The streets were milling tonight, a pleasant sight to hold when no one bothered to look in your direction.. and if they did, the expression was curious and silent, and a smile paid sent them along their way. Pools of milky lamplight mingled at the edges with the evening shadows, while the sweet scents of good things baking wafted out onto the streets..
..she loved walking past the little markets, though her taste for food and drink wasn't what it used to be. And yet she could still enjoy those things.. was she that weak of a vampire..?
Ah, better not to dwell on such things during such a state of mind. Hopefully this melancholy mood would pass sometime in the near future, for it really wasn't enjoyable. C'est la vie, she thought, but with less enthusiasm then the Devil on Christmas.
Soon she'd come upon the camp, pulsating with life, and that old increase of heartbeat jumped her memory back into this. The dancing, wildness, drinking, heated all by the warmth of the bonfires.. those monstrosities, leaping and rising and dancing just as the gypsies did, high into the night.. never-ending, a ceaseless tango with the midnight shadows..
Jaysa's hands had clenched, the images from so long ago moving within her eyes.. the most expressive feature, she'd been told.. would they see it, as they walked by? Would she care..? No.. most certainly not.. her soul careened, emotions almost tidaling the girl to her knees.
Tears filled her eyes, the deep crimson blinding for the first few moments.. before it streaked passed her cheeks, and the girl steadied herself. What kind a vampire was she? Pathetic, more or less it would seem..
But her hope remained that Rianna's camp would be reminiscent of the ones she adored getting lost within.. that detachment from everything, she needed it now..
A stagger brought her towards the gate, until she was able on her own to stand and stalk the rest of the distance, eyes clearing with a rather abyssal darkness. Uncharacteristic, yes, but something had taken hold of Jaysa in the past week.. n' even she was unaware that it could be dangerous.
Apparently the few gypsies standing guard at that gate saw what it resembled, and made no motion to deter her.. Immediately the heat from the fires pressed against the thin, bare arms, and eventually, her eyes found their way up. Few stared at her, it was obvious she didn't belong.. but those poor and unfortunate souls were ignored." Rianna?"
Twirling her way around the campfire....to the music of her clan, Rianna could put the problems facing Stormpoint and her people behind her for a few minutes...Myst dancer diving and swirling around her head..adding another layer to her dance...
Then she felt another note..one of sadness...Jaysa....She quickly left the fires and headed for the gate...she could feel the unhappiness radiating from her friend as she approached...
"Jaysa...what on earth is wrong dear?? She took her friend in her arms and gently led her to a nearby bench.....
The smile.. well, it was eerie enough, something lacking behind it, though nonetheless the expression was sincere to her seemingly long lost friend. How easy it was to lose touch in a such a bustling city..
"Rianna! Looking as ravishing as ever.." and punctuated with a light laugh as Jaysa noticed the raven tresses of the girl in the most beautiful of casual dissaray. Must've been dancing.. dancing..
Really only something a gyspy can do with their entire soul. She loved it..
Soon she felt her friend's arms around her--hm.. her friend.. Jaysa realized Rianna really was her best friend at the moment, Alea having disappeared, and the mysterious Aidan vanishing off as well.. her aunt and uncle she hadn't seen (perhaps she'd pay a visit to the castle soon)-- ah, but digressions, digressions..
Jaysa offered a warm smile to Rianna, the girl's eyes lit with concern. "I need to ask you a favor, my friend.." Odd how that English/Irish accent seeped across her tongue so deeply on occasion-- "For the night or maybe longer, I need to become one of you."
Rianna looked into her friends eyes...there was something going on that Jaysa had not mentioned....ah well..she was a friend and no doubt would tell her when she was ready...
"Jaysa if that is what you wish...it shall be as so....come with me"
She took Jaysa by the hand and started toward her carivan..."Katrianna....." when the red headed gypsy arrived she gave her instructions in a quiet voice "first fetch me some of your clothing...you and Jaysa are of a size....then spread the word that this is our cousin come from another country to be with our clan...let no one let on she is not what she seems" the girl nodded and with a quick smile for Jaysa ran off to do Rianna's bidding....
Once inside the carivan Rianna sat down opposite Jaysa at a small table...
"As soon as my neice gets back...we will begin your transformation....it should be..interesting.."
Something was cooking, or perhaps roasting over one of the fires.. some sort of savory meat, though from the mere scent of it, it was obvious that they needed some spices. And--ah, there it was.. something added to that meat, better it was now..
And the light from the flames, now those played against her friend's face like moonlight on a pearl..
Jaysa's eyes flickered.. but.. but not entirely slate, there seemed to be a.. blue? Yes, some shade of crystal blue.. and for the moment that strange glint lasted, what once was this girl's most expressive feature dwindled into a loss of the sight of her "soul".. those windows going blank ephemerally, her lips parted into a sardonic grin.. and Rianna moved into eyesight again, she was chattering with someone..
Now, a trick.. yes? Where's an open--
No.. what? Play a trick on Rianna? Why on earth..? What a silly thought..
A dart of those eyes to the side.. and when she offered a smile to her curious friend, the stormy-grayish tone had replaced the azure. A suddenly interested glance to Katrianna; such an exotic name! How beautiful, just like these gypsies.. vaguely she could recall those faint names, the fading faces, and the remnants of their voices, laughter, riddling.
A riddle! That was in order here. Barely Jaysa caught the end of Rianna's conversation, something about being a distant relative, and--well now, there was something she could relate to.
..let no one let on she is not what she seems"
More than anyone might know..
Jaysa didn't catch that sense of threat, she missed the thought that should've been obvious, but her attention had drawn elsewhere.
Enthrallment pulled her eyes all about, the burning heat of the bonfires somehow disabling (at least for the time being) her mild fear of the deadly flames, while a smile tugged on either side of her mouth.. and that spark.. the blue one, it came back and danced, danced, danced..
"Rianna, I have a riddle for you," she grinned with a hint of sardonicism, as the dark-haired girl seated them both at a table. Rianna had mentioned something about a transformation, all in good time, yes. But she had a trick up her sleeve, this girl!
"In the light, you can see me, you can see you. Without you I am nothing, and in the darkness, we are nothing. You can break me, shake me, hate me, or love me, but what you see will never change. What am I?"
And her hands fidgeted with excitement.. excitement that really should have been entirely this entire experience, but.. somehow, there seemed something else.
Rianna looked at Jaysa in puzzlement....her friend was certainly acting strangely....what on earth could be wrong with her??
"In the light, you can see me, you can see you. Without you I am nothing, and in the darkness, we are nothing. You can break me, shake me, hate me, or love me, but what you see will never change. What am I?"
And now she was spouting..riddles....that was certainly not usual behavior for her...she thought for a minute then her lips lifted in a smile.. "a mirror?"
Ack! She'd gotten it!! But then again it wasn't that hard of a riddle, Jaysa would have to do better!
That, or find something else to amuse herself during the meantime. A jester's conceptions were maneuvering in and out of mind as that blue light, now a seemingly wicked embrace of color darting about her eyes, eventually filled her whole face with a twisted look. Not quite terrifying, but..
