"The stars are like a gateway into the imagination - from the depths of space mankind can see his greatest dreams as well as confront his darkest nightmares..
for in the vast expanse of infinity a man is made aware of how truly insignificant he is in the cosmic scheme of things..
indeed our own planet, a small and humble little speck, is microscopic in the great picture..
yet time and time again it seems the battle for the survival of the entire cosmos is played out upon the surface of this worthless little rock..
some would say this proves that Earth plays a great and unquestionable role in the running of existence..
some would argue it only proves mankind has yet to truly face the truth behind the stars..
which is right and which is wrong, we may ask?
perhaps neither.. perhaps the truth is a little bit of both..
the question is: will the truth set us free or shall it at long last destroy us all?"
Chapter 1 - Sudden Change
"Mary, Mary, quite contrary.. how does your garden grow? with silver bells and cockle shells and pretty maids all in a row.." sang the chorus of a well-known nursery rhyme as a group of children ran around the streets of a rural village - the sun beginning to set as they continued to play without a care in the world.
The children continued to run around singing that same nursery rhyme as a young man walked into the village, his appearance scruffy at best - much of his facial features covered by a thick beard while his eyes betray a lack of sleep, he walks slowly and looks around at the children with a few glances before making his way further into the village.
Michel Deuce, more commonly refered to as "Night Owl", was a stranger in these remote parts and he was already aware of the looks he was receiving from a few adults who sat on their lawns - the older residents obviously distrustful of anything new and looking as if they were ready to form a lynch mob at any point.
Michel didn't let the hostility get to him, he was used to such reactions in the "dark corners" of the world - after several wars and the rise of occult and mutation amongst many other superhuman phenomena many parts of the world had reverted to superstition and fear: Michel didn't really blame them either.. these were dangerous times.
Instead Michel made his way over to the local graveyard and made his way inside, away from the locals - sitting down by a grave he simply waited.. as if knowing something was about to happen.. he knew from experience that often the best way to track down the unexplained was to simply let it come to him..
Quite suddenly, a melodious, yet slightly haunting singing voice began to resound in the graveyard. The enchanting voice came from a golden-haired girl who appeared to be no older than twelve:
"Oranges and lemons, say the bells of St. Clements
You owe me five farthings, say the bells of St. Martins
When will you pay me, say the bells of Old Bailey
When I grow rich say, the bells of Shoreditch
When will that be, say the bells of Stepney
I'm sure I don't know, says the great bell at Bow
Here comes a candle to light you to bed
Here comes a chopper to chop off your head..."
Michel simply smirked as he leaned against the gravestone - watching the girl, his talent for finding the unusual not seeming to fail him - he listens to the song and has already began to formulate several possibilities in his mind as to who or what the girl may be.
"Chip, chop, chip, chop... the last man's dead..." the girl sings, finishing her song on an eerie note, stopping and resting her hands on a nearby gravestone. She looked up at the murky sky, appearing oblivious to her surroundings. Her golden eyes didn't blink once.
Michel coughed slightly to get the girl's attention - still leaning back.
The girl looks at him with piercing golden eyes, but says nothing.
"..nice eyes.. you're not human.. not even mutants have golden eyes.. that's more a Terral thing.." Michel notes.
"Just the half-bloods and pure-bloods." the girl said, whose name was Karma.
"..oh.. I see.. you guys still believe in racial purity and all that jazz? ..interesting.. to each their own.." Michel replies.
"No... my race is virtually extinct." Karma said. "That's what Master tells me, anyway..."
Michel thinks for a moment before he nods slowly "..depends what you want to believe.. you'll be surprised how often something that seems extinct is more active than people would first imagine..".
Suddenly a new figure emerges in the graveyard, appearing inhumanly tall and dressed in a suit - long arms almost dragging across the ground as a large hat covers most of the figure's face, disturbingly around its neck seems to be a hangman's noose.
Karma glances at the figure for a moment, then looks away, turning her gaze to the gravestone that she was leaning on.
The tall figure moves over to Michel, when it gets nearer the creature's face is revealed - a horrific sight with multiple glowing eyes and a mouth full of sharp fangs that glisten with saliva, each arm ends in long fingers that have massive claws.
The figure wastes little time in paralysing Michel with a flash of energy from those eyes, causing him to fall on the ground as if dead - the tall figure totally ignoring Karma as it reaches down and lifts the lifeless Michel and carries him away over one shoulder.
Karma turns toward the figure as this happens; her eyes begin to glow. She teleports, reappearing in front of the figure, floating in mid-air and glowing with what appear to be emerald green flames.
"...put him down." she demands.
