The sun had just reached its peak when Jasper and Mahi returned to town. Though their backs strainned under sacks of tomb riches, they relished it.
"I think," Jasper said, regarding the city's gates before him. "I think I'm going to buy a flat. An honest-to-Sun flat."
"Settling down?" Mahi said with mock shock. "I was beginning to think you were content to be homeless."
"Ha ha," Jasper said, hefting his sack. "I just didn't have any luck till today, is all."
"Sure you wouldn't rather brainstorm first?" Mahi said, seriousness creeping into her voice.
"Yes, I am sure," Jasper said. "If we are to discuss the trapping and subsequent defeat of my ancient murderer, I'd rather do it under the roof of my home with a full belly ."
"Fair enough," Mahi said, giving a little shrug. "Would you like some company?"
"Sounds lovely!" Jasper replied.
Together they walked to the market, content to put aside their troubles for an afternoon of fun.
Dirt and Iron walked out of Khentkheti's temple calmly and evenly. He was a good three blocks distant before he allowed himself to feel the dread he'd been holding back. He slipped into a back alley to avoid pestering at his obviously troubled visage.
'The mountain of jade, and the black river,' he thought as he slumped against a discarded crate. 'Why now? Surely they would have wanted more time before those memories were gifted back.'
"Maidens above," Dirt and Iron spat as he stood. His faith was strong, but he still had trouble accepting what he knew were bad ideas. Nevertheless, his duties made themselves evident. The Warden of Jade was a traitor, and who knows what damage he had done by now. Dirt and Iron's Mistress had to be notified.
He stood, dusted himself, and slipped into the crowds with practiced ease. Within minutes he stood at the edge of town. He stirred the Essence of Journeys within his legs, and soon was running at a speed any mortal could never attain.
"How many square feet?" Mahi asked, still in shock at the sheer volume of cash that had just changed hands.
"Two thousand, m'lady," the realtor said, mopping his brow with a white kerchief. Disbelief seemed to be the order of the day.
"Two....thousand....square....feet....all for me!" Jasper said, relishing each word. He accepted the deed proffered by the realtor, looking over its wording once more; there was no way his magics could be trumped by this mortal, but he checked all the same.
Grinning madly, Jasper shouldered his pack, now considerably lighter. The deed clasped in one hand, he extended his other to Mahi. The realtor presented the key, which Mahi accepted with her free hand.
"Shall we?" Jasper said as he practically dashed out the door.
Dirt and Iron arrived at the tomb to find it already open. He composed himself before entering, dreading what he must do. The chill wind tugged at his jacket, but he pushed the distraction away.
The snow was fresh with alien tracks. The air was thick with a musky smell. But most alarming of the intrusion was the absence of his Mistress' most prized posession. It was before a gaping hole in the ice floor where Judgement once rested that Dirt and Iron found his Mistress, the Chronicler of Thunders, now stood.
"My lady--" Dirt and Iron began, but was silenced by a single gesture from his Mistress.
"Mellinia I have slumbered here, colder than any living thing ought be. Patient, I have been, waiting for your superior's word. At their behest I have slain, and as reward they have graced me with the tiniest scraps of memory. This was promised to be a place of stillness....of safety. And today I see that such is not the case. Fortunately for you, my bonds restrict me from venting my frustrations on your form. Thus do I now channel my rage into a more constructive venture."
Chronicler of Thunders turned now, her eyes glittering with well-held rage.
"Who, how, and why?" she asked quietly.
"Allies of your current target, by the same means that we do so, and the last is unknown to me at this time," Dirt and Iron answered, bowing.
Chronicler of Thunders regarded her messenger for the briefest of moments and turned to her tomb proper. At it's base lie a yellowed strip of vellum, upon which was scrawled a challenge. Chronicler gently lifted the scrip and contemplated the boldness or stupidity necessary to disturb her tomb.
A week ago Dirt and Iron woke her from her icy slumber. He seemed hesitant to give the name of her next target, but he spoke with clairity nevertheless. Nightengale Jasper. Rage, hot and sweet, sprung to her mind. She knew not why slaying this man stirred within her hatred long-buried, but she reveled in it. She had gone deep within the forests near her tomb to practice; eager to shake the snow from her limbs and awaken her full power. How ironic that her target was to invade her sanctum while she slumbered one afternoon.
