By Mike Christopher A tale of Moonlands Part of Invader

All this fuss and furor over an enemy who no one has seen in three thousand years! ZeelorAGAthim whirled his ventral tentacles in frustration. He watched as his fellow AGAs toiled furiously in a chaotic dance of activity on the field around him. The Dream Cannon was being moving into its proper firing position, and the final checks remained to be carried out. Upon the bluff, the commanding GOHs looked down upon the toiling AGAs in consternation, urging the workers below to finalize the preparations with all due haste.

ZeelorAGAthim pivoted his great ocular back to the task at hand. The animite rods below him had slipped from his tentacles just moments before - made slippery by the sheets of sleeting rain which seemed to fall endlessly on this forsaken world. He tried once more to lift the heavy bundle from the clinging mud of the firing field, but the rods were now too slippery for him to properly handle.

"Zeel!" He whirled to see KormahAGAminh glowering at him from beneath her own heavy load of rods. "The SimhGOH is coming! Look lively before he sees you!" Korm’s hissed warning stung his ears as she glided past, her tentacles stroking the air with haste as she propelled her bundle toward the Dream Cannon. A tendril of dread crept across Zeel’s carapace as he frantically renewed his efforts to free his bundle from the freezing muck.

The sizzle of the GOH commander’s tentacles warned of his approach. Zeel pulled with all his might, and finally the bundle tore free of the clinging mud. He was propelled backward by the sudden lack of resistance - straight into the charged mass of SimhGOH. Zeel managed to retain his grip on the rods, but his insides curdled with dread as he felt the GOH’s massive appendages begin to curl around him. Zeel closed his great ocular in fear and awaited his punishment.

"Vile AGA!" came the dreaded voice of the commander. "Worthless waste... the lot of you!" SimhGOH’s sinuous tentacles crackled with barely contained energy as they gripped the hapless AGA with sudden fury. Zeel’s carapace shuddered as the commander unleashed his energy into his subordinate with punishing force. The animite rods exploded with the sudden influx of energy, shredding Zeel’s tentacles with icy shards of pain. He could hear the commander’s voice raging above him, but the words had no meaning. Slowly - indeed, far too slowly to be considered merciful - Zeel’s consciousness began to wane and he slipped into oblivion.

Upon the bluff, the supervising GOH parted ranks to allow the great Tremanth to slither up to the edge. Atop the slimy beast, in a golden palanquin, sat the huge mass of TarnKEW - the aged KEW mage who held highest rank for this current operation. The elder KEW’s enormous bulk spilled over the sides of his palanquin in great blubbery folds of warty hide. Due to his advanced age, TarnKEW’s carapace had long since sloughed away, and his tentacles withered, no longer able to support his great bulk upon the air. But despite the elder’s obvious infirmities, and his dependence upon the Tremanth for locomotion, there was none wiser or craftier than this particular mage - at least not upon this cursed planet called El.

The Tremanth shuddered to a halt at the very lip of the cliff, affording TarnKEW an unparalleled view of the great plain below. The Dream Cannon was now in its final position and the last checks were being carried out even now. TarnKEW designated no less than seven of his orbital oculars to surveying the final preparations for this grand operation. Three thousand years of safety for the cursed Eliwan were about to end, and TarnKEW had managed to live long enough to see it! His hide prickled with anticipation as the AGA crews finished their final checks of the Cannon’s animite disruptor assemblage, and began to clear the field.

The elder’s remaining orbitals surveyed the terrain surrounding the bluff, checking to see that all had been made proper for this great moment of history. The GOHs held tight rank around their revered leader, carefully avoiding his multiple gazes in a show of proper respect, while the AGA drones hastily withdrew from the field below to form their own disciplined ranks beyond the bluff.

The energy domes stood safely back from the field, holding the great encampment of TarnKEW’s forces - providing the basics of existence for those chosen to participate in this grand event, although precious little in the way of luxuries. Still, TarnKEW had gladly sacrificed his comfortable existence back on the vapor-shrouded plains of JehdACCAh to be able to witness the fulfillment of his lifelong plans.

Beyond the domes, the Eliwan ruins rose in mute testament to the ancient battles fought here long ago. TarnKEW remembered those battles - although he had been a mere apprentice at the time. The treacherous Eliwan had slain many of his people back then, before turning their backs in cowardice and fleeing to their precious little moon.

A final orbital, the smallest of the lot, turned to gaze upward into the stormy sky. Briefly, the clouds parted, revealing the shining emerald moon beyond. TarnKEW allowed the little orbital to fling a look of vile resentment toward the cursed satellite, before assigning its gaze upon a less hated target. Soon, that moon would no longer shelter the cowardly enemy. The invasion was about to begin.

Moment by pain-filled moment, Zeel’s awareness returned. He slid open his great ocular to find himself gazing up at the storm-wracked sky of El. The Commander had mercy, was his first thought upon discovering himself still alive. He knew full well that the great GOH had both the ability and the right to have killed him outright for his sloppy fumbling of his assigned duty. Zeel had seen all too many of his fellow AGA meet their ends through the punishments of the GOH commanders.

Feeling the frozen slush of the ground beneath his carapace, Zeel reeled in horror. The ground! I’m touching the ground! Ancient phobias welled up inside him even as he fought against his revulsion. The ground was forbidden! Unclean! He struggled to charge his tentacles and lift himself safely from the muck. The damaged appendages merely flopped uselessly, sparking and crackling impotently in the unholy mud. Slowly, realization crept into Zeel’s mind, The commander has done worse than kill me! His thoughts whirled in terror and shame as the full magnitude of his situation made itself clear to him. He has grounded me!

