Author's note: We delve back a bit to Sarah. I wonder what she's up to today...?
"And remember, you vile, useless things! Always, ALWAYS do your best!" The golden-haired teen remembered when she used to freeze at hearing that voice, when she first ported into Mount Pillar. Now, however, it was just the voice of Ekuud, Noble of the Hive. No matter how dangerous or ruthless he proved to be, all Sarah had to do was put in a little care, and she would be fine. Cautiously, she turned her head around the rocky structure, looking outwards into the distance with her lips pursed.
"Have to get that Mugic." She reminded herself silently. All she had to do was look for an opening, then she could sprint into that Chaor-sized alcove, scan the Melody of Parasitic Mayhem, and port. Wait for the opening, scan, port. Why Wamma didn't bother to tell her this happened to be a day during training exercise was beyond her, however. Still, the crimson-exoskeleton'd Danian paid attention to more than she would give him credit for: he knew just where the Mugic would be, and told her a few days ahead of time.
Unless, of course, that wasn't the Melody of Parasitic Mayhem. Then she all the nice things she just thought would be taken back. She really regretted trading away her only copy of that Mugic, now that she needed it for an infection strategy for her next match...
"Because when one Mandiblor is lazy," The Danian Noble roared his thunderous voice throughout the cavern, "There are mistakes. When there are mistakes, there are big accidents. When there are big accidents, everyone is distracted. And when everyone is distracted, the Queen is not safe. And if the Queen is ever NOT safe, YOU will pay the price."
The human could definitely see the spines in each Creature go rigid. Geez. She loved insects, and Danians in battle were the best, but many of them sure lacked in the charisma department. Still, the sharp injunction of the 8-legged platoon leader did prove effective-the whispers which echoed in the cavern walls halted. Which meant, soon, they'd start today's regimen and she could waltz in. Hopefully. Sarah would make it work. This was hardly the most dangerous ScanQuest she had faced.
"Your first exercise is to find all seven painted stones, hidden in that wall over there!" Sarah heard the shuffling of movement as Ekuud walked out of her field of vision, pointing and marching to an end of the room. If she recalled right, a number of small holes were there. Their footholds would also be where the stones were, Sarah presumed.
"Climb the craggy walls of the Hive, get back down with all seven stones in pristine condition, and dodge me firing at you." Sarah cringed at the last part. Danians were used to craggy terrain, but not all of them were built for wall-climbing, not with their gargantuan bodies—they'd be an easy target!
"Be methodical! Be quick! Work together! I'll accept nothing less: if you pause to breathe, you'll be shot by the enemy!" To which Sarah agreed with, unfortunately. It was a dog-eat-dog, or, Creature-code-Creature world out there. The Danians knew what it meant to make sacrifices to reach a goal, no doubt about that. In that sense, Sarah definitely could get in line with the motto.
"Hurry! Do it! Now!"
On command, the shuffling of Danians began, incomprehensible words strung through the air as the only female in the room shifted to the right, trying to observe more of what was happening, and, more importantly, look for an opening.
There-with a set of folded arms, the others alight in flames, Ekuud seemed to be distracted. The Danians were fumbling to even get on the walls, but they seemed focused, united, several of them giving boosts to one another. This was Sarah's chance! Without a second thought, she darted across the dirt floor, trying to run as fast as possible without making any noise.
Each yard felt like a mile, a mile being chased by an avalanche of rocks. If any of those Danians spotted her, she'd be in big trouble! Sarah remembered the times they knocked her out with a Sleep Sting... She hated needing to be rescued, but if she wasted away to Code down here, she wouldn't be able come to Chaotic anymore. It was something that made her laugh, smile, be adventurous, and truly feel equal.
Almost there now! Come on, no more than another second or two!
"GHAAGGGH!" A truly revolting noise filled the cavern, just as the blonde human managed to slip into one of the earth's cracks, seeing a familiar brown twinkle in a pile of Cyclances. Why Ekuud didn't manage to bag things was beyond her, but it was for her benefit, so she wouldn't complain.
