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It Just Don't Pay
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Story Notes:

Written circa 1998-99. Edited 2009.

“I’m a big, strong man- da do da do do do. I’m a manly man! Do-be-do-be-do! Big and manly and strong! Tra-la-la-la! Doin’ manly things-” BZZZT! “HOLY MACKEREL!!”

Cale crashed onto the floor and the ladder on which he had been standing broke down the middle and fell onto the Warlord’s back.

“YEOWCH!”

WHAT IN THE LIVING INFERNAL BLAZES IS GOING ON IN THERE?!” Talpa’s voice boomed out of the darkness.

Cale sat up meekly and picked the planks off of his body before replying, “Uhh . . . j-just changing a light bulb, Master Talpa.”

“GOOD!” the evil demon roared. “I DAMN NEAR KILLED MYSELF FALLING DOWN THE BASEMENT STAIRS YESTERDAY!”

“How can you fall down? You’ve got no legs.”

“SHUT UP, CALE!”

Cale winced. Unfortunately, if there was anything that needed to be done, no one did it themselves. As the saying goes: It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it. Unfortunately, that someone was always Cale.

“WHERE ARE THE OTHERS?!” Talpa demanded, with extra fortissimo.

Cale covered his ears. “Out playing soccer. They call it football in Europe-”

“WHHHAAAAT?! ON THE FRONT LAWN!?”

“Yes, sir-”

“I JUST HAD IT FERTILIZED MONDAY!”

“I’m sure they’ll be back any-”

“SHUT UP, CALE!”

“Yes, Master.”

And with that, Talpa departed, leaving Cale alone in the dark. With a sigh, he crawled to his feet and stumbled out of the room and into a dimly lit corridor.

“Ugh,” he grimaced at the faint light.

“Hiss, hiss. Turning to dust, yet, Cale?”

He turned to see Anubis come sauntering up to him coolly, wearing a pair of leopard sunglasses and a hot pink boa. He looked ri-fucking-diculous.

“What, may I ask, have you been drinking? Did you get into Master Talpa’s sake again?” Cale asked.

Anubis gave the end of the boa a flip over his shoulder and replied, “Nah. I got bored, so I raided Kayura’s closet. What do you think?”

The Warlord struck a pose and Cale shook his head. “You clash. Hot pink on dark blue? And those glasses make you look hideous.”

Anubis tore them off and glared at Cale with his squinty green eyes. “I still look better than you.”

“Oh, I beg to differ!” Cale scoffed.

There came the scream of a furious woman and Anubis’ face went white. “Uh oh,” he muttered as Kayura came into view around the corner. “Cheese it!”

Before Cale knew it, Anubis was gone, leaving behind only a cloud of dust in the shape of his silhouette.

Kayura jogged up to Cale, panting, “I’m gonna *pant* be kickin’ some serious Warlord ass *pant* when I catch that scuzball!”

And she ran off after him, tripping over her kimono hem every few steps.

 

“See, that is exactly why no one wants to play with you, Sekhmet,” Dais was saying when Cale walked into the lounge.

Sekhmet scoffed, “Why? Because I beat you so bad?”

“NO!” Dais slammed his right leg up on the pool table and pointed at the bandages on his shin. “That is why! For the last time, cut your friggin’ toenails!”

“Those are cleat marks!”

The one-eyed one yelled, “No, they aren’t! They’re TOENAIL marks! Your toenails go through your shoes! Have you ever listened to yourself when you walk on the kitchen floor?! You go, click click click. I can hear you when you get up in the middle of the night, Sekhmet.”

“So what? I fall behind on trimmings, that’s all.”

Dais sighed. “Sekhmet,” he said between clenched teeth. “Ever wonder why all the Nether Spirits stay away from you when you have the ball? They’re afraid of getting impaled, Sekhmet. I mean, look at you! Look at the ball!”

He held up the limp, shredded soccer ball.

“THAT WAS OUR LAST BALL!”

