"Keep who from killing you?"
Both girls' necks snapped around so fast that they could almost be heard as a
slightly damp Dawl materialized in the patio doorway.
Sheken swallowed hard and shifted in her chair. "Hi, Mom."
The tiny demoness glanced from her offspring to her niece. Both of them were
struggling to mask the 'deer in the headlights' look that had suddenly
plastered itself across their features. Her empathic senses told her they were
up to something, but Adara was keeping a tight rein on her emotions and
Sheken's psionic strength gave her the ability to effectively block any
attempts to read her thoughts.
Keres came up behind DawL with two steaming mugs, handing one to his lover and
the other to Sheken. The tiny demoness gave him a scowl as her hypersensitive
sense of smell identified alcohol as part of the contents of the cup that was
now being quickly gulped by her errant child. He brushed aside her annoyance
with a gentle laugh and a shrug.
Adara moved over to the patio set and pulled up a chair. Lowering herself
gently she folded her hands in front of her and tried to think of a disarming
topic for conversation. "Aunt Vu, did you hear that they extended the green
line into Skyway City and all the way out to Founders Falls while you were
Dawl nodded. "That is fantastic news. That is an improvement that has been
Keres nodded his agreement. "Although with the base telepads, we don't use the
monorail nearly as much as we used to."
Dawl shook her damp tresses and smiled at him. "Remember when we used to have to
go all the way to Steel Canyon to catch a connecting line just to go from
Founders back to Atlas or Kings Row? The newer heroes have it much easier than
we did back then."
Sheken coughed softly and mumbled. "Speaking of new heroes..."
As both her mother and Keres riveted their attention upon her, she squirmed in
her chair. "I wanted to let both of you be the first to know..." she paused
dramatically, "...that Marcus got his certification this week."
Keres reached over to pound Dawl on the back as she spewed the mouthful of
liquid she'd been attempting to swallow. After a few tense moments of choking
and dabbing her coffee-covered décolletage with a napkin she finally managed to
recover her voice.
"He's officially a hero now, mom."
Dawl's jaw dropped. "Well," she snarled icily, "I guess the give out badges to
anyone who can tie a sheet around their neck and call themselves a hero these
Sheken took a deep breath and let it out in a protracted sigh. Keres gave her a
look of genuine concern. "Do you think he's sincere, Sheken?"
"I have no doubt of that," she answered emphatically.
A conspiratorial look passed between Sheken and Adara as the older girl
swallowed hard and continued.
"I guess I should also tell you that..." She gulped the last of her drink
as she invoked a lengthy pause while trying to summon the courage to drop her
verbal bombshell, "...he's asked me to marry him."
Keres wasn't sure if his mate was going to leap across the table and wrap her
fingers around her daughter's throat or keel over in a dead faint, but he was
taking no chances. He reached over and wrapped his arms firmly around her,
effectively pinning her in her chair. It took a moment for the initial shock to
subside enough for her to find her voice. The first sound she uttered sounded
much more like a growl than any verbage.
Adara moved close to Sheken and hugged her, more to shield her with her body
than to congratulate her.
"What the HELL are you thinking, Sheken? You aren't really going to do this,
are you?" Dawl shouted.
"Shhhh, sweets... the neighbors..." Keres began.
Dawl snarled as she spat an expletive that involved getting to know their
neighbors in ways he had no desire to experience. Turning to her daughter she
growled in a commanding tone, "You cannot marry him. I forbid this."
"Mom, please don't be like this. We LOVE each other," Sheken pleaded.
"He is a cold-blooded killer, Sheken! He doesn't know what love means."
"That is SO judgmental." Sheken snapped back. "You aren't even giving him a
"It isn't judgmental, it is realistic. Facts don't lie. He's nothing but a
"Mom," Sheken wailed, "you don't know him. He's changed."
The little demoness snorted derisively. "Yeah, right. Like a leopard changes
his spots. He's a KILLER. He was going to kill YOU. As it was, he kidnapped
you, and raped you. Or did you forget all that?"
