In a world almost lost to humanity, an ancient enemy hunts down two young lovers who search for the place of legends, a place in which all can come true at a whim: The Grotto of Dreams
In the distant past, in the time of the old world, our people once dreamed of flying among the stars; and then made it happen. They had conquered and reshaped the old world; building great cities here and on the eternal moon far above us in the evening skies. Nothing seemed impossible for them; and the discovery of the star-gate propelled them to a thousand worlds with a thousand different cultures.
This time of exploration and discovery brought great knowledge and wisdom to the old world; and one day it brought the attention of the ancient enemy – the ones called Goa’uld. Twice the ancient enemy invaded the old world, deploying armies of great and fierce creatures: the giants, dragons, troll, and monsters of a thousand legends remade and cast forth to plague humanity.
Twice they were fought off with the united might of our people. Yet the ancient enemy came for a third time; determined that the race known as humanity will be destroyed once and for all…
Upon that night the old world ended; the great mountains of stone were cast by the Goa’uld were flung onto the land and the seas, onto the mountains and the islands. Following this, the great fiery dragons descended, the great ships of the ancient enemy that cast forth the creations of theirs to plague and trouble the few pockets of our ancestors who survived the end of the old world. Many perished from these creatures; and the great darkness that followed as night enshrouded the sky for years to come and the land turned cold. So great was this shroud of the darkness that even the great sun above us was little more than a dim reminder of the past glory of our world. Within a human generation, the great sheets of ice rose, the seas and lakes froze solid, and the eternal snows came, and have stayed ever since.
Every year, the survivors remember the night when the old world ended; calling it the night when the fiery dragons came and took our world away from us. Our future was to pass into the night eternal as a species; to be forgotten across the ages of time uncharted and never to arise again.
Then came the protectors; the ones called Grays, with the names of Thor, Odin, Loki, and more than we can mention. They were not gods, but long aged mortal beings who had tried to save the old world from the fiery dragons that ended it. Ships of metal and lights conveyed them to our homelands; they taught us new skills and ways to survive in the cold, to grow crops in buildings of stone and earth..
So it is the Grays enhanced The People, giving unto us the magic of the mind – telepathy, telekinesis, healing and so much more; not all to one person, but divided among many. So it is that the ones called Grays helped us begin our world over; to survive and prosper as we could. They taught us one rule that holds to this day; due to the few numbers we have left, no human must ever war upon another. So it is with these tales our ancestors founded the stories called The Remembrance as our reminder and eternal witness should we fail.
So the ones called Grays left our world, but return every generation or so to check up on us; otherwise they do not interfere. We are left to determine our own path in life; but should the ancient enemy ever arise to threaten The People again; they will be there for us and with us to the end. The ones called Grays gave their word to us: “We failed to save you the night of your old world’s death; so we will be here watching and waiting, to check and teach where needed, but to give your people the freedom to become who you choose to be. If the ancient enemy comes again; we will be there for you and with you, to the end.”
In the paintings of Henri Fuseli, who crafted “Nightmare” long before the old world ended; we were warned of the Goa’uld who would come in the night of our pleasant dreams as a people, seeking to murder and destroy all we had done; yet there is in it the promise of hope as well, for we were watched by those called Grays who came to our aid as our old world fell. We failed to listen to their warning; and they still came to help us in the end, as they do to this day.
“So it is that the survivors of humanity, we who are now called “The People” recall and retell the stories within our book of The Remembrance,” said Jeremiah, lore master of the village of White Bear to the crowd gathered in their great hall. “Within our books of lore and history, The Remembrance is the most important, for it tells of where we came from; and of how we survived, to struggle on and hope to rebuild our shattered world that has gone mad. Lessons needed for day to day survival in our savage world is passed on from generation to generation, taught to all the children as we have been taught by those who are called Gray.”
“But lore master,” asked a curious little girl, “Most believe that the Grays are legend; or at best, actual beings from beyond the stars who came to help and then left for their home among the stars. Do they still remain among us today?”
“Some of them still exist, along with their creations who are allies of ‘The People.’ We are not ruled or led by them; for they said we must chart our own future as a people. From time to time they make themselves known when we need their help, as they have promised.” Jeremiah explained to the girl and the gathered crowd.
“We know that they gifted us all, descendants of the first generation of humanity after the end of the old world with telepathy, telekinesis, teleportation, healing and other such means to aid our survival. It is not magic; it is the ‘science’ of theirs, and passed generation to generation for our benefit.” Jeremiah kept the audience bound to the tales of the great hero’s and wise elders of times passed. He recounted the wonders of the old world now gone for eternity save for a few treasures that remain. He also warned, needlessly, of the creations of the ancient enemy, the Goa’uld is all too real.
“Within the picture called ‘Nightmare’ in which they tried to warn us of our enemy to come; for in the innocent sleep of the woman is a promise to be found if one dares to dream, and brave the nightmares beneath the high mountains of stone – a paradise known as ‘The Grotto of Dreams,” he smiled as the tale unfolded of wonders within, a great garden with trees and plants of the old world, eternally warm and free of danger…a true paradise.
“Of course brother that is where our idiot of a father allowed my son and your bull headed daughter to seek out when they should be here helping celebrate Sara’s coming of age rites.” Susana shook her head at the perfidy of Grandfather, the elder of the village, granting Julian and Dannie such permission. “You know we will be lucky if they even come back…no matter what this ‘great discovery’ he has made and longs to show Dannie…to go down those tunnels…”
“Hush sister,” Jeremiah told her in a stern, forceful tone, “let them go and chart their own path; they are of age and are free to do so, in this case with Grandfathers blessing. They will be safe as long as they are careful, for an ‘old friend’ of mine is watching them carefully.” Jeremiah went back to telling tales as the celebration continued; keeping the people entertained while Sara and Grandfather engaged in their little tryst not far away, their privacy guaranteed for the night by tradition and the respect due to them both.
The entity shifts from the echo of our world, having passed untroubled through the thick walls of stone of the community. With closed eyes, it takes in the heady scents of food and plants; of people who have passed by recently and long ago; of animals and the rich odors of a mineral spring nearby that ‘The People’ use for bathing.
It’s gloved hands it pulls the hood of its cloak further down over its alien head, enshrouding all but the very distinctive eyes that are mere slits of inhuman wonder. They speak of a cunning, intelligence and ruthlessness that have no compassion or mercy. Its masters of old, the Goa’uld commanded it to terrorize the human survivors and destroy those who are called Gray.
Tonight it seeks one specific target; the leader of this village called Grandfather. Take him out and the rest of the community will be vulnerable to subsequent attacks by it and other servants of the Goa’uld. A special set of the nanomachines in its brain allow it to quickly fix on the distinct signals and bio-electrical fields of the nano’s endowed to Grandfather…and the weaker field of a second human with him…
Its cloak shimmers and adjusts in coloration to encompass the surrounding environment of stone; a gift from its masters for past successes on the hunt, imbued with technology to refract light, to turn as hard as steel when a blow from objects, weapons, or even the forces of electricity, fire, acid and others; and allow it to strike back with savage power that its opponents assume will crush anything it hits.
Of course the system is not fool proof, as it has learned over the centuries of its life; in a moment of inattention, when he does not know a blow from blade or rock or club is coming to connect, the cloak may not deflect the blow at all…so it has learned caution to a degree.
Passing as a ghost, nary a whisper of sound passes from its footsteps, nor is there any dust or dirt disturbed. A few times as it wound its way among passages near the great fest hall in the village center, it had to halt and wait for gatherings of humans carrying a feast to pass. With smoldering, boiling fury it longs to lash out in a wave of destruction; to slaughter all without end until it succumbs to its enemies, or the last shattered remains of them collapses before it – smoking as the final fires dissipate from consuming the corpse completely.
Not right now, later after Grandfather falls; and as it enters into the silent, untraveled passages, it continues to carry on the Holy War of the Goa’uld begun centuries before. Twice this world of humanity resisted invasion, using small bands of fearless, and thus respectable (its face grimaces at such a revolting term for humans), warriors who sacrificed themselves to take down many of its lords mother-ships with nuclear fire.
It clenched its fists hard, drawing fine tendrils of sickly blue-green blood that flowed to the ground, steaming in the warm air within these passages. In the third battle, the Goa’uld used the fiery mountains to bombard this lump of rock into dust, or would have, save that the interference of the Grays saved some of humanity from their just annihilation.
So it is, it remains behind, with others of its kind, to harass and hunt humanity; to do battle with those who are protected by the Grays. Tonight though, Grandfather, one of their most favored of the humans, will fall.
Grandfather looked upon Sara, as she lay next to him on her stomach, with delight and laughter dancing in his gentle eyes. His fingers flowed in soft, gentle, tender and loving caresses across her bared skin; with one swirl flowing into another and then another, kneading and teasing all in one. Giggles passed her lips, which he also caused to burst forth with warm puffs of his breath on her skin, here, there and all around.
Still giggling, Sara rolled onto her back, and he touched her forehead with his fingers, commencing to move in a spiraling motion, the soft touch causing her to be completely at ease with him. So many times has he done this for a woman’s first time having relations; including his own grand-daughter Dannie, only a few months past in these very quarters.
All too soon he reached her lips, caressing each one across the length and then back again; enthralled by the warmth of her breath on his skin. Sara had reached her majority only a week before, and had asked of him to be her first; with the bashful smile and nervous but passionate interest she displayed, he could not refuse it of her.
His fingers begin to massage around her brows and then back along her exposed ear, drawing forth a smile on her ruby red lips as a content little sigh escapes past them.
Grandfather moves along the back of her head with his fingers, caressing and massaging her neck along the sides and back, cupping them along the front so all of his hand is on her skin. He then begins in soft, circling and kneading moves; she gives another soft sigh of contentment, her shoulders sagging ever so slightly as she begins to relax more and more. The young lady turns her head away from him, muscles on her back twitching in delight from his caressing touch. Once more there is a soft sigh that escapes her lips.
Bending down to place his lips on her skin, he savors the salty tang that comes as he covers her body inch by inch; covering her from forehead to nose, cheeks and down her chin and neck; giggle after nervous giggle passes her lips, shudder after excited shudder sweeps her body from head to toe and back again. During this time, his hands dance across her abdomen, tickling and teasing, heightening the giggling, squealing, writhing wonderment she is experiencing.