Sekhmet gazed at Dais and shrugged. “So?”

“So.” Dais was stiff-lipped.

“Yeah. So?”

So . . . !”

Cale had to hold Dais back as he leaped at Sekhmet, ranting the foulest language Cale had ever heard. Suddenly, Talpa’s voice boomed over the melee, “WILL YOU MORONS SHUT UP IN THERE?! I’VE GOT A BLASTING MIGRAINE!”

“Maybe it’s from screaming. Ever thought of-”

“I DIDN’T ASK YOU, SEKHMET!”

“My apologies, Master.”

“AND SEKHMET.”

“Yes, Master?”

“CUT YOUR TOENAILS. THEY LOOK WORSE THAN MINE.”

“Right away, Master.”

And Talpa withdrew himself from their presence. Cale muttered to himself, “I wonder if he realizes he doesn’t have any toes . . .”

With arms crossed and a sarcastic expression, Dais mimicked,“Yes, Master. Right away, Master. Whatever you want, Master. “ He mimicked, then gave a short, harsh laugh as Sekhmet glared at him. “Tell me, Sekhmet, so you ever get tired of kissing Talpa’s ass 24/7? Hm?”

“Speak for yourself, you sniveling peon. We all have to kiss up and you know it.”

Dais leaned back in his chair, propping his feet up on the pool table. “Only because I want to stay alive. God knows it doesn’t pay to be a Warlord these days.”

Cale plopped in the recliner despondently and added, “Yeah, I’d make more working for free. Why are we staying here?”

Dais and Sekhmet gazed at him through half-closed eyes and said, “Because we’re the bad guys, remember?”

“Oh, yeah. I forgot.”

Anubis walked through the door, clutching one side of his face. His comrades stared as he made his way to the small fridge, pulled out a frozen chunk of pork and put it to his — very black and swollen — eye.

Catching his partners’ gaze, he muttered, “Don’t say it. Don’t even fuckin’ say it.”

“Say what, sissy boy?” Dais asked innocently, shrugging.

Sekhmet joined in, “Get in a fight on the playground? Girls been beating you up?”

Cale couldn’t resist, “Or did you trip over a rock . . . again?”

Anubis glared at Cale, then pointed to his foot. “You see this? “

Cale nodded his head.

“You want it in your front teeth?”

Cale shook his head.

“Well alright, then.”

Just then, an alarm sounded, and the four Warlords jumped to their feet.

“What is it?!” Cale yelled over the din.

Dais glanced at the Brinks Security System screen and shouted, “Trespassers!”

“But who?” Sekhmet howled, covering his ears.

“Uhh . . . aw, CRAP! Girl Scouts!”

Cale and Sekhmet groaned loudly, and Kayura came running in, still tripping over her kimono. “Who is it this time? If it’s those Jehovah’s Witnesses again, I swear I’ll-”

The alarms stopped suddenly and they looked about strangely, noting that one of their comrades was missing.

“Hey,” Cale inquired, a puzzled look on his face. “What happened to Anubis?”

Just then, the Warlord walked through the door with a box of thin mints under each arm and an open one in his hands, happily munching away.

Dais sighed and shook his head.

“Hey, I want some,” Kayura protested.

Anubis glared at her with one eye and said, mouth full and spitting crumbs, “Hell no, banshee woman. Go get your own.”

“Why you-!”

Anubis prepared to run for it when Talpa’s voice came screaming, “YOU IDIOTS! HOW COULD YOU BE SO STUPID?!”

Anubis choked on his thin mints and Dais asked timidly, “What did we do?”

“WHO LET THE DOGS IN!?”

Cale bent double and tried to conceal his laughter. Dais said apprehensively, “Um, what?”

“YOU LET TWO OF THOSE CONFOUNDED RONINS INTO THE CASTLE!!”

Dais, Sekhmet, Cale and Kayura turned to gaze at Anubis.

