I watched them depart on Charon’s ferry, the bag of crystals that contained the souls at his feet. I paid two coins for each one. Artemis raised her arm in farewell as Orion scowled and held the restraints of Zakar. I raised my hand back, standing on the shore until they were lost in the mist over the lake. I had business elsewhere tonight as the mortal, Kara’s soul, squirmed in my sack.
I opened the blade and thought of Kara, the temple allowing the song to grow. When it was ready, I sliced the air and entered the rift. This time instead of inside the temple of my Lady, I landed outside of it. I begin my ascent to the altar of the temple inside.
The flames on the ornate gold bowls set at certain points of the stairs to the temple flickered and went out as my shadow fell upon them. The nymphs who stood as sentries brandished their weapons at me. Their faces set on defending their Lady’s temple, but as always, their resolve broke in my presence. The weapons fell, clattering to the ground and they fled.
I tried not to put her sentries down, but was the natural effect of standing before me. I entered the doors and lights inside flickered. More centuries, more fleeing and the dropping of weapons to the ground. I let out a small chuckle; I would leave gifts for them, too, at their Lady’s altar.
I made my way to the main floor, and for the final stretch down the hall, no one was in my way. The news of my arrival must have spread quickly, or maybe it was the lights and flames going out. I entered the main room.
Iphigenia with two others were tending to Kara when I came in through the doors. They all turned and noticed my arrival. I stood directly in the center of the room as the two broke from Iphigenia. They drew their weapons, and for a moment, advanced on me. Iphigenia continued to work on Kara. I opened my wings to their full extent and gave them a solitary flap, kicking up the air around me. They backed off.
“Mmmm…BOO!” I said.
They retreated elsewhere. I laughed as I pointed in the direction they had fled to, my gaze on Iphigenia. Her face was an emotionless block of stone. She has steel in her but she has always had steel in her. She drew her dagger backing herself into the altar which Kara laid on.
“Back! You will not have her, fiend!” she yelled.
I could hear the fear in her voice, right underneath the veneer of command. I sighed and knew that this would not end well. She advanced to me and took her stance, ready to thrust in with her mortal weapon.
“Do you believe that your mortal weapon would stop me? I truly meant to have her, but I have come to return what is taken and restore what was broken. I come with glad tidings,” I said to her, trying to reassure her.
That steely gaze did not falter, and I knew what came next. She moved in with the dagger, meaning to uphold her duty to defend and protect Kara. I really had to admire her spirit and dedication to The Huntress. I moved a wing to parry the blade. I lifted the wing and send the blade sailing across the room. The look of surprise on the nymph’s face was almost comedic as my other wing raised up, and pushed her. She went sailing, landed, and slid across the floor, ending up in a ball.
All this while, I ascended to the altar and to Kara. I hear the nymph, letting outcries about her failure to her lady and apologizing to her. They barely registered as I touched the vine that held Kara. They withered and died, instantly freeing her. I took the mortal into my arms and held her head to my chest.
“Kara, Kara, look at me, dear one,” I whispered.
She looked and smiled, letting out a little sigh of ecstasy. “Oh, the pretty man. Take me with you, pretty one. I am not afraid,” she says.
“Good, I am glad you’re not afraid, because you needn’t be, but Kara, your time is not up,” I told her.
“Oh, what a pity, pretty man,” she pouted.
“Kara, I am going to restore your soul, my dearest. I have put up brace guards and rivulets to protect your soul so it can heal. So all this will seem like a bad dream. Whatever you do, do not scratch or poke at them,” I said.
“Oh, okay,” she replied.
“Now, Kara, I am sorry, because this is really going to hurt,” I informed her, removing her soul from my sack, then placing that hand to her chest. I pushed the white light that was made of back in. She screamed, as did the nymph below. It was over quickly, and I laid her back down. Her chest had a small, round burn mark, and smoke tendrils drifted off of it. I removed a feather from my wings and braided it into her hair, my signal to Artemis that my work here was done.
“You can have her,” I called to Iphigenia as I placed my offerings at the altar.
My offering of cookies, candies, cakes, and some sodas from our new soda line were all in containers as she came bounding up the stairs to the mortal. I put on my hood, and they lost sight of me as she embraced the mortal, covering her face with kisses, both crying from joy. Iphigenia helped Kara off the altar, and they left arm in arm. Kara absently stroked at the feather.
And this is where I leave you.