I remember how this whole adventure began. Behind a thick layer of plexiglass, I could see the golden plate that I had heard about earlier that day. It sat on a shiny metal pedestal in the middle of the secured room. The gold plate was almost six inches wide and was incrusted with precious gems. There was also ancient writing that I did not recognize engraved into it. I figured it would be a worth a fortune if I could find the right collector. If I had known how much trouble it would be, I think I would have thought twice about going after it.
Whom am I? My name is Tabitha Lin. I am a shape shifter. You might think that I am a Nightbane but I am a Were Panther. We are a bit rarer than Nightbane but our forms are more natural than those of Nightbane. My chosen profession is that of thief and I would like to consider myself to be an excellent thief.
What brought me here was that I had heard two investment company employees talking about a gold plate that their company had acquired and was being kept in a vault. The discussion I overheard was over lunch at a local cafe that I had spent a fair amount of time hanging around. I have found that with my superior to human hearing that business district cafes are excellent places to gather valuable information. They are also excellent locations to steal a few watches and pick a few pockets. You would be amazed at how much some of those watches are worth and how much money some of those businessmen carry with them. When in my human form, I am a small Asian woman of no particular stock and can blend in with most business crowds. In my conservative grey business suit I was wearing, I could either be just another Asian American secretary or business women and as a result no one pays me any particular attention. Kind of funny when I grew up on the streets of Los Angeles and wore only leathers and jeans. I had already managed to pick two wallets and had managed to steal a Rolex that day.
I never studied any languages besides English and I picked up Spanish on the streets but I can evoke magic from my blood and then be able to understand any spoken language. I used the ability a couple of weeks previously to find out that a Dutch businessman was carrying several hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of diamonds on his person. He was talking about them to his partner in Dutch and did not expect that anyone around him could understand what he was saying. I was able to relieve the Dutch diamond dealer of his package of diamonds but was still working on selling them. It was a bit early to go after another target but if this gold plate was impressive as it sounds then I should see about acquiring it before it got moved.
When the investment company employees finished their lunch, I followed them back to the high rise that they worked at. The building had a surprising amount of security and had metal detectors inside of the entrance. I went back to my car to drop off my pistols. These days, when a demon creature may be masquerading as an executive, it pays to be armed with something that can deal with others with some range. I am an expert at Jeet Kune Do, the martial art pioneered by Bruce Lee, and have my claws but I still prefer to use guns whenever possible. I wish I had come up with a way of bringing my guns. The truth is that before the night was over, I would wish I had my guns several times.
Once I left my weapons in my car, I went back to the building and entered normally. I looked like I belonged so I passed right through security. If security has questioned me, I would have played the new secretary that was lost. I have found that most men will do virtually anything to not have to deal with an incoherently babbling woman. I simply followed the signs until I found the investment company on the twenty-seventh floor. I made sure the plate actually existed. Even I must say I was impressed and I must say it takes a lot of moxy to keep something like that in plain sight. I then simply found a locked supply closest, picked the lock, and hid in the closet until the building closed for the night. Stuck in a closet is not my favorite place but I have rarely seem security guards check locked storage closets. If a person did look in the closet, I have the ability to blend with my surroundings and I would still not likely be noticed. No one did check the closet so that was not needed.
After most of the employees went home, I left the closest and went back to the investment company. Even though the plate was visible, the security systems were impressive. The inside of the vault was crisscrossed with infrared beams and the floor contained pressure plates. The pedestal holding the gold plate had an alarm system so if the plate was removed, the alarm would go off. I tapped into the building security cameras and saw out that the security guard watching the cameras was at least half asleep. The security recordings were purely digital and I simply erased my presence and I programmed the cameras to play a section of data that showed nothing unusual. I then found an award statue in a nearby office that appeared to be of about the same weight as the gold plate. I was able to break the access code of the plexiglass door quickly. I figure that in my panther form that I can leap between the infrared beams while avoiding the pressure plates at the same time. I stripped and stuffed my cloths in my bag. I have found that no one remarks about a simple oversized leather bag and it allows me to carry my cloths and any equipment I need. It also is not out of place whether I am dressed in a Business Suit, Jeans, or a Leather Mini Skirt. The next step was to enter the doors access code and to quickly transform into a panther. I made my first leap and was able to avoid both the beams and the pressure plates. So far, so good. I am just about to make my second leap when an alarm goes off. I must have missed a security system. Most likely it was either motion sensors or heat sensors. Whatever I missed, I did not have a lot of time. Not wanting to go away with nothing, I run to the pedestal and grab the gold plate with my mouth while being careful not to crush the plate. I did not want to lessen the plate's value by leaving sharp canine impressions. I run back out the plexiglass door just in time to look behind me and see a steel cage drop down around the pedestal. I see my bag that my cloths are in and bring my neck through the loop handles of my bag. It is a bad idea to leave personal effects at the scene of a crime because they can often be traced.
I run to the end of the main hall. On the side are two elevators which I see one is going up. Most likely building security is heading up to this floor. At the end of the hall is a large window. I extend my claws and slash at the window. Shattered glass flies everywhere. It would take a normal multiple strikes with a sledgehammer to do what I just did in one swipe. The concrete is many feet below but I need fear only silver and magic. A fall from this height might stun me but I would be unhurt and no one would expect me to escape this way.
Instead of hitting concrete, I land on the hood of a car. Not just any car but an antique Rolls Royce. The man driving appeared really pissed. I could see that he was an older man and something made me think British. A car is actually a softer landing than concrete. Concrete does not give but steel does and the car's shock absorbers take much of the impact. Obviously, the driver of this car did not agree with this logic.
As soon as I recovered, I jumped off the hood and started running. The man stepped out of his wrecked car and drew some type of small pistol. If I am not hit by silver rounds, I could be hit by a fifty caliber machinegun and only be knocked around but I had no intention of finding out. He started firing at me and from the sound I could tell it was some sort of small round, perhaps a .38 ACP. I turned my head real quick and it looked like a Walther PPK. He missed me three time but he hit me with a fourth round in the thigh. I could feel the burning that only came from a silver round. I was lucky that he was shooting such a light caliber. If it had been a silver round from my .357 Sig Pro, I would have probably been disabled. I longed for my Sig Pros at that moment to be able to show what a real gun could do. I decided that the best idea would be to continue running.
I could hear the sound of a motorcycle but the noise of the gun shots robbed me of the ability to hear where the bike was coming from. Suddenly, the motorcycle comes around a corner and the motorcycle and I almost collide with each other. The helmet and body suit robs me any opportunity to tell the identity but it is obvious the figure is female. I stop for a moment or two. The Female Biker takes off her helmet and light colored hair falls out. She is looking at me and I feel as if she is looking more at the Gold Plate and not at a panther running down the road. She looks appraisingly at the man that is continuing to run after me and she then turns her motorcycle to chase me. Great! I try running even faster.
When I look back, I see something strange. The man seems to be morphing into a much larger form. I then look at the woman on the bike and she seems to be changing into something else as well. Even better, I am being chased by two Nightbane. They knew what each other were because Nightbane have the ability to sense one another. Since they cannot sense me as Nightbane, they obviously have decided that I am the enemy. That reasoning is pretty stupid because I have heard that some Nightbane actually work with blood sucking Vampires and other supernatural evil beings. I don't think that me telling that would work so I concentrate on the one thing I can do. That is to continue running. If I had my pistols it might be a different story but trying to fight two Nightbane at hand to hand combat is not a good proposition. I might be able to handle one of them but not both. The male figure transforms into a dragon like figure but appears to be covered in leather instead of scales. He has wings which means he can most likely fly. The only good news seems to be that he appeared to be only the size of a very large cow and not as big as a house, like dragons were normally described as. He was still big enough to be a problem. The women had grown in height and had gained a huge amount of muscle but had kept basically a humanoid female shape. She appeared to be dressed in Latex and Vinyl. Her hair had transformed into razor wire dreadlocks and she had multiple chains wrapped around her body. Tall about a bull dike on steroids.
As I ran, I saw an alley and I noted that it has an exit at the other end. It might be the perfect place to pull a trick on my pursuers. I turned quickly down the alley and hid behind a pile of trash. I concentrated on blending with the alley and I knew that it would be almost impossible for them to see me if I did not move. That was harder than it would be under other circumstances. There was a large vent in the wall next to me and the smell of what seemed to be Chinese cooking was coming from it. I appeared to be behind a Chinese restaurant and the smell reminded that it had been hours since the cafe and lunch. My stomach growled and I could only admonished it to be quiet.
