Voyages of the Cerberus 98: Final Leg to Akumil

“You know,” Allison said “I’m glad that we don’t have to watch a bunch of farewell holos, but it still sucks to be trapped  in a room together with nowhere to go for privacy.”

“Just bear with it a little longer,” Kat said. “We’ll be on Akumil soon.”

“Besides it could be worse,” Farah added. “We could be travelling when Captain Tawaig has his hold full.”

“Do we know our next course of action?” Yuri asked.

Ophelia sat up. “Simple, we ask the Akumillian government for our pay and buy the best ship we can with those credits and the insurance.”

“I think I can persuade them to give us a  little extra to compensate the loss of the Cerberus,” Lucy said. “Although I don’t know if we’ll be able to get anything as good.”

“It will be,” Grace stated. “Once I’ve had the time to tinker with and upgrade it, anyway.”

“We’ll be stuck without fighters or a shuttle,” Ophelia said. “At least for a time. The important thing is that we all made it out. Alive and mostly unhurt. The loss of the Cerberus is a great blow, but we can recover from it.”

“At least tell me we’ll have as many crew quarters,” Allison said.

“You may have to share with Yuri while Grace shares with Farah,” Lucy said. “We may have fewer and smaller quarters. I know that you like your privacy, but everyone who’s sleeping together may have to room together too.”

“I will endeavour to be absent enough to grant you ample time in solitude,” Yuri said.

“Thanks,” Allison said.

“Having to share rooms isn’t a forgone conclusion,” Ophelia said. “We may very well be able to find a good deal.” She shrugged. “Either way, there’s no use in worrying about it now.”

“I’ll go with you when you buy the ship,” Grace volunteered. “I can find any problems and, if they aren’t too  bad, use them to get the price lowered.”

“Then we’ll have to go into Alliance territory,” Lucy said. “Our merchants don’t hide problems nor do they haggle.”

“Although, it would be helpful for you to double check everything,” Ophelia said. “Just in case one of the merchants missed something.”

“And  then it’ll be more adventures for our beautiful heroine and her comrades,” Allison said.

“What are you on about?” Leon asked.

“Well, if this was one of Kat’s stories, I’d obviously be the heroine,” Allison said. “Yuri would be my love interest. Grace would be my rival. Paul and Leon would be the supportive couple and so on.”

“Does that mean they’d pretend you’re funny?” Grace asked.

“Now you’re just getting sassy,” Allison stated.

“Should I get you some polyethylene glycol? Paul asked.

“And now they’re ganging up,” Allison said. “I guess siblings have to stick together.” She laughed and the group continued their talk.


“Captain, we’re within ssscanner range of Akumil,” Ussie reported.

Elijah yawned. “That’s nice. Antoine, can you tell our guests to get ready to disembark?”

“Fine,” Antoine said. “Be nice  to get away from your stoned ass any way.”

He left the Bridge and moved to the cargo bay.

“Hey,”  Allison said. “It’s the crewman who’s totally tsundere for the captain.”

“Tsu what?” Antoine asked. He shook his head. “Never mind. I have more important things to worry about.” He cleared his throat. “Cerberus crew, prepare to disembark. We are approaching Akumi.” He turned to leave but thought better of it. “And thank Elijah before you go. He may be an idiot, but he did help you.”

“Sure thing, Tsun boy,” Allison called.

“And don’t call me that!” Antoine declared.

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The Grand Pilgrimage 41: An Odd Encounter

There it is,” Serena said.

The trio looked ahead. Even from the backs of the pegasi, they couldn’t see anything beyond the desert stretching outward.

“We should land,” Sylvie suggested. “Once we get into the desert the sun’ll be a real source of trouble. They’ll last longer if they aren’t expending energy flying.”

“True enough,” Inés said. “It’s gonna be hard enough on them to trot through.”

“Is there a way to keep them cool?” Serena asked.

“Well, I can somewhat block the sun with magic,” Sylvie said. “Bring a few dark clouds overhead. It won’t make a huge difference, but it’ll help mitigate the problem a little bit.”

“What about your water magic, Inés?” Serena asked.

Inés shook her head. “All I know are offensive spells. I can’t just summon a nice, temporary stream or something. Even if I could, I can’t control the temperature. The water would be as hot as the sand or close to it.”

“Make sure you study magic more seriously than she did when you’re in your second year,” Sylvie said. “Otherwise you’ll end up like her.”

“Hey, I can do plenty,” Inés said. “Just not all that much with magic.”

“Exactly the point,” Sylvie said.


The three of them had been travelling for days. They stopped to sup. Sylvie struggled to focus and  maintain her cloud cover.

“Bad news,” Serena said. “We’re low on water.”

“I could try casting a water spell on something and you could scoop up what you can,” Inés  suggested.

“Wait until night fall,” Sylvie said. “It… it’ll be cooler then… Otherwise the water’ll be… too hot to handle… Miss I can’t control my spells very well.”

“Are you doing okay?” Inés asked. “You look and sound awful.”

“Maintaining the spell every day… starting to get exhausting,” Sylvie said. “We’d better arrive in Malachi soon.”

“Oh, we’re still a good five days away,” Inés said. “I think.”

“You’ve never been here,”Sylvie said. “How would you…. even know?”

“I heard it somewhere,” Inés said.

“Was the person who said it reliable?” Serena asked.

“I can’t remember who said it,” Inés answered. She shrugged. “Maybe it won’t take that long.”

After a short respite, they continued. It was  mid-afternoon when they encountered several wyrm corpses. Sliced open and left to rot in the sand.

“What could have done this?” Serena asked. “Do wyverns kill wyrms?”

“Sometimes,” Sylvie answered. “Not like this… They wouldn’t… leave the bodies… scattered around.”

“In other words,” Inés said. “Someone’s around here. Someone who was attacked and managed to fight them off, probably.”

“Doubtful,” Sylvie gasped. “Too many… Wyrms don’t… hunt in packs.”

“So, someone’s hunting them?” Serena asked.

Sylvie nodded. “I think so.”

“But  why?” Inés asked. “There’s no point to it.”

Sylvie shrugged.

“Poaching?” Serena suggested.

