by Sheri L. McGathy
(As is, And I really mean that
Copyright® – No part of this may be reproduced without permission)
"How much longer, OrbWard?" Aldous complained.
"Not far now," came his breathless reply. "I sense the Orb Key awakening. Not long now, this I am sure."
"Phugh . . . that's what you swore the last time I asked."
Ovid swung around, his eyes shining eerily in the somber light of the passageway. Aldous squared his shoulders and faced the sulking OrbWard, but before one could confront the other, a noise drifting out from the gloom distracted them.
They turned in unison. Dione, anchored between the Twins, was laughing at some, as yet unknown antic that, Ovid was sure, Col had performed at his expense. Callie hugged Dione's arm with both her own and giggled uncontrollably, tears streaming from her tightly sealed eyelids.
Placing hands upon his hips, the OrbWard turned away from the crotchety old wizard to view the trio better.
They laughed harder.
"What?" he asked.
They went silent at the sound of his voice. All three looked at him with a hint of guilt burning upon their faces before they exploded with uncontrolled mirth.
"What?" Ovid growled, growing tired of having to repeat himself, and more then a little suspicious.
When no answer came, he waved his hands high above his head and paced off toward the far end of the passageway. Leaning against the flickering wall, he slid down its length to plop upon the dusty ground, there to await an end to this latest outburst.Lance, standing behind the trio, did much the same as Ovid and sank to the tunnel floor and leaned back against its cool walls to wait this latest outburst out. They'd been through this before. All one could do was wait the three of them out. When the Twins grew tired, their fatigue bred foolishness and Dione was usually more than willing to join in on such foolishness.
One never knew when the children would erupt. With Col being chief amongst the antic-makers, and Callie and Dione always managing to be involved in some manner, Lance was grateful that the Twins only grew punchy with laughter. They could just as easily swing the opposite way leaving him saddled with argumentative, complaining charges. The large warrior smirked as he thought, Much like the adults around them, and looked toward the sullen form of the OrbWard, and then to the scowling figure of the wizard as he approached.
"What set them off this time?"
"One never knows," Lance answered the wizard truthfully."Well, this is as good a place as any to rest. What say you, Davenhawkes? Shall we break?""Aye, it is as good a place as any," he agreed.
The Twins fell to the floor, their descent trailed by their laughter. Lance watched as Dione reached down and gently tickled each on their rib cage. They squirmed, each begging loudly for mercy as they tried to escape her probing fingers, and both grinned brilliantly, lessening the gloom about them. Relenting, she tousled both their brown locks, and gifted them with her own bright smile.
Lance had to admit that Dione had turned out to be very beneficial to the children. He could see it in the way they clung to her. They had taken to her instantly, and she them, easily becoming their surrogate mother. Dione, Lance noted, acted very much like their mother–never too busy to play, or cuddle, or love them . . . or scold them. The Twins yearned for just such a bond like they had shared with their parents, Darius and Kamaria, even if they didn't recognize their longings or their need for that lost warmth. Their parents' deaths had been a bitter blow to ones so young.
He clenched his fists tight, yet another crime to drop at Lord Xenos Daytus' feet.They had been on the run since those deaths. Almost a year had come and gone since their fearful flight into the portals. He sighed. They had been on the run all right, crisscrossing their way through various worlds following the Orb's direction. To what end, he didn't know, but so far the only Champion they'd found had been Dione. He wondered anew if the pup of an OrbWard knew as much about the Orb Key as he claimed. Shrugging, he pushed the thought away. He'd most likely never discover the answer to that question.
As if summoned by his thoughts, Dione approached and sat down beside him. He nodded toward her, but remained silent. She seemed content to mimic his silence for a time.
Finally, she asked, "Is it safe here?"
Lance nodded again. "Aye, I believe so."
"Hmmm . . ." she replied.
Lance had seen her answer this way before. Something puzzled her.
"Why," she began predictably, "don't we ever meet anyone else in these damn tunnels? I mean, ya'all keep yapping about Spirit Raiders and this Xenos whomever, yet we never see them. Why is that?"
"Be grateful, young woman, that we do not!" Aldous snapped.
"'Tis quite simple, dear lady," the OrbWard answered as he rose and joined them. "The Orb protects us. When a danger is sensed, it opens a portal and sends us through. That is why it appears as if we do nothing but zigzag through the worlds. But now, we are near to choosing another. Our path will become defined."
