Hunting Shadows

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Chapter 39

“So what’s the plan?”

They were sitting watching the bustling city from the balcony. JB looked at her, thinking of all the ways he could have lost her, and yet; she chose to remain with him. She watched him back with her luminous green eyes, her fingers playing idly with the handle on her coffee cup.

“The plan is I’m going to help you find the last few artifacts on the list. Then I’ve got to start training with Kyros and I know you’re not going to like this, but please for your safety… I need you off world.”

“Why?”

“I need you safe, and I don’t know what’s going to happen in the reaper’s tournament.”

He played with her fingertips and ran his hand up her bare leg. She looked pensive but understood where he was coming from. She agreed to stay off world until after the tournament.

Katrina agreed to fly Eryn and JB to their next destination; which wasn’t the African plains, but instead it was the harsh, unforgiving, dense forests of the Yukon. The landscape was half covered in trees while the other half was snow and ice.

“Why are we in the Yukon? I thought the dagger was off world?”

“It is, the portal that links worlds is here, and from there you’ll be able to find the dagger.”

“You’re not coming with me?”

“Not this time, but I’ll see you when you get back.”

She nodded, her portal ring giving a faint pulse, letting her know there was indeed an active portal in the area.

“I’m going to bring us down.”

Kat’s voice sounded loud in the headsets they had on. Eryn nodded, and JB disappeared from the plane, only to reappear on the ground beside the landing strip.

She watched the plane as it rose into the sky, glad that Jayson and his generals were doing alright, that the city was slowly on the mend and JB was more or less her partner again. She rolled her shoulders and neck, working the kinks out. JB appeared beside her, looking excited.

“What’s got the sparkle back in your eyes?”

“New adventure, my pretty lady is with me, I’ve got new deaths coming up, can’t help but be happy you know what I mean?”

“Yea I know what you mean, but you’re not coming with me.”

“I know, but you unlocked your shadow panther’s form, which if need be, I can access and save you from danger.”

“Is that how you’re always able to find me?”

He nodded and helped her over a rock that was dusted with snow. They had been walking uphill for the past hour and the weather had taken a typical turn for the worse, it had started snowing, lightly at first, but within the last five minutes the snow had been steadily getting thicker and the flakes were getting bigger.

“How long do you think this will last?”

Her voice was drowned out in the howling wind that blew down from the top of the mountain. Her ghostly partner pulled her along behind him, her gloved fingers intertwined with his bony ones. Further up the slope they found a small cave to take shelter in while the storm blew itself out. It was almost three hours when the wind and snow quieted and a pale moon rose above the treeline to bleach the landscape to a cold silver.

She took some pictures of the frozen landscape before following JB up the rough mountainside, eerily noting that she was the only one leaving sets of paw prints in the snow.

“Your pictures are very good. They remind me of home.”

What?”

“I like your pictures, they remind me of me of my home.”

The apartment?”

“No, the reaper’s home world.”

She smiled, swiping her tongue along her lips and teeth. Her eerie yellow green eyes reflecting to near white in the moonlight. They were getting closer to the portal, her ring kept flashing and the only time it created a portal was when it was in water.

They reached the crest and rounded a corner when JB drew up short, holding his arm out to catch Eryn a moment before she plummeted 100 feet into the murky frozen water of the hidden lake nestled between peaks. The ring pulsed twice and set still.

After securing the rope around a young but thickly growing tree just behind the peak she began her descent into the frozen lake. Her breathe frosted on the cold air and when she looked over at JB he was nothing more than a shadow silhouetted against the night sky, blotting out the stars like a black void. She decided to focus on her breathing and descent.

When she had reached the base level of the lake, she was leaning against the side the of the mountain face when she aimed the repelling gun at the farthest tree directly across from her position. JB made sure her line was secure, a sadness coming over him as he watched her secure her harness and climb to the center of the rope. He watched with hooded eyes knowing this was the right thing to do and yet hating to watch her leave.

It was dizzying and exhilarating being up so high in the frozen dark of the Yukon mountains with the dense forests and underbrush creaking and swaying in the freezing air. The snow glistened in the moonlight.

“Be safe, I love you. I’ll see you when you get back.”

She watched him, standing in the shadows at the far end of the lake, he looked vaguely human but there was something ethereal and peaceful about him as well, something that spoke about a calmness and tranquility of eternal sleep. Vaguely in the back of her mind she wondered if and when they had started trusting each other again.

“I love you too, I’ll see you when this over.”

That was the last thing she said to him a moment before she unclipped the carabiner and dropped the 25 feet into the water below. He had thinned the ice so that she wouldn’t break her neck when she hit the frozen water. His phone beeped and he disappeared.

