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Chapter Six, part B: The Sword Comes Home


Arynė ran back to Mhari with her one clay lamp.

"This was all I could find," she said, breathless.

Mhari frowned. "Why are you out of breath, Child?' she asked.

"Oh, there were these baby mice - they startled me," said Arynė, not meeting the shamenki's sharp eyes with her own.

"Were you bitten?" asked Mhari.

"Oh, no - they were just - icky, you know," said Arynė, carefully pouring the lamp oil from the small flask into the clay lamp and lighting the wick.

"Very well, why don't you take that one and go look for more - I know Aradia had more than just the one," said Mhari, shaking her head.

"Well, they are made of clay, Mhari - maybe they got broken," said Arynė.

"Arynė, will you please just go and look," said Mhari with an exasperated.

"Alright," said the girl with a sigh. She picked up the lamp and went to a smaller bedroom next to the largest. She couldn't help but peek to see if Julisa was still there, but wasn't surprised to see the other girl had left.

In the smaller room, there was only one chest at the foot of the tiny bed.

"That's weird," said Arynė to herself. "That's like a little kid's bed." She shrugged, assuming that it must have been there from before Aradia became queen. Maybe it was Aradia's bed when she was little, the girl thought, opening the chest. She looked very carefully before putting her hand inside of this one.

Finding no "beasties", she began to gingerly move things around. The trunk was filled with baby clothes, everything from swaddling strips and moth-eaten little blankets to toddler-sized little trousers and tunics. At the bottom of the trunk, under a stack of diaper cloths, Arynė found her. She pulled the doll out of the trunk, gazing at it in recognition.

"Julisa," whispered the girl. Until this moment, she remembered nothing of her life before Silas. Now she was assaulted by a barrage of images from her past. "No!"

Arynė saw the faces of both Aradia and her mother, Thalia leaning over her cradle, smiling at her. She remembered wearing some of the clothes she had just handled in the trunk and sleeping in this little bed, her doll Julisa tucked in close beside her. She remembered crying in her uncle's arms for her mother as Thalia rode off, blowing her a kiss.

"I - I saw her die," Arynė whispered, still gazing at the doll. In a flash, Arynė remembered being very tiny in her bed in Silas's house, waking up from the nightmare of Yarg killing Thalia, screaming. Her uncle couldn't comfort her. It had taken old Mhari and her nasty-tasting brews to settle the little girl back down to sleep. After that, Arynė remembered no more of anything that had happened to her after she came to live with her uncle.

"Arynė, the lamps are in the - oh, you found your old doll," said Aradia, poking her head into the room. "I can't believe we left that behind. You never went anywhere without her. What was it you used to call her?"

"Julisa," Arynė whispered, never looking away from the doll.

"That's right," said Aradia, nodding in remembrance. "How funny that ... Arynė, are you alright?"

Arynė turned and Aradia saw tears streaming from the girl's eyes.

"I saw Yarg kill my mother," she whispered.

"No, Arynė, you couldn't have - you were miles away, in Silas's village," said Aradia, going to her and kneeling beside the girl.

"I thought it was just a bad dream, but it wasn't, was it?" said the girl looking up at Aradia, her eyes pleading for the truth.

"No, it wasn't," said Aradia, drawing the girl close to her. She looked back into the past, re-living it all over again as she told the girl the story. "The scouts reported that the Kaskans were marching. We knew there would be trouble, but we never expected ... well, anyway, we took you to Silas to keep you safe."

"Why me and not the others?" asked Arynė. "The other children were just hidden in the forest. Why was I taken to the village?"

"We had our reasons," said Aradia, her eyes narrowing. "We never expected the Kaskans to go to Silas's village - I don't even know how they knew to look for you there."

"Why were they looking for me?' asked Arynė.

Aradia was silent for a moment. "I guess you're old enough to know it all, Arynė," she said finally. "Come on - Mhari can tell you better than I can."

The two arose and made their way into the common room where Mhari was lighting the clay and bronze lamps she had found in the kitchen.

"Ah there you are - oh, dear!" said the shamenki, seeing the doll still clutched close in Arynė's arms. She sat quickly in her chair before the warm hearth.

"Yeah," said Aradia, guiding the girl to a chair before pulling a third chair close to the other two. "Mhari, we need to tell her."

The shamenki nodded slowly, then closed her eyes and leaned back in her chair. "Yes, it's time - Alkaia and I were just discussing this today," she said.