Soon the Dragon and Biker Chick Nightbane appeared in the mouth of the alley. My hope was that they would think that I had run through the alley without stopping but I had no such luck. The Dragon made some kind of mystical gesture and stared right at where I was hiding. Obviously besides being a Nightbane, he was some kind of sorcerer. I though briefly about trying to summon a bunch of domestic cats to attack them and slow them down. With the restaurant, I was pretty sure that there was many alley cats hanging around. The problem is that they would likely get killed without slowing down the two Nighbane to any real extent. You just do not kill animals for no reason.
I looked around quickly and saw that the roof of the Chinese restaurant was not too high. I leaped for the roof. Maybe if I jumped from rooftop to rooftop, I could at least lose the Biker Chick. I figured if I could then close with the Dragon, I could score his wings with my claws and prevent him from flying after me. Just as I leaped, the women extended a chain and grabbed for the Gold Plate with it. She just barely missed and I made it to the top of the building.
Once on the roof, I transformed into my half women and half panther form. The transformation would take a few seconds but in case I want to have the ability to grab something while I was jumping from building to building. In my halfway form, I would have hands to do it with. The ability to grip an object is very useful and those who always have the ability to do so often do not realize it. I kept the Gold Plate in my mouth because I did not want to take the time to put it in my bag and wanted to keep my hands free.
Just as I was about to leap for the next building, the two Nightbane came over the edge of the building. The Dragon had simply flown but the Biker Chick used her chains to pull herself to the roof. The Dragon gestured and a bolt of impermeable darkness came from his claws. I tried getting out of the way but the bolt hit me in the side. The hit burned and froze at the same time. Silver, for all it will hurt me, has a wholeness to it. This did not and it felt evil somehow. At the same time, the Biker Chick screamed at me. The harpy scream abused my ears something fierce but otherwise it did not slow me down. I don't know what she was trying to do, perhaps stun me or maybe some form of mind control. I leaped for the next building. It had a low wall on the top and I bent down low to use it to shield me from further attacks.
As I leaped for the next building and made it safely. They did not appear to be following me. I was beginning to think I was home free. If I could get a quarter mile ahead of them, I could drop back down to the ground and find an alley to change in human form and walk back to my car without them knowing who I was. I leaped for the next building. Right where I was going to land, a vertical disk of darkness appeared. The Biker Chick's chains came from the disk followed by the Biker Chick herself. I was unable to dodge and the chains wrapped around me just as I landed on the edge. She had predicted where I was going to leap to and had simply opened a magic portal to that location. She pulled me in close with the chains and there was nothing I could do at the moment although I struggled as best I could. The dragon then stepped out of the dark portal. He gestured yet again and a bright flash of light appeared in his hands. I was able to overt me eyes so I was not blinded but I still saw spots.
I stopped struggling for a moment to allow the Biker Chick to pull me in. As soon as she was within range, I made a raking claw strike for her chest. I hoped to hurt her enough to make her let me go. I stuck solidly and if she had been a normal, I would have disemboweled her. She did not let go and clawed at me herself. At the same time, the dragon ripped at me with one of his claws. The two of them had hurt me far worse that I had hurt the female Nightbane and Nightbane regenerate far faster than Were Cats do. Damage that takes them minutes to regenerate takes hours for us.
I was desperate and I knew I was losing. Suddenly I thought of a last ditch means of escape. I slung my head from side to side in order to throw the Gold Plate over the side of the building. I did not like giving it up after all the work of acquiring it but it was better that than dying. My hope was that they would let go of me to chase after the plate. I figured I would leap from here into an apartment window. I would transform back to my human form, get myself wet in the shower, and I would then grab a towel and run from the building looking like a resident just out of the shower running in fear. Before anyone would be the wiser, I could be long gone.
The unexpected happened. Instead of the plate falling to the street below, it just hovered in the air. From the stunned expressions on both of the Nightbane, I could tell that they had not done it. Suddenly there was another bright flash of light.
I was stuck. Stuck to the floor and stuck to the creatures that I had been fighting only moments before. None of us could move enough to strike at each other. The temperature was cooler and had the crisp feel I usually associate with being in and air conditioned room. It felt like I was on carpeting, not on nonskid roofing. I could move enough to look around and it appeared as I had landed in one of the 'Houses of the Rich and Famous.' The roof and ceiling were beautifully engraved. Above our heads was a crystal chandelier. This house reminded me of pictures I had seen of estates in England and Ireland.
I heard "Will you stop fighting if I release you?" The voice was soft with a slight bur to it and seemed to be female. I had only wanted to escape in the first place, not fight, so I could agree to that quite readily. I planned to watch the two Nightbane carefully.
I said "Ok" and heard agreement from the two Nightbane right after I replied. I had not agreed to not try and escape but I did want to have a look around before I did anything rash. Suddenly the force holding me to the ground vanished and I could get up. I stood up slowly, stretching my muscles to make sure that they did not tighten up.
As soon as I was standing, I turned towards our 'host.' She appeared to be human and very young. I am not normally attracted to those who were much younger than myself. She looked like she was only about fifteen or sixteen years old. I figured she had to be older than she looked. Still, there was no denying she was very pretty. She had straight brown hair with a light cream complexion. She wore little makeup and had large brown eyes. She was dressed in a hooded grey silk robe that must have cost a fortune.
I turned towards the two Nightbane and gave them my best glare I could. I was still bleeding and wondered about what the Sorceress thought about my blood staining her antique oriental rugs. I knew that the wounds, while they would take quite a while to heal, would stop bleeding in a few minutes. The bullet wound had already stopped bleeding although it would likely be best that I removed the bullet so I would heal faster. One side was mostly large windows which faced into a driveway and a huge yard. Perhaps jumping through the windows might be a means of escape. Most of the furniture appeared to be antique and very expensive. However old she actually was, she certainly was wealthy. Various items on the furniture appeared to be very valuable. With their value, you cannot call them nicknacks although that is the only word that came to mind. In spite of this, there was little temptation for me to steal anything. She probably had them magically marked and having a powerful Mage after you is a bad idea. I noted that the Gold Plate that had caused all the trouble was sitting on an antique desk in the corner. I also noted that the Rolex that had been in my leather bag had fallen out. I bent down and picked it up and stuffed it back into my bag. Surprisingly, I had been able to retain it during the entire time the Nightbane had chased me.
The young Mage lady said "I am Margaret Vreeland. I imagine that you are wondering why I brought you here?" The question sounded as much like a statement as it did a question. Personally, I was wondering where we were. Though the curtains covering the windows, I could see it was still night at least. I nodded in agreement with her continuing and the other two asked her to continue. She continued with "I must admit that I was as much interested in the Artifact as I was interested in you." I interpreted that to mean 'I really was not interested in you but now that you are here too, I might have use for you.' I was smart and kept my mouth shut. She then stated "Where it was being kept, it was shielded against magic and there is no way I could get it. Don't worry, you will be well compensated."
The Dragon Nightbane stated in a high pitched voice "I was hired by a group of collectors that were looking for a gold disk encrusted with gems and having ancient writing on the disk itself. It would seem that we are looking for the same disk." While his voice was high pitched, it seemed to have a cultured tone to it. I though it sounded like a high pitched version of a British butler. He continued with "I need to assess who will get possession of the Artifact. I would like to hear what you have to say." In other words, if I do not like what you have to say, I will take it from you. Not smart, I knew he had a few magic tricks but nothing indicated that he was in her league with her being able to teleport us like she did. As well, this was her residence. Who knows what kind of magical traps that she had set up.
Her voice showed no signs of annoyance at what he had said. She laughed and replied "Ha, those so called collectors are likely front people for the Nightlords. Several of them are looking for the Disks. I doubt they plan to get personally involved but I suspect they will be sending minions all over the globe to look for it."
I just stood and listened to the conversation. I had no plans to break in if I did not have to but I had to admit that the conversation was becoming quite interesting. The Biker Nightbane said "I am a student and I am studying Archeology. I was asked by one of my professors to go to the archives and see if there was any information on a gold talisman. The talisman looks exactly like the disk that you have on my desk. I only found a single manuscript with few cryptic references to an item similar. The manuscript did not go into details but indicated that the item would give its wielder incredible powers. I got so wrapped up in reading the Manuscript that I lost track of the time and I was late to get to the club that I dance at." Suddenly, she looked worried "Oh My God, I suppose to be at the club by nine, it is now eleven. I got to call them. Can I use your phone?"