"Another?" she echoed.
"Aye, another Champion to come to our aid," Ovid confirmed dreamily.
"And that's another thing," Dione challenged. "As a so-called Champion, what, exactly is it I'm suppose to do? Ya'all keep telling me I've got some kind of talent, but I'll be damned if I know what it is."
"I suspect, Honored One, that what you proclaim, may not be entirely true. Alas, only you may know. Do not worry, you will sense your talent, and recognize it when it appears. Hold faith with the Orb," Ovid supplied.
"Phugh and poppycock, Ovid! Can't you do any better than that?" Aldous taunted."Now see here, old man…" but never finished his sentence.
The Orb Key blazed to life, filling the passageway with its brilliant light, spewing eerie images of shadowy beings into existence and sending them racing across the walls in grotesque similes of the true forms they imitated.
"Children, to me," Lance thundered.
They quickly did his bidding, gathering behind the large man, huddling within Dione's warm embrace.
The wall before them shimmered, its once inflexible form growing less and less solid as a portal beckoned. Ovid held the Key out before him and waited as the wizard added his essence to the Orb's magic. Soon, where once stood a solid barrier, now there stood a hole, and beyond they could see an azure sky filled to overflowing with moist white, billowy clouds.
Lance stepped to the threshold and looked out. His eyes grew large as he turned around with alarm. "Wizard, there is nothing out there for us to step upon! How do we enter here?"
Aldous stepped to the edge and did a cursory scan of what lay beyond and then shrugged. "Phugh and poppycock, poppycock and phugh." Rolling his sleeves up over scrawny elbows, he complained loudly, "Well, Ovid, that cursed Orb is really nothing more than a blundering nuisance. I guess it is up to me, once again, to come to the rescue."
The OrbWard growled, his top lip peeling back to show large, sharp teeth, but Aldous continued as if he didn't notice. "Gather round all, I'll just have to spell us down. I hope your precious Orb appreciates the effort, Ovid, I'm an old man, after all!"
Lance shook his head as he ushered everyone toward the wizard's awaiting arms.
Aldous mumbled faintly, his arms spread wide before him. Then, without warning, their feet left the ground and they floated through the passageway and out of the portal.
Dione felt the now familiar tingle caress her as she passed through the yawning opening. When she had first experienced it she had been terrified. Lance had calmed her with his deep, gentle voice as he explained that it was only a spell that enabled them to speak the common language of whatever world they entered. It was necessary, and so she would have to learn to endure.
She supposed it was what enabled her to continue to understand her companions.
Necessary, yes, but still unnerving as it passed over her body. She shuttered and squeezed her eyes tight until it was over, resenting what, to her, felt like a personal violation.
They passed through the portal and were instantly enveloped by large, puffy clouds filling the expansive sky. Moisture beaded up on their skin, and the air that wound about them felt cold and unwelcome.
"This should do." Aldous waved a hand beneath him and they all landed with a loud thud with what could only be described as a platform made of fog. "It will hold," Aldous said to Dione's raised brow. "Trust me."
Dione merely shrugged.
They started their descent, Aldous' magical platform slicing through the canvas of velvety moisture toward, what Dione hoped would be dry, solid ground. Veiled in the mist, virtually blinded by it, her senses grew sharper. The sound of churning waves washing up against stone echoed out to her, the steady hiss creating a dawning apprehension within her. Yet the sound reassured, too, giving her hope that there really was something more substantial beneath them besides air.
She licked moisture from her lips. Reluctant to shatter the vacuum about them with the sound of her voice yet needing to know, she whispered, "Where are we?"
In the same reverent whisper, Ovid explained, "Empyreana, the planet of extremes, a world of high peaks and blue, airy skies filled with caressing clouds floating over large expanses of crystal clear oceans."
"No land?" Dione didn't care for the way her voice rose.
"Oh, poppycock, Ovid, ever the romantic, aren't you? My dear, Empyreana is a wet, lonely world with little to offer us in way of shelter or comfort, though there is land, I assure you. The puppy only venerates this place based on what he has been told, having never truly been here. I suggest you listen to only half of his nonsense, and perhaps the truth will lie somewhere in between."
With a voice resembling nothing of his usual gentle tone, Ovid retorted, "One day, Wizard, I shall bite your head off and curses be tossed to the winds!"
