And still it continued.
"No," he gasped. He tried to rise, only to find one of the strangers' hands resting on his shoulder.
He looked up. This was wrong– it was hurting both of them, perhaps even killing.
The man's expression was one of understanding.
"She must try...." he said softly.
Davy shook his head. "No... he wouldn't want..."
The man nodded. "I know– but still, she must try... for both their sakes."
Davy studied the man for a long time– they both understood the risks, and the price. It was clear that somehow, Geoff's life and that of the woman helping him had become entwined.
The man gave his shoulder a gentle squeeze, then focused on Geoff and the woman again. Davy turned and gasped as he saw a twisted form hovering over his brother– reaching towards the woman.
Somehow he knew– it was Spiral's creature. His eyes blazed with anger-- this thing was killing his brother. Without thinking he reached towards it.
"NO!" The voice was so hoarse Davy didn't even recognize it. He turned in time to see Kenny unleash a spell against the ethereal creature.
There was a nearly blinding flash as the power from Kenny's spell forced its way into the creature. The creature glowed for a moment, shrinking in size before diving back into Geoff.
Davy's shoulders sagged as the energy faded, The creature was still there-- still hurting his brother. Kenny moved closer, standing at Geoff's feet.
"Again," Kenny urged the woman. "Do it again."
The woman looked at him wearily and nodded. Davy could see the signs of exhaustion in the way she moved, but as she looked at Kenny, he could also see the hope burning there. There had been a change– she'd seen it, just as he had.
Davy moved away slightly, giving Kenny and the woman the room they needed to work. He forced himself to remain silent when he saw the almost haunted look in Kenny's eyes. As he moved away, he realized there was nothing he could do for either of his brothers.
Nothing but watch.
Kenny winced as the magical energies exploded around him– it was too much like the strobing light inside the mask. He trembled slightly as he forced himself to work through it. There would be time for freaking out later, when it was safe.
Right now Geoff needed him.
He shivered slightly as he looked down at his brother. There was very little he could do for him directly, that was up to the woman... the maiden helping him. Somehow he knew her– could sense her power. With her, he would keep his own ghosts at bay until they'd dealt with the creature inside Geoff.
He prayed they were up to the task as the woman began drawing power again. He could feel it singing with strength of the woods, the earth itself answering her call– her need. It was pure and it was that purity that drove the beast out.
This time he would be prepared for it– this time it would make a difference.
When the woman was ready she looked up at Kenny and smiled. The power around her seemed to fill her, and rejuvenate her in the process. It was time.
He took a deep breath, calling forth the power as snake had taught him. When he felt the call, he nodded.
The pain was becoming worse, if only because his awareness of it was growing stronger. His thoughts were still disjointed– but they were his. As Geoff tried to focus on the thoughts, he felt the creature's talon's ripping through his mind.
"You...die.... with me...."
Its words were becoming less coherent– more desperate.
As he realized this, Geoff also realized the truth– it would take too much energy to save him– energy that was needed to fight Spiral.
As he tried to reach out– another wave of agony seared through him. Flailing, he tried to hold on as the creature tried to drag him with it... out away from his own body.
Then it was gone. The energy flowing through him was soothing– peaceful and short lived. When the creature returned it was weaker– too weak to fight him, but it was there, glowering, seething... ready to kill.
In its weakened state, Geoff understood it, knew its secrets– and knew it would never die alone. They were bound together and nothing could change that.
Kenny forced himself to breathe as the energies abated and he was once again standing in the ‘real world.' He could feel the drain coming on– see it in the woman's eyes, but he knew it was working. The creature was smaller this time and his spell seemed to have more effect on it.
It had to work– it just had to.
"Again," he urged softly.
The woman looked up at him and nodded, but as she once again rested her hand on Geoff's chest, his hand came up and rested on hers.
"No..." Geoff's voice was weak, but there was a tenderness to it that Kenny had never heard before.
The woman tilted her head slightly and Geoff awkwardly reached up, his fingers tracing her face. She gently took his hand in hers and pressed it to her cheek.
"You can't... not now..." Geoff's voice was so soft, Kenny had to strain to hear it– but it was clear the woman heard and understood.
She shook her head.
Geoff raised up slightly, as if the change in angle would help him make his point.
"You have to be ready to face Spiral... You can't risk your people for me... he has to be stopped!"
She looked away briefly then back down at Geoff. Her expression was almost pleading.
"Shhh..." Geoff urged. "It's under control for now... between you and Kenny... you can stop it..." He paused, focusing on his brother.
Kenny could almost feel his brother's thoughts. Geoff knew it was a lie– and yet... he knew he couldn't deny his brother's silent plea.
He gave them both a reassuring smile and saw the gratitude in Geoff's eyes. Then Geoff's entire being was focused on the woman again.
"Witashnah... you have to remain strong. He's waiting for a chance... and he'll use me to give him that chance... you can't..."
She shook her head for a moment, but her eyes remained locked on Geoff's. Finally she nodded sadly. She would wait.
Geoff gave a relieved smile and sagged back down into her lap– the effort having all but exhausted him. The woman gently ran her hand through his hair and then looked back up at Kenny. He could see her tears now.
