A Scythe in Time: Part 2
The time-travel convention will be held two weeks ago.

        "So," Ferdie tried, glancing about the surrounding greenery, "Where do you suppose we are?"

        "Well, it certainly isn't home," Iiwi observed, gesturing overhead, "Not with twin suns, at any rate."

        "Twins?" Bob asked, squinting, "But I only see one-"

        "The other is further west," Squeaks pointed. "It's smaller, or possibly just further away, but it puts this world in an elliptical orbit."

        "Which means?" Bob prompted.

        "More daylight, and maybe a longer winter. Warm days, very cold nights. Probably, anyway," the mouse shrugged.

        "Definitely not Earth, at any rate," Ferdie sighed.

        "Vyceria," Drake ventured, turning to sneer at D'Gal, "Though obviously not the part they show to the rest of known space. Desert wasteland, indeed!" he added, as the Black Knight bristled.

        "Drake," Squeaks cautioned, eyeing D'Gal warily as the duck seethed with barely-checked rage, "If you provoke him into attacking you, we're not coming to your rescue."

        Ferdia nodded. "And so help me, if you jeopardize our chances of getting home again..." she trailed off, hands clenched into fists. Behind her, the rest of the detectives nodded gravely; Lita punctuated the statement by cracking her knuckles and glaring at the white-feathered Duck menacingly.

        "Easy, now," Drake backed off, waving nervously at the party, "Inflammatory or not, it was a valid guess. Where do you think they were going?"

        D'Gal scowled, glaring at the Duck with undisguised hatred. "Vyceria has only one sun," he growled, "And Nebera is quite a bit bigger and brighter than either of these by day. You know that, Duck. You've been there."

        Drake snuck his nose in the air, turning away with a huff. "Says you, fiend. But even if you're being truthful, if you weren't going to Vyceria, where were you headed?"

        "Certainly not here," D'Gal frowned. "The damage to the device must've caused it to scramble our coordinates, if not lose them completely."

        "Still," Iiwi ventured, "If we knew where you were headed..."

        "It wouldn't help much," Lita shook her head. "That thing was sparking all over the place. A computer on the fritz like that isn't going to jumble things by shifting bits or adding zeroes. We could've wound up with the last half of a fatal exception 0E error as our coordinates, for all we know."

        Beak nodded. "Our best chance at getting home lies with Newt. I'm sure he'll be able to get the coordinates off the machine. It just might take a while. In the mean time, surely we could ask the locals where we are?"

        "What locals?" Bob asked. "Aside from the group that charged through our landing zone, I see no signs of civilization."

        "I'm not even certain I'd call that group civilized," Ivan muttered. "What sort of self-respecting commander lets his minions run about in that state? I've seen cleaner highway bandits!"

        "Still, perhaps it's time I took a look around," Iiwi said, hopping into the air and turning into the wind, "I'll scout out the surrounding area, see if I can find a town or farm of some sort."

        "Try to locate where the soldiers were coming from," Ferdia called after her. "If there's an army nearby, we need to know about it. No sense in getting mistaken for enemy scouts."

        "See if you can pick up the rider's trail as well," Squeaks added. "Soldiers chase message runners as well as fighters. There could be a town nearby."

        "Yeah, yeah," the Flier called down to them. "What frequency are you guys on? My ear mike's still working, so we should be able to maintain radio contact. That way I can keep you informed without constantly doubling back."

        A few minutes of trial and error saw the cops' radios – and Bob's "Danger Mic" – all tuned to the same frequency. Iiwi set off in a wide circle, calling in a few possible forest shacks to the west before winging away in the direction the soldiers had come.

        High in the sky, Iiwi marveled at the world below her. League upon league of thick, untamed forest stretched along the north and south, melting into meadows and moorlands to the east and west. A mountain range clawed its way out of the hills to the northwest, growing steadily steeper and less friendly looking as it went. Worn stone roads and wide dirt paths meandered about below her, weaving in and around forests, lakes, and streams.