..it wasn't quite her.
Jaysa stood from whence she had sat and tapped a finger lightly to her chin, the errie expression fading. "Hum," she mumbled softly, gaze flicking about the darkened surroundings. A joke a joke a joke!
Perhaps Rianna would want in? It could be possible, afterall, she'd gotten the riddle. Remember though girl, it wasn't difficult!
All this newfound energy had the doll-girl seeming that she might take flight at any moment, and was certainly a change from the somber state previously with-holding her.
Strangely, her fingers had recovered a pair of pinecones and a lonely stone, an absent-minded juggle ensuing thereafter. What to do, what to do..
Of course Katrianna still hadn't returned, and after a while of tossing the thrice of items into the air, catching, retossing, and recatching, Jaysa had somehow bounced another pinecone from the heel of her boot and right into the smooth path of its relatives.
"Rianna, what lies in your mind? Something behind the nothing there always lies a something to bring about the inverse to the nothing!" And her mouth, how it curved into an impish grin! Something elf-like, to background the nonsense enigmas.
"Do tell me, my friend, I simply must know!" With that, each of the professionally juggled items toppled one by one to the floor, rolling off in directions that Jaysa didn't even notice while instead she darted back into the seat she occupied before her court idiot's charade.
The grin had slipped into something of a half-smile, and that chilling shade of cerulean had mounted thin frames about the grayish-teal that she possessed, sparks within offering evidence that there was more to this mystery then met the eye.
Rianna looked at her friend with concern Jaysa was definiely not acting normal....something was very very wrong here....but what?? she looked around for Katrianna knowing that she needed help for this one....
"excuse me for a moment Jaysa" she murmured to her friend....struck again by the changes in that familiar face...she intercepted Katrianna on her way towards them and pulled her towards the side of one of the caravans " I need you to go and get some people to meet me here dear...tell them it is a matter of utmost importance and urgency...." She then told her who to find and where and as her neice swung up on one of the horses she walked back to Jaysa with a heavy heart...
Katrianna could tell from the tone of her Aunt Rianna's voice that something was going on so after receiving her instructions she leapt to the back of one of the horses and leading two others behind her she set off into Stormpoint....
Her first stop was the castle of the Lady Samantha....she knew that the Lady was a friend of her aunt she just hoped she could get past the guards...she stopped at the front gates "I carry a message of some urgency for the Lady Samantha from the Lady Rianna..." At the sound of her aunt's name the guards immediately sprang to action one helped her off her horse while the other sent a messanger pelting into the castle in search of Samantha....within moments he was back and she was being escorted to Samantha's presence....
"My Lady...I bear you greetings and a message from my aunt, Lady Rianna...she said to tell you that your presence is urgently needed at the Gypsy camp...it has to do with your mutual friend Jaysa....I think there may be something wrong with her" After giving her message Katrianna waited to see what the Lady's answer would be....
"My Lady...I bear you greetings and a message from my aunt, Lady Rianna...she said to tell you that your presence is urgently needed at the Gypsy camp," Samantha was going to glare at the visitor for interrupting the moments piece she had stolen, but when she looked up it was Rianna's neice and that was a messanger that would not be turned away.
"....it has to do with your mutual friend Jaysa....I think there may be something wrong with her."
Samantha tossed her journal and quill aside and stood abruptly from the seat.
"Did she say what was wrong Kat? Nevermind... Jacob!" She turned to the guard and he saluted sharply. "Quickly. Harness Shade to the carraige and get him out front as soon as you can. He won't give you trouble."
A black shape darts from the shadows to coil about the Queen's neck.
~Jaysa friend. Jaysa... ~ A sinuous hiss, ~who hurt Jaysa?~
~Don't know Twi...I'm going as fast as I can.~
She hooks her cloak from the chair and drapes it over her shoulders, fastening the silver clasp with a deft twist of her pale fingers.
"Rianna! Jaysa!" Her voice shoots over the sound of the carraige wheels and Shade's hastened hoof beats. "What's happened?"
Samantha slips to the ground, a scowl on her porcelain features. Her emerald eyes scan over the form of her neice and within...within she knows that something is wrong.
Jaysa'd found the cloak lying in the little tent she and Rianna had been talking within, apparently left to be air-dried. Well dry, and full of brilliant colors, the girl had picked it up and experimentally draped it about her shoulders. For some reason, mismatching colors were beginning to bleed their way into her "fancy".
A swirl of that cloak as Samantha rode up--Jaysa had followed Rianna outside and into the pulsating camp, seeming quite oblivious to the worried expression tensing her features. The niece grinned as her aunt's darkened form made its elegant entrance and dropped from the majestic beast--had she come to play!
Oh, how wonderful, an entire.. wait.. no, no, something was amiss, Sam didn't look anything less then unsettled as she strode away from the horse.
"Why, Aunt-Lady-Samantha, whatever is the matter?" and Jaysa perked an eyebrow, her hands loosening on the material of the cloak. That jovial attitude had suddenly dismembered, as soon as the words were spoken. Something came over the girl's face, some kind of sick weariness, as if a mood swing had taken her right back to the way she'd been upon first entering Rianna's territory.
Her expression faltered a little, obviously trying to keep stable under unstable conditions.. Jaysa swallowed, cleared her throat, shook her head a bit. She straightened her back and looked to each of them slowly.. one thing was evident; her mind was working, though it seemed like her silence was forced because she had no idea what was going on.
Oh, but she knew something was going on. Didn't she? She hadn't felt.. "normal", for the past few weeks. But everyone has their times, do they not? It could be perfectly natural, perhaps some odd side effect of the undead that she hadn't yet experienced..
..oh, no no, that's not ii-iit, doll-girl..
..just wait to see how this tale unfurls.. you played the wrong game, child, played with the wrong opponent!!
Jaysa blinked. What the hell was that? Not exactly a voice, but some intimation, an impression given of rather foreboding words; and that last sentence, how maniacal.. a cold shiver snaked along her spine and stumbled her steps back a pace or two. A bewildered exhibition displayed itself upon her face--the blue frames had grown somewhat, occupying more space of the iris, and that gaze flicked between the two vampiresses a bit quicker now.
And in a moment, she staggered. As if something inside her, physically within had rushed throughout its domain with an energy that Jaysa hadn't been prepared for. She coughed a little, but the others didn't see the crimson upon her tongue.. her head turned a bit, and, in the shimmering firelight, her hair gleamed. But.. where had silver streaks come from? Surely that hadn't been there before, had it..? Maybe so..
There was a great, long silence.. the pensiveness just about radiating from the others filling the crisp evening air with static. Static that rung through her head a moment, and then calmed to a comfortable buzz. Jaysa looked back, and she was smiling. A vacant expression if ever there was one, but she was smiling, and all was well. The cape resumed a dramatic flourish about her thin shoulders, and her lips parted with a glint of the canines.
"Come to play, Aunt Sam?"
Samantha faltered. That was not Jaysa in tone. In words perhaps...but even those were skewed somewhat, bent through the wrong mirror and warped in meaning.