At just that moment, the unclean surface beneath him began to rumble. Zeel turned his ocular toward the source of the noise. Sudden shock forced him to pop open both sub-oculars as well - although he numbly tried to deny what he was seeing from any of his eyes. Not more than fifty lengths away was the great muzzle of the Dream Cannon. It was pointed straight at him and obviously preparing to fire!

With a final push of all his remaining energy, his frayed tentacles came to life and lifted him a few inches from the clinging slush. Frantically, he tried to veer away from the path of the Cannon’s fire, but even as he began to slowly drift across the surface, he knew that it was too late. The Cannon fired with a roar of ethereal energy, sweeping his crippled body up in its beam and flinging him straight into the great Dream Rupture that opened before its onslaught.

The ethereal gleam reflected from all ten of TarnKEW’s orbital oculars, each of which gleamed with a light of their own. They shone with the delight of seeing the culmination of three thousand years of waiting come to an end. Below, the Dream Canon was steadily ripping a larger and larger rift between the real world and the Dream Plane. The Eliwan’s great Dream Barrier would soon fall to the etheric energies of the Cannon. TarnKEW allowed himself the profound luxury of a great bellow of gleeful laughter. The GOHs flanking him retreated in awe at the unexpected sound from their usually sour leader. Atop his great Tremanth, the elder mage laughed on and on, as reality was torn asunder upon the plain below.

Zeel plunged into the Rupture, ocular first. To his great surprise, he found that he was not immediately torn to pieces, as he had fully expected. Around him blossomed great fields of rich color. Shapes formed in the periphery of his vision, but he was flung past them before they could fully register. Soon, a great wall of shadow loomed before him and he tried feebly to slow his approach, but the Cannon’s beam propelled him ceaselessly onward. Zeel hit the wall with great force, but its structure was yielding, and he soon popped through onto the other side. Still, the beam pushed him onward.

Here, in what Zeel could only assume must be the Dream Plane itself, he discovered a strange landscape of bizarre shadowy formations. Some looked like tentacles, or great eyes, still others resembled the repulsive bone-filled hands sported by the ancient Eliwan enemy. Here was a great shadow precipice that loomed like a gaping mouth, while there rose a shadowy sphere not unlike the great Mother AGA he had known as a mere wog. He suffered a momentary pang of homesickness, longing for the sweet nurturing vapors of his homeworld. Still more shadow apparitions formed around him as the Cannon beam propelled him onward. All these things and more passed swiftly before his vision, and all too soon another great wall rose before him.

This wall crackled with energy, and Zeel shuddered, remembering the shocking grip of the commander’s deadly tentacles. The energy wall loomed up quickly and Zeel was forced brutally into it. Unlike the previous wall, this one was not as resilient. His body was pushed deeper and deeper into the crackling energy fields of the wall, but the wall was fighting back. All around him he could sense the great struggle as the wall defended itself against the onslaught of the Dream Cannon. Zeel was pushed and pulled and smashed and tugged and pummeled until he was rendered nearly senseless once more, when finally there came a slight ripping sound, as of wet cloth being torn asunder. Instantly, Zeel’s battered body was squeezed through the tiniest of holes, and pushed out into a totally new environment.

Suddenly the pressure of the Cannon beam was no longer at his back and he found himself falling. A short distance below, the poor AGA met with the unholy uncleanliness of the ground once more. Once again, he fought against his primal fear of the ground and hastened to take a look around himself, to discover in what manner of place he now found himself.

Everywhere he gazed, his great ocular found a scene of strangeness and wonder. This new land in which he found himself was nothing at all like the harsh storm-wracked plain he had left behind. In disbelief, he pried open his sub-oculars to glean their additional information. Still, strangeness abounded.

A slight crackling sound erupted behind him and he struggled with his damaged tentacles to turn himself around. Hanging in the air was a small jagged hole, beyond which Zeel could see the seething energies of the last Dream wall he had encountered. With a loud POP!, the hole suddenly vanished, leaving behind only a thin wisp of ethereal mist to betray its existence. Soon, a sprightly breeze had dispersed even that small evidence.

Zeel could only wonder at the sight. Perhaps the Dream Cannon had not been able to create a total Rupture after all. Still, looking around himself, he had to admit that he had definitely been transported somewhere other than El. Could this be the Eliwan moon? he wondered. The thought chilled him, for all AGA were taught from birth of the terrible Eliwan monsters who had tormented and taunted their ancestors, before fleeing in ultimate cowardice and denying his people a satisfactory and honorable revenge. Could I be stranded among these monsters? Alone?

A sudden sound reached his carapace. Shifting feebly once more to get a better view, he detected the approach of two strange creatures. They were speaking animatedly, and gesturing wildly as they walked along the ground on two legs. Suddenly, Zeel knew the awful truth. He was indeed stranded and alone, helpless, amongst the very monsters of whom stories had so frightened him as a wog. The two creatures drew closer, not yet seeming to have noticed him. He trembled with fear as he saw the truth of their nature in their rigid bone-filled bodies, their tiny heads with even tinier oculars and their horrible four fingered hands. These were the dreaded Eliwan. And they were coming right for him! What was he to do? What was to become of him?

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