        She caught sight of some crudely-made wooden fences and tumble-down stone walls winding their way along meadows and forest edges here and there, and every now and again spotted the decaying remains of a house or barn, but found that most of the countryside east of their landing zone to be wild and uninhabited, devoid of all but the remnants of civilization. It wasn't until she looped north towards the mountains that she found out why.

        The thick stands of trees and gently sloping hills gave way to vast, rolling meadows with steep, rock-strewn hills and valleys. Here the trees here been felled by the hundreds, and the remains of a small settlement smoldered in the breeze. The village looked to have been hastily abandoned; half-loaded wagons with broken wheels dotted the dirt road, abandoned where they'd fallen, and hardly picked over. Here and there a stray dog or chicken wandered about, investigating the charred structures and pecking along the ground in search of food. Farm animals milled about as well - mostly the young, the old, and the patently slow, bolstering her suspicions of a speedy evacuation. She caught sight of a brightly painted pennant in the road, and the cause of the villagers' flight was suddenly clear. This, she realized, was where the soldiers had come from. This was where the army had been.

        As she crested the hills just beyond the village, she saw that most of it was, in fact, still there. Bodies dotted the fields, strewn up and down the hillsides their respective armies had used as launching points for what looked to have been a huge battle. Here and there a broken cannon or toppled catapult lay amidst the carnage; bloodied pennants flapped idly in the breeze, marking the location of battle groups that no longer were. Feral crows fluttered about the dead, picking at open wounds and fresh eyeballs as buzzards circled overhead, waiting patiently for the suns to ripen their meals. Portions of the fields were scorched black, burned into morbid craters of varying size. The largest of these craters rivaled San Viano's community swimming pools in size, staining the grass along their edges in ash and blood.

        Iiwi circled slowly, mouth agape in wide-eyed horror. This had been a massacre. No wonder the surrounding areas were deserted! Entire regiments lay broken and bloodied, some still grouped in battle lines, others entombed in twisted lumps of melted metal – the remnants of armored divisions, she supposed, not unlike the horseman who had torn past them earlier – though the what had caused their gruesome fate was a mystery. Much of the fallen soldiers' more identifiable uniforms and weaponry resembled those she'd seen hawked at Renaissance festivals – chain mail and tabards, plate armor, broadswords, crossbows, battle axes, maces, spears, and a variety of nameless but cruel monstrosities. Horses lay by the dozens amongst the dead, as did wolfhounds, raptors, and the occasional peasant girl or small child – water carriers and message-bearers, she supposed.

        "This is just...awful," she breathed, flaring her wings and drifting closer to the ground. "Nothing's moving," she noted, "I can't even tell which side won..." She alighted on a bare patch of ground, regretting it immediately as blood-soaked mud squelched between her talons.

        "Iiwi?" Ferdia's voice clicked in over the radio, "What's going on up there?"

        "I found the battle group," the scarlet Flier replied, "This was a massacre!"

        "Any sign of survivors?" Squeaks queried.

        "Not that I've seen," she began, then stopped, startled by a fleeting shadow on the edge of her peripheral vision. "Wait – there's something here..." She hopped forward, peering into the forest at the approximate spot she thought she'd glimpsed the shadow.

        "Come on out," she called, fluttering her wings and bowing into a non-threatening pose, "I'm not going to hurt you..."

        Something shifted in the bushes, snorting uneasily. Realization dawned on Iiwi, and she drew her wings close and slowly crept forward, snatching the horse's reigns in her beak and gently tugging the frightened beast back into the clearing. It was sleek and trim – a charger, perhaps. It looked too slight to pull cannons, and she doubted it could have carried a fully-armored knight very far or fast in a battle.

        "Iiwi?" Ferdia's voice broke through her thoughts.

        "Found a horse," she informed the detective. "It's a little spooked, but otherwise okay. I'll try to drive it back towards you guys; there's nothing else to see here."

        "We could do with some local attire, if their camp's still there," D'Gal stated.

