Animal Mystic #2


We open a month after Nikki's arrival in the Amazon. Her search for the Hydromid has been postponed (understandably) while she settles into her new role and teaches some of the Glass Mantas' martial-arts skills to her new fighters.

Enter Namtha, holding out an ornate key and telling her that "the time has come for you to enter
The Dark, such as scripture demands.." "More scriptures and prophecies of destiny, eh?" sighs Nikki. (Babe, they're only beginning... =)

They descend into a hidden level of Thalk Temple (look closely at the design on the stairwell wall, it's a prophetic mural depicting the legend of Jatarri)and reach a closed chamber. Nikki senses bad vibes and asks Namtha to come in with her, but Namtha refuses, saying that only the chosen one may do so and that inside we learn what sacrifices we must make for the sake of this world. Now really uneasy and a little suspicious, Nikki raises the request to a command, but Namtha still hangs back, actually stammering in fear. The door opens to Nikki's touch, and to her amazement it reveals the Hydromid, which begins to hum and speak her queen-name. Calling "Mota? Are you in there?" she prepares to break it open with her sword. At this Namtha, horrified, rushes into the chamber trying to stop her. An angry voice from the Hydromid at once condemns Namtha for her fear and decrees that her blood is the sacrifice the Dark demands. "Please, Mota! No!" she cries, but the resulting explosion of power fries her to a charred skeleton in a blink.

"You sick little fish," Nikki demands of Mota, "what have I done? What did you make me do?"
Mota calmly replies that "great change demands sacrifice" and that Namtha "has served her purpose" - though as they converse he seems to say that he didn't kill her. He then yanks Nikki through an underwater passage that opens onto the same desert vista that once appeared in her living room (issue #1).

And vanishes. Nikki is left to hike across the barren double-sunned waste ("Maybe I'm on Tatooine," she chuckles) without map or guide. Well-prepared, she dons sunscreen and shades - learning in the process that she's suddenly sprouted pointed ears ("I'll look like an elf! Gag!")- and treks on, musing that Namtha's death proves there's "something twisted about the Hydromid. I'll have to be more careful with it if I ever see it again."

Within a few km. she happens across a ruin where a pitched battle is taking place. We get there first and overhear some of the dialogue: the centaur Nikki saw in her living room, whose name is Klor, is being mugged by junkie bandits for a bag of "offint" (apparently currency). Klor protests that a state of emergency exists and that the bandits are threatened as well as the townepeople, but the thugs attack anyway. Nikki pitches in. The bandit leader, Plexa, spots her, reckons she'll bring a nice price ("many offint stones for doses of kaboom!") and orders her taken unscarred. A moment later he falls with a split skull. Klor suggests the others should leave now, but Nikki, greedy for a fight, doesn't quit until all are mown down. Klor chews her out, saying that they've both been dishonored by killing needlessly, and that she's under demonic influence: "You should remain in this tomb and make sacrifices to the souls whose lives you have squandered," he snaps. Now chastened and completely disoriented, she begs him not to leave, but Klor gallops scornfully off. Nikki gives chase, pausing only to appropriate Plexa's desert robes and to offer a touching litle prayer for the dead:
"I'm really sorry. I hope the gods bless you all and that angels carry you to your places."

Many hours later she catches up to Klor's campfire and watches from cover as he prays earnestly to the Lords of War to forgive his transgressions: "None forsake violence more passionately than I." Holding up a small, multi-eyed, squealing creature, he kills it by biting out its spine and skewers it on a spit. He then dryly tells Nikki she can come out now, and adds that she might have benefited from his sacred ritual if she'd arrived sooner. Compassion soon shows through his gruffness, and though he professes to be bored by humans, he tells the exhausted Nikki where she may tend her wounds and sleep.

When she wakes, he's burning a bonfire of more creatures like the one he killed and roasted last night. They're spigmodites, he says. ("You mean like the band?" asks sleepy Nikki.) They travel in packs that have become hordes, overrunning all of Praktill - the pile he's burning he collected just overnight. More come creeping up on them as they speak, grinning with nasty sawblade teeth, and Nikki barely has time to get into her battlegear before they're in a shootout. He's been killing them for weeks, he says, this lot must have smelled the blood of their fallen scouts - he didn't expect so many. There are too many to kill. Nearly overwhelmed, Nikki and Klor run for it, she on his back. Halfway to the high peak they spot a third party - a gorgeous, horned, tiger-striped catwoman - clinging to the rock, surrounded by lunging spigmodites. . Wide-eyed Nikki falls in love on sight (thinking "She's magnificent."), while Klor makes a snap decision: "What's a Kisabian doing way out here? We have to save her!" And with a mighty leap he takes both of them onto the tiny plateau where the Kisabian crouches, Nikki reaching out to pull her safely aboard while Klor plows into the snapping spigmodite horde...

--Story is followed by a one-page summary of issue #1 in a cute manga-like cartoon style.. Note that it introduces the character we met as Professor Randall Burack in his true identity as the wizard Revliss.

Question: why does Namtha die? The implications seem contradictory. On one hand, we can say that her fear of entering the chamber is caused by her knowledge of a prophecy, or perhaps a premonition, that it would be death to her to enter. The Hydromid's anger (I'll call it that, since Mota says it wasn't his) could then be directed at her failure to fulfill the prophecy with honor. But this cowardly behavior seems so out of character for Namtha, a scholarly woman of intense devotion to custom and ritual. Surely one who was not afraid to demand correct behavior of Queens would ask no less of herself. Had she walked into the chamber bravely, would she have lived and thus (apparently) altered the foretold future? Or would she only have earned death with dignity? She refuses because she's afraid to die and yet it seems her death is only caused by her fear. Perhaps we'll learn more...

go on to Animal Mystic #3.
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