Previously: Digger tried destroying the crystals with his Drillers, which caused a huge explosion. Not good. And now…
The Ghost snarled at Twain. He warped and swelled, and suddenly, there was a giant, savage face looming above Twain, though there wasnâ€™t room in the passage to contain the entire head. â€œWhat do you think you can do? Just because the crystals make you strong? I AM THE CRYSTALS!â€
The face dissolved, reformed into a giant claw. Twain thrust his hands up and released the energy heâ€™d been building. A blue beam identical to the former Czarâ€™s lanced up, dissolving a huge section of ceiling.Â The claw dissolved as well, and the crystals resonated with the Ghostâ€™s outraged howl. Twain looked up through the hole he had made, saw indigo sky dotted with blazes ofÂ red and yellow cloud; the sun was setting. Twainâ€™s spirit sank a little. He had really hoped to see daylight.
â€œYou think that accomplished something?â€ the Ghost said as he reformed before Twain.
â€œIt hurt you, didnâ€™t it?â€ Twain asked.
â€œIt was uncomfortable,â€ the Ghost said above the groaning of the abused rock ceiling. â€œBut our strength comes from the same source. You canâ€™t destroy me with it, and you donâ€™t dare destroy the crystals. The explosion would kill you all, and even if it didnâ€™t, you would become powerless.â€
â€œPerhaps,â€ said Twain. â€œBut I might find other sources of power.â€
â€œLike the scroll, perhaps,â€ Twain said.
The Ghost laughed again, and dust sifted down as the ceiling rumbled. â€œThe scroll is worthless! You think that wasnâ€™t the first thing I did once I possessed your precious Yi Fan? We went over that scroll for weeks. Itâ€™s nonsense, gibberish. We ended up using it to prop up a table in that pile of garbage that used to be her house.â€
â€œWhat scroll?â€ Digger said, climbing painfully to his feet.
[blockquote type=”blockquote_quotes” align=”right”]â€œIf we were in Hell, Iâ€™d just rip him to pieces with my claws,â€ Digger said. â€œWhich might not kill him, but would be satisfying.â€[/blockquote]â€œNever mind,â€ Twain said as he concentrated on drawing more power from the crystals. Perhaps if he could summon a big enough blast… â€œYouâ€™ve been to Hell. How do we kill this guy?â€
â€œIf we were in Hell, Iâ€™d just rip him to pieces with my claws,â€ Digger said. â€œWhich might not kill him, but would be satisfying.â€
â€œClaws?â€ Twain asked.
â€œLong story,â€ Digger said. He wiped his eyes against his biceps to clear them of the blood running down from his forehead. He nodded at Cole and Bogdan, still out cold. â€œYou think you can keep him busy while I get them clear?â€
â€œBecause I might have to blow up the crystals, and Iâ€™d rather we not all die when I do it.â€
â€œHow many days do you plan to travel?â€ asked the Ghost. â€œYou have no idea how much power is contained in those largest crystals. You might destroy all of Mongolia in the blast.â€
â€œYouâ€™re bluffing,â€ Digger said.
â€œPerhaps,â€ the Ghost admitted. An eerie shuffling noise echoed from the stone passage behind them. â€œOr perhaps Iâ€™m stalling until my servant arrives and things get really interesting.â€
The Drillers came to life with a POP and a whine.
â€œDigger!â€ Twain said â€œDonâ€™t do anything stu…â€
The abused ceiling collapsed with a roar.
Yes, I know the “weeks” bear an ever more nebulous relationship to reality, but seriously, we’re almost done. Don’t miss the next episode!
To read from the beginning, click here…