Sunday, July 14, 2013

Update: For all in the Hope

Here is a sneak peak at what you can expect from the next book. I am hoping to have it out by this fall! Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Includes the Character Index, Table of Content, and the first chapter. It's not complete, but I would appreciate feedback. I look forward to hearing what you think...

For All in the Hope:

Going off Dreams Book Two

Written by Kristy Nowinsky 


“I can’t leave you Nyx!” He took me in his arms as the earth beneath us started to vibrate.  Tobar remained steady and I felt safe in his arms.  Avlov’s face was horror struck tears streaked her face.  Tobar’s grip grew stronger; I thought for sure I’d be bruised.  I looked up and could see a massive dragon soaring above us, fire erupting from his mouth.  The Fire-Birds were encircling us, each making their calls, they echoed in my head as I buried my face into Tobar’s chest “you have to go.” 

Character Index

Fighting For the Light
Tartaric Realm

Nyx (female) – Aether Deity
Aeon (male) – Khronos

Woodland Clan
Arden (female) weapons: whip (KiKi) & Bow & Arrows
Vipin (male) weapons: whip & Katar daggers
Tane (male) weapons: whip & two Sappara’s
Shaw (male) weapons: whip & Boomerang
Diana (female) weapons: whip & Schöninger spear

Fenahuang Clan
Zhou (male) shape shifting flaming phoenix
Plamen (male) shape shifting black dragon
Nina (female) shape shifting orange crane
Vesta (female) shape shifting flaming peacock

Water Deities
Halia, Nahal, & Ritika
Air Deities
Aella, Nephthys (female), & Ilma & Ilmataur (female twins) 

K.I.P Clan (Knowledge Is Power)
Tobar (male), Avlov (female) white weiven, Enki, Hikmat, & Galen
On The Side Of Darkness – Tartaurus Realm
Chernobog – The Black Beast
Xylo – woodland dryad
Malina – insectum dryad

Other Charactersside undefined
Lilith (female) vampire

The Greats
Mother Earth – Gaia
Father Time – Khronos
Mother Wind – Zephyrus
Father Water – Okeanos
Mother Fire – Hemera

Earthly Realm

Table of Contents

Character Index

Gift of Escape
Aella’s Galley
Calling Card
Beasts of Hell
Between the Darkness and Light
Back Into the Darkness
The Choice

