1998 Aliens Part #3 "The World Of Legends" By Derek J. Barbee
Any resemblance to actual characters are not coincidental. ; )
Jakkon, Jerena, Colin, Chris, Andrew, Josh, Dakkon, Runa, Smithson, Mulgar and Ashely are the copyrighted property of Derek J. Barbee. The Dagda Mors, The Reaper and The Changeling are all copyright of Terry Brooks. All rights reserved. Pause for bourgeois legalities: This story is copyright Š1997 by the author, who grants permission to reproduce and distribute it, so long as 1) you don't screw around with it and leave the text as it is, and 2) you don't try and make some cash off of it. If you're serious about the latter, E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll discuss my cut. All the normal provisions of Title 17 (the U.S. Copyright Law) still apply. Based on characters and situations created by Sega Corporation, Archie Comics and/or DiC Productions. All rights reserved.
Authoršs Note: Whew! Herešs the _third_ part of the 'Aliens' Series. I must thank Terry Brooks for giving me the idea for this story, although he doesn't know it yet. And this story is so long that I had to split it up into two parts because people were getting impatient. It took me a while to write. Sorry about that.
And, this story may be a bit violent at times, but I'm sorry. That's how war is, I'm sorry to tell you. War sucks, but it makes for some good stories.
Far off on two completely different dimensions, six voices echoed the same thought.
"Where are we?"
TO BE CONTINUED . . .
To Sonic and Sally, it was kind of like jumping from a cold pool to a hot tub. It was a shock. Sally held her head as the night cold washed away to reveal unbelievable heat. Sonic curled into a ball, trying to get away from the heat.
Then, suddenly, it was over.
Sonic opened his eyes. "Sal?"
Sally didn't answer.
Sonic sat up and looked over. Sally lay, unmoving, on the ground. He quickly rushed over to her. "Sal? Sal? Wake up!"
Still no answer from Sally's prone form. By now Sonic was fearing the worst. He looked around, wondering if there was help nearby. Only now did he notice the change in surroundings.
A vast wasteland encircled him and Sally, as barren as though a brushfire had happened and nothing had grown back. Sonic could believe that that might have happened, considering the heat. Red rocks were scattered around the landscape as though a volcano had exploded and disintegrated, leaving chunks of stone spread around the land. Small tough plants struggled to grow and thrive in the heat and waterless ground.
Now Sonic realized that he might have a second problem, aside from Sally being unconscious or worse. He shook his head angrily. He couldn't think about that now. He had to find help. And he had to find it quickly.
With that thought still lingering in his head, he picked up Sally and wandered off in search of help. That black line on the horizon could be a town with someone that might help.
Mile after mile he walked, thirsting for water and longing to be home in his bed, having this all be a bad dream. But no, that was not going to happen any time soon. There was no one in sight for miles.
At nightfall he finally he reached the object that had been just a nondescript black line from a distance. It was a range of trees. A forest! What better place for creatures to live in sanctuary in this barren land.
But by now he was near exhaustion and half dead, which made him wonder about Sally's condition. He collapsed at the foot of the trees, his eyes closing. It was over.
Something cracked in the bushes.
Sonic's eyes snapped open, his eyes searching. That was no falling twig. There was something out there.
He slowly sat up, still looking for something, anything. He put an arm on Sally's shoulder. He had to protect her.
Another sound cut through the hot night air.
Now Sonic was on his feet, ready. But what crawled out of the bushes he definitely wasn't ready for.
Something black and huge lumbered its way from the shadows, making Sonic's eyes widen. It was hunched over and had claws longer than Sonic's fingers. It had a long tail that forked into two tails with spikes at the edges. Its massive jaws split open to reveal jagged teeth that dripped with saliva. Its eyes glowed a bright green in the darkness.
It whuffed and stood up on its hind legs, totaling a height of about nine feet. It roared, blasting Sonic with a wind of breath smelling of rotten meat.
Sonic fell back, grabbing Sally and heaving her over his shoulder. He tried to run but tripped.
The beast fell back down to four paws and lumbered its enormous body weight over to the two fallen figures. It roared again and raised a massive clawed paw over its head.
A spear whistled through the air and buried itself deep in the monster's side with a sickening 'thunk'. Sonic whipped his head over to the bushes from where the spear had come. Five creatures that looked vaguely human except for a few oddities flew out of the bushes and toward the beast.
That's right. Flew.
They had wings.
Each carried a spear with a metal tip that they threw with amazing precision at the creature. The males wore loincloths and nothing else, while the females also wore a type of cloth top. They varied in color from red to green to blue, each a different shade. Some had the features of some recognizable animals, such as the beak or wings of a bird, the face of a frog or the rudder-like tail of a beaver.
The beast roared as metal tipped spears stabbed into it, carrying it to the ground. It growled one last time as the last of its energy gave out and it died.
The flying creatures alighted on the ground next to the astounded Sonic and the unconscious Sally. The foremost gargoyle, a grey giant with horns of a goat bowed.
"I am Xavier, War Chief of the Gargoyles," he said in a voice like thunder. "What brings you to The World of Legends?" "Buh . . . guh . . . uh?" asked Sonic intelligently. He quickly pointed to Sally. "My name's Sonic and my friend who's injured is Sally. Do you have anything like a healer?" he asked frantically.
Xavier nodded to a blue gargoyle that came forward and inspected Sally. After a moment, the blue gargoyle looked up. "She is in shock," he said, "we must get her to Mordon."
Xavier nodded. A few minutes later, Sonic and Sally were riding on a stretcher that was being carried fifty feet above a dense forest by four gargoyles.
For every dimension, there must exist a dark side. An evil part of life. Mobius had its evil side. Earth had its evil. And so did The World of Legends.
On the far left side of a map of The World of Legends, there was a part of land that was dark. It was evil. There, the demons dwelled.
Demons were a dark race. No living creature knew where they had come from. But they knew that if the demons weren't destroyed, all else would be. The demons sought to destroy all they could. Demons were not a kind race, but exactly the opposite. They were chaotic and cruel. They knew not love or kindness, just the bloody thrill of battle. They were messy and unorganized, their armies were never in ranks or lines, but in hordes. They did not rely on skill to bring them through, but power in numbers. Demons populated at an astounding rate.
The young of these horrid abominations might be considered cute.
Cute, that is, if you were mentally ill.
