Bes opened his eyes and looked up. “Aduro.” he whispered unseeing, then closed his eyes again. Linn started to cry. He was terribly wounded, his gut open to the moonlight. She didn’t know what an immortal could take, and his power… she focussed. Instead of a flare she could barely stand to look at, he was flickering faintly with white.
Linn held her hands over the worst wound and bit her lips. Blackie lowered his nose to touch her crossed hands. A flare of pink mixed with blue erupted from them and arced into Bes’ body. Linn whimpered. Even with Blackie, that had hurt.
Bes opened his eyes again. This time he was focussing. He stared up at them for a minute. Linn realized it was too dark for him to see her face. She slid Lambent out of her sheath and into her lap. The glow reflected off her face and she leaned over him, trying to smile.
His eyes widened. “What the hell…” He bit out. Linn flinched.
“It’s me.” She told him hesitantly. Blackie licked his cheek, which was uncharacteristically stubbly. “And Blackie.”
“How did you two get here?” Bes whispered.
Linn could see the pain on his face. She wondered if she could do the power transfer thing again. She wasn’t sure what it did, but it seemed to have been helpful.
“Blackie brought me. I think it was the high path.”
“You ran the high path.” he repeated, looking stunned. He tried to lift a hand. Linn took it in hers. He was cold. She bit her lips.
“Blackie…” She looked at her companion. “Can we do it again?”
“Do what again?” Bes asked. She ignored him for the moment. Blackie moved around to the other side and extended his head over Bes’ body. Linn leaned over from the other side. They touched foreheads.
This time the glow of their power lasted a full minute. Twisting strands of blue and pink extended down into Bes and Linn could see his skin move and the wound closing. Then she started to pass out. Throwing herself to the side so she wouldn’t fall onto Bes, her world dissolved into gray sparkling nothingness, and then to black.
She woke staring up at the moon, Blackie licking her face. She tried to sit up and fell back, too dizzy to manage. she turned her head and could see that she was inches from Bes. He was looking at her with a funny expression on his face. Still flat on his back, but the pain and tension had eased. She grayed out again. Bes was saying something, but she couldn’t make it out.
After a minute… or more, Linn couldn’t tell, she started to feel again. She hadn’t been completely out that time. It was more like she’d stepped away from her body for a minute. She took a deep breath, feeling her head spinning. She gagged. The smell on the battlefield was bad and getting worse.
“Linn! Linn…” Bes’ urgent whisper got through to her. She opened her eyes and saw him trying to sit up.
“No!” She pushed herself up. He slumped back.
“Look…” He tried to point, his hand shaking.
She looked across his body at Blackie, who was standing, his face contorted into a silent snarl, and his back hair standing on end. Linn staggered to her feet, Lambent in hand. Advancing toward them were three beings, black power boiling off them like a fog.
She faced them, Lambent in hand, feeling a snarl on her face as well. As they came closer she could see they walked on all fours, with a curious, limping gait. They stopped as they saw her, whining a little like dogs. One of them lifted his heavy head and sniffed the air.
He laughed, a long, high pitched chattering howl that set Linn’s teeth on edge.
“How… Delicious.” He said in that high voice. “Look, my dears, a halfling and a kitten stand to protect our greatest enemy.”
All three of the hyenas started to laugh as they walked toward Linn and Blackie. Bes was still helpless on the ground. Linn cried out in fear. The miasma that surrounded stank like long-dead flesh.
“Stop!” she screamed at them. “Go away from here!”
They stopped and whined, slinking low to the ground. “Hehe…the child wants us to be gone.” one said.
“Wants us to let her be…” Another hissed.
“But we are so hungry…” the leader whimpered. “We want their juicy flesh.”
“Come closer and I’ll kill you.” Linn stated grimly, her jaw set.
“Oh, oooh…” Moaned one, sinking to the ground and covering his face with his paws. Then he looked up, laughing. Linn could see the flash of his teeth in his open jaws.
“We are already dead…” He choked out. Next to her, Blackie snarled a warning. The other two were trying to flank them.
