The War of the Wheel, Week 19


Chapter XVIII

Locked in the Cage

 

As Antine regained his senses one more time, he found himself wishing that he hadn’t. At least in the oblivion of unconsciousness, there was no pain. But as Antine came back into himself, before he even registered light in his eyes or the scents in his snout, Antine felt the pain throughout his body. Initially, his mind refused to recall the cause of that all-encompassing discomfort, but eventually the memories of the crash reproduced it as they came thundering back into his brain. Antine tried to move as gingerly as possible, stretching and flexing his back as he whimpered softly at the pain.

 

Eventually, Antine was able to convince his eyes and his body to look around the battered barge. There was much less light inside than there had been before. From the moment he had first found himself trapped inside that metallic tomb, it had been well lit, although Antine had no idea from what source. There had been no flames that he could see; there had only been light. It was only now, with that strange light gone, that Antine really noticed it. The only light filtering into the barge now came through the very top of the fore window. Most of it was covered in sand, and what that sand allowed through was dismal and slim.

 

The walls, floor and ceiling of the barge seemed largely intact. In fact, the actual structure of the craft looked almost completely untouched by the carnage of the crash. Even the mirrored table in the center of the circular room had escaped unbroken. The shards of the chandelier that had hung above it, on the other hand, were littered around the floor of the barge in jagged pieces, one or two of which had found their way into Antine’s fur and the skin beneath. Antine whimpered again as he realized he was bleeding lightly from three or four different places. Antine hated bleeding. He had not done much of it in his life, except of course for when he had been shot. And he greatly disliked being reminded of that.

 

The broken pieces of chandelier were not the only things littering the floor of the planar barge. There were also numerous pieces of the metal men who had so recently manned it. Several of those pieces had settled near Antine, including, quite disturbingly to the young fox, one of their heads. Antine jumped slightly when he noticed it, aggravating the pain in his back and shoulder as he did. For a few, long moments, Antine stared into the cold, unblinking, blank eyes of the monstrosity, remembering how long he had been trapped by them, how much he had feared them, and how greatly they had vindicated his fear. Now they were nothing but rubble, destroyed, it seemed, by one of their own.

 

This thought gave Antine pause. He had not truly had time while tumbling disastrously to the ground to consider why it was that the other barge might have fired on this one. It was a strange thing. Admittedly, everything was a strange thing to Antine these days, but this one seemed even stranger still. Based on what little he had seen while trapped in his flying prison, these things seemed to work together in amazing coordination. And if all of them were manned by the same sort of creatures that now lay devastated and dismantled at his feet, which seemed like it must have been the case, it made no sense for one to turn on another. These creatures, whatever they might have been, clearly took their orders from the man he had seen in the lights of their chandelier. Had he ordered the attack? That made no sense, either. Antine sighed heavily, something he seemed to do a lot recently. He had no answers. Only more questions.

 

Finally, Antine decided it was time to leave. He had been trapped in this insufferable place for far too long, and now, at last, there was nothing to keep him here. He glanced down at the skull of the metal man and considered spitting on it. He considered it for a long time. Ultimately he decided against it. His throat was already dry, and the gesture would have been lost on the creature’s unseeing eyes anyway. Still, Antine suspected the thought of the action was probably good enough. He had never spit on anyone before, and wasn’t overly fond of the motion. The humans of Jakkard seemed to do it all the time, and centaurs were fairly good at it, too. He had seen a Noggle try once, but it hadn’t gone well, mostly just spraying around everywhere. Foxes could do it if they needed to, but most of his kind seemed to prefer spitting on people metaphorically rather than literally.

 

A part of Antine felt suddenly nostalgic, thinking back to some of the more mundane aspects of life in Jakkard. Even Verkell held some pleasant memories for him, though they were usually smothered by other, less fortunate memories. He still had some family there, though not many, and most were glad to be rid of Antine. He had never exactly fit in, and never really approved of the way other foxes chose to use their wealth. His side of the family had never been wealthy anyway, at least not by fox standards, and that had suited him just fine. He had always had enough, and that was enough for him. But still, there were things he missed. Most of all, he missed the simple companionship of the city. It was something he had never really managed to recapture.

