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Tales From Camelot Series 12: QUEST Part 3
Tales From Camelot Series 12: QUEST Part 3
Tales From Camelot Series 12: QUEST Part 3
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Tales From Camelot Series 12: QUEST Part 3

Автор Paul Green

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Welcome once again to Camelot, and Part 3 of the popular QUEST storyline. And in case you haven't been keeping abreast of the news on the Facebook announcement page, there is going to be a Part 4. I thought I'd be able to wrap things up here, but when I hit 100 chapters and realized I wasn't even close, well - I didn't have much choice, the Part 4 announcement had to be made. Which I suppose is good news for you the reader, you get one more book!

Part 3 is largely going to cover our journey getting to the Temple for the Coronation, hence the book's cover. (Our big return to Camelot will be the focus of Part 4). But in getting there, a lot of character development needed to take place. Therefore, much of this particular installment is going to be heavy on progressing many of our beloved characters.

Not the least of which is in the romance department. For you romantics out there, you especially are going to like this one. :) For example, when you get to the section entitled 'Starry Starry Night', well you'll see what I mean. But it doesn't end there, the ship called 'romance' will continue sailing to the end. Although - there will be many surprises, twists and turns, even on the love boat - so prepare yourselves for the unexpected!

ЯзыкEnglish
ИздательPaul Green
Дата выпуска27 дек. 2020 г.
ISBN9781005085162
Tales From Camelot Series 12: QUEST Part 3
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Paul Green

Winner of the 1927 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Paul Green (1894-1981) taught philosophy and drama at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was a native of Harnett County, North Carolina.

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    Tales From Camelot Series 12 - Paul Green

    Tales From Camelot Series • Book Twelve

    QUEST

    Part Three

    paul green

    Copyright Notice

    www.PaulGreenAuthor.com

    Copyright 2019 Paul Green All Rights Reserved.

    First Printing: October 2019

    Revision A8

    Printed in the United States of America. No part of this work may be used or reproduced, transmitted, stored or used in any form or by any means graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including but not limited to photocopying, recording, scanning, digitizing, tapping, Web distribution, information networks or information storage and retrieval systems, or in any manner whatsoever without the express written approval of the author, except by reviewers who may quote brief excerpts in connection with a review.

    For further information, contact info@paulgreenauthor.com

    United States laws and regulations are public domain and not subject to copyright. Any unauthorized copying, reproduction, translation, or distribution of any part of this material without permission by the author is prohibited and against the law.

    Table of Contents

    Cover

    Title Page

    Copyright Notice

    Tales From Camelot Series

    From the author ...

    Map of Pretania

    ~ Prologue ~

    ~ Resurgence ~

    Chapter 1

    Chapter 2

    Chapter 3

    Chapter 4

    Chapter 5

    Chapter 6

    ~ Diversity ~

    Chapter 7

    Chapter 8

    Chapter 9

    Chapter 10

    Chapter 11

    Chapter 12

    Chapter 13

    Chapter 14

    Chapter 15

    Chapter 16

    Chapter 17

    Chapter 18

    Chapter 19

    Chapter 20

    Chapter 21

    Chapter 22

    Chapter 23

    Chapter 24

    Chapter 25

    Chapter 26

    ~ Homecoming ~

    Chapter 27

    Chapter 28

    Chapter 29

    ~ Starry Starry Night ~

    Chapter 30

    Chapter 31

    Chapter 32

    Chapter 33

    Chapter 34

    Chapter 35

    Chapter 36

    Chapter 37

    Chapter 38

    Chapter 39

    Chapter 40

    Chapter 41

    Chapter 42

    Chapter 43

    Chapter 44

    Chapter 45

    Chapter 46

    ~ The Coming Storm ~

    Chapter 47

    Chapter 48

    Chapter 49

    Chapter 50

    Chapter 51

    Chapter 52

    Chapter 53

    Chapter 54

    Chapter 55

    Chapter 56

    ~ Love In All Its Forms ~

    Chapter 57

    Chapter 58

    Chapter 59

    Chapter 60

    Chapter 61

    Map of Pretania

    Chapter 62

    Chapter 63

    Chapter 64

    Chapter 65

    ~ Devil in the Details ~

    Chapter 66

    Chapter 67

    Chapter 68

    Chapter 69

    Chapter 70

    Chapter 71

    Chapter 72

    Chapter 73

    Chapter 74

    Chapter 75

    Chapter 76

    Chapter 77

    Chapter 78

    Chapter 79

    Chapter 80

    Chapter 81

    ~ Affairs of the Heart ~

    Chapter 82

    Chapter 83

    Chapter 84

    Chapter 85

    Chapter 86

    Chapter 87

    Chapter 88

    Chapter 89

    ~ Long Live the Queen ~

    Chapter 90

    Chapter 91

    Chapter 92

    Chapter 93

    Chapter 94

    Chapter 95

    Chapter 96

    Chapter 97

    Chapter 98

    Chapter 99

    Chapter 100

    Notes to the reader ...