Demons came in varied shapes and sizes, none being the same. No two demons were identical. While one whelp from a mother demon might be small and devilish, the second might grow to be the size of a house. Some walked on four legs, others two. Some even had more. Some had wings. Some had poison glands. Some had tentacles. Some had more than one head or tail. But all were detestable things.
In the demon land, there was no forest. It was swamp. The trees there grew no leaves, budded no flowers. The swamp had a dense overcoating of thick, intertwined branches from swampbrush and mangroves. Even the sun dared not shine there, it was always dark and gloomy, like the bottom of a dungeon.
The demons were mortal enemies of the gargoyles and lived to destroy them. They hated anything that worshipped nature. They hated them with their lives. War between the two had been going on for generations. Awesome, bloody wars. Kings of both races had lived and died, either assassinated or killed in battle. The Gargoyles stood for justice and good living. They stood for nature. The demons stood for chaos and killing. They stood for death.
The king of the Gargoyles, King Lothar, was an old Gargoyle, considered by some to be ancient. By human terms, he was. He had lived for over four hundred years. Four hundred years of fighting the demons. Most of the gargoyles had known battle all their lives. They had been born while it was going and they had yet to see it end.
The demons had no king. They had a Warlock Lord, who was known as The Dagda Mors. But he will be explained later. Back to the matter at hand.
Deep in the Swamps of Solemnity stood the Tower of Hate, the fortress of the demons. There, The Dagda Mors ruled over the demons. The Dagda Mors had two minions, the Reaper and the Changeling. But they, as would The Dagda Mors, be explained later in the story.
The old and rotting doors of the throne room, if we may so call it, opened to reveal a small and shrewd looking demon, backed by two extremely large and menacing looking demons with axes. The small demon had a rather sly look on his face and a long crooked nose that came to a point. His little pinpoint eyes were small red specks.
Just looking at him, you could tell he was a spy.
He was herded up to the throne where The Dagda Mors sat. The small demon chuckled evilly and bowed. "My Lord of Lords, my liege of liegies, er, ahem, is that right? I . . ." he said in a small wheedling voice.
"JUST SPEAK, YOU FOOL."
The sudden ripple of thundering voice made the demon jerk nervously. "Um, sir, I have information concerning a reality ripple."
The Dagda Mors leaned forward on its throne, interested.. "A REALITY RIPPLE? AFTER ALL THIS TIME? DID ANYTHING COME INTO THIS DIMENSION?"
The small demon coughed and continued, more sure of himself now. "Apparently two creatures from a different dimension were transported here today about three hours ago. A male hedgehog and a female squirrel-fox cross. I saw it happen."
"AND YOU DID NOTHING?" asked The Dagda Mors, his voice sounding menacing now.
The little demon fidgeted uncomfortably, realizing that he was in danger now. "Not exactly, my lord. I sent a daemon to investigate."
Daemons were another race of demons. Unlike a regular demons, daemons were not as intelligent as regular demons and did not talk in a certain language, but rather in low, guttural grunts. They were workers to the demons, almost like what horses are to us. The only difference is that the daemons are of almost the same race.
"We were attacked," continued the demon.
The Dagda Mors' fist came down hard on an armrest. "ATTACKED? BY WHAT? BY WHOM?"
"The Gargoyles!" blurted the demon, covering his face with his hands, expecting to be unmercifully killed.
There was a deathly silence.
The demon slowly peeked out from between his hands. Maybe The Dagda Mors was having a change in heart today and would spare his life. Then again, maybe not.
The demon peeked out from behind his hands just in time to see a streak of red fire lancing toward him. He gave one last frightened shriek before incinerating into a small pile of ashes on the floor.
The Dagda Mors lowered the Staff of Power and calmed himself until the red glow in the crystal ball at the end of the staff cooled. Its glowering red eyes in the darkness of its robe were like a bright light shining with the feeling of anger and hate. The Dagda Mors cast a withering glance at the guards who were desperately trying not to bolt from the room in fear.
"I WANT THESE FOOLS FOUND. AND I WANT THEM FOUND IMMEDIATELY!" roared The Dagda Mors, its eyes glowing so much that they shone light on the rest of The Dagda Mors face, revealing a face that was vaguely cat-like, except to the unearthly sized fangs. "DO WE UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER?" it hissed.
The guards nodded stiffly and hurried out.
The Dagda Mors slid its claws across the gouged surface of the throne, scratching it deeply. The Dagda Mors hated the Gargoyles.
A bolt of red fire shot across the room, striking a statue and immediately destroying it.
The Dagda Mors HATED the Gargoyles!
A small dark blue gargoyle named Flink was leading Sonic around the village while the doctors were inspecting Sally. Flink explained to Sonic that this might be difficult because the internal organs of gargoyles were in slightly different places than that of regular Mobians.
Sonic looked away. "So, do you think she'll be alright?" he asked.
A brief smile crossed Flink's face. He nodded. "Yes. She is in shock. She will be waking up soon enough. We have ways to wake up creatures that are in shock."
Sonic looked at him warily. "Ways? I don't like the sound of that."
Flink waved a hand. "If you're thinking of painful things, you're dreadfully mistaken. It's the demons who use torture. They enjoy inflicting pain. They are torturers, destroyers of life, rapists of the land."
"You don't sound like you like them very much."
"Why should I like them?" yelled Flink angrily. "They kill! They're deadly! They killed my brother!"
There was silence for a moment. Sonic thought for a moment about Flink's sudden outburst, then spoke up and tried to apologize.
"I'm sorry, I didn't know. Wars . . ."
"I don't care!" screamed Flink. "I just don't care any more! My parents are dead, they died trying to defend our home! My brother, my only brother, was assassinated by one lone demon. The demon was only about three feet tall! That's how deadly they are!"
"In wars, people may die."
"People do die! They did, are and probably always will!"
"I lost my parents in a war, too, you know," said Sonic quietly.
Flink's eyes softened only slightly. "Do you see my point, then?"
"I understand that you're angry, yes, if that's what you mean. On my home planet, I am known to be energetic and a bit of a hothead." He shook his head. "I think this trip is beginning to have some effect on me. Being taken away from my homeworld by a large, angry alien and being planted here, my girlfriend unconscious and in shock . . . does that sound exactly like a dream vacation to you?"
Flink looked interested. "Say, you still haven't told anyone how you got here, just your names."