“Hey, no, wait a minute! Those were Girl Scouts out there-”

“NO THEY WEREN’T! GO GET THEM, NOW! . . . AND BRING ME SOME OF THOSE COOKIES!!”

“Yes, Master.”

 

Cye chuckled heartily while Sage gleefully tore out of the little green uniform. “My God,” he gasped. “That was too easy! How could they not see that it was us?”

Cye pulled off the little ruffled shirt and said, “I wish’d we’d done that from the beginning!”

Laughing hysterically, they tore down the dark hall.

 

“Way to go, Anubis, you nincompoop,” Dais snapped as all five of the evildoers ran down the halls (Kayura lagging behind due to her kimono).

“Yeah, “ Sekhmet added. “Now Talpa is going to send us to the dungeons.”

“It’s deep-fried hell in there!” Cale whined.

“Shut up! We’re not going to the dungeons,” Anubis snapped. “We’ll get them.”

Kayura panted for breath, “Hey! Wait for me!”

 

Sage and Cye rounded a corner and ran full tilt into the Warlords. The two parties went crashing and tumbling over each other, going down into a ball of screams and curses. When the dust finally cleared, Sage found himself staring right into Anubis’ face.

Dude, Anubis. What happened to your eye?”

Cye, sandwiched between Cale and Sekhmet, moaned, “Where am I?” before going unconscious.

Sage nudged Cye frantically. “Hey, Cye! Don’t black out! We’re-”

The blond looked around at the five faces glaring down at him and gulped.

“. . . we’re dead.”

 

“Well, that was easy enough,” Dais muttered, lounging on the tattered sofa. Cale rubbed his aching jaw where already there was a light purple bruise.

“Easy for you to say, Mr. Opportunity. Halo may look like a girl, but he sure as hell doesn’t fight like one.”

“Aw, you complain too much,” replied Dais, and clicked on the TV. Sekhmet sat in the adjacent chair, attacking his toenails. Clippings were flying into the air.

“God Almighty, Sekh,” Cale exclaimed. “Can’t you do that someplace else?”

“Can’t,” he replied. “Kayura locked me out of the bathroom. Said she was gonna be a while.”

Anubis plopped down next to Dais with a bottle of root beer. “Well, you know what that means. It’s Mary Kay Day.”

The other three groaned. On the television screen, Gilligan was being tormented by his fellow marooners. Dais shook his head. “I can relate with this guy.”

Cale glanced at him coolly. “Dais, you’re a Warlord of a tyrannical dynasty bent on the destruction of Earth itself, you have no life outside of your spiders, you’ve never been marooned in your life, and you only have one eye. I would be delighted if you could explain to me how you relate to a hopeless weasel of a man shipwrecked on a desert island.”

“Up yours, Cale.”

“This is a stupid show,” Anubis muttered, and grabbed the remote from Dais.

“Hey, you sleaze! Give that back!”

“Piss off. I hate Gilligan’s Island.”

Anubis flipped through the channels as Dais protested loudly. He stopped when he came to Stargate, and pointed with glee at the jackal-headed warrior, squealing, “Look! It’s me! It’s me! I’m on TV!”

Dais swiped away the remote control. “Will you grow up, carrot top?”

“Nobody calls me carrot top!”

The two began wrestling. Cale sighed. The sofa was already in bad enough condition, ripped in a million places and fixed up with duct tape. One of the legs had fallen off and the phone book was substituted in its place. Deciding to intervene, he walked over to them and attempted to take the remote away. Unfortunately, he was dragged into the melee and knocked twice in the gut. And Cale didn’t let someone sock him without a fight.

Sekhmet regarded his friends’ barbaric behavior, sighed, and jumped into the crowd as well.

They rolled halfway onto the coffee table, squalling and cursing in a rabid, foaming mass of chaotic hysteria. Finally, Cale managed to drag the remote away and pressed a few buttons.

The first notes of the Lassie theme song filled the room, and all four froze, looking at the screen.

