Book One: The Innocent Heart

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A Ghost's Path

Part 27.1 of 1.9: Sani’s Lone Journey

The woman formally known as Sanità sat on the stool. She leaned on the bar next to her folded cloak. Her massive arms were bulged with eighteen inch biceps. A lifelike cobra tattoo wrapped around her left upper arm. It went down across her triceps and ended with the rattle on her hand. The nineteen year old wore an expression of anger and coldness. Her features were rugged with new scars and experience in five months of isolation against the untamed southeastern region of the Atlantic Sands.

The Ghost wore a desert camo breathing mask. It covered the snarl as her lips curled with a feral growl. Dark tinted visor covered her eyes. Age lines were visible on her face. The experience aged her due to the grit and grime from the sands. It gave her the rugged, tough feature.

On her exposed bulked arms she wore leather armor. Tattered and torn, the sleeves wrapped around her upper arms. Arm guards covered her exposed triceps and biceps with the leather straps. Worn, dust beaten hand wraps around her hands kept them protected against the elements. The spiked armored shoulder blades had dried blood on the tips and the blades. Her large breast plate and upper body armor protected her torso and bosom.

Her long, braided dirty blond side cut hair reached below her hip. She was a tall woman of six feet and three inches. Her heavy, sturdy steel toed spiked boots added to her height. Leather armored pants with leg and shin guards protected her vital muscles. Her blood dagger remained at her hip untouched in her sheathe.

A male bartender came over to her and leaned over. Nodding his head a direction behind her, he whispered, “The group of guys you’re looking for? They are over there.”

The woman growled softly turning the direction he pointed. She noted three men in one table setting. One of them was bigger than his two friends who were about average in muscular appearance. The bartender spoke in a hushed tone, “Be warned. They know you are looking for them. Prepare for a fight on your hands because they won’t give it up.”

The massive young woman scowled at the bartender with a snarl. Her mask covered her curled lips as her heavy breathing muffled. Taking the money pouch from her pocket, she took a few coins and placed it in front of the bartender. She turned to leave when he grabbed her wrist.

The Ghost offered her warning growl at being touched, but he inquired, “All this trouble for a treasure map? Are you sure it’s worth it?”

Snapping her hand back, she ignored the bartender. Grabbing her cloak, she left the bar knowing that the group would follow her. Bashing through the doors with her stocky form, she looked around at the dusty, sandy old town. It resembled something out of a Wild West setting. Placing the cloak across her armored shoulder blades, she walked against the wind as it brushed the tail of her cloak back.

The streets were empty in the abandoned town. A few people remained. Approaching the intersection of a small alley, the cloaked ghost faced three men from the bar. A hood rested over her head, a mask covered her mouth and dark tinted visor covered her eyes. Steeling herself, her lips curled with distaste. Puffing her torso, she flexed her arm and hunched over.

The two men surrounded her as the third stood in front of her. The man was bigger and huskier than his two friends. He stepped into her path as the burly young woman growled. The man spat, “I put myself in your path, Ghost. On purpose. What say you?”

The Ghost glanced behind and before her. Studying her position, she figured she could easily take them all. Spitting in her alien tongue, one word rattled the gust of wind, “Deqe!

Part 27.2 of 2.9: Sani losing her grasp of her own tongue as she adopted a more alien style

The word spoken was not Spanish. She lost her ability to speak them. The alien language she spoke was learned when she was an adolescent. Months of isolation forced her to speak the language she learned from her master as she shouted through the mask, “Deqe! Ez ul ila nezuem’qo! Deqe!

The man in front of her stared. The voice was husky and thick with a strange accent. Not comprehending her speech, he retorted opening his arms and flexed, “Come at me then, masked freak! I’ve heard of you round these parts. You’re nothing but a fairy tale. I’ll rip your tongue out right after I tear you apart. You’re coming nowhere near the map.”

The woman shouted clenching her fist and pointed with her other finger toward him, “Deqe! Map! U’pap ta! Ulz Daeqar! I rip shred you pieces! Blood mine! Deqe mine!”

Pointing his finger, the man retorted, “Now that I understood. I see you haven’t lost your sanity. You’re still not getting the map as our boss requires it. You do know what it is, right? Heh. What do I know? A feral Ghost like you won’t know what a treasure map is if you use it as a toilet paper.”

