Beyond the Promethean capital was a small shack in the middle of a sparse forest.
“Vesuvian outpost?” Sara asked.
“Yes,” Leon answered, “I don’t see any Vesuvians.”
They cautiously approached the outpost.
“Doors open,” Sara noticed.
Leon entered the shack with Sara close behind, “No sign of a struggle,” he said.
“You think they could be hiding?” Sara asked.
“No, I would’ve found them by now. They may have run off for blood, but that’s unlikely,” Leon said, looking around, “We’ll rest up here for a few hours.”
“Okay,” Sara said, taking her gear off and stretching out on a bed, “Leon, I didn’t see any humans in the Netherworld, and I don’t suppose I would, but...do you know what happens to us?”
“Sorry,” Leon answered, sitting on a bed across the room, “I have no idea. Lilith might know, but she’ll never tell. I don’t think she can. To be honest, I did ask her once and all she did was smile.”
Both sat silent for several seconds. Sara could see that Leon had something to say.
“If you don’t...know, what do you believe?” Leon finally asked.
Sara answered, “I believe in a higher power that watches over me, protects me, and when it’s my time it’s my time.”
“So, you believe in destiny, then?” Leon asked.
“Well, if you put it that way, sure.” Sara answered.
“I find it interesting,” Leon said, “People like Nedim know what’s going to happen, but he still prays.”
Sara sat up, “That is interesting, but there’s nothing wrong with believing in something else.”
Again, silence. And it was during that moment Sara was hit with a realization, “Leon, where do you go when you die?”
Slowly shaking his head, Leon answered, “I don’t know.”
“Caycee and Darek, they told me about how you were...created,” Sara said, “Why don’t you ask Lilith?”
“I did. All she did was laugh.” Leon said.
Several peaceful hours passed. From outside was a steady howl of the wind, the sound of an owl-like creature, and the light of the moon.
Sara slept soundly, waking only for a drink of water from her canteen. After rubbing her eyes, she looked at Leon’s empty bed, “Leon?” she whispered, with no reply. Seeing the door was unlocked, she grabbed her equinox and stepped outside.
With her back to the wall, Sara slowly circled the shack. She’d almost gone all the way around before spotting a small pile of ash a few feet in front of her being carried away by the wind.
Kneeling to grab a little bit of ash, Sara suddenly felt all the hairs on her body stick out. She ran back inside the shack and quickly gathered her stuff. The moment she turned to the door, a large Pelasgian Minotaur burst through.
The Minotaur snarled and raised his axe. Taking a step toward Sara, he suddenly buckled, squealing in pain with a sword piercing his chest from the back.
Sara had to jump out of the way when the Minotaur fell forward and was relieved to see that it was Leon who slew the Pelasgian, “I thought you were dead!”
“Sorry for the scare,” Leon said, “I heard some noises and had to make this thing think I left.”
“You used me as bait?” Sara asked.
“I was hoping you’d sleep through I,” Leon said, “Besides, I didn’t know how many there were.”
“Oh, that makes it perfectly fine then.” Sara said sarcastically, “What’s this thing doing here anyway?”
“That’s a good question, but I can tell you that if this guy’s here,” Leon said, “It makes things a lot more complicated.”
“Can they attack the Netherworld and us at the same time?” Sara asked.
“I wouldn’t doubt it.” Leon shrugged, “Since you’re up, we should get going. There could be more.”
Outside, Sara made some last-minute adjustments to her equipment, “Okay, ready.”
Leon looked mischievously at Sara, “You know, New Haven is a day and a half away, but we could get there in just a few minutes.”
Sara covered her mouth, gagging, “Sorry, I just vomited in my mouth. Surely you’re not suggesting I drink more of your blood?”
Leon laughed, “I promise you’ll forget the taste once you feel the energy flowing through your veins.”
Thinking about it, Sara had to agree, “I... guess I don’t remember drinking it last time.”
As Leon had promised, the time it took to reach New Haven, racing, was a matter of minutes.
Reaching the tree line first, Sara was jubilant. Leon was only a split second behind.
“You let me win, didn’t you?!” Sara asked, punching his arm.
“Beginner’s luck,” Leon answered.
