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PostPosted: Fri Jul 9, '10, 7:21 pm
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Chapter 7

There was something ominous about the campfire which burned in front of them. The idea of a campfire at first seemed almost superfluous, as night didn’t exist on this planet. The black smoke produced by the fire gave the party the strange impression that they were sending a beacon to all of the hostile inhabitants of the valley that they were there. Nonetheless, they needed to eat, and the boar they had slaughtered wasn’t going to cook itself.

They had left the castle several hours earlier. It took them nearly three hours to reach the bridge to the southwest. Crossing it was pretty easy; in spite of the welcoming party they received in the form a hill giant and his pet grizzly bear. Sadly, the hill giant wouldn’t pay much attention to reason and pleas for passage and Piotr and Jack decided to slay the hulking beast. The large bear had wanted to make a meal out of Mieu, although it learned through bloody experience that its claws were no match for Nei and Planar claws. After a few more hours of trekking to the northwest, the party came in sight of the western cliff wall and decided to stop and rest.

As usual, Wren guarded the perimeter of the campsite while the others waited for their meal to cook. An entire boar would take a while to roast, giving them much needed time to rest their feet and enjoy each other’s company.

Mieu’s previous insistence on taking care of Corg had established something of a bond between the two, so that whenever he wasn’t making nostalgic conversation with Jack and Piotr, he was with her. The two sought to understand each other—Corg was ultimately intrigued on how a cyborg could learn to love and comprehend human feeling, whereas Mieu’s taking care of Corg had reminded of her of the same care she had given to Sean years ago on the Alisa III.

“So, what was it like, cutting my hair?” Corg asked her curiously.

Mieu smiled and said calmly, “I once watched Queen Maia bathe and groom her little son Ayn and something inside of me, I don’t know what, touched me deeply. I saw the same happen when Queen Thea did the same to little Sean. I guess Orakio, when he built me, put these things in my emotional programming, these yearnings for motherhood. It was something of a pleasure to get you back in shape after we found you.”

“Yeah, it was weird. To be honest, I'm not used to being taken care of someone other than my parents or my wife,” Corg paused for a few moments, his heart filling with worry.

“You’re worried about her, aren’t you?”

“Sick. I have no idea how my trip to this world has affected the boundaries of space and time. For all I know I could be here for a few weeks and return several months later. Maybe I’ll never return. Maybe I’ve been declared dead or missing. I don’t know.”

“Is that all?”

“I miss her affection, too. You get so used to your wife’s love that after several weeks of being without it, you realize how important it is.”

Mieu looked him in the eyes for a few moments and then ruffled his dirty blond hair with her hand. “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of you.”

Corg smiled and reached over to ruffle her hair a little.


An hour later, the five human members of the party were feasting on the roast boar that had finished cooking.

“Wow, this is just like my mom’s porkchops back in the States,” Piotr said.

“Yeah, too bad we don’t have any A-1 or barbeque sauce,” Corg lamented.

“That’d be pretty phatty,” Jack agreed.

Sari and Laya stared at the three men, trying to understand both their customs and the references to their home world that was completely unknown to the two girls. To Sari and Laya, Corg, Jack, and Piotr were good men, although their behavior was an enigma to them. They seemed to take the greatest joy in nostalgia and up until their arrival on the planet, almost found killing monsters to be fun. However, the last few battles seemed to be a bit more somber as if they realized that more was at stake.

Laya finally asked Jack, “Before we arrived on this planet, you and Piotr seemed to think it was the funniest thing to slay a monster. Now you seem so serious and cautious. Why?”

Jack looked away for a few moments. Looking back at her, he ventured, “Sometimes we start out all light-hearted and thinking everything is a game. Then things start to get serious and you don’t wanna lose it all, so you gotta grow up a little bit.”

“Did you think that this was all a game? Your travels? Your adventures?”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

“And me?”

Jack stayed silent.

Laya tilted her head and squinted her eyes as she looked into his. She had a very difficult time understanding his position, especially since most of her life had consisted of war and killing, either in the war against Orakio or the war against Rulakir and the Dark Force. There had been very little time for frivolousness in her life. Jack seemingly had enjoyed this to degrees far beyond what she had experienced.

“And now?” she asked. “How do you feel now?”

“Talking to Corg really helped sort things out. Corg is an interesting guy. The little sucker lives in a world of his own and spends a lot of time retreating into his own imagination. But at the same time, he’s got a lot of great practical points of view about life. He’s a pretty understanding guy.”

“Glad to know we got such a special person on our team. So how do you feel about me?”

Jack blushed. “I never imagined I’d ever meet someone that I’d have to fight for, literally. But here we are. Kinda changes how you feel about a girl, ya’ know? It’s one thing when its all kissing and going out and stuff. It’s another thing when you’re having to lay down the spack just to keep her alive.”

Laya giggled. “I can take care of myself, you know. I did participate in a battle against the Ultimate Evil, remember?”

“Yeah, but a man has his pride.”

Laya shook her head and laid it on Jack’s shoulder.


