The Slayers: Mirror Seventeen
The painful scream echoed through the keep, the pink haired young woman racing to the source of the cry. The pink haired girl hammered o the door as she called out, "Mistress Hectate, are you all right?"
"Gwenyth?" Hectate managed weakly after a moment, "Enter."
Gwenyth opened the door, feeling the tingle of the magical defenses on her skin as she looked around wildly. If she had tried to enter without permission there would have been very gruesome consequences, to say the least. In the middle of the chamber the lovely blonde lay crumpled on the ground, her velvet cloak spilling around her onto the rug.
"What happened?" Gwenyth asked worriedly, gently helping the taller woman up.
Hectate kept a hand on Gwenyth's shoulder to steady her, swaying slightly. "Someone attempted a powerful search spell for our guest," she shook her head dizzily, "the castle's shields stopped it but the feedback was murder."
Gently Gwenyth helped her to a overstuffed chair, settling Hectate down as she asked, "Would you like some wine or spirits? It might help..."
Groaning Hectate sat, resting her head on the plush cloth. "That would probably make me feel worse," she grumbled. She looked off into the distance, thoughts working, "The other Naga and her companions must have made it to Saillune, this felt like the work of multiple magicians."
"But we had parties waiting to sight them on the main roads," Gwenyth protested, "and none of them even reported seeing them."
Hectate gave Gwenyth a grim look, shutting the young woman up. "Lina Inverse is a long time adventurer," she said coldly, "she and Naga probably decided not to take the main routes, for fear of a possible ambush."
With a sheepish sound to her voice Gwenyth murmured, "They crossed over the mountains out of season, through the storms..."
"Exactly, we underestimated them," Hectate said seriously. Her eyes narrowed a bit, "Send someone down to check on the original Naga, just in case."
"Ma'am," Gwenyth hurried out to the hallway, a softly chanted word summoning a guard. She explained to him what she wanted and he was off, returning in a few moments.
"Well?" Hectate asked imperiously.
"Still there," Gwenyth reported, "and unharmed, ma'am."
"Good," Hectate muttered to herself softly. With a sharp groan she forced herself up, her hand covering her eyes as she fought her pounding headache. "The scrying pool," she said seriously, "I need to see what's going on."
Gwenyth stayed near, gazing at her worriedly as they left, moving through the halls and up the tower to a room near the top of the great castle. The room smelled of herbs and incense, torches flaring to life as they entered the room, the wall hangings inscribed with powerful protective spells and enchantments.
Hectate chanted a few words as she held her hand over the specially created basin, the fluid churning a little before settling. A image appeared, cloudy at first, then with concentration it cleared...
The double of Naga resembled her twin in some ways but was a different woman in both clothes and attitude. The tall, black haired warrior and sorcerer looked capable in her tunic and leggings, a impressive sword carried over her shoulder.
Lina Inverse followed nearby, the smaller redhead resting a hand on Naga's arm. Tough and dangerous Lina was almost legendary in magical circles for both her skill and creativity, and feared for her power and recklessness. Called by some the Dragon and Bandit Slayer, Lina was not a woman that many wanted to cross.
'Of course I seem to be stuck doing so,' Hectate thought.
The last of the trio was Princess Amelia, the daughter of the ruler of Saillune and a powerful fighter in her own right. She and the taller Naga did resemble each other a little, especially around the face and eyes, and there was a similar sense of nobility about them.
The chamber they were leaving was filled with mystic symbols, magicians talking together in the aftermath of casting the tracking spell. Energy still shimmered in midair, slowly fading away as the residue of the spell dispersed into the air.
"Mistress, can you counter another such spell if they cast the same one again?" Gwenyth asked her respectfully.
"Probably," Hectate said seriously in reply, "but if they continue to try the spells they will find the true Naga."
"We could try to move her..." Gwenyth suggested.
"No," Hectate dismissed that, "without the shields of this citadel they would find her nearly instantly." She studied the image again, "And launching a direct attack on them would be foolish in the extreme, considering the palace defenses."
"Defenses against magical attack only," Gwenyth reminded her respectfully, "we could always send in a assassin."
"To attack whom?" Hectate snarled suddenly. "If we kill one of the three they'd declare bloody vengeance against me, not to mentioning angering the kingdom of Saillune. If we attack the court mages, same sort of problem," she finished.
"Sorry Mistress," Gwenyth bowed slightly.
"No," Hectate softened her voice a bit, "I'm sorry, I shouldn't be taking my annoyance out on you." She walked over to her seat and flopped back down before looking out into the distance in thought, "I think we'll have to sacrifice a major player to distract them a little."
"Who should I contact?" Gwenyth asked respectfully.
"Arberath," was Hectate's soft reply.
Gwenyth nearly choked on hearing that, "The demon lord! Might that be just a bit excessive for a distraction, ma'am?"
Hectate smiled slightly, "We need a large scale distraction from their quest for Naga.. and he certainly is that."
Gwenyth nodded, having to concede that. "What sort of instructions do you want me to give him?" she asked seriously.
"Maximum destruction, but few casualties," Hectate said simply. "And tell him to just go near the borders of Saillune, not to cross into their territory itself."
"Understood," Gwenyth nodded, slipping away from her mistress.
Hectate rose from her seat after a time, leaving the tower and continuing down into the chill dampness of the dungeons. She strode down the hall, a frown on her face, then reached the room she wanted. "How is she today?" Hectate asked the guard.
"Annoyed," was the guards cool reply. "She beat up a maid earlier and was busting up the furniture again..."
"You'd think she'd learn that sort of thing doesn't help her situation," Hectate shook her head.
"I don't think she really cares, ma'am," he answered frankly.
Hectate had to laugh at that. "True enough," she nodded then stiffened her spine. "I'm going in," she announced.
"Good luck," he saluted, opening the door.
Naga looked up, the leather bikini clad woman panting softly as she picked up broken pieces of the table only to break them again. "You," she said coldly, opening and closing her hands as fury blazed in her eyes.
Hectate smiled slightly, "And a good evening to you, Naga."
Without a word Naga charged, lunging for her only to cry out in agony. The leather collar she wore blazed with electricity, power surging around the room as the taller woman convulsed before finally falling in a heap on the floor.
Hectate winced, feeling a stab of pity for the other woman. The spell in the leather collar blocked Naga's magic as well as preventing her from harming Hectate.. using pain as a primary motivating factor. "It would be much easier you you," Hectate murmured to the fallen woman, "if you would just stop fighting."
"I've been here months," Naga wheezed, "and you still don't know me very well."
To be continued...