I though for a moment that I should tell her that I can make as much lifting one Rolex wristwatch as she could dancing all night at the club. The only skill you need is a bit of slight of hand and the ability to tell a real Rolex from a fake one. I decided that it would be vindictive and that I would come up with something more interesting in revenge for hounding me. Not that I mind men, or for that matter women, staring at my body but dancing for dollar bills stuck in a G-String seems tawdry to me.
The Sorceress took the whole situation in stride. She replied "No problem, let me show you where the phone is. Do you know how to call the United Sates form Ireland. If not, I can show you." How casually she seemed about the fact that she had just teleported us from Illinois to Ireland. Well, at least where we were explained the unusual burr in her voice. She turned to the Dragon Nightbane and me and said "Why don't you two others get cleaned up a bit and we will meet in a bit in the lounge. I will tell all of you more about the plates once we are settled." I did not know if anyone else noticed but I noted that she said plates instead of plate. I decided not to comment and she continued "Thomas, my butler, will show you to rooms you can use while you are here." At that point, a half transparent form glided through the door that seemed to open itself. The figure appeared to be male and was dresses in the same outfit that the old butler wore in the Batman movies wore. She said "I forgot to mention it before but he is a ghost. He does not take it personally though" Interesting!
I expected a single room but instead I was shown to a good sized suite by the Ghost Butler. The suite was incredible and more luxurious than any place I had ever stayed. I spend most of my time traveling and a time or two I have rented a penthouse suite at an expensive hotel. This far outstripped any of them. Looking around, I noted that there was a large set of glass doors that opened up onto a patio that faced a huge garden.
First step for me was to get the bullet out of my thigh. While it would be pushed out as I healed, I have found that I seem to heal faster from silver injuries if I remove the object that caused the injury. Boy did it hurt but I got the bullet out and did not scream out in the process. Still, I think if I had my guns at that moment, I would have found the room that the Dragon Nightbane was staying in and put a round into his butt as compensation.
No one bothered me so I decided to take the opportunity to get the blood off of me. Still, because I did not know how long I had, I took as fast a shower as I could. The army had taught me how to take showers quickly and too appreciate them when you could get them. There was nothing like a hot shower when you came from the field and smelled like a wild animal, no pun intended.
After I finished with my shower, I debated if I should stay in my half human and half panther form or if I should transform into my fully human form. I decided changing to human form would be the best idea and would likely make our hostess more comfortable. Well, I had better check on my cloths first. The bag was scuffed and would need to be replaced but the cloths inside had not been damaged. There were a few creases but it is hard to store cloths in a oversized handbag without that happening. I decided that they would do for now and after transforming to human form started getting dressed. Just as I finished getting dressed, I heard a discreet knock at the door. I did the best I could smoothing a crease from my skirt and headed for the door.
The lounge was as well appointed as the rest of the house, or maybe mansion would be a better word, but I think I was getting used to it by now. We were all seated in comfortable chairs and were waiting for our hostess to continue.
Both of the Nightbane had transformed back into their human form or what they prefer to call their facade form. In truth, I have to admit that they were both very attractive and would have under different circumstances been I would had been aroused by them. The simple fact is that being shot at and attacked by them had cooled any lust for them. Sometimes, a girl simply cannot forgive.
The male had that distinguished older gentleman look. He appeared to be in his late forties or early fifties and had greying hair along his temples. A Nightbane stops aging whenever they first transform to their Morphus form and retain the same human, or facade, appearance for as long as they live. He was dressed in clothing that looked like something out of a Victorian movie It made me wonder if he was from that era.
The women had long blond hair although it appeared that it might be courtesy of Miss Clairol. She was dressed in the same motorcycle jumpsuit that she wore when we met but she had unzipped her middle zipper to reveal a lot of cleavage. I must admit she was seductive.
Our host asked "Before we continue, could I get your names?"
The mane answered first "Jason White, I am pleased to make your acquaintance, Miss Vreeland." His voice had a rich British accent like I expected.
The Sorceress replied "There is no need for formality . Just call me Maggie, Miss Vreeland is too formal and I do not particularly like Margaret.
The Biker Babe said "Annette Burbank, you can just call me Ann." He voice sounded like it might be Californian but I was not sure.
I decided to keep it simple. "Tabitha" is all I said.
The man turn to me and said "Sorry about shooting you." I nodded my head but did not reply. You apologize for stepping on somebodies foot not putting a bullet hole in them. I stared him directly in the eyes to see if he would react.
The Sorceress, or Maggie, said "I said I would tell you more about the gold disk. Actually, there are two of them. They are old and appear to predate all known civilization. How old they actually are is unknown but the best guess is that they are over ten thousand years old. They appear to have been separated before the last Ice Age. One was brought to Egypt which is where is was found and it was later brought to America and the vault which our esteemed thief found it at. The second half was brought across the Bering Strait when there was a land bridge connecting the Asian and American continents. The second disk was hidden in a city deep in the Amazon jungle." She paused for a few minutes and continued with "When the two disks are brought together, they are suppose to give their wielder unimaginable power. What their powers are varies from source to source. I imagine having been translated and translated over and over has caused the sources to lose their original meaning. Some books indicate that they give wrath of god type powers. The usual abilities of being able to call storms of fire from heaven. Other sources indicate that they simply boost a Nightlords 'Natural' powers many fold. Finally, probably the most scary idea, it is mentioned in only one book, is that the disks can transform a mortal into a Nightlord with the proper rituals. My intention is to get the disks before the Nightlords do so I can destroy them. I have discovered a ritual to do that in the same book that told that the disks can turn a mortal into a Nightlord but I need to have both disks to perform the ritual." She stopped for a moment to see how we would respond to what was just said. After she saw what looked like comprehension dawning in our eyes, she said "Then I will have them melted and turned into Rolex watches for Tabitha to steal."
I had been trapped in a hotel in Los Angeles when dark day had come. The hotel was also a Nightbane stronghold and it had been attacked repeatedly. In truth, it was more like the whole day had been a continuos battle. I hate vampires with a passion but Nightlords and their minions are almost as bad. Most Nightbane would disagree with me and tell me that the Nightlords are the greater evil but I do not know about that.
Maggie gave us a few more minutes to reflect on what she just said before saying anything more. She asked what I had been expecting after hearing the story. "What I am asking is if you would help me to recover the second disk? You will be compensated for your efforts on my behalf."
The two Nightbane immediately agreed. I was not sure that I wanted to travel with the two Nightbane and I certainly did not trust them but the idea was interesting. I also had to admit that having the friendship of a Sorceress was not a bad thing. The Sorceress and the two Nightbane were staring at me and the expressions on their face indicated that they expected me to say NO. The Sorceress also looked like she was trying to figure out how she could convince me. I opened my mouth, shook my head as I was going to say no, and then I said "Yes, sure I will go." I am sure my wicked grin ruined some of the effect but I still managed to surprise all three of them.
The Sorceress recovered quickly and asked "Is there anything anyone would like before I continue? I can call Thomas with some food or drink."
Something to eat and a soda sounded like a good idea. It had been a long time since lunch. I replied "A coke and some sandwiches sound good." The male Nightbane asked for a scotch and the Biker Chick asked for a beer. I did not see the point. Beer tastes horrible to me and a Nightbane's tolerance for alcohol is almost equal to mine. I would have to drink a few gallons of the swill to give me even a slight buzz. I have to admit that the sandwiches were welcome and the Nightbane and the Sorceress were amazed after I had eaten four sandwiches, guzzled down several cokes, and asked if I could have a few more sandwiches. Nightbane might live on magic energies or at least partially on magic, but Were Creatures are far more natural and our energy had to come from the food we eat. I have an incredible metabolism which one of its better points is that I can eat anything I want without gaining any weight.
After all of us had finished eating except for me, Maggie continued "The city where the second disk is located at is in a very inaccessible area of the Amazon jungle. The city has been abandoned since the Spanish took over Inca Empire and is mostly in ruin. Tabitha, you might be interested in the fact that it used to be a city of your kin. The city translates to English as 'the city of the Jaguar' although there are some subtle meaning that get lost in translation.. It is unclear but the city was either ruled by Were Jaguars or was completely a Were Jaguar city. The Were Jaguar were the guardians of the disk but they are all gone now. I believe they were killed by Nightlord minions traveling with the Spanish Conquistadores."
