By Mike Christopher A tale of Moonlands Part of Invader

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Zeel swam wearily back up toward consciousness, fighting away the sticky cobwebs of his nightmares. He’d been dreaming that he’d been captured by the horrid Eliwan, rigidly bony beasts of fearsome might and power. The stuff of scare stories for little wogs! It must be all the strain placed upon himself and his fellow AGAs to prepare the great Dream Cannon for use.

As Zeel hovered lazily in a half-waking state, his mind’s eye pictured the monstrous Cannon, looming over the slush-covered field. He saw the GOHs striking down the far lesser AGAs, mercilessly punishing them for the slightest fault in their duty. His closest friend, Woog - who had been so proud when they had been selected for this duty - had been zapped to death in the unforgiving tentacles of SimGoh himself. Woog was gone now, as were so many others - but there were always more AGA streaming from the Dream Gates to take the place of their fallen comrades. Nothing in the whole universe was more replaceable than an AGA, or so they had always been taught.

Zeel felt a momentary pang of guilt, knowing he should not be thinking such disloyal thoughts. He should feel proud to be an AGA - the backbone of his people. AGAs had the honor of performing the most essential tasks requiring physical labor or close combat. AGAs had the honor of dying for the people by the tens of millions. It was because of the expendability of the AGAs that the people were as strong and mighty as they were, that they had spread gloriously across the Dream Channels, descending upon world after world and making them their own!

Still, Zeel could never quite crush his private little resentment toward the higher sub-species of the people. The cruel GOH, who commanded the great armies, the frightening KEW, powerful magic-wielders, and the most dreadful of all - the merciless ZON, the political elite who sent the AGA to die by the thousands so that they might expand their own glory! Zeel felt his life-long enemy, resentment, come bubbling to the surface and he fought to suppress it.

His anger brought him back to full awareness, and then he remembered pain! His tentacles ached terribly! He pried open his great eye to see what was the matter. Then, his senses were assaulted once more by the terrible, profoundly alien environment which filled his vision. Directly above was a ceiling of some sort, made of some soft white substance. Embedded within the ceiling’s surface were small glowing bits of stone that softly swirled and orbited one another in graceful arabesques of light. Turning slightly, he took in the walls, also made of the white stuff. A gracefully arched window admitted a slight breeze, and beyond the sill he could see a starlit night above a landscape that looked like nothing so much as clouds. Finally, he noticed that he was lying flat upon a fluffy surface that seemed to move on its own accord, adjusting itself to support him as he shifted about.

Am I on the ground?! Zeel was horrifed at the thought and swiftly charged his tentacles to lift himself up. Terrible pain filled his lower extremities, but he found he could at least upright himself and hover a few inches above the fluffy white surface. It was at this exact moment that the rest of his memories returned to him. He remembered SimGOH crushing him in his energized tentacles, then waking some time later only to discover himself lying directly in the path of the firing Dream Cannon! He recalled the bizarre trip through the Dream Plane - exposed, without the protective walls formed by a safely anchored animite passage! Finally, he remembered finding himself spit forth into a hostile alien environment and being approached by the very same monsters that had plagued his dreams as a wog!

Zeel’s heart raced deep within his great eye, throbbing wildly, filling his vision with washes of gold and crimson. Oh, what am I to do? he lamented, eyeing the walls of what he assumed was his prison. The Eliwan must’ve captured me and brought me here!

He searched frantically for some means of egress from the room. There appeared to be no door, only the open window. His poor battered tentacles sizzled and popped as they struggled to lift him to the height of the window. Beyond the sill, he beheld a broad vista of starlit clouds, their puffy vapors constantly reshaping themselves before his very eye. A few cloud peaks across, there rose a cluster of misty towers. They almost looked like inverted cyclones; vast cylinders of spiraling mists, capped by graceful white domes and turrets. Misty balconies spiraled slowly across the tower surfaces, and here and there an ethereal bridge connected one lofty spire to another across a gulf of darkness. Looking down, between a gap in the puffy clouds, Zeel could see nothing but darkness. He could only guess at how far below was the actual ground.

Zeel’s heart sank as he realized that he could never support himself at these great heights - not even if his tentacles were undamaged! He was trapped, and doomed as surely as if SimGOH had chosen to finish him off back on the Cannon field. He whirled as there came a sudden sound from behind him.

The far wall began to glow softly, and then the white surface puffed away as if it had been made of nothing more than cloud! Suddenly three of the dreaded Eliwan entered the room. One cried out and pointed as it discovered that he was conscious and no longer lying upon the fluffy platform. Knowing he had no time to lose, Zeel sent a trickle of energy down to his second-prime tentacle, where lie one of his two precious animite stones embedded within his flesh. The energy never reached the stone, fizzling out in a brief flash of pain. The Eliwan began to advance upon him. Closing his great eye in concentration, he tried once more. Come to me, my faithful Ip-Ixl! He envisioned the brash contours of his faithful dream companion, whose stone had been his first; granted to him upon his first assignment within the Corps. Once again, his energy faded before reaching the stone. Zeel despaired, as the Eliwan reached out their hideous bone-filled hands to him. Now even his life-long companion, Ip-Ixl, was lost to him. There was nothing left to live for!

The Eliwan had their horrid hands upon him now, and were talking. Finally, his attention was drawn to their words, barely intelligible in their thick dialect. "It’s okay. Okay. We’re not here to hurt you. We want to help."

More Eliwan lies! He thought, watching in dread as one of the beings readied what was obviously a spell of some kind. He struggled feebly in the monsters' arms as the spell was cast. Suddenly the air was filled with gently fluttering feathers. He watched as they fell and fell, ever so gently, ever so quietly. He ceased his struggles as the first feather touched his skin. By the time the second feather reached him, he was fast asleep.

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