She exchanges a glance with Rianna and Katrianna. "Find Eowyn... she's expereinced in matters of this sort. I believe...maybe Father Nicolaus as well..." She swallows audibly. "Jaysa cherie... are you all right?"
Oh but she is not. Not in the least and Samantha knows it. She is sure that Rianna knows it as well. Something was desperately wrong... the question was more how to fix it.
Once again Katrianna leapt on the back of her stallion and headed off into town.....Father Nicolaus should be easy to find....but Eowyn....that was it, she had heard some rumor about a shop..perhaps she would be there....
With a clatter of hooves, Katrianna rode up to the shop...none of the lights were on but that didn't necessarily mean no one was there.....it was late enough for everyone to be asleep, after all not all of Stormpoint's residents kept the same hours as her aunt and Lady Samantha.
She dismounted in one easy movement and ran up to the door....pounding on it with her fists she cried out "Lady Eowyn.. .It's Katrianna from the Gypsy camp...Lady Samantha and my Aunt Rianna need you...it's about Jaysa..." and then she waited for a reply.....
It took several seconds for the pounding to break through Eowyn's wall of thought, drawing her back to the present with a sudden start. 'What time is it?' she wondered, glancing about the pitch room before the possibly more relevant question of 'What day is it?' rose to the forefront of her mind. Before she could discover the answer to either, the pounding resumed, joined this time by a clarion voice which cut through both the darkness within and without.
"Lady Eowyn...It's Katrianna from the Gypsy camp...Lady Samantha and my Aunt Rianna need you...it's about Jaysa..."
The last name carried no recognition for Eowyn, but Samantha and Rianna she knew, and she could scarcely deny them any assistance she might offer. Rising quickly from her chair, she spoke but a single word as she headed towards the door of the library, "Eisodos."
With a sudden burst, the lights of the shoppe flared to life and the front door flew open. Had she perhaps more time to think, Katrianna might have hesitated before entering, but such was her urgency that she raced into the barren shoppe in time to see Eowyn step through a door which promptly vanished behind her on the upper landing.
Eowyn took the stairs in two's, her fluidity belying her haste. As she descended, she scrutinized the young woman standing on the floor of her shoppe, noting that she did indeed bear a fair resemblance to Rianna. The concern in her eyes bespoke the exigency of her mission, and so, pausing only to grab a dark cloak and a small leather pouch from a previously empty shelf, Eowyn ushered Katrianna out the door.
"I am Eowyn," she said finally as they stepped into the darkness. "I see that you carry a message of some import. Perhaps you can share it with me on the way to the camp. But first, I should like to know who this Jaysa is."
"Jaysa is a friend of my Aunt's.....she is also of the same "kind" as my aunt Rianna.....The Lady Samantha is already at the camp....and if you can find your own way I must continue...there is one other person I must find"
Katrianna looked at Eowyn expectantly, hoping that she could get the Priest before it was too late....
At another time, Eowyn might have responded to the last comment with mild amusement, but Katrianna's expression was filled with such urgency that she said simply, "Go. I believe I can find my way to the camp without an escort." The young woman wasted little time departing, and left the shop behind in a flurry of hoofbeats. Eowyn made note of the direction she traveled before setting off on her own, wondering who Katrianna could be looking for in that part of the city.
Nearing the outskirts of the encampment, Eowyn noticed that the camp's usual evening activities appeared uninterrupted by whatever event precipitated her invitation. This boded well, and Eowyn had little wish to call any greater attention to the event by announcing her presence to the guards posted about the perimeter. And so, taking advantage of the darkness, Eowyn slipped quietly past the sentries and began to search for Rianna and Samantha.
Little more than a shadow, Eowyn drifted between the wagons until she heard Samantha's voice somewhere to her right. She followed the sound and finally caught a glimpse the regent near one of the larger wagons. Not wishing to reveal her presence until she had a slightly better grasp of the situation, Eowyn approached slowly and quietly, hiding in the few shadows which had refused to yield to the campfires. When she could approach no further without compromising her goal, she slid beneath a nearby wagon and watched.
Peering out from her concealment, Eowyn could see Samantha and Rianna, grim-faced with concern. The object of their disquiet stood but a few yards away--a young girl, perhaps in her late-teens. Her auburn hair was liberally streaked with silver and a motley cloak all but engulfed her small frame in what otherwise would have been a comical display. The light from the campfires lit the girl's face with a warm glow, but her expression was cold and empty, a visage which remained unchanged despite the girl's outward smile. The smile did, however, reveal the girl's kindred nature as the firelight glinted off two elongated canines.
The girl's features bore an odd familiarity, and Eowyn had the strongest feeling that she had seen her somewhere before. She looked like . . . .
Closing her eyes, Eowyn lowered her head and raised a hand to her brow, shaking her head from side to side in a gesture of frustration. She wished desperately that it was all a bad dream, that she would open her eyes and find herself back in the shop. Taking a deep breath and exhaling it slowly, Eowyn raised her head and opened her eyes once more. It wasn't a dream.
With a silent epithet, she slipped out from under the wagon, stepped into the light, and began to approach Samantha and Rianna in long even strides, acting as if her presence in the camp was a commonplace occurrence. Inwardly, she hoped the smile she wore didn't appear too disingenuous.
Hearing a slight noise behind her....Rianna turned to see Eowyn walking toward them....her stride was relaxed but there was a certain tension around her eyes that was betraying her inner thoughts.....thoughts that Rianna and Samatha shared....they were extremely worried about Jaysa....her behavior was getting odder by the minute...
Based on what she had seen, both now and in her prior visions, Eowyn had a theory regarding what wrong with Jaysa. It wasn't one she currently wanted to share, but if her suspicions were correct, the presently stable situation could rapidly evolve into one they were not prepared to face. She was, consequently, somewhat relieved to see that Rianna had noticed her arrival, and she tried to convey to the gypsy woman the potential danger, glancing quickly from Jaysa to several of the gypsies milling about the area. Doubtless, these people had seen more threatening sights than that of a young girl loosing her mind, and they therefore, not unnaturally, failed to appreciate the gravity of the events taking place before them.
Rianna appeared to catch her meaning, but there was more she needed to know before she could act safely. A wrong move would doubtlessly raise "Jaysa's" suspicions--something they could ill afford at present. And so, Eowyn quickened her pace as she approached Samantha and Rianna, and called out in an uncharacteristically cheerful voice, "Samantha, what a surprise to find you here. It's been so long since I last saw you. If I didn't know better, I'd think you were avoiding me." She closed the distance between them on the final word, and greeted the dark queen with what appeared to be a friendly, if somewhat unexpected embrace. Her face now turned from Jaysa's view, Eowyn hurriedly whispered to the two women, "Samantha, I need to get closer to her. Rianna, clear the immediate area as quickly and quietly as you can -- without the use of magic, we don't want to draw her attention."
Samantha returns the embrace lightly, mindful of her strength. Closer? The vampiress shivered a bit. Something was dreadfully wrong, she could still sense that much.
"Jaysa cherie...have you ever met Eowyn? She's one of my close friends. Owns the kuriosity shop in the merchant row."
