Discord reappeared with her two captives in tow at one of Elliot's new construction sites. This late in the day with the sun already down, the site was deserted. Not even a night watchman stood guard, for as of yet there wasn't anything to guard. Groundbreaking had been a few weeks ago and the more serious parts of construction were ready to start. A giant earth-moving machine rested in a distant corner of the large lot. Off to one side there was a stack of steel I beams, a pre-fabricated sewer pipe, a barrel of oil and several pieces of wood. A chain link fence covered with thick orange plastic proclaimed it a Hard Hat Area. The fence really wasn't designed to keep trespassers out, but to protect Mr. Burch from lawsuits. Too many people these days didn't watch were they were walking and would otherwise accidentally fall into the deep hole of his construction project. Now the covered fence would serve Discord's purpose all to well: to keep prying eyes off her activities.
The Goddess stared around the deep pit they stood in, one hand on her hip. The pit would soon be transformed into the hotel's basement, but for now was just bare earth. The walls of the pit were illregular with big grooves left by the machinery, so it would be all too easily for the two captives to escape if they ever got loose. The Goddess turned to look at them. "I suppose this will have to do."
Elliot swallowed several times, trying to shove his stomach back down where it belonged. The millionaire felt like throwing up from the instantaneous transportation Discord had used on them. He glanced at Catherine and saw she looked sick as well. Her skin was paler than normal, a tad white around the lips and she gulped air through her mouth. The red energy bands glowed around them, stopping any hopes they had for escape. Even if they ran for it, they couldn't get past the fence and the gate the construction crew used would be securely locked.
This can't be real. Elliot thought. He had always thought the Fates had played a trick on him, making him fall in love with the perfect woman. Unfortunately that perfect woman didn't love him back, not even with all his wealth. But this...! It seemed more like some dream, for Gods just didn't appear to people anymore. Truthfully, he didn't know if they ever did. But now this woman was forcing him to question everything he believed in. It was like one of those alien abductions you read about in the tabloids; bizarre enough to be interesting but yet you never really believed it. Instead you treated it as another form of entertainment, like movies or books. That's how he felt now. But living it was a major difference. If he wasn't careful, this Goddess was going to kill him and he didn't even know why.
Cathy, this is about Cathy. He thought as his mind cleared and his stomach settled. He remembered the night his father had died. Assassins had been after him and he had gotten away by diving into the water. Cathy had been with him and later they had escaped into the sewers. The strange thing was Cathy had known exactly where she had been going and there had been that awful sound. Elliot winced at the memory. It was the most frightening sound he had ever heard, even worst than the helicopter exploding with his father on board. It had been the roar of a wild beast, like some jungle cat from Africa. Then there had been snarling, the gunfire of the assassins shooting at the beast. Yet the beast had won that night, even against professionals with semi automatic machine guns.
What was this mysterious beast that had saved them that night? And would it come again tonight? But how would it know they were in danger? Elliot sighed, knowing he was once again pondering Cathy's great secret. But perhaps tonight he'd finally get some answers ... if he lived that long.
Vincent raced through the tunnels, his long cloak flying out behind him. Catherine was in danger again and he had to save her. For a moment her location seemed to suddenly change and he had been forced to take another tunnel. Vincent didn't understand how that could be, but perhaps Catherine could explain the mystery later. The important thing now was reaching her and killing the enemy that threatened her.
"You're little friend is on the way." Discord smiled at Catherine as she turned to face her mortal prisoners. "But then, you know that don't you? Hmm, let's arrange a party for him. This place has potential but right now it's so BOR-ING."
Discord raised her arms and pointed at the pile of steel I beams. The steel began to shake, rattling loudly. Then piece after piece flew up into the air as easily as a bird taking flight. The first heavy segment landed only a foot away from Elliot and Catherine, causing the two to stumble backward in fright. If it were to fall on them, they would be crushed instantly. But the long piece of strong steel just buried itself partway into the ground with the force of a tornado. The ground beneath them trembled with the force and they both lost their footing, falling onto their backs. They watched in shock as a structure began to form before their eyes. Discord used no bolts or welding in her work, yet the beams stayed together like magic. When it was done, a giant metal T stood in the center of the pit.