Chapter One
Gift of Escape

My eyes flashed open; I didn’t know where I was at first.  When my eyes focused I could see the little room full of little lights above me.  The recognizable soft glowing lights; cozy and warm.  I knew I had returned; I was back in Arden’s Hut.  But, I was alone in bed?
Immediately I started reaching around, only to feel empty fabric; the bed wasn’t even warm.  I searched the small quarters along with the bathroom; he was nowhere to be found.  There was no note, no sign of him.  My heart did a swan dive directly into the pit of my stomach.  This felt all too real and familiar. 
            There was commotion coming from the hallway, I couldn’t make out what they were saying though; so, I crept toward the huge thick wooden door.  That’s when I heard a familiar voice say “Get Nyx, we’ll have to tell her.” There was a knock at the door. I cracked the door and peeked out, there was Arden.
            Arden was one of the first individuals I met here in this realm; I had seen her materialize on the edge of a mystical forest.  Her hair, black as the night that plagued Tartarus; she reminded me of a Native American goddess.  She had the fighting skills of Qamait; goddess of war with the Nuxalk Nation.  With her enchanted bow and her whip KiKi to aide in her quests, she was magnificent to witness in battle.
I liked Arden, she was usually in better spirits from what I remembered, now her face was serious and worried, very worried. I looked at her through the entrance to my bedroom chamber, the light flickering from the candles in the hallway, flirting with her skin, only enhancing her natural beauty.  She said, “Nyx, you’ll need to come with me.”
“What’s going on?” I asked her.  She didn’t answer me as she walked up toward the main hall.  The main room in Arden’s Hut consisted of wooden walls, textured as if beavers had whittled them.  Complete opposite, the floor was smooth, and reminded me of a clean shaven tree displaying its many rings of life.  When you looked above, you could see smoke escaping through a fashioned hide-stretched ceiling.  In the middle of the room a roaring fire, encompassed by rocks that protect the many pillows strewed about.  To which, Arden would resort to throwing when the opportunity presented itself.
Upon entering the main room, my stomach turned into a knot.  Zhou was lying on the floor; he looked like he was seriously injured.  Zhou was a powerful fighter, so I knew right away if someone overpowered him it was serious.  I always liked Zhou, and I was saddened to see him like this.  He was still wearing his electric dark blue pants, with an equally dark purple shirt.  I never understood his fashion statements.
Zhou was a Fenghuang, or fire bird; more precisely, a fiery phoenix.  His black hair reminded me of feathers that had a strip of red running through it.  He is always eager for a fight, I’m afraid this time though, the fight won. 
Hikmat had his hands on his forehead and chest, his eyes were closed.  I didn’t know Hikmat as well as some of the others in the room.  I had met him only recently, and I knew he was a healer of sorts.  He was a wizard when it came to plants, potions, and concoctions.  He was a Tobar Segais like Tobar too, meaning he possessed wisdom.  His eyes remained closed while his hands remained on Zhou.
Arden kneeled down next to Zhou; she gently brushed her cheek against his own, and then replaced it with a soft kiss from her lips.  I could see tears sparkling against her skin.  She placed her hands on his as she prayed silently. 
Avlov and Enki joined us then.  They both had bowls in their hands that contained some healing elements.  Enki took Avlov’s and kneeled next to Hikmat on Zhou’s other side.  Enki and I had only met recently as well.  He was known as ‘lord of earth’, meaning he had control over the earth and its constituents.
A Wieven, Avlov is also known as a wise woman.  She had a vast knowledge of healing salves, rituals, and how to use the elements for their benefit.  She had fierce white eyes, that matched her white hair, and outfit.  I always like Avlov because she wore converses.
Avlov touched my shoulder.  She could broadcast messages and I could receive them. She thought “Nyx, I need to talk to you, please come with me over to the table.” She led me over, and she asked me “Have you seen Tobar?” I was on the verge of tears myself, there was still so much unanswered, and if Zhou was hurt…
I could barely articulate “No, I woke up to an empty room, a cold bed and I couldn’t find him anywhere.” My chest started to feel like it was going to combust.
Arden had joined us and she put her hand around my shoulders to give me a half-hug “We’ll get these…”
But, Avlov interrupted her and said, “I think we should get Nyx up to speed with what’s going on.”
Zhou was making some noises and we all ran to his side.  I felt so badly that he had to suffer so much, he opened his eyes and found Arden’s first.  She took his hands in hers.    Then he found mine and started to speak, weakly saying “I don’t know what exactly happened.”  Enki spoke up and said that Zhou had been taking Xylo, the captured dryad, some refreshments for when she would wake up. Zhou continued, “I opened her door and the next thing I knew I was laying here.”
Hikmat told Zhou that he really needed to rest, they propped him with a bunch of Arden’s pillows that were all over her floors.  Hikmat then gave Zhou another potion, this time it was clear and I wondered what it was.  After he drank it, he smiled before his eyes closed and he was back asleep.
“So where’s Tobar?” I asked, and everyone looked alarmed.  I had a sickly feeling like something bad was coming; it was just around the corner.
Avlov came to my side; she could be quite frightening to look at in the eye.  Tobar told me she was also known as the ‘white witch’.   She’s been a good friend to me since my arrival.  She also welds a wand of intricate design.  She offered me some tea but I refused it.
Arden came over to me and put her hands upon my shoulders again.  She looked directly into my eyes and said “We can’t find him.” My chest felt like it burst into flames.  My body went limp, and I felt like I was falling.  Everything went black.