She knew. She knew that Geoff was trying to protect her from what was to come-- that he was asking her to sacrifice him for the greater good.
Kenny tried to give her a reassuring smile, but they both knew that all they could do was give Geoff the peace of mind of thinking they were unaware of the cost.
When she looked back at Geoff, Kenny almost cried– how was he going to tell Davy?
Tasunke watched the exchange between the man and his sister. He wondered how much more she or the stranger could take. Hadn't they both been through enough?
"If he's stable, we need to move now."
Tasunke jumped slightly, surprised to find his brother standing next to him.
Wicasa rewarded him with a smile, then nodded towards the others. "This place is not secured."
Tasunke nodded. "I think she has things under control– but it has taken a lot out of her."
Wicasa turned, watching Witashnah for a few moments then nodded sadly. "I was afraid of that."
Tasunke studied his brother for a moment. "What do you mean?"
"Later," Wicasa finally answered. "For now– we have to get these people back to our encampment. We need to know what this is all about."
Tansunke paused for a minute as he studied the captives. "They won't talk to us."
Wicasa nodded. "No, they won't," he agreed looking at the prisoners. Then he looked at the men they'd rescued. "But they will..."
Tasunke followed his brother's gaze towards the stranger's brothers. They were a part of this as well– the only question was what had they done to gain Spiral's attention.
"I'll get them ready..."
"Good. I will deal with the prisoners."
Tansunke watched as his brother walked away. He could tell by the way he moved, there was something very serious on his brother's mind.
Wicasa forced himself to concentrate on their captives as the words of the prophecy echoed in his ears. If they were true– then the battle might be over sooner than they thought... but there would be much suffering before it was over. He wished there was another way– but he knew better.
As he moved in on the captives one of them stood.
"You have wrongfully..."
"Sit down," Wicasa ordered shoving the man back down. "You have invaded our lands, taken our guests hostage– and allied yourselves with one intent on our destruction."
"We do not recognize your authority," the man answered in a well practiced unemotional tone.
"I'm afraid that's not good enough," Wicasa answered. "You have invaded a sovereign state..."
"You're wasting your breath," the man sneered.
Wicasa stiffened as he heard another's footsteps. "You should be with your brothers," he stated without turning.
The man's tone was soft, but there was a hint of something dangerous behind it. "But I have some questions for your prisoners."
"You're wasting your breath Wilson!"
"What is the General planning on doing with Joey and Rabbit?"
Wicasa's eyes narrowed as he heard the names. Wilson... Rabbit... Could it be?
"David Wilson... Corndog?" He asked turning towards the stranger's brother.
The man nodded. "My friends call me Davy."
"And your brother... the elf..."
The man nodded. "You've heard of us."
Wicasa smiled. "You are honored among our people– for what you did to prevent the Archer's Fist from taking over The Pueblo Lands..."
Davy smiled, but it was a bitter smile. "Brighton's revenge..."
"Rabbit... he's recon isn't he?"
Davy nodded again. "Sniper."
"That is the why then," Wicasa stated.
"The leaves ..."
"When and where."
Davy nodded again, and then turned his attention back to the group of prisoners. "And that is what we need to know."
"Go to hell Wilson!"
Wicasa tensed realizing that that was the absolutely wrong thing to say to Davy at this point. Not after everything they'd done to his family.
"What did you say?" David Wilson's voice was colder than the winter wind.
"You heard me. Brighton will finish you and your kind off..."
Davy smiled a very unwholesome smile. "Strange seeing such loyalty in someone left to die..."
"General Brighton will avenge us!"
"General Brighton left you to be used by his toxic friend," Davy growled. "You're nothing but loose ends– just like we were. Why do you think he took the vehicles? You weren't going to need them."
"You're a liar and a coward."
"A coward!?" Davy's eyes blazed as he picked the man up by his shirt. "Cowardice is shooting an unarmed man, cowardice is attacking innocent bystanders... Cowardice is what you and your friends have exhibited here..."
"You don't have the guts to do anything Wilson..."
"Please," Wicasa called to Davy. "We have ways of dealing with them– and learning what we need..."
Davy looked at him for a moment, the emotions clear in his expression. He knew the man was trying to egg him on, and he knew it was best for him to not give in– but it was very hard.
"They will stand trial for what they have done," Wicasa assured him. "When you rented the cabin from us– you became our guests. What they have done to you, they have done to us– and we have ways of dealing with them"
He tried to make it clear that their dealings would not be pleasant, but the prisoner didn't know when to quit.
"Do your worst," he sneered.
"Our worst," he said slowly. "Would be to leave you here for Spiral."
"They'd deserve it," Davy stated.
"But we can't afford to give Spiral more cannon fodder."
"You think you scare me?"
"You're too stupid to be scared," Davy growled as he pushed the man back down.
Wicasa let his breath out slowly and then signaled his men. "Round them up and take them to the council. They'll deal with them." He then turned to Davy. "I think I know what they're planning."
Davy looked at him. "What?"
"When we get back to our encampment," Wicasa assured him. "Right now– we need to get your brothers together."
He could see the man's concern– but it was more important now to make their prisoners believe he was bluffing.
He was surprised when Davy looked at him and nodded. "You got it."
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