Sheken blushed hotly and shifted her gaze towards the ground to avoid her
mother's piercing glare as she mumbled, "He said he was sorry, and I forgave
"He SAID HE WAS SORRY?" Dawl screeched. "How the hell does someone just SAY
they are SORRY for things like that? How can you even believe what he says?"
Adara spun around and faced her aunt as her eyes misted with tears. "Aunt Vu,"
she began, her soft voice quavering with emotion, "weren't you just telling me
earlier that what a person becomes is a result of the choices they make for
themselves? You aren't giving Marcus the chance to make those right choices."
The gentle child's words hit the demoness harder than any physical blow. For a
moment she stood speechless. Sheken began to cry. "I knew you wouldn't
understand," she sobbed.
Keres grimaced as the sound of the doorbell echoed from inside the apartment.
He was certain that it was the neighbors in the apartment below coming to
complain about the sound level generated by this skirmish. He shot Adara a
pleading look to let her know he wasn't ready to release the still fuming
demoness from his firm grip just yet. Adara leapt to her feet and ducked into
the house, only to return a moment later, trailed by a worried-looking Marcus.
A renewed growl rumbled deep within the small redhead's throat as she glared
daggers at the man who would be her new son-in-law. The force of that
realization caused her to suddenly burst forth from Keres' firm embrace with a
snarl and a loud crackle of electric energy. Keres stumbled backwards and
quickly moved to intercept her as she launched herself towards the doorway. He
caught her around the waist just as her talons raked the air within millimeters
of Marcus's jugular. Lifting her high into the air, he held her fast while she
Sheken jumped up and rushed to her lover, placing her body between the infuriated
demoness and an unflinching Marcus. "What are you doing here?" she asked
frantically. "I thought you were going to wait for me downstairs?"
"I was worried about you. Why should I let you be the only one to face the
music? This is as much my responsibility as it is yours," he stated gently. "I
love you and I belong at your side, no matter if you are fighting Tsoo, or...."
He nodded towards Dawl with a tense smile.
Sheken hugged him tightly as her mother seemed to run out of endurance. "Are
you going to behave?" Keres asked her as he lowered her to the ground and
turned her to face him. "You can't just kill him. That's doing the very thing
you are condemning him for, you know."
She took a deep breath and growled deep in her throat. She spun around but
Keres moved like lightning to step in between her and the young couple. "Look,
sweets, normally I am pretty indulgent with you, but this time I have got to
put my foot down. You are not going to attack him. Don't make me turn you over
my knee and give you a spanking." Normally this statement was interpreted as
foreplay and resulted in a few lighthearted swats on her rump as he carried her
off towards their bedroom. This time, however, he was met with a stony glare as
she sunk sullenly into the nearest chair.
"I know you don't like me," Marcus began slowly as he stepped towards the tiny
"That would be an understatement," she growled darkly.
"I don't expect you to. And though I know I have no right to ask this, I would
like you to do me one simple favor."
He was met with a deeper growl as her eyes narrowed.
"I know you have no reason to trust me. I just want an opportunity to somehow
redeem myself in your eyes. Please just give me one chance to prove to you that
I love Sheken, and that I truly have changed. Tell me what you want me to do to
prove this and I will do it, whatever it may be."
The green in her eyes flashed and glittered angrily as she thought upon his
words for a moment. "You want to prove how much you love her?" A vicious smile
curled upon her lips. "Fine. She is about to reach her age of awareness, upon
her next birthday. When that happens, the pieces of a dire prophecy will fall
into place and she will face her own brother and your dear friend Naimah in
battle. I want you to go back to the Rogue Isles, perform a binding ritual, and
banish Naimah from this plane forever."
Four sets of eyes widened and stared at the diminutive demoness. Keres found
his voice first. "Dawl, you know that is like sending him to a certain death."
She snarled and shook her head. "It can be done. And if he wants one chance to
prove how much he loves Sheken, he will be the one to do it."