Blinking, I could make out the ceiling of my bedroom, back home. I still had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.  Drawing my knees up, I rolled over onto my side.  Looking out my bedroom window, light was streaming in through the curtains; there must be a full moon.  It lit up the back yard. 
            There was an eerie feel to it, the shadows were cast throughout the yard; stretching out.  Giving the feeling like, at any moment, something bizarre was going to pop up and go traipsing through the scene.  I must have fallen back to sleep because the next thing I knew my cell phone alarm was singing; it was the mark of an early morning routine.
            I shuffled into my bathroom and brushed my teeth; putting my hair up into a sloppy bun with a hair band.  The dual-reality was something I was use to by now, leaving me more exhausted then a person of my age should be.  But, what could I do?  Sometimes I felt like I had less and less control over my life.
            It was Friday; T.G.I.F, kind of day.  It had been a long rough week, and I was definitely ready for some rest and relaxation; some down-time to myself.  It was pay day as well, and I knew this weekend I would have to finish my Christmas shopping; as well as survive going to the grocery store to pick up ingredients for my contribution to Christmas dinner.
            But for now, it was Friday evening, time to just veg.  Bryan and Smokie had been fed and were content.  I changed into comfy pajamas and threw myself on the couch and started flipping through the channels on the TV. I couldn’t tell you why, but I stopped on the local cable access channel; there was a very handsome man talking about some children’s book charity.  He had dusty blond hair underneath what looked like some old styled hat.  He had brown eyes and when he smiled he had dimples that would melt any woman’s heart.
            He kept looking into the camera, and I felt like he was looking at me.  I went to take a big sip from my hot tea, when I heard his voice “Nyx”. I stopped mid-sip and looked at the television, he was looking at me and he tipped his hat.  He was still talking about donating your unwanted books to the library for some children’s benefit program.  I watched his mouth form the words, and as he talked I heard him again say “Nyx, I’m Aeon – Tobar’s friend, meet me at the library tomorrow.”
            I spat out what I had consumed in my mouth; during my frozen state of observance, I hadn’t swallowed.  Reality hit me and I started yelling at myself.  I was mad that I had to clean up the tea, went to the kitchen to retrieve wet paper towels.  I mopped up what I could, and applied soap and water to the affected areas.
            Klutz!  I was yelling at myself.  This is the last thing I wanted to be doing.  Besides the annoying unknown, the name Aeon did strike some remembrance cord.  I threw all the wet and used paper towels in the trash as Lena came walking through the front door.
            “Hey” she daintily threw her keys on the entrance table.  She had collected our mail and was sorting through it.  “Here you go” she handed me the bills that had my name on them “did you want this?” She was asking if I wanted a Bed Bath and Beyond coupon.  I rejected and she shoved it into her pile of mail.  “Have you heard from Ryan?” She asked.
            Ryan was someone that Lena and I had met one night out at a local pub.  He was with his friend Jake, who Lena hooked up with.  I had thought he was a gentleman from the south.  But, like most men; once he achieved his conquered quest, his behavior changed.  Sad thing was, I liked Ryan.
            “Yes, I talked to him last night” I really didn’t want to get into this now; I wanted to let my brain veg for a couple hours. 
            She persisted “So, what’s going on?” She was in the kitchen now; our house was small, and cozy. You could easily have a conversation with someone in the kitchen or dining room, from the comfort of the living room couch.  She continued “What’s the deal’e’o.”
            She was referring to, what I had written off as a one night stand.  Basically, due to his inappropriate behavior; after we had spent the night together, the next morning while I was in the shower, he left without any revelry.
            “He explained that he wanted to go home to shower before going to work” I started flipping through the channels again “and he didn’t want to be rude and interrupt my shower.”
            She was munching on something; with a semi-full mouth the sputtered “That’s bull.”
            I knew this; if he wanted to be friends, I would be o.k. with it.  My hopes were that he was a stand-up guy, that he was a gentleman.  But, I should have known better.  In this realm, that kind of chivalry is extinct.  I didn’t mean to sound cynical, or jaded; but I have been hurt too many times to still believe in fairy tale romances.
            “Yeah, I know” I settled on a rerun of a show I had watched growing up.
            “So, what are you going to do?” Lenora asked.
            “I’m going to play it cool” because this had worked so well in the past (yeah right!).  Usually when I ‘play it cool’, men think I am unreadable, and distant.  It never worked in building or sustaining a lasting relationship.  The fear was that I didn’t want to put myself out there entirely, to have my heart massacred anymore.
            Lena joined me on the couch, “How do you – play it cool?” Her tone was a mix of teasing, inquiry, and sarcasm. 
            “The ball is in his court.  He knows he messed up… so, we’ll see how it goes.”  My phone alerted, letting me know that I had a text message.  It was our mother (Can you make two desserts and baked beans?)  I quickly typed her back that was fine. In coordination, Lena’s phone rang; she would be in charge of bringing rolls, and her green bean casserole.  There were only fifteen days left until Christmas.
            “Do you remember when we were little girls and we got to open one gift on Christmas Eve?” Lena was excitedly recalling this favorite childhood memory of my own as well.  I nodded in agreement, and she continued “I think we should do that here, like old times.”
            “Sounds good” I gave her a reassuring smile.
            My phone alerted again, I was sure that it would be my mom requesting something else.  But, it was Ryan (I’m really sorry, my actions were unforgiveable.  I can’t say I’m sorry enough.  Please, let me take you out tomorrow.  I want to see you.)  I showed Lena the text “Speak of the devil”.  Playing it cool was more difficult than I had thought.
            “That’s sweet, you should go” she took the remote and changed the channel to a Christmas movie, it was one of my favorites too so I didn’t mind that she took the remote from my possession.
            “I know.  But I’m not going to be so easily accessible anymore.”
            “That doesn’t sound like your ‘playing it cool’ technique.” She was sharing a satisfied smile with herself “That’s more of a ‘playing hard to get’, which I think at this stage of the game – is too late”.
            “O.k.; how about I change it from a technique to a theory” I joked with her; we shared a slight chuckle.
            She handed my phone back to me; she commented “You should text him back.”
            I took the phone from her hand, navigated to the reply tab, and typed (O.k., sounds good) short and sweet; maybe just short. 
I was surprised when Ryan texted back right away; (Good! How about tomorrow?).
            So much for being less accessible, I replied (What time? I have plans tomorrow.) I figured this could add to my theory of illusion.
            Again, his reply was immediate; (How about a late lunch?)
            Thinking that this wouldn’t be possible, I was planning on going to the Library, and finishing my shopping.  I asked Lena who was immersed in the movie “What do you think? He wants to go to lunch tomorrow.”
            She waved her hand dismissively; she didn’t want to be interrupted.  Judy Garland was being whisked away around the Christmas tree.  I loved this part of the movie as well; I always admired her red dress that she wore to the Christmas party.
            I took a deep breath and texted Ryan back (I want to finish my Christmas shopping and I have to go to the Library.  I can let you know when I’m finished if you still want to meet up.)  This might have been more elusive then I had thought after I sent the text.
            His reply (Am I included in your Christmas shopping?)
            He would be so lucky; (IDK, maybe!)
            (I hope so; you are definitely on my shopping list.) This was a welcomed idea.  I really did like Ryan, and secretly I hoped he would redeem himself.
            (That’s sweet of you) was my reply.
            (I look forward to hearing from you tomorrow after you have finished your errands.  I could always accompany you, I would gladly be your bag carrier) he added the happy face emoticon.
            My reply (Thank you for the offer – but, how can I shop for you if you are following me around?)
            Lena piped up “How can a person concentrate on a movie with all this texting going on?” She was teasing me.
            “Like you haven’t seen this movie - a thousand times before,” I commented in rebuttal.
            “I hardly think I’ve seen this a thousand times… I’m not that old,” she got up from the couch and started toward her room “besides, I have to get ready.  I have a date!”
            “Jake?” I presumed.
            “He’s on my shit-list” she said, while standing in the hallway “we had fun – and apparently, that is all.” She went to the closet in the hall and retrieved some towels “I think we’ll stay friends though,” she commented before going into the bathroom to take her shower.
            My phone chimed, another text from Ryan (So, I am on your list.  Good to know (another happy face emoticon) I’ll see you tomorrow then).
            To cultivate my theory, I replied (maybe you will, and maybe you won’t) I added the emoticon that resembled sticking a tongue out. 
The rest of the night was just as I had hoped; an escape through watching television.  This was my favorite time of year; I was a sucker for Christmas shows and movies.  Before I knew it, the clock on the cable box displayed midnight.  Bryan was asleep, snuggling up with me on the couch.  He was a couch hog, the gentle giant was a bed hog as well.  When I got up he awakened and joined me in my bedroom.  I crashed onto my bed and prayed for a restful slumber.

