Story (c) 2000 by Hikaru Katayamma/Keith Dickinson. All rights reserved.
The character Sheila Vixen (c) Eric W Schwartz. Throckmorton P Ruddygore,
Poqua, Lakash (c) Jack L Chalker. 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
Sheila and Hecate sat opposite each other, sipping their coffee by the fire. At sundown, Sheila had decided to stop their third day's march up the mountain at a wide spot in the road. The undead guard had managed to scrounge up enough wood during the days travel for a decent fire. Together they sat, sipping coffee until Sheila suddenly asked, "Well?"
A startled Hecate looked up from her coffee, started to say something and then stopped. She bit her lip as she looked around, trying to think of something to say. Several times she started to speak, but stopped.
"Spit it out, damn it!" Sheila barked at the hell spawn.
Hecate stared at Sheila for a few seconds before shrugging. "It's an ummm " Looking for the right word, she chewed on her lip again and shrugged. " interesting story."
"Interesting?" Sheila echoed. "I've just told you a story that I don't believe half of and I lived through it, and all you can say is that it's an interesting story?"
A weak smile graced Hecate's face as she shrugged once again. "Well, I suppose so. I think interesting sums it up nicely." She leaned forward and gave the vixen a genuine smile. "Remember. I live in a land of magic where all the stuff you've described happens on a daily basis." She took another sip of her coffee and waved the cup towards Sheila. "Hell, I've even been to Earth Prime, so the stuff you described there is nothing new to me either."
Sheila sighed as her body collapsed slightly in on itself. "I suppose your right," she reluctantly admitted. "This has just been one long nightmare for me."
Hecate nodded as she poured herself some more java. "Now, you said that you worked in the movies. Where you a star or just a character actress?"
A sly smile graced the vixen's muzzle as she cocked an ear in the Imir's direction. "That depends on who else was in the film." She held her cup out for a refill as her eyes took on a twinkle. "When Zig Zag was working, nobody got billing over her. Nobody."
"Huh. Sounds like a real prima donna if you asked me," Hecate said with a grunt, placing the pot back next to the fire. Her head shot up at the sound of Sheila laughing.
"Zig Zag is many things," Sheila explained, trying not to laugh, "but she's no prima donna." Taking a few moments to get rid of the trailing giggles, Sheila shook her head at the confused Imir. "You don't understand. Zig Zag's not just the boss. She's the biggest thing to hit the industry since video."
"Wait a minute! That doesn't sound right," a confused Hecate said. "What kind of person both owns a studio and acts? What the hell kind of movies do you guys shoot?"
Sheila's ears perked up. "Why, porno movies, of course."
For a moment, Hecate stayed completely motionless as if she hadn't heard Sheila's answer. Then, slowly, a smile grew on her face as she began to laugh. "All, right. I don't know why I didn't think of it," she admitted, her grin now as big as the fox's, "but I should have thought of that. It just didn't occur to me that animal species would be into that sort of thing." One look at Sheila's reaction to her statement made Hecate hastily added, "No offense intended. I just don't know what else to call your kind."
The vixen glared at Hecate for a few seconds, her lips pursed and her ears laid back, before she grudgingly nodded and relaxed. "I guess I should get used to being referred to as an animal." She looked down at the fire, her ears somewhat wilted. "Lord only knows, Arden had to put up with it."
"You said that you fell in love with him after your boss hit him with the car, right?" Hecate asked, her brow furrowed with thought. "Were you involved with anyone before he showed up?"
Sheila shook her head. "Not really," She admitted. "Oh, there was Rod. We work together. We tended to hang out after hours some time, but I'd broken up with him the week before."
"What happened?" Hecate was leaning forward again, listening intently.
"I caught the bastard cheating on me," Sheila replied tersely.
"He stood me up for a date, and when I went to the club, I saw him
with this drop-dead gorgeous cheetah."
Sheila shrugged. "I confronted him the next day. Told him that until he got his priorities straight, he could fuck off."
"Yah. I know the feeling. It's never good when a man cheats on you," Hecate said solemnly.
"Oh, I didn't really care about that," Sheila said with a laugh. "It's the fact that the son of a bitch stood me up to be with a looker and didn't invite me in for a three way. I wouldn't have minded a piece of that ass." Sheila leaned forward and shot the Imir a predatory smile. "She definitely looked /tasty/."
