Wednesday, June 9, 2021

The Theta Option (4)


With the help of her skeletoid familiar, Jili located the object of her quest under deep snow. In a shallow cave, she laid out the pieces of Red Claw armor, and memory came flooding back. 

The daring amazon raid had the mission of killing her, as she was prophesied to destroy the Eolcan Empire. But a secret cabal wanted to turn the tables, using her against the dark realms. The Red Claw leader underestimated Jili's prowess at the age of six; a poison prick proved fatal against all attempts to counter it. 

Yet the leader had time to transfer command to her Second, called Caladra, who led the order still. She left her sword to her daughter Wayacth, herself a child at the time. By wrestling a demon lord over the side, she bought time for the force to escape with its dubious prize. 

Jili set up the scry disk and cast about for auras used by Eolca. She made contact with a remote outpost. 

"What is your call sign?"  the Red Claw demanded. 

In reply, Jili held up the helmet.

The amazon's eyes widened on either side of the nose guard, but only for a moment. "It is death to possess the armor. What is your intent?"

"To give it back," Jili said. Who would be foolish enough to try and sell it to them? "I've come a long way to retrieve it for you."

Two others came in view behind the speaker. "Remains?"

"None but dust, the effect of the poison used."

The other knew better than to ask how Jili knew that, or even what her name was. "Your location?"

"Beneath Skulls 603, where Eiridne fell in battle."

"Have you access to a teleport?"

"I do, but I'm not about to get arrested in Eolca. You can claim the armor in Lunari."

"We will be there," the other said in dire promise. The connection faced. 

Just then, a giant gorgon head descended along with a giant vampire bat. Each bore a passenger. Good: Team Dan wouldn't require Jili to take the theta option. In that disaster, when one lost control of a teleport, he faced months of travel over hostile terrain. 

Unexpectedly, the skeletoid attacked, but a serpent lashed out to bite off his head.

"Cripes!" Zena guided the gorgon head above the resulting cloud of deadly spores. "Find what you're looking for, Jili?" 

"Ready to depart." Jili slung the sack over one shoulder. She passed the scry disk up to Dan, aware that only the gorgon head could carry two. After she mounted, the bizarre flight ascended to the hidden ledge concealing the teleport. 

The rest of Team Dan helped them climb through tangled dead scrub. Cambris misted back into Dan's canister, and Stheno became part of the mace again. 

Bonnie broached the subject on everyone's mind. "Jili. . . .we can see why this was so important to you, but it's not like you killed the Red Claw leader. Are you coming back to Lunari with us?"

"Briefly." For a fact, Caladra and Wayacth would be there with a full honor guard. Caladra had inherited the conspiracy along with the red headband of leadership. Along with two others, they faced the wrath of the senate if it became known. Ironically, Wayacth's grandfather, the academy master, was one of them. The other was a Sybil called Luzia. 

"Well, men," Zena decided, "I can feel that hot water already. Let's punch in that code."

Hot water indeed, Jili thought, stepping onto the plate. 

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