Insulted, the Ghost growled through her breathing mask. Removing her cloak, it fluttered onto the ground revealing her long, flowing side cut hair to her hips. Taking out the blood dagger from her belt, she held it beside her. The man responded, “If your idea is to attack me, go ahead. I’ll kill you easily enough. You still won’t find the treasure without him, understand? Only he knows the secret entrance and the only way you’re getting it is from my dead, cold hands.”

Tossing the blade aside, the angry woman exhaled a roar rushing forward. Her mask expanded. The man met her charge. With arms out extended, she caught his outstretched arms. They wrestled placing their arms on their shoulders and neck. The man exerted with effort as the burly female Ghost snarled pulling him and delivered a knee blow on his chest.

The man grunted and adjusted his footing pushing her back. With her strong back against his, she maneuvered her arms around him and locked her own arm around his neck. She squeezed as he gripped her arm and body pushing her off. The Ghost was stronger increasing her power to keep him under. Pushed across the sand, she fought against him. Her long braided side cut hair fell across her body. Her strong, sturdy legs found a foothold in the sand and stopped him in his place.

One of the men took up a staff and charged. His other friend pulled out his long, curved sword. She watched with hatred and malice as the other man twirled his staff around while walking toward her. With a grunt, he stabbed with it. The strong young woman placed her arm guard up deflecting his staff strike. Keeping the big man under her arm, she ducked another swing of the staff as she changed her position with a kick from behind as the man charged with the sword.

Her kick caught him on the chest as he stumbled back by the force of her spiked metal boot. The man she was holding in a headlock forced her to change her position as she smacked her hand on his back and grunted kneeing him on the chest. She ducked the sword strike as it clanged harmlessly off her shoulder blade armor and countered with her fist upper cut against the man’s face.

The man stumbled back as his friend charged in with several staff strikes. Blocking it several times, she was forced back against the wall by the man under her strong arm. The force cracked a few dust off the side of the building. The man groaned losing air quickly. The staff wielding man charged with another strike. Deflecting it, she grabbed the staff under her arm. Placing her foot against the wall of the building, she forced herself forward while pulling the man toward her.

Part 27.3 of 3.9: The fight for the treasure map soaked in blood

Dealing a head blow, her thick cranium bashed against his skull stunning him as her long braided hair flailed in the wind. The man dropped his staff weapon as she kicked him with her metal boot. He groaned holding his chest and bend over as he bled. She grabbed his hair and pulled him kneeing him on the face before kicking him down onto the sand. The man moaned bleeding from his wound.

The man under her arm grunted with a push throwing her back. Joining her hands together and lifting, she increased her muscle pull keeping him in place. Turning him around, the strands of her braided hair fell across her masked face as she watched the swordsman get to his feet. As he turned, he watched her move the man’s arm over her head and grabbed his back. With effort she lifted him over her shoulders and placed him across her hunched over broad shoulders onto her spiked shoulder guards.

Through her masked face, the Ghost contorted her features as she pushed him down on her spikes. The man screamed in pain. With another grunt, she increased her control and might as she pulled down while pushing her strong upper body. The swordsman shouted charging with his sword pointed toward her. She exhaled an extended roar while placing her hands under the big man. Her arm muscles tightened as she lifted with effort. Blood seeped from his wounds and dripped over her armor. Some streaked into her hair and dark tinted visor as she tossed him forward at the charging swordsman.

The dead weight of the heavy man caught him on the chest. Thrust back onto the sandy ground, he lost his sword and shouted in pain while buckling under the deadweight of his friend. Uttering a feral snarl baring her teeth while hunched over, she flipped her hair back as her braids flew through the air and behind. Clenching her fists, she watched the swordsman struggle to get out from under his friend with his broken arm.

Spying his long, curved sword lying across the sand from her, she walked toward it. Blood dripped from her armored body and arms. She felt the warm liquid coursing across her defined arm muscle mass and unwrapped fingers as it dripped onto the ground. The man yelled extending his open palm, “Please! No, stop! Mercy! Just let me go!”

Picking the sword up, she gripped the handle and growled flailing the sword around with her arm strength while testing the blade. Wind chopped making several harsh swooshing sounds. Satisfied, she walked in a steady pace toward the fallen swordsman. With anger, she poised the sword horizontal above the man with her hand upside down. Stretching out his hand forward, he shouted, “Wait! No!”