Taking a peek outside the alcove, she began to Scan the Danian Mugic.
There it was again, that horrendous noise. The Chaotic Player assumed at first it was the screech of a Danian getting blasted by their Noble commander, a foul smell permeating the area. But from what little she could see...
All the Danians seemed to have paused, even Ekuud himself. That was strange. Sarah heard the audio feedback from her device indicating the scan was done, but this was something else that gave her pause.
"Mandiblors!? What's going on!?"
"I-It's Aimukk, sir! His hemol-" That voice sounded like a mouse compared to Ekuud, but Sarah could recognize Aimukk's name. A Mandiblor, right? Was there something wrong with him?
"I can see that! How'd it happen!? That stuff is everywhere, and I didn't hit him yet!" Ekuud protested with a growl.
"I-I don't know! He slipped only a little bit and bumped his head-" The other Danians began talking amongst another, just loud enough for the snooping girl to hear.
"We need a healer!"
"A fall caused this?"
"No way! This happened a while ago with Wamma and the others!"
"Look at his eyes, they're weird. He's just lying there..."
"ENOUGH! Train on the walls. I'll contact Ramarhvir, he's taking care of, whatever this is. Stay. Here." The Noble demanded, stomping off to the other side to the room..near Sarah! That alone was motivation to Port away, but...
She needed to investigate. Ramarhvir, the Danian Hivebringer, huh?
Getting to Ramarhvir's laboratory was an entirely different fiasco. Sarah had been there before, thanks to a coincidence in the Drome... But that passageway led her into a small "containment" room that looked out to the rest of the area. She remembered her opponent taunting her as "Ramarhvir's pet" as they filled the area with a Poison Steam... Not her finest moment, for sure.
So, carefully, she followed whoever she could, having to Port away a few times in order to get there. It required going through a long tunnel, that, for a moment, the Danian player had to wonder if this was some sort of illusion. But, no, eventually, tailing Aimukk's unconscious body lead to a small entryway, having the need for most Danians to duck. Why would a healer have his place be so far away from the main activity of the Hive?
Scanning that location and waiting for the Danians, and Ramarhrvir to leave took hours. Sarah wondered if the Hivebringer was even in there...or if he ever left. But, a blue Danian, adorned in black armor, atypical for one who seemed like a Muge, eventually stepped out, sighed, and walked through the tunnel, leaving Sarah the perfect chance to slip in.
The moment she did, she almost instantly regretted it.
The smell alone was awful, the air filled with the smell of chemicals and rotting plants, while incense weakly covered the smell of vomit and blood. Even the aura of this location filled her with a strange crawling sensation that was distinctly inhuman... Not quite like getting infected with a Parasite in the Dromes, but, still, the normally steadfast girl couldn't help but shiver.
Yet nothing compared to the sight. An entire row of Danians propped onto reclining tables, with a few even unceremoniously placed onto the floor. Potions, scrolls, and equipment she had never even seen before in Perim lined the walls. The urging desire to scan everything and book it out of there was very prevalent in Sarah's mind, but...
There he was, sitting on a chair that was definitely not meant for his size. Wamma hadn't always exactly been the pinnacle of Danian health, but he certainly had the strength to rival even the toughest Creatures, when it came to a pinch.
But his physical condition was clearly out of order. Wamma wasn't horribly mutilated, but Sarah begrudgingly noticed how the hue of his usually vibrant orange face was tinted to a dull degree, how his exoskeleton seemed more fragile...
She saw how his antennae twitched every once in a while, how his eyes were filled with an expression she had never seen before, how he raised his arm, and then lowered it, glancing at his own body, as if an arm was something surreal to have.
Sarah hadn't even really recalled walking up to him, but she was standing right next to his chair, having navigated over a number of other Danians with similar malignance in the process, but his yellow eyes met her, half-lowered. "Sarah..." He weakly whispered.
She braced herself for a reprimand, but she didn't care.
"Thanks...for coming. I was lonely..."
