Storm-grey clouds appeared above him, warping into long arms that scooped up Skiron and Khione. They disappeared as the clouds twisted into a small tornado. The roar of the storm and the rush of wind down the tunnel of the cave kept me from hearing anything.
The harpy’s shrieks pierced our minds, and the echo bounced around in our heads. I hate fighting with anything that addles my senses, and I’d had enough of that recently. I shook my head and pushed on.
I had seen this many times, so I counted to ten before speaking. Something had deeply wounded this woman. No good would come if I responded to her bait. “I understand, Khione. I do, but I’d rather not split up as there is dreadful cell reception in the Himalayas.”
I let out a long breath as I remembered the politics of family. Why could we never just get to the point? As I pushed all the air out of my lungs, I looked at her face for the first time and saw Hestia. Her sweet face was full of hope and love. Memories of playing in her kitchen flooded my mind. That soft voice yelling at us to stop getting underfoot as she cooked was never angry. This was the one person in the family that always made me feel loved and wanted.
They walked with her a few steps outside the tent, and she lifted her face toward the sun with her eyes closed, leaning into its warmth. I had seen her do this before. She used the bright bands of sunlight to help her focus.
Cheers arose from the maidens again, but without the jubilance of moments before. I saw the shadows of their personal nightmares cross their eyes. There was rage in their voices. These women would protect anyone who needed protection. They would destroy what could not be reasoned with.
We laughed and swam until the moon made an appearance, brightening the night sky. I walked out of the little pool, followed by a soaked mass of white and black fur. She stopped, and I braced myself as she shook her entire body, water droplets raining down on me. I jumped back, avoiding most of the spray.
Annoyed further by my own tantrum, I kicked half of the useless thing to the side. Azita did not flinch. It reminded me of how well I’d trained her. The strength and respect she displayed calmed me. I concentrated on my breathing, calming myself further. “You were volunteered to come in and handle me?” I asked.
As soon as the child hit the ground, arrows flew, each hitting its target. As the maidens surrounding it got ready to ose another volley, the monster ran. I started to pursue, but lost concentration quickly, stumbling in the thick cloud of putrid perfume.
It was good to feel the minds of these animals again. They were old friends, and this was home even if I didn’t come back often. After the long night, all I wanted to do was wander through the park, check in on all the animals there, and relax past the waterfall. But, alas, I had work to do.
The bar was darker than the woods and filled with beards. Mostly they are long and grey with one lonely goatee. Clearly, it belongs to a hiker from the south, judging from the rolled-up skinny jeans and tech pad things scattered on the table. He does seem a bit on guard around the grizzled old men. Honestly, it is cute. I will make sure they do not play with him like cats with their prey.