“Zombie hyenas. What next?” Linn muttered. “At least I can hurt you.” she lunged, slashing with Lambent like she was swinging an axe. The glowing sword bit into the back of the leader’s neck with a meaty thunk. He screamed a howl, hurling himself backward.
Linn, who had twisted the sword out as she struck, rocked back on the balls or her feet, seeing the other leap at her, but Blackie leapt and bit deep in his throat, rolling him across the bloody plain. She let them go and pivoted toward the third hyena. He was slinking toward her. She shrieked and ran at him, swinging Lambent high over her head and then down at his skull. He tried to roll out of the way, and she slashed his throat open and one of his forelegs off entirely.
His high scream was almost human, and then he turned tail and ran across the plain. Linn didn’t chase him, spinning instead to see the hyena Blackie had bitten break free and run away, too. The leader was nowhere in sight. Linn held lambent high, flaring bright with power, and walked around Bes’ prone body, making sure they were really gone. The sword, covered in blood and bone bits, crackled and hissed.
Satisfied, she knelt and wiped the blade as clean as she could with a tuft of dry grass. She didn’t want that nasty stuff on her sword. Breathing deeply and trying to let the rage that had been coursing through her flow out again, she went to Bes.
Bending over him, she touched his forehead. His eyes were closed again. They fluttered open at her touch. He was warmer. She pulled her trembling hand back.
He gave her a little smile. “You are magnificent.”
Linn raised an eyebrow. “You’re delusional.”
He chuffed out a breath that might have been a laugh. “They won’t come back. Much easier prey than us out there tonight.”
Linn felt her shoulders relax. She had been so tense it hurt. “All right.”
She pulled off her jacket, shivering a little in the wind. She hadn’t brought her pack. She made a mental not to never leave it again. Twice, now, she had been caught without it. Spreading the thin windbreaker over Bes’ torso, she patted her pockets.
Back in Hawaii… however far away that was, now… she’d put a mylar wrap in her cargo pocket, in case it got cold enough that night to need it against the damp conditions. She’d been hypothermic once and that was enough. She stretched it out, now, knowing the thin layer of plastic would help keep him from losing anymore body heat, at least.
She tucked it around him, ignoring his murmured protestations. Blackie reappeared and stretched out next to Bes, his tongue lolling out. She nodded at him.
“You ok?” she asked.
He nodded., then put his big head on Bes’ shoulder. Linn realized that he was as long as the short man, stretched out like this. She stood up and looked around again. The moon was high overhead now, thin clouds racing across the surface. She could see dark shapes huddled on the ground here and there.
There was no sign of the hyenas. She refocussed, drawing upon her Sight. She sucked in a quick breath. Off to one side, far enough away she couldn’t make out details, there was a flare of golden power. She drew Lambent again and stood over Bes, remembering not to lock her knees.
“What is it?” he asked.
“I don’t know. Just… a lot of power.”
Now there was another flare, near where the first one had been, but this one was a pale blue. Linn swore, tensing. Bes, below her, chuckled hoarsely.
“Better not let anyone else hear you say things like that.”
She glanced down at him, seeing the smile on his face. “Glad you’re feeling better.”
The flares happened again, closer. Linn could see people walking, now, and… she squinted. A horse-drawn wagon?
“Bes?” she asked quietly, not looking at him. She didn’t dare look away from the approaching group.
“Yes, Linn?” He had an odd note to his voice.
“Who is the enemy here, and how do I tell?”
“Ah…” he sighed. “There is a question I could spend years on.”
“A quick answer would be good.” She shot back drily.
“Try shouting Aduro when they draw near.” He sounded better, she noted absently. Whatever she and Blackie had done, it must have worked. Blackie…
Linn looked down. Blackie was asleep, his paws twitching in a dream. Fat lot of help he was. “Blackie!” she hissed urgently at him. He sat up, yawning. His ears twitched toward the approaching group of people. They stopped, and there was another flare of golden power.
Blackie jumped to his feet and took off.
“Dammit, Cat!” Linn shouted hoarsely after him. She looked back down at Bes, torn. Did she leave him, who still couldn’t move, or go after the idiot kitten?
