Story (c) 2000 by Hikaru Katayamma/Keith Dickinson. All rights reserved. The character Sheila Vixen (c) Eric W Schwartz. All other characters are (c) Hikaru Katayamma.
This story contains adult situations and language. By reading it the viewer agrees not to hold this or any other person responsible for any content they may find objectionable. If you don't like it, don't read it.
I awoke lying on the bed in our room. There was no pain. In fact, I had no sensation of feeling at all. Opening my eyes, I saw the bed sitting on a patch of stone floor, surrounded by a curtain of inky black darkness.
"Ahhh. You're awake. It's about time, little one," a deep, resonant voice said off to the side of me. Looking for the voice, I saw a lesser dragon step from the shadows and stand next to the bed.
"Where am I?" I asked, looking around, trying to peer beyond the veil of black.
"You're on a layer of the spirit plane just beyond the reach of the astral," he explained. "I brought you here because, simply put, we need to talk." As he spoke, he gestured causing a chair to appear upon which he sat.
He wanted to talk, eh? I wasn't so sure I wanted to talk to him. The dragons had been giving me a bit of a hard time of late. Without any effort I sat up, rotated, and crossed my legs on the bed, facing him.
It occurred to me after I had sat up that the last thing I remembered was passing out after getting stabbed. Looking back down in the bed where I had been lying I saw my body. A large bandage was wrapped around my body's chest and shoulder, blood showing through where I had been wounded. It suddenly occurred to me that the last time I had seen Illiam I had been dead. He had intercepted my spirit while it was passing through the barriers with Bjorn, on my way to the hereafter.
"How bad is the wound?" I asked, concerned. I didn't want to die. I felt myself beginning to panic at the thought of not being able to speak to Sheila again, never to explain what really had happened.
The dragon glanced at my body and chuckled. "It's not a bad wound. The blade was poisoned, however you have an immunity to it," he explained. "Which brings us to part of what we need to talk about."
Relief flooded through my being. I would live. Despite the best attempts of an assassin, I had once again cheated death. "All right," I said, nodding to Illiam. "What did you want to discuss?"
Getting up a little, he scooted his chair closer to me. "The one who's name we must not speak," Illiam declared, lowering his voice. "Unless his attention is drawn to us by his name, he will not be able to hear us. It would not bode well for either of us were he to learn of what I shall tell you."
So Lakesh didn't have his talons as deep into the Guardian Dragon as I thought he did. That was a pleasant surprise. That meant that there was hope for me to ultimately complete this quest without getting screwed (literally or figuratively) by Lakesh. With a small smile, I nodded for Illiam to continue.
"The best place for us to start is the beginning. When you crossed the barriers for the first time, your wish was to speak with Sheila and for her to become your love," he said, stating ancient history. "This was not a good thing for your quest. Though you didn't know it yet, by falling in love with Sheila you have created a tremendous problem in the scheme of things. The least of which is the fact that she delayed your quest for over two weeks."
Wow. I knew that was true, but when it was put like that I guess I did screw things up big time by falling out of lust and into love with her. I bet it didn't help for her to wish us both into this world, either. That was just more of a delay.
"I see you understand," Illiam commented, watching my expression. "Then know this: From the day Khansman touched his brand and became a pawn of him, Sheila has been the true target of the attempts on your life. Had she been eliminated, all hindrances would have been removed from your path."
Christ on a crutch! It made sense! The first attack was a drive-by shooting with ammo that annoyed me more than anything else. If Sheila had been hit, it could have killed her. And that night, in her bedroom, the mouse just stared at her. He hadn't continued looking for me. Then there was the kidnapping. Zig Zag had told me that Bjorn had pushed Sheila out of the way when the helicopter was strafing them.
Illiam nodded as I reasoned out what was happening. "But why isn't he trying to kill her now?" I asked, confused.
"Ahhh but he is. In fact, he has killed her once already," the dragon said with a small smile.
Confused, I thought about what he said. Sheila hadn't died, I had. I let out an audible moan, as I realized what he was implying. Lakesh thought I was Sheila! "He doesn't know that our spirits have swapped bodies!" I declared excitedly.