When I arrived at the library I thought at first that I was being totally naive. I was worried about meeting someone in this realm.  I guess that would mean that these weren’t dreams that it would become reality.  I grabbed the library books that I brought with me that were being returned early.  I was thinking that even if this Aeon person wasn’t here, and it all was a fit of my imagination, then at least I returned the library books and actually accomplished an errand.
            By this time I made my way to the return slot, and was pushing the books through, I noticed someone in my left peripheral.  I looked over and it was him, he was staring right at me smiling.  I couldn’t help but to feel self-conscious and tucked my hair behind my ears.  I took a deep breath before turning and walking over to him and WHAM! When I turned I had smacked my face right into his iron-like chest. 
            He was about a whole foot taller than me and he was lean and muscular.  I would bet good money this man didn’t have an ounce of fat in his entire body.  His brown eyes were intoxicating and when he smiled his dimples made his face light up and it seemed the world became a better place.  His laugh was billowing and he said “It’s very nice to meet you, Eryn.” I nervously nodded and couldn’t believe this was happening.
            “If you wouldn’t mind, I have a conference room for our business here.” He started walking to a nearby hallway.  I followed him, noticing every woman watching him. He opened the door and held it open for me to enter first, “Ladies first.”
When I walked in, I noticed it was a moderately sized room; all around were stacks of books, and boxes.  There was a table with hardly any surface; it was filled with stacks of children books. There was a bunch of colorful bookmarkers spread out on the table and I took one and was looking at it when Aeon closed the door. 
There was a noise like all the air was being sucked out of the room as the door shut; I kept reminding myself that he was a friend.  I suddenly felt worried; I wasn’t Nyx here and didn’t have powers to defend myself, if he was to attack. Aeon pulled out a seat for me and I sat down.  It’s so rare, and few gentlemen in our midst anymore that actually show respect for woman.
            He took a seat and I noticed he now had something in his hands.  It looked like a gold piece of jewelry, and as if there was something more to it too.  He saw that it had my attention and said “This is for you.”
I looked at him like he was crazy.  That’s when he sat back.  I felt like he was waiting for me to say something, so I asked “May I see it then?”
            “Surely” was his reply, “I just need to explain something to you first.” He smiled and continued; “I believe there is something in your possession that has returned with you from one of your dreams” he smiled after he said this and waited for me to respond.
            “You mean - the stone… the onyx?” I was so interested to hear what he had to say, I never knew why it was able to come back with me.  I had always thought it was Aella or Halia who somehow managed to smuggle the onyx with my return. 
            “Precisely” he seemed to be enjoying this just as much.
            “So it wasn’t Aella or Halia who slipped it into my pocket?” I asked him.
He shook his head from side to side, signaling no, before he started again “No, it was me” he readjusted in his seat, and I couldn’t help but to sample the eye candy. “I’m Khronos we’re the only ones that are able to transport individuals that do not have the ability to transfer from realm to realm, and we’re the only ones that can take something from one realm, to another.” He winked at me.
            “Are you the one that has been taking me to and from Tartaurus?” I asked him.
            “Yes, but I’m only following orders.” He stood then and started moving stacks of books.
I asked him “So… are you like, an angel?”
He just chuckled at this, and replied “No, most certainly not.” He was leaning against a huge pile of books when he reached over and handed me the locket.  I took it in my hands and it tickled my skin.  It was so light and delicate.  It looked like it was gold, with material consisting of pearls that was mixed in with it. I went to open the locket and Aeon started again “You’ll need to place the onyx into the locket.” He smiled before he went back to work. 
I brushed my fingers over the engraved front; it was an intricate design of curves.  I’d never seen anything like it.
“You’ll need this for when you want to go to a realm” he said this like it was nothing.
So, I thought I’d ask him, “So is it like - time travel?” 
He came back over to the table and sat back down, and said “It’s Khronosis’, time travel can be a portion of the vortex.” I was fascinated!  He just smiled and winked at me again, “But, it’s time for you to be on your way.”
I felt a little deflated, I wanted to know more; but, understood he must be very busy.  That’s when he informed me that he wouldn’t mind spending all day talking with me.  However, there was an ambiguous situation that I was needed for. 
He walked me to the door of the conference room and took my hand, bringing it up to his lips, and kissed the back of my hand. 
I could feel the warmth in my cheeks.  I would have thought he was a player; his action was meant in a complimentary way, and I was touched.
“Until we meet again Eryn” he paused then continued “unless you prefer me to call you Nyx?” He returned my hand.  I said Eryn was just fine here.  I left and didn’t look back. 

