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Styx: 033

What had started a dreamlike experience was ending a nightmare. When the Sundas had rushed Rachel en masse she'd felt a spike of fear where she was floating somewhere in the back of her own head. That fear had quickly turned to horror, however, as the snake viciously deconstructed the army around her using nothing more than its will and whatever stray pieces of nima it could locate.

The first rush was the only one in which anyone got close enough to try and physically harm Rachel. At that point, the soldiers were still displaying some level of discipline, and they fell in around Rachel with practiced speed and cooperation. In the initial moments, the snake concentrated on keeping Rachel's main body safe, ducking and weaving through strikes from swords and thrusts from spears, occasionally retaliating by drawing the nima straight out of the enemy's weapons and turning it on them to slash through wrists and throats. Meanwhile, although the snake bucked them off several times, the soldiers behind Rachel were able to pin her tail down and do their best to inflict serious harm, sending shooting pain that the snake ignored, but made Rachel cringe and shrink inside.

Several interminable seconds into the melee, however, a soldier whose right hand the snake had severed snatched the staff weapon off his back and in desperation tried to fire it point-blank in Rachel's face.

The snake instantly took control of the ejected nima, condensed it, wrapped it through several of the fallen weapons near its feet, deconstructed them into slivers of metal, and sent the entire mass whipping around her body in a tight circle that shredded flesh and sent blood spattering everywhere. At the same time, it lunged forward and grabbed the staff out of the hand of the shocked, blood-spattered, and still miraculously-alive soldier, broke it in half, and used the blast of nima that tried to escape to pull matter from the dead bodies around it and heal the wounds in its tail. As an afterthought, it then shoved the jagged end of one of the remaining pieces of staff through the chest of the soldier who had fired it and discarded the other to the sand.

Having bought itself a little space from the still-oncoming rush of soldiers, the snake whipped into a tight spiral, rising up a good one and a half times higher than Rachel's height, and began systematically deconstructing the army around her.

Drawing nima from the corpses, body-parts, and blood around itself the snake quickly performed similar tricks on a smaller scale: deconstructing part or all of a sword, then using the nima to launch it through the air at absurd speeds into whatever unlucky group of soldiery as nearest.

As nima from its continued swarms of metallic death began leaching into the air, the snake also began to take more direct action: reaching out a hand, it clenched Rachel's fist scant inches away from a soldier who had made it closer than most and tore a chunk of nima directly out of the his body, causing a good chunk of his chest to partially disintegrate. Whipping its hand downward, it fed that nima into the sand, diffused it slightly, and then used it to send small spires of glass shooting out to impale an entire group of soldiers who were following close behind.

Evidently catastrophic damage to bodies made access to the nima in them easier, because the snake was then able to snag a solid chunk of nima out of the dead and dying soldiers who had been impaled and trigger an explosive blast of air and heat that finished them off and sent chunks of red-hot glass whipping through the air to cause further destruction.

The only colors she could perceive were the strange non-colors she was now certain were nima and heat, and although the nima was thickening the air so much the tint of the sky seemed to be changing, everywhere the snake took Rachel, the colors she associated with heat bled out.

The one-sided slaughter continued, the snake killing hundreds of people in the span of a few minutes as it advanced further into the center of the army that continued to collapse around it in a futile attempt to surround and overwhelm.

The horrific ferocity of the whole experience was so overwhelming that Rachel found herself drifting in a fugue once again, desperately trying to shut out the things the snake was using her body to do.

Eventually, the cries around her changed tenor, and Rachel found her attention pulled back. Instead of rushing them, the soldiers were now fleeing in a panic, although this didn't stop the snake from decimating everyone within range.

With a SPLAT, a battered Bafubani landed in the bloody slurry off to Rachel's right where a few seconds before a group of soldiers had been attempting to flee. She turned, keeping her hand on the handle of her ever-present hammer, whose head was now spattered with gore. Rachel wasn't sure if it was from the landing, or due to Bafubani's actions prior to catching up to her.

«Whew, that was a workout. Give me a little more warning before you toss me in the middle of an army next time, maybe?» She straightened, rotated her neck around with a crack, and grunted as she flipped her hammer up to hold it over her shoulder. Rachel realized it was the first time she'd seen the rabbit woman actually hold the hammer instead of just dragging it around. «So, we going after them, or what?»

The snake merely hissed and began slithering forward.

In a sudden panic Rachel reached out with—something—and yanked back hard. The nima in the air around her came rushing in, sending her head-over-tail to land in the nastiness that had once been clean sand.

Awkwardly, she maneuvered herself somewhat upright, pressing against the sand with her hands and trying desperately to ignore the suddenly-foreign feeling of having a huge snake tail where her legs should have been.

«Enough!» she gasped out. «Enough. They're running away. They're not trying to kill us anymore. There's no reason to pursue them.»

The snake was silent, though she could feel it coiling silently inside her, considering.

Bafubani walked over and dropped into a crouch next to Rachel. «That you, so-called human? There's more Sundas where those came from, you know. That was a big chunk of their force, sure, but hardly everyone. They'll be after you again, no question.»

«Then we deal with that then,» Rachel growled. «There is no reason for me to brutally murder people who I have never met before who are fleeing me in terror!»

Bafubani was silent a few minutes, staring at Rachel with an inscrutable expression. «Well, that's you. I still have business with—»

As Bafubani started to rise, Rachel shot her hand out and grabbed the woman's wrist with a strength that frankly surprised her. «You,» she hissed, «are showing me the way to Henka. If you just want to murder these Sundas, whoever they are, you can do that on your own time afterward. We are done helping you, you blood-crazy bitch.»

Bafubani stared at Rachel a few more minutes. Without warning, she yanked at her arm, and although Rachel rocked forward slightly, Bafubani completely failed to shift her grip. «Damn it. Damn it. Damn it!» the rabbit woman swore. «Fine! Mani did tell me…anyway, let go of me, you damn snake. I'll get you to Henka, but after that, we are done with one another, you understand me?»

Rachel released Bafubani's wrist without comment. "Snake? I want my body back."

Yessssss, hissed the snake, in the depths of her mind. You are correct in your assessment of the situation. Thank you. It has been a long time since I experienced the instinct to hunt to quite such an extent. Rachel found herself slightly zoning out again as the snake did something and the matter below her waist began to change, some of it transforming back into her legs and the majority simply sloughing off. Rachel tried her best to ignore the sensations, until at last color leached its way back into the world and she stumbled to her feet, naked from the waist down; though given the sensations she was suddenly noticing from her blood-soaked jacket she almost wished her top half wasn't clothed, either.

«Well, shit,» she said. «This is a problem.»

If only she knew where that damn backpack had gotten, although now that she'd experienced how easily the snake could mutate a physical body, she wondered if perhaps all the clothes and supplies she'd brought with her had ended up part of the snake in their initial encounter.

«Force that big, they'll have some supplies with them,» commented Bafubani, still without expression.

«Well, lucky you,» said Rachel, with a fair bite of acid. «You get to fight more Sunda soldiers. But I swear, you strike down a single person who's running from you, and I'll let the snake back out to play.»

Bafubani's expression wavered into uncertainty, until she shook herself and forcefully turned away. «Fine. Catch up when you can.» And she leapt toward the dune the bulk of the soldiers had recently fled around.

"I'm so glad she bought that," muttered Rachel, and began trudging after her.

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About the author

EO Tenkey

Bio: Read all the things. Write all the things. Sleep? What's that? Does it taste good with chips?

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