And the gall of stealing her finest trophy. It was almost erotic.
The Chronicler of Thunders turned once again to Dirt and Iron. Within her grasp the scrip withered in a burst of golden flame.
"You claim I have killed the previous incarnation of this Jasper?" she asked.
Dirt and Iron nodded in assent. "He was your first kill, and your last memory before your payment for our side of the bargan was tendered."
"I will issue the challenge myself," said Chronicler of Thunders, the fire in her eyes growing visibly.
Dirt and Iron bowed deeply.
"My Masters allow," he said.
As soon as the last words were out of Dirt and Iron's mouth, Chronicler of Thunders stalked by. Dirt and Iron wasted no time in falling into step with his Mistress. The hunt was on.
Jasper let out a satisfied grunt as he shoved the end of a table into place.
"Perfect," he said as he stood back to admire his work.
Mahi came from the kitchen, holding two cups of steaming tea. She presented one to Jasper which was quickly taken. He and Mahi sat on opposite ends of the couch that dominated the central room.
"That's the last of it," Jasper said, sipping his tea contendedly. Despite his power, a low-level buzz of weariness hummed throught his body.
"Quite an accomplishment," Mahi said over her tea. "Laze to homeowner in less than a day. What's gotten into you?"
Jasper thought a moment before he spoke.
"I don't know. Until I found my spear I felt.....ungrounded. Just floating along, y'know? I didn't have anything to hold me down."
"You had me," Mahi said.
"Yeah, well, you know. Aside from that" Jasper said quickly.
"No need to appologize, Jasper, I know what you mean. Old memories have a way of tugging at us. Some people are so dominated by their past they have trouble letting go. They're so gripped by the notion that they once did things thousands and thousands of years ago they stop at nothing to regain what is essentially useless knowledge."
Jasper stopped in mid-sip. He stared into the amber pool at his fingertips and reflected on Mahi's words.
"But I once did things," Jasper whispered. "I had something wonderful, and that was taken away from me."
Jasper looked up to Mahi. "I think I have something wonderful now, and if that same force is threatening to do what it did so many years ago, then I should do my best to stop it."
When Mahi blushed and looked away, Jasper set his tea down and scooted closer to her. He gently grasped her free hand.
"Getting that spear back took a lot off my mind," he said as he locked gazes with Mahi. "I've never had this much time to think about things before."
Mahi blushed deeper now, nervous. She edged away the tiniest bit; an animal trapped.
"What are you saying, Jasper?" she asked as the man now came closer still.
"I think," Jasper said, his face inches from Mahi's. "I should have done this sooner."
Mahi's world spun at the kiss. Closing her eyes, she let herself be swept away. Jasper's presence filled her senses. His scent was laced with sincerity, and she felt her own body responding in kind.
For nearly a minute they embraced, until finally Jasper pulled away. It was obvious by the look on his face that Mahi had assumed an even deeper crimson. They smiled, and reached for another embrace when the door exploded.
They scrambled away from the couch, crouching low. As the dust and splinters settled, a pair of figures could be seen entering the door. Boots crunched over shards of wood and metal, and slippered feet followed half a step behind.
"I hope you two enjoyed that," a feminine voice said through the dust. Jasper could begin to make out her shape. Shorter than he, slight of build. Long hair. "It will be the last pleasure either of you will ever know."
Jasper and Mahi shot one another quick glances, waiting for an opening.
"Nightengale Jasper," the female voice said in a clear tone. "You have been judged by the proxy of Ur-Omn, He Who Bears Witness To All Crimes. No less than 10 deaths at my hand were you sentanced to, only one of which you have attained. I come to collect your second."
At that instant, the dust cleared, and Jasper's world crumbled.
A spear clutched in the left hand just so, eyes into which a man could fall forever, irridescent hair that scattered the light of the setting sun, a face half hidden by a worn orange and black scarf.
"Allandra," Jasper rasped.