Driving back home was surreal, like I was driving on auto-pilot. When I returned home I had quite a few bags to carry in; I had to buy wrapping paper and that was always awkward to carry.  I noticed, on my way in, that there was a nice car parked on the curb side.  I didn’t think much of it until I came inside and Lena was entertaining a guest.
            “Good afternoon” I greeted them.
            “Eryn,” Lena got up from the couch “this is Guy.”    
“Nice to meet you,” was my reply.  He returned the sentiment.  I excused myself to my bedroom and unloaded the bags upon my floor.  Bryan was excited to see me and I had to yell at him for getting in my way; the bags were heavy and I just wanted to put them down. 
            As I took off my coat, I retrieved the locket, and went into my bathroom. I sat on the floor with the locket in one hand, and my cell phone in the other.  I couldn’t help notice that it was around quarter ‘till four in the afternoon.  The day had slipped away, and I still needed to respond to Ryan’s text from an hour earlier (You must be buying the stores out!  When will we get a chance to meet up?)
I put the cell phone down before me on the floor, and was looking at the locket again, its beauty was unmatched.  I clicked the face of it opened and noticed that inside the locket, where the picture would usually go, was slightly indented. I ran my finger over the indentation, and then flipped the locket over to look on the back.  There was another engraving: Look within to travel through your dreams, into realities, and even more possibilities...
I didn’t know why this touched me; I could feel the wetness fill my eyes. I got up and retrieved the onyx stone from a drawer I had stashed it in.  The onyx was in hand, I took a deep breath, with one hand on the sink basin, and the other remained enclosed around the stone.
I needed to collect my thoughts; but, I couldn’t even think.  I felt the cold stone in my palm; I rolled the small rock around in my fingers, as I slunk back down on the floor. With the locked before me, I plunked the onyx stone into the locket. 
It began to look like it was melting on its own.  It stretched and fitted to the locket inside.  The top was iridescent, what looked like liquid one minute; the next, it hardened and I clasped the locket closed.
How could all of this happen? I had already experienced so much in my life without this happening to me; these other realms, everyone, and everything.  I couldn’t control my breathing. 
People, my family and friends would think I had really lost it if I tried to tell them what I had been experiencing.  How was I going to be able to go back to living a normal life after?  How was I to know what lay ahead?
In distracting my hysteria, I quickly texted Ryan back (It will have to be dinner – how about 6?) and sent the message.  His reply was quickly received (Sounds good, I’ll pick you up at 6). This was agreeable to me, I left it at that.
Taking a deep breath, opening the locket again, I gazed upon the manifestations.  This time I saw images within the locket, the iridescent shine formed into pictures, and I thought I saw Arden looking at me.  Then like a picture being developed it slowly came into view.  And there I was, Arden’s hands were still on my shoulders, and I was standing before her holding the locket within my hand.
            Everyone was looking at me, I received a message from Avlov “Control your temper; don’t let your emotions go.
            “What!?” was all I could breathe out.

