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The Reign of Nelis the Merciless

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A story by Barzul. The first chapter was originally posted on the Sinister Design forums on April 11, 2009.

The originally posted version of this story follows. A revised version is in progress on the new Sinister Design forums.




IntroductionEdit

This is the story of what came to be after that traitor of humanity destroyed the psy academy, and whatever hope remained for humanity as the shadowlings had seized control of Cerra Bella. The dissidents were hunted down and those that were not killed were brought back into enslavement. The shadowlings went to war against humanity, hunting down and enslaving every human they could find. The few who have survived and remained free have gathered in Ravinale, the last human city left.

Yet all is not lost, the shadowlings have created an entire slave militia, humans that are forced to do some of the more dangerous jobs, as their greatest warrior once did. One such girl has found herself in this position, pulled out of the holding pens where the shadowlings keep their favorite meal. She shows the makings of a great psy, and is about to be tested.


Chapter 1: The Test of SlaveryEdit

Robin looked around the damp cell, seeing the other skeleton-like humans sitting around, waiting to be tested. They hadn't been fed since they had first arrived in the cell. No one was sure when that was, it was very hard to keep time when you live in a cave. She continued looking around, wishing she had just one friend in this hell hole.

"Robin?"


"Simon? Is that you?"


"Robin! I can't believe it! I thought everyone else had been taken to feed them. I haven't seen you since the shadowlings took over the city!"

"No, I'm still alive, and I missed you too. Do you know what's going to happen to us?"


"Someone said they will take us to their fighting pit. If we survive their tests, we will be taken topside to fight for their wars."


"But they can't just expect us to kill people! I mean, we are people!"


"It looks like they do expect us to."


"And what happens if I don't pass their test? What happens if I die topside?"


"Robin, you won the best psy in the city award. Twice. You will be fine, Roth even said you were the strongest psy in the entire city, even though you were just a little kid. And don't worry about going up top, I'll be there to help you, I promise. Wait... I think someone's coming."

A door slammed at the end of the hallway, the sound made everyone in the cell jump. Several of the children in the room began to cry and shake, fearful of what was coming. Three shadowlings floated in front of the cell, then they stopped next to the door.

"Okay fleshlings, time to see how inferior you really are. Today is the day you will be tested. We have separate rooms for your test, and weapons will be given if you require them. If you somehow survive then you get to be some of the lucky few to fight in the honorable name of our Queen. Males go to the left, females to the right. Get moving."

Robin and the other women leave first, and follow one of the shadowlings down the hallway, the other two wait for the men; Robin took one last look back to see Simon pushed down the opposite hallway.

"Robin! I'll be there to help you, remember that!" "Get moving you little bag of bones."

Robin turned to see a shadowling torturing Simon, she had seen this many times, and she hoped the shadowling was taking it easy on Simon. Robin tried to go back to help, but the press of bodies was too much and Robin lost sight of them. The women walked down the right hallway and Robin was pulled to the front of the line. She was pulled through a door at the end of the hallway, wondering what horrible end she will find. Yet, all there was was a green shadowling who looked up at Robin as she entered, but then looked back down at the desk.

"Welcome fleshling, ahead of you are three chambers, each with creatures that want to kill you. Kill them in any method you wish and get to the other side and you will be welcomed to her majesty's slave forces. Goodbye."

The shadowling gestured to the guard as he finished speaking; looking as though he had done this countless times. The guards pushed Robin into the pit and all she saw was darkness. Robin's eyes eventually adjusted to the dark, there seemed to be some kind of glowing blue fungus growing on the wall, nothing like the lights the Shadowlings used upstairs. Robin looked across the dim room, and couldn't see anything.

"Is this the test?"

At the sound of her voice, three giant blue bugs burst out of the ground. It looked like they had burrowed into the dirt. Tongues slithered out of their gaping mouths and began to move about in the air. All three tongues suddenly straightened, pointing at Robin. The three bugs all rushed at Robin, their mandibles were dripping with some kind of green slime. The bug who reached her first, reared up, ready to bring its heavy body on top of Robin and crush her like a bug. She leaped to the left and dodged the bug, hearing it hit the ground with a very loud thump. Robin stood up, feeling clever for avoiding the bug so easily, but the second and third bug hit her from behind. Robin felt their mandibles crushing her malnourished body, the slime dripped onto her back and arms, making a sizzling noise and dissolving the meager clothing and pale skin it touched. Robin thought of what Simon said.

"I am the strongest psychic of my home, a prodigy of my time. This is not how I will die!"

Robin decided it was time to go on the offense. She sent visions of rotting meat to the two bugs attacking her; they jumped off, their long tongues washing the mandibles of what they believed to be foul-tasting flesh. Robin took the opportunity and ran to the other side of the room, waiting for the bugs to come to her. The bug that had tried to crush her earlier found her first; it bent its gnarled legs, ready to jump at her. Robin jumped to the side once more, and assaulted its mind with an attack as the bug lunged and Robin fell. The bug spasmed before it fell to the floor, already dead. Robin felt no sorrow for the monster. Robin looked around for a better place to attack from, hoping to avoid the bug’s acid. She saw some boulders half buried in the dirt and ran for them, the two bugs dashing after her, Robin jumped and landed on the boulder with the bugs right behind, Robin crouched, trying to keep her head covered for when the bug's acid dripped, but only heard a loud crashing sound. The bugs ran into the boulder bashing their heads into it, then the backed up and tried again. They just kept bashing their heads into the rock, trying to find Robin.

"They're blind!" Robin said to herself, formulating her plan to finish them off. The two bugs continued bashing their heads into the rock, while Robin stood up and sent an attack at each of the bugs' feeble minds. The bugs fell as the boulder Robin was standing on began to show cracks from where they had bashed their heads. The iron door at the end of the room swung open when the last bug fell. Robin hesitantly walked into the next room and saw several men dressed in rags similar to hers around the room. The men looked up at her arrival and grabbed their weapons hastily. They began to move towards her in a way that looked well practiced.

"Why are you attacking me? I'm a slave, just like you!" Robin screamed when they were almost within striking range. She hoped this would give her enough time to get a plan before they attacked.

The men paused, and the lead one said, "Sorry girly, but if we kill you then they won't kill us. No hard feelings."

The man who spoke lunged out at Robin with his knife; Robin did what first came to mind, she spun out of the way, and grabbed onto his arm. She looked into his eyes and sent a small pulse that quickly shorted out the man's brain.

"I'm sorry."

The remaining men stopped as they saw this small girl defeat their leader. They backed up, whispering to each other, trying to come up with a better plan to attack, while Robin was thinking the same thing. The mean all charged at Robin at once, only to have their fists and broken knives bounce off a shield of pure psychic energy. They pounded their fists on the shield, trying to break through to reach her. Robin looked at them, and launched attack after attack at them from the safety of the inside of her shield, saying a quick apology each time she did it. When the last man died, the door at the other end of the chamber opened. She looked at the carnage she had loosed on the group of men, feeling a little remorseful, but convinced they deserved it. Robin walked through the door, looking at everything in case it might attack her. She finally saw her adversaries, two flying red beings in the center of the room.

"Are you what I think you are?"

The two red beings turned toward her, both faces looked hopeless.

"We are the few that is left of our once great nation. The Spriggats. We stood up for our right to be free, and the shadowlings came to take that from us, which they sadly succeeded in doing. I am sorry small human, we would like nothing more than for you to be free, but if we do not kill you, they will kill us, and we cannot allow further Spriggat lose."

The two spriggats flew to where she was and both took in a breath of air, sparks bouncing off of their lips as they looked like they were ready to blow fire. Robin looked up at the one on the right, muttering an apology as she assaulted his mind. The spriggat fell back, fire sprouting from his mouth as his brain ceased to function and could do nothing to hold it back. Robin's hair was slightly singed, but the other spriggat took the full force of the blow, swallowing the fire he held in his mouth in surprise. Robin realized that the fire probably wouldn't kill the spriggat, being a creature of fire himself, so she stepped forward to finish the job. The spriggat stuck his arm out towards his friend, still not believing that he was gone.

"Hobbes, help..." As the remaining spriggat reached out for his dead friend, Robin stopped.

"I wish it didn't have to be like this. I'm sorry."

Robin sent a pulse to the remaining spriggat, his eyes closing while his body still writhed in pain, and then he stopped. Robin fell to her knees, distraught over the lives she had just ended. The third door swung open and she pulled herself to her feet, wiping the tears. She didn't want to give the shadowlings any satisfaction. Robin walked slowly through the door when she was ready, thinking that it was all a lie and there would be countless shadowlings in the next room, ready to end her life.

All she found was a near identical version of the entrance clerk sitting behind an identical desk that looked up at Robin's entrance.

"Congratulations fleshling, you survived. Welcome to the Queen's slave service."


Author's Note for Chapter 1

Okay, this is the introduction to what I think would happen to Cerra Bella if the Hero from TRPG 2 decided to attack the psy academy instead of kill the queen. Many of Cerra Bella's problems in Chapter 3 of the Telepath Series don't exist, such as the cult and the bandit crisis, as the humans can't afford to fight amongst themselves with the shadowling's control. Robin is the hero of the story, but I think you could have guessed that.


Chapter 2: From the Oven to the FryerEdit

"Let's see... Ah, a human who possess Sight, we do not see many of your kind. As you have completed the training course satisfactorily, you will be transported to Somnus, where you will be given charge of a team of other slaves and put under the care of a general. Do as your general directs you to or your stay out of the feeding pens will be a brief one. Shadeling, please take this fleshling to the cleaning chamber, it is dripping acid onto my carpet."

A small red fleshling floated through the door after the green shadowling had summoned it.

"Yes Master Noccus, do you have any other instructions?" "Yes, make sure this fleshling gets on its transport to Somnus; don't be afraid to use force if it proves restless. "Of course Master Noccus."

Shadeling gestures from Robin to the door, Robin quickly moved towards it before the shadowling who couldn't be older than her decided to get forceful. Robin couldn't take anymore fighting for the day. As she walked down the hallway, Shadeling floated right behind her, making sure she only went to the areas that she was allowed.

"How does it feel to be an it, fleshling? To have none of the rights of a shadowling, the supreme being?" "I am merely a tool to serve the Queen." "Yes, good answer."

Robin had learned long ago that the shadowlings had full rights to torture a human if a human so much as looked at a shadowling funny, this was not the first time she had to admit to not being a person, and each time she was forced to say it, she felt worse. She might have said a more smart remark, but she just did not have the energy to. Robin finally arrived at the cleaning chamber, she went inside and Shadeling locked the door from the outside, probably so he could check on her transport. Robin looked at the cleaning chamber, and found it was just a small pond in the middle of a cavern. Robin jumped in nonetheless, feeling the Nymph's acid still eating away at her back. Once she had finished washing herself of all the slime and grime that had been accumulated over the fights and also living in the pens for several years, Robin left the pool feeling clean for the first time in years. Shadeling stood at the door, holding an indigo pair of pants, an indigo shirt and a gray cape.

"Put these on. They are standard issue for a female team leader. They signify that you are the one to blame if anything bad happens. Also, we shadowlings have learned how fragile you little fleshlings are and how you need these fabrics to survive in some areas. How pathetic."

Even with Shadeling's remarks, Robin was still happy to have something new to wear. The rags that she had fought in had been all the clothing she owned since she had been taken from her home and thrown into the feeding pens. Feeling better and very refreshed, Robin was pushed down another hallway, this one populated with about less than a dozen other people.

"These are the other fleshlings who somehow survived today's test. Several guards will transport all of you to the slave headquarters in Somnus. If you make so much as one move to escape, the guards will shut your mind down without a moment's hesitation. Goodbye fleshling."

Robin looked at the group of people in the cave, waiting to finally leave the hellhole they had all lived in, some even born in, and tried to find Simon. She walked to the other side of the group but didn't find him. Robin assured herself he was probably in another group and she would see him soon. A sixth shadowling appeared behind the group.

"All right, let's get these fleshlings moving!"

The shadowlings made a circle around the survivors and forced them to move down the tunnel. Robin looked at the small group and realized she was the youngest person in the whole group, it didn't seem like any of the children in that cell had survived their tests. Robin added another thing to the ever-growing list of reasons why she hated the shadowlings. After the group had walked for several hours, a man carrying a bow collapsed at the back of the group. Several of the shadowlings circled around him.

"Get up." "Please... my leg. I think it got broken in that test." "If you do not continue moving, we have the right to do as we please with you." "I can't walk any further, could you please help." "Hey Nightshade! Can you manage the other fleshlings while I 'help' this one?" "Sure, I like my patrols to be a big 'help'".

The shadowling who had yelled at Nightshade stayed behind with the fallen archer while the rest of the shadowlings pushed the humans further down the cave, listening to the man's agonizing screams. Robin wished she could have done something, but the shadowlings outnumbered her and she was still exhausted from the test.

After another hour of non-stop marching, the group made it to the gates of Somnus. The shadowling guards went ahead to talk to the city guards, while the humans took the opportunity to collapse in exhaustion.

"Get on your feet you worthless meatbags! You haven't earned a rest yet!"

An orange shadowling from inside the city yelled at the humans, floating closer and closer to them. The group pulled themselves to their feet, but just barely.

"All right. I understand that this group has already seen what happens when you disobey us, so I trust we will have no other problems. You will all follow me as I show you where you will be spending the rest of your miserable lives."

The orange shadowling turned and left, not even letting the group of humans catch their breath from the march. The survivors walked down the streets of Somnus, passing by small tents and also by enormous mansions. Robin looked around, getting the lay of the city. She believed she saw the Queen's palace in the far distance. After another hour long march, Robin thought that the orange shadowling had lead them in a circle a few times just to tire them out, they arrived at a very tall building.

"This is the Slave Force Headquarters; this is where you will spend all your time when you are not out fighting in the name of the glorious Queen. This facility has everything you require, it is the only place in Somnus you are allowed to be without a summons from your general. If you are found outside this building without such a summons, well I think you know what will happen. Get inside and rest yourselves for battle. Except for you young fleshling with Sight, you go to administration and find out which general you and your team will serve."

Robin realized the orange one was talking to her, but when she turned to ask where the administration office was, he was gone. Robin quickly followed her group inside, before some shadowling could catch her outside headquarters. Robin looked around the area, and even found a map with a list of the places in human characters. Administration and training were on the first floor, the dorm rooms were on the second floor, and the team leader's bedrooms and the conference room were on the third. It seemed the regular slaves were divided by team into small dorms where they were also divided by gender, while the team leaders had rooms to themselves. Robin found her way to the administration offices, after wandering through never-ending training areas.

"You are the fleshling known as Robin, correct? Good, you will be serving General Slade. He is in charge of the southern front, so expect missions to the south of Somnus. Here is the list of slaves you are in charge of. If any of them are killed in combat, you may pay for a request for the illustrious Queen to bring the soul back from the ether, but I doubt you will recieve it. The Queen doesn't have time for incompetent leaders." "One of the shadowling guards killed this archer on the journey to Somnus." "Already getting them killed are you? Well if your guards killed him then he must have been trouble, there is nothing to do but request for a new one. Expect one within the next lunar cycle. Any other questions? Good. You may rest in your quarters on the third floor before speaking with General Slate in the conference room if you so desire."

Robin looked over the list of people who she had been put in charge of keeping alive: Victor, a swordsman; Elsa, an assassin; and Sebastian, a healer. She would have also been in charge of Blaine, the archer who had fallen on the journey, but she would have to do without an archer for the time being. Robin took the advice of the administrator and took a small nap in her bedroom before going to receive her mission details. Her dreams were filled with strange beasts that all tried to kill her, one succeeding at the end. She hoped her powers did not include seeing the future.


Author's Note for Chapter 2

Robin's team will be met, their stories heard, and the first mission particulars will be given in the next installment of this little story. One thing I enjoy about this chapter is the way the slave forces are handled, I couldn't really explain it well in the story, but there are four generals (north, east, south and west) who are put in charge of 2-3 teams of slaves each. The generals only meet with the team leaders (who all have the sight) and then the leaders take care of their team, with no input from the generals besides what they have to do in the next mission. The team leaders are also allowed to bring prisoners into their teams if the general gives permission. The slaves only interact with their own team mates, rarely ever seeing any of the other slaves so they can't get together and organize a revolt. This has evolved much from the original Telepath Chapter 2 idea of slave forces, and as such the shadowlings cannot create enough slave bracelets for all of them, so they use the elements of fear and careful guarding instead.


Chapter 3: Shell Shocked and KidnappedEdit

Robin rose from her sleep, feeling no more rested than when she had entered the room. She looked around at the blank room, feeling happy, oddly. She had not had this kind of privacy or even this much space since she her old room topside. Robin got up, remembering she still had to talk to her commanding general. She went out the door, seeing about a dozen other doors in the hallway. She walked down until she found a double door inlaid with gold.

