Last Stand of the World
Chapter 22 Escape
Ryli studied the trap in front of her, then snagged Dugger by the back of his collar as he was about to walk past her; and tossed him back into the room.
“What the hell, Ryli?”
She shook her head, grimaced at him, and then pointed at the ground in front of her, “I don’t know what was going on while I was asleep, but it seems like we’ll be having a real fun time getting out of this mess.”
Davern, bent down and studied the traces in the dirt in front of the door next to Ryli, “this is going to be a real pisser,” he looked over his shoulder at Dugger, “how many times does this make it that she’s saved your ass?”
Dugger glared at him, flushed, then growled, “who’s counting?”
“Davern sniggered, then grew serious, “all teasing aside, Ryli, can you disarm it?”
“Why are you asking her?” Duggar butted into their conversation.
“Why in the world wouldn’t I ask her? She can set them and has a lot of gadgets, plus she noticed it when it is almost invisible, unlike you who was just going to walk right into it. From what I’ve observed, she’s the perfect person to ask.”
“Dugger, shut up.” Ryli snapped at him in exasperation. Then stomped over and kicked him in the shin. “If you keep interrupting, we’ll never get anywhere today.”
He hopped around, biting his lip, trying not to yelp in pain Asaa covered her mouth and laughed into her hand, and soon the whole room descended into laughter.
With the mood somewhat lighter, they settled down. Ryli mimicked Davern squatting at the door, her little digits lightly danced over the fine configurations on the ground until they heard a faint snick, and they collectively held their breath until Ryli stood up, brushed the dirt off of her hands, “that should do it,” she said.
Then stepped through the door and out into the open. She looked back over her shoulder at the others, “I can say that it's safe here, but she's triggered the den's defense system, especially the ones The Summoner has installed, and we know what kind of person he was,” she said looking at Duggar.
He kicked his feet, then looked down and then out into the den, “this might take a while,” he said.
“I'll go first and examine the way forward,” she said.
Davern and the others nodded their agreement. “Sounds good to me,” Davern said.
Ryli paused for a moment, “so where to first Dugger’s or the Shaman’s?”
Davern looked between the two, “which is closer?”
“The Shaman’s,” Dugger said, pointing to the slightly smaller house across the square from them.
“Okay, we’ll go there first, then to Dugger’s house,” Davern said.
“Just wait here, and I’ll go clear the path,” Ryli said and started to walk away.
“Ryli, wait, I’ll come too,” he reached out to stop her but dropped his hand before he completed the motion, as she had already turned and walked away.
“She looked over her shoulder at him, paused, “you’ll just get in the way.” Then kept moving forward; she kept her eyes on the ground and looked for any disturbances. When she came to a trap, she disarmed it and scavenged the parts, her motions quick, efficient, and mindless. Like she’d done it so many times, she didn’t even need to pay attention. Until she suddenly stopped, her fingers stilled, then there was a snick, and she gulped and reached into her pack for something. She deployed it before the trap went off.
A loud explosion shattered the ground halfway between them and The Shaman’s, causing a cascade failure of all the traps around them. Davern activated a shield, and everyone just rode it out and grabbed hold of Dugger, who tried to run out towards Ryli.
He called out to her, “Ryli, are you okay?” After a few moments, they didn’t hear anything, and the concussions stopped. There was no answer to his calls.
“Let go of me,” Dugger shoved off Davern’s hand and rushed away, scampering over fallen debris and the remains of whatever traps had been triggered before reaching the center of the blast.
The debris in the middle wiggled, shifted, and the dome in the center collapsed and shrank back into itself, revealing a dirty dust covered Ryli sitting in the center surrounded by detritus coughing and sputtering, “it was fake that dirty rotten bastard,” she muttered as she pulled herself together.
Dugger ran over and grabbed her, shaking her, “Rylie, are you okay? What were you thinking? You could have been killed!”
Davern pulled him off by the scruff of his neck, “let the girl breath.”