Refusing to give up, she steps toward Jaysa, pulling Eowyn lightly along behind.
Please let her niece be all right, she wished silently. She doesn't pray. She's done too much of that lately and she's afraid that any more...any more and the balance might not shift in their favor again.
Rianna gave an almost imperceptable nod to show Eowyn she heard and understood the warning......She then called to her Niece to bring their visitors refreshments...while doing this she performed a series of hand and body gestures known only to her clan which told them all to find business elsewhere......so one by one, the gypsies surrounding the fire wandered off to find something else to do, somewhere away from the immediate area....
One little, two little, three little Indians..
In the far reaches of a yet-unnamed and uncivilized deposit of Amazon, there are such creatures thriving there, akin to large cats, but not quite--they lack stripes, spots, camouflage of any type simply because they need none. What animal needs concealment when hunting in the dead of night?
And that's it technique--this cat is unlike any other (except the human), as it hunts not only for survival, but for pleasure--leaving its victims with a sizable wound, and yet also their life in order to bear the scars.
The jaws are curved superbly for a lightning-quick snatch, then a precise tear, and finally for devouring. This particular attribute creates the wicked illusion that the feline is grinning whilst eyes the size of baseballs soak up any light at all that happens to leak through the trees. Chaos in those slits of gold.
As aforementioned, these cats hunt for their personal enjoyment as well as natural hunger--observing a potential prey, teasing (or stalking as some would say), scaring the life out of them, until finally the attack is made.
If you were ever, ever upon chance to notice the moonlit glimmer in the eyes of these beasts as one made silent advance, and, quite frighteningly, eye contact, then you'd understand true fear, and perhaps true insanity.
.... Her eyes gleamed.
A sparkling mixture of sky blue and molten gold dazzled in the roaring firelight, working, calculating, these sorts of things as they together slowly drifted from one contestant to another.
One little, two little..
..three little Indians.
..ohhh, my my my!! Who was this..?! Someone new has come to play? We know what they say!
The more the merrier, yes? Oui, oui, and look how the new one's gaze flickered--her mind was practically a fire in itself, burning with eager and determined curiosity, but serious just the same. Oh phoo, that's no fun.
But something different lingered about this one. Very different.
Jaysa shifted a bit, the bony digits restless against her upper thighs while the multicolored cloak rustled over the small form, creating a deceiving image that she was much more beneath the article of cloth then she really was. A breeze picked up and the cape's length snapped back and forth, but her eyes kept focus.
Unsteady focus, but focus just the same. Jaysa idly watched her greet the others, slowly becoming impatient for the game to begin.
What does it matter? Any game!
Some spasm in her brain forced her left eyelid to snap shut for a few moments, and quickly one palm retreated over the afflicted area. Such a pressure in her head! It seemed about to weigh her right down, and yet in her limbs there teemed such a power, coursing in the rivers of scarlet blood. The rest of her was light, she could carry the world if she so desired!
But another time; now she was more interested (though there nearly felt to be more then a single presence in her mind, for her attention was twenty places at once!) in this newcomer. In the stance she held, the demeanor with which she carried herself, and the slightest of narrow to her eyes--a challenge!
This woman was quite the match for New Jaysa, and energy began a surge with adrenaline as the woman turned, led by her aunt and Rianna, and approached the vampiress.
A tug of her lips rendered a grin, and one cold hand thrust outward in greeting.
Eowyn regarded Jaysa with careful scrutiny as Samantha led her to the girl, determined to miss nothing of her demeanor or attributes. She noted the steady fire in the girl's eyes, a low-burning flame which threatened to flare to life at the slightest provocation. She noted also the suddenness with which one of those eyes closed, and the pale hand that raced to meet the pain. Good, thought Eowyn, very good. She's fighting it.
When at last Samantha stopped before the girl, the queen spoke in an unwavering voice which belied her concern, "Jaysa cherie...have you ever met Eowyn? She's one of my close friends. Owns the kuriosity shop in the merchant row." Jaysa didn't speak in response, but instead thrust a single hand forward from the motley cloak in silent greeting. Eowyn took the proffered hand without hesitation. A second, maybe two was all she would need to be sure.
The touch was as it always was--electric--a sudden surge of power rushing through her as her own magic rose to meet that of the girl's--a warm sensation that grew steadily stronger as the two remained locked in their initial clasp of hands. Their eyes met as the magic swelled, and neither moved to break the bond as the power rose exponentially with each heartbeat, drumming out a steady, pulsating rhythm that only the two could hear. As they stood, riveted before steady campfire, the rhythm changed, becoming wild and frenzied, an untamed kinetic energy which coursed through both of them, rending and restoring each in turn. Still, neither moved, unwilling or unable to break the bond between them as the pulse grew louder and the power stronger. Lost in the torrent flowing through and about them, time seemed to stop for the two, and the world about them faded into insignificance as the energy continued to soar, bringing with it a promise of exquisite pain.
Fire, searing hot and true began to blaze through the bond, and on its heels came a blistering wind which swirled wildly about the two women locked in its embrace. Within its eye, they stood motionless, one the shadow of the other, neither willing draw back. Eowyn was faintly aware that she should break the bond, a voice from deep within her mind screaming against the wind to let go. But she was unable to relinquish her hold of the girl's hand; and so they remained locked, the pain searing to a feverish pitch within them both as sparks began to flicker in the air about them.
Current after current of she-didn't-know-what ribboned through her. Every few moments the shivers would become a sharp pain throughout her shoulders, passing with a paralyzing speed to ankles that fought to hold their ground.
Jaysa's teeth were clattering like a giggling skull, but not as obviously--the salty linger of blood went past her perception unnoticed as the extended canines gyrated right into her gums and drew the red stuff.
When she realized the fleeting sparks in the air were because of the two of them, something clicked. This woman was no challenge--she was trouble. Trouble trouble.
This Eowyn's power was surging with hungry friction against Jaysa's palm, every moment or two leaking into her nerve endings and producing a shaky shock--which, in the whole, merely proved to the girl that their potent faculties were measuring up to the other's.
"Challenge" groped the girl's mind again until she came upon a better synonym: threat.
This stranger (who, strangely, didn't feel like as much of a stranger as Jaysa had expected) was concealing a might beneath the Elven appearance than Jaysa knew how to handle right off. She was powerful as hell, and the magic rushing around until called upon within her was something the doll-girl was unsure she could level with.
Her hand ached. As if she'd been using it to accomplish some strenuous activity, and all it needed was a break from the hold--but the embrace of palms was like a vise despite that it wasn't. In fact, their hands were relatively loose together, but the heated torrent kept them riveted.
Finally, within the miniature monsoon picking up about them, Jaysa snatched her hand away, the sudden motion throwing her back a few steps. The crystalline blue eyes were somewhat wide with disbelief and an alloy of fright and anger; her cloak swirled madly, and the carnation tiers of lips parted to permit the struggling of each induced breath.
She simply stared.. was really at a loss to do much else, unsure of whether or not she wanted to flee or attack. Their eyes remained locked, their stances untouched, Jaysa's fingers clenched into fists that created even more pain than originally introduced.
