Author's Notes: I am not even going to apologize for the delay as, well, it was not even a delay - it was just a lack of interest for a year...opps... But anyway, I have actually got a lot of this written now - it just kind of came back into the 'to write me' pile and I obeyed the instructions of the muses. And thus we are here. I shall try to keep it alive as I actually forgot how fun it was to write.

Dedication: To Bloodfeind, for the fact that you stopped hassling me about it and yet was still excited when I said I was starting it back up. It would not be here without you. And to Little Miss Beans/Zerabeth.

*****

The Rending Dark

Part Three

Moonlight Adventures, Part I.

*****

"Something pretty to occupy your mind with," Telis said while dangling the small amulet in front of Keely's face. The young songsmith automatically reached up and grabbed the golden object out of the warrior's hands, holding it closer to her face for better inspection.

Telis had had no trouble getting back to the Inn. The streets were near deserted, the spectacle from before apparently either been forgotten or unobserved and the mourners and The Lost were far enough behind him that he could no longer hear the wails. When he had entered the room, he found Keely sitting cross-legged on the bed next to Scorpia, a frown on her face as she twisted the ends of her braid around and around her fingers. As soon as he entered the room, he could see the switch of attention and her eyes becoming more alert, the deep pools full of curiosity and demanding answers.

"What is it?" Keely breathed in awe as she eyed the object clasped tightly in her hand, "and why is it so sticky?" her face screwed up at the gummy feel of the small trinket as her naivety caused Telis to merely roll his eyes.

"What does it look like, Keely? 'Tis some sort of amulet covered in blood."

"Ew!" she said flatly while wiping it on the top covers of the bed that she was sitting upon, "and I know that it is an amulet, Telis," she snapped at the man while wrapping her hand around the freshly cleaned necklace protectively. "But where did you get it?"

Walking over to check on the still sleeping Scorpia, Telis avoided answering the question, all the while feeling Keely's eyes burning holes in his back.

"Well?" she asked irritably. "What happened out there? Answer me, Telis!"

Brow furrowing, Telis turned back to his companion and bit his lower lip. "Perhaps it would be better if I showed you instead," he said almost regretfully.

*****

The moon was high in the sky, a silver ball cloaked by blue-gray clouds that sat perched atop the crest of the pointed, decaying roof of a stone building. The stones emitted an eerie glow into the night, reflecting the dim light of the moon and making the deep recesses of the interior sink further into the land of shadows. Unlike earlier that day, the building seemed to creak in the night, as if it's very foundations were moving, sinking into the earth below. Mist swirled around the bases of the trees and filtered its way through the smashed glass windows, the veil of fog creeping up the sides of the structure like a vine stretching out towards the sun. The clearing stood silent as a grave, shrouded in darkness and swirling fog with an undeniable chill hanging in the night air.

It was thus that the intruders found the place to be; still, quiet and sinister. Like the very gates of the underworld.

Trying to ignore the chills that raced up her spine, from the cold or from the first tinges of fear, Keely merely followed behind Telis, an array of equipment held tightly in her grasp. Walking through the night, his larger form and the slightly bouncing legs of the still unconscious Scorpia had been a constant guide, a safety net that she was unwilling to step away from. As long as she could feel the slightest hints of their body heat radiating through the cold night, she felt remotely safe. Well, that was until Telis had led her here.

The place was akin to something out of her nightmares - as if it has seeped from the world of her imagined dreams and shaped itself out of the mist into reality. It was a place of evil, obscurity and unspeakable trepidation all mingled into one. The very basis of her beliefs regarding such places seemed to crumble about her feet like the weathered stone of the strange building. Thoughts that suggested that such a place should not exist filled her mind and yet, as she looked out over the fog humid clearing and took in the surroundings of the decaying structure, she found herself rendering to the fact that it was possible, that nightmares are always unconsciously based upon reality.

Watching as Telis gently placed Scorpia on a patch of green grass, her head resting on the excess of the blankets they had used to wrap around her, Keely focused her attention onto the ground. Five mounds; five shallow graves; five bodies rotting into the damp soil of the earth, chests torn open and hearts stolen. Five lives lost to the mysterious beast that had attacked them the previous night.

Banishing the thought from her mind, Keely plunked herself down next to her unconscious friend and took out the amulet that had been a small weight in her coin pouch during the nighttime adventure. Holding it up by the chain, she allowed it to spin ever so slightly, the movement being enough to capture her attention fully.

It was utterly fascinating: that was all that could hope to describe it. The way that the chin caught the dim light, cast by the high moon, and seemed to reflect it within the belcher loops of gold. The chain seemed to glow as it hung in the near darkness of the forest, a constant beckon against the looming shadows that appeared to want to swallow the visitor's whole; engulf them within the murky depths of the deep forest. And the jewel? Well that was like a star; a travelers guide; a glowing circle of reflected light that cast its radiance into the air that surrounded them, holding the gloom at bay and forcing it into submission.

Mesmerizing. Totally and unremittingly mesmerizing.