“Is there anything valuable in a wyrm’s body?” Inés wondered. She turned to Sylvie who shook her head.

They were interrupted by a loud crash behind them. They moved towards it. A wyvern’s body had crashed into the sand. A robed figure removed a sword from its neck and wiped blood off of it.

“Hey,” Inés said. “Are you responsible for this mess? And who wears a heavy cloak in the desert?”

The figure turned. Their face was in the shadows. Serena could see shining silver hair and she thought that she could make out the eyes a little. There was something odd about them, but she couldn’t see well enough to tell exactly what.

“Sylvie Fortunio and Inés,” the figure’s voice was soft and lyrical. “It has been years since I last beheld either of you.”

“You two know her?” Serena asked.

“I know the voice all right,” Inés responded. “He’s Michael Ryufan. The boy at the Academy that so many girls were curious about.”

“He?” Serena asked. “I’m so sorry.”

“It is nothing to be concerned over,” Michael said. “You are not the first person to make that error. In fact, it is quite frequent.”

“So, when did you leave the Academy?” Inés asked. “When did you learn swordplay and why are you killing things in the desert?”

“I completed my studies four months prior,” Michael answered. “I have been training in swordplay since. The deaths of these creatures, though unfortunate, is part of that training.”

“Why?” Sylvie asked. “Why… push yourself? Why not… stay and be a mage? I’m sure that Illyana… would love to have you… around.”

“My reasons are my own,” Michael answered. “I can not reveal them to you.”

“How did you kill that thing in mid-air and get down without any trouble?” Serena wondered.

“I’m curious about that too!” Inés declared. “Going by the wounds, it doesn’t look like you used magic.”

“You three are too eager to converse,” Michael said.

“Guess we won’t get anything else out of you,” Inés muttered. “We’ll be on our way.”

“Please wait,” Michael entreated. He glanced at Sylvie. “You seem to be suffering from exhaustion. I have shelter close to here. If you will come with me, I will permit you to rest and provide supplies for your continued trek. All six of you. There are, however, two conditions.”

“Conditions?” Inés asked. “And what are they?”

“You, Inés, must spar with me,”  Michael said. “Alone and out of your companions’ visual range. That is the first condition. The second is that you must not reveal anything you learn about me during the match to anyone and I will have your vow on that.”

Inés studied Sylvie for a moment. “All right,” she agreed. “You’ll have your match and I give my word, as a priestess of Athena, that I won’t give away any of your secrets. But first, let’s drop these two off at this shelter of yours.”

“Agreed,” Michael said.

Serena pulled Inés’ arm. “Can we trust this guy?” she whispered.

“I think so,” Inés said. “He has no reason to want to hurt me and, as ar as I know, he’s never lied. He just refuses to answer when he doesn’t want something known.”

“He’s… Illyana’s best friend…” Sylvie added. “We can… trust him.”

“If you say so,” Serena said. Although she still harboured serious doubts.

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Voyages of the Cerberus 97:Hitching a Ride

“Thank you for the help, Captain Tawaig,” Kat said. She and Grace were on the Bridge with Elijah’s crew. “We were moments away from losing half of us.”

“S’what I do,” Elijah said.

“You guys really should have had more atmosphere suits,” his companion added.

“No need to be rude, Antoine,” Elijah said. “I’m sure they had their reasons.”

“We did have enough,” Grace stated. “But we lost a bunch of them during our last flight.”

“Shouldn’t experiment with dangerous new propulsion systems either,” Antoine chided. “Lose half your ship that way.”

“We didn’t have much choice,” Grace explained. “We’d lost half our ship already and enemy reinforcements were close. If we hadn’t borrowed their propulsion system, they would’ve killed us.”

Elijah whistled. “That must’ve been scary.”

“Captain,”  Kat interrupted. “Can you tell us why you’re out here? We aren’t exactly close to Drotor.”

Elijah stroked his chin. “Not much to tell. We were on our way to Arkasis to put an end to some certain activities.”

“You were going to free the slaves from the black market, right?” Kat asked.

“That was the big thing,” Elijah confirmed.

“I don’t recommend going there right now,” Kat advised. “It’s close to where we had our battle. Right now, there’ll be Alliance ships swarming the place.”

“We don’t have the resssourcesss to fight an Alliance fleet,” Ussie said. “We might want to reconssider for the moment.”

“That’s a real shame,” Elijah said. “I really wanted to save them.”

“We can always wait for a day  or two and double back,” Antoine suggested.”Maybe drop these guys off so that we have more room in the hold.”

“That’s a good idea,” Elijah agreed. “Thanks.”

Antoine’s face flushed. “It’s not like I came up with it to cheer you up or anything, it just made sense.”

“Of course,” Elijah said. He reached over and rubbed Antoine’s head before turning to Kat. “So, where do you guys need to go? We’ll drop you off.”

“We should probably head back to Akumil,” Kat said. “We were with a group when we set out. I’m sure the other surviving ships will be concerned.”

“I’ll bet every credit I have in savings that they think we’re dead,” Grace said.

“All the more reason to get you back quickly,” Elijah stated. “We can crash your funerals.”

“Actually,” Ussie said. “Akumilliansss don’t have funeralsss. They conssider them to be vulgar dissplaysss. They hold quiet ceremoniess for family and friendss to reflect on the life that’sss been ssnuffed out.”

“Darn,” Elijah muttered. “I really wanted to bring them in to their funeral and see everyone gasp in surprise.”

“What, like this?” Antoine turned to Grace and Kat. His eyes went wide and his mouth hung open. He pointed, his finger shaking. “The…. they’re alive! I can’t believe it.”

“You’re sspoiling the  Captain over-much,” Ussie chided.

“I am not!” Antoine declared. “I just felt like playing along, is all.”

“Can we ask for just one other thing?” Grace said.

“It’s fine by me,” Elijah said. “What?”

“Could you please destroy that propulsion system?” Grace asked. “It could be dangerous in the wrong hands.”

“Guess we couldn’t have that,” Elijah stated. “All right. Ussie, take aim and fire.”

“Undersstood,” Ussie said. “Locking on now.”


“When will they wake up?” Farah asked.

