Legends of Amacia: The Gathering Shadow

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Chapter 6: The Healing Bath

Hannibal and Selina watched them go, and then sat down in the chairs at the table. Hannibal sighed deeply as Selina uncovered the plates. “Boy, I’m hungry! And this smells good too,” she said as they looked at plates. On the plates lay slices of roasted meat, boiled potatoes dripping with butter, green beans, and peas. Beside each plate sat a glass of water, a fork, a knife, and what appeared to be small salt and peppershakers.

“It sure does,” Hannibal said as he looked at the plate of food before him. Reaching out and holding hands with Selina across the table, he said grace and they greedily ate the portion before them.

After finishing their meal, they sat back and looked at each other. Hannibal let out a large belch, making Selina laugh. “Man that was good,” he said. “I didn’t know how hungry I was.”

“Me too,” Selina replied. “That was good.”

Hannibal sat there for a few more moments, looking at Selina wearing the sleeveless gray dress. “That’s a nice dress,” he commented. “It’s plain, but alluring. I like it. I can only guess it must have been made by these people because I know you didn’t bring any dresses.”

Selina stroked the fabric, feeling its softness. “It is a fine dress,” she agreed. “But I would say this is more of a nightgown than a dress. It feels so soft and silky against my skin. What about those pants you’re wearing. They’re not yours.”

Hannibal looked at the pants and grunted. “So they aren’t,” he stated. “But they are very comfortable.” He yawned deeply, flinching with a groan when he stretched. “Damn, I must have broken some ribs,” he growled, holding his chest.

“Maybe,” Selina stated as she rushed to his assistance. “Maybe we ought to use that bath like Argus told us. Come on.” She gently helped Hannibal to his feet and walked him to the bathroom.

They went in and saw the great crystal tub and sinks, mirrors, shelves with towels, washcloths, soaps, and other toiletries. A cleverly concealed toilet sat in the corner. Their mouths hung open in wonder at the elaborate nature of the bathroom. “Wow,” Selina breathed in awe.

They went to the sink and quickly found out how to turn on the water. “Holy cow!” Hannibal exclaimed. “We’ve got hot and cold running water here.”

“Looks like it,” Selina said as she looked around in amazement. “This place is fit for a king.” She looked at the tub and said, “Look at that tub; it’s big enough for two people and it’s made out of a single piece of crystal. How did they do that?”

“I have no idea,” Hannibal answered as he walked over to the tub. Feeling the tub, he added, “Look at this…this tub is absolutely smooth with no evidence of tool marks on it. This is like what we found in Tiamat. Obviously, these people had a very advanced technology to make this.”

Selina gazed at the tub and saw strange looking ports inside it all around it. “Look at this,” she said, pointing the ports. “These look like Jacuzzi jets to me. I wonder if this is an ancient Jacuzzi tub.”

“There’s only one way to find out,” Hannibal stated. “Let’s try it out. We haven’t had a hot bath since we left the Temple. I sure could use one.”

“Me too,” Selina agreed as she looked at the shelves. “A good hot bath sounds very appealing.” She quickly found and closed the tub’s drain before starting the water running. “How hot do you want it?”

“As hot as I can stand it,” Hannibal replied, testing the water as it ran into the tub. After a few moments, he said, “Hotter, Selina.” She increased the hot water flow until it suited him. The smell of the hot clean water running into the tub pleased Hannibal. He looked at his bandaged arms, legs, and chest for a moment, saying, “I’d like to take these off, but I don’t think I should at this point. It could reopen the wounds.”

“Stand up,” Selina ordered as she stood up, lifting Hannibal to his feet. When she saw him struggle to get up, she said, “You’re still weak, aren’t you?”

“Yeah,” Hannibal admitted. “And I’m really tired too. But I really want this bath.”

“I know,” Selina replied, helping him take off his pants. “That’s why I’m going to stay and help you.”

“You really are an angel,” Hannibal murmured as she helped him sit down in the tub. He groaned as he settled against the back of the tub. “Oh, man…this water is the best,” he crowed. “It’s hot and soothing, but not scalding.”

“I know,” Selina purred as she stood up. “Let me get some towels, washcloths, and soap.” She quickly grabbed two towels, two washcloths, and a bar of soap from the shelves by the sink, sitting the towels on a towel rack while placing the washcloths and soap on the edge of the tub.