My last long term lover had been a Were Jaguar. I had met him in the same hotel that had been under siege on dark day. Other than him, I have only met a handful of Were Beings. Because we were both Were Cats, our body chemistry worked far better than any of my other lovers. The problem was that I have a mind for wandering and do not like to stay in any one location for an extended period of time and he did not want to leave L.A. While I have been back several times to see him and each time we have barely left the bedroom, it would be nice to have another Were Cat as both a lover and a traveling companion.
Maggie continued with, "We need to leave as soon as we can. If there is no problem, I would prefer to leave within three days. There are several groups being sent by the Nightlords to find the second disk so we do not have much time. I have a friend with a private plane that can fly us down to South America. The problem is still one of accessability. The nearest listed runway is about two hundred kilometers away. From what I have been able to determine, the nearest road is about fifty kilometers from the Jaguar City. I do not know how to get there and I have no experience in a jungle."
I looked at both of the Nightbane and could tell that they had no jungle experience either. I did from when I was in the army. The problem I saw was that they would be lucky if we could make 25 kilometers in a day and even from the road it would take two days to reach the city. I could think of a way to shorten the trip at little bit but getting out would still be a problem. I responded "I have a little experience in jungle survival and in parachuting from when I was in the Army. With a few quick lessons, I could show you basic parachuting. I would not have time to teach anything fancy and targeting would be a problem but would still bring us much closer to the city than would otherwise be possible. Your friend could then rent or purchase a land vehicle and pick us up at the road. I figure it will still take about two days to walk out to the road though and we should carry supplies for several weeks just in case something goes wrong."
Jason White said "I can fly in my Dragon Form and could carry all of you. That would make it much easier." looking at Maggie and pointedly ignoring me.
I figured it would be a mistake to tell him so but I did not trust him and definitely preferred a parachute over the dragon. Besides, or maybe more importantly, a flying dragon would be even more likely to attract attention than a bunch of people with parachutes. I replied, looking right at him, "There are many groups in the jungle that dislike visitors. Of course they will be suspicious of people using parachutes but they will consider that it is possible that it is some sort of hair brained military training exercise. There is no way that there is any normal explanation for a flying dragon. Before the coming of dark day, there were some pretty heavily armed revolutionary groups hiding in the jungle. I don't think your pretty hide is up to heavy machineguns and anti-aircraft missiles. As well, Maggie mentioned that there is likely Nightlord minions looking for the disk and how would they react to seeing a flying dragon?" I started directly in his eyes waiting for a response.
It might have become a staring contest but we were interrupted by Maggie saying "That plans sounds like it would probably be the best way." She was turning her attention between both the male Nightbane and me. She turned her full attention to me and asked "Tabitha, you have some experience in this sort of place? I was hoping you could come up with what we will need? I thought we would have to hire a native guide once I was down there but I doubt we could get one willing to parachute and there is always the risk that they would talk to the wrong person."
I went through a mental checklist of what I though we would need. A quick list included G.P.S., compass, good maps, food, canteens, water purification tablets, a host of survival supplies, and a bunch of other gear. If you have a choice, you carry more gear than you absolutely need just incase the worst happened. It would be a fairly long list and it would likely be best if I wroteit so I did not forget anything. I replied "I can do it but there is a lot of gear that we will need. I think it would be best if I took a couple of hours and made up a list. Some of the gear will be a bit expensive." She nodded and I continued "What about personal gear. I have most of my gear in the trunk of my car including my weapons. I will need my gear or functional replacements."
Jason White asked "What about my car, with its damage from her falling on it. It needs to go to a body shop to be repaired." He stared at me accusingly. While I did actually feel a little bad about damaging his car, I shrugged as if it was no big deal.
Maggie replied "There is a group of Sorcerers living in the same city where I teleported you from. I was working with them to retrieve the first disk when Tabitha beat us to it. They helped me set the trap to capture you as well. I will ask if they would be willing to get Jason's car and see if they can get it repaired. Tabitha, the Sorcerers and I have a magic circle that enables us to teleport back and forth. It is still expensive in terms of magical energy but is still much cheaper that trying to do a normal long range teleport. The high cost means that it still must be used sparingly though. Using it to first transport you there to get your gear and then transporting you back would be prohibitively expensive. A better option would be to tell them where your car is and then have them get your gear."
It sounded like a good idea but I could see a problem. I asked "I secured my car before I left and activated the alarm system. How are they going to get into my car? The keys and the remote are with me."
Maggie smiles in such a way that seemed to me to say that she knew something I did not. She took pity on me after a few moments and responded with "One of the Mages is a professional thief and very good at his job. If you had not stolen the golden disk, he would have been the one to do the actual job of breaking into the vault. There are a few spells that make unlocking doors and disabling alarms a snap. Getting into your car will be no problem for him. Is there anything else you need?"
I though if there is anything else that I would need and could not think of anything. I had some additional clothes in a hotel room but did not think I would need them. My response was "Um, not much although I could use for you to arrange for my hotel to be paid in advance for several more weeks. I also do not need everything from my car. I need the two suitcases that are in my car, my combat boots that are in the trunk, my two 'Sigs', and the AK that is also in the trunk. I don't need the SKS, that is simply a backup weapon." I looked at her and it appeared that she knew what I was talking about when I was referring to my guns. I continued with "If your friends could, I would ask if they could move my car to a safer place then that city parking garage it is presently at."
She agreed and I told her exactly where my car was parked at. She also asked the other two if there was any gear that they would need. They gave description of some items that they wanted, mostly cloths, and where they were at. I sat down and started on the list of gear which we would need to make this trip a success.
The next two days passed quickly enough. I got my personal gear within a couple of hours and I assume the others got theirs at about the same time. I strapped on the Sig Pro pistols and promised myself that I would not be without them again. The AK-47, which I had relieved from someone who had been attempting to use it against me and had then converted it to the AKU-94 Bullpup configuration, was useful for long range shooting but I preferred my pistols in most cases. I know Cuba used to be a soviet ally and though I remembered hearing that Cuba had given or sold weapons all over South America. I hoped that there would be ammunition available for at least the Russian rifle if I ran out. I planned to carry enough magazines that it would not be a problem but you never could tell.
The gear that I had written down on the list took the better part of both days to get here and it seemed likely that our host had to spend quite a bit of extra money to get all of it here as quickly as she did. I inspected the parachutes extra carefully to make sure they were in good condition. I wanted to make sure that they were perfect because the others were rank amateurs on their first jump with nothing more than a few verbal instructions from me to go by.
My injuries were mostly healed when I go up the next morning and completely healed by that evening. I split my time between exercising, making sure that are the supplies were ready, memorizing the maps, and reading my army survival guide to refresh on what I had forgotten. I was definitely very busy. The Sorceress seemed to be busy getting her magic ready but the other two seemed to be just lazing around the mansion. The male Nightbane did look at the maps once but beyond that did not seem to do anything of consequence. The female Nightbane seemed to do absolutely nothing at all of consequence.
I knew the humidity would take its toll on me and would effect the Nightbane more than they might expect even though they were supernatural creatures. I also expected the weather to have an even more adverse effect on the human Sorceress. I hoped everybody could keep up but did not know what I could do in that regard.
We were all to meet in the main foyer just before we left. I had dressed sensibly but wish I could say the same for the others.
I was dressed in my old combat boots, a pair of khaki color fatigue pants, and a brown tee-shirt. I had my pistols strapped to my thighs and had my rifle slung on my back. As I said, simple and practical. I figured that most likely I would have to simply toss the fatigue pants and tee-shirt when we got back but they would hold up during the excursion. The boots had been though this sort of excursion while I was in the army and I figured I could simply clean them when we got back. They were pretty well broken in and I did not want to discard them if I did not have too.
The female Nightbane was the worst. She was wearing a bright blue red running suit of matching tight spandex pants and a sports bra. She appear to be wearing brand new Nike running shoes as well. Her makeup and hair was done up perfectly as if she was going on a date. She looked as if she was going out running with a boyfriend she was trying to impress. I knew that the suit would not last long in the jungle but I doubted she would listen to me
Maggie was almost as bad in her own way. She was wearing the same style of grey robe that she did when she first met us in her office with us stuck to the floor. It might even be the same robes. Silk is very strong and would probably hold up although the robe would be ruined by mud and dirt. The real problem was that the robes were far too long and would constantly get caught in the undergrowth and trip her. The robes would also get tangled up when she went parachuting. I could not see what type of shoes she was wearing but I was worried that they were some type of sandals.
