The Aeolian Master - Book One - Revival
stinger from its body. He fell to his left shoulder and held on to his right sword while the bug continued to beat
its wings against the air. Ben sat up and flung the pinioned insect into the open field. It continued to flop
around until Dahms ran over and cut it in half.
The insect that had wounded Harold, flew higher up and joined formation with the one that had acted as a
decoy. They hovered for a few seconds as they appraised the situation. The other three insects were lying dead
on the ground, blue ooze seeping into the soil. Finally, as if realizing they had done all the damage they could
do and possibly discourage any assault on their nest, they flew back into the foliage.
Ben stood up and looked down at Harold. He could see his skin turning a light yellow and his muscles were
twitching in uncontrollable spasms, and although Ben knew he was in agony there seemed to be a slight smile
on his lips. As his tongue turned black and started to protrude due to the swelling he simply closed his eyes and
Sam knelt beside Harold for a moment and placed his hand on his shoulder. "If I get out of this, I'll take care
of your family," he said softly. "I'll also make sure that Hurd is taken care of."
Jos and Harold lie on the ground. Their bodies were bloated, and their black tongues protruded from their
mouths. Ben remembered something a religious man once said. ‘When we’re finished with our human suits,
we leave them behind and move on to a better place.’ Ben hoped he was right.
“Which way?” asked Rennie as he looked at the two paths.
Ben studied the tree, then the pond. “Remember what you said about always going to the left,” he said.
"I'm not sure it's the right way," replied Dahms, "since we’ve already encountered the major threat in this
zone it might not matter which way we go. And quite frankly as I look at the pond I keep imagining poisonous
snakes or a carnivorous underwater creature who could inflict a deadly wound."
But Ben knew better, and he started for the pond. “If you look under the tree you’ll see a worn spot in the
grass as if something is running around beneath it. Personally I’d rather not meet it face to face.”
Dahms considered it for a moment. "I see your point," she said.
“That’s right,” said Sam as he stroked his red mustache and glared at the tree.
“I’ll try this way first,” said Ben. "If I don't make it through the pond, then you'll know to go the other way."
“You’d think the giant insects would have been enough for this zone,” said Sam.
Ben stopped at the edge and peered into the water looking for anything big and monstrous, or anything small
and suspicious. “Each zone becomes more difficult,” he said. He slapped the surface with the flat of his sword
a couple of times causing the bugs to skitter away from the turmoil. The green slime rose and fell in ripples, but
nothing else moved. It was too murky to see deeper than a foot from the surface, so he stuck his sword through
the slime and quickly agitated the water. Still nothing happened. He drew his short sword, and with a sword in
each hand he stepped into the pond. As he forged ahead the little pond dropped off, becoming deep, quite
rapidly. After three steps he was already up to his waist and two more steps, up to his shoulders. He pushed his
left foot forward and stepped down. The water was now slapping against his face and little bugs were scurrying
to get out of his way. Green slime was clinging to one ear as he stretched his head and face upward to keep the
water out of his mouth and nose. With his sword now under the water he probed around in front feeling for any
unknown creature. He picked up his right foot to push it forward when something suddenly grabbed it and
started to pull—not too strong, but enough to cause him to jerk his foot upward while striking down with his
sword. He started to strike again when he realized his foot had simply gotten caught in a clump of moss.
He pushed his right foot toward the bottom and felt around, then started forward again. After ten yards, near
the middle of the pond, the bottom leveled, and began to slope up. The mud on the bottom was slippery, which
made walking difficult, but he finally emerged on the other side and stood dripping water and wiping slime off
his shoulders and arms.
"It's all clear," he said.
Of the remaining four, Sam was the first to step into the pond. With the sword in his right hand he began
stabbing the water in front of him. He edged his way toward the center of the pond keeping alert to anything
that might want to eat him. Finally, as the pond became too deep for him to keep his head out of the water he
sheathed his sword and began to dog paddle.
After he had gone another five feet Dahms stepped into the murky pond, and then came Gaal, followed by
"The water's nice and cool," said Rennie. He splashed some of the water in his face to wash away the sweat.
Ben waited for them. And Sam had just reached the bank of the pond, and was giving Dahms a hand when a
loud, high-pitched wailing scream brought everyone to a standstill. They quickly turned and looked at the trees