"Well this has got to be it, either that or there is one rich slave here."

Robin walked through the door and saw a huge room with walls covered in maps and battle plans. There was a table in the center of the room with another map, this one had figurines on it, displaying troop placement. Four shadowlings sat around the table, pushing the figurines across the board.

"Hey Slade, there's a slave here, I think it's one of yours."

The general facing the door pointed at Robin, the general who had his back to Robin turned around, Robin could feel the anger pulsating off the shadowling like rays of heat from the sun.

"You're late. You were expected more than an hour ago. When you are told to do something, you do it, understand? Your first mission was a standard job, cleaning out some bugs in the caves, but due to your tardiness, I shall have to punish you as well. A group of your kind has decided to hide by the slave's exit and have killed all slaves that have come out, go fix this issue. Understand? Take this pass and get out of my sight."

Robin took the pass from the shadowling and left the room before he became more enraged, Robin could feel the power of the generals and knew that just one of them could kill her with just one look. Robin went downstairs to meet with her team and tell them about the mission. She eventually found the right dorm, after stumbling around the second floor for the better part of an hour. She walked in and found herself in a medium-sized room. There was a target on the side of the wall and two doors, she assumed theses were the dorms. Other than that, there was just a table with a propaganda book on the queen on it. Robin turned to see three people lounging on the other side of the room.

"This is our leader? She's just a kid." "Oh shut up Victor, she must be one impressive kid if she made it through the test." "I don't care how impressive she is Elsa, she is still just a kid."

A man with a sword in a sheath at his belt was in the group, glaring at Robin as she walked towards them, Robin could feel his dislike from all the way across the room. A woman in black stood next to the swordsman, looking at Robin with curiosity in her eyes. A third man dressed in a white robe sat on the floor with his eyes closed, his back facing Robin.

"I heard that." "Ha! I don't care how young she is, I like her."

Robin sighed, the thought that any of her team wouldn't like her hadn't even crossed her mind.

"Okay, look. I know I'm young, but I know what I'm doing." "Have you ever led a team before?" "Well... no." "Then you don't know what you're doing." "Oh, she'll learn. I'm sure she will be a great leader eventually." "Okay, maybe we started off wrong here. Hi, I'm Robin, and you are?" "Victor." "Elsa."

Robin waited for the man in white to introduce himself, but he just sat on the floor, seemingly oblivious to his surroundings.

"What about him?" "Oh, that's Sebastian." "Why doesn't he introduce himself?" "Sebastian used to live in Ravinale, until he was captured by some shadowlings and they wanted the information he knew about the city. They weren't very gentle." "So he doesn't speak?" "Sebastian spends most of his time in that skull of his. He seems to wake up a little bit whenever someone around him is hurt, but he always returns to this. He follows directions as well, so he won't be any burden to you in battle." "Okay, ummm... team. The general said we are supposed to go topside and kill some men who have been attacking slaves when they leave the city." "So we are supposed to kill slave-killers? Don't they normally give an easy mission for the first one, to see how the team performs?" "He might have been a little mad since I missed our meeting... I overslept." "Oh, great. We are all going to die because princess here needed her beauty sleep."

Robin was about to tell Victor that she was in charge, that she would handle it, and to never call her princess again, but before she even opened her mouth, a man with a spear ran out of the dorm room, and ran right into Robin. Robin put her hands up, instinctively calling up a shield. The spearman bounced back, looking very confused.

"Who are you?" "I didn't know we had a spearman..." "Oh, ummm, hi. My name is Mark. Um, you don't happen know where we are, do you?" "This is the Somnus Slave Headquarters." "Oh no no no no... This is not good." "Well of course it’s not good." "No. This cannot be happening. I must be dreaming. Time to wake up. Wake up! Wake up!"

The man dropped his spear and began beating himself, completely convinced that he was having a nightmare. Robin reached out with her mind to calm him down while Victor grabbed his arms and held them behind his back.

"Stop it! What is the matter with you?"

Mark stopped beating himself, he looked at Robin.

"I'm not dreaming am I?" "No, you're not. Tell us what is going on."

Mark fell limp, only Victor's grip was keeping him from falling to the floor. His eyes blinked rapidly, holding back tears.

"I'm a Ravinale guard, well I guess I was one anyway. I remember I picked the short straw, which means I was on the North Gate patrol for the night, I joined the other men in the patrol and we watched the gate for a while, the last thing I remember was the alarm bell ringing. Then I woke up in a bed in that room." "The shadowlings kidnapped you?" "I guess. What happens now?" "Well, we either do what they tell us, or they kill us. Pretty simple actually." "Oh... so I can't go home?" "They probably have your mind Marked, if you ran, their Trackers would find and kill you before you could even make it to the desert."

Mark pulled himself up, and Victor released him, Mark didn't make any move to continue his earlier beating. He bent to pick up his spear, wiping his eyes with his sleeve as he reached for it, hoping no one would notice. Robin looked at Mark, his face filled with sorrow, she then looked to Victor who still glared at her disapprovingly, then she looked at Elsa, who was giving her a thumbs-up, and finally down to Sebastian, who hadn't moved at all through the entire scene that occurred.

"This is going to be a lot harder than I thought..."


Chapter 4: A Promise is a PromiseEdit

Robin and her group traveled up the slave's exit of Somnus, Robin lead the way while Victor and Elsa walked right behind her, arguing about the blue fungus on the wall. Mark trailed behind the group, using his spear as a walking-staff, and Sebastian walked off to the side of the group, looking at the ground.

"Wait, are the slave-hunters covering all the exits?" "No, just this one." "Then why don't the shadowlings just let us use another exit?" "Because... Hmm. I don't really know." "I do. It’s because they're evil." "Oh, that's what you always say." "Well because it’s true!"

Robin sighed, this had not been the first argument that Victor and Elsa had made on the walk out of Headquarters, and she was sure it would not be the last.

"Hold on, I see something." "It couldn't be the hunters, we're not even out of the cave yet." "Shh!"

Robin walked further down the tunnel, looking around the curve in the tunnel. She saw something that was glowing on the ground. She walked closer, her teammates close by, ready for an attack. Robin opened her mind a little and realized it was conscious, and in distress.

"Oh, it has to be here somewhere, I just know it is!" "Excuse me, can I help you." "I'm looking for something." "What are you looking for?" "Ummm... I don't remember." "What's your name?" "I can't remember that either! But I have to find it, it’s really important!" "What are you?" "I don't know... I think I used to be like you." "You mean you were a human? Like you're dead now?" "Dead? Maybe..." "Sorry, you don't even know my name. I'm Robi-" "Robin! I've been looking everywhere for you!"

The spirit jumped, up rushing to hug Robin. It neared her, and passed right through her, its arms closing on empty air. It turned around, Robin couldn't see it well in the darkness, but she could sense it was upset. She also caught glimpses of memories, memories that only one person had.

"Simon?" "Simon? Yes, that's it! Simon. My name is Simon!"

The spirit floated a few feet off the ground, its voice echoing loudly in the small tunnel.

"Simon, what happened to you? "I died, right?" "Yes, but how? Did you die in the test?" "No... I didn't make it to the test. I remember being with you in the cell, and then we went into the hallway. That guard, he wasn't happy I yelled to you. I think he killed me." "Oh, Simon I'm so sorry..." "And then I saw the sun, but then I remembered you and my promise. My promise..." "Yes, you promised you would help me." "Yes, of course. I wouldn't forget that... I went back into the ground and I went to find you. I heard humans in here and I thought you might be with them, but you weren't. Then everything went fuzzy, I couldn't remember anything. I just wanted to crawl away and do nothing. But you came! You came!" "Yes Simon, I passed the test and I'm in charge of these people. We're going to go kill some slave-hunters." "Alright, let's go." "Simon, you want to come?" "A promise is a promise Robin, I might not remember much, but I do remember some of the moves Roth taught me. I'm sure I could pull them off now."

Robin looked back at the rest of her group, all of them still were waiting for the order to attack, excluding Sebastian.

"Its okay guys, Simon is a friend. He's coming with us." "That thing is joining us? Are you sure that's smart?" "Yes, and he isn't a thing! I'm in charge so what I say goes, and I say Simon is going to help us!" "Be careful princess, if that head of yours gets any bigger, it might pop." "Don't call me princess!" "Look, let's just get moving. We need to focus on fighting with them, not ourselves."

Robin turned around, seething with anger. She was mad at Victor for treating her that way, mad at Mark for not wanting Simon, and mad at herself for not being a leader and keeping everyone directed like Elsa had. The group continued to walk out of the cavern, Simon floating right next to Robin. After they had walked for the better part of a half-hour, the cave began to lighten, and soon they were in the sunlight, closing their eyes in response to the light they had not seen for years. And that's when the slave-hunters attacked.

"Robin, look out!"

Simon, whose eyes needed no shielding from the light, stood between the group and their attackers. The hunters stopped, driving their swords into Simon.

"Hahaha... That tickles!" "It's a spirit!" "What do we do?" "Ignore it, get the others!"

The hunters ceased their efforts to kill Simon and rushed at the rest of the group. But Simon had bought them the time they needed to get used to the sun. Robin Looked over the battlefield, mentally sending her team mates her plan as she made it up. Elsa, ran as fast as she could in the direction Robin pointed her, no one noticed she had even left. As the hunters charged towards the group, Victor and Mark stood in front of the others, brandishing their weapons. Mark threw his spear at one of the closest hunters, the spear killing him before he took another step. One of the hunters jumped over the dead body, swinging his sword at the defenseless Mark. Robin dove in front of him, calling up a shield as she fell. The hunter bounced off the shield and fell to the ground. Mark had pulled his spear back, using the only psychic move he knew, and stabbed the man on the ground with his returned weapon. The other hunters had finally reached them, Victor swung his sword at the oncoming hunters and each one that met his blade fell, while Mark stabbed at the hunters in front of him, throwing his spear again and again at the ones who were too far away. One of the hunters dodged the spear and sword, and swung his own sword at Victor's leg.

The blade connected and tore through the cloth and skin. Victor fell to the ground, as his leg no longer supported him. Mark pulled his spear back and threw once more, killing the hunter this time, but leaving both of them defenseless as the last hunters charged at him. Elsa, as if appearing from nowhere, ran at the man. She had finished off the stragglers quietly as Robin had instructed and she quickly caught up to the last hunter. The hunter ran at Victor, not noticing as Elsa gained on him. Elsa ran right past him, stabbing him in the back while she ran. The hunter ran a few more steps before tripping and falling to the ground, he did not get back up. Sebastian moved to Victor, healing the leg injury before it could get worse.

"Well I suppose that wasn't the worst strategy." "Are you kidding? She was great! Are you sure this is your first battle?" "I'm sure. Have you guys seen Simon?" "I'm here!"

Simon floated back to the group, a smile on his face.

"I told you I would be here for you." "Yeah, so you really want to stay?" "Hey, this is only your first battle, I'm sure the shadowlings will send you on more, and I will be there to help you, promise." "Okay, if you're sure. Everyone alright?"

Robin looked at her group, there was some blood, but she was pretty sure most of it wasn't theirs.

"Sebastian, you are one good healer." "Thank you." "He spoke! Sebastian, say something else!"

Sebastian looked at Robin with a blank face once more, turned around, and walked back into the cave. "I told you, he will speak sometimes, I think healing reminds him of who he used to be, but then he always closes back up. Now you've gone and upset him... Sebastian, wait up!" Elsa ran into the cave after him. "Okay then... I think we all deserve a rest, let's go home."


Author's Note for Chapters 3 and 4

Alright, I know the Simon's death is a little sad, but at least he gets to help Robin. I'm not sure if I understand the rules for becoming a ghost in the TPRG universe, but I thought it was like an unfinished business sort of thing. Luca stayed behind because she wanted to save her husband, and then fulfilling her promise to the hero by helping him rid Ravinale of the Cult. So Simon made a promise to Robin and stayed behind to protect her. That's the story, and I'm sticking to it.

Also, I don't know how graphic this story is allowed to be, but I'm not a big fan of gore myself, so I think it'll be fine... hope what I do have is within the limit though.


Chapter 5: The Departed DepartEdit

"You survived... well I must say I am surprised fleshling, you must have greater power than we first thought." General Slade said, his voice echoing in the empty conference room. "However, this addition to your team is unacceptable. Get rid of it." "But Simon is here to help! He doesn't care about war, he only wants to help me." "That is the problem, we have no control over the dead. Either lose it or we will." "But-" "Do not question your superiors! The spirit is gone, subject ended."

Robin stormed towards the door, shielded her mind from her thoughts of murdering the general. She knew she would never win, but it helped.

"You are quite right, you could never kill me. And we are not finished talking yet slave, come back here." Robin turned around and said, "What else is there?" "I have allotted some training time for your team in light of your completed mission, and also Administration has told me your latest pet is here. That is all, you may leave."

The general turned back to the maps on the table, Robin sensed that he was thinking, but shielding the actual thoughts from her. Robin left the room, wondering what to do about Simon. She decided to go to the administration first, to stall for time.

"Name, position, and request."

Robin looked up at the shadowling in front of her. He was surrounded by skyscrapers of paper and he spoke telepathically, as most shadowlings in the capital did.

"Ummm... Robin, Leader, and there is an archer here for me?" Robin said, a little confused. "Ah- yes, you are the new leader. You may collect your new recruit in a moment, there is a matter that needs to be cleared first. Your first mission had some irregularities." the administrator said telepathically, finally looking at Robin. "General Slade already spoke to me about Simon." Robin said, her voice showing her annoyance. The administrator sighed telepathically, an experience Robin could never get used to, and said, "I am sure he did, but while related, this is a separate matter. You have shown disrespect, we gave you the necessary people and you went ahead and got some more, you are not in charge here. As this is a first offense, you are merely put on probation. A shadowling has been added to your roster, she is in need of training so you are to teach her to be a soldier, and she will report to us on your activities outside of Somnus."

"Fine... just show me where the archer is." Robin said, sighing, completely drained of energy. "He is in the holding pen." the administrator gestured towards the back and sent Robin a series of images, showing her how to get there.

Robin followed the mental map and found a cell in the back of the room, a man in a standard slave uniform, an empty quiver on his back. "Hi, I'm Robin, welcome to the team." Robin said. "Oh marvelous... just what I always wanted." The man turned and said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "Okay... guy, I know it’s not great, but..." "My name is Tembhi, not guy. And I do not need your reassurances, please release me so I may go to my quarters." "Sure..." Robin said, opening the door.

Robin sighed and walked around for a while, trying to think. After a while, she walked right into a pillar, bouncing off and falling on the floor. Robin looked around and found herself in the training center. "Well I needed to come here anyway..." Robin walked up to one of the desks and asked, "Where do I go to schedule training?" The shadowling glared at her, "Right here. You must be the new one." The shadowling handed Robin a form and said, "Filling out this schedule tells us who you want to be trained and in what. Give it back to me when you have finished." The shadowling turned away, rifling through other stacks of paper. Robin looked over the form, remembering the previous battle, finding flaws that needed to be fixed. After the better part of an hour, Robin turned the form back in.

"Your team will be Contacted when the lessons you have chosen begin. You may leave now."

Robin trudged back upstairs, there had been classes for leaders and psy ability, but the lure of sleep had pulled her away from that. Robin walked into her room, already asleep before she hit her bed. She dreamed of giant insects coming for her again, she did not stay asleep for long. She woke several times, at last giving up and decided to visit to the team dorm. Victor, Elsa, and Mark were talking in the far corner, Simon was drifting around the ceiling, Sebastian was sitting on the floor again, Tembhi was by himself in another corner, sharpening his arrows, and a red shadowling stood next to the door.

The shadowling looked up at Robin, "So the leader finally deems me worthy of an introduction, let me say I am not impressed." "Your job isn't to be impressed, your job is to learn how to be a soldier. First rule, do not insult your commanding officer!" Robin said overzealously, glad to finally be able to yell at a shadowling.

"You can't... but..." "Ah-ah-ah. Second rule, do not question your commanding officer." "...Yes... ma'am." "See, now was that so hard?" "No." "Good, now do you have a name?" "Grange." "Grange it is. Any other questions?" "No."

Robin walked over to the others, a smile breaking across her face. The trio all stared at her in disbelief while Simon was laughing uncontrollably. Robin's smile broke when she saw Simon, remembering what Slade ordered.

"Simon could you come down here?" Robin asked, her voice cracking at the end. "Sure thing." Simon said, falling right next to her. "What's up?" "Slade says I wasn't allowed to enlist outside help... He said you had to leave." "Leave? But I promised to help you!" "I don't know what to do Simon! I think it would be more of a help if you left now though."

