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.
4. Up and down
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
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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