With Leanna Parish safely under the control of the Army of 40, Dr. Kennedy wasted no time nor money in travelling through western Europe towards and area he recognised along near the straights of Messina, a flush of water dividing mainland Italy from Sicily. Leanna rested her weary head against the tinted glass of this luxurious blackened coach. Her friend Zack sat on the seat in front, his eyes eagerly looking around the coach at Dr. Kennedy and also Morgan Leblanc, who’d identified a place in Florence they wished to visit next, hoping to find a new recruit whose brass inventions of an age since passed were marked down by the seers vivid pictures, and identified online by a Venetian university contact. A long winding road followed tight to the coast overlooking some vast and beautiful beaches of golden sand that entered the gentle massage of the tides, washing them clear and smoothing out all wrinkles. A few people were scattered around but otherwise these beaches were empty and at total peace.
The road wound along the hillsides, coiling along like a viper through the golden grasses, however their coach driver, whom Dr. Kennedy held in high regard despite his young age and devoted love of retro cartoons seemed to take them in his stride. It panicked Morgan to hear some of the loud squeals and cheers he gave as he manoeuvred this behemoth along narrows roads and through tight spots without it getting damaged at all.
“Have you been here before?” Zack asked Leanna, making the most of the time she spent away.
“I’ve been to the north of Italy.” She thought, “And that’s the furthest I’ve ever been,” she thought, “You were there that time.”
“With the cows and your mother running from them?” he sniggered, “That was brilliant.”
“Then that bull,” Leanna thought, “Yeah that was fun,” she glared.
“He was eyeing you up not me.”
“Hence why me and my mother ran. You and dad were safe.”
A wide smile crossed his lips, “Leanna, you’re not going to leave Bristol for these guys are you?”
She glanced over his shoulder at Morgan and Dr. Kennedy who were talking about a man named Antonio Carlopoli. Their current target after having found the first few.
“I doubt it,” she said, “All they need me to do is find them a book here. Couldn’t be that hard.”
“Where though, we’re in the middle of no where?”
“I guess its an old place.” She shrugged.
“Do you know Italian?” he asked.
“Not a clue.”
“Then how’re you going to get this book?”
Leanna shrugged again, “I’ve not got a clue,” she sighed, “We’ll just have to wait and see I for their master plan.”
“This doesn’t seem right though Lee.” He said, keeping his head low while he talked, “I mean these guys just took us from Bristol to Italy in a few days, trying to find a book? You don’t know any of them.”
“They’re paying great money, we can’t afford to pass this opportunity down.” She said, taking a lime green card from her pocket, “I mean this could fund both our university needs so we don’t need to worry about debt and give us something for apartments after.”
“You think?” Zack asked eyeing up the glazed lime green card that lured him in closer to touch.
“Yep,” she said, tucking it back into her trousers, “Besides they’re after other guys. When we were in the car on the way here that brunette was talking to a guy in the alps.”
“The alps?” Zack asked, “How far spread are these guys?”
“Well, western Europe.” She smiled, “It’s not that far apart in the great scheme of things is it really?”
“Fair point,” he thought, scratching the back of his head with wonder.
The bus turned towards a car park dotted with only a few vehicles belonging to the families at the beaches. In the distance were cliffs that cascaded into the ocean below. The bus came to a slow stop and the vibrations of the engine calmed, both Leanna and Zack woke up to see the television on at the front of the bus, with the driver kicking back to catch up with his cartoons, of which he could now dub every line.
Morgan walked to the back of the bus, “Sleep well?” she asked.
“Like a dream,” smiled Leanna, “Is this the place?”
“We think so.” She nodded, “Come along,”
The two left the bus into a blaze of heat that baked the tarmac and the streaks of golden grass that lined the coast, wavering in the cool onshore breeze that blew by. Instantly Leanna shed her jacket to reveal some summery clothing underneath. Her legs were still damp with sweat, wrapped up in tight jeans, and she’d been advised to wear proper hiking boots which didn’t help the situation at all. Something told her today was going to be long.
“Right miss Parish.” Said Dr. Kennedy as he approached, dressed for the warmth of Italy he donned a sunhat and plaid it smart while Zack fitted a bandana on his head and Leanna stuffed a cap into a rucksack.
“We’re here in search of a book of some kind.”
“You did say?” she thought, looking around what was otherwise just open countryside, “Where is it?”
“That’s why we have you here,” he said, “We need you to find it.”
“Alright,” she thought, her chipper voice seemed up for the challenge to give her the satisfaction and feeling of having earned the money she was being paid, “Can you give me a clue where to start?”