Adjusting her hand grip on the handle, she gripped the sword with both hands and shouted kneeling onto the sand thrusting the point down through the flank of the dead leader and the swordsman. The man gasped his final breath as blood trickled out of his mouth. Blood soaked the sands around the two dead men. Satisfied, the burly young woman let go of the sword and stood to her feet. Grabbing the hilt, the masked Ghost pulled up with her strength. Fresh blood slid off the steel blade.

Whapping the blade to the side, she fanned the blood off the sword turning around. Before her, the final man gasped grabbing his staff and got up to his feet. The feral Ghost growled seeing his bandaged chest wound. Placing the staff weapon pointed on the ground, he used it for support getting up. With the sword at her side pointed down, she moved her other wrapped hand forward and beckoned him.

Part 27.4 of 4.9: With the final obstacle in her path, her objective is clear

Positioning himself upright, he fought against the pain and twirled his staff to his side. Charging forward, he yelled flipping the staff around. She shouted rushing toward him and thrust her sword against the flailing staff weapon. The blade sliced a third of the staff. Ducking his overhead staff attack, her long braided hair flailed in the wind. She kicked knee against his chest, but he blocked it. Twirling around, he backstabbed with his staff.

Ducking to the side, the masked Ghost thrust her sword slicing another piece of the staff. He twirled as she grabbed the hand on his staff weapon. Moving her body forward with her sword primed, she thrust the sword into the man’s unprotected chest impaling him. The man gasp with a surprised look as blood trickled out of his mouth. Staring into the bloodied dark visor of the Ghost, the dying man groaned.

Ghost growled holding him in place. Taking the edge of her visor, she pulled it up revealing her dark brown glare on her right eye. The man gasped with fear staring into the dead white disc of her malformed, half shut left eye. A large gash slanted across it. She was half blind.

The man groaned gripping the handle of the blade and her wrapped wrist. Blood trickled down from his mouth. She twisted the blade sharply and pulled straight out as the man fell to his knees. Looking down, the Ghost recovered her eyes with the visor and turned the blade across the sand. Fresh blood dripped as she twirled the blade around on her wrist. Stopping it over the man’s neck, she placed both hands on the grip and primed it. Without hesitation, she sliced it once in a downward motion.

The man fell dead with his head separated from his torso as she walked away from him. Aiming the sword upward, she thrust it pointed down onto the sand. The sword thudded on the sandy ground as the blood seeped across the blade downwards. Rubbing her fingers, the Ghost mixed the blood and grime together and flicked it off her wrapped hand. She walked forward toward her fallen cloak casually.

Grabbing the cloak, the masked Ghost twirled it around and placed it across her spiked armored shoulder blades. Recovering her head with the hood of the cloak, she took her blood dagger and hooked it into her belt. Walking toward the dead heavy man, she grabbed his body and grunted moving him over to his front. The mask she wore eradicated the contaminants from the smell of the dead meat. His body was soaked with blood. Placing her hand into his pocket, she withdrew a metal container.

Opening the blood soaked case, a map was inside. Satisfied, she closed it and placed it inside her pocket. Grabbing the sword case from the dead man’s loop, she got up and walked toward the sword. Pulling it by the handle, she held the case out to her visor level. Placing the curved sword inside her sheathe, she put it on the other side of the belt and left the scene in search of her next destination.

At the edge of the town before the rolling, flowing liquid-like substance of the Sands, the masked Ghost stopped before a lonely house atop the rocky surface. She was soaked with dried blood. Stepping forward, the door opened as a twelve year old girl came from the doorway. She had bleach blonde hair with pink streaks and wore pink white clothing. Pink colored wraps covered her hands. The Ghost saw her several months ago on her long journey across the Sands. A growl from her throat uttered one name, “Sammi.”

The Sammi look-a-like walked. Her body went out of focus. The Ghost groaned shaking her head and adjusted her visor as a headache surged through her head. Falling to her knee with a grunt, she lowered her face. The little girl stretched her hand toward her. The half blind Ghost stared through the dark tinted visor and reached for the pocket of her armor. Taking the bloodied case out, she opened and showed it her.

The girl inspected the inside of the box seeing the map. She nodded with satisfaction and responded in an alien tongue, [Good, you have completed your first task, Ghost. We are not finished. Tell me. How did you accomplish this? Did you leave any survivors? I see the blood on your hands. If that is how you start your path for the third mark, so be it. You must cleanse yourself first. You have a long journey before you. This map will lead you to your next task. Come around the house and down the cellar toward the lake spring.]