 

Antine shook his head feverishly, hurting his neck slightly. He was just stalling now, and he knew it. Nothing good had happened to him since leaving Dayko, and certainly not since arriving in the Amphiseum. He knew that beyond the barge’s door was a world that was dead or dying, and it likely offered little solace to Antine. Why should it? It had been through even worse than he had, after all. He realized grimly that his chances of surviving out there were only slightly better than in here. There was still a supply of water here in the barge, assuming it hadn’t been damaged in the crash, but Antine would rather save that for an emergency. While crashing, he had noticed a massive body of water, larger by far than any he had ever seen, that he thought could sate his thirst for the rest of his life. He grimaced, wondering just how long that would be.

 

Finally, angrily, Antine pushed himself to his feet, rubbing his sore muscles as he did. It did little to help. But the time had come, and the young fox refused to allow himself to put it off any longer. Walking tenderly across the ill-lit metal floor, Antine once again located the button that opened the outside door and, after a very long and very deep breath, he pressed it. The fox was afraid of what would happen. Would the barge rattle itself apart and collapse on him? Would it suddenly flare to life and launch the attack the metal men had been preparing for? Would it awaken the ship’s broken crew, or summon new ones to torture him? Antine hoped it would simply open the door as it had in the air. After a few long, tenuous seconds, he realized that it did nothing.

 

Time seemed to stop for Antine as he simply stared blankly at the far door. Eventually, Antine turned around and stared down at the button for a while. Then he brought his head upward and stared at nothing in particular. He slowly raised his paw to his face and began gently massaging the lighter patches of fur just above his eyes. He was beginning to suspect that life had no sense of fair play. Antine didn’t consider himself an unreasonable fellow. He had wanted things out of life, sure, but he didn’t think any of those things were unreasonable. Was it that much to ask that he win just one, every now and then? Was it that much to ask that bad people occasionally got what was coming to them? Antine looked at the door and snarled. Was it asking too much for a door to work when he actually needed it?

 

Antine whimpered again and pressed the button a second time. Nothing. He pressed it a third time, and then a fourth and a fifth, each time coming faster and faster than the time before. There was no effect. There was no escaping of air, no sound of metal grating on metal, no light from the other side of a mercifully opening door. Antine felt like he could cry, and likely would have, had he been capable of comparing a broken door with the calamity he had witnessed. He had already wept for the sake of the innumerable lives that had been lost; it seemed silly, almost comical to him, that he should now cry over a door.

 

So, momentarily incapable of sorrow, Antine turned to anger, curled his paw into a fist, and slammed it down on the button with all of his strength. It hurt, but the force of the blow seemed to actually shake the door! Antine was surprised and elated, and without thinking, he struck the button again, and again, the door shook with a sudden impact, as though trying to force itself open for him. Antine smiled his widest, vulpine grin. Finally something was going right for him. He hammered down on the button once again, and this time the entire barge seemed to shake. Antine had no idea what he was doing, but it seemed to be working. He took a moment to rub his sore paw, and the barge shook again, even harder this time.

 

Antine cocked his head to one side, momentarily forgetting his sore neck. Now, that was odd. He hadn’t even hit the button that time. Perhaps he had started some sort of chain reaction within the ship? It was difficult to tell with all the lights off. Still, the noise seemed to be coming from the door, which told Antine he was on the right track. He struck the button again, and this time the crash at the door was delayed a few seconds. Antine shook his head. The longer he stayed in this strange, metallic structure, the less he seemed to understand it, and the less he wanted to do with it. Antine raised both hands in the air and brought them down with a satisfying thud on the button, and this time the door seemed to bend itself inward, even allowing a few small beams of light in around the edges.

 

Odd, thought Antine. I thought that door opened outward. But he was making progress, which was more than he could have said at any other point during his time in the planar barge. He noticed the sound of metal resisting something, perhaps the internal mechanism of the door, and he suddenly felt confident that one more decent hit of the button would work. The young fox puffed out his chest as far as he could, drew his paws up and, with as much force as he could muster, slammed them down on the button. He turned to look at the door just as it flew off its hinges out into the light of the outside world. Antine was surprised that it flew with enough force that it was torn off its hinges, but success was success, and the fox grinned as he slowly walked over to the open door, finally both ready and able to leave the barge once and for all.

 

The moment he stepped in front of the open doorway, however, a large muscled arm shot towards him, grabbing the poor startled foxman by the throat. Antine was too surprised to do anything as the mahogany hand squeezed tightly, lifted him off the ground, and slammed him hard into the metallic wall just behind him. Pain shot through Antine’s already sore body, and his vision blurred for a second. Acting on desperate instinct, Antine raised his claws and weakly scratched at the arm. His captor reacted by drawing Antine forward and immediately slamming him back into the wall. Lights seemed to flash in Antine’s eyes as he struggled for breath and garbled a few syllables that were meant to be words. He again clawed weakly at his assailant’s forearm, but with even less force than before. When the arm pulled him out and slammed him a third time, his own arms fell limply at his side, his vision beginning to fail him.