The figure's eyes glow brightly and before the girl can quite understand what is going on she finds herself suddenly behind the figure - "..e'llH wEr.. rAd'e.. riO'a.." the figure murmurs in an alien tongue before it moves on, still carrying the lifeless Michel with it.
Karma frowned. "I said, put him down." Lifting her hand, she launches a ball of glowing white energy at the tall figure's back.
The figure doesn't even flinch as the ball of glowing white energy simply absorbs into its form as it continues to carry Michel to the edge of the graveyard as it does so it extends one of its long arms and forms a vortex which opens much like a door: "..e'llH wEr.. rAd'e.. riO'a.." the figure repeats without looking back, then enters the vortex.
Running after the figure, Karma dashes into the vortex seconds later.
Upon entering the vortex everything turns pitch black - the sensation of falling lasts for a few moments before Karma feels herself landing in a pool of liquid, a horrible smell akin to rotting flesh fills her lungs as the darkness disappears to reveal a passage filled with stagnant water that reaches up to one's ankles - the passage filled with glowing fungi but otherwise resembling an underground cavern that barely allows one to stand without scraping one's head off the roof.
The tall figure disappears around a corner, virtually crawling on all fours as it drags Michel behind it - Michel finally beginning to stir as he's dragged through the stagnant water, his vision blurry and his head pounding.
Wincing slightly at the stench, Karma takes off running, following the monster.
Michel struggles as the tall figure drags him into a large room filled with organic tables and hooks which suspend from the roof - many of these hooks have skeletal figures hanging from them, vaguely humanoid in appearance but decayed with age and missing chunks of their body.
"..ugh.. no fucking way.." Michel said, feeling sick as he actived one of his sigils and punched the tall figure with sufficent force to send it tumbling across the room as he got to his feet and scrambled towards what he assumed was the exit.
Yet Michel didn't get far before he felt blinding pain across his back as the tall figure leapt at him, digging its large claws into his back as it dragged him back towards one of the tables:
"..e'llH wEr.. rAd'e.. riO'a..".
Karma, having darted onto the scene, was thinking frantically. "Remember what Master told me... Balance flows through the body... channel it, don't resist it..." she thought to herself.
"Chaos!" she shouts, launching a number of dark, shadowy tendrils from her hand that curve around Michel and strike wildly at the tall figure like blades that crackle with energy.
The tall figure releases Michel, leaving large wounds on his back - then rears up and hisses like a frenzied cat, its jaw cracking slightly as it stretches impossibly long: then the ground below Karma and Michel breaks apart and they tumble down into darkness as the tall figure disappears from view..
Chapter 2 - The World Below
Michel fell down onto the ground, the smell of rotting flesh disappearing as the pair find themselves in a large tunnel that is oppressively dark - yet dry and filled with dirt as opposed to the stagnant water above, the tall figure hisses again before moving away, far above, seemingly unwilling to follow the pair down into the underground..
Karma forms a ball of light in her hand which she uses to light up the tunnel, as she helps Michel to his feet and takes off into the darkness, half-supporting, half-dragging him along.
Michel tries to support himself as he motions to Karma, "..n-no.. I'm alright.. you need to concentrate on taking care of yourself..".
The pair move a few feet into the tunnel before Karma feels a tiny creature fall down from the roof of the tunnel and land on her shoulder, the creature resembling a worm at first but clearly having two humanoid arms which it uses to climb up her shoulder: the experience probably startling to the girl.
Karma shivered briefly as the creature landed on her shoulder. "How did I not sense that?" she thought to herself. Lifting the glowing light in her palm, she turns and observes the creature. Most people would have swatted it aside in shock or horror, but not Karma, who was used to seeing otherworldly and bizarre sights.
The worm stops and appears to stand, at least as much as a creature with a lack of legs can, its featureless head appearing to motion towards the glowing light as a voice breaks through her mind: <<..you do not belong here.. you are of the surface world.. which means he is coming for you..>>.
"The tall figure?" Karma asks, responding with similar telepathy to the worm-like creature. "He brought this person down here... I am only trying to see to his safe return..."
<<..you denied the Tall Man his prey.. he will hunt you down.. my advice is to leave the human and come with me.. let the Tall Man have what is his.. he will bother you no further..>> the worm replies.
"I can't do that," Karma replies, "my Master would kill me for leaving him behind to save myself..."
<<..why die for a weaker being? ..think on it.. is it worth it?>> the worm notes, as it does so Michel continues looking down at the ground, coughing slightly.
"This cosmos is not a fair one," Karma retorted, "but we ought to make it as fair as we can. He is still a living, thinking creature, and he deserves life as much as we do... This Multiverse would become Hell if the weak lived by the whims of the strong..."
<<..then you understand..>> the worm states, suddenly the ground below Karma gives way and both she and Michel fall down into what resembles a massive underground kingdom - the entrance quickly sealing shut once they landed on the soft soil which made up the floor.