Her body hit the water and she could feel the ice shattering around her like being thrown through a plate glass window. There was the sickening feeling of being ripped apart through time and space and then she was in another world.

Her backpack was lying against a rock and when she regained consciousness, she was in world that she hadn’t been to because nothing looked familiar. There were long spindly tree limbs covered in sharp spines, and it looked like a desert. No protection, harsh light, something similar to sand but not quite with the same consistency. Her instincts were telling her to find shelter soon, but there was none in sight.

She pulled her goggles over her head and onto her eyes as a fine gritty wind began to blow. If there was an artifact here, she would find it. Steel and determination, new powers, new life… these were things she had to keep in mind. She trudged forward through the sand, her bandana pulled over mouth, her pistol in its holster on her hip, a set of throwing knives on her left side. She felt calm and collected knowing she was able to handle anything that came her way.

She lost track of time, and hadn’t noticed when the landscape had changed.

“It’s all your fault you know.”

Startled, she looked over at the girl who was idly running a nail file across her fingers and leaning against a tree. Aware and awake now, she realized that that she was in an entirely different landscape then the one she had been in previously with the sand. This one was covered in ice, all the trees and bushes appeared to be made of ice, the only thing was that it wasn’t cold.

Logically, she knew that this was most likely a hallucination caused by dehydration from the harsh weather and sun. Another explanation was that she had heat stroke and was hallucinating because she had passed out in the desert somewhere and was dying. She focused her mind, calming her emotions and contacted her partner.

“You ok? What’s wrong? Eryn? Do you need help?”

“JB, I’m fine; everything’s good. I just wanted to make sure I was ok… sorry to disturb you.”

“It’s ok, I’m glad you’re alright.”

She opened her eyes again, and the girl was standing right in front of her. She jumped back giving herself two feet worth of space between her and the girl.

“It’s all your fault you know. I wouldn’t have ended up like this, in this awful body if it weren’t for you.”

“Nope, I’m not going down that pathway. You’re not real. In fact, none of this might be real and I am most likely passed out in the desert dying of dehydration, so you are just a hallucination and I’m not going down that path of craziness.”

The girl pondered this a moment, then shrugged. “Personally, I could care less if you think I’m real or not. Also if I weren’t real could I do this?” The girl lunged toward Eryn with her fist raised. Hallucination or not, she was not going out without a fight. She blocked and parried with stunning efficiency, her fingers and claws flashing brightly in the harsh sunlight.

“Why do you hate me so much?”

“Because everything that happened to me is your fault.”

“I don’t understand how. I don’t even know you.”

The girl was an experienced fighter. Powerful and lethal. The girl drove her attacks home with brutal force and hatred seeped from her bones. Her face twisted into a grimace and her eyes blazed with fury. Something about her fighting style was vaguely familiar but Eryn couldn’t recall where if when she fought a 15 year old girl with brown hair and practically burning with fury and hatred.

Eryn’s claws flashed against a dagger and every time she tried to hit the girl, she was blocked or rebounded. There was something familiar about the girl, something old and inhuman. Calming her breathing and focusing her energy, she felt for the energy that ran through every living being, that driving force behind the planet. She could feel the power gathering around her, feel the white light dancing along her skin and just as she was about to blast the girl, something hit the back of her head so hard she lost her focus and consciousness.

“Daddy told me to bring you back as a prize.”

Eryn slipped into the sweet embrace of the blackness, the darkness closing in around her. The girl wiped the blood and sweat from her cheek, hating the fact that this body was so frail and still she wasn’t up to her full power level. Sighing heavily, she picked up Eryn’s unconscious body and opened a portal back to the middle ground. Her father would be pleased, and hopefully turn her back into a reaper.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t let you take her.”

The girl stopped short of the portal and spun around to face this new threat. What she came face to face with, was a 7-foot giant. Tall, lean, well-muscled, power emanating from him in waves. His piercing amber fire flecked eyes cutting her to the bone.

“Why not? She’s my prize.”

“She’s also my friend, and I can’t let you take her.”

“How are you going to stop me?”

“By any means necessary.”

She dropped Eryn’s body, and lunged at the newcomer who blocked her left hook and with the same motion slapped the sides of her head with his open palms. Dizzy and disorientated, she reeled backward, only to be knocked off her feet and sent flying backward into the nearest building. She hit the side with a sickening crack as her head rocked back and hit the brick.

