Diamond apprieciated Styx's
callousness dealing with Archeron. She
didn't glance back as they left the clearing.
Archeron stared longingly at the mug of water barely six feet off. He
shifted his weight slightly, nearly screaming at the white hot pain that
lanced through his leg and spine. He clamped a hand over the wound,
high on his left upper thigh. The tiger had literally ripped the muscle
from the bone, leaving a maw-sized chunk of flesh missing from his leg.
Beneath the thick coating of dried blood, Archeron knew that there was
exposed bone. He thanked his stars that he had learned to control
various functions of his body with the mere thought of will.
After that fatal attack, he had lain upon the ground, as if dead, and
concentrated hard on forcing his heart to slow, to minimize his blood
loss. He had lost conciousness but the trick had done its job, and he
managed to crawl, painfully, back to the main camp to warn his sister.
And THIS was how she rewarded him!!
He laid on his side, determined to reach the water. He would even
squirm across the ground, like a worm, anything.. anything to quench the
burning thirst. As he wormed, inch by painful inch, with each move
threatening to open his wound and start it bleeding again, he could feel
the cold chill of eyes upon him. They were not human eyes, no.. they
were the burning red eyes of the wraiths, forming one by one out of the
He could just barely reach out and brush the handle of the mug with his
fingertips when he heard the tell-tale rasp of scales on scales. He
raised his head, and froze as his green eyes connected jaundice-yellow
"You are not to sssssurvive."
Archeron could not scream as a fanged mouth sunk into his neck.
* * * * *
Ryo figured he was ready for
anything. With his closest friends around
him, he felt nearly invincible, like the old days had come back. He
smiled at the thought of the five of them, eager young boys, rushing
headlong into battle, but, he glanced behind him to see the hulking
forms of the three Overlords, outfitted, like all of them were, in the
full splendor of their yori. These weren't the old days, he told
himself, they'd never be the same.
He wondered if it was age that made them wiser, or the knowledge that
Styx was out there. Perhaps the presence of the three women, Kayura,
Thunderstorm, and Moonshadow, that forced the second consideration of
the strategy. He figured it was more likely the latter. No matter how
imposing the shaman and her Conduit seemed, they were still young women
with all the frailities of the human race.
They neared the area in the path where Archeron and Ryo had fought and
Ryo slowed the group with a raised hand. The ice mephit had melted away
into a puddle of icy blue liquid, its ability to feel the pain that made
its existance taken from it by the savage jaws of Whiteblaze. Ryo
paused over a rust colored stain on the path dirt, before scuffing a
consealing layer over it. His blue eyes glittered with open disgust.
Whiteblaze sniffed at the puddle, then at the area at Ryo's feet, and
turned back to the path.
Wildfire motioned for silence, and got understanding nods from each of
his party. He pointed at Kayura, Sage and Cale, and motioned to the
forest to the left of the path, indicating that they should check out
the area over there. Sekhmet, Cye and Kento were to take the right
side, while himself, and the others would go straight through.
Sage nodded gravely and led his two comrades off into the forest. Cye
clapped Ryo's shoulder tightly and smiled, before following Kento and
Sekhmet into the forest. Ryo exchanged a long look with Rowen, and
turned, surprised to see Thunderstorm and Moonshadow leading the way.
Dais shrugged at the two Ronins questioning looks. He had no clue what
to make of it.
As Ryo emerged into the cleared, weapons drawn and prepared for a
fight, he blinked at the emptiness. Only hours ago this had been a
camp, now the only indication of that was the ring of stones that marked
the fire pit. Moonshadow had split off from the others, reconnoitering
the farther corners of the camp. Her shocked cry brought the four
Lying face-down, in a pool of his own blood, was the corpse of the one
known as Archeron. One outstreched hand lay near a spilled mug of
water, the other pinned under his body. Moonshadow ventured forth,
backed by the alert warriors and the shaman. She rolled the carcass
over with the toe of her boot and turned away from the sight.