    Cover - Pirate Tales Book One: RECKONING

    Tales From Camelot Series

    About the Author . . .

    Tales From Camelot Series

    Part One

    Book 1: PENDRAGON

    Book 2: CAMELOT

    Book 3: CHAMPION

    Book 4: SORCERESS

    Part Two

    Book 5: ROYALS

    Book 6: EXCALIBUR

    Book 7: CURSED

    Book 8: LADY Part 1

    Book 8: LADY Part 2

    Part Three

    Book 9: WARLORD

    Book 10: MIRROR

    Book 11: WYVERN

    Book 12: QUEST Part 1

    Book 12: QUEST Part 2

    Book 12: QUEST Part 3

    Book 12: QUEST Part 4

    Book 12: QUEST Part 5

    www.PaulGreenAuthor.com

    From the author ...

    Welcome once again to Camelot, and Part 3 of the popular QUEST storyline. And in case you haven't been keeping abreast of the news on the Facebook announcement page, there are going to be 5 Parts. I thought I'd be able to wrap things up here, but when I hit 100 chapters and realized I wasn't even close, well - I didn't have much choice, the Part 4 and 5 announcement had to be made. Which I suppose is good news for you the reader, you get one more book!

    Part 3 is largely going to cover our journey getting to the Elven Temple for Kiana's Coronation, hence the book's cover. (Our big return to Camelot will be the main focus of Part 5). But in getting there, a lot of character development needed to take place. Therefore, much of this particular installment is going to be heavy on progressing many of our beloved characters.

    Not the least of which is in the romance department. For you romantics out there, you especially are going to like this one. :) For example, when you get to the section entitled 'Starry Starry Night', well you'll see what I mean. But it doesn't end there, the ship called 'romance' will continue sailing to the end. Although - there will be many surprises, twists and turns, even on the love boat - so prepare yourselves for the unexpected!

    Also, we are going to be meeting some very important new faces. We're going to the Elven Temple after all, so we are going to meet some special new Elves. :)

    But in addition to Elves, we'll be meeting some new 'gods'. As Queen of the Gods, Lilith's family will be growing too. And along with that, some startling new revelations! One in particular as you get further into it - that is going to blow your mind. :) So be ready for the unexpected there, too.

    One more tidbit - by now you should already know that I've been trying to provide pictures for all of our characters. By the time we reach the end, I am hoping I'll have them all covered. In this outing for example, we finally have our first pictures of Protector Jake and Edwina! Those two - now THAT's a romantic plot point that's been a long time in development, hasn't it? And our first pics of Cassi's mother Lydia and even Hector. And Marcy and Ashara! We finally have our first pics of them! And then the big one. Finally, after all this time, we have the man himself: our first real picture of King Arthur. So that should be something special to look forward to.

    There will actually be a lot of unexpected surprises in this adventure. And this one will pull at your heartstrings a little bit on occasion - especially as we learn more about these characters whom we've come to love. I've been hearing from many of you how Valeria has become a huge fan favorite; and rightfully she should be - she is a very special character. I assure you some interesting things will be happening with her, too. But overall, this is going to be a fun one. So much so, that I might even go so far as to say that QUEST Part 3 has become one of my personal favorites. :) I hope you'll enjoy it too.

    Let's enter in once again, into the wonderful world of Camelot.

    ~ Prologue ~

    The Mysterious Isle of Avalon

    Avalon

    No. You may not pass.

    ~ Resurgence ~

    Chapter 1

    The door to the Captain's cabin suddenly burst open and Kiana entered in with a desperate look in her eyes, followed closely behind by Laurel who looked just as nervous. And as Kiana looked around, her worst fears were realized.

    Cassi's pictures and music were spread out all over the floor.

    And Cassi was nowhere to be seen.

    NO!!! Kiana groaned in heart-wrenching agony, as she dropped to her knees and began to wail in grief. SHE DID IT AGAIN!!!

    Chapter 2

    And then ... a moment later, Cassi stepped out from behind the changing panel as she was buttoning up the front of her new clean black dress. Did what again?

    GASP! CASSI! You are still here!!

    And even Laurel was impressed at how fast Kiana leaped up to race across the room in almost blurring speed to throw her arms around her in grateful thanksgiving, nearly knocking her over in the process.

    Kiana! Cassi laughed. If you wanted another Christmas kiss, all you had to do was ask.

