"We don't have the right kind of equipment to talk bug, Rabbit," Keselo replied. "Most of the time, bugs communicate by touching each other. If their language involves sound, like ours does, they make the sound by rubbing their legs against each other. Bug language would have to be quite simple, I think. They aren't really overloaded with brains, after all. I'm just guessing here, but I'd say that 'kill, kill, kill,' is about as far as the language of bugs would go."

Something suddenly occurred to Rabbit. "Are you up for an experiment of sorts, friend Keselo?" he asked.

"That might depend on just what kind of experiment we're talking about."

"Omago can do all sorts of peculiar things, wouldn't you say?"

"I think I'd take it quite a bit farther than 'peculiar.' What did you have in mind?"

"Why don't you hold out that light ball Omago gave you and squeeze it?"

"Do you want to announce that we're here to about a half-million unfriendly bugs? Are you out of your mind?"

"I don't think they'll see it, Keselo. Omago wouldn't give us something that'd put us in any danger, would he? I'm sure that we'll see the light coming from that glass ball, but I'm just as sure that the bugs won't."

"A light that only we can see?"

"Something like that would be sort of Omago-ish, wouldn't you say?"

Keselo frowned. "That was a rotten thing to do, Rabbit," he complained. "It is a definite possibility, and it's raised my curiosity so much that I almost have to try it."

"You worry too much, Keselo," Rabbit said. "If it works the way I think it will, we'll have a tremendous advantage."

"And if it doesn't work?"

Rabbit shrugged. "We've got a clear path back to that shaft. We can escape if we really have to. Try it. Think of the advantage. We'll have light, but the bugs will still be in the dark."

Keselo took the glass ball out from under his shirt. "Just don't get in my way if we have to make a run for it, Rabbit."

"Don't worry about a thing, friend Keselo," Rabbit said. "I can run at least twice as fast as you can, so I won't get in your way at all."

"I've got to find out if your absurd idea will actually work, Rabbit," Keselo complained. "It shouldn't work that way, but I'll fly apart if I don't try it and find out." He raised the glass ball up over his head, and the growing light coming from Omago's toy grew brighter and brighter as Keselo's hand squeezed it.

"You can let it go now, Light-Bearer Keselo," Rabbit told his friend. "The light's as bright as the noon sun, but the bugs out there don't seem to be able to see it."

"Oh, the poor babies," Keselo said. He began to squeeze and release in rapid succession, and the light went on and off as Keselo's hand told it to.

"Show-off," Rabbit scolded. And then he laughed.

They came across several familiar bug-people as they went farther back into the huge chamber. There were a lot of the snake-bugs that had made things so unpleasant in the ravine above the village of Lattash in one area, and Rabbit was a bit surprised to see several of the glowing fire-bugs mixed in with the snake-bugs. "It looks to me like the fire bugs are almost welcome in the vicinity of nearly every other kind of bug," he said to Keselo.

"You're probably right," Keselo agreed. "Light can be very useful. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the other bugs even feed the ones that glow in the dark."

"The bug-people pay for light, you mean?"

"It's not out of the question, friend Rabbit." Then Keselo stopped and pointed at the ceiling. "Bug-bats," he said.

"It's almost like old times, isn't it?" Rabbit said. "Let's not get them excited. I didn't bring any fish-nets along this time."

As they moved farther back into the chamber, they encountered several more of the familiar varieties of bug-people, and quite a few others they'd never seen before. "What would you say that shaggy one whose hands drag on the floor might be?" Rabbit asked.

"Some sort of ape," Keselo replied.

"I don't think we ever came across any of those, did we?"

"Not that I recall, we didn't. It's probably a variety that didn't turn out very well. The Vlagh experimented all the time, I'd say, and she probably turned out more useless creatures than good ones."

"Junk-bugs?" Rabbit suggested.

"That's probably as good a term as any," Keselo agreed.

Then a kind of roaring sound came from farther back in the chamber. "If that's what I think it is, we're very lucky that we didn't encounter any of them in these various wars. It sounded very much like a lion to me."

"What's a lion?"

"A very, very large cat. I've heard that a full-grown lion weighs about five hundred pounds, and it's got long, sharp teeth and deadly claws. It's a tropical animal, though, so it probably wouldn't have been of much use in the Land of Dhrall—except possibly down in Veltan's Domain."

The roaring continued, but there was also another sound echoing from the walls up ahead.

"It sounds to me like there's a fair amount of 'unfriendly' on up ahead," Rabbit noted.

"That's not at all unlikely," Keselo agreed. "As long as 'Big Mommy' was running things, her children probably tolerated each other, but Omago broke her grip on her puppies, and now her children are all trying their very best to kill each other."

"Something to eat might be involved as well," Rabbit added. "This isn't called 'the Wasteland' just for fun. There's nothing to eat here except rocks—and the neighbors, of course."

"Good point," Keselo agreed. "Let's have a look and see just how savage all of this really is. The nest might be empty much sooner than we all thought it would be."

"What a shame," Rabbit replied with mock regret. And then he laughed.

"I don't think I've ever seen a six-legged cat before," Rabbit said as the two friends moved along the chamber wall toward the violent encounter between several varieties of bug-people.

"The Vlagh probably blundered on that one," Keselo replied. "She's never fully understood why many creatures don't need that many legs, so it seems that six legs show in these imitations quite often."

"She must have paid more attention when she conjured up that one called Alcevan, then," Rabbit said. "She looked like a real woman—a little small, maybe, but she had everything else that a woman's supposed to have."

"I'd say that Alcevan was the best one the Vlagh ever produced. In many ways Alcevan is even better than the Vlagh herself, and when you add that odor, the little imitation priestess came very close to winning the war in temple-town."

David Eddings Books | Science Fiction Books | The Dreamers Series Books
Source: www.StudyNovels.com