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The Guardian
4. Up and down

Nlaminer was wrong. The door stood where it was; and it opened quite easily. But this time, an odor of decay and death met them.

Rhissa stopped at the bottom of the staircase and Nlaminer felt she was trembling. He took her hand in his; Rhissa waved her other hand and a small ball of light floated above her head. It slowly went down... the pale light showed them the picture of devastation.

All was upside-down; the table turned and broken, the books burnt and torn; broken vials mixed giving this impossible stench.

A whistling sound came from below. The bluish ball slid down; two large eyes reflected its glow. A giant snake-like creature filled the hall, coiling above the ruins of the laboratory. It was uncoiling now, emitting a low steady hiss. The eyes glowed with amber light.

The mouth of this monster was opening... dry and unpleasant was filling the air. Rhissa stepped back... her hand moved for the staff... and a laughter came, rolling within the great dome.

'No, no... You try to trick me, strangers... I removed this obstacle now... You cannot hurt me... but I CAN hurt you!' The snake flew at them, its sabre-like fangs oozing with lethal poison, hiss overwhelming, its odor making quizzy and ill...

They ran back to safety and felt the rocks falling down, smashing the laboratory to pieces, finishing the destruction.

Nlaminer pulled Rhissa farther from the door (though it was a door into nothing) and gasped for several seconds. The air removed the painful throbbing and he found Rhissa lying just beside him.

"Water..." she murmured and he poured water cautiously into her mouth. She closed her eyes and lay again. Nlaminer wondered if he should give her that poison antidote... but after a small while she sat up and drank her herbal mixture. The mist in her eyes faded.

"Help me... we should leave this place now," she said and fell unconscious again.

Nlaminer carried her down to their first cave and built up fire again. Her breath became steady. Whatever happened to her, it was wearing off. He examined her; found none of the serious wounds or burns and sat beside her, frying this endless fish on the sticks. I should change the diet, he thought, lest I become scaly, too. He smiled again and continued to sing in a low voice. He sang about roads and stars... and the words brought him the sensations of peace. They survived another day here on this accursed land.

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-- mecenat --

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