kidding Mango, why would a pig want a grenade.'  Mango kept silent about wiping chicken flavor all over it.

" ' 2nd squad, your in the hole, get it on, get it done,' barked the platoon sergent.  They were in a jam, Mango was supposed to throw a grenade in the bunker with a range supervisor right behind him.  Boston ran up to Seattle, " Seattle, we lost our grenade, when you throw yours Mango will pretend like he threw his at the very same time, they won't know it was only one."

" ' What?  Boston, once again making our squad looking bad, if we get caught, it's on you." He turned and returned to his team with the green glow of a chem light illuminating his outline.

"Everything went as planned, the engineers blew a hole in the wire, the teams shot thier rocket launchers, they breached and bounded across the bunker complex,but.....

" Biggin was on the support by fire--the machine gun position, he shifted right as Boston's team was coming, he had his hand still on the pistol grip of the machine gun, but then something squeezed his hand like a mother holding  a childs tight who just did something bad.  A centipede, and it locked on to Biggin's hand.  He jerked and traversed the machine left spraying a eight round burst four feet in front Mango and Seattle who were 200 meters in front of him.  The range supervisors shut down the range and failed them.  A night of disaster, the centipede did not bite Biggin, and dissapeared.  He did not mention it.  

" That was the first demerit against the squad. Tension was high.  The next field exercise at the squad level was on a mountainous, lava rock ridden Hawaiian island.  Boston had to lead his team by compass at night to link up at an ambush point where Seattle’s team was waiting.  They were humping hard and making good pace, they practiced hard for this mission, especially to redeem themselves.

" But calamity struck again.  Boston's team was walking up a road, when loud snorting came up from the ravine on the side.  A whole gang of pigs that had tusks came up onto the unpaved road.  " Boston , shoot it," said Mango.

“He couldn't though, if he fired a round outside of  range limits-- it would be a  serious crime.  The pigs looked formidable with their glistening white tusks under the moonlight, that were razor sharp.  They just stood there on the road, implacable, and daring.  Boston thought of something, they all had bayonets on them--they could attach them to their rifles and charge.  ' Men , fix bayonets, we're fighting through.'  But Mango voiced opposition, " Buston, let's throw our rifles like spears, charging is to dangerous, I throw mine and kill one and the rest will run.'

" ' Mango I don't think that's a good idea.' but before Boston could finish Mango had already fixed his bayonet and was lurching forward like a javellin thrower, then he released.  The rifle and bayonet landed and hit the biggest pig right in the head. It sunk in one inch.  The pig with the rifle sticking out of it's forehead just looked at the soldiers then turned and walked into the scrubby field to the side of the rode.   'Shit mango, you have to get your rifle or we're .....'

"They failed to meet up with Seattles team at the checkpoint, for they had to chase a pig that looked like a unicorn all night for a rifle, in which they finally found.

" The platoon sergent gave them one more chance, before the squad would be disolved and Seattle and Boston would be demoted.  ' You too better work together, or you will never have a leadership position again,' he threatened.

"They were in the mountain range called the Kahukus.  The last field exercise to get it right.  
" ' Boston , you better not mess this up.’
" 'What about you Seattle, you better not.'
" They still were not acting as team, and they needed to here. When they filed in and up the mountian to the bivouac site, they seen fellow battalion soldiers who looked like the remnants of Napoleons army after Boradino.  Bandaged heads, hands, limping, despondant.

" Seattle went up to one soldier.  ' What the hell happened here?'  The soldier said they were attacked by centipedes, it's breeding season, and the wounded soldier warned '  don't go up there man, don't go.'  The soldier looked like his head grew to three times normal, and he had two fang marks on the side of his temple.  Seattle looked down the line, some had hands as big as ferns, and others had jungle boots that were bursting open from swollen feet.  Seattle remembered what that felt like, he thought of Boston and his girlfriends sister, that made him angry, but then he thought that this was their last chance, and they had to get along.

" Their entire platoon humped up the mountain, making mountain streams with their sweat.  They reached their bivouac site for the night.  Taking of their Kevlar helmets, revealing steaming heads they strung up bungee cords to trees and draped their poncho's over them for shelter for the short rain showerings that came and went all night.  ' Alright everyone bed down, squad exercises  at 0500 hours,' said the platoon sergent as the sun just started setting.  Anyone who was caught still up and dipping and smoking felt the platoon sergent's wrath.

