That was my voice, broken and filled with sobs; I couldn’t believe it, nor could I stop it. I shook him hard, watching incredulously as his head flopped around limply. I pressed my index and middle finger against his throat and found a slight pulse. Through my tears, I could see the slight movement of his nostrils and the even more subtle rise and fall of his chest. We wouldn’t be safe here for long, not with that beast on our tails.
I shouldn’t have brought him with me, not against this chimera, but he wouldn’t allow me to go on my own; neither would my mother. I raised my free hand, holding it over him as brilliant silver light sparkled into existence. I closed my eyes and sought out the abnormality in his body that kept him way from consciousness. As I worked, the cold medallion at my chest and the accessories in my hair begin to chime softly. I quickly pressed Nathan against the stone wall of the cave in which we hid. I could now feel the aura of the beast growing closer to our location.
Fear enclosed my heart in its fist, but the weight of the coin against sternum reminded me to remain calm. I knew that if it found us within, I wouldn’t be able to defeat it and save him. I scanned the cave in search of somewhere to hide him and immediately saw an odd rock formation surrounded by shattered stone. I quickly picked him up and carried him behind it, laying him against the stone, out of sight from the entrance. I pulled the medallion from beneath my cotton shirt and held the rugged, worthless copper piece tightly within my fist.
“May the Goddess guide me,” I whispered aloud, “grant me the courage to save him. I cannot fail to return the kindness he has shown me; even if I must die to reach that end.”
Blue light spilled out between my fingers and I immediately tore the medallion from my neck, reflexively flinging it away from me. I took a shaking step backwards, only to see the medallion’s blue light begin to solidify and rise, before taking the form a woman. When the light finally dissipated, my jaw dropped in disbelief at the sight before me. Standing before me, in all her glory, was the Deity known as Sekhmet! She wore the ancient gown depicted in the history books, as well as ornate golden jewelry and a headdress fashioned from the head of a lioness. I felt the urge to kneel before her and apologize for treating her vessel with such disrespect.
“Kneel not before me, little one,” she commanded, “I have come because you called. You know nothing of Zephyr’s past, but she and I have an agreement. What is it that you desire, I will do what I can to assist you.”
Millions of questions flooded through my mind, but the subtle quakes beneath my feet and the mixed sounds of roars, bleats and hissing of the chimera stilled my mind. I had to focus on my goal; killing it and protecting Nathan.
“Ask what you must little one,” her lips rose into a warm smile, “For now, my powers are weak, but I can remove some of the poison, giving him a better chance of survival. I can also lend you this, though, since it is a portion of my power, it will only remain in this realm for a few minutes.”
She held out her hand and small, blue-black orb appeared from nothing. I couldn’t believe that this was real, it was so absurd that a Deity’s vessel was some cheap medallion... but I couldn’t reject it. I was afraid because I wasn’t in control. There was no doubt in my mind that if I accepted her help, I would be bound, but we would both die if I acted obstinate.
“Be not fearful, little one. Zephyr is coming, of this I am sure, for she always knows when I awaken. At this very moment, you must choose; fight with courage or cower in fear. Should you choose the latter, I will make sure your passage from the Alter to the Void is quick and painless.”
Sweat began to penetrate my pores and I decided to move forward and accept her deal. I couldn’t die here, I couldn’t let down my town, my friends, my family...
“Whenever you need me, call upon me,” she concluded as grasped the pulsated black orb in her palm, “Lunasi yi Umasuri te Herine Cugare.”
Warmth filled my body and every muscle seized against the power flowing through, I began to cry profusely, at first afraid of what was happening. Before I knew it, the fear had subsided and all I could think about was defeating that which threatened to destroy everything I cared for. She was gone, but in her place, I held the long shaft of a spear whose blade was as dark as the night of a new moon.
Lunasi yi Umasuri te Herine Cugare.
Her words echoed through my mind, but they were foreign to me. I’d never heard a language like that before, but the more I repeated them, the stronger I felt. I looked over my shoulder, smiling as I saw Nathan move slightly in discomfort. I turned back to the entrance as the quaking footfalls of the massive beast grew more violent. I charged forward, holding my spear by my side in my upturned fist. I knew what I needed to do, and I knew I didn’t have enough time to slay the beast. I had to cripple it somehow, I had to buy time.
“Remember, little one,” her soothing voice filled my mind, “call on me if you must, if you fall, I will pick you up. If you are afraid, remember those words. They hold an ancient will within them, one that can defy all odds if you are willing to pay the price. It may be your body, or parts of your soul, even your mind. Thinking them is child’s play but speaking them is payment.”
I could feel her consciousness fade into the Void, a place beyond my comprehension, but somehow, I was aware of its connection to me. She spoke again, this time louder, and I snapped my head forward. The beast had rounded the corner, partially blocking the radiance of the full moon outside.
I charged forward into the moonlight.
I planted my left foot in preparation for the throw.
I could feel the power flooding in from the Void. It hurt, but it felt magnificent as well. The air around me shifted, thickening with the impending spell. Everything seemed to slow down as reality shifted. The lion’s maw began to spill forth with smoke and flame as the red glow slowly intensified. I could feel everything, the air moving against my skin, the heat wafting from the lion.
I leaned forward and pivoted my hips. Deep within me, primal rage exploded outwards in a bellowing scream as my muscles tightened and my right arm rocketed forward, releasing the spear.
“I AM THE COURAGEOUS CHILD OF LUNARIS!”
The spear shot forward with such force that for a second, the entire world around us fell silent. Then, mid pose, I was thrown down by a concussive blast so strong that my ears began to ring. As I hit the ground and limply rolled a few feet, I saw two things happen that solidified my loyalty to Lunaris and Sehkmet.
The first was the sight of the spear cutting the fireball that had just left its maw. The fireball split into a flurry of flame and cinder, striking the mouth of the cave. This sent flaming hot debris my way, but I was pulled to safety by Nathan who had come to only seconds before. The second, which I wasn’t even surprised about, was the sight of the lion’s head rearing back from my blow, only to be met by Zephyr. Her massive, squared, double sided hammer was held high and swung low, completely turning the lion’s head into a fine mist.
She hadn’t lied; Zephyr had come to save them both, and those words, when spoken aloud, exacted their cost. Soon, Zephyr was at my side, examining me, her face a mixture of pride and fear.
“I am courageous, Zephyr,” I bragged, fighting against the weakness that followed in the wake of my magic fueled adrenaline surge, “a child... of... Lunaris...”
My eyelids grew heavy, but sleep did not come. The moment my body feel under, I awoke in a world that was not unlike my own. Beside me, sat Sehkmet, cradling my head in her hands.
“Welcome,” she said, smiling down on me, “and may the Goddess bless you.”