Act IV - The Glow
Unsure of crossing the radioactive mist, the crew decides to travel along the foot of the mountains, just beyond the shores of the sea of mist. It isn't long before they discover that zombies roam here. The crew searches the mountains for a passage to the other side but are unable to find one. They return to the river, where they stock up on water and also take aboard algae and some small river lobsters which they want to keep as livestock.
Willow returns to the ship after a hard day of catching lobsters and gathering plants and goes to feed the still comatose Denna. When she enters her chamber, she sees a spreading stain of blood on the girl's blanket. Removing the blanket she discovers Denna's hand has been bitten off at the wrist. Willow screams for help.
After helping Denna, the crew starts searching the ship. Blood traces are found in Drabor's room (who at that moment is lying sick in bed) and on the upper deck, near the livestock. Leaf telepathically searches the ship, while the others wait outside so their presence won't interfere with the search. Leaf senses the intruder on the upper decks and he continues his search there. As he passes the livestock pens, one of the chickens shapeshifts into a small many-fanged predator which immediately jumps him. A struggle ensues but Leaf is unable to shake his attacker until the rest of the crew finally arrive and blast its brains out.
After recovering from the nightly ordeal, the Windwalker heads out again, this time across the mist. As it turns out, zombies aren't the only creatures that inhabit it. A flock of what appears to be flying manta rays pursues the ship, weaving their way through the mist with great speed. A barrage of laser fire opens up from the Windwalker, but in the end it's Willow's mental powers that drive most of the creatures away. Then the last remaining manta suddenly breaks off pursuit. It soon becomes clear why when the reanimated corpses of the killed mantas once again attack the ship. The fight continues and the mantas are killed a second time, after which they are lost from sight permanently.
In the meantime, the algae the crew took with them have completely filled the water container. An attempt to scoop it out results in the scoop being sucked under. A vibroblade is used to carve up the recalcitrant weeds. The lobsters are found dead, though without any marks on them. Then Mmrrrghnhra tries to use an electrical bolt to clear out any remaining algae and discovers that the algae grow rather rapidly on electrical energy. The entire container of water is dumped.
After a few days of travel, the Windwalker reaches a giant mangrove forest, its towering trees rooted in the mist. The Windwalker can fly just high enough to skim through the treetops. Halfway across the forest, one of the crewmembers is suddenly bitten by a black insect. Not long after that an ominous buzzing approaches the ship. A roiling black cloud of insects emerges from the trees and attacks. The swarm has almost reached the Windwalker when it suddenly dives back beneath the treetops. Seconds after that, a scream echoes from below. The crew uses the distraction to put as much distance as possible between them and the swarm.
After another couple of days, the ship reaches the other side of the mangrove forest. At the fringes, the crew makes a stop to stock up on wood. During the wood chopping, Drabor is hypnotized by a large snake and starts walking towards it. A laser blast from one of the other crewmembers drives the snake away and Drabor returns to his senses. At the end of the day the crew sets out again, leaving the forest behind. Unknown to them, they have attracted attention. A day after leaving the forest, a face suddenly appears in front of one of the open hatches. Drabor goes out onto the top of the ship where he finds a humanoid calmly sitting in wait of him. The hairless man is dressed in yellow monks' robes. He calmly informs Drabor that the Abbot of the Order of the Glow has requested the presence of the crew of this ship.
The monk is allowed onboard. Willow asks him if he could perhaps take a look at Denna. The monk agrees. As he leaves for the girl's chamber with Willow, the others notice for the first time the black radiation symbol adorning the back of the yellow robes.
The monk examines the girl and although he can't do anything for her himself, he says there might be someone at the monastery who can. The monk provides the crew with the necessary directions.
Willow, Fox and Drabor leave the ship to meet with the Abbot. They are brought to a large richly decorated chamber, where the Abbot greets them warmly. Also present are two other monks and two guards. The monks are all dressed the same and are all obviously mutants. The guards are dressed in facecovering hoods and stand still as statues by the door the entire time, holding large metal swords without hand-guards in their gloved hands.