"What?" asked Arynė, her eyes sharp and bright with more unshed tears.

"When you were born, the priestess Leilė said that you were to be her successor," said Mhari. "She told your mother that you were to be the 'salvation' of the Amazon Nation, but only if you lived long enough and completed your training as a priestess. And according to Leilė, the chances of that were very poor."

"Why?" asked Arynė.

"Maybe she foresaw her own death," said Aradia with a sigh. "There is now no living Amazon priestess in the whole Nation."

"That we know of," said Arynė. "Maybe all the Amazons didn't - or couldn't answer the call when it was first made."

"Maybe," said Aradia, doubtfully.

"So how was I supposed to save the Amazons?" asked the girl.

"Who knows?" said Aradia with a shrug. "You were just a baby at the time - a cute one, but still, just a baby."

"Really? You thought I was cute, Aradia?" asked Arynė, grinning.

"Yeah, you were cute," said Aradia, returning the grin. "But cute doesn't win wars."

"I'm not a warrior," said Arynė, quietly.

"No," Aradia agreed.

"You didn't believe the priestess, did you, Aradia?" asked the girl looking intently into Aradia's eyes.

"No," said the queen, shortly.

"Then why did you hide me with Silas?" asked Arynė.

"Thalia believed her and you were everything to her," said Aradia, softly. She gazed into the fire, crackling in the hearth. "And she was everything to me."

"And now?" asked Arynė.

"Let's just say, there's more evidence for the theory than against now," said Aradia with a sigh.

"Like what?" asked Arynė.

"Like the fact that you killed Yarg - which has allowed us to return to our ancestral home," said Mhari, softly.

"There has to be more to it than that," said Arynė, to no one in particular.

"For now, that's enough," said Aradia, rising and stirring the pot. "Who's hungry? Anaea and I got a rabbit and this should be just about done."

"Oh, I am," said Arynė, brightly. She went to the table and took a pomegranate from the basket. She cut into it. Bright red juice flowed across the table, and Arynė was mesmerised by it. "Looks like blood."

She watched the pattern of juice form into a face - the face of the girl Julisa, and suddenly Arynė knew how she was save the Amazon Nation.

"I have to bring them together," she whispered.

"What's that, dear?' asked Mhari.

"I, uh, have to wipe this up," said Arynė, cleaning the juice from the table. "These things are really messy."

She cut three pomegranates and handed two of them to Mhari and Aradia. Aradia ladled up some rabbit stew for all of them and they sat down to eat.

"So, what happened at the Tournament, Aradia?" asked Mhari.

Arynė watched Aradia's face with interest.

"Oh, well, nothing much," said the queen with a shrug. She spooned another mouthful of stew in before continuing. "Poor Thraso - she worked so hard, only to have Myrina spoil it all."

"How did she do that?" asked Arynė, almost breathless with anticipation of Aradia's reply.

"Well, she waited until the last possible moment, then challenged Thraso - in the name of Ares," said Aradia, swallowing her stew.

"Ares? Why Ares?" asked Arynė, frowning in puzzlement.

"According to Thraso, Ares promised the Gorgons safe passage back to Hesperia through the legions of Rome if she would enter the Tournament as his champion," said Aradia. "But that's not the worst of it - she expected Thraso to take a fall so she, Myrina, could win."

"But Thraso didn't, did she?" said Arynė.

"Of course she didn't," said Aradia, setting her empty bowl down. "Thraso is an Amazon, with honour and integrity - unlike the damn Gorgons."

"Why would Myrina think that Thraso would do such a thing for her?" asked Mhari, calmly.

"Thraso said there was some 'history' between them," said Aradia with a sigh. "That and the fact that Myrina is a Gorgon who couldn't possibly expect anyone to act any way other than she would herself, I suppose."

"But Ares only said she had to enter the Tournament, not win it - isn't that what you said, Aradia?" said Arynė, gathering the empty bowls to wash.

"Yeah, Thraso never said anything about Myrina having to win it - and Myrina, when she declared the challenge said she was 'pledged to fight the Amazon champion' - not defeat her," said Aradia. "Curious."

"Maybe she was just testing Thraso - to see if Thraso would do it or not," said Arynė, thoughtfully.

"Hm, maybe - but the bottom line is that Thraso did the right thing," said Aradia. "No Gorgon is to be trusted."

"What if they - ?" Arynė began, troubled.

