Sea Demon ~ Scene 5
Medusa towered over the mere mortals on the beach, the ocean frothing and churning as she rose up from its depths, her head of snakes writhing in anticipation. She spied the glint of a sword and leaned down on all four facing the knights, the vipers’ fangs gleaming as they readied to strike. Prepared this time, Lancer charged, cutting off the head of an attacking beast. Arina also leapt forward and followed suit, severing another’s head with one swift stroke. The sudden onslaught took its toll on the sea demon, and realizing her immortality was in jeopardy, she broke off the attack.
Feeling extremely weakened by the loss of blood, Medusa straightened and scanned the shore, seeking easier victims. An unearthly scream escaped her throat when she saw the lifeless body of the mermaid, her human soul. One man knelt over her pet, while the other prepared for battle with the demon as he twirled his weapon. Enraged, she prepared to flash her deadly stare into the warrior’s eyes.
Sharak flew above, allowing Dar to see the demon’s position through his eyes. The Beastmaster completed the transformation of his staff weapon into the sword of Eldar, and guided by the eagle, aimed the blade so it mirrored Medusa’s deadly stare. The sea demon froze in shock, gasping as her reptilian form slowly began turning to stone. The giant statue of the demon swayed for a moment before toppling onto the beach with a tremendous crash, barely missing the knights who had run for their lives. The marbleized statue struck rocks on the beach and rubble was all that was left of the sea demon.
Impressed with Lancer’s quick actions, Zad patted him on the back before marching over to where the Beastmaster and his friend still hovered over the mermaid. Unbeknownst to anyone, Mathias, dressed as a fisherman to blend with the crowd, walked up behind, Jessic at his side. Zad frowned at the dead creature. “She was mine and these butchers killed her! I’ll burn down their village!” he snarled.
Dar was about to object but stopped when he saw the wizard. The sorcerer winked and then took a step closer to stand beside the Terron. “I understand mermaids such as this one eventually turn into sea demons like Medusa. You are very fortunate, King Zad, that she is dead and that you didn’t make such a terrible mistake.”
“I don’t make mistakes!” Zad growled, but the fisherman’s words sunk in. “Like that demon, you say?” Zad’s face scrunched together in disgust and then relief. “I don’t need a mermaid. After all, where would I keep her?” He turned on his heels and stomped off to join his general.
“Thank you, Mathias,” Dar said gratefully.
“My work isn’t done yet. The mermaid never really died.”
Tao placed his head on the creature’s chest and listened. “She has no heartbeat.” Confused, he looked at Dar and shook his head.
In turn, the Beastmaster challenged the wizard. “Then how is it possible that Medusa could be slain?”
Mathias knelt beside Tao and plucked the sea urchin off the mermaid’s tail. “Because Medusa no longer possessed the creature’s soul. It is in here, merely replaced for safe keeping.” He held the urchin over the mermaid and said some ancient words to release the soul from the urchin and lift the spell on the mermaid. Her tail melded into legs and, soon, her eyes opened. Mathias helped her stand, appreciating the woman’s beauty.
Stunned, Jessic rushed to his sister. “Willa!” he cried out. The woman was in shock by the sudden change in her condition, her memories flooding and overwhelming her senses. She cried when she recognized her younger brother and welcomed his warm embrace.
Caught up in the happy reunion, Dar reached for Tao’s hand and yanked him to his feet. He then placed his arm around his shoulder and drew him closer. “It’s good to have you back, too, Tao.”
Tao appreciated the affection his friend displayed, but still had to swallow back a strange feeling. “I know how Willa feels. I feel the same way—it’s strange. One minute you’re a sea creature, the next human. Dar, don’t you find it odd being sent back in time? If you think about it, those events never really occurred and yet we’ve experienced them. You, Lancer and I have vivid memories.”
“Tao, it’s best not to think or try to understand when it comes to sorcery.” Dar sighed and hugged his friend before letting him go. Before joining Lancer and Arina, they bid their fond farewells to Jessic, his sister and the other villagers.
Since Zad had ordered his men to depart, Lancer wished to say goodbye to his friends before they took their leave. He and Arina met the Beastmaster and Tao halfway. Lancer smiled and hugged his Eiron friend. “Take care, Tao. I’ll see you soon.” He let go of the smaller man and nodded to the Beastmaster. “Travel safe, Dar. It was an honor fighting by your side.”
“And with you,” Dar replied.
Lancer smiled at the woman he loved. “Arina…” He hesitated as Mathias’ words of the woman’s ambitions overwhelmed his thoughts. Lancer felt that the woman he knew in Xinca had changed since her quest to find Voden. He turned abruptly to join his fellow knights for Zad was getting impatient.
Arina pardoned herself to Dar and Tao. “I need to speak with Lancer. I’ll be right back.”
Finally alone, Tao asked his friend. “Why the long face, Dar? I thought your feelings for Arina weren’t the same as Lancer’s?”
“No, they aren’t, Tao. It’s Mathias. I don’t trust him.”
“Because he’s a sorcerer?”
“Yes, that and the fact that he offered his help too willingly. No doubt he wants something in return. He was just as anxious as I was to have you back to normal. That concerns me.”
“Well, it’s not necessary to make all kinds of assumptions when we can ask the source.” Tao smiled boldly. “Mathias,” he called out, interrupting the sorcerer’s conversation with Willa, “can we have a word with you?”
“Anything for the Beastmaster’s prodigal sidekick.” Mathias walked over to them, eyeing Dar vigilantly with a crafty smile.