Hannibal started relaxing as the hot water rose in the tub. Before he realized it, Selina stripped off her nightgown and teddy, standing before him wearing nothing except the bandages on her arms and legs. His eyebrow rose as he asked, “What are you doing, Selina?”

“What does it look like I’m doing?” Selina replied, climbing in the tub, settling next to him. “I’m taking a bath with you. You need help anyway and I need a bath too. It’s only logical that we bathe together. Besides, this tub is big as a hot tub anyway. There’s more than enough room.” She saw the worried look on his face and smiled sweetly. “Don’t worry, Hannibal…nothing’s going to happen here that’ll endanger our vows. You have my word. Oh, goodness, this water really is nice.”

“Okay,” Hannibal acquiesced. “It’s not like I can stop you right now anyway.”

“So true,” Selina purred, simply laying back and holding his hand as the water rose over their chests. “This is nice, Hannibal. I’ve always dreamed what it would be like to bathe with you.”

“I guess you’re going to find out now,” Hannibal stated as Selina cut off the water.

As she cut off the water, Selina noticed an odd-looking button next to the faucet. “I wonder what this does?” she asked, gently pushing the button. Instantly, the tub became a swirling Jacuzzi as the ports she saw shot jets of hot water. “Oh, marvelous!” she crowed, lying back with Hannibal. “This thing is a Jacuzzi tub.”

Hannibal smiled warmly at her. “Looks like you were right,” he murmured as the hot water gently massaged his aching muscles and wounds. “I can already feel these jets drawing my pain away. It’s making me sleepy.”

“Let’s just relax for a while,” Selina purred, putting her arm around Hannibal. He leaned in towards her, resting his hand on her bandaged leg. In minutes, a snore rose from Hannibal as Selina gently held him up. “Oh, you poor man,” she murmured, becoming sleepy herself. She drifted off to sleep too a few minutes later.

Forty-five minutes later, Selina awoke with a start, something having shocked her awake. Her arms and legs were tingling and stinging slightly where she’d been wounded. She gently pulled her arm from behind Hannibal and looked at the bandages on it, seeing them tinted red slightly. Curiosity caused her to unwrap one of the deeper wounds on her arm. When the bandage came off, she stared in astonishment at a long laceration almost completely healed. “What in heaven’s name?” she breathed, pulling off her other bandages, seeing the same thing: serious gashes and lacerations from the battles either healed or almost completely healed. “My wounds are healing at a fantastic rate!” Selina took Hannibal’s arm and removed one of the bandages on it, seeing the same healing wounds on him. “Hannibal, wake up, Hannibal,” she insisted.

“What?” Hannibal murmured sleepily. “What is it, Selina?” After a few seconds, he realized Selina was sitting beside him in the tub. “What are you doing in the tub with me?” he asked pointedly.

“I took a bath with you my prince, remember,” Selina replied. “But that’s not what’s important. Look at your arm, Hannibal. Your wounds are healing at a fantastic rate. Argus was right. This tub and the water do have amazing healing properties.”

Hannibal sat up and gasped in amazement, finding his ribs didn’t hurt. “What the hell?” he asked in amazement. “My ribs don’t hurt anymore.”

“Look at your arm, Hannibal,” Selina insisted. “You had a major laceration there but now it’s nearly completely healed.”

Hannibal stared at his arm, seeing a laceration having healed from the bottom up. “Holy shit,” he breathed. “It’s healed.” He started ripping the other bandages off, throwing the bandages on the floor, and finding those wounds in a similar state. He gasped and looked at Selina in astonishment. Without warning, he swept her up into a passionate embrace, kissing her fiercely. Water sloshed everywhere as she responded just as fiercely. When they finished kissing, she lay on top of him with her arms around his neck while he held her about the waist. “God, I love you,” he murmured dreamily. “Did it heal you too?”

“Yes,” Selina answered, thoroughly enjoying the intimate moment. “It did. This tub is a wonder of science. It’s like the Healers back home at Tiamat.”

“I must admit it is,” Hannibal agreed. “And I must also admit that I’m really enjoying this intimate moment with you. I love this full body contact with you, and you’re so damned gorgeous when you’re wet too. I’m honored that you want to be with me in this manner. I was fearful about being together like this.”

Selina kissed him gently on the lips. “Likewise,” she replied in a loving tone. “I reveal myself to only you. You know the pain and horror of being mangled like I was. Only you do I trust enough to do this.”