“Thanks, Davern.” Ryli choked out, still trying to catch her breath.
“What happened?” Davern asked. Setting the struggling Dugger down, “Behave.” he warned, then ignored him.
Asaa handed her something to drink and briefly checked her over, “she’s fine.”
“Thank’s,” Ryli gulped down the water then wiped her mouth, “It was a dummy trap and partly my fault. I would have seen it if I’d been paying a little closer attention, but I was worried that she was still around and was scanning the area while I was disarming because we haven't seen her since we came out of the hut.”
“Now that you mention it…” Davern began, only to be interrupted.
“Who?” Dugger asked.
Everyone rolled their eyes at him, “Gabs,” they said together.
“I’m worried she’ll attack again,” Asaa said.
“Why would she keep attacking? I mean, you guys outclass her, and now that we’ve come out of the building, it’s not safe for her to show herself.” Dugger said.
Ryli shook her head at him in disgust, “Dugger, doesn’t her behavior remind you of anything?”
“No, Why?” Dugger said, with a confused look on his face.
Davern smacked him on the back of the head, “maybe cutting off his ears did turn his mind into mush? What was her dad?”
“The Summoner?” he flushed with a bit of anger and rubbed the back of his head while answering their question.
“Dugger, are you being obtuse on purpose, or can you really not see what she’s become? Asaa flicked her tail in annoyance.
“No!” he stumbled back and tripped over some rubble, landing on his backside in the dirt.
Davern came up and knelt in front of him. “I can understand that it’s hard to accept and that you don’t remember what she’s done to you, so I’ll do you a favor. You girls wait here.” He picked Dugger up by the scruff and dragged him back into the hut that he’d just spent way too many hours of his life in and cast a spell that he’d used one time too many in the last day.
Once it was done, he turned around and walked out; neither having the time nor patience to baby Dugger, “let’s go to The Shaman’s house Ryli, Help Asaa gather up everything that looks remotely useful, and we’ll keep it in trust for you.”
“You mean for the next Shaman?”
“Yes, that's what I meant,” he said, rubbing his face and rolling his eyes at her back after she’d turned away.
Asaa put a hand on his arm, smiled slightly in comfort, and then followed after Ryli. Davern loitered on the square scanning the area; Ryli was right. It was odd that she hadn’t reappeared in a while.
He waited until Dugger was done watching the past events and had come out, his eyes red-rimmed and puffy, a suspicious wetness at the corner of his nose, but he didn’t say anything about it, “do you get it?”
Dugger nodded, brought this shirt up, and wiped his face, “yeah, I guess I just didn’t believe she would change that much even after you’d told me.”
“I can understand. It’s tough to see someone you love completely change.” He thought of his own brother. What would he find at the end of this, the jinxy little brother that he loved, or something else, he was beginning to wonder?
“I don’t love her!” he denied, “she’s just my friend and someone I thought of as a sister. How would you feel if your sister suddenly did that?”
“Sister?” Davern had a vague troubled sensation pass through him. He had the feeling that he’d forgotten something important. For a moment, the feeling was so intense, then it dissipated, and he said, “I...I don’t have a sister, just an annoying little jinx of a brother; who if I don’t find soon there might not be much left to find, but I take your point,” he said, cuffing the young goblin on the shoulder, “let’s go meet up with the girls, and clean that snot up a bit better.”
Dugger wailed, “what snot?” And furiously swiped at his face before turning and finding Davern sniggering beside him. “You arse,” he kicked a few stones at him, “you rotten human, I’ll get you for that.”
“You’ll have to catch me first.” Davern sprinted into The Shamans hut. The darkened interior caused him not to see that Asaa and Ryli were exiting the hut. He reacted quickly and caught Asaa in his arms and twirled in a circle to break their momentum, “sorry, you alright?”
“Fine, you?” She flushed, her tail flicking in time with her heart.
