L'das concentrated, mouthing
the spider words of magick. It could feel
the poison sluggishly pumping through its veins and arteries. But its
spell, spoken so slowly and lethargically, would stop the venom's
course, magickly purge it from the naga's system. Once it felt the fire
of poison subside, it coiled itself up, and began to utter the thin
words of magick that would heal it.
* * * * *
Cale's agitation increased
as the day wore on. Whiteblaze followed the
trail of subtle scents that were scattered around from the passage of
the Children of Hell. But the night was fast approaching, and Cale was
now sure that the shadows were alive.
He walked with his Sword of Darkness unsheathed, his green-gray eyes
flowing from one shadow to another. There.. again.. the red eyes. More
often they appeared with the slow, inexorable setting of the sun. He
continued to move along, wondering, after reflecting on the beholder
that had attacked, what other sickening monsters would appear.
Well, the Overlord of Corruption had gotten one of his answers when
Sekhmet and the two Ronins had returned. A dark naga. Sekhmet felt
confident that he had killed it, and still Cale couldn't help but worry.
* * * * *
It was black. Not just the
black of a summer's night. But BLACK. The
complete lightless darkness of death. Artemis clung tightly to Anubis'
arm, afraid, that, if she released him, she would be sucked away into
the darkness. Anubis smiled at her, reassuring in his silent way, that
no harm would come to her with him.
The further he drew her into the folds of darkness, the less dark it
became. Artemis was shocked at this development, and risked a glance
about. A silvery white form galloped by her as she raised her eyes.
She froze, and blinked several times.
"Was that a...?" She left the question unfinished.
Anubis nodded. He too, had seen the pearly white horn spiraling from
the center of the horses forehead. "A unicorn. Yes." He looked
around. "This area is where many of the extinct animal spirits are
Artemis looked around again. This time a skin-winged lizard flew by.
Artemis was astounded. She had just seen a dinosaur. Anubis was
smiling all the while.
"I will miss this place," he murmured, watching a flightless dodo run
across his path.
Artemis turned her awed eyes to the ghost, and finally asked the
question that had been gnawing at her.
"Why do you wish to live again?"
Anubis glanced down at her, drawing her from the area of the animal
spirits into a brighter area. Here things were beginning to take a
definite shape. There was a solid ground, visible, and it stretched off
into the distance.
"I have existed eight years within this crystal," Anubis began.
"Granted, it is beautiful and amazing, but I lived for centuries in the
Artemis nodded understanding; nothing could have compared to the
ethereal beauty of that place.
"I have direct access to the spiritual world," Anubis continued. "And
to the material world from here." He sighed. "I can feel, see and
hear.. but..." He trailed off.
Artemis never took her eyes from his face, reading the longing and pain
etched in his noble features. She finished his thought for him.
"You long to be able to smell the delicate fragrance of the cherry
blossoms, to taste..." She dropped her sentence.
Anubis glanced down at her. "You could put it that way." he said with
a little laugh. "This way." He tugged on her arm, turning her from the
straight path to a long curving way that meandered by a grove of pines.
"We must be silent, that is the Ancient's Grove. They are most likely
The woman thought this a convenient avoidance of her question. There
was more to his answer, and his very actions revealed that. She grew
silent and watched the grove as they neared it. The soothing sounds of
chanting reached her ears, a plethora of voices raised in unison but
sounding like a single, melodic voice. Artemis recognized the prayer
from her youth and smiled, wondering what type of being they were
calling to the spirit world. Sibyl had taught her the song when she had
first been indentured to the seer.
Anubis forced Artemis to pass by the grove without pause. When he felt
that they were a comfortable distance from the grove, he slowed his pace
and looked back down at the woman.
"They were calling something.. someone to die." she stated simply.
"But it didn't seem that the spirit was responding."
Anubis shrugged. "Some are too stubborn to die."
Artemis shivered, thinking the worst of the incident. "I just wish to
find Sibyl.. if you can truly deliver."
Anubis just smiled at her. "We have a little further to travel before
we reach the realm of the spirit guides."
The woman wanted to ask, "spirit guides" but didn't press the subject.
She had been taught of the levels of Ascension. Artemis herself stood
on the lowest rung of the levels, the level of the Adept. While she
could not command the energies demanded to cast spells, she had learned
of the magickal properties of some common herbs. Above the Adepts were
the humans gifted with the ability to channel raw magickal energy, the
Conduits.. Moonshadow. Then there were the ones who could shape and
control the magickal energies, sorcerers, wizards, mages, shamans, these
had many names. In all reality, it was possible to start on any of the
three lower levels, but to work to the three upper levels, tests had to
be taken and passed. Tests of the mind and body, tests of resolve.
Sibyl had passed from sorceress to seer with the sacrifice of her
eyesight, and apparently, passed from seer to spirit guide with the
sacrifice of her life. Artemis suddenly realized that her best friend
was so close to achieving true god-dom. If she passed a final test, she
would be a deity, a totem, giving magick to those on the levels beneath
Artemis' mind boggled at the ideas.
"We're here." Anubis' voice brought her from her thoughts like ice
water brought a sleeper awake.
Once again, Artemis found herself immersed in darkness. But this was a
warm friendly darkness, beneficial and like velvet. Within the dark,
she could see, as clearly as if it were day, a multitude of figures
milling about. Clad in various styles of clothing and a varying ages,
the figures paid no attention to neither man nor woman as they strolled
slowly through. Artemis felt a hand close around her other arm.
"New here?" a thick voice asked.
Artemis turned to look a man in his early twenties in the eyes. He was
plainly American, with thick brown hair and sparkling amber eyes.
"I'm Coyote.." the man continued. "Totem spirit to the world.." He
released her arm to spin around in a circle.
Anubis chuckled. "Coyote, we are looking for a specific person."
The amber eyes glittered and shifted from Artemis' face to Anubis'.
"Oh, really?" His voice changed pitch dramatically, rising high into
the register. Artemis stared as his form began to change, thinning out
at the waist and filling in around the chest. He became a woman!!
Coyote, a she now, shifted sides, taking Anubis' free arm. "Who?"
Anubis ignored the sudden change in gender. "Her name is Sibyl."
Coyote frowned, unbecoming on her? rather pretty face. Motioning,
absently in an ambiguous direction, she sighed. "That one.. is over
there.. somewhere around with Grandfather Wolf."
Coyote flounced off, shifting as she walked away, into a canine
creature where he/she had taken his/her name. Artemis couldn't stop
herself from staring. Anubis began to maneuver her through the milling
forms, many of which shifted into animals, everything from a lion to a
shark that swam away through the darkness, and avoided them. Artemis
began to sort out the differences between the two levels here. The
shape-shifters were obviously the deities, many of them Totems, the
others, the more stable ones, were the spirit guides. Anubis made a
discreet inquiry to the location of Grandfather Wolf.
Thunderstorm's totem spirit.
A scruffy straw-haired man greeted them as they neared the indicated
area. He laughed and grinning, a decidedly lupine expression.
"You didn't just call.. you came in person!!" he took Artemis away
from the ghost with a strong hug, and a kiss on the cheek. "Ahh.. I
feel as though I know you.. from how fondly the Visionwalker has spoken
"Please, Grandfather Wolf, release Artemis so that we may speak."
Sibyl's gentle voice was like heaven, sending Artemis into sudden tears.
Sibyl allowed Artemis to cry on her shoulder, gently embracing her and
murmuring soothing words. The two were together again!