“Probably a couple hours,” Paul answered. “But we mustn’t disturb them when they do. They’ve been through a lot.”

“Of course,” Farah said. “I’m just glad they’re okay.”

Leon came in, carrying a bunch of fabric. “I’ve brought cushions for them. They aren’t much, but they’re all Tawaig had.”

“They’ll have to do,” Paul said. “As long s they don’t move around too much, they should be enough. Farah, help me fix some makeshift beds for them. Leon, you and Yuri should be ready to lift them.”

“I am capable of lifting them by myself,” Yuri  stated.

“I’m sure you are,” Paul said. “Fuzzy certainly is. But they need to be moved very carefully. It’ll just be safer if you’re working together.”

“I understand,” Yuri said. “You are taking every precaution for your patients’ welfare. I will comply with your request.”

“Nice to hear it, Hun,” Allison said. She was holding Wolfie and Hyper “More importantly, is there anywhere on this ship we can get some privacy… You know, for later?”

“You possess an unusually one-track mind,” Yuri said. “Now is not the appropriate juncture.”

“We can answer it,” Kat said. Allison, Yuri and Leon turned. Kat had just entered the hold with Grace. “This ship isn’t particularly big. They don’t have extra quarters. We’ll all have to stay in here like the freed slaves do when they’re transporting them. Captain Tawaig has given us permission to visit them on the Bridge. But we’re pretty much looking at here or there.”

“What is our next course of action?” Yuri inquired.

“They’re dropping us off on Akumil,” Grace said. “Until then, I’m going to help fix the ship up. The rest of you can stick around here. We don’t want to be in the way.”

“May I render assistance with repairs and maintenance?” Yuri inquired.

Grace nodded. “If you want.”

“So, what happens when we reach Akumil?” Allison asked. “We’ve got no ship. No work. Nowhere to stay.”

“We’ll figure something out on the way,” Kat said. “I hope.”

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The Grand Pilgrimage 40: Leaving Ghuji

“Inés!” Serena cried, hugging the other woman tight. “Thank the Gods. I thought for sure you…”

“Shhh,” Inés said. “It’s okay. I’m fine.”

“You would be,” Sylvie stated. Guess we’re stuck with you a bit longer.”

“Truthfully, I think it was close,” Inés said. “I had this… vision. I was in a strange place with a strangely kind and kid of pretty being. Part of me knew it was Thanatos, but I couldn’t bring myself to say it or even think it.”

“And what did Thanatos tell you in this vision?” Sylvie asked.

“Something about being stuck between living and dead,” Inés answered. “That was about… No, there was something else. What was it?”

“You don’t have to force yourself to remember,” Serena said. “Right?”

“She should try,” Sylvie argued. “It could be important.”

“I remember!” Inés declared, snapping her fingers. “Thanatos said that one of the Gods had given the clerics here a lot of power in order to save me.”

“Athena?” Serena asked.

“I imagine so,” Inés answered.

“Not like any of the other Gods have a vested interest in keeping you alive,” Sylvie agreed. She turned to the clerics. “How soon can she travel?”

“Miraculously, she’ll be all right in a couple days,” the elder cleric answered. “She’s very blessed. Most wouldn’t have survived those injuries. You will, of course, be provided with everything you need during that time. It’s the least we can do for the heroines who stopped Scotius.”

“We’re very grateful,” Serena said. “I feel like the two of them did more than me, though.”

Inés sat up and put a hand on her shoulder. “You did your part, with courage that no one would have demanded of you at this point in your training. You were magnificent.”

“Inés,” Serena muttered. “That’s really embarrassing.”

“She might be over-stating things,” Sylvie said. “But it was impressive. Well done.” She moved towards the door.

“Where are you going?” Inés asked.

“I’m going to try and retrieve Demure and the others,” Sylvie answered. “Assuming they’re still there.”

“Good idea,” Serena said. “They’re probably worried. Do you want me to come with?”

“Don’t worry about it,” Sylvie said. “Just stick with the Mermaid. I’m sure you have a lot to say to one another.”


Sylvie went deep into the forest, eventually finding the place they’d left the pegasi.

“Demure?” she called. Her call was quickly followed by a rush of wind. The pegasus landed softly beside her, nuzzling her.

“Good girl,” Sylvie said, stroking Demure’s mane. “I’m okay. We all are. Inés and Serena are waiting for Blitz and Dusk. Where are they?”

Demure let out a series of whinnies. Blitz and Dusk approached, cautiously.

“I know,” Sylvie said. “You want to see your girls. Inés was hurt a bit. She’s  going to have to rest for the next few days. But I’m sure she’d like to see you. Will you two come with me?”

Obediently, Blitz and Dusk followed behind Demure & Sylvie.


The trio managed to pass a couple of days peacefully. Serena spent the bulk of her time at Inés’ side. Except in the mornings when she would go outside to brush and talk to Dusk.

Finally, they were ready to leave.

“Here,” Omec said. “Supplies for your trip.”

“Thank you,” Serena said. “That’s very kind.”

Omec shook his head. “Compared to what you all did for us, this is nothing. I just wish we could do more. Oh, and this was found washed ashore.”

“My staff!” Inés  declared. She took it. “I was worried I’d lost it forever.”

“Lucky you didn’t,” Sylvie said. “We may need it in the desert.”

“Is the desert dangerous?” Serena asked.

“Kind of,” Inés answered. “There are wyrms, wyverns, some bandits. But there shouldn’t be anything all that difficult to deal with.”

“I wouldn’t be so certain,” Sylvie said. “Scotius may be stronger than a wyvern or wyrm, but there will be a lot of them. Furthermore, you won’t be able to ride around on waves or hide underwater. Nor will we have much advanced warning of their attacks.”

“Way to bring the mood down,” Inés said. “You really need to lighten up.”

“Well, we’ll see how things go,” Sylvie said. “And we will be flying over a lot of it, assuming that there aren’t any sandstorms that force our landing.”

“Seriously, stop being so pessimistic,” Inés said. “It’s getting old.”

Sylvie shrugged. “Someone has to plan for what might very well go wrong and you certainly aren’t.”