        Iiwi's response was lost in the scuffle following that remark, and as the sounds the duck being batted away from the radio mike drifted over the airwaves, she idly wondered if either detective had thought to take off their radios' shoulder straps before this.

        "He does have a point," Squeaks grudgingly acknowledged as the scuffle faded.

        "I'll look around for a camp, but I haven't seen evidence of one yet," Iiwi replied.

        "What about the supplies on the field?" Drake suggested. "There must be something useful there."

        "Everything here's covered in blood, scorched, or shot full of holes," she shot back, wrinkling her nares in distaste, "Besides, that's worse than grave robbing."

        "Says the treasure hunter," Ferdie remarked in the background.

        "They're not even cold, Ferdie," she chided, "And most of them are our age – or younger! I'll scavenge what I can from any camp I find, but I'm leaving the dead alone."

        "But we need those uniforms!" Drake protested. "We'll stick out like a sore thumb unless we change into local attire!"

        Iiwi ruffled her feathers. "If you want them so badly, you come down here and get them!" she screeched, angrily fluttering down the hill.

        The line went silent for a while, and she used the time to pick through discarded packs and search for a camp. The horse plodded along behind her, grateful for living company.

        "We need those uniforms!" Drake yelled, grabbing for the mike again as the two cops continued dodging out of reach. This went on for several minutes, until an increasingly miffed D'Gal stepped between the detectives and Drake, glaring at the Duck.

        "We don't need them," he scowled. "Really, now, it's one thing to take a dead man's change of clothes, but stealing a soldier's uniform off his corpse? We don't even know which ones to take! Who won the battle? Who controls the region? Choosing the wrong colors could get us killed just as fast – if not faster – than staying as we are!"

        "As if I'd believe that!" Drake growled, "You're just trying to get me killed!"

        "At this point, it might do everyone a favor!" D'Gal snarled back.

        "Break it up!" Ferdia yelled, shoving the two away from each other while civility was still an option, "Look, if the bodies are still warm, then the battle didn't happen that long ago. The farms and villages nearby are probably still empty; we can pick up a change of clothes there."

        Squeaks nodded. "Even if the nearby homes aren't abandoned, I doubt the locals would grudge us that much."

        "Come on, Ace," Drake frowned, "Whose side are you on?"

        "The one that's not going to get us all killed," Ferdia glowered.

        "So, who gets the horse?" Ferdie inquired.

        The company turned to stare at him, incredulous.

        "What?" he asked. "It's a legitimate question. Iiwi said there weren't any settlements nearby, and none of those shacks we found had anything in them. We've got quite a bit of walking to do if we don't want to spend our entire stay here out of doors, and I just wanna know-"

        "We'll take turns," Ferdia decided. "No one's injured, and unless Iiwi managed to snag some supplies, we need a second scout more than a pack horse. With luck, we'll be able to get more horses on the way."

        "Of all the days to forget my running shoes..." Ferdie grumbled, walking back to a shade tree and plopping to the ground.

        "What about supplies?" Ivan asked, "Granted, with all the marksmen in this crew, food shouldn't be a problem, but suppose we fail to find shelter by nightfall? Personally, I hate camping enough with proper equipment. Without it....well, you get my point," the villain shrugged.

        Squeaks shook his head. "It's useless speculating. When Bob, Beak, and your wards return from scouting the woods to our west, we might have a better idea of whether or not there are trade paths that might lead to shelter. And Iiwi might be able to find something in the west when she gets back. Until then, we have no idea where – or how far – we would need to travel before we could rest safely."

        Iiwi returned some hours later, herding a laden warhorse before her. It was a nondescript brown, caked in mud from its mane to its legs and belly. The embroidered saddle clothes were faded and torn, and splattered with mud and stains of long-dried blood. An armored faceplate stretched across its forehead, held in place by the bridle, a small, sharp metal horn rising in the center of the faceplate giving the weary horse the appearance of a small dragon or an extremely filthy unicorn. This hardly seemed to concern the horse, which plodded along as if used to long, load-bearing marches. The Flier had piled an assortment of salvaged weapons, rations, and tents onto the worn leather saddle, having eventually located and picked over the fallen armies' campsites. (Uniforms, used or otherwise, were notably absent from the scavenged linens.) All this she explained to the assembled group while triumphantly presenting them with a torn, crumbling map.