The male Nightbane actually seemed the most practically dressed of the three of them. He wore tan pants and a white dress shirt. I wondered if he knew that his cloths would be ruined before the end of the first day. They would at least survive the trip. He also wore a safari hat and loafers. I knew the shoes would not hold up for the trip.
I cleared my throat and stated "It might be best if you change your cloths. You need to wear something that will hold up and you are not afraid to have ruined. An old pair of jeans and hiking boots would probably be best if you have them. The jungle can be very hard on both shoes and cloths."
Maggie chuckled at me and responded with "I am wearing tee shirt, jeans, and hiking sneakers under my robes. I assume that is practical enough for you? I am wealthy but I cannot afford to keep ruining silk robes without reason." I had to admit that I was wrong in not thinking that she would wear something practical under her robes and I nodded my head smiling. As I expected, the two Nightbane ignored me. I can give advice but I cannot make people take it. Any suffering they might go though would be their own fault.
With stops, the flight took just over two days. The flight flew south to Africa first, stopping in Spain along the way. The plane crossed between Africa and South America where they were the closest. The trip across the South Atlantic seemed to last forever. The only thing similar had been my trips though Kansas with the corn fields replaced by water. We landed just about as soon as we reached the Eastern coast of South America. The plane was refueled and we headed deep into the jungle. Each time the plane landed to refuel, I took the chance to walk around and stretch my legs so I did not suffer to bad but the trip still seemed to be the longest I had ever taken.
The plane was larger and more comfortable than I expected. The plane was some sort of executive style twin engine turboprop and was pretty comfortable inside. It certainly was far more comfortable than riding in an army cargo plane would have been. The interior was plushly appointed and there was a small refrigerator to keep drinks and sandwiches cold.
I have to say that the pilot was a very interesting individual. He was an older man, about in his mid fifties, although his hair showed no signs of going grey and was a solid brown. From the conversations he had with Maggie, I gathered that he was an old friend of her father and had flown him all around the globe. His normal job seemed to be to fly executives and VIPs around Europe. He seemed to have several decades of flying experience and might have been a military pilot before he started this job. He certainly was a very good pilot and understood what would be needed from him for us to parachute from the plane.. He did not seem surprised when I boarded the plane with all my weapons and if anything, he seemed to approve. I noted he carried a pistol under his flight jacket. From what I could see of it, it appeared to be an old Colt 1911 Automatic. A good gun generally although I prefer the Sig over it. He was interesting to talk to and I had several long conversations over the length of the flight. I wish I could say that spending the flight cramped in with the two Nightbane was fun but it was more my fault than anything else. Being shot and then clawed at puts a damper on any relationship.
It was finally time to make the jump. I had selected a locations slightly away from where Maggie had indicated the ruined city was located at. The location was in a small river valley about eight miles away and there was a small rise between us and the city's location which I hoped would hide us from any groups searching for the ruins. It was also on the opposite side of the city from where the closest road was.
I had rechecked the parachutes one final time. A true expert would probably not have checked the equipment as often as I had but I was nervous and I did not want anyone dying from a parachute that I gave them even if I did not like them. The plan was that the female Nightbane would jump first. The male Nightbane would jump next. If something happened to either his parachute or the parachute of the female Nightbane, he could take the risk and transform to dragon form to save himself or the female Nightbane. The lady Sorceress would jump next. She had told me that she had a spell that would slow her decent if her parachute failed. I would be jumping in last. I had no experience or training at parachute rescues but I did at least know the basics of parachuting. I figured if one of their parachutes failed to open, I could at least attempt a rescue if all else failed. If my chute failed, I would probably have a hard time digging myself out of the mud but otherwise I would be unhurt.
Each of my companions jumped out of the plane when the time came. The pilot flew as slow as he could and the engines were on the wings and did not present any problems. The female Nightbane looked worried but I expected that. She was the only one that did not have the ability to survive the fall if her parachute failed. All my worrying turned out to be unnecessary. All of the gear worked as it was designed and all of us landed safely. The group ended up more scattered than I had hoped but we were not scattered as badly as I feared. It was really to be expected being that no one except for me had any real training or experience at parachuting.
It took only about ten minutes for all of us to get back together. I looked around and found a tree that was still alive yet had the center rotted out. I stuffed all of the parachutes into a hole in the tree and covered the opening with branches and leaves. It was the best I could do quickly and I did not want to take the time to pack up the parachutes and some concealment was better than no concealment.
I pulled my G.P.S. navigational aid to check our location and then checked it against the map even though I had the map memorized. We were about half a mile from where I planned to land but that made no real difference when it came down to it. I then pulled out a compass and rechecked the information using landmarks shown on the map. I did not trust the G.P.S. system as I had before dark day. It was very possible that the Nightlords would have the system messed up. However, in this case everything agreed with each other. I pointed in the direction that the city was marked on the map and said "According to the map, we need to go this way."
Maggie said "Interesting, the direction you points is towards a Ley Line Nexus. A focusing of magical lines where a huge amount of magic energy is often available. This one seems different like something is storing and concentrating the magical energy. My father talked about something like this and that a long gone race of people came up with something like this."
We were on our way. I figured we could make about two miles an hour if we were determined. Every twenty minutes or so, I would check my compass to make sure were still going in the right direction. The female Nightbane's running suit was covered in dirt and mud, her brand new Nike sneakers were even more covered in mud, and her hair and makeup were all ruined within the first couple of hours of walking. I figured that I did not look much better but I had expected it. She eyed her cloths and shoes from time to time with a disgusted look. I could not help but to smile. It was her own fault for not listening to me. She saw me and gave me a look like she wanted to rip me apart. I just smiled wider. I could see that the male Nightbane was trying to be careful where he walked but his loafers already looked like they had seen better days. Although she seemed hot and tired, at least Maggie's cloths were holding up alright. She had left her robes in the plane. I made sure that we stopped for about ten minutes every hour and kept an eye on Maggie because she was the most likely to have problems. Dehydration and exhaustion can be life threatening in an environment like this.
We were only a mile or so from the location of the city on the map when I thought I heard a sound of metal striking something. I knew of nothing indigenous to the jungle that made metallic sounds so I made an upright fist and I whispered "Stop, I heard some sort of noise to the left. It sounded like something metal. I think it would be best if I went and investigated the sound?"
Maggie thought about it for a moment and then whispered back "Go ahead but be careful." I was more than careful. I stripped and left all my gear, including my cloths, next to an old tree and transformed to my panther form. I had to leave my pistols behind as well. I really need to figure out a way to carry my Sig Pro pistols when I am in Panther form. I figured if anything saw me, there was a reasonable chance that they would thing I was a wild animal.
I snuck up to where the sound was coming from. I think I traveled about five hundred yards before spotting what was making the noise. The first thing I saw were six Hounds. What I am talking about are creatures which serve the Nightlords that are effectively not much more than automatons and are black and semi skeletal. They are very dangerous in large numbers but are not very intelligence. Two of the hounds were using their malevolent blades to hack a path through the jungle. It was the sound of the blades striking something hard, probably a rock, that I had heard. Directing the Hounds was a creature known as a Hound Master. Similar in appearance to a hound, it had a black cape and horns to identify itself as a Hound Master. There were also two figures in black robes which appeared to be human although they very well could be Dopplegangers as well. From the general shape of the figures, I assumed they were both male. I figured that they were some sort of spell caster working for the Nightlords, perhaps Blood Mages. Apparently, they were looking for the city using some kind of magical sense and had wandered around for a bit because they were definitely off from any straight line between the nearest road and the city. The Hounds were clearing a nice path so that the Mages would not have to worry about tripping like I had been concerned with Maggie. The Hounds probably would lay on the ground to act as a bridge if the Mages needed to cross any mud or water. Well, at least the group was moving slowly. It was probably as small a group as it was so that it would not attract too much attention.
I crept away from the spot I had been observing the group from and headed back to my own group. They had been waiting for quite a while and actually seemed to be a bit relieved when I came back unhurt. I transformed into my Humanoid Panther form instead of back into my human form. If I had to fight, I wanted to be as ready as I could be. I began strapping my weapons belt and other gear back on. I did not bother to put my cloths back on and stuffed both my boots and fatigues into my backpack. I quietly told the others about the group of Nightlord minions I saw while I was getting myself reequipped.