Out of the corner of his eye he catches a faint, all but imperceptible dancing shimmer; a play of shadows and of light as etheric and unknowable as ones deepest dreams in the depths of slumber. His senses say that it is real, and he should heed the warning; yet his mind says to forget it, there is no danger and just gets back to dealing with this wonder of young womanhood before him, squirming about in his bed.
So it is that he chooses to ignore the warning; a move he shall soon regret in many, many ways.
The creature stood in the passage just outside the room where Grandfather and the human woman are having their tryst within. Smiling its inhuman smile, revealing teeth sharpened to needle like points, it puts both hands to the wall. Focusing its will, its nano-enhanced senses detect the pulsating bio-electric fields of both humans’ hearts, as does its hearing, preternatural in its own right without any form of nano-boosted technology. In a few seconds, it has all the information needed to spring its trap.
Gathering the cloak about itself, it focuses on the desire to shift between dimensions; the world around it flows and distorts, taking on a gray, surreal appearance to its eyes. In this echo-world of Earth, it can move through solid objects, such as stone and metal, as if they do not exist but in a dream. It cannot be harmed nor can it harm others while on this echo-world.
Yet it only needs a moment to return to the real world, with but a desire of its will, and then its true lethality in battle is demonstrated. With that thought, it steps into the stone, the thrill of battle bringing a smile to its face.
Grandfather eased off his robe, and then carefully moved to lie across Sara’s body, supporting the bulk of his weight upon his slender, old and iron strong arms while she parts her legs, sliding them gently around his hips, and begins to move them in caressing movements along his own.
He starts kissing her lips, which she returns to him with an blazing intensity that shocks him; cheeks glowing and the redness expanding from her chin to her ears, telling him she desires him as soon as possible. All in due time, as he gives kiss after gentle, cute, pecking kiss along her cheeks, flowing among her chin, ears and brows one after another and back again. He plays one hand along her abdomens side, tickling and twitching; then to her upper arm, massaging and stroking with feather tenderness.
Her eyes closed as his hand cupped the back of her neck, supporting it with great strength and gentle, warming touch; the small vibrating motion of each finger muscle told of his iron control of the body, massaging and finding each sensuous nerve in the area, bringing an unexpected surge of euphoric heat from deep within and down below, where she feels the beginnings of a wetness build…
Then he shifted his hand away, teasing her with a gentle tickle…One fingertip of his free hand began to explore, resting at first upon the very base of her ribs, to flow upward in a narrow, focused, undulating trail that sent a cornucopia of feelings surging into all portions of her mind.
Sharp and sweet, tart and tangy, dull and dense; words without form for feelings that cannot be described but only imagined in a harmony like a series of streams forging into a mighty river as all join together. One sharp intake of breath bringing a heavenly profusion of scents – the lingering steam and droplets of water from the bathing room nearby; the slightest trace of old cologne and musk, of earthly rich men smells, and forest heathers of women who have been here in the rooms many centuries of existence.
His fingertips become a flattened palm, easing along the edge of her breast; slowly tracing along it, while swirling in small, gentle circles. One circuit became two, then four, and moved to the other breast to do the same. Twice more this looping symbol of infinity proceeded; the hand caressed and massaged more and more area of each breasts.
She heard and felt her breath quickening, her head making a small circle as electrical charges of pure bliss tingled their way up in her body; each one in turn unleashed a pleasant surge of energy, invigorating and easing, the raw potential of life made reality. Stroke by gentle stroke the infinite pattern flowed, kneading and shaping her breasts until they crossed the erect nipples; that first gracing contact sent a coursing pulse of passion along all the paths of her body, surging and rebounding until it returned a hundred fold in intensity that almost became overwhelming.
Sara’s back arched as her shoulders thrust back; both hands quickly clenching the covering of the bed they shared, all but pulling it inward due to the sheer bliss dominating her entire body; muscles twitched and squirmed, nerves firing in delight and demanding they be touched to give her even more pleasure than she has ever experienced to this point in her life.
The hands journey of exploration continued, determinedly seeking out the other nipple; its trail a clear path illuminated by the fires of bliss as it moved along my skin. Pulse after beating pulse surged in this journey to flow outward as the ripples on a pond, yet with the rushing, crashing, cascading force of a mighty, untamable and unstoppable river.
Just short of its contact with her breast, Sara’s body could restrain itself any more; having been pushed over the edge even faster than Grandfather had expected. Her body moved in excited, euphoric motion; one silent cry of primal passion after another expressed on her parted lips until her climax hit, being released in one moment of uttermost Nirvana bliss. She begs him not to stop, to finish her requested gift for the night, while she still was ready. Nothing was to interfere from here on out…nothing if she could help it at all.
Her hands slide along his back, teasing and caressing, until they meet with the fingers entwining to hold him securely in place. She closes her eyes, neck arching slightly in response to the kisses he now places along it, while a series of soft sighs escape her lips that open and close in silent calls of building lust.
When he enters into her womanhood, she grabs him tight as a surge of pain passes from the sundering of her virginity; no matter how gentle he can be; she feels like a blade has entered her gut, delivering pain for a moment like none before in her life. Her face scrimped in pain as he continued to press inward…He had warned her it would come, and pass just as quickly.
From his gentle and firm action, move after move, she begins to feel a fiery bliss flow up her body like a river of molten metal; the heat and intensity redoubling with each inch it passes unto her brain. Her breath quickens as she lays there, ears listening to the gentle, steady breathing of Grandfather. She kisses him on the neck, a sloppily wet one followed by a second and a third. All too soon the wonderment of this time of pleasure comes to an end, as he reaches the limit of his body’s endurance and restraint, sending his life seed deep into her body.
The sharp, banshee scream of absolute terror all but shatters his ears and sunders his nerves as it passes from her mouth; so great is this shock that he fails to see the shadowy figure emerge from nowhere, its great cloak twirling around its body. Before he can do anything, the creature raises its hands palm-face out and then comes the gathering of primordial forces: dancing, writhing, churning storms of blue-white light and sparking motes of light that promise hellish damnation to those it seeks when released.
A surreal storm of harsh light and shadows dance about the room; the young ladies face caught in a silent storm of shock and horror, staring with incomprehension even as she knows tonight she will die along with her own Grandfather. Fast as he can, Grandfather lunges from a half risen stance at the beast; howling for aid to come to his side now…a cry for which most of the village is too far away to hear, deep in their celebratory feast.
To his credit, he almost makes it to the beast before those twin orbs of hellish force unleash; the very air turning super heated as temperatures to rival the sun, plus powerful pulsations of lightning arc into him and the girl. In an instant, as the thunderous retort carries across the villages complex of tunnels and underground housing, the creature sees its work is done and done well…the girl is little more than smoldering meat; and Grandfather….
The beast watches with slight disbelief; as the old mans chest rises and lowers in straining effort to get air into his shattered body. “Damn you to the depths of the hells that await you creation of the Goa’uld the promise portrayed in the picture of the “Nightmare” will be held to in the end.” He forces his head about enough to see the reptilian smile of his murderer; and the eyes that burn with malevolent hatred for all things human. The rest of its body is only a shimmering outline of something that may be there; and he hears footsteps rushing to aid him and the girl…
Those eyes sparkle, alive into the depths with golden motes of flame. “No human, or should I say Grandfather, you will die as she will; and I will come back as I will to kill as my masters, may they rule the universe for all of time, command…what is this…”
Grandfather understands his final thought has been of his grandkids – Julian and Dannie, now seeking the Grotto of Dreams deep beneath the mountains of stone. And of that thought, this beast of the Goa’uld has learned all, including the nanotechnology imprint cast by those inherit in Julian and Dannie.
“Thank you Grandfather, I owe you that at the least; for now I have two others to hunt and at least one of the Gray’s to slaughter,” the creatures’ thoughts flowed back into Grandfathers mind…just as he passed into the darkness that claims all in the end.
Minutes later the creature floats through the thick outer stone walls, undetected and unconcerned. It knows of the ancient promise made in the picture known as the “Nightmare,” by Henri Fuseli. Originally the Grays commissioned it to warn the world in their time of innocence among the stars; and of the Goa’uld as the incubus on the lady, about to murder her. The gray horse is literally the one watching over the humans, the alarm on its face clear warning of the danger that the Goa’uld represented before the end of the old world, and the promise of the Grays help after the old world perished.
So they still honor their word to fallen humanity; and so in turn the creations of the Goa’uld such as itself, continue the terror for the humans, to be the true incubus of the painting; to bring death and nightmares to the humans for all of time until the last of them perishes; and so the great Holy War of its masters continues.
So today, with the knowledge of the two explorers heading for the Grotto of Dreams he can further kill more humans; and with some fortune, slay one of his masters’ ancient foes. His smile grew wider and wider as his wraithlike form, flowing within the passage of another dimension separate from this world, descends into the stones; seeking out the passages these humans have to take.
In the last impressions of Grandfathers memories, those of the ones called Julian and Dannie; the creature heard the loud echoes of those who are called Gray. Especially of the one called Julian; he has been in contact with one or more recently, as the nanomachinery that are now a part of him echo so strongly, even here miles away, he can still feel the trail left by his passing. Thus he shall hunt them, and then destroy both humans and the Grays.
And when that is accomplished; it shall bring a true nightmare of despair to the humans; the perfect concept of the Incubus in “Nightmare” as it annihilated the Grotto of Dreams completely from the planets depths, and thus destroys all hope and dreams of a better future among humanity. Thus for the second time, the promise of those who are called Gray will be shown as worthless in the end.
There is one other who has witnessed the murder of the humans, one of whom was his oldest friend, the Grandfather of Julian and Dannie He knows that the entity is one of the creations of the Goa’uld; formidable in battle, deadly beyond most when it can ambush its chosen prey – such as himself and the two humans it is after.
With a wave of its small hand the shimmering field of silvery particles showing the image fades out and then flow like fiery, glimmering motes of light back into the table beneath it. Closing his large eyes, twin pools of eternal nothingness that show great age and wisdom, it contemplates briefly on a way to help the two humans down in the cavern tunnels…on those two so much hinges for the future of humanity…
Unlike what the creature assumes though, his kind will not fail in protecting and safeguarding the dreams for the future of humanity contained in the Grotto; no, as the horse in the “Nightmare” painting represents them, they have watched, and now will keep their promise – the creature will be stopped, and humanity will have the chance to prosper a bit more in the generation to come.