"..it.. it can't be.. yet.. it is.. Subterra.." Michel says, looking around - the kingdom actually a massive maze which spreads further than the eye can see, illuminated by strange fungi that glow various shades of blue.
"...Subterra?" Karma asks.
"..it's a legend.. in the old days people believed the world was hollow.. these days science has proven that to be about as plausible as the Earth being flat.. however Subterra was another matter.. a "world within a world" if you will.. a series of tunnels spreading under the world.. inhabited by an ancient race.." Michel explains as he looks around.
<<..the human is clever, the Tall Man must sense that.. he will seek you out soon.. there is still chance you know.. to abandon him and save yourself..>> the worm states to Karma.
"My mind is made up." Karma said, with no intention of leaving Michel behind.
<<..very well..>> the worm says, as it does so the ground in front of Karma suddenly comes to life as a mass of worms rises, forming into a vaguely humanoid creature as they merge together.
Michel watches this then whispers to Karma, "..I need to rest for a bit.. I have a gift you see.. I just need to rest.. you think this thing is hostile?".
"I'm not sure." Karma responded, whispering back. "I can't read it's intentions like I can with other sentient beings..."
<<..we do not wish you harm.. we tested you to see if your concern for this human was sincere.. you will need it if you are to face the Tall Man..>> the figure states.
Michel shrugs a little, "..well.. no time to ask.." - with that he seems to go lifeless, as if entering a deep sleep, one of the symbols carved into his flesh glowing slightly in the process as his wounds slowly but surely begin to close themselves up.
Karma takes note of Michel's healing before turning back to the worms. "This Tall-Man is unnatural... What is he?"
<<..many centuries ago the Tall Man arrived on this world from the depths of space.. carrying a seed which he planted under Subterra.. a seed that would grow to become Dbiel, the Consumer.. as time grew so too did Dbiel and the Tall Man became the creature's eyes and ears - the tool by which it could feast upon the beings of Subterra and later the surface world.. yet the Tall Man does not just capture prey for Dbiel - he works on something greater.. a future in which all beings on this planet are but cattle for Dbiel's consumption..>> the figure replies.
"Ew..." Karma replied in disgust.
<<..interesting.. you show disgust, yet this is part of the cycle.. all beings must consume to survive.. perhaps the surface dwellers liked to believe they were somehow special.. we have not had such luxury.. no, we are all food to Dbiel.. that is not what you should fear.. what you should fear is the experiments.. the Tall Man is not just a servant, he is a researcher.. in need of fresh specimens..>> the figure says.
Suddenly Michel awakens, sitting up as his wounds all but disappear - however the collection of scars across the body remain, looking raw and angry yet clearly carved into strange symbols.
"Quick healing? What other surprises do you have?" Karma asks Michel.
"Me? None.. I'm just a biologist.. these Sigils are what cause the phenomena.." Michel replies.
Suddenly the ground shakes around the group, the worms scattering as they speak out:
<<Dbiel stirs.. beneath the earth.. it hungers..>>.
"Good, 'cause I wanna kill it." Karma states.
"why? for all we know Dbiel is just an animal - you want to kill it because it feeds on people, right? well, here's a crazy thought.. maybe it doesn't know any better.. it's that crazy Tall Man thing that's the problem.." Michel says, rubbing one of his Sigils as his voice fades slightly:
"..I wasn't always like this you know.. I was normal once.. then someone decided to change me.. they locked me away and made me do things.. they carved these signs into my flesh.. beat me down.. yet I never questioned them.. I did what they asked me.. truth is, I've faced things like the Tall Man my whole life..".
"Whether or not such creatures know any better doesn't change the fact that they will kill and feast on thousands of innocent human lives." Karma reasoned. "As for you- why did you never question them? Why did you not even attempt to fight back or do anything?"
"Because as much as it hurt.. as much as I wanted to fight.. I couldn't.. I thought if I just let him do what he needed to do he'd be proud of me.. isn't that what a son is meant to do? make his father proud?" Michel replies, looking to Karma.
<<..beware of weakness, the Tall Man will use it against you.. Dbiel is not an animal, it can think - it can decide.. this is the world Dbiel has chosen to create.. do not shed tears for its passing..>> the worms speak out again, another tremor shaking around the group as something stirs deep below.
Karma had no answer for Michel nor the worm-like creature as she staggered slightly from the tremor.
The remor soon stops and Michel looks to Karma again as the worms speak once more -
<<..below us lays Dbiel and the other ancient ones.. beneath them lay creatures even greater and beyond your understanding.. trapped within the Earth like parasites in the human body.. you could not hope to face them all.. it is Dbiel you seek out.. go forth and make haste.. we will do what we can..>>.