        "Assuming it's accurate," she ventured, "I *think* I found the armies here, in Richter's Pass." She pointed to a small clearing in a line of mountains. "Which would put us several miles west, in this patch here," she indicated a section labeled 'Trees and Openne Fields'.

        "Of course," the Flier amended, "They might have been in the Barrow Downs, or Broken Man's Hills. It's hard to tell what scale this thing uses, and none of the rivers and lakes I've seen are on the map. I'd say we're a good forty-some miles southwest of the mountains, but beyond that, I'm not sure."

        Ferdie peered over his sister's shoulder at the faded map. "Are you sure that's the way to hold it?" he queried, "I don't see a compass rose or anything, and you've got the mountains on the right. Shouldn't North be up?"

        "Not on this map," Iiwi said. "There's no rose, true, but the words are all oriented the same way, and that's usually a good indication of which way is 'up' on ancient maps. Besides, there's no reason to assume North has to be up – it generally wasn't in medieval times, and this army looked straight out of the Crusades. My compass says the mountains are North, and while my internal sense of direction doesn't really agree, I don't know how much of that is the suns' alignments and how much is alien magnetic poles," she shrugged.

        "It's better than wandering around blindly, at any rate," Ferdia said, "Though some sort of scale would be nice."

        "So would legible writing," Drake observed, edging his way past a rather indignant group of kiwis to get a look at the map, "How can you read this scribble?"

        "It's not scribble," Ferdie retorted, shoving the Duck back so he could see more of the map, "It's script. Looks like a variant of Medieval Europe's Old English. I've got some books back home that use a similar form. Once you get past the loops and squiggles, it gets easier."

        Iiwi shrugged. "I'll leave that up to you guys. Myself, I'm thinking of scouting a couple leagues west of here. That map shows a town a couple days' walk from the mountains, and I want to see if I can find it. If nothing else, we'd have a better idea of where we are."

        "So, where do you figure we are now?" Ferdie wondered.

        "Lost in some dark, foreboding forest, of course," D'Gal muttered, glaring at the surrounding greenery.

        "Well, that much is obvious," Ferdie shrugged, "What I meant was, where exactly do you figure we are on the map?"

        "Don't ask me," the duck snapped, "You lot won't even let me see the bloody map."

        "Wouldn't really make much of a difference," Ferdia sighed, "Considering we had no idea where we were before we got lost in here..."

        "Hey guys!" Iiwi's voice filtered down from above the forest canopy, "Looks like these woods go on for quite a while. No signs of civilization yet, but there does seem to be a break in the trees a few leagues north of here.

        "At least, I think it's North." She paused. "My bearings are a bit off – must be getting interference from something. I'm going in for a closer look, at any rate." A dark shape passed over the shadows dappling the forest floor as the Flier banked right, winging her way to the far off break in the tree line.

        The group proceeded in silence for a while. Relative silence, anyway. Every few steps brought with them the muffled yelp of Drake tripping over a log, stepping into a burrow, tumbling into a pricker bush, or bumbling into a hornet's nest. Once in a while the hapless Platyrian even managed to stumble across and trigger a snare. These chance occurrences gave the group an opportunity to rest as they worked out how to free him, and never failed to elicit a grumbled complaint from D'Gal – usually in regards to the absence of steel-clawed bear traps in the area.

        During one such restful pause, while they contemplated how to best cut Drake down from the rope currently suspending him by his ankles thirty feet above the forest floor, a good deal of thrashing and crashing about erupted from the surrounding underbrush. Weapons were quickly holstered and sheathed, however, as Lita and the sign holder emerged from the brush. Drake, who had become quite worried at D'Gal's suggestion that they use him as tiger bait, breathed an audible sigh of relief.