I knew Arden had told me Tobar was missing, and I didn’t understand why Avlov was trying to get me to control myself; I thought I was under perfect control in such a situation. Arden repeated herself “Tobar’s missing, and we can’t find him.” I clutched my new locket in my hand and everyone seemed to notice.
            This is what I didn’t want to let myself think about before, this was what was blocking me from trying to collect myself.  I closed my eyes and put my other hand over my heart as if it were going to jump out of my body; I didn’t know where the pain from within was coming from.  He had been there for me, and now I needed to be there for him.
I opened my eyes… “What do we know?”
“We unfortunately don’t know anything.  He wasn’t with you, we thought for sure he would be, and he wasn’t!” Arden was so upset, Zhou was still immobile on the floor and she glimpsed over toward him and turned away from us.  If it was possible, my heart felt for her too, I could feel her pain also.
            I was quickly distracted, “Unfortunately Nyx,” Enki took my hands in his and was looking at Avlov cautiously, she nodded slightly to him and he continued “we think that he must be with Xylo.”  He looked empathetic himself toward my pain.
            I felt outraged at first, how could they think of such a thing! I thought hard at Avlov; there is no way that Tobar left willingly with that bitch!
Avlov took out her pipe while nodding up and down, I was thinking in reference to what I was practically screaming at her through our minds.  That’s when she spoke up, “Of course we don’t think he went willingly.” And she looked sternly at Enki. 
He returned my hands and said, “He’s been abducted.” 
I couldn’t breathe; they guided me to a nearby chair.  I collapsed into it and thought I was going to start crying.  The brick wall that had been holding everything together, like a cleverly built damn - was starting to crack.
            All I could think about was how vile this bitch of a beast was.  She would gain immense pleasure in torturing him.  I kept closing my eyes and shaking my head trying to get the images out.
Avlov handed me a cup of her tea and her pipe “Drink this and puff on this for a while… try not to think about anything else.”
I followed her orders and my mind started to feel like a puffy cloud.
            I could hear them discussing what was going on, that we needed more information on Chernobog; the leader of this campaign against us.  Arden exited the room with her bow and arrows in tow.  That’s how she sent messages; her bow and arrows were magical and very ancient.  I’ve seen them in action and it was very impressive.
            But, why were they concentrating on Chernobog now? Why not concentrate on finding Xylo – we needed to find her!  This time no mercy would be shown!  I needed Tobar safe before I could concentrate on anything else.     
Hikmat remained at Zhou’s side and Avlov and Enki were at the table sitting quietly. They seemed to be in deep thought.  Enki stood and started to pace.  Avlov’s eyes were closed and she seemed to be agreeing with something.  I had finished the tea, and put the pipe down; I needed to keep my head on straight and put my game face on.  I was trying to think toward Avlov – what was going on, what am I missing?