The three crewmembers talk with the Abbot at length. They tell him of the lands beyond the mountain and in exchange he shows them maps of the lands on this side. One of the maps indicates a larger settlement far to the east. When asked about this, the Abbot says that it indicates the place where the city of the Ancient Enemy is located.
Denna is brought to the infirmary of the monastery. In this dark and secluded place, one of the monks starts working on regenerating her hand. He estimates it will take a couple of days before the hand is completely restored. When he is finished, another monk comes in. This monk attempts to bring Denna out of her coma. His attempt ends abruptly after a few minutes when he gets thrown across the room, a screaming human fireball. Denna remains unconscious.
The crew spends the next couple of days at the monastery, using the time to barter water in exchange for goods and information. The mutants that live in the monastery are distrustful of the mutated animals among the crew, but the monks are friendly enough. The Abbot hints that there might be a way for them to learn what is wrong with the girl, but won't yet give a further explanation.
Willow and Drabor talk some more with the Abbot, trying to learn about his religion. Willow expresses a wish to be initiated, despite not entirely knowing what such an initiation means. To her great surprise, the Abbot immediately obliges her. A searing burst of radiation shoots from the Abbot's hand, striking Willow full in the chest. Then the Abbot sits back and calmly watches her while she squirms on the floor, mutating uncontrollably. Drabor tries to intervene but one of the monks blocks his path. When he tries to shove her aside, the hooded guards immediately move to strike and radiation starts glowing on the hands and eyes of the other monks in the room. Drabor has to watch helplessly until his friend finally finishes mutating. The mutation leaves Willow with a slight breathing problem. Unfortunately, this apparently isn't the result needed to be accepted into the Order.
The next day, the crew is considering moving on when they notice an unusual excitement has descended on the inhabitants of the monastery. When they go to the Abbot to ask what's going on, they discover that the Abbot's chamber has turned into a war council. Maps cover the Abbot's desk, and many of the senior monks are gathered to discuss plans.
When the Abbot spoke of a way to discover the cause of Denna's catatonic state, he was referring to a type of flower with has the power to induce visions. Taking the arrival of the Windwalker as a sign, the Abbot decided to use such a flower for himself. The visions he received convinced him that the war with the Ancient Enemy would soon resume after 1700 years of dormancy. The Windwalker has been immediately drawn into the plans. The Abbot tells the crew that they will help him prepare. First they will provide transport to the far-lying herds of Shruska, a large six-legged beast that lives in the mist. Once enough of these animals have been caught, the Abbot will have enough supplies so that he can afford to send as many of his monks as possible to the Ancient City. The crew will of course also provide the transport for this. The way the Abbot talks about the plans leaves no doubt that he expects the crew's unquestioning obedience.
The crewmembers quickly concoct a story about the time it will take them to prepare for the journey. They start talking in bogus technical terms and the ship soon becomes a hive of fake activity. They plan to make a run for it once they have everything and everyone aboard.
Since the crew is now part of the Holy War, the Abbot no longer has any objections to providing the crew with one of the vision inducing flowers. The other supplies are also brought aboard. The only thing that remains to be done is to get Denna out of the infirmary. Leaf states that quite frankly he doesn't care what happens to the girl and suggests they might as well leave her behind. The others disagree. Finally Drabor goes into the infirmary and tells the monk there the girl will be further treated by equipment aboard the ship. The monk expresses an interest and Drabor agrees that he can come along. On the way, the monk also picks up his assistant. As they arrive at the ship, Drabor enters and slams the hatch behind him. The rest of the group has taken up defensive positions and Leaf hits the accelerator.
Drabor has barely had time to put the girl down, when suddenly two of the four bags of salt that were brought aboard start shifting into the forms of monks. Moments later, two more monks appear out of thin air. Laser and machine gun fire greet the new arrivals, which soon answer with glowing blasts of radiation from their hands and eyes. Willow's telepathic powers turn two of the monks against each other, while weaponfire finally manages to cut down the other two. But the price is high. Almost all of the crew have to nurse radiation burns and two of them have mutated. Drabor has acquired a fear of wide-open spaces. Fox had more luck and has mutated in a way that allows him to better resist laser fire.