"Ha, puppy, with your luck, you'll choke long before you can savor your rebellion."
"Ovid, Aldous…enough!" Lance warned. "If not for me, then…." but his words were snatched from him as a new sensation seized him.
An odd strangeness threatened, creeping in toward them, moving unseen just beyond their sight within the concealing mists, angling toward them with deliberate slowness.
The hair along Lance's arms responded to the unknown presence. In one liquid motion, he drew his sword and forced his charges behind him.
Even before the ring of Lance's sword echoed out to him, Ovid's head snapped up to sniff the air fervently. A low rumbling built from the inner cavities of his massive chest to emerge as a fully developed thunder. Ovid's upper lip peeled upward and wrinkled beneath his nose revealing dagger-sharp incisors.
"Oh, curse the moons," Aldous moaned. Rolling his sleeves up past his knobby elbows, he proclaimed while staring into Lance's steel gray eyes, "I can't promise how long I can hold our descent platform if I'm forced to divide my concentration."
The warrior nodded once in understanding, and demanded, "What color the Key, OrbWard?"
"It is gray, warrior…gray!"
Lance growled. "Get us down, wizard!"
Aldous did not answer.
The misty clouds surrounding them swirled and coiled, caressed and toyed, teased, but refused to give up any secrets. Silence entombed them, and a chill that had nothing to do with the moist air, caused shivers to overtake them.
Echoing out from the shimmering curtain of mist came the roar of many voices raised in unison mingled with the unmistakable sounds of battle.
Dione sheltered the Twins in her embrace, trying to shield them from whatever unknowns lurked within the phantom depths of the clouds.
Aldous' white skin grew even paler, giving him the look of an animate, alabaster statue; sweat trickled down his forehead and his brow was creased with the force of his concentration.
The clouds rolled and swirled before their anxious faces, all eyes open wide, muscles tensed to spring at whatever threatened from its depths. Each coil of the vapor was like tendrils reaching out to them in teasing invite, playfully waiting for them to step forward . . . to their certain doom.
The sounds filtered in to them, but remained just beyond any hope of seeing. The position of the unseen battle was hard to follow as the clouds amplified, and muffled, all at the same time.Suddenly, the battle shifted, finding a point of entry and just that quickly the sounds solidified, raining down on them from above.
Lance's sword swept up to meet the threat, even as he pushed Dione and the children down toward his feet.
While waving a hand above his head, Aldous mumbled yet another mysterious chant, his red eyes glowing brightly against the swirling backdrop of graying clouds. And then, with what Lance thought was amazing clarity, chaos erupted from the swirling smoky wall surrounding them.
Lance stepped forward, without hesitation, his sword already in play. Behind him, Dione hugged the children to her chest, crouching low over their small forms. Her eyes darted about, frantically searching for whatever threatened. Her own fear barely contained.
Dione heard a faint whisper ensue from her left side and felt a tentative pat upon her cheek. Distinctively, she swung her head to answer . . . and a scream froze in her throat.
The thing came forward, moving slowly–expectantly–almost gleefully. She could almost imagine seeing the triumph in its cold, dead eyes.
Transfixed, her rising fear effectively imprisoned her. She could not move.
The thing floated ever nearer, focusing all of its attention upon her and the children she held huddled beneath her. Its unfathomable stare caught her own terrified stare.
"Oh my god," Dione moaned as numbness seized her mind. The thing inched closer, never removing its icy stare from hers. Each forward step it took, the greater the numbness within her grew. Tears streamed down her cheeks, but she was helpless to escape the pain. All about her chaos reigned. The children whimpered in her arms, but she could do nothing.
She heard Col scream, "No, Dione, don't! It's a Spirit Raider."
"Don't what?" some rational part of her burning mind asked.
"What indeed," the raider whispered back.
Col's tiny hand reached out and grabbed her arm, yanking her away. "Don't touch it," Col screamed, the terror evident in his anguished cry. "You will die!"
Callie shook her, crying out, "Don't die! Don't die! Don't die!"
Something within Dione heard them; something deep within her tried to respond.
The Spirit Raider glided ever closer, its features swirling and rolling in upon itself, refusing to solidify. She raised her head as it hovered near. It extended a willowy arm and pointed a long bony finger toward her. Its phantom eyes showing death–hers.
"Oh god, oh god," she cried out as she inched backward away from the groping hand. "Please, give me strength."