Sonic looked up at the oddly colored sky. "All right. I will tell you." And Sonic related to the young gargoyle the events of Mobius, the war against Robotnik, and of the encounter with the Dorns.
When he was finished, Flink looked at him with a new respect in his eyes. "So you have no idea how to get back?"
Sonic sadly relented. "No. I don't."
A smile spread across Flink's face. "Hey, I have an idea. We have a group of gargoyle mages and sorcerers here in Mordon. They might have some way to magically transport you back to Mobius."
Sonic brightened, becoming more of his old self. "Really? Cool! Lead the way!"
Flink began running, then took flight, zooming a couple of feet over the ground and leaving Sonic behind. Sonic grinned. They had not yet seen his speed ability. With a sound like the screech of tires, Sonic was off.
As Sonic passed, Flink stared at him with a look of amazement. He had never seen a creature go that fast before. He stopped and signaled Sonic to come back.
"What is it?" asked Sonic, still grinning smugly.
"You! It's like you have the magical spell 'Speed' built into your person!"
Sonic shrugged. "What can I say? It's a gift."
As Sonic ran along under the flying Flink, he had time to admire the beauty of the rebel village or Mordon. Since the gargoyles could fly, all the homes were built in the trees. It was amazing to see bridges and huts intertwined with the tall oaks and redwoods. All this was under the great canopy of trees, and flashes of sunlight filtered down, illuminating the place.
The vastness of it all astounded Sonic. There must have been hundreds, thousands of homes in the trees. Flink explained to him the second reason of why their homes were in the trees. Not many demons could fly or climb, so it provided them some amount of protection.
It was all quite beautiful; bridges and houses high in the trees, with gargoyles flying to and from them, walking along the bridges and resting in the treetops. Sonic wished Sally were there to see it with him.
After a while of searching, Flink flew down and landed next to Sonic. Flink pointed to one overly large tree that stood out from the rest. Near the top of the tree were groups of houses, all clumped together in one cluster.
Flink motioned for Sonic to climb onto his back. "I'll carry you up."
Sonic scratched his head. "How?"
Flink grinned as Sonic climbed on his back. With one mighty leap, Flink jumped onto the tree and started climbing with surprising speed, digging his claws into the bark.
"I don't believe this," muttered Sonic under his breath.
"Believe it," Flink muttered back.
When they reached one of the top balconies Flink set Sonic down. There was a thump from inside one of the outer houses and an armed guard stumbled out the door, carrying a spear. "What the . . ." he started.
Flink smiled. "Hiya, Gork. Is Master Hinfin around today?" he asked.
Gork stood up and saluted. "Yes, young one. He is downstairs in level 4, working on his poison resistance spell. I will escort you to him."
"No need," said Flink, waving a hand. "I know my way around."
Gork nodded. "As you will."
They passed Gork and walked down into the tree. It was now that Sonic noticed that the tree's center was hollowed out, and there was a long, descending stair case that led up or down.
Flink immediately started down the staircase. Sonic took one more glance upward and followed. As they walked down, Sonic looked up the trunk. He could see daylight from the open top of the tree. From what he could see, it looked like they had guards there, too.
He was about to say something when Flink stopped descending the staircase and pointed to a door. "Here we are." He opened the door and walked in, motioning that Sonic should follow.
"Must be a pretty thick tree," thought Sonic, and followed.
"What is it? I'm busy!" came a cranky old voice from the other side of the room. An old gargoyle with stringy white hair and wrinkled wings shuffled out and glared at them. His eyes opened wide when he saw Sonic. "What is THAT?"
Flink nodded and answered for Sonic. "This is a creature called a hedgehog. He is from another dimension known as 'Mo-bee-us.' An alien transported him magically here and he has no idea how to get back. He came with another creature, a female. She is in the infirmary."
Sonic wanted to say that Sally was not a hedgehog, but a squirrel-fox cross, but the old gargoyle interrupted.
"So, why do you want me? Hurry, my time is precious."
"Since I knew that you were wise in the area of spells, I was hoping that you would help us inferiors of magic with a way to get him home," said Flink politely.
The old gargoyle was definitely not immune to flattery. He coughed and harumphed. "Well, than it's good you came to old Master Hinfin. I'll see what I can do."
Flink winked to Sonic as Hinfin shuffled to the back of the room and started rummaging through piles of papers and scrolls. The gargoyle emerged from the mountains of rubble with a scroll and a vile of something green that glittered in the light. He handed the vile to Sonic. "Drink this."
Sonic looked at Flink, who nodded. Shrugging, Sonic accepted that flask and downed it in a gulp. He took a deep breath and made an odd noise. "Oogh. Not very good on the old digestive system, is it?"
Hinfin just stared intently at Sonic. Suddenly, Sonic changed color.
"Whoa!" Sonic said, looking down at himself. He was now red in color and looking very surprised. "What does that mean?"
The old gargoyle muttered a few things and made some scribbles on the scroll. "Transportation spell . . . personal, but aimed to an individual. Rare . . . and tricky. Magician sure must not have been a slouch."
Hinfin sighed and looked over at Flink. "There's only one way to get him back to his own dimension."
"But there is a way?" asked Sonic eagerly. His color was turning slowly back to blue.
Hinfin nodded. "Aye. Only problem is, the crystal ball that can do it is no longer in our possession."
Sonic's hopes died as if they had been hit by a truck going Mach 10. "Who has it?"
Flink fidgeted nervously as Hinfin looked Sonic straight in the eye. "The demons."
Sally woke up slowly, her vision gradually getting better until she could see the blue hedgehog sitting at the edge of her bed. "Oh, hi Sonic." She smiled weakly. "How's everything?"
Sonic looked concerned. "What's the last thing you remember?"
Sally thought for a moment. "I remember the second alien zapping us with something . . . then . . . nothing." She looked around. Where are we?"
"Well . . ." Sonic began.
A grey female gargoyle entered the room, carrying a tray of food. Sally jumped. "What's _that_?"
The nurse smiled, set the tray of food down and left.
"That was a gargoyle," said Sonic matter-of-factly.
Sally blinked and flopped back on her pillow. "I think you have some explaining to do, hmm?"
So Sonic told her about the events that had happened starting from the point she went unconscious. When he was finished, Sally blinked a couple of times and said to him: "So these demons have our only way of getting back? And they're at war with the gargoyles?"
Sonic nodded, glad she understood. "That's right."