The tattered remnants of an unstable mind were working--and not together--to decipher what had just occurred. A conference of powers, that was evident; but what had she done? What did this woman know now? What did Jaysa even know?
And at that moment, the rational Jaysa realized.. that she knew quite nothing. Yet the rational Jaysa was quickly becoming a fading memory, and she shook her head to clear it--by the expression on her face, it was obvious she wanted to run, to collect her thoughts; but she remained, the insanity stirring again, to evaluate her position with this.. this Eowyn.
~Let go~ a voice from deep within Eowyn's mind urged. Suddenly coming to her senses, Eowyn heeded the warning and broke contact with Jaysa. Or did Jaysa break contact with her? She couldn't tell, and couldn't afford to expend any time trying to sort it out. She wasn't sure why she had maintained the connection so long when she hadn't intended to, but she knew now that the girl's power was at least roughly equal to that of her own.
It took a few moments for the effects of the contact to finally fade away, and when they did Eowyn was left with a startling revelation--the girl was not Giacomo, nor was she controlled by him. It was Giacomo's power to be sure--for Eowyn had been close enough to the daemon to know his touch--but it was not his mind, not his consciousness. Still, there was a certain duality that played in the girl's mind--a spirited reason on one side, and a growing madness on the other.
Armed with this knowledge, Eowyn's theory rapidly evolved in a series of quick flashes, and when it finally settled into its newest form, Eowyn was terribly afraid for the girl. Though her kindred nature gave her strength beyond her human form, even it was not equipped to contain the power it currently housed; and try though she might to struggle against it, it would, in time, consume her entirely. Even now the power yearned for more of the being that held it, a frenzied hunger which burned from deep within its host. It would not leave her on its own, and forcing it out could . . . Eowyn closed her eyes briefly, shutting out the images attendant to that idea.
She needed time to think, and time was something the power which stood before her was not likely to offer; and even if it did, each moment threatened to burn away more of the reason that was Jaysa's mind. Reason and madness. How to strengthen one and satiate the other? How to buy time? At last, an idea sparked to life within her mind. Assuming a grin tinged with madness, Eowyn approached Jaysa once more, acting for all the world as if the previous exchange had not occurred. "Tell me, Jaysa," she said, her voice carrying the barest hint of a challenge, "do you like riddles?"
A tingly sensation zipped through the girl's palm, sizzling right up along her arm once the contact broke.
Unnoticed, Jaysa took a shallow step backwards, awkwardly, and swallowed somewhat.. her brow tensed; she beared semblance to a small, confused child who'd just been witness to a crime. Her eyes nearly watered--the event that'd just occured had knocked her a little off balance, her guard shattered for the time being.
Aimlessly and momentarily, her gaze wandered over the flat of her open hand. The power surged within her, a trembling the only physical proof of such, and the remnants of Eowyn's magical evidence stirred in her blood.
Eventually the calculating orbs grew solid, hard, and the slightest of narrows disintegrated that impish look of consternation. The blush vanished from her cheeks and the paleness returned, her lips setting somewhat into a chilled expression. Cold fingers curled inward to close the palm.
Jaysa didn't have time for threats. So what's the best thing to do with a threat? Rid oneself of it.
Only two thoughts--or, rather, solutions--trickled idly through the recesses of her brain..
The parasite throbbed a moment, radiated input.
..but before she could really act on either--as the wind picked up and whipped through her hair, tossing it about the burning, serpentine eyes, as glistening fangs peaked in the growing moonlight--the stranger was replying. And much to innocently, as if the exchange between them hadn't even happened.. Jaysa didn't like pretenders..
"Tell me, Jaysa," she said, her voice carrying the barest hint of a challenge, "do you like riddles?"
And, returning the woman's grin (although this wasn't merely tinged with madness, and it was certainly no assumption), Jaysa nearly forgot each and every evaluation she'd just made; nearly.
"Why, however did you guess? Riddles are just my forte. "Enigma"'s my middle name, you know.."
"Well then," Eowyn started, taking a seat before the fire and gesturing for Jaysa to do the same, "I think I've probably enough to sate even your appetite." She waited for Jaysa to join her by the fire before continuing, her voice pleasant and soothing, a curious accent dancing within a playful lilt. "Let's see, with which shall I start, hmmm, Oh, I know. Yes, this one shall do nicely. In fact, it rather reminds me of an old friend of mine. Pity he's not here. He dearly loves riddles. But, I digress. Where was I now? Oh yes, the riddle." She paused to clear her throat and sit up straighter before reciting.
I cut through evil
like a double edged sword,
And chaos flees at my approach.
Balance I single-handedly upraise,
Through battles fought with heart and mind,
Instead of with my gaze.
She smiled when she finished, and stared wide-eyed at Jaysa, hoping that Samantha, Rianna, or perhaps the shadowy figure crouched beneath one of the caravans would catch the hint buried within her blathering and her riddle.
The fire was probably warm, a radiating heat that Jaysa would have absolutely adored, but that in itself presented a problem, and the dancing flames went unnoticed. Slowly, and rather unsurely she seated herself a short distance from the woman, who'd begun to babble.
Now, of course, this new Jaysa herself loved to go on ranting spells that could last a decade at once, and though she could see through Eowyn's rambling like a sheet of unscathed crystal, it amused her. She set her legs indian-style, the cloak settling about her willowed form with an air of insane majesty, or grace, or some other foolish quality that created an eerily distorted image of the pale girl.
"Let's see, with which shall I start, hmmm, Oh, I know. Yes, this one shall do nicely."
She talked too much.
"In fact, it rather reminds me of an old friend of mine. Pity he's not here. He dearly loves riddles. But, I digress. Where was I now? Oh yes, the riddle."
Jaysa bristled. Suddenly there was some dashing hint of familiarity with this "stranger", and she narrowed her eyes..
..but her mind was so jumbled around that quickly she was distracted by an interest for this other riddle-lover, and she'd already forgotten any suspicions.
Jaysa's lips parted to request the name of this friend of Eowyn's, but before she could query, her attention was drawn to the riddle..
When she'd finished reciting, Jaysa's mind went to work. It was fairly easy, and rapidly a victorious cross between a smirk and a delighted grin pursed her mouth into the word. "Justice."
With her answer, the woman didn't falter; but there was some distant glint in her eyes that the doll-girl couldn't decipher. Instead, she committed it to memory, and simply waited.
From his vantage point under the wagon, Marcus saw everything that had transpired so far this evening. Calo was right in seeing that Eowyn was protected even though she seemed to disagree, going so far as to ditch Marcus back at the mansion. It was not hard to figure where she had gone, however, and Marcus had lain in silent watch outside the Shoppe until the strange gypsy came to summon Eowyn, then followed her to the camp and concealed himself under a nearby wagon.
He had watched the encounter between Jaysa and Eowyn with growing alarm, and when the two women locked hands the magical backlash collapsed several of the protections he carried. When they showed no signs of stopping, he shifted his weight and prepared to spring out to separate the two. Before he could act, however, they flew apart and began to watch each other like predators growling over a kill.
