Monday, February 4, 2008



The otherwhereian lifted two legheads to strike, not bothering to turn itself around. Just my luckings, Parric thought as he thrashed to right himself, omnidirectional threatenings. I wondering where its brains is keeping?

The mouths opened wide. The rings of teeth gnashing together.

The English cannon fired. Grapeshot. Point-blank range.

The otherwhereian felt that.

It charged the new threat. Ragged flaps of flesh dangled from three of the legheads, and thick yellow blood oozed from shrapnel wounds on its body. It was upon the gun crews in an instant, before the second rank of cannon could be brought to bear.

Parric righted himself, swatting away three over-enthusiastic English footmen charging him with fixed bayonets. He took a quick inventory of himself. Several small but bloody cuts and two, maybe three, broken ribs. Parric couldn't remember the last time he'd suffered broken bones. His left forewing was worse off. It hurt too much for him to tell if it was dislocated or something more serious.

Parric glanced back at the otherwhereian. The English artillery had been a welcome distraction, but they were suffering dearly now. The otherwhereian's attention would turn back to Parric at any moment.

Cringing from the pain, Parric pulled in the injured left forewing and held it fast with his right. Then he took off.

Parric flew slower using only one pair of wings, but he could manage. He knew right where to go this time, as well. The claymore lay right where he remembered, splattered with muck and blood but undamaged. Parric picked it up and gave it a cursory shake--just enough to get the worst of the filth off of it--then slid it into the sheath fastened across his back.

A large cannon tumbled through the air overhead, crushing a rank of footmen as it crashed to the ground. The otherwhereian was back again.

Parric launched himself into the air, not giving the legheads a chance to strike. The otherwhereian lumbered after him with staggering steps, no longer so spry as earlier.

Parric once again flicked his antennae about, searching for a Nexial gap. He'd recovered the sword. Time to going.

He sensed one to the right. He veered toward it, crafting a Wedging to open it enough to slip through--

The otherwhereian slammed it closed.

Parric pulled up, stunned.

Obviously, the otherwhereian could open Nexial gaps. He'd seen it arrive through one, after all.

But block them?

Parric flicked his antennae, searching for another Nexial gap. And there one was, high overhead, above even the smoke of battle. Up Parric flew, his wings a furious blur as he strained to reach the gap. Shots whistled past him as confused musketmen tried to draw a bead on Parric through flighting breaks in the smoke. Parric ignored them. The gap was nearly within reach. His antennae stretched toward it as he crafted a Wedging--

And the otherwhereian slammed it shut.

"Kraaak!" Parric screamed, his antennae going into spasms. He glared down at the otherwhereian, murder in his heart.

It was following him.

The otherwhereian wasn't flying. It couldn't--it had no wings. But it followed all the same. The eight footheads extended in turn and bit into the Cosm itself, using the extra-spatial dimensions as scaffolding to clamber after Parric.

"I'm having enough of this," Parric said. "If you're wanting surprisings, I'm giving you surprisings."

Parric thrust his Wedging into the Nexial gap. He pushed forward as hard as his wings could carry him. The otherwhereian's block held. Parric crafted another Wedging. And another. And another.

The space around Parric began twisting, distorting. Far below, the smoke and fire, the mud and the corpses took on a reddish hue, as did the brooding gray rain clouds above. The rain fell at Parric as blue streaks, weaving around him at the last moment before turning crimson for the rest of their journey earthward. The chaotic din of battle receded into the distance.

The otherwhereian fought its way closer, nearly indigo as it heaved itself along the tortured, spasming reality.

Parric crafted another Wedging, then abruptly flattened his antennae and folded his wings tight against his body. "Breakthroughing."

The otherwhereian's block shattered.

The Nexial gap ripped asunder.

The rending was felt more than heard, a resonant wrongness that lodged deep in the bones and refused to leave. Void replaced the overcast, brooding sky. A thousand fissured radiated outward as the earth and sky crumbled away, sucked through the void into the maelstrom beyond.

Parric felt the convulsions of the wounded Cosm, shielded himself from them as best he could. He fought back the rising guilt. He'd had no choice. It wasn't as if he'd punched through solid reality. A gap had already existed there, albeit a small one. The Cosm would heal. Eventually.

Through the expanding fissures Parric plunged, into the Nexus of All Realities. His breath spilled from his lungs into the throbbing inferno. A howling wind more debris than air buffeted him, and Parric spread his wings again to stabilize himself. In the center of the maelstrom spun the pulsing, hellish heart of the Nexus, the physical manifestation of infinite universes clashing against each other at this one, singular point beyond any reality. The disparate sensations of infinity and oppressive claustrophobia were immediate and overwhelming.

The otherwhereian tumbled past him, clawing frantically at dissolving shreds of reality. Even though it could move from Cosm to Cosm at will, it apparently didn't do so well when such moves were involuntary.

Just to be on the safe side, Parric reached out and crafted a Turning around a rogue boulder the size of a small town tumbling through the Nexus. It was ancient--the remnant of some long-ago Cosm rupture--and covered with decompositional frothing. The Turning only needed to nudge it a little to change its course. The boulder slammed into the tiny, flailing otherwhereian and then both were gone, lost in the blur of the Nexus. With luck, the decomposition might even take root in the beast and dispose of it once and for all.

Satisfied the otherwhereian posed no more immediate threat, Parric flicked his wings to put more distance between himself and the rupture. Already dozens of screaming soldiers were falling through the gap as it widened to consume both armies. Smoke and rain, half a dozen horses, the odd tree and lots of dirt and sod tumbled through as well.

Parric didn't want to be around when bedrock started spewing through the hole. And if the rupture grew deep enough to reach magma...

No matter. Parric was never returning to that Cosm again.


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