Chapter 11

To an impartial observer, the hiking party in the middle of the wilderness was just that. A few obvious weapons, of course. Wild animals and wild people are always unpredictable. But to someone who knew what to look for, the party hiking through the wilds was more dangerous. Men who carried themselves with complete confidence; two young women who looked nothing like the men, and seemed to not be truly attached to any of them, and were just as confident. Then there were the animals-- creatures that anyone would expect to turn on a human and enjoy the meal, of human. Leaving behind the road that they had been following was a curious development, but the sisters didn't question their hosts. So it was that the hikers passed through the forest with little effort, and less noise.

The sisters kept a wary eye on the men of this 'Carpathian' lineage. They shared a few comments, mentally, between themselves, and debated sending for their father. Eventually they settled for merely giving him directions, using telepathy, and keeping him informed of their location and progress. Of course their father reminded them to be careful, and told them that their brothers had arrived the previous morning. The three of them were currently in route to join the girls, teleporting location by location, and gathering information at each.

The mountain corridor looked to be nothing more than potential mountain pass. Curiously enough, the road that they had been following met up with them there, and continued on. Of course the girls noticed many of the defensive positions, as they passed through. The road began to narrow, and sides of the mountains formed a small canyon. The canyon had a tight bend, and then ended at the mouth of a cave. Celena whispered quietly "Ilumina." A soft yellow light hovered about twelve inches above her head, allowing for the sisters to see their surroundings better. The cave was not large, nor long, and the stones that had made up the road, continued on, looking more like a garden pathway now. Marcu spoke quietly. "Through this cavern there will be a large gate, and through that gate will lie the community of Adytum. Before we can permit your full entrance, we ask for a small token from you. This will help us ensure your good intentions, and your continuing friendship."

"And, pray tell, what would this 'token' be, Marcu, elder of Adytum?" A male voice spoke from behind the travelers. "And why would you ask young ladies to pay it?"

The Elders looked up sharply, obviously surprised. Alara spoke clearly. "Father, may I present to you the Elders of Adytum, Elders, our father, Aetos in service to Acheron of Atlantis."

Aetos walked easily to his daughter, briefly touching each of them on their left arm, where they wore a metal arm bracelet bearing Acheron's symbol. It was his only way of conveying his approval of them in front of others, after all, Spartans were warriors first. Aetos paused in front of Marcu and nodded in greeting. Marcu returned the nod, sizing up this man before him. Human, but, not. Aetos' own conclusion led him to call to the one being he had not spoken to for a century or more. "Akri Acheron!"

Acheron flashed into solid form, next to Aetos, immediately. "Aetos, it has been a long time, but I cannot imagine that you would need my assistance with these....beings." Acheron grinned.

Aetos grinned in return, bowing slightly. "My daughters have been exploring again, and this time they have found a community called Adytum. We see before us some that we recognize, but some that we do not. Perhaps, some more information would be helpful."

"Very wise, Captain. But, let us all continue this conversation under cover. Some of these men would not handle the sun's rays well at all." With a thought, they were all on the doorstep of Adytum's community hall. Acheron was bowing to Latara and Penelope.

Latara smiled at Acheron. "Ah, an Atlantean God. There were rumors amongst our citizens that none of you existed any longer. It is with a lighter heart that I welcome you to the sanctuary, Adytum." Latara absorbed much about the state of this god in front of her; the first she had seen in many centuries. She thought to Penelope, "Please csistri, arrange for proper refreshments for our guests. One special refreshment for Lord Acheron you will find in my personal cupboard inside, a green wineskin. That is served ONLY to him, understand?" Penny nodded, and curtsied, then went into the hall to do as she was bid. A lifetime of living, loving and learning with Latara had imbued her with a special understanding for their Guardian Goddess.

Acheron looked down at his hands, for just a split second believing that he had lost control and turned into his true god form. Looking back up at Latara he spoke softly, "It is with a grateful heart that I, and those with me, have found your community. I think we have much to speak about."

"Indeed Lord Acheron. I fear that it will be in the hands of the few that the world's Light and Darkness will be held." Latara gestured for the Elders and guests to enter into the Hall.

It was three hours later that Latara had noticed that Acheron hadn't drank from goblet, merely toyed with it. To most of the people around them, it was enough to create the illusion of a man simply enjoying a good goblet of wine. Leaning towards the god who sat on her right, she whispered so low that only he could hear (an amazing thing considering the acute senses of those around her) "Lord, is your drink not satisfactory?"

Acheron looked at her with rather sarcastic expression, "I doubt that my diet would lend me to what I was served."

"Ah, but you truthfully cannot know that for certain, until you try it. While not as satisfying as your normal fare, I'm positive that it will at least tide you over for a bit."

Acheron grimaced, and acceded to her wishes, knowing that it would look rude if he didn't at least drink some of it. Raising the goblet to his lips, he took an experimental sniff, but couldn't place the smell. Out of the corner of his eyes he saw Latara smirk a bit. He took a small mouthful of the liquid, and was shocked at the taste. Latara's memories began to flood his mind, even though he had not been able to read her, or anything about this particular sanctuary. He swallowed, and then, figuring in for an ounce, in for a pound, he gulped the rest of the goblets contents. He almost didn't notice the young lady, Penelope, refilling his goblet. The memories, the information was almost overwhelming. When he thought that he was able to speak coherently, he found that he didn't need to. Latara's voice whispered through his mind.

"Do not be worried, my good friend. This is just so that you, Apostolos, the Harbringer of Telikos, will know me and my sanctuary here. Your friend, Aetos and his family are welcome here, any time, for any reason—so long as the basic law of sanctuary is followed."

Acheron smiled. Someone who truthfully wanted nothing from him. Strange... someone he wouldn't have to keep a wary eye on. Nice to know one. She leaned into him again, whispering in his ear, "There are some Atlantean descendants living here, and Apollites, who are most anxious to meet with you. Perhaps, when you have a need for quiet that you cannot find anywhere else, you and your Simi can visit. Drink this goblet as well, you haven't fed for a time, and this will enable you to prolong the times between feeding, forever."

"M'lady, Latara, what is it that I am drinking?" Acheron took another drink. It was delicious, possibly even addicting. And while it helped him not to feel the hunger, or thirst, for Artemis' blood, it did soothe the ache.

"My blood." She shrugged. "It is, basically, the blood of all the Guardian's of Europe. A by-product of being the last in this part of the world. That, of course, and all their knowledge, and powers. Creating this community is the only thing I could do; preserving something to help with all of our futures."

Acheron nodded, his grey-silver eyes swirling. The future changed, because free-will was mostly unpredictable. He didn't believe in messing with free-will. "Thank you." He spoke softly, sincerely.

"It is my pleasure to help."

By the next morning, questions had answers. Answers had created ideas, and ideas had formulated into plans. Children from the whole valley had swarmed all over Acheron, finding in him a truly gentle giant.

Latara laid her hand on his arm, just enough to make him pause before he flashed off to his next call for help. "Please, let me know if I can help you. It is not just up to you, Akri Apostolos, to try to rein in and stop this Spreading Darkness."

The End

Inspired by the worlds of Christine Feehan and Sherrilyn Kenyon