“Lassie! Come home!” Little Timmy called. The collie came bounding up the daisy-covered hill, barking with joy. She jumped on Little Timmy and licked his face as the young boy giggled.

Sekhmet let out a sob and buried his face in his hands. “It-it’s s-so beautiful!”

Dais wiped the tears coursing from his single blue eye away and muttered, “I always wanted a life like that.”

Cale and Anubis unlatched their hands from around each other’s throats and cried in each other’s arms instead.

“If-if only life were really like that! How different we would be!” Cale whimpered.

Anubis dragged himself onto the couch and cried, “I WANT MY DOGGIE!”

Sekhmet, Cale and Dais stared at him. Anubis blushed.

“Your doggie?” Sekhmet asked slowly.

“Yeah. I . . . I had a Shih Tzu named Kujo,” he said softly. “The name made her feel more fearsome.”

There was a brief silence. Then the other three warlords burst into laughter, rolling around on the rug and pounding the floor in fits of hysteria.

“It’s not funny!” Anubis yelled.

“YES IT IS!” They howled.

“Fine then! Laugh until you die of asphyxia!”

That only provoked more fits of raucous laughter and Anubis stood up and stomped away. He turned only once in the doorway and yelled, “I hope your mothers cried when they saw what cretins they had raised!” before he slammed the door.

“Heeheeheeheeheeheeeeeee!!!” chirped Cale, clutching his sides and falling over on his back, kicking his legs in the air.

Suddenly, all laughing was halted as Kayura stormed into the room in a fuzzy pink bath robe, rabbit slippers, and a face covered in green mud.

The three . . . ahem . . . men screamed shrilly, and after much exasperated yelling on Kayura’s part, they managed to calm themselves.

Kayura held up the empty roll of toilet paper.

The Warlords stared.

She held up the toilet seat.

The Warlords stared.

“It doesn’t take a super genius to figure out how these work. The paper runs out, you refill it. When you put the seat up, put the seat down afterwards. Simple laws of physics, boys. Oh, and does this mean anything to you?”

She held up a can of Glade.

Cale nudged Dais. “Toldja those burritos were rotten.”

With a scowl, Kayura turned and stomped out. Dais called after her, “Hey, Kai! We’re out of snacks! Be a doll and go to the store and pick some up, will ya?”

A toilet seat hit the Warlord of Illusion square in the kisser.

 

“Gawd, me ‘ead ‘urts,” Cye moaned. Sage just glared at him.

“Your head hurts? Is that it? Cye, just look at my fucking hair. Look at it! You know how long it takes me to look like this in the morning?”

Cye shrugged. “‘Aven’t the slightest.”

“ForEVER! I create art every time I pick up the hair spray. My comb is like my paintbrush-! My scalp is like my canvas-! My-”

“Me knuckles ah fixin’ to be like ya teeth if you don’t shut ya SMEGGIN’ GOB!”

Sage, shocked into silence by this sudden outburst, brought his knees up to his chest and pouted.

The dungeon was dank and dark. Far into the distance could be heard the dripping plip-plop of water and the squeak of rats as they ran along the chains protruding from the wall . . . the chains which were bound at the ankles and wrists of one Cye of the Torrent and Sage of the Halo. No doubt their brilliant Girl Scout plan had decided to take a gallop up Diarrhea Drive without a saddle.

“I hope the others come looking for us,” Sage said softly after a while.

Two days later.

“They’re probably on their way right now, right Cye? Cye?”

“Sage.”

“Yes?”

“Shut up.”

 

Even though she didn’t want to, Kayura had to go grocery shopping. The Warlords were too “busy”. Dais was trying to get his South American tarantula to breed with an Australian Funnel Web to create the biggest, ugliest, most poisonous spider in the world. Too bad. The female funnel web kept trying to eat the male tarantula, and Dais had to come between them more than once. All those classes in Marriage Counseling were going down the drain.

