Underground With Nickelan Wand, Book One: Kid City

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Chapter 4

Selwyn Harris was still firmly holding Nickelan Wands thin arm. He pulled it and the boy down a muddy incline. The mouth of the pipe they climbed from drooled a jellylike green glop, making balance impossible. The two werent walking nor were they running. It was more of a controlled fall, skating on the slimy footing of the greasy hill and down to the greasier flat plain below.

Nickelan was concerned about not falling face-first into the gooey mound, but Selwyn acted as if he were merely a passenger on public transportation casually making conversation in wait for his stop.

Its no myth,he said in the midst of a monologue that Nickelan had only just now joined. Flushed down the toilet. Ha! Yes, thats true. Fact. Baby alligators, little crocodiles, turtles and goldfish, all washed away with the sewage to a better place. This place!Selwyn let go of Nickelans arm for the first time since yanking him into the long, dark tunnel. He spread his arms out as if to capture the scene between his hands. Instead, the two fell into a tumble and rolled down the last bit of hillside before landing on their backs at its foot.

You flush a baby croc down the toilet and they thrive in the sewers.Selwyns speech was uninterrupted by their graceless landing. They get big, bigger than on the surface world. Its a good thing too. If I were a croc flushed down the drain by some heartless human being, Id seek revenge. Id swim back to that toilet grave and bite the behind of whoever thought theyd get rid of me so rudely. Of course, theyre too big for a return journey through the Pipes and so have settled here in the major headwaters.

Of course,Nickelan said because Selwyn was staring at him.

Crocs dont hold a grudge like we humans, thankfully.Selwyn smiled. He was always smiling. Nickelan thought his smile must be painted on. They just want some food and a wet pool to drift on. For a couple pounds of slop that only a croc would eat we can book you safe passage to The Septic and from there its only a short hop to Kid City.

Im not going near that.Nickelan was looking down the large boulevard that cut through the center of town and emptied out at the rivers edge. There was a wooden boardwalk and dock where men were unloading crates off the back of a crocodile the size of a house.

Near it?Selwyn smiled. Youre going on it, boy. That is, unless you prefer to test your luck in Thunder World.

Thunder World?Nickelan asked.

Did you knock your noggin loose falling through the Pipes? Thunder World, the meanest, nastiest, most dangerous place in these sunless lands. Thunder World, where men joust on the backs of dinosaurs. The defeated are decapitated and their heads displayed on the horns of their losing dinosaur steeds. Then those poor beasts are beheaded and the whole kooky kit and caboodle is presented on poles. They line the streets of Thunder World. Dont tell me you havent seen them?

Dinosaurs?Nickelan rubbed his head.

Theres no time to dillydally,Selwyn said, his smile losing some of its luster. Weve likely already been spotted.He strong-armed Nickelan and began to pull him in the direction of the dock when a noise made him freeze.

Makas,was all Nickelan heard. Selwyns booming voice for once was silenced in a fearful whisper. He looked over to where Selwyn Harris last stood and all he saw was the muddy footprints left by his boots.

Nickelan looked up to find himself surrounded by a group of large creatures. There must have been half a dozen of them. They were tall and muscle-bound, each carrying at least two very sharp and very threatening weapons. The group could only be called a mob, an angry mob. They were men with thick arms and legs, but animal characteristics. Some had tails, others beaks instead of mouths, almost all of them had sharp talons at the end of their fingers.

Wander a bit far from Kid City?asked one with a great mane like a lion. He must have been the leader because he wore a uniform that was dripping with shiny metals and badges. Around his waist was a thick belt from which hung whips and chains and metal objects that Nickelan couldnt name and didnt want to know what they were called. That was worrisome enough, but in the leaders hands were two swords. One was long and sharpened at its edges. It came to multiple points like a fork, with Nickelan in line to be its next meal. In his other hand was a short sword that cut the air as the commander spoke.

What is Kid City?Nickelan asked, trying to swallow the fear that was bubbling up from his guts in hot bursts.

What is Cid Kity?joked the leader of the Makas, though Nickelan didnt get the joke.

Who are you?Nickelans fear was replaced by annoyance.

Who are pooh?All the Makas were doubled over now, laughing, wiping away the tears that sprayed from their squeezed-shut eyes.

With the distraction of the Makashigh spirits, Nickelan saw an opportunity to escape. He took a step towards a gap in the circle of intimidating Makas.

Not so fast, boy,the Maka with the medals said. He clanged his two swords together, signaling his men to stand straight with their weapons drawn in Nickelans direction. Youre coming with us.

Where am I going?Nickelan demanded.

Where are you blowing? I dont know, youre blowing not me.The Makas erupted in great gusts of laughter.

The merry atmosphere made Nickelan relax. He was no longer stiffly attentive, even though a mob of large and unpredictable creatures with knives and swords had captured him. He rested his palm on the handle of his sheathed sword and realized he was in fact armed and could be quite dangerous.

Lets see what you say about this!Nickelan shouted as he unsheathed his sword and pointed it forcefully at the Maka leader. The sword felt good in his small hand.

What I bay about this? Why, whatever do you mean, bay? Do you expect me to howl like a hunting dog?the Maka retorted flatly. And then with more edge, Are you calling me an animal?

At first, Nickelan felt as if in a lucid dream. A lucid dream being a dream in which the dreamer is aware of their surreal environment, is both director and star, able to do whatever he or she wants. But as Nickelan waved his naked sword around the circle of Makas that ensnarled him, inching closer with their swords drawn, Nickelan knew this was no dream.

Nickelan had never engaged in swordplay, except using fallen branches with Springo. All he knew of battling was learned in the pages of comic books, but this was no cheaply reproduced cartoon. Nickelan could smell the sour sweat on the Makasskin. Their breath was hot. A few must be hungry, for he could hear the grumbling of digestive fluids churning inside the hard guts that closed in ever nearer. With each step they took the Makas appeared to grow taller, wider and in turn Nickelan shrunk, only anchored by the weight of his increasingly absurd weapon.

A deafening clap of thunder followed a flash of lightning as steel clashed with steel and Nickelans sword fell to the ground with a hollow clang, broken in two.

The Makas were on Nickelan the instant he was unarmed. They were even stronger than they looked and they looked very strong. Their hands were less made of flesh and bone than iron and were as cold as metal. Nickelan feared his bones would shatter as the Makas manhandled him to the ground. They twisted Nickelans arms painfully behind his back until he felt his eyes well up with tears. His arms and legs were bound by leather straps, which cut into his skin. Nickelan could feel something wet on his body and knew it was blood. He was hoisted up, his face down, and a large stake was pushed over his back so that he hung from his binding like a butchered animal. The Makas then marched him to a caged wagon. He was thrown in, the door locked behind him, and the Makas broke into two groups, each taking a handle of the cart and pulling it down the unpaved street. Nickelan Wand was a prisoner in Thunder World.

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