Because of the dangers from Kendra, Sepulcrum is the deepest that I have ever been in the supernatural side. Enfer is like nothing I have ever seen. Everything here is carved out of different gemstones, diamond, onyx, opal, crystal. Iron, silver, and white gold form stalagmites that grow up from the ground and arc overhead to form gleaming cave walls.
“Who carved this?” I ask, my voice breaking the silence and echoing throughout the metal and priceless columns.
“Nature,” Henki replies softly. “None of this was carved. It all grew out of the ground when Enfer was formed. Every metal and stone here is alive, Princess. Further on in, there are trees and plants grown from the stones.”
“There are also animals made of metal and stones,” Daemon adds. “I have seen herds of deer, flocks of birds, and massive bears and wolves formed entirely out of gemstones and metal.”
“And they’re alive?” I ask, looking around in vain for these incredible animals.
Daemon laughs softly. “They are as alive as anything can be over here. But they are unlike anything that you have ever seen.”
I sit in silent shock and listen as water drips from stalactites to the floor. “Who are the original of the fifteen here?”
“There is only one,” Henki answers. “Her name is Artemis. She is nothing like the rest of us.”
“Well you all are different, based on what district you come from,” I say. “What makes her so different?”
“Because where the rest of the fifteen have powers to destroy, I am the only of the fifteen with the power to create,” a new voice says. This voice is strong and powerful, yet feminine and soft.
“Artemis?” I ask, looking around the shadows for the mysterious woman.
“That is what I am called,” she says, stepping out from behind a towering iron and silver oak.
I gasp. As beautiful as her home is, she is even more stunning. The closest thing I can compare her to is a stone statue of her Greek goddess namesake, but instead of cold marble, she is made entirely out of living silver, steel, and diamonds.
“My appearance does take some getting used to for those who have never seen me before,” she says softly, openly staring at me the same way I’m staring at her. “It has been many, many years since there has been a royal in Enfer. I have not made weapons or art for your house for just as long.”
“You supplied my family with weapons?” I ask incredulously.
Her voluptuous silver lips curve into an easy smile and her opal and diamond eyes twinkle in amusement. “Yes, Shadow Princess. Every bow, arrow, and sword that your family and their army uses was crafted here. Even the sword and daggers that Daemon carries. Weapons made from living metal are indestructible.”
“Actually, I lost that sword in a bet when I first began serving in Shadow Lord’s army,” Daemon confesses sheepishly. “I had to get a sword made from human steel.”
Artemis gives Daemon a playful frown and sighs. “Am I to think that you only came to see me just to get a new sword? No one ever visits me just to visit.”
She turns and walks deeper into the cave and we follow. Her iron boots clink softly against the silver floor. Her hair blows in the wind that she creates as she walks. Instead of being made of one large chunk of white gold, like I originally thought, it’s made of millions of individual strands of white gold with strands of pewter underneath the white metal and framing her onyx face. Her battle armor and skirt are made entirely out of silver.
“Silver usually hurts ghosts. Why doesn’t it bother you?” I ask, thinking about her outfit.
Artemis laughs, a bright tinkling sound. “I am made from living metal and stones, and no metal can harm me. The only reason that Kendra has yet to attack Enfer is because my entire palace is made of silver, and so are the horns and tusks on all of my wild beasts. She knows that she would not succeed in any attack made on Enfer.”
“Is that why your gift is to create things instead of destroying, like the rest of the fifteen?” I ask.
She smiles and ducks beneath a low hanging diamond branch. “If I so chose, I could tear the entire supernatural side apart by the very fabric that holds it together,” she replied nonchalantly. “While I am the most powerful being in the supernatural side, the burdens of the crown and throne have no allure for me. I am content to stay here in Enfer and continue making weapons and living art.”
“Would you leave if it came to war?” I asked, watching for a reaction.
“Will it come to war, Princess? Is not your journey to Gahenna to end the war that has been in stalemate for centuries?” Artemis asked, her voice suddenly taking on a sharp edge.
“It is, but what if I fail?”
