Part IX Sober
Yunomi lay in Reaper’s bed, smiling contentedly. She traced the tattoos on her Lord’s arm with her fingertips, something she never tired of doing. Reaper had made love to her in a way he never had before, gently and thoughtfully. Yunomi had loved it, but she was puzzled. They always had rough and tumble sex, punctuated by moments of tenderness, but it could hardly be called gentle. In fact, she thought, the only times he was truly gentle with her was when he used his healing touch. Then she realized- this was his way of healing the rift between them, the only way he knew how.
She leaned over and kissed him. “Thank you,” she whispered.
Yunomi smiled to herself. Reaper never learned to ask nicely, she thought. “It will be a while yet, Lord. I’m not ready physically or mentally, and we have to have some sort of plan.” She put her hand on his cheek and looked straight into his eyes. “Lord, I want to stay with you until I’m ready to go. Please let me.”
Reaper looked away from her and she felt her heart sink. Then he pulled her to him and held her head
against his chest. “You are the most stubborn, hard headed, fearless thing I have ever known. You make me so
angry, yet I can’t harm you. You are very precious to me.”
Reaper awoke with a jolt early that morning. He was relieved to find Yunomi sleeping curled up beside him, her hand on his chest. He had dreamed she was gone.
Over the next couple of weeks, Yunomi stayed completely sober. She spent her days working out in her dojo, and learning everything she could about the Light Realm and the enemies she would be facing. Her nights were spent with her Lord. Each time he made love to her as if it were the last, and continued trying to convince her not to go. Every day she grew stronger and more knowledgeable about what lay ahead.
Kane was moody and restless, eager to get on with the quest. Yunomi decided a diversion was needed, and
one afternoon took Kane to Casino el Camino to play pool and see some old friends of hers. Sandia was at the bar
visiting with Bob and Laura when they came in.
Yunomi recognized the look on Sandia’s face and wasn’t sure this had been a good idea. “This is Kane.
He’s new in Dark Side.”
Yunomi shook her head at Sandia, but Kane nodded yes. Sandia poured a mug from her pitcher and
handed it to him.
Sandia abandoned Kane’s pool lessons so Yunomi and her friends could play doubles. They sat together
on the couch, Sandia pointing out to Kane how certain shots were made. Yunomi and her friends played late into
the afternoon, and when the evening bar crowd started coming in, she decided it was time to go. Looking over at
the couch, she saw Kane and Sandia apparently deep in conversation. Kane had his arm around Sandia, his head
cocked toward her, listening.
Yunomi returned from Reaper’s earlier than usual the next morning. She wanted to be sure Kane had gotten home all right. The house was dark and quiet. The door to Kane’s room was ajar, and Yunomi silently pushed it open. His mask and clothes were in a heap on the floor, along with some others. Kane was sleeping soundly, his massive arms wrapped around Sandia. She opened her eyes, saw Yunomi, and grinned sheepishly. Yunomi shot her a glare, shook her head, then went in the kitchen to make coffee.
She was halfway through her first cup when Sandia crept in, wearing one of Kane’s shirts. It almost
swallowed her. Sandia got her coffee and sat down. “Hi,” she said shyly.
The women finished their coffee, then Sandia dressed and left. Yunomi went to the dojo to work out. She
was almost through her final kata when Kane wandered in, coffee cup in hand. He sat on the floor, leaning against
the wall. Yunomi finished her kata, then sat next to him. He was wearing only a pair of jeans, and Yunomi could
see that the burn scars ran across his chest and shoulder also.
Kane nodded and got up to get more coffee. The conversation was obviously at an end. Yunomi headed for the shower. She had done all she could, they were on their own. She could only hope that nothing bad would come of Sandia and Kane’s relationship.
Yunomi continued to spend her nights with Reaper, and Kane spent his with Sandia. One night Reaper
casually asked how Kane and Sandia were getting along. Yunomi looked at him thoughtfully, then said “You
already know or you wouldn’t have asked. How do you feel about them?”
Reaper made fierce love to her that night, but something had changed. Yunomi could feel him distancing himself from her. For the first time in several nights, he didn’t ask her not to go with Kane. It disturbed her somewhat, but she shrugged it off as one of his moods.