After I was finished, I stated flatly "I think it would be to see about ambushing them now instead of waiting for them to attack us while we are searching through the ruins. If we find the right spot, we could probably take them out at range." While an AK-47 was not as accurate as a Sniper Rifle or even most Hunting Rifles, it would do adequately for this job.
From her expression, the female Nightbane agreed with me and it might have just been that she wanted to get revenge on something for her destroyed running suit and the Nightlord minions were a convenient target. Maggie had different plans. She replied "I would prefer not to engage them at all if possible. I think it would be best if we simply avoided them. With them slowed by hacking a path through the jungle, we should be able to reach the city, find the disk, and be gone before they even get to the city." I did not agree with her but she was in charge of the group and I had learned in the army that you followed the orders of the officer in command. There was even decent reasoning behind what she said but I had a feeling that she was wrong. She continued, seeming to be more talking to herself than anything else, with "I wonder if they are simply going towards where they sense the unusual Ley Line Nexus.
It took another couple of hours of forcing our way through the jungle to get to the temple. I have seen Mayan and Aztec cities on the television but I have never seen one through my own eyes not through a camera. I judged that it was probably smaller than the ancient cities I had seen on the television but it still appeared to be huge. The city had obviously been abandoned for ages. The ruins in front of me had similarities to those I had seen on the television yet was very different in its own way. It was hard to describe.. On many of the stone blocks I could see stylized jaguar shapes. Originally, the whole city appeared to have been surrounded by strong stone walls but they had collapsed since the city was abandoned. Most of the building inside the remains of the walls were in similar shape although a few appeared to be mostly intact. Between the trees and other growth that had grown up in the middle of the city, I could see what appeared to be a pyramid shape. From stories I had heard about places like this, the idea of it being a temple came to mind. I stared at the city in a semi awe. Even in its collapsed state, the 'City of the Jaguars' had a majesty to it.
Maggie said "That Pyramid behind the trees, all the magic energy seems to be focused there. I have never felt a place that had more magical energy focused in one place."
I climbed over the ruined wall and into the main compound. Maggie and the two Nightbane followed me although I had a much easier time in my human hybrid form. Maggie especially had problems climbing the remains of the wall.
As soon as I entered the city itself, I felt a presence. It is almost impossible for me to describe properly. The closest example I can come up with is being held in your mothers arms when you are a child. I do not remember my mother but seem to remember a feeling like that from when I was very small. I relaxed in the presence and I felt at home. I wondered if the others were being effected that same way I was. I looked at them and they did not seem to be effected in the same way. The male Nightbane was rubbing his shoes together in a vain attempt at trying to get off the mud that was caked on them. The female Nightbane was looking around but had an obvious frown of her face. Maggie was looking at an intricately carved stone block as if she was trying to decipher it. I considered why the city would be effecting me this way but was not effecting the others at all. After a moment or two, I thought I knew the answer. The city was built by Were Jaguars and I was the closest being to a Were Jaguar that had entered the city in hundreds of years. I decided not to tell the others about what I felt.
The presence seemed to sense what I was looking for. I felt a subtle tugging towards the pyramid that was half hidden in the trees. There was no reason I could see not to go to the pyramid. It was were the magical energy was coming from according to our Mage and was the most likely location of the gold disk anyway. I motioned for the others to follow and began walking towards the pyramid. As I got closer, I could see more and more of the pyramid. It was a step pyramid like I had seen in many pictures before and looked far more intact than anything else I had seen in this city. Other than a few small cracks and chips, it looked undamaged. Most of the carvings were still clear and readable. The tugging first led me to a set of steps that went to the top of the structure. The presence pulled me to the side of the pyramid. I followed where the presence guided me towards. Each of the others looked at me questionably as I went to the side of the pyramid but they followed me anyway.
I finally came to where the presence guided me towards. It was a large black obsidian block at ground level that was ten feet tall and eight feet wide that was part of the side of the pyramid. While the rest of the structure showed surprisingly little wear, it at least showed some sign of wear. The obsidian block showed absolutely no signs of wear and was absolutely flat with a high polish on it. I said "This is where we need to go."
Maggie said "You are probably right. You don't happen to know how to get us in there assuming it is a door?" I walked up to the door and tried pushing on the door and could not get it to move. The two others transformed into their Nightbane form and helped me try to push the door open. The three of us together could not get the door to move in any direction. Maggie looked at the obsidian block for a few minutes and then chanted something mystical. She then said "The door should be unlocked now." She looked at the three of us and asked "Could you see if you can open the door now?" We tried pushing on the door again and still could not get it to budge. Maggie frowned and explained "That should have worked!" sounding very peeved.
The Dragon Nightbane stated "Let me take care of that!" He strode purposefully towards the door and stood in front for a few moments. He drew back a claw first and punched at the door with all of his strength. I heard a loud thunk and the force of the punch should have turned the door into powder. Instead, the polished obsidian was completely unmarked. The Dragon Nightbane held his fist in his other claw hand while waving it back and forth. He had his teeth bared in what appeared to me to be a grimace of pain. The Biker Nightbane then tried her luck. She hammered at the door with her chains. She struck it over and over and sparks flew whenever the chains hit the door. Whenever she drew back from the door, it was completely unmarred. I now wish I had brought some demolitions, maybe I could have blown the door our of the frame if I could not damage the door itself. Well, I now knew something I forgot.
Maggie yelled "Stop!" as loudly as she could. The female Nightbane stopped instantly and after a few moments stepped back from the door. I was just glad to stop hearing the clang of her metal chains on the door.
Maggie, in an almost conversational tone, stated "Obviously, we are not going to be able to get through the door using brute force. There must be another was of opening the door." With that, she stood in front of the door and just stared at it.
Around the door were smaller stone blocks with some form of picture writing on them. They looked a little like what I had seen on the television about Mayan and Aztec civilization but was somehow different. I had noticed them when I first found the door but I had paid them little attention. Maggie looked them over several times and seemed to get an idea. She spoke a set of mystical phrases and looked at the stones with what looked like a new understanding. Apparently, the spell she just cast allowed her to read this writing. She turned to the three of us although she seemed to be concentrating on me more than the other two. She said "The writing says that only a child of both man and cat is allowed to open the door. Listed is also a set of phrases that she must say in order to get the door to open. The problem is that while I can read the phrases, I cannot say them myself so it will take a while for me to get you to say the right phrases. It seems to be some sort of language of were creatures."
It took several hours for her and I to work out the correct phrases and how to say them. As we worked on the phrases that would open the doors, the sun started descending in the sky. It would be dusk in only about two hours. As well, I was becoming more concerned that the Nightlord minions would reach us before we were able to get the disk and escape from the ruins. Maggie had assumed that we could get into the city, retrieve the disk, and get out immediately when she had decided that we should not fight the Nightlord servants.
Finally, I was ready. While a little bit nervous that I had not memorized properly the words to open the door, I stood in front of the door and growled out the phrases. For a few moments, nothing happened. Then I could hear a high pitched rumbling sound. A round disk or plate pushed from the center of the door. Indented in the disk was a set of holes that appeared to be the right shape for the fingers of a were cat's claw hand. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. It seemed to be in the shape of a right hand and I fitted my hand into the holes. On my finger tips, I could feel smaller holes inside of the larger holes. I had an idea. I extended my claws into the holes and was rewarded by a heavy metallic thunk. Suddenly the disk was not held in one place and would turn freely. I first noticed it move when I flexed my fingers. I turned the disk to the right and suddenly the door started sliding to the right with a grinding sound. I quickly pulled my hand out of the disk so I would not get dragged with the door. I watched while the door fully retracted into the wall. The door had been six feet thick and would have almost impossible to blast around without bringing down the pyramid.
All the I could see with the contrast between the sun outside and the opening was darkness. While I have as good a night vision as any cat, I figured that if this tunnel was as deep as I thought then I would not have enough light to see. Well, that problem was easily solved. I pulled the Sig Pro from my right holster. I removed the laser sight off the front and replaced it with a tactical light. The ability to switch attachments on the pistol was one of the features that made me prefer the Sig Pro over other pistols. I was the first to enter the doorway. My pistol was still drawn and I had it pointed down the tunnel. If anything was to pop from the darkness, I could fire immediately. My trigger finger was beside the trigger guard not on the trigger itself. I did not want to trip and end up shooting someone I did not intend to. I hate watching television shows where people walk around with fingers in the trigger because it is very unsafe in real life. Along the walls were more picture writing. The other three members of the group followed close behind me. It was a tight squeeze for the Dragon Nightbane but he managed to get through without transforming back to his human form and the corridor widened after the doorway.