    Oh, ha ha, very funny. Kiana chuckled, fighting back the tears. Cassi, I thought I had lost you again!

    Kiana, you're squishing me.

    Oh! Sorry!

    And as Kiana finally released her strong squishing grip of her charge, Cassi gave her a tender smile and said, Have you forgotten my promise to you, already? I am never going to leave you. Ever. A promise is a promise.

    Of course I have not forgotten; but you have this way of being sneaky. You always have some workaround. You made a similar promise to Megan, but that didn't stop you from leaving.

    But I always came back to the point where I left! Or least I always tried to; so that she would not experience being alone. Sometimes I kind of ... uhm ... misjudged the timing a little...

    EXACTLY! That's my whole point!

    Kiana, it's different with you.

    How is it any different!?

    Then ... Kiana caught herself, and calmed herself. She took a deep breath, and then apologized, saying Sorry. I am probably sounding a little insecure, aren't I?

    Cassi smiled at her for a moment. And then turned her head towards Laurel to say, We are all good here. Would you mind giving us a private moment?

    Laurel shook her head at her and chided, Of course I don't mind. You know - I thought it was stressful keeping an eye on Christopher; he gets so lost in his thoughts sometimes that sometimes he gets lost. But compared to his mother? Now I see I have it easy. Kiana, you sure have your hands full with this one.

    Kiana chuckled and nodded. That I do.

    Glad it's not what you thought it was. said Laurel. I'll uh ... I'll go look for Christopher, now; he and Galahad have been gone too long as it is.

    Thank you for watching the door, Laurel. Cassi replied.

    Anytime. Laurel then turned to leave the cabin ... then suddenly she turned back around and said, Wait ... did you say 'Christmas kiss'?

    Kiana sighed and closed her eyes, shaking her head.

    And Cassi smiled at Laurel and explained, We have only told Megan so far, but Anna gave Kiana and I a special gift - where we shared this Christmas dream vision from the future. And in it, we received this ... uhm ... far away 'voice message' from my ... uhm ... 'niece', who said to give her Aunt Kiana a kiss for her. So ... uhm ... yea.

    Laurel chuckled. Got it; sorry wasn't trying to be nosy. And Anna is amazing, isn't she?

    Kiana gave her a knowing smirk. Yes you were. And yes, she is.

    Laurel laughed. Okay, I'm off to find Christopher. Hopefully he hasn't been mobbed by girl Pirates. Uh ... you don't happen to have girl pirates on your ship, do you?

    Cassi eyes widened in alarm. Uh...

    And now Laurel's eyes widened. Uh oh. Bye! And with that, Laurel spun around and rushed out the door, closing it behind her.

    Looking back at Kiana, Cassi asked, So I am a handful, now?

    Kiana chuckled. She is not quoting me. I have never said anything like that to anyone. But between you and me? Yes, you kind of are. she teased. You are always full of surprises, I never know what you are going to do next.

    Cassi looked at her thoughtfully for a moment, and then replied, Kiana, my promise to you was different than my promise to Megan. I had told her I would never leave her alone. To you ... I said I would never leave you; ever. There is a difference; and I meant what I said. If I was to ever go off anywhere - even folding time and space to somewhere or some 'when', I would take you with me. That was, and will always be, my promise to you.

    Kiana studied her for a moment. And then replied, First of all, I appreciate that; I really do. That means more to me than you will ever know. But I am more concerned about the second part - Cassi, how do you know about folding time and space? You are not supposed to be able to remember that. Have you gotten your memories back?

    Now Cassi wasn't ready to reveal to anyone that she had overheard the private conversation between Valeria and Muriel, earlier - where she had learned for the first time of the heartbreaking and unpleasant details about Valeria's lifelong condition. And she had learned how she herself had accidentally created a mystical portal doorway over on the Isle of Avalon which had lead to a different world - evidently by a process known as 'folding time and space'. And that Piper's mother was named Avalon (whom the mysterious Isle itself had apparently been originally named after), and that Avalon had been missing for a very long time; which was why Piper had never met her birthmother. For the time being, Cassi was keeping all of that new knowledge and information to herself, like she had a habit of doing with so many other things. However it was the learning of all of those things and the startling implications that they represented, that had prompted Cassi to immediately return to her cabin and pictures in an attempt to learn as much as she possibly could. Of little surprise, Cassi had been determined to find answers.

    In response to Kiana's question, Cassi simply replied in a subtle deflective manner without having to outright lie. I cannot get memories back that no longer exist. Anna erased those memories, with the intention that they cannot be restored.