“Mhm,” he liked the warm feel of her back under his palms but reluctantly let her go, “you all done in here?”
Ryli piped in, breaking the moment. “Asaa’s storage is awesome! I want to learn how to make one, one day.”
“You and me both, kid,” he said, resisting the urge to rub her head.
“Yes, we’ve finished gathering all the items here. Ryli just took everything. She said you never know when you’ll need something you’ve left behind.”
Dugger came in behind Davern, slightly out of breath, “that’s a scavenger for you. I’m surprised she didn’t ask you to store the hut as well.”
Ryli looked thoughtful for a moment, “naw, it probably wouldn’t fit.” Then she looked seriously at Dugger, “Do you understand now?”
“I’m sorry about before,” he looked down contrite then back up at her, “you know even after everything our tribe has been through, I didn’t want it to have been Gabs, too, especially since The Shaman has already sealed everyone. “How are we going to seal her or bind her to save her?”
Ryli huffed, “I don’t understand why all of you want to save the ‘controlled.’ They’ve killed so many of us; they show their true colors. I don’t know at this point if I can trust anyone.”
Dugger sighed, “The Shaman gave you the job of guarding us for a reason, Ryli.”
“Well, maybe it was the wrong one. Let’s just go get the last of your stuff. If I see that traitor, I’m going to string her up. I’m probably not allowed to kill her, but I can make sure she won't hurt us again.” She stomped off in the direction to the southwest of where they were.
Dugger didn’t live that far from The Shaman or Summoner because he was an apprentice. He had more privileges than others in the Den. He’d moved out from his parent’s hut after he’d been chosen to be the successor. His family's status had also elevated, so they lived nearby; with his growing horde of siblings.
He wondered how long his mother would stay mated to his father. He knew that the only reason why Ryli hadn't been fed to the creature was because she was a female. That even a few of his brothers hadn’t been spared.
Most of the males in his generation had been fed to it, and several of the older ones that weren’t mated had been as well. The weird thing was, Ryli’s whole family was gone, even the breeding female.
He couldn’t understand it; also, The Shaman had made him pay special attention to her, hinting she would be his successor, and to protect her until he could announce it, he’d also been warned to keep it from The Summoner and Gabs. Or the Shaman would make sure he was the next meal for the beast. He shivered when he remembered the Shamans warning.
He looked at his hut, or rather where his hut should have been, “Dammit, Gabs. I’ll get you back for this,” he shouted into the air.
“Let me help,” Asaa said and came up beside him. Soon the ruptured building vanished. Only craters remained where the hut had been.
They all rounded on her, staring at her in astonishment.
Asaa blushed, “I never said I couldn't store a hut. No one directly asked.” She closed her eyes and released the items by type. Building and rubble went to the side personal belongings were quickly sorted and put into categories damaged items were placed in a spot to be gone through to see if he wanted to salvage them, after she was done all of his things lay neatly before him, to do with as he chose. He sighed. He could see now why Ryli wanted one.
“Thank you,” he said, his throat tight, tears threatening to reveal themselves.
“Not a problem, saves some time; Davern is always saying we need to go, and I agree.”
“I see,” he went forward and chose the things that he needed and couldn’t live without, then looked over the rest, realizing that he would never come back once he left. “Ryli, is there anything else I should take?”
“Yep, this,” she stood holding an odd black stone in her hands, “I’m not sure what it is, but my senses say it’s something you’ll need in the future.”
“I’ve never seen that before.”
“Hmm, really? Well, I don’t know,” she said and tossed it to him; a small light flashed momentarily when he caught it but went unnoticed by everyone standing there.
Davern scanned the area, “Ryli, what’s the quickest way to get out of here?”
“Let’s take the Scavenger tunnels. I don’t want to deal with any more traps that she’s activated. She probably stole the Den Defense map.
“But how is she moving around without us seeing her?” Davern asked
“Good question, she probably took something from her father, or he gave her something to keep her safe,” Dugger said.
