Klor decides to turn and attack the horde head-on, Nikki on his back sowing chaos with ingenious small explosives from her belt pouch. She's in a weird state of battle-drunkenness by now, exhilarated and almost giddy, tossing wisecracks like a Marvel superhero ("There's a new queen on the scene, assholes! Let's start the ball!"). So swept up is she that she leaves Klor's back brandishing her Megachux and high-tech artillery, shrieking in Mota's alien tongue while blowing away spigs in all directions. (An awesome manifestation, purely Queen Jatarri, not Nikki at all.)
--Klor and Ryntha have to forcibly haul her away when they decide there's room to make a run for it. She tries to explain: "...I lost all my reasoning and went berserk! I was high on the death!"
Klor reassures her: "It was pure instinct. That which dwells within you was momentarily unleashed. You are fine."
So are we gonna just try to outrun them again? No, Klor says calmly, we will be saved. He spots a young animal - a Praktillian rockstomper, running terrified, separated from its herd - and tells Jatarri to kill it. A pile of fresh meat will divert the always-ravening spigmodites and give us room to get away. (He won't do this himself, mind, as he believes it demeans a warrior to use guns.
Still testing the Earth girl..) She balks at the idea of "killing defenseless baby animals" --Dark One really loads this scene, making the little 'stomper almost Disney-cute, with big, pleading eyes-- and it's Ryntha who grabs the rifle and shoots the youngling down. Hordes of spigs at once pour over it and begin to feed, causing just the delay that was needed. Despite Klor's scoffing, Jatarri quietly prays for the creature as they gallop away.
We now find ourselves watching our heroes' flight on the screen of a device held by an alien being: a huge serpent with an upright, clad, humanoid torso and arms, and a vaguely reptilian head crowned with a Predator-like mass of thick, ringed dreadlocks. The creature ponders the odd coincidence that its "old pal", Klor - "still running from death like a frightened child" - should be the one to give sanctuary to the Kisabian female which it is tracking. Perhaps one day, "like death's avenging angel", it will be able to test the purity of both Ryntha's soul and Klor's. In the meantime, it sees that Klor seems to be heading toward Tasbongki. "I guess he doesn't know about the slaughter," says the creature, gliding away, and as it does we see a dead Kisabian male lying behind it...
Klor tells his passengers that he was, indeed, charged to bring this bag of offint to the Tasbongkians (which name sends Her Highness Jatarri into an irresistible giggle fit - and forces her to confess that she finds "spigmodites" a pretty funny name as well).
Meanwhile, in Tasbongki, the spigmodites are making bloody sushi of the populace while the Priests of Huba lock themselves away in a cathedral made of impenetrable brithium. One Brother Kelvin angrily challenges the group. Are they praying and meditating for divine intervention or just saving their hypocritical skins? Is it their duty to assert the god's will, or to help the people even if they themselves perish? ...at just this moment, Klor bangs on the cathedral door, saying that he's on a mission for the high priest. Jatarri disperses the angry mob and they go inside, where Klor delivers the bag and demands an explanation for the priests' "outrageous abandonment" of their people. The priests try to blame Klor, saying that if he had delivered the money sooner they could have hired better defenses in time to meet the spig onslaught. Jatarri lays into them ferociously, defending Klor and calling them frauds and parasites. Well, all accusations aside, what are we to do? asks the high priest - how can we kill them?
"Rudapogg," says one priest.
At once they all take up the name and even Klor says, "Yes, Rudapogg! Of course!" But isn't he just a legend? asks a priest. Not at all, retorts Ryntha, though she can't imagine why he'd want to help the likes of them. Klor admits that he's never met Rudapogg and understands that he's hard to find, but is sure he'd be the only one on Praktill who could find a solution to the spigmodite problem. O-kay...with this plan, the priests venture out to begin tending the injured, while Klor, Jatarri and Ryntha move wounded Tasbongkians and children into the safety of the temple.
....Night falls. Jatarri is uncomfortable that Ryntha continues to talk as if they were lovers. Klor gives horsie-back rides to kids while planning their journey to Thakinbur with the high priest, who is sure that if Klor fails Praktill is doomed. Rudapogg, however, lives above Thakinbur, not in it, and Klor isn't sure the tower is climbable. --Ryntha explains to Jatarri: Rudapogg is a "creepy, flipped-out, old wise guy" who 150 years ago stopped a war single-handedly, then fled when they tried to make him Emperor and took up residence on top of a tower, where he's been ever since. --And on that note it's bedtime..."C'mon with me, luscious," Ryntha grins. "I haven't been able to think straight with you strutting your butt around." (Fashion note: our Queen's battle-dress is basically shoulder and joint armor over a thong bikini..and if I've neglected to mention that she's a wide-eyed golden-blonde with the kind of warrior-girl physique dreams are made of, pray allow me.) Jatarri professes innocence, but tongues meet, whispers are exchanged... and the priests eavesdrop on the whole thing, wide-eyed. *hee*
By daylight they're well on the way to Thakinbur. Klor comments dryly that women aren't ordinarily allowed in the temple and that after "your performance last night" that law will be doubled in conviction; mortifying Jatarri, who didn't realize they could be heard (Ryntha, however, is shameless). --Over a ridge they hear someone calling in an alien tongue, and see a huge, winged dragon - "draco", Klor says - apparently devouring a humanoid. Jatarri leaps to the rescue but finds out otherwise. The draco is trying futilely to help its master, mortally wounded by spigmodites. Klor translates the dying alien's words. It asks Jatarri to kill it and put it out of its agony; in return, the draco, which already likes her, is hers. Its name is Shadu. Jatarri falls so heedlessly in love with the draco that she tosses her gun to Klor - "You do it. I'm busy." - and soars skyward on dragonback, leaving Klor and Ryntha blinking in bewilderment. (getting back at him for refusing to shoot the rockstomper?)-- "I hope that my queen has not gone over the edge," worries Ryntha...
---I guess we have to assume that one of Nikki/Jatarri's magickal abilities is instant translation of all languages, since she hears - hence, we hear - everything spoken to her as if it's in English. I can handle that: but I think Ryntha's dialogue is a shade too much, as we hear her speaking not only English but American English slang. It's just too jarring to see alien catwomen saying things like "go beddy-bye" and "tight-ass" and "strutting your butt around". Presumably Ryntha is actually using the equivalent idiom in Kisabian slang and Jatarri's ability does the rest...but *sigh* it bugs me. (--Only Klor's massive dignity made it possible for me to enjoy his saying "Frankly, Queen, these parasites are starting to piss me off.")
---We're told Praktill is a moon and not a planet, but it's a pretty damn impressive moon, being large enough not only to support a diverse range of species but to have breathable atmosphere and Terra-normal gravity. (Of course, another of Jatarri's magickal advantages could be the ability to immediately adjust to any alien world's conditions, but since she never mentions anything of the kind - and she certainly seems to be operating in Terran gravity - it makes more sense to just assume Praktill is Earthlike.) The world such a moon orbits must be dramatically huge and would certainly be visible in its sky, so it's a bit disappointing that Dark One has never shown it to us. Maybe we're always looking in the wrong direction...
...go on to Animal Mystic #4.
...go back to Jatarri home page.