Simon looked up at her, his thoughts drenched in sorrow. He floated up to the ceiling, passing through with one final look at Robin. Victor whistled and said, "That was cold." Robin turned to Victor with murder in her eyes and said, "There was nothing else I could do." Elsa pushed Robin a bit away from Victor and said, "Come on guys, let’s not fight. Let's talk about something else." Robin sniffed and then looked up at her team, "Fine... how was training?" "Fantastic, this guy Contacted me and then we went to a practice room, he showed me how to leap right over an obstacle, no matter how tall. That's going to be a surprise to the next hunter who tries to get me." Elsa said. "You had a one on one instructor? I had an actual class of swordsmen... The instructor told us how to use psy abilities on our own swords, like different techniques." said Victor. Mark looked at both of them confused, and said, "Instructor? Some shadowling just came up to me and told me to throw my spear at a target until I got a bull’s eye. I got jipped." "How about you Sebastian?" Robin asked, kneeling in front of Sebastian.

Sebastian looked at her, a shield erupted from him on all sides, everyone around him felt a little safer.

"That's a nice trick Seb." Elsa said, patting Sebastian's back. Sebastian looked back down, retreating to his own world.

Robin felt an odd scratching at her mind, she was being Contacted. "Human leader Robin, your next mission has been found. A convoy with certain... supplies was lost in the Great Forest. You are charged with finding it and bringing it to Somnus safely. A permit to leave will be waiting for you at the entrance."

Robin got her team's attention and said, "Alright people. We've got more work to do, let's get moving."


Chapter 6: Ghost StoryEdit

"Are we there yet?" Mark asked, dragging his spear in the dirt behind him. "No, and we still won't be there when you ask again in five minutes." Elsa said, turning on Mark. "Come on guys... you've been fighting since we left. We're almost there." Robin said, trudging onward.

The group of seven kept moving, Grange sped up to hide in the shadow of a group of trees, waiting for the rest to catch up.

"You're going to have to get used to sunlight you know, we'll be spending a lot of time in it." Robin said. "It's... too... bright." Grange panted. "The trees will cover most of the light when we get into the forest, so just suck it up." Elsa said, also rejoicing in talking down to a shadowling. "Suck it up? I'm gonna-" "Drop it. Both of you." Robin said, turning to Elsa and Grange with a murderous look.

After an hour in the sun, and several more death threats, the group finally made it to the edge of the forest. The group stopped and made camp before continuing into the forest. Each of them popped open a small tent, Grange's was a better issue and much larger, which escaped no one's attention. Tembhi used one of his arrowheads against a rock and started a fire in the center of the camp.

"Alright, anyone know what we are looking for?" Elsa said as she sat by the fire, warming her hands. Robin looked at the sheet of paper she was handed with the permit in the flickering light and said, "It's a small white caravan with two shadowling guards, but Somnus received a distress signal from the guards, so we may not want to find them." "Any idea where? It's a pretty big forest." Mark asked. "Somewhere near the swamp, the guards sent the image of a waterfall. How many of those can there be in there?" "There is only one." Tembhi said. "Wow... he actually talks." Elsa said, sounding shocked. "Yes, I am known to speak once in a while. And there is only one waterfall in the forest, and it is not a safe place to be." "Okay, two questions. Where is it and why am I going to regret asking?" Robin asked. "It is in the northern part of the forest, water travels from underground into Lake Alto and it flows out into the sea, barely touching the forest." "Well... its close, but you still haven't answered my second question." "You are familiar with the Helenites, correct? Well after the shadowlings killed the spriggats and Mechanics, they started attacking the Helenites as well, before they could become too powerful. Their leader, Helen, relocated the base to somewhere near the waterfall. The shadowlings found out and sent many troops, not one of which returned. I am near positive that no one is left alive, but I am also near positive that the Helenite's traps still work and that is what probably snared the caravan." Victor looked at Tembhi and cleared his throat. Tembhi looked at him and he asked, "How do you know all this?" "Well... I... um... I spent a lot of time around here growing up." Tembhi said, looking uncomfortable. "Victor, drop it." Robin snapped. "So we are going to a trap-filled and possibly golem infested area to pull out a caravan that is filled with some kind of supplies. Why don't they just kill us now?" Mark said hopelessly. "Oh shut up you worry-wart, this is going to be fun." Elsa said, a grin on her face. "Fun? What fun is there to be had in a place like that?" Tembhi said, sounding confused. "Traps, golems, a hidden treasure; sounds like a good time to me." "Okay, that's enough. Time for everyone to get some sleep." Robin said, throwing dirt on the fire.


Chapter 7: TrappedEdit

"Wow... it’s beautiful." Elsa said, starring at the waterfall. "That Helen had good taste."

The group stood in front of the waterfall, momentarily mesmerized.

"I thought it would be bigger..." Mark said. "How could it be larger? This area has no mountains or canyons." Tembhi said. Robin turned and said, "Good thing there isn't, we need to find that caravan." "You mean that white thing right there?" Elsa said, pointing to a white sheet at the foot of the waterfall." "Yeah... let’s go, but be careful. Something happened to those guards, and I don't want to find out what."

The group started to inch towards the waterfall, wary of traps. Robin sent out a pulse, looking for anything alive, there weren't even any animals. There were emanations of death in the area, but she couldn't tell from what or where.

"Oww!" Mark yelled out, falling to the ground. "I tripped on this... rope?" "Rope? Wonderful... now we have to run." Tembhi said with a sigh.

An ear-splitting siren filled the air, forcing the humans to cover their ears, while Grange just shook and fell to the ground. Robin turned, trying to find the source of the noise when she noticed that the trees were shaking, violently. A ten-foot high strip of metal grew out of one of the trees. Robin turned and saw the same thing was happening all around them.

"They're closing us in! We've got to get out of here!" Robin shouted. "What?" Elsa shouted back.

The siren cut when the walls met with a clang, echoing through the forest. The walls made an almost perfect half circle between the trees and ended at the rock face around the waterfall.

"I can't leap over that..." Elsa said, looking around. "We're trapped." Mark said with a hopeless tone. "I think we are in more trouble than that..." Tembhi said, looking around.

And that was when the bushes exploded. Around fifty bushes near the wall just blew apart, showing metal panels beneath. Each of the panels opened and a bronze golem rose out of every single one.

"We're dead." Victor said, looking at the bots. "If anyone has any ideas, I suggest you voice them now." Tembhi said, knocking an arrow in his bow. "Waterfall." Sebastian croaked. "Waterfall? What do you mean?" Elsa asked. "Yes the waterfall! The bronze model doesn't work when wet!" Tembhi said, running towards the waterfall.

The rest of the group quickly followed Tembhi and ran towards the waterfall, the bronze golems, maces swirling, followed them.

"Good thing these things are slow..." Mark panted, trying to keep up.

The seven ran, tripping over rocks and vines, but finally made it to the foot of the waterfall.

"Now what?" Mark asked, sounding panicked. "Wait a minute... where is the water going?" Elsa said, looking around. The water just seemed to hit the ground and disappear. "Is that a ladder?" Robin asked, pointing down. "Jump!" Tembhi yelled, jumping into the water and disappearing. Grange jumped next, followed by Sebastian and Elsa, then Victor. Mark and Robin stood outside the water.

"You next!" Robin yelled, the golems nearly within striking range. "I can't..." Mark said. "Fine." Robin said, pushing Mark into the hole. "Pathetic little..." Robin said, the insult lost in the rushing water as she jumped after him.

Just as Robin began to think it wasn't such a good idea to jump into a dark pit underneath a waterfall, she hit water and found herself floating, surrounded by her team.

"Over here!" Robin looked around and saw Elsa yelling and waving her hands on a rock shelf. The team swam towards Elsa and they pulled themselves up onto the rocks, sputtering water and getting their breath back.


"You pushed me!" Mark yelled at Robin.


"You froze, it was either this or death by the golems." Robin yelled back.


"Well... don't do it again." Mark said, giving up.


"Where are we?" Grange said, already dry and looking as though nothing happened.


"I assume we are at the entrance of the Helenite base." Tembhi said, looking around.


"But that doesn't make any sense, why would the robots push us this way?" Victor asked.


"Probably because whatever's down here is worse than the golems." Elsa said.


"There's a door." Robin said, pointing at the wall.


Mark looked and asked, "Should we open it?"


"Well we can't stay down here." Robin said, walking over to the door and pushing it open.

The group looked through the doorway and saw an empty hallway. Robin turned towards the group and said, "Okay everybody, we need to be careful. We can't go back the way we came with the golems out there, so we're going to have to make it through this place and find another way out. One of the traps already got us, so watch your step and don't touch anything that you don't have to. Let's move."

The group walked down the entire length of the hallway, watching their every step and looking for anything out of the ordinary. They could see a door a few steps ahead of them.

"Looks like there was nothing to worry about." Mark said.

Then another siren kicked in. Everyone stared at Mark, all thinking about the same murder. The walls around them shook and a searing light broke into the hallway.

"Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! It burns!" Grange screamed, covering her face with her hands. The other humans covered their eyes as well, but none of them we're in pain. Grange began to convulse and her plume disappeared. She reached out and crawled back towards the direction of the waterfall, stopping when she got out of the light. The humans looked around them, feeling nothing.

"Shadowling trap only it seems." Tembhi said at last. "Grange, are you alive?" Robin called out. "...y...y...yes." Grange panted. "Damn..." Elsa muttered under her breath. "So what are we going to do?" Mark asked. "We could leave her..." Victor suggested. "No, then Grange would die and the Queen would bring her back and she would tell them that we deserted her." Elsa said. "We could go on and try to find a way to turn off the traps, I mean we still need to shut the golems down to get the supplies." Robin said. "Sounds good to me." Tembhi said. "Grange!" Robin called out, "We're going to go ahead and find a way to turn off the traps. Then we will come back for you." "O.. okay. Just don't leave me here."

Robin looked at Grange on the ground and felt pity for the poor shadowling. The humans of the group kept moving and found the door in the blinding light. Victor and Elsa pushed the door open and they found themselves in a huge cavern, stalactites and stalagmites were everywhere, so much that no one could see the other side of the cavern.

"Now a maze? Why more? The light would have stopped an attack." Mark said. "Only shadowlings though, I mean we're here, and we work for the shadowlings. And I'm sure they would have found a way to get past the light eventually." Robin remarked. "Well let's just get moving, this place is creeping me out." Elsa said, squeezing through the rocks.

Sebastian followed her, stepping where she did. Everyone else set off, following Elsa's path for a while, but it wasn't long before they got lost. Robin looked around and couldn't see anyone.

"Hello?" Robin called out. She turned around, hearing her own voice behind her. "Well that's confusing." Robin kept inching along and made it to the other side of the cavern, but there was no hallway. "Great... I'm lost." "Hey! I found the way out!" Elsa called out, Robin turned towards the source of the noise, but knew she couldn't follow it. Robin reached out with her mind and found Elsa and Sebastian in the cavern, they were near the center by a set of stairs. Robin followed their emanation and found them, after getting lost twice.

"Hey Robin, everyone else is lost, aren't they?" Elsa asked. "Yep." Robin responded. "Think you could guide them here?" "I hope so."

Robin reached out and looked for the rest of her group, picking them all up after several minutes. Robin sent them a mental image of where to go and pulled them in the direction. Eventually all of them found their way and they walked down the stairs. They found themselves in another huge room, this one was rock free.

"Well that was a complete waste of time." Mark remarked. "That's the point Mark. If the shadowlings got in then the Helenites would want all the time they could to get ready." Elsa retorted. "What do you think is wrong with this room?" Robin asked. "With our luck, it's probably a fake room and it’s actually a lake of lava." Victor said. "Well... there's only one way to find out." Elsa said, walking out into the cavern. "Nope, no lava."

Everyone followed Elsa out into the cavern, they spread out and looked for a way out. They saw another door on the other side of the cavern. Mark tripped and fell again, everyone tensed and pulled their weapons out. "Don't worry, I just tripped. No trap." Mark said.

Everyone released the breath they held in and Robin moved to help Mark up. The rock where Robin stepped lowered as she stepped on it with a click. "I think I found the trap..." Robin said.

The ground shook and rock spires shot out of the ground across the room, one completely covered the staircase, blocking the way back out. Metallic spheres rose up the spires and began spinning. The group heard a click and the sound of something shooting through the air. An arrow embedded itself in the rock, nearly missing Robin's head. The rest of the spheres started clicking and everyone ran for the door.


Chapter 8: A Course in RoboticsEdit

"Thanks Sebastian." Robin said, stretching her arm, glad she hadn't been hit anywhere else.

Sebastian made rounds around the team, removing the arrows with Elsa's knife and then healing the wound. Nearly everyone had been hit, Elsa somehow made it without a scratch, but none of them had been a major wound and Sebastian had been able to fix everyone. Robin got up and looked around the new room, trying to find out what was wrong with it this time.

"I believe we have made it..." Tembhi said, looking around the room. "What makes you say that?" Mark asked. "Well look, there are doors on all sides of this cavern, they are probably storerooms, dorms, and whatever else the Helenites would need." "Yeah, but where's the control room?" Robin asked looking at the doors.

Elsa walked over to the closest door and opened it. "I don't think we're done yet." "What do you see?" Victor asked, walking over to the door. "Nothing, there's nothing here, just a black pit." Elsa responded.

Robin looked through the doorway and couldn't see any end: floor, ceiling, or wall. "Okay everybody, fan out and open all the doors. One of them has to be a way out."

The six went around the cavern, opening every door they came too. It didn't take long, and they opened every single door in the room, finding nothing each time. They met back up in the center of the room.

"It's a dead end, do you think there was another way back in the arrow room?" Victor asked. "I hope not, I do not want to go back in there." Mark said quietly. Robin held up her hand and looked up. "Wait... do you hear that?"

The rest of the group looked up at the ceiling of the room. A quiet clicking noise met there ears.

"I hate that sound..." Mark whimpered. "I see something!" Tembhi said, pointing upwards.

The group looked up and saw a darker patch of the ceiling moving down towards them. As it got closer, its shape became more defined.

"It's a spider." Elsa stated. "A really big spider." Mark said.

The spider was hanging from a rope that went up to the ceiling, it continued descending until it reached eye level. The group formed a circle around the bug, staring at it. Its body was a black disk with eight spindly legs hanging down from the torso. The bug swirled on its rope, looking at the people around it. It gad a red 'H' painted on its back. It turned and faced Elsa.

"Passcode please." Elsa did a double take and asked, "Did it just talk?" "Incorrect." The spider turned to Mark. "Passcode please."

"Mark! Don't say anything! I think it’s going to ask all of us, so we only have five guesses left. Any ideas?" Robin said. "Time ended." The spider turned to Victor. "Passcode please." "Uh... Helen." Victor said. "Incorrect." The spider turned to Tembhi. "Passcode please." "Flint." Tembhi said quickly. "Incorrect." The spider turned to Robin. "Passcode please."

Robin thought back to the history lessons she had before she was taken underground. The traitor's life story was a large part of the final test.

"Deeper Downs." Robin finally said. "Incorrect." The spider turned to Sebastian. "Passcode please." Sebastian coughed and said, with his voice cracking, "Mechanics." "Incorrect. Goodbye."

The spider zoomed back up, blurring out of sight before anyone could react.

"Damn... this is going to get really bad, isn't it?" Victor asked, pulling his sword out. "Probably." Elsa said, pulling Sebastian behind her. "What do you think the code was?" Mark asked. Tembhi knocked his bow with an arrow, while saying,"I don't know, probably-." Robin held up her hand, silencing Tembhi. "Shhh! I hear something."

The clicking noise returned, this time it was deafening. Another spider walked in one of the doors, it had crawled all they way up the pit, and it brought friends.

"Close the doors." Robin said, already running.

The team spread out and began slamming the doors shut, spiders were pouring into the room from the still open doors, already a hundred filled the room.

"Ahhhhh! Help!" Robin turned to see Tembhi writhing on the ground, under the weight of dozens of the spiders. More added to the frenzy and they began pushing Tembhi towards one of the open doors. Robin abandoned closing the doors and ran over to him, reaching into the spider's 'minds' and shorting them out with a burst of sparks. Robin lessened the load on Tembhi and pulled him up from the tangled mass.

"Thank you..." Tembhi panted. "No problem."

Elsa ran over to them and closed the door, the last open one in the room. The group moved together and looked across the room. There were a number of dead spiders, the ones that had gotten in the way of the group's panic, but there were still dozens left, clicking away on the other side of the room.

"What are they waiting for?" Mark asked.

Another siren went off and the center of the room opened up, making a few spiders fall into the new pit. The team edged forward to the pit and looked down. They saw something coming up towards them.

"Its an elevator..." Tembhi said, sounding surprised. "They're waiting for reinforcements." Victor said.