With that the worms spread out and create a large hole in the ground nearby, enough for Karma to slip through - Michel still seeming reluctant.
"C'mon," Karma said, "I've got to keep an eye on you, in case that Tall Man comes back..."
Michel sighs as he steps forward and looks into the hole, "..I know it's crazy to you.. yet I still don't want to kill Dbiel.. I'm a xeno-biologist.. my whole life has been devoted to studying the supernatural.. not killing it..".
"Forgive me, but I don't see it that way," Karma said. "I only see Dbiel as a supernatural threat, nothing more, nothing less."
Michel looks to Karma "..pray the world doesn't end up feeling the same way about you.." - with that he jumps down the hole and into the darkness below.
Shaking a stray thought from her head brought about by Michel's retort, Karma leaps down after him.
Chapter 3 - The Descent
Michel soon lands in soft mud and looks around in the darkness, trying to adjust his eyes with little avail - getting to his feet shakily as the hole slowly begins to disappear as the worms seal the gap, trapping Karma and Michel in the dark.
A dim radiance barely illuminates the chasm as Karma summons a small ball of glowing light to her hand, using it like a torch.
As Karma does this it is apparent the pair have entered a new underground maze - this one looking even more ancient than the one above, the mud beneath them soft enough to cause each step to sink deep: the air like that of a crypt that has not been opened for centuries.
"This is incredible.. to think.. below this lays another maze.. if the worms spoke the truth.. wheels within wheels, fires within fires.. simply incredible.." Michel notes as he looks around, his eyes glimmering - despite all the things he'd been through he seemed almost childlike as he took in each new discovery.
It confused Karma to no end.
Shaking the thought of Michel's bizarre curiosity from her mind, Karma added a little more power to her ball of light and began to trudge slowly down the tunnel.
Michel continued to look around before he folowed Karma, his voice changing somewhat "..you know.. what I said before.. about my father? you never really answered me.. I did what any son would do, right? to make his dad proud?".
Karma stopped in place for a moment. "A father is supposed to love and protect his child, and help her grow- any father who neglects and mistreats his child deserves no respect." Her voice suddenly grew more flustered. "Like my own dad...well, okay, I don't hate him, but he's a real pain in the ass-" Karma stopped herself, realizing that she was beginning to rant. "C'mon, let's go," she finally said, turning back and heading deeper into the tunnel.
Michel looks ready to answer Karma when suddenly a familiar figure blocks their path, the Tall Man appearing in front of the pair and letting out a screech as its jaws stretch out and its long arms scrape against the ground - those multiple eyes beginning to glow brightly.
"Eek! Die!" Karma exclaims, leaping back towards Michel and waving her hand vertically, willing sharp spikes made of earth to shoot up from the ground beneath the Tall Man.
As Karma does this the Tall Man leaps back, narrowly avoiding the spikes - the creature shuddering and twisting in impossible ways before shedding clumps of its own body mass, which wriggle around in the mud before growing into tiny clones of the creature, scuttling like malformed insects towards Karma and Michel.
Noticing this Michel concentrates and opens a dimensional portal next to Karma and himself, "..I have no idea where this portal could lead us but anything is better than facing that thing again, you with me?".
Grumbling slightly, Karma snatched Michel and leapt into the portal. "I'll be back," she thought.
The portal soon spits the pair out in a large tunnel and Michel's eyes grow wide as he notices a pulsating mass in front of them, the area shaking violently - "..oh crap..".
"Is that- ?!" Karma begins.
Michel doesn't have a chance to answer Karma as the ground shakes again, this time breaking from under them as they begin to fall once more - this time falling towards a gigantic mass of flesh - a titanic creature, so vast it seems to spread out for untold measures in each direction.
Karma forms a bubble of energy around herself and Michel that stops their descent, allowing them to float in midair.
"I figured it would be big... I didn't think... it would be that big..." Karma wondered aloud.
"Are you still planning on killing it?" Michel asked, looking down at the mass of flesh below them.
"My Master could..." Karma said. "But I'm not even sure if I can..."
Michel nods a little, though he keeps looking down "..then I think you should get me closer.. I'm going to take a sample of this creature's blood.. then we can return to the surface - this thing has burrowed deep under the Earth, spanning further than any known life-form native to this planet: at least from what I can see..if you kill it now you could potentially destroy the world rather than aid it.."
"R-right," Karma said. As the bubble descended slowly, Karma turned to Michel. "...you think it knows we're here?" she asked.
Michel smirks slightly, "..well if it doesn't I think it is about to.." - with that he fishes out a small syringe from his pocket: why he was carrying this around is anyone's question - he soon plunges it into the garguantan beast: which is less than a flea bite in comparison, yet the creature stirs.