A couple minutes later Arden returned with an arm full of parchment papers, she dumped them on the table, and they went everywhere.  Everyone that was there took a piece and opened them to read. 
I couldn’t read the one I had and I put it back into the pile. Avlov saw this and picked up the piece I drew and said, “This is about Otlen, the realm to which Chernobog is bound to” she looked at me with her fierce eyes “it’s a vampire realm.” She put emphasis on this and I didn’t know why.  Before I could say anything else, she spread out the parchment she had been reading before the one on Otlen, and it had various different scripts all over it.  She would move her finger over what she was reading; the first script was very elegant “I Sekhet drove the demon beast known as Chernobog to the realm Otlen, from Tartaraus.”
So Chernobog had been in this realm… but not defeated… not killed… I needed to know how to destroy! I started to rummage through the papers, like I knew what I was looking at; pausing to ask “Who’s Sekhet?”
Hikmat spoke up and informed me that she was known as ‘The scarlet lady’, she was a gorgeous deity who resides here in Tartaraus. I wondered why she was called the scarlet lady.
Avlov continued “Sekhet continues to state that she had a witness, but there is no name here” she looked at the paper queerly.  She then moved on to another part of the paper, this writing was more primitive “The evil beast known as Chernobog is light sensitive, but not to light from a fire” she had a look of shock, and then continued “there is no known way to vanquish, destroy, or kill the beast.”  Her face lit up, and her scary eyes widened.  I don’t think she meant to broadcast her thoughts.  I heard her scream in my mind “YES!” When she realized, after everyone looked shocked; she controlled herself.
They all looked so disappointed, Enki said “We need to find Sekhet and see if she’ll talk to us about her ordeal with Chernobog.” He sat down at the table now rummaging through the remaining papers. There was commotion coming from the hallway again, I thought at first that people must be waking up, and making their way to the hall.  But then everything went pitch black.  This was the first I could recall that Arden’s massive fire had gone out.  I heard Alvov yell “Nyx, light!” I closed my eyes and thought about the yellow misted light that I can produce around my entire body.  When I opened my eyes I was casting a comfortable glow. 
The fire shot back to life with vengeance.  People started piling in from the hallway now, and a guy I knew named Plamen went rushing toward the fire.  But then we heard a high pitched call, it was a crane call “It’s Nina, its o.k.” Plamen and everyone, including myself, calmed down. 
Before us flew out from the fire, a blood orange flaming crane; she had two white streaks starting at the crown of her head running throughout her body.  Her wings were huge, and she soared around until she morphed into the recognizable Nina form. She was barefoot but wearing jean shorts and a t-shirt. She had dark hair that was cute just past her shoulders in straight choppy layers.  She had high cheek bones, dark eyes and full lips.  Her skin was a light almond color and glistened from perspiration.
She ran up to Plamen and started “There are Garmound’s approaching the forest, fast, furious, and horribly terrifying!” She was beside herself, she was scared. She and Plamen conversed shortly while everyone else was talking too. 
Arden was still playing hostess to those that helped us against the battle with Xylo.  She kept glancing toward Zhou who still remained with Hikmat beside him. 
Enki quickly addressed Nina, “How long do we have?”
She shook her head from side to side motioning she didn’t know.
Plamen spoke up saying “Less than an hour.”
I couldn’t believe I spoke up; I said “We need to split up; we can meet up somewhere else.”
“You’re absolutely correct” Hikmat said joining Enki and Avlov at the table.  They spoke to themselves for a couple minutes then they acted like team captains, making short work of splitting everyone up. I was with Aella, Avlov and Plamen.
Plamen was tall, fair skinned and gorgeous blue eyes.  His hair was black, shorter on the sides but always looked like there was some method to his madness when it came to his hair.  He could just run his hands through it and produced an organized mess; but looked outstanding on him.  He was the tallest, he was fit, and just like everyone else he was gorgeous.