But the Goddess wasn't finished yet. More steel beams flew from the tall stack, each driving itself into the ground around the giant T. These were equally spaced from each other in all directions, about four feet between each one. The T rose from the center like a skyscraper among regular houses.
Elliot stared at the new steel jungle around him. Glancing at Cathy, he saw her shake her head. Like him, she had no idea what Discord was up to. At first Elliot feared the Goddess was trying to hit them with the steal beams, but now that was clearly not the case. "What are you building?"
"A battle zone for a true warrior and one worthy to be my opponent. Sadly, one of you will end up dying tonight." Discord laughed as she magically transformed all the steel beams into wood, with only the giant T staying metal. "Perfect! Now for the finishing touches."
Catherine had been silent all this time trying to think of something to do, but nothing came to mind. And now after this show of powers, what could she do? It was obvious this Goddess had it in for Vincent. And how could Vincent ever fight her and win when she could do almost anything she wished with a simple motion of her hand? No, she had to keep Vincent away from here, even if she lost her life in the bargain. Too many times Vincent had been injured in saving her, often his injuries growing worse and worse with each fight. No, Vincent would arrive expecting to face a regular criminal with a gun. She had to stop this now before he arrived.
Closing her eyes, Catherine concentrated on her Bond. Then with great control, she forced a calm she really didn't feel on herself. With a final decision, she snapped her end of the bond closed.
Vincent just emerged from a sewer hole when his connection with Catherine disappeared. He paused for a moment, breathing hard through his partly open mouth. His pointed canines were visible as a soft breeze blew through his golden mane of hair that stuck out from underneath his dark hood. His blue eyes focused on the tall chain link fence just before him, partly covered in orange plastic. A large sign warned the public that it was a hardhat area and thus dangerous. But a second, even larger sign gave Vincent hope he was at the right spot: Elliot Burch was building a hotel.
Dashing forward, Vincent leaped at the fence. Gripping the links, he easily climbed to the top and leaped over. Expecting to find solid ground on the other side, he was surprised to find himself sliding down the steep sides of the pit. Still, Vincent managed to stay on his feet, skiing down the loose layer of soil on his boots. Stopping at the bottom, Vincent crouched for a moment to survey the situation.
A strange maze of wooden beams rose before him with a giant T rising from the center. He figured the wooden ones were about twice as tall as he was. He had seen Elliot's construction sites before and they hadn't looked like this. Modern hotels were built of metal and concrete, not wood. Something odd was going on here and Catherine had gotten herself involved. He suspected she had closed the Bond to protect him, yet he would gladly risk his life to save the woman he loved.
Suspecting men with guns were hiding among the wooden poles, Vincent crept forward carefully. He would use his cat-like senses to strike out before they knew he had arrived. In fact, he had a great advantage on his side: surprise. No doubt they didn't even know he existed.
"Time to rumble!" Discord laughed, her dark eyes glowing red. "And time for you two to DIE!"
"No, kill me but let Cathy go." Elliot quickly offered.
"Sorry, but I need both of you to play this game." Discord flipped her hand, turning the red energy coils around them into thick rope. Then both Catherine and Elliot shot up into the air. Before they could even scream they were suspended from the top part of the steel T.
"Oh my..." Elliot grasped the rope with both hands, for now his hands and arms were free. The rope circled around his waist, squeezing him tightly. Glancing down, he saw there was nothing below his feet but open air. The ground seemed to be very far away but the fall probably wasn't enough to kill him if he landed right. Of course, he was better at paperwork than leaping off roofs...
Catherine was suspended from the other side of the T, the rope cutting into her waist. She clung to the rope before her. Looking up, she saw the rope went through a neat round hole in the end of the metal beam. She swayed slightly as a breeze swept past and she could see Elliot on the other side. Perhaps if she could saw the rope with something....
Discord leaped with ease onto the top of one of the wooden poles, a wicked grin on her face. She held out a hand and a long wooden spear appeared in it. This was the moment she had been looking forward to. Now all she had to do was convince the kitty to play. "I know you're out there. If you want to save your friends, you have to fight me. If you win, I return them to normal. Otherwise they'll stay kitty cats just like you!"
"Catherine?" Vincent stared up at the one he loved, shocked. He couldn't believe his eyes. Surely it was some trick! But no, he could see the brown fur on her legs and on her hands. Even more surprising, was the thick black fur on ... Elliot? If it weren't for the clothing, he didn't think he'd recognize the millionaire. How could such a thing happen?