    Kiana narrowed her eyes at her suspiciously. I know you well enough to know there is more going on here than you are telling me. You were studying all of your pictures and music. Those pictures are the story of your life, are they not? In your mind, are they not a form of a personal diary? Tell me the truth, Cassi; please answer me honestly. What is your objective? What are you planning?

    Cassi looked at her for a long time, struggling with coming up with the right wording.

    Kiana nodded. I knew it. You want your powers back, don't you?

    Cassi looked down, unable to respond.

    Kiana then said, Can I tell you another promise you gave me? Just before your memories were erased?

    Looking back up at her, Cassi said, I made you another promise?

    Yes you did. While you were laid up in the sick bay, I was explaining to you, that if you really love someone, you don't keep secrets from them.

    Cassi blinked at her several times.

    And then to Kiana's surprise, Cassi replied, Okay. I promise. Again.

    Kiana smiled at her. That was easy. I couldn't believe you would be so quick to respond that way, before. And now here you are, responding just as quickly this time? It would seem when I put things to you in a specific way you can understand, it makes all the difference in the world with you. I will need to learn to choose my words more carefully in the future, apparently.

    I do love you, Kiana. That's the difference.

    I know. I love you, too. So ... no more secrets between us?

    No more secrets.

    Kiana nodded in satisfaction. Good. Then everything about our Protector-Seed relationship is how it should be.

    Cassi solemnly nodded.

    Then Kiana frowned. Then why am I more nervous, now; than ever before? Looking Cassi in the eye, she then asked, Just how many secret plans do you have going inside that convoluted head of yours, anyway?

    Cassi grinned at her sheepishly.

    And Kiana sighed. What have I gotten myself into?

    Shall we begin with order of execution?

    Kiana crossed her arms and replied, I am listening. What are you planning to do first?

    First, I need to go speak with Valeria. Then when we reach Stirlingshire in a few hours, I need to let my mother know I am still alive; and then after your Coronation at the Temple, we're going to Camelot for some really big weddings ... and I think maybe a concert? At least according to one picture; and I even think I've already got most of the music written for it. And then we need to go find Piper's mother, and while we're doing that we need to make sure we put some extra guards on Gwydre and then we need to locate the central base of...

    Kiana raised her eyebrow. Wait, wait, wait, slow down; you are losing me already. Back up to Valeria. Why?

    Because I wish to barter an exchange. I can help her with her problem, and she can help me with mine.

    Why am I getting a sick scary feeling in the pit of my stomach about where you are going with this?

    Because you are not going to like this plan.

    Kiana groaned. Do I ever like your plans?

    Okay, so here is what I propose...

    Wait! Kiana interrupted. Before I have a heart attack from this plan of yours - now that Megan isn't here, one of these days we need to talk about that Christmas kiss.

    Cassi grinned. I was just keeping a promise!

    Cassi...

    It was Christmas! The season of giving!

    Uh huh.

    We kind of have a lot going on right now, Kiana. How about we talk about it in a century or two?

    Fine; but one of these days, we WILL talk about it.

    I promise!

    Kiana sighed. Okay, so back to this plan that you say I am not going to like...

    Chapter 3

    WHAT!!!?

    Chapter 4

    Valeria's Cabin Suite

    Knock. Knock.

    Door's unlocked, come in. Maybe I'm decent, maybe I'm not - maybe you'll get lucky.

    Cassi and Kiana nervously took the risk.

    And fortunately to their relief when they opened the door, she was decent and had only been teasing. They found Valeria standing at her window, and had changed back into a long sleek black dress. She was looking out at the early pre-dawn sky that was growing lighter - indicating the sun was about to rise.

    You know... Valeria said in quiet retrospection, keeping her back to them, ...this is about the time my mother would go to sleep. There was a time when I could not survive the daylight, either. I miss those times. Invulnerability is incredibly boring.

    Hello ... Valeria. Cassi nervously greeted. I have been looking forward to meeting you. Officially. Besides that brief little ... uhm ... Ebenezer thing, yesterday.

    The corner of Valeria's mouth raised at the memory.

    So, uhm ... apparently we have met before?

    Valeria turned around and smiled at her. Hello again, Kitten. It's a pleasure, as always. And Kiana, Daughter of Ey'loi. I have heard only great things about you. The honor is all mine.

    Cassi had respectfully wanted Kiana to have her turn first; so Kiana asked in surprise, You knew my mother!?

    Valeria's warm smile turned tender as she replied, I knew her and Auberon well. I had nothing but the highest respect for both of them. Look at you, Child; you are so ... beautiful. You are the mirror image of Ey'Loi. She was an archer, too; like yourself. She had even chosen for her hair, black; for Auberon's sake. No wonder Auberon only had eyes for her.

    Kiana hadn't been expecting to feel her eyes glisten as she replied, I had not realized you knew my mother.

