Chapter 37 (Part Two - Toward Persephone)

Saracen and Balthazar found themselves in the clearing that Belial had stood in three days previously.  Both Demons were adorned proudly in their warriors garb looking ernestly for signs of their quarry.  It was Saracen who found it.

A small track had been cut through the picturesque, emerald undergrowth.  Three sets of footprints led through the woodland area into a linger darkness.

Balthazar followed silently behind Saracen abashed by recent events.  The scars on his face and shoulder were itching as they began to heal, but the mental scars were as bitter and prominent as they ever had been.  The beauty of the Netherworld did nothing to extinguish his fear and doubt.

It was after about three hours walking that Saracen had lost the trail.  His frustration showed as he pitched a stone against a large shaggy looking tree.  He knew that Hades Citadel was south east of here and decided that they were better off following the trail there.

A further three hours passed when they broke from the suffocating vines and branches.  The Demons were standing atop a small hill overlooking a green blanket as the stretched through a patchwork valley.  He almost didn't notice the young girl walking through a small spinney below them.

She was dressed in a white gown with a shimmering pink hue to it.  There was determined frame to her strut, her long flowing blonde hair bounced in an almost trance-like fashion.

It was Balthazar who spotted the two harpies leaping from tree to tree behind her.  He alerted Saracen immediately. Their loping grace did not see, equivalent to their gangled features.

A grotesque rotting brown and green fleshed creatures with wide beige wings projected a fearsome contrast to both the angelic maiden and beautiful scenery.  Despite their large cumbersome frames, it was almost like watching filthy ballet dancers gracefully following a beautiful choreography.

Saracen immediately registered the danger the stranger below them was in.  The talons on the Harpies protruded like sabers from underneath their long bony legs.  Motioning Balthazar to be quiet he began a hasty, stealthy descent.

The descent ended just in the nick of time for the beautiful stranger as Saracen and Balthazar arrived in a small spinney hidden from their recent view.  The young lady entered the spinney just as a high pitched shriek rained a terror over Saracen's ears.

Balthazar acted quickly.  He ran across the spinney and threw his weight against the girl, pushing her awkwardly out of the spinney and into a velvety undergrowth.

Saracen drew his Katana's and raced to the plummeting Harpy.  As Balthazar lepat at the girl saracen leapt at the Harpy aiming a swift aerial blow at it's thick putrid neck.  The blow never landed.

The Harpy turned and landed on it's back as it's furious talons scrabbled at the sword.  As it deflected the blow it hissed and screeched.  In one movement it flipped itself onto it's legs, a divinely terrible example of athleticism that suddenly made Saracen realise that he was outmatched.  He backed away and stumbled leaving himself wide open to be torn to pieces by this monster.

Balthazar had emerged alert from the undergrowth to see wild wings flurrying before his face.  His instant reaction was to stab the thin membaneous wings.  The moster turned giving saracen vital seconds to find his feet.

The second Harpy landed behind Saracen at that instant separating him from any slim chance he had of helping Balthazar attack the first harpy.

Balthazar was awestruck by the sheer size of the Harpies.  In the safe confines of Hell he would have pictured these as mythical Dragons from a fairy tale.  But he wasn't in Hell.  He wasn't in hell and his sword was drawn.

Saracen faced his foe as the harpy screamed at him.  He found himself stifling a compulsion to wretch at the sheer fetid scent of rotting meat that greeted his nostrils.  As Talons came at him Saracen ducked and dived despite the awesome ferocity that the scrabbling blows were delivered.

Balthazar's tactic was a little different.  He forced himself on the front foot and lunged toward exposed throat of his Harpy.  This was just a feint however, and the Harpy anticipated him to commit to the blow.  As the Harpy moved Balthazar's deft footwork forced him further around the beast displaying much of her back and neck.  Balthazar recognised the opportunity for a kill.

Saracen was fending of the relentless whistling attacks from the enraged horror before him.  Slowly he led the harpy backwards to the edge of the clearing until he could feel the looming cold shadow of a large tree approaching his back.

Balthazar lunged and slashed at the base of the Harpies neck.  He watched as the winged monster bucked suddenly and tried to twist it's grotesque body toward him.  As the neck came around balthazar swung his sword at the exposed throat opening a large orifice.  The wound sprayed hot red liquid over his arms and in that moment he knew he was victorious.

In a flash Saracen deftly swung his body behind the tree rolled back into the clearing behind the Harpy as it tried to rip the tree from it's roots in an attempt to reach him.  Both Katana's sliced the the base of the beast neck.  Both cuts reached their targets.  BOth harpies were slain.

As blood spouted a torrid fountain into the air, and as the convulsive, aggressive spasms of the Harpies slowed into a slumbering twitch the young girl emerged back into the clearing.

"Where did they come from?"  Her mouth spoke the words, but her eyes betrayed any sign of anything but an autopilot incredulity.

Saracen sat down heavily on the ground and stared at the girl.  She was even more beautiful now that he was close.  Her hair was an ivory blonde set against a mildly tanned skin.  But those eyes.  He knew those eyes.

"What is your name?"

"My name.  Oh my name is Hermione."

The End

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