Part 27.5 of 5.9: Sanità cleansing herself before the start of her next destination

The Ghost watched the girl walk toward the house and vanished into the doorway. She was an old soul for a twelve year old Sammi-look-alike. The young nineteen year old stood slowly and made her way toward the edge of the rocky surface. Seeing the small cave with the steps down into the darkness, she walked across the sand and stepped into the mouth of the cave. It was dim with several burning torches.

The masked Ghost walked down toward the sound of rushing waters. On the long way down, she made a few steps to the right and left of the turns. Around the corner, she lumbered into a large cavern. A rushing stream flowed through one end and fell down the small cliff like waterfall. The waterfall poured onto the spring keeping it filled. It was pristine and clear with steam rising from the surface.

Approaching the edge of the spring, she removed her cloak, her armor and her heavy military boots. Removing her undergarments, she stripped herself naked including her mask before entering the spring. Only her metal cross and the pendant hung from her neck. They were her most treasured possessions.

Beside her huge scarred gash across her left eye, across her naked massive body were additional scars, several tattoos and piercings. The most notably one was the life like cobra tattoo on her left arm. Her long braided dirty blonde side cut hung over her left side as the tail rested across her broad, thick shoulder trap before reaching down her upper hip.

The small lake spring was warm to the touch. Stepping into the waters, the warm sand beneath her feet squished. The lake became deeper as she walked toward the rushing waterfall. The tip of her dirty blonde hair touching the water spread out while she sank into the depths of the warm lake spring.

The water level reached her shoulders as she submerged herself underwater enjoying the healing benefits of the warm spring. Swimming underwater toward the waterfall, the Ghost emerged blowing bubbles and brushed her blonde hair with her hands. Rubbing her scarred face, she washed herself free from the grits, grime and the blood. The sound of the waterfall became closer and louder when she submerged under the rushing waters.

Standing on the flat rocky surface underwater, she moved upward against the waterfall. Inside the rushing stream was a cleansing shower as it washed away the blood from her hair and body. She rubbed her hair and skin with her strong hands rubbing her thick muscles and combed her hair with her fingers while cleansing herself through a ritual like motion.

Forty minutes passed. The sounds of rushing water lapped against the scarred Ghost’s bulky torso. She looked cleaner since the waters washed her body returning her to the natural, clean dark tanned tone. Because of the warm spring, she looked younger as the mysterious water revitalized her healthy skin. Her scars were visible. The dirty blonde side cut hair hung from behind her as the tip of her hair reached her hip. Brushing her hands across her face and hair, Ghost rinsed herself off.

Part 27.6 of 6.9: Putting the armor back on, the scarred, masked Ghost leaves the waterside

Casually, the Ghost walked toward the shore. She left the edge of the lake spring and grabbed her towel. Drying herself off starting with her hair, she dressed herself putting the undergarments first, her complete leather armor set including her hardened leather pads second and her boots last tying it off. Touching the heavy metal armored spiked shoulder blade, she removed the right shoulder pad and placed the rest of it on her broad shoulders. Afterwards, she tightened the straps and locked it in place.

Picking up her blood dagger and her long curved sword, she placed one on each side of her waist. Twirling her long braided side cut hair placing it over her right shoulder she let it rest across her bosom. Picking the cloak up, she placed it around her shoulders and tied it off. Taking the desert camo mask with her hand, she recovered her mouth and placed her visor down to cover her eyes.

Finally, picking up her right spiked heavy metal shoulder pad, she placed her left arm into the two notches before tying it off with the leather straps turning it into a custom shield. Taking her hand wraps, she wrapped her hands while walking around the edge of the lake spring. Looking up through her dark visor, she spied the Sammi doppelganger seated on the cliff next to the waterfall.

Sammi offered her ethereal smile speaking in her alien tongue, [I thought you would be done by now.]

The feral masked Ghost snarled as her nose wrinkled. The young girl watched her bodyguard approach. Tightening the final strap of her hand wrap, Ghost stopped before the rock face near the waterfall. Looking up, the burly young woman saw Sammi looking down at her. With a growl contorting her features, the Ghost grabbed the first handhold within the cliff-side.