"Ever, Arynė - remember that," said Aradia, sternly. Then she softened. "Leave those for the morning. Come on - we've all had a long day - and tomorrow promises to be longer. We have a lot of work to do."

"No," said Arynė, shuddering. "We have enough vermin to fight - I don't want to tempt them."

She washed up the dishes, taking her time as Aradia and Mhari lay down to sleep. By the time she was finished, the women's breathing had deepened and Arynė knew they were asleep. She grabbed her sword, tucking it in her belt, and her pack from beside the door, taking care to place her doll inside, then slipped silently out of the house.


Chapter Seven: Battle for the Sword

Athtar clung tightly to the sword as she slithered to the mouth of the cave. The Graii had been severely wounded in the battle and Athtar was hoping that they would be too weak to stop her from leaving the cave. She looked at them, three old women now, with only one eye and one mouth between them. The sight mortified her and she grimaced.

"What's wrong, Guardian?" sneered the one with a mouth.

"You are," she said. "What happened to you? I thought you were impervious to steel?" The three hags melded into one being, more grotesque than before, limbs sticking out all over the body, but with only one head, encompassing the mouth and eye they shared, but displaying three noses and six ears.

"Steel yes, but the wielder now, that is another thing," it said.

"Must you make yourselves into this thing?' said Athtar, averting her eyes.

"Yesss ..." it said, changing again, though Athtar could not bring herself to look at what it had now become.

"To accommodate each of us," it said. "We must be as water poured into different vessels. We cannot re-generate what we have lost."

"Why not?" asked Athtar, still not looking as she heard the wet sort of sucking sound of the creature changing again.

"Are you so squeamish?" it said and Athtar heard a horrible chuckle at her expense.

"Squeamish, no - you disgust me," said Athtar, shuddering as she heard the sounds yet again. "Why can't you re-generate? Quit doing that and answer me!"

There was laboured, wet breathing for a moment, then a sigh.

"We were wounded ... by the Sword of Artemis," said the voice with difficulty.

Shocked, Athtar looked up, then quickly looked away at the terrible vision before her.

"That's impossible," said Athtar, brandishing the sword in her hand. "This is the Sword of Artemis - and I tried to kill you with it. It didn't work."

"It is the wielder, we told you," said the thing she couldn't bear to look at.

"I am the only wielder of this Sword," said Athtar, angrily.

"No," said the thing, wheezing. "You are but its Guardian."

With a howl of rage, Athtar swung at thing the Graii had become, but to no avail.

"You see?" It wheezed a chuckle at her attempt. "You will never be permitted to wield the Sword of Artemis. You will never learn its secret."

"What secret?" demanded Athtar, frustrated.

The Graii became the three old women again, two with gaping holes where there should have been eyes and mouths. That Athtar could bear to look at long enough to get her answer, but it was not forthcoming. Instead, the Graii turned its back on her and remained silent.

Athtar once again attempted to attack the Graii, but it turned and bit her with its mouth, changing into something even more horrific than before. With a scream of pain, rage and frustration, Athtar began to slither back into the cave.

"Be prepared - the Sword that wounded us will come for you next," said the Graii.

Athtar, grasping her wounded sword arm, ignored it and continued back to her lair.


Arynė made her way to the Temple. It wasn't far from Aradia's house, but the night was dark. The moon which had begun to rise was waning and not yet completely risen. Arynė imagined that the ghosts which haunted this place were all around her, yet she still kept to the shadows, unwilling to be seen by the sentries she knew were posted all about.

She arrived at the door of the Temple and swallowed hard, remembering that the body of the priestess had lain within until just a ten-day ago.

"I shouldn't be afraid of her," Arynė whispered to herself, jumping at the sound of her own voice. "Technically, she should approve of what I'm doing, since it's sort of her own idea." Resolutely, she began to open the door, then jumped with a little squeak of fear when a strong hand clamped down on her arm. Arynė recognised the owner of the hand as the sentry from the other night, the one she hadn't recognised then.

"Oh," she said, her breathing coming in short gasps as her heart slowed its pounding. "It's you."

"Yes - what are you doing here, Arynė?' asked the sentry, sternly.

"I - I ... um," Arynė stammered, unable to bring herself to lie to the woman.

"Yes?" asked the sentry, one eyebrow raised.

"I was, um," Arynė looked down at the ground, trying to think of what to say.