Hecate opened her mouth to say something, then quickly snapped it shut, having decided not to say anything. After a minute she chuckled again. "I guess you are a lot more human than I took you for."
Sheila gave her companion a sideways look. "I'm not sure if I should take that as a compliment."
"Hmmm," Hecate said, considering the conundrum. "Neither do I."
A flash of light off in the distance caught Sheila's eye. Setting down her cup, she stood and walked out of the circle of light created by the fire and watched the horizon. Hecate, curious as to what Sheila was doing, followed suit. A couple of minutes later a flash of lightning in the distance illuminated a storm front that was headed their way.
"Oh man," Sheila moaned. "I hate lightning storms." She looked around and grimaced. "Damn. There's no place for cover around here."
Hecate frowned. "You don't know the half of it," she said as she studied the distant clouds. "That storm isn't natural. This isn't the season for it. There's an awful lot of magic being used to push that thing this way."
"Ross!" Sheila spit the name out like it was a curse. "That bastard knows I don't like lightning."
Hecate grabbed up what little provisions they had, dumping the coffee before stuffing the pot into the sack. "Grab your stuff. We've got to get moving."
Sheila shivered looking at the lightning, then turned and began to gather up her things. "What's going on? Where can we go?"
Hecate slung the heavy field pack over her back and picked up the sack of food before grabbing Sheila by the arm, dragging her up the mountain. "I know a cavern that we can take cover in. It will give us protection from the storm. It's not too far from here."
Giving the pack straps one last annoyed yank to adjust them, Sheila picked up the pace, catching up with Hecate. "What cave? Why the hell didn't you mention this thing before?"
Glancing back at the rapidly approaching storm front, Hecate cursed. "Because I didn't know what the hell you planned on doing up here," she griped, "and until you told me, I wasn't in any hurry to help you get anywhere."
"You bitch!" Sheila said. She never had a chance to complete her thought as Hecate spun around and grabbed her by the throat with one hand, choking the vixen.
"Don't ever call me that," the hell spawned said in a low, dangerous voice, "or I will kill you. Do you understand?" Here eyes bored into Sheila's brooking no argument. "I /will/ kill you!"
Sheila franticly pounded on Hecate's hand, trying to break the hold with no success. Her vision rimmed in red, she finally gasped out, "OK."
Hecate let go of the vixen and looked past her. "Now get a move on it. We don't have much time before that storm front gets here." Without a second glance, she turned and continued up the path.
Sheila glanced back over her shoulder at the storm and paused. The undead guard was still standing around fire. Using two fingers in her muzzle, she let out a shrill whistle. "Hey!" She yelled to the zombies. "Come on. Get your asses in gear! Let's go! Double time!" Without bothering to see if they followed, Sheila turned and started off after Hecate, cursing her pregnancy and it's detrimental effects on her ability to walk fast.
Hecate stopped about ten feet into the long, dark tunnel that led into the side of the mountain. It was a large tunnel, about ten feet wide and a good seven or eight feet high. The only delay had be removing a large bolder from the entrance. Fortunately, with the help of a little magic, it had been no real obstacle to the hell-spawned Imir. Presently, Sheila made her presence known as she stumbled her way into the cave, trailing a stream of curses.
"You're repeating yourself," Hecate remarked offhandedly as she summoned up a ball of light to see by.
Sheila stopped ranting and walked over to Hecate, now that she could see her in the dark. "What was that?"
"I said, you're repeating yourself," the Imir replied, turning towards the vixen. "If you're going to cuss someone out, then at least be a little creative about it. That was the forth time you referred to him the same way. Here," She said, tossing the light to Sheila.
"Ack," Sheila cried out, dodging the light, which promptly vanished when it hit the ground. "What the hell was that?"
Hecate sighed and summoned up another sphere of light. "It's a Witch Light. Don't worry, it won't harm you, and unless you can see in the dark like I can, I think you'll need it." Again, she tossed the light to the vixen, only this time it was caught.
Holding the light high, Sheila moved a little further into the tunnel. "Wow this thing goes on for a bit, doesn't it?" She sniffed the air, taking in a good lung full and gagged. "My GOD! What's that smell?" Doubled over. Sheila was doing her best not to loose her dinner.
"Oh, that. That's just a dragon," the Imir replied offhandedly, as if everyone knew what a dragon smelled like. "Only it's quite stale. If I remember right, the dragon was defeated over 800 years ago.
