Night was a sweet respite for
Cale. It always had been, since he was
just a little child. A time when worries could be forgotten and lives
lived to their fullest. But he could feel something strange with this
night. He had taken lead of the group, guiding them along the path with
his unerring night vision, aided by Whiteblaze's unerring sense of
smell. The shadows moved as they did, following them through the
Cale could hear the Ronins behind him, each with a hand on the one in
front of him. He had even talked the women into the action, keeping in
contact with the one before them at all times. The night was too dark.
No stars afforded them with light from above, even Halo's armor remained
dark. Something was not right.
Cale called a halt as Whiteblaze lowered his form to the ground,
growling deeply. Kayura's hand tightened on his arm and he reached over
with his other hand to pat hers in reassurance.
A slight noise alerted him to danger to his left. He threw himself
down, taking Kayura with him, and felt the distrubed air of a close miss
waft across his face.
Kayura gave a surprised yelp, and the Ronins instantly brought weapons
to bear. Eyes searched the darkness, looking for the direction that the
next attack would come from. Cale gathered his wits in time to see a
dark shape hurtle itself at Thunderstorm. He shouted wordlessly,
causing her to spin. Even from his distance, he could see her eyes
glowed with a radiance that illuminated the area around her.
Thunderstorm saw the dark cloud-like shape decending rapidly and
struggled to recall a spell. Moonshadow was faster, her eyes too,
glowing. She wrested one of Ryo's blades from his hand and moved
infront of the shaman, bracing herself for impact.
The wraith impaled itself, red eyes flashing wide, clawed hands
reaching for the Conduit. Moonshadow pulled suddenly to the left,
ripping a peice of the wraith out, causing it to dissolve to
nothingness. Thunderstorm nodded a silent thanks to her friend, as
Shadow returned the sword with a smile.
Ryo glanced from one to another, their features lit by the unearthly
light of their eyes. Storm cast a glance around, the light of her eyes
like a spotlight. Rolling clouds surrounded them on all sides, each
forming slowly into another of the wraiths. Storm recognized them from
tales she had been told.
"Don't let them touch bare flesh!" she warned the others. "Their grip
is freezing, life-draining."
Sage gnashed his teeth, edging in front of Moonshadow. The Ronins
formed a circle, the three women at the center, each warrior facing out,
weapons ready. The seven wraiths attacked simultaneously, aiming for
what seemed to be the weakest links in the circle.
One wraith sizzled into nothing as Rowen's Arrow of Life streaked
through its center. Another struggled as Cye's military fork closed
around it. Cale felt his Sword of Darkness bite deeply into the
substance that created those things. Thunderstorm chanted briefly,
forming a glowing ball between her hands. With a tremendous heave she
threw it high into the air.
"Cover your eyes!" Shadow shouted, ducking her head, without checking
to see that the others did.
Storm called out a single powerful word. The globe exploded into
searing blinding light. Inhuman cries rose from the remaining wraiths,
forcing them back to the realm of darkness with the pristine pure light.
The light faded away, leaving the night silent. Cale uncovered his eyes
and looked around. Everyone was slowly looking around, wondering what
Thunderstorm leaned heavily on Shadow's shoulder.
"You shouldn't have drawn that much alone," Shadow said in a low voice.
"That's a definate beacon to that sorceress."
Diamond froze, looking around.
Behind them, her sharp magick-enhanced
eyes picked up the light from Thunderstorm's globe, and also the wave of
energy that flew by. Her eyes narrowed as the remaining Children of
Hell gathered around her.
"Cocytus," Diamond began. "I want you to go back and check out just
what that was..."
"No." Styx said, as her brother began to obey the sorceress. The
Jewel glowed sickly under her face, casting an eerie glow around. "You
will stay here, Cocytus." Styx turned to the shadows surrounding them.
"L'das.. come out."
The dark naga slithered from the trees, blinking slowly at her. "You
Styx grinned triumphantly at Diamond, who remained silent glaring at
the young tramp that had usurped the power that Diamond had thought she
had secured. L'das drew himself up until he could look directly into
the empress' cold blue eyes.
"Go back to keep an eye on those wanna-be heroes." Styx ordered,
motioning back down the path. "I want to know exactly what they are
L'das ducked his purple-black head in agreement, and slithered off into
the forest again.
Diamond shook her head, pushing the blonde hair behind her ears.
"Styx, he will attack them, you know this."
"He failed the first time.. and I will not stand for failure." the
"C'mon sis, I wanna get that orange guy..." Phlegethon whined.
Lethe smacked her brother's arm. "Stop whinin'.. it ain't gunna get us
Cocytus began to correct her, but stopped upon the glare that Diamond
passed him. Diamond scowled, her once beautiful face creased by the
wrinkles of old age. She glared around at the four remaining Children,
to whom she had given so much of her youth. Her silence grew and even
Styx shifted nervously.
L'das paused and regarded the
Ronins and their companions quickly.
They had stopped for a bit, allowing the shaman to recover. He silently
avoided the double watch posted, coiling himself within the crook of a
large tree. His huge golden eyes peered out from the foliage,
determined to follow his orders explicitly this time. No attacking, he
vowed, not until he was ordered to do so. Not without some measure of
Diamond traced a large circle
into the dirt and pine needles on the
ground, connecting the four tangible elements with solid lines and a
ghostly lines to connect all of them to the spiritual element. Styx
watched her with a sullen silence. The would-be Empress' hand was
curled around the Jewel at her neck, as it pulsed a dull blue.
The sorceress raised her milky eyes to the magickally aged girl. "You
cannot summon these creatures.. only a truely trained sorcerer can."
Diamond sneered as Styx turned away.
"Cocytus, come with me.. we're going to mark the path ahead." Styx
Cocytus' green eyes narrowed, but he followed his elder sister.
Diamond watched them leave, and shifted her gaze to the last two
Children. Phlegethon and Lethe took up posts at either end of the path,
keeping eyes out, and attempting to ignore the sounds of spell casting.
Diamond stood in the center of her pentagram, closing her eyes and
focusing on gathering her energy. She could feel the presence of her
own Conduit, Draco, locked away in a cold prison cell somewhere in
Toyama. She shrugged off the idea of trying to draw energy from him
when he was so far away.. it would surely disperse before she could
gather it from him. She had to rely upon herself and pray that her body
would keep together with the influx of power.
Facing each of the cardinal directions in turn, she turned in a full
circle and raised her hands to the sky, her voice forming the spidery
words of magick, her body beginning to glow as she pulled the power from
the air around her, drawing magick from the earth, the air, the
moisture, and the heat.
"Give to me the bones of your dead," Diamond intoned, lowering her
hands to become parallel to the ground. "Your humans, your animals, the
monsters of the ancient dead."
The ground bubbled like ooze, the noxious air bubbles rising to the
surface and bursting with sickening spluckes. Left behind, after each
bubble, were piles of bones, some pristine white, other yellowed and
decaying with age. Diamond uttered another incantation, sending bolts
of fiery white energy to each of the piles. With a great amount of
rattling and clunking, the bones lifted themselves from the ground and
reformed into various skeletons, ranging in species from humans to the
tiniest mouse. They milled about in a disorganized mass.
Diamond snapped her fingers. "Line up!"
The skeletons shuffled into order, forming a ragged line. The human
skeletons held in their hands large boneblades. The animal skeletons
bore vicious teeth and sharp claws. Diamond smiled in pride.
"Guard this path." she directed, motioning to the area around them.
"Let NOTHING pass."
When she was sure that the skeletons understood, she motioned to Lethe
and Phlegethon and walked off, down the path, in the direction that Styx
and Cocytus had taken.