"You were going to meet someone here," said the sentry, softly. "But I am here to tell you that you mustn't do that - I want you to go back to Aradia's house and go to bed."

"I can't," said the girl. "There's something I have to do - to save the Amazons. Only I can do this - the priestess said so."

"That's not - " the sentry began, then stopped. Suddenly Arynė looked at her, peering through the shadows and seeing her clearly.

"Mother?" the girl whispered, her eyes filling with tears. Her vision blurred and she shook her head to clear it. There stood the sentry, but her face was not Thalia's. "I'm sorry. I thought you were - "

"Arynė, your mother is dead," said the sentry, smiling sympathetically. "I know the Amazons tell tales of ghosts in this place, but really, they are just tales."

"No, I know that they are not - but I can see that you're not my mother," said Arynė, chuckling.

"So, what are you doing here?" asked the sentry.

"I ... um, I couldn't sleep - I have a lot on my mind," said Arynė, not quiet lying. "I thought I could find some sort of ... something, anyway, in the Temple."

The sentry nodded, sadly and Arynė suddenly felt sick to her stomach for the half-truth she had told.

"Well, I won't stop you," said the sentry. "But you know it isn't safe yet for girls your age to be out and about at night. Make your prayers quick, then get home, alright?"

Arynė nodded and stepped past her into the inky blackness of the Amazon Temple.

As soon as the door closed behind the girl, Thalia stepped out from the shadows.

"You let her go in?" she said. Hekau appeared from the open window of Aradia's house and ran toward the two standing outside of her Temple. "Anu, what were you thinking?"

"What could I do?" asked Anu, shrugging as Hekau arrived, standing to stretch into the goddess. "We're not allowed to interfere with them, Thalia, you know that."

"Well, maybe not directly," said the goddess, her eyes glittering as she looked pointedly towards Aradia's house.


"Julisa?" whispered Arynė. She felt her way to the front of the Temple where the altar stood before the statue of Artemis. Suddenly, there was a flare of light and Arynė saw Julisa standing behind the altar, a lamp in her hand.

"I didn't know if you'd come," said Julisa, smiling at her.

"I had to," said Arynė, grimly.

"I know," said Julisa, holding out her hand. "Come - we have to go to the cave now."

"Wait," said Arynė, frowning. "You're a Gorgon - how do I know that I can trust you?"

"You don't," said Julisa, shrugging. She held out her hand again and smiled. "You just have to have faith. Come on Arynė. Don't you want to heal the Amazon Nation? Come with me - bring back the Sword of Artemis. It's the only way to fulfill your destiny."

"How did you know about that?" asked Arynė, frowning. Julisa hesitated, her smile faltering.

"I ... I was listening, Silly - how do you think?" she said.

Arynė took her hand and the two girls made their way to the Temple door. Arynė stopped, listening.

"What is it?" asked Julisa, impatiently.

"Sentries," said Arynė. "One stopped me on my way in here."

"Oh," said Julisa. "Well, they're gone now."

"How do you know?" asked Arynė, looking sharply at the other girl.

"They're patrolling, aren't they? They won't be back this way for a while," said Julisa, pushing open the heavy oak door. "You couldn't have heard them through this door anyway. Come on before they come back."

With a sigh, Arynė followed Julisa down the stairs to the lower town.


Aradia stirred in her sleep. Something was not quite right. She opened her eyes. Arynė's bedroll was neatly made between hers and Mhari's, but Arynė wasn't in it. The fire had burnt down to its embers. Aradia sat up quickly and looked around the room. She rose silently and padded into the kitchen. The bowls, cups, and spoons from dinner were clean and neatly stacked on the shelf. Rubbing her sleepy eyes, Aradia went from room to room, but found no sign of the girl. She saw her pack and Thalia's sword were missing from beside the door where Arynė had neatly set them.

Aradia swore under her breath and pulled her boots on. Suddenly the room grew very cold and a bluish light appeared before the Amazon Queen.

"Thalia?" she whispered.

"Aradia, you have to stop her - she's going to the cave in the forest," said Thalia, materialising before her.

"What?" said Aradia, shaking her head, only half convinced she wasn't still asleep and dreaming.

"It's a trick - Ares is going to get our little girl killed," said Thalia, desperation in her voice.

"Why would she go with Ares? That doesn't make sense, Thalia," said Aradia.

"He's disguised as Julisa," said Thalia. "Please, you have to hurry!"