“There is a third possibility,” Ryli said, then hesitated for a moment, “or she activated a trait she didn't have before. She is about old enough to gain her class. She was just pampered and never really had to do anything, so whatever class she is would be anyone's guess, but she failed the test to be a summoner, then they hid everything else about her what her class was after that from the tribe.”
“That’s a little odd, isn’t it?” Davern asked.
“Very,” Ryli said. Your class determines your status within the tribe. If she’s the summoner's daughter without a class, she can be assigned random jobs like scouting and stuff, but if she has a class like a scavenger. She would be at the bottom of society, and The Summoner couldn’t have that for his daughter.”
Ryli’s eyes flashed at a thought, “though Scavenger isn’t my actual class, no one knows what it is either since the Shaman refused to test me, saying I’m too young and without family. I can just work as a scavenger until I come of age.
‘Though truthfully what they did to me is also outside of the protocols, they should have tested my class as soon as my parents died.” she swallowed, but who said anything in this Den has been normal since the last Shaman passed on.”
That is probably some of what he was trying to tell us while we were talking,” Davern said.
“It’s likely, “Ryli pondered and bit her lip. “Well, let’s get a move on; nothing is going to get accomplished like this.”
They left Dugger’s hut, and none of them saw the small tail with the glint in her eye. She couldn’t beat them in a straight-up assault, but she had other ways to accomplish her goals and those of her master. She faded back into the shadows and kept pace with the party.
Ryli brought them out at the tunnel that she could never get past. It was a solid rock with strange runes on it that she didn't understand. The runes glowed and shimmered, shifting and hissing every so often. She knew that the lamia had designed many of the tunnels down here.
Asaa moved forward and studied the ward. “This has been changed. I should be able to open it, but it will take a few minutes. I might have to just use the Royal override. If the first one or two don't work.”
“Man, I wish I still had my gear.”
“Why?” Asaa asked, looking at him and clocking her head slightly to the side.
“Well, we’re going into another situation where we could get separated like we just did, and I have communication devices in my gear.”
“If that’s so, why haven’t you tried to contact your brother?”
“Because the Nullers’ interfere with magical devices.”
“Well, maybe he’s not being held with the Nullers?”
“True, but I would still have to find my gear since that damn bloody Nuller took everything on my body.”
“Sorry to interrupt,’ Ryli said, “but maybe we could use these,'' she said, holding out a few small hooked objects that looked decorative in a crude way.
“What are they?'' Davern asked, taking one and moving it around in his fingers but not detecting anything magical from it.
“We’ll. I’ve been experimenting with devices that could carry sound underground and not be detected with mana, but they are still in the experimental phase, and I’m not sure how long they will last for.”
“Why were you messing around with these?” Dugger asked, coming up behind her.
Her cheeks turned slightly brown, “well, you know how the “controlled'' have been. I was trying to find a way to help the tribe free themselves without letting them know. I didn’t want the Summoner to find out. So I didn’t want there to be a mana signature. Anyway, it’s worth a shot if you are interested.” She said, handing them to each of them and showing them how to turn them on.
“Thanks, Ryli, well now we don’t have to worry about being separated at least until they break, right?” He smiled at her,” how long do they last?”
“I’m not sure several hours, to a whole day, if you feel them getting warm; however, take them off right away, so they don’t hurt you. I still have a few kinks to work out.” She said and looked at her feet kicking the ground.
“Good to know,” Davern said and attached his to his ear, then looked at Asaa, “Just do what you need to,” he said, and stood off to the side and leaned against the wall with his arms crossed, waiting for her to open the door. Though his eyes never left her.
“Alright,” she attached the listening device to her ear and pressed several combinations. The runes dimmed, flickered then strengthened again. She thumped her tail in annoyance and then brightened and tried one last combination. The ward dimmed and finally opened.
“She turned to Davern, “See, I said I could open it,” only to let out a small squeak when Davern pushed her back.