“That’s because I just deal with problems when they happen,” Inés said. “No need to worry about it.”

“Not everything can be dealt with on the spur of the moment,” Sylvie said.

“Well, we have to go either way, right?” Serena asked. “So, let’s go!”

“Sounds good to me,” Inés said.

“Fine,” Sylvie agreed.

The three took to the sky on their pegasi. Making their way to the desert.

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Voyages of the Cerberus 96: Rescue?

“Grace?” Farah asked. “What are you doing?”

Grace was stooped over her desk. “Just preparing, I suppose,” she said. She reached out and gently stroked Farah’s cheek. “I really thought we’d have more time.”

Farah clasped her hand. “We will! We’ll definitely, definitely get rescued before the life support fails!”

“I admire your optimism. In fact, it’s one of the things I love about you,” Grace said. “But I’m afraid I can’t share it right now.” She sighed. “Hey, would it be okay with you if we lock the door and make love? If I am going to de today, I want to at least be intimate with you once more.”

Farah nodded. “I’d like that. I mean, if the worst does happen… if it comes to that… I’d like to have one last memory of us… together.”


“I hauled the suits in for Ophelia and Lucy,” Leon reported. “We’ll be able to get them suited up when the time comes.”

“Hmmm,” Paul muttered.

“Just what  are you doing at a time like this?” Leon asked.

“Writing up instructions for how to effectively deal with survivor’s guilt,” Paul answered.

“Good grief,” Leon stated. “You really are too kind. We may die here and you’re worried about how those lucky few who survive will manage.”

“Survivor’s guilt is no joke,” Paul said. “It can be a source of acute mental and emotional distress. While you are right about the possibility of our deaths, the truth is that those left behind will be at risk. As their friends, we should try to alleviate that as much s possible.”

“I suppose,” Leon muttered. “It’s just really hard for me to feel bad for them right now.”

“Are you afraid to die?” Paul asked.

“Not really,” Leon said. “But when I think of you dying I get furious. Out of everyone in this vast universe, the kindest, most noble person I’ve ever known is going to get killed, and in such unfair circumstances?” Leon turned and punched the wall.

Paul pushed his work aside and got up. He put an arm around Leon’s shoulder. “It’s flattering that you think so highly of me, thank you. But you mustn’t be angry. It serves no purpose. Try to focus on the good times we’ve shared instead.”

“And what purpose would that serve?” Leon snapped.

“It’ll improve your state of mind,” Paul said. “And I  won’t have to worry about you as much.”

“Fine,” Leon said. “But just for your sake.”


“Hey, do you really think that’ll work?” Allison asked.

“I am uncertain,” Yuri said. “However, if I can boost our distress signal then we may be rescued more quickly. It is the best chance that Grace and the others currently possess. You, the captain and the others will not function for a long period either.”

“Just out of curiosity,” Allison said. “How long can you survive in a vacuum?”

“My systems can persist without issue for twenty eight days, seventeen hours  and fifteen minutes in a sustained vacuum,” Yuri stated. “After that point, they will begin to degrade. However, the damage would not be irreparable. Critical damage would take over five decades.”

Allison whistled. “Lucky you.”

“I do not know that it is fortuitous,” Yuri stated. “While it is a fact that my survival is more likely than any of yours, if I am the sole survivor then I will have lost my comrades, friends and lover. Should I be drifting long enough to suffer dysfunction, I will be at the mercy of whomever happens to find me first. One thing I am certain of, my life would be heavily altered for the worse. Particularly without you in it.”

“Aww,” Allison squealed. “That’s actually kind of sweet of you.”

“I was simply stating the facts,” Yuri said. “I have boosted our signal by ten percent. I am going to attempt to strengthen it further.”


Kat waited. She’d try and read something, but her books had all been lost along with half the ship. So, she just sat thinking.

In a way, it was fitting that she die in a broken, beaten ship. Not that she wanted to die. She just wished that she could save the others. Leon, Paul, Grace, Wolfie, Hyper. None of them deserved this.

The frustrating part was the helplessness. Every other time they’d been in a dangerous situation, there’d been something they could do. But, in this case, there was nothing. No way to stop the engines from failing. No way to get more suits. They were stuck. Drifting, waiting, hoping.

If no one came… Or, more likely, If someone came after a couple hours had passed… Everything was over.


“We’ve reached the source of the beacon.”

“Good work, put it on visual, I guess.”

“Idiot, it’s not like I want to hear that from you or anything.”

“You’re a very ssstrange human. You alwaysss act like you have a dissstasste for our captain. Yet I sussspect your feelingsss for him are quite the oppossssite.”

“Like you know anything about humans!”

“Come on, you two, don’t fight. We have people to help. Wait… I recognise that ship, I think. Why does it look familiar?”

“It’sss the Cerberusss, or part of it. With some monssstrousss thing attached to it.”

“Oh yeah, them. I liked them so let’s make sure and rescue them. I think we can guess the problem, but contact them to be sure.”

“I’ve already hailed them, but there’sss no resssponsse.”

“Guess we’d better board them then. You two, put on atmosphere suits and follow me, just in case.”


The trio docked with the Cerberus and moved aboard.

“Quiet. Almost…”

“Don’t you dare say it’s too quiet!”

“Be ressspectful.”

“I don’t see any signs of them. I’ll head to the Bridge. You split up and check Engineering and Medical.”


“Fine, but not because you asked me to.”

The Captain headed for the Bridge. He found Yuri next to an atmosphere suit, presumably containing someone.

Yuri turned to look at him. “You must hurry,” she informed him. “Our engines will be offline within minutes and we will lose atmosphere.”

“Better hurry to my ship then,” he said.

“I will retrieve Wolfie and Hyper,” Yuri stated. “Allison go with him.”

“Happiest I’ve ever been to see an adventurer, ne’er do well, occasional solver of mysteries & noted horticulturist, if you count all the Cannabis you grow.” She clapped him across the shoulder. “We appreciate the rescue, Mister Elijah J. Tawaig and in the nick of time too.”

“I seem to specialise in that,” Elijah muttered. “Bugger if I know why.”