The Windwalker returns to the mountain river to stock up on water supplies. After this has been done, the crew decides to try the flower. The flower they received will allow for two visions. Willow concentrates on the girl and then breathes in the scent of the flower. She falls unconscious and finds herself standing on an empty plain of red sand, with a red sky and sun. When she turns around she discovers she's standing at the base of an impossibly high tower. Willow examines the tower but fails to find a way in before she returns to reality.
Fox breathes in the second dose, and concentrates on the future. He suddenly finds himself floating in the air under a starlit sky. Leaf hitches a ride on the vision using his telepathy. In the distance, lights shine from what looks like a huge ridge rising up from the mist. As they approach the ridge, Leaf and Fox discover that a huge metal dome dominates its highest part. The lights they saw were coming from campfires belonging to uncountable numbers of mutants who occupy the rest of the ridge. The air around the dome is swarming with every imaginable kind of flying mutant, with yellow and red-robed monks moving among them. Then attention is suddenly drawn to the top of the metal dome, where a lone figure stands looking out over the wastelands. The figure is dressed in high tech battle armor. As Fox moves around to get a better view, he discovers that the figure is none other than Tula. Her feet float about an inch above the dome, repelled by an invisible force field. A few moments later, the image of Tula is gone and the rest of the vision fades away.
Willow discovers that she can return to the tower in the red desert of her vision by concentrating on its image. She also finds that she can draw others into the vision by simply concentrating on them. Drabor is not pleased to be drawn into the biggest wide-open space he has ever seen and with a scream he disappears again.
The others examine the tower and call out, but there is no reaction other than a strange indefinable sensation. They try flying to the top of the tower, but it seems endlessly far away. It's Mmrrrghnhra who discovers that the trick is not to move, but to concentrate on the place you wish to go. As he concentrates on reaching the top, he accelerates at dazzling speed, leaving his companions far behind. As he reaches the top of the tower, he finds it under siege from all manner of nightmarish flying beasts. He discovers that it is possible to make attacks with nothing more than mental force. After an initial attack that draws the attention of a couple of the smaller monsters, he concentrates on his friends and summons them to his side. This includes Drabor, who once again disappears with a scream.
The crew uses their newfound mental powers to attack the monsters. Back on the ship, Drabor tends their wounds as best he can. During the fights, the crew discovers that a hit from a monster also causes the one struck to feel an emotion. With the larger monsters, these emotions are so strong that they're capable of dragging someone completely into the nightmare. Willow is dragged into a state where her body refuses to respond and is forced to endure the pain of having her hand chewed off. Leaf is pulled into a flower field where he is caught and killed by a floating disc-shaped droid. Fox awakens with a badly burned man standing over him, about to give him a shot with a strange device which he recognizes as being the strange gun they found on the grav-station.
In the end, only the largest monster is left. The thing begins shifting into a huge version of Jingles, who was Denna's best friend. But Jingles is dead. The flesh of the thing rapidly decomposes until nothing but a giant zombie is left. Then it attacks.
The battle is hard, but in the end the nearly exhausted and badly injured crew is victorious. At the moment the zombie is destroyed, the windows of the tower open. The crewmembers enter and suddenly find themselves in what looks like a blue-skied forest paradise. They walk through the beautiful scenery until they come to an open spot where a family is having a picnic. The family consists of a father, a mother, a little boy and Denna. She sits among them, silent but smiling. Once the crew makes contact with Denna, the landscape starts to change. The wind starts picking up and the foliage begins turning to dust. The yellow sun above changes to a harsh red glare and before long, they find themselves standing once more in the red featureless desert. The other members of the family still seem oblivious of the changes. Then they too begin turning to dust until finally only the crewmembers and Denna are left.
The crewmembers awaken aboard their ship. Denna is also awake, and crying silently.
To be continued...
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