Kora flowed into a roll, touching down just north of Fort Funston with her sword and shield firmly in hand. Dissona’s bug-spawn instantly swarmed her.
In between stabs and slashes she would twist through the air like an Olympic gymnast, casting as many spells as she possibly could, filling the balmy night with crackling bursts of weaponized color. 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 up by invisible hands. They struggled and mewled as their segmented thoraxes cracked, split, and fountained open.
Whenever Kora killed an insect-creature, she’d throw a handful of mushrooms at its corpse. The fungi would melt into the hell-fiend’s tissue, turning it back into a human being. All around her, dazed San Franciscans emerged from nasty-ass bug-corpses, super confused and scared as hell. The Timekeeper’s words echoed through her brain: Mushrooms. They’re the key to your salvation, and your world’s as well. Heed their wisdom and emulate their unity.
Apparently, that meant psilocybin mushrooms could dispel Dissona’s curse.
Peter’s gonna jizz himself. She riddled a spiny-legged horror with slices and punctures, then flicked some crumbled mushrooms at it by opening her shield-hand (due to its sauraus-leather loops, she could keep the disc affixed to her arm 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 newly transformed, bewildered humans as she leapt into a spinning, no-hands cartwheel. “Head north!”
A few of them (and from their carriage she could tell they were former military or first responders) started herding the rest, grouping them together and piling them into nearby vehicles. Keys turned, engines revved. Soon, a fleet of cars was heading north.
Kora’s sword and shield cut a glittering perimeter around her as she slashed half a dozen bug-monsters across the face. She landed in an almost-crouch—leaning over her coiled left leg, her right leg extended straight behind her—weapons swept back and ready to cut.
The barbarian princess threw her last baggie of zen zaps and whirled into a spinning hook kick, hitting it dead center with her battle-suited heel. As the mushrooms burst apart, she flexed her will and dispersed them as widely as she could with a brief shot of telekinesis. The monsters she’d just cut began to revert to their human form.
[Peter, I’m out!] she projected. She parried a wickedly hooked foreleg, then put her shoulder behind a shield-strike, smashing a bug-creature in its mandibled face. [I need more zen zaps!]
[We don’t have any!] His telepathy was rife with panic. [Hang in there—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!] Kora squirted to her feet and punched her sword up through a mantis-monster’s skull. Blue-black blood leaked from its multifaceted eyes.
Wild desperation. [Kora, I can’t just leave you to di—]
[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 cut into her thigh, ripping a sparking hole in her diode-rich battle-suit. She crouched beneath a follow-on slash and responded with 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 circle, closing her in. She looked from side to side, her blood-smeared face lit by the glow of burning houses. They began to creep 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’s smile widened a notch further. Still savage, but now joyful as well. [We have dedicated our lives for the betterment of others. For me, the circle comes to a close. Be at peace, Peter.]
He tried again. [No, Kora, that’s not true, it can’t end like this! It can’t—]
[Have faith.] The monsters around her coiled and stilled, ready to swamp her with claws, fangs, and stingers.
Then Wodec’s voice rang through the air; loud, strong, and fair:
“LOOK TO YOUR FRONT, WARRIORS—LET NONE OF THESE FIENDS ESCAPE OUR FURY!”
Forty-four Indashi barbarians, all mounted on snarling velociraptors, poured from a rip in the smoke-dampened night. Their voices combined into a full-throated roar.
Kora, fighting side by side with the baddest motherfuckers in all of Elithia, swung her sword into guard and charged the enemy.