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The Grand Pilgrimage 39: The Place In Between

Inés looked around. She wasn’t sure where she was. It was largely made up of blank space. There was a rose-covered arch nearby with soft cushions laid out beneath. An androgynous figure with a beautiful face, shimmering white hair and a dark cloak was lounging on the cushions.

Inés moved over. “Hey, can you tell me where…” the figure looked over at her, a kind smile on their face. Their crimson eyes seemed to look right through. her. “Where we are?” Inés managed.

We are between. 

The voice was somehow both masculine and feminine. Not only that, but it seemed to come from everywhere at once. The stranger’s lips hadn’t even moved when they spoke.

“Between?” Inés asked. “Between what?”

We are between the world of the fallen and those who have yet to fall. 

“So… I died,” Inés muttered.

Not as of yet. There is still hope for you. One of the Gods has given the clerics great power to save you. However, you may yet cross, should there be any mistake on their part or should the power be not quite sufficient.

“Athena, huh?” Inés smiled.


“So, this is some kind of near-death experience,” Inés stated.

Or a near-life experience. Which one remains to be seen.

“Whatever,” she said. “Why are you here? Who are you?”

I am the emissary. I guide the souls of mortals and half-mortals alike from one world to the next. 

“Cryptic bugger, aren’t you?” Inés stated. “Just so you know, I won’t beg for my life. Even if you are the emissary or whatever.”

Just as well. It is not my duty to determine whether you should live or die. Your decisions, the skills of the clerics, the power granted them by your benefactor & the Fates themselves shall determine whether your journey should continue or whether you will join the fallen.

“I don’t suppose there’s any way I can help them from here,” Inés said.

One way. You must stay strong of mind. Stay determined. Should you lose sight of the desire to live while in this realm, you will surely be lost. The figure beckoned to the cushions. Please sit while you wait. Nothing will be served by you being uncomfortable. 

“All right, thanks,” Inés said. She sat opposite the figure and tried to think of all the reasons she had to live.


Serena watched the clerics working from a distance. Inés looked so peaceful, almost like she was just sleeping and would wake up in a moment feeling just fine. It was hard to believe that her condition was so precarious.

“You should rest up, Miss Priestess,” Captain Omec said. “There’s nothing you can do to help.”

“I know,” Serena said. “But I want to be near her right now.”

“You two are close,” Omec framed it as an observation rather than a question.

Serena nodded. “Truth is, she’s the first person I’ve ever loved… romantically. I… I don’t want to lose her. I… really want to travel with her more. Talk to her more and…”

“There, there,” Omec said. “Dry your eyes. She’s strong. Stronger than anyone I’ve ever met. I’m sure she’ll pull through.”

“I suppose,” Serena said. But she wasn’t convinced. Her mind kept going back to her conversation with Sylvie that seemed like it had been so long ago and  those words she still feared. Mortals who are granted divine strength don’t live very long.


“Hey,” Inés said. “Can you really afford to lounge around? I mean, if you’re the emissary who leads people to the world of the dead, shouldn’t you be leading a whole bunch of people right now? People die every minute, don’t they?”

I am with them as I am with you. 

“You’re saying that you’re omnipresent?”

If you must put a label on it. 

“Do you ever feel bad about taking people over? Like, maybe they should have another chance?”

It is not within my power to grant life. Nor do I take it. When the time comes for that inevitable journey, I am simply there. I will guide those who needs must take the journey with a kind smile and, should they be required, words of encouragement.

“At least you’re a kind emissary of death,” Inés muttered.



The figure rose, looking down at Inés.

“What?” Inés asked.

It’s decided. They held out their hand. Come. 

“Fine,” Inés said. She rose on her own. “So, where am I going?”

The figure smiled, kindly. We two will meet again, eventually. Although you may not remember this. Until then, I will walk alongside you, as I do  all who live.


“Thanatos!” Inés sat upright. She was surrounded by relieved faces. “Where?”

“Take it easy,” one said. “You were badly hurt, but the Gods, in all their wisdom, granted us the power to save you.”

“But you still aren’t well,” a second added. “You must rest. We’ll bring your friends to see you. Please, rest.”

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Voyages of the Cerberus 95: Adrift

Farah opened  her eyes. She wasn’t sure when she’d lost consciousness or how long she’d been out. The first thing she saw was Grace examining the Cerberus’ engine. She took her time undoing her restraints and took some uncertain steps.

Her entire body felt odd, probably as a side effect of how fast they’d gone. “Grace,” she said.

“Mmmm?” Grace muttered.

“Is something wrong?” Farah asked.

“Definitely,” Grace answered.

Before Farah could ask for clarification, Kat burst in. “How bad is it?”

“The engines won’t last for much longer,” Grace answered. “There’s no way to fix them either. We have an hour at most before were drifting without power. That means no life support. No artificial gravity control. Nothing.”

“That’s two pieces of bad news,” Kat stated. “According to Yuri, the fighters could be made operable, but it would take weeks and resources we don’t have.”

“I’m afraid there’s three pieces of bad news,” Leon said, walking into Engineering. “Our jump damaged most of the space suits. There are four that will still work.”

“Which means that if no one answers our distress beacon soon…” Grace glanced at Farah and went quiet.

“It means only four of us will survive,” Leon finished.

“Five,” Grace corrected. “Yuri can survive in a vacuum for an extended amount of time. Probably even longer than the suits last.”

“How long will the suits last?” Kat asked, turning to Leon.

“We used a lot of their built in oxygen supplies while the ship was in two pieces,” Leon said. “Assuming that the lucky four could scavenge some extra tanks from the trashed suits, they might last an extra day.

Kat sighed. “All right. We’ll leave Yuri to check for signs of communication. The rest of us will have a quick meeting.”


“So, how do we decide which of us get to live?” Allison asked. “Should we draw straws?”

The group had gathered, save Ophelia & Lucy who were still unconscious in Medical.

“It might be the fairest way,” Kat mused. “We can also draw for Ophelia and  Lucy so that everyone has a fifty percent chance.”

“And just abandon the others to die I suppose,” Paul said.

“I don’t like it either,” Kat said. “But what choice do we have?”

“Do what you need to,” Paul said. “I won’t take a suit.”