The Spirit Raider's pale hand casually descended. She thought she heard a cackle echo in her mind before the words, "Mine. Mine. Now mine," in a singsong voice chimed in her head.
Dione tried to stand, but the pain dropped her back to her knees. "Get out of my head," she shouted, each word spat out through clenched teeth.
It raised a hand and made a pushing motion forward, and she screamed. White-hot light flashed behind her closed eyelids. She gasped, yet grew more determined.
The Spirit Raider sensed the change in her. Now it was the one who inched backward.
The pain lessened. The numbness faded. She could see the Spirit Raider's confusion. Its hesitation was all she needed. In one swift movement, she was rolling away, dragging the Twins with her.
Her escape was halted as she banged up against something or someone. She didn't know which. Sitting up, she turned to look behind her.
"No, no, no," she chanted.
The Spirit Raider came on, its purpose never wavering. From somewhere, it had now produced a large black blade that it held positioned before it.
Dione pressed her trembling hands against her ears and shouted, "You get out of my damn head!" as the pain renewed, engulfing her completely. Blinding spikes of white-hot arrows raced through her mind.
"Dione," Col whimpered.
The black blade arced downward toward the huddled forms.
Lance heard his charge scream. Ancient oaths wailed within him, oaths that bound and transformed him. The blood rage rose and took over. Turning, he quickly dispatched a minor Spirit Raider as it carelessly floated too close to his gleaming blade. Its severed head rolled away into the clouds, its body reduced to a putrid pile of ash. Raiders hidden within the clouds, too far away to help, but close enough to feel the raider's death, screeched in unison, at the loss of the captured soul.
Col screamed again, and Lance was there, swinging his weapon in a wide arch to halt the black one's downward thrust. A chill swept up the length of his blade to numb his hand, yet Lance managed to hang on.
"Not this time, you hell-spawn. This time we dance."
The Spirit Raider nodded and brought the blade up again.
The ring of metal echoed all about, yet time stood still. Lance met each stroke with his own, even though he could no longer feel his hand. The numbing cold was progressing up his arm. Soon, he would not be able to defend himself.
Lance knew true fear. This creature was different. More powerful.
"Get them away, wizard!" Lance shouted daring to waste a precious breath in warning. But heard no answer.
He was tiring, while this Spirit Raider remained tireless. Lance had to find a weakness, and he had to find it soon.
Chanting the lessons learned from his youth on Lolpaw Isle, letting them become his mantra, he pressed. "Do not meet its stare; keep your mind a blank; do not touch the blade; do not show your fear; to dance with death is to hold honor."
This Spirit Raider easily pushed aside his attempts, forcing Lance to step away. The warrior raised his weapon to block the next arc of the black blade, and tripped, falling backwards to the platform, his blade sliding out of his numbed grip.
"Mine, mine, mine," the Spirit Raider cackled.
Lance knew this thing spoke the truth. He raised his face skyward, prepared to dance his final dance with death.
"Lance!" Dione screamed.
A flash of blinding light rippled across the clouds and rolled outward, washing over everything in its path. The pulsating brilliance reached the Spirit Raider just as its blade began its sideward swing. The light ran the blade's length, wrapping spiral coils about its opaque shaft and racing onward to ensnare the creature, the black blade dropping to the platform floor with a clang.
Lance sprang to his feet. Grabbing his own blade as he rose, he swung wide, the gleaming edge taking the howling Spirit Raider in the side of the neck, sending the head bouncing backwards into the clouds.
The mysterious light vanished as quickly as it had materialized, leaving them encased in blackness.
At first, Lance thought himself blinded, but soon realized he could just make out the image of his hand before him. He dropped to his knees and groped about searching for the Twins. He dared not utter even a whisper for fear of the unknown hidden within the dark.
He tilted his head and listened. Quiet was all about him, encircling him, imprisoning him.
A glimmer of light sparked into frail existence from within the opaque backdrop and he swung his head toward it, drawn to it much as a bug is drawn to the flame.
He saw them.
Dione lay upon the ground, eyes open yet blank, with both children huddled about her. Callie wore the look of wide-eyed terror, her eyes darting about, never ceasing their roving as she clung to Dione's still frame. Col remained strangely silent. His complexion was pale, and his small body trembled slightly, but his eyes gave no emotion away. Near them, Ovid hid his face within his hairy hands and whimpered.