"Exactly," Illiam confirmed. "He interfered with the adaptation process for Sheila's body, altering its chemistry to make her scent a potent aphrodisiac to humans. Of course, this small change he wrought also made you immune to the poison on the blade today." The dragon was laughing at the last. Lakesh had inadvertently saved my life. Now that was a good one.
"You must be warned though," the dragon cautioned. "He still speaks to your old self. Sheila does not know this. He believes these thoughts are his own. The one who must remain nameless does this to drive you apart."
I thought about Sheila's reaction in the garden. His failure to mention the fact that I was in heat and a dozen other little things all pointed to Sheila not acting like himself. Now Lakesh had really pissed me off. God only knows what kind of twisted crap he was feeding Sheila. The longer we stayed in this reality the harder Lakesh would try to divide us.
"The wish that Sheila made," I prompted the dragon. "That we would find a way to bring Bjorn back. Obviously it brought us here. What do we have to do so that she can accomplish her goal of bringing him back?"
The dragon just shook his head. "You have already accomplished your goal," he said quietly.
Now I was lost again. "I don't understand, Illiam. Bjorn's still dead. How could our goal have been accomplished?" I asked, still confused.
With large, sad eyes the dragon looked up at me and sighed. "When you were dead. Your spirit returned to the studio. Who came to greet you there?" he asked, probing my memory.
"Why, Bjorn of course," I said, worried where this was leading.
He just stared at me. Waiting for me to get it.
As the realization sank in, I understood. "He came back for me. My death brought him back. Not in life, but in death," I said, finally comprehending the curse of the wish. "Is there any way we can return him to life?"
Illiam nodded, still sad. "There is one way," he said reluctantly. "You must obtain an object called the Chro'nisphorum. It belonged to a Greater Dragon of this world by the name of Illialakeska. It is in the possession of the Imperial Court Sorcerer at the capital."
I nodded absorbing the information, committing it to my memory.
"There is one problem," he warned, again unsure how to explain. "This is another of his devices. If she uses it, she will travel back in time to a point before Bjorn died. Back further even than that, to a point before she met you." He paused, collecting his thoughts. I could see the struggle going on as he decided what to say. "If she does this, Bjorn will be restored, but at the cost of all we have worked for. You two will never meet. Since she must have the amulet to return to her home reality, you will never get it from Lisa since there can only be one medallion in existence at any time. The quest will never be completed. All will be lost."
I sat there for a moment, mourning my friend again, knowing he was lost to us in this life. Sheila had truly and permanently lost her one, true love. I knew I could safely say that since the love she felt for me was no more than part of my wish. At times, I wondered if the love I felt for here were just as false. I could only hope it was for real.
"Now," Illiam said, interrupting my thoughts. "We must get you back into your body. The Duchess lies mortally wounded, and only arcane magic can cure her."
Arcane magic? "I don't understand. What's this arcane magic you're referring to?" I asked.
Illiam's eyes narrowed. "The healing power that Sheila has while within your body is arcane," he stated, explaining what he meant. "It is derived directly from the spirits. This world lost the secret to arcane magic with the death of Illialakeska. Sheila is now the only practitioner of the healing arts that can dispel the poison from the bolt."
I nodded as I reached out for the amulet understanding that Gwen's life now lay in Sheila's hand. It was ironic that I must now convince Sheila to forgive my lover and convince him to cure her. Before touching the medallion, I paused. "If I need to speak to you again, how can I contact you?" I asked.
He laughed at me for a second. "Just used the amulet to cross back over into the astral. It is the key to the barriers, you know," he said, stating the obvious.
I let out another low moan at my own stupidity. I had known that, it just hadn't sunk in. Touching the amulet, I closed my eyes and willed myself back into my body.
The pain in my shoulder quickly let me know that I had once again returned home. Opening my eyes, I saw Sheila sitting on a chair by my bed, asleep. Slipping my feet over the edge, I used my legs to leverage myself around so I could sit up.