" But then the first attack came.  Biggin laid down on the ground under his teams hooch( ad hoc poncho shelter) without spraying any bug juice.  He felt a tickling in his ear, he laughed and thought of pleasant things back home, but then he turned his head.  A bright red centipede was dribbling on his ear.  He rose up, putting his head through the poncho hooch and collapsing it.  His team-mates to his side awoke, ' What is it Bigin?'  ......' It's a dam centipede, almost crawled in my ear.'  That got his teams attention.  They propped up the poncho hooch again, and moved all their gear to find it.  There was a cord from the ponch hood dangling down from the middle of the hooch as it hung overhead.  Someone turned on their red lens flashlight, as they searched on their knees with their bayonets ready.  

" Then the side of the poncho that went to the ground, looked like a big red and camouflaged projection screen with the silhouette of a monster on it, writhing it's legs and fangs. The string dangling from the center of the poncho hooch was actually a centipede, none of them knew it. Biggin stabbed at the projection puncturing a hole in the poncho.  ' It's a reflection Biggin, it's beside us ya idiot.'  But the poncho collopsed from all the stress, and they scrambled out of there, resolving to sleep on their feet the rest of the night.  Right when their platoon sergent was about to yell at them to go back to bed as he laid on the ground in his sleeping bag he was bit on the back of his head and medvac'd out.  The new standing platoon sergent created a roving guard, to search with their red lenses for the heat hunting centipedes.

" By morning the squad was exhausted, and they had to start a new mission that was being briefed to them by a range officer  ' Alright second squad, thats your bearing( he pointed down the mountain to a misty valley) go to the said cordinates and  write down the code on the sign, start your second leg, write down the code on the finish point, then finish in the squad live fire lane at prediscussed cordinates.'  The tired squad looked down the alley, there were birds falling from the skies, they didn't like the look of this. Hamburger, a team member on Seattle's team kept looking at the distant ocean coming into view, he looked despondent, ' Dawg, look at the ocean, and that rainbow, now look where we are going.....'

"2nd squad started down the draw into the valley. Hamburger was holding his m240 machine gun like a boombox, and Private Catfish of Boston's team was in charge of the map checks and pace count.  Slowly they disapeared from view, with the range officer behind their ranger file.  They didn't not have to move in wedge formation, but had to stay tactical on this graded movement.  Seattle's team lead, with Biggin at point.  The bi-pinnate leaves of the trees looked like insect legs.  Private Catfish of Boston's team, who compared every training field mission to Vietnam, kept on saying ' and 2nd squad descends into the A-Shaw valley in hunt of the vietcong.....' before Seattle told him to shut up.

"They descended 500 meters by Catfish's pace count, when things started to fall apart.  ' You have to form a patrol base as part of the first grade....' the range officer didn't finish his directive, for a bird fell out of the sky and hit him in the head.  The bird was entwined with a centipede.  The eightman squad froze, staring at the range officer then the unfortunate bird.  Bigin took his bayonet and stabbed the centipede in half.  It was still squirming around.   'These things are unstoppable,' he said.  Boston took out his bug juice, and picked up the centipede head with the pliers from his Gerber knife and put it in the bug juice to kill it.  The squad watched as the centipede swam around in the bug juice like a dragon. They said nothing.  

"They thought the range officer was going to get up, he didn't--he was knocked out.  ' Jesus Christ, he's knocked out' said Bigin,' we have to turn back.'  Seattle looked at Boston, they were in agreement for the first time in a while. They could not turn back, one more failure and the squad was done.                     “ 'Hamburger pick him up, give your weapon to Catfish,' ordered Seattle.  
Catfish was in horror, for he had to carry the machine gun.  They moved out, much slower, with the range officer draped over Hamburger.  They slid and fell down the mountain reaching the valley, still a click away from their first cordinates.  

"Hamburger flopped down in exhaustion, they took a break, no longer tactically due to the lack of consciousness of the range officer.  ' Seattle, lets take a breather, then move out,' said Boston exhausted.  They took out their MRE's( packaged meals ready to eat).  Private Catfish put the thick package down on the rocky ground and rested his head on it, saying ' watch out for vc in the wire....'

"They lingered, already daunted from a daunting start to a mission.  They stared at the blue expanse of sky, it was heating up, no more morning caress of the Hawaiin sun.  Then they heard a thud.  The meal Catfish's head was resting on was snatched out from under him by a mongoose--Catfish's head was concussed from the impact with the rock.  ' Jesus, where'd that mongoose come from...' said Boston.  The squad looked at Seattle, he shook his head, no they would not turn back still and Bigin had to carry Catfish.