Normally he and his fellows would gather and debate how to conduct such a plan; but now he makes up his own mind and quickly relays instructions to one of his allies nearby. He smiles at the grumbling and complaining of his ally to comply, feigned indeed, as the being longs for a successful hunt again…and it knows the tunnels as the back of its own hand as well…for now though, the one with the large eyes will watch and wait, to see if the young couple does make it to the Grotto of Dreams in the end.
Over the last day and more, moving with care amidst the labyrinthine complex of caverns, rubble filled halls, and tunnels of incomprehensible age, the two young explorers from White Bear have travelled. Even this deep into the earth, unbelievably, the uttermost chill of the surface lingers; promising a quick, frozen death if the opportunity comes.
For the hundredth time this very hour, Dannie shakes her head in disbelief, amazed how her companion Julian talked her into this trip, and got their Grandfather to bless their efforts.
She looks around at the raw stone, uncut and unmoved by anyone save for forces beyond her comprehension in ages long past. The sudden realization that there are thousands of feet of stone above her head, ready to come crashing down in an instant causes her to shake in place; “one wrong move, or slip of a stone, and it’s the end for me…” she thought.
A sharp squeak passes her startled lips when Julian’s hand comes to rest on her hand; he understands what is going on with her, having experienced it long before. Ignoring his impish smirk, Dannie turns on him with a pertly cute scowl, arms crossed, impatience flaring in her lovely eyes.
“Julian will you come on already; when are we going to get there?” Dannie said, the steady, rhythmic tapping of her foot causes the raven black tresses of hers to bounce to and fro with each movement. Throwing her hands wide, patience completely spent; she berates her longtime friend, “YOU told me there is a ‘wonder to be seen’ down here under the masses of stone above us; show me now or I will get so mad that the punishment awaiting you in the next life will be tame in comparison.”
She sees him take her tirade with a sardonic smile; one raised eyebrow while his eyes dance with the purest of humor. It’s the kind of look that tells someone making such a claim ‘We’re here already…”
Dannie’s fury instantly dissipates, replaced by curiosity at the secret her friend has; he is known as ‘Julian the Silent’ as he is mute, even though many communicate with him in the sign language his mother created for him, few understand the depth of wisdom, cunning and intelligence that are his.
He motions with one furred gloved hand to the wall off to his left, having to repeat it twice more before Dannie shifts her gaze to the utterly smooth stone; yet she does not understand what he is trying to tell her. “What is it Julian, there is nothing here other than rocks…”
She sees him roll his eyes to the heavens so far, again he motions to the stone wall; moving closer to it and pointing with intensity. Dannie looks for some time, many a minute, and only when she brings their lantern closer to the stone, she sees something happen…something wonderful…just as promised.
She sees the faintest glimmer of reflected light. Faint, almost invisible unless looked at dead on, but there; and it ripples with the passing moments. A bare glimmer, the stones themselves change color to the smallest of degree and then shift back, over and over and over. She knows it’s not one of the lattices of crystals many of the tunnels and caverns have climbing on walls and ceilings.
“I give up, what is it?” Dannie asked of him, the sense of wonder and mystery clear in her tone of voice. Her eyes glitter with excitement, the thrill of a new discovery for her present and waiting for its moment of fullest revelation.
He points to the stones, and then signs “Think it through; figure it out.”
“How typical of you Julian,” Dannie said. Her love of mysteries and her sheer, unending, curiosity is enough to rival the creatures of legend known as CATS. How she wishes to have seen one of those legendary creatures in action.
With great care she looks over the wall, determined not to miss any clue, no matter how long it takes; and only pauses from the examination to allow Julian to refuel their oil lantern. She laughs when he shoulders his haversack the wrong way, dumping most of the contents onto the floor. He grins sheepishly, then goes about gathering all of it up again; while pointing back to the wall.
She sees Julian keep one of his throwing axes at the ready, a reminder to her that they are far from alone down in these dark depths. Monstrous beasts of legend are all too real, from trolls to the great worms that burrow in stone as a fish in water beneath the great layers of ice and snow. Double checking her own axe and knifes, the shifting light of the lantern causes something on the wall to sparkle and flare for the briefest moment.
Dawning his repacked haversack, Julian smiles knowingly as Dannie’s gasp of shock resounds passed his ears; her eyes are wide in wonder, jaw slack from the discovery before her, one hand out to the wall.
“Wa-wa-water…its flowing water, here, from the stones overhead!” so rare is the sight of running water near their home of White Bear, it is all that she can do not to stare for a long, silent, and very pregnant pause. “It’s incredible, but not of much use to us, it has to be freezing…” she begins only to be silenced by an upturned hand of his.
Julian turns one hand palm side out to the water, focuses his will as to what he desires, linking with the source of his newly gained abilities: the gift Thor gave to him in a place not far from here. The nanomachinery respond to his commands, and forces unseen begin to gather around the individual droplets of water, gathering them into ever greater collections until it shimmers like a translucent gemstone. Dannie sees him scrunch his eyes as he fights to keep control and focus; flares of white and blue sparkle down across his arm and hand, reaching out to the water in swirling tendrils back and forth.
Her eyes widen once again, hands covering her mouth as a silent gasp passes them in turn; an orb of water moves across the open air, coming to rest mere inches away from her face. Nary a whisper is to be heard in the silent display of staggering power that she has never seen before! Only the old village legends speak of users of telekinesis of such power, ones who could move entire walls of stone with their own willpower – the gift from those who are called Grays.
The orb floated to her cheek; and Dannie braced herself for the iron-cold bite of it upon her skin. But it was not cold that greeted her at that touch, as the orb shattered into a million shining shards of glistening light; a million millions of universes that speak of what could be and may be to all who wish to explore.
No, it was not cold at all: It’s practically steaming!
Her eyes flare wide in a mixture of delightful shock and wonderment!
She rushed over to Julian, who was breathing hard from the exertion of what he did to the water; and swept him into a crushing bear hug. She danced and twirled them both about, causing him to flail with his arms to keep from falling to the ground when she finally let him go.
A coy look came over her face, that little smirk of mischief matching the glimmer in her eyes; hands locked behind her back as she shifted one foot back behind the other. She loved the look of momentary consternation of Julian; then surprised him for once, when she gave him not a peck on the cheek, but a full blown kiss right on his lips – a extremely rare gift granted among the villagers, especially considering that the air itself can all too easily freeze skin to skin in a heartbeat.
For the better part of a day and more the creature has been following the trail of the two humans. For now it has to follow them by tracking their physical scent; as the lattices of crystals spanning many areas of the region are hampering its enhanced senses it uses to track them by bio-electrics and their gifted nanotechnology.
Its instincts advise it to use caution; for other forces are in play here; as the coy odor of its ancient enemies are to be found; faint and old, but distinct to those called Grays. More than one at that…yes, caution is to be used; for it can take down any of the Grays one on one, and maybe any two on one, more than that and its own existence is ended…so now the hunt continues on foot…it will use the time to learn of its enemies for the final battle to come with them.
“Julian, where does this come from…the old stories speak of a warm paradise down here in the tunnels, one in which anything can happen…maybe I will see one of those legendary cats?” her voice held a vivid mixture of trepidation, hope, longing and yearning as she looked at him pleadingly.
“Let me show you if you will trust me to do so, it is not far from here, the place known as the Grotto of Dreams,” he explained to her.
“Julian I trust you, so show me the place please!!!” she all but hopped into the ceiling in excitement.
Julian put one hand to her forehead, and she understood then, he also has the gift of telepathy. In an instant, she feels Julian’s presence, and mind, flow to the edge of her own, and no further. He waits for her to choose to come to him or not…so she goes to him and discovers something wonderful beyond measure…
“Here is a foretaste of what you may find in the Grotto of Dreams, where we shall meet the one called Thor.” For the first time in her life, she actually ‘heard’ the voice of Julian; a voice of impeccable manner and iron will, of power and wisdom beyond most understanding…
“Thor said we who seek the Grotto must first dare to dream, to make the journey and discover what lies on the other side of the door…in that land where dreams become reality for the bettering of the world.” The image of a being came into her mind as Julian spoke to her via their mind-to-mind link; it is of a small, gray skinned, hairless being with huge black eyes that are pools of eternity speaking of sadness and of wisdom beyond anything imaginable.
Dannie saw in the memory Thor calmly extending his small, child sized hand up to Julian’s forehead after he had bent down. She felt Justin fighting his instinct to flinch away, holding still despite the nervousness flowing throughout his body, his mind demanding he flee…and then, contact was made…
She felt the fires flow to the core of Julian’s being; burning, fuming, churning sensations that did not consume or harm. Instead, every portion of his being quickened; heightened to a better and higher state with the union of what Thor called ‘nanomachinery.’ Julian’s senses became preternaturally keen, strength, dexterity and raw health greater than before; his mind expanded in ability, as did his understanding and perception of the world about him.
Undreamed of possibilities passed before his imagination in an instant, and unending universe spiraling open before him, wave upon wave of the infinite and the eternal. Knowledge of what had come before; when the old world existed, of how the fall of the fiery dragons occurred, and much knowledge imparted by those who are called Gray.
In the flow of Julian’s memories, she heard Thor speak to him: “Dannie, the lady you so love, bring her here if she wishes; show her, if she chooses, this entire conversation, and all that may be hers as well. These gifts will enable you both to be a great boon for your people; and any children you both have will also carry the gifts of telepathy and telekinesis unto ten or more generations to come. Julian, pass this message as well to your people and to Grandfather, my old friend,” Dannie’s own shock at that statement equaled that of Julian’s in the moment it happened, “we who are called Gray will be there with The People.”
She felt his very being quicken, the new nano’s surging to join with him, to become whole as a bio-mechanical creation; each greater than the sum of the individual parts. Parts of his ability still slumbers; awaiting his call to awaken to his command as needed; and she sensed in his memory, the potential and limits of them she sensed his reluctance to use them for fear of endangering others with them.
“Oh Julian,” Dianne said from behind hands clasped over her mouth; shock and disbelief at this sudden revelation has shaken her badly. She wants to deny it happened, and yet, it did, at least in the memories of Julian…and one of the old ones itself…Thor!