“I know you do” Hannibal stated. “We’re soul mates, Selina; mated by the Lord from the moment He thought to make us. It’s a marvel that truly humbles me. I’ll love you forever, and even longer.”

Selina smiled and touched her forehead to his. “So will I,” she said softly. “I will love you for all eternity. Even Death cannot separate us. I am yours forever. We’ll have to thank Argus for insisting on taking this bath.”

“Indeed,” Hannibal stated as he let go of Selina. “But it can wait until tomorrow. As much as I’ve enjoyed this bath and the nap, I’m still wiped out. I don’t want to spend the night in here and turn into a prune.”

Selina chuckled and exited the tub. “Right,” she crowed, turning off the Jacuzzi and offering Hannibal a friendly hand. He took it and she helped him out of the tub. They finished removing the bandages before drying off.

“Check my ribs,” Hannibal ordered and Selina gently pressed on his chest, seeing a rapidly healing bruise where he’d broken his ribs.

“Do you feel that?” Selina asked, pressing on his ribs.

“No,” Hannibal replied. “I have no pain when you press on my ribs there.”

“Then I suspect those ribs may have healed because of the tub,” Selina stated as she stood back, grabbing a towel.

“So it would seem,” Hannibal agreed, grabbing his own towel and drying off as Selina dried herself off. “I didn’t expect to find this level of technology down here.”

“I suspect you didn’t expect a lot of what’s happened since we crossed Skull Pass,” Selina declared as she finished drying her hair.

“True,” Hannibal stated. “This place is not what I expected and neither are the people we’ve encountered. Just finding out that there are people down here that have survived for twelve thousand years without the sun is a miracle that I cannot fathom.”

“I hear you,” Selina stated as hung up her towel and started combing her hair. “It kind of ranks up there with finding out humanity really isn’t alone in this universe, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” Hannibal answered, hanging up his towel and watching her comb her hair. “But strange as it sounds, I somehow feel like I’ve come home now that I’m here. I just can’t explain it.”

Selina turned to him, raising an eyebrow as she combed her long hair. “Don’t try to understand it,” she stated. “There are mysteries in this universe that defy human understanding. If the Lord wants you to figure it out, He’ll tell you.”

“You’re so right,” Hannibal murmured. “And another mystery I may never solve is how you got so incredibly beautiful. I look at you and want to caress every inch of that gorgeous body of yours. But I hesitate to do so because it may inflame our passions.”

Selina put the hairbrush down and turned to Hannibal with a sultry look. “I know what you mean,” she purred seductively. Cupping his cheeks in her hands, Selina stared into Hannibal’s eyes with a flirty smile. “I too want you to caress me, but fear it,” she admitted. “Still, we cannot succumb to fear and deny ourselves. We must have faith in one another and the Lord that things won’t get out of hand. It’s important to me in ways you can’t comprehend that you love me on all levels, even with a gentle touch. Touch me, my prince. Please, love me with your hands.” She kissed him gently on the lips and then grabbed his hands, placing them on her bare breasts and pushing them around so his hands caressed her. “Don’t be embarrassed, my love,” Selina chimed, seeing Hannibal blush. “I’m not. It’s okay to handle the merchandise. We just can’t let it go overboard.”

Hannibal stared in amazement as she allowed him to caress her chest after letting go of his hands. “Oh, Selina,” he whispered while feeling her scars. “You never cease to surprise me. I never thought you’d let me touch your breasts like this.” His hands moved away from her chest and down her sides, wrapping around behind her. She draped her arms around his neck as he pulled her close in a warm embrace. “Thank you,” he said sincerely, suddenly licking her on the cheek in a fit of playfulness.

Selina chuckled and licked him back before engaging him in a passionate kiss while they caressed each other in the process. “Oh, god,” she breathed with great amazement after the kiss, still holding on to Hannibal. “Is this really happening?”

“It is,” Hannibal chimed with a deep, loving smile. “We’re connecting in a way I never thought possible and it’s glorious. The Lord really is good to allow us this connection.”

“Amen,” Selina purred, kissing Hannibal on the nose. “I love you and Him so much for allowing us this deep connection, though I could have done without feeling your pain.”

“I agree,” Hannibal replied. “I just hope I can measure up to your standards.”

“You more than measure up,” Selina replied. She suddenly yawned as the fatigue from the battle and download brought her back to reality. “Oh, dear,” she murmured, “I’m really tired all of a sudden. Let’s go to bed, lover.”