Cale, infatuated with black lights, was redecorating his chambers in a retro-80’s look. Sekhmet was at sitar lessons, learning how to charm that pair of cobras he had received for Christmas. And Talpa only got up off his ass to get the mail, which was mostly from a S. Lucifer, M. Manson, or a M. Stewart.

So as you can see, they were all going to be eating the wallpaper before someone decided to go shopping. Kayura, always stuck with the job, sighed and grabbed her coat.

 

Lady Kayura, disguised in mortal garb, walked through the auto glide doors at the Jiff-E Mart, still muttering to herself about the disgusting habits of her male comrades.

Jerking a rusty shopping cart from the rest of the tangled mass of metal, she huffed down the first isle, grateful for once that she wasn’t tripping over her kimono hem. Instead, she was wearing a pair of jeans, tennis shoes, a sweat shirt that read “I b29; YN” and had her long dark hair in two braids. To conceal her identity, she wore her leopard glasses (the ones she had to wrestle back from Anubis).

She was shopping away, enjoying being far from the castle, when she rounded the corner past the display of Smack-Um’s piled up to the ceiling and ran smack dab into-

“Oof!” Mia Koji exclaimed. “I’m sorry! I wasn’t watching where I was-” She looked up and blinked in surprise. “Is that you, Kayura?”

The evil girl felt sweat droplets form on her brow. “Uhhh,” she said in a high voice. “You must have mistaken me for someone else. So sorry, gottago-!”

As she turned to leave, Mia put a hand on her shoulder. “Hey, wait! Don’t you want to go grab coffee or something with me?”

Kayura turned slowly, eyes wide in amazement. She slowly removed her glasses and stared at Mia. “Y-you would . . . you’re inviting me?”

Mia smiled and nodded.

Kayura, perplexed, tried to find words. Mia found them for her. “Aw, c’mon Kayura. We’re both off duty now. Coffee on me. Girls only.”

Kayura didn’t know whether to laugh or scream or cry. All she could do was nod faintly as Mia took her by the arm and led her away.

Meanwhile, back on the farm . . .

“I’m bored,” Dais sighed.

“Me, too,” Cale muttered.

Anubis yawned. “At least Master Talpa was happy enough about us capturing Halo and Torrent to give us some time off.”

“But now we’re boooooooored!” they all moaned.

There was a pause.

Sekhmet grinned. “I have an idea for a good time . . .”

 

The dungeon door opened and torchlight spilled into the chamber. Cye and Sage grimaced at the bright light and were hauled to their feet and out of the door by the laughing Warlords.

 

“Oh, my God,” Sage sobbed. “This is too much!”

Cale ignored the blond’s pleas as he readied the gleaming knife. Sage tried desperately to escape his bonds, but the clamps at his wrists and ankles did not give way.

“Ready?” Sekhmet asked.

Cale nodded. “Start spinnin’.”

“NOOOO!” Sage screamed, but gulped down the butterflies in his stomach as he rolled upside down . . . then right side up . . . then down again. In circles he was going, strapped onto the moving wheel that bore him in nauseous arcs on the far side of the room.

Cale aimed and threw.

The blade hit near Sage’s head and he screamed. The Warlords laughed.

“That’s great! A few more inches and you’d have had ‘im!” Dais chuckled.

That was how the hellions entertained themselves for half an hour. Cale was a good shot, and he could have skewered Sage like a fancy hors d’oeuvre if he had wanted, but where was the fun once the shrieking protagonist was dead? The best scream they had gotten out of the hysterical sixteen year old was when Sekhmet had landed a cleaver about three quarters of an inch from his crotch. And boy, does Halo have a set of lungs.

At the end of thirty minutes, they paused the wheel to pick all the implements of mutilation off it (and plus it looked apparent that Sage was going to barf if he didn’t stop spinning, and they didn’t want to clean up the mess) and to switch players.

Sage looked up, nauseous and sweating bullets, to see Dais . . . Dais, who had only one eye and absolutely no depth perception . . . pick up a shiny silver dagger and grin.

