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CHAPTER 21 :BLACK DEATH

I will whip you with a scourge of scorpions, and beat you with the rood of iron.
1 Kings 12;lO
Transcription by Donegal Ryan.


December 3, 1870

Dio's shout of alarm brought me to consciousness. From my vantage point on the saddle tree I saw that we on the lip of a large crater, the rim and interior walls were covered with a fine white powder.(7) A column of dust swirled up from the crater floor but I could barely see it past Brimstone's neck. I resolved then to invent something which would allow me to shift my position in the saddle while still being secure. Entering Dio's brain I viewed the event through his eyes.

Something was stirring from beneath the crater's floor for the soil shifted as though in a whirlpool, rock and white dust turning in a circular pattern as the soil slowly sank forming a hole.

Twin geysers of rock and dust rose about ten feet into the air as two huge black objects burst out into the open air. It took a second to recognize them as giant claws or more precisely, pincers, the size of a wagon bed.

Rock and white dust were flung some fifty feet in the air as a chunk of the crater floor exploded upwards as if a silent dynamite stick had been detonated. A thick cloud of dust billowed even further up the slope causing Dio to cough furiously. His vision blurred as tears filled them thus preventing me from getting a clear view of what rose out of the pit.

The horses panicked, so stark was their terror that I could not control them and attempting to do only resulted in giving me a splitting headache.

Brimstone reared up in fright, losing his balance on the edge of the cliff. He rolled down inside the crater's slope, taking me with him. Jumbled impression and fleeting moments of ghost pain were all I recall. The headlock kept me fast in the saddle, although it did tear my ears up quite a bit.

Brimstone rolled back onto his hooves about fifty feet from the creature. He jumped, reared and danced in terror, screaming only as frightened horse can. I saw flashes of an armor black and shiny, so black that it glinted blue and silver in the sunlight, so shiny that our reflections were seen in a thousand superimposed and faceted images.

There were two giant pincers, four pairs of legs, six pairs of round, black eyes and a mouth of eight spiked mandibles constantly moving like some bizarre threshing machine. The working maw reminded me of a harvester of some type but I certainly did not want to be reduced to mulch.

Since my field of vision was so limited, most of my shots missed. In between the time I sent the command to fire and the time my hands reacted, the monstrosity had moved. Two shots did strike the exoskeleton only to ping off in a burst of sparks. Brimstone was dancing around so much that it was impossible to reload.

A line of shiny black barrels suddenly swooped towards me and a spike the size of a spear head stabbed Brimstone in the side. He screamed, falling to his knees and then slumped over on his side. Brimstone fell so that his back faced the giant black scorpion putting me directly in its path, helplessly fastened to the saddle.

Desperately I sought out the scorpion's mind and was nearly slammed into a coma by the sheer force of its' ferocity and blood lust. I had sensed another mind there but also sensed that this mind had also attempted to control the creature and had become trapped by the maelstrom of fury.

The scorpion's rage and need for destruction was so intense, so much a core of its being that there was nothing there for me to latch onto and control.

I wished for eyelids without holes in them when the huge tip of the tail swung around to strike at me.

A steam whistle loud hiss boiled up from the scorpion's mouth as it lashed out at me.

A black shape darted in front of me. The stinger streaked downwards and struck an upraised boulder.

Bishop Walsh stood before me holding a boulder, which must have weighed close to three hundred pounds, over his head, upright in his extended arms, looking like a tarbaby Atlas. A chip of stone splinted from the boulder as the stinger it struck it once more.

An angry deafening wheeze blew of the scorpion echoed by Walsh's screams as the pincers came down upon him. They grasped him about the waist as the huge stinger slammed home into his back. Tightening pincers chopped him in half and the two pieces fall into the dirt.

Walsh continued screaming as a viscous reddish black fluid gushed out of the two halves of his body, mixing with the white dust and sandy dirt of the crater, creating a thick black sludge which pooled about the two halves of his body.

After a few seconds he stopped screaming and lay still and silent.

The huge stinger tip darted towards me once more and once again deflected, this time by a dried saguaro rib wielded by Dio. I had thought it pretty silly to make a spear out of a cactus rib but Dio had insisted.

Dio bobbed and weaved like a boxer, like a mongoose before a King Cobra, dodging strikes, biding his time for the perfect moment to dart in for a killing blow.