The fatigue hit Hannibal seconds after it hit Selina. With a yawn, he said, “Okay, princess. Seems the bath heals wounds, but doesn’t do much for fatigue. Going to bed really sounds good right now. Besides, I get to share my bed with you and that’s always a pleasure.”

“Oh, you’re such a flirt,” Selina replied as they let go of each other. “I like that coming from you.”

“I know you do,” Hannibal declared as he put on his pajama pants. “You seem to have forgotten our telepathic fusion.”

“Not a chance,” Selina retorted while putting on the sleeveless nightgown Nathanael had put on her while she and Hannibal lay in their download coma. “I let you think that to help you exercise your emerging telepathic potential.”

“I always knew you were a clever little minx,” Hannibal chimed, taking hold of her hand as they walked back into the bedroom. He stopped at the foot of the bed and marveled. “This is one huge bed,” he observed. “I didn’t notice it before.”

“It is,” Selina agreed. “Maybe we should check our packs to see what’s left before we go to bed.”

“Good call,” Hannibal replied. “Now where did they put our packs?”

Selina saw them sitting next to the dressers with their weapons. “Over here,” she reported as Hannibal sat down on the bed. Selina brought Hannibal’s pack to him before she grabbed her pack.

Hannibal marveled that the pack had remained in one piece, despite its shredded and burned appearance. “Damn…I was really in the shit, wasn’t I?” he asked as Selina sat down on the bed with her pack.

“Yeah,” Selina answered. “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t get into that kind of shit again. I don’t want to lose you.”

“Neither do I,” Hannibal agreed, dumping the contents of his pack on the bed. The trinkets and artifacts survived unscathed: including the binoculars, the Relic from the Temple, and the Artifact from the pyramid. Amazingly, the fragile map that led him to Amacia remained intact too. Only its envelope had a few slices in it. He looked at the Amulet and several other trinkets he’d brought from the Temple and wondered how he didn’t lose them. While rummaging through the items of his pack laying piled on the bed, he noticed the griffin amulet was not there. “Where’s the griffin amulet I found in hidden cave?” he asked.

Selina helped him look through his belongings and declared, “It’s not here. Where was the last place you remember seeing it?”

Hannibal thought for a moment, and then said, “I’m not sure. I vaguely remember hanging it around my neck before we started across Khitia on horseback, but I can’t swear to it. I can’t believe I lost it.”

“I don’t think you lost it,” Selina stated. “It’s not like you to loose such things, though I suppose you may have lost it in the battle with those beast people. You did go kind of berserk in that fight.”

“Don’t remind me,” Hannibal hissed gloomily.

A thought fell into Selina’s mind and she suddenly looked toward the dresser, seeing something lying on top of it. “I wonder,” she purred, going to the dresser and seeing the amulet laying there. Selina picked it up and dangled it by the chain. “Is this what you’re looking for?”

Hannibal sighed in great relief. “Thank God,” he cried. “But how did it get on the dresser?”

Selina returned to the bed and sat down with him. “I think I know,” she said, handing the amulet to Hannibal, “Dad must have removed it and sat it on the dresser when they undressed you to treat your wounds.”

“I’m sure your right,” Hannibal agreed. “It’s a wonder I didn’t lose all this stuff after that knock-down drag-out fight with those beast-men.”

“It looks like the Lord wanted you to keep these things so He kept them in your pack,” Selina commented as she started sifting through her pack.

“So it seems,” Hannibal stated as he sat the griffin amulet with the Amulet and the other artifacts before continuing to examine what came out of his pack. Upon examining his clothes, he found most were shredded, like his pack. The jeans and shirts had great slices in them. Only a single pair of sweat pants, a couple of T-shirts, his underwear and socks remained intact. Shaking his head, he chucked the ruined clothes on the floor along with the wrecked pack. His personal items, such as the bar of soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, and his Bible remained intact because of the depth they were in his pack. “What about your stuff, Selina?” he asked. “Did they fare better than my stuff?”

“Yeah,” Selina replied. “The pack took a few hits, but my stuff is okay. It didn’t get shredded and scorched like yours did.”

“Good,” Hannibal murmured as he moved the only pair of sweat pants that didn’t get shredded. A small leather bag just a little larger than Nathanael’s hand tied up with a leather strap rolled into view when Hannibal picked up the sweat pants. “What the heck?” he chimed, sitting down the sweat pants and picking up the object, “What’s this? I didn’t put this in my pack at Tiamat.”