“I’m afraid not,” he said, “Myself and Morgan are equally as uneducated as you are. We just know that this is where you need to be to find a very ancient book.”
“An ancient book you say?” she thought, “Suddenly I feel like Lara Croft.” She said, tweaking the straps of her bag with a smug look.
“Only I wouldn’t screw you,” winked Zack as he took a look around and became a frenzy of energy.
“Is your mp3 charged fully?” asked Morgan with minor concern for their new recruit.
She pulled the mp3 from her pocket and nodded surely, “Check.”
“Have you got everything in your bag you need?” she asked, “Water, snacks, mobile phone?”
“And my snap happy camera,” she said cheerfully, “Are you guys staying here?”
“We’re going for a wander around, see if we can find anything to help you.” Thought Dr. Kennedy as he stood in the breeze in partial adventurers gear, that did seem quite dated.
“Righto,” she nodded, “Well better get cracking aye.”
“Indeed,” Morgan nodded, “You have our numbers so don’t hesitate to call.”
“Okey dokey,” she nodded, nudging Zack into action to follow her towards the grass and rock outcrops.
They climbed over a tall knoll that overlooked a grand pasture.
“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Zack asked, staring out at the abyss.
“This is all some sort of joke?” she asked, “I agree.”
“Maybe they’re like serial killers or something.”
“…” she looked down at him with a mocking smile, “Zack, why would they bring us out to Italy, spend all this money and lead us into a pasture land – to kill us?”
“Maybe they’re hoping a snake will do it for them?”
“If a snake bites one of us, it’ll take some time for any poison to kill us you know. And there are families all around here who can drive us to a hospital.”
“They wouldn’t know what we’re saying,” cried Zack in an airy tone, “For all they know we could be screaming ‘potatoes potatoes’.”
“With two swollen fang marks on our legs?” she asked while stepping into the undergrowth and starting a search along the ground.
“You never know,” he shrugged, “All I’m saying is nothing is as it seems, right?”
“I’m sure,” she said, spying out some sheep bones scattered amongst the grass.
As Morgan and Dr. Kennedy could be seen dispersing across these open pastures both Leanna and Zack grew more confident to look around further. They climbed a small hillside that gave them the perfect vantage point to look over the surrounding area, straight to the cliffs and a small inlet bay, and back down the coastal road they’d driven. Zack climbed up the weathered furrows of the hillside and sat on a large rock beside Leanna under the shade of a tall twisted tree, one of many that bore few leaves and grew with their old dried roots tangled around the rock, as if holding together this tall mound of rock and rubble that formed a wooded blockade between the coast and a thicket of tall scrubland plants behind.
“It’s too hot,” sighed Zack, pulling his hat over his forehead.
“I know,” Leanna agreed with an air of concern, “Have you got everything you need?”
“Sure,” he said, patting the side of his bag, “Why?”
“You stay here in the shade; I’m going to scout on for a moment.”
“Yes, just give me a heads up if either of those two start acting suspicious.”
“Right, will do lover.” He said, cheering her on, “Go Leanna, find that books ass!”
She laughed and shook her head, lifting a fallen branch to bat back thorned stems and sticky grass that grew at the feet of the twisted trees born with few branches and odd in shape.
“Righto, what happens if a snake bites you?”
“I’ll yell potatoes and you’ll come get me,” she replied, making her way over the crest of the hill to the next furrow along.
“Will do sir,” he cried, placing his bag beside him while he leaned against a tree and stretched out.
Just as Leanna disappeared over the hill he glanced down at his bag eager eyed. Then bit his lip and looked to the sky through the branches, focusing on the beautiful flowers that blossomed in the tree rather than the temptation he’d brought hiding in the shadows of his bag.
Leanna crossed the hillsides under more of these curious trees. She looked up at their form but saw nothing but twisted wood and bark. After a five minutes struggle against loose rocks and through thorns and thick grass she reached the top of the next hill she looked back to see Zack still sitting and keeping watch. She stared down at the shadows of the trees and saw a sudden pattern emerge, they all twisted and grew in the form of dancers like herself, curved and contort, shadows capturing movements she could perform with fluidity and grace while under the spell of a good song.
“Do you know anything about this place?” Morgan shouted to Dr. Kennedy as they walked along, kicking back rocks and finding nothing but the odd brightly coloured insect.
“Nothing specific,” he thought, “Hopefully Ms. Parish will find something however.”
“What are we looking for exactly? Just a simple old book?”
“An ancient book, which predates much literature.”
“As always,” Morgan thought, “We’re delving back to a time long since forgotten and neglected.”