    Valeria nodded. Lilith and I spent much time with them in the first age. Where others had rejected us, they welcomed us with open arms, without partiality or judgment.

    When you say 'judgment', are you referring to what the gods did to you? Cassi and I have become well acquainted with Pandora's story.

    No. Valeria smiled. What I was referring to, was she and I were together at that time. Auberon and the Elves did not approve; and Auberon even told us so. But they loved us just the same, and we fell in love with them; and our time with them was blessed. That was a rare thing - in a world of sinful men who believed they had the righteous right to judge us. The Elves saw it differently. They see all sin as being equal in the eyes of the One; just as all people are equal in His eyes. They were able to make the distinction between what they viewed as sin ... and still love the person. Though we chose to stay together in spite of their admonishments; yet even so they still demonstrated love to us. And I am pleased to say that Auberon's legacy did not die with him. When eight thousand years later, a young Elf named Muriel whom you may have witnessed this very night, also showed me the very same compassion. I shall always respect the Elven people; and their hearts and their beliefs; and I will always hold them dear to my heart. Unlike the rest of the world, they actually practice what the One's writings teach. As I said, the honor of finally meeting you ... Queen Kiana ... is all mine.

    And then Valeria surprised her even further, when just like Lilith had done before back in the island sea cave, Valeria dropped down to one knee and humbly bowed her head. The last time Valeria had ever done that, had been eight thousand years earlier.

    Kiana looked upon her in awe. I am humbled. I have no words.

    Valeria smiled and rose back up to her feet. And said, Being that I knew Auberon and Ey'loi, I am sure you must have many questions for me.

    I do!

    There is time enough for that. But neither do I wish to ignore my other important guest. Then turning to face Cassi, she said, If I am still permitted to call you 'Cassi'. Though our time together was brief, you gave me the right.

    Then we obviously became friends!

    I like to think that in our short time together, we were. I have to say, the more I have learned about you, I have developed deep respect for you as well. It is in fact, why I am here. I have also developed respect for your man, Galahad; and your son Christopher; both of whom visited Lilith and I at the Temple. Even though she and I were out of sorts at the time, nevertheless the true and noble heart of Galahad left an impression on us. And your son's tender discerning heart was able to correctly interpret Lilith's paintings and understand her heart, where few others could. They are both extraordinary men. It must run in the family. she winked.

    Cassi grinned. Thank you! I think they are special. I do not know how much you know about me, but I have only just learned about Christopher, myself. Now I am REALLY looking forward to getting to know you! You and Lilith both! I obviously sorely misjudged the two of you.

    Valeria chuckled. Eh, story of our lives.

    Can I hug you?

    Valeria smiled. Uh ... no. As much as I enjoy a good grope, I would strongly advise you both to maintain your distance. Protector, if you value her, keep her away from me; I am not someone you want to get close to.

    Actually... Cassi said, looking at Kiana - who had now begun scowling at Cassi - with crossed-arm emphasis...

    Looking back at Valeria, Cassi continued, That is why I am here. I have a proposition to offer you.

    Valeria raised her eyebrow. Well this could go a number of interesting ways.

    Uh...

    Valeria smiled. It was a jest, Kitten; I do that sometimes. I learned from our last time together that I need to play straight with you. Sorry.

    No, that's okay; I can usually understand most jests; especially around people I know. I, uh... Cassi then looked again at Kiana, whose scowl had now turned into an intense look of displeasure.

    Turning back to Valeria, Cassi said, In case you haven't noticed, she's not real happy with me.

    Valeria grinned. Well this sounds even more promising. If a Protector doesn't like it, it's got to be good.

    Actually ... I don't think you are going to like it, either.

    Perhaps I spoke too soon.

    Actually ... you're probably going to hate it as much as Kiana hates it.

    Looking at Kiana, Valeria asked You are her personal Protector, correct? I can smell her on you.

    Kiana's eyes widened and she stammered, Uhm... There were a whole lot of things about that statement that threw her.

    Valeria then stated emphatically to Cassi's Protector, If this is something that is in any way going to harm her? I'm out.

    But before Kiana could reply, Cassi pleaded, Please! Valeria, you need to hear me out! This will actually help me! And it will help you! I just have to somehow convince both of you to go along with this! And... Cassi sighed. I'm not sure how to convince you both, just yet.

    With Valeria still looking at Kiana, Kiana replied, Don't look at me. I am completely opposed to this idea.

    Cassi replied, She is always opposed. She keeps forgetting I am immortal and I cannot die. I am like you, Valeria; I am invulnerable, too.

    No you're not. Valeria replied. You have many scars. And slaver tattoos.

    What!? You can see those!?