 

Cye, meanwhile, had not Sage’s good fortune.

Alas, the poor lad was locked in the kitchen and tied down in a chair while Anubis deftly went about making a tuna sandwich. The Warlord found that every now and then he had to pause to mop up the puddle of tears from the floor and rewind that scene in National Geographic’s Hunters of the Sea when it shows massive dolphin murder by a group of Russian whalers. Other than that, and with the help of a set of industrial grade earplugs, Anubis hummed along the tune to Flipper without a care.

“They call him Flipper, Flipper, faster than liiiight-ning . . .”

At a nearby Suta-bakusu (Starbuck’s)

Mia set down her French mocha and asked, “So, are your boys driving you crazy, too?”

Kayura nodded, sipping daintily on her Italian latté. “Absolutely,” she replied, rolling her eyes. “You would not believe the crap I have to put up with. Kayura, do this. Kayura, do that. It never ends.”

Mia shook her head. “At least they’ve grown up a little. Can you imagine being an only female in a house full of teenage boys? I have to do five times as much laundry, and you would be shocked to know about the stuff I find under their beds, particularly Sage’s. It makes a girl look twice over her shoulder when she’s alone . . .”

Kayura’s mind went numb and she lost Mia’s words. Sage! He and Cye were still locked up in the dungeons somewhere! Oh no! How was she ever-

“Come to think of it,” Mia went on. “I’ve been so busy lately, I haven’t seen Sage or Cye since Tuesday.”

“Maybe they went camping?” Kayura suggested, trying to shrink down in her chair.

“Sage?” Mia scoffed. “He’d never make it. He can’t last an hour without his hair dryer . . .”

    Guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt.

“. . . But I don’t know about Cye.”

There was a brief silence, and Kayura seized the opportunity to make a break for it. She jumped up hastily, grabbing her purse. “Uhh, thanks a lot for coffee, Mia. It really was nice chatting, but I have some, uh . . . castle work to be doing so . . . see you around!”

Mia was left staring at the empty spot where Kayura had been sitting. “What a strange girl,” she pondered.

 

“It’s about time!” Cale shouted, digging into the grocery bag. “Ooh! Ice cream! Did you-”

Kayura mercilessly pounded him in his skull with her purse. “You damn greedy pig dog!” she screamed, completely frazzled. “That’s MY ice cream!”

Anubis and Dais and Sekhmet entered the kitchen and watched in silent awe as their female other stomped around and gathered up cookies, cake and ice cream in a large bag and walked away with it.

Dais turned to the perplexed Cale.

“Either she’s PMSing big time or she feels really bad about something,” he muttered.

Anubis looked at him. “How can you tell?”

“She always goes on a junk food binge when she’s feeling bad or when she’s raggin’.”

He grimaced.

“God, I’m glad I’m not a girl-”

A sudden noise made them turn around. Sekhmet was drinking the milk out of the carton again and scratching himself at the same time. After this act he let out a fearsome, sickening belch.

“On second thought,” Dais said. Then, without another word, he picked up a package of Twinkies and went out the kitchen door.

Anubis looked at Sekhmet in disgust. “Well, you sure as hell aren’t going to be posing for any Got Milk ad.”

 

As much as she wanted to, Kayura couldn’t bring herself to eat a single cookie. She kept thinking about Cye and Sage, locked away in the dark somewhere. Sure, they were enemies, but even enemies have families. She imagined their mothers worrying about them. They were only sixteen, after all. Hardly out of the nest.

The more she thought about it, the more she entertained the insane idea of letting them go. They would surely die down there before much longer . . .

It was dark now. Everyone was asleep.

Stepping out of bed, she wrapped herself in her favorite pink kimono and tiptoed quietly down the hall in her bunny rabbit slippers.

 

Sage looked like hell.

Cye looked like hell.