He calmly walked over and picked up Eryn’s unconscious body as if she weighed no more than pillow. He was bare chested, with a deep tan and amber fire flecked eyes. His black hair shone in the harsh sunlight and there was something ethereal and timeless about him. Groaning, she got unsteadily to her feet, and wiped the blood seeping into her eyes. Nobody took her prize from her without a fight, and even though she was still drained from her fight with Eryn, she wasn’t about to go down easily.

“Give me back my prize.”

Tyver slung Eryn over his shoulder and glanced back at the girl who appeared to be swaying slightly on her feet. He hadn’t realized he’d hit her so hard, but it had been ages since he had a fight and he knew the girl wasn’t human. So, he figured she could take the hit when he knocked her backward off her feet, and kicked her into the building.

“What makes you think she’s yours to kidnap?”

“I won the fight fair and square. My father sent me to fetch her for his stupid tournament. She’s my prize and I’ll be taking her back.”

“I’m sorry but I can’t allow you do that. She’s my friend and someone very important to me.”

“But if I don’t bring her back, daddy will be angry with me.”

“That’s not my problem. You mean you need her as a bargaining chip to use against your father. I’m sorry, but she’s my friend and I’ll be taking her from here. You also didn’t win that fight fair and square.”

“Who do you think you are?”

The girl was starting to get pissed off now and black electrical energy was beginning to fluctuate around her. Tyver sighed and set Eryn back on the ground, before he took a moment to study the girls power level and energy. She seethed, and her eyes turned to obsidian.

“Give her back!”

She screeched, high and inhuman, the sound resonating through the town and off the buildings. Tyver cringed away, falling to his knees with his hands pressed tightly to his ears, his legs curled into his chest. Dark, electrical power arced from the girl, absorbing all the life from the town, the planet, sucking the life from the world. A hand linked through his and pulled him toward a swirling portal of color.

Once they were through and he could think without his mind shattering and his soul being sucked dry, he stood there panting and shaking, trying to come back from the nightmares that plagued him.

He didn’t remember leaving the world or hearing Eryn start the fire. All he remembered was seeing his parents killed in front him, his entire race wiped out by the time lords. Endless screaming and pain, nightmares, Eryn wrapped her arms around him and whispered calming things, reassuring him everything would be alright.

“What was she?”

“Honestly, I’m not sure… But I have a pretty good idea.”

“She’s not human.”

“I know.”

“She wasn’t a vampire, or a reaper… but she felt like a reaper in power… so what was she?”

Eryn sighed and snuggled closer, she turned the rabbits over. Tyver kept his arms around her and watched the flames, still not sure if things were real or not. He hated that he still felt tremors in his arms and his hands shook.

“I believe she’s Hade’s daughter… and that I was supposed to be the prize for the Reaping Tournament he’s holding. She’s technically half god, half reaper in a human body. JB and I fought her when she was a full reaper and poisoning the people of my city.”

“How, what happened?”

“Lenora gave the people master reaper blood, which sucked the life force from them and turned them into ghosties. JB figured out a cure a year later…”

He nodded, lost in thought and curled his head towards Eryn breathing in her scent. She still smelled like floral shampoo but now there was something else that he could pick up. The distinct smell of death, which was a subtle, yet painful reminder that she wasn’t his and could never be. It also reminded him of the war fought between the time lords and the dragons which had endangered the humans.

“I have one more question.”

She chuckled. “What’s your question?”

“Why were you able to move, but I could not?”

She stiffened momentarily, before sighing heavily and leaning back against him. “It’s because of my tie to my partner. He tied our life forces together when he came back… which allows me to siphon his powers and he helped me unlock mine.”

“Be careful when playing with powers of darkness.”

“I am, I know what I’m doing.”

“I know you do, but I don’t want to lose you.”

She played with his fingers and watched the fire. Tyver nodded and hugged her closer. He knew she belonged to someone else, that he could never have her, and that was why he treasured these small precious moments with her. The next morning dawned cold and grey and there was a chill in the air that she immediately felt when she got up and moved away from Tyver.

“Where are we? I don’t recognize this world.”

She shook the light dusting of snow from her pelt, and got the fire restarted since it had burned down to embers during the night. Tyver stretched and yawned, oblivious to the cold.

“My guess is one of the snowball worlds. Their worlds that are frozen over by ice and snow… hard to survive on for long. Now then shall we get going?”

“Hold up.”

She checked her list of artifacts she needed to collect. Tyver stood waiting for her, keeping an eye open for Lenora or anything else out of the ordinary.

“There’s an enchanted ice dagger on this planet.”

“How do you know that?”

She held up her wrist and a small charm blinked. “Jayson made it for me, it detects enchanted weaponry.” She blushed and held her hand out and when the charm blinked in quick succession she began moving in that direction. Tyver sighed and followed her. Ever the adventurer.

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