 

Then, from somewhere beyond the arm, which was now all Antine could see before his vision gave way to haze and darkness, he heard a man’s voice ring out.

 

“Stop it, Kahr! You’ll kill him.”

 

Antine heard a vague murmur from somewhere closer and tried to speak, but his voice was still little more than a gurgle against the hand crushing his windpipe. Then, that hand released its grip, and Antine fell to his feet. He would have never stayed standing had it not been for the large man in front of him, who grabbed him by his worn and tattered shirt and shoved him upright. Before the fox could react, that large man scowled and, quicker than Antine had ever seen anyone move, he withdrew two strange looking knives with blades like a crescent moon. With a slight flurry, he whipped the blades around, crossed them in front of Antine’s face, and thrust them forward. The ringing sound they made as they struck the metal wall behind him hurt Antine’s ears. The blades themselves were held so that they wrapped around Antine’s neck, ensuring he couldn’t move without fear of bleeding.

 

The man holding the blades drew in close, and Antine realized just how large he was, towering over the much shorter foxman by more than a foot. He had long, thick black hair that hung down past his shoulders, but was clean shaven and smooth, though tanned, skinned. He was also heavily muscled everywhere, which his bare chest made exceedingly apparent. Also, while human facial expressions were more difficult for Antine to grasp than those of other foxes, he was convinced that this man’s expression must have been one of abject rage. As he leaned in close to Antine, some of his facial muscles were twitching, as was one of his eyes. When he spoke, his voice was deep and menacing.

 

“Hear me well, demon. With but a single flick of my wrist, I can sever your damnable head from your man-beast body, and well I would relish the moment. I have questions, and you would do well to choose your answers carefully.”

 

Antine whimpered as two tears streamed down his vulpine cheeks. He had no idea who this man was or what he wanted, but he was fairly convinced that it would be impossible to satisfy either his curiosity or his bloodlust. Life, it seemed, was far beyond unfair. It was bad enough that Mea and Vam had scammed him. It was even worse that his quest for revenge had ended at the wrong end of a pistol shot. It was beyond impossible what had happened when his bed, his room, and all of Jakkard had disappeared around him and he had wound up stuck in this metallic nightmare. It had been exceptionally cruel that he had had to witness the burning destruction of a world, only to be shot down. But now, after surviving everything, to die like this. It was simply too much for Antine.

 

“That’s no demon, Kahr,” the other voice sounded. Antine tried to shift his gaze to see this other speaker, but the large man holding him there, apparently named Kahr, seemed inclined to keep the fox’s attention.

 

“What is a demon, my friend, if not a beast that walks like a man?”

 

“Much more,” the other man insisted. “Whoever this is, he’s a foxfolk.”

 

“In my youth,” the larger man said, “I hunted foxes in the deep forests of Skavlakur.” Antine gulped at this, but the man continued. “This creature looks nothing like them.”

 

“I admit his coloring is strange, but I have known enough foxfolk across enough planes to tell you that’s what he is.” The larger man’s expression changed, but Antine had a difficult time placing it. Now more than ever, he missed being around other foxes. “Oh, come on, Kahr! You told me you had Aven on Arbagoth. If you’ve seen birds walk like humans, a fox can’t be too strange.”

 

Kahr answered without taking his eyes off of Antine. “The damnable birds of Ailanian are perhaps worse than demons themselves. But very well. Foxman, what are you called?”

 

It took Antine a moment or two to realize that the large man had switched to speaking to him again. He tried to answer, but his voice didn’t seem to work properly, and he only managed a strange exhalation rather than actual words. Kahr’s expression gradually changed again, and this time Antine was able to guess that it expressed annoyance. The big man flexed the muscles in his bronzed arms, and Antine could feel the blades of his curved knives brush closer against his fur. Antine’s eyes widened, having no doubt that Kahr’s earlier threat was in no way an idle one. The young fox tried again and again he failed, his voice simply refusing to appear. Finally, the large man sighed.

 

“What is your name, fox? I will not ask again!”