“Let’s go Julian,” she said with a smile; making up her mind behind cheeks flushing red, and eyes dancing with building desires.
Among the mazelike network of smaller passages, inaccessible to humans due to their size; a pair of glistening eyes blacker than oily pools of midnight watch the young couple. Its roguish grin is a mixture of delight and fascination; as in these two human fools it sees the golden opportunity to have no end of mischievous fun…so long as the enemy stays away from them.
“By what rights does that old coot think he has the authority to order me around? Loki go and do this, Loki go and protect that, or bring me these things from across the mountains chain and into the depths of the planet where he will not risk his golden plated arse…” Loki muttered and complained to himself; a habit long since established during his lonely patrols of these tunnels. Most of his kind assume he is a little crazy…which is very true, save for one thing - he is nuts in his own special way.
During the days when the old world still existed, an accident with gene-splicing transformed him into a creature most of humanity loved to have around. Four lithe limbs propel his slender body along, perfection of grace with each steady stride of silent death; his long tail gently sweeps back and forth, telling all about that the king of the tunnels is here. The long fur covering his body like a fine silken coat, or throw rug depending on who is asked, glistens with midnight blackness.
Twin ears rotate constantly back and forth, sweeping for the faintest of sounds and vibrations from the stone; while keen nose and other preternatural keen senses; allow Loki to know any creature that is within one hundred or so paces in any direction. When he so chooses, the nanotech within his body heightens selected senses even more, and are not barred by the latticework of crystals that block or distort such abilities in the area.
Moving back into the tunnels to keep pace with the humans, Loki turns a corner and stumbles into a covey of three dozen cave rats; creations of Odin and fellow guardians of the tunnels. Their eyes that glow of molten metal tell of the purest contempt and disdain they hold for Loki.
Motioning for them to vacate the way, the leader of the cave rats sits on its haunches and summarily gives him a one fingered salute. Any further challenges and insults between the two are immediately halted by a more urgent demand of their attention…
They sense via the odors in the air, vibrations of stone and altering air flow, and their preternatural ability to perceive the ‘echo’ of the unique nano’ signal of their ancient enemy that the creature pursuing the humans is in the region.
All of them, Loki and the cave rats flow off into the darkness, guided by the occasional echoing cries of one or more rat. These cries are akin to the ultrasound used by the few surviving bats to navigate in the darkness, but also act to warn and summon other allies in the region to join in battle with the creature of the Goa’uld.
Most of them know that when, not if, battle is joined, only by working together do they have a chance of taking it down once and for all. Even then, Loki included, do not expect to be among the handful of surviving victors. Many will die violent deaths in this confrontation; yet to protect the humans, and the Grotto of Dreams, nothing else matters.
The creature of the Goa’uld pauses at the divide in the tunnel, branches heading off in six different directions and elevations. It picks up the distant echoing cries of the cave rats, comprehending that they are among the guardians of the area…and among the latticework of crystals, despite the dampening of its ability to home in on the bio-electric signals of living beings, momentarily picks up a surge of such life energy, and the unique signal of the nanotech used by those who are called Gray.
Smiling, knowing that one of them is nearby, it places both gloved hands upon the naked stone. The crystal lattice hums in harmonic response to its sending pulsations of infrasound through the depths of rock, making a mental image of caverns, tunnels large and small, and depths and densities of stone as this return to it. Within minutes, it has a detailed map of the entire region, and knows the most likely spot the humans, the guardians of the tunnels, and the one who is Gray, will go.
Calling upon its ability to pass into the echo-earths dimension, the creature crosses over; becoming a ghostly shimmer that commences to walk into the stone, and reach the sight for its ambush ahead of all the others.
Loki and the cave rats come to a screeching halt as the first pulsating echoes of the infrasound pass through their area. Each one of the deep, long, droning cries resonate with the force of the old worlds finest and most massive of pipe organs.
“The creature is using these sounds to make a mental map of all the region; we will be hard pressed to keep ahead of it, our place to bring it to battle has to be chosen with great care.” Loki looked upon Ragner, leader of the cave rats, and nods in agreement. Some of the cave rats are sent forward to screen the humans, while others seek the creature hunting for them.
“That brute will be after me as well, before it finds the humans given the opportunity,” Loki sends to Ragner via the mind to mind link they establish with one another, the nanotech channeling the electromagnetic signals of their minds into ultra tightly focused radio signals, literally communicating at the speed of light. Both still share a mutual chuckle at the way Odin and Thor demand that it be called ‘telepathy.’
Together they head off with the growing numbers of cave rats, along with a flight of bats, that number among the guardians of the Grotto of Dreams.
Deeper in the entwining labyrinth of tunnels and chambers the two come across a room of worked stone, shaped smooth from the natural rock by unknown hands. Julian examines the network of crystal lattice that entwines the stone walls and ceiling, the soft glow from them gradually rising and falling in a wave of flowing colors and dazzling dances of the aurora borealis along the slender fiber like strands.
He makes a note to show Dannie the crazy picot-glyphs just down a small connecting hall; one that tells so much of the old world she is so fascinated by…the very pictures that led him to the Grotto of Dreams. He had suggested to Dannie they rest here for a time, and get some sleep; he failed to see the impish smile play on her face as that suggestion entails completely with HER plans…
He heard the slight rustling of clothing behind him as he put their bedrolls together as she desired.
“Oh Julian…” called Dannie in the most silken, seductive tone he has ever heard her use. Stopping dead in his tracks; he swallows hard and slowly peaks over his shoulder, seeing a sight of beauty.
Dannie sat there on the gathered bedrolls, less than two feet from him, smiling like a Cheshire cat. Her cheeks flushed with the innermost fires of desire; her steady breath condensing into a mist-like cloud in the caverns chilled air. She had lifted up her parka and the two shirts beneath; allowing her smooth stomach and bared breasts to be seen by him. Her nipples already were flushed full due to the sharp crispness of the air; while her soft, ghostly skin glistened with beads of perspiration that commences to crystallize into diamonds of ice.
Dannie moved up to Julian, her hands encompassed his and guided first one to the small of her back; the other to rest upon the top of her exposed bosom.
Upon that soft and yielding mound of flesh, warm and wonderful to behold, their hands began to explore as one. His fingers set about to create a flowing song of swirls and sigils, letters and lines, notes of music (in pattern) and pictures of the world at large; complimenting this melody of love and communion of desire as her hand guided his to each of the areas she finds most arousing on her breast…
Julian hear her breath become steadily more and more shallow, quickening and heated upon my cheek; she began to press in closer and closer to him. The heat of their bodies began to merge, igniting a firestorm of forces that make the universe implode and then burst forth in a sundering force of primordial creation that only they know of; and they can shape.
He moved head down a bit to her neck, savoring the pulsating sensation of her heart, the thundering of blood heated to the point of near boil. Her cheek brushes upon the flesh of his neck, as his does to her in kind. The silken smooth feeling is loving kindness of a dove, the powerful cry of a hawk as it makes it capture from a dive so far above the earth; it is the thunder of the storm, the quake of the earth, the raw fury of a stars fiery birth in the cosmos and the silent stillness of a mountain meadow just after a gentle rain has passed.
It is the moment of all lovers, and soon to be lovers; the one moment that defines the time of ‘before’ and ‘after’ in which all has changes forever. It is their moment alone and for no others to share. Her one free breast is kissed by Julian, who then begins to gently tease the nipple with lips and tongue; to show and shower Dannie in a universe of awesome wonderment; and yet it pales in comparison to the lady as a whole who shows her love for him, so very, very well.
Desire builds upon desire within the two, as a series of bubbling volcanoes awakening from long slumber; his manhood standing at full attention and demanding to be set it free to find and explore the hidden depths of Dannie’s womanhood.
Dannie lifted her head to face me, her eyes half cast and dreamy, and the smile now of pure desire and absolute love for Julian. Her lips move softly, slowly with each heated breath that passes between them. She places her forehead unto his, a knowing smile emerging on her mouth.
The two began to move and sway in rhythm to the oldest of songs, one that existed long before time itself could be measured or contemplated – the song of two hearts becoming one; two bodies about to merge in a union so long desired by them both…
Julian signs to her that there is a surprise here in their little shelter of stone; he lowers the level of flame in their lantern. “How Julian…how does this…happen…” she looked upon him with renewed delight and wonder; shifting her gaze here and there to catch as many of the swirling, dancing, flowing patterns of lights as they shift in form and colors…she wonders how she missed this phenomena when they entered…then blushed at her own memories of that fiery desire keeping her focused on nothing else but…
Julian explains to her, the crystal lattice here, and in other parts of the caves, react to any normal light – such as the lantern – and thus dance like the Aurora Borealis. “One time I was here,” he signed to her, “and I was adjusting the lanterns light…and discovered this…Thor tried to explain it to me once; too confusing…save for a warning, that these crystals can, if exposed to flame, create a intense blast of fire.”
He paused for a moment, pondering this knowledge, and then worked a double handful of the crystals free; knowing that they may come in handy down in these tunnels. Maybe they could be of use up on the surface as well, for when the beasts comes hunting at White Bear village.
“Julian, would you show me…what Thor tried to tell you…show me as you did by the small waterfall…” she asked of him with some trepidation; not sure if she was crossing a line he did not want to. Julian mulled this over for a bit as he came back to sit in front of her. He warmly smiled, and nodded his head, then touches her forehead with his fingers…and as her universe expands in an instant; she beholds a sparkle of golden motes of light dancing behind Julian’s ears, and along his hand.
She shares in a memory Julian presents; Thor, the one she was shown earlier by the waterfall, talking with Julian; answering what questions an extremely curious Julian asked. Questions that often brought a friendly laugh from the one who is of the Grays; their conversation of hours on end; is shared at the speed of pure thought between Julian and Dannie in a span of seven heartbeats.
Julian wipes a tear from her cheek; one brought about by a shared joy, and a personal sadness on her part, now understanding she will probably never have her own encounter with Thor or any of the other Grays.
“No my love,” Julian’s voice came distinct and clear into the thoughts of Dannie; letting her know their shared memories and mind-to-mind link is still happening. “If we can make it to the Grotto of Dreams; you will get to meet him. Hopefully by the end of tomorrow we shall be there.”
