“Look at her eyes…” Talitha whispered. Jessica’s irises were becoming pallid. The blue color was slowly fading to a sickly pale white.
“There are no shortcuts,” Shannon exhaled through clenched teeth, wincing at the sudden strength of the gauntleted hand on her arm. Jessica’s fingers were growing thinner and sharper. She keened. It was a rasping howl-like sound. The hide bit only distorted it.
“This is a demon contagion. Death with a purpose,” Shannon finished.
“But, Reina’s powers are all based on–”
“Healing the living!” Shannon shouted. “You can’t take the powers of life and use them to nourish death!” The Huntress returned to gathering the small quantity of herbs in front of her. “Reina’s powers would dissolve half of Jessica’s blood, and we’d be forced to fight the soulless thing left behind.”
“We can’t fight one of our own!” Ranko exclaimed, horrified at the mere suggestion.
“Oh yes we can,” Shannon replied. “There’s no way I’m going to allow this blight one foot closer to Escator and all those people. Those children.”
“Shannon, we can’t just–” Talitha’s soothing voice was overwhelmed by the Huntress’ icy, piercing glare.
“I will not abide another savage loose under this moon. So help me, if she turns–” Shannon choked on her next breath. She blinked back tears and opened her mouth, holding her duty back as long as she could. Her face reddened and her eyelids swelled. She inhaled deeply and used all of her breath to utter the words.
“I’ll kill her.”
“Are you nuts?!” Ranko almost yelled.
“I’m sure we can find another way!” Talitha pleaded.
“And take the risk of her infecting both of you? I’m not going to allow it. You have no idea how insidious these creatures are. Left to their own, they will destroy every last living thing they touch. This pestilence feeds on itself. As it festers it grows stronger, capable of turning creatures not so easily defeated or as mindless as simple borcine livestock. Would either of you care to face a hornwing surrounded by a cloud of death against which there is no defense?”
Jessica rolled back and forth. Her breathing was shallow and frantic. Shannon gathered the black and gray ash-like powder into her hands.
“If she turns she won’t be Jessica any more than those three monsters we just fought.”
“What about you?” Ranko asked. “If you try something, she’s going to infect you too!”
Shannon began to smudge the sooty powder all over Jessica’s face. Jessica wheezed and coughed through the cershay hide as the particles got into her nose and mouth.
“What is that?” Ranko asked, watching as Shannon covered Jessica’s face and the edges of her hair with black streaks.
“Wolfsbane. Get back.”
Talitha backed away. Ranko moved towards her War-Hammer.
“You’re going to catch whatever she has!” Ranko warned.
“I’ve fought them before, and I’m not so easily infected,” Shannon replied through her teeth. Her eyes were slits.
“What are you going to do?” Ranko with increasing concern. The Night Warrior pulled an arrow from her hunting quiver.
“Hey! HEY!” Ranko challenged.
Shannon stopped, holding the arrow in one hand, it’s razor edge close to Jessica’s side. She looked up at the Crimson Champion with a nonplussed expression. The Warrior of the Storms had used the extra few moments to retrieve Thundercaller.
The Warrior of the Forest heeded Shannon’s advice and backed away. Right to the edge of a surprisingly elaborate network of thin, spindly roots only a few inches underground. Growing at the corner of the Barley Road as it turned south was a big, looming, black-leaved viperbark tree.
To anyone else, it would have reminded them of graveyards and unhappy times. But the Storyteller was delighted. She resisted the urge to give the morbid-looking plant a warm hug.
Viperbark toxin was a perfect way to defuse any conflict, and obligatory peace conferences were one of the Storyteller’s specialties. The roots passed directly under both the Huntress and Jessica.
“What’s the deal with the arrow, Shannon?” Ranko asked in a deadpan voice with a slightly threatening tone.
“I’m doing my duty,” Shannon replied with a steely glare.
“That’s my friend on the ground there. Now I don’t know all about your magic and your duty to some pack of wild animals or whatever, but I’m going to tell you a little something about my duty. You put that arrowhead anywhere near her and there’s going to be a bolt of pain coming your way. Right from this Hammer. And I don’t care how fast you think you are. You ain’t as fast as me.”
The Storyteller worked quickly, considerately and silently persuading the sour-natured tree to assist her in the name of its brothers. Gently and ever so quietly, Talitha began to coax its roots to the surface.
LadyStar No Savage Under This Moon is a standalone adventure starring the Greatest Fighting Team of Teenage Girls Ever Assembled!
Available now at the Official LadyStar Bookstore!