As Dbiel stirs several smaller creatures erupt from the mass, chattering madly as they slip and slide - resembling little more than small masses of tentacles with chittering jaws filled with razor-sharp fangs.
"Shit.. time to go! come on!" Michel says, pulling the syringe out and putting it away, showing a brief glimpse of the collected blood, which glows blue.
"Tch- creepy little bastards..." muttered Karma as she willed the energy bubble they were in to rise.
"..actually they are quite fascinating.. if they weren't part of a scheme to end life as we know it.." Michel said, looking at the syringe filled with glowing blood "..I think the blood is attracting them, maybe they are a defence mechanism or something..".
Karma glances at the mass of tentacled creatures. "Well then, pray they can't fly..."
Michel keeps a hold of the syringe as Karma's bubble slowly reached its destination, leaving the alien mass that was Dbiel below, the chittering parasites that has spawned from Dbiel only go so far before they start retreating, as if unwilling to stray too far from their host.
"What are you going to do with that, anyway?" Karma asked, gesturing to the syringe in Michel's hand.
"Study it.. with time we may be able to neutralize Dbiel.. maybe with sedatives.. truth is.. this is all we have.." Michel replies, standing on solid ground again as the bubble delivers them to relative saftey.
"So, where to, navigator?" asked Karma.
"Guess we have to get to the surface.. however I have to find that Tall Man first.. I can't let him just stay here and prey on those.. Worm-People.. I mean.. worms or not.. people are people.." Michel replies, turning, then speaking again "..you don't have to stay, you have already done more than enough - trust me.. I'd understand if you left..".
"Nah, I can't leave if I wanted to," said Karma. "I'm a Balance-Keeper. It's kind of in the job description to deal with stuff like this..."
"Very well.. you know.. I guess this makes us kind of.. friends?" Michel notes, a bit of confusion in his voice, not exactly one to socialize.
"Sure thing," said Karma, "but first, let's focus on staying alive. That Tall Man is one piece of work."
Michel smiles briefly as if to speak when suddenly he stops, a dark figure appearing before the pair from the edge of the tunnel - standing next to a ray of light leading upwards: dressed in a black trenchcoat with a black cowboy hat with long hair and a bushy beard, both colored grey with age.
"Indeed, it is a unique life form.. not of this world.. I admire it, in a way..".
Chapter 4 - The Unexpected
Michel's smile fades as he looks to the figure and listens to his words, finally stepping forward as if instinctively trying to get between the figure and Karma - yet something in his eyes betrays an inner fear, of something he had thought died in his past.
"You.. admire it?".
"Friend of yours?" Karma asked, cracking her knuckles.
"No.." Michel whispers, looking even more pale than usual as he begins to shake a little - looking at the figure as if seeing a ghost.
"Oh come now, I was your friend during those cold winter nights.. you look good.. even found yourself a girl - how nice.." the figure says, looking to Michel and pulling out a small burlap sac, dangling it idly in one hand.
Michel's eyes grow wide as he sees the sac and he stumbles visibly "..SHUT UP!" he yells.
"Michel? Who- or what- is this?" asked Karma, confused.
"..Doesn't matter.." Michel states, trying to calm himself as he gives the figure a look of pure hate and asks "..what do you want here?".
The figure smirks slightly and tosses the sac at Michel's feet, "..of course, we mustn't allow pleasure to get in the way of progress - I am studying the same things you are: Dbiel and the Tall Man.. they are beautiful, aren't they? granted, they are destructive.. yet that can be seen as a blessing for a man such as myself: they are a good distraction..".
"Permission to break him in half?" asked Karma.
"Your girlfriend forgets she is a woman, it seems - to break a man in half.." the figure snorts, then digs into a pocket and pulls out a small jar, within it is one of the strange Worm-People.
"..I have what I need here, a specimen of Subterra.. however a specimen is worth far more if it is the last of its kind - fortunately for me the Tall Man is going to ensure just that.. thanks to you two Dbiel is more hungry than ever.. the Tall Man will have to drive these insects to extinction to please its master, that is unfortunate for them but quite profitable for me.." the figure states coldly.
"..let it go.." Michel growls, clutching his hands into fists as he takes a step forward and gives the figure a look of utter rage.
"Oh come now, you of all people should know that won't work - I had to take this specimen from its mother.. she put up quite a fight.. all mothers do.. they die for their young - the one trait of women I can admire, in a way.." the figure said, putting the jar back into a pocket.
At this Michel flies forward and aims a punch at the figure, who reacts by waving a hand - forming a shield of crackling flame that ignites Michel instantly, who falls on the ground and rolls frantically to try and extinguish the flames.