        - Which quickly turned into a scream as he plummeted headfirst to the ground. High above, on the branch still bearing the frayed end of the knotted rope that had held the Duck, a tiny squirrel bobbed its tail, chittering with merry amusement and innocently picking rope fibers from its teeth before resuming its quest for acorns.

        On the whole, no one noticed the duck currently writhing in agony in a rather mean-looking tangle of thorn bushes. (Well, no one aside from D'Gal, who looked as if he'd like to find the forest creature responsible for this turn of events and reward it handsomely.) Everyone's attention was fixed on Ivan's two wards; a good deal of their expressions read somewhere along the lines of "and just how long have they been gone?"

        Lita took a moment to brush off the bits of leaves and twigs clinging to her fur in an attempt to make herself look more presentable. The sign holder, fairly bursting with excitement, did not.

        "Boss!" he yelled, "You gotta some see this! We found something!"

        Lita nodded. "There's a bunch of old stone ruins a few miles east of here," she clarified.

        Ivan, for his part, failed to see the cause of their enthusiasm. They were looking for a way out of the forest, after all, not treasure. "And we care because..." he prompted them.

        His wards shifted uncomfortably. "Um...well..." Lita began, "Because there's berry bushes and campfire circles and stuff there and that means people still use it on occasion, so we might find a trail or something nearby?" she hazarded.

        Ivan groaned. "You mean you didn't *check* for a trail?"

        "Sorry, Boss." The sign holder shuffled his feet. "We kinda forgot."

        "We figured you'd want to know about the ruins ASAP," Lita amended, "So we just did a quick perimeter sweep and headed back."

        D'Gal tore his attention from the sight of Drake trying unsuccessfully to free himself from the thicket of thorn bushes and turned a reproachful scowl to the rabbit. "You know better than that, Farlane."

        Lita shrank back, cringing into a half-bow and addressing her next remarks to the ground. "Yessir. Sorry, sir. Won't happen again, sir." Her gaze rose tentatively as she rallied her defense. "It's just that since we had no way of communicating with the group here we felt it was better to get back quickly, lest we lose track of each other. We knew we could go back if further inquiry was needed, and didn't want to risk veering too far off-course without checking in. It's hard to see Iiwi through the canopy, sir, and my compass is busted."

        "Yeah," the sign holder added, rallying to his friend's defense, "The needle was spinning all over the place!" The small brown kiwi held up the instrument in question, examining it curiously. "It's just kinda wobblin' now," he allowed, "but it was spinning before!"

        "We didn't drop it or bang it against anything," Lita said. "I'm not sure what's wrong with it, but we'll need to borrow someone else's until I get a chance to fix mine..."

        "There might not actually be anything wrong with them, per se," Squeaks mused, looking up from his own compass, "Ours are also wavering. We're probably near a strong magnetic field."

        Over the sounds of Drake still painfully struggling to extricate himself from the thicket came a loud, resounding crack!, followed by a squawk and the sound of something crashing through the forest canopy and to the ground some distance away.

        "That would be Iiwi proving our point." Ferdia looked off in the direction of the crash. "Sensitivity to magnetic fields is really going to work against her right now."

        Off in the distant foliage, over the sounds of creaking branches and warbled curses, came Iiwi's resounding screech of indignation: "There's only supposed to be *one* North!"

        Bob, sensing the opportunity to grab control of the situation and do something heroic, took a deep breath and bellowed, "We're coming, Iiwi! Just stay right there!"

        "Believe me, I couldn't move if I wanted to!" came the grumbling reply.

        Muttering something along the lines of sympathizing with that statement, Drake paused in his struggles to consider a nagging question. "Should this magnet thing be causing her so much trouble?" he queried.