Everyone quickly backed away from the pit and readied themselves for combat once more. The elevator reached the top, some bell made a small noise as it stopped. The team looked at the elevator, eyes glazed and completely speechless. There were three black robots, each with a red 'H' on its chest. They had long slender legs, two arms that gleamed in the darkness, well the swords that were attatched gleamed at least, and a round head, glaring at them with unmoving red eyes. They were more slender than their bronze brethren, but only looked slightly less armored.

"They built a better golem..." Tembhi finally said.

The robot in the middle turned its head back towards the remaining spiders.

"Intruder alert. Lethal force approved." it said in a monotone voice.

The spiders all stood up taller, small pincers extending from where their mouths should have been. The small blades gleamed in the half-darkness, and continued growing until they were the size of a small knife, curving down towards the ground. The robot turned back to face them.

"Robin, can you kill them like you did with the spiders?" Elsa asked, eying the armored form of the bots. "I'm trying, but I can't get in. They have some kind of shield, I can't stop them." Robin said, near panicked. "Don't worry about the bots Robin, we'll take care of them if you keep the spiders off our backs." Victor said. "Okay." Robin said. "Good... because here they come." Elsa said.

The spiders moved ahead of the robots, charging at the group. When they were within striking distance, they bounced off a shield of pure psychic energy, many of them fizzled and did not move again. The remaining spiders were picked off quickly by Victor and Mark, earning several nicks and scratches as Robin lost hold on the shield.

"Intruders evaluated. Threat level: Minor." The bot in the middle said. "Minor?!? I'll show you 'Minor'!" Elsa said, Victor grabbed her arm, stopping her from charging straight at them. "Execute execution sequence."

The three bots moved forward, facing the group in a line. Their red eyes flickered for a moment and then the 'H' on their chest began to disappear. Their torsos were opening up, revealing a sphere in the opening. Their eyes flickered once more and the spheres shot out of the bots, hurtling towards the team, as they flew, spikes popped open, making them deadly. A mace flew towards Elsa and Sebastian, Elsa pulled Sebastian out of the way, the mace shooting past them and embedding itself in the wall. The second hurtled towards Victor and Robin, but it stopped a few feet from them, rebounding off of Robin's shield and hitting the ground. The third flew at Tembhi and Mark, Tembhi dived down out of the way, while Mark was not so lucky.

"Gaaaah! Owww!" Mark yelled out, a mace stuck in his side, an attached chain jingling as he moved. The maces were pulled back towards the bots by the chains. Mark was pulled along with it, pulling him up and then down, his face hitting the rock. The mace's spikes retracted and the ball was pulled back to its master, the golem's hatches stayed open.

"Mark, are you okay?" Elsa asked. "I can't feel my leg... or arm..." Mark said, still in shock. "Seb, give him a hand." Elsa ordered.' "We need to keep their attention away from Sebastian and Mark, we need to attack." Robin said. "Okay. Robin, keep trying to attack, but watch our backs if you can't." Victor said. "No problem." Robin responded.

Elsa, Robin, Victor, and Tembhi ran towards the bots. Elsa ran the quickest, jumping over one of the bots and stabbing it in the back. The gash sparked and the bot spasmed, but it turned around, swinging one of its swords at her. She ducked and fell left, avoiding the slash. Then Tembhi and Robin stopped, at a distance, Robin tried to break into their minds at a closer distance, but failed. Tembhi fired three arrows at once, all the bots were hit, their wounds sparking. Victor reached the fight and swung at a bot with his sword. The bot caught the sword with its own and raised the other one to attack. Victor gave up his attack and held his sword up, countering the second sword arm. The fight contunued on, both sides scoring hits, but none of them major. The thrid bot circled around Victor, attacking from behind. Victor ducked down and drove his sword back and upwards, right into the bot, it jolted but continued attacking.

"These things are faster than they look!" Elsa yelled, dodging attack after attack.

The fight continued for several minutes in virtual stalemate, arrows and maces shot out at all angles, both sides dodged and parried, but there was no major damage. Then Elsa jumped onto one of the bot's back, bringing her knife between its torso and head, cutting it clean off. The hole sparked, but the bot continued fighting and swung its swords at Elsa, through the space its head had been moments ago. She hopped down and backed away.

Robin sat down, conserving energy, watching the fight and concentrating on a shield when the oppurtunity came. She saw the fight progress, watching her team grow more weary and take more hits while the bots kept coming. She tried again to break into their minds, but could gain no hold. Yet she could sense thoughts from their makers, but they were fuzzy with old age. She picked through them, trying to find a clear one.

"Their brain is somewhere else..." Robin said to herself. She stood up and yelled at Elsa and Victor, "They're controlled by a crystal in their arm! Break it and they shut down!" "Intruders re-evaluated. Threat level: Major." One of the still-headed bots said.

One of the bots broke away from the fight, staring right at Robin. Its eyes flickered and Robin realized it was about to fire at her.

"Oh no you don't!" Elsa yelled, jumping over the bot she had been fighting, and brought her knife down on the crystal in its arm. The bot crumpled to the ground, its eyes dead. Robin turned to see Victor had already shattered the crystal, the bot slumped over, its mace hit the ground with a thud. The third, headless, bot ran at Robin, Tembhi fired arrow after arrow at the crystal, but the bot swatted them all away with his arm. It reached Tembhi and Robin quickly, it raised its swords, ready to strike. Robin tried to throw a shield, but she couldn't concentrate, it wouldn't stay solid. She closed her eyes, not wanting to watch her death, and heard something slicing through the air, but there was no pain. Robin opened her eyes and saw the bot staring at her with dead eyes, slumped over. She looked and saw a spear sticking out of the crystal in its arm. Robin looked over her shoulder and saw Mark leaning against the wall, his left side still not working.

"Bull's eye. Guess I wasn't jipped in training after all." Mark said, swaying at his feet. He stood for another few moments and then fell to the ground in a heap.


Author's Note for Chapter 8

Good, I've been working on those two bot models for a while now, its so nice to actually use them. Just wanted to clear a few things up that I couldn't really fit in the story and have it make sense:

The spider drones are bascially just small robots that do a lot of the routine work (cleaning up, repairing machines, etc.) around the base, they aren't really made for fighting, they are just called to the door room to weaken and scare any intruders before the real guards are called. Intimidation through numbers really, a single one would have no chance against any psy or fighter, no matter how weak.

And for the sword-armed, mace-firing bots (AKA: Cannon Golems), the crystal is their power source. The crystals absorb both psy energy and electrical current and stores it to power the bot. The crystals are in the open to absorb the energies. While the crystal could be hidden somewehere inside the robot, where no one would find it, it wouldn't work as well. It's like having a solar panel, but placing it inside, next to a window. Energy would leak in every now and then, but even when it did, it would be less powerful then if it was outside. They are controlled from a central hub that sends them instructions out, sort of like a radio wave. It is not AI, they are told what to do step by step. Which is why Robin couldn't stop them.


Chapter 9: Storage Area 5Edit

Sebastian stood up from Mark and walked away, saying, "He'll make it."' "Ummm... alright then." Robin said, looking at Sebastian's work.

Mark was still propped up against the wall, but he wasn't howling in pain anymore. Sebastian had torn off a strip from his robe and used it to make a splint for Mark's arm, to give his muscles some time to rest.

"Guys... I think we're stuck." Elsa said, pulling at the door with all her strength. "Well at least it couldn't be any worse..." Victor remarked. Elsa was at Victor's side, punching him in the arm in a flash. "Never, ever say that! It can always get worse!" "Guys... water is coming in from the doors." Mark said, trying to stand up. "See! Look at what you did! You ruddy-" Elsa yelled, her voice echoing in the chamber.

The alarm rang once more, cutting off Elsa.

"Oh, now what?" Elsa barked.


A voice rang out through the cavern, "STAND ON THE ELEVATOR."


"People... the water level is rising in fast. I think we should listen to whoever that is." Tembhi said.


"Let's go." Robin said, picking Mark up.

The team moved to the elevator, the water was lapping their ankles by the time they had assembled. The elevator shook and dropped suddenly, the water surged over the edge and half-drowned the passengers befor the floor above finally closed. The water finally settled, reaching to the team's waists.

"This is a trap isn't it?" Elsa finally said after five minutes had passed.


"Maybe its just a slow elevator." Robin suggested.


"Hold it... I think I heard something." Victor said.

The elevator doors opened and the water flooded out of the elevator, puddling in several places in the room. A voice resonated in the enclosed space, "Sleeping Quarters. Level 1".

"Told you." Robin said. "Well excuse me for worrying about our team." Elsa retorted. "Stop arguing! Something in there just moved..." Tembhi said.

The others turned, and saw a figure moving towards them. As it drew closer, it was harder to see. It was like they could see through it, like the figure wasn't there.

"Its a spirit." Robin said, sounding a little surprised. "No... its a lot of spirits." Elsa said, looking around the room.

As Elsa spoke, more spirits poured out of the darkness, all moving towards the team in the elevator. Robin could hear a low muttering, but she couldn't make out any words. The spirits drew their weapons, muttering to themselves.

"Prepare for battle!" Robin yelled! "They're spirits! What good are our weapons against them?" Mark said grimly.

The doors shut with a clang, and the elevator started to descend again. After several moments, the elevator doors opened once more, the voice saying "Storage Area. Level 5". A figure was standing in front of the elevator once more, but this time it was corporeal.

"Ah, so you are the ones who have been causing all this trouble," the figure said.


"Ummm... Who are you?" Robin asked.


"Oh, my apologies. My name is Hine, and I am the keeper." Hine responded.


"The keeper of what?" Elsa asked bluntly.


"Everything. I require your help, which is why I allowed you to enter." Hine said.


"Allowed us? We almost died, several times." Mark yelled.


"Well I could not allow the shadowling to enter and I turned off several of the more deadly traps, such as the poison gas. I allowed you to enter have no doubt of that." Hine stated.


"Fine... you said you let us in for a reason?" Robin asked.


Hine sighed, looking remorseful and said, "Yes. I have had no contact with the outside world since the shadowlings stormed our home, but I can only assume that things aren't very good."


"You would be correct. The war has been in a steady decline." Tembhi said.


"I'm sorry to be correct. But I would like to help. The shadowlings invaded and killed everyone, but they didn't get out alive either. Many died in the attack, and the rest died of the effects of the poison or drowning when I flooded the tunnel. I can do no more from here, but you can." Hine said.


"What do you mean?" Robin asked.


"Follow me, we will walk and talk." Hine said, turning around and walking away.

The team slowly followed, still wary of other traps.

"When the shadowlings died, they left behind hundreds of vengeful spirits who will not rest until they have their revenge. This is the army I spoke of, but they also left behind a second army." Hine said.


"Second army?" Victor asked.


"Yes, the three cannon golems you faced were not the only ones made. Helen ordered the builders to make as many as they could, as fast as they could, in case the shadowlings attacked."


"But they did attack, why weren't they destroyed?" Robin asked.


"Unfortunately they were still in production, but they are all finished and ready for battle now." Hine said.


Robin, confused, asked, "How is that possible, you said everyone died. In fact, how are you alive?"


Hine turned around and looked directly at Robin, "The spiders you also faced were made to keep the base running smoothly, they go wherever they are needed. The designers gave them the rest of the plans to continue production while they fought."


"Well that answers one question, but how did you survive?" Robin asked again.


"Ah... we are here." Hine said, ignoring Robin's question. The team looked around in the dim lighting and gasped. Row upon row of golems stood before them, their eyes were dark, yet they looked ready to charge.

"How many of them are there?" Robin asked


"One thousand, two hundred and ninety six working models. They are my present to you." Hine said.


"To us? What do you expect us to do with them?" Robin asked, astounded.


"Well to fight the shadowlings of course. The spirits will gladly help you as well." Hine stated.


"I think there has been a misunderstanding. We are slaves of the shadowlings." Victor said.


"I know this, which is why I'm giving them to you. Who will fight the shadowlings more vigorously then the ones they have enslaved?" Hine asked.


"We can't fight them, even with your forces. The shadowlings are just too strong." Mark said.


"You have to do something with them. I will not have them sitting here, doing nothing any longer. If you do not take them then we are enemies and I will be forced to order the golems to attack." Hine said angrily.


"What... but..." Mark stumbled.


"We will take them..." Robin said suddenly.


"You will?" Hine asked.


"We will?" Victor asked.


"Yes." Robin said.


"Robin, this is a mutiny of the highest kind... if we take them then the shadowlings will kill us." Victor said.


"And if we don't take them, he will." Robin whispered.


"Alright, let me fire them up." Hine said.


"Hold it. I have a better idea." Elsa said.


"There is no other way." Hine said.


"There is. Giving them to us would be a mistake, we could not order so many effectively, we would only make a larger mess of the war. But there is someone who could use them." Elsa said.


"And who is this?" Hine asked.


"The human resistance at Ravinale. All of them are devoted to ending the shadowling's reign and they are in need of men." Elsa said.


"And how would I get word to this resistance. If you cannot take these, I am sure you cannot take a trip to Ravinale with no orders." Hine retorted.


"Well... I don't know." Elsa said.


"We could kill Mark." Robin suggested.


"What!?!" Mark yelled.


"No... Listen, the shadowlings told me that I would not be allowed to bring any team mates back from the dead as a part of my probation. So of we reported you dead, no one would be the wiser." Robin said.


"But why me?" Mark asked.


"You're from Ravinale, they will believe you faster than they would any of us." Robin stated.


"Mark, look at it this way, no more shadowlings." Elsa said.


"You're right... Alright. I'll do it." Mark said.


"Perfect, Mark was it? Come here and I'll show you the command center. As for the rest of you, you are free to go. The traps have all reset and you should be able to pass without any res-" Hine was cut off by loud pounding. "Oh no... why did they choose now to attack?" Hine complained.


"Attack? Who?" Elsa said.


"The spiders." Hine sighed.


"I thought the spiders worked for you." Robin said.


"They work for the base, and they are on their weekly obsolete delete trip." Hine said.


"Obsolete delete?" Elsa asked.


"They go around the base and dismantle any machine that is no longer serving a purpose." Hine said.


"Then they should leave us alone." Mark pointed out.


"They'll leave you alone." Hine said as he opened his shirt, showing a metallic torso and the red letter stamp of: 'H1N3'.


"You're a robot?" Mark asked.


"I prefer the term mechanically inclined, but yes. Mark, come with me. I'll have to explain on the run. As for the rest of you, try to hold them off. They might not put up much of a fight, but there are thousands of them out there. I will turn off the traps upstairs now in case I don't survive. Good luck." Hine yelled as he pulled Mark back towards the bots.

"Alright people, we can't let Hine die now, this is the first glimmer of hope for overturning the war we've ever seen. So get ready for battle." Robin said.


Chapter 10: Oh my Anu...Edit

Mark and Hine ran off, going down a ramp connected to the ledge, while the rest of the team prepared for the attack. Tembhi and Victor began pushing some crates around to funnel the spiders toward Victor and also create a place for Tembhi to shoot from and Robin to reach out from safely. Elsa stood in the shadows, practicing throwing her knife around, working on her swing. Sebastian stood in the corner, the same as always. All while Robin meditated, trying to calm down for the battle.

Tembhi had just climbed up the makeshift tower when the elevator doors began to buckle. He had managed to nock an arrow before the elevator doors snapped off and hit the floor with a deafening clang. Spiders poured out of the hole, the maddeningly clicking noise resounded in the chamber, piercing the team's eardrums. Arrows rained down on the swarm, spiders sparking and falling to the ground as Tembhi shot again and again. The spiders drew closer, and the first few rows fell, sparking manically as Robin shorted them out. But still more came on and Robin couldn't reach them all. Elsa jumped out of the shadows, spinning in the air, swiping at the spiders with her knife while she caught the ground with her other, pushing off, then landing on some of the bugs on the outskirts of the rush, crunching under her boots. Still more came, funneled towards Victor. Victor swung as low as he could again and again. None managed to get past him, The bodies piled all across the room, some creating hills and there was a wall of bodies where Robin's mind range reached. The spiders seemed to slow, less and less coming. With a swing of a sword, Victor finished the last moving bot. The team breathed a collective sigh of relief, but all jumped when another thunderous sound rang from the elevator. A giant spider head pushed its way through the hole, the wall cracked and then burst as two legs pushed though. More of the wall cracked and fell, but the 40 foot spider finally broke free of the wall and stood in the room, small fragments of the wall fell from it as it moved towards the team.

"Dear Anu..." Robin muttered, hanging her head in exhaustion.

Meanwhile...