Her other hand grabbed the second handhold above her and positioned herself hugging the wall. Using her body strength, she pulled with a grunt. Placing her footholds, the nineteen year old pushed herself up and seek the other small niches in the craggy rocky wall. Reaching for another handhold, the Ghost climbed the rocky side of the cliff with several well placed hand and footholds on the steep inclined. Her long, braided hung loosely from her bulked chest. Several rocks fell loose crumbling from her grip.

From the edge of the cliff, the girl watched while cross-legged. She waited with patience for her bodyguard. With a grunt, the Ghost grabbed the rocky outcropping of the ledge and pulled herself up. Uttering a low intermittent growl, she completed her hard climb onto the ledge before kneeling down. Bowing her head down and her left arm forward with her spiked shield in front of her, she placed her right arm on the ground and positioned herself while flexing her arm.

The girl stood and approached the right side while wrapping her arm around Ghost’s neck. With the other arm, she held onto her shoulder and climbed up her thick arm as Ghost lifted the girl with a grunt into her broad shoulder. The girl pulled forward sitting down on her thick shoulder traps. Gripping her arm around Ghost’s neck, she held on as the big woman stood slowly to her feet. The girl whispered to her ear pointing, [This way. This path will take us to the top where we will replenish our supplies for the long journey.]

The masked Ghost growled obeying her. Keeping her right arm on the girl to keep her on her shoulder, she moved forward in a steady pace along the small path. It was rocky and unsteady. Several sands shifted in her steps as she made her way to the top. The little girl held onto her protector’s neck as her body moved with the scarred visor covered masked Ghost’s rocky movement.

Part 27.7 of 7.9: The journey begins for Sani and the little ‘Sammi look-a-like’ girl

Reaching the top stopping before the mouth of the cave, the Ghost paused. Heavy breathing was heard through her mask. Gripping the nape of her neck, the little girl moved her legs bumping against the armored breastplate of her guard. The Ghost walked the outside of the cave and along the wall of a rocky cliff. It was huge and without handholds. Realizing she didn’t need to climb anymore, Ghost exhaled a heavy muffled sigh through her mask while walking along the small path of the canyon.

The air outside was windy. It rustled the woman’s blonde hair. Reaching the end of the small valley, they saw the first building. It was a small, worn broken down outpost. The wear and erosion of the Sands was visible on the abandoned building. Sammi’s words echoed in her head as Ghost groaned remembering what the little girl said several months ago about these outposts, ‘These outposts contain our supplies. You have the key to unlock it. It may look old and broken down, but it is actually a defense mechanism to prevent looters from breaking into it. There are many outposts, and some of them contain supplies but protected by some kind of code. While many became old, broken down or eroded, they actually make travelers move on seeing that there is nothing inside. Only those with the key can activate those outposts and be transported.’

Approaching the steps, the masked Ghost grunted kneeling down. The girl dismounted with a jump onto the Sands. The woman stood and watched the Sammi look-a-like climb the steps before stopping by the door. Pushing the door open, she peered inside. The inside of the house was broken down and eroded. The wall had a hole. Some furniture was broken or lopsided and half buried in the sand through the hole of the floor. Turning around to the approaching steps of her protector, she watched as the Ghost grabbed hold of the doorknob to close it.

Keeping her hand gripped on the knob, she twisted it backwards and grunted feeling a twinge on her right upper arm muscle. Touching her right arm with her left wrapped hand, she inspected the new mark as two images separated by the outside lines appeared. It shimmered in ethereal light as the lines formed in her veins down her arm across her thick muscle. Those were her marks. The two images were a part of her tattoo called a key. As the light reached her hand holding the doorknob, the light veins hit the door as it made several lines before it disappeared.

From within the broken keyhole, unlocking sounded as the dust settled. The door shimmered with light. Watching the tattoo on her arm appear, it vanished keeping itself hidden. With a single twist of the doorknob, the Ghost pushed the door open. It revealed a dark shimmering opening. The little girl responded touching the shimmering doorway, [The moment we go through the barrier, it will transport us to your secret hideout. Every recruit who go through the trials have their own secret hideout where they rest and relax even for a bit between trials. Remember, you only have up till an hour before your hideout resets and you can’t enter it again until the end of one cycle over the course of three days.]

Without a thought, the Ghost entered through the shimmering barrier. She felt herself teleported as a blinding light enveloped her. The door closed returning to normal. A gust of wind blew the door open revealing the shoddy, rundown old worn outpost. Both the masked Ghost formally known as Sani and the Sammi look-a-like little girl was gone.