        Ferdie, demonstrating his highly-developed humanitarianism, attempted to persuade Beak to lightsaber Drake out of the thicket. As the Magi took a few "practice" swings near the Duck's head, Ferdie then decided a little distraction was in order, to keep Drake from appreciating the mortal peril said lightsaber presented. "Fliers can sense magnetic fields," he explained, "Kind of like their own internal compass. If she flew anywhere near the spot that made the kids' compass spin out, her sense of equilibrium would go haywire. She wouldn't know which way was up!"

        "...Well, not until she crashed into something, anyway," he amended.

        Drake considered this, as it was less worrisome than the light blade currently whirring about his head. "Shouldn't she have just been able to see where she was going?"

        Beak gave the thorn bushes one last swipe, sending the Duck crashing down onto the piles of poison ivy and thorny branches scattered atop the sharp pointy rocks that made up that section of ground. "I imagine," the Magi began, raising his voice above the pained whimpering, "it's a bit like getting off a carnival's tilt-a-whirl ride. You can see just fine, but the vertigo throws off your balance."

        "Exactly," Ferdie nodded, "Just staggering to a wall to wait out the effects is hard enough to do without falling once or twice. Imagine trying that with flying, when you've got a third set of dimensions to deal with."

        D'Gal nodded in what from anyone else would have been termed sympathy. "It's the same in Zero-G. Something throws you off, it's best to just go limp until you run into something you can anchor yourself to. She probably stopped beating her wings and glided until the canopy caught her."

        Bob waved impatiently. "All this really means is we have to go rescue her! Or at least meet up with her and continue walking along aimlessly!"

        With the group tentatively muttering in agreement, he set off in the general direction of Iiwi's crash site. And since they could hardly let Bob hog all the heroics, the rest of the group trailed after him.

        A circle of neat, white stones defined the temple grounds. This was a tad unusual, as they were the only things that seemed untouched by moss or ivy or even the really persistent grass crowding every last inch of fertile ground. Strewn about the grounds were fallen columns, cracked carvings, and quite a few big rocks. In the center of the grounds rose an enormous temple with more steps than any sane person would ever even consider putting on a building - much less climbing on a daily basis. Much of the stonework on the grounds was overgrown with vines and weeds and all sorts of moss, and shiny bits of metal gleamed in the filtered sunlight amongst piles of rust best left undescribed. Here and there a splash of color betrayed the presence of a jeweled dagger or strange insect.

        The grounds were silent, free of birdsong and the usual forest chatter. The air within the circle was a bit cooler. And a might damper. And just a smidgen more...electric.

        Our intrepid heroes were either blissfully unaware of all this or trying very hard not to think about it too much. As one, they paused at the entrance, gazing at the rather picturesque, if eerie, sight for a long moment before cautiously crossing the line of stones. A slight breeze picked up, rustling the leaves a bit and stirring up ashes from a nearby cook fire site. The little circle of rocks surrounding the charred wood was bordered by a handful of long, flat stones and a few thick sitting logs. Several gnawed bones littered the ground nearby, their yellow-brown color just starting to fade with age.

        "See?" Lita indicated the bones, "Hardly bleached at all. And there are more scattered about. This place is on a hunters' trail, or traveling route, or something."

        "No sign of a trail yet," D'Gal intoned, emerging from a shadowed patch of brush with a quiet finesse that caused several startled yelps of alarm, a scramble for weapons, and – quite frankly – sent Drake diving for cover behind a rock.

        "We've asked you not to do that," Beak chided, as the cops reholstered their weapons, "Don't make me seize control of your mind," the Magi threatened.

        "Seize it, if you'd like," the black-feathered duck waved indifferently, "Or at least try to." He grinned darkly, tapping a finger to his temples. "But I guarantee there are some things up here you'd rather not see. And they'll be the first I throw your way should I suddenly find myself sharing the place."

        Beak frowned. "No reason to get hostile. I simply wanted to warn you that if you keep sneaking up on us, someone's eventually going to shoot you. By accident, of course. I myself plan to leave you alone."

        "See that you do."