"They moved even slower now, Boston kept looking at his watch, he gave a radio report with the current cordinates of their location.  ' Hurry up, you haven't reached your first phase line yet' the radio admonished.  The squad was getting spooked, everything looked like a centipede--the vines on the forest floor, the straps on their gear.  Mango punched himself in the head because he thought his eyelashes were a centipede.  Exhaustion was creeping in, in the form of delusions.

“Lumbering across the valley, enclosed by steep scraggy hills on all sides, Seattle kept on thinking ’ How are we get up the next incline with two wounded?’ But  mission failure was not an option for him.

"They reached the phase-line where the sign with the code they are to record was.  They dropped their gear in a cache to look for it without the weight of their gear.  That is when Bigin noticed something stalking them. ' Boston, look out there, what is that, it's a .....it's a pig.....' Then they were greeted with utter horror, around one of it's tusk's was a grenade.  The pin of the grenade was being scraped at by brush as the pig snorted around the woodline--the thumb safety was already off, and if that pin goes.....

" 'Mango , that's your freaking grenade around that pig--' yelled Boston.  The squad backed together, in a tight huddle, they looked at Seattle.  The pig came closer, Mango was ready to load a live mag and blow it away before Boston stopped him, ' Mango don't, if we do not have all our rounds we are disqualified when we get to the live fire point.....'

"Slowly retreating back to their cache point, they were greeted by a gang of mongoose's--they had ramsacked all their gear and took all their MRE's.  ' What are we gunna do now' whined Hamburger as a mongoose ran up his leg and onto his neck to steal a booger out of his nose and retreated to the woodline with its fellow mongooses, and gobbled up its prize.  Hamburger dropped his machine-gun,      ‘ Aww my nose....that bastard plucked out my nose hair....goddam mong......’
“ ' Push on ' said Seattle interrupting Hamburger.

"Push on they did, reaching the first incline, carrying two unconscience soldiers, well one was almost unconscience, Catfish was mumbling about Vietcong and Ho Chi ming.

"The sky disappeared , and there was only the trees that had leaves that looked like insects with many legs.  ' Seattle, I don't think we can make it Bro,' said Boston, as a pig snorted not too far from them.
“ ' We can make it bro, we have to work together, we'll make it,' said Seattle stoically with a steady conveyor belt of sweat beads rolling down his nose.

"Grabbing trees to pull themselves up, they reached a level part where they could skirt the hill, a ridge they could cut around on and continue the azimuth to the second point.  All of them had to carry the two wounded men like they were crowd surfing.  

"Reaching the other side of the hill, they took a break before the decline.  All were staring overhead at the leafs of the trees.  Hunger was setting in all of them.  Mango saw an Apple Banana tree, ' I'll climb it and get us banana's Boston,' said Mango.  No one voiced opposition, they were starving, they were burning muscle, and all could smell it.  

"Mango climbed the palm looking trunk of the tree, his spaghetti arms almost built for that purpose.  He got three quarters of the way up, when out of the cluster of yellow green apple banana's a swarm of black red tendrils came out, he screamed and rocked the tree so hard it's trunk split in half and he came crashing down with all the apple banana's falling on top of him.

He hit hard, then got smacked of the head with a heavy cluster of fruit. Boston ran to his aid, pulling him up brushing the centipedes off him,but the centipedes clutched his fatigues.  Seattle ran up to Boston trying to brush him off, but they clung to him, and Bigin swung his rifle batting them off Seatlle but connecting with his knee, crumpling Seattle to the ground.  A snort came from the dense growth, then the pig rushed in, a vine caught the pin of the grenade, they heard the clack of the grenade spoon flying off ' shit' said the wounded Seattle who grabbed Mango to drag him out of the tree riddled with centipedes.  Bigin, Boston and Hamburger grabbed Seattle and (who held onto Mango) dragged him out over the ridge.  ' Over the side' yelled Boston, and they dragged Catfish and the range officer with them.  The pig dove into the apple banana's.

"The grenade blew up, they saw the hot sparks screaming into the air above them as they were sliding down the hillside.  They slid to a stop.  They looked at Seattle who was in pain, he gritted and said ' push on.'

"They now had four wounded, but at least Mango and Seattle could walk.  But Mango couldn't carry his gear, his arm was sprained.  Boston now took point, carrying the gear of three soldiers, they all looked as if they were squatting the sky and all its atmospheric pressure.  They got around the hill, reaching their phaseline.  ' You guys stay here, I'll find the sign,' said Boston.