“As is our job.” He said with a nod of the head.
“Do you know anything about this book?” she asked.
The heat of the day continued to burn at their skin, turning complexions and driving Morgan back to the bus after a short while where as Dr. Kennedy continued his search. Leanna however made some headway climbing over the hills, and within time managed to find a tunnel entrance tangled by the roots of the twisted trees that seemed to beckon her to enter the cooling, damp shade.
She stood by the entrance and looked in, there didn’t seem to be anything in there, she looked over her shoulder but there was no one there. Then turned back “Echo?” she cried, listening to her own voice bounce back from the depths, “Doctor!” she yelled.
After a moment of not hearing any reply she decided to enter the cave and have a short explore in its darkness. It appeared as the only peculiar landmark of this area. She walked down the dark hall and took out her phone, “Who knew I’d need a torch in sun lit Italy.” She said to herself, slowly making her way along the caves in the darkness. With one hand she lit the way with the light from her mobile, the other followed the wall of the tight tunnel as it led further along the hillsides without end.
Zack slid his hand into his bag and felt the lining for something long and slender hidden. When he found it he ripped the inside covers out and pulled out a syringe, “I thought I’d gotten rid of you.” He said to himself, suddenly his mind became a paranoid whir of thoughts contradicting each other once again, what was the harm? What could go wrong? What would it be like? What would it do?
Dr. Kennedy’s phone rang as he stood in the field, his bus driver kicked back a few stones while drinking from a can of coke and taking in the sun.
“Everything alright?” he asked.
“I’m fine,” said the good Dr, spying out Zack on the hillside rummaging through his bag as he lifted his phone, “Yourself?”
“That Morgan lady isn’t too social around me.” He said, “I thought I’d come back here, see how work is going?”
“To tell you the truth, I’m not sure.” He flipped the phone open and held it to his ear, “Leanna?”
“Dr. Kennedy?” she asked, “I found something interesting I thought you’d like to know.”
“Where are you?”
“In a tunnel,” she explained, “About two hills over from where I left Zack. Its very deep, and I can’t really find an ending. But I’ll keep looking anyway.”
“Where is it leading, do you know?”
“It doubled back along the hill.”
Kennedy, “Right.” He thought, looking around.
“Should I keep on searching?” she asked as she continued tip toeing along the hallway.
Her hands crossed something metallic, a circular sort of brace around the caves that opened it out.
“Yes, k--p --ing.”
“Sorry?” she asked, “I c---‘t h--- you.”
“Leanna?” Kennedy shouted down the phone, “Leanna?”
The phones went dead and the conversation closed with no further signal. Dr. Kennedy tried to ring again and found the reply “the number you have dialled is incorrect, please hang up and try again.”
Leanna looked down at her phone as it went blank, the symbols and words on the screen distorted and jumbled madly before it switched off. She shook it and tried restarting but neither tactic worked. With a curious look around the cave Leanna stepped through suddenly blinded by a blaze of bright blue light as torches lit up along either side of a widened hallway that continued ahead to a tall cylindrical room where she could hear a few drips of water echoing. She tossed her head back and looked at the passageway she’d walked through, five rings arched around the doorway and as she walked towards them twelve skewers slid in place to block her way back. She backed away sharply with a worried look on her face, then turned back to the promise of sunlight in the room ahead.
Filled with a clear substance Zack peered into the syringe and took a moment to eye up the liquids inside while his mind contemplated the rights and wrongs of what he was doing. The urge to try it one more time, to try for a moments peace was too much to handle, and considering he thought he had none left it seemed like twist of fate should he find one to settle his nerves and worries of being betrayed by Kennedy and Morgan. With pursed lips he stared up at the branches of the trees and slowly forced the needle into his arm while keeping his fist clenched tight. He pressed against the head of the syringe and felt the liquids pump into his body with each further push, they filled his veins and thrust through the blood striking nerves and rushing straight to the head leaving him in a feverish physical state but a mind opening further.
Leanna walked to the edge of a deep pit mostly filled with water. At its sides roots from the twisted trees climbed down and dipped into what had collected and filled up the dark shadows of this pit to sustain the trees of the woodland. The walls were not just simple and plane, but were carved with ornate statues with three large spheres held my muscular Grecian men, below them were twelve wolf heads carved out, dribbling water into the pool slowly. Mosses and lichens had made a home here in the cool damp where nothing else could live.