It felt as if nothing mattered as Keely stared into the luminous trinket held between her forefinger and her thumb, the two digits slowly running over each other resulting in the pendent spinning slowly in front of her face. The obscurity of their task hardly even touched on the corners of her mind as she gazed at the jewel, enchanted, captured and utterly annexed.

So simple, and yet so complex. So beautiful and yet so plain. Perfection.

"Keely!"

Eyes snapping up and mind suddenly alert, Keely saw the heated face of Telis glaring down at her, sweat dripping from his dark brow. He looked as if he had participated in a race, his legs having been pounding against the ground while setting a breakneck pace for his beating heart. His face was flushed; red to the very sides of his mouth and the gleam of sweat was easy to perceive in the pale moonlight.

"Sorry," she muttered in reply, not really wanting to know what it was that he actually wanted.

"Please keep your focus!" Telis implored even though he already knew that it was pretty much a lost cause.

"Remind me why you are here?" Keely sighed out impatiently as she watched Telis dig back into the freshly turned soil.

"Because I want to get a closer look at those marking," Telis informed her for what seemed like the hundredth time that night. Sometimes he had to wonder about his friend's intelligence.

"Right," Keely affirmed with a shake of her outstretched finger - as if she had been the one to make the point. "So then, why am I here?" she asked the warrior.

Sighing as he forcefully shoved the crude shovel - 'borrowed' from the stables at the back of the Inn - further into the soil, Telis glared over at the woman for a mere second, his annoyance apparent. "Because I needed a look out," he explained, "and since it is obvious that you will not do any work, then it should also be obvious that you are here for that reason and that reason alone."

"Oh, someone's in a bad mood" Keely said absentmindedly as she watched the amulet spinning in her hands once again. "So then why is she here?" she inquired, pointing to the still sleeping Scorpia who lay a few feet away on the ground, bundled up in a score of blankets.

"She is here," Telis said as he threw another load of dirt into the steadily forming pile at the back of the grave, "as there was nowhere else to put her."

"Oh," was all that Keely replied with, her focus once again settling on the spinning amulet.

For awhile the only sound that could be heard was the grating of metal against compounded dirt and the occasional clunk as the shovel hit a small rock somewhere within the grave. It was not until Telis stopped to pull a few loose rocks and large clumps of dirt from the pit that something about the night caught his attention.

Everything was quiet. Even the small critters that should be scurrying around at his time of night had fallen into a dead silence. The night seemed blacker, darker and almost choking. Above, even the stars seemed to twinkle a little duller, as if they wanted to fade from sight and not have to witness the strange night upon the earth.

"Something's coming." Telis stated softly, his words proving to be what was needed to drag her eyes away from the spinning amulet. Eyes closing and head rising towards the night sky, Keely listened with what felt like every aspect of her being. Her skin tingled, her heart slowed and her breath caught in her throat. Even the wisps of dark hair that lapped around her face, having fallen from her long braid, seemed to help her in listening.

The night spoke wonders, its clear voice singing out to the tops of the trees and beyond if you only cared to listen. It was a skill that Scorpia had been trying to teach her for years, something that came naturally to the golden Amazon but also something that could be awoken within the minds of one willing to learn. Compared to her mentor, Keely hardly had the sense whatsoever, but in comparison to Telis, it was as if she could actually read the wind and translate the humming of life that pulsated through the trees and shrubs.

Her mind working to interpret the sounds and place them into some practical order and formation, Keely kept her eyes closed to better heighten her sense of hearing. Then it happened. Without as much as a hint of warning, it all made perfect sense.

Something was coming, something bad...it was coming.

"Curses!" she muttered, her eyes opening to the dark and blinking rapidly to help her see through the gloom.

"What?" Telis questioned although in his mind he already knew the answer.

Merely looking up into his eyes, Keely let her fear speak for her, reaffirming Telis' previous guess.

For a moment they both just froze. Their hearts seemed to stop, the blood that pumped through their veins was placed on pause, and every part of their body turned to ice, the joints no longer being granted the power of movement. Even the forest around them halted. The mist seemed to stop dead in its tracks, the watery particles hanging suspended in the air and yet utterly unmoving. It was as if a bubble had enclosed the area, cutting it off from time as if some unnatural force had formed a paused replica of a moments events, stretching it out for what seemed like an eternity.

Like the breaking of a great wave against a precipice of rocks, the world came slamming back into focus while meaning and purpose once again flooded into the clearing. A state of almost blind panic took over in where Keely looked to Telis, Telis to Keely, and then to Scorpia and back to the Songsmith as if the secret to their survival lay stretched between them like the silk threads of a spider web.

"We have to-" Keely started, only to be quickly silenced by Telis' raised right hand.

"How close?" he asked, hoping that she was able to at least attempt what Scorpia was normally so efficient.

"I am unable to tell," Keely admitted, successfully shattering all of Telis' hopes with the whispered words. "But it can not be far, not if I can sense its presence."

"All right," Telis said softly and affirmatively. "We need to either make a move or hide. Either way, we need her," he motioned to the unconscious woman, "somewhere safe and out of the way. Agreed?"