"Do you suppose we should help them?"
That struck Sonic as being an interesting thought. "I guess we could . . . it might help us get back to our time quicker."
Flink nodded to Sally. "Is this your lady friend?"
"Yup," said Sonic, "Say, do you suppose that we could sort of go on a little tour of this place? Might be nice to know the area."
"I guess you could," said Flink thoughtfully. "But you'd need to go in armed escort."
Sally looked uncomfortable, but Sonic shrugged. "Sure."
Flink clapped his hands together. "I suppose I can go ease Gork off his duties for a while. And I'll bring Djedred, too."
"You mean you're coming, too?"
Flink shrugged. "Sure, why not?"
Flink turned and called up to the tree that was not very far away. "HEY GORK! GET OFF SHIFT SOON?"
"I already am," said Gork, gliding down from the balcony. "I was just about to go home. Why?"
"I was wondering if you'd like to go show our friends around on a little tour of the place?"
Gork looked down at Sonic and Sally. "Okay. I guess I will. Let me get my spear. We might run into demons."
As Gork climbed back up the tree, Flink called after him. "AND BRING DJEDRED, TOO!"
Flink turned back to Sonic and Sally. "So, where do you want to go? Your request."
Sonic looked around thoughtfully. He couldn't see much, because they were still in the forest town of Mordon, but he could see through the trees fairly well. "What's that over there in the distance? Is that a clearing?"
"Yeah, it is," said Flink, squinting in the direction Sonic was pointing. "Not quite as close as I'd prefer, but we can go to it if you want."
Gork returned quickly, bringing with him a gargoyle even taller than him. He must have towered at least eight feet over the ground. He had a bird's beak and rippling muscles. Smiling, Djedred asked: "Are these the new ones?" His deep voice seemed to vibrate the very ground on which Sonic and Sally stood.
Flink nodded and pointed off towards the clearing. "They wanna go for a little tour of the place. We can't go too far, but I suppose we can go to about the clearing there."
Djedred frowned, but then agreed. And so the procession moved on to the clearing.
Only when Flink showed them around did Sonic and Sally notice the beauty of this world. The trees, like towering giants, stood as a large barrier between the good nature of the forest and the barren wastelands. Far off they could see the blackness and thick clouds of the swamps, reminding them that nothing is ever totally free of evil. Nothing can ever be totally purged of filth and danger.
Sonic felt slightly poetic looking at this sight and smiled slightly. He had never felt like just sitting down and writing poetry before, but this was different. Special somehow. Looking past the stern and watchful faces of the guards, he realized that this land was an equal to Mobius; creatures fighting for freedom. Freedom of evil.
And now that Robotnik was back in their dimension, there would be even more trouble. Like this place. This place would probably take even longer for the war to finish. The war back on Mobius was like a petty squabble compared to this.
Sally touched his hand and looked into his eyes. Sonic did smile this time. Of all the people to be stranded in another dimension with, Sally was definitely his number one choice.
He watched the wind blow Flink's dark hair around. Such a place like this was . . . so . . . so . . . he couldn't think of a word to describe it.
It was perfect, yet it was not. It was beautiful, yet it had ugliness. But if you looked past the ugliness . . . he guessed that was the way with everything. If you looked past the ugliness, there was beauty. Unbelievable beauty.
Flink took them to see majestic waterfalls that thundered down hundreds of feet, over cliffs like giant streams of cars that took a wrong turn somewhere. Glittering water fell from heights unimaginable and crashed down to the river in a canyon below. He took them to see stretching mountains that reached the highest clouds which were mere wisps of white in the dark blue sky. They saw vast plateaus of rock that stood near the mountains.
Flink smiled. "Well, I'm sorry to be the one to tell you this, but we should be heading back now. It's getting dark and we're waayyyy out in an area that we shouldn't be in."
Sally's face fell. It was such a beautiful place; she wished she had more time to look around. The dark memory in the corner of her mind reminded her that she could have more time than she wanted here.
The sun fell slowly in the sky as they headed back to Mordon. Suddenly, Gork's eyes got wider and he began to eye the bushes cautiously. Flink nudged him and asked softly what was going on.
"I heard something," Gork replied quietly, not wanting to alarm Sonic and Sally.
Flink nodded, looking noticeably more frayed than before. He passed the news on to Djedred as quietly as his talk with Gork.
Sonic knew what was going on and didn't like the idea. Of course, it could have been something else. Anything, really. He was sure that there were plenty of other creatures in this land aside from demons and gargoyles. That was something he had to ask Flink about. When they were safe back at Mordon.
Everyone heard it this time. It was like a death bell, a gong that echoed in the pit of their stomachs. Djedred tightened his grip on his spear, as did Gork. Flink wished he had a spear, while Sonic and Sally wished they were home and safe on Mobius.
At first Gork said it so quietly that no almost no one heard. He said it again, louder this time. "Go."
"What?" asked Flink, disturbed.
"You heard me. Go. Run. Run quickly. And don't stop running until you get back to Mordon." Gork's gaze never shifted from one clump of trees not fifty feet from them.
Flink hesitated, almost signaling for Sonic and Sally to go. Gork barked out the command again, harder.
"Go! Run, damn you!"
Flink ran, immediately followed by Sonic, who picked up Sally in his arms. Seconds after they ran there was an earsplitting crash, like hundreds of trees being crushed like toothpicks and pushed to the ground. A roar thundered throughout the whole valley, almost knocking Sonic from his feet. Flink took to the air and Sonic moved to a faster speed.
Had any of them looked back, they would have seen two demons, more than twice as tall as Gork or Djedred rumble out from the trees and throw themselves at the two gargoyles. It was over in less than a moment, the two gargoyle's lifeless bodies hitting the ground with dull thuds, mere nuisances for the demons.
But Sonic, Sally and Flink didn't look back.
Sonic speed past trees and bushes, dodging left and right to avoid obstacles, Sally kept a tight grip on him, to keep from falling off. Sonic looked up at Flink, who was flying a few yards above them. "Why the hell didn't you tell us that there were demons in this area?" he yelled angrily.
"I told you that we were already further out than we should have been," snapped Flink, swooping lower to avoid a tree branch.
"Well, you should have told us as soon as we got out of range!"
"Well, sorry!" snarled Flink. "What's it to you! You're not the one who's back there fighting a hopeless battle! Two lives have been lost now!"