“Paul!” Leon exclaimed, grabbing Paul’s shoulder.

“I’m a doctor, Fuzzy,” Paul said. “It’s my privilege to safeguard the lives of others. I won’t… I can’t take anything from someone else that will result in their death. Even if it kills me.”

“You’re being way too noble here!” Leon cried. “You can’t just…”

“Fuzzy,” Paul interrupted. “It isn’t just that I’m a doctor. It’s also that I care too much for the people on this ship to let anyone here die for my sake. I’m sorry.”

Paul hurried out, heading towards Medical.

“You know,” Allison said. “If I were into men that might have done something for me.” Leon glared at her. “I admire that kind of self sacrifice is all,” Allison said.

“As much as I hate to admit it right now, so do I,” Leon said. He sighed heavily and turned to the ladies. “Truth is, my life doesn’t mean anything without him. If he won’t take a suit, there’s no point in me having one.” He went to the doorway. “I’m gonna go be with him as long as I can. Good luck.”

“You know,” Allison said. “We could say the four of us won and they’ll never know.”

“We aren’t doing that,” Kat said. “Ophelia and Lucy deserve a shot. I’ll get six straws, two short.”

“We’re really doing this?” Farah asked.

“We have little choice,” Kat said. “If we run out of time, it would be foolish for all of us to die. No matter how distasteful this survival method may be.”

Kat left and quickly returned with six straws. “Okay, Ladies,” she said. “First, Grace and Allison can draw for Ophelia and Lucy.”

Grace went first. “For the Captain,” she said. She drew a long straw.

“Then I’ve got one for Lucy,” Allison said. She drew a long straw. “Can I keep this one and draw another for Lucy?”

“No,” Kat said. “Now, all three of you grab one.”

The four of them gathered together and pulled. Farah felt the straw she initially grabbed being held tightly and another being thrust into her hand.

She examined it. It was a long straw.

“Yes!” Allison cried. “I must be super lucky!”

Grace and Kat looked at one another. “Guess it’s settled,” Kat said.

Grace nodded. “I’ll keep an eye on the engines, let you know when to put the suits on.”

“Wait!” Farah cried. She thrust her long straw at Grace. Take mine.”

Grace shook her head. “If anyone else here had made that offer I’d do it.” She stroked Farah’s cheek. “Live, My  Love.”

“I’ll sit in the Bridge with Yuri,” Allison said.

Farah waited until she was alone with Kat. “Why?”

“Why what?” Kat asked.

“Why did you hold onto the short straw and give me a long one?” Farah demanded.

“I didn’t know the one I was giving you was long,” Kat said. “For all I knew, giving you that one didn’t make a difference. All I knew was where one of the short ones was.”

“But why make sure you get it?” Farah asked.

“Because I can’t stand to have anybody die for me either,” Kat said. “When it comes right down to it, all of you deserve a chance more than I do.”

“But…” Farah began.

“Stop right there,” Kat said. “There’s no guarantee we won’t be rescued in time. But if we don’t… stay close to Grace for as long as you can. Make some good memories and never feel bad about surviving. Someone has to.”

The wrecked Cerberus continued drifting, time swiftly  running out for Paul, Leon, Kat, Grace, The Baron & Hyper.

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The Grand Pilgrimage 38: Thunder & Water

“Did it go as you expected?” Hephaestus asked.

“Precisely as  I anticipated,” Athena answered. “Divine interventions, from any God or Goddess, are forbidden. All we can do is  watch and trust in their abilities.”

“Seems a lot of bother,” Hephaestus said.

“Perhaps,” Athena stated. “But we can’t allow another Reina  to be unleashed on the mortal realm. Scotius must be stopped, as much as it hurts father.”

“I’d forgotten about Reina,” Hephaestus muttered. “She still alive?”

“Imprisoned, within Tartarus,” Athena answered. “Though I fear it will inevitably lead to further trouble.”


“Captain, we’ve sighted it!”

“Understood,” Omec said. “Everyone, prepare for the sortie!” He turned to Sylvie & Serena. “You sure your friend’s okay?”

“She’ll be fine,” Serena said. “Just trust her.”


The ship approached over the waves. Scotius watched from the stem. He was muscular, with curly blond hair and bright yellow eyes.

“Listen up, Ghuji,” he called, his voice thundering. “My troops and I are here to take your city. Surrender peaceably and survive or die in pain!”

That was when a violent water spout burst through his ship, shattering it into pieces. Scotius’ soldiers fell into the depths, some emerging others being swallowed by the waves. Those that emerged found themselves quickly beset by Ghuji’s soldiers.

Scotius himself floated above the water, looking down. His face clouded with fury.

Inés burst from the water on a second spout, swinging her staff at Scotius. Lightning burst around him, sending her flying into the waves.

Scotius floated to the shore, lightning flying around him. “Your little mage is through and all you’ve done is make me angry.”

A series of bright flashes went off  in front of him. As he moved to wipe his eyes, Sylvie and Serena struck.

Sylvie’s rapier pierced his side while Serena’s tonfa bashed the back of his head.

Scotius screamed and lightning flashed around him. Both Sylvie and Serena were tossed aside.

“That hurt,” he muttered. He gingerly rubbed his eyes. He glanced at the fallen priestesses. Sylvie was struggling to rise. Serena managed to get to her knees, but couldn’t get to her feet.

He moved over and grabbed Serena, holding her aloft with one hand. “You’re a rather comely little bitch, aren’t you?” he asked. “I’ll make you a deal. Give me your weapons and I’ll make you one of my concubines. You’ll live very comfortably. Or you can die. The choice is yours.”

Serena spit in his face. “Wrong answer!” he said. “Lightning surrounded his hand.

“Hey!” Scotius turned. Inés was riding atop a massive tidal wave. “Get your filthy hand off of my lover!”

The wave crashed. Inés decked Scotius directly in the face. He countered with a lightning-enhanced fist to her gut.

“You can’t win,” he said. “I’m a son of Zeus!”

She executed a high kick directly to his face. “I don’t give a damn who you are.”

He tackled her, sending her sprawling and then slammed his fists into her back. She quickly regained her feet, giving him an uppercut to the jaw.