Over the next couple of days, Yunomi came to the decision that it was time to leave. She was feeling
strong, and had learned all she could about the mace and the Light Realm. Kane was restless and eager to go,
despite the distractions Sandia provided. Yunomi went to Reaper’s house, trying to think how to tell him she was
ready to leave. He greeted her at the door with a solemn expression, taking her hands and drawing her to him.
Yunomi had never seen him look like this before. His face showed a mixture of sorrow and resignation, and came
closer to frightening her than anything he had ever done.
Yunomi staggered as if struck. Her Lord’s dreams never lied. It had not occurred to her that she could die in the Light Realm. “Lord, we must do this. As long as Iuvart and Carnivean have the mace, you and Kane are not safe. We can do this, Reaper, we can get it.” But now she was trying to convince herself as well.
Reaper turned and looked at her with infinite sadness. “This will be our last night together. You are ready to leave, and I am resigned to losing you. I have loved you in my own way, but in the end, it wasn’t enough.”
Tears rose in Yunomi’s eyes. Her Lord had never admitted that he loved her. This, and the thought that
she might never see him again was almost too much for her. She looked as if she were about to fall. Reaper caught
her and held her tightly against him. “Nomi, I’m sorry.” Another first; Reaper never apologized for anything.
Kane and Sandia were still sleeping. Yunomi began putting together the items she had gathered for the
quest. She kept herself busy with the preparations, trying not to think about what Reaper had told her the night
before. After a while, Kane and Sandia wandered in. “Kane, it’s time to go. Lets get ready,” Yunomi told him.
Kane cocked his head. He had been ready to go for weeks, but had waited for Yunomi to regain her conditioning.
He shrugged, and went to put his gear together.
Tears were rolling down Sandia’s face as she hugged her friend again. Kane came out of his room, dressed in jeans and a long sleeved shirt, with his pack in his hand. Yunomi had made black and white reversible cloaks for them both, and a shroud to carry the mace in. She had learned about the shroud from a book in Reaper’s library. Apparently the mace affected those who carried it adversely over time, and the shroud would keep her and Kane safe from it’s power. Yunomi carried her sword, some shurikens, and a change of clothes.
Their plan was simple; they would use Carnivean’s old tunnels to get into the Light Realm undetected. Yunomi would create a disturbance while Kane got the mace. He knew the palace well, and was sure he knew where the mace would be kept. How they would get out of the palace and the Light Realm was a little less clear.
“I’m ready.” Kane mindspoke to both women. When he saw the look on Sandia’s face, he became concerned. Sandia turned to hug him, and he picked her up like a doll so they could be face to face. He often did this, preferring not to look down at her. Sandia threw her arms around Kane’s neck, and they kissed passionately. Yunomi turned away. Reaper had become increasingly remote the night before, and by dawn it had been clear to Yunomi that he already considered her dead.
Sandia was whispering to Kane, “Please come back to me, I need you here.”
Kane pried himself away from Sandia and put on his mask. He grabbed his pack and headed out the front door, Sandia following forlornly behind him. When they got to the front yard, Yunomi stood in front of Kane with her back to him. He rested his hands on her shoulders, and they disappeared. As they vanished, Sandia heard Kane’s voice in her head-”I’ll be back for you.”
I hope so, I truly hope so. she thought to herself as she turned to go.
Reaper lay in bed long past the pale Dark Side sunrise, thinking about Yunomi. He had pretended to be asleep when she left, so he wouldn’t have to say goodbye. But she saw through his ruse, kissing him on the cheek and saying she loved him before she went. She was the only being in all of existence who loved him completely and unconditionally, and he had knowingly sent her to her doom. He sat on the edge of the bed and shrugged. He was the Lord of Darkness after all, what did she expect? For a while, he had believed the Storm Child prophecy, but he had apparently been mistaken. Yunomi was not the one. He was fated to be alone. Before long, his time with Yunomi would be nothing more than a dim memory. The only thing that bothered him was the cold, hard pain behind the tattoo on his chest.
