Demeter stopped her horse and tethered her to a post as she drew a breath. She had been riding for many hours, and the moon was high in the sky. The tavern was loud and stank of beer, but the rest of the village was quiet. Demeter decided to sleep on the ground for an hour or so before moving on.
Just then a figure came sailing out of the tavern and landed at her feet. She started. The man groaned as he tried to stand up.
"Are you hurt?" she helped him stand as he started to sway. Suddenly he grabbed at her violently.
Humans.... Demeter involuntarily let out a shriek of surprise, but she kept her head as she aimed a kick at the man's stomach. He grunted, but didn't loosen his hold.
Suddenly a strong pair of hands grabbed him from behind and pulled him away from Demeter. A tall girl with ebony locks grinned at Demeter, who stared. "Zienna?!"
She blinked. " ...?! Demeter! What in the name of Zeus are you doing here?"
"What are you doing here?"
Demeter ignored the question and looked at the rough crowd that was glaring at them from inside the tavern. "Are you going to stay here?"
"Not unless you want to." Zienna grinned, quickly mounting her horse.
The friends rode until they reached the edge of the village, where they sat under a tree as Demeter told her what had happened.
"What I don't get is why Mutor is doing this." Zienna mused as Demeter finished her tale.. "He knows you're going to blast his kingdom into tiny pieces as soon as you rescue Seph. He must have something else in store .." She brushed a stray black strand..
"Didn't I tell you? He said I had to fight some sorceress." Demeter reminded them.
"Dera, get real. There is no sorceress on this earth that could defeat you, except for maybe Lina, and you know it's not her." Zienna pointed out."And besides, you're a goddess - Mutor wouldn't be crazy enough to kill you. He knows he'd be tortured forever in Hades if he did."
"He will be, whether
he kills me or not." Demeter muttered.
Persephone groaned as she tried to get her bearings. A heavy scent hung in the air. It took her a moment to find out that it was nightshade - a plant that grew in Hades, the only plant that could harm immortals. She dragged herself to the window and took a breath of air. She coughed - human air was not too clean. She wasn't worried about dying - she was a goddess, and anyway Mutor wouldn't dare harm her - but she was worried about her mother, who would of course come in her human form. When she was so she could be killed like any other human. Persephone shivered.
She half-heartedly tried the door, which was of course locked. The room was richly furnished, but Persephone could sense a barrier around her, keeping her aura inside so other immortals couldn't feel it. She couldn't use any of her powers within the barrier.
Suddenly the door swung open, and a girl her age stumbled in. The door was quickly slammed shut. Persephone ran to help her up. "Are you all right?"
"I think so .." the girl gingerly sat up, rubbing her wrists. On her neck was a band of metal, which she tried desperately to break. "Damn"
"Does it hurt?" Persephone said sympathetically.
"Not much, but it's orihalcon ... I can't use any of -" she abruptly shut her mouth. Persephone blinked as she got a good look at her face. "Wait a minute ... I know who you are ... you're Lina's sister Luna!"
"You know my sister?" Luna asked.
"She is my mother's best friend." Persephone explained.
Luna looked closely at Persephone. "Your mother's best friend? Then you are ...?"
"Persephone, but you can call me Seph." she smiled. "My mother talks about you sometimes, Cephid Knight."
" ...!!" Luna turned pale with rage. "Do you mean to say that these humans have kidnapped you?"
Persephone sighed. "I'm afraid so. They talked of making my mother fight with another sorceress for my freedom. She will come in her human form, I know."
"They have dared to lay hands on a daughter of Olympus!" Luna's eyes were furious. "I surely hope Lina will blast this kingdom into the next dimension."
"They have captured you for the same reason they captured me?" Persephone said in surprise. Luna nodded
"Word has reached me of how Lina and Dera destroyed Marc's kingdom. I do not regret they did so, for Marc was a tyrant and his people were a cruel tribe, but I do wish they had killed Marc as well. I believe this castle belongs to Mutor, who is as low as Marc, for they are friends. Most likely he is helping him get his revenge. What is strange is that Lina and Dera are two very talented sorceresses." Luna mused. "It has widely been said that only one could defeat the other. Who could they possibly send up against both of them?"
The sun was rising as Demeter and her friend, who insisted on accompanying her, approached Mutor's castle. Demeter rode boldly up to the gates.
