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Chapter Five
Stumpy

  Iris was angry, and it showed. In her rush to escape Tygrin and the military guards in the guild she has lost her cool and panicked. Now she was somewhere deep in the subterranean caves of Ragol, and she had no idea where Tear had gone. She was alone, and hot. She hated warm weather, but the magma rivers all around her made the caves almost unbearably hot. And then there was the giant flower creatures that had been laughing at her for the past few minutes. One of them had attacked her with a paralysis inducing liquid. Even worse was the way she was bending over at the waist to pickup her datalink when the paralysis took effect. Even worse than that was when the three guys entered the room and immediately noticed her, bending over, unable to move. The apparent leader of the group, a ranger in blue, was the first to approach her.
  “Yeeowch! Is it hot in here or is it just you? Smokes babe, that’s some hello wave you got there.” Iris was slowly filling with murderous rage. She decided she had better get the guys to heal the paralysis before she beat them into bloody pulps.
  “Hey, finally someone has shown up”, Iris proclaimed in her most helpless sounding voice. “I was afraid I’d be stuck like this forever, you guys are real lifesavers!” Iris forced a fake smile. A hunter behind the ranger spoke up.
  “I guess you got attacked by that lilly”, the man pointed to the, still laughing, giant flower a few feet from Iris. “You need help miss?”
  “Hmm, I dunno”, the ranger in blue spoke, “I kinda like you this way. Very photogenic.” Iris couldn’t see his face but she knew he was smiling. The ranger walked over to her and slapped her ass. “Ooh! Prime selection, and I see the front ain’t too bad. Tell me honey, what’s your name?”
  “Hey man, c’mon, heal her already you jerk”, the until now silent ranger in black behind the other two spoke. “You’ve had your fun man, just anti the paralysis already.” At precisely the the moment the ranger in black finished speaking, a female hunter none of them had previously noticed cast Anti on Iris, who immediately stood up and spun around to face the guys standing behind her. The guys all looked quite surprised to see Iris suddenly stand up, they were even more surprised when she attacked them.
The ranger in blue was the first Iris went after. She kicked him so hard she was certain he was now tasting his #$@%&. When he fell to the ground clutching his crotch screaming in a very high pitched voice her theory was verified. The remaining hunter and ranger looked in astonishment at what they had just witnessed. They slowly backed away from Iris. The lilly behind Iris laughed again, and as she turned and blasted it with a stream of the ice technique Barta, the two guys turned and ran as fast as they could. Iris ignored them, and concentrated her attention to the ranger in blue, who was now beginning to slowly standup, in obvious pain. The female hunter who had aided Iris walked to her, Iris’ Datalink in hand.
  The hunter had distinctive red spiky hair, much like Iris and even appeared to be wearing the same outfit as well. “Quite a fix you got yourself in there dear, good thing I was out for a stroll. Here”, the hunter extended her arm and handed Iris her Datalink, “I believe this is yours. My name’s Ophelia, but most people call me Ophie.”
  “The name’s Iris, spare me a second if you would...” Iris turned to face the ranger in blue, who was slowly trying to sneak away. Iris put her Datalink back on her wrist and pressed a button on it’s small panel. An odd purple Mag with two almost vertical wing like extensions appeared by Iris’ shoulder. “Churel”, Iris said to the Mag. The Mag hovered silently. Iris pointed to the ranger in blue, “Play time”. The Mag turned to face the ranger, and quickly flew in his direction. Iris turned to face Ophelia. “Thanks by the way, I was never any good at that damsel in distress crap.”
  “Oh it’s my pleasure, but... um your Mag seems to be...”
  “Don’t worry about Churel”, Iris said. “She’ll take care of him.” The Mag continued chasing the ranger to the far side of the room, where he ran into an adjacent corridor. Churel followed.
  “I feel compelled to ask”, Ophelia said, “Why you’re down here all by yourself, these caves are dangerous you know.”
  “I could ask the same of you.”
  “I suppose that you could, but I’m quite a bit stronger than you dear. Your guild rating is 67 according to your datalink. Mine is 100, that’s quite a difference.”
  “Those numbers are irreverent, they are not designed to categorize me... and besides, I’m not alone. My sister is down here somewhere. As a matter of fact I was in the middle of looking for her when that flower thing paralyzed me.”
  “Oh, I see. Do you need some help looking for her?”
  “That”, Iris said with a grin, “Would be great!” A sudden look of total shock appeared across Iris’ face, and she pointed in the direction behind Ophelia. Ophie very quickly turned around but saw nothing, then abruptly felt a sharp pain on the back of her neck. Ophie’s eyes rolled back and she fell to her knees, then forward to the ground. She was out cold, Iris was standing over her with her right hand extended to where Ophie’s neck was. Iris had quickly delivered a strong chop to the back of Ophelia’s neck, knocking her unconscious. Iris looked down at Ophie. “Sorry ‘dear’, but I’m not a people person”, Iris said with a sneer.
  Iris activated her Datalink’s three dimensional imager, and selected the Guild Card search index. She searched for Tear’s Card Index, moments later the reply came from the Guild’s Ragol network. Tear was in the Forest on the surface of Ragol. Iris sent the covert commands to Tear’s datalink she had had preprogrammed in case they were separated. She set Tear’s datalink to automatically send Tear to the entrance to the ancient ruins the moment she stepped on any teleporter. Relieved that she could now resume her mission, Iris drew a large sickle weapon from her null item storage and began walking in the direction Churel and the ranger has ventured off in.
  It didn't take Iris long to find Churel and the hunter. Or what was left of the hunter at least. Several cleverly directed flame and ice techniques from Churel had had the effect of modifying the physique of the hunter into a form he would have a hard time explaining. Iris walked up the the barely conscious hunter and leered down at him. “From now on”, Iris said to him in a cold tone, “Your name is stumpy. If I ever see you again, I will not be so forgiving.” Iris extended her right palm towards the hunter and cast a weak resta spell. She stared at him for a few seconds, before abruptly plunging her sickle weapon into the chest of the very surprised, and now dead, hunter. As the hunter exhaled for the last time Iris cast a reverser technique on him, reviving him from death. He looked startled. Iris turned away from the hunter and began walking to a door at the far end of the hallway they were in. Iris addressed the mag, “Churel, come”, the mag obediently turned away from the sobbing hunter and followed Iris down the hallway, and through a door.
  As Iris entered the room beyond the door a dozen green bipedal creatures suddenly teleporter into the room. They stood oddly still for several seconds, before throwing their arms up and emitting a loud screeching noise. They all headed directly at Iris. “Well”, Iris said quietly to herself, “It looks like someone knows I’m here.”

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