As I sat there, I took inventory of myself. Although my shoulder was clearly injured, I appeared to be otherwise unharmed. My fur was clean of blood so I presume someone had cared for me while I was unconscious. The fact that I felt neither weak nor excessively tired was a good indicator that I hadn't lost too much blood.
For a moment, I sat and looked at Sheila as he slept in the chair. He had told me he never wanted me to touch him again. Obviously he had calmed down since then or he wouldn't be in here sitting by my side.
I stood and stepped over to Sheila, bowing my legs out so that I straddled him and then gently sat down. Sheila stirred, sensing the pressure. With a smile on my face, I sat there, watching him as he blinked himself awake. Using my good paw, I pulled myself towards him and kissed him.
"Good lord, Arden," he said, pulling back from me. "What are you doing out of bed?"
I smiled at him as I put my cheek against his. "I'm apologizing, my love," I said quietly. "Even though, according to the 'Girls Book Of Rules,' you are the one who should apologize."
Sheila pushed me back so he could look me in the face. "This is no time for jokes," he said, concern clearly written on his face.
"It's no joke," I said seriously. "Whether you believe me or not, I never betrayed you with another man." Sheila started to speak, but I pressed my paw to his mouth. "Hear me out, my love. Yes, my scent was all over the man from the mews, but that's because I needed him for a decoy. In exchange for my not killing him, he agreed to seduce the Duke's mistress. In doing so, it allowed me to trick the Duke into bedding Gwen that night."
I could see Sheila as he processed what I had said, some understanding of the situation coming to him. "There was no way my plan would succeed if he didn't have my scent to seduce the woman with," I explained further. "The same goes for Gwen. She, too, bore my scent, bringing her husband to her bed that night." I looked into his eyes, pleading from my soul. "I never betrayed you, my love."
Sheila looked confused. It was as if his world were being turned on its ear. "I don't know, Arden," he said, searching for the words. "I want to believe you, but something tells me you're lying." He looked at me with pain filled eyes.
"The dragon!" I exclaimed, realizing what was happening. "Sheila, listen closely. The dragon doesn't know that we have swapped bodies. It believes that you are still in this one. He is the one responsible for all the carnage. He's been trying to kill you from the beginning!" I prayed that the urgency in my voice would get through to Sheila.
"But...why me?" he asked, not understanding.
"Because you were a hindrance to my quest," I explained, almost crying. "You kept me in your world for over two weeks. The dragon wanted me out as fast as possible. Every act of violence against me was really aimed at you. Even Bjorn. He died shoving you out of the line of fire from the helicopter. Had he not done that, you would be dead."
I could see the fire in Sheila's eyes as he realized that what I said was true. "But nobody has tried to kill me since we got here," he stated, not quite getting it all.
"Yes they have, love. I have died here already," I reminded him, his eyes getting wide with the realization. "He altered my chemistry, changing my scent so it would be irresistible to humans. Fortunately it also made me immune to the poison on the dagger I was stabbed with."
Sheila's head snapped up at me as I said the last. "How did you know there was poison on the dagger?" he demanded.
I gave him a sly smile. "I had a long talk with the dragon of this realm. He explained what was happening to me, to us, including the fact that I was immune to that particular poison because of the change Lakesh made in me."
I could see Sheila becoming angry. "I see it all now," he declared. "The whispers in the back of my mind. Don't tell you about being in heat. Stay away from the room while you're in heat. Don't worry about your anxiety. It was all a pack of lies."
I nodded, caressing his face. "I'm sorry, my love," I said softly. "We have allowed him to control us, to dominate our lives. I swear by all I hold dear and sacred to me I won't allow that to happen again."
It was the voice of the dragon, but a mere whisper in my ear. I stood up from Sheila's lap, his face surprised at my sudden move. Moving over to the armoire I opened it and removed the housecoat. Looking at the remaining dresses within, I suddenly thought, "And then there were three."
"What do you think you're doing?" Sheila demanded, trying to stop me from putting the housecoat on.
"Gwen is dying," I said, slipping into the mask the machine. I had a mission to perform. I had failed to protect Gwen. Now I had to see that she didn't die. My voice assumed a commanding tone. "We must go to her."