Loki gazed down the small shaft leading to where the humans are encamping for a time. He listens in on their activities; his smile widening and eyes just rolling to the heavens at times. ‘So these two have their date with a greater destiny’ he tells himself.
He fails to see the cave rats signing to one another, words flowing fast and clear; and as one they turn and give old Loki a shove unto his destiny…and listen to his howling yowls of surprise and promised revenge that fade during his descent into the darkened shaft. Ragner paused for a time; listens to the complete chaos below and motions for his followers to be on their way.
Dannie, desperate to get warm again in the chill air, slips deep into the enshrouding heat of their mutual bedroll. For once, she feels free in making her own choice this night, a choice for her and Julian’s future…one that she gladly makes…
Julian turned up the lantern light, the flame casting ghostly flickers on the walls, plays of light and shadow that merge, twine and flow with the given light of the strange crystals within the walls. Something occurred to him at the last moment before sliding into the bedroll with Dannie…those cave rats. He takes out some herbs that he prepared before their journey, ones that keep the rats away. One had nibbled hesitantly on some his last trip down here; and promptly died…but the sight that came next, of the other rats dragging away their fallen comrade and then giving Julian a thumb up unnerved him completely.
Deep in his thoughts, Julian had failed to notice soft, gentle rustling sounds behind him; letting out a silent yelp of shock when something smooth, small and warm touched him on the back of his neck; the hard enameling of teeth nearly sinking in to sever his spine…he rolled forward, coming into a crouch with one of his throwing hatchets in hand…
Only to be greeted by the delicate laughter of Dannie, her clothing piled neatly on her parka off to the side of their bedrolls. Thus the source of the rustling sound and the touch he mistook for a rat about to bite him; she had slipped off her clothing, and watches him with one hand propping up her head, the other hand playfully swirling in circles on the smooth stone floor.
Her eyes dance with pure passionate fires; iridescent lights that glimmer in endless depths of promises to be explored. She licks her lips teasingly, playfully, so seductively with the tip of her tongue and then blows him a soft kiss before pulling her hand from the floor and raising the gathered bedroll top for him to join her…
“Yes Julian,” she said to his look of utter shock at her invitation, his throwing ax falling to the floor from a slack hand to clank noisily upon the floor, “I want to be with you tonight.”
In short order, Julian finds himself sliding under the covers with her; and then his clothing removed from his body and stacked neatly with her own. She teasingly circles her fingertips across his iron-muscled chest, now seeing for the first time the true level of strength and endurance he has…strength of body and soul most have never dreamed existed in him.
Dannie shifts from along side of him to laying over him, letting her breasts softly press into his hairy chest, her hands locking behind his neck. They share a smile and the first kisses in the next round of their intimacy, both knowing what will soon be happening; and all that it means when they return to their home of White Bear…in this union both become a couple, independent of the controlling nature of their parents.
Her cheeks flush with an inner heat, mostly coming from the sensation of Julian’s manhood rubbing against her womanhood in its rising desire. Julian places his hands upon the back of her shoulders and gently begins to rub them in sensuously soft circles and flowing lines that move to her elbows, back up again to the shoulders, and down her back to her tailbone. Several times he manages to entice delightful twitches of motion and giggling mirth from Dannie…whose face flushes even more, her look becoming abashed at these new sensations she is experiencing.
Her hands caress his shoulders and upper arms, feeling the massive strength in muscles corded like hardwood; she just shudders in delight that one so strong is also so very gentle. Unto his back they move, massaging the upper muscles, making them relax and unwind from her touch. At random moments, she gives a little tap here and a gentle tickle there; his body responds to her efforts just as hers does unto his.
“So Julian,” she said to him, “what position do you want me in tonight?”
His look of consternation and then a nonsensical shrug was all he could answer; never having really given the matter any though. He just assumed such matters happen as always between a man and a woman. She placed her lips gently upon his, allowing him to smell the soft and warm and heady mixture of her body and breath with each of his own…a scent he wants to always experience with her. Shifting upward slightly, getting onto her knees, she kisses his forehead, then between his eyes and on his nose before returning to his lips. His manhood threatens to detonate on the spot from this closeness to his dream now made reality; he does not know how long he can hold back and quickly signs such to her.
“Okay Julian,” she playfully thumps him on the chest, “I’ll take care of it then; mind you though, ever since my ‘coming of age’ rites I have not been with another man. So just remember, we are a couple now, and you have to hit your release inside of me for it to count back home.” Julian quickly pantomimed with sign and expressions the stern parents of theirs, sticklers for tradition of their home beyond any others. She laughed at the though of the two of them having to demonstrate the entire consummation of their relationship over and over before them, until the two passed out from exhaustion.
One hand shifting to the back of his neck, she reached down with the other to encompass his fully readied manhood; and guided it to the edge of those hidden wondrous depths of her womanhood. When she takes him inside of herself, he feels the warm, soft and firm caress of her muscles upon his, holding tight and firm. Each action of her up and down ride drives him wild, sending tendrils of electricity and fire mixed with the awesome power of the storm unleashed crashing into his brain.
The ending comes so quickly, a series of spasms from his pelvis as he thrusts upward to each of her downward motions. Then once, twice, and four times he jerks, sending his life seed deep inside. Completely spent every muscle in his body relaxes as one; while she leans forward again to kiss and stroke his forehead.
Just as they giggled and prepared to go at it again, the lanterns flame sputtered; sparked and smoked as a strong flow of air entered their little chamber. They shared a look at it, then at each other and scrambled to make sure the flame did not extinguish…only to have it do so a moment later. The two of them give a mutual gulp as the illuminating crystal lattice begins to dim as well.
“Julian, we have to get it going again…” Dannie calls out as she feels about in the sudden darkness for her own haversack. “I have my flint and steel handy; we’ll get that light going again quickly…”
Or so she thought, as the sudden clack-clack-clack of stone on steel occurs; cascading a small bundle of sparks upon the lanterns wick and bringing forth a soft, feeble glow from the minute flame started. Sheltering the flame with his hands until Dannie can set the delicate and precious glass cover in place again; the two of them give a huge sigh of relief at having avoided such a disaster as getting stuck down in the caverns with no light…
Of course, the sudden arrival of a creature from above the two of them shattered the moment of calm. Its cry of inhuman terror and rage only matched that of Dannie’s as it lands upon her shoulder, digging in claws to rend and maim while it can…until Dannie drops flat onto her back and rolls about, determined to crush the beast as Julian leaps over her to get his throwing axe…
And the beastie suddenly runs off, howling and spitting and hissing all the way; leaving the two humans totally dumbfounded as to what it was. Julian motioned to one side, which drew Dannie’s attention to a pair of cave rats watching the entire scene. He raised his throwing axe, ready to drop them at the first step they make; then hesitates when the rats seem to chuckle and give him a raised hand to their heads in admiration.
Pulling her parka back on to warm up, and then seeing to the same for Julian, Dannie just shakes her head. It turns out there are only mild scratches to her shoulder, quickly and efficiently treated by Julian and his medical herbs in his pouch.
“Julian does those rats act that way all the time down here?” she asked of him when they got back into their shared bedroll. He signed with sincerity to her that down in the caverns, strange things such as that happen all too often. While Dannie soon was off into a deep slumber, arm clutched around Julian’s chest; he slept very lightly, hand wrapped about the wooden shaft of his throwing axe, just incase anything else came by…
Even as lightly as he slept, an intrusion entered into the mist of dreams he was experiencing, a voice he knew from not long before. “Julian my friend, please do not question as time is short for you and Dannie,” the voice of Thor spoke to him via telepathic contact – a mind to mind communications, “there is a creature of the Goa’uld near you and the Grotto of Dreams. Bring her there as fast as you can; understand that help is in the area – Loki is in the area…may his worthless arse be of some use after all this day…”
As the link was abruptly severed, a heavy presence filled the area he and Dannie are in; an ‘otherness’ that he could not explain; just his instincts screaming at him. It is accompanied by the slightest shimmering of the very air itself, as if something is hiding in plain sight. Out of the corner of his eye he sees it close; and tightens the grip upon his throwing axe…waiting as long as possible as it raises its hands over him and Dannie…
In a whirling dance of steel he strikes repeatedly at the creature; or at least where he thinks it to be, as that bit of shimmering distortion keeps flowing, altering and miscuing his senses. Three times in quick succession the axe head deflects off something harder than steel, then the cloaked figure momentarily becomes visible…lunging for Dannie.
Lunging for the killing blow to the back of its neck, he calls upon the nanotech within his being that engulfs the axe head with a hellish white light of pulsating electrical force. Down sweeps the axe, connecting hard with the creatures cloak…and the thundering backlash throws Julian across the room as Dannie screams out, he slides across the stone floor to slam hard into the wall. He mounts to his feet quickly, axe at the ready, just as his opponent slams him repeatedly with blow after hardened blow…and once again appears before him, fully visible.
The creature smiles its wicked, inhuman smile; having commanded the nanotech within its cloak, the portion that enables it to bend and refract light for near perfect camouflage, to cease functioning.
“Now you and the girl shall die, and then I will destroy the Grotto of Dreams itself.” Before he can do anything, the creature raises its hands palm-face out and then comes the gathering of primordial forces: dancing, writhing, churning storms of blue-white light and sparking motes of light that promise hellish damnation to those it seeks when released.
Dannie’s thrown knife bounces off its shoulder, not phasing the brute in the least; but the arc of its flight causes it to come down into the building arc of electrical force gathering between both of its hands. The blade melts in an instant of hellish temperatures; with a massive retort shaking the entire room, passages and the very stones themselves for some distance.
Julian watches as the discharged lightning dances upon and about the creatures cloak before gathering yet again into its hands. Scrambling for his axe he is determined not to die without taking this beast with him…the cloak has to be destroyed…somehow.
“You two must thank the smoldering corpse of Grandfather for telling me you were seeking the Grotto…” it got no further before a loud roar of pure rage and primal fury came from behind and to one side; instinctively it turns its gaze in that direction, only to have an axe blade smash into its armored shoulder with force it could not have expected from a human woman.
Julian sees the gathered lightning dissipate again; as the beast fends off blow after hammering blow from his lover; for Dannie has used her gift of the nanotech to boost her strength and reflexes, determined to finish this creature off who has so endangered her chosen lover. As the two dances in a strike-dodge-strike dance of death, Julian picks up a dislodged chunk of debris and catapults it at the beast, boosted with his telekinetic abilities.
