Styx tripped over the remains of a gladiator, ill-fit armor clanking and clunking as she hurried to right herself. She stopped on the other side of the corpse and indicated to her siblings that it was there. Archeron jumped nimbly over it; followed slowly by Cocytus. The two boys helped their younger sister and brother over the obstacle.
"I know it's here somewhere," Styx mumbled. For days the five had been exploring the tunnels under Talpa's ancient castle, searching for the Soul Box. "It's gotta be here somewhere."
"It'll be here," Archeron said to his sister.
Lethe was bending over to examine the dead gladiators face. "Hey!" she exclaimed absently. "It's Charon. Wonder what he's doin' here?"
"Prob'ly the same thin' we are," Cocytus replied morbidly. "We'll end up like him if'n we don't eat soon."
"Cocytus, Lethe, stop it." Archeron snapped. "C'mon sis," he said to Styx.
"It can't be far now."
Styx sighed in reply, and continued on into the darkness. Lethe absently picked up a small dagger laying beside Charon's dead chest, and wiped away the dried blood on the blade.
Diamond pulled open the trap door to the Underrealm tunnels, grunting with the unaccustomed exertion. For once, she found herself wishing Draco were here to do such mundane and manual labor, but this was her conquest, not his. The castle was eerily silent all around her.
"Just a little black magic," she murmured to herself, descending into the tunnels.
Styx rounded a corner and was nearly blinded by a sudden bright light, flaring and pulsing. Staggering back, her two brothers avoided her as she warded off the beating light, now white, now blue, repeated. Giving herself a moment to adjust to the sudden light, Styx ordered her siblings to keep watch on the tunnel. She wasn't afraid of being followed, to her knowledge they were the only living things left in the Netherrealm.
Slipping back around the corner, she made her way to the pulsing source of light. Laying in a small, ornately carved box, it was to be. The Soul of the Ancients, the Jewel of Transcendance, the Stone of Eternity... it had so many names. Styx reached in to retrieve it slowly, hands trembling. The thought of immortality beconed her grasp, honey to a bee. The Jewel was rumored to have the ability to transcend mortal barriers; it was the way Draygoh had gained his shadow-form. The price for power was a small one, but she would not be so stupid, keeping a seer around to bring her destruction. Her fingers were about to close on the Jewel, when-
"I don't suggest you touch that."
Styx looked up to the cold voice, standing in a darkened niche behind the Soul Box. Cold, callous, milky white eyes stared back at her from beneath a fall of silver-gold hair. Styx, involuntarily, backed off. The sorceress detached herself from the niche and took her spot before the Soul Box. In her hands was a small creature, perhaps no larger than a baseball was thick. The thing was shaped like a cresent moon, with six long spindly legs protruding its body.
The sorceress held the creature above the yang-shaped Jewel, pulsing blue and white, and began to utter the spidery words of magic. The pulsing slowed dramatically, the blue tone taking on a sickly shade, the white dulling to yellow. She dropped the creature, which wrapped it's legs around the Jewel, altered it's coloring to blend into the striations, and became nearly invisible against the sickly blue tone.
"Now, you may take it." the sorceress stated, stepping away.
Styx ran foward and snatched the Stone, draping it over her neck before the sorceress could do anything.
"It's mine... you cannot have it!" Styx hissed.
"I don't want it." the sorceress returned. "I do have a proposition for you..... Empress."
Liza stretched long and lazily. The beach sun on her stomach felt good; the sounds of the surf against the shore was soothing, even if heard under the laughter and splashing of her friends in the water. The knowledge that she had true friends was comforting, in its own special way.
Sekhmet, down in the ocean, shook his head, flipping soaked locks of green from his face. There was Liza, looking all content lying on the communal beach blanket, looking all cozy and dry in her violet bikini. Another wave broke against his back, carrying with it a surf board. Attached to the surf board was Cye, paddling along to catch it.
"Current here's wicked!" Cye laughed. "Us surfers get stuck up there!" He waved to another area of the beach, where Kento could be seen waiting impatiently. "Gotta go!" He paddled away, laughing.
"WATER FOOTBALL!!" Sage shouted suddenly, leaping at Rowen and bearing him under the waves.
Rowen popped to the surface sputtering, seconds after Sage surfaced. "I didn't even have a ball!!"
"So?" Sage asked.
"Then it's more like Water Wrestling!!" Rowen dove under and pulled Sage down.
"Gonna join in, Sekhmet?" Ryo called as Sekhmet began to make his way in to the beach. He, Dais, Cale, and the other girls were playing a game of frisbee.
Sekhmet shook his head, eyes locked on Liza, lying peacefully not far away.
He snuck up on her, dripping cold seawater from his entire body. He waited patiently until a cold drop fell on her exposed stomach. Liza jerked into a seated postion suddenly, eyes wide with shock. Looking up she began to scold him.
"Sekhmet! You nearly gave me a heart attack!! You're wet and cold and-" She stopped with a cry.
Sekhmet scooped her up into his arms, and started to make his way back to the water.
"And you need to get wet, Liza." Sekhmet stated, wading in.
When he was waist-deep, he dropped her. She landed in the water with a cry.
"Why you..." She growled, laughing, as she stood.
She was drenched, hair hanging in dripping tendrils in her eyes and against her neck. A wave crashed into her back, but she paid it no heed.
"I'm gonna get you, Sekhmet... I'm gonna get you good.." Liza muttered, she lunged for him.
Sekhmet dove beneath her, into an on-coming wave; Liza once again, landed in the water...
"You.. you.. you, jerk!" Liza huffed.
Sekhmet couldn't help but laugh. "I love you too, dear," he smiled.
Sage and Rowen paused in thier water-sport to look at Sekhmet and Liza. A mischevious grin crossed Sage's face, as he whispered into Rowen's ear.
Rowen's eyes widened, and he smiled.
"Let's.." he said.
Sage jumped for Sekhmet, shouting: "PILE ON THE SNAKE!!"
Up on the beach, Kayura paused with the frisbee in her hands, shaking her head. Moonshadow smiled to Thunderstorm.
"Is that a temptation or what?" the singer asked.
Thunderstorm nodded. "Excuse us for a moment," she said, as she ran past Dais. Moonshadow caught up with her easily, shouting: "PILE ON THE MEN!!"
She tackled Sage and tore him off of Sekhmet in her initial jump. The two rolled through the water and disappeared under the surf. Thunderstorm grabbed Liza and pulled her into the fray. Within the next few minutes, Cye and Kento rushed over to help out thier testosterone-laden friends.
Artemis stood beside Kayura and Mia on the beach, watching as all of the Ronins ran into the water. She saw the entire mass of thrashing, splashing bodies; she saw them gang up on the women in the water. She was aware of Sage and Shadow when they surfaced some distance down the beach and walked off together. But she was most aware of the sudden chill in the air. She glanced to Kayura; only to find the monk looking right at her.
"You feel it too?" Kayura asked.
"Feel what?" Mia asked.
"It's not good..." Artemis breathed.
"Wow!!" Phlegethon gasped, staring at himself in the polished silver mirror.
The small boy's body had been replaced by the massive, corded-muscle body of a twenty-year old. The round, childlike face was now the square-jawed, angular face of a man. He looked to his siblings.
Each one was in a similar state, aged into their twenties in body. Styx was frightening, an exact carbon-copy of Callisto. She even carried the gladiator's argite bastardsword. ARound her neck, the Jewel of Transcendance pulsed a sickly blue.
"The Ronins will DIE."