He tore his eyes off Catherine and Elliot just in time to see Discord throw the spear. For a moment Vincent was confused, for she hadn't thrown it in his direction. Was she aiming at someone else?
And was the short woman with the long black hair the enemy? As far as Vincent could recall he had never fought a woman. Surely she didn't think she could fight him and win? "I do not wish to hurt you. Let them go and we can depart in peace."
The spear struck the large barrel of oil, creating a large gaping hole. Oil gushed out, covering the ground beneath the wooden poles. Within moments it spread everywhere, having been speeded up by Discord's magic.
Vincent raised his cat-like nose, sniffing the air. That strong smell....
"Fine! If that's the way you want it!" Discord raised her hand and a ball of fire appeared. Whipping her hand back like a baseball pitcher, she flung the fireball forward. It sailed through the air until it landed on the thin layer of oil. Instantly fire erupted everywhere in the pit.
Vincent leaped upward just in time, landing on one of the wooden poles. The fire burned and crackled below him as it threw off pungent fumes that bothered the eyes and throat. The woman stood calmly on another wooden pole and he examined her now. He didn't see any weapons in her hand, so he was unsure how she had created the fire. Had she dropped her weapons into the flames? He also found himself reluctant to attack a woman with his claws....
"Better." Discord purred as her eyes shifted upward. "But it could be so much more dramatic!"
The Goddess raised her bare hands, sending two much smaller fireballs at each suspended person.
"Catherine!" Vincent cried in horror, waiting for the fireball to strike its target. But to his somewhat relief, the fireball hit the rope above her. The same happened to the rope holding Elliot. Both ropes slowly burned, the fire high enough not to actually threaten the person directly below it. Then Vincent's eyes traveled downward to where they would land when the rope burned through: the burning oil pit! "NO!"
"If you act fast enough, you can save one of them. But which one will you save?" Discord laughed. She jumped into the air flying directly at Vincent. Her black boot struck him on his wide chest and he tumbled backwards, surprised.
Vincent managed to twist in the air as he fell, the power of Discord's kick sending him far enough to grip at the edge of the next wooden pole. His chest ached where she had kicked him and it wouldn't surprise him if she had cracked a few of his ribs. He dug his claws into the wood and tried to haul himself upward. But the pole was completely smooth and there was nothing for his boots to get purchase on. The intense heat from the fire below began to warm his boot bottoms and he knew he had to get out of there before he fell. Concentrating all his strength in his arms, he flung himself upward. Vincent's body flew through the air and he landed on another pole.
Remembering what Discord had said first, he decided to attack her. He couldn't let Catherine go through life being covered in fur like he was. He didn't know who this woman was, but it was clear she wasn't normal. Besides, she had attacked him and had ignored his warning. Dashing forward from one pole to another, Vincent jumped at her. Just before he struck, Discord leaped high into the air. He sailed through underneath her and saw the fire rushing up at him. Just before he landed in it, he twisted around and stuck his claws into the closest wooden pole. Quickly crawling up it and leaping to the top of the pole, he searched for Discord. Where had she gone?
"Vincent!" Catherine screamed as her rope jerked alarmingly. To her horror, she saw part of it start to untwine as the fire ate through it.
Vincent jerked his head upward. He had forgotten about Catherine and Elliot! Both ropes were burning and rapidly coming apart. And there was still Discord to deal with. How could he save both of them and defeat Discord at the same time? It seemed impossible. Yet he had to try.
"You'll never win!" Discord laughed as she once again ran at him from pole top to pole top. When she leaped from the last pole she twisted in midair so she flew at Vincent feet first.
Vincent saw her coming and dropped to a sitting position. As Discord flew by above him, he reached out and caught her by the long hair. Discord shrieked angrily, but Vincent ignored her as he spun her around a few times. Letting her go, he watched as she fell between two wooden poles and disappeared into the fire. The fire leaped up momentarily in the spot she landed, crackling hungrily and then it subsided.
The fire was now consuming many of the wooden poles as well, fire dancing up their sides. The one Vincent sat on tilted alarmingly and he jumped to his feet. Glancing up towards the two burning ropes, he saw that both were almost eaten through.