She stayed where she was. The group bunched up when Blackie bounded into them, and then started to move toward her, fast. In the moonlight she still couldn’t make out details. There were, she thought, six of them coming toward her. The rest were staying with the wagon, which had stopped.
She had been holding Lambent loosely at her side, and now she swung her up, power flaring off the tip as she did so. Bracing herself over Bes, she screamed defiantly.
Bes shouted weakly beneath her. Linn bared her teeth and prepared to die. She had no illusions about her chances against immortals. They had started to run, now, and suddenly they shouted back to her.
The power flared from all of them… Red, green, gold, blue, iridescent, and the pure yellow that was Sekhmet. Sobbing, Linn dropped Lambent and ran to meet them. She cried out as she recognized the golden woman.
“Mama! Mama…” She fell into Theta’s arms. Sobbing wildly, she couldn’t have stopped trying if she had wanted to. Burying her face in her mother’s embrace, Linn clung to her for a second.
Her face wet with tears, she looked up at her mother. “Bes… Bes is hurt.”
Her mother was crying too, Linn realized. She just nodded and let Linn go, hurrying toward Bes. Her Grandfather caught hold of her now, kissing her forehead.
“How the hell did you get here?!”
Linn gurgled a little laugh. “Bes asked me that, too.”
Sekhmet squeezed her shoulder. “You looked ready for trouble there. Anything we should know.”
Linn shook her head, suddenly very tired. “There were zombie hyenas. I think they are gone, now.”
Quetzalcoatl kissed her cheek tenderly and she felt a jump of power from him. “Brave little girl.” Was all he said.
Coyote strolled up to her. He hugged her and led her to meet the member of the party she hadn’t met. The blue lady was a tall, dark-haired woman with a prominent nose and a broad smile.
“I am Panacea.” She held out her hands and Linn took them, feeling warm, soft skin.
“The Greek goddess of healing.” Linn said softly, wondering why she was with Grandpa Heff.
Panacea nodded. “After battles, I roam the field helping the fallen ones recover.”
“Bes is hurt.” Linn told her, looking over to where he mother was kneeling at Bes’ side. She walked over and knelt on the other side of him. They had stopped talking when she came near. “What?” She asked.
“Bes was just telling me how you and Blackie were trying to heal him.” her mother had a little quiver in her voice.
Linn looked at her numbly. “Did I do it wrong? She asked, alarmed.
“No, no…” Theta bit her lip. Linn recognized that. She did it herself when worried.
“What is wrong?” her voice squeaked a little.
“Hey, there.” Bes spoke, lifting a hand to her. She took it automatically, squeezing it a little.
“It’s just that it was very dangerous for you to do.” her mother told her. “Healing is a huge power drain. I’m tapping into all the power I’ve drained from volcanoes over the course of months, Panacea has been charging herself for years…”
“Oh.” Linn looked down at Bes. He had that look on his face again. “I didn’t think about it, Mom. I just…” She fluttered her hands, trying to put into words the way she’d felt when she looked down and saw him lying there broken and split open.
Bes grunted and tried to push himself up. Both Linn and Theta grabbed him by the shoulders. Theta looked at Linn. “Do. Not. Try. To. Help.” She snapped. Then she flared.
Linn felt like she was wrapped in golden flames. Warmth slid through her skin, into her bones. She looked into Bes’ face, seeing his eyes closed and a tear sliding down his cheek. The world slowed to a crawl and the expression on his face was of agony and joy all at once. The flames snapped out and he sat up, wrapping his arms around her.
Linn was crying again, into Bes’ solid shoulder. She was sitting awry on the cold, hard ground, her arms wrapped around him. He was petting her hair. “Shhh. shhh… let it out now.”
She hiccuped and he chuckled. “Can we get up now?”
She scrambled to her feet, sniffing and looking for her handkerchief. That, at least, she hadn’t left behind. Her grandfather, smiling, extended a hand to Bes. They clasped forearms and the burly smith pulled the shorter immortal to his feet. Bes stretched and groaned.
“Thank you, Theta.” He hugged her briefly.