She looked up at the light that broke between what appeared to be a mat of grass growing over another five ringed grid. At the side of the room was a lever that Leanna felt with one wandering hand while she leaned over the water below and looked into its secretive depths. As she leaned forwards a gentle tug pulled the lever down, she jumped back in startle by the sudden movement and was made weary by the sounds of ancient gears and moving masonry. In the centre of the pool four bridges met. One extending from the end of the hallway, the other two from below the large spheres held up by Grecian men. They met in the centre, the other three carried tall stone torches to the middle where they met around an open hole that looked down into the water.
Leanna stepped onto the bridge, dabbing her foot onto what she questioned as a sturdy construct. Ambitiously, she jumped onto the bridge and found herself suddenly surrounded by beautiful lights that glowed from pearls used in decoration of this submerged sepulchre. Gentle music harkened to her ears, the sound of harps and flutes musing the airs and making the waters dance beneath. Leanna walked to the middle of the bridges where she stood and watched the five rings above slowly lower down. Balanced on the smallest central ring was a closed tome, bound together by leather and rope and kept safe within a tanned hide bag it came down to her level almost within reach.
“A book?” she thought, spying the pages.
“The book,” replied a voice from above with an incredibly sedate and exotic voice.
Leanna turned sharply and spied out a woman standing high above with a flute at hand.
“Who’re you?” Leanna asked, “Where did you come from?”
“I wouldn’t imagine you’d know my name would you.” She smiled, her tanned skin so pampered and perfect with white robes resting upon it “Allow me to introduce myself; I am the muse Euterpe, enlightener of the soul, inspirer of music and melody.”
“A muse?” thought Leanna, “As in the Greek myth?”
“Fiction often overlaps fact, the two can be closely linked at times.”
“What is this place?” Leanna asked, “How can you understand me?”
“I am not of your simple world,” she smiled, “We muse brought light and spirit to the ancients of this land, before the divine sought to rid them when they became too strong and too wise.”
“What?” Leanna asked, “I don’t understand.”
“I see fate did what it willed and brought a world of complacent creatures to settle upon its soils.” She turned away and set the flute down on a stand beside a splay of pillows and throws she lay to rest on for so long, “What business do you have here mortal?” she asked.
“I’ve come for a book,” she said, “Maybe this book.”
“Haha,” she laughed, “How amusing, you wish to take that book of all books into the mortal world?”
“What is it?”
“A book of recipes.” She smirked, “Something you should know better than to thieve.”
“Recipes?” asked Leanna, “What do you mean.”
Euterpe stepped from her balcony and glided to the bridge between Leanna and the hallway. As she did so Leanna nervously equipped her earphones and thumbed through to her fast paced dance music, praying that what Morgan and Dr. Kennedy told her was right now she was face with a woman who could apparently fly.
“That book is for no one and nothing of the real world, it contains secrets of old. Secrets you will not understand and you will not use.”
“Well,” she thought, looking back at it, “I guess it’s rather valuable then.”
“Is wealth all you’re after young girl?” called another woman the second of the spheres, a much more ample and busty woman whom lay across a spread with a harp at hand watching her sister from far above.
“No,” she said, “I just needed to find this book.”
“And what are you planning on doing with it?” Euterpe asked, opening a hand that caught blue fire which did not burn her clothing only crisped her hands though she did not react to the pain.
“Don’t hurt me, I’m not here to cause harm.” She cried, stepping back form the flames, caught in bemusement at their site and warmth that did nothing to the woman holding them.
“We are not going to hurt you.” She said, “This book is ours and will remain in our hands alone. You my darling girl have seen enough of this place to inspire your spirit as much as is needed.”
“Needed?” she asked, “What are you on about?”
“You know nothing of this books writer, you really don’t deserve it.”
“Call in Skylla,” said the other muse as she sat upon her suite.
“She has been ever so lonely in her caves and misses the tender feeling of soft skin.”
“What?” Leanna cried, “What’s Skylla?”
“She is a nymph.” Explained Euterpe.
“A nymph?” Leanna asked, watching the muse light the three torches, striding over thin air so easily.
Leanna took a few steps back and watched the water begin to sway.
There came a yawn form the last bubble, “What is happening dear sisters, again you’ve failed to wake me from my sleep. Another handsome young trespasser I do dare to dream?”
“No dearest,” said Euterpe, “This ones female my dear Erato. And no fears, she is an intruder to our sacred grove; she will soon meet the infamous Skylla.”
She peered from a surrounding of pillows with a set of panpipes in her hand, “Hmm,” she thought, not caring to do anything else but correct her fingering over the pipes and play a swift and perky melody which her sister fled to a safe height at the beat of.