"The doll?" asked Aradia, still half asleep.

"No! Julisa, the girl," said Thalia, trying to be patient. "The Sword is in that cave - Ares has convinced her to get and try to get it back, but the Graii are there - and so is Athtar. She has the Sword."

"Athtar has - never mind - I know the cave," said Aradia, standing. "I'll go and get her - don't worry."

The apparition nodded once and left.

"Aradia, what's going on?" asked Mhari. Aradia looked up to see the shamenki standing in the doorway.

"Ares has Arynė and is leading her to her death," said Aradia, shortly as she strapped on her sword. "I'm going after her."

"So am I," said Mhari, pulling on her boots.

"No, Mhari - it's too dangerous," said Aradia.

"I'm going, Aradia," said Mhari, firmly. She donned a woollen cloak against the night's chill.

Aradia simply nodded, knowing from long experience that there was no arguing with the older woman.

The two left the house and made their way to the steps leading to the lower town.

"Mhari, are you sure? That climb is bad enough in daylight, but at night - and especially since you're already injured - " began Aradia, but the firm set line of Mhari's mouth stopped her.

With a sigh, Aradia went to the warrior camp in the lower town and roused Thraso. Briefly, she explained to her Second in Command and Thraso awakened a platoon to accompany them to the cave.

"I'm going, too," said Thraso, strapping on her sword-belt.

"Alright, but one of us has to survive this, okay?" said Aradia, chuckling coldly.

Thraso's only reply was a curt nod which conveyed the message that they would both make it out alive if she had anything to do with it.

The group made their way cautiously down the incline, the warriors helping Mhari over the worst of it and began to march through the woods, watching for signs that the two girls had been there before them.

"She's not leaving a trail," said Aradia, frowning in frustration. "How is that possible?"

"Ares," said Mhari, grimly. "He's trying to hide her from us. Little does he realise that night belongs to his sister - all things are revealed by her shining face." The shamenki pointed a blur in the brush. Aradia looked and saw Hekau, leading them. She nodded and followed the cat's trail, motioning for the warriors to follow.


Arynė followed Julisa through the trees, tripping and stumbling. The other girl set a fast and furious pace through the trees, pulling on Arynė's arm when she Arynė wasn't moving swiftly enough to suit her.

"Hey, slow down!" she said with a hiss of pain as a branch flew back and slapped her in the face.

"We have to hurry," said Julisa, looking up. "They'll miss you soon and come looking - we have to make it far enough that they can't interfere."

"Interfere ... ? What are you talking about?" said Arynė, stopping.

"Come on Arynė," said Julisa, her nostrils flaring in anger. Arynė had never seen the girl like this before.

"No," she said, setting her pack down and crossing her arms. "I'm not going another step. I'm tired and I want to rest for a minute." She sat down on the ground and glared at Julisa.

"Arynė get up," said Julisa with a growl. She walked up to Arynė and grabbed one of her arms, yanking the girl to her feet. "Get your pack and let's go."

Arynė fell back to the ground, defiantly crossing her arms again, still glaring at Julisa. "What did you mean, 'interfere'? If I'm doing such a great thing, why would the Amazons try to stop me?" she asked.

Julisa took a deep breath, gathering patience, then smiled. "You tell me," she said. "Did you tell Aradia you were going? Of course you didn't, because you know she would have stopped you - or at the very least, tried to send a couple of platoons with you."

"I'm beginning to think a couple of platoons - or even the whole Amazon army - might not be such a bad idea," said Arynė with a sigh.

"But the Amazons couldn't touch that thing, remember?" said Julisa. "Only you could hurt it - and you have to, Arynė. That thing is standing between you and your destiny."

"My destiny," said Arynė, as she rose to her feet. She picked up her pack with a sigh. "Okay - I'm rested. Let's go, Julisa."

With a feral grin, Julisa grabbed Arynė's hand and began to move quickly through the thickening trees. The forest grew darker as the trees blocked out the moonlight. Arynė was growing more weary with each step. She stumbled and almost dropped her pack. Quickly, she felt for her sword and relaxed as her fingers brushed the cold metal hilt.

"Julisa, I can't see where I'm going - we really do have to slow down a little," said Arynė, pulling her arm away from the other girl.

"It's okay - we're here," said Julisa, as the girls emerged into the clearing where the cave sat like a great black maw, ready to swallow them.