Kane and Yunomi appeared in the woods near the place where Kane had freed her. They would re-enter Carnivean’s tunnels to make their approach to the Light Realm. After Yunomi had rescued her Lord from Iuvart, wreaking great havoc, the Angels had realized their vulnerability and taken measures to detect interlopers. If Yunomi and Kane had suddenly appeared in the Light Realm, Iuvart would know.
Kane had learned much in the Light Realm, because the Angels considered him an idiot and spoke freely
around him. Rather than being offended, he had used his muteness to his advantage. One who never speaks hears
much. Although he was intimately familiar with Carnivean’s tunnels, he suspected that the Demon Lord had placed
new traps in them. Kane approached the hidden entrance cautiously. Everything seemed the same, but still... Kane
lobbed a small fireball through the entrance. Steel spikes shot through the walls, ceiling and floor, forming a deadly
Yunomi heartily agreed to do so. They walked the
rest of the tunnel to Kane’s old quarters without incident. The doors to Kane’s room and the adjoining lab stood
open, all seemingly abandoned. Kane entered his former residence and stopped for a second. Yunomi looked
around. She had only gotten a brief impression when Kane helped her flee Carnivean’s lab. Everything was made
of concrete and steel, and everything was scorched. Kane noticed Yunomi staring at the burnt furnishings. “I was
not happy here,” he stated.
They walked quickly through the lab where Yunomi had been held prisoner and out the opposite door.
Now they were in Carnivean’s old quarters. “Ooo, early Spanish Inquisition!” Yunomi exclaimed. Obscene Demon
murals covered the walls. The furniture was made of various bones, some human, some not. In spite of the
macabre furnishings, the place was gaudy and lewd. Yunomi looked around in disgust. “I have never seen such
completely awful taste. Carnivean needs a decorator real bad.”
Kane looked at her quizzically. “Don’t mind me, I’m being silly,” Yunomi laughed.
Kane led the way to another door. “This way goes under the palace of Light, but it’s a long and dangerous
route. The other door opens onto a tunnel to the surface, just inside the Light Realm. We must go the long way, to
avoid detection, but it will be difficult.”
They carefully stepped around the carcass and headed down the tunnel. Kane set a fast pace, and Yunomi often had to trot to keep up with him. After what seemed like miles, the tunnel forked. Kane unhesitatingly took the right fork. Almost immediately, the atmosphere changed. The tunnel became musty and wet, with a pallid green light emanating from the walls. Yunomi picked up a rock and scratched a spot, finding that a luminous fungus or algae of some type was the source of the light.
Kane had slowed his pace considerably. He seemed to be listening for something. They proceeded a while
in this way, Kane stopping now and again to listen more carefully. They had just rounded a curve when Kane
flattened himself against the wall. “Shoggoths,” he mindspoke. “Be very still.” Yunomi followed his example and
stood against the tunnel wall. Two Shoggoths slurped along the tunnel floor. They vaguely resembled the creatures
Lovecraft had written about, but were much more grotesque than Yunomi had imagined.
Yunomi looked at him curiously. The Shoggoths had been pretty awful looking, but didn’t seem bad
enough to disturb someone like Kane.
They were long limbed and hairless humanoids, their skin the exact color of the tunnel walls, glowing fungus and all. Their eyes were large and lidless, like fish eyes. The one that dropped onto Kane had wrapped it’s arms and legs around him and was clawing at his back and thighs with dagger-like nails. Yunomi had regained her feet and drawn her sword before the one attacking her could get a grip.
Kane head-butted the creature on him as it tried to sink it’s teeth into his shoulder, then ran it into the wall. Still it clung to him. Yunomi cleaved her attacker from shoulder to opposite hip, then turned to help Kane. A third thing leaped onto her back as she turned. Yunomi immediately slammed backwards into the wall with all her force, then grabbed the creature’s forearm and flipped it over her shoulder. Once it was on the floor in front of her, she easily beheaded it. She turned her attention to Kane again, but he had already broken the creature’s grip and twisted it’s neck.
Yunomi and Kane stood back to back, breathing heavily and waiting for further attack. They could hear
high pitched chittering from different places in the tunnel, but could see no movement.
They walked in silence for a while, listening carefully and turning around often to check the tunnel behind
them. The things continued chittering unseen in the dim light.