Sonic growled in frustration. "It isn't our fault!"
"Then who's is it?" screamed Flink, looking down at him. "If you --"
A black shape hurtled down out of the sky and rammed into Flink, knocking him to the ground in a heap.
"Sonic!" yelled Sally, as he swerved to avoid hitting Flink. Sonic swerved and caught his foot on a root protruding from the ground. With a thud, he hit the ground, too.
Holding her head, Sally sat up. Her eyes widened. The creature that had hit Flink was attacking him as he lay defenselessly on the ground, yelling. Sally picked up the root Sonic had tripped on and pulled it from the ground. Wielding the stick like a club, she delt the creature a blow to the head, knocking it off Flink.
Flink lay in a heap, exhausted. He had scratches and cuts all over him, and he was holding one eye. His eyes turned to Sally. "I . . . hope . . . it wasn't . . . poisonous . . ." he murmured, before going limp.
"Sonic!" screeched Sally. "Get over here! Quickly!"
Rubbing his head, Sonic stumbled over. "Oh, man," he groaned. "What happened to him?"
Sally held two fingers to Flink's neck, and then his wrist. "He's alive. But barely. We have to get him back to the gargoyle camp."
"Mordon?" inquired Sonic, still dazed.
"Yes! Mordon!" said Sally, gritting her teeth. "I don't care what it's called, but let's go!"
Sonic bent down and picked him up. "Okay, come on," he mumbled, staggering forward. Sally hesitated, then followed. She shot one last glance back at the demon she had felled with the root. It was gone.
Sally poked Sonic in the back. "Let's move. Quickly."
Sonic amazingly managed to stumble along at a faster pace, only tripping over the occasional rock or tree root.
It wasn't a sightseeing trip anymore. Now it was a race for their lives. Sonic staggered forward, carrying Flink and still trying to shake himself from the daze he was in.
Sally kept shooting nervous glances at the trees, as though expecting demons to jump out of them at any minute. The sun was slowly setting, turning blood red on the horizon. Sally realized that if they didn't get back to Mordon soon enough, they'd have no hope of surviving. The wind whistled through the trees, whipping branches and leaves around wildly. They came to a large chasm in the ground, and Sally held Sonic's hand steady as they ventured down and up the other side. Sally slipped and cut her knee, but she didn't care. She merely held a hand against the bleeding and continued forth.
The sun had almost completely set, and darkness was settling in. Sonic had regained his senses now, and almost wished he hadn't. He shot nervous glances at the shadows that seemed to creep like creatures in the night, casting furtive glances at the weary travelers. Sally could swear she saw small, cat-like eyes blink at them an number of times. Each time she whirled about they were gone. She tried to shake the idea away that they were being followed, but the small, feral eyes kept appearing in her mind.
As the sun completely disappeared, Sally was nearing panic. Flink was turning pale, and his pulse was shallow. He wouldn't last much longer. And if she and Sonic didn't get out of the night soon, neither would they.
A sudden swoosh overhead made Sally jump and almost scream. Sonic turned and saw the outline of a gargoyle among the stars. Setting Flink down carefully, he shouted and waved his arms. "Hey! Down here!"
The gargoyle focused its glowing eyes to them and changed course, swerving back the way it came and down. It shot down in a perfect streamlined position, spreading its wings at the last moment and alighting on the ground. It was obviously a female, and turned its green eyes left and right, staring at Sonic and Sally. "Why are you out here? Where is your escort?" She spotted Flink. "And what happened to him? Was he injured in the fighting?"
Sonic tried to speak in the flood of questions. "We were attacked. Flink is injured and our escort is missing, probably dead."
"Where were you when you were attacked?" asked the gargoyle sharply, tightening its grip on the spear it carried.
Sonic pointed back the way they had came. "About a half hour's walk back that way. Why?"
The gargoyle took a quick breath. "Oh, no! Their ranks stretch all the way to the southwest! I must alert the captain!" Without another word, she shot up into the air.
"Wait!" called Sally. "What about us? What do we do? Which way is Mordon?"
"I will send another guard to get you," the gargoyle called back. Turning she, signaled off to where Sonic and Sally could not see. Then she pointed down to where they were and flew off in the other direction.
Sonic took in a few ragged breaths and looked over to where the gargoyle had signaled. Seconds later, three gargoyles ripped out from the trees, racing towards them. Sonic and Sally could see that they were armed, too.
The three gargoyles sailed downward and landed in front of Sonic and Sally. A slightly reddish tinged male stepped forward. "My name is Hathor. You are in need of assistance? Make it quick, we must hurry. We are under attack."
"Where?" asked Sally breathlessly.
Hathor pointed west. "The demons found one of our outposts. We are under attack. It is dark and hard to estimate how many of them there are. We have lost many already."
Sally started to ask them to take her, Sonic and Flink back to Mordon, but Sonic interrupted. "Can one of you take Flink back to Mordon? We will come with you to fight."
Hathor nodded, smiling. "Very good." He turned and motioned to one of the other gargoyles, who scooped Flink up in its arms and lifted off and into the night. He turned back to Sonic and Sally. "Now, we must hurry."
Sally turned to Sonic, outraged. "Why did you do that? We aren't experienced in hand to hand combat!"
Sonic stopped her with a gaze she had never seen on him before. "I did it because I said we'd help. Now seems like a good time. And besides, we need to get that crystal ball."
Sally started to argue, but held her tongue. "All right, Sonic. We'll go."
Sonic brushed away a questing thorn branch as they hid in a clump of bushes near the outpost. It seemed almost abandoned now, except for one small thing. Dozens of bodies littered the area, sprawled in grotesque positions. Gargoyles lay around the remains of the fort, with limbs outstretched or even occasionally missing.
Yet it appeared that the gargoyles had not gone without a fight. The body count leaned noticeably more towards the demons side. Demons were scattered everywhere, hanging from trees and towers that had been cut down by spears, and others that looked like they had been beaten to death by the blunt end of spears or gargoyles bare fists.
Sonic shuddered as he nudged the form of gargoyle that lay face down on the ground. "And I thought our war was bad," he muttered. "That was kids stuff."
Hathor turned his flaring eyes on him. "Hush! Do you want the enemy to know we're here?"
Sonic stopped and looked around at the deserted outpost. "_What_ enemy?" he asked bluntly.