The two circled one another warily. He spit out one of his teeth and lunged, lightning scattering in front of him. Inés ran to shield Serena, taking several bolts to the back as a result.

Scotius pressed the attack, landing several heavy blows to her head. She head-butted his forehead, wiped some blood from her brow and delivered several kicks to his stomach and face. After taking a few hits, he managed to grab her leg and tossed her aside, towards the ocean.

A wave reached up to catch her. She landed softly on it and stood, arms crossed, glaring down at him.

“How are you not dead yet?” Scotius demanded, breathing heavily.

“I’m stronger than I look,” she said, her breathing was also laboured.

He launched himself upwards directly at her. As he tackled her from her perch, she kicked at his stomach. He went flying backwards into the sand while she went back beneath the water.

The two both regained their footing quickly and launched themselves at each other. Scotius’ fist landed squarely against Inés’ right eye while her fist landed on his jaw. Both staggered back momentarily before resuming their match.

Scotius got in the next blows, delivering several brutal hits to Inés’ stomach. She responded by kicking his legs out from under him. Then she hurriedly grabbed his arms and caught him in a lock.

“You… can’t hold… me for long,” he struggled. Lightning flying from his body into her. In spite of the pain, she held him fast.

“Don’t have… to,” she responded, tightening her grip. “Sylvie!”

Sylvie grabbed her rapier and limped towards them. Scotius struggled more fiercely, his lightning strikes causing Inés to cry out in pain and her body to involuntarily spasm. Still, she held on.

“Always having to play the damn hero,” Sylvie muttered. She brought her rapier down, running it through Scotius’ chest. For a brief moment, lightning burst out stronger than ever, pushing Sylvie back. Then he went still.

Inés twitched uncontrollably by his body.

Sylvie reached down, grabbing Inés’ cheeks and drawing the energy into herself with her own lightning magic until Inés went still. She proceeded to take the other woman’s vitals.


Scotius found himself facing a thin figure with a fair face, pure white hair, rose earrings and bright crimson eyes.

The figure approached him kindly, beckoning him.

“No!” Scotius cried. “It’s unfair! I’m a son of Zeus! How, how was she stronger than me?” Tears began streaming down his face.

The figure hugged him tightly, whispering gently to him and enveloped Scotius in their black cloak.


“We dealt with his soldiers,” Omec reported. “How is she?”

“Not good,” Sylvie answered. “She got hit by a lot of magic. She needs a cleric, quickly. If it’s not already too late.”

“I’ll see to it,” Omec said. “If we can save her, we will.”

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Voyages of the Cerberus 94: A Final Flight

“Paul,” Grace stopped her brother. “Remember to strap Ophelia and Lucy in securely after their operations and to let me know when you’re done.”

“I remember,” Paul said. “Don’t worry and try not to be so nervous.”

“Who’s nervous?” Grace asked.

“You don’t have to pretend with me,” Paul said. I know, it’s a dangerous procedure. But we’ll all get strapped in properly and we’ll make it.”

“Will we?” Grace muttered.

“We will,” Paul said. “You’re way too good of an engineer to let us down and I mean that.”

“Thank you,” Grace said. “I’ve got to get in my pressure suit and help Yuri mount the propulsion. Farah and Kat are going to hold it in place with their ships while Allison finds a way to comfortably strap Hyper and Wolfie in.”

Paul nodded. “I’ve got my own work to do. I’ll tell you when it’s done.”

The two of  them went to  work. Paul had Leon help him carry Ophelia to Medical while Grace left the ship.


“How’s Ophelia?” Lucy asked.

“I patched her bone with the restorative gel,” Paul answered. “I used the omega formula since she’s allergic to the theta. It’ll fully set in six or seven days. But, for  the moment, just worry about yourself. The surgery to mend your nerves won’t be easy.”

“I have confidence in your abilities, Doctor,” Lucy said. “You may even be the only human I’d trust for this operation.”

“That means a lot,” Paul said. “Please lie down. I’ll apply the anaesthetic.”


“Can you finish the rest of this yourself?” Grace asked.

“It  is  nearly complete,” Yuri stated. “I am capable of completing the task.”

“Good,” Grace said. “I’m going to start connecting everything. I’d like to be ready to go as soon as Paul finishes the surgeries.”

“Yo, Yuri, Grace,” Allison’s voice came in loud and clear.

“Did  you figure out a strapping system?” Grace asked.

“Thirty minutes ago,” Allison answered. “The babies will be fine. That isn’t why I called.”

“Is there a problem?” Yuri asked.

“We’ve picked up some Alliance ships  on long-range sensors,” Allison answered. “I think, they aren’t exactly in peak condition.”

“Assuming the reading is accurate, how long do we have?” Grace asked.

“Judging by their course and speed, twenty minutes, maybe,” Allison answered.

“Not enough time,” Grace muttered. “Kat?”

“I heard,” Kat said. “There may be one good option for holding them back.”

“I’ll leave it to you,” Grace said. She hurriedly returned to work.

“Allison,” Kat ordered. “Shut off everything in the Cerberus but life support and the Medical bay. With luck, our signal will be too bad for them to pick it up. Farah, we’re going back aboard the fortress. The propulsion should stay in place without our help at this point.  We’re going to send their fighters out on full speed auto with distress beacons set to activate after three minutes. Hopefully, they’ll pick up the signals and move to investigate those.”

“Got it,” Farah said. “But what if they come right over here?”

“Then I’ll take the Wyvern and do what I can,” Kat answered. “You all should still have enough power to get out.”


“Sweat,” Paul said. Leon hurriedly wiped his brow. “This should do it. I’ll seal the opening. Help me get her strapped in afterwards.”

“Got it,” Leon said. “Hey, when will her commanding presence be back in full force?”

“With this type of injury it usually takes five to seven weeks to fully recover,” Paul said. “But I’d say she has a good chance of fully recovering, if she doesn’t strain herself.”

“Nice,” Leon said.

“We’re sealed,” Paul said. He cleaned Lucy’s forehead and disposed of his surgical gloves. “Be careful with her.”

“I will be,” Leon said.