They continued on, and after a while the chittering faded. Kane was bleeding badly now, and Yunomi asked him again to stop so she could check his wounds. Her own had not been too deep and she had healed them as she walked. Kane stopped and sat down, pulling his shirt off so Yunomi could see his back. There was so much blood she couldn’t see the injuries clearly. She pulled off her own torn and bloody shirt and mopped the blood off Kane’s back with it.
“Shit!” she breathed. There were at least five deep punctures and several long gashes. “Kane, this is bad.
Try to relax. I’m going to heal these for you, but it will take a while.” He nodded, and took a deep breath. Yunomi
concentrated for a moment, then placed her hands over each wound in turn. When she was finished, she examined
them to be sure they had healed well. “All right, how bad are your legs hurt?”
Yunomi smiled at his modesty, and dug another shirt out of her pack. She pulled it on as she turned to
watch the tunnel. She could hear sizzling behind her, and a faint burning smell. It occurred to her that some of
Kane’s scars might be self-inflicted. The chittering down the tunnel was becoming audible again. “Kane, they’re
coming back,” she mindspoke over her shoulder.
Yunomi was peering down the tunnel, trying to see how close the things were when Kane appeared beside
her. He had discarded his blood covered shirt for a faded red denim one. He cocked his head and listened intently,
then shot a fireball towards the sound. “That will keep them back for a while.” Then he turned and incinerated their
bloody shirts with a casual gesture. “They shouldn’t think they can hurt us,” he explained. Then, as if it had just
occurred to him, he asked “Lady, you’re not hurt, are you?”
They picked up their gear and took off through the tunnel. After a while, the corridor widened and opened
into a grotesque cavern. Great stone formations were everywhere, all gray and damp. The light changed, too,
growing dimmer as the fluorescent fungus disappeared. Some of the formations seemed to give off a pale light.
Yunomi thought of the stories some cavers she had known told her when she was still Human. They said that deep in the caves they explored were monsters disguised as cave formations. They only moved when you weren’t looking directly at them, so one could never be sure if there were actually monsters or not. She also remembered the disguised gargoyles that had attacked her and Reaper, and the Rock Men from various old science fiction movies. She wondered what these stone monsters were like.
The cave was dark, and Kane held a small ball of light in the palm of his hand. He continually surprised Yunomi with his abilities. “I know the way through here. Keep me in sight if you have to move away from the monsters,” Kane sent. He started off down the trail through the cavern. It was easy going for the first mile or two, then the formations crowded in on the trail and it became rocky and difficult. Kane bounded gracefully from boulder to boulder, while Yunomi struggled over or around them. He would often stop and wait patiently for her to catch up.
Sometimes she thought she heard a sound, or caught a movement out of the corner of her eye. “Be careful,” Kane sent to her. “They’re starting to close in.” Yunomi watched him climb a nearby formation for a better look around. His speed and agility matched his brother’s, a fact he hid with a shambling gait and feigned clumsiness. Yes, she thought to herself, there’s a lot about Kane I don’t know.
Kane jumped down from the rock. “Come on, they’re moving to block the trail.” He took off to the left of the trail, to move behind the gathering rock monsters. Yunomi had yet to see one, and wondered how Kane could pick them out from the formations. She was hard pressed to keep Kane’s light in sight, but moved as quickly as she could in the rocky darkness. They managed to circumvent the blocked section of trail and were soon back on track.
A stony rumbling came from behind them. They know they missed us, Yunomi thought.
Then she heard the same rumbling closer, and above her. A stone slammed into her head, knocking her to the ground. Large stones rolled from the slope above, crashing into her side and hip. Stunned, she was barely aware of the hulking monolith sliding down the slope toward her, or of Kane scooping her up out of the monster’s path at the last second. He carried her easily, leaping along the trail at a rapid pace. The cavern walls narrowed, then they were back in the tunnel system. Kane had left the rock monsters far behind.
He set Yunomi down gently, and examined her head wound. She stirred, and put a hand to her head, then
tried to sit up. She gasped in pain and fell back, holding her ribs. Kane pulled her hands away and lifted her shirt.