Eowyn was the first to move, taking a seat by the fire, appearing to be in control of both herself and the situation. One look at Jaysa told another story, however. The doll-like vampire clearly sat on the edge, and the slightest nudge could send her out of control, spelling death to the fledgling city around them. He was therefore surprised, when in the face of this situation, Eowyn began to babble.
"Let's see, with which shall I start, hmmm, Oh, I know. Yes, this one shall do nicely. In fact, it rather reminds me of an old friend of mine. Pity he's not here. He dearly loves riddles. But, I digress. Where was I now? Oh yes, the riddle."
It was more than Marcus had ever heard Eowyn speak at one time, and it appeared to be directed at him.~~Huh? How did she know? I was sure she could not have noticed me? What is she playing at? Old Friend? Giacomo? Clearly this is that creature's work.~~ Marcus' brow furled as he tried to puzzle out Eowyn's hidden message.
I cut through evil
like a double edged sword,
And chaos flees at my approach.
Balance I single-handedly upraise,
Through battles fought with heart and mind,
Instead of with my gaze.
As she finished, Jaysa's voice quickly followed with the answer even as Marcus silently mouthed the same word........... "Justice."
Marcus then knew instantly who Eowyn meant by "Old Friend," and a gentle hand rested on the symbol of the rangers on Marcus' chest. It warmed slightly to his touch and the silent message was sent. The High Justice, Calo, was coming. If things could only stay in place till he could arrive.
The slight movement under the wagon, one shadow darker than the rest, told Eowyn that Marcus understood her hint and had relayed her message; and a quick glance at the self-congratulatory smirk lingering on the girl's face told her that "Jaysa" had not noticed. She now had only to distract the girl until Calo arrived.
The fire crackled and popped before the two figures, sending sparks flying into the darkness around them, bathing their faces in a warm, but eerie glow. Outside the fire's reach, in the depth of shadows lying beyond its flickering light, the camp was now empty. Only five remained--the girl, and the four who would know her affliction. Eowyn felt the emptiness of the camp strongly now--the still shadows, the silence behind the crackling flames broken only by the evensong of the crickets--and she hoped that "Jaysa" didn't sense it as well.
In the firelight, however, the rapture of insanity burned brightly in the girl's eyes, and Eowyn surmised that she had thrown both herself and her senses entirely into the game, for madness loves nothing better than to proclaim itself victorious. And so, having succeeded so far in her gambit, Eowyn spun another riddle.
In marble halls as white as milk,
Lined with a skin as soft as silk,
Within a fountain crystal-clear,
A golden apple doth appear.
No doors there are to this stronghold,
Yet thieves break in and steal the gold.
As she spoke the words with a voice countering the pitch of the flames, another "voice" spoke as well, reaching, seeking, searching through the tattered remnants of Jaysa's mind for a scant piece of reason which retained the ability to understand, and to answer.
A sharp spasm tore through her left arm, contracting the bicep slightly and clamping all five digits to a painful fist beneath the billowy cloak. There was a soft "Nngh--" of recognition, but it went unheard, and a few seconds later, Jaysa was back to "normal". Giving her head a small shake, she peered at the woman peering intently back at her, and clucked her teeth at the newest riddle.
This was not good. The first answer had come right to her tongue, but.. this one was harder. Made her think. She didn't like to think. Frustration didn't take long to visit, though she hadn't given the enigma more than half a minute's study.
A sharp turn brought her back to the swaying bonfire flames, the heat pulsating at her back whilst either side of her brain tossed the lines back and forth. She would not be defeated so easily!!
"Marble halls," came the inaudible whisper, growing more urgent as she spoke.
"..silk.. golden apple.. break in--"
She swung around so quickly that she nearly lost her balance and toppled into the flames. Jaysa's arm thrust out from below the curtain of mismatched material, one finger extended in victorious manner, a smirk besmirching her face. "An egg!" she gushed. "The answer is an egg, and *you* shall have to try harder! Ah ha!"
Jaysa could've jumped, and the smug glow upon her face, pinkish from the fire, was enough to make those present groan in disgust. Invincibility was so swee--wait..
One, two.. one-two-three..
..and four counting me. The riddle was forgotten, its answer just as swiftly following as Jaysa shot a glance to either side. The gypsies that'd so merrily and obliviously been dancing, laughing, drinking.. retired to their tents? When the fun had barely begun?!! How strange..
..no, something was wrong..
..there weren't enough toys!!! Where have all the toys gone!
There was a soft growl purring from the doll-girl's throat, preliminary and not quite fully aware of what was going on around her. She withdrew slightly, pulling the tattered cloak fully about her form as if concealment was actually her purpose. Slowly her face shifted.. just slightly, barely conceivable, and you would never notice if you hadn't watched her without a blink. The childishness flickered there, hesitated--and something, not quite Jaysa and not quite anything else fizzled through.
..eating me.. can't b-break.. loose.. in my head.. oh gods, it's t-taking over.. eating me.. help--
The frigid gaze reappeared, for suspicion was about to leap, when someone's voice broke in and collapsed that faulty concentration for a few moments..
The mind she entered was a torrent of flame. Thoughts, random and broken, flared without warning and faded just as quickly, leaving faint echoes that rose whisp-like through the darkness. The sheer number of them alone was maddening--explosions of thought followed by endless whispers. A thousand voices speaking at once--all meaning lost within the crackling roar.
Still, she searched--silently, cautiously, a thief under the shadow of darkness. She could hear the riddle, turning over and over, twisting in upon itself as it was repeated, inverted, and discarded by one voice, and then another. This one was harder than the last, however, and it gave Eowyn the time she needed, time to find one voice which cried bitterly against the rest.
"..eating me.. can't b-break.. loose.. in my head.. oh gods, it's t-taking over.. eating me.. help"
She was about to reach out to it when she heard the answer to her riddle and felt the mind's gaze turn inward. She froze, hiding within the inferno of dementia as that part of her which remained outside spun another riddle.
'Twas in heaven pronounced, and 'twas muttered in hell,
An echo caught faintly the sound as it fell;
On the confines of earth 'twas permitted to rest,
And the depths of the ocean its presence confessed;
'Twill be found in the sphere when 'tis riven asunder,
Be seen in the lightning and heard in the thunder.
'Twas allotted to man with his earliest breath,
Attends him at birth, and awaits him in death,
Presides o'er his happiness, honor, and health,
Is the prop of his house, and the end of his wealth.
In the heaps of the miser 'tis hoarded with care,
But is sure to be lost on the prodigal heir.
It begins every hope, every wish it must bound,
With the husbandman toils, and with monarchs is crowned.
Without it the soldier, the seaman may roam,
But woe to the wretch who expels it from home!
In the whispers of conscience its voice will be found,
Nor e'en in the whirlwind of passion be drowned.
'Twill not soften the heart; but though deaf be the ear,
It will make it acutely and instantly hear.
Yet in shade let it rest, like a delicate flower,
Ah... breathe on it softly, - it dies in an hour.