Lance rose and gathered them into his protection. Carefully cradling the limp Dione within his arms, he pressed his ear to her chest and sighed. The steady beat of her heart gave him hope.The light expanded, gallantly pushing against the blackness, forcing it to give quarter. Aldous stood rigid at the center of the platform with a finger wisp of flame floating lightly above his outstretched, shaking palm.
There was nothing of the battle left about them. Quiet was the norm, the battle as dead as the Spirit Raider.
"What happened, wizard?" Lance demanded.
"Spirit Raider!" Aldous spat back. "But how?"
"Nay, it cannot be so," Ovid protested. "The Orb would never place us in such danger. It would never," he repeated, as if trying to convince himself.
"But it did!" Col screamed. Large tears flowed freely down his cheeks. "It did," he whispered, burying his face in the shadows of Dione's still form. His arm draped over her waist, his small hand balled tightly into a fist, while his body shook with the force of his now silent sobs. Callie sighed and laid her cheek against his trembling back and closed her eyes.
"Xanos must have found a way to circumvent the Orb's protection." Lance pushed hair from his brow. "That Spirit Raider was like no other I have faced. What do we do, wizard?"
"I must get us down," Aldous muttered. "Then we must seek shelter, quickly. There are–"
Lance shot him a warning glare as he nodded toward the Twins, silencing the old man.
Lance knew what the wizard wished to say. There were more Spirit Raider's about. He didn't need to possess magic to know this was so. He could feel them probing even now.
Muttering to himself, Aldous thrust the flame forward, trying to peer into the smoky clouds surrounding them. "Why did I not sense them before? I sense them now."
Lance watched as Aldous thrust the flame into the cloud wall. The wizard's hand stalled just at the edge and went no farther.
"What has happened here?" the old man mumbled to himself. "What indeed?" he said as he tried again to pass the flame into the clouds.
Aldous gasped. "Lance, come here," he tossed over his shoulder, never taking his eyes from the mist. "Try to touch the vapors beyond."
Stepping forward, the warrior joined him at the edge of the mist and extended his hand toward the rolling wall. He found it impossible to pass through. Something stayed his hand. He looked to the wizard, alarm clearly registering upon his face.
"What is this?" Lance whispered, gingerly tapping his finger against the invisible shield, but before Aldous could answer, a loud thud resounded from the other side of the shield. They both jumped back.
Callie screamed, and Col tried to cover Dione's body with his tiny one.
Lance again drew his sword.
"Put it away, Warrior," Aldous instructed. "Save your strength for when we are on land. For now, they cannot touch us."
Lance kept his sword before him as he asked, "What have you done, Wizard?"
"Oh balderdash. Try to be grateful for a change, Lance." Shaking his head, he continued, "I wish that I had. Then mayhap, I would understand it."
The wizard made a pushing motion with his hand toward the platform floor and they slowly began to descend.
As the magic took them toward the ground, Aldous' stick-like frame walked the perimeter of the shield. Constant muttering could be heard as he poked a finger at different points and bent over to examine where the shield met the flooring. An occasional, "Balderdash," could be heard amidst the mumbling but no other discernable content.
Ovid, clutching the Orb Key to his chest, crawled over to where Lance now sat, a child to each side of him and a limp Dione cradled on his lap. Below them, nothing could be seen but clouds swirling as the platform pushed its way through its midst.
"What has happened to her?" Ovid asked.
Lance only shook his head.
The darkness surrounded them, lurking just on the edges of the wizard's flame as if only waiting for an opening. To Lance's right sat a large pile of ash. Tendrils of foul smelling smoke curled up from it to clog his throat with its stench.
"The light saved us. It burnt the Spirit Raider to a crisp." Callie supplied seeing the direction Lance stared.
Ovid nodded, "Yes, the Orb Key must have acted, thus saving us. Perhaps atonement for–"
"Please be quiet, Calador." Lance rubbed his forehead.
The OrbWard looked stricken and turned away.
"No," Callie was saying. "No."
"No what, princess," Ovid asked, turning back to face her.
"No, it was not the Orb, it was Dione. I saw it."
"You are mistaken," Ovid cooed, "The Orb Key ignited, I am sure. You only thought it was the Lady. You were scared. The Orb Key is our savior, of this I have little doubt."
"Oh, do cease, OrbWard, " Aldous exploded. "I grow weary of your prattle concerning that silly Orb. I am tired enough just trying to get us down without you and your constant praise about a piece of glass that so obviously lead us astray."
