Shadow arrived at his destination quickly, but was surprised to see that the female was already there, aparantly waiting for him.
"Thanotoas will be here within the hour," she told him. "Mind you, be respectful to your employer."
"Of course m'lady, I always show respect to those who pay me," Shadow replied. Unknown to either of them, the two guards had caught up to them, and were now on foot approaching silently.
Jael looked up suddenly and saw Leo.
"You're supposed to be dead," she told him. "I'll fix that now."
"I was dead, but within minutes, Astea brought myself and Tiny back to life," Leo replied evenly. "I do not think I shall let you win again, last time you had surprise on your side. This time you do not. I urge you both to surrender."
"I will never surrender to a stupid male," she spat, and lunged foreword with her sword. Leo parried the thrust easily with his bastard sword. The two continued to exchange thrusts and parries, while Tiny and Shadow watched the hypnotic dance of death. Leo was obviously the soupier swordsman, when suddenly there was a bright flash, and Thanotoas appeared in the midst of it. Both stopped fighting to look at the newcomer.
Easily towering over Tiny by around four feet, Thanotoas was intimidating to say the least. His greenish black hair fell to his shoulders. His eyes were crimson, and in them, darkness so deep that to stare into them caused regular men to go insane. He grinned wickedly as he looked upon the four. His helmet covered most of his face, making it hard to see anything else, and over that he had a cloak, masking most of his body as well. He turned his gaze upon Jael.
"I told thee to eliminate all of the royal family," Thanotoas scolded her. "Thou shalt pay a large price for failing in thy duty."
"My lord, there is not a member of the royal family left alive," Jael told him. "I killed each one myself except for the king, and saw him die at the young assassin's hands."
"The young prince was away, thou merely killed the prince's double," Thanotoas said evenly. "Thou should have made sure it was the prince by the birth mark on his left arm. But thou were sloppy, and for that you shall be punished severely."
"No my lord Thanotoas," Jael pleaded. "Please, don't!" Thanotoas muttered a few inaudible words, and flames sprang up and consumed Jael. She screamed in pain as they licked at her flesh. Shadow watched in shock as the woman who saved his life was reduced to ashes. The smell of burnt meat filled the air.
"I don't care if she killed the queen . . ." Tiny began evenly. "YOU NEVER, HURT A WOMAN!" Tiny rushed at Thanotoas, drawing his sword and hacking at Thanotoas with amazing speed, like none he had ever shown before. Fire surrounded Tiny's body as his rage increased, giving him power like none he'd ever experienced. His blade became white hot, but did not melt in the heat. Thanotoas, amazed at such a change, lost his left arm before he began to dodge the wild thrusts. He drew his sword with his other arm, and with one fast swipe, disarmed Tiny completely. He then swung with all his might at Tiny's skull, using the flat side of the blade. Tiny flew backwards a hundred feet, crashed into a tree, his body wrapped completely around it on impact, and the fell to the ground. He lay there in a crumpled heap, unconscious and dying. Thanotoas reached down and picked up his arm. He then promptly re-attached it. His arm healed as if it had never been removed in the first place. He then gestured with his left arm newly re-attached, and Jael's body was completely restored, with the exception of one new addition, a black outline of an eye was now visible on her forehead.
Seeing Tiny thrown back, Shadow came out of his shock enough to move. Without a word, he drew Alchaizer, and threw it straight at Thanotoas' heart. Thanotoas caught the blade and threw it back, the blade cut threw Shadows chest, stopping only because the hilt prevented it from going farther. The force caused shadow to fly backwards, impaling him against a tree. With the last of his strength, Shadow removed the blade, it had pierced a lung, and he was slowly suffocating.
"Dost thou also wish to go against me?" Thanotoas said, looking at Leo. "Dost wish to join thy friends?"
"As much as I would like to," Leo states, feeling no fear. "I will not throw my life away in vain after getting it back so soon. I have a feeling we shall meet again, and then I shall be strong enough to completely destroy you."
"I am gladdened to see that there are still wise people left. As far as the girl is concerned, she is still alive. She belongs to me now," Thanotoas said, and with that, he and Jael vanished without a trace.
Leo rushed over to Tiny, to see if how he was.
"Leo . . . my . . . brother," Tiny started. "Do . . . you . . . think that . . . Astea will restore . . . me . . . again?" Tiny lost consciousness before he could reply.
Anger and grief welled up inside of Leo. It grew to where he could hold it in no more. It filled his being. Leo looked up into the sky and yelled. As he did so, energy was released his body, and entered both Tiny and Shadow. All three fell into a deep sleep as the healing process takes place, Leo was completely unaware of the power he just unleashed from his body.
* * *
Leo woke with a pounding headache. When he opened his eyes, what he saw surprised him.
"Kit!" Leo smiled at the site of his love. "What are you doing here?"
"Leo, I sensed that you were in trouble, and knew that I had to come to your side," Kit explained. "Remember, we promised that we would be there for each other if the other had need, so I came." Friends since childhood, it was only natural for the two to fall in love. They had gone everywhere together, and had even trained together. Kit was the only one who could match Leo in speed, and Leo always said that she was much faster, but held back to give him a chance. Kit always denied that she held any thing back in their training together. A very athletic body type, Kit favored light chain mail to the plate mail that Leo wore. She stood only a foot shorter than Raven, very tall for a woman. Strapped to her back she had a four foot single handed sword with a silver hilt, engraved upon it was the same image as on Leo's blade. The blade itself was made of the titanium as well, and it was said that Astea had Flint, god of the forge, make these two weapons from the same block of titanium, which was why they could sense when the other had need them. A raven flew from the branch of a tree nearby and landed on Leo.
"Tika, I'm glad to see you are well," Leo said to her. "Have you been watching over Kitiara for me?" Tika cawed in affirmation. "Thank you; you are a great friend to me." Tika gave Leo an affectionate peck with her beak.
"It's great to see you again my love," Leo smiled softly. "But Tiny . . ."
"Is doing just fine," Tiny called over to him. You've been asleep for the last five hours."
"And the assassin?" Leo asked. "What about him?"
"He disappeared before I could gather the wits to stop him," Tiny looked down at his feet, embarrassed.
"Don't worry my friend, though it seems Astea has a plan for him as well, if he is alive and well, after so grievous a wound as the one dealt him by Thanotoas. We shall go back to the castle, and prepare for a way to destroy this new evil."
"Sounds like an adventure, I think I'll be coming with you Leo," Kit told him.
"Kit. . . I don't know, this guy is pretty dangerous and . . . ," Leo started.
"You know full well that I'm as fast as you are, and that I would be a great asset to your team. I'm going and that's final!" Kit said crossly, but with a faint twinkle in her eye.
"Kit you never let me finish," Leo said hastily. "I was going to say it's dangerous, and so I was going to suggest that we needed as much help as we can get." Tiny laughed at the way Kit had manipulated Leo. Leo stood, and Tika took a perch on his left shoulder. The three mounted their horses, and headed back to the castle, not knowing that Shadow was following them from behind, on his own horse. He didn't forget that he owed Jael his life, and he meant to pay her back for that kindness, knowing somehow, that she was still alive.