Arynė looked at the cave and took a deep breath. The moon was shining down upon the clearing, bathing it with a silvery, ethereal light. Arynė swallowed hard and took a deep breath. She drew her sword and flipped, almost absently, in a swift neat move. Julisa saw that and raised an eyebrow, but led her to the mouth of the cave.

"In there," she whispered.

Arynė set her jaw and stepped into the inky blackness of the cave. Suddenly a horrible creature rose up, howling and roaring at her. She recognised the wounded serpent and raised her sword, backing quickly away from it at the same time. Julisa shoved her back inside.

"Get it - Arynė, the Sword is in there - you have to get past this thing to get it!" yelled the girl.

Arynė began fighting in earnest. The creature got in one slash of its claws, but Arynė lunged and swung, finally taking all three heads from its shoulders. Her shoulder hurt where the thing had clawed her. Sweat dripped from her brow, stinging in her eyes, and she was covered in blood - both the creature's and her own. The thing lay at her feet, dead, but still wriggling in a mass of jelly-like stuff.

"Ew!" Arynė cried, holding her nose at the stench of thing's dying.

"Arynė, the Sword is back there," said Julisa, taking her arm and pulling her deeper into the cave.

"Julisa, wait," said Arynė, looking around for something to clean her sword. With a grimace, she grabbed a corner of her cloak and swiped off her blade with it before tucking it back into her belt.

"Wish we had a torch," said Arynė, shivering in the dampness of the cave.

"It's okay - I know where we're going," said Julisa.

"How do you know?" asked Arynė, slowing her steps.

"I've been in here before, remember?' said Julisa.

"Yeah, I do remember," said Arynė, quietly. "Why?"

"Because ... because the Sword is here," said Julisa.

"But how did you know that?" said Arynė, slowing to a stop. Julisa reached back and grabbed her arm, but Arynė pulled away. "Stop doing that! My arm hurts from that thing cutting me."

"Oh, sorry," said Julisa. "I just did, okay? Now come on - you're almost finished."

Arynė sighed and followed Julisa, one hand on the other girl's shoulder as they made their way through the dark caverns. Suddenly Arynė heard a noise.

"What's that?" she asked, stopping again.

"Nothing," said Julisa. "Come on, let's get that Sword."

"No, I heard ... something," said Arynė, fear causing the goose bumps to rise on her arms as much as the cold dampness of the cave. "Oh, no - Julisa! Something just moved over my foot! I felt it!"

"Would you be quiet?" said Julisa with a hiss.

"Julisa - there's something in this cave besides us," Arynė whispered as once again the other girl pulled her deeper into the cave.

"Like what?" asked Julisa, a slow grin spreading over her face.

"I don't know - it's too dark to see," said Arynė, straining her eyes to try to see anything. She felt something glide over her foot again and struggled not to scream. She felt another something, cold and smooth brush across her cheek, then her shoulder. She heard a plop as whatever it was fell to the cave floor. Nausea roiled in her middle.

"Blessed Artemis," she whispered, cringing.

Julisa reached back and slapped her. The crack echoed through the cavern and the sharp sting brought tears to Arynė's eyes.

"Oh, sorry," said Julisa. "I thought there was something on you there."

Arynė rubbed her cheek. She was cold and tired. Her shoulder ached, though her cheek was now numb and tingling where Julisa had hit her. Something was scaring her, though she didn't know what; the creature which had guarded the cave was dead.

"Julisa, something is not right here," she said, turning her head and trying to see anything in the absolute darkness of the cavern. She could hear a dripping sound and something else, as well; a slithering of sorts just under the echoes of their footfalls. Arynė felt a slow panic rising in her chest. Her throat felt like it was closing and her chest was heavy. Her breath was coming in short gasps and she felt dizzy.

"Julisa, I can't breathe," she whispered through her constricting throat. "I think maybe that thing had poison in its claws. I'm scared, Julisa."

"Don't be such a baby," Julisa said, impatiently. "There was no poison - the Graii doesn't need it to kill. Now come on."

The cavern opened up and suddenly Arynė could see a little. There was a rocky shelf, similar to an altar in the centre of the chamber. Behind the shelf was a creature almost as frightening as the Graii, half woman, half snake. Suddenly Arynė heard laughter. She looked at Julisa and gasped. Her "friend" had transformed into a man and stood there grinning at her.

"Arynė, daughter of Thalia, meet Athtar, Guardian of the Sword of Artemis," he said, disappearing from the cave.


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