A few hours later, the party was once again making their way through forest. They decided to stay along the side of the cliff, so as to avoid being ambushed on all sides from the trees. The next few hours were pretty eventful; their only encounter was with a few flying serpents, which were quickly shot down by Wren. Corg swore he saw some variety of large predatory cat in woods, but one never showed itself to the party.

After a few hours of traipsing through the woods, they decided to make camp again and rest for several hours. Mieu and Wren had carried a few tent-like structures for them to sleep in. After setting them up, Corg and the guys decided it was best for them to sleep in one, and the girls in the other. Sari had wanted to stay closer to Piotr, hoping to break through his shell; he had said very little to her after talking to Corg on the day of their arrival on the planet. When he announced that he’d be staying with Corg and Jack, she just shrugged and joined Laya.

Jack, Corg, and Piotr lay down in the tent and started commenting on their journeys. They hadn’t had much opportunity for intimate
conversation, now that they were being accompanied by four others.

“It’s kind of weird, being surrounded by people that we once controlled in a video game,” Jack said.

“I know, especially when they’re pretty schwing,” Corg said, chuckling.

“Yeah, but you’re married, my friend,” Piotr said.

“’Tis true. I guess that’s why I’m sticking closer to Mieu. She’s a cyborg and more of a motherly one. I mean, who could possibly cheat on his wife with a cyborg?” he said.

Jack and Piotr laughed.

Piotr shot back with, “Well, wasn’t there that cyborg from Eve of Destruction and Cherry 20—“

“Shut up!” blurted out Corg defensively.

They all laughed.

Corg started up again. “So, what’s this I’ve been hearing about you an’ Sari, my good man?”

Piotr hesitated and mustered up the words, “Uhh…yeah.”

“Kinda makes a difference that she’s now a real woman instead of a video game character, doesn’t it?” Corg asked philosophically.

“Yeah, now I don’t have the slightest idea what to say. When you know it’s a game, you can just screw around ‘cause it’s not important. When it’s real life, their impressions mean a lot more.”

“Just go for it. She’s obviously into you,” Corg said.

“Easier said than done, my fine-feathered friend,” Piotr rejoined. “You’ve always had the skills to talk to girls. That doesn’t come so easily with me.”

“Bosh! Flimshaw! You obviously got it in you. It’s just untapped natural resources.”

Jack laughed out loud with that one. “I need to beat you for that one.”

“I dunno. It’s kind of weird, isn’t it? Can’t get me a real girl so I settle for one from a video game.”

“Nonsense,” Corg objected. “She’s as real as you and I. Difference is that she lives in another dimension and could take out most of her Earth competition in a knife fight. Now that’s a whole lotta woman!”

The three men laughed so hard that Sari and Laya could hear them in the other tent. A few minutes later they heard someone wrapping on the side of the tent.

“And who would it be?” Jack said, trying to imitate a stately English gentleman.

“It’s me, Sari.”

Corg poked Piotr in the ribs.

“Hey, stop that!” Piotr said.

Corg sat up and started motioning with his head for Piotr to leave the tent. Piotr rolled his eyes in response. Corg pursed his lips and pointed to the door. Piotr threw his hands up in the air, sat up, and crawled to the doorway. When he looked back at Corg, Corg simply widened his eyes and pointed again to the door.

Piotr got out of the tent and saw Sari standing there looking at him. She was dressed in a white camisole and a white silken robe over it. Her brown hair was no longer in a ponytail but fell freely below her shoulders. She held a dagger in her hand, but wore an inviting smile.

“Uh..yeah…hi,” Piotr stuttered.

“Come, let’s go for a walk,” she said.

“Uh…okay…sure.”

Sari grabbed him by the arm and pulled him away from the two tents. They found a large granite block near the cliff wall and sat down next to each other on it. The tents were about twenty yards way and Wren was still in view.

Piotr stared at the camp for a few moments, oblivious to the fact that Sari was staring at him. Finally, Sari let out a huge sigh and grabbed Piotr’s head and turned it towards her.

“Are you afraid of me?” she asked, trying to hide her consternation. “Why is it so hard to talk to me?”

“Want me to b-be…uh…honest?”

“Yeah, that’d be a good start.”

“At the risk of committing the same mistakes I’ve committed with other girls I liked—“

Sari grinned. “Ha! I knew it!”

Piotr blushed.

Sari pinched his cheek and laughed. “Go on.”

“I’m not really secure. I honestly don’t know how to communicate in a girl in any meaningful way. I get all…nervous and stuff.”

“That’s okay. For a long time I was a pretty bitter, bloodthirsty young woman. I don’t think my flirting skills were all that great back then.”

“Kinda changed when you met that Ayn guy, right?”

Sari turned her head and stared into the sky. “Yeah, it did. The things love and infatuation does to us. Anyways, all of these things come with time. You know, you and others have told practically nothing about your actually lives since we’ve met you. You could always start with that.”

“I thought women don’t like men who always talk about themselves.”