Sheken clung to Marcus as she sobbed uncontrollably. Adara approached them and
hugged her cousin with tears running down her face. Both knew that Naimah was
the one who had managed to kill Azazela, a powerful, experienced heroine.
Marcus would not stand a chance.
He stood for a moment, staring deep into the eyes of his adversary. "I will
accept your challenge."
"Nooooo," Sheken wailed.
"It is done," Dawl nodded
darkly. "Return to me when Naimah is bound."
Marcus nodded and bowed, and
turned to Sheken, kissing her tenderly. "I will do this. For you." His
fingertip traced her jaw line, slick with the wetness of her burning tears.
"Don't worry. I will be back..."
He turned to head towards the
door and she clung to him. "I am going too."
"No." He set his jaw and
shook his head. "You can't go. Remember the prophecy. Don't give her a chance
to thwart you before you can fulfill it."
Sheken spun around and faced
her mother as she screamed. "All my life, I have lived in the shadow of this
stupid prophecy. I have HAD ENOUGH. It is MY life and I am going with Marcus."
"You will not go with him,"
Sheken took one step forward,
and met her mother's angry gaze, "I am an adult now, mother. I will do as I
DAMN WELL PLEASE and you CANNOT STOP ME."
Dawl snorted angrily as her
eyes blazed with an almost unholy light. Her hand sliced through the air in a
wide arc, aimed directly for her wayward daughter's flushed cheek. Before it
could make contact, however, it stuck a hard obstacle. Sheken raised one arm to
block the incoming blow, and with the other hand, returned a blow of her own,
driving her open palm firmly into the side of her astonished mother's face.
Before things could get any
further out of hand, the three bystanders intervened. Keres grabbed Dawl,
pulling her backwards and encircling her with his strong arms. Her legs flailed
as he lifted her off the floor with arms pinned to her sides.
Marcus and Adara had stepped
in front of Sheken, Adara taking her by the hand and Marcus putting his arms
gently around her waist. "Please, baby, this isn't going to help matters. Don't
make this any harder than it is."
Sheken's resolve and rage
subsided like a tide ebbing after a surge has passed. It left her drained and
shaking. She leaned into Marcus and began to cry.
Adara looked at Marcus and
shook her head silently. Keres had dragged Dawl back into the house. Marcus
followed their retreating forms with an agonizing look. He dreaded running that
gauntlet in order to get back to the door. Adara could read his sentiments
simply from the look on his face. "Let's take the back way out," she suggested
He looked at her with a
puzzled gaze. The small balcony did not connect to any other access. Just as he
was about to open his mouth and ask what she meant by a "back way out," she
leapt over the edge of the balcony without a word. Moments later, a startled
Marcus materialized next to a trembling Sheken on the sidewalk in front of the
building. "Thanks, Adara," he murmured with sincere gratitude.
"Anytime," she said, with a
solemn gaze. "You really can't be serious, Marcus. Naimah is the one who killed
"Of course I am serious."
They could both tell by the set of his jaw that he was determined to carry
through with his word. "If this is what I need to do in order to prove my love
for Sheken, then I will do it."
"This is insane, Marcus," Sheken
cried. "You can't go along with this. She knows there is a good chance you
won't make it back. That's why she suggested this."
Marcus cocked his head to one side thoughtfully, and drew a deep breath. "What
else can I do? She won't settle for anything less. And really, if you think
about it, either I deal with this now, or we must deal with it when the
prophecy comes true. Either way, I am going to face Naimah."
Adara turned and began
walking towards the tram, motioning for them to follow her. "I just thought of
something. Let's go to Salamanca. I need some advice, and I know just where to
Sheken and Marcus exchanged a puzzled glance, but followed the slender blonde.
Wordlessly, they boarded the monorail heading for Salamanca, and settled back
onto the hard bench seats to endure the long ride.
Adara stared out the window
at the changing hues of the leaves on the ancient trees. This had become home
to her, as much as the Kings Row apartment where she'd spent her youngest days
with her mother. She heaved a quiet sigh to herself. Why was she so
apprehensive, she wondered? After all, this is what they all wanted. Revenge.