Leanna turned up the volume of her mp3 and slowly took the beat to heart. The wolf heads spat water to the centre of the halls that fell through the main circle in the middle and filled the waters beneath. The book rose to a safe height as not to get wet and the three muses sat back and watched from their safe distances.
The water rose up in bubbling froth like that of a witches cauldron and out from its depths came one large scaled and clawed hand that clenched the roots of the plants above and tensed to lift something up. Leanna froze at sight of the arm, the forearm at least was the length of her, and each claw as long as her own limbs. Leanna jumped from one bridge to the other just as a second hand reached up for her and tried to snag her leg though it missed by an inch though knocked her off track so she struck the bridge hard. With some effort she pulled herself to her feet and kept balance; three more hands rose from the waters and took hold of the vines. Leanna stared up at the book which rose higher and higher with each passing second. The water below too rose higher and higher. Quickly she pulled out the phone to check if there was any sign of it working, but alas she was now alone with these three creatures and their multi-limbed pet. At that moment a deep raging screech came from the pit below that trembled the foundations of the sepulchre.
“Potatoes.” She said to herself, taking a few steps back as the beats filled her with confidence.
With a raging scream the scared head of a woman rose form the waters, her hair a tangled mess around a long serpentine neck, plagued with cuts and swells of sore sea salt. She screamed loudly as she threw herself from the waters, propelled by the limbs that lifted another two heads from the depths, with two rotten stumps and one lifeless hanging between two others. The three heads left of Skylla rose up around the platforms, twelve claws arms held aloft the body of a sea beast as she climbed the roots and screamed out sending tremors through the bridge that made the dance for uneasy for Leanna.
Leanna covered her ears, her music was no match for Skylla’s paining screech.
“This is not a nymph!” she screamed, making her way back down the hall to a safe distance before the creature had time to flick the water from its eyes.
“Skylla is a symbol of love gone wrong,” Euterpe explained, “She was sought after by a sea god in her prime, a witch hexed these bathing grounds and turned her into this beast through jealousy.”
“Yeah, I really care.” Cried Leanna, “Just let me out of here, please.” She cried, “I won’t tell anyone about the book, no one, I swear.”
“It’s too late for that, you entered our realm and now you must pay the toll.”
“Do not fret,” said Erato, “We’ll tip the ferryman for you.”
Two heads of Skylla lined up with the hallway, taking care not to damage or touch the bridges that leaned against one another. The third head snaked its way in but was unable to make its way to Leanna.
The world was at the palm of his hand, reality bent with his imagination. Zack was away with the fairies in more ways than one. As he lay in the shadows of the trees he stared up at them, what had once looked like a twisted mass of wood and moss came to him as the face of a withered old woman whom looked down. In a momentary pause of realisation he stared up at the lady oak, his bemused expression of enthralment at his discovery caught the attention of Dr. Kennedy as he made his way up the hillside.
“Boy, what’s wrong?”
“It’s a woman,” he said, reaching up to caress the face of his discovery.
“Is he part of your project?” asked the bus driver.
“Mr. Saunders, fetch Ms. Leblanc, some water and my file case.”
“Yes sir.” He nodded, turning away, “Wish I could have some fun.” He said, noting Zack’s bewildered expression.
“You are safe with us young human,” said the voice of the tree with a succulence only captured by surreal creatures.
“What are you?” he whispered to her ear.
“We are Meliae, the trees.” She said, “The trees of the ancient world.”
“You’re so beautiful,” he laughed, running his hand across the branches, now the world was blurred it appeared to him as though she was trying to hold him up, when in fact he was simply swinging from the branches.
“His time is short!” screeched another in the wood, her words carried by the winds.
“My time?” he asked.
“The poor creature was poisoned,” sighed another, twisted into a beautiful position as if praising the sun, their movements seemed to crack and twist in the surreal world, groaning and aching as they came to life after so long.
“Dear,” she sighed, “Give me one simple kiss and you shall lend your life to your friends.”
“I don’t understand,” he said, staring up at her.
“Zack,” Dr. Kennedy approached him slowly.
“I don’t know what you are or where you’re from. You’re amazing.”
“If you truly appreciate my amazement you shall give me one kiss my dear, one kiss will defeat the water nymph Skylla and set the muse’ one step back from their quest.”
“The muse?” he asked, “What a nice name.”
“What are the muses Zack?” Dr. Kennedy asked as Morgan appeared with some water and Jim Saunders brought his case files.
“They’re right here,” he said, looking at the ground, his head rolled from shoulder to shoulder, “Right, there.” He pointed over the hillside towards the thickets yonder.