Selina saw the item and approached. “What is it?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” Hannibal replied as he examined the bag from all sides. “It’s nothing of mine. That’s for sure.”

“Let me see it,” Selina ordered. Hannibal handed the bag to her and she examined it closely, even smelling it. “Hmmm,” she murmured. “I smell Okoto’s scent on this bag. I think it may be something he wanted you to have so he put it in your pack while we were being taken back to the road after the Trials.”

“But what would Okoto want to give me?” Hannibal asked when Selina handed the bag back to him.

“Okoto is a very deep, mysterious man,” Selina stated. “I sensed it the moment we first saw him. He has about the most disciplined mind I’ve ever encountered in a human besides you. Okoto knows things about this realm we don’t. Maybe he wanted to give you a reward for unveiling and destroying the evil that infested the old chief and his followers.”

“But I didn’t do that,” Hannibal retorted. “It was those machines that did that.”

“But you triggered the machines,” Selina explained. “They scanned both of us and even took physical samples of your DNA to test our lineage. It found in us what it was programmed to find: the Caverias gene sequence and when it did, we came under the protection of those ancient machines. The machines healed your wounds after confirming your lineage and then destroyed the old chief when he tried to attack you. It was programmed to protect the Caverias: us. Therefore, you did set the Zinzera free from the darkness that plagued them.”

Hannibal chuckled softly. “Again, your logic is superb,” he commended. “I cannot argue against what you say. But what would Okoto want me to have, knowing full well we were heading into the forbidden land of their gods?”

“Unwrap it and find out,” Selina urged. “But be careful as you do. It could be booby-trapped. Even though Okoto sent us on our way as he promised, I’m still not sure I exactly trust him.”

“Right,” Hannibal stated, moving away from the bed. Standing well away from the bed and their other belongings, Hannibal carefully untied the strap and slowly opened the leather sack.

“Careful,” Selina murmured with concern.

“Whoa,” Hannibal murmured, reaching into the sack and pulling out a large ice-blue crystal three inches long and an inch wide. It sat fastened into a strange metallic holder on a long metal chain made of a material that reminded Hannibal of electronium.

Selina gasped with delight when Hannibal dangled the crystal by its chain. “Oh, my goodness,” she purred. “What a gorgeous pendant!”

Hannibal stared in wonder at the pendant. “That it is,” he agreed. “This is indeed a marvelous gift. Wait…there’s another pendant and a note in the bag. Hold this one.” He handed the crystal pendant to Selina before removing a second identical pendant from the bag along with small parchment scroll. Hannibal unrolled the scroll after tossing the bag on the bed a few feet away.

“What does it say?” Selina asked as she examined the first pendant.

“It’s in the Stone Language,” Hannibal reported. “It’s a thank you note from Okoto. He thanks us for freeing the Zinzera from the evil that had plagued them for almost thirty years. In gratitude for freeing them and awakening the ancient gods of the Circle, he’s giving each of us a crystal pendant for protection as we walk through the forbidden lands. He claims the pendants belonged to the original Caverias of the 1st Age when the gods roamed the Earth and as a Caverias, we have a right to them. They’ll protect us and those we care about with its power. That’s really strange.”

“Strange indeed,” Selina purred, becoming engrossed in the pendant as she examined it. “Let me see the other one too.” Hannibal handed the second pendant to her and she held one in each hand, scrutinizing each with a jeweler’s eye. “Oh, my,” she purred. “These pendants have a history I can only dream of. I can feel it. Moreover, it has some kind of energy emanating from it. It’s making my hands tingle as I hold them.”

“Is that so?” Hannibal asked as they walked back to the bed.

“It is,” Selina replied. “Moreover, the crystal, the holder, and chain have some of the same style of writing we found on the Relic. I think these pendants may be far older than we know.”

“Really?” Hannibal asked, picking up the pendants out of Selina’s hand. He looked closely at each one, seeing the archaic writing etched all over the pendant. It seemed to glow slightly in his hand. “You’re right,” he declared. “And they’re reacting to me too. I can feel the energy radiating from them. It’s warm and pleasant.” A sigh escaped his lips. “I wish he’d given it to me in person so I could have thanked him,” Hannibal added.

“I’m sure he had his reasons for giving it to you this way,” Selina stated. A thought suddenly intruded into her head and she gave voice to it. “Hannibal, I wonder if the pendant had anything to do with what you did to those beast-men at the end of the fight,” she suggested. “That pendant seems almost magical to me. If Okoto is right and it has the ability to protect its carrier, then it may have triggered that blast without you knowing it.”

