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Liane shivered.

Tucking her knees in closer to her chest, she desperately tried to make herself smaller in the crawlspace beneath the building she’d been hiding under. Hours had passed - but every time she tried to adjust her position, needles of pain shot through her cramped limbs. She was tucked behind a few barrels in the dark cellar, desperate to avoid the slaughter above, unable to escape into the jungles.

Papua wasn’t without its share of struggles in the harsh Lost Lands. The nearby Terathan Keep had been the center of conflict between that strange spider-like race and the Ophidians for as long as she could remember. Adventurers from the kingdom proper, Britannia, often ventured through Papua to stock up on rations and avail themselves of the healers before they set off to the distant fortress.

The recent attacks on the city hadn’t been anything new. The magical defenses provided by the Britannian mages so long ago, when they’d first established contact, had sheltered the city against the hostilities since before she’d been born. Always then, there were the guards, able to appear almost instantly at the sign of any trouble. The large, snake-like apparitions had always slithered home after pushing the boundaries a bit. Lately, a few self-styled heroes had arrived to deal with the "Ophidian menace," taking up lodging at her father’s inn.

They were screaming. She’d woken up to it. The cacophony of cries and screeches, the voices calling out for the missing, the weapons biting into earth, into wood, into flesh.

There’d been no time. They’d gotten into the street before her father was brutally slain in front of her. The monster’s face had been frenzied, its bardiche slowly rose up above her... then the whole serpent was lifted off the ground as a wave of energy smashed into its side.

I never said ‘Thank You.’ But she couldn’t have. The mage had barely gotten off another spell before he was swarmed from behind by three of them. She was running then, east, towards the sea, trying to break for the jungle beyond the weapon shop. She’d turned the corner of the Revenge Shoppe, when she froze, all hope lost, as shapes began emerging from the trees beyond the edge of the city.

A moment of panic had found Liane in the weapon shop. The display cases were already smashed apart, glass littering the floor and laying atop the few weapons left. Recovered from the city of Britain, during the Despise offensive. She didn’t read the tag, she just grabbed the hatchet and dashed back outside, across the street and into the shipwright’s. All she could think of was that cellar she’d been down into so many times before.

The screams and sounds of battle had been growing softer as the day progressed. Yet no welcoming human voice beckoned her out of that damp place. All she heard were the hisses of their strange speech, mixed with the sound of heavy bodies sliding across the earth. The best she’d managed was to pull herself farther behind some water barrels when the cries of battle seemed more distant.

Where are the guards? She clutched the hatchet harder to herself, wringing her hands around the rough wooden handle. Where are the kingdom’s soldiers? A splinter shot into her palm, but the pain barely registered on her numb hands. Thoughts tore madly through her mind. They promised...

The dying sunlight was cut off without warning, pitching her into the dark. Blood pounded in her ears, every sound outside evaporating - all she could hear was a slow creaking as something slid forward across the flooring above. She struggled further into a gap between the barrels, trying to keep every inch of herself hidden. A moment passed.

The light returned in slants as the Ophidian backed slowly away from the cellar’s entrance, slowly turning its body, satisfied that nothing lay below and not caring to negotiate the human stairs.

She couldn’t stop it. The horrible hours spent cramped up finally took their toll. A muscle in her left leg suddenly knotted up, her leg spasming, striking the side of a barrel softly.

The Ophidian paused, then turned back.

Published: July 2006
Please Note: Some dates are estimates as exact dates were unavailable.
Ultima Online ESRB Rating
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