A terrible black and purple bruise covered her side from breast to hip. He cautiously felt her side, causing her to
wince. “Lady, your ribs are broken.”
Kane pulled back his hand, and sat down a couple of feet away from her. “I can heal without burning,” he
sent in a hurt tone. But Yunomi had faded from consciousness. Kane moved back to her side and touched her head
again. He knew she would not be all right, and was not able to heal herself this time. He concentrated intently. He
could heal without burning, he told himself. Pushing her hair away from the wound, Kane touched it carefully. The
wound began to heal, and Yunomi stirred.
Kane hesitantly laid his hands on her bruises, and when Yunomi looked up at his face, she could see that his eyes were closed. He felt the question in her mind, and when he had finished healing her, he answered. “I don’t want to think of you the same way I think of Sandia, but sometimes it’s hard not to.”
Yunomi was surprised. She had never considered that Kane might find her attractive. “Kane, I think of
you as a brother. I never meant to tempt you.” She rearranged her clothing.
“We are not far from the Light Realm,” Kane sent. “We need to rest here while we are still in Dark Side. It’s safe, the tunnel beings will not come this close to the Light.” Yunomi agreed. They both needed the strength they would gain from a Dark Side sleep. She pulled her cloak out of her pack and lay down with the black side out, using her pack as a pillow. Kane did likewise. They lay back to back, facing opposite ends of the tunnel. It never hurt to be careful. Within seconds, both had fallen into the rejuvenating Dark Side sleep.
Yunomi awoke first, and for a few seconds was confused and disoriented. There was no way to know how long she had been asleep. Kane had rolled over onto his stomach and was still sleeping soundly, one huge arm draped across Yunomi. She smiled, and quietly extricated herself, then walked a few paces up the tunnel. She warmed up and stretched. Although her hip was still sore, she ran through some abbreviated kata. Deciding that Kane had been too shy about healing her hip, she worked on it herself, then turned to cleaning and sharpening her sword.
Kane was stirring behind her. “Lady?” he sent.
As they walked through the tunnel, the light gradually grew brighter. A series of left and right twists
began, each turn leading to a lighter section. Kane made a turn and stopped so abruptly that Yunomi almost ran into
him. A wide chasm split the tunnel. Yunomi stood beside Kane and peered into it. She could not see the bottom.
Yunomi sighed. It was possible, she supposed, and Kane had his mind made up. “All right. Throw the
Kane picked Yunomi up, testing her weight. He decided to toss her underhanded, like a bale of hay or a
log. They briefly discussed the mechanics, then Kane picked her up again, one hand on her sternum and the other
on her thigh just above the knee. “Are you ready?”
Kane took a couple of running steps and hurled Yunomi with all his might. She sailed across the chasm, tucking her head and going into a forward roll about a foot on the other side, coming up on her feet.
“Yes! That was f'ing awesome!” She was laughing and doing a short hopping dance she sometimes
did when pleased with the outcome of something. Kane smiled behind his mask. No wonder his brother had
claimed her. She was the most joyfully fearless soul that Kane had ever met. Yunomi gathered their packs and
stood back. Kane backed up and ran toward the chasm, leaping high in the air at the very edge. He went into a
front flip and landed on his feet in the same place Yunomi had.
“We’re in the Light Realm now. It’s only a few miles to the palace.” Kane sent.
Yunomi had taken out her cloak and donned it while Kane explained the differences in Light Beings. She also put on her dark glasses, remembering the horrible glare of the Light Realm.
They walked for miles, through gleaming, spotless tunnels. Yunomi wondered how Kane knew the way, because there were no distinguishing features. She asked if she could alter her appearance slightly without setting off alarms. The answer was yes, so she paled her hair and skin to a milk white, giving her a reason for being cloaked against the light.
As they neared the area under the palace, a squad of Cherubim came around a corner and ran into them.
Kane turned and motioned for Yunomi to come forward. He pointed to his mouth and ears, then shook his head. Yunomi raised her head, and the Cherubs drew back from her white skin and dark glasses in horror.