The gargoyle swiveled his eyes away from Sonic and began scanning the bushes. He nodded to one of the other gargoyles, which slunk away into the bushes without a sound. "They're here," he confirmed with a nod.
Sally rubbed her bleeding knee and frowned. What she wouldn't give for a good healing balm right now. She held a hand on her knee to staunch the bleeding, then winced as her hand came away red.
Hathor suddenly froze. His head slowly turned, his eyes tracking the bushes intently. Sonic, Sally and the remaining gargoyle all tensed, waiting for whatever was to come. Hathor's gaze kept on rotating, until he stopped on Sally. "You!"
Sally blinked. "What? What did I do?" she asked nervously.
"Oh, it's nothing much. Not too deep. We can take care of it as soon as we get back . . ."
Hathor cut her off. "No, you fool! The blood! Demons can smell blood! Get out! Now!" he roared, waving them off desperately.
A roar like thunder shook the trees as a beast leaped up behind Hathor and smashed into him, taking him to the ground. The other gargoyle grabbed its spear and stood up, swinging the spear and dealing the creature a blow across the forehead. It snarled and swung back at him with a paw the size of Sonic's head. It backhanded the gargoyle soundly, knocking him back five feet. He hit the ground unconscious.
Now Sonic faced the beast. Sally was behind him, relying on him for protection. He slowly reached down and picked up the fallen gargoyles spear, which had landed near him. Picking it up, he held it out in front of him, slowly weaving back and forth in an effort to stall and confuse the beast. He now got a good look at it.
Breathing heavily, with a red gash across its forehead, the beast somewhat resembled a wolf or something of the canine species. It was large and black, with laid back ears and small horns protruding from its head. Rippling muscles spread all over the beast, giving it a most intimidating effect. It snarled again, it's glowing red eyes tracking Sonic as he weaved. A small river of drool dribbled from its mouth, running over fangs the size of Sonic's fingers.
All this Sonic observed within seconds. The beast stopped waiting and stalked forward, realizing that it was the stronger of the two, and that it could easily dominate a battle like this. Sonic dodged left, then hurled the spear. It whistled through the air and towards the beast, piercing it's shoulder. The beast twisted and roared in pain, trying to swipe out for Sonic, but settled for snapping at him instead. The sharp teeth came inches from Sonic, making him jump back and trip, landing on his back and knocking the wind from him.
With a faint swoosh and the sound of ripping leaves, the missing gargoyle that Hathor had sent out on patrol hurtled through the air, claws outstretched and spear in hand. Startling everyone with a stentorian screech, it brought the spear down like a knife on the demon's back, stabbing it clear through. The beast crumpled to the ground, its breath letting out with a 'whuff'.
The gargoyle grabbed Sonic's hand and picked up Sally. "Hurry! There are more coming!"
Sonic and Sally needed no further urging.
They ran at a breakneck speed, racing through the trees, not caring if the branches cut them or swatted at them when they passed. Trees shot past them, looming like the great beasts that pursued them, even as they ran. They couldn't see them, but they knew they were there.
With a rush, they were out in the open. The night stars were neither a comfort nor a threat to them; they didn't care about them. They just wanted to escape, to run.
Sonic leaped a small hill and risked a look back at the forest they had just emerged from. At first he saw nothing, then, like an army of shadows, the demons slipped out of the woods and followed. They seemed to blend in with the night, slithering along behind them at an incredible pace. It was impossible to count how many of them there were; they kept fading in and out from view. It was an illusion that seemed to blur Sonic's vision.
The gargoyle leading them cried out urgently and Sonic turned back looking ahead of them.
A river lay before them.
A large, seemingly impassable river.
And an army of demons behind them.
Life was not looking good.
The gargoyle skidded to a stop at the edge of the river, but Sonic kept going. He didn't care about any water, no matter how deep it was. The gargoyle saw that he was going in and dived for him. Sonic tried to dodge, but the gargoyle tackled him.
"What are you doing?" Sonic yelled at him, struggling to get up. "We have to get out of here!"
"What are _you_ doing? That river is impassable! It's infested!"
Sonic stopped. "Infested with WHAT?"
The gargoyle pointed at the water. Small, grey shapes seemed to flit among the gentle, seemingly harmless water. Now and then Sonic caught a glimpse of a rounded mouth and thousands of small sucker teeth.
"Lampreys . . ." spoke the gargoyle.
Even Sonic knew what they were. They were like leeches, that latched onto fish and anything else stupid enough to go into the water. They were not common, but were well known. They even had them on Earth.
Sonic risked a glance back at the demons. They were getting closer. But now Sonic noticed that they were slowing down, and a low huffing sound was heard. The demons were laughing. They knew there was no escape.
Sonic immediately stood up and took control. "You can fly, can't you? Can you fly Sally over the river?"
The gargoyle hesitated. "I can fly, but my flying depends mostly of updrafts. You could really call it gliding."
Sonic decided this was not a good time for a lesson of how gargoyles flew. "But can you carry Sally to that island there in the middle of the river? Then we can rest and try again."
The gargoyle glanced at the small island, barely protruding from the water. "Yes, I could make it to there. But you? How are you going to make it? There isn't enough time to come back and get you."
Sonic looked again. He was right. There wasn't. 'Don't worry about me," he said firmly. "I can make it. Just get Sally there."
The gargoyle nodded and picked up Sally, leaping into the air and flying low over the water. Sonic turned and was about to try what he had mind, but stopped. He looked back at the approaching demons and promptly took off. Using a version of the familiar sonic spin, he cut through the water, a whirling ball of spines. He made a beeline for the island, skimming over the top of the water.
The demons, realizing their prey was escaping, redoubled their efforts with a cry. But by the time they reached the edge, Sonic had made it safely to the island and climbed out of the water.
As he pulled himself up on the shore, he couldn't help a grin at the dumbstruck demons, angry at have lost their prey. There was a sudden murmuring in the ranks of demons and Sonic's smile froze in place. "Oh, crap."
The ranks parted and it was possible to see two larger demons leading what looked like a small dragon forward. It had the head of a dragon, except for a large horn on its nose, and it was completely black and had no wings. The dragon snorted and spit small flames left and right, but the two guard demons held on. They led the demon dragon to the edge and pointed at Sonic, Sally and the gargoyle, who were sitting on the small island, not fifty feet away.
The dragon snorted again and pawed the ground. Its red eyes seemed to glow for a moment, as it reared back its head and let loose an enormous fireball that headed straight for the island.