“Jim, go see what you can find. We’ll nurse him.” Said Dr. Kennedy, as he and Morgan slowly approached.
“What is your name young man?” asked the meliae as he felt her soft supple fingers run over his forehead and lull him to sleep slowly, though he could heard Kennedy and Morgan behind him approaching.
“Zack,” he murmured.
“Your friend needs your help my boy, she has not the spirit to deal with what she’s walked into. She needs your sacrifice.”
He tried to pull himself up the branches slowly, “I will save Leanna?”
“You will save your fair friend.” She agreed, “With one kiss bequeathed to me as the sister of this orchard we shall free her of her pains to the real world.”
“Where is she?” he asked.
Dr. Kennedy paused Morgan for a moment.
“What are you doing?” Morgan asked.
“Where is she Zack, as them where she is?”
“They said,” he slumped into the tree and with a deep sigh he uttered, “Erebus.” Before his eyes closed and his lips struck the trees back.
“Zack?” Morgan cried, reaching for him and helping him to fall gently to the rocks, “Wake up boy!” she cried.
“Erebus?” thought Dr. Kennedy, distracted for the moment.
“Dr. Help!” Morgan cried, lying the boy back and nervously opening a bottle of water for him to swallow.
His lips were pale and his skin was drained, she opened his eyes to see them bloodshot, “What do we do?” she cried to Kennedy.
“Get him to the truck, we’ll speed him to hospital.” He said, “I’ll find Ms. Parish.”
Leanna turned her music up full blast and closed her eyes to concentrate on the beat. The former beauty of the seas, Skylla leaned in and screeched loudly as Leanna broke into a sprint towards her. With a wide mouth filled with razor sharp teeth the first of the three heads came in screeching loudly. Leanna leaped from the floor as it dived towards her, she landed on her hands and then legs then continued to cartwheel along the hallway, keeping close to the wall and rolling with the beat of her music. The second head leaned back for a clearer view while the third delved in quickly. Leanna leapt far and stretched great to avoid the second near by attack, she caught one of the roots and swung around the wall, pressing her legs against the thick roots that scales the sepulchre to the waters limits.
Biology took its toll, after draining what it could from the boy the mother meleai still standing as a tall tree shed one flower to the winds as the poison made its way through her, turning the roots stale and brittle as it made its way along, cloned by the magick of the wood nymph the it was passed down the roots that appeared to fall into an old roman basin built for collecting water. Jim stood over the basin, it was empty with only some grass growing between gravel and dried clay that lined the base. Dr. Kennedy appeared over the hillside and looked down at Jim.
“There’s nothing here!” he cried, “What happened to the kid, is he ok?”
“Morgan’s taking him back to the bus, go help her. Make sure he’s alright.”
“Righto boss.” He said, darting up the hillside post haste.
Leanna leapt from the roots to the bridge as the third head snapped towards her. The other two pulled out from the hallway and pushed the third off track. She snapped towards Leanna but missed when her sister heads pushed away. As she was pushed back the roots along the walls snapped and broke in her hands, becoming brittle while they produced poisons to pump into the water.
The three muses kept their places in their chambers and watched as Leanna the spectacle managed to climb onto the bridge in the centre. Skylla screamed out loudly and the bridge trembled as she stabilised herself by holding the one bridge. The torch at the end wobbled and shook putting the creature on edge. Leanna glanced over her shoulder and saw the beast pause completely when the flame moved. She took her chances and swung around in time with the music, throwing a heavy kick to the stone alter to knock it through the middle hole into the watery pit below. With a screech and babble of a forgotten language, one of the last two heads of Skylla’s dived down with such devotion to catch the flame with her hands she pulled the other two it them. The roots along the edges snapped and fell with force. Leanna fell back when the bridge supporting the flame collapsed. She felt herself half on and half off of safety then rolled over and caught a horrendous sight of the distance she could fall. Placing her hands on the edge of the path she lifted herself up with the god given grace gifted through music and span around on the spot to put her self in line with the other two torches.