Tapping into her powers, Karma drew moisture from the earth around them and filled the tunnel ankle-deep with water. As the flames on Michel extinguished, she stepped forward.
"I can name several reasons why I already hate you," said Karma. "So how about I speak them with my fists?"
"It's time you learned your place.." the figure replies to Karma as he flicks his wrist, the ground beneath her shatters violently as skeletal hands emerge and slash at her with long nails that drip with necrotic poison - at the same time the figure turns and begins to walk away.
Karma leapt over the hands, shattering them with a blast of energy. "What's the matter?" she called, tauntingly. "Too afraid to fight a little girl?"
The figure doesn't bother turning around as large spikes form from the ground and ceiling - each large enough to easily impale a full-grown human and engulfed in dark flame: ".. consider it mercy.. do not test my patience further - back away.. or die..".
"Why? Going soft?" jabbed Karma, assuming a fighting stance.
The figure sighs and stops briefly, not bothering to turn to face Karma as he speaks "Michel, kill her.." - his voice echoes in an inhuman manner.
Then without warning Michel leaps up, his eyes roll back in their sockets and he begins to wildly attack at Karma: his sigils glowing painfully as each strike is delivered with superhuman strength.
The first blow caught Karma by surprise, throwing her against the wall; she barely managed to duck beneath the second and leapt away from the third.
"YOU COWARD!" Karma shouted, doing her best to dodge in the narrow tunnel. She crouched and sprung forward at Michel, throwing a punch at his stomach.
"A coward? no, girl.. it takes exceptional bravery to use one's own son as a weapon.. whether he dies by your hands or my own is of no concern.. life is pain.. Michel has learned that.. you will learn too.. you shall all learn" the figure states as he walks away.
Michel however continues fighting, eyes rolled back as he swipes blindly at Karma - as she goes to hit him in the stomach he disappears in a flash of light and re-appears behind her, attempting to strike her in the back.
Karma cried out as his attack took her by surprise once more. She tumbled to the ground, and rolled away a split-second before his strike made contact with the ground.
"Son of a-" she growled. She rounded and threw a kick at him.
Michel falls back, crashing to the ground and going motionless - the mysterious figure vanishing into the darkness.. moments pass before Michel stirs again, visibly shaken as his entire body shivers in a mix of pain and confusion, sigils literally burning into his skin.
Karma held her ground, keeping her body tensed and her fists clenched. "Michel?" she called out, warily. "Michel- are you okay?"
Michel just keeps his head low and speaks in a whisper "..his name is Samuel.. Samuel Deuce.. the sac he carried around? ..a mask.. he wore it every time he visited me.. in the basement.. he said it was inspired by the Sack Man.. a bogeyman or something. That's what Samuel wanted to be.. a bogeyman.. he should of died.. he did die.. but even death didn't want him..".
Karma knelt down by him, placing a comforting hand on his shoulder. "I'm sorry," she said. "I can't...can't imagine..." She found herself unable to finish her sentence.
A moment of silence follows before Michel gets up, a strange look in his face as he ignores the pain and stands shakily - "..forget about him.. we have to find the Tall Man and stop this.. I failed to save the Worm Child.. I won't let any more mothers die today and I'll die before I let another child be taken away, they aren't very big and they aren't very strong but they are alive and in pain.. that is enough for me to die for..".
"Can you walk?" asked Karma.
"..I'll just have to, won't I?.." Michel says, he is unsteady and clearly on the edge - having been through enough punishment to kill a normal man in the course of this whole nightmarish experience, yet he is determined if anything and takes a few steps as he uses a wall for support and begins to head deeper down the tunnels.
Karma walked by him, catching him as he stumbled. "I've got your back," she said. "We've got a fight ahead of us- the Worm People are relying on us- so don't go dying on me, alright?"
"wait..if I die.. make sure this gets to the surface, okay?" Michel says, remembering something as he stumbles around in the mud for a moment by Karma's feet, pulling out the syringe filled with Dbiel's glowing blood - remarkably the syringe is still intact, though just barely.
"I'll hold onto it- but you're not dying, got it?" said Karma, taking the syringe.
Michel simply nods, then a loud shriek is heard from far down the tunnel and the faint glow of what appears to be flame can be seen - "..I wish it didn't have to be this way.. I really do.. I want to study aliens.. not kill them.. yet we have no choice.. the Tall Man isn't going to stop until we're all dead..".
"Then we can't stop until the Tall Man is dead," said Karma.
Chapter 5 - Subterra Defence
It doesn't take long for Karma and Michel to arrive in a large chamber filled with small dwellings - very primitive in design and only going up to their knees at best, almost like small termite mounds : the chamber is on fire and many Worm People are scattered around, in a panick, having cast aside their humanoid guises as they moved around in the dirt, many burrowing deeper underground as the Tall Man scuttles across the roof of the chamber, drooling as it tosses vails of glowing liquid on the ground below, which bursts into flame:
"..e'llH wEr.. rAd'e.. riO'a.."
