Chapter 42: Do Away With
Read all the chapters here. Enjoy!
Previously: After learning the location of one of the Terraforming spell’s crystals, Madnes and friends entered the forest and found the crowv village where it’s hiding. But in the midst of investigating, a new mystery arose: a mysterious illness that has been following crowv villages for years. They call it “bad luck” if you venture outside the village perimeters where it lurks. But what is it really? Madnes and Prince Oz soon find the answer. They discover a lab underground that’s been making crowv ill and kidnapping them for years, syphoning out their power to use to create the spell’s crystals. Now, Oz wants to put a stop to it…
Oz stared at the caskets—his murdered people—anger writhing through him. Father would pay for this. Oh yes, he would pay.
“Come on, Oz.” Madnes urged him. “The crystal must be close by. There’s nothing more you can do for them”—meaning the dead.
“Oh I wouldn’t be so sure of that,” he uttered darkly, before trailing after Madnes into the next room over. A metal contraption, like a giant container, filled the cramped room, and Madnes skirted around it.
“I’m not sure what the crystal will look like—I mean, I think it’d be something crystal-ish,” said Madnes. “But—Hey, what are you doing?”
Oz spread his wings and flapped up, up to the top of the giant contraption as it rumbled and hummed with syphoned crowv power. Several levers poked out from its bulging, metal surface, and Oz grabbed hold of one, yanking it down.
“Oz! What are you—?” Madnes began, when the lab’s yellowed lights flickered. The humming shifted to a steam-gurgling, vacuum noise. Something beeped, and a sign flashed red: Warning. “You’re overloading it,” the redhead exclaimed.
“A nice bomb to wipe out this place, don’t you think?” Oz landed back down.
“Sure, except we need to find that crystal before it does!”
“Get your Madness Solver behind moving, then.”
Their footsteps tapped down the next tunnel, and between Oz’s and Madnes’ strength, they got the next locked door open—creaking it inward. A circular room lay beyond; gadgets and beeping things lined the curving wall, with people in light hazmat suits attending them. But most noticeable of all was the gleaming, four-point crystal at the room’s center, raised up on a platform.
“Easier to find than I thought,” Madnes commented. “But with that alarm going off, there’s people everywhere. We need to distract—”
“Groaaah!” Oz charged in without hesitation, both hands elongated and darkening into feathered claws. He slashed, left and right, plowing through the lab workers like grass.
“Or we could just do that,” Madnes finished, and shook his red hair. “We can’t leave them in here for the bomb, though.”
“Let them live after what they’ve done?” Oz turned, veins throbbing, the last of the workers downed to the floor. “These are murderers!”
“Your hands aren’t exactly clean either. Don’t pretend you’re better than them,” Madnes shot back, and Oz stared for a second before looking away. “They’ll be punished—don’t worry about that. Maybe they’ll be of use to us, too,” he added.
Oz shifted his attention to the crystal, claws raised. Mother wasn’t here. The crowv woman must be with a different crystal; not this one. He charged toward it, knife claws wide. In the beginning, he had planned to betray Madnes’ group, and fight to save the crystals from being destroyed and the spell along with it. He didn’t care about Okinala or Earth’s Terraforming destruction. He had only come along on this trip to find Mother. But now, learning what’d happened to the crowv, he wanted to obliterate every speck of these cursed crystals and everything the king had planned.
He slashed—claws striking crystalline surface with a screeching ring.
He landed and turned to eye his handiwork, only to find the crystal still there: whole and unblemished.
Madnes charged next, throwing all his weight into a flying side-piercing kick through the sparkling rock. There wasn’t so much as a shatter under his shoe, and the force of the kick sent him stumbling back. “The crowv power within is too strong. We can’t break it like this,” Madnes panted.
“I doubt the explosion will affect it, either,” Oz let his claws retreat, hands human-like once more.
“Yep,” Madnes stepped up and wrapped his arms around the base, lifting the crystal up. “A little help here?” he strained around the slippery load.
“Seriously? That’s your genius plan?” Oz snorted.
“Well, it’s either that or we die while trying to think up something. I don’t know about you, but I’m not keen on exploding.”
Oz rolled his eyes and reached for the crystal, only to have Madnes throw its full weight at him. “Take care of that, will you? I’ll drag these people out,” Madnes trotted away. Oz growled around the crystal, though it came out more a gurgle. Between its weight, and time running out, he left arguing for later and began a hurried run toward red, blinking letters over a door: an Exit sign.
The world went dark for a moment beyond the Exit, as it followed through a carved-out cave, air musty. Light appeared from its open, rock mouth soon, and he came out into afternoon’s light. The noise of rushing water hit his ears, and drippings from the ceiling fell to plaster his hair, as a waterfall met his vision. This was the cave they’d seen behind the waterfall, earlier.
He sidestepped along a ledge, leading right of the watery cascade—not easy to do bearing a crystal half your size. He was almost to the riverbank when the ledge and water pool beneath him rumbled.
He craned his neck to look back, watching as smoke began frothing out the cave mouth. He creased his forehead, waiting.
A top hat emerged, followed by Madnes—streaking out the cave and into the waterfall; clothes smoking, arms, shoulders and back burdened with a pile of unconscious bodies.
The rumbling intensified, and flames burst out the cave, just short of Madnes, as the giant container exploded underground. Oz watched as they fell into the river, and Madnes struggled to grab everyone to shore. “He should have been named Idiot instead of Madnes,” he muttered, then watched the curls of flame and smoke rise.
‘Good riddance.’ He let the satisfaction seep in.
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