    And your hair is white, yes. Unlike most, I am not deceived by illusion; I am a master at creating illusion. Whatever spell has been put on you, I see right through it. I see you, Cassiopeia, for who you are. You are NOT ... invulnerable; you can bleed.

    Okay. So I can bleed, but I can't die. The thing to remember here is...

    I am not going to hurt you, Cassi; not for any reason. I do not hurt 'friends'. Find another way.

    You haven't even heard my way! I am telling you, this will help you as much as it will help me!

    I couldn't care less about helping me; I am a lost cause. You on the other hand...

    You are not a lost cause! There is a way! But you have to trust me! Please, I beg of you! Hear me out! And if you won't do it for yourself, then at least do it for me. Because if you do this for me, then you are doing it for everyone! This thing I ask isn't for my own selfish reasons; this isn't about me! It's for the sake of an entire nation! Please, Valeria? Help me save millions of innocent lives! I know that is something you can appreciate. And even Kiana can appreciate the motive!

    Kiana growled, Appreciate it, yes. Doesn't mean I like it.

    Continuing her plea with Valeria, Cassi argued, There is always a sacrifice when it comes to saving lives. Surely you can understand that! In fact - based on what I have recently learned and discovered, I think you can understand that more than anyone.

    Valeria looked at her for a moment. And then angrily crossed her arms as she replied, Well damn it to hell.

    See? I knew you would understand.

    I don't understand anything, yet. But I will at least hear you out; that is all I can promise.

    And Kiana sighed.

    Whew. Cassi said in relief. Okay, so here is what I propose...

    Chapter 5

    WHAT!!!?

    Chapter 6

    Early Morning

    Sick Bay

    She still isn't breathing, her skin is completely pale and colorless, she doesn't even have a pulse! Constance groaned in fearful anxious worry.

    Of course she doesn't have a pulse. Kiana glowered - looking down upon Cassi's pale, cold, lifeless, 'bloodless' body. Because she doesn't have any blood!

    *** *** ***

    Gathered around Cassi's 'dead' body were her inner circle of Kiana, Megan, Jeffrey, Piper and Sinead. And all of them were shocked at what was happening.

    Valeria was also present - but she was sitting alone far off in the furthest corner - viciously snarling at anyone who even dared look in her direction.

    It was arguable which of the two felt more tormented and guilty: Valeria for having fed on her, resulting in turning her, and then continued feeding on her until there was nothing left to feed on. Or Kiana for having allowed it. Both of them were deeply regretting the horrendous decision.

    *** *** ***

    Megan exclaimed, How can she be alive if she doesn't have any blood!? That makes no sense!

    Tell me about it. said Constance, checking Cassi's wrist once again in desperate hopes of feeling even a faint pulse; but alas even after fifteen minutes, there was still no sign of life. And even if she does come back, it is going to be very ... painful. Lacking blood and oxygen in her brain and all of her organs? It would be excruciatingly...

    What do you mean 'IF' she is going to come back? Megan argued. You mean 'WHEN'. Cassi always comes back.

    Constance looked at Megan sadly and replied, People don't come back from the dead like this. Megan. I am sorry, after this much time has passed, it is not medically possible. As much as it hurts me to say it, I am calling it; I think it is time we notify the next of kin. Galahad and Christopher have every right to know...

    No! Megan argued. She's not dead! She's my soul! I would feel it if she was dead!

    Jeffrey tearfully argued, Megan, there has been no brain activity for fifteen minutes...

    How do you know there has been no brain activity!? She could be dreaming happy thoughts!

    Constance shook her head in answer. No blood flow to the brain means ... she is brain dead.

    But that was her whole plan!

    No. Kiana bitterly argued. That was most certainly NOT her plan. None of this has gone according to plan.

    Hasn't it!? I love you, Kiana; but you don't know Cassi like I do. I've known her my whole life! She does these things for a reason. There is always a reason!

    Kiana shook her head. I don't think she anticipated this outcome.

    I think she did.

    And Kiana wiped the tears from her eyes and hopelessly sighed.

    Piper then tearfully asked, What was her reasoning again? Surely there is something we are missing.

    Jeffrey shook his head. I can't believe I am saying this, but there is no sound reasoning. This is tearing me apart; too. But I think we have finally lost Cassi. It is time to...

    NO! Megan vehemently objected with tears streaming down her face. It is not time to do anything! We wait! Until she comes back.

    *** *** ***

    Tears were streaming down everyone's faces; there wasn't a dry eye in the room. Even Valeria's angered visage was paralleled only by her tears.