The stone shatters on the creatures head, resulting in a snort of disdain and contempt while another series of hammering blows come from Dannie. It rushes with a burst of inhuman speed, slamming a savage kick to Julian in the gut, blasting the air out of his lungs and then smashes him in the groin. Rearing to full height, the creature shows its yellow glowing eyes as Dannie is lifted off the ground, holding onto the axe handle in momentary shock. The beast sees the fear in her eyes, hears the mewling sounds of the male human behind him, cradling his manhood from further damage…and failed for a second time to understand the sudden burst of snarling fury coming from Dannie, one who refuses to give in or give up…
Waves of burning pain and indescribable sensations flash into its brain; letting go of Dannie’s axe, both hands clutch to its own shattered chestnuts as eyes cross over and its mouth grimaces in consternation. A human has dared to do such an attack on its holy body…then Dannie slams it twice on the neck and shoulder with the end of the axe handle, driving it further to the ground, then she raises it high overhead to deliver the end blow for this abomination of the Goa’uld.
As the axe descends, the creature calls upon the nanotechnology within its body; shifting slightly within the flow of time and space, a void between dimensions, and begins to drift down into the very stone itself. The killing blow flows through its wraith like form, now no more than a ghostly apparition to the world about it, and clangs hard on the floor as the metal edge bites into unyielding stone.
From the nearby shadows, the gathering cave rats watched the brief, savage battle occur; a new respect for the two humans being garnered among them. On their own, and caught by surprise these two almost did in the creation of the Goa’uld.
“Amazing, for long I have proclaimed the humans’ spirit should never be underestimated,” the Ragner declared. The telepathic communication extended to another nearby, the furred brute that the rats disdain so very much: Loki. In turn they are reminded by Loki that the creature did escape the humans; and they had best be on their way, humans and rats, before it returns with more fury than ever before.
Less than thirty paces away, the creature emerges from the wall of stone, phasing back into our dimension with a shimmering of air about its being. Closing its eyes, focusing on the sensations of broadcast electromagnetic energy flowing over it, the creature hears the ‘telepathic’ communications between the cave rats…and the one they call Loki, a GRAY! Or almost one, as the power of the communications is of one and yet not one; not that it matters, the prey is close and so this one called Loki shall be destroyed.
It must pay the humans back in the most hideous of tortures it can devise, for daring to inflict such pain as still lingered in its shattered chestnuts. First things first though…
Cupping one hand, it summons a ball of barely visible force, a slight shimmering of promised destruction and of death made manifest. Pulse upon beating pulse builds, brews, caresses, and calls for its unleashing; beat upon beat it builds into a witches brew spiraling in on itself, growing stronger by the moment. As the time to unleash it approaches, the creature divides it into three smaller spheres, that it will release one after the next, so as to ensure the destruction of its hated enemies.
“Come my people,” communicates the Ragner, “we shall assist the humans, I will make contact with the one called Julian; some go and screen their path, remember that this beast fears our kind, use that to keep it at bay as you can; the rest will assist this useless bundle of overgrown fur called Loki to the best you are able…”
They know that time is short before the creature returns; confident that the beasts fear of the rodent will ensure their victory…save that this creature is different from any other kind faced by them…and is not afraid…
Its return is announced with a shimmering orb of force tearing down the darkness enshrouded tunnel and detonates almost on top of them. Forces beyond comprehension compress the very air into the hardness of steel that shatters bone, bursts organs and flays the flesh bare of many of the cave rats.
The remainder flee for their lives, scattering every way they can, as does Loki after he uses his own formidable telekinetic forces to smash the rocks above the tunnel; collapsing it down in a cacophony of shaking force that stops a second and third concussive blast as happened a moment before. He looks about as he runs, and notices some of the cave rats join with the humans…to be led to the Grotto of Dreams no doubt.
Of course, this assumes all of them will survive the anger of the creature along the way…
“Julian!” Dannie screamed as she grabbed the edge of stone to fling herself around the curve in the tunnel; just in time to avoid the incinerating, bone breaking blast of artificial lightning that shakes the entire area. Great clouds of dust and pulverized rock flow, clogging lungs and causing a cacophony of choking fits from all that are caught within its grip; with growing concern Dannie tries to see her beloved through the swirling dust…
Only to be bowled over by him a moment later as he slams into her at full speed, his hair and parts of his parka smoking from a all too close call with the creatures lightning blasts. The few cave rats that are travelling with the duo start a series of long, loud, grinding sounds that echo off of stone and flesh and bone equally. Julian signs that it’s how the rats find their way around in the dark – they hear the echoes from the noise bouncing off of things.
Once again the humans have escaped the creature; its ability to find them by the electronic echoes of their own nanomachines distorted, or blocked. The strange lattice works of crystals are somehow responsible; as much as it wants to strike out in frustration with fiery devastation, it knows better, to do so will cause the crystals to ignite in a holocaust of flames; along with bringing down the very walls and ceiling before it could phase out of this dimension into the ‘echo-earth’ of the next.
Its natural hearing picks up the noise of something its able to strike at the humans and their allies; another means to, quite literally, wash them away into the depths of the earth. With a wide grin on its inhuman mouth, the beast’s hands rise once again, ready to savage the rocks before it.
The new tunnel they flee down soon turns into a descending slope, gradually growing steep enough to where they are climbing more than running. Through the stones they feel the vibrations of blast after blast by the beast with the hellish lightning and other abilities that shatter the very stone itself. Both humans and the rats look at each other, wondering what is going on, when they hear the insane, inhuman laughter of the creature.
Julian hears it first, the steady breaking of stone on stone; the rampaging vibration that signals death is even now sweeping along to envelop them all. He has survived such an occurrence once before down in the tunnels, when a section of stone broke…
“Climb the walls, FAST!” Even with his limited telepathic ability everyone get the point; danger is coming and fast. Rats and humans scramble to scale the high walls, desperate to get as far up as possible. The ominous roar is felt in their bones and organs, a raw sound that cries of unleashed fury pent up for millennia beyond count; now it runs free, determined nothing shall stop it ever again.
When they reach near the top of the wall, pulling themselves onto a ledge and about to climb into another tunnel heading upward, they see all too well what the creature has unleashed. Thirty feet high, a solid wall of water sweeps all before it – stone and debris – with contemptible ease; for the first time in her life, Dannie sees a true cascade of water, a flash flood spoken of only in old legends occurring here before her very eyes.
Stones three and four times the size of her and Julian are carried along into the unknowable depths below, the raw force shaking their stone perch as each one impacts along their fierce descent. After an hour or more, as Dannie refuels the lanterns oil reserve, Julian sees the waters gradually receding away. “Too close,” he signs to the leader of the cave rats.
Dannie, Julian and the gathered rats discuss the options they have, which really amount to only two: stay put and wait for the creature to catch them off guard, or head up the new tunnel here and hope they can give it the slip for a time.
“The tunnel heading up will be the safest, it passes near the Grotto of Dreams; you are familiar in part with the area Julian?” asked Ragner; Dannie found it weird to ‘hear’ a rodent speak in her mind, like Julian has done before, guessing that it’s the same kind of gift from the one known as Thor.
“Very perceptive Dannie; yes it is the same gift, or I should say, the same source of nanotechnology that allows us to ‘hear’ one another this way. I do not understand fully how it works; it does and so it is,” Ragner declared unto her. Julian explains to her that when they are ‘speaking’ this way; any surface thoughts are as if one spoke to all in such telepathic contact.
Julian confirms to the Ragner he is partly familiar with this area. One thing the cave rat’s leader has not bothered to tell them is that Loki “The misbegotten bundle of worthlessly wet fur” is scouting ahead of their small band. Nothing should come between them and the Grotto of Dreams…
All too soon the rodent learns his words were dangerously wrong.
For five hours the labyrinthine network of passages, drop offs, dead ends and caverns have seen a running battle between the Goa’ulds creature; and the band it hunts. Many times it has suddenly phased from the ceiling or wall, and twice the floor, to unleash the hellish blasts of lightning, or even surreal blasts of force that liquefied and pulverized the stone with temperatures and pressures found in the core of a collapsing star.
Julian and Dannie bear scores of bruises, gashes and scratches across their bodies; a portion of her long lockets of hair has burned to ash by too close strikes of lightning…one more thing the creature has to pay for. Only the efforts of Loki and the cave rats being their guides helps them navigate the unending maze; even Julian, for all his travels under the mountains of stone, is quickly disoriented in the place.
The longer this chase lasts, the hotter his builds; he wants to annihilate this creature once and for all, and judging from the look on Donnie’s face, she will do the same if the chance comes. In the last skirmish fought, in which him and Donnie got close enough to batter the brute with their axes and almost catching it with a knife thrust, Julian understood something he has seen…the beasts cloak is its strength – it absorbed repeated blasts of hellish white and blue lightning coming from Loki or one of the cave rats; and allowed it to use that captured forces instantly for its own attacks.
Also, as they have seen all too often, it grants near perfect camouflage in the passages; turns stronger than stone when blows are struck, at least those it senses; for Dannie’s crushing of its chestnuts earlier shows it is not invulnerable. Yes the cloak is its great strength.
The cloak is also its one weakness, with the aid of one of the cave rats, has honed and hardened the axe edges to a preternatural edge with his telekinetic abilities. He hopes keen enough to slash the same cloak; and thus make it vulnerable. As to the forces of fire and lightning it generates; he has an idea of how to defeat that as well, and turn it to their advantage – probably a suicidal one, but it may be their only way of beating it.
As he walks onward, he recalls the sight of Donnie knife throw at the creature; it was gathering the lightning again in its palms, when the knife bounced off its shoulder, and into the gathering maelstrom that was instantly discharged. Only its cloak amazing abilities saved it…but destroy the cloak…his smile grew wide and wicked.
Dannie and Julian drop against the stone walls, lungs heaving for desperately needed breath after this latest run from the Goa’ulds creature. Even the cave rats pull up short; nearly spent in this latest run from the beast that will not relent until they are all dead.