The scorpion lashed at Dio with its stinger a dozen times, missing each time, although at times only by a hairs breadth. The giant pincers clashed and slashed the air as they struck at him and he was forced to jump, slam prone into the ground, somersault in three different directions and do combinations of these moves to avoid the deadly serrated edges and crushing interiors of these claws.

Dio finally found his movement and darted inwards and ran underneath the scorpion. He slammed his spear's fire hardened point into the abdomen, piercing one of the lung sacs. A shrill screech and a wheeling movement by the scorpion nearly caught Dio unawares. Slamming himself prone he jerked the spear upwards once again.

The spear point found another lung sac, discharging all the air inside with a loud, liquid pop. When Dio tried to withdraw the spear he discovered that it was caught between two chitinous segments.

Thus began a dance of death, a contest as to who would last the longest. Would Dio be able to avoid the Black Scorpion's serrated claws, poisonous stinger and razor sharp hairs covering the body until the scorpion's air ran out?

As the fencing dance went on I continued my efforts to find some way into the scorpion's mind. The fury continued unabated even as the scorpion's body tired from lack of oxygen. It's strikes slowed and became erratic as the fight continued. Yet Dio was also tiring rapidly, his breathing becoming more and more labored, his small swarthy body glistening with a coat of sweat. His leaps became hops, he took longer to get to his feet after slamming into the ground.

Two hours into this strange dance the scorpion was stumbling about, eight legs moving every which way in an uncoordinated, drunken lurch. Yet the tail kept flying forward every few seconds, although it was striking blindly at Dio in a last ditch effort to win the fight.

The exhausted combatants own bodies betrayed them. After a blind strike at Dio's head he was too slow in moving and so caught by the stinger as it swung back. The stinger's poisoned tip slashed a bloody furrow across the back of his neck, just below the red scaly burn scar tissue ended. He spun around, looking at me with wide, surprised eyes and fell backwards in between the two halves of Bishop Walsh. Dio's neck and head landed in the black sludge with a loud squelch.

The scorpion made a tentative step towards me when its legs collapsed outwards forcing its belly to the ground and impaling it on Dio's spear.

Casting my mind about I tried to ascertain who was alive, if anybody and to my shock found that everything was alive, although grievously wounded.

Having nothing to do I caused my arms to free themselves then sent them crawling across the crater floor over to Dio. Where over the course of the next four hours they slowly dragged Dio out of the sludge that had come out of Bishop Walsh.

Naturally since my arms were no longer attached to my shoulders they had no real leverage and so were forced to tied a rope around Dio's foot then loop the rope through my unused stirrups. One arm wedged its shoulder joint between Brimstone's side and and crater floor and then grasped the other about the forearm. The other hand played the rope between its thumb and fingers inch by inch. I know that the fingers should not have had the strength to do this task yet somehow they did.

As Dio was slowly dragged towards me, I saw that the gash across his neck had been sealed by the black sludge which had exuded from the Bishop.

Using my vertebrae and trachea tendrils I unhooked myself from the headlock and slithered down Brimstone's side, keeping one part of my mind on the arms and their task.

The stinger's puncture was reddish and yellow but there were no apparent signs of putrefaction from the wound so it did not appear to be a digestive venom like some snakes have. Brimstone breathed steadily and so I took this to be a sign that he was healing.

I had no doubt that this Scorpion was a direct attack against me by Ryan. This, in truth, shocked me, for I had thought my powers unique, half believing that destruction of the cities he had caused had been caused by similar powers directed by lunacy. They were indeed but underneath his madness, which was in fact a good deal of facade, he was rational.

The destruction of these cities were not the idle whims of a madman but were in fact key ingredients of a grand scheme. In truth, his project to bring about the Apocalypse was insane but he was going about with deliberation and planning not mere uncontrolled violence. However whenever violence and destruction coincided with his plans, he used them with enthusiasm.

I began to have serious doubts about my powers pitted against his. Perhaps this was not going to be the pushover I had envisioned. My vengeance could very well result in my destruction. I half relished the idea.

7 This is the famous Meteor crater in Arizona There have been no other reports of giant insects rising from its depths and most Geiger survey report only normal background radiation. However all attempts at mining have met with failure, fatalities and disaster.

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Chapter 27· Chapter 28· Chapter 29



~THE LEGEND OF EL HEAD~




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