A surprised look crossed Hannibal’s face. “I never thought of that,” he replied. “I don’t see how it could do that, but it’s possible. As a wizard, I routinely used power objects to channel my dark power. Maybe this thing channels not dark power, but the power of light. I don’t know. But at this point, I’m not dismissing anything. Since we left the Circle of Hammunaptra, these strange magical abilities in me seemed to have exploded out of nowhere. Maybe these pendants are a technology that we’ve not encountered yet that allows me to do that stuff.” A deep yawn abruptly escaped his lips. “Oh, excuse me,” he murmured.

“I guess anything is possible,” Selina stated. “But until we know more about it, I would suggest that we not wear them. It may release something neither you nor I are ready to handle.”

“I agree,” Hannibal stated as he picked up the Amulet, Medallion, and the griffin seal of Khitia. “We don’t need any more surprises.” He then sat the items on top of one of the dressers before storing the undamaged clothes, trinkets, and personal items in the top drawer of that dresser.

“Amen,” Selina chimed as she followed his example, storing her clothes in the dresser.

As Hannibal sat the binoculars, the Relic, and Artifact on top of his dresser, he murmured, “I still have a hard time believing we got through those skirmishes intact.”

“Things could have turned out much worse than they did,” Selina commented as she glanced at the armor on the floor. “That armor you insisted we take saved our asses out there.”

“I’m well aware of that,” Hannibal stated, sitting on the edge of the bed. “Chances are we would not have survived those battles without them.”

Selina sat beside him and put her arm around Hannibal as she really started looking around at the room. “I know,” she purred. After a few moments of silence, she added, “This is a really strange place. Just look at these tapestries. They’re beautiful.”

“Indeed,” Hannibal stated, staring in fascination at the tapestries. “Those tapestries are very strange, and eerily familiar.” Rising, Hannibal walked to the tapestries to get a closer look. Selina followed, standing beside him as they devoured the tapestries with their eyes. Before them woven into the huge draperies was a compelling story of a cataclysmic event that included elements of a tremendous conflict. Beast-men with strange machines and what appeared to be alien monsters attacked human villages and cities, fighting with men and human-like giants, who defended those same towns and cities. Civilians fled the cities and towns with a myriad of drakens flying overhead covering their flight. The drakens fought in mortal combat with other strange flying creatures and machines that spewed fire and lightning. On one side of the tapestry, it showed the great city of Amacia and the Emperor sitting on a floating fortress above it with his hand and finger forward as if he was sending his forces out.

On the other side, a mysterious man bearing a striking resemblance to Hannibal in strange platinum-colored armor wielding a odd sword nearly as big as he was stood in the front line, driving back the unholy hordes of the Emperor, giving the people being attacked a chance to flee. He was on top of a boulder pointing back at the Emperor with the sword as if calling for a counter-attack. Moreover, this leader figure was not alone. Seven mighty warriors supported him wielding strange weapons. Only one appeared to be human even though he was gigantic in comparison to the leader standing on the boulder. The second warrior was a huge armored werewolf while the third looked to be a giant Lynxian. The fourth warrior backing the leader resisting the Emperor was a reptilian creature that seemed to be an unknown type of veloci-raptor with very draken-like features. The tapestry depicted the fifth warrior as a huge cyborg werebear while the sixth warrior was a distinct hybrid of human and avian, with wings of a bird sprouting from the back of the warrior. The tapestry portrayed the seventh warrior as a giant bipedal feline with heavy white armor brandishing a massive blade. The cat looked to be a cross between tiger, lion, and human with strange hazel eyes tinted with green. This warrior cat was a giant among giants, standing head and shoulders over his colleagues as it held the line next to the resistance leader that looked like Hannibal. The tapestry showed the cat in the act of striking down a hideous tentacle demon nearly as large as he was while the others were shown in mortal combat with other alien monsters, beast-men, and evil humans. These warriors were backed by an army of their own that held the line. Back behind the front line above the fleeing civilians the tapestry showed a colossal golden draken with many other drakens guarding the retreat of the people.