We walked slowly deeper into the tunnel. The corridor did not go in a straight line and instead curled in a huge spiral as it went downwards. I had the tactical light pointing down the passage and was soon very glad of it. There would not have been enough light for me to see.
Suddenly, I heard a creaking sound. I also had a feeling of danger so I jumped up and to the left. A large granite block suddenly swung from the ceiling on chains. The block came to a point and seemed to have a gleaming spike in the front. I leapt out of the way in time and was missed by the block. The Dragon Nightbane was not so lucky and the spike found its mark in his flesh. He backed up and howled loudly. For all his screaming, he did not look badly injured. Well, now I knew that there were traps and could take precautions. I did not expect that a city that had been abandoned for hundreds of years would still have operational traps.
I looked at the trap. The granite block was twenty feet long and a foot wide both vertically and from side to side. It was on some kind of chain that looked green. I scratched it with my nail and it looked like some kind of reddish yellow metal. Bronze or copper, I figured. It made sense. Rope would likely have rotted away by now. The spike was red from the Dragon Nightbane's blood but appeared to be some kind of clear crystal. I started looking on the ground and the walls for what had triggered the trap. On the floor was a pressure plate a few feet behind when I first felt the danger of the trap.
Maggie pointed at the tip of the spike. She said "This is amazing, the tip is enchanted so that it will affect supernatural creatures. Tabitha, this spike would hurt you as if it was made of silver." I was suddenly glad that I had jumped out of the way. It could have hurt bad. Maggie added "I know of a similar spell. It can be very effective at making weapons effect supernatural creatures but it is costly in terms of magical energy to create."
We continued down the down the passageway. While everybody looked for traps, I was the only one with experience at this sort of thing. Even so, I was used to there being one or two traps not a long corridor filled with them. I was as careful as I could be but I knew I would probably still miss some. The traps became more dangerous and more frequent as we walked further down. All of the traps used crystalline spikes or blades. Maggie indicated that they were all enchanted and I could sense magic from them as well. They certainly wanted traps that would hurt supernatural creatures. I assume that they used crystal because a metal blade would become corroded in time and as such be less sharp than a crystal blade. Each time I found a trigger mechanism, I circled it with red lipstick. It was a workable improvisation but I think next time I will bring a can of spray paint. That made two things I had forgotten.
I missed several traps including a set of crystalline axe blades that swung direct from the ceiling. It caught me in the arm but was not too deep. It would heal in less than an hour. I know the Dragon Nightbane was especially angry at me. He could not dodge traps as well as the others due to his large size and had gotten hit several times. He could have transformed to human form and been a smaller target but he had decided not to do that.
The final set of corridor traps was the worst. The only good point about them was that no Hound would be able to get through the trap intact. The trap was a series of stone slabs on the ceiling that would fall when whenever the pressure plate on the floor beneath was triggered. They had the crystalline spikes that were the feature on the other traps and would impale or crush anything underneath. I walked gingerly underneath, marking around the pressure plates with the last of my lipstick as I went though. The others were waiting for me to get through before they tried to make it though themselves.
The tunnel opened into a giant cavern. Well, at least it seemed to be gigantic to me. I pointed my tactical flashlight around the room. The chamber was about four hundred feet wide. The cavern was obviously not natural and appeared to be perfectly round. I shined the light around the room. There were terraces carved like giant steps. On the terraces was the glint of golden treasure and other objects of art. The treasure looked to be enough to be able to purchase a small country. Mixed in with the precious items were crystal bladed spears and daggers that I assumed were enchanted just like the spikes were. I could hear the musical sound of water and situated in an X pattern compared to where I was standing four small streams ran down culverts towards the center of the room. The openings that the water came from were far wider that what was needed for the water that was presently flowing out and were over six feet wide. From the opening that I was standing in was a set of steps towards the center of the room.
Down at the bottom of the chamber was a clear pool that was about one hundred feet wide. There must be some sort of drain to prevent the water level from rising. In the middle of the pool was a small round raised platform that was about twenty feet wide and stood about two feet out of the water. On a pedestal in the very center of the room and the platform stood the object of this quest. The twin of the gold disk that I had stolen from the investment stood there. I pointed the light up at the ceiling and saw that the middle of the room was covered in crystal spikes. Another trap.
I waited for the others to make it through the final part of the corridor. I had not heard any crashes so I assumed that none of the traps had been triggered. I saw all the items around the chamber and figured that no one had missed them in hundreds of years. I grabbed a handful of jewelry and stuffed it in a pocket in my backpack. One item especially grabbed my attention. There was a gold necklace with a stylized jaguar of jade as the center piece. I could hardly wait to wear it.
A few minutes later, all of the others were in the chamber as well. We all stood near the entrance. I made sure I had all of their attention and pointed at the spikes on the ceiling. I said to myself "Yet another trap" wondering what the trigger was.
Maggie nodded her head and replied "Still, the amount of enchanted weapons in this place is incredible." She looked over at the artifacts on the terraces and picked up a crystal bladed dagger and stuck it in her belt. Maggie then asked "Tabitha, do you have any suggestions. You have been the one spotting most of the traps as we went along."
It was my turn to stop and think. I decided to tell them how I thought the traps worked. I said "I suspect that the entire platform in the middle of the water is covered with pressure plates that if anyone steps there then spikes will drop from the ceiling. I think it likely that the pedestal also contains some type of trigger that is activated when the weight of the disk is removed. In that case, probably all the spikes will drop down from the ceiling. If I built this place, I would not have set up the traps this way. I would have simply filled the entire tunnel with rubble. It would then have taken years for anyone to dig to down here. Well, they probably wanted to have the ability to watch the disk and they most likely had guards posted down here to protect the disk." I paused for a few moments and took a long drink from my canteen.
I continued after relieving my thirst "I can see two ways of getting the disk from the pedestal. In either case, finding an object about the same weight as the disk might be a good idea. The first idea is to have the dragon fly to the pedestal and retrieve the object while in the air. The second is to have Miss Biker Chick swim near the platform but not within the area covered by the spikes in the ceiling. She then uses her chains to grab the disk. The advantage with the second idea is that the chains are a much smaller target than the Dragon's wings. I have a feeling that some spikes going through his wings would not do good things for his flying abilities." The female Nightbane seemed a bit annoyed about what I called her but she let it pass.
Maggie replied "I think I have a safer way of retrieving the object. I can simply use telekinesis to grab the object. I can easily reach the center from the edge of the pool and the weight will not pose a problem." In many ways, the idea was much better than the one I came up with and I nodded my head in agreement. The Dragon Nightbane had found a figure that appeared to weigh about the same as the gold disk, He handed it to Maggie who nodded her head in understanding.
We all walked down the stairs to the edge of the pool. I did not see anything in the clear water but I wanted to make sure that the Sorceress was safe. I imagine that the two Nightbane were thinking about the same thoughts. Maggie chanted something mystical. I watched as the figurine floated from her hand and slowly drifted towards the center of the pool. Suddenly, the figurine started trembling. I turned towards Maggie and saw lines on her face as if she was straining. Her eyes went wide and I heard a loud splash. I looked at where the figurine had been floating and noted that it was at the bottom of the pool now. Maggie took several deep breaths. I turned back to her and the two Nightbane were looking at her as well. To answer the questioning look in our eyes, she said "Some kind of anti-magic field. It dispelled my telekinesis."
The female Nightbane stated "I guess it is time for plan B" and dove into the water. Well, I had no reason to stop her. We were here to get the disk and someone had to go and get it. She swam towards the center of the pool. If nothing else, she was at least a decent swimmer. When she got where the figurine had sunk in the water, she used one of her chains to grab it and continued to swim towards the center. Obviously the field only effected magic spells because it had no effect on her. She treaded water just outside of where the spikes were above and extended two chains towards the gold plate with one holding the figurine she had retrieved. She grabbed the plate and quickly replaced it on the pedestal with the figurine. It was done and she pulled the gold plate back to herself. None of the traps had been sprung. We breathed a collective sigh of relief.