The human stood there, frozen in place. That...wasn't the reaction she was expecting. This entire situation, she felt entirely out of her comfort zone. It wasn't something she could just use her skills or force or anything to get through—no, no, there had to be something she could do. She knew better than that! Find out what caused this, find some sort of medicine, anything! These were just a bunch of wounded Creatures.
"Wamma, what do you mean you're lonely? I mean, what even happened? What, did you eat a bad mushroom?" Sarah's words were as bitter as ever, but carried weight, a friendly one. She knew better than that; even from a quick examination, this was bad.
"I don't know. I can move, but I feel...empty. I can't feel anyone. I can't feel myself..."
Can't feel anyone? Empty? Was this some sort of fatigue?
"You're troublesome." She muttered, beginning to press the green keypad on her Scanner, a blue light familiar to her washing over Wamma, Scanning his Code. Sarah was lucky that all the other Danians in the room were sleeping, dazed, or otherwise uncaring about the human for one reason or another.
"Wamma, don't worry. I'll try to see if I can do anything, there's got to be—"
And then, what passed through the human's ears next made her skin stricken with goosebumps.
"That is enough."
The voice was resonating, impactful, and, to Sarah's dismay, frightful. With a jolt, she turned around.
Behind them, at the entrance to the room, was the same vividly cobalt-blue Danian. His top was covered with fiery red hair and green pincers and claws bulged out of his threadlike digits. His entire body was well protected, and showed his clear status as a noble: indigo jewelry, and bumblebee-patterned armor that was clearly of high craftsmanship. Ramarhvir's crimson eyes poured into the comparatively miniscule blonde weakling, his six wings making his body appear much bigger.
"The Hivebringer..." Sarah couldn't control herself from stating his title; Scans of this Creature rare, almost as rare as the ever elusive Queen herself.
"You have snuck past the guards and trespassed into a refuge of the ill. You, Chaotic Player, are a disgrace."
Sarah's face scrunched up at the comment, her usual instinct was to retort-but certainly not in Perim, against a Creature such as this!
Before she could even press a button on her scanner to Port, however, a familiar, terrifying event happened. In less than a second, her arms and legs were bound by a Web Cocoon, with a Creature approaching her. She fell for the same Attack that the Mipedian did on her, months ago!
But...it meant the Danian wasn't out to Code her. ...But, it could mean worse!
"Stop struggling. You are acting like a worm." The blue Danian hissed, maneuvering elegantly over the bodies piled up on the floor with surprising speed, beginning to walk around her, observing her as if she was a statue...which, considering her fright, may just be the case.
"I have no time to deal with the likes of a human...but I must admit... I haven't seen one so up close. Such odd proportions..."
In that moment, Sarah realized the Web Cocoon only bounded her shoulders down, leaving her head and mouth free to speak...Though, with how the threads grabbed at her hair, it hurt to move her neck around.
"What do you want? I'm here to see why the Danians are-"
"Obviously." Ramarhvir interrupted her. "You must have a connection with Wamma, considering you were talking with him."
He could hear them!? How long had he been around!?
"Now, see here, human. You'd best leave Mount Pillar forever, and forget about what you had seen here."
"Alright." She replied automatically.
Leave Mount Pillar forever? The Chaotic Player obviously wasn't going to follow through with this demand, but she'd need to play along, considering who she was speaking to. Yet the Hivebringer's eyes continued to violate her to her core... Without access to her Scanner, Sarah felt vulnerable...but not useless. This Chaotic player wasn't the type to give in to demands forever just because someone told her to, not for a reason like this.
"You are an awful liar." Ramarhvir replied, his body barely glowing with a light brown aura that vaguely reminded Sarah of Najarin's powers. Her body seemed to relax in an agreeable way, but the Danian could seemingly deduce her true intentions.
"I see. Then here are my rules: I will let you leave with knowledge you will attempt to steal anyways. But if you return to the Hive, you will join this room until I have no further use for you. Understood?"
"Join this room?" Sarah repeated, confused. The Creature here was in the position of power. To bargain with her was unprecedented...
But really, what did that even mean? 'Join this room?'