"Hear me, Mutor!" she cried "Know that I am Demeter, Daughter of Cronus and Rhea, Sister to the great Zeus who rules on Mt Olympus, and Goddess of the Earth and all that springs forth from Her. If I had chose to come here in my true form, your kingdom would not be standing this moment. I demand the release of Persephone, Daughter of Zeus and Queen of the Underworld. If you let her go I will spare your kingdom. But the consequences will be great if you cling to your stubborn foolishness!"
[note - the reason why Demeter did not come in her immortal form was that if she did everyone on Olympus would know she did. She so rarely does so that it would create quite a disturbance]
The gates swung open and a guard of honor came to meet them. "My Lord Mutor welcomes you, my Lady. He has prepared a guest room in the east wing, and sends a message saying he will take his chances with the Gods. The tournament will be tomorrow."
Demeter's hands trembled visibly, but she rode slowly into the palace courtyard, Zienna behind her. Scarcely had they dismounted and entered the castle when Lina and her friends arrived.
"Where's my sister?!" Lina snapped. "You guys are gonna find a Dragon Slave rammed down your throat if she's hurt! Do you hear me?!"
The guard repeated what he
said to Demeter, and Lina clenched her fist. Gourry put a hand on her shoulder,
quietly restraining her. She finally moved to the west wing where the rooms
were being prepared.
Demeter took off her cape and sat on the edge of the richly furnished bed. "Tomorrow, I swear I'm going to blast this whole kingdom all the way into the 3rd Dimension."
"Demeter, don't you find this strange?" Zienna persisted. "You're not the only one who destroyed Marc's kingdom. Lina did too. And how the hell did they find out you're Dera?"
"Lina doesn't have a weak spot, and if Persephone had been in Hades, neither would I. All Lina's friends are warriors; even her sister is Cephid Knight. As for finding out about who I am .. well, I'm afraid that's my fault. I cursed Mutor for desecrating my temples."
"Smooth move." Zienna mutttered under her breath. Demeter smiled a twisted smile. "It's all right Zienna - I know I made a stupid mistake."
"Can you think of anyone who they could send against you?" Zienna changed the subject.
"Well ... to tell the truth, Lina and maybe Zelgadis are the only sorcerers that come to mind ... there are of course many skilled sorcerers from Lina's kingdom, but none are over the 8th level at most. Especially in black magic. Sorcerers that can do Dragon Slave are rare, and no one else I know can even attempt Lagner Blade besides Lina." Demeter crossed her legs. "If Mutor has done any sort of research, he will know that my strongest area is Sacred Magic and Astral Magic. His best bet would be to send an Astral being against me, but I know of none that would take his side. Mazoku are weak against Sacred and Astral ... but a High enough one would have a chance."
"Do you think we could somehow sneak Seph out of here?" her friend wondered.
"Not a chance. This place is probably crawling with Mazoku."
"Nice place." Zelgadis commented as he removed his hood.
Lina was pacing up and down. "Where do you think they hid Luna?"
"Calm down, Lina." Gourry wrinkled his forehead.
"Do you think I can calm down right now?!" Lina almost shrieked at him. Then she clapped a hand to her mouth. "... Sorry."
"No, it's ok." Gourry nodded reassuringly.
"If only Shifiel-san or Dera-san were here ... we could find where Luna-sama is." Amelia sighed.
"I doubt that. I'd say they've taken care to put Cephid Knight inside a very strong forcefield." Zelgadis seemed to be thinking about something else. "Lina ... has it ever occured to you that you're not the only one who destroyed Marc's kingdom?"
"Are you talking about Dera?" Lina said absently "Get real. She lives on Olympus. How can they kidnap or do anything to her there?"
"They've kidnapped Cephid Knight - they could just as easily kidnap someone on Olympus." Zelgadis argued. "I think she's here in this castle with us."
"Then why haven't we seen her?" Amelia wondered.
"Because they're afraid Lina and Dera will combine their powers and bring this whole place down." Zelgadis said bluntly.
"They're right." Lina muttered.
"My guess is, they've kidnapped Persephone from Olympus and somehow have gotten a high Mazoku - at least Xelloss' level - to go against both of you tomorrow." Zel remarked.
"Even so, something isn't right." Amelia said suddenly. "What if Lina-san and Dera-san win? As soon as Pesephone-sama and Luna-sama are safely out, they know their kingdom will be destroyed sooner or later."
"Mmm .. and if they lose, eventually the immortals on Olympus will know and come to take revenge. There's something much deeper here." Zelgadis paced around the room while Gourry looked confused.