Chapter 13: Fighters and lovers
The natural reaction to an eight armed, monolithic demon should be terror. Artemis felt nothing but excitement.
“I’ve got this!” she exclaimed and ran out of the airship hanger.
Smaller than the demon’s smallest toe, she stood no chance in defeating it. She didn’t believe that; she knew she could do it. Standing on the end of the airstrip looking at the demon’s knees and down she stopped and concentrated on her breathing. Reaching the same, preternatural state of self-knowledge as she had fighting the lord commander of the Demon Hordes of Aldroy.
Every part of her being vibrated with excitement. She stood up, unsheathed her swords and jumped towards the demon.
It’s feet were just starting to touch the soil when she hit it in the chest with her shoulder. They both tumbled into the sea and stood up at the same time. She looked the demon in the eye and smiled. She was now the same size.
Eight blades fought against her two and she made sure to step backwards to avoid fighting too close to the island. The demon wasn’t just a great swordsman, they were also used to fighting with eight arms. She did her best and managed to lop off one arm but the demon cut her side with one of its serrated blades. The sea turned red and green from their blood, like some sort of holiday dessert gone terribly wrong.
Death had never scared her but she wished she’d had more time with Diana and Ezekiel. She wanted to explore what they had together. Unfortunately, she was getting weak from blood loss and as she was being beaten with blows from the seven remaining swords, she worried it was her last few moments.
A cannonball hit the demon in the forehead and exploded into a shower of caustic smelling liquid. The demon screamed and swatted at the airship. She took the opening and its head fell into the ocean, a silent scream still on its lips.
“She needs help,” Diana said.
“I don’t think there’s anything we can do,” Fred sighed.
“What is he doing? Wait… She?” Ezekiel asked.
Diana closed her eyes and felt terrible. It wasn’t her place to out anyone. She’d come to the conclusion at the monastery but it really didn’t make a difference, Arty or whatever her name was, was a true hero. And damn attractive. “Yes, please don’t freak out.”
Eyes wide and mouth dropping open, Ezekiel looked terrified and amazed at the same time. It was a stronger reaction than she’d expected. Turning to look at Arty, she saw that the reaction was for the woman growing to match the gargantuan demon and not for the reveal of her sex.
“Did you know she could do that?” asked Diana to both men.
“No but I’m not surprised, she’s quite impressive and extremely well trained in mystical combat and martial arts.” Fred sounded impatient.
“No, but I look forward to discovering what else she can do.” Ezekiel sounded smitten.
“Your highness, the ships are ready and loaded. How are we to disperse the venom?” One of the captains asked.
“Have the Serenity ready to make it rain as if we were misting crops. Have the venom in the Raza brought to the gun decks.” Turning to Fred she said, “I’m on the Raza, make sure the city is properly rained.”
The Raza’s gun decks were impressive even by military standards. She took a moment to admire the nearly two hundred guns. The deck was crowded by barrels of Gabon venom.
It took some improvising, but she was able to combine the venom and cannonballs into a perfect demon killing weapon. After she’d combined the first ammunition box she turned to see Ezekiel playing an upbeat melody and she knew he was helping to bolster her magic.
“Sister, Sister, Sister. Why do you still struggle.” Paul, the lost prince, stood behind her with his sword at the ready. “Let’s finish this!” He swung his sword at lightning speeds, showing off its deadly serrated edge.
He surely meant to intimidate her and it wasn’t working. “Go back to hell, Paul!” She pulled out her pistol and shot him. Her paralysis dart hit him in the chest and he fell to the ground.
Turning to the inter-deck communicating tube, she bellowed, “Let’s get into the air and help our champion.” She turned back to her brother and saw him open a portal and start dragging himself into it. “Paul, don’t! You can’t sustain the portal! You’ll…”
The portal closed on him as he was crawling halfway in. His head to his waist made it through but his hips and below slopped onto the deck.
Once the colossal demon was defeated, the lost prince lost again, and the city was sprayed with Gabon venom, things quickly got better for the island of Cillian.
In some ways, things were forever changed. Artemis had earned the title of Master and the Monks of Dumas vowed to accept anyone into their ranks.
In other ways, nothing had changed. Ezekiel sat behind his desk dreaming of music and writing bits of songs on a piece of paper that might once have been an invoice.
“Well don’t you look content,” the Oracle said walking in.
“How can I help you?” He was being as diplomatic as possible.
“Can you deliver a message to your lover?”
Blushing, Ezekiel said, “I can certainly bring a message to Master Artemis, Princess’s Champion.” After everything had settled down, Artemis wanted to get to know both the Princess and Ezekiel better. It had turned into open relationships that left all three of them happy and fulfilled.
“You don’t like me?” The Oracle said bluntly with a smirk. He shook his head and she broke into a full smile. “Why?”
“You made a fool of yourself and us before my concert.” It sounded silly when he said it aloud.
“Yes but I made sure you were all in the right place.”
“What? Everything you said was wrong.”
Laughing she replied, “Oh sweet child. What I did ensured Artemis went to you after the concert. That made sure the Princess went to the monastery the next day. And it made sure you were too lovesick and tired to leave your bed.”
“But we didn’t listen to you.”
“No one listens to me but gossips and historians.”
Could she have really pushed them towards what happened? Ezekiel wasn’t convinced but the idea scared him. “What’s the message?”
“Tell your lover and her lover to help the white furred dog-girl* when she falls from the sky. She sees more than I would ever want.”
Ezekiel sighed. Another vague prophesy could mean nothing but trouble. At least for the moment everything had ended happily.
Did you enjoy this years serial story? Why not check out one of the previous years?