10 November 2004
Two more sites, both slaughtered before I arrived. Whatever it was that drew the cult here, they were insistent on getting a foothold, and someone was insistent on stopping them.
I had to assume it was my mystery woman. Once I knew what to look for, I had managed to spot her at both sites, but only briefly. She was always just a step or two ahead, always ready to vanish in the tiniest bit of water, but I had been working on a trick I'd learned back in North America. This time, I was hoping I'd be ready for her. It would have to be enough, if I wanted any answers this way. For all of my searching, I couldn't find evidence of any more cult sites in the area.
I wandered this last site in the spiritual realm before investigating. I don't know if she knows what I am, or what I can do, but I had no reason to think she would assume I could slip by her. I did not find her, but I did locate the water source I was certain she would use to escape. I made a note of its location, found the fastest route from the central chamber to it, then went back to the entrance to carry out my work as usual. I was taking notes on the fatal wounds on the last body when I saw her from the corner of my eye. She was watching, from a crevice above me and to the right. I quickly ran through the map in my head, and determined that if I played it just right I could reach the water just before her. I stood, jotted down the last of my notes, then tucked the notebook away.
"You know, we could try talking about this." I didn't know if she knew English, but I was certain I knew what she'd do the moment she realized I was speaking to her. Sure enough, she dove down the passageway behind her. I smiled, turned, and took off down the path I'd determined. I leapt over rocks and slid under a narrow passage, trying as best I could to reach the end of our race first. "Saint Hubert," I prayed softly in Latin, "please let me have estimated her speed correctly."
As she rounded the last corner and came within sight of the water, she began to change. Her legs gave way to a single, long, serpentine body, and the water started to open. Just as she was about to lunge forward, the water froze and the air in the room dropped to nearly arctic temperatures. Her body grew stiff and she hit the ground hard, gasping in the sharp air. I stepped out from the end of my path, catching my breath as well. She hissed and pulled out her swords.
"Do what you came to do, Colonizer," she practically growled in heavily accented English, "but know it will not be easy for you."
"I've been hunting this cult for a very long time. Well, long in human years, but I suspect you work on a very different scale."
"You...hunt them?" She was breathing very heavy, and I could tell she was having difficulty.
"They're a threat. I want to know what you've learned about them."
"What do you care? Some ridiculous little group of white people show up in my land and start corrupting the name of our serpents, and you expect me to believe this is somehow a problem for you?"
"This is not a local event. I've been tracking them all over the world. Whatever they are, they mean to impose their will everywhere." Her eyes widened for a moment, then narrowed as they fixed on me.
"I will consider it. If you let me breathe."
"You seem to be talking just fine as we are."
"For now. But you want to chat." We watched each other for a long moment, before I sighed.
"Give me something. Anything to know you're serious."
"It is my name. I am Akshainie, of the guard of Iravati." We stared at each other for another moment until I was certain I would get no further assurance, and then I opened my hand and allowed the temperature in the chamber to slowly return to normal.
"Now, you said you would talk."
"No," she replied with a smile, "I said I would consider it. I never said where." Before I could react, she vanished into the water. I screamed, the rocks around me starting to slightly melt as the water quickly evaporated. After I took some deep breaths and centered myself, I turned and made my way back to the hotel.
Evidence compiled for use during the trial of Father Benedict de Monte.