The Missing Princess part 3: Temple of the Dino Men

In the last chapter of War Rocket: The Missing Princess, Captain Atrius rescued Princess Taegan from a fall to certain doom and carried her into the great caverns beneath the surface of the world Dormientes Draco, only to hear a terrible scream of strange barbaric sacrifice! What new Terrors await our Princess in Chapter 3, Temple of the Dino Men?

Down into the tunnels away from the burning wreckage of the mighty Class 3 rocket the Anzu and the mysterious Zenithian towers the Imperial survivors fled. While strange; howling; inhuman voices screeched and clamoured as great caverns were torn asunder by tumbling metal rock; further detonations and the fire of the Zenithian saucers.

Princess Taegan; Captain Atrius and the others ran deep into the labyrinthine red rock tunnels knowing that behind them Zenithian troops were descending to hunt them. Deep into the twisting tunnels they went, The Princess using the divisibility by two of the first letters of each stanza from an ancient poem written by her father millennia ago as a way to choose which path, left or right, to take till they hit a dead end – a tactic she’d often used when she needed to seem to be lost in a maze but need her and her troops to be able to find their way out.

Eventually they came to a large; round room carved by stone tools from the ancient rock. It had two levels and reminded them all so much of a gladiatorial arena that all had weapons drawn and at the ready before the first of the native troglodytic beings was seen. The first of the strange green-skinned Dino-men, with its frilled head and beaked mouth, died before it could fling its strange grenade. The second perished as its grenade went aloft while another beam caused the grenade to explode high above them! But the strange purple smoke that drifted down was a gas weapon! Yet, even as all the brave Imperial soldiers were driven unconscious by the gas they continued to kill every one of the attacking Dino-men as they appeared – ‘till finally the toughest of them all, Captain Atrius, succumbed to the mysterious gas…

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Groggily, the Imperials began to wake and stood ready to continue killing. The Dino-men were gone… but so was the Princess! Strangely, the creatures had neither killed them in their vulnerable sleep nor divested them of their advanced weaponry… perhaps out of superstitious awe at the Imperial death-dealing power – and perhaps ignorance as to its source in the atomic side arms. Yarlaganda, who could track an Arctic Stirge in a snowstorm, immediately determined the direction in which her unconscious form was dragged. Atrius immediately took command.

“Eparti! Shirukduh! Scout these tunnels and find us a way to either safety; a defensible place to retreat ‘till rescue or a way into those accursed towers. The rest of you come with me to rescue the Princess or avenge her death a million times over!”

And at that, the loyal Imperial forces rushed to obey, fear for the Princess filling their hearts with a mighty determination nothing could oppose.

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Taegan, daughter to the man-god Emperor Marduk – who was the slayer of the chaos-beast; bringer of order to the universe and all-seeing guardian of life everywhere; awoke to find herself trussed to cold hard stone. Her wrists were bound together above her head – her ankles the same at the other end of the altar. Looking around through slitted eyes to try not to betray her wakeful state, she perceived herself to be in a large cavern filled with braying reptiloids on her right, and a large crude stone sculpture of a pagan dino-god on her left. About her moved some form of Priest covered in bones and trinkets and rattling some kind of gourd-equivalent as it led the chanting. She observed its anatomy. Internal skeleton was the first good sign, breathing in a way that indicated lungs, a tough looking hide but plenty of signs that it shared the usual organ placement and trouble staunching blood loss and haemorrhaging common to most humanoid life. So while the Dino-Priest continued to whip its followers into frenzy, Princess Taegan carefully used the edge of the altar to unfold the hinged metal heel of her boot. This heel folded in for purchase on flat surfaces, unfolded for a functional and aesthetically pleasing high heel and also had a razor sharp edge which was an effective stabbing weapon.

While the Priest waved its arms and brayed theatrically; rattling it’s rattles of bones and chanting it’s chants, the Princess sliced the bonds at her ankles – and when the moment arrived, flipped her legs acrobatically over her head, slicing the bonds that bound her wrists. The crowd roared and the Priest spun about but the Princess with one mighty kick kicked him into his crowded followers!

