I looked around the room and located my sister talking to Urania and Nemesis. “Stay here,” I told Scott, then calmly walked over to where the three of them stood. “Good evening, ladies,” I said. “You all look beautiful tonight.”
“Very kind of you to say so,” Urania replied. “You’re looking rather dapper yourself.”
Bowing slightly, I said, “Thank you.” I placed my hand on Artemis’ arm. “Could I talk to you in private for a moment?”
“Be sure to come back for the auction, Ares,” Nemesis said. “I’m sure I can convince some of these mortal women to drop some drachma for a date with you.”
“I’m sure you could, but I’m not on the block tonight, Nem.”
I led Artemis over to where Scott stood waiting for me. “What’s going on, Ares?” she asked me.
“Tell her what you told me,” I said to Scott.
He recounted what they had seen on the security cameras.
“This isn’t good,” Artemis said. “If it is a nightgoyle, all of these mortals are in danger.”
“We can’t let anyone leave the building right now.”
Pushing her skirt to one side, Artemis took out her silver dagger. “Let’s go find out what’s out there.”
“Put that away,” I told her. “This is your event; you need to stay here. My men and I can handle this.”
“You might want to get a hold of Thanatos; he is well equipped to deal with nightgoyles. I’ve seen what he can do up close and personal.”
“What kind of weapons do your men have with them tonight?” I asked Scott.
“Sidearms in the room here,” he said. “Outside, they have swords, AK-47s, grenades, and one man has a flame thrower.”
“A flame thrower? Really?” I said.
Scott shrugged. “I’ve been around long enough to know to expect the unexpected when you work for gods.”
“You’re not wrong,” I admitted. “Okay, let’s go.”
“Wait a minute, Ares,” Artemis said. “You can’t go out there without weapons. Take my dagger.”
“I left some weapons on my floor down below,” I told her. “I’m not going out there unarmed, I promise.”
“Stay here. I’ll be right back.” She hurried off, but came back a couple of minutes later with a golden retriever. “Take Sayeh with you.”
“You brought her to your event?”
“It’s the holidays. I didn’t want her to be by herself,” she said, stroking the dog’s head affectionately.
“The nightgoyles are made of stone,” I reminded her. “How effective is she going to be?”
“More than you know, trust me.”
I looked down at Sayeh, who growled. I swear she had a smile on her face. “You interested in a good fight, girl?”
“Good enough,” I said.
Artemis gave me a hug. “Just be careful. There might be more than one out there.”
I gently touched her cheek. “I’ll be fine. Be back as soon as I can.”
We walked along the outer edge of the room, making our way to the front door. Once we got to the elevator, I punched the button for the 23rd floor. “Get a hold of your men and warn them about what’s going on,” I said to Scott. “Where was your missing man stationed?”
“Left side of the building.”
“There are trees on that side; if it’s a nightgoyle, he might have your man up in one of them.”
Scott looked down at Sayeh. “That dog really going to be able to help us fight these things?”
“You would be amazed at what she can do,” I replied with a grin.
“WOOF!” Sayeh agreed.
Scott looked dubious.
The elevator stopped on my floor and we got off. Unlocked the door, I hurried toward the safe I had placed in there. Opening it, I took off my tuxedo jacket and strapped my sword harness on. Instead of my regular swords, I took out ones that were made of adamantine. Around my waist went my double holster gun belt, specially designed by me to hold extra clips to save time when I needed to reload. I grabbed a rocket launcher and handed it to Scott. “If we can get your man clear, blast whatever was holding him to pieces.”
After closing the safe, we went back to the elevator and made our way down to the ground floor. The rest of Scott’s men were waiting for us. “You need to be aware that what we may be facing is not something that can be killed with your guns or even the grenades. Hell, I’m not even sure if that rocket launcher your boss is holding will work. From the description he gave me, it sounds like we are dealing with a nightgoyle. They have stoneskin, which protects them from almost any kind of weapons, except those infused with magic, or by adamantine, which is what my swords are made from. If you see it, don’t try to take it on by yourself. Running won’t help you, either; they can fly. They are extremely strong, and if they get you in their claws, they will crush you like a tiny bug. You’ll be dead before you hit the ground.”
“Then what do we do?” one man asked.
“We’re going to try to drive it into an open area using your guns. If Scott can get the shot, then he’ll shoot it with the rocket. If that doesn’t work, then I’ll have to get up close and personal.”
“Good thing you’re immortal,” another man chuckled. “What’s the dog doing here? Are we going to use it as bait?”
“She’s going to fight with us.”
All of the men except for Scott and I laughed. “I’ll believe it when I see it,” the man said.
“You might want to back up and give her room,” I replied.
Scott started walking backwards, and reluctantly, his men followed suit. I looked down at Sayeh. “Do your thing, girl.”
I backed up as well, saying a few words as I moved. Smoke surrounded Sayeh, making her seemingly disappear. Then suddenly, Sayeh appeared in her true form, a European style dragon with blue green scaly skin and deep green eyes. She had a long serpentine like tail and bat like large and scaly wings.
“Holy Mother of God,” Scott said.
