The ground shook harder, throwing them off their feet. A tear opened in the ground, the dull roar began to fade, replaced with screeching.
Todd looked at Max, then Doug, “Maybe it would be better if you came with us.”
There was noise from the hole, growing steadily louder.
“C’mon, lets go.”
They started to walk quickly.
They were a short distance away when the ground rumbled again, behind them there was a shriek, they turned to see a long centipede clawing its way out of the earth. It was about eight foot tall and impossibly long. They spread out, ready to attack, but the centipede moved right past them, ignoring everyone. They watched as it moved towards the wall.
It wasn’t the only one. More insects pulled themselves from the earth and started to swarm the wall, crawling over its surface, looking for what ever was attacking it.
As they moved closer to the wall the air grew hotter. They moved carefully, scanning the area around them should there be an ambush, but there was nothing. In the distance they could see someone standing at the wall, a great, hulking beast.
Samantha was starting to falter. Her strength was reaching its limits. She felt lightheaded, weak, but still she pushed on. Just a little longer, she could feel it weakening beneath her power. The wall seemed to shimmer, then it began to bow outwards. She was almost there. Her breathing was fast now, coming in shallow gasps, she could almost touch that well of power, she could feel it moving just out of her reach.
“Why hasn’t it attacked us?”
“It must be using all its energy on the wall.”
“Ok, but then why isn’t there any kind of back up for it? It had to have known that someone would try and stop it.”
“Maybe it didn’t think it would take this long. Look, if we just attack it, surely the break will stop the magic.”
“Yeah, but I-”
Both of Max’s men started to run at the beast, one let out a roar and as he did so a ball of blue light lefts his mouth, shooting at the creature. One of the insects detached itself from the wall and flung itself in front of the ball of energy, it exploded spraying chunks of viscera and thick black goo everywhere. The other insects began to drop off the wall and home in on Max’s men, before anyone could move to help them, they were torn to shreds, dragged under hundreds of the creatures. The screams faded away, the insects moved around restlessly for a moment, then began to crawl back to the wall.
“What the hell was that?”
“Either they thought they were attacking the wall, or they work with that thing.”
“If they worked for it, they’d be surrounding it in a protective barrier. They must be connected to the wall.”
“Then why did they attack?”
“Maybe the wall is trying to absorb the power being thrown at it? The bugs might view it as another power source.”
“So how do we stop it without magic?”
“We need to get close to it, but I don’t know if the bugs will attack us.”
“They haven’t yet. They might let us get close enough to be able to stop it.”
They were about twenty feet from the beast when a gargantuan beetle detached itself from the wall and moved in front of them. It stopped and made no move to attack. Everyone paused.
“We’ll need to distract it.”
“If we do the rest of them will come down and attack us. We need something else.”
“We need someone to attack the wall.”
“Just hear me out. One of us goes a few hundred feet down, attacks the wall and runs for a bit. When the bugs get close, get out of here and back to New Town, they won’t be able to follow through and they’ll be distracted long enough for us to have a shot at that thing.”
“I’ll do it.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah. I’m a good runner.” Mark kissed Todd, then started running away from them before anyone could object.
Doug couldn’t quite make out what Mark was doing, but the bugs suddenly turned and started to run along the wall. Once the area around them was slightly clear, they put their attention to the beast standing in front of them. Max started to shimmer and shift, his arm elongating and changing. He shouted something, his voice deep and hissing, a bolt of scarlet left his hand and struck the beast, it stumbled to the side but when it regained its balance it was standing taller. Todd shouted something, and a ball flew from his hand. It struck the beast but had no effect. Doug looked back, some of the insects were returning, and quickly. They had to end it soon. Max and Todd kept hurling energy at the beast, but if anything it seemed to be strengthening it. Then needed to get it to stop, break its concentration. He looked at the beast it was tall, taller than him. He hadn’t realised how much the beast was sagging until it started to regain some of its energy, even now it wasn’t standing at full height. Max and Todd had stopped flinging energy at it. Doug gritted his teeth and started to run, he launched himself at the Beast, his shoulder slammed into it, hard. It felt like he had just tackled a wall, but the beast was still weak and faltered, then fell beneath the weight. Its head crashed into the ground, stunning it. The power stuttered, then seemed to increase in strength. Someone dragged Doug off the beast. There was a blinding flash of light and the wall shuddered, becoming shadowy again. The beast seemed smaller, more human. The insects behind them stopped, then started to scuttle away from the wall. As Doug watched the beast transformed into a young girl in her mid to late teens. Her eyes were closed and dark, her skin was pale. As they watched her body seemed to thin. When it stopped she looked small, frail.
“Who is she?”
“I don’t know.”
“Neither do I.”
Samantha lay on the ground, unable to move. She felt so weak, so helpless. She reached out for her power, there was nothing there but a faint trickle. She tried to pull it forward to giver herself strength. It responded weakly, then stopped. She could hear people speaking, but she couldn’t quite make out what they were saying. She didn’t care, why would she? She had failed. The wall had won and it had taken almost all her power from her. She was useless. Weak. She felt a faint breath of air across her face and darkness fell over her.
“What should we do with her?”
“She’ll need to face punishment for her crimes.”
“Well, for now I think she needs medical attention. Look at her, she’s barely alive.”
“We’ll have to guard her around the clock, it’ll be too dangerous for her to be unattended.”
Todd started to mutter something under his breath, then he leaned down and blew into her face gently. She became almost completely still.
“What did you do?”
“She’s unconscious. She will be for the next month. We can treat her body safely and once she’s well you can move her to a prison.”
“Why didn’t you do that sooner?”
Todd shrugged, “I need to be relaxed when I do it. It can’t be done under stress. Otherwise bad things can happen.”
Doug stood in front of the door, waiting for the army men to step through and escort him back out. Now that the threat was apparently over he would have liked to stay longer, but Max had insisted it would be best if he left for a short while at least. He had everything he needed and even a few plans. He thought that despite what happened they’d open the doors soon enough, but before that happened he might be able to convince them to allow him to come back. Write a kind of travel column about restaurants and places to visit. The door in front of him opened and two men in army fatigues stepped through. They grabbed his bags and after a few words with the people standing around, indicated that Doug should step through. As he did so he felt a faint shiver along his spine, a feeling of longing, he wanted to go back. It passed after a few seconds. The army guys stood either side of him, Doug turned to look back at New Town, but the doors had already closed.