Thursday, January 22, 2004

The Second Wind

The Demaij was too heavy for Lorri to move on her own. She tested its weight against her strength, pulling as hard as she could. Probably it weighed as much as two grown men. There would be no way she'd get that all the way back to the village.

The Demaij were a cacophony of brilliant and mysterious golden red metal combined with a network of living tissue that entangled part of the metallic surface. There was no sign of damage that Lorri could recognize. But then, no one really knew how these things were made, by whom, or what they were for. All Lorri knew was that the Demaij had been raiding her people's villages for as long as anyone could remember, killing a few, and then making a quick exit before anyone realized they had gone.

It was surprising, seeing a downed Demaij. None had ever been captured. There were legends of great warriors who had died in battle against a Demaij, and only one warrior who had been victorious against one of the ore-beasts. But that was only a myth, and besides, no one had the faintest idea how it could be done again.

Lorri again grappled her capper-cross under herself, revved the contraption, and slowly lifted about six feet into the air. The spinners whirred around her in all directions and she accelerated forward, this time headed back to the village. She would need some help to move this unholy assassin.

Just as Lorri was moving away from the ore-beast, she heard a noise. Looking back, the Demaij was once again vibrant with life, and attempting to rise from the ground with its snake-like tentacles. Lorri increased her speed in an attempt to make some distance before the ore-beast could start following. But on a second look half a minute later, she saw that the Demaij was indeed following her at a steady pace, floating carelessly off the ground, its tentacles whipping around vigorously on the ground.

Lorri had two choices: she could either try to outrun the ore-beast to the village, where she could get some help, or she could try to save the lives of her people and head the Demaij in the wrong direction. If she chose the former, it could mean the killing of people she loved and cared for. In the latter case, she would surely run out of juice for the capper-cross and be found and destroyed by the Demaij.

She decided that she should do a combination. If she could get close enough to the village to send out a warning signal that her people would see, and then veer toward the thick foliage of the forest, she might be able to outrun the ore-beast. That was her best chance to save everyone including herself. Maybe the other scouts would come to rescue her. Yes, they would at least try.

Lorri reached the mountain pass, with the Demaij gaining still. She passed through the crevaces and, at the highest and steepest point, the wind began to blow again. It felt good on her back, and comforted her with mountain lullabies even as she was being pursued. When she looked back now, though, the Demaij was no longer gaining, but just keeping a steady distance behind. Or could it be losing ground? No way that could be so. Lorri pushed onward at full speed and reached the foot of the windward side of the mountain.

As she reached a familiar lookout spot, Lorri grabbed her smoke shot, pulled the pin, and flung it in the air. The blue smoke billowed up into the air, carried by the wind. Just then, she looked back for the pursuing Demaij, only to see it collapse to the ground again with a series of metallic clankings as it rolled to a stop on the green grass.

Lorri sped on. Only now, she headed straight for the village...

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