“Julian; have you battled anything like this before…” Dannie asked of her lover, straining each word passed her lips between heaving gasps of air. Her lungs feel like they are on fire, and her legs as if bound to a boulder on each ankle. She looks around as a clearly pungent, acrid odor sweeps her nose; so foul it almost causing her to retch…
“What is that Julian…it’s horrendous…” she stops though as Julian concentrates, holding both hands up for her to be silent for a moment. He nods quickly, telling her they are entering a dangerous area with gas that bubbles from the hot springs; he gives her a strip of cloth to tie across her mouth, and does the same as well.
Donnie picks up their lantern, adjusting the glowing flame slightly; wondering how much more of their precious oil is left…that is her one nightmare, to get stuck in the tunnels with no light, and the creature hunting them will find them easy prey.
Julian takes her hand in his before she can adjust it much; quickly signing that the gas is very reactive with open flame of any kind…he pantomimes a small flame making a big blast; bigger flames making progressively bigger blasts. His shuddering tells her he has survived making such a mistake once before and is not eager to repeat it.
“The gas from the springs, it causes a big blast? One that is big enough to bring down the stones above and to the sides?” Dianna asked Julian. He nodded and then paused, a sudden idea finagling its way into his brain; she sees the shadow of a grin gather under the cloth covering his mouth and nose; then he pulls out a bundle of the crystals that glow when exposed to light…and explode when in contact with open flame of any kind…
“You have a plan?” Dianna asks. He nods and fills her in on the details; it is a lone, desperate hope of obliterating this creature. Now that Julian has found an edge, a way to get the creature to commit to battle on their terms, they want the beast of the Goa’uld to meet a very, very messy ending.
“So now the one remaining part, which of us is going to be…” she began to say.
Julian held his hands up for her to stop, knowing what she would say; he thumps his fist on his own chest…he will be the bait; she will trigger the trap. With great reluctance she agrees to this, keenly aware that he has the best chance of them to escape the killing ground set for the creature when it comes after them again.
“Be careful Julian, I don’t want to lose you now. We can always come back to the Grotto another time if we have to; let’s just flame this brute once and for all while we can.” She gives him a quick hug and a wicked, killer smile that he returns as the two head off to prepare the trap.
So much to do and not much time left…
“Julian is this it?” Dannie asked her lover, He nods and points to the latticework of crystals, already glowing with dancing sparkles and aurora borealis lights. The small cavern is narrow, some sixty paces in length and twenty across at the widest. Several bubbling, steaming, frothing hot springs flow as well, leaving only a small trail of slickened stone that can be crossed.
Working their way with utmost caution along the trail, they examine the only other exit on the far side and soon discover a cubby hole for Dannie to hide in. As they go about their preparation, Dannie goes over each step of the plan, thus ensuring nothing is overlooked or placed wrong. Lantern oil is placed along the trail, from mid cavern to their side just past the cubby hole; and she pauses as Julian carefully places several of the crystals he had taken earlier in their journey.
Seeing her quizzical look, he points to the latticework of shimmering, illuminated crystals, and then to those on the ground just in front of where he intends to make his stand. Her eyes flare wide with comprehension at his intention; it will be more than the volatile gas that will detonate, the entire crystal lattices will go up with it as well in a horrific blast of fire and rendered stone.
“Julian, just make sure to get out of the way when it shows up.” She just gives off a chuckle, “You really know how to make an impression on a girl; promised me the Grotto of Dreams, and now we get to blow up that thrice cursed beast of the…”
The rhythmic tapping of claws upon stone tell them of the creatures approach; thee cave rats have been sent out to observe, to relay its passage from one to another, until it is close enough to be lured by Julian into the trap. A quick hug and nuzzling of noses through their cloth shrouded faces, and they split up to head for their positions.
Each of them knows there will be no second chance with this fight.
Unknown to either of the humans, Loki hides among the larger rocks scattered to one side. He intends to ensure that the creature is held in place, so that it perishes. As his keen hearing and nose denote the creatures advance, he wills the nanomachines that are a part of him into life, knowing the creature will lock onto their own ‘unique echo’ and come fully into the trap.
Julian watched the frothing, brewing, bellowing clouds of steam illuminated in weird shifts of colored lights cast by the glowing crystal lattice. In each hand he holds a throwing axe, the preternatural keen edges glistening in the soft light of the crystals lamination. He knows they will probably be useless against the creature, given how its cloak can turn away some blows, but if he can just catch it off guard for a moment…there!
Out of the corner of his eye, to the side of the entrance he faces, a faint shimmering of light occurs. The creature passes from the stone into the cloud of steam, allowing its form to appear as a ghostly outline as it becomes solid. With speed and accuracy born of long years of practice and battle experience, he flings the first axe in a twirling horizontal path, the second following an instant later as he draws the third from his belt and raises it to be cast forth.
The echoing cries and of the nearby cave rats reverberates off of the stone walls; shrilling, nerve shattering sounds and sensations that draw the creatures attention…and away from the two inbound axes…
The first tears through its concealing cloak, severing the nanotechnology built within in a blast of blue and white light; then bites deep into the fleshy muscle of its chest just beyond. An instant later, the second axe joins it just a finger length apart. Howling in pain and uttermost rage at being surprised and injured; the creature rips both axes free, sending steaming spurts of hot blood across the stones.
Its twin eyes glowing like yellow suns beneath its hood; the beast holds both hands up, palms forward, and growls at Julian in a language he cannot understand. Blue sparkles of light flow around its arms, and gather in each palm, becoming pulsating orbs of force that crackle with building electrical forces; step by step the beast advances, bent on murdering this human that dares to have injured it.
Julian readies his axe for the throw, knowing this is the most dangerous point; and watches for the beast to deliver its savage attack. He hears with his heightened hearing Dannie striking steel to flint; igniting the oil soaked rags she has ready.
Step by step the beast closes; the glowing orbs of lightning in each hand casting halos of fierce light across the steaming clouds of water vapor. The crystal lattice glows stronger and stronger, casting the aurora borealis with greater speed and crackling power of its own. The very air itself pulsates with electrical forces gathering, flowing, clashing and intertwining…then an arc of electricity links both of the glowing orbs…the sign Julian has been waiting for.
His arm moves forward, propelling the axe at its target…which is not the howling creature…but the arc of electricity between its hands; which the metal headed axe intercepts perfectly…discharges the gathered force into the waters and clouds of vapor, plus, since it no longer is protected by its cloak, into the creature itself.
Flung backwards, Julian gets to his feet, ears ringing from the thunderous retort that still echoes down the tunnels; and grins to see the savage burns scoring the creatures’ body and clothing…and sees the beast’s full monstrous face for the first time in his life.
The creation of the Goa’uld is a humanoid reptile; thick armored scales flowing down arms and chest; sickly yellow-green skin that shimmers in the available light; its head that of a great cobra like snake. But now one of its arms hands uselessly to its side; burned and charred to the bone, as does one eyeless socket still releasing gouts of smoke from the smoldering flesh within. Great burns and bleeding gouges deep into muscle of its chest and legs release flows of ichors and blood with each step it takes.
The one remaining eye glows with sickly yellow light; showing it has been driven mad by the pain and now only has one thought on its mind; to destroy the source of that pain – Julian.
Julian bolts for the exit behind him; hoping Dannie is ready. The beast hisses and takes up the chase, and upon contacting the oil slick floor, slips to the ground with a resounding crash; he and Dannie hear the roaring rage of the creature as it tries to get its footing once again…but miss the shimmering field of force that Loki creates with his telekinetic ability; literally he compresses the very air around the creature to hold in a vice like grip…and grins with satisfaction as Dannie casts the burning cloth onto the stream of oil just outside the cubby hole.
Quick as thought the flames greedily consume the oil, speeding along to find and devour all it can; and then they come into contact with the crystals on the floor. Thirty small, sun-bright bursts of flame appear and then vanish in an instant, their brief time of glory having come and gone, but doing the job set to them…that of setting off the volatile gasses in the chamber.
The entire region of caverns and tunnels around the sprung trap echo with the screeching retort of a thousand thousands of dragons joining in battle; as the hellish forces of the gas detonating merge with those of the crystal lattice in a moment of pure apocalyptic holocaust. Stone shatters, melts, and is pulverized by the heat and forces that reverberate a hundred times off of each wall, floor and ceiling in less than a single heartbeat; then they claw their way down the exiting tunnels, becoming almost living embodiments of primordial forces clawing and clutching for anything it can consume completely to prolong its momentary existence.
Dannie watched the blast consume the reptilian humanoid, eyes growing wide in alarm as the blast expands towards her. She dives for cover, clutching arms over her head and face and curling into a ball as pulsating waves of heat and horrific forces punish her body; threatening to tear the very air from her lungs and still her heart as organs and muscles are crushed and torn asunder. For the barest of moment when these forces pass; she peaks out to see the returning darkness in the tunnels…and cracks the beginning of a smile as the eternal stones above sunder and descend to encompass her in their grasp…one strikes her head and sends her cascading into the darkness.
Moments later the howls of Loki merge with the consuming flames as well.
Near the Grotto of Dreams, the two beings of those who are called Grays; Thor and Odin share a startled look as the shockwaves rumble past them. Machinery in the room vibrates, books slide on shelves and plants dance about yet do not fall to the ground; the two of them understand that the creature of the Goa’uld is now gone and the grotto is safe.
“We must see if Dannie and Julian are still living; they were very near the epicenter of the blast if I figure right.” Thor said to Odin who rose from their shared table, pushing his hand of cards forward and glad for the interruption…as much as he likes to play poker; he knows that Thor is the better player of them.
At the entrance to their home they see their friend Loki waiting for them; his eyes show the true depths of his rage, while his thick fur still smolders with fine tendrils of ash rising here and there.
“The brute’s dead, crushed under a mountain of stone; no thanks to you pair of worthless cowards” Loki griped “…Dannie is hurt, she took a blow to the head by a falling stone, but Julian is bringing her to the grotto. He’ll be there shortly Thor and she should awaken by then; so I would suggest you move your worthless arse and head on out already.”
“Courageous couple those two,” he said as he walked off, “full of promise and willing to work together; they will aid the other humans in going far…unlike you useless two old farts…” Loki’s words faded as he headed towards the Grotto of Dreams; shortly to be followed by Thor.
Julian holds the crumpled form of his lover in his arms, hands tenderly stroking her hair as he examines the massive lump on her head. Bruised and battered, she still lives and breathes steadily just as his new friends, the cave rats have told him.