"It is a yes-or-no-question, Chaotic Player."
There was only one answer for her.
"Fine. What are you going to tell me?"
The Danian smiled in such a way that she thought impossible. His mandibles spread apart to reveal a sharp tongue.
"Knowledge is power, yet Power is something you lack the Wisdom to control."
With a refined motion, Ramarhvir's body advanced to the other side of Wamma. Hemoved his hand forward, using two digits to wrap around the obese Danian's antennae.
Sarah simply looked on in horror as Wamma's face scrunched up, mouth opened, seemingly wanting to yell or do something, but there was no response from him. No sign of pain, just a tired, fearful expression with glazed eyes that looked back and forth in confusion.
"Look how ineffective they are now. Their very organs being eroded from the inside out was one matter, but it is just as Wamma said. Being empty. Unable to feel others. They are entirely disconnected from the Hive." The indigo Danian jibbed in such a cruel, matter-of-fact manner, continuing his speech with a wave of his hand.
A Danian without the Hive...? Sarah could hardly believe it. Even a Creature like Faash, who thrived on independence in battle, was still connected to the Hive, deep inside, and responded to its call. Something like this...
"Could you even consider them Danians?" Ramarhvir questioned, his eyes directly pouring into the human.
"Of course they are!" She barked. Danians, more than any of Tribe, were proud of who they were. To call them anything else was awful!
"I see." Ramarhvir snarked with a stern attitude on his face, turning away, as if he were pondering what the human had said, humming before his voice perked up once more.
"Unfortunately for you, Danians are just as powerful defeated as they are alive. Do you know what Spirit Calling is?"
"Get to the point already!"
The Danian shook his head, turning around once more to observe the puny human's presence once more. Wamma's eyes were closed, knowing what was going to be said next.
"The Underworld has no sunlight, human. But your terms are that of an OverWorlders; a day is when the sun rises and sets once more. So in seven days time, these Danians shall all be executed."
Sarah couldn't remember when and how Ramarhvir cut her Web Cocoon open, but she was free from her physical binds. But the truth revealed to her bound her to a path she knew she'd have to take.
"You can't do that!" She cried in protest, fury drawn across her brow, taking a step forward.
"Hahah! And why not, human? Because you'd lose your previous agent? This is none of your business, or your concern!"
None of her business... None of her concern... She'd say things like that, it was true. Sarah had said things like that before. Letting the others trade away their cards, or letting them nearly get stuck in a Danian Prison like Sarah herself had been... Tired, frustration, amusement... She was in Chaotic on her own terms, no one else's, that was always her excuse. If she didn't want to deal with it, she shouldn't have to. But this was someone's life, and Wamma wasn't nearly as crafty as the Chaotic Players to get himself out of this mess.
She wouldn't have it. Her heart told her it was something she needed to do, so she was going to make a stand!
"I don't care if it is or not! I'm finding a cure, and you're not stopping me."
Abruptly, Chaotikween pressed the button on her Scanner to port, leaving nothing but a promise, and silence.
"Good luck, then." Ramarhvir turned back to his work, sighing. He had a lot of medicine to test...
"High Muge Lore."
"Hivebringer Ramarhvir. Good to see you. How are the affected?"
"Steadily worse. And we have that to worry about, so I cannot postpone my other duties."
"I know. I fear anything but perfection. Even I have not laid eyes upon the new room in full yet. But I shall soon.
Anything else to report, Ramarhvir?"
"Yes... A human. They snuck in."
"What!? A human?"
"They did not take anything, as far as I am awa-"
"Did you catch them!?"
"No..." He shook his head, frowning. "They disappeared before I could do anything. I am sorry, Lore."
AN: I always get your comments, even if it seems like I'm dead. I hope everyone is doing okay! Next year of college, oh boy.
Next chapter may be us returning to S.K.U.L.K, though it might be time to check in with Tom again, don't you think?
...Huh? Peyton? Nah, he's busy. Don't you know what the Mipedians are celebrating?
(Don't forget, chapters aren't exactly chronological~)