"How does this work again?" Mark asked. "Alright... but I'm not explaining it again. The golems are controlled from here," Hine said, gesturing to the device in front of him, a board with several buttons, showing every letter in the human language. "The bots respond to certain commands, such as attack, march, or guard. You already have the list that tells you the commands. The bots can be up to 1000 stretches away from this center before the signal becomes to weak for the bots to respond." "Stretches?" "Sorry... Helen came up with it. It's about 2.3 feet." Hine responded. "4600 feet? Wow... how'd you manage that?" Mark asked "Through a complicated process that would use large words that would only waste our time. There must be an operator here at all times to control them. They have been pre-programmed with several attack routines, such as attack at range or engage hand to hand, but the operator must choose a routine. Now," Hine said, walking across the control center, a raised circle with several of the boards around, "This is a screen, it can show you what the bots with these blue stripes painted on them see. Click this button to switch between bots. You can watch the whole battlefield from here, provided the eyes are functioning." "Okay I think I understand, but how do we move everything." "I can program a march to Ravinale, then order the bots to disassemble the panel and carry it with them." Hine said "Really?" "Yes, Helen wanted this station to be mobile. The bots can disassemble it in 90 seconds and can each carry enough weight so that only ten bots will be unable to fight." "You guys really know what you're doing." "Yes, now we must leave." "Shouldn't we wait to see if my friends survive?" "No time... if they have killed enough of the repair bots then the long legs will be sent in." "Long legs?" "A forty foot spider with poisoned leg tips." "Wouldn't we have to go through them to get out?" "No, the first thing the diggers did when they made it down here was create a secondary shaft, in case of a cave-in. It leads into a series of tunnels that lead as far as the Ashwan Desert." "Perfect, right near Ravinale." "Ravinale is in the Ashwan Desert?" "Yes, close to the coast." "Then we have quite a march. Let me program the destination." "Can you program stops? I don't know about you, but I need to stop for meals and rest." "No, but the robots can carry you." "Alright."

The golems all stood up straight as one, they then turned around and marched down a tunnel in the shadow-filled corner. Mark could smell the distinct smell of oil as he rushed after them, ten of the bots had already broken off and began disassembling the center as he stepped off. Mark and Hine rushed after the marching army and disappeared into the shadows, Hine stopped at the entrance, waiting for the ten bots. As they marched past him, parts magnetically clipped to them, Hine pulled a lever and ran, the wall above the tunnel crumbling and crashing over it, covering the exit.

Back to the fight I know you're mad at me for stopping for that dribble...

"Robin! Just shut it down!" Elsa yelled, bending almost in half to avoid one of the spider's swiping lges. The spider buckled slightly, as two of its legs were already on the ground, sparking and twitching. "I'm trying, I think it's in separate parts, I have to shut them down one by one!" Robin yelled, sitting cross-legged on the make-shift tower, head in her hands. "How many are there?" Tembhi asked, firing another arrow, only to have it bounce off again. "5, I think. I've shut down two." Robin yelled back "Ahhh!" Victor yelled as one of the legs swung at him, slicing into him, and throwing him across the room. He crashed into the crate, it splintered and Victor slumped to the ground. "Victor!" Elsa yelled, running over to him.

The spider swung at her back as she ran, Elsa screamed and fell to the ground, she also did not get back up.

"Hurry up Robin! We're in real trouble here!" Tembhi yelled. "I'm on the last segment, but its he biggest! I need another couple of minutes!" Robin yelled as the spider swung at them, Tembhi jumped, grabbing Robin and falling to the ground as they leg sliced through the crates in the tower. "I don't think we have a few minutes Robin." Tembhi said as he held his hand to his side, blood staining his hand. "Tembhi... I... I.. I'm sorry." Robin stuttered. "Just finish it off." Tembhi said, falling to the ground as the poison seeped into his body.

Robin stood up, as the spider swung at her. Robin ducked and dodged, trying to keep her concentration up. Robin ran under the spider, its legs screeching as they sliced at each other, trying to reach her.

Robin muttered to herself, "Just one more..." "Get out." The spider stopped moving, standing above Robin. "What?" Robin said, startled. "I sense the model H1N3 has departed the premises. Cease your attack and I will leave." "But I'm winning." "You need at least another minute to get through my shields. I need only a few seconds to slice through your bones." "Good point. I will leave your brains when you are out of range, so you will not return." "Agreed. May I offer you a piece of advice?" "Ummm... go ahead." "My legs are poison-tipped, there is an antidote in Storage Area 2." "...Thank you? Why are you helping us?" "You are a worthy opponent, and I see you mean the Helenite's cause no harm." "But you do! Hine is helping the cause by giving us the cannon golems!" "Which he has already done. He know has no purpose. Anything with no purpose is a waste of resources. He could have been melted down to create more Spi units by now." "Spi units?" "The models you know as spiders, we use them to spy on the outside world. We contain all known knowledge in the hive." "The hive?" "I have thought too much, I must now depart. I hope our next meeting will not be as bloody, but I fear it will." "Goodbye."

Robin waited for the spider to crouch down and leave the room and leave her range before she moved. She then bent over and pulled the unconscious Tembhi over to Victor and Elsa, and saw that Sebastian was already at work.

"Seb, but how did you? Never mind... They're poisoned. We need to get to the elevator and go to level 2. Do you think you can help me drag them over there?"

Sebastian shook his head, and picked up victor and Tembhi at once, walking over to the elevator unhindered.

"Whoa..." Robin said, dragging Elsa over to the elevator.

Robin pushed the button marked two and was amazed the elevator still ran. There was a gaping hole where the door should have been and ceiling was in several pieces, yet it held together. The doors opened, the voice from earlier was now just a burst of static. Robin ran into the room, opening every drawer and cabinet she could find. In the back of the room she found what she was looking for.

"I just hope there's still time." she said to herself.

Robin ran back and administered the three shots. She sat, waiting for them to get up, and waited, and waited. Nothing was happening.


Chapter 11: The Caged BeastEdit

In the end, Robin's exhaustion overcame her worry and she passed out on the floor next to her poisoned friends. She woke to Sebastian whistling, it was a nursery rhyme her mother sang to her as a child. She let the tune carry her back to happier times, a time before the shadowlings came for her, long before she had been taken to be put in charge of...

"My team!" Robin yelled, sitting up as she remembered what happened. She looked around for the bodies of her friends, but the floor around her was empty. She did find someone had put a pillow under her head and a blanket over her while she had slept.

"Its about time you woke up. You'd think you were the one who was poisoned by a forty-foot spider." Robin turned around at the sound of the voice and saw Elsa sitting on a crate, picking her nails with her knife. "Elsa!" Robin jumped up, and ran over to Elsa. She threw her arms around Elsa and squeezed the breath out of her. "You're alive!" "Not for long if you keep that up." Elsa gasped, trying to get air. "Sorry..." Robin said, letting go of Elsa. "I'm just glad you're okay. Where's Tembhi and Victor?" "Tembhi went to look around the base, and Victor went to go get Mark." Elsa said, "Seb and I decided to stay back to wait for you."

A burst of static burst from the elevator doors, probably the ding the elevator used to make before the spider tore the whole thing in half. "Speak of Anu, they're back." Elsa said.

Tembhi and Victor walked out of the elevator doors, perfect pictures of health. "Oh, she's up." Victor said statically. "Robin, I'm glad to see you're awake." Tembhi said, "I guess we owe you our lives." "Yeah, what happened to the spider anyway? I didn't see its body downstairs." Victor said. "It left, it said that Hine had left the complex." Robin said. "And it didn't kill you?" Elsa asked.

So Robin told the team of the conversation with the spider, all about the Spi units and the so-called, 'hive' the spider was reluctant to talk about.

"Well it was right about Hine leaving. There is no sign of him, the golems, or Mark. Its like they vanished." Victor said. "Hine must have had a back way out." Tembhi said. "And he just ditched us. Left us to die. I'll kill him." Elsa said. "No Elsa, getting the golems to the war is more important then any of us, he did what he thought was right." Robin said. "I still don't like it." Elsa retorted. "Did you find anything Tembhi?" "No, the only supplies I could find were more venom antidotes. Even the spirits have left." Tembhi said. "Alright. All that's left is to pick up Grange, finish the mission, and head home. And not a word of the golems, spiders, or Hine to anyone. We came down here, got past the traps, turned them off, and rested before heading back up. Right?" Robin asked. "Right." everyone, even Sebastian, echoed.

The trip back was uneventful, Hine kept to his word and turned all of the traps off. No doors closed behind them, no arrows shot out at them, and even the maze was gone, almost as if the rocks had receded into the ceiling and floor. They finally came to the hallway where they left Grange, they found her in the same place, plume billowing and as harsh as ever.

"What took you so long!" Grange outbursted. "Sorry Grange, finding the control was a little harder than we thought it would be." Robin answered. "Well General Slade shall hear about this. You are one fleshling short, where is the one with the spear?" Grange asked. "One of the traps was a bottomless pit, the floor just fell beneath our feet. Mark didn't make it." Robin said, sounding very upset. "So he is dead?" Grange asked. "We think so, but we weren't exactly in a position to go back and check, now were we?" Robin rebutted, letting false anger swirl. "He was a sniveling coward anyway." Grange said. "Don't talk about him like that!" Robin yelled. "He was braver than you ever will be!"

Grange backed down. "Fine then, Captain." Grange said, sarcasm dripping from the final word. "May we continue the mission?" "Yes, we all just want to get out of here." Elsa said.

The team walked back up the tunnel and climbed up the ladder behind the waterfall, well Grange more floated then climbed, though she did grab the rungs. They emerged to the forest, dripping wet but all glad to see the sun again, well not all of them. Grange still seemed to stay dry, though she was scowling so hardly it probably could have burned anyone who looked and she was definitely not happy about being back topside.

"There's the caravan, lets get the stuff and go." Victor said.

The team walked to the caravan, well it was more of a broken tent that stuck out at odd angles. As they neared it, a bird burst out of the caravan and flew to a branch above, chirping loudly. The team jumped at the noise, remembering the sirens, and looked around to make sure there were no golems coming at them. The coast was clear.

"Whoo... that got me." Tembhi said, as his heart pounded relentlessly. "Help someone wants to give?" a voice rang out from the tent. "What in the name of Anu?" Robin asked.

The team moved closer to the tent and Elsa ripped the tarp off, showing the shattered remains of the cart, several empty crates that had the tops pulled off, splintering everything, and a green creature sitting cross legged in a cage.

"Help you want to give?" it asked again. "Who... what are you?" Elsa asked. "Gelf?" Tembhi asked. "Tem! Gelf no seen you since you much small!" it replied. "Tembhi, you know this thing?" Robin asked. "Yeah... I grew up with him." Tembhi answered. "Well that explains the weird accent." Elsa mumbled to Victor. "But... how?" Robin asked.

So Tembhi told them all how a group of shadowlings attacked his home when he was young, Tembhi ran into the forest and ran right into Gelf. The Gelf had trouble understanding him, but he saw his fear and knew to help. He took him deep into the forest to stay with him in a Gelf village. Though it was more of a camp as the group were nomads by nature. Tembhi lived with the Gelfs, that is what they called themselves, and each one was named Gelf, he traveled across the whole forest many times, trading with anyone who ventured into the forest, and even to the Helenites a few times. Tembhi left to see more of the world, the Gelfs did not want him to go, but he wanted to see more than the same forest everyday. The day after he left the forest, the shadowlings captured him and the next thing he knew, he was meeting Robin in the cell.

"So thats how you knew so much about the Helenites." Elsa said. "So is he the one that raised you?" Robin asked. "No, but I still knew him very well." Tembhi answered. "Bhi want to help me?" Gelf asked again. "Of course, lets get him out people." Tembhi said, walking towards the cage. "Hold it! This thing is shadowling empire property, you can't let it out, it might run away." Grange said. "That it is a living thing." Robin answered. "I don't care if you are the commanding officer. You are not letting that thing free. I will go to Slade and request for you to get the Bracelet. Do you really want that?" Grange asked. "Are you uncomfortable in there?" Robin asked Gelf. "Really not. Friends bring eats for Gelf and Gelf has roomy room." he replied. "Friends?" Robin asked. "The Gelf are beastmasters. They talk to animals and can ask them to do things." Tembhi replied. "Wow... Anyways, he's comfortable, the cage has wheels and we've screwed this mission up enough. Let's just take him back like this." Robin said. "Sounds good." Victor said. "That alright with you Gelf?" Tembhi asked. "Alrighty right!" Gelf answered.

Robin and Tembhi managed to pull the cage from the wreck and began pushing it over the roots of the trees.

After an hour treking through the forest, and after the team worked out a schedul on who would puch Gelf when, Robin asked, "So why did the golems leave you alone Gelf?" "The louds with the death balls? No leave, Gelf afraid them." Gelf replied.

Everyone turned to Tembhi for a translation, "He means he scared them off." "How did you do that?" Elsa asked, sounding surprised. "Alls are fear of the Tig." Gelf said. "Gelf can make a deadly plant grow in an instant." Tembhi translated. "See you want?" Gelf asked.

Gelf touched the cage bars and vines grew up toward the top, where a bulb grew, which started to emit a green mist. The team looked in surprise and began hacking and grabbing their throats. The bulb withered as Gelf looked at them and seemed surprised.

"Much sorries. Gelf forget Tig no like people." Gelf said. "Just don't do it again and we'll be fine." Victor said.

So with the Tig's poison worked out of their system, the team continued the march to Somnus, while at the same time a family of moles was disturbed as 1298 beings marched past it on the way to the Ashwan desert.


Chapter 12: Somnus WishlistEdit

"Another successful mission. And I see this mission had some unforeseen complications. You have my congratulations." Slade said, pacing in front of Robin in the map room. "Thank you sir." Robin responded blankly. "In fact, we have decided to give you a special mission, one of high priority." Slade said. "Special?" Robin asked, curiosity breaking her blank exterior. "While you were gone there have been several earthquakes in the cavern." Slade said. "Earthquakes happen down here all the time." Robin said, returning to her blank act. "Yes, but not at this time of year. None of our experts could find out why, so we sent a slave expedition team below ground. We found what was left of their bodies the next day." "So what do you want our team to do about it?" "Not your team. You. There will be times when you lose contact with your team, and must act alone. We need to know how successfully you operate alone." "Fine. Where do I go?" "If you want to get to the lower levels, you have to talk to the head guard at the palace, his name is Snarl. But I would suggest you visit the morgue and the library. The Head at the clinic and the Librarian both sent me a message that they had some information about what's going on." "What is my team going to do?" "They are also being tested, though they are running training exercises, unlike you." "Are those the only places I am allowed?" "No, this is a pass, you can go anywhere in Somnus with this, if you are stopped at anytime, show this. I suggest you train before you go." Robin turned to leave, but rebounded off a wall of psychic energy, she turned back to the General. "Robin, start any trouble and you are going to wish you were on the first expedition team. Now you are dismissed."

General Slade turned around, signaling he had nothing further to say and Robin left the room unhindered.

Robin decided to talk to her team first, to tell them she would be leaving and what they would be doing, but they were already gone when Robin arrived. A little disheartened, Robin took Slade's advice to train before she left, she had saved up a good number of lessons from her completed missions.

One Training Montage Later...

"And this marks the end of your training time Robin. You have passed strategy, low level psy control, intermediate level psy control, low level shielding, intermediate shielding, and human mind reading. Good work today, you are dismissed." Robin turned from the shadowling training administer and walked back to her room. After 13 hours of training General Slade wouldn't be mad if she took a short na...

One 11 Hour 'Nap' Later...

"So fleshling, what have you found?" Robin lifted her head from her pillow to see General Slade in her bedroom. "I do not believe the training center teaches astral projection, and I know you were not sleeping while you are on mission status, so you must have found the problem." General Slade said, glaring at Robin. "I'm sorry sir. I spent 13 hours in the training center and I thought I should sleep before..." "I am tired of your excuses Robin. One more screw up and you are going to a place where you wish death would come for you. Now get to work before I become angry."

Robin quickly leapt out of bed and ran down the stairs, she knew that even with her new skills, she was no match for a shadowling general. She continued running until she reached the outside, she knew that if anyone saw a human running through Somnus, they would only make trouble for her. Robin spent an hour trying to find the Library on her own, but finally broke down and asked the nearest shadowling for directions. The shadowling promptly spat in her face and kept moving.