Ovid jumped to his feet and rounded on the wizard. "You take your insults back, old man. You of all people should know better than to insult the Orb."
"I think not, pup."
"What? What?" Ovid nearly screeched.
"Ovid, sit down. Aldous, please silence yourself," Lance stated flatly. "That Orb had nothing to do with the shield that even now keeps the Spirit Raiders from our minds."
They both snapped their mouths shut with an audible click and stared at the warrior as if he had suddenly grown a third eye.
"Then," Ovid asked, "who did?"
"Dione," Callie again supplied.
Lance nodded. "I believe the child speaks the truth."
"Poppycock and balderdash," Aldous mumbled, slowly sinking to the floor. "Then she is the only one who can remove it."
"We are trapped?" Col stammered.
"Nay, young prince, calm yourself." The old man said. "We are safe for now. The Spirit Raiders cannot get in to harm us."
"This is good news," Lance added, nudging Col with his elbow.
Col sniffed and ran his arm under his nose. "I suppose."
Another thud sounded within their vacuum and a dark form slide off the invisible shield to fall from their sight. Then another, and soon the shield vibrated with the force of the constant assault.
"There appears to be no Commanders. Xenos cannot sustain long distance control for long. Without Commanders to hold the crystal vials, they will vanish. Then we will be safe," Ovid stated with confidence.
"This Hand appears to be only a small scouting party," Lance supplied. "I think they may have been as surprised to see us, as we were them. We should be long gone from here before word reaches Lord Daytus of our whereabouts." He looked down to the Twins and gently stroked their fawn-covered hair before saying to the wizard, "Something is amiss. That final Spirit Raider, the one with the black blade," he nodded toward the second pile of ash, "was different." He hesitated as he looked down to his charges.
"Yes," Aldous agreed. "It would appear the game has changed." Col's hand jerked at the wizard's words. Aldous sighed, "Do not worry children, a false trail will be laid, and they will be off in the portals chasing their own shadows."
Lance waited for the wizard to say more, but he, too, had grown silent.
The clouds that had concealed the truth from them, thinned to reveal the seriousness of their situation. A full Hand of Spirit Raiders battered against their shield, hacking at it with their black, deadly blades. They floated forward, attacked, and fell back, only to renew and come again.
Lance could only hope the shield held.
Light from without joined with the wizard's flame, finally illuminating the planet that awaited them.
"Oh dear, oh dear," Ovid chanted.
"What happens when we reach the ground?" Tears ran freely down Callie's pale cheeks.
"Ah, little one," Lance cooed as he hugged her near. "All will be well. Dione is watching over us." He hoped he spoke the truth.
Callie snuggled closer to him and reached out to take one of Dione's limp hands within her own small one. Col aped her.
The ground appeared to be rushing up to meet them. Within moments they felt the impact and were tossed backward like nothing more than tiny twigs.
Dione moaned as she reached toward her forehead.
The barrier dimmed, and the shielding slowly started to fall.
"Wizard?" Lance shouted.
As if sensing their chance, the next barrage of attacks started. Dione's body shook and her eyes rolled back in her head, showing nothing but the whites.
The OrbWard grabbed the wizard's frail arm and yanked him to his feet. "Help us."
"Move out of my way and let me do my work," the old man snapped with confidence, yet his eyes failed to conceal his fear.
From without, a blinding flash of light erupted, throwing the wizard backwards. Then all went very still. Now the wizard was as immobile as Dione.
"Blast it all to Blackwood," Lance shouted as he hefted his sword before him. He kissed its polished metal and then bowed. "Guard them well, OrbWard," and turned to face the fading shields.
He met the attack head on, and sliced, then back, jab, counter, slice. Quickly and thoughtlessly the powerful warrior fought. Somewhere in the back of his mind he noted that there were less of the Spirit Raiders than there had been. More than half the Hand was gone.
Again, step back, jab, counter, stab and slice, each movement taking him to his next opponent.
Lance heard the command echo in his ear and did not hesitate, quickly falling down on one knee upon the rocky ground. Above him, he heard the soft swish of an arrow pass by.At that moment, Dione awoke and sat up. Turning her confused eyes skyward she gasped, "Angels! Hundreds of them."
(As is, And I really mean that
Copyright® – No part of this may be reproduced without permission)