I didn’t reply. “Break up into pairs; Scott will be with me. We’re going to check the trees on the left side of the building first. Don’t shoot if you see anything. You could accidentally kill your missing man. Communicate only through your radios. Don’t draw attention to yourself; it’s a sure way to get yourself killed. Everyone understand?”
They all nodded and paired off. I honestly had no idea if this was a great plan or not. It had been a long time since anyone of us had dealt with a nightgoyle. I went over to Sayeh and patted her snout. “If you see something, let me know. Light up the sky over whatever you see so I can spot it.”
A gentle bob of her head was the answer she gave me before she flapped her wings and rose into the air. I reached over my shoulder and grabbed one of my swords. “Are you ready, Scott?”
“As ready as I’ll ever be,” he said. “You are going to tell me about that…whatever it is when this is over, right?”
“It’s a dragon, Scott, not a thing.”
“Whatever. Let’s go.”
We walked slowly toward the left side of the building. There was no sense in trying to hide; the area was well-lit with few shadows. I scanned the area, looking for any sign of the nightgoyle or the missing man, but didn’t see anything.
Scott’s radio squawked. “I found Landry’s bag near the fountain,” someone said. “There’s blood on it.”
The sky suddenly brightened and I looked up to see Sayeh hovering over the center of the tree grove. All of us ran toward the area, and I spotted a black tail hanging down from a branch. “Stop!” I called out to the others.
They did what I told them to. “What’s the matter?” Scott asked.
I pointed at the tail. “It’s in the tree.”
“That thing is huge.”
“Wait until you see the rest of it,” I replied.
A rustling of leaves, then a loud thud, and the nightgoyle was in front of us. It was holding the limp body of the missing man in one claw. Unfortunately, the man wouldn’t be going home tonight, because the man’s head was in its other claw. The nightgoyle looked at me, its red eyes glowing, before throwing the man’s head in the air like a soccer ball. It opened its mouth, caught the head, and chomped down with a loud crunch. Looking down at the body it was still holding, it seemed to shrug. Then he carelessly threw the body over his shoulder. Another loud crunching sound was heard, letting me know that there was another nightgoyle. Great, I stood a chance with one, but two…
I looked around at the other men. Most of them were standing there with their mouths hanging open. The man who had laughed at Sayeh was doubled over, throwing up. I couldn’t blame him. The sight of these ugly stone-skinned creatures made my skin crawl. I hated these things. I drew my other sword and slowly advanced.
The nightgoyle watched me, and I tensed up waiting for an attack. But it didn’t seem to be interested in making a move. Nightgoyles don’t usually show any type of emotion (beyond anger) or expressions, but I would swear this one seemed amused.
The second nightgoyle, however, was itching for a fight and moved around the first one to face me. It slammed its tail on the ground a couple of times before rushing toward me. I braced myself for the charge, ready to drive my adamantine steel through its stone skin.
Sayeh swooped down, grabbed it in her powerful claws, and flew off. The nightgoyle struggled and screeched, trying to wiggle loose, but Sayeh was too strong for it. She pulled it apart, the way a human tears a piece of paper and dropped both parts to the ground. Unfortunately, one part landed on the man who had been sick, squishing him flat.
The first nightgoyle looked up at Sayeh before turning its gaze to me. Tilting its head slightly, he said, “God of War, your fight is not with me. My mission has been completed here.”
“And just what was your mission?” I asked.
“To distract you.”
“From what? The Foundation event?” My heart leaped into my throat, and my thoughts went immediately to my sister.
“Yes. Another sacrifice is required; we came here to get it. While you have been down here with me, the mission was completed inside the mirrored mountain. I must go and let my master know.”
“I don’t think so.”
“It is not for you to say what I do, God of War. What’s done is done.”
“Who sent you?”
“You will find out soon enough. I hope, when the time comes, that you fight like the warrior I know you to be. I would hate to kill a weak man.” Unfurling his wings, he quickly rose in the air and flew away.
Sayeh started to follow him, but I called her back. Her disapproving growl sounded like rolling thunder as she landed nearby. I muttered a few words, and she was once again a golden retriever.
“Have your men clean up the area,” I said to Scott. “I’m going back upstairs to make sure everything is all right.”
I hurried inside and took the elevator back to my floor. I left the swords, guns and grenades in the vault, but picked a different gun, a Colt Government .380, put it in a shoulder holster, which I slipped on before putting my tuxedo jacket back on.
When I returned to the gallery, things appeared to be fine. Artemis spotted me and came over. “What happened?” she asked me.
“Not much,” I admitted before telling her what had transpired. I had to admit that I was disappointed there hadn’t been a fight.
A young woman stopped next to Artemis and whispered in her ear. “Are you sure?” she asked the woman, who nodded. “Do your best to calm the others down. Don’t make a big deal about it. We’ll take care of it.”
Nodding, the woman walked off. “What’s going on?”
“One of our waitresses, Diana, is missing. There was a note attached to the wall with a knife that was found near the kitchen. It said, ‘Another sacrifice is required. Tell Ares that I eagerly await his arrival. T.’ What is going on? Who is ‘T’?”
“Someone with illusions of grandeur,” I told her.
I refused to say anything else about it, and in order to distract her, I agreed to stay for the rest of the evening. But I knew that tomorrow, I was going to have to step up my efforts to find the person responsible for this.