"Thanks for nothing." Robin yelled back. "That was rude." Robin turned to see a shadowling with orange eyes behind her. "Sorry. I meant no offense." Robin replied. "I meant her. Here you are, a member of our military and she spits in your face." he said. "Oh. You get used to it." Robin replied. "Well don't worry, not all of us are like that. She just thinks shes the darkest thing to float into existence because she's related to Shadowboxer and Darkling. But where are my manners? My name is Glume." "Robin." "What a pretty name for a human. Now what do you need help with?" "Well I need to find the Library and the Hospital." "Well you seem to have done fine on your own, the building behind us just so happens to be the Library. And the Hospital is just a little further down this sector, the blue building. Do you require anything else?" "Well... if you have time. Why are your eyes orange? Orange is not a color in the shadowling age cycle." "Don't worry. I am used to it, as you say. The Queen called me up to take part in a medical experiment. For all time, shadowlings have only been able to call on the powers of shadow. The Queen wanted to see if this could be changed. There were nine others, the Doctor in charge put us in a chamber, closed the door and dropped a glowing rock from a hole in the ceiling. The room was sealed and we began to feel odd. Our eyesight flickered and we fell to the ground. Four of us died there. When I woke up, I was this color, but now I can do this." Glume held out his hand and particles of light rushed towards it, creating a small ball of pure light. "Can you still use shadow powers?" "Yes, our group has been named the Twilight." "Your group? How many of you are there?" "Around fifty. The Doctors have stopped experimenting until they can find a way to give us the power with no fatalities." "Well thanks for the directions. Sorry to take so much of your time." "The pleasure was mine. And don't apologize, I don't get to converse often, some shadowlings see me as an abomination and ignore me." "I'm so sorry. I would stay to chat, but I have something to do and I can't get caught goofing around... again." "Well good luck. I'm sure I will hear of your success soon."

Robin walked past Glume to the Library. The doors were open and Robin walked right in. The entire Library was covered with a film of dust, there was a blue shadowling sleeping at a desk in the middle of the room.

"Excuse me? Sorry to wake you but..." Robin said quietly, trying to wake him. "Grotius didn't do anything!" the shadowling yelled, sitting upright. "Excuse me?" Robin asked. "Sorry... nightmare. Welcome to the Grand Library of Somnus. How may I help you?" "Um... My name is Robin, they sent me to investigate the tremors?" "Of course. My name is Nightling, Head Librarian. Yes, I sent a letter to your superior because I found something.... Dark take it! Where did I put that book?" "So... I take it no one comes in here often?" "What makes you say that?" Nightling asked, re-emerging from a stack of books, covered in dust and spiderwebs. "Hehe... Call it a guess." "Yes. It is sad, but many shadowlings seem to care more about the war then the academia these days. Found it!" Nightling flipped through the pages, stopping on one near the end of the book. "Here it is. These tremors have happened before. Completely out of season, and even a group of shadowlings went missing. It continued for six months, causing much damage and killing many shadowlings." "So what does it mean?" "It means that this is definitely not something natural. Something is causing this." "Anything else?" "I'll keep reading, but that's about it. Wait, if you do find something, could you send a sample of whatever it is here? I would love to study it." "... I'll... I'll try." "Thank you."

Robin walked out of the library, slightly ticked as the Librarian didn't have nearly as much information as she hoped. She looked out to the street, but didn't catch sight of Glume anywhere.

Might as well move on to the Hospital then. Those bodies could probably tell me more then that Librarian could. Robin thought as she walked down the street, the shadowlings moving out of the way, making a path. They act like I'm dying of some disease they don't want to catch... Oh no! Don't let the nasty little fleshling touch us! Robin chuckled at the thought.

Robin arrived at the Hospital quickly and was directed to enter the morgue through the backdoor by the guard at the front, whether this was because it was the easiest path to the morgue or because they didn't want a fleshling entering the front door, Robin couldn't tell.

"Ah. You must be Robin. Slade said you would be coming." A very light green shadowling said, floating towards her. "Yes sir." "Well this is somewhat of a mystery." The shadowling floated down the hall, speaking to Robin. "Are you coming or not?"

Robin hurried to catch up, she turned a corner and saw the bodies.

"As you can see, they were completely flattened." "Cave-in?" "Seems like it would be, but they were found like this, with nothing around them with enough weight to cause this."

Robin walked up to one of the tables and poked one of the bodies. She pulled it away, a clear trail of slime connecting her finger to the body.

"What is this gunk?" "We don't know. Our researches are studying it, but we don't know. All of the bodies are covered with it though." "Gross. Anything else?" "No. They were in perfect health, a little underfed. But that is to be expected in a slave. You're biologies are so complex, filled up with veins and bones and organs, its a wonder how you work at all with so many parts." "Shadowlings don't have those?" "No. We don't even know how they work. I have written several books on the subject, but those were only theories." "I haven't heard of any books." "You wouldn't have. I was not allowed to publish them as it argued with the generally accepted ideal that the Queen created us and we live through her blessing, not any organ." "Ah. That must be annoying." "You get used to it. Well that's about it. I'm sorry I can't stay with you, I have a class to teach upstairs. These new shadowlings don't know a thing about healing. Its going to be a real challenge to teach them before I dissipate."

The shadowling floated off. Robin wanted to stay behind to study the bodies a bit more, but a red shadowling grabbed her and said, "What are you doing here? Chief of Medicine Festus has dismissed you. Get out!"

The next thing Robin knew, she was being tossed out the front door of the hospital and then landed in the street. Nursing her bruised ego, Robin looked around for the palace, as her third and final stop for the day before the tunnel.

It wasn't very hard to find. It was the largest building around. After one near-beating, two alarms, and one actual beating, Robin was directed to the Head of the Guard, Snarl.

"Fleshling. You are late." Snarl... snarled. "I'm sorry, I had to-" "I don't have time for your excuses." Snarl cut in. "This is the entrance to the under tunnels," Snarl indicated to the hole in the ground next to him. "You have three days before we send in reinforcements to see if you have succeeded or, more likely, if you died. There are three days worth of supplies packed for you. Goodbye."

Snarl shoved her into the hole, and slammed the door above her. Robin's dark world turned to black.


Chapter 13: The Early Bird Catches the WormEdit

Robin tumbled down the stairs, slamming into the ground with a resounding, 'Thud' as her head hit the rock floor.

"Note to self... learn how to fly." Robin mumbled to herself, rubbing her head, trying to unsee the stars passing her eyes. After massaging her head, and making sure there wasn't any blood, Robin stood up and took a look at her surroundings. There wasn't much to see. The only light came from the closed trapdoor above Robin's head, and not much filtered through it. The darkness in front of her was so solid, Robin thought she could hear whispers coming from it. Telling her she did not belong in this black void.

"They had better given me a light..." Robin mumbled to herself as she searched through the pack that had tumbled down with her. Seeing from the slivers of light, Robin rummaged through the pack, looking and feeling for anything lamp-shaped.

"Hm... I think this is a light." Robin pulled out what looked like a bowl with a handle. "Looks like there's something on the bottom... but I can't read it-"

Light suddenly burst from the bowl, lighting up a good thirty feet around Robin. "Gah! Too bright!" Robin yelled, shielding her eyes. After her eyes had adjusted to the new level of light, Robin turned it over and was able to read the note on the bottom:

The Perpetual Flame will emit a light equal to the power and as long as a single being feeds it psychic energy. Note: Side-effects of using the Perpetual Flame for long periods of time include migraines, loss of consciousness, and in rare cases, death.

"Great... a lamp that sometimes causes death. What will the shadowlings think of next?" Robin said, putting the lamp on the cavern floor beside her. "And I thought I stopped talking to myself! I haven't done it since the shadowlings brought us down below. Maybe I'm just worried and I guess it kinda calms me down... I'll keep doing for now."

Robin rummaged through the pack some more, throwing out useless things, such as all the extra capes and bands marking her rank. "I swear... they give me all these things to show off how acceptable they think I am, but don't pack me any socks. I mean, it's not like the shadowlings have feet or anything but you think they would realize when they send slaves down here and they come back with moldy feet." Robin grabbed some nutrition bars and stuffed them in her mouth, feeding her growling stomach. "There. Now be quiet you."

Robin shouldered the pack, picked up the light, and turned towards the dark void once more. It seemed less threatening with a full stomach and supplies on her back. "Let's see... light equal to power, huh? So if I were to..." Robin concentrated on the lamp even harder and the light burned away the darkness of the cavern. Robin's eyes adjusted once more, allowing her to see the entire cavern she was in. It wasn't as large as she had previously thought, but there were many tunnel openings around it.

"Anu forbid that this could just be a simple mission. There is no way I'm going to be able to search that all in three da-" Robin was cut off as the cavern began to shake. Small fragments of rock fell from the ceiling and one whole tunnel collapsed right in front of Robin's eyes.

"Well that doesn't make me feel any safer." Robin remarked, trying to figure out which tunnel looked sturdy enough to use. She couldn't tell. "Well... I either go and have the possibility of being mashed or waiting and have the shadowlings kill me when they find out I didn't do anything... I think I'll take that tunnel." Robin said after a moment of thinking the choice over.

Robin walked down the tunnel, letting the light dim a bit, as it was already giving her a bit of a headache trying to keep it at that intensity. She didn't see anything off, but then she wasn't exactly a geologist. And so it went for the next few hours. Miles of endless tunnels that looked exactly the same as the last. Dozens of light adjustments are Robin grew tired. And a few nutrition bars snacked on, breaking the monotony.

"That's enough for now. I'm completely lost and still have no clue what is going on around here." Robin said, dropping her pack and falling after it, using it as a pillow. "Tomorrow better be better."

"There you are." "Ahhhhh!" Robin screamed, sitting upright. "Who's there?" She demanded.

No answer. "Just a dream... No. I'm not going to be able to get back to sleep unless I see. Where is that stupid light?" Robin muttered to herself... groping in the darkness for the light. She grabbed it and let the light fill the darkness. "Hi." Simon said, his face inches from Robin's. "Ahhhhhhhh!" Robin screamed once more, crawling backwards away from Simon. "Simon! Why didn't you say you were there!?!" "What fun would that be?" Simon responded. "This isn't naptime at school Simon! I could have killed you!" "But I'm already dead..." "You know what I mean. What are you doing down here anyway?" "Watching over you. Just like I promised." "How long have you been watching me?" "Ever since you told me to leave. I followed you to the Great Forest, but you had that shadowling with you. And then there the Jinn." "The Jinn?" "Yeah... at the place beneath the waterfall. They were a bunch of barrels, which I thought was pretty funny." "Barrels?" "Oh... yeah, you don't know. The other ghosts had to explain it to me. Turns out that if a ghost forgets their name then they become a Jinn and inhabit the closest object. It's pretty sad." "What do they do when they're trapped?" "Attack anything that gets too close, of course they don't know any better. They don't really know anything." "Are they strong?" "Really, really strong." "Could they be moved?" "What? Why would you want to know that?" "Well there is a whole army of ghosts whose whole purpose for being is to kill shadowlings... could we persuade them to attack Somnus?" "... Wow Robin. When did you get so devious?" "Must have been all the things the shadowlings made me do." "I'll ask them when we're done here." "We?" "Yeah. You're here all alone. I'm not going to leave you here." "You're awesome Simon. It gets a little unnerving down here." "Yeah. I know. So, what are we doing?" "There's been some earthquakes and we're trying to find out what's causing it." "Earthquakes? Oh... you mean Awle." "Awle?" "Here... it will be easier to show you rather then explain it."

Simon waited for Robin to get ready and led her down a series of tunnels. Robin was sure she had trekked down a few of them the previous day. After about an hour, Simon stopped.

"Turn down the light. Awle hates light." Robin turned the light down and looked into the cavern Simon had led her into. It seemed to have a huge white rock running down the center. "Do you see him?" "Where? All I can see is the white roc..."

Robin's jaw dropped as she looked further down the cavern and saw that the white rock wasn't a rock... It was a worm.

"Simon... Is Awle a giant worm?" Robin asked. "Yep." Simon replied. "Has he always been down here?" "As far as I know."

Robin just marveled at the size of the beast. She had definitely found the source of the earthquakes. "How do you know its name?" "Robin... I may be dead, but I'm still just as good a mind reader as you are." "He has a mind?" "Not really. Enough to give himself a name, but not much more brain capacity." "Why aren't there always earthquakes in Somnus?" "Oh. Awle hibernates, a lot. He woke up a little while ago. From what I can tell, he woke up from the sound of metal against rock." "Oh... damn. Guess I only have to blame myself on this one." "I thought you had something to do with it." "Yeah... I sent a little over a thousand golems down these tunnels towards Ravinale." "Never a dull moment with you, is there?" "Not lately at least. What do we do?" "To stop him? You're the team leader. You think of something." "Well aren't you a great help... Fine."

Robin down into the cave from the tunnel, there were enough rocks for her to jump down and be able to get back up, but after a second thought, she would rather be out of reach of the worm when she got its attention.

No time like the present... Robin thought. HEY! AWLE! The worm lifted its head. AWAKE. HUNGRY. I SMELL... FLESH!


Chapter 14: In the Bowels of the EarthEdit

"Ahhhh!" Robin screamed clutching her head. Awle's voice buried itself in her skull, ringing through her mind. All she could feel was a dark, cold, empty void. "Stop him." A softer voice rang through the void. "Block it out. Shield yourself."

The voice brought memories into the void with it. A happier time, a time outside of the void.

"You're it Simon!" a young girl yelled, running away from a boy with glasses too big for his face. "I'll get you for that!" The boy chased after her, they ran slow, having to catch their breath from laughing so much. They ran through the city streets, turning corners, crawling under merchant's tables. The girl turned down an alleyway. It was a dead end. The boy came running, the girl ran further into the alley, she found a ladder and quickly scrambled up it, her feet slipping as she climbed quickly. The ladder ended at the roof, the girl jumped off and kept running. She looked around and saw small individual buildings across the roof. She kept running, turning left and right trying to lose the boy. She came to the roof edge and saw the building had a courtyard.

"Uh-oh... we are in so much trouble." The girl was stiff, their game had led them right to the Center for Telepathic Studies. "Got you!" The boy yelled, running at the girl. The boy pushed his glasses back on his nose as he ran. He tripped. He went over the edge. "Simon!" the girl screamed, reaching out for him. She grabbed his hand. The boy pulled her to the floor. The girl held on to his hand tightly. "Don't let go!" the boy shrieked.

Her hand was too sweaty. He was slipping. He fell.

"No!" the girl yelled. "No, no, no. Stop falling! Please!"

The boy stopped falling, midair. He slowly rose back up, and fell in a heap next to the girl.

"Impressive." A voice came from behind the children. "Tell me girl, how old are you?" "I...I... I'm six." the girl's quivering voice answered. "You aren't in any trouble lass. That's quite the strong mind for six. Have you done anything like that before?" "N... no." "That is quite the strong Gift for your first time. Shouldn't take to long for you to learn it." "Learn?" "Yes. How would you like to study at the center... I'm sorry, what is your name?" "Robin."

More memories flashed as Robin came back. General Roth talking to her parents. Studying night and day. Learning telepathy, telekinesis, shielding. Being teased by the older kids. Winning the Telepath Tournament. The shadowling attack, it all came back as Robin came to.

"Thank the stars... You're alive." Simon said, hovering over her. "What... what happened?" Robin asked, blinking her eyes from being unconscious. "Awle's shriek separated your soul from your body. You were almost gone." "I heard your voice... Remembered that day we played tag." "We always were up to no good. And your mind tricks sure didn't help keep us out of trouble." "I don't know. That time you stole that soup for Amish with the whip was pretty bad." "I miss that whip..." "Don't worry Simon, I owe you... big. Finding you a ghost whip is now at the top of my to do list... right under this worm thing. Where is Awle anyway?" "About that..." "Simon. Why is the ground wet?" "I didn't want to tell you so soon after recovering." "Simon..." "After Awle made you black out... he swallowed you. We're in his stomach."

Robin retched, nothing came as her stomach was completely empty, unlike Awle's. "What do we do?" "I don't know. Awle doesn't seem to notice me. And I can float out of here any time." "Great for you... What do I do?" "Make him sneeze? It worked for that guy trapped in the whale." "That's a children's story Simon. I don't think it would actually work." "Well it seems there are two options... you could walk that way," Simon said, pointing down the tunnel, "and be digested. Or you could walk that way," Simon pointed the other way, "and try and make him sneeze." "How did I get in his stomach alive, anyway?" "You shielded your body after I told you to, the worm tried to digest you but couldn't get through the shield." "So I would have to climb back through all his organs to get out." "Yeah." "I think I have a better idea."

Robin walked closer to the wall of Awle's stomach, bringing the lamp and her bag. She stepped around stomach juices and partially digested things, things Robin would never want to think about again. She almost reached the wall when she slipped and landed in a small puddle of stomach juices. Her arm blazed in pain as the acids ate away her skin. She pushed herself off the puddle, ripping her cape apart and dabbing at the wound, removing all the acid. She reached into her bag and pulled out some bandages, she wrapped the wound up as best as she could and sent a message to her nerve endings to stop feeling the wound's pain.

"You alright?" Simon asked. "I'll be fine."

Robin started climbing again, this time more carefully and reached into her bag once more. She pulled out a small sword. She stuck it in the stomach lining and started to cut her way out. After several, very disgusting, minutes, she had cut through the wall. She climbed through and found a small space between the stomach and the skin. She could see several cords stretching into the darkness each way.

She reached up to grab them to pull herself up and immediately let go, sliding back down. Robin had felt Awle. The cords were his nervous system, they contained his every thought. Robin thought and climbed back up. She reached for her sword and cut through every cord.