With the final word, she felt the shadow pass over her, the mind once again engrossed in the proffered riddle. Reignited with their efforts, the thoughts came this time as hungry screams, threatening to singe the edges of Eowyn's own mind should her step falter. Skirting about their reach, Eowyn made her way back to the one voice which carried the plaintiff cry of a child, lost in the darkness.
Ash easily cleared the fence along the rear of the gypsy camp and stopped silently a few yards beyond the fires light. Gently patting the grey warhorse's neck Calo dismounted and carefully assessed the drama being played out before him. The Gypsies, almost to a man, had fled the area; and all that remained in the camp were Sam; a strange gypsy woman; Marcus, hidden beneath a wagon; Eowyn, seated beside one of the camp's fires, and a curious girl, seated near Eowyn.
His mage senses told him much more than his vision, however. The girl had the stench of Giacomo's tainted presence all about her, but the magik that flowed from her was not purely him, nor could she control what resided within her small frame as the energies ebbed and flowed through her, both dangerous and erratic. Sitting quietly beside her, Eowyn was also working some of the art towards the girl, a subtle, minor magik that's purpose Calo could not presently fathom.
Silent footfalls brought him around behind this girl. Unnoticed by all save Eowyn, Calo allowed his gold eyes to flash momentary in the fire light, alerting her that he had arrived.
Still crouching in the shadows beneath the wagon, Marcus felt his Ranger's symbol warm briefly, telling him that Calo was near. With renewed confidence, he drew a small rod from his cloak and gave it a quick twist. The rod made an almost silent "snick," then extended to a full quater-staff. The weight of the weapon forced him to change his balance ever so slightly, much to the chagrin of his now-screaming and cramped muscles. Scanning the darkness with new readiness, Marcus caught the flash of gold just over Jaysa's right shoulder. Well, Calo was here, and so, taking a deep breath and holding it, he prepared for what might happen next.
Jaysa scowled, and nearly all at once she was sick of this game. There was some little.. indescribable irritation in her brain, like a very small snake twisting its way through the decrepit caverns of her thought. An itch that you just cannot scratch. The two, to generalize in numbers, portions of her mind continued to silently feud while the much more belligerent part bullied down Jaysa's whine for help.
Disgusting little wretch, and her eyes glittered in that glazed-over fashion. The pale expression had turned to a grim marble, and her gaze flicked towards Eowyn with her next spout of nonsense.
Instinctively her mind started clicking and whirring, but once the woman had finished her epic, the girl's brain was about ready to implode upon itself. Different lines were being jerked and pulled at once; her attention refused to settle on one thing. Jaysa's hands clamped to the sides of her head and shakily she found her feet. There was a high-pitched buzz in her ears while her brain fought to find one single aspect of her situation to focus on--and chose the closest thing, the camp around them.
Jaysa's eyes grew wide. Alone.. they were all alone!! Every damn gypsy had vanished except for the soulful-eyed one, and there stood Sam with her worried eyes and indeterminable face--and this Eowyn, whose eyes were narrowed so slightly in purposefulness, with only a tiny crease of tension in her forehead. All the rest of her was calm and maintained--well this was it!! This despicable woman was the disturbance in her mind, and Jaysa broke off her ledge released a none-too-happy growl.
The worn, dusty boots scrambled backwards while satisfied suspicion swelled like a furious dragon in her head. "You!! All of you! LIARS!"
Another cry of pure disgust drew her back a little bit further, but the wooden log of a seat she'd been using interrupted her motions, and Jaysa, unaware of the figure behind her, stumbled and her body tossed right back, in the big dramatic cloak..
Acting more on instinct than thought Calo stepped forward to catch the falling girl. The feeling at the moment of contact was as if he was holding something more reptilian than human--an all too familiar sensation from him past contacts with Giacomo.
The demon was not within her, however. Calo would have sensed that, having once drawn the demon's essence inside himself in an attempt to banish the creature. His success, however, was only partial as a portion of the demon lingered within him, almost consuming him in its ultimate escape. The feeling which resulted from Calo's contact with the girl was different, if only slightly so. The demon wasn't within her, but the majority of his power was.
Catching a glimpse of her blue eyes as she looked up at the form which stopped her fall, Calo could see her sanity fighting the losing war with madness. It was a dangerous situation, and anything could set off a catastrophic reaction. Calo therefore hurried to defuse any harm his sudden appearance might have cause and spoke with a smile. "Good evening. I am a friend of your Aunt Sam's. My name is.................................."
Juleana slammed the Raven's backdoor in a huff. That was the last straw, Triana was driving her crazy and she wasn't going to let her do it. How dare she tell her she wasn't allowed at the raven. She created the Raven, she ran the Raven! "Arrrgh"
A cold chill engulfed her, the smell of burning wood infiltrating her senses. She zipped her jacket and let her gaze travel over the Ravens back lot to the gypsy camp. A single fire burned brightly. The figures surrounding the fire were at odds with each other. Juleana began to slowly stride towards the group, pausing far enough away to not intrude.
She could make out Lady Eowyn but not the girl she spoke with. Then the girl screamed. Juleana jumped, the hairs standing on the back of her neck. She watched as the figure came from behind the girl and caught her. Before she even spoke her heart seized in her chest.
"Calo.." It was barely audible. Turning her back to the group she gazed up at the moon, and grasped the chain around her neck. In both hands she held the vial of his blood and the pentacle she always wore. Slowly she began to chant.
"With this pentacle I lay,
Protection here both night and day.
And the one who should not touch,
Let his fingers burn and twitch.
I now invoke the law of three,
This is my will so mote it be."
She chanted the prayer three or four times. Hearing him speak she turned to face them again. Hhe was maybe 25 feet in front of her but she dared not move.
"Good evening. I am a friend of your Aunt Sam's. My name is.................................."
She held her breath. Then she saw Marcus crouched, waiting and she realized, they were all just waiting. But for what?
"..Giacomo.." she murmured, ending his introduction for him. Quickly scrambling to her feet, Jaysa's eyes went wide and she flung herself back a few steps, dangerously close to the flames. "Giacomo!"
Memories cascaded back into her jigsawed mind in small flashes, causing little inflictions of pain and drawing a hiss from her lips. Lips that drew back to allow room for extending canines, canines that were not her own, but somehow more viciously sharp and imposing. These fangs weren't her own.
*flicker* ..the streets were dark.. a sinister laugh..
..somebody--something swept behind her with a disturbing swiftness..
*flash* ..talk of a game, riddles and fun! ..the prize danced in the demon's eyes..
..the girl had grinned.. she's agreed.. and when they were through, something had leapt inside her..
..the girl had reeled.. she'd screamed..
..and then her eyes turned blue, and she'd gotten up, and she'd walked away.
The haze cleared. But the fiend was still there. Looming right before her with a sadistic smirk (or was it really there..?) and his hand still partially outheld. She'd of liked to rip the hand off, the dirty--!! No, no, just take a breath..
The girl's chest rised slowly, and when it lowered, another hiss accompanied a wicked sneer, and in the blink of an eye, she was moving. Quickly, but from the performance of shown agility, Jaysa was not entirely the darting fox that she'd previously been; there was nearly an awkwardness, as if her body didn't fit the will of mind that was ordering her to simply go.
