As Tara’s hammer came down on the last demon’s skull, she collapsed down too. The head-cracking strike splattered her with its foul tar-like blood, further drenching her as the hell-smoke rose from it and the other smote fiends. As she sat there panting, breathing in the fumes and covered in grime, Lucius ran up to her from across the volcanic field.
Within moments they reached the interior of the palace complex, using the rooftops to bypass all the closed gates that tried to stop the spread of fire and movements of the enemy troops. “At this rate the whole palace will burn,” Yang remarked to the qirin, the divine creature’s hooves barely touching down on ancient roof tiles. “If the barbarians of the northwest can’t seize the capital, they will be more than happy to destroy it.”
Chan was feeling cooped-up in the laboratory. It wasn’t that he minded working for the professor, mad though he was, but the strange devices he made, often with no practical purpose (besides destroy everything, somehow) made him feel a little disconnected. He might read the news about the outside world, or see social media posts from this friend or that friend, but usually it was just work. The lab takes up too much of my time, Chan thought. He looked up from his printouts to the clock, and when he saw it was almost noon, he stomach growled, as if trained, on cue.
A sleepy woman pushes off from her desk, gliding over in her rolling desk chair to the screen with the flashing icon. “! NEO detected. Preliminary analysis rating at 10 on the Torino scale. Verification required.” Half-asleep she reads the message without understanding, once, twice, but by the third time she wakes up. A lot of people will be woken up, soon, for what the message means.
The apsara, or nymph, knelt at the water’s edge. This was her home, a clean pool fed by the great river, which eventually flowed out of the wooded wetlands and beyond to the floodplains and seas. The pool was but a few feet deep, like a wide natural bathtub, part of a large collection of pools in the hilly landscape. The forest and its creatures loosely surrounded the apsara’s abode like the walls of an open house, branches as the roof chattering with birds and monkeys.
How things could be … * * * Chip walked through the door beneath the sign that read “Hull’s Shop”. It was a normal rectangular door, and looked mismatched against the architecture of the building: Some newfangled biomimicry nonsense you see more nowadays, Chip had thought when he first saw them being built, nearly …
Another branch crashes loudly through the canopy to the earth, a wake of birds already fleeing startled. The runner makes no pretense of stealth, which Asoka has given up on as well. The half-elf, running at top speed, fires another arrow up into the trees, and again misses his quarry. That damn protection from arrows spell! He curses in his head, not wasting the breath as he maintains pursuit. The other half-elf, running, jumps from branch to branch, satchel swinging from his body as he darts overhead.
Xeric scratched his short beard. The young man thought for a long time on how to word his wish. You had to be careful with djinn, he thought, and efreet were even more dangerous than them. In the dark basement storeroom, a pair of fiery red eyes gazed impatiently through the smoke. What appeared to be a horned man had a grin on his face, trying to look trustworthy. It worked surprisingly well.
The plan was simple: sneak aboard Captain Kem’s airship where she is keeping the philosopher’s stone, steal it from the cargo hold, blast a way out of the ship’s hull with alchemist’s bombs, and parachute back safely to the ground. Naturally, things never go according to plan.
Diary of Albert Winston, of the Kope-Marshal Expedition, Sunday, the Second of September: We have seen the first signs of tracks since our expedition began some four weeks ago. Mrs. Kope and Mr. Marshal, well-read as they are, insist on inspecting every set of tracks they come across in the hopes that it is their quarry. Often I must persuade them, by the number of toes, the shape of the impression, and other attributes of the style of the animal’s gait, that, no, they have not found their tyrannosaurs.