"Agreed," Keely nodded her head as she levied herself off the forest floor. Eyes darting around her, she once again looked at the giant structure of the mysterious building. "In there?" she motioned towards the large, wooden doors with her head, directing Telis' gaze.

Right corner of his lower lip disappeared between his teeth, the warrior quickly weighed up the strengths and weaknesses of the chosen sight. "Just her," he said slowly, still looking at the building with what appeared to be a doubtful scrutiny. "We need to stay mobile in case anything happens."

"And we can not afford to be trapped in there with her," Keely finished, easily seeing the point of view of the man that she knew so well. It was the only choice they had. The creature was heading towards them, that they knew, which meant that it had probably picked up on their sent by now. It knew they were there so the last thing that they should do was trap themselves within a dark, unstable building with no other apparent means of escape. At lest if they stayed out in the night, the beast might not detect their wounded friend and, even if it did, they had a better chance of protecting her if they were free to move and attack from behind.

Finally stirring themselves into action, Telis carefully bundled Scorpia into his arms as Keely picked up the discarded shovel. Running ahead slightly, she took the steps two at a time, careful of the small chucks of rock that littered the sides, before pushing against the great doors.

The rusted metal hinges gave way with a startling loud squeak, forcing the two companions to look around them in fear. If the beast did not know where they were by then, it would be sure now.

Allowing the door to only open as far as they needed it to, the fear of it not being able to shut them properly lingering at the corners of her mind, Keely headed into the gloom, determined to push her past thoughts on the place out of her consciousness. The last thing that she needed to be doing now was associating it with some contorted, twisted realm of fantasy and dreams.

The interior was just as she had imagined it from her observations of the outside. It was dark; completely and utterly dark and in such a fashion that it appeared as if her eyes would never adjust. It wasn't until she actually focused her attention through the gloom and in on the room that she was able to start making out some of the basic structural features.

It was a chapel of some sort; that was obvious. The high walls and pointed ceiling accentuated by the rounded supporting arches would not have been used in any other type of building due to the fact that carpenters rendering them 'impractical'. Again the room appeared to glow as if it housed some urethral being and it was with some confusion that Keely quickly traced the origin of the light to be the moon, shinning into the building through the holes created by missing shingles in the roof. The pattern seemed like the scales of a snake, dark and constant with only a few missing to emit the light, casting a circle around the tiles within the immediate vicinity. The beams of the ceiling were rotten, eaten through by the weather and small animals over the course of time, and in some places there were even large arm-length splinters dangling from the broken planks. Towards the back of the room, a number of steps led up to a raised dais with a stone alter, fitting its surroundings so perfectly that it looked as if it had pushed its way up through the floor.

At the sound of Telis brushing through the door and his footsteps echoing off the stone, Keely nodded towards the far end of the room as she stepped aside for the man. "The alter." Tossing the shovel in the general direction of a darkened corner, she quickly scoured the room for any other weapons that may prove fruitful.

Rushing across the cluttered floor and up the few steps, in one swift movement, Telis shoved the rotting white drape off the stone alter and deposited his friend safely on the cool stone. Taking the time to tuck the blankets around her and provide a small pillow, Telis watched as one of the small rays of light that shone down on the alter disappeared, the moon covered by yet another dark, rolling cloud.

The whispered word "Score" had Telis turning on his heels and peering into the darkness further into the back of the chapel where he spied the outline of Keely. She seemed to be inspecting something held tightly within her hand, a thin gleaming object held vertical.

Feeling his eyes on her back, Keely turned and walked towards him, holding the object out for him to see. "A dagger. Ceremonial." She offered as she came to join him on the raised platform.

Telis glanced at the dagger and merely shrugged as Keely tucked it into her belt. As one, both warriors crept across the room and back towards to door, hoping to be out and well concealed before the beats came into sight.

Pushing the door closed behind them, both stopped on the top step, listening to the sound of the night. Everything was dead quiet. Even the wind hardly rustled the leaves as it swept through the forests surrounding the building and recent graveyard. Exchanging looks, Keely inclined her head to the left before setting off towards a thicket of small trees and shrubs, intent on losing herself from immediate sight. Following suit, Telis took his place off to the right, hidden behind the large girth of an oak truck.

No words were altercated between the two; nothing spoken of luck or chance or the need to be careful. After many years of fighting side by side, with just the small group or with others, they had learnt at least one thing, and leant it well. There was no such thing as luck; chance or whatever you wanted to label it. When the battle reached its peak, only one thing mattered and that was skill. The Lady of Fate existed, she had her plan on who would live and die come the end and no amount of luck could outwit her. But skill could. If one knew what they were doing, and if they were strong and fast enough, then they could survive anything, even the pale, outstretched and selective hand of the Fortunes.

Thus they waited, hidden within the darkness of the night, preparing to face something that was the night.

*****

To be continued...

Feedback always appreciated and a big thank you to everyone who has reviewed thus far.

Minka.