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I do not know how long the battle lasted. It seemed that perhaps days pa.s.sed, though there was no sunrise and sunset down there-and I did not tire in my a.n.a.logue body, did not need to stop for food and drink. I was the irresistible force, wading into the legs and tails and s.h.i.+ning carapaces. In time, the numbers of the scorpions began to grow smaller, and at last the air refused to disgorge more of them. I knew they were not gone forever, because they were nothing more than psychic energy, and that could never be truly destroyed. But by then, I would not care if they encircled him.

Child still sat on the ice, staring where the scorpions had marched but where there was now nothing but scored ice. Approaching his a.n.a.logue cautiously, I touched him, hunkered before him.



"Child? Speak to me?"

He looked at me. He blinked his eyes. And then chaos broke loose as his insanity boiled through the surface tension of the a.n.a.logue and swept over me!

I was swept up, up, on a tide of human flesh, of torn arms and legs, of bleeding mouths, broken teeth, shattered bones, burning flesh, splintered eyeb.a.l.l.s. Monsters rose in the swell and came toward me, lumbering ogres and swimming reptilian horrors. The arms and mouths in the ocean of human parts attacked me, grasped me and tried to pull me down, bit me and chewed at my unreal psychic flesh.

I felt myself losing hold of my own equilibrium. In a moment, I would spiral over the edge, into madness for the second time. I had recovered only recently, and I knew a second plunge to the bottom of that well would be the last I would ever make. I would fall back into gibbering incoherency, and I would remain there forever. Twice mad is once too often, and the sh.o.r.es of detached logic would never be available to me again.

The nearest ogre reached for me, with his sevenfingered hands, each finger tipped with the fanged mouth of a yellow-eyed snake.

I rolled across the rippling floor of human parts, kicking pieces of bodies up as I went.

The snake fingers missed by inches.

A flurry of mutilated corpses clutched me and pulled me under the surface of the sea.

I fought to air again, through nightmare conglomerations of dead men and women, "CHILD!" I screamed.

Another ogre thundered down on me.

In the last moment before I could be grasped and dismembered, I did the only thing that would save me. Giving myself over to the basest of my id l.u.s.ts, radiating bloodhunger and s.e.xual need of the vilest sort, I repelled the ogres and the dragons, forced back the tide of human bodies that tore at me. In seconds, I was back on the blue ice floor where again the a.n.a.logue of Child sat, tranced.

I circled him. Now I was in the form of one of the great scorpion beasts, mandibles chattering, forked stinging tail raised above my back, ready to attack.

His psychic energy formed a wall against me, but I danced on, broached that wall with

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