Together they jogged into the grassy clearing toward New Haven.
With the sun beginning to rise, a soldier patrolling the wall saw Sara, “Open the gate!” he ordered.
No one had to be asked to get out of the way as Sara and Leon strolled through the streets to the Citadel. After a time, the Great Hall was filled with the Guardian’s top brass.
“That’s...quite a story.” Henry said, hearing Sara’s explanation of what happened.
“Also,” Sara added, “We ran into one at an outpost on our way back, here in Rhea. There’s a chance we could be attacked.”
Arthur stood, “It sounds like the important thing to consider is numbers. We’re going to have to send for massive reinforcements.”
“They should arrive any minute now,” Philip said, “I sent a courier the night Leon arrived. Gaia is several days’ travel by boat, and I couldn’t risk any treachery.”
“A wise move,” said Leon.
Philip leaned forward, “Like any good game of chess, our next move must be thought out carefully, but until then, consider us allies.”
“May I suggest we extend this alliance to include the rest of Rhea,” Sara said, “We’re going to need it.”
“We’ll send emissaries at once.” Philip said.
Just outside the Citadel, as Arthur escorted Sara and Leon, they could see dozens of large ships in the distance unloading hundreds of soldiers and horses. In the sea, and almost as far as the horizon were perhaps a thousand more naval vessels waiting to dock.
“Sara!” Richard called, running to catch-up, “Where are you going?”
“My next assignment,” Sara answered, “It looks like things are going to get crazy. I’m going to work with the Vesuvians to see what we can do.”
Richard shook his head smiling, “Never a dull moment, huh?” he said, offering a handshake.
Sara pushed his hand aside and hugged him.
“Take care of yourself, Sara.” Richard whispered.
Arthur held out an equinox, “Ahem!”
“Oh, sorry!” Sara said, immediately grabbing the equinox Arthur had given her before and trading it for the one he was holding, “I completely forgot!”
Arthur nodded toward Sara’s new equinox.
Before even looking, Sara felt the equinox she held was different, lighter. Looking closer, she realized it was no ordinary equinox. Only slightly smaller, it was not elaborately decorated, but it had stylized designs etched on the hilt representing the different races of Rhea. There was the head of a wolf for the Fenrir, a cat for the Hegiran, a dragon for the Khothu, a human-like skull for the Promethean, and a bat for the Vesuvian.
“It may not be pretty, but you should be able to kill Pelasgians twice as fast,” Arthur said.
Sara choked up, looking at her former teacher.
Arthur smiled, “I’m proud of you.”
“Hey!” Juli and Marian shouted, almost running into Sara, “You’re leaving already?” Juli asked.
Breathing heavily, Marian was about to speak until she saw Leon and screamed.
Sara stuck her hand out, “He’s a friend!”
Smiling, Marian scooted behind Juli.
“I’m sorry, I have to go,” Sara said.
“When are you coming back?” Juli asked.
“Soon I hope, but I have to leave now,” Sara answered, hugging her friends before turning and leaving, “Both of you take care, okay?”
When Sara and Leon were some distance away, Marian whispered to Juli, “Did you see that guy?”
“The Vesuvian?” Juli asked.
“He was gorgeous!” Marian cooed.
Sara and Leon were midway to the woods beyond New Haven.
“Depending on how things go, I might be on this assignment for a while,” Sara said.
Leon waved his hand as if to present Rhea, “Yeah, but at least you’ll get to see more of this.”
“Tell me again why we didn’t bring horses.” Sara asked.
“They don’t seem to like Rheans very much, especially Vesuvians,” Leon said, cutting his hand, “Besides, we’ve got a much better way.”
Sara slightly recoiled, “I’m not going to argue with that, but I still don’t think I’ll ever get used to this.” She said, holding her hand out for Leon to squeeze a few drops of blood on.
“That should do it.” Leon said.
“So, what do you think will happen next?” Sara asked as they entered the forest.
Leon shook his head, “I honestly don’t know.”
From the author
I hope you have enjoyed this story! Please look for the next installment Shadow Seed now available!
Jose Rodriguez Jr.Discover more at RheanChronicles.com
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