 

Antine’s mouth was trembling now. His eyes stared forward, nearly unblinking, locked on Kahr’s face but not truly seeing it. All he saw was his fate, all he felt was his fear. If he spoke one wrong word, this man was going to kill him, and he had no doubt about that whatsoever. And so, his mind refused to allow him to say anything at all. Rationally, if he could have mustered rational thought, he knew the same fate awaited him from silence, but his throat just refused to work. And so, Antine simply stared and shook, his breath coming in short, desperate gasps. Finally, Kahr had had enough.

 

“Very well,” the large man said simply, and seemed to lunge forward.

 

Antine drew himself up reflexively, catching his breath sharply as his voice finally broke through, scarcely louder than a whisper. “Antine! Antine, Antine.” He managed, then panted several times. “Antine.”

 

Kahr narrowed his eyes at the foxman, but eased himself backwards and allowed his curved blades to lower, just slightly. “Who do you work for, Antine?”

 

Antine gulped hard, but he answered much quicker this time than before, though still in a barely audible volume. “The Wasteward Inclusionary Land Collection Offices, in Dayko.”

 

“Do not lie to me, Fox-fiend!” the man threatened, and Antine immediately tensed.

 

“I’m sorry!” Antine said immediately. “I guess I quit there, some time ago. I forgot, or, I mean, I didn’t, that is, I just thought, I…I…”

 

“Enough!” Kahr roared, flexing his arms again. “Who sent you here to attack us?”

 

“Attack?” Antine managed.

 

“If you dare deny your attack on my people and my plane, I swear I shall incinerate you from the inside out!”

 

Antine whimpered, more tears rushing down his face. He had no idea what these men wanted, and he lacked the faculties to ask them. He was beginning to wish the large, angry man would simply kill him and end the torment. “No one sent me,” he finally managed.

 

Kahr’s eyebrows formed themselves into an almost “V” shape, which was a human expression Antine was largely unfamiliar with, but the deep-throated growl the large man gave told him it was likely bad. “So,” he began, almost barking the word. “You admit that coming to Arbagoth was your idea!”

 

Antine’s eyes bulged. “No! I swear! I was trapped in this…this thing!” He tried to indicate towards the planar barge all around them, but his limbs barely moved through his fear. “I was trapped up in the sky, then another of these things came and shot this one down.”

 

“That was us,” the other man said, stepping closer and smiling. A smile was one of those few human expressions Antine knew, and he usually distrusted it. In his experience, it was usually worn by those who were just a little too eager to be trusted. “We were flying the barge that shot yours down.”

 

Antine’s eyes widened again. They were beginning to hurt him. “You shot me down?”

 

“Yes,” Kahr said through clenched teeth. “Sadly, it is far too little punishment for the devastation you have visited upon my homeland!”

 

“Me?” Antine said, trying to back away against the metal wall behind him, but unable to move. “But, if you were in the barge, then it was your attack!”

 

“You dare!” Kahr managed before he forced himself forward, bringing the curved blades so close that they cut just slightly into Antine’s skin. It hurt, and Antine could feel the small trickle of blood as it danced down the fine hairs of his fur, but his fear kept him from moving and forcing the blades deeper. Strangely, it was the other, shorter man who spoke next, his voice surprisingly calm and soothing.

 

“Kahr, put him down.”

 

The large man looked over at his companion, yet another confusing expression flashing across his face. The other man simply closed his eyes and nodded. Kahr looked back at Antine, snorted once through his nose, and then slowly pulled his blades away from the foxman completely. Antine’s body gave out on him then, and he fell to the ground. Almost out of reflex, he pulled his legs in close in his inhuman, foxfolk crouch and brought his paws back behind his head, allowing his forearms to apply gentle pressure to the cuts on his neck. With his snout between his elbows, Antine finally broke down and began sobbing loudly.

 

The second man moved closer and crouched down next to him. He waited for a few seconds until Antine looked over at him. He expected to see another of their perplexing expressions that he would be unable to read, but instead found none at all. The man was simply looking at him and waiting. Antine sniffled a few times and tried his best to return the blank look. Finally, the man nodded.

 

“Antine,” he said, his voice soft, and almost questioning. “I’m Lukas. Lukas Harran.” He glanced up at Kahr, but only for a moment. “I know you’re scared, Antine. I have been many, many places, and I have seen…” he paused, shaking his head slightly. “…too many things. I know a great deal about fear, and guilt, and the darkest facets of the soul. I don’t pretend to know what kind of path you are on, Antine, but I can tell you where it will end…” He again glanced up at Kahr. “…if you refuse to help us.”

 

Antine lowered his head as low as he could, hiding his eyes from Lukas as he did. The fox didn’t say a word, but he nodded to show the man that he understood the situation. He could hear Lukas nod back before the man continued speaking.