For a second, Sheila hesitated and considered arguing with me. One good look at the steel in my eyes was enough to dissuade him of that idea. Lending me a hand, he helped me put the coat on over my wounded shoulder and tie it in the front.
Sheila took the lead, preceding me upstairs to the Duke and Duchess' chambers. As we approached I saw several guards as well as Captain Moore, the head of the Duke's personal guard.
"Hold it right there," Moore said as we approached.
"Please," I said, stepping around Sheila. "We must be allowed to pass."
The officer just shook his head as his men took up position behind him. "I'm sorry, but nobody is permitted past, especially you," he declared.
I was stunned by the last part. "What do you mean by that? Why are we not permitted to pass?" I demanded.
The captain's expression hardened even more than it had been before. "His highness has decreed that you are not to be permitted anywhere on this floor. You must return downstairs," He directed. The guards behind him had their hands on their swords, ready for a fight.
"What?" I asked, totally confused. "Why would the Duke order us away?" This didn't make any sense.
"Not the Duke. Prince Hiram gave specific instructions that you were to be denied access," he stated, correcting my confusion. "You will leave now."
I was stunned. "You mean that rapist ordered you to keep us away from Gwen?" I asked not believing my ears.
"Watch your tongue, bitch!" he snapped back at me. "You will show respect to the prince or I will teach you some respect."
"HA!" I laughed back at him. "The only respect I'll show him will be at his grave when I piss on it," I growled back.
The captain took a step forward, probably intending to hit me, but froze at the low echoing rumble that came from behind me. Sheila was growling. It was a sound I had never heard before.
As I watched, most of the guards took a staggered step backwards, though the captain managed to stand his ground. I felt Sheila as he pushed by me, ignoring me, stalking forward with a look on his face like he was ready to kill something.
"What did you call her?" he asked, his voice so low it was barely audible.
The captain drew his weapon and stood his ground as Sheila continued to approach. I just stood there and stared, rooted to the spot in fear at what Sheila was about to do. There was a rage on his face the likes of which I'd never seen before.
Once he had gotten within four feet or so of the captain, Sheila literally roared causing the other guards to scatter and flee. Even the captain backed up a step at the sight and sound of the man-creature before him.
The captain, seeing an opening as Sheila roared, leapt forward in an attempt to strike him. Sheila rotated away from the arc of the blade, causing it to miss his neck and allowing him the start of a snap kick that caught the warrior behind the shoulder and knocked him off balance.
As the captain stumbled forward, trying to catch his balance, Sheila snapped a second kick out, striking the tall man in the side of the head, sending him sprawling on the floor. I watched Sheila walk over and pick the dazed man up and held him against the wall. To my horror, Sheila began to beat Moore.
It was Illium's voice, breaking the spell that held me fast. "No!" I yelled as I charged towards Sheila. Grabbing his arm, I tried to prevent the next blow but he just flung me free. "Damn it, Sheila, STOP!" I yelled as I again grabbed his arm and pulled, feeling pain rip through my shoulder at the strain. He just ignored me.
I knew I had to do something radical, so I did the first thing I could think of. I bit Sheila, hard. He screamed in outrage as he dropped the now unconscious man and batted me away.
I skidded to a halt against the opposite wall with a small thump. Fearing for my life I stood and backed away from Sheila. I was now the target of his rage. "Don't let the dragon control you!" I commanded, trying to make Sheila understand what was happening to him. "Damn it, Sheila! It's the dragon's rage! You must fight the rage!" I pleaded to deaf ears.
I knew there was no way I could defeat Sheila so I did the only thing I could. I stopped and stood, my arms at my side. Within my mind all of my combat instincts urged me to run, but I stood my ground, watching as he approached me, my eyes pleading.
Sheila's left hand shot out and grabbed the housecoat, lifting me before him as he drew his right hand back. I knew he was lost to the dragon. I closed my eyes and turned my head, forgiving him for what I knew would come. I hung there suspended in time, each heartbeat separated by a small eternity as I waited for the blow.