It didn't take long, however, for her to become somewhat accustomed to the haphazard way the virus in her brain was demanding her action, and soon she was a good distance from the small group left staring after her.
Out of nowhere, a hand snapped out, directly followed by the upper torso of a dark figure, indeterminable in the sudden lack of firelight. It startled the half-living wits out of the already nerve-shredded girl, and with a mostly angry and defensive shreak, she swung her hand in its direction.
A flicker of a sickly powder-cerulean color leapt towards the image, and once the target was struck, the body went limp and unthreatening. Shocked, Jaysa had come to a complete and silent halt, glazed eyes locked upon the still form.
The sheer strength and velocity--the sheer power with which the seemingly tiny blow had inflicted the being upon the cold ground took her by surprise; and, for the flickering of a moment's breath, brought the real Jaysa to terms with the fact that she was weilding some inhuman, invampiric, and unknown-to-her faculty.
She gulped, and suddenly reality, as distorted as the webbing of cracked mirror produces an image, tinkered the quieted yelps of "Marcus! Marcus!" issuing from behind her.The word meant nothing to her. Presently another mindframe settled over and pushed the reasonable Jaysa aside--and once again her feet started to move.
The scenery whirled by with a speed she hadn't even know as a kindred.. where she was headed, even she didn't know.. but rage had been stirred within the depths of her new mind, and bad things were about to happen...
Marcus' vantage point beneath the wagon afforded him an unobstructed view of the unfolding events. He watched as sudden realization rose in Jaysa's eyes, prompting her to back away from Eowyn and the fire with a cry of pure disgust, "You!! All of you! LIARS!" The reaction sent a cold chill running down his spine, but still he remained concealed, watching as the girl stumbled backwards and was caught by Calo.
Calo had spoken to her, of that he was certain, but he couldn't discern the words. Jaysa's response, however, was nearly loud enough to wake the city, "Giacomo!" And with that cry, the semblance of order and control which had enshrouded the camp disappeared in a flash. Eowyn's face paled with the scream, and he knew that he was not the only one to recognize that things had spiraled dangerously out of their control. Someone had to act.
Jaysa stumbled towards him, and the city that waited beyond unaware that tonight danger planned to walk its streets in the form of a young vampire housing an ancient power. Around Jaysa, everyone seemed to be moving in slow motion, unable to reach her as she passed. Perhaps she was causing it. Marcus didn't know. But he knew that she couldn't be allowed to go loose through the city.
Saying a silent prayer, hoping that perhaps, somehow, he had escaped her notice and the effect which seemed to encompass the others, the ranger placed his staff on the ground, not wanting to strike the girl if she was not in her right mind. Thus, unarmed, he leapt forward, seeking to overbear and subdue her.
What followed happened so quickly that Marcus lost track. Jaysa seemed to raise her hand in a warding gesture, and there was sudden flash of light before the oblivion of unconsciousness claimed the ranger. Caught in the force of the girl's power, Marcus' limp body arced through the air as if a doll cast aside. Another power, different, subtler, saved him from a bone-jarring landing . . . .
Juleana watched the unfolding of events from her shadowed spot. Obviously this girl wasn't herself. Her reaction to Calo's words was all wrong. Juleana shivered as the girl screamed the name of the demon in a blood curdling cry. She was terrified. Remembering her own altercation with Giacomo left her wondering what this poor girl had suffered to make her so delusional.
As if in slow motion the events began to unfold. She watched Marcus move to stop the fleeing girl. The flash of light nearly blinded her as it hit Marcus square in the chest. She reached into her bag grasping her large rough cut diamond. As Marcus was hurled toward her she closed her eyes and started to chant:
"O spirit of the East Stone
Ancient Watchtower of Air
I call you attend to me
And this man's life to spare."
The wind began to swirl around her lifting her inches off the ground as she continued the chant. As Marcus hurled towards her his momentum slowed to almost a float as he was gently brought down at her feet. He was gravely injured she could tell. Her powers would be of no use. But maybe she could just slow its progression. She held her pentacle in her left hand and laid her right hand directly on his charred chest. Closing her eyes she willed him to slow his life force allowing his body to start to heal.
Jaysa's reaction caught Calo by surprise. Silently cursing fate's malicious sense of humor, Calo tried to reach the small vampire girl, but his limbs were too heavy, as if he was trying to move through water. As Jaysa moved away with uncanny speed, Calo redoubled his efforts to no avail. Just as it seemed that Jaysa would escape unhindered into the city, Marcus suddenly leapt from his hiding place to bar her way.
Calo, still held within the effects of the spell, watched helplessly as a bolt of magic flew from Jaysa's hand and struck Marcus, hurling the ranger, perhaps already dead, towards an impact that would erase all doubt. As the ranger flew backward, the girl stared at her own hand, dumbfounded, neither knowing nor understanding what just happened. Then, in a quiver of motion, the girl simply disappeared, her slowing effects lingering for but a moment before following their mistress.
"MARCUS!" Calo screamed, finally free from the spell, as he rushed to save his friend, knowing that he could not do so. Fortune smiled, however, perhaps for the first time that evening, as one who could stepped from the night, holding aloft a glowing gem. He watched, as if frozen again, while Juleana, his love, did that which he could not. As the gem Juleana held glowed brighter, the winds whirled about her, catching the falling ranger and lowering him to the ground.
Though Juleana kneeled and tended to the still breathing Marcus, bending the living web of magic into his form and slowing his further descent, her powers where not enough to correct all the damage wrought by the Jaysa's attack. Calo then cast his own power to add to his lady's efforts only to hit a threshold never before encountered. With Marcus' breathing deepening and his heartbeat stronger, and danger abroad in the city, Calo ignored the barrier and turned to Eowyn shouting, "After her!"
Eowyn silently cursed herself as she discovered that she was caught in the effect of the girl's spell, and watched in mute anger as the light which flashed from Jaysa's hand pounded into Marcus and sent him arcing through the air. Having disposed of this nuisance, the girl pressed on, passing out of the camp and preparing to enter the city which lay open and unsuspecting before her.
Jaysa had scarce passed the boundaries of the camp when she disappeared, melding into the folds of darkness which wrapped about the empty streets. Her spell, however, tarried a bit longer, and most of those still within the camp remained victims to its hold. When at last it faded, Eowyn could see Calo and Juleana leaning over the limp from of Marcus which lay sprawled by an upset caravan.
Approaching the ranger and the two who now knelt beside him, Eowyn could hear Marcus moan quietly as two healing energies pulsed through his broken form. She sighed in relief and realized that she could do no more here. Indeed, cursing herself once again, she deemed that she had done quite enough already.
Looking up from the spot where he knelt over Marcus, Calo shouted for Eowyn to follow Jaysa. She ignored him, however, for she knew something that he did not. And so, leaving the camp behind her, Eowyn raced into the darkness that waited beyond, towards the only "person" who could save Jaysa, towards the one "person" she loathed above all others.
© 1998 Stormpoint Writers Guild
All rights reserved