    Kiana tearfully braved a look over at Valeria - who in turn gave her another sneering scowl. Unable to look Valeria in the eye - either from guilt or loathing, she didn't know which - Kiana quickly turned away in disgust and looked down once more upon Cassi's pale lifeless body. Disgust with herself - disgust at the monster Valeria - did it really matter which? Valeria had done it to her, but Kiana had allowed herself to be talked into it - and neither one of them were innocent in what had happened. Neither would ever be able to forgive themselves. They were both just as guilty of killing Cassiopeia.

    Just like Valeria, Kiana had reached the point of being far too choked up to speak anymore.

    But Megan hadn't given up. Fifteen minutes of being 'brain dead' was nothing for Cassi; and she would never give up the faith. Never.

    Since his youth, Arthur had always been known as a man of great faith. But even he had just recently acknowledged that he saw Megan to have even more faith than himself. Because even Arthur would have lost faith by now in light of the horrific situation.

    *** *** ***

    Only Megan had the strength to answer her daughter Piper's burning question. And as she held onto Cassi's hand, she wiped her eyes in reply. Cassi had learned ... both from her Christmas dream vision and further confirmed by her own pictures, that after having been with Kiana for 1500 years, Kiana had died. And Cassi learned all the details - how that as a direct result of that tragedy, her mind had shattered. We all knew that, but apparently Cassi knew it, too. And then we all know what happened after Elias brought her back from the future - Cassi's mind was too far gone and the damage was too extensive; her shattered mind couldn't be repaired. So instead, with Kiana's help, Cassi managed to compartmentalize away those shattered pieces of herself; and in their place, she rebuilt her mind, circumventing the damaged portions. And ... as we all know, she succeeded.

    Right. Piper answered. And now what she was hoping to do, was go back into that older damaged portion of her mind and rebuild that, too.

    Megan nodded. And thereby restore what was lost.

    Piper said, She believed she could do it, because she was now sane, and now had the strength to re-open that destroyed part of her mind again.

    Be that as it may... Jeffrey argued, It doesn't explain why she wanted ... Valeria... he said with a bitter taste of disgust in his voice, ...to do what she did. Valeria was Jeffrey's least favorite person in the room at the moment. And he wasn't alone in that opinion.

    Sinead then finally spoke up, She did it to help Valeria. She dosed herself, just like she had done with me. That had been a part of the deal. Right? She asked, looking over at Valeria.

    But Valeria sneered as she sourly replied, She never told me about that part; only that this was the only way to help her rebuild her old memories. She said she would explain my 'benefits' later.

    She didn't tell you she dosed herself?

    No. I only did it for her, because she seemed convinced that she needed it, and that she was useless without it. I didn't understand it all, but I thought she knew what she was doing. Obviously I was wrong.

    Sinead looked at her for a moment, and then turned to ask Kiana, She didn't tell you, either?

    Kiana replied, She did. But she made me promise not to tell Valeria. She wasn't sure if Valeria would go through with it, knowing that Cassi was all doped up with Willow's serum coursing through her veins, because that apparently alters the reactionary dynamics such that even Valeria wouldn't know what to expect. The way she put it to me - Cassi said the gamble was whether or not Valeria's immeasurably powerful toxins might possibly eclipse Cassi's ability to resist, potentially causing a negative chain-reaction in Cassi's own immortal blood. To put it in simpler terms - could a god overpower her? It was to be a battle between Valeria's strength and Cassi's ability to fight off the infection - while at the same time struggling to rebuild her damaged mind. It was a three-way risk she was willing to take; but obviously, she lost the battle.

    And you were willing to take that risk!? Sinead exclaimed. Aren't you supposed to be the sane voice of reason!?

    In devastated, self-condemning exasperation, Kiana replied Because Cassi was fully convinced she would prevail and she asked me to trust her! As if I was supposed to understand half of what she was saying!? But she seemed so sure! And so confident! And ... and ... and she promised she would never leave me and ... she really believed it was going to work! She even made me want to believe! Kiana had to stop to wipe her eyes. Clearly, I was wrong to trust her. I shouldn't have believed her. And now ... I have killed my own charge; and her blood is on my hands.

    Valeria would have argued with her as to whose fault it was, but she was too furious and wasn't in the mood to argue with anyone.

    But how was THIS ... supposed to be helping Cassi!? Jeffrey argued. I am still not seeing the connection!

    Valeria angrily replied, Because she understood what becoming a monster does to the mind. Everything speeds up; senses are heightened; she believed she would have much greater success in revitalizing the deadened nerve endings in her brain which she said was required to restore the shattered portion. If her mind could process information fast enough - because she knew she would have an extremely limited amount of time to do the impossible without a split second to spare. But she convinced me that she had fully calculated the timing and the odds and.... Then Valeria turned her head and spat on the ground. Gugh. I can't get the taste of her out of my mouth. Trust me, it's different when you never wanted to KILL someone. I was a fool for letting her talk me into this.

