The booted footsteps were large; almost Berengeii sized, clearly originated from within, and led neatly away, from the wreckage of the crashed skyship. Limossk pressed his clawed fingers in to the centre of one print and nodded, gleaning some secret information from them. 

“Looks like we have a survivor. These scraping tracks… they were dragging something. Time to put this mystery to bed”. The forest was choked with volcanic smoke, black and acrid, but they pressed on regardless. 

 

Gersla’s mind raced. A sky ship falling from orbit was a rare occurrence indeed, but explicable. The idea that this one was being piloted by living crew, when it crashed? Incredible! Who could have been piloting such a vessel, and where did they come from? Perhaps most critically: what was their purpose?

 

“Big, aren’t they?” Alaya said, with the casual air of someone trying very hard to tell everyone that they’re unconcerned. “And booted…” her brother continued. “So not a Berengeii then”. 

 

Just then, Limossk stopped dead in his tracks, raising a finger for silence. The jungle rang with the hammer-fall sound of metal on metal, and then, a thin wail of despair. Fancagne was already climbing to the top of a nearby tree to investigate. Peering through the broiling clouds of smoke was the cherry red glow of a river of lava, burning through an area of jungle encrusted ruins. On the far side was a sheer approach, as the mountain continued to jut upwards in to the sky. 

 

“There’s a bridge over a river of lava, and beyond that, a cave” the Berengeii reported. “I think that’s where the noise is coming from “. 

 

 

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“Run!” the princess intoned in an urgent whisper. Kalla Qua dove for cover as the energy pistol went off. The human woman was tall. Very tall. Kalla Qua sprinted for the cave door, hoping upon hope that the strangely clothed figure wasn’t as proficient with the weapon as she seemed. The Sorrian tribeswoman cursed herself for leaving her friend, the princess she swore to aid, but there was no sense in them both being captured by… by what exactly? What would this large woman want with the Princess? Did she live beyond the ancient door? Was she angry that they had used the entrance of her home as a refuge? Kalla Qua stopped to catch her breath as she realised she wasn’t being followed, and swore that she would return for her friend before nightfall. Her eyes stretched up to the giant column of black smoke, spewing from the mountain top, and realised how little time they truly had…

 

———————————————

 

The princess shuddered as the woman cuffed her, scowling at her in a language which seemed familiar, but she couldn’t understand. 

 

“Where are you from?” she tried, but her only answer was steely silence. Her eyes widened as the woman removed a small, stubby syringe from her utility belt, and jabbed it in to the princesses arm. 

 

She then took it over to the ancient door, rubbing away the dirt, and dripping several droplets of blood on a glass sensor of some kind. The whole assembly lit up red, and her eyes darkened, turning to the Princess. Just then though, her head jerked towards the entrance of the cave. 

 

Gunfire!

 

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