High in the sky above the drakens and the battle blazed two suns: one yellow, and the second as a larger and blood red body surrounded by a great haze of debris around it that rained great rocks, fire, and lightning down upon the world. The mountains and lands were shown rending and splitting. The seas roared, heaping up into mountain-size waves, ready to inundate all. Time seemed to suspend for Hannibal as mysterious sounds and smells seemed to rise from the huge tapestries. The roar of battle, complete with the smell of blood and brimstone, echoed faintly in Hannibal’s senses as he stared in rapt awe at the story. “Oh, my god,” he whispered. “This is incredible. It’s the fall of Amacia as seen by the people of this place. It’s all here. Can you believe this?”

“Wow,” Selina exclaimed. “This is amazing. All of the elements are here. And look at the preciseness of the detail and the tightness of the weave. Whoever did this was a master of textiles. It’s fascinating.”

Hannibal stared at the graphic depiction of the fall of Amacia with icy chills racing down his spine. The feeling of having seen it before grew. In the blink of an eye, he suddenly found himself standing among the common people that ran for their lives as giant drakens attacked the flying machines, beast-men, and the alien monsters that swept forth in a tsunami of destruction. The strange feline in heavy white armor stood a few feet away from Hannibal as he looked around. “Snap out of it, Beowulf!” the Great White Cat shouted. “We have to hold the line to allow the people to escape!” The cat swung his sword at the advancing horde and a devastating energy wave came off the blade, slaughtering the advancing monsters. An explosion went off close by and Hannibal shrieked, putting his arms up to protect his face. Darkness overtook Hannibal in the explosion as the vision ended and he collapsed to the floor before the tapestry.

“Hannibal!” Selina cried with concern, catching him. She took him to the bed and laid him down. “Hannibal…Hannibal!” she called to him, shaking him gently.

Hannibal moaned softly, opening his eyes and seeing Selina hovering over him. “What happened?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” Selina replied. “You just went blank there for a minute after looking at the tapestry and fainted. You must have been overwhelmed by the story on the tapestry.”

“Whoa,” Hannibal murmured as he sat up with Selina’s help. “That was really strange.”

“What do you mean?” Selina asked.

Hannibal stared at the tapestries from the bed. “I can’t explain it,” he murmured. “But it was like I was sucked into the tapestry and saw it firsthand. That giant cat in white armor spoke to me telling me we had to hold the line so the people could escape. Then there was this explosion and darkness afterwards. And it was so vivid too. How could I have a vision of that? It’s like those dreams of Leila.”

“I don’t know,” Selina replied with a sigh of relief. “For a moment there, it was like you left your body. I couldn’t sense you at all through our telepathic fusion.”

“Really,” Hannibal stated. “That’s Mondo strange. And what’s even stranger is that I’ve seen this before.”

“Where?” Selina asked intently.

“In the hidden cave in Khitia,” Hannibal stated. “The cave paintings show the same event from a slightly differing vantage point. But I know they depict the same event. I wish we had a picture of those paintings so we could compare them in detail.”

Selina smiled warmly, putting an arm around Hannibal. “I know you do,” she purred. “But it troubles me that I couldn’t sense you when you fainted. We’re fused, but it’s like your mind vanished for a few seconds. Something’s going on here that I don’t understand. I don’t want to lose you, Hannibal.”

Hearing the fear in her tone, Hannibal sighed. “I know and I don’t want to lose you, either, Selina,” he replied. “But I have no answers, only more questions. Strange things are happening to me I cannot explain. What’s wrong with me? Why’s this shit happening to me now?”

“I don’t know,” Selina answered. “But I can say by time I got you back to the bed, I could sense you again and you don’t appear to have any ill-effects of whatever caused this thing.”

“I’m glad,” Hannibal said with a yawn. A cool breezed blew in the doors, chilling both of them and drawing their attention to the night outside on the balcony. “I think it’s time we called it a day,” Hannibal suggested. “Could you please shut the doors? It’s chilly out there.”

“My thoughts exactly,” Selina replied, quickly rising and closing the balcony doors as Hannibal turned down the blankets. He crawled into bed and waited for Selina to return. When Selina returned and laid down with him, they prayed fervently, giving thanks for their deliverance from the download, for their safe arrival in Arionath, and for all they had. They prayed for guidance and instruction about what to do concerning the strange phenomena plaguing Hannibal, what to do next, and for the safety and well-being of his team and the people giving him and his team refuge. After praying, they cuddled beneath the covers and drifted off to sleep without fear of attack for the first time since leaving the Temple. The chandelier went dark as they fell to sleep, plunging the room into darkness with the only light shining in under the main doors to the hall.

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