Garmound was a name for a vampiric’ beast from Otlen; I would learn later that they have ruddy purple skin, which felt cold and slimy to the touch.  Not that they knew this for sure, because no one ever lived after encountering one.  They had thought it was mere legend or lore. 
They have bloody red eyes and they’re bald, even the woman; they only wear scraps of clothing to cover their ‘nether regions’.  I was told they have wicked sharp claws too.  They attack their prey in groups and that there is nothing left after they are done with their victim.
I was also informed that they have sharp fangs and a proboscis tongue.  It would curl from within their mouths, and then might insert their long probing tongue into your nose to suck out your brains, while other garmound’s feasted from some other orifice. 
They use their sharp fanged, fragmented teeth, to crunch and devour the bones of their victims; chewing and gnawing through the remains. 
They’ll stay in their packs like wild dogs or wolves’ protective of their kill.  After their done, they’re gone, and there is no evidence of the person that they fed on.  Missing and lost forever. 
Avlov sent me a message “Get your things; we’ll be leaving here very shortly.”
I immediately went to gather my hide sack that Arden had given me when I first arrived here.  It contained the gifts that my friends had given me.  I liked how Halia and Aella called it my ‘bag of tricks’.  It was kind of weird and awkward that Plamen stayed by my side while I retrieved it.
I slung the sack around my neck and body and quickly went to Avlov’s side.  Arden was escorting Zhou and the rest of their entourage, which consisted of the rest of Arden’s clansmen and woman, whom helped her during the fight against Xylo.  The other clanswomen Diana was light haired and feisty, she was a lot of fun to have around.
Zhou was on a huge blanket-woven portable cot.  Shaw and Vipin, had each side of Zhou, and Tane followed supporting his feet.  Arden and Diana were leading the troupe in the front.
“It’s time - let’s go” Avlov said “stay close.”

We exited Arden’s Hut through the solid wood of the entrance wall; it was outlined by a door frame, and it was like light was coming through it.  We all stayed close together.
We walked out into Arden’s forest.  Tartaurus was always dark; here, the leaves omitted soft white glowing light.  It made her forest romantic and added to the grandness.  Otherwise the forest normally was cold and terrifying.
Aella floated up and soared above us all, the leaves and bits of the forest started kicking up and swirling all around us.
Plamen spoke up excitedly and said “I think I’ll fly on my own!” Then he winked at me and started to run. 
“Of course – show off!” Aella’s wicked smile filled her beautiful face.
When Plamen morphed it wasn’t like when I saw the other shape shifters.  He started to become like smoke, until his feet no longer touched the ground.  His mass totally turned to smoke and drifted upward.  The smoke turned from the various colors that he had consisted of; slowly evolving to black smoldering substance.  The black mass was huge, and then slowly it turned into the massive black dragon that was before us.
I could make out his four claws, and he had a long tail that slithered within the air above us.  His body was thick and very muscular.  When he flapped his wings, they weren’t the bat looking wings I was expecting; but gigantic black feathered wings. His eyes flashed open, and they were Plamen’s gorgeous blue eyes, one winking at me again.  I couldn’t help but to smile.