Before Sheila could reply, there was a loud crack of lighting outside. Both women turned and watched as Sheila's undead guard started to amble around the corner. Another bright flash, immediately followed by a boom made both of them duck and cover their eyes, both to protect them from the flash as well as the falling dirt in the cave. Blinking away the spots, they looked back outside the tunnel and into the gloom. Lying on the ground, they both saw the littered remains of armor that had once been Sheila's guard.
"Son of a bitch," Sheila said, and then hastily added. "No offense," to Hecate.
"None taken," she replied with a worried look. "I suggest that we head deeper in. If this keeps up, he could bring the mouth of the cave down on us." Giving the roof a nervous look, the Imir started down the tunnel, farther into the cave.
"Wait a minute," the jumpy vixen said, latching onto Hecate's arm and preventing her from leaving. "I don't want to get trapped in this cave if that bastard collapses it!"
Snatching her arm away from Sheila, the Imir in turn grabbed the vixen's arm and started dragging her deeper. "It's either that or get your ass fried outside. Don't worry, I know of other exits to this place."
Presently the two emerged into a much larger cavern, one in which Sheila's small light wouldn't illuminate. The pair stopped a few feet in at which point Hecate muttered a spell, illuminating the center of the cavern.
"Holy SHIT!" Sheila exclaimed at the sight before her. Sitting in the middle of the room was what appeared to be a statue of a dragon. The statue was, nose to tail, roughly 100 meters in length, though its size was difficult to judge, as it was not stretched out. The wings, which were stretched out, rested limply on the floor. From tip to tip they covered over 50 meters. The twisted shape as it lay on the ground gave the illusion of having just fallen in battle, though the layers of dust that covered the creature showed that it was only an illusion. "What the fuck is that?" Sheila asked in awe.
"That," Hecate replied, not without a touch of awe in her voice, "is the last of the greater dragons. Or at least what's left of him."
Sheila took a hesitant step forward without noticing the bones that she had to kick out of the way. "That's Sha'kull?"
"Yep. That's him," the Imir answered.
"Is he dead?" Sheila asked as she began making her way over to him.
Hecate followed the vixen across the bone-strewn floor, trying not to step on anything. "Not exactly. The Sorcerer Ruddygore couldn't kill it outright, since it's something akin to a demigod, so he put it in a form of stasis. Hey!" the Imir said, her brow furrowed. "How did you know his name?"
Sheila continued forward towards the dragon, kicking bones out of her way. "It's the reason I had to come here."
"Shit," the hell spawn spat out as she increased her pace to catch up with Sheila. "What the hell are you planning to do?"
Sheila spun with the wakazashi and tanto drawn. "Back off," she commanded, causing the Imir to stumble to a halt. "I've got a quest of my own to fulfill and neither you or anyone else is going to stop me from accomplishing it."
"You're insane!" Hecate said, showing true fear. "You don't understand what your doing. If you free Sha'kull, he'll kill both of us and go on a rampage that will lay waste to the lands."
Sheila smiled and put the tanto away while still backing towards the dragon.. "I have no intention of freeing Sha'kull," she replied as she took an object out of her pocket. "I'm going to release the dragon all right, but Sha'kull won't be in charge."
Reaching the dragon, Sheila sheathed her wakazashi and withdrew the odd looking dagger that she had gotten from Rathsmon. Unfolding the cloth, she took the glowing crystal out and slid it into the blade the way he had shown her, clipping it down so it couldn't drop out. She glanced over towards Hecate who was slowly backing out of the ring of light, towards the tunnel they'd come in through. She turned back to what she was doing when she heard Hecate cry out in pain. He head snapped back around to see Hecate stumble forwards a step, her hands wrapped around the shaft of a spear that protruded from her stomach. As the hell spawned sank to her knees, Sheila saw a tall human woman dressed in rabbit furs step up, put her foot on the Imir's back, and yank the spear out from her victim.
"Back away form the dragon," Kalla said, hefting her spear to throw it.
"No, please. You don't understand," Sheila pleaded.
"You're right. I don't understand, nor do I care," the huntress replied as she took aim. "Now back off."