Sonic grabbed Sally and pushed her head down, while the gargoyle flattened himself against the ground likewise. The fireball whooshed overhead, singing the gargoyle's tail. He pressed himself lower to the ground as if trying to meld with the earth itself. Sally inched toward the side of the island that was farthest from the jeering demons and the spitting dragon. Another fireball extinguished itself in the water nearer Sonic, sending a spray of scalding water on him. The demons' yells increased. Victory for them was near.
The gargoyle rolled over on his back and watched another fireball hurtle past them. He knew he couldn't try to fly away. The fireballs would fell him before he got high enough, even without a passenger. He noticed that the amount of lampreys near the island had increased, sensing a possible meal. Their small sucker mouths moved hungrily as they circled the island.
He sighed and looked up at the sky, feeling strangely passive. Would this be how he would die? Far from any others of his race? Without anyone to tell the tale of his bravery and sacrifice? No honor?
A small group of shapes in the sky distracted him as another fireball flew past him, hissing as it burnt out in the water. He squinted curiously at the shapes that neared the island. They were gargoyles!
He almost whooped with joy. Starting to jump up, he had to duck as a fireball almost hit him in the head. He stood up again, more cautiously this time, and began waving furiously at the gargoyles. He saw the lead gargoyle dip to his right and move to a more direct course to the island.
Now Sonic spotted the gargoyles coming. "Look!" he cried out unnessecarily. "Gargoyles!"
The gargoyle with them was too relieved to be annoyed. He shot a glance back at the demons on the shore, who urged to dragon on relentlessly. It looked tired, but continued hurling fireballs at them. Smoke trickled from its nose and it pawed the ground restlessly.
Sally felt a small tang of pity for the beast, and resolved to bring up the subject later. Maybe when they had reached safety.
The lead gargoyle nodded to two of the others. They split off from the rest of the group and headed toward the dragon. Sonic watched as they whooshed overhead, heading towards the demons on the shore. Now the demons noticed the other gargoyles and jabbered noisily, yelling at each other and the dragon to do something. Sonic smiled as they scattered and were cut down by the gargoyle's spears. One demon, a noticeably odd looking one turned and spat at one of the gargoyles. A green acid-like substance enveloped the gargoyle, who disappeared with a cry. A rallying yell arose from the remaining demons as they began to fight back.
The lead gargoyle shouted a command and the other gargoyles all rose up into the air and headed back to the island where Sonic, Sally and the gargoyle who had rescued them earlier stood watching. The demons regrouped at an amazing rate for such beasts. The lead demon, who had survived the gargoyle's small attack, growled a question in some strange language. A cry arose from the demons as they realized that their dragon was gone. Sonic almost grinned as they spotted it hightailing for the trees. The demons howled and took off after it, completely forgetting about the gargoyles.
He turned and quickly signaled for the gargoyles. If they were going to escape, now would be the time! Swooping down one by one, three gargoyles picked up each of the people on the island: Sonic, Sally and the other gargoyle. They rose through the air quickly, leaving the island and demons behind. Sonic breathed a sigh of relief as he felt himself hanging in the iron grip of the gargoyle's hands. That was a close one.
Back at camp, healers attended Sonic and Sally. They had a few minor cuts and bruises, perhaps the occasional singe mark, but nothing major. After the healers had done their jobs, the gargoyle that rescued them came to talk to them.
"I don't now how to thank you," said Sonic awkwardly. "if you hadn't come along . . ."
The gargoyle merely nodded. "This is war. I don't try to be a hero, I just do what I can. Oh, and since there was no time for introductions earlier, my name's Ulrike."
Sonic smiled. "Mine's Sonic and this is Sally," he said, motioning to Sally. "We were accidentally put here . . ."
"I already know your story," said Ulrike with a smile. "It's been the talk of Mordon ever since you got here. Something like this hasn't happened in a while."
This piqued Sonic's interest. "You mean this _has_ happened before? There were others?"
"Well, yes . . ." said Ulrike, nodding slowly. He studied them for a little while, then said: "I think you had better see the Hall of History."
"The hall of what?" asked Sally.
Ulrike walked to the door and looked out, then turned back to them. "You guys are okay to leave. Come on, there's something I'd like to show you."
Sonic and Sally got up and followed him outside. Ulrike was about to fly off the rim of the tree hut, but then he looked back at Sonic and Sally, remembering that they couldn't fly. He looked mildly annoyed but started down the wooden planks that served as steps down around the base of the tree. "All right, we'll do this the long way."
They all reached the ground, which now seemed strange after so long in the trees. Ulrike pointed the way, and they all headed off toward a hut that was built from a small but sturdy brown tree. Sonic watched as gargoyles pinwheeled overhead, going somewhere or just playing, he didn't know. Quite a wondrous city, this Mordon.
Ulrike opened the doors to the building and walked inside without knocking. Sonic thought this was strange until he got inside. It was like a museum!
From the hundreds of paintings and scripted writings on the walls to the many people walking around studying them to the contribution box in the corner, this was clearly a museum. Sonic stared slightly at the contribution box and Ulrike smiled.
"The last creatures who came to this Dimension from a Reality Ripple came from some strange society where life revolved around small metal objects that they used as currency of some sort," he explained. "Here, we have no need for that sort of thing. The box was left as a small joke, a humorous touch left behind by comers from another dimension."
Sonic took in this information. "What dimension were they from?"
"Oh, some place called Earth."
That sounded vaguely familiar to Sonic, but he shook it off.
As they wandered toward the first set of art on the wall, Ulrike unraveled a time line from the pictures.
"Gargoyles first became sentient long before the demons. Not all of them are completely sentient even now," he said with a sneer. "Ages ago, gargoyles finally discovered fire, first from when a lightning bolt struck a tree, leaving it in flames. Gargoyles kept the fire alive by feeding it twigs and grasses for a long time afterward, discovering it's uses and dangers. Keep in mind we _were_ barely sentient then.
"So, from there up we began creating cities. We had no need for money, we just had a self-supporting community where everyone helped out. From the day when young gargoyles were old enough to work, they were put in spots were they could be looked over, still help out, and the labor wasn't too hard. Like gathering food, or such things. We look after our young ones," said Ulrike with a smile.