 

“Good. Now Antine, if you didn’t order the attack on Arbagoth, who did?”

 

Antine sniffled deeply and spoke, his words almost completely muffled by his chest and his arms. “The metal men.”

 

He could feel Lukas staring at him, and finally he raised his head and turned it toward the interior of the ship, where a few pieces of his former, unknowing captors were lying on the ground. “The metal men,” he repeated.

 

Lukas Harran glanced briefly where Antine was indicating, and then looked back, catching Antine’s gaze as he did. “They were on the barge we commandeered, as well,” Lukas admitted, cocking his head to the side. “But they only carried out the attack. We need to know who ordered it. I have no doubt it was a living, breathing thing, not these constructs. And so far, Antine, the only living, breathing thing we’ve found is you.”

 

Kahr took a step closer to the fox, which caused Antine to scramble a bit and drop his arms to the floor, but he managed to keep himself from panicking into a run that could have only ended one way. Lukas leaned slightly to once again recapture the young fox’s attention.

 

“Antine, we need to know who did this,” Lukas said simply. “Was there anyone else who could have? Anyone that you’ve seen?”

 

Antine shook his head, just slightly at first, and then more vigorously. “No, I swear, all I’ve seen are those horrible, metal men! There’s been no one else! No one except…” the memory snapped back to him immediately. “Except that man!”

 

This obviously caught Kahr’s attention. “Man? What man?”

 

Antine slowly looked upward at the large man. He more breathed his response than spoke it. “The man with no body!”

 

Kahr and Lukas shared a long look between them, but their expressions were unreadable to him. There was a long moment of silence before Kahr spoke, clearly to Lukas and not to Antine. “Is he insane, Lukas?”

 

“Possibly,” Lukas admitted, then looked back at the young fox, studying him for a few long moments. “But I don’t think so. Confused maybe. Certainly frightened. Antine, where did you see this ‘man with no body’?”

 

“Above the mirrored table,” he said, suddenly afraid that he had, in fact, gone insane. It would certainly have explained a lot about the past few days.

 

“Insane,” Kahr repeated, as if confirming it.

 

But Lukas seemed to be thinking, stroking his chin thoughtfully as Antine had seem some human negotiators do in Dayko. “I don’t think so, Kahr,” he said, then rose out of his crouch to stand at full height. “Kahr, you remember that projection of the globe of Arbagoth in the barge, don’t you? It must be able to project other images, as well.” He shifted his attention back to the foxman. “Antine, how did you get on this barge?”

 

“I swear I don’t know!” Antine said in broken desperation. “All I know is that one minute I was lying in a bed in the Jakkard, and then the world seemed to vanish or melt away or go crazy, and then I was in this big arena thing and all these metal structures were around me, and then I panicked and ran in here! The door closed, and I was trapped! I swear, it’s true!”

 

Again, Lukas and Kahr looked at each other, meaningfully. They knew perfectly well what he meant, better even than he did. Lukas looked down at Antine and sighed. “Antine, are you a planeswalker?”

 

Antine had no idea what that meant. He remembered the vast expanse of the Wastes, which were about the closest thing he could think of. “A plains walker? No, I rode on catback.”

 

“You…” Lukas began, then stopped. “What?”

 

“I rode catback across the Wastes,” he answered. “Plains,” he added quickly, holding his paws up, “if you prefer.”

 

Both of the humans sighed. Lukas shook his head. “What plane are you from?”

 

“I’m not from the plains,” Antine said. “I was born in Verkell.”

 

“This is getting us nowhere, my friend,” Kahr said to Lukas. “I believe you that he is innocent. But that places us no closer to our destination than we were, and we are losing time. We have other barges to destroy.”

 

“We can’t just leave him, Kahr,” Lukas insisted. “He doesn’t even know what he is. Remember, it was not so long ago that you were as confused as he is. Would you have wanted me to leave you in your ignorance?”

 

Kahr looked down at the huddled fox and sighed heavily. “No, my friend. I would not. Very well. We should take him with us.”

 

Again, Antine whimpered, but Lukas Harran again crouched down, this time directly in front of him. His eyebrows were raised slightly in the middle of his forehead, and his lips were pursed tight, but Antine had no idea what that expression meant. When the human spoke, his voice was soft and slow.

 

“Antine, I’m sorry we attacked you. We thought you were the cause of the attack on Arbagoth. Now it’s clear that you weren’t, and so Kahr and I are no threat to you.” Antine met the man’s gaze at these words. “Do you understand, Antine? I promise that we won’t hurt you.”