Since the day her mother died, she vowed to repay her evil half-sister. Maybe
it was just time to make good on her vow.
Marcus held Sheken gently as
she laid her head on his shoulder. He, too, stared out the window, but he was
not drinking in the beauty of the forest. His mind was far away, in a place
full of malice, betrayal and evil. His brow furrowed with a grim scowl as he ruminated
on the fate that now was about to bring him full circle.
If it weren't for Naimah,
he'd probably never have seen Sheken again once he had delivered her safely to
Pocket D following his first encounter with her in which he rescued her from an
unfortunate drug-laced-drink misadventure. Because Naimah had subsequently
dispatched him to kidnap and later kill the girl, he found her in his home and
in his bed a second time. His train of thought ran headlong into the memories
of that fateful encounter. A wave of intense guilt flushed over him so hard
that it pressed tears from his eyes. As he closed them to stem the tide of
saline he saw her cowering in the corner of his shower. Suddenly the memory
replayed like some Technicolor film of the entire sordid act. He saw himself
grabbing her and lifting her up, slamming her into the corner where he could
pin her against the wall and impale her. She was sobbing so hard he thought for
a moment she was choking, and then she simply went limp in his arms. Finding it
hard to support her unconscious and slippery form, he reached behind him and
turned off the water. Scooping her up in his arms, he carried her into the
bedroom and laid her on the bed. In his memories he could hear her crying out
in pain even though she was unconscious. He remembered ignoring her responses
and roughly plunging ahead to gratify his own urges.
The remorse he felt as his
mind relived the assault made him physically ill. He opened his tear-filled
eyes and looked at the gentle, trusting girl who had become his friend and
lover. He was grateful to the succubus, Dark as Syn, who had entered Sheken's
fragile subconscious, and taken the memory from her. He sometimes wished that
Syn could have done the same for him, but reminded himself that even reliving
the terrible memory was still probably not near the punishment he deserved for
what he'd done. He held her gently in his arms as he tried to fathom how she
could possibly avoid hating him.
Sheken looked up into his
eyes and tried desperately to avoid probing into his private thoughts. The
longer they were together, the easier it became for her psionic powers to
penetrate his mental defenses. She opened her mouth as if to speak. Leaning in
close, he covered her lips with his own. He moaned softly as he pulled her
Across the aisle, Adara
blushed and turned away with a smile. She was a bit skeptical herself when she
met Marcus, realizing that he'd been a key figure in the plot that ended with
her mother's death. But the child had a tender heart and she felt that he'd
truly seen the error of his ways, so she was willing to give him the benefit of
Sheken and Marcus were
panting by the time the tram pulled with a clatter into the brightly lit
station at the edge of Salamanca. Adara always thought the building looked so
out of place against the backdrop of the sleepy little town.
She coughed loudly to alert
the lovebirds that they had reached their destination. She shook her head as
they both smoothed their hair and wiped their lips. Perhaps someday she would
understand what made people act in such a manner. For now, she was just
thankful that no others had chosen that exact time to venture to the region
called Croatoa, for they would have been treated to quit the show enroute.
Adara breathed in the sweet
fresh air as they walked down the cobbled streets of the quaint burg. The smell
of fallen leaves mingled with the crisp freshness of a lovely fall day. The
young couple followed closely, as Adara led them through the narrow streets to the
opposite side of the small town. They stopped when they reached an older brick
building near the larger university building. Adara lifted the worn ornate
brass knocker and let it fall with a loud thud. Almost instantly the door was
answered by a weathered older woman, whose face lit up with a smile as she
gazed down at Adara.
"Come in, my child. It was my
understanding that you were going to spend the weekend in Paragon City. Is something wrong?" Even though she realized Mary often knew the answers before she
asked the questions, Adara nonetheless politely nodded.
"I wouldn't bother you, ma'am," Adara said, in a tone of quiet respect, "but I
have a serious problem that requires more knowledge than I have attained so
Mary nodded sagely. "You know
that I will do anything within my power to help you, Adara. You have become one
of the best students ever to grace our institution. Tell me, child, what is it
that is troubling you?"