The three muses watched with a curious look in their eyes, not fear nor anything else but a much more impressed hint of wonder. She pushed the last lamp over just as the beast screeched again. Leanna could see her making her way back up, ripping up poisoned roots as she climbed. She tried to strike the last but hit out of tune and hurt her ankle in the process. With some tyrant outrage the three headed sea hag broke through the last too bridges, chasing Leanna back across the bridge, she rolled onto her shoulders and started to back flip to the music until she managed to overshoot and role into the wall. Taking hold of a root as the bridge collapsed she fell and hung free with Skylla’s three heads behind her, the twelve arms grasping the roots around as she moved in closer to her prey. Leanna looked back at the last torch, swaying left and right now the bridge had no further support from the others. Skylla’s third head looked back and screeched loud enough to knock it from its pedestal. The torch fell and she went to follow in vane hope she’d protect the symbol of her immortality from a watery finish. Leanna curled up and held on tight. The other two heads were pulled back, the last few roots snapped and she fell, taking the last bridge with her. Leanna jumped free of the falling roots and took hold of a calving. The three muses watched Skylla fall into the darkness, she completely submerged in a poisonous stew the melaei had brewed for her, using the poison Zack gave to them. Leanna climbed as high as she could and with the aid of the music in her ear did it in record timing with the purest of grace. She landed in the chamber of Erato who rolled back and ran for the other end of her room. Leanna dusted herself off and leaned against the wall to watch Skylla wise from the waters, her body now polluted by the poison she coughed and wretched and reached up to her three muses and the light above, before she settled into the waters again making them bubble and froth.
“You defeated Skylla,” thought Euterpe, “No sailor, nor witch nor hero has slaughtered the last heads of that poor beast.”
“Well that was in the old days,” said Leanna, brushing her hands off and turning the music down before it deafened her more so that Skylla’s roar.
“You believe the music stirs your soul to act?” asked one of the third sister Terpsichore.
“That’s what I’ve been told,” she answered, now confronted by all three muses in the one small chamber, “Can I please have this book now?”
“No,” all three stated at once.
Leanna turned up the volume at one good beat. She span forwards and swung her leg high at one of the sisters, scaring her back to the other two, then twisted back around, and vaulted from the chambers edge reaching and successfully taking the central ring of the five star circuit. She took the book and started jumping form one to the next in an attempt to climb to the top as the rings fell apart. She climbed to the top, the three muses covered their eyes from the sun light that fought them back into darkness. Leanna’s hand broke through the grass blades she saw and into the real world. Dr. Kennedy caught her hand break through the gravel, he jumped down and ran to her rescue, pulling her out of the earth covered in dust and mud.
“Dear lady Parish! You’re safe?” he cried, brushing her off.
She coughed up and spat before slapping him across the face, “You could have warned me there’d be monsters.”
“Monsters?” he asked, “All I know is that there’s a book.”
“Oh I’m sure,” she growled, “What was this some set up?”
Leanna forced the book into his hands and stood up, coughing up dust as she walked away she reached for the water in her bag, “Just be thankful basement jaxx came on in good time.” She warned, “Very, thankful.”
Dr. Kennedy bowed his head, taking a look at the leather clad book, a vague image of what the seer had drawn in his sketches some time prior, “Leanna,” said Dr. Kennedy, “I do believe you’ve just proved my quest is not a farce.”
“Yay for me,” she said, throwing her bottle and rucksack over the wall before she climbed out of the small roman reservoir, “I know it doesn’t mean anything to you my dear.” He said, following after her without her help, “But thank you for what you’ve done today.”
“And thank you for the trip to Spain. Now where’s my money, and I want a copy of the recording, DVD if you’ve got it.”
“Recording?” Dr. Kennedy asked.
“Yeah, where are the cameras?” she asked, giving and odd look around the dry arid basin.
“That wasn’t staged.” He explained, “What did you see in there?”
“It wasn’t?” she asked, becoming suddenly pale, “It wasn’t?”
“What did you see Ms. Parish.”
“Lots, of things … that shouldn’t be.” She summarised, thinking of the beast that just attacked her and how close the abomination actually came to snaring her, the smell of rotten fish, the raging sounds of a turbulent ocean, the plummet to the water below and the jagged teeth that could have ripped through her soft skin as the muses put it.
“That…that was fake,” she laughed, “There’s no way that was real.”
“Well,” said Dr. Kennedy, “With this I hope to understand it great.”
She glanced at the book then covered her stomach, “I think I’m going to be sick, or faint.”
“One or the other Ms. Parish, but not now. We’ve got to get back to the bus.”
“Your friend is very ill.”
“Ill?” she asked.
“Hallucinogenic.” He summarised.
“Zack,” she cried, “Not again!”
Quickly Leanna lifted her bag and water and shot up the hillside with a paler expression than when she left the pit. Dr. Kennedy was quick to follow though he took a moment behind to glance up at the fabled lady trees again that Zack seems so affectionate with while on his personal high.
“Zack!” cried Leanna, running through the grasses, “Zack baby!”