“She is surely afflicted!” the squad leader gasped, then frowned. “A suitable companion for you, Brother Kane. I’ll never understand why Lord Iuvart tolerates you in the Realm, but you have his blessing. Carry on.” With that, the Cherubim moved away down the tunnel.
“Huh, nice folks.” Yunomi sent sarcastically.
Yunomi removed her cloak and resumed her normal appearance, then waited patiently while Kane climbed the staircase through the trapdoor at the top. After a few minutes Kane called her up with mindspeak. The trapdoor opened into an empty room, more of a closet, really, concealed from the main palace by a tapestry.
“The Seraphim are at meditation,” Kane sent. “That will allow us time to get into position. I’ll go to the vaults, and you wait on the big staircase. The Seraphim will come into the main hall when they’re done and see you there. When I have the mace, I’ll join you and we’ll get out of here.”
Yunomi had made herself familiar with the plans to the palace before she left the Dark Side. The meditation room opened into the main hall. A huge marble staircase along one wall led up to a wide balcony used by the Light Lords to address the Seraphim. A door on the balcony led to Iuvart’s private area of the palace. Kane knew a quick way out of the palace through Iuvart’s quarters.
Yunomi entered the empty hall and climbed the staircase to the balcony. She drew her sword and waited. The Seraphim would enter the hall at any time. Kane made his way toward the vaults where the mace was kept. The palace was almost deserted at meditation hour. The few Cherubim who crossed Kane’s path hurried to avoid him. He had often used the Light Being’s unease around him to gain access to the palace rooms. Kane entered the vaults without challenge and sought out the crypt of the mace. He muscled open the heavy lid of the gold crypt. It was empty.
“It’s not here.” Kane spun around at the voice behind him. The ancient vault keeper stood calmly regarding Kane. This man had been his only friend in the palace, and Kane had spent many hours exploring the treasures of the vaults in his company. “Carnivean returned it to the Temple of Soul’s Pain. Iuvart was uncomfortable with it,” the ancient continued. Kane nodded and extended his hand in thanks and friendship. The ancient shook it. “You’re doing the right thing, Kane. I wish you luck on your quest. Now go quickly, the Lady needs your help.”
The Seraphim had filed quietly into the hall where Yunomi stood waiting with her sword. They had not seen her. From the balcony her voice rang out. “I am Yunomi, Sword of Vengeance! I am acolyte and companion to the Lord of Darkness! I have come to take retribution on Lord Iuvart in my Lord’s name.”
The Seraphim turned as one toward her, shock and disbelief on every face. They stood silently staring for
a second or two, then rushed to attack. Many had swords, they ran up the staircase. Others flew up to the balcony.
Yunomi had expected this two pronged assault and was ready. She met the first two up the stairs at the top step and
killed them easily, kicking their bodies back down to hinder and trip those behind them. The fliers came at her from
the left, and she slashed quickly at them, then turned to kick the next wave up the stairs back into the crowd. One of
the fliers grabbed her from behind, but was run through with a reverse stab of her katana. The Seraphim on the
stairs were regrouping and starting up again. Yunomi had a few seconds to fend off the fliers before turning her
attention to the stairs. The first Angel to meet her this time was a good fighter. His sword met hers blow for blow,
pushing her back from the top step. The other Seraphs stopped, watching the sword play. There were dead and
maimed Angels on the stairs and balcony, being carried off by just arrived Cherubim. Yunomi parried a vicious
blow from her opponent and ran him through. The other Seraphim suddenly began backing away from her as she
kicked the body off her blade. She put her back to the corner and grinned wickedly at the retreating Angels. “Bring
me Iuvart!” she shouted at them.
Yunomi’s eyes narrowed dangerously. She took a step forward, sword ready. Iuvart’s expression changed
from one of stern authority to sheer terror. He pointed his remaining hand at Yunomi. “Unclean creature, I cast you
into Hell!” A vortex opened in the floor under Yunomi, and she began to slide into it.
Iuvart turned to Carnivean. “I don’t realize what?” he demanded.
Yunomi Book Two, first page.
Yunomi Book Two, second page.
Yunomi Book Two, third page.
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Yunomi Book Two, fifth page.
Yunomi Book Two, sixth page.
Yunomi Book Two, seventh page.
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