Part 27.8 of 8.9: The secret hideout

Somewhere in an unknown place or time was another room. Near the doorway of the locked door, a blinding light flashed as the Ghost appeared. The young woman exhaled a muffled grunt through her mask. The dimmed hallway became bright when she appeared. It illuminated her surroundings as she walked forward. On her right was a small fridge. On the front were several lines in an alien language.

1. Drink Post workout, during workout and after workout. Breathe during each workout

2. Rest between each reps. Don’t overexert. Work hard and appease the Gods. They are watching

3. Supplies will be replenished and restocked by the Watcher. Remember. Only drink it when you are working out as it is a muscle boosting drink. It is not recommended to drink at any time.

Opening the door, she took out a twenty ounce bottle containing a swirling fuchsia colored liquid. It was a protein drink. Twisting open the cap, she pulled down her mask letting it rest around her neck and took a swig of the liquid. Closing the fridge, she placed the drink on the top and removed her cloak, armor, weapons and her boots. putting them aside, she took her drink and left the hallway.

Across the small room was her living area. Approaching the table in the middle of the room, she looked around. The girl was nowhere to be seen. However, her voice echoed in her head with a reminder in her alien tongue, ‘Remember, you have up till forty five minutes to an hour. What will you do first?’

Ghost snarled revealing her sharpened canines. Taking a swig of her protein drink, she removed the bloodied case containing the map from her pocket onto the table and walked toward another room. An altar was across the room. On the altar were several statues of deities that were chosen specifically for her path. Removing her visor, she placed it aside and approached the altar. Taking a lighter, she lit several candles, each for a single deity. After lighting each candle, she closed her clear brown and scarred white eyes before uttering several words in her alien tongue to respect and honor her deities.

The young woman turned taking another swig of her bottle. Grunting softly, she felt the effects of the drink through her body. Placing the bottle down on the table, she moved her arms beside her waist and flexed pumping her arms. Veins appeared on her bulked arms and legs as she felt newborn strength from the drink. Moving her neck side to side, she cracked and stretched her neck and thick shoulder muscles in a rotating motion of her upper arms. Approaching the log bar which consisted of a metal weight the shape and size of a log around the barbell with the heavy weights attached to each end of it.

Flicking her wrists, she clenched and unclenched stopping before the log bar. Taking the mask, she recovered her mouth. Her hair laid across her shoulder and down her bosom. Keeping her back straight and her knee downward, she gripped the handles and grunted exerting herself. Slowly, she lifted with her arms and pushed with her legs moving the bar across her body upwards. With a harsh exhale, she lifted it overhead and began her first rep. As her face turned red, veins appeared on her neck.

Ending her first rep, she moved her head back, slowly pushed the barbell slowly down and released letting go. The log bar banged the floor. A growl escaped her throat as her expression was a mixture of hate and rage. Her arms were pumped as she hunched over. Her torso was bulked as veins were visible on her defined figure. On the shaved part of her side cut was one long vein that stretched in one thick line across her crown. After resting for a few seconds, she resumed her reps lifting the log bar.

Part 27.9 of 9.9: Working her form into top shape before heading out

Her workout lasted for thirty minutes. Around the room, she used each station to work on parts of her muscles. The sweaty, hot woman gripped the edge of the bar. She pulled her body up and down. On her chest hanging from her chained belt was a hundred and fifty pounds. With an exerted grunt through her mask, she pulled herself up and exhaled lowering herself back down. Sweat poured down her defined muscle lines of her arm, across her torso and down her legs. Her braided long hair hung from one side.

She pulled her heavy torso up with a growl and held for several seconds before lowering herself back toward the floor. Jumping down, she removed the chained weight and lifted it with a grunt. Carrying it across the room, she hooked it against the wall with effort. Her eighteen inch biceps bulged.

Turning around, she exhaled as beads of sweat poured down her face. Taking her protein shake from the table, she took another swig of it before placing it back down and approached the stationary punching bag. Gripping with her wrapped hands, she positioned herself before the bag and dealt her first blow. For the next five minutes, Ghost punched hitting the bag with each force. The bag moved with each thumps as she beat it into submission. Sweat and grit splattered off the bag as her fists pounded the surface of the heavy bag. The sounds echoed throughout her workout room.