She leaped up the steps and pushed Morgan back to get close to him as he lay down on the table with the eight bodyguards standing overhead and Jim panic struck, reading through a first aid kit advice pamphlet.
“Zack,” Leanna cried, taking his hand in hers she felt the cold of his touch, “Hold on baby,” she said, “Get us to a hospital quickly!” she cried.
In his ears the sounds were muffled by an on setting calm. Though a deeper illness brewed inside him, “You did very well.” Said the voice of the melaei, “She will live on to accomplish great things; she will live on.”
“You,” he said, in a feverish state reaching for Leanna’s panicked face, “You will live on Leanna.”
“What?” she cried, a tear appearing at her eye, “Move this fucking bus!” she screamed, “Move it now!”
“I can’t.” said Jim, “I can’t without Dr. Kennedy on board.”
“What?” she screamed, “Move it!”
Morgan opened another bottle of water; Leanna stole it from her quickly and in a shivering mass as she watched her best friend deteriorate she fed him more water and kept his burning forehead cool.
“Hold on a little longer for me,” she said, “Just a little longer.”
“It’s time my boy,” said the voice, “Your journey has only just began. You have much more to do for her, and for many others.”
“I’ve got to go,” he said to Leanna, “I’ve got to go now.”
“Move the dam bus.” Said Morgan to Jim.
“Alright, alright,” he cried, “Keep it calm, we’re not that far from a hospital.”
He sat in his seat and went to start the bus, one of the eight in black stepped up to him and pulled out a gun, holding to his head.
“Wow!” he cried, “Calm down, there’s no need for that.”
“Leave him go,” said Morgan, “We’ve got to get out of here.”
One of the women moved in and pulled Morgan back from the man, “Casse-toi!” she cried, “Get back!”
The woman held her down to the ground. Leanna looked down at Morgan who seemed equally as confused.
“Leanna,” he said, squeezing her hand, “It’s my turn to look after you now. Don’t worry.”
With tears in her eyes she watched her best friend die with no ability to do anything about it.
“What’s happening?” cried Dr. Kennedy, “Soldier, lower your weapon.”
The gunman sheathed his handgun and turned statuesque again.
“Let Morgan stand.” He said to the female soldier, who complied and took a few steps back to give her room.
“Jim, hospital now.” He said, “A.s.a.p. Morgan, call an ambulance to meet us half way, it can get him through the cities faster.”
As a nervous state Morgan looked back at the woman who showed no expression. She flipped open her phone and placed it against her ear. The engine started up and the door closed, air conditioning filtered out a rather heated atmosphere and Leanna kept close to Zack holding his hand and stroking it while the bus moved off.
Dr. Kennedy looked down at the boy, his heart still beating and lungs still pumping he wasn’t dead yet. Jim sat at the front with a grimace and brewing anger on his face while Morgan glared across the bus at Dr. Kennedy while she called for an ambulance.
“Leanna,” said Dr. Kennedy, “He’ll be alright. I promise.”
Dr. Kennedy took the book from its leather binding and undid the strap, his hands were knocked back as instantaneously it opened fully, cover flicked back to cover and millions of pages filled it up turning it into move of a tree truck segment than an open book. Morgan froze while on the phone to the paramedics when she caught site of the book springing open. Dr. Kennedy jumped back and felt the winds around it pick up. The top of the pages when pressed together showed another five circles with inscriptions and curves between them. The bus stalled on the roads, the air conditioning turned on and off but the insides of the bus went cold no matter.
“Morgan,” said Dr. Kennedy, “The hospital?”
She glanced at the phone, but it had gone dead in the whir of energy the book gave off on opening. “Has anyone else got a phone?” she cried.
Leanna threw hers across and turned back to Zack as he moaned and turned his head, his face still pale and moist to the touch. Zack looked over to the book and held his hand up, he could see swirls of colour and energy twisting with the wind that grew from the pages of the book.
“Get this bus moving!” cried Leanna.
“It won’t work,” said Jim, “Something’s wrong.”
“This phones not working,” said Morgan.
She turned to the book, “Close it!” she cried, “The books affecting the bus and the phones.”
Dr. Kennedy struggled to close the book, forcing its pages together again, he used the straps and successfully bound it together. Everything else blurred into darkness but the light that had shone from the book. Zack watched it dance and play, slowly recoiling into the pages and disappearing when Dr. Kennedy closed it. When all light had faded all sound went next, and bodily senses dulled away deafening the screams of Leanna and the sounds of the engine kicking into gear.
Her hands wiped tears from her eyes as she choked while songs of anguish came on and amplified the pain, a way of draining every tear while she held her friends body in her arms.