 

Antine stared for a long moment, his fear refusing to completely give way to the gratitude he felt at hearing that promise. Finally, the young fox simply nodded his understanding, and Lukas continued.

 

“We will not force you, of course, but I think it would be wise if you came with us. I can explain what’s happened to you, but there is simply no time to do so now. Kahr and I have to get going. We have to find this ‘man with no body’ you described. I know you probably don’t want anything more to do with this mess. I can’t blame you. But if you come with us, I’ll do my best to explain what you are and what’s happened to you. What do you say?”

 

Antine sniffled as he tried to think. On one side of the coin, Lukas was absolutely right that Antine just wanted to be done with all of this. Also, while Lukas seemed to be genuine, Kahr frightened the foxman more than any man he had ever met. The closest Antine had ever come to death before the past few days had been when Vam had shot him, but even that seemed little more than a scratch compared to how close he had come to dying at Kahr’s hands. But on the other side of that coin was the hope of learning what was happening with him. If Lukas was telling the truth, and he could tell Antine what happened to him in that bed in the Jakkard, perhaps it was worth the risk. And besides, if Lukas or Kahr wanted him dead, he’d be dead. It was that simple. After several long moments, Antine nodded slowly.

 

“I’ll go with you,” he said softly.

 

Lukas smiled and nodded sharply. “Good. Now let’s go see about this bodiless man of yours.”

 

“Lukas,” Antine said sheepishly, “do you really think we can stop him before…”

 

Antine stopped sharply in mid-sentence as the memory of the metal man’s grating words crashed back in on him. He froze, his eyes unblinking and locked on a spot out in space directly in front of him. Lukas’s brow furrowed, waiting for Antine to continue. When he didn’t, Lukas spoke, concern echoed in his voice.

 

“Antine, what’s wrong?”

 

Suddenly, abruptly, Antine’s head snapped sideways to lock eyes with Lukas. “The second volley!”

 

This caught Kahr’s attention immediately. “Second volley? What second volley?”

 

Antine looked up at the frightening man. “Just after the attack! I heard the metal men say they were preparing for a second volley!”

 

Kahr and Lukas looked at one another again as Lukas rose to his feet. The smaller of the two humans glanced down at Antine, and then back to his friend. “If that’s true, Kahr, we need to hurry. We can’t let that happen again.”

 

“No,” Kahr agreed, “even the greatest of Skavlakur’s enemies do not deserve such a fate.” He looked down at Antine then and forced a tiny smile. He held out his massive hand down toward him, offering it in aid. “Come, Fox. We must be going.”

 

Tentatively, Antine reached out a paw toward the very hand that had so recently been strangling the life out of him. After a short hesitation, Antine decided that his path was already chosen, and grabbed the large man’s hand. Immediately, Kahr hauled the young fox to his feet, supporting his weight for him as he struggled to regain his legs. Kahr smiled widely now as he looked down at the Fox. He moved to stand beside Antine and slapped him roughly on the back, which Antine assumed was meant to be friendly.

 

“Come, my new fox-friend. We have much to do.”

 

Antine nodded, and took a few short steps forward toward the door. It was a long time coming, but the young fox was finally ready to step beyond that door and escape the planar barge which had served as his prison for far too long. He paused briefly at the threshold, taking one last deep breath before finally ending this dark chapter of his young life. So much had happened to him and around him, but finally he had hope. Finally, he had people who, if they could be believed, wanted to help him rather than murder him. Finally, he didn’t have to feel trapped anymore.

 

Sadly, just as Antine was about to take that last step out into the vast openness of the world beyond the barge, he heard a blood-curdling roar that shook him to the very core of his soul. He had heard that roar before, years ago, when he was just a little kit trapped in the thicket of a Verkell zoo. Slowly, agonizingly slowly, Antine raised his head and saw his worst fears confirmed. Standing just outside the door to the barge, he saw it, the massive frame, the protruding spikes, the huge, gaping mouth lined with impossibly huge, unthinkably deadly teeth. Antine did not know what he was, or how he had gotten here, or what was going on, but he knew a baloth when he saw one.

 

And one was staring at him right now.

(to be continued…)


“The War of the Wheel” is a fanfiction novel by RavenoftheBlack.

For previous chapters, view the M:EM serial archive here:

http://front.nogoblinsallowed.com/category/expanded-multiverse/mem-serial/


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