        Bob, who had chosen to ignore this discussion upon discovering what appeared to be a wild coffee bush, now turned his attention back to the group. "Is there any water around here?" he inquired.

        The group paused, casting about for a likely source of filtered water worthy, in Bob's mind, of becoming coffee. The lapse in conversation was enough to bring silence crashing back down onto the temple grounds. Despite the group's rather noisy presence, the forest creatures continued to quietly scuttle around the area. The light, spotty breeze still whispered over the grounds, and through the occasional sound of leaves stirring came the faint gurgle of flowing water. A few minutes' search located a small stream bubbling down a carved fountain and meandering slowly along the far perimeter of the grounds. It was crystal clear and smelled of naught but cool, fresh water, but was devoid of fish, which leapt about downstream but nevertheless would not venture past the line of white stones strewn across the stream floor. The white stone border encircling the temple grounds evidently extended to include the stream bottom.

        Ferdia eyed the water warily as the kiwis converged on the stream for cool drinks and a bit of freshening up. "Has anyone else noticed the fish won't enter the grounds?" she ventured.

        "There's probably too strong a current this close to the fountain," reasoned Ferdie, wiping his beak on the back of his arm, "Or maybe they don't like the noise it makes." He shrugged. "Tastes all right, though."

        Squeaks swiveled his ears about, scanning the area. "Now that you mention it," he frowned, "Aside from a few beetles, there doesn't seem to be any living creature inside this circle at all. It's not just quiet because nothing's making noise – it's quiet because nothing's here to make noise."

        Silence descended again as the group slowly surveyed their surroundings. A ripple of unease swept through the group.

        It bounced off Iiwi, for some reason. The Flier shook herself back into reality, fluffed out her feathers, and went back to her impromptu bath, splashing about in the water to clean the day's accumulated dust from her plumage.

        The others gawked at her.

        "Oh, you guys!" she laughed, wading out of the water to start the tedious process of preening, "Don't you get it? It's the magnetic field. They can sense it, somehow, and so they stay away. This place is smack dab in the middle of the thing, after all. Insects, birds, fish – most of them have at least a degree of electro-magnetic sensitivity in our world, so why not this one? And we haven't really seen many mammals in the forest, so why would we see them out here, in the open?"

        The group mulled over this for a few minutes.

        "Good point," Squeaks nodded, putting a wildly-spinning compass back in his pocket. "Hadn't thought of that."

        "That's because you guys don't feel its effects," Iiwi shrugged, leaning against a convenient boulder. "Take it from me – anything that is even the least bit sensitive to these fields is gonna avoid this place like the plague. I mean, I've built up a bit of tolerance to these things, but I'm still gonna have one hell of a migraine in an hour or two..."

        Sensing an opportunity to escape while still appearing heroic, Bob raised his hand. "All those in favor of leaving this place with Iiwi?" Several party members raised their hands in agreement.

        One of the giant stone statues behind him did the same. Only it was holding a rather large and lethal-looking sabre.

        In the frenzied stampede to escape the temple grounds – during which several more statues joined in the chase and a handful of rocks tried to engage the lot in a game of crush-tag – everyone failed to notice one small detail: Ferdie was not with them.

        He was, in fact, poking around inside the temple itself, making quick sketches of iconographs and carvings, hypothesizing about their meanings while lamenting the fact that he would likely have to wait until they got home before he would find out if the correct translatory volumes were in his library. Having wandered into the temple moments after his contribution to the conversation of fish, he was blissfully unaware of the fact that his compatriots were currently scrambling for their lives in a mad dash for less-enchanted forest. Which was just as well, since had he known, he would have fainted dead away instead of wandering further into the temple and making a marvelous discovery.

        The author can term said discovery "marvelous" because the author is safe at home, and not several universes over, staring up through the moldy gloom of a creepy temple into a pair of sinister red eyes the size of jet intakes flanked by several legions of ridiculously sharp teeth.

        The author is like that, sometimes.


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