In the sewers, the scrappers

“Anyone else thinks it smells like wet dog around here?” Said O-Lan as she removed with picky hands, yet another dead decaying body that had been littering the floor of the sewers. Much like a trail, it had led them towards their goal, the portal of Alankis.

Through dark and murky corridors, filled with the smell of human waste and deadly decay, they made their way. Eighteen scrappers led by Xanthion, armed to the teeth with everything they could lay their hands on from the Hunters of Apocalypse’s base, be it guns, ammo and explosives. For the last four hours they had been trudging their way far beneath the city, to look for a dimensional door that only a black heart could close. Uncertain how or what it would take to shut down the portal, the team had nonetheless taken it upon themselves to see it through, and save the city once more from destruction. Cabaret, who had decided to follow them, had been cursing at her decision for the last hour.

“You do know my dry cleaning bill is going to go through the roof this time?” She asked Xanthion with anger in her voice.

“Babe, for the humpthieth time, you came along by your own choice, don’t you go blaming me for this.” Replied the leader of the scrappers as he was wondering how long still, were they going to find yet another passage leading further down into the darkness.

“Over here.” Yelled Sir Langley, who was standing yet again, next to a sloping passage leading further down. On their way down, they had crossed many countless dead bodies, left behind by the onslaught the Ghost army had made while making its way to the surface. But for the last hour or so, they began to notice that some of the remains were fresh kills. Gathering as much information as they could from what was left of the thorn and ripped shapes, they had surmised that a huge predator was down here with them. Judging from the size of the teeth mark left in the open ribcage of a Lost leader, the beast must have measured at least nine feet tall. Xanthion, throwing a weary eye around, led the team towards the new corridor.

Down at the bottom, was a large doorway carved into the rock, and through it, the team could see a faintish blue glow coming from the other side of it. They walked slowly and carefully, listening for telltale sounds of presence. But aside from the gentle humming of whatever was down there and the screeching sound the rats made, nothing else could be heard. There was a metal walkway, large enough in size to let a semi through, leading to the other side of what appeared to be a chasm. The darkness underneath the bridge was full, and only by letting fall a glow stick, could Xanthion notice that about twenty meters below, protruded metal spires left there from a previous construction working crew. Once across, they entered a very large room, mossy and slick, and were finally satisfied that they had reached their objective.

Upon reaching the doorway, the scrappers laid their eyes upon their goal, the Alankis portal, opened before them, was shimmering blue. Looking around, Xanthion indicated to Silver Girl and Cabaret to place as many C-4 charges as they could on the surrounding walls, to blow them up into a cave in. He then walked ahead to the portal, and stood right in front of it, faintly seeing on the other side. There he saw it, the activation crystal, nestled into a pedestal, generating magic energy into the portal, keeping it opened. Reaching out with a hand, he tried to push it in, but to no avail. Somehow, the glimmering blue shine, wouldn’t let him through. It felt more like a wall of resistance than an actual structure preventing him from going through.

“All right, anyone here can tell me who among us has a black heart?” Asked Xanthion with some humour in his voice.

“O-Lan.” Hissed Shadow-Step.

“My mother-in-law.” Hissed Comatoast.

“Shadow-Step.” Hissed O-Lan while throwing yet, another deadly look at the deadly scrapper.

“This rat!” Replied joyfully Sir Langley as he proceeded to throw a screaming rat towards the portal. The small animal flew through the air, legs and tail dangling, and hit the blue energy wall with a thud, then fell to the floor, where it ran away from the scrappers, with all the haste its small legs could muster.

“Well now, I guess I was wrong about rats…” Spoke again Sir Langley as he scratched his head.

The team watched the small animal run away for a safer place. Puzzled and troubled, they looked on at the portal, wondering how they would shut it down, when they couldn’t reach the activation crystal. Each of them took a turn at trying to enter the portal, all but one tried to pass through. Back in the other passage, Cabaret and Silver Girl had finished placing the charges on the sewer walls. All the detonators were armed, and it made the corridor look like the deadliest Christmas tree decorations. The red flashing lights of the detonating devices looked ominous in the gloom of the sewers.

“What is that?” Asked Shadow-Step, pointing at the portal, to a moving red light distorted by the shimmering of the door. It was small, round and sleek, flying gracefully without purpose across the rocky landscape of the other dimension. Then it rushed for the door, with an incredible speed, flew through it and went straight ahead, never slowing down. Xanthion, Shadow-Step and the others were very confused as they felt the humming coming from it, telling tales of power as it flew by. Then their eyes rested on Sun Kil Moon’s, who stood there eyes wide, hands shaking. The little red ball had flown through his neck, carving a hole through it. Blood had started to flow down his chest, but he couldn’t feel it anymore. The projectile had cut the spinal cord right under the cerebellum, knees buckling he fell to the ground, convulsing a few seconds, he died. Shadow-Step who had been the first to reach him, tried to plug the holes with his hands, while desperately trying to tell him to hold on to life. The medi-porters were out of reach, so deep the team was, that it wouldn’t save Sun Kil Moon.

As the little red sphere disappeared from sight, went passed Cabaret and Silver Girl, a guttural roar occurred, coming from further down the tunnel, back where the team had come from. It chilled everyone to the bone, and they stood rooted in place, looking towards where it had come from. Shadow-Step rested gently Sun Kil Moon’s head on the floor, and stood up. While the rest of the team’s attention was taken by the bestial scream, he walked towards the magical portal, and pushed his left hand against the shimmering surface. It went in without resistance.

Only a black heart can close the portal.

He looked back, towards the team, towards Xanthion as O-Lan and Cabaret ran back through the doorway, and nodded to himself. Trained as an assassin, in his former life, he had killed countless innocents in the name of profit and the greater glory of his Tsoo employers. A black heart he had been, and was still now.

“Xanthion, I don’t know what that was, but it’s coming our way.” Spoke cabaret, breathless from the fear reaction the roar had created, and from running back to them. “The explosives are in place, but if we blow it up now, we seal ourselves in.”

Xanthion nodded and looked around, seeing Shadow-Step standing in front of the portal, head bowed down and thinking. “All right, make ready people. Cabaret, you stand at our backs and fire off al that you have when that, that thing comes in. The rest of you, buff yourselves up and prepare for battle.”

The first few footsteps of the beast resonated across the brick floor, muffled and heavy, then were followed by another angry roar. The scrappers all looked at each other, uncertain about what was coming. Then, as the beast stepped onto the metal bridge that connected the portal room with the sewer system, Silver Girl peeked around the corner of the doorway, resting her eyes on a gigantic monster. Part bat, from the face and the huge sets of wings it had, and part beast from the waist down, it came towards the portal room. Above its right shoulder, hovered a little red shining ball, pulsating with each step the monster took. Silver Girl stepped back in fright, until the wall behind her prevented her from going anywhere else. Her bottom lip trembling, she spoke in a stuttering voice for all to hear:

“Envoy of Shadows.”

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