Paul gently grabbed Lucy’s feet while Leon took her shoulders. They carried her to one of the  beds and securely strapped her in.

“Paul to Grace,” Paul said.

“You’re finished already?” Grace asked.

“Yeah,” Paul answered. “How are things on your end?”

“We’re connecting the fighters to the propulsion system right now,” Grace answered. “It’s a good thing you did finish quickly. We’ve got some trouble. Allison.”

“Yes?” Allison asked.

“How are the sensor readings? Is the Alliance still chasing Kat’s distraction?”

“Looks like it,” Allison said. “No… wait. A few ships just broke off of the group. They’re heading this way!”

“How long?” Grace demanded.

“Fifteen minutes,” Allison answered.

“We’ll be done here in ten,” Grace said. “Power up all the systems. Get everyone strapped securely in. I want everyone in pairs, just in case something goes wrong while we’re in transit.”

“I’ll head to the Engine room and wait for you,” Farah said.

“Sounds good to me, Lover,” Grace said. “Yuri will head to the Bridge shortly.”

Grace and Yuri hurriedly finished their task, acutely aware that the Alliance wasn’t far. They hurried inside the airlock and separated. Yuri went to the Bridge to give them some control of the Cerberus while Grace went to the Engine room. Farah was already secured.

Grace hurriedly checked their status. “Yuri, it’s ready to go,” she reported. “Give me a minute to strap in and punch it!”

“Understood,” Yuri said.

The crew waited, bracing themselves. Then, they shot through space. after some time, Grace could hear the fighters’ engines starting to blow. Finally, the main engine went out and they drifted to a halt.

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The Grand Pilgrimage 37: Sylvie’s Unease

“Eat up,” Omec encouraged. “We’re expecting the bastard and his little minions tomorrow, early. But don’t worry, I  have sentries posted. If he does show up tonight, there’ll be an alarm.”

“And you know he’s coming because he sent word?” Sylvie asked.

“That’s right,” Omec stated. “He sent some of his boys ahead to demand our fealty. We dealt with them and turned their little boat into kindling. I don’t care if he is actually the son of Zeus, no punk comes to our town and makes demands!”

“Well, when he arrives just leave Scotius to us!” Inés declared. “You and yours can deal with his thugs.”

“I won’t deny your strength,” Omec said. “But you should be cautious. Scotius may be a punk, but he’s also a conqueror and he has a particularly bad reputation when it comes to the young and attractive.”

“Don’t worry about us,” Inés said. “We’ll definitely bring him down.”

“Or die trying,” Sylvie muttered.

“What was that?” Inés asked.

“Never you mind,” Sylvie stated. “In any case, the three of us should get some sleep. We have a difficult task in the morning.”

“I suppose so,”  Inés said. She held out a hand to Serena. “Shall we?”

“Well, just for a little bit,” Serena said. “We really should rest.”


Sylvie found herself feeling rather restless. As much as she’d talked about resting to be ready for the morning’s battle, her mind just wouldn’t stop racing. This was a son of Zeus, Athena had told them as much. And the three of them were going to fight him.

Would Athena send them to a battle they couldn’t win? Sylvie doubted it. However, it wouldn’t surprise her to be sent to a battle they wouldn’t survive winning. If it meant saving a bunch of other people, Athena might very well let some of her priestesses be sacrificed.

On one hand, it would certainly be a noble end. No one could deny that much. But at the same time, she didn’t want to die yet. She wasn’t ready to die yet. She still wanted to be officially recognised as a full-fledged priestess. More importantly, she wanted to see Illyana and, finally, confess her true feelings.

Was it really so selfish of her to want just that much?

She rose from bed and walked. Past the room Serena and Inés were using and outside. It was a chilly night. She could see the sentries still watching the sea by lantern light. But something else caught her attention.

It was a sound she knew well, Inés’ aggressive grunting. She always hated hearing that sound during practice. Why hadn’t Inés gone to bed? Could she also be worried? Somehow, the very concept frightened Sylvie even more. If someone with Inés’ freakish strength was scared, what chance did she and Serena have?

She found Inés practising her staff moves while moving swiftly around.

“You’re still up?” Sylvie froze upon hearing the masculine voice. She quickly moved out of sight. Captain Omec was approaching Inés from the other direction.

“Yeah,” Inés said. “Thought I’d get a little practice in before going to sleep.”

“Won’t you need your energy?” Omec asked.

“I’ve always had plenty to spare,” Inés said. “I’ll be fine.”

“What, are you afraid of dying?” Omec asked.

“Dying?” Inés asked. “Not particularly. To be honest, I’ve always thought I’d get myself killed while in Athena’s service. Protecting someone or trying to bring someone notorious to justice. If it happens here, it happens here.”

“But you are nervous,” Omec stated.

“Well, there is the excitement that always goes with a big fight,” Inés said. “And I guess I really don’t want to let Serena and Sylvie down. The two of them have so much to look forward to in their lives.” Inés sighed and looked up at the stars. “I just have to make sure I’m strong enough to protect them.”

“And if you die in the process?” Omec asked.

“Then I’ll have to make sure Scotius goes with me,” Inés said. “Night, Omec.” She raised an arm and headed back.

Sylvie stayed out of sight until they were both gone and moved back to her own room. Somehow, she was able to sleep quite soundly.


In the morning, they gathered. Stood alongside the men and women of Ghuji. They watched the sea, waited. Archers stood at the ready.

“Hey, Omec,” Inés said. “Could you tell them to hold their fire?”

“I could,” Omec said. “Why?”

“Because I have an idea of how to get the first hit in and I don’t want to catch a stray arrow or two,” Inés said.

“Oh, I think I get it,” Serena said. “Because they’re coming from sea, yeah?”

“Exactly,” Inés said.

“I think I know what you’re planning,” Sylvie said. “Just do it carefully, okay?”

“Is that concern in your voice?” Inés  asked. “Could it be that you really like having me around?”

“Don’t be absurd,” Sylvie said. “But we are all in this together and I’d hate to see you sacrifice yourself.”

Inés put a hand on her shoulder. “Don’t worry, it’ll all be fine. Just leave it to me.”

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