"Hey, ugly!" shouted Karma, waving her arms at the creature.
Tall Man turns to look at Karma, the area shakes as the flames continue to spread - with great force, the ground itself shattering as large tentacles smash their way to the surface and Michel's eyes grow wide, lifting himself off the ground as he floats in place and gasps:
"What the-!? Karma! Look out!".
Sure enough as the tentacles shatter into the area Tall Man leaps towards Karma, stretching its jaws wide and hissing - eyes flashing brightly to paralyse her.
"Damn!" thought Karma. Although unable to move, she could still think, and thus control her power; with a thought she formed a barrier of dark energy between herself and Tall Man.
Tall Man snarls and begins to bite down on the barrier, shattering it piece by piece like a termite devouring rotten wood - indeed Karma can see the energy being chewed impossibly like broken glass in the monster's jaw, dripping saliva as its eyes suddenly darted over to Michel, causing a literal explosion of flesh and bone from its back as smaller versions of the creature burst out and began to make their way over.
Yet Karma suddenly finds herself being aided by the Worm-People themselves, who begin to crawl over the barrier, forming a primitive shield of their own - which the Tall Man mercilessly begins to tear at with its lethal jaws.
"NO!" Karma shouted; she willed a spire of stone to rise between herself and the Tall Man. "Get away before you all die!"
Tall Man responded to this by snapping at the spire of stone, tearing chunks out of it as it's eyes flashed menacingly and its arms stretched out in an attempt to slash at Karma with long but inhumanly sharp claws.
The Worm-People don't seem to listen to Karma, forming a large "fist" they proceed to deliver a blow to Tall Man that suprisingly sends the creature toppling backwards - they then disperse into a writhing mass on the floor, fleeing in many directions at once.
Michel doesn't have time to comment on any of this however as he swings at the Tall Man clones, stepping back and bumping into a tentacle - his eyes growing wide "oh shit.." - the Tall Man clones chitter as the tentacle grabs Michel and retreats back under the ground.
"MICHEL!" shouted Karma, starting forward to where he disappeared- but she was too late.
As Karma moves the Tall Man acts fast and attempts to latch onto her back with claws capable of acting like meat-hooks if necessary - the monster's jaws spreading open into a hiss as its eyes flash brightly.
Karma spun and leapt away, but was not quick enough; one of Tall Man's talons caught hold of her shoulder, sinking into her flesh. Karma cried out in agony as she felt the claw scrape bone.
Suddenly Michel bursts out from the ground, obviously pushed to his limits and beyond but alive - his sigils burning visibly into his skin as he races at Tall Man and delivers a surprisingly fast punch powerful enough to send the monster flying straight across the room, crashing into the walls with a good deal of rubble falling atop it as it hisses in a mix of rage and confusion.
"..Fuck you.." Michel gasps, falling to his knees as his burst of strength drains fast - by the looks of him he had torn free of Dbiel's grasp personally but to say he was beaten up is a vast understatement.. yet he still looks to Karma with concern and whispers: "..it's okay.. I promise..".
Yet Michel doesn't get much time to think of victory, even a small one, before Tall Man breaks a limb free from the rubble and extends it impossibly far - returning the favor as that limb slams Michel against a wall as the creature positively screeches in rage.
"Eat this, you worthless-!" whatever Karma said next was drowned out in the sound of the earth tearing itself apart as she summoned a fissure that tore towards the Tall Man. Jagged spires of rock burst forth from the fissure like spears.
Tall Man emits another screech of rage and confusion as it plummets into the fissure and plummets into the darkness below - any further attacks by Dbiel seem to cease as the area goes deadly silent.
"Think you pissed him off.." Michel notes, laying against the wall.
"I don't care," said Karma through clenched teeth, holding her rapidly bleeding shoulder. Her eyes watered from pain, and she collapsed nearby. She sniffled, and asked "are you okay?"
Michel lays there for a good few minutes then replies simply "..I'm used to being beat up - spent most of my life in the dark.. doesn't scare me anymore..".
"Really?" asked Karma, somewhat inquisitively.
Michel nods, "..my father kept me locked up the basement, truth is I spent so long in the dark regular sunlight hurts my eyes.. guess I could adjust but I'm no doctor.. as for being beat up.. see these marks on my body? the symbols? father used a knife - carved them into me.. no sedatives.. just a whole bunch of chains..".
"I can't imagine what slimeball of a father would do that to his own kid," said Karma. She tried to crawl over to Michel, but a sharp pain split her shoulder as her wound bled more. She drew a sharp intake of breath and collapsed. "Damn shoulder..."