Her Tling steel electric sword and Imperial atom-pistol drawn, she whirled through the Dino-men foolish to run to the altar like a dervish of death! ‘Till at last the Green scaled Dino-men fell back and let her past. From there she ran through tunnel after tunnel, following her instincts and hoping that the path she strode would bring her to her soldiers. Then as she rounded a corner a seed-pod grenade struck the ground near her feet. This time pale blue Dino-men confronted her. She cursed not having a breathing apparatus on and tried to cover her airways with her hand but it was too late, more pods burst around her till the purple smoke overwhelmed her and she lost consciousness once more.

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Captain Atrius surveyed the scene of carnage. The characteristic swirling sprays of green Dino-man blood was most certainly the Princesses sword fighting style, taught to her by the witch-women of the forest moon of Eth that was part of her education as an Imperial Princess. The surviving Dino-men had fled at their approach. He didn’t need Yarlaganda to track her path from here; the footprints of green blood did that well enough. But after a long; winding traverse through the tunnels the path stopped, in an area of dried purple smoke powder and dino-man footprints! And in the distance back towards the towers and deep, deep down great drums were sounding!

The Imperial soldiers moved with even greater haste, their atom-ray-rifles at the ready!

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Making their way to this vantage point over the Dino-men’s sacrificial ritual had not been easy. Close to the surface, the Dino-men were putting up a fierce resistance to the Zenithians, who, having found a new enemy just under their feet, were now out in force and more worried about fighting the Dino-men than searching for the Imperial survivors. After skirting the collapsed and collapsing tunnels and the Zenithian battlefront, reunited with Eparti and Shirukduh and following the echoing sounds of inhuman frenzied chanting they finally found this vantage point high above the enemy.

Below was a tremendous cavern that sank deep into the molten heart of the world, a great glowing lake of lava. Along the sides of this bathed in washes of heat were carved ancient time-worn seats and couches upon which were arrayed untold thousands of blue-scaled Dino-men. Above the steaming lava opposite these frenzied troglodytes was a small shelf of stone with an altar at the feet of a mighty colossal statue, exquisitely carven by ancient masters of the art, in the form of a multi-armed and horned dino-man of a sort similar too yet distinct from the degenerate forms apparently descended and devolved from this once more advanced form. Between the arrayed masses and the altar shelf, over the great pit of lava was a narrow stone bridge and striding upon it was some form of leader bedecked in stone-age finery.

Down below on the altar Princess Taegan tested her bonds. This time she was tied much more effectively, at each ankle and each wrist; the bonds were some kind of living plant that tightened with swift movements. Slowly, oh so slowly, she was straining to bend her wrist enough to hook out the small blade hidden in her bracelet, but the pace required to not alarm the living vines around her limbs was looking like she’d not be free by the time the High Priest or whatever this second Dino-man leader reached her with that wicked blood-stained knife….

Captain Atrius gave the first signal to the Imperial warriors under his command and they moved to the positions he had designated. He checked the fuel-gauge on his back… he wasn’t sure that it was enough, but he had to try or die. Down below the Priest was striding slowly bathing in the adulation of its people. Not for much longer. Atrius glanced one last time at the stone god. It would have made a fine trophy in the Capital Cities Great Hall of Conquests dead and defeated god’s wing. But some things were not meant to be.

With a chopping signal the rescue plan went into effect.

The High Priest of the people of Dormientes Draco, keeper of ancient secrets, the long-lived, over 10 thousand years old, strode triumphantly assured in his power, in the certainty of repeated moments millennia after millennia and basking in the opportunity to sacrifice a wretched skylander for the first time in hundreds of generations of long-lived priests since the ancient ones left for the other world except fort the holy one who turned himself to stone that the people might be ruled over. It took several moments for the hysterical shrieking change in the tone of the crowd to sink into his warmth-bathed brain in this hottest of caverns, drawing his attention to the lines of light appearing above, the lines from the distant outcrops near the roof of the cavern stretching to the noble horned head of the Ancient One. At the molten rock pouring like blood from the god’s neck!