The rigid face was set in an expression of terror and fear. The green
eyes wide, white showing all around. His neck was dotted with puncture
wounds, fitted like a large set of teeth with four vicious fangs had
sunk in. Ryo and Rowen exchanged looks. Was the culprit still out
* * * * *
Sage felt eyes on him. He
paused for the forth time on his way around
the clearing. Kayura barely stopped in time to avoid running into him.
Cale, his eyes on the forest, bumped into Kayura and pushed her forward
into Sage. The Ronin Warrior of Wisdom nearly shouted in anger, but
somehow managed to keep his calm. His china blue eyes scanned the
forest, dappled with greens and grays in the filtered light.
He felt many eyes upon him, dark eyes, evil that sent his skin
crawling. One glance at Kayura told him she felt the same thing. She
shook her head silently, her deep eyes flickering about in and out of
the shadows. She tried not to let her imagination take over and conjure
up a myriad of monsters that could be waiting there. Her eyes focused
on Cale, but his attention was turned to a patch of inky blackness that
was too complete to be mere shadows.
* * * * *
Sekhmet heard it again. The
unmistakable rasp of scales. He gave no
outward indication of the sound, except to glance around, wondering if
it was just his imagination. The sound came again, not far from
Sekhmet's left, accompanied this time, by the infalliable sound of a
Sekhmet dove, crashing headlong into Cye and bearing him to the ground,
as a thick glob of viscous liquid flew overhead. The glob hit a tree
and sizzled as it ate away at the bark. Kento spun to help them up, not
taking his eyes off the trees to the left. Sekhmet was on his feet and
shouting a challenge.
"Come out and face me, man to man!!"
The smooth sound of scales against fallen leaves answered his
challenge. Then a sibilant voice cut in over the sound.
"Man to man?" Rasping laughter. "I think not." It slipped from
between two trees. "More like man to sssssnake."
* * * * *
"Mia?" Artemis knocked
gently on her door. The clock read nearly
Sounds of activity within brought Artemis to a halt. She waited
patiently as the rustlings came closer to the door. When it swung
inward, it was not Mia that greeted Artemis, but Anubis. His
transparent form showed Mia clearly, still curled up in bed with the
covers about her ears.
Anubis smiled slightly at Artemis' consealed surprise. "Mia's
exhausted, she needs her sleep."
Artemis nodded. "I understand. According to Cale, she was up nearly
all night." Her eyes flickered from Mia's sleeping figure to Anubis'
sparkling eyes. "I am glad you answered the door, though. We need to
It was Anubis' turn to conseal his surprise under a clever mask of
"Downstairs, so we don't wake Mia." She noted his hesitation and
sighed. "Liza is away working, and the warriors are at battle."
Anubis narrowed his eyes and followed her down to the living room.
"Aye." Artemis smiled slightly. "The Jewel of Transcendance is also
within our grasp."
Anubis grabbed Artemis' shoulders. "When shall we have it?"
"Hopefully when the Ronins return," Artemis said, ducking from beneath
his grip, so solid and true. "It is within the possession of Styx, from
what I can tell. And cantripped by Diamond, the last surviving
Confusion passed over the ghost's features like a cloud. "Cantripped?"
"Ensorcelled, turned to the darkness of its powers." Artemis dipped
her head. "Though I doubt the shaman will be able to remove such a
"Shaman?" Anubis was becoming thoroughly confused now, lost without
knowing recent developments.
Artemis sat him down to explain everything. When she was finished,
darkness had settled over Anubis' fair features, his barely consealed
"Who will be able to remove this cantrip?" he asked after a few
moments of seething.
Artemis shrugged. "I may be able to.. but the only person I know that
could fully disspell one was Sibyl."
Anubis met her eyes with a steel hard glance. "Then we will just have
to find Sibyl."
He grabbed her hand in an iron grip and hauled her upstairs, towards
the Jewel of Life.