Suggested by: Andy "
(First, click here for "The Siren Song" Part 1)
Rushing water.... Scarred face snarling, pushed away by a muddy deluge... Pain in his wrists... Pulling his arms, the mighty river yanking him... Long scaly arms embracing him... Abandoning the rubble of broken cement and twisted rebar and dead bodies and torture and greed—
Air! His stomach heaved and he felt the salty, silty water mixed with bile burned his throat coming back up. The feeling of the hard ground registered as he rolled over to let gravity clear his lungs.
He inhaled just once—one shaking, gasping breath—and a loud scream erupted behind him. Instantly, claws dug into his back as a tremendous weight pressed the breath from him again. Huge paws rolled his battered body into his back as the large beast slobbered all over his face. Feebly, he tried to reach up and push the animal away.
"No..." He protested in a thin whisper. "Stop..."
The command issued in a voice so strong it could have shaken the cavern. Immediately, the moist, sticky torment ceased and the weight left him. He sat up and rubbed the saliva from his face before he dared take another breath. At last, he could have a good look at his surroundings.
They seemed to be inside an enormous tree of some sort. Winding pathways wound around the perimeter, built out of the very substance of the tree. A sense of ancient magic hung like the cloying scent of sawdust in the air.
Just next to him was a wide, deep pool—probably their entry point. His rescuers awaited him at a respectful distance: one was a black panther the size of a Clydesdale with the temperament of a doting house cat; the other, a bronze-skinned woman dressed in animal pelts, nearly eight feet tall and busily trying to dry the pale-grey scales off her deep-brown skin. Her long black hair hung down her back in braided ropes woven with seaweed and studded with shells.
He tried to ease himself onto his feet, but a white-hot flash of pain burned through his muscles. The giantess shook her head.
"No, Benji; Carnossus will help you."
The panther bounded to his side, and Ben clumsily threw his arms over the beast's head. Moving slowly and smoothly, the enormous cat lifted its head, pulling Benji upright and guiding him toward the place where the woman sat. She had a pile of extra pelts ready, and laid him out on that. Benji sighed with relief as the softness relieved much of his pain.
"Thanks for the rescue, Onesha," he sighed.
The Amazon nodded. "I swore to you that whenever you played the song of my people, I would come."
Benji chuckled, a movement that reminded him of his still-swollen face and the cracked ribs from his lengthy torture session at the hands of the guerrillas. He looked around the tree.
"What is this place?" He asked.
Onesha produced a round satchel and began sorting through the pouches and vials it contained.
"My people call it the Hall of Whispers."
Ben examined the wood a little closer; it wasn't any variety he recognized. "Are we still near the Amazon rainforest?" He asked.
Onesha began spreading the ointment over his ribs, binding them with a soothing cloth.
"This is a place outside of time, yet folded within your realm," she answered, her warm, resonant voice resounding over him. "You are completely safe here."
Folded in, Benji thought. "So, it's part of Midrealm?" He guessed.
Onesha nodded. "The collision of our realms provided a safe space for me and my sisters to hide."
Benji nodded, sitting up very slowly as the Amazon's ointment strengthened his body. "Right up until the time it started collapsing," he grunted.
She nodded. "So long as we stayed within the water, we were safe within the boundaries of Midrealm, but some of my sisters were not satisfied, and sought to walk among the people of this realm, to war against them and conquer them as goddesses."
Benji could well imagine the sight of thousands of ten-foot mermaids crawling up on land and transforming into eight-foot giantesses; it was terrifying enough the first time he saw Onesha shift.
Carnossus returned, her muzzle the size of Benji's head as she nuzzled him. He winced as the pressure of her touch hit a bruise on his skull.
"Back, Carnossus!" Onesha hissed, shooing the animal away. She watched Benji with a face full of concern. "I am sorry you were captured."
He shrugged and bobbed his head. "That was my own dumb fault. I volunteered to be the bait, remember?" Benji smirked, while resolving in the back of his mind that he would never have to go through that experience again. He sighed, looking up at Onesha.
"Did you find what you were looking for?"
Onesha smiled at him, and pulled something else out of her satchel: an antique leather-bound book.
Benji felt an electric surge of anticipation as Onesha cradled it in her hands.
"You were right; the angry men did indeed hold the sacred book of my people." She traced the ornate emblem on the front with gentle fingers. "Within these covers is the secret that can safely separate our worlds before our warriors launch the attack that will wipe out all humans from this realm."
Previously in This Series:
Crossover Parts: "Rendezvous" (SM 6/SL 2) "The Viking and the Lore-Master" (SM 9/SL 4)
#26 "The Tides of Battle"