Just before she was about to throw, her head snapped back with her eyes open in shock and surprise. Again her body jerked as her mouth tried to make a sound and failed. The tall woman turned slowly as she sank to the floor, revealing the haft of a stiletto stuck into her back about where her heart would be. Behind her stood Ross, the tattoos on his head glowing as he hovered above the floor. "How?" Kalla croaked out, leaning heavily on one arm.
"Father's got friends in hell," he replied with a chuckle. "You of all people should know that death isn't final for the likes of us."
Kalla tried to say something more, but failed as her arm collapsed, dropping her body to the floor.
Ross floated towards Sheila who stood with her back plastered against the dragon. As he approached, the light spell that Hecate had cast faded, leaving only the eery glowing runes on his skull for illumination as he floated towards her. A word of power created a much more subdued circle of light around Sheila as Ross floated near. "So, my pretty. I see you found your beau." A gesture with his hand snatched the dagger from Sheila's grasp and sent it flying to him. He examined it and the gem. "Too bad he won't be getting a new body just yet."
"Oh, I don't know about that," a raspy voice said behind Ross.
"What?" the startled sorcerer exclaimed as he caused the light to flare. A skeleton, the jaws sprouting fangs, cobbled together from bones that had been lying around the room lunged at him, passing through his defensive shields and sank its fangs into his throat. Ross let out a scream of horror as his body flailed out of control. For a minute, it quivered with spasms then the limbs slowly sank down, limp. After a minute of this, his body soon began to shrink in on itself as the organs, muscle and skin shrank and petrified. As this happened, the skeletal form seemed to take on skin, muscle and sinew of its own. When his corpse had been reduced to nothing but a gnarled knot of decrepit flesh did the skeletal form drop him.
"Ahhhh," it said, wiping it's lips. "That hit the spot." Bending over, the form picked up the dagger that Ross had dropped. "Here, my dear. I believe you will need this." Taking a step forward, he held the dagger out to Sheila.
Sheila tried to press into the dragon in order to distance herself from the creature before her. "Who are you? What are you?"
The creature paused and gave a bit of a smile, though it caused the skin to split and peel. "Why, don't you recognize me?" the figure said with a chuckle. "Just how many walking corpses do you know?"
Sheila stopped trying to press herself into the dragon and blinked at the corpse. "Rathsmon?"
He nodded, holding the dagger out again. "In the flesh, as it were, my dear."
Sheila took the dagger and gave the necromancer a confused look. "I thought you couldn't leave your forest?"
"That's not quite true," he said with a small chuckle. "I couldn't leave the proximity of the source of my power. Nor could I, or one of my undead, transport it anywhere. However, a mortal such as yourself could easily carry it for me."
"The source of your power?" the vixen asked in a confused voice. For a moment she thought about it then smiled. "That other gem you gave me. That's it, isn't it?"
Rathsmon smiled and nodded. "Exactly."
"So you've been with us the entire time?" she asked, examining the dagger to ensure the gem was still properly placed.
"Indeed. I thought it best to come along as it were. Not only in case you needed help, but to ensure that I got the reward that was promised to me." He moved close to the stone dragon and placed a skeletal hand on it. The fact that it was a right hand on the left arm didn't seem to bother him much. "Ahhh, yes. I can still sense life within. This will work. You know what to do"
Sheila nodded nervously, holding the dagger. "Ya, I remember."
"Good," Rathsmon replied as he moved away. "I'm going to get some distance since I can't move quite as fast as you. Remember, in and out, quickly."
"Yah, right," Sheila muttered under her breath. "Like I'm in any condition to do the hundred yard dash." She walked along the neck of the stone dragon until she found what she needed near the head. A spot where one of the scales was missing, leaving a small opening, just big enough for the dagger.
Bracing herself, Sheila plunged the dagger in. A layer of stone and dust exploded from the dragon as it jerked back to life. Sheila almost lost her grip on the dagger as the neck rose into the air. Fortunately her weight was enough to pull the dagger free, dropping her a couple of feet to the ground. Scrambling to her feet she turned and ran from the dragon.
The dragon, now freed from its imprisonment reared back, spread its wings and roared. The tail lashed out, destroying stalagmites and stalactites both as it whipped around the cavern. Crashing back down on its forelegs, it spotted the fleeing vixen. With one, clawed hand, it reached out, slamming it down in front of Sheila and blocking her path.
Again the dragon roared before opening its mouth and striking that the hapless vixen.