She lightly wrapped him on the back of the head and winked. “I got that one from Jack,” she giggled. “In any case, I’m the one suggesting, aren’t I?”

“Oh alright,” Piotr relented. “Let me begin by telling you about my history with Corg…”


It was a number of hours later when they started on their journey again. Piotr stuck a little closer to Sari this time and did his best to talk to her about the variations of some of the animals they saw on his world. Jack and Laya walked together. Corg, on the other hand, seemed to jump back and forth between Mieu, Jack and Piotr, and the occasional long stretch where he'd walk in front or behind the others, just staring at the ground and not saying anything.

“He’s a restless one, that Corg,” Sari noted.

“Yeah, he’ll do that. You just learn to run with it.”

After a couple of hours of just cliff wall and forest, a low plateau came into view. It stretched a few miles to the east.

“This is the land of fire,” Corg observed. “It’s inhabited by dragons and salamanders. There are actually a number of caves located here, including one full of undead monsters and another one I already mentioned that’s actually a tradeway with another civilization.”

As they neared the plateau, they saw a stairway cut into the stone, leading to the top of the plateau.

“Anyone want to go up?” Corg joked.

The others looked at each other and shook their heads.

“Okay, then, we’ll have to go around this plateau. The Beastmen caves aren’t far from the other side.”

The next few hours were spent walking alongside the fiery plateau. It was certainly hotter than the forest around them. Ominous bellows and hisses filled the air around cliff wall. Cries and bellows which were far more threatening than any of the bears or wolves heard in the woods. Wren noted at several intervals that there were reptilian figures walking along the age the cliff and looking down on the party. Occasionally, one of the said figures would apparently trip, sending rocks sliding down the wall of the cliff and scaring the party.

After almost three hours, the low, fiery plateau gave rise to a higher cliff and the party was sure that they had passed the fiery valley. They decided to rest for a few hours before rounding the cliff and heading north. While they rested, the members of the party took turns scaling a few of the trees near the cliff to try to get a glimpse of the fiery valley, but could only catch glimpses of what Corg said was a dragon.

The general feeling of awe and curiosity was partially replaced by one of anxiety as the seven explorers rounded the plateau. They knew that they were only a number of miles away from the heart of the Beastman civilization. It was there that they’d meet an entire race of creaturs who, had it not been for Corg’s intervention, would’ve probably had carried them away to their deaths.

“So, Sari,” Corg began to ask as they hugged the western slope of the plateau. “Do you think we’ll be able to establish some sort of treaty with them? Or do you think the worst will happen?”

“Please don’t remind me,” she pleaded. “I don’t like the idea of putting myself into conflict with a…uh…people that already lays claim to a land.”

“Yeah, we should’ve just blown up that bridge back there and set a few security bots at key points,” Piotr said. “That way we could just stay near the castle without getting blown up.”

“But we’d never be fully safe,” Laya said. “I guess after my experience with war, it’s easier to just come to some agreement and avoid conflict altogether.”

“Yeah, but these guys don’t really seem to be the understanding, diplomatic type,” Piotr said.

“Worst comes to worst, we’ll show them the various, intricate, diplomatic implications of having one’s body lacerated by Nei weapons,” Corg quipped, remember a quotation from a favorite writer of his.

“Heck yeah!” Jack said, laughing.

Sari scowled at him.

“Sorry,” he apologized. “Just tryin’ to lighten up the mood.”

An hour later, the plateau began to curve to the west, forming a large, clearing spreading several miles in every direction. The trees were rather sparse and in the distance it was possible to see the corner of the valley to the northwest. It was probably only about ten miles away.

“Let’s rest here,” Sari suggested. “Mieu, Wren, we’ll need you to be extra careful on your watch. We don’t know what may happen so close to the caves. Keep a very tight perimeter.”

Mieu and Wren nodded.

Corg stepped forward and said, “Guys, in our world we have a certain tradition. We’re about to do something truly epic and truly dangerous. Can we say a prayer to our God for his blessing before continuing?”

Piotr and Jacked nodded in agreement. Laya and Sari looked at each other for a few moments and then nodded.

“Piotr told me how important this is to the three of you,” Sari remarked as she knelt down beside him. “Anyways, we may need a little bit of divine intervention tomo—later.”

They all bowed their heads while Piotr uttered a heartfelt prayer.

“Okay,” Corg declared. “We’re all in this together, for better or worse. Best case scenario, we make a treaty with them and the inhabitants of Alisa III will have a new home. Worst case scena—“

Piotr quieted him with a discreet nod.

Corg paused for a moment. “Do me a favor. If anything happens to me, try to bring Christy over here and take good care of her.”

Piotr and Jack looked uncomfortably at each other.

Laya reached out and rubbed Corg's head. “Don’t worry, you’ll have Mieu and the rest of us to watch over you.”

Corg stroked his chin. “Mieu! Wren!” he called out.

The two cyborgs came over.

“Group hug!” Corg yelled.

And they all hugged. Even Wren was faintly touched by the moment.

Last edited by H-Man on Sat Nov 6, '10, 11:40 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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