"You already had an introduction to him, the man who abducted one of the Worm-People for his own gain? the guy who hoped we'd both die and Tall Man would drive the Worm-People to extinction? that's my father.. Samuel Deuce.. thing is, he died.. or so many believed.." Michel replied.
As Michel talked the walls began to shift as many "worms" began to make their way towards Karma and Michel, seeming to return now that the Tall Man and Dbiel had seemingly vanished - though in Dbiel's case the monster could never truly leave, yet for now it was at least silent.
"So then," said Karma, dragging herself with her still functioning arm, "what can we do now? Tall Man will be back, Samuel Douche is gone- pardon my Earth language- and we're in no fit condition to move anywhere anytime soon..."
As Karma spoke the "worms" suddenly begin to circle her and Michel, then without warning they begin to latch onto the pair, at first Michel seems to flinch but stops himself as he feels his wounds starting to fade - Karma also experiencing this strange sensation..
"W-woah.. these things are healers.. funny, isn't it? ..to many they'd be monsters.. yet they are more capable than some doctors, by the feel of things.." Michel comments as his recovery is hastened by the unusual creatures.
"Wow," said Karma, flexing her healed arm, "I feel like I can punch Tall Man into the next star system. Er, thanks guys."
<<follow the tunnel.. it shall lead you out.. but be careful.. the Sleeping God has manifested.. we can not go further..>> the worms began, then slithered away into the dirt as a tunnel is shown nearby - ominously dark and an unexplainable feeling of dread seems to emit from it.
"Big scary tunnel.. figure.." Michel said, looking over.
Karma cast a ball of blue flame over her palm and held it aloft to light the tunnel, but the light seemed to be swallowed by the thick darkness.
"Alright then...I see no other way to get you out of here in one piece, so let's just do it."
Chapter 6 - Call of The Sleeping Gods
Michel and Karma seemed to walk down the tunnel for what seemed like an eternity when eventually Michel commented "..I think we're lost.. probably shouldn't of trusted worms for directions - even if they were intelligent.. don't even see signs of sunlight..".
"Technically, we can't get lost in a tube," said Karma, trying to squint through the darkness. "There's only one way through."
Suddenly the tunnel splits into three separate paths - Michel hesitates, then states: "..ever feel like there is some malevolent writer out there that keeps screwing with us as if we were text on screen?".
Karma blinked. "Whatever gave you that idea?"
Michel began "..because every time we seem to get a break the universe seems to throw a new hazard in our path.. you have any idea which way to go?" - however he doesn't quite get to finish before Karma finds one of her feet suddenly being pulled down into the ground by some sort of tendril or vine, a surprisingly strong one at that. Caught off guard, she tripped, shouting in surprise. She began pulling at the ground, only to be slowly swallowed by the earth.
Michel tries to grab Karma but is dragged down with her as darkness consumes them, the frightening feeling of being dragged underground lasting only for a few moments before the pair land in an impossible chamber, the tendril that had dragged Karma down releasing it's grip on her leg, leaving a glowing blue ooze in the process.
"..ugh.. wha-?" Michel begins, only to fall silent as he looks to the source of the tendril "..oh my.." - it appears to be a gigantic, pulsating mass akin to a living flower and glowing brightly in the otherwise dark chamber that appeared to be lined in alien crystals.. the dirt above closing to form a "roof".
"A-any idea what this thing is?" asked Karma.
"No idea.. I've never seen anything like.." Michel begins, then freezes as something new appears in the chamber, barely visible if not for the glow of the pulsating mass: the figure appears to be a grotesque, vaguely humanoid being sitting on a crystal throne, small black eyes shining as the glow hits them.. it seems to stare at the pulsating mass and has one misshapen hand on its chin, as if contemplating to itself.
Karma raised a palm, conjuring a blue flame for light and peering at the bizarre figure, squinting through the darkness. "Er... hello?" she called out.
The figure remains in its thoughtful pose as it spoke out "..come to join the dance, have you? ..hmm.. the girl or the boy?.. what is that? ..you care not which? ..how interesting.." - the pulsating mass starting to move its tendrils around slowly "..it dances.. for you..".
Karma turned to Michel. "Is he... alright?"
Michel just looks to the new figure, fascinated "..you aren't from this world are you? ..my name is.." - he steps forward, only to gasp as black lightning crackles to from a barrier between him and the figure.
"The boy speaks but Tsathoggua cares not what he has to say - the girl asks if Tsathoggua is well.. neither acknowledge the Sleeping God before them.. dance.. listen.. listen and dance.. amuse Tsathoggua..".
"Right," said Karma, backing away. "I think we're going to go now-"