Just a Little Black Magic
Chapter 20: Trifid Variable
by: Jess


"Allright... we've checked out the layout," Thunderstorm reported,
looking even more wolfish in feature after the excursion out-of-form.
"The best course of action would be to split up." Moonshadow continued
after her. For all the lupineness of Thunderstorm, Shadow balanced out
with appearing more human. "Three groups. A frontal attack, and two
flanks." She cast a meaningful look at Storm, who drew slightly away
from the semi-circle that had gathered. Storm went on to explain and
diagram out the plan of action.
Storm touched Artemis's shoulder and wordlessly drew her away from the
group. "We'll need the aid of your friend," she said softly, allowing
the distance and Moonshadow's strong voice to keep her words from the
ears of the other men.
"Who? All of them are-" Artemis started to motion backwards, towards
the semicircle. Thunderstorm rustled a few of her fetishes as she
shifted her arms to cross over the wolf-skin mantle. "Oh.. _that_
friend." Artemis tried to smile sheepishly, reading the shaman's
expression easily. "What do you want him to do?"
"Flush out the game."
"I'll talk to him." Artemis turned to venture into the forest.
"Don't go too far."

"Is everybody with their group?" Shadow asked as both Storm and Artemis
returned. "Artie, girl, you stick with Ryo." Shadow flashed a warm
Storm moved to stand with Dais, Rowen and Sekhmet.
"All right.. lets go stop these baddies!" Moonshadow let out a soft
Sage shook his head slightly at her phrasing, and followed the Conduit
through the forest. Behind him, hand in hand, came Cale and Kayura,
conversing quietly between themselves.
Thunderstorm let herself laugh at the blonde, but that levity didn't
last very long, she turned to the men. "Do not let anything you see
during this battle distract you." she warned. "This is a high level
sorceress.. capable to doing great destruction with a word." She began
to head out, passing between them. She paused, between Dais and
Sekhmet, with a light hand on the former's arm. "And remember," -she
looked up into Dais' eye- "Be careful."
Dais felt a grin creep over his lips. "Always. You too."


Anubis felt strange venturing forward without Artemis or Sibyl by his
side. His ghost form slid easily through obstacles and he was utterly
invisible to all human sight. But appearently not from shaman-sight.
He wanted to chuckle at that thought, remembering Artemis' face as she
told him how those two learned. But he couldn't, and didn't, for fear
of giving away his postion, now at the rear of the cave, to the
Phlegethon was on watch, hovering around the perimeter of the entrance,
moving soflty on his huge feet and always, always watching outside.. but
never inside. Anubis could see the other youngsters, Cocytus and Lethe
sitting by a large fire, whilst Diamond and Styx bickered over something
in the corner.
"We need protecters," Anubis heard Styx say quietly. "Guardians
outside the cave.. to keep potential spies away!"
"We need no such thing," Diamond replied. "You are jumping to too many
conclusions. Remember who is the elder here!"
Styx didn't stop, her sixteen year old temper gaining control.
"They're out there! If you don't wanna bring anything out than I
As she turned, Anubis saw it. The Jewel of Transcedance. His ticket
to a new life! It appeared so dull, so lifeless against the girl's
chest, but he needed it. There was no way that anyone would stop him


Moonshadow watched as Styx and Diamond exited the cave slowly. That's
not the right picture, she thought, they should be running for their
lives! Her concern was answered in a way, as Styx turned her back to
the sorceress and began to chant quietly.
"Oh, shit.." Shadow swore quietly, slipping back down the boulder
stand, remaining unseen.
"What?" Sage asked softly, reaching out to touch her arm.
"Summoning. At least, I think."


Thunderstorm felt her Conduits agitation and peered quickly from the
trees. "Styx's up to something." she murmured quietly, to the gathered
men behind her.
"Define "something"?" Dais's voice sounded close to her ear.
Storm never took her eyes from the two blondes on the hill. "Not
good." She began to draw backwards, and Dais moved easily away from
her. The shaman looked over the other two warriors, poised by the brush
and ready to run out at the signal. "Definately not good."


Ryo drew back from the trees and retreated slightly to the safe point.
"She's got that Jewel and she's workin' it." he said.
Artemis closed her eyes slightly, reaching out to Sibyl and questioning
soflty. As she opened her eyes, the others knew that there was
something more sinister about this upcoming battle.


The sound was a double bark. Not just a normal dog's yip at an
intruder. But the penetrating sound of hounds on the hunt. And not
just a single dog.. but.. from the sounds that Styx could hear over her
own voice, there were thousands of them. And something else too. A
gutteral sound like stones against stones in the background, as an
undertone. She opened her eyes slightly, peering out under her
white-blonde lashes.
She froze.
Standing before her were massive beasts, nearly six feet long from
nose... tips to tail tip. They barked like dogs, they smelled like
dogs, they stared at her with the intelligent eyes of dogs. But they
didn't quite resemble the traditional dog phenotype. Thick shaggy fur
hung from every inch of the beasts skin. The jowls were thick and
hanging.. on both heads. The dogs were double headed, both sets of
rheumy intelligent eyes focusing on a different part of Styx's anatomy.
From each pair of heads, large funnel-shaped ears were pricked her way,
as if the beast's were awaiting orders.
<Death dogs,> some rational part of her mind told her. <Those beasts
are true, flesh-and-blood death dogs!>
As her eyes roved over the diversity of size and shapes of the death
dogs, she took a mental tally of the sheer size of the pack. <There
must be forty of these things here... Forty answered my call.. > Styx
sighed in contentment. She not only had her protection racket, but
extras to use for seek-and-destroy.
Diamond touched the transfixed girl-womans' shoulder, directing her
attention to the floor of the cave and the boulders surrounding it.
Styx then learned where the stoney undertone developed from.
There was a score of them, long tails, or huge bat wings wrapped around
their variously shaped bodies as she looked. The beasts settled into
menacing positions, appearing about to strike or drawn back and waiting.
The skin of these twenty beasts blended perfectly with the boulders and
the rocks strewn about the mountain side.
Diamond began to laugh softly. This child had done what other more
powerful sorcerers had only dreamed of... summoned gargoyles.


Artemis shifted quietly. "Get ready," she whispered. "It's coming.."


The ceiling of the cave began to rumble and shake. The gargoyles
perched around it took wing, powerful crakling downstrokes of their
stony wings lifting them slowly into the air. Away from the source of
the rumbling.
Diamond peered into the cave at the movements of the gargoyles to
flight, and upon seeing the middle Children, Cocytus and Lethe, staring
at the cracks developing through the roof, she gasped.
"Children!! Get out here!"
Lethe looked over at the sound of the sorceresses voice, then back up
at the ceiling, she grabbed her mace and jumped to her feet. Kicking
her older brother in passing, she ran out to the sorceress.
Cocytus got to his feet more slowly, keeping one wary green eye on the
ceiling as he backed slowly out of there.
"There's something inside.." he murmured.
Diamond opened her mouth to speak.. when the ceiling collapsed.
With the sounds of crackling energies, and steel against steel, the
forest and escarpment erupted!