Captain Atrius slid the gold skull-face visor over his face as he triggered the heavy rocket-troop pack with which he’d saved the life of the Princess once today already – Hoping that the tiny hint of space between the little needle and the empty marker, nearly all the way into the red, was enough fuel to get across the lava below. With a mighty kick the powerful explosive ignited, thrusting him forward on an arced column of swirling smoke; racing the Priest as it ran across the narrow bridge towards the Princess!

The skylander would pay! The creature on the altar would die for the God. Its un-dino blood would feed and heal the god and the god would smite the surface-dwellers and their curse-weapons. The dino-Priest saw the surface sorcerer flying on a mass of fire and smoke but too late for it, he would be at the Altar first, the blade would slice deep into it, the blood would feed the god and the wrath would fall!.

A scream of even a higher pitch than before came from the crowd, a keening sound that the Priest had never heard the like of before, and glancing up he saw the ancient-one’s head tumbling from its massive neck, tumbling and falling, it’s face seeming in the dancing light to be screaming in outrage as it fell towards him. In a split second, where time seems to pause, the Dino-Priest wondered if it was his place to be crushed beneath the Ancient ones severed head, if he should stay still and accept that fate for having failed the god and not slain the skylander sooner. But the wily cunning that had got him to this position with the usurping of the green-scaled high Priest he had drugged and publicly embarrassed to take the place of and then driven off with all of his green-scaled kind would not allow faithfulness to triumph over self-preservation… and he leapt back as the great gods head smashed mere inches away tearing a mighty whole in the bridge and separating him from the skylander.

With a sputtering series of sickening lurches the rocket pack died with just enough impetus for Atrius to roll and skid onto the shelf of stone! At his feet in moments his sword sliced the vines holding the Princess to the stone and he helped her to her feet.

The Princess looked at the Priest as it stood awkwardly at the other side of the holed bridge and raised her pistol, anger fuelling the thought of shooting it, but it had no weapon to strike her at a distance and she was more honourable than that. But as she stared her anger at it she saw a look of dawning horror appeared on the saurian visage as with a mighty crack the bridge gave way.

For the second time in a lifetime thousands of years old the High Priest of the Dino-men of Dormientes Draco felt time slow to a crawl. Long enough to realise with profound regret his mistake in not allowing the Stone god to crush him mercifully under it and finally grant him the long-delayed divine punishment for his treacherous usurping of the position so long ago in such a swift merciful demise. Instead he felt the stone bridge beneath him give way as if time itself was slowed to nearly nothing, and he hovered and then descended in a screaming eternity of fear and hate and regret for his selfish and impious actions as he plunged tumbling into the lava below.

With a smile the Princess looked up into the strong face and kind eyes of the dashing Captain Atrius as he led the way to the tunnels behind the statue that the gryphon-eyed scouts had spied from above and the remaining Imperial soldiers clambered down on ropes from the cliffs above. But behind the furious Dino-men roared their rage, and a glance back showed hasty ladders of vine and fungus-tree bridging the gap, so the Imperial forces rushed into the tunnels as a hoard of savage troglodyte saurian swarmed over the makeshift bridges behind them, some tumbling to their fiery doom in the haste for vengeance that had them crawl over the top of one another and barge others to their doom to the faster get their hands onto our Imperial heroes.

While in a more distant cavern the wounded green scaled Priest was having his injuries tended with staunch-moss when he heard the news that the blue-skinned Priest who stole his position so many millennia ago was dead at the hands of the skylanders and the ancient idol defaced. Now he was the only long-lived able to minister to and calm the angry spirit hidden in the depths, his exile was at an end and all the skylanders would die!

Will the Imperial forces escape the Dino-men? Has Captain Atrius finally won the heart of the bold Princess? What is the secret of Dormientes Draco and the Zenithian Towers? And what new discovery will reveal a threat to all the great powers of space? Be sure not to miss the next enthralling instalment of Hydra Serial Waaar Rooockeeet! The Missing Princess Chapter 4 the Tower of Treachery! Brought to you by the Venusian Tourism Board; Vacation on Venus today, and Obelisks’r’us for all the best fashionable garden features.

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