"He walked into the growth with his bayonet attached to his weapon, stumbling over the slightest trip because of his exhaustion.  He fell one more time, and thought of laying there a minute, but a leaf caressed his ear and that sent him to his feet.  ' Let's go Boston,' he said to himself and checked his compass.  He saw the orange spray painted sign through some vegatation.  His heart lifted, he hacked his way and came face to face with the sign.  ' No' he said in a despondent voice.

"The tree was swarming and alive with black ripples that slithered over the sign rendering it unintelligible.  It was the layer, the layer of the centipede.  There were bones of birds, pigs,mongooses and rats at the base of the tree.  A centipede crawled out of an eye socket of a mongoose and back into a socket of a pig.  Boston stood before the hideous tree,  clutching his rifle.  A wind blew through the canopy of the surrounding trees sending the centipede-like leaves into a scurrying tantrum.  If he get's this code they are done with the land navigation, and they would be allowed to go last on the squad live fire at the end, doing it days later.  Seattle pushed through the brush with his M-4 fixed with a bayonet, ' let's do this Boston, let's finish it,' and they took their knife points and tried clearing the metal sign.  They stabbed and thrusted to reveal every alpha numeric of the code.  As the black tendrils swarmed onto their rifles and up their jungle boots they felt the incisers cutting through their pants; before centipedes bite they clench with one hundred black legs as if their were the hands of demonic monster, that had hands built for stripping flesh.  

"A centipede crawled over Bostons eye, and gripped his face, they were on the last number, he swiped at the sign to read it before it was covered by the swarming red tinted blackness again.  They got the code, then the centipede incised into his nose sending hot blood running down his nose, he clutched it and in turn his hand was clutched by insectal strength biting him on his hand.  Seattle had a centipede on his ear dangling like an ear-ring, it pierced his ear and fell with a piece of it.  Retreating, they made it back to the cache, Hamburger and Bigin removed the horde from them with their bayonets.

"The fever was setting in on Seattle and Boston, but the range officer was waking and was able to walk , along with Catfish.  They continued their azimuth, all extremely tired, the range officer helped Seattle walk, he was turning pale, and Mango helped Boston, who's face was swelling up shutting his left eye.

"They came into a clearing, with mesh camo tents, and a view of a beautiful ocean down below  and the finish point.  The range officer at the finish point took down their unit and squad to check them off as 'completed,' but only after saying ' holy shit, what the hell happened to you guys.'  The squad and range officer collapsed and they were taken to the medics tent.  Where they got the story from Mango.  They were all flown back to the rear, all earning commendation medals.  The squad healed to full health and was promoted to 1st squad, the best in a platoon, and Seattle and Boston became best friends."

The old man took another mango from his pocket. " Your Mango arn't you," said the boy, enthralled by the old man’s story.
" Not any more lad, not anymore,' said the old man in a pensive stare.
" Wow, that must have been years ago when you were in the infantry?" Ben said, in awe.

" That was five years ago, when I was in, I was 24 then in the valley of the centipedes," said Mango.  The boy looked at him in astonishment as his father was getting off a golf cart coming up to him.

" Hey Ben, you have fun.....thanks for watching him..." said Ben's father, in a jolly mood from his golf game.

Ben was in state of awe still, getting up to join his dad, musing over everything that the old looking young man said.

Then something caught all their eyes.  " Hey what is that?" asked Ben's father.  " Is that a rabbit..or what is that?" asked Ben.  " I think that's a hedgehog, but what is it eating..." said his father unsure..." It's eating spagetiti or something..." replied the boy.

" That's not a hedgehog, that's a chinchilla, and it's eating a centipede," lectured Mango with a cold stare at the animal.  The chinchilla was gobbling up a centipede like a noodle, the centipede was biting the chinchillas nose, but the fluffy animal was unfazed. It seemed a spicy delicacy to the fluff ball.

" Ben, come back and visit" said Mango almost in a trance watching the chinchilla crunching up the armor plated centipede.  He had a thousand yard stare, as if to recall a nightmare, he spoke again in a lifeless voice addressing the boy " Come back" the old man said "and I'll tell you the story of ' the night  on Chinchilla Hill' ."
The End

erin walts  Jun 2014
raindrops
erin walts Jun 2014

Just another raindrop in the rain
Just another person
lifeless and plain.
Just another drag to take me away.
Just another patient awaiting cancer and pain.
Just another weight to bare
Just another "I don't care"...
Just another wasted life

I can't tell you what it is
Impatiently waiting for the floor to fall from under my feet
constantly worry
about incomplete
can't compete
everything is


obsolete.

Just another raindrop in the rain
it trickles down the window pane

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