"We kept evolving and creating, making more advanced weapons and medicines. Magic was another story. I will get into that later. "Anyway, then the demons started to evolve and explore other areas of this planet. The frontrunners of their species were just the beginning, a taste of what was to come. We beat them back, and started building up defenses around the perimeters of our city. To this day, they have not found exactly where our city is located. If they do, then we would have to make a final stand. We would probably be overwhelmed, for . . ."
They lecture was taken over by another, familiar voice. ". . . for the demons posses power in numbers. Their army uses effectiveness not in tactfulness, but in brute force. They breed faster than you could imagine, and are cruel and savage. They like war, and the chaos it brings. That's what demons are."
Everyone turned to see Flink standing at the end of the corridor. His arm was in a splint that had a dull whitish glow to it, but he was smiling.
"Ah, Flink," said Ulrike. "Healers get you fixed up with a Healing Cast?"
Flink nodded. "Their knowledge never fails to impress me." He turned to Sonic and Sally. "And what about you two? Been enjoying your tour of history?"
Sonic looked at a blurred painting of a snarling demon with outstretched claws. "I'm still deciding that."
This brought a short laugh from Flink. "Well, it's not all flowers and trees. There are bad sides, you know."
Sonic regarded him with a hand on his chest. "I, of all people, do not have to be told that. I know."
The sun slowly set that evening as Sonic and Sally watched from an overhanging bluff near Mordon. Sally sighed and leaned against Sonic. A warm evening breeze whistled through the treetops, making a soothing rustling of leaves. A far off shape swirled and dove making Sonic wonder if it was a bird, demon or gargoyle. Or maybe none of them.
"Do you think we'll ever get back?" asked Sally, startling him.
Sonic was quiet for a moment. "I don't like to be Mr. Negativity, but I don't know. I mean, this war has been going on for ages and we need something that could probably only be gotten by winning the war. And what chance do we have of doing that?" He fell silent again, perhaps a bit ashamed at his lack of enthusiasm.
Sally almost smiled. "Oh, Sonic," she said. "All this time you were so headstrong, thinking you could do anything. And now look at this. Afraid of what might happen."
"Not afraid," interjected Sonic, "just . . . nervous, that's all."
Sally started to say something else, but a figure flew past the bluff, making both of them jump. Sonic relaxed slightly. "Oh, it's just Flink."
Sally poked him. "Still a bit jumpy?"
"I told you I was nervous."
Flink landed on the bluff with a smile. "Enjoying the sunset?"
Sonic nodded. "It's nice here." He hesitated. "In some parts."
Brushing a questing plant aside, Flink sat sat down next to them. "Yes, it is a bit what you call 'strange' here. But only to newcomers from other dimensions. We're used to it." He shrugged. "It's the World of Legends."
Sonic frowned. "Why do you call it that, anyway? Legends usually refer to . . ."
Flink waved a hand, dismissing it. "Yes, I know. We didn't name it. The Creator did."
Sonic and Sally stared at him.
"Okay," Flink sighed. "Maybe I better explain something. This is not a naturally made dimension. And I know, 'naturally made dimension' in itself sounds weird, but that's how it is. Long ago, a being from another world created this place. We don't know why, we don't know how. All we know is that he looked like a lizard."
Sonic and Sally still stared at him.
"Hmm. That must sound strange, too," pondered Flink.
Sonic nodded slowly. "Yes, that does sound strange . . ."
"But that's what it looked like," continued Flink, ignoring him. "It was tall, walking on two legs, with digitigrade legs . . . sort of like ours," he said, pointing to his spiked heel where it twisted twice instead of once like human legs.
Sonic nodded, fascinated. "Okay, but what about this creator?"
"Well, he was supposed to have just _created_ the place. Magic, y'know." he shrugged. "Hard to describe."
"Ah." Sonic looked out at the horizon, then back at Flink. "Say, how come you speak our language, anyway?"
Flink laughed. You know, I could ask the same of you. But actually, I know why. The Creator visited your dimension before ours and started taking bits of your language as you created it and channeling it into the minds of the creatures that would evolve to become us, making it so we would create the same language as you. I think he liked your dimension. But, because of that, our dimension is younger than yours."
Sonic whistled. "What about animals here? Are there flying creatures like birds aside from you guys and demons? Are there swimming creatures?" asked Sonic.
"Oh, yeah. All land life here evolved from water creatures ages ago. We saw it through magic; what the creatures looked like, where it happened and such. And there are other flying creatures," he confirmed.
"What are they?" Sonic pushed.
Flink gave him a look and pointed behind him. "See the mountains over there. In there . . . oh, what the heck . . . look at what's flying out right now."
Slowly, Sonic turned and looked. His eyes opened wide. There, flying out from a cave in the mountain was what could only be one thing: a dragon.
Over fifty tons of glittering red scales and reptilian might lifted off from a hole the size of a house in the side of a mountain. Gigantic wings fanned the air as the dragon continued upwards. It suddenly dove down, stretching its wings to restrain the fall and gliding back upwards. It reared its head back a blew a fireball the size of car through the air. The fireball hurtled more than the length of a football field and sizzled in the air. A earth shattering roar echoed as the dragon turned and flew off.
"The fireball is a sign of dominance, showing that he's stronger than the other dragons," Flink whispered, not wanting to disturb the moment as the dragon disappeared from sight.
"Are . . . are they sentient?" asked Sally haltingly.
Flink nodded. "Fully sentient, but still territorial creatures. Unbelievably strong creatures, but not very many of them. Mating habits are absurd." He sighed. "They believe they can defeat the demons without our help and fight them on their own. They might be right, but I doubt it. If they would just listen to reason."
Sally turned to Sonic with a gleam in her eye. "Sonic . . . I have an idea. Maybe we could . . ." she stopped and stared over Sonic's shoulder. "What's that?"
Flink looked curiously. A large column of smoke was billowing from the trees near Mordon. Correction, in Mordon. He frowned. "I don't know. Maybe a bonfire or something."
"That big?" Sonic shook his head. "I don't think so. Way too big to be contained."
As they watched, small black shapes flew up from the trees and began hurling and spitting things down at the area around the fire. Flink stood up and it slowly began to dawn on him. "Those are demons!"
Almost no one noticed as a group of gargoyles flew above them towards the battle. The leader called down angrily to them. "To battle, friends! We've been discovered! The demons are here!"
TO BE CONTINUED IN PART 3 AND A HALF. . .