He looks over at the three dozen of them gathered around him and Dannie; their molten red eyes glowing and paws gently resting on her body. A soft, bluish-white light swirls around them and flows into her, accelerating the natural metabolic healing of her body.
“She will recover, for now let her sleep and carry her to the Grotto of Dreams where Thor waits with the one known as Loki,” said Ragner via a telepathic communication to Julian, “One of Dannie’s wishes will be granted, a desire she has longed to see from the old world, and a greater gift as well for her and your children.”
“Julian I tell you this freely and not by command of my master Odin,” Ragner states emphatically states, “there are many other grottos such as the Grotto of Dreams hidden away beneath these mountains and near other human settlements. They are gardens of a sort, holding onto knowledge for all humans, and to be found by those who are courageous enough to seek them, and those who dare to dream of a better tomorrow for their people.”
“Of this generation of humanity in your home of White Bear, you and Dannie are that future. Make use of the gifts you have, learn to use them wisely and well; and the future will be bright. Just remember, there is always danger in that the power you have, and that she will soon have, can be used for harm. Heed this caution well, and teach your children wisely.” With that Ragner scurries off, chortles once to his followers and the entire mass head into the darkness, the glow of their molten eyes disappearing into the distance.
He carried Dannie for some time, her head resting on his shoulder, the steady flow of her breath telling him she will be fine. She wakens during a short rest he was taking, and he told the tale of Ragner and the cave rats being able to aid her: boosting her own gift of enhancing her metabolic rate for fast healing by the nanotech within her being.
When she asks how far do they have to travel, he simply points to the tunnels next bend; and tells her its just past there…paradise for the two of them called the Grotto of Dreams.
Dannie just stared in rapt wonder as she beheld the truth about the Grotto of Dreams now laid bare before her very own eyes. Julian had stopped her just shy of the last bend into this paradise beneath the mountains of stone, having her close her eyes, covering them with her hands. Upon entering, she felt two immediate changes from the cold passages of the caverns…overwhelming warmth, and the cacophony of noises telling of abundance of life in the area.
Julian eased her hands away, and she had to blink several times to see properly in the bathing warm sunlight that covered the place from high above the Grottos floor. Seventeen giant lattices of crystals, glowing bright in flaming blues, oranges, yellows and whites of iridescent fires brought tears flowing to her eyes as each one was gazed upon in turn.
She turned to see Julian pulling off his parka and most of the insulating clothing he normally wore; he signed to her, suggesting she do the same or risk being cooked. Having done so, she moved to the edge of the ledge that she and Julian are standing upon. Across the grotto she beheld a might waterfall, soaring from five thousand feet above, to more than five thousand feet below in a torrential cascade without end. In the air are creatures flying on feathered wings, birds of all colors and combinations and sizes. They flow and wheel and turn in the huge space open before her – a place stretching probably five miles to her right and left, and twice that total to the far end before her.
She shakes her head as a small, flighty bird no larger than her index finger hovers in front of her, gold and green colors dancing across its body; and landing for a short time on her raised hand. No fear of her, just curiosity, is seen in its eyes. When she gives off a delighted giggle, the little bird just nods in appreciation and heads off faster than she can track it with her naked eyes.
A plethora of plant life, trees hundreds of feet high, great columns of vines thicker than her wrist, and bushes and shrubs beyond count line each ledge, floor, rise and rock that is not already covered with hundreds of small, bubbling hot springs and flowing streams that water them. She watches, fascinated, as the mists in one region of the grotto flow and gather together, making small and puffy clouds that shed water onto the growth below.
Julian tells her it is called “Rain,” literally water that comes from the sky instead of the snows they have known all their lives. He guides her down a steady path carved from the ledge to the floor of the grotto; telling her of all the wonders he had been told after his first time in the grotto. Dannie gave a shrieking start when a swarm of hand length, golden colored dragonflies buzzes passed; and delighted in the site of huge fish leaping from the watery pools to snatch them out of the air.
“Julian, this is real and not a dream I’m having after taking that lump to the head?” He understands the concern in her voice; a paradise is before them, one so nearly lost to the creature that hunted them and the others for so long. He holds his hands out wide to sweep in the vast abundance of life around them, and signed that all of it is real. With the encouragement of Julian, Dannie samples many of the fruits taken from the trees and vines; from small, sweet ones that grow in clusters of green and red bunches longer than her forearm, to delicate fuzzy fruits with a lone seed, which are pink as a newborns skin on the outside. Even more amazing are the ones who have red, yellow or green skin; sweet and crunchy to the bite, liquid that drips down her chin from the first wonderful taste.
“Julian,” she asks him with some concern, “I know we cannot stay here for long; our being here almost led the beast of the Goa’uld to this paradise. But is there any way Thor could be convinced to let us take some of the seeds for the gardens back home? These would allow us to prosper a bit more; we have come so close to being starved in the winter months; and if we can grow these near the hot springs that feed the gardens…”
“Of course you may Dannie; that is one dream I will gladly fulfill to you…” started the inhuman yet friendly voice from just behind her back. Her ear shattering scream of surprise is only matched by her leaping into Julian’s arms, her hands locked tight around his shoulders, head pressed into her chest as he struggles to hold her weight in his arms; and to keep the humor in his eyes from spreading to his lips. Breathing hard, she looks to the speaker…and her jaw drops…
“Why do they have to keep looking at us like that?” asked the first of the two beings there; it is a four legged, slender and long creature with thick, flowing, glistening fur of midnight coloration; its tail swishing back and forth as the twin ears move here and there, while its eyes look into her own with true bemusement.
The second being, a slender figure with overly large eyes of midnight black that speak of infinite age and deep wisdom chuckles and smiles with its lipless mouth. It looks up at the two humans, as it only stands waist high to them this is not much of an option, and spreads its all too small hands wide in greetings.
“Dannie, yes you shall have that gift; to dream of a better tomorrow for your people, and your children is the greatest one can have. I am Thor, of those who are called Grays; and my friend here,” he points to the cat seated at his side, “is Loki, another of my kind who accidently turned himself into a cat…”
“A cat, he is truly a cat?” Dannie jumps from Julian’s arms, rushing over to sweep Loki into her own arms; stroking and petting him as she nuzzles her cheek against his fur. The look of shock and consternation on his face soon becomes one of contentment as all hear him purring away with unabashed speed. “You are so lovely; I’ve wanted to see a cat for real all my life…”
“Dannie, then you shall for the remainder of your days,” Thor looks upon Loki with a sardonic smile, “he will go with you to teach you and Julian and the others to tend and grow the plant cuttings and seeds we will give into your care.”
“But for now come and share a meal with me; I will tell you all I can, as I have done for Julian the curious one who falls from the sky,” upon seeing her confused look, Thor chuckles loudly, “I see that he never told you how he found the Grotto of Dreams. He was wandering in the passages above us, and fell through a ventilation hole in the ceiling…much to my shock he landed in the pool I was gathering fish out of, yet was extremely polite and apologetic to no end…”
Dannie and Loki looked at Julian, who stood still, eyes rolled upward, silent whistle on his lips while he held his hands behind his back; pretending to be oblivious to the stares coming his way. Eventually though, all four are laughing away as more and more tales are shared between the four of them.
The young couple stayed for five days as the guests of Thor; they departed as new friends, Dannie, Julian and Loki – curled up in Julian’s haversack – heading out with their bags filled to the brim with the seeds and cuttings for their people; and the knowledge of so much more.
Thor has given a gift to Dannie: her own natural gift, with the nanotech, permits her to briefly enhance her own physical and metabolic abilities, such as speed and strength; to this he has provided her with telekinesis, and that of telepathy. His explanations of how this ‘nanotechnology’ works left her confused, unable to grasp even a hundredth of what he said. It’s not magic, true; but it may as well be. It works, and that is what matters.
Thor calls out as they leave, passing from warmth to the bitter cold of the tunnels, that they will be welcome back whenever they wish. Waving, the three – two humans and a cat – head for home.
In the home they share with others of their kind, very near the Grotto of Dreams, the two known as Thor and Odin watch the young couple in a holographic projection. True happiness is rare nowadays among the members of The People. It warms their inhuman hearts, and brings the glimmers of happiness to dance in their black eyes of absolute midnight; lipless smiles form on their mouths and giggles of wonderment pass into the air.
“My, my Thor it looks that you were right all along about the both of them,” said Odin, the first of those who are called Grays. His giggles became full blown laughter, and soon his companion Thor joins in. It has been the first such laughter since they and their kindred failed to prevent the final assault on the old world of Earth by the Goa’uld.
“Sadly the old world of humanity is gone forever, it cannot be recreated.” Thor closed his eyes in sadness over the memories of that day, “we failed the humans when we promised to come to their aid; twice they fought off the invasion forces of the Goa’uld, and the third time we arrived just as the asteroids were entering the very atmosphere; we stopped enough of them to ensure a sliver of humanity survived; but the rest of their world was erased in a holocaust beyond comprehension.”
“And as you told them my friend,” said Odin, “We are there with them if the Goa’uld appear. This time we used our agents and Loki to assist them; and protect them from our ancient enemies’ beast. Indeed it is most reassuring to see that the indomitable will for life and courage have remained, and flourished even, among those who are called ‘The People.”
“That is why many of us stayed behind on Earth, and remain in the system to defend from the incursions of the Goa’uld lords.” Odin continues, “Remember, it was a small band of humans who discovered the danger of them to their world via their first usage of the star gate; and then destroyed their enemy with a nuclear device. We have not done the same in a thousand decades of combat with the Goa’uld. In the first two invasions, and the fall of their world, they still took down over sixty of their great mother-ships. Something they must be honored for.”
Both of them agreed that when they went to visit Dannie and Julian, they would bring more copies of the old worlds surviving books and paintings; to allow them to remember the greatness of what they once were, and to allow them to dream of what they want to be in the future.
“Now my friend, how about on our next visit with the humans we teach them how to play the old world game of Poker?” Odin asked of Thor.
“Why Odin I did not know you like to lose so badly?” Thor said, a true smile of friendship on his mouth and laughter dancing in his eyes that soon became true laughter between the both of them. Of course, Thor did not bother to tell his friend that he taught the game to the humans a few years back.