“Then you must not fail. I understand that Kendra has affected your family most, but her reach is long and has extended far beyond your own. There is more at stake here than just saving your family. Kendra must be stopped, else she will tear apart the entire supernatural side with her bare hands. While saving your family is a noble cause, Shadow Princess, will it be enough to get you through Gahenna? Will it be enough to remind you why you are fighting Kendra when all seems lost and there is no hope?”
Artemis pauses and fixes her eerie white gaze on me. “You cannot have any room for doubt on a journey such as this, Princess. You must have full faith in yourself and what you believe, else you will fail, and the supernatural side will fail with you.”
“What do you mean?” I ask.
“We are a dying race, Shadow Princess. Kendra’s spirit is a vile and corrupt entity. While we may all love some form of chaos, Kendra lacks balance, and that is destroying us.”
“I never knew,” I say slowly. “I didn’t…”
Artemis places a hand on my shoulder, and I’m surprised to feel that it’s warm. “You have been the Eidolon that was exiled to the human world for centuries, you had no way of knowing. Many things have been hidden from you because your father did not wish to force a decision upon you. He always wanted you to make your own choice of which world you wished to remain in. But now that you have made your decision, there is much for you to learn.”
“Well how am I supposed to learn now?” I demand, a little louder than necessary. “I’m on a suicide mission to kill a ghost that can’t be killed and has never been defeated in battle. What am I supposed to do? Bore her to death?”
I glare at Daemon as he stifles a laugh with a cough.
Artemis raises an eyebrow and starts walking again. “You are very passionate for one who is half-dead, Princess,” she observes mildly. “That can either be a weakness or a strength.”
“What do you mean?” I ask.
She reaches up and pulls a diamond branch off a tree, then slams it into the stone ground. Cracks appear all around the base and run in between my party’s feet. A sudden wind blows through and almost knocks me off my horse. I put my hand in front of my face to try and deflect some of it. Her white gold hair whirls wildly around her face. She yanks the branch from the ground and the wind stops just as quickly as it began. I slowly lower my hand.
“What…” I begin to question, but stop when I see the thing wrapped around her arm. “Is that a snake?”
Artemis smiles and nods. “This is a snake that you just watched me make from a branch of an ordinary tree.”
“Most ordinary trees aren’t made of living metal and stones,” Wraith whispers sarcastically.
“Catch,” she tells me.
Before I can react, there’s a five foot diamond snake wrapping itself around my arm, fixing its eerie white eyes on me, long tongue hissing out and tasting the air.
“You are afraid of snakes, are you not?” she asks gently.
I nod, feeling panic beginning to rise in my chest. “What am I supposed to do with this thing?”
“If you were truly human, you would stay still until someone came to save you. Or you would flail about and try to pull it off, in which case you would die,” she replies.
“Die?” I squeak.
“I make only weapons and art. This snake has no purpose for art, therefore it is a weapon. One bite would kill you in less time than it takes for you to walk between dimensions,” she says, reaching out and stroking the snake’s head, her onyx fingers rasping gently over the diamond reptile.
“And what does this have to do with me being emotional?” I ask, my mouth suddenly going dry.
“Kendra is the snake. You are an Eidolon. What will you do to rid your arm of Kendra?” she asks. “Snakes are rather clever creatures, you know. You have to be clever to live forever.”
“Are you telling me that I need to outsmart her?” I ask.
“For all her strengths, Kendra has just as many weaknesses. A battle she will expect, an assassin she will not,” Artemis answers, pulling the snake off me and setting it on another tree. “There are ways to outsmart her. You just need to find them.”
“If there are ways to outsmart her then why hasn’t anyone done it before?” I ask, rubbing my arm to restore blood flow.
“Because unlike someone who was raised human, we do not know where to look. As ghosts and the dead, we are used to darkness and despair. It is our way to stick a knife in someone’s throat or have a massive battle than to think and outwit them. We are slow to change, and we do not enjoy change. That is why Kendra has had little opposition, save your father,” she replies. “Come, you will stay with me for the rest of the day and the night, and you will continue onward tomorrow.”
The three of us fall into line behind Artemis and follow as she continues to walk deeper into the trees.
“That woman is incredible,” Wraith says softly behind me.
“That woman is also old enough to be your grandmother,” I retort, just loudly enough for him to hear.
“Are we jealous, Princess?” he asks, starting to sound more like Daemon.
“Hardly,” I reply sharply.