    And then ... filled with more self-loathing than she had experienced in ages, Valeria rose to her feet to leave; seeing that it was hopeless, and that once again, she had proven to the world beyond all shadow of doubt, what a real monster was truly capable of.

    And no one tried to stop her.

    *** *** ***

    Until...

    Just as she was walking out the door...

    WAIT!! Megan exclaimed.

    Valeria paused and turned her head back to snarl, What?

    Constance! I think I feel a pulse in her hand!

    As Constance quickly reached down to Cassi's pale white bloodless neck, her eyes widened as she exclaimed, This is not possible!

    Valeria turned around in surprise.

    And then Megan exclaimed, Oh! Wow! Her cold hand is starting to warm up!

    And now Jeffrey's eyes started to widen in alarm.

    Yikes! Megan exclaimed, as she released Cassi's hand. Her hand is actually getting hot!

    Uh oh!! Jeffrey gasped. And then to everyone's surprise, he quickly shouted, EVERYONE BACK AWAY!!! BACK AWAY NOW!!!

    But people were reacting too slowly from confusion and so he quickly began pushing the others away, including Kiana!

    WHAT!? Kiana exclaimed. WHAT'S GOING ON!?

    YOU'LL SEE!!! Megan grinned.

    BACK FURTHER AWAY!!!! Jeffrey warned insistently as he shielded Piper with his body.

    And then ... as others scrambled further and further away...

    Dammit. Cassi groaned, when she landed on the floor beside her sick bay bed on her hands and knees. Why don't I ever see that coming? Another perfectly good dress.

    And then Kiana the Protector who rarely if ever ever tripped or stumbled, actually stumbled backwards and her legs buckled beneath her in shock...

    ...and was deftly caught only by the quick reactions of an equally stunned Valeria.

    *** *** ***

    Language, Mother. Piper giggled.

    And Cassi sighed.

    Oh she really stresses me out sometimes. Kiana glared.

    ~ Diversity ~

    Chapter 7

    Are you actually wearing a dress, Daughter? Or perhaps that might be better classified as a 'slip'? Do you honestly believe that to be appropriate to wear in public?

    And White Heaven asked, May I ask the name of that unique color? I am unfamiliar with it.

    *** *** ***

    Lady Georgina had just successfully cleared a small circular twenty meter area surrounding White Heaven and Hawk - armed with nothing more than a look.

    She was indeed wearing a dress - which she had been occasionally known to do, since the time her father had resurfaced in her life years earlier and she had changed her named to Georgina. But like everything else she chose to wear, the 'appropriateness' of her choices always seemed to be called into question. The dress was a full-length, one-shoulder design made of a lightweight, almost sheer fabric, similar to chiffon. And in this particular design she had also opted for a very non-sixth century open leg slit. It wasn't a plunging deep V, however with the thin fabric in the cold nippy pre-dawn air, well ... the one thing that could not be called into question was her femaleness.

    Now, whenever Georgina did happen to wear a dress as opposed to her leather armor, she chose not to be armed; for obvious reasons. When the world seemed safe, those were the times when she could relax and let down both her guard and her hair. Which - for the once world-class martial arts champion, carrying swords wasn't all that much a necessity, anyway. Camelot's legendary Protector was lethal whether armed or not.

    And now, armed with nothing but a dress and a look, she had managed to clear that small circular area with use of another formidable weapon: her infamous eyebrows. Which, for the most part was generally more than sufficient. Some might argue that it was good thing that she was able to diffuse concerning situations with a mere look, as opposed to violence. Even Kiana wasn't capable of matching Georgina's special Gift of Intimidation - of which Georgina was the undisputed Queen. It was just one of the things which made her special.

    *** *** ***

    Now turning her legendary eyebrows to Hawk, Georgina crossed her arms and gave her father a smirk. Really? You've both just come back from Never-Never-Land and the first thing you want to do is the dress code thing? And it's rust, Sweetie; my favorite.

    White Heaven smiled. You look beautiful. That is a good color for you.

    Thank you, that's why it's my favorite. Now can we get back to where you two star children have been? And more importantly... she added, giving White Heaven an intense lookover. What are YOU doing here!? You're not supposed to be here! And if YOU'RE here, where is Kea'Lani!?

    Hawk then cocked his head at an angle as he continued inspecting his daughter's dress and replied, Nor am I sold on the bared shoulder look. And the fabric is a bit thin and a little too revealing. It seems to me to be just this side of transparent. Don't you think you could have chosen something a little more ... conservative?

    Georgina smirked, "Not only does this dress make

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