Tao shrugged off the wisecrack. “I’m curious—“
“You always are. That’s what makes you special.”
“Why did you help Dar rescue me?”
Taken aback by the question, Mathias scrunched his brow and broke his gaze with Dar. He faced the Eiron in disbelief. “I don’t understand, Tao. Why are you not appreciative? Did you really enjoy playing fish that much?”
Tao smirked, enjoying the fact that he could get on the wizard’s nerves. “Dar and I are both very grateful. I just meant that I thought sorcerers weren’t allowed to interfere with mortal lives.”
“Ah, the Ancient One’s rule of not meddling with human affairs. Those were his rules meant for his apprentices, not me.” Mathias glanced back at the Beastmaster. Dar’s emotions ran too visibly—jealousy, distrust and a hint of savagery. The wizard shuddered, a sensation he hadn’t experienced in a long time. He quickly returned his attentions back to the curious Eiron. “You see, I am an equal to the Ancient One. He oversaw the Celestial worlds as well as the dimension of time. Annubis minded the four elements, inadequately I may add. As for myself, I kept an eye on every living creature, be it mortal or immortal. After Annubis’ banishment, the Ancient One and I were at constant rivalry. The competition between us began when he found the perfect human to be his apprentice.”
Dar asked, “Sharak?”
Approving of the Beastmaster’s question, Mathias acknowledged him. “This was long before Sharak’s time. No, I speak of Dartanus.”
Dar was taken aback while Tao’s eyes widened, eager to hear more.
“Dartanus was an amazing student, a promising sorcerer. Nonetheless, I needed to do one better. Instead of finding a mortal to teach the craft to, I dared to believe a demon would have twice the power. Sadly, I was right. Disaster struck and I was severely punished by the Ancient One.”
“Your imprisonment in the ice,” Tao stated.
“Exactly. Annubis was exiled to the mud and I to ice.” Mathias scowled, reliving the cold sensation that even the warm sun above could never banish from his memory.
“A demon?” Dar asked, wondering what happened.
Mathias turned his head in disgrace. “Yes, the demon of darkness.”
Dar’s eyes grew dark. Only one name came to mind. “Balcifer?”
The wizard wasn’t proud of his former apprentice. “A grave oversight on my part.”
Tao grabbed the Beastmaster’s arm, preventing him from charging Mathias. “Dar, don’t. At least we now understand how the balance was tipped.” The wise Eiron looked to the sorcerer. “Demons are already immortal and yet you allowed Balcifer to become your apprentice—a demon instead of a mortal. You broke the rules and crossed the line for vanity’s sake.”
Mathias shrugged, “An experiment gone awry.”
“Awry?” Dar repeated; his face contorted with disgust. “You nearly cost this world its end!” He glared at the sorcerer.
“And I paid for my slip up, Beastmaster!” Mathias practically spat the title. His blue eyes blackened with anger. “You’d best watch your back, Dar. Iara will be furious when she learns of her sister’s unjustified death. She may seek revenge.” Mathias eyed the Eiron, who was still stunned by the news of Balcifer. The wizard’s ominous features softened until his blues eye sparkled with mischief. “To make up for my blunder, I’m seeking a new apprentice.” Upon seeing Tao’s worried look, Mathias assured, “Mind you, I’ll stick to the rules this time.” He turned and winked at Dar before disappearing without a trace.
Relieved to have the sorcerer gone, Dar checked on Arina. She was still talking with Lancer. He wondered what they were saying, but allowed them their privacy. He opened his pouch making sure Kodo and Podo were okay before they continued on their way. He would be glad when they caught up with Ruh. He missed his tiger friend. The Beastmaster searched the skies for Sharak, meaning to thank him for his help earlier.
In the meantime, Arina had asked Lancer what was wrong. She felt the tension between them.
The Nord’s blue eyes veered from hers. “You’ve changed. We were getting along so well in Xinca and then bang. Voden is back in the picture and you revert back to your old self.”
“That’s not true, Lancer. I’m still the same person who helped you rebuild Xinca’s army.” Arina narrowed her eyes, wondering if he believed her.
“Then prove it.” Lancer took her hands in his. “Stop living like a nomad and live at Xinca. I’ll make sure King Zad gives you a rank worthy of you.” The general decided to risk revealing his feelings. “I love you, Arina. I have for a long time.”
Arina’s heart sank, this was the moment she had been dreading. She gently pulled her hands away. “I’m flattered, Lancer,” the Namib warrior responded, her eyes averting his. “But I can’t join you in Xinca right now. I still need time alone.”
“Alone? Yet you travel with Dar and Tao?” His face, hardened with rejection yet again, Lancer wondered if the woman was still in love with the Beastmaster.
Not always. I’m on my own as much as I am with them. Please try to understand. Perhaps in time…” Arina let her words trail off.
“Yes, perhaps in time,” he replied. Mathias was right, never fall in love. His heart was bleeding.
~ ~ ~ ~
Arina scouted ahead of her two companions. She felt guilty for turning down Lancer in the way she did, but her allegiance was to Voden’s queen and that of her sister. She could allow no distraction in her life that would jeopardize her quest.
Tao and Dar lagged behind, chatting. “Dar, why do you think demons come in pairs?”
“Pairs? What do you mean?”
“I mean, Curupira has a sister, Manaka, and Iara had Medusa.”
Dar thought for a moment. “Just a coincidence, Tao.”
“Let’s hope so… I wouldn’t want to meet up with Ketzwayo’s sibling.”
The Beastmaster flashed his friend a sideways glance of dread. “Or Balcifer’s.”