As she spoke, the woman
gestured for the trio to enter and follow her down a narrow hallway. The
ancient pocket doors rasped softly as she slid them open to motion them towards
a group of chairs near an ornately carved desk. The room was full of warm smell
of old books mingled with lingering tones of myrrh, cinnamon and clove. As
Adara began to relate her tale, Mary eased herself into the worn leather chair
behind the desk with a grave expression on her face. She listened attentively
while the girl explained the events leading up to Marcus being sent to the
Rogue Isles on this nearly impossibly mission to bind the very demoness that
had killed her own mother.
When she'd finished, the sage
sorceress leaned forward and folded her hands into a steeple as her gaze swept
over the three unlikely heroes seated before her.
A pall of silence hung over
the room for many moments before she cleared her throat and looked directly at
Marcus with a stern glare. "You realize that your previous actions precipitated
this situation, do you not?"
He swallowed and dropped his
gaze to the floor, answering her with a nod and a meek "Yes, ma'am, I do."
Sheken opened her mouth as if to speak in his defense, but the woman silenced
her with a look. Turning her gaze to Adara, she spoke in a low voice. "Do you
have any idea of the danger you will face?"
Adara nodded and answered
her, "Yes. That is why I came to speak with you. This is not a task that I
would undertake lightly."
"It is not one that you
should deem to undertake at all," Mary retorted. "Do your parents know of
Adara shook her head. "Mom's
been very busy..."
Mary smiled a sad little
smile. "Of course she has, dear." She stood up suddenly. "Wait here."
Mary disappeared through a
small side door as the three gazed at each other in puzzled silence. When she
returned, she had a worn tome in her hands. The leather binding was faded and
cracked and the edges of the pages were worn, but a pale light seemed to glow
from between them. She laid the book on the desk before her as a chill wind
blew through the room. The lights dimmed as Sheken shuddered and scooted closer
to Marcus. Adara simply stared at the volume in reverent awe.
"This," Mary began, "is the
second Testament of Solomon."
All three pairs of eyes
riveted upon the book looked up simultaneously to give her a puzzled look.
"The ancient king?" Adara
asked in a tone of awe.
The wizened woman nodded.
"While the first testament told of the demons he bound and ordered to build his
temple, this volume gives very specific instructions for the binding, and
contains..." her voice trailed as her nimble fingers lifted the worn cover that
looked as though it might crumble to dust at her touch. A diffuse golden glow
emanated from the pages as she opened the book, casting an eerie light upon her
visage. She muttered a few unintelligible syllables and held her hand over one
of the pages that bore a glowing picture of a ring, surrounded by a cadre of
ancient symbols. As she chanted, she raised her hand slowly and the picture
seemed to somehow lift itself from the ancient page to float upwards into her
outstretched hand. The image wavered and contorted as it hovered just above her
palm, casting a ghostly glow upon her skin. It seemed to grow smaller as it
appeared to fold around itself until it had morphed from the flattened picture
into the form of thick metal ring that dropped with an audible plop in the
center of her palm.
She turned to Adara, with a
grave frown on her face. "I cannot give this to you," she said flatly. She
leaned forward and crooked a finger at an astonished Marcus, who leaned across
the desk in obedience to her silent summons.
"You," she began darkly,
"must take charge of this precious relic. This was entrusted to me by its
previous owner, on the condition that I guard it jealously and insure that its
power never be abused."
"What...what is it?" Marcus
"This is the Seal of Solomon.
By the authority of He whose name is upon this seal, you may bind demons to do
your bidding." Mary gave him a stern glare. "I give you this ring for the
purpose of binding the demons who murdered Azazela, and who oppose your
"My family?" Marcus asked, in
a hoarse whisper as Mary grabbed his hand and slid the ring onto his right
index finger. The ring pulsed with light for split second before wrapping
itself tightly around his trembling digit.
"You are betrothed to Sheken,
are you not?"
Marcus recoiled in shock.