Even Sage’s bitter rage was subdued now, and he looked on the verge of mental collapse. Cye was so far gone, he was more dead than alive. Sage rubbed his chin absently and talked to Cye, or himself rather. Cye wasn’t listening.

“I might just grow a goatee for the fun of it. They always said I needed to, so they could tell me apart from my sisters. They used to dress me up as a girl, did ya know that? Yup. I was Miss Sage for a while. But that was a long time ago. Like, years. Speaking of years, how long have we been down here?”

“Sage, I think I’m going to die.”

“No, you’re not.”

“Yes, I am.”

“Oh, shut up,” he snapped. Pause. “Where are you anyway? I can’t see anything.”

“I’m where I’ve been for the pahst three days; not more than two bloody feet from you.”

“Oh. There you are.”

“Sage, you’re touching my-”

“Oops! Didn’t mean to-”

“Ow! Me eye! Stop groping! I’m right ‘ere!”

There was a creak.

“What was that?” Sage breathed.

“Whot was whot?”

“That.”

“ Whot that?”

“That what just now.”

“Who heard a whot?”

“I did.”

“Did whot?”

“Heard a what.”

“You mean that?”

“No, not that that. The what that.”

“Whot?”

“Never mind,” Sage sighed. “I just thought I-”

“Ssh!” Cye hushed. “Whot was that?”

“What was what?”

“Oh, no you don’t.”

“Don’t what?”

“Do that.”

“What that?”

“Bloody ‘eck-!”

“OWCH! MY ARM!”

Suddenly, a light flared on and they screamed. Kayura screamed.

Cye and Sage saw Kayura and screamed again.

Kayura screamed.

They kept screaming.

Kayura screamed and dropped the light. Darkness.

Everyone stopped screaming.

“Do we really look that bad?” Sage asked.

“If you must know,” she said meekly. “Yes.”

Pause.

“Why are you down here?” Sage growled. “Come to watch us die?”

“Actually, no.”

Sage felt something tug at his wrists and ankles, and felt the familiar weight of his irons slip off. “Hey,” he muttered. “Hey! I’m free!”

Kayura went to work on Cye, freeing him as she had Sage. The two young men stood up and groaned and Kayura pocketed the dungeon keys, feeling strangely better than she had in a long time.

“Come with me,” she said. “I’ll show you your way out.”

Cye spoke. “ But . . . why are you doing this?”

“Because I feel sorry for you. I know what it’s like to be captive, to be held from your family and friends. To be alone-”

“Yeah, yeah,” Sage interrupted. “That’s sweet. Now how ‘bout that way out?”

Cye elbowed his companion. “Show some gratitude! She’s letting us go!”

Kayura struck a match and lit the lantern she had been holding. “It makes no difference, Torrent,” she said.

“Please. Coll me Cye.” He smiled.

Kayura winced distastefully. “Um . . . I wouldn’t smile if I were you.”

“Why? I’m standing in the dahk. How can you see?”

“Your teeth. They’re glowing.”

“Oh.” The glow disappeared. “But just coll me Cye.”

A strange look came over her face and she replied with a perplexed smile, “Okay. Cye.”

She turned her back to them and led them out of the dungeon cell, aware of a new sensation inside her chest. Like a warm, fuzzy light. Like the kind of feeling she gets when she watches a really good Bette Midler movie, or eats a whole Boston cream pie. It was a feeling she could really get used to.

 

Kayura waved goodbye to them at the front gate after instructing them of a shortcut home. Cye and Sage waved back and then disappeared. She lowered her arm and sighed. As she turned and walked back to the castle, she knew she was in for it from Talpa . . . but she wasn’t certain she cared.

 

Ryo looked up from his position lounging in the hammock at the two bedraggled teens stumbling up Mia’s driveway. He waved cheerily, “Hey, guys! Where’ve you been? Man, you look like hell.”

Cye looked at Sage.

Sage looked at Cye.

They both looked at Ryo and sprang with the intent of bestowing some seriously long-deserved justice on his ass.



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