"Vincent!" Catherine screamed again as her rope continued to burn and unravel before her frightened eyes.
"Help!" Elliot cried as his rope jerked and seemed to lengthen as the fire ate at it. He had witnessed the entire battle from up there, wondering if this mystery man was and how in the world he had defeated Discord. And how he was going to save both of them now. He glanced down at the crackling flames beneath him, already imagining the intense heat. "Save Cathy!"
Vincent calculated which rope would break first due to weight and started to run. Many of the wooden poles tilted underneath his feet when his weight landed on them, yet he didn't give up. Also, there was no pole directly beneath Catherine or Elliot, so he'd have to catch them in mid-jump. If he jumped either too early or too late, they'd land in the fire. The first rope snapped and Vincent leaped across the gap, catching Elliot. Without stopping, Vincent ran towards where Catherine was while adjusting his balance for the extra weight he carried. The flames leaped higher now as more of the poles burned and Vincent's thick cloak protected him. The second rope snapped and Vincent leaped across the gap, catching Catherine so she landed on top of Elliot. Running straight, Vincent jumped off the poles and all three landed on the slope of ground surrounding the pit. They scrambled towards higher ground to escape the fire.
The last of the wooden poles collapsed into the burning pit and a few minutes later the T-shaped metal beam followed it. Then, like magic, the fire vanished!
Discord stood there, a frown on her face. "You beat me!"
There was a white flash around both Catherine and Elliot. When the light faded, the extra hair was gone. They were back to normal.
"Oooh, I am so ANGRY!" Discord raced around the pit like a mad women. Spotting the giant earth-moving machine, she ran at it and kicked it with a foot. There was a loud crack and the machine fell to the ground in two pieces. Discord leaped on half of the machine, tearing it apart with her bare hands. When she was done, she was covered in grease. She paused, panting for air. Her dark eyes locked onto the three startled witnesses to her tantrum. "I'll be back! Mark my words, for you have not seen the last of Discord!"
Then the Goddess disappeared in a flash of red light.
Elliot turned to his rescuer, startled to see Vincent's lion-like face. But after dealing with Discord and seeing what she could do, the shock wasn't as strong as it would otherwise be. And it also became clear why Cathy had been so secretive. "You're the one that saved me that night, aren't you?"
"Yes," Vincent admitted as he helped Catherine up to the fence. "But you must promise now to keep my existence a secret and never tell anyone."
"I promise." Elliot said as he pulled out a key to unlock the gate. Luckily he had an extra one in his pocket. He often worked late and even on weekends, so he liked to check on progress at odd hours when the crews weren't there. "Heck, if I tried telling anyone what I saw this night they wouldn't believe me anyway. Even I don't believe it. I'd end up locked in a mental hospital."
"Vincent, she was a Goddess!" Catherine informed her love as he wrapped an arm protectively around her shoulder. Vincent's clothing smelled faintly from smoke, but Catherine didn't care. The only thing that was important was that he was safe, that they all were safe. "A real Goddess!"
Vincent thought of all the times he had troubled deaf heaven with his cries. Perhaps someone up there had been listening. And what if there were others like Discord, other Gods and Goddesses? Had they been listening, too? Had one of them sent Catherine to him that fateful night?
But what had Discord really wanted? Her attack seemed so pointless. Yet it must have served some purpose only she knew. Vincent walked Catherine and Elliot towards the safety her apartment building. From there, Elliot could call for his limo and go home. Yet he sensed the three of them would have a lot to think and talk about in the coming days. Whether they liked it or not, their lives just had gotten more complicated.
They reached the building; Catherine and Elliot taking the elevator up while Vincent climbed his usual route to her balcony. Unlocking the apartment door, Elliot used her phone to call his car. After the car was on the way, Elliot stared at Catherine. "Cathy, did you like me better when I was more hairy?"
"No, Elliot. I don't love Vincent because of his fur or his appearance. It's the things inside that I love; his compassion and willingness to help total strangers even if it means risking his own life. That's what I love." Catherine explained.
Thinking of the night's events, Elliot smiled weakly. "I think I'm beginning to understand that. He is quite amazing. There are very few people who could do what he did tonight."
After Elliot left, Catherine joined Vincent on the balcony. He held her in the safety of his strong arms as they stared together up at the distant stars.