"I know many things that
remain unspoken, young man. Let me warn you of this. This ring is only to be
wielded by one with integrity. If you are not that one, then speak up now. If
it is used for malicious or selfish reasons, it will bind not only the demons
but will also bind your own soul."
Marcus swallowed hard. "Why
me? Why not Adara or Sheken?"
"They cannot bind that from
which they came. Both girls are descendants of a prince of demons, the wicked
Azazel. This ring, sadly, cannot be worn by those of demonic bloodlines, no
matter how pure their intent. To do so, even for a short time, would be enough
to bring punishment upon themselves and their descendants."
She stood up straight and
glared daggers into his eyes. He suddenly felt as though her gaze was burning a
path straight through him and into his very soul. "Marcus Aurelius Vespa, do
you vow to use the power of this seal only according to that which is good and
true, in the eyes of the One whose name is inscribed upon it?"
Marcus trembled as he dropped
to his knees. "I do," he gasped, his voice quavering.
She reached down and placed a
gnarled hand upon his forehead. "Go, and do this task, however, I must warn you
that it will not be without great cost."
He rose to his feet slowly
and looked the sorceress in the eyes. "Will Sheken be saved?"
A strange smile crept over her face. Wordlessly, she nodded. "Marcus, you are
indeed upon a path that will lead you to redemption."
She turned and looked at
Adara. "My child, you were born with incredible power. Even though you are
still very young, the impact of your deeds will be felt far into the realms of
Hell. Remember the amulet. It will serve you best when the time comes."
Adara reached down and fingered the stone embedded in the buckle of her belt.
She nodded gravely at her wizened mentor. "Thank you. We could not undertake
this mission without your help."
The elder woman gave her a
terse nod. "Two children and one man are setting out to attempt a task where
teams of experienced heroes have failed."
Sheken made a face when the
sorceress deemed her also a child, but Mary turned to her with a stern
countenance. "You have much to learn before you reach your age of awareness. In
many ways, little Adara is wise far beyond both your ages. Watch her and learn,
Sheken. I say this not to bruise your feelings nor to demean you, but as a
warning. You have heard it said, pride goes before the fall, and holding its
hand to drag you over the precipice is overconfidence. Embrace your weaknesses,
and learn from them, and the strength you gain by doing so will increase
Sheken swallowed the curt
remark she'd first formed as a reply, and humbly nodded.
"You have all the assistance
that I have to offer, save my keeping you in my dearest prayers." Mary moved
towards the doors. As they grated noisily open, the three fledgling heroes
gazed at each other and simultaneously drew a deep breath.
Adara reached out her arms as she moved towards the door, hugging the sorceress
tightly. "I will expect you to make up the school work you are going to miss
while you are on this little adventure," Mary said, a mischievous grin lighting
up her eyes. "Think of this as a field trip." She winked at the small girl.
"Promise me this. You must tell your parents where you are going before you
Adara nodded solemnly. "I
will. I promise."
Sheken and Marcus bowed with
respect and thanked Mary for her kind assistance as she ushered them to the
door. On the way back to the tram, Sheken spoke up first.
"I have heard many things
from my mom about her. It seems they were all true. She appears to be an
Adara nodded. "I've been in school there since I was four. She's always treated
me like I would expect she'd treat her own child. I have nothing but the utmost
respect for her."
Marcus remained strangely
silent, a mask of worry drawn across his rugged features. Sheken squeezed his
hand as the sun began to set and the streets took on an eerie pall. Deepening
shadows crept forth from a ghostly glow that emanated from more than just the
antiqued street lamps. They picked up their pace until they were almost running
as the ramp leading up to the monorail station came into view. A car was just
arriving as they approached the gate. Two older heroes sped out the doors as
they opened, gesturing with a friendly nod to the youthful trio as they slipped
into the car. Sliding into a seat beside Marcus, Sheken once again laid her
head on his shoulder. Adara, lost in thought, watched out the window as
darkness gathered across the scenic landscape.