I should have known it was to good to be true. The female Nightbane had swam most of the back to where we were waiting when the sound of gigantic chains could be heard. She began swimming as fast as she could for our locations. I could hear a rumbling sound behind us. When I turned, I saw that a stone block had sealed the doorway that we had come through. Water began erupting from the pool in giant fountains and the streams coming into the room had become raging torrents. With the force that the water was spraying into the room, the Dragon would be unable to fly and I had to hold on with my claws so that I was not tossed around myself. The Dragon Nightbane had grabbed the sorceress so that she would not be tossed around either. He slowly climbed up towards the blocked entrance. His weight prevented him from being tossed around but he had his wings tucked close to his body. The female Nightbane used her chains to climb up to where the entrance had been and was still holding onto the gold disk.
The water level was rising incredibly fast and the lowest terrace was already underwater. I was up to my breasts in water. I dug the claws of my feet into the stone along with my left claw hand. I was still holding my pistol with the tactical light in might right hand and did not want to lose my only source of light. I was able to get up to the doorway climbing this way but it was difficult.
The spray was not as strong near the sealed doorway. Still, this location would be underwater within a few minutes and the whole chamber would be soon be flooded as well at the present rate water was filling into it. We had to find some way out of the chamber before we all drowned.
The Dragon Nightbane decided he had a solution to the problem. He tried to grab me and said "Your are the reason we are going to be drowned, let us see if your hard head can be used to break us a way out." With that he tried to pick me up to throw me at the door. My claws were still dug into the stone and instead he almost threw himself.
In the present situation, the female Nightbane was more practical. She handed the disk to Maggie and said "Let me give the door a try? If not, I might be able to create a portal to the surface but I would have trouble doing that because I did not memorize any landmarks to use." At least the block was not of black obsidian like the one on the side of the pyramid that we had entered through. It was definitely worth a try. She hauled back and punched at the door with all of her strength. It had not shattered like normal stone would have but it had at least cracked. She had to hit it a few more times but then we had an opening we could get through.
We were almost home free. From what I could tell we were near the end of the tunnel. Either the water level had peaked or we were moving fast enough that the water level could not keep pace. We had managed not to trigger and traps on our way out. The plan we had discussed was to get out of the city and into the jungle before the Nightlord minions appeared. I just hoped that they had not gotten here already. We went around the final bend in the passageway and could see moonlight and several stars through the open doorway. At least the door had not closed. I had no idea how we might have gotten it open from the inside. It is amazing how bright moonlight can be when you were coming from deep underground.
As I stepped out of the doorway at last, I knew that we were too late. I could see a group of dark figures standing to one side of the doorway. They were about sixty feet back and there were a total of nine figures waiting for us. Two were in black robes and seven were vaguely skeletal with one wearing a cloak and displaying horns as a mark of status. It was either the group I had seen earlier this day or one just like it. One of the robed figures stated "Give up the Disk and you live! Resist and you will surely die!" A bit melodramatic if you ask me.
The Sorceress and the two Nightbane looked indecisive. The expression on the female Nightbane seemed to indicate she might be considering negotiating with them. I had enough of this. I drew my other Sig Pro and opened fire with both pistols. Some people think that you cannot shoot a gun after it is immersed in water. This is not the case. The weapon will shoot just fine but you should clean it real well when you get the chance. The Sig pistols were stainless steel and would be easy to clean and would not corrode. What I did not look forward to cleaning was my AK-47 rifle because it was not stainless and would corrode if I was not careful. All four rounds from my pistols found their mark in the Hound Master that I was aiming at. It was stagged back and was hurt although it was still very much alive. Damn, it was tough. If I had hit a person, they would be dead although non magic weapons do less damage to a Hound or Hound Master than they do to a normal human (or a Nightbane for that matter.)
The six Hounds with the Hound Master behind them charged us. I fired again at the Hound Master and was rewarded to see it staggered again. It was still alive and continued its charge after a few moments. I had eight .357 rounds in it and was still moving.
The two hooded figures began chanting something. I wondered what type of spell they were casting and at whom. I just hoped it was not me.
The female Nightbane and her shadow separated. The shadow passed through the Hounds and appeared to be headed towards one of the Mages. At the same time, she extended her claws and prepared to fight the Hounds in hand to hand combat. The Dragon Nightbane faced the Hounds on her side. I noted that Maggie was chanting something as well. I hoped whatever spell she cast would be effective.
She stopped chanting and a bunch of lightning bolts came down on the head of the Hound Master that I had been shooting at. The flash from the lightning hitting the creature was to bright to see anything and the thunderclap was incredible. Cracked shell pieces flew everywhere as the Hound Master was blown into hundreds of pieces. I had to admit that the spell was incredibly effective.
The two other Mages finished their spells at virtually the same time she did. One flung a ball of fire at me which I was able to dodge out of the way of. The other stared the female Nightbane in the eyes. Whatever he seemed to try did not seem to work.
The Biker Nightbane's shadow reached him just a few moments after he completed his spell. It grabbed his head and half ripped it off. It was quite obvious that he was dead. The surviving Mage raised his hand as if to cast another spell. I sunk four .357 Sig rounds in his chest. He was no where near as tough as the Hound Master and his chest exploded into red mist. So much for the enemy Mages.
This left only the six hounds and they were now leaderless. The Dragon Nightbane and the Biker Nightbane were fighting them claw to dark metal weapon. The two Nightbane had managed to rend huge claw marks into two of Hounds but they had several slashes in them from the Hounds' blades.
It looked like the two Nightbane needed some help. I chose one of the targets and put four rounds into it. It was only slightly damaged but the bullets staggered it for several critical moments. I used that time to get close with it and claw kick it. I could not use my hands because I was still holding my pistols and did not want to drop them and did not want to take the time to holster them. I could hear fighting continue behind me. It took me four more kicks before the Hound was lying still on the ground. In the fight, the Hound was never even able to come close with its dark blade and I was unhurt.
I turned to see about engaging another hound but saw that the rest of the hounds were down. Maggie had drawn her crystal dagger and had stabbed one in the back as the Dragon Nightbane had ripped in half with his claws. We had won. I holstered my pistols.
The return back was relatively easy. Overnight, we hid in one of the more intact buildings within the ruins with someone always on watch for more Nightlord minions. In the morning, we took the path that the Hounds had carved through the jungle and made excellent time. It was decided that the extra speed in getting back to the road was worth the risk of there being more hunting parties. We made it back to the road just as night was about to fall although we had to take turns and carry the Sorceress to keep a fast a pace as we had through the day. I was not until we got to the road that we went back into our human forms. When we did reach the road, we saw that there was on old beat up truck with no one in it. Obviously, that was how the Nightlord minions had gotten here.
We had a discussion about ownership and whether we should use the truck. I settled the discussion by hot-wiring the ignition and by telling the two Nightbane that if they wished to walk, they were welcome to. They saw the situation my way after that. I think they just wanted something to argue about. I wanted to be somewhere civilized and with clean showers as soon as possible.
When we reached the airfield, it was almost midnight and the pilot had laid down several seats and was sleeping in the cockpit. He would have driven into the jungle in the morning to pick us up. We loaded into his plane and were off within the hour. The flight back to Ireland was uneventful although it seemed longer on the way back than when we came here. I slept a lot and did not feel like talking much on the flight. Maggie told her pilot friend about what had happened.
When we got back, Miss Annette Burbank whined about all the time she had missed from work and how she could not afford her school if she missed many more days of work. Maggie gave her a half million dollars to shut her up. Jason White was a bit smarter I think. After a long discussion, She agreed to owe him a favor. Having the favor of a powerful Sorceress is a very good thing. With that, they left. Well, not before I picked their pockets. I had to get revenge on them somehow. Now, we were even. I know the women flew back to Illinois to the strip joint but I do not know where the other Nightbane went.
What did I get from the Sorceress in return for helping her with retrieving the disks? I asked about the spell that she said was one the crystalline weapons and if she could put it on a pistol. She said it could be but I would have to wait several weeks before she would have the magical energy to cast the necessary spell. In the end, I had both of my Sig Pistols enchanted by her. Woe be the next supernatural creature that finds itself in the sights of my pistols.
[ Nightbane® is a registered trademark owned by Kevin Siembieda and Palladium Books Inc.]
By Kitsune (E-Mail Kitsune).
Story proofread by Lady Lynx (email@example.com).
Copyright © 2001, Kitsune. All rights reserved.