Awle shrieked once more, but from pain, not as some predator's attack. The insides writhed and shook, but Robin held on to the worm's skin for dear life. She could hear Awle loudly.

WHY? WHY? IS AWLE HURTING? BAD FOOD DID IT. BAD FOOD WILL DIE.

Robin had seen worms cut in half before at the Center for Scientific Study. She knew it could take hours for Awle to die.

Quiet Awle. Robin sent the thought out. BAD FOOD? Yes Awle. I'm sorry but this is how it is. I didn't want to kill you. But it was either me or you, and when it comes right down to it, I like me better. AWLE WILL DIE? Yes. But this way will take many hours and give you a lot of pain. AWLE DOES NOT LIKE PAIN. MAKE PAIN GO AWAY BAD FOOD. Okay Awle, I can make pain go away.

Robin reached down the train of thought and found Awle's brain. A loose network of nerves, it didn't take long for her to dismantle it. Awle ceased writhing and his body fell limp.

It only took a few more minutes for Robin to cut her way through Awle's skin and return to the dark cavernous world she knew so well. She stepped onto Awle's body and looked around. Awle had moved while she was digested. Amazingly, she was back in the room where Snarl had thrown her down the stairs.

"Well... that explains why the palace had been shaking. This must have been one of his favorite places." Robin remarked to herself. "Now what?" Simon asked, materializing through Awle's skin to hover beside her. "Well... how long was I out?" "You were in Awle for about 32 hours." "But I only had 72 hours... and I was looking for Awle and took that rest for at least 40. So that means..."

The trapdoor opened, harsh, bright light entering the cavern, blinding Robin. Robin had never been more glad to be in that much pain.


Chapter 15: Slightly off MarkEdit

"A giant worm? Had I not seen it I would have never believed you." Slade said, floating in front of Robin in the Conference Room. "But you have seen it." Robin cooly replied. "Yes. You have passed your test. Mission 100% satisfactory." Slade signed off in a book and closed it. "Is there anything else?" "Yes... Since there been several discrepancies in your past, we followed up on a few leads." "Leads?" Robin asked, keeping her voice steady, as the hairs on the back of her neck stood up. "Yes. We cannot search your teams' minds deeply without damaging them, and they did not give up any memories easily, we do not need more like your healing unit." "Then what leads?" "The Mark on your spear unit came in loud and clear. He was in the desert. Care to tell us how he got there?"

Robin kept a cool face and mind, her body felt clammy and sweaty, her legs twitched slightly, trying to keep her mind clear. "It is as I told you. The floor opened and he fell. I said he disapeared, we only thought he died." "Then how did he get to the Ashwan desert?" "I don't know. We couldn't exactly follow him... How was he?" Robin desperately wanted to ask of the bots, but kept her mind on Mark's well being. "As we found him the first time. Wiped blank. He knew he was from Ravinale, but he had no other memories." "None?" Robin's astonishment covered up all other worries. "Yes. As he was a traitor, we searched very deeply. We still found nothing. He has no recollection of even being under your command." "Maybe there was something in the pit?" "Well, we will just label it interesting, but unimportant. He is back now, being taught how to use his spear once more. He will come with you on your next mission." "Mark is allowed to come?" "Yes, and your irregularities have been checked thoroughly so the shadowling Grange has been removed from your team. She gives you a good report as a leader and she would also only be a hinderance on the next mission." "What are we doing?" "We have found the base of the slave catchers. They have taken over a temple to the human god Anu in the desert. Their leader is a wealthy merchant, he has turned the temple into a mansion for himself. Our troops are tied up in more important matters than this, so we would rather send you and your team." "Alright. How should we go about killing him?" "I care not the way, that is up to you. But know that we will be checking on your Marks. There will be no desertion this time." "Understood. May I see my team?" "Not yet. There are two more matters." "More paperwork?" "Yes, but not at this time. These humans have caused us serious offense, and we are sending you with two more units." "A larger team?" "You have earned it. The testing of the forest creature has been finished, we would like you to take him into combat and report on how he performs." "The green thing?" "Yes. If he proves useful we may look into capturing more of his kind." "And the other?" "A scout unit. Fresh from Military Institute for Shadowling Slaves." "The Institute teaches Scouting?" "The Dean of Dusk has opened several new classes after studying the human resistance of Ravinale." "Can I go now?" "Yes. Good work in the caves... Robin. You have shown much promise, though you need further instruction." "...Thank you... sir." Robin said, confused at Slade's show of praise.

Robin left the room, breathing a sigh of relief that nothing terrible had happened and the Resistance had not lost its robotic forces to the shadowlings. There was a twinge of regret as she realized Simon had to run and hide before a proper goodbye, but she was happy he made it out alive... well at least they had not discovered him.

She reached the slave floors and ran to her team's dorm, happy her team was together and shadowling-less once more. Robin threw the door opened and glanced around, Tehmbi and the Gelf were sitting at a table, talking, Sebastian was sitting in his corner quiet as ever, the new girl was sitting in the corner writing in a book, and Mark was on the floor, Elsa standing over him as Victor held her back.

"I'll kill him!" Elsa screamed." "Stop!" Robin yelled, sending out a paralyzing wave, copying Awle's pattern extactly.

Elsa strains and mutters, "What did you do Robin!?!" "No one is moving until I know what is going on." Robin said cooly. "He was flirting with me!" Elsa yelled, glaring at Mark. "Mark? That doesn't sound like him." Robin said. "He has no memories! He's a different person!" Elsa said. "Really?" Robin asked. "My dear lady, may I please regain the use of my limbs?"

Robin's jaw dropped. "No." She said. "Okay people... Looks like things are really different." Robin announced. "I'll say..." Elsa muttered. "Okay. Grange is gone. Mark is different. The Gelf is working with us. And we have the newbie, I'm sorry, what is your name?" "Ally." The girl replied, not looking up from her book, a hood covering her entire head. "You aren't going to look up?" Robin asked. "No. My mind's eye can see fine, and the fact that I can not move my neck doesn't help." "Right... fine. Elsa, I'll release you if you won't kill Mark. Its not his fault. He doesn't know." "...Fine." Elsa finally said.

Robin released her hold on the team's mind. Elsa pulled herself from Victor's arms, muttering as Mark pulled himself off the floor.

"I hear we have a mission, my very fair captain." Mark said, bowing. ".. yes." Robin was still very weirded out. She looked around the room and saw everyone waiting for her orders. "Alright... here's what we have to do..."


Chapter 16: Things You See in a GraveyardEdit

"What's the game plan cap'n?" Ally said, her accent heavy on her question.

The eight had traveled to the desert quickly. The sun had set and the team had already broken camp, four tents set up around a fire, the group sat on several rocks, pushed in front of the fire, fighting off the cold of the desert night.

"We'll go in tomorrow to see what we're up against." Robin answered. "All of us?" Ally asked. "Well... no. I figured just you and Elsa could go." "Elsa would only slow me down." "Excuse me?" Elsa interrupted. "You don't have the mental skills to keep up with me." Ally said, turning to Elsa. "Oh, really? I can get from one side of an enemy camp to the other, never seen nor heard." "How fast can you do it in?" "Is that a challenge?" "If you wish it." "Alright. Robin, set up camp watching for an enemy. The scout and I will be outside, first to sit on one of the rocks wins." "Fair enough. Are you in agreement cap'n?" Robin sighed... "Fine. Alright team, watch the night, if you see one of them yell out and they'll start over.

Ally and Elsa walked out into the desert night, disappearing behind the swirling sands in seconds. The team went on alert mode. Victor, Mark, Robin, and Tembhi watched the area between the tents while Gelf and Sebastian circled the camp area, watching the team's back.

Silence for several minutes. The wind whipped through the tent fabric, sand blew up into eyes of the team.

"How did you win?!" Elsa's voice rang through the small camp.

The entire team turned to see Ally laid out on a rock, Elsa standing above her. No one had seen either of them enter the camp.

"I told you. You can't keep up with me." Ally said cooly. "But how?" Elsa yelled. "Through two techniques it took years for me to master." "Oh... those mind trick-psy things?" "... Yes." "What techniques?" Robin asked, her curiosity piqued.

Ally sat up, and, after a moment of extreme concentration, completely disappeared. The team's collective jaws dropped.

"Interesting, isn't it?" Ally said, now standing right behind Robin. "How... but..." Elsa stuttered. "I am sure you all know of the shadowling's ability to shadowport." "You can shadowport?" Robin asked. "No... don't be ridiculous. Only shadowlings can do that. I simply teleport." "What is the difference?" Victor asked. "Shadowport is quieter and easier to do. It takes me a lot of effort to teleport." "You said two techniques..." Tembhi pointed out. "Yes I did. The second is a sort of Obfuscation." Ally stated, her accent rolled heavily over the last word. "Obfuscation?" Robin asked. "Obfuscation is the blocking of a mind's thoughts from a scan, I was taught to take a step further and completely block all trace of my being from the mind's around me." "You can be invisible?" Elsa asked. "No... that is very difficult. Your eyes still see me, I just jam the part of your brain that interprets that you have seen me." "That is quite the trick my lady..." Mark said, all trace of the old goofy Mark gone. "Yes. But it has many flaws. If someone scans your mind afterward, they will see the fact that you have seen me. I can't erase or jam that part of your mind. Also it completely wears me out. I was lying down because I didn't have the energy to sit." "It drains you that much?" Robin asked. "Yes, it drains more energy depending on the number of people I have to jam and how strong their Gift is."

"I saw you."

The group turned to the ninth voice, to see Simon standing at the outskirts of the small camp. "Simon! I'm glad you got away." Robin yelled. "It was easy, I just hid in Awle's body until I was alone." Simon responded. "What is it?" Ally whispered to Robin. "That, is Simon. My best dead friend." Robin answered. "A ghost? You are friends with a spirit? A black demon sent back from the underworld?" "Ally, that is not what Simon is. And if you continue to talk about him in that way, well we could always order a new scout if you happen to get... damaged." "That's very cold cap'n. Fine. I apologize fine spirit, will you not join us in this dangerous adventure?" "I will always join in danger if Robin is involved." Simon answered. "... Maybe I have misjudged you." Ally said quietly. "So you say you saw me?" "I guess your disappearing act doesn't work on spirits." "Interesting... I will keep that in mind de... Simon." "So what are we doing Robin?"

Robin brought everyone back around the fire, telling the mission points.

"So you're sending in Scout tonight?" Simon asked. "My name is Ally." Ally said. "Play nice. Yes, she is going in to see what we are up against." Robin said. "Robin, let me say that I don't like Scout, but I think I can help, and only because you'll need her information." Simon said. "What can you do? The assassin on this team couldn't even keep up." Ally said coldly. "Unlike Elsa and even you, oh great Scout, I can walk through walls and if I don't want to be seen, I am not." "But even a mediocre mind could detect your presence." "That's why I said I can help. Not do everything." "What do you mean Simon?" Robin asked, curiosity piqued once more. "When you guys were going back to Somnus, I spent some more time with the ghosts in the Helenite Base. After I told them I wasn't with the shadowlings, they let me stay and showed me some of the things they had learned." "Things?" Victor asked. "It turns out that besides flight, intangibility, and invisibility, spirits have more power. They taught me that I can channel some of my own power and feed it into the living, not only that but I can tap into a person's soul and feed off their energy, giving me more to give away." "That's... that's quite the power." Tembhi stumbled out. Simon continued, "Yes, and if I have enough power saved up I can move objects or even people, teleporting them to my position as I move to theirs." "So how do you plan on helping me?" Ally asked. "You said you need power to move and you're always low. If you take me, you can cover my mind and I can feed you all the power you need." Simon said. "I will not have you feed off the souls of innocent people to fuel me." Ally said angrily. "Ally, these people are far from innocent. They hunt slaves, people who have been taken against their will to fight in a war that is not theirs." Robin said. "Aye, you have a point there cap'n. Ally said. "Fine. I am not happy about it, but I will work with the spirit." "What makes you think this is some treat for me? Lets just do this so we can help Robin." Simon said.

"Good. It's pitch dark now, now is a good time to go. Be back by sun-up, and if you are captured, send Simon back and we'll come after you." Robin directed.

The two turned and walked out of the camp, needing no fancy mind tricks to disappear quickly.


Chapter 17: Casing the JointEdit

"So this is the place?" Simon asked, hovering next to Ally as they looked over the temple. "Nothing else for several leagues, this has got to be it." Ally said.

The two stood at the top of a hill, the temple turned military base nestled at the bottom. The two could see parts of the temple from a few pinpricks of flickering torch light. There was one entrance, four guards stood around the gate, two with whips and throwing daggers decorating their body, strapped to their robes, the other two each held a large menacing blade in each hand. A wall ran around the entirety of the structure. They could see courtyards, alcoves with statues to southern gods, walkways, gardens, and a main three-story building surrounded by smaller buildings of varying heights and sizes. An occasional flicker would throw a large shadow of a passing guard every so often in the alleys. Guards with bow and arrows, spears, and all sorts of ranged weaponry walked the walls, watching for intruders.

"Are you sure? Because this place is pretty scary." Simon said. "Aye... you're quite right spirit. This place is locked up almost as tight as Stygian." Ally responded. "Stygian?" "Its a prison camp where shadowlings keep and torture the humans who fight back or cause them serious offense. Its a camp on an island south of the Military Academy. No one has ever escaped." "Well... we aren't going to accomplish anything standing around. Tell me what you want and I'll follow." Simon said. "Good. Thank you for giving me the lead spirit." "Whatever. You're the Scout, I'm just the helping hand. Let's go."

Ally strode down the hill while Simon floated behind her, never more than a few feet away. Ally stopped just outside of the light thrown from the torches of the entrance.

"Okay, how does your invisibility work?" Ally asked. "If I don't want to be seen than I won't be seen." Simon responded. "So I won't know where you are?" Ally asked. "No. A spirit cannot hide from someone if they know the spirit's name. And if someone reads my mind and hears me whispering my name then they will see me." "Can't you just not whisper your name?" "No. If I stop I might forget... and if I forget... Simon... the darkness comes... My name is Simon." "Okay... I think I understand. Okay I'll keep you're mind quiet, but make sure you are feeding me any power you don't need. Its going to take a lot to cloak us both and teleport." "I have a lot of power saved up, but I won't be able to supply you if we're away from people for too long." "How long?" "I'd say about twenty minutes." "Okay. I think we're ready." "One thing, what happens if we get caught?" "Just feed me everything you have and I'll teleport as far away as I can and you fly as fast as you can. We'll meet back up at the camp." "Alright. I don't know what we're looking for, so you lead. Make sure you tell me where you are teleporting so I can stay close." "Alright. Let's go, I'm ready to Obfuscate the guards. Just keep power coming while I teleport through the gate."

Ally and Simon started to move, as Ally stepped into the light, she reached into every mind she found and wiped herself from their optical nerves while putting a damper on Simon and her own mind. Ally began to run, her padded feet making no noise and leaving no impression in the soft sand, she neared the gate and felt a wave of power hit her as Simon drained the guards and channeled it to her.

One of the guards put his hand to his head. "Ow... I hate hangovers." The other three chuckled at him, only feeling a slight pull as Simon concentrated on draining only one guard. Ally reached the stone outside the gate and braced her mind to shift her molecules, rearranging them to fly through the air to her intended location. Ally appeared on the other side of the door, still removing her image from guards within a large radius, trying to be safe. Simon ran through the door, stopping next to her.

They nodded and began prowling the grounds. Guards walking about and sleeping in their quarters felt a variety of symptoms from a headache to nausea, one inebriated guard even vomited, as Ally Obfuscated and Scanned while Simon drained them.

The two prowled the grounds first, the statues of gods staring down at them with unseeing eyes. Ally began to piece together a mental map of the grounds, the outer area seemed to be mostly gardens with cloisters running around the edges of the gardens. There were small rooms that slept two guards, as Ally could tell by the dreams that trickled out, or that seemed to be empty storerooms and prayer chambers. As they traveled inwards, the buildings were built closer together, with cobblestone roads that ran between them. The Hunters had taken out whatever had been in these rooms and turned them into blacksmithing, leather tanning, and all other sorts of workshops for war materials. They darted around guards stalking these streets, eyes droopy from lack of sleep, not noticing a sudden decrease in energy.

The workshops seemed to have been built with no plan, streets joined with alleys and stopped in dead ends with no warning. They had even walked around in a circling street twice before Ally noticed they had already been through.

Several hours had passed, the sun would rise soon. More than half the time they had had passed.

Ally turned onto a street larger than all the others, she looked down and saw it stretched all the way back down to the gate. She looked up and saw it lead right through the inner wall up to the temple, the largest structure all around. Ally gestured to Simon and they ran up the street, Ally's padded and Simon's hovering, incorporeal feet making no noise on the cobblestone road.