A dark figure slipped quietly
from the small yacht onto the dock. This was not a pleasant beachhead off the
coast of Paragon City, that much was for certain. The air was pungent with the
stale odor of fish combined with the metallic smells of brine and petroleum.
She pulled the thick velvet hood of her cape down over her face, effectively
occluding her features. Stopping at the end of the pier, she approached a
drably clad old man who might have been a sea captain before whatever lot in
his life brought him to this fateful place.
"Can you tell me the way to
the Imperium Clinic?" she asked in a hoarse, rasping whisper.
He eyed her suspiciously for only a moment, and then nodded his head in a
northerly direction. "Up the stairs until ye hit the street. Head west down the
street, go around the curve, then make a left at the intersection. It's the
second set of doors on the left from the corner. Older brownstone building.
Right across the street from building with the big HappyCorpse billboard. Can't
miss it." He curled his upper lip and flipped his hand over in an overt
gesture. She reached into her décolletage and produced a crisp bill, palming it
to him as she shook his hand. He gave her a wide grin that displayed the
results of his lifelong lack of dental care.
She nodded a wordless thanks
and made her way up the pier. Slowly she climbed towards the street, keeping
her gaze upon the ground except for an occasional furtive glance to insure she
didn't run into anyone that might cause her trouble.
Immediately after she rounded
the curve in the road, she saw the billboard for "HappyCorpse Morgue overflow
service." She shuddered at the thought of what possible end products such
overflow might produce. An image of Dr. Vahzilok immediately came to mind
making her pause long enough to will the twisted images from her psyche.
She pulled open the heavy oak
door to step into the reception area of the clinic. She inhaled deeply,
appreciating from the very smell that the doctor was indeed a wealthy and
powerful man. The furniture was all the finest imported leather. The thick
carpet was a deep burgundy. Gleaming cherry paneling covered the walls. If not
for the copious amount of lush plants, the huge cathedral style windows, bright
paintings, and well placed lighting, the dark colors might have been
overwhelming. Instead, the entire décor oozed of opulence and tranquility.
She allowed her eyes to
adjust to the change in light levels from the overcast daylight. The dark
glasses she wore made it hard to see clearly in the indoor lighting. Smoothing
her long gown, she pulled her thick cape tight around her and approached the
raven-haired dainty young woman who was seated behind an ornate desk of
polished mahogany. "May I help you?" she asked politely.
The woman nodded and gestured
with a hand towards the back. "I'd like to see the doctor," she said in a husky
Syndi Johansson had seen many
people come through the doors in her long tenure as Doctor Maritus' personal
lackey. Her senses tingled slightly as she peered up at the partially hidden
visage that peered from beneath the dark cloak. Gently, she probed for access
to the woman's thoughts, but found her efforts rebuffed.
"Do you have an appointment?"
Enveloped in the shadows of
the shrouded hood, the woman shook her head.
Pursing her delicate lips
Syndi dutifully nodded and asked, "May I tell him the purpose of this visit?"
The dark figure shifted her
weight from one foot to the other.
"What kind of problem are you
having," Syn asked gently.
After a moment of hesitation,
the woman answered in a hushed rasp, "I do not have a problem. I bring a
Syndi's face registered a
truly puzzled expression as she looked down at her schedule book. There was
indeed a free appointment immediately following the client the doctor was in
with at the moment. "I can work you in as soon as he finishes with his current
patient," she explained softly.
The woman nodded slowly and
turned to take a seat on the soft leather sofa.
"May I tell him who to
expect?" the petite brunette prodded gently.
"No," the figure answered in
a gruff croak.
Syndi opened her mouth as if
to say something, and then drew a deep breath. She got up from her desk and
walked back towards the doctor's office. She clipped a small note to the doctor
on the wall pocket outside the examination room he currently occupied. Slipping
back down the corridor, she stole a glance at the small shrouded figure that
perched nervously on the edge of the couch in the waiting room. Shaking her
head, she slid back into the chair behind her desk and tried to focus on filing
some insurance forms instead of the lingering sense that something was about to
go terribly wrong.