Coyote handed Lambent to Linn. She smiled at him. Her face felt stiff with fatigue and tears dried onto it. She was covered in blood and mud from the run throughout the field and her fight. But everything was all right. Blackie bumped her hand with his head.She cupped his skull in her fingers.
“Can we go home now?” She asked softly.
“Yes, you can. Where do you want to go?” her mother asked her very gently.
Linn blinked at her. She realized this was a choice… the apartment in Seattle, or the Sanctuary. Suddenly she knew that if she chose the apartment she wouldn’t remember all this. She could go back to the shallow girl she had been on the plane that summer, just killing time waiting for life to go back to normal. None of this would seem real, just a bad dream she’d awakened from.
Linn drew a deep breath and squared her shoulders. “I left the Coblyns at the bunker in Hawaii. I need to get back there and help them get home.”
Theta blinked at her, then slowly smiled. She looked at Heff without speaking. He grinned broadly. Then he looked at Bes.
“Feel up to taking her?”
“Not baby-sitting this time.” The Egyptian growled.
“No, not any more.” Heff agreed with a chuckle.
Bes looked at Linn, his eyes clear and dark. No power shone there to conceal his soul. “Want me to come along?” He asked her.
“Of course.” she replied. “I have no idea how to get back there.”
He laughed, that full belly laugh she hadn’t heard in too long.
“Right then. Ready?”
“Just a minute.” She told him tranquilly. Then she hugged everyone, ending with her mother.
“Will you come to Sanctuary? Bring Grampa?” she whispered.
“Of course.” Her mother whispered back in her ear. “Couldn’t keep me away, love.”
Linn sniffed and stepped away. “Ok, now I’m ready.”
Bes took her hand and Blackie flanked her. They started to run and the moonlit land tunneled out and away. They were back on the high path. Bes didn’t move as fast as Blackie had done, before. Linn thought Blackie must have known Bes was in trouble, before. Maybe he’d been coming here every time he disappeared into the fog.
They landed much more smoothly, as Bes had talked her through how to do it as they jogged along on the tunnel. She’d told him where they were going, and he told her how to land with bended knees for more bounce.
The fog was still laying over the landscape like a wet blanket. Linn sucked in a lungful of warm, wet air, catching the exotic scents and sea air. She pulled her compass out and consulted it, looking at the ground. She figured if she found the cattle path she could get back to camp.
Bes swept her a little bow. “Lead on!”
She nodded wanly. All the activity was catching up with her. She really wanted a nap and food, not necessarily in that order. By the time she got them into camp she was shaking a little.
Bes sat her down and put her jacket over her. It seemed odd to Linn that nothing had changed here since she left. He pack was all put together and leaning against the pole of the lean-to. The little green fire was still flickering merrily. She held her hands out to it, and then snatched them back, not wanting Bes to see how they were trembling.
He pulled open the small pouch on her back pack and handed her a protein bar and then the spout of her camelbak. “Eat and drink. You put a lot of yourself into me…” his eyes softened. “Using that much power means you need to refuel. This will help.”
Linn just nodded, too tired to speak. She chewed slowly. It tasted delicious, which probably meant she was pretty bad off. He stood up.
“I’m going to go check in with the Coblyns. I will be right back, Ok?”
“I’ll be here.” Which was true, Linn reflected, because she didn’t have the energy to go with him. Once they had gotten safely back, it was like someone had opened a tap and emptied her out. She took another bite.
She was half asleep when he came back. She was aware that he was there, but too tired to speak to him. He talked to her anyway.
“They are almost done. It’s ready to launch when Heff sends word. Daffyd wants me to take you straight back to the Sanctuary.”
“How…?” she managed.
“They want to stay here until launch to make sure it goes well. I’m going to send Coyote to them.”
Linn closed her eyes. She didn’t want to go anywhere, she was too tired to move. Bes shook her shoulder. “Come on, Linn. Let’s go home.”
“There’s an offer I can’t refuse…” She muttered. She still didn’t move.
Bes scooped her up. Linn squeaked. “You can’t carry me!”
“I can and you aren’t moving…” He started to walk, and she knew without opening her eyes they were back on the high path. She relaxed and let herself drift into sleep. She felt safe again.