Kora flowed into a roll, touching down just north of Fort Funston, her sword and shield at the ready. Dissona’s bug-spawn instantly swarmed her.
In between stabs and slashes, she twisted through the air like an Olympic gymnast, casting as many spells as she possibly could. Bolts of light and ghostly phantoms flew from her fingers, cutting through her enemies in spectacular fashion. Some of them exploded or burned to a crisp, others were lifted by invisible hands. They struggled and mewled as their segmented thoraxes cracked, split, and fountained open.
After killing an enemy, she’d throw a handful of mushrooms at its twitching body. The fungi would melt into the hell-fiend’s tissue, turning it back into a human being. All around her, dazed San Franciscans were climbing out of nasty-ass bug-corpses, super confused and scared as hell. The Timekeeper’s words rose to the fore of her mind: Mushrooms. They’re the key to your salvation, and your world’s as well. Heed their wisdom and emulate their unity.
Apparently, that meant that psilocybin mushrooms could dispel Dissona’s curse.
Peter’s gonna jizz himself. She riddled a spiny-legged horror with slices and punctures, then flicked crumbled mushrooms at it with her open shield-hand (due to its saurus-leather loops, she could keep the disc on her forearm and still hold the zen zaps). Magic mushrooms restoring sanity to the masses. He’d probably punch the air and say something stupid.
“Run!” she shouted at the transformed humans. “Get the hell out of here!”
A few of them (from their carriage she could tell they were former military or first responders) started herding the rest, grouping them together and pushing them into nearby vehicles. Keys turned, engines revved. Soon, a fleet of cars was heading north.
Her sword and shield cut a glittering circle, slashing half a dozen bug-monsters across the face. She finished her attack in an almost-crouch—leaning over her coiled left leg, right leg extended straight behind her—weapons swept back and ready to cut.
The barbarian princess tossed her last baggie of zen zaps into the air. She whirled into a spinning hook kick, hitting it dead center with her battle-suited heel. As the mushrooms burst into a particulate cloud, she flexed her will and dispersed them as widely as she could through a brief shot of telekinesis. The monsters she’d just slain reverted to human form.
[Peter, I’m out!] she projected. She parried a hooked foreleg, then put her shoulder behind her shield and smashed a creature in its mandibled face. [I need more zaps!]
[We’re out too!] His communique was rife with panic. [We’re coming back for you!] Through their mind-to-mind link, she could feel him turning the Bite Mobile around.
She slid to a knee, ducking a slash and cutting a leg out from one of her attackers. [No, you have to stop Dissona!] Squirted to her feet, punched her sword up through a mantis-monster’s skull. Blue-black blood geysered out from its eyes.
Wild desperation. [Kora, think about what you’re saying: you’re asking me to—]
[You have to!] she snapped. [Stop Dissona, or everything you know—everything you love—will be tortured and eaten! You HAVE TO STOP HER!]
Kora shrieked as a barbed pincer ripped a hole in her suit, punching a hole in the meat of her thigh. She threw a vicious combo that made her attacker (a grotesque, eight-foot tall cricket) skitter back on its jointed limbs. She feinted low and plunged her blade into the middle of its shell.
The rest of the creatures formed a loose ring, surrounding Kora. The barbarian looked from side to side, her blood-smeared face lit by glowing house-fires. They began creeping inward, hissing and chittering in anticipatory delight.
She turned and spat. Set her jaw, and rooted her weight.
[Kora!] Peter again. [We can’t just leave you to fucking die!]
[You don’t get it.] Kora smiled. Still savage, but joyful now as well. [For me, the circle comes to a close. Be at peace, Peter.]
He tried again. [It can’t end like this! It can’t—]
The monsters around her coiled and stilled, ready to swamp her with claws, fangs, and stingers…
Then Wodec O’ Thonkian announced his entrance; loud, strong, and fair:
“LOOK TO YOUR FRONT, WARRIORS—LET NONE OF THESE FIENDS ESCAPE OUR WRATH!”
Forty-four Indashi warriors, all mounted on snarling velociraptors, poured from a rip in the smoke-dampened night. Their voices merged into a full-throated scream:
Kora Enthari, side by side with the baddest motherfuckers in all of Elithia, swung her sword into guard and charged the enemy.