They reached the mouth of the street to see an iron-wrought gate, two sleepy guards with double blades guarding it. Ally quickly teleported through and Simon was seconds behind, running right through the gates. They found themselves in a one way tunnel with pillars and other adornments along the walls. They ran through the tunnel and came out the other side into a large courtyard. Targets with arrows sticking out of them adorned one side and in a corner were several dolls stuffed with hay in the shape of humans, their stuffing adorned the floor beneath them as it leaked from several large wounds where swords and knifes had been flung in practice. There were several open cupboards on the wall behind them, filled with whips, swords, crossbows, knives, poleaxes, scythes, bows, maces, spears, and nearly every kind of weapon imaginable. Ally and Simon turned to see the temple surrounding them on all sides. A walkway on the second floor encircled the entire yard, several openings lead into the temple.

Ally gestured upwards to Simon and teleported to the walkway, Simon joining her after a brief flight. They prowled the temple for an hour, going down and up stairs as the hallways lead to them. Doors filled both sides of the hallways, whatever had been in them when the temple had been a temple had been emptied out and been replaced with beds and stores. Ally and Simon eventually came to the main chapel, a large room that's ceiling stretched all the way to the third story. The altar at the head of the room had been smashed, a large throne put in front of it. A very heavy man sat in it, surrounded by three other men.

"Okay. The last raid into the Institute was a success, we managed to capture one of the human teachers, the physician, several guards, and seven trainees." One of the standing men said. "How many casualties?" the man in the throne asked. "Our forces lost twenty eight men, however we managed to kill at least twenty human guards and a good fifty shadowlings." the first speaker responded. "Adequate. And tomorrow's ceremony?" the man in the throne turned to a second man. "We are ready to hang all of the prisoners tomorrow in the town square. Thadeus has written you a marvelous script depicting how vile the traitors are and Erlet is ready to Silence them so they won't protest when we accuse them." the second man responded. "Perfect. The ceremony shall commence after supper, when the men are most complacent."

Ally listened to the conversation while Scanning the men. The man in the throne was Ridik, the leader of the Hunters and the three men standing around him his second in commands. Ridik stood up, his enormous belly shaking, and walked through one of the doors, followed by his aides.

Simon looked at Ally and said, "We have to find where they are keeping the prisoners. Robin will want to save them before we kill the leader." "Alright, I Scanned the leader, Ridik, and they're below ground, there is a staircase close by." Ally whispered.

The two walked back out of the chapel and quickly found the dungeon. They saw the nine prisoners, some of the students badly wounded, and studied the locks on their cells. They wanted to help them, but there was no way they could sneak out nine people and not raise any alarms, and they couldn't trust them to keep their minds blank of hope that some group would save them if Ally and Simon revealed themselves. However, Simon did give them a quick energy boost of excess energy to the injured children to help them heal faster.

Satisfied with the crude mental map of the grounds and all the information they needed about the next day, Ally gestured out a window and teleported back to the main street, Simon floated through the walls and quickly joined her. They ran down the main street as the sun peeked out across the desert. With the gate in sight, and a fresh boost of energy stolen from the waking guards, Ally teleported through the main gate and into the desert. Simon met up with Ally on the hill overlooking the grounds where they had stopped early.

"Good work Scout. That was kind of fun." Simon said. "Likewise Spirit. I see us working well together in the future." Ally responded.

The two began the trek back to camp, the sun rising at their backs.


Chapter 18: Never Shall We DieEdit

The sun had made its journey across the sky and was heading to its resting place for the day. The sky had turned from the clear blue of a desert day to a canvas of colors painted on the horizon. It was also when the slaves were walked out of their prison to the town center outside the gates of the temple. The guards and members of the assassin network booed and jeered at the Muted prisoners. They were walked single file, chains around their feet connecting them all. The first in the line reached the center of square, where a gallows stood. Five nooses swung in the slight breeze, awaiting their next victim. The first prisoner gulped as the executioner stepped down and undid the chains around five of the men. Five guards stepped out of rank and shoved the prisoners up the steps and put them in place. They placed the nooses around their necks, several looked up to the sky, silent prayers for help on their lips, while others continued to look down, eyes averted from their oncoming death.

The guards stepped back, leaving the prisoners to the work of the executioner. The man garbed in black stepped to the side, reaching for the lever that would sever the lives of the men.

"Halt mortal." A voice rang out from the gallows.

Confused whispers whirled through the crowd, and several gasps and screams as an unearthly being revealed itself on the stage where the deaths were to take place.

Simon glared down at the crowd, Robin had helped him alter his ethereal appearance to look more like tales of spirits of old, who rained down death and destruction upon the living. "Who are you to decide the fates of these men? You were allowed to take up residence in these holy grounds, but we will stand for this no longer. We charge you to leave and never return to these lands you have soiled with your sins." Simon turned around to the prisoners. "Good men, please step forward onto this stage of misfortune. Your hurts and fears will be with you no longer."

The prisoners started to move forward. The guards reached out for them, but each guard was thrown forcibly back be an unseen force as soon as they touched the men. Simon turned to look at the men and smiled at the last one in line, glad he had made it in time.

Several members of the crowd began to back away from the spirit after his charge. Most were too petrified to move. One assassin stepped forward however. "And if we don't?"

Simon smiled and tilted his head towards the sky. A blot appeared against the setting sun. It grew larger and larger until the arrow finally reached its target, the man fell, dead before he hit the ground.

A panic broke out amongst the crowd, some tried to escape, many tried to attack the spirit. But every spear, knife, and arrow thrown bounced away in a giant sphere around the gallows. Simon raised his arms and let loose a deep, menacing laugh. Four green orbs fell from the sky, two landed on men, crushing them beneath their mass. Vines shot out, grabbing at the men while a thick green cloud exuded from each plant. Every warrior caught in the cloud began gagging and coughing. They began to fall to the ground, grasping their throats, unable to breath.

Three dark shapes rose up from behind the buildings. They flew over to the center, their black capes billowing in the breeze. The panic rose to a greater level as the men recognized the champions of the temple gods. Long dead, the three had traveled the desert, striking down those that broke the law of the gods. Garbed entirely in black, their tattered clothes moving in the wind, giving them and unearthly appearance, the swordsman, the spearman, and the archer struck down everyone in their path.

Between the spirit, the noxious gas, and the Champions, everyone who was not dead or too wounded to move had decided it would be better to run. They ran down the main path, trampling those that had tripped and fallen. Within a few minutes, no guard or assassin was left standing in the entirety of the structure, save the temple. Even the guards on the walls had heard or seen something and had run off.

Robin and Gelf jumped down from one of the houses and into the center. With a word from Gelf, the Tigs withered and stopped producing the deadly gas.

"Come on Victor, pay up." Robin said.

Victor reached into his pocket and counted out five gold pieces to Robin.

"I have to say, I never thought that would work." Victor said. "Well this is a temple, I figured most of the men were probably already afraid of some otherworldly presence." Robin answered. "That was so awesome!" Simon said. "We were all, 'Oooooo! Time to die!' and they were all, 'Ahh!'" Simon fell over, floating well above the ground laughing. "Good work Simon, very threatening." Robin said. Simon stood up and bowed, "It was your plan that did it milady." Simon started laughing again. "Tearing the tents up to disguise us was a stroke of genius fair captain." Mark said. "Yeah... but don't expect much more from me. Levitating all three of you took a lot out of me." Robin responded. "Want me to give you a boost?" Simon asked. "No, the only people around is us and the prisoners. All of us need that energy, I'll be fine." Robin responded. "Speaking of which, great shielding Seb! You stopped everything!"

Sebastian grunted as he went from prisoner to prisoner, taking the Mute off of them. One of the prisoners jumped down from the gallows. He strode over to Robin, Victor and Mark moved, holding their weapons out, protecting her.

The man stopped and said, "Sorry gentlemen, I just wanted to thank you all for saving our lives." "Its okay guys, I have enough energy to handle him if he does try anything." Robin said, pushing the spear and sword away. Victor sheathed his sword, but kept a close eye on the man.

The man held out his hand and Robin shook it, "Pleasure to meet you Lady Psy. My name is Roberts, healer extraordinaire." "Robin, Slave Captain number 1652-4." Robin responded. "Ah. Another unwilling member of her shadow majesty's force." "We seem to share that in common." "Yes, I am the Head Physician at the Institute. I have some spare Focus pills if you require them. Moiraine keeps me well stocked." "No thank you. I try to stay away from medicated psy-enhancers." "As you wish. Beautifully done on the rescue if I do say myself, I was shaking in my boots. What happens now?" Robin looked up at the horizon, "Well its been enough time. Ally should be opening the-"

Robin was cut off as the wrought iron gate opened and Ally gestured to them.

"Come on, Elsa's finished off all the aide's, speaking of which did you know she has a flask of poison? Anyways, she's going to need a hand with the General, she needs a distraction." Ally said. "Alright. I need everyone to hide in that building," Robin said, pointing to one of the largest stores, "Mark, Tembhi, Sebastian, stay with them. Keep them safe." "What about you?" Tembhi asked. "Don't worry, Simon, Gelf, Victor and I can handle a distraction." Robin responded. "Roberts." "Yes?" Roberts asked. "Throw me some of those Focus pills." "Glad I can assist." Roberts threw her a pouch. "You can keep that, just remember not to take more than eight pills in at 3 hour period. We don't want too much power burning through your mind." "I'll keep it in mind." Robin said, right before dry swallowing three pills. "Gack..." Robin took a sip of water from her flask. "Alright, feeling better already."

The team broke up and the prisoners filed into the building, Mark and Tembhi took up defensive positions while Sebastian finished un-Muting. The other four ran to Ally at the gate and walked down the tunnel.

"What's the situation?" Robin asked. "I teleported in and opened a side-door for Elsa, all according to plan, we went around and killed the General's aides, and I did some more recon. It turns out that the General has a private guard of highly trained assassins and locked himself in his chambers and placed the guards all around him when they found out they were under attack." Ally responded. "Alright. So do you have a plan?" "Yes, we need to cause a large disturbance and try to bring the General to the balcony. Elsa will be waiting on the roof, ready to strike."

The group stopped before the end of the tunnel by a gesture from Ally. "His room has a door to the balcony straight ahead. As soon as we step out there, the guards will see us. Are you guys ready?" Ally asked. "Lets do this." Victor said. "Yes yes." Gelf said. "I'm pumped!" Simon said. "Alright. Let's go." Robin said, leading the way.

"The intruders are here!" A voice rang out as soon as Robin stepped out of the tunnel. Robin heard several door slams and watched as a line of heavily armored guards gathered on the opposite side of the courtyard. More lined the balcony, crossbows trained on the group.

"Ridik!" Robin called out. "Come meet your death!"

The doors in the center of the balcony opened, and an enormous man stepped out, Robin was sure that if the opening had not been fitted with double doors, the man would have been stuck.

"My death?" Ridik asked, his voice deep. "Ha. Your tricks won't work here girly. My men were taught to laugh in the face of the Reaper himself. You won't scare us." "It was not my intention to scare you. It was to kill." "You've got guts girly, I'll give you that. But you are outnumbered here."

Robin looked left and right, at all the assembled weapons. She felt the power from the Focus pills bubbling in her stomach and she knew what to do. With a quick tug of the mind, Robin grabbed as many weapons as she could hold and set them, ready to strike. Crossbows were bolted, arrows were strung on their bows, shields floated above breaking the crossbowmen's sight, all while pole-axes, swords, spears, whips, scythes, and every sort of melee weapon imaginable stood ready to swing.

"Numbers are a funny thing. They can change very quickly." Robin said, not a hint of strain in her voice.

A bead of sweat traveled down Ridik's cheek, "You aren't the only one with tricks." Ridik clapped and a door on the left and one on the right was thrown open. Scorpions piled out of the doors, eyes and stingers trained on the group.

Before Robin could even move any of her weapons, Gelf stepped forward and begin to hum a quiet melody. The scorpions stopped in their tracks.

"What are you doing?" Robin whispered. Geld stopped humming and said, "Gelf is Soothing the stingers. No animals is mad after Soothed."

"What is that thing!" Ridik yelled when Gelf stepped forward. "What is going on?"

Gelf made a feral noise and growled for several seconds. Even Robin could feel the animal impulse, it felt like she wanted to tear something to shreds. The scorpions all turned around to face the guards.

Robin smiled. "I told you about numbers. Now what do you say?" "Charge!" Ridik yelled.

The men, still sure-footed, charged. They dodged left and right around stingers and weapons, taking several hits. Many bounced off the guard's thick armor, others were more lucky and felled their victims in a flash. All while the crossbowmen fired dozens of bolts down on the group. Robin tried to stop them, but it took too much of her concentration to watch the fighting to defend completely. One bolt shot through one of the few wooden shields, breaking it in half and continuing down to land embedded in Gelf's shoulder.

"Owwwiess!" Gelf dropped down and grabbed the shoulder. Gelf screeched once more. Shadows grew in the courtyard, Robin looked up to see all sorts of birds of prey blotting the sun. Robin caught sight of blood spatter and the color of the guards uniforms on the claws and beaks of the birds. They had been in the courtyard, busy with the mess of bodies the group had left behind. Many dove down, grabbing onto some of the crossbowmen. The bigger birds were able to lift back up, carrying the man with them, while others remained, pecking and scratching at what they could.

"Victor, I'm can't hold on to the weapons much longer, once they fall they're going to rush, you need to try to fight them off." Robin stumbled out, breathing heavily. "Do you want a boost?" Simon asked. "Yeah, go out there, leach off of them." Robin replied. "You got it." They said simultaneously. "Ally, make sure Elsa is ready, it will scare them more if you just vanish as well." Robin said. "Good plan." Ally said, running out into the field and vanishing as soon as eyes were on her, crossbow bolts hit the ground where she stood moments ago.

The shields dropped to the ground, Robin just didn't have the energy to keep them up anymore. The few crossbowmen left alive went to work quickly, firing as many bolts as they could and backing away from the birds, trying to stay alive. Robin's eyesight blurred and the weapons struck out randomly, no longer in any pattern. The guards on the ground ran, jumping over the scorpions, four were caught, one stung while in the air, and the other three trampled and stung before they even made a move to jump. There were about fifteen guards running at them, the bolts fired down on them in a shower, Robin had lost track of the number of grazes, her uniform, and especially her cape, had uncountable holes, bolts stuck out of her body, all very shallow due to her light armor, but still very painful. The weapons all fell to the ground, Robin fell to her knees. She didn't even have the energy to stand.

Simon stood in the center of the courtyard, feeding off energy and sending it to Robin while the weapons and crossbow bolts went right through him. Robin's eyes opened. She stood up, mind clear once more. She reached into the pouch tied to her belt and quickly downed three more Focus pills. The energy spread through her system like wildfire, jump starting every system. Robin closed her eyes and tried to copy Seb's Big Shield. A translucent bubble grew outward from her, encircling her, Victor, and Gelf. Immediately the pain from the crossbow bolt wounds lessened in all three of them as the bolts bounced off the the enormous shield.

Robin let the shield fall as the smaller weapons rose up to the crossbowmen's level and flew into the exposed parts of flesh their armor left open. The crossbowmen didn't even have a chance to react as knives, arrows, bolts, and darts attacked them. They fell down, dead. The bolts stopped firing down.

Robin turned her attention to the battlefield, she saw several men still engaged with the scorpions, while ten of the still standing guards had gathered in a half circle around Victor, who was in pretty bad shape. One guard armed with a whip lashed out, the whip snapped on Victor's leg. His leg gave out, he fell to the ground. He was on his hands and knees, the guards closing in.

"Victor!" Robin yelled, trying to bring the weapons to the fight in time to stop the slaughter. Robin watched the blades move in, and knew she couldn't reach him in time. Robin closed her eyes. The guards yelled. Robin opened her eyes to see Simon standing where Victor had been moments ago, the guards weapons sticking through his body. Robin looked around to see Victor behind the guards, where Simon had been.

Robin took the moment of confusion and struck down the men from behind with the weapons, Simon had bought her the few seconds she needed to attack.

The men were completely unprepared for the weapons as they assaulted their unprotected backs. The last man fell, a sword pushed through his abdomen. The weapons fell to the ground, no longer needed and Robin took a sigh of relief. She felt drained, but still has some energy left from the last few pills. Robin looked up to Ridik. Ridik turned to run, but didn't turn quite fast enough to miss Elsa's boot slamming him in the face as she swung on a rope connected to one of the decorative statues above her. Ridik hit the ground hard and didn't even have time to flinch as Elsa let go of the rope and slammed her knife into Ridik's pounding heart. The knife quivered as the heart beat against it, but quickly subsided. Ridik relaxed, dead.

"We won!" Elsa yelled, her arms raised in the air.

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