Ceasing her exercise, the masked woman growled turning away. Grabbing her drink, she walked toward the visor she left on the counter next to the doorway. Putting the visor over her scarred features, she uncovered her mouth and took another swig of her drink. The burly female bodybuilder walked across the small living space. The little girl was seated on the table cross-legged. The masked Ghost scowled and snarled placing the drink on the table. Pulling the chair, she sat down and touched the case in front of her. Opening it, she removed the map she found from the dead mercs.

The bleach blonde little girl waved her pink cloth wrapped hands in front of her getting her attention and inquired [How was your workout?]

Ghost scowled at the girl and growled. Ignoring her, she studied the map. Pointing at one of the images with her finger, the nineteen year old trailed her finger across. The girl spoke touching the map, [This map is interesting. As you can see, it is not the original. It was rewritten by hand and measured with the proper coordinates. The original must have been destroyed. It belongs to a person named Raleigh.]

“Raleigh,” the woman inquired with a snarl glancing at the girl.

The girl nodded and explained in her alien tongue, [That’s right. You heard of him. With no known last name, he is a well known explorer of the Sands as the modern Sir Francis Drake who traveled from one end of the world to the next on a sea ship. This Raleigh does the same traveling across the Sands collecting maps and treasures. This type of map contains the secrets and treasures that belong solely to the group known as the children of Siri. It was left behind by the Gods who visited before long ago when the Earth was young. Remember your studies? The treasures once belonged to an ancient empire before its end. They must not be found and be taken by naysayers or false believers. Raleigh is one such person. He may have translated and understood the ancient language, but he cannot begin to grasp the basic concept of it. It is taboo and forbidden even to him.]

Trailing the lines of the map with her finger, Ghost listened to the girl speak. With her photographic memory, the masked Ghost memorized each sections of the map. Looking at the Sammi look-a-like curiously, the girl finished, [This map leads us to the treasure that is for new recruits who begin their journey to prove themselves worthy of keeping the treasure. An invitation is extended to welcome them. You are working your way up. As you are on your second mark working toward the third, you will have to prove yourself worthy if you are to stop Raleigh from taking the treasure. The journey you walk will be long and hard, but I know you can do it. You are after all chosen for this path. As you already have your first two marks, getting the fifth mark will complete the sigil on your arm. It will become a full key that will identify you as a fully fledged Child of Siri. The sigil represents your character, your being, and who you are. It is your essence, your lifeblood and the key to the eternal afterlife with the Gods.]

The masked Ghost stared at the girl and listened. Suddenly, she touched her on her cheek. The girl smiled touching her wrist. The scarred woman felt the touch and inquired, “Sammi?”

The girl stared at her protector with sadness cocking her head. The woman uncovered her mask.

The Ghost stared through her dark visor pausing to study the girl’s face memorizing each detail. The bleach blonde girl with pink tips and the pink hand wrapped gloves stared back. Revealing her sharpened canines and several fangs, Ghost responded in her alien tongue moving closer to the girl. The table creaked with her pressure on it as she spoke solemnly with a promise, [Sam, I will protect you and keep you safe. I promise. No matter what, I will fight our enemies for you. Keep close to me.]

The quiet little girl smiled at her protector. The unmasked Ghost stood and kissed the little twelve year old girl on the forehead. Exhaling a sigh, she recovered her mouth, grabbed the map and the bottle before turning away from the table. On the table, the girl watched her protector drink the last drop of the fuchsia colored drink. The Sammi-look-alike shimmered and vanished without a trace.

Approaching the hallway, the woman tossed the empty bottle into the bin. Folding the map, she placed it back into the case and into her pocket. Taking her stocked bag from the closet, she placed it against the wall. Inside the closet was another weapon. It was a trident with a spear pointed end. Taking it, she closed the closet and leaned both the bag and the trident against the door. Opening the small fridge, she removed several bottles of her protein drink and placed them inside the pockets of her bag.

Taking her armor pieces, she placed them back on getting ready for the journey. Taking the right spiked shoulder pad, she placed her left arm through the notches and tied it off. Putting the trident on her back, she picked the heavy bag with a grunt and placed it across her shoulder. Testing her visor, she recovered her mouth with her mask. Turning to the doorway, she placed her hand against the surface activating it. It lit up. A twinge of pain was felt on her shoulder as the tattooed images surfaced. She barely felt the numbing pain. A whine of the teleporter took her body as she vanished in a blinding light. The secret hideout dimmed as the lights shut off to conserve power.

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