As Kiari, Autolycus, and Comet neared the castle, Kiari felt a shiver
of uncertainty. The clouds seemed gathered over them, casting gray shadows.
The air was cool, yet still.
"This is creepy," Kiari whispered.
"Buck up. You're a priestess of Ares, a former goddess. You can handle an abandoned castle," Autolycus assured her.
"But don't you wonder why it's abandoned?" She asked.
Autolycus shrugged, pushing his hat back. "Not really. I can only hope that in their haste to leave this place, they forgot oh, some choice pieces of jewelry or something else of value."
Kiari raised an eyebrow.
"Hey, it could happen."
She shook her head. "Not very likely."
They stopped at the front steps and gazed at the building before them. It was perfectly preserved, yet too silent. Kiari was glad to note the absence of dead bodies or the like. Everything actually seemed quite fresh and clean, as if the occupants had gone for a walk. Yet she knew in her gut that something was amiss with this castle.
"Ladies first," Autolycus said with a sweeping hand.
Kiari took a resolving breath, then led the way. Autolycus followed as they made their way up the steps. The door opened without much effort and she stepped in.
"Well, looks like they stripped the place," Autolycus commented. "But one can hope for secret vaults in the wall."
The hall was dim and their boots clanked against the stone floors.
"No dust. Curious. Like they just left," Autolycus said.
Kiari shook her head. "No, they've been gone a long time. Didn't you see the shrubbery outside? Everything around the castle is overgrown, yet inside..."
They walked further along and came upon the throne room. The windows gave them adequate light as they split up and examined the room.
"See, I knew they couldn't take everything," Autolycus said gleefully. "Look at this stuff!"
Tapestries hung from the walls. A plush carpet led to a throne decorated with jewels. A golden crown sat upon the throne.
"What is this?" Kiari bent down to a jewel laden chest behind the throne.
Autolycus was at her side in a second, eyes wide. "Ohh, what do we have here?" He rubbed his hands together, ready to lift the lid. Then he stepped back, remembering his dream.
"What's wrong?" Kiari asked, turning to him.
"Maybe we should leave it alone," Autolycus said, taking a nervous sweep of the room. He was expecting Ares to appear out of the shadows at any moment.
"Leave it alone? You're kidding, right? You, the king of thieves, do not want to open what looks to be a treasure chest? What has come over you?"
Autolycus nodded. "Yes, no, yes, I don't know! You're making me dizzy with all these questions. Besides, I had this dream..."
Kiari straightened up, hands on hips. "What kind of dream?"
"I open the chest and Ares comes up and grabs me by the throat," he put his hand to his throat to demonstrate. "He chokes me, lifts me, then throws me to the ground. Then he hounds me to convince you to go back to the temple. Hmm, maybe I should've tried."
Kiari sighed. "Ares is not going to pop out of the shadows. I made sure he couldn't track us. What else did you dream?"
A sly smile turned his lips. "Well, then I dreamt that I woke you up and..."
"That wasn't a dream," she grinned at him. "Now, come on, let's see what's in this thing."
Autolycus cast a wary eye on the chest. Oh, it looked inviting enough. He shrugged. Why not? "Go ahead."
The moment her hand touched the chest, she felt a strange and ancient power. Something extraordinary was in the chest. She tried to lift the lid, but it was too heavy. "I can't lift it. You try."
He stepped up and knelt beside her. They both lifted up the lid.
Kiari gasped. "By the gods..."
"What?" Autolycus asked, jumping back.
"I never thought I'd see one of these," Kiari murmured. She touched the object, felt the power emanating from within.
"It's just a globe of some kind." Autolycus peered into the chest. "A golden globe, made of rods. A strange thing to do with gold."
"It's not gold." Kiari reached in and took the spherical object out of the chest. Although it was large, it wasn't very heavy. She placed on a nearby table and the two of them studied it.
"What is this thing?" He frowned at the object.
"It's an ancient object, a myth."
"Well, it can't be a myth if we're looking at it. What is it?"
"It's an Orb. It's like that Cronos stone you stole awhile back. It has strange and wondrous powers. It's forbidden even to the gods. I remember learning about it from the Fates."
Autolycus started twirling his mustache. "What kind of strange and wondrous powers?"
"No one really knows. I wonder how it got here."
Autolycus wanted to touch it. "Hey, these things come out?" He tugged at one of the rods.
But it was too late. The air hummed and the orb began to glow. A blue light coursed through Autolycus' hand and up his arm. He let go of the rod in a hurry.
"What the--" Autolycus was looking at his hand, which was starting to fade out. Then he realized that he was starting to fade out. He began seeing strange flashes of light, but he wasn't afraid.
"Autolycus," she whispered.
"I'm okay," he said, sounding very faraway. "It didn't hurt me." He turned and Kiari knew that he was seeing something other than the castle throne room. "You've got to see this!" He walked and disappeared.
Kiari knew, somehow, that Autolycus had stepped into another reality and she had to follow. But why did she feel as though it was going to get her in a lot of trouble?
She turned to the orb and put both hands on it. She concentrated on Autolycus,
then pulled on one of the rods. A blinding light flashed behind her, like
a door opening. With the orb in her arms, she walked towards the light...
Kiari found herself beside a bustling lane, horse drawn carriages flying by her. She no longer had the orb, but for a moment she didn't notice. She was staring at the people, who were dressed in the same manner as she, though some a bit fancier and some a bit dirtier. What place was this?
She began to walk, her eyes searching for Autolycus. This strange place had infinite possibilities for a thief like him and she needed to find him before he did something regrettable. She tripped over a board on the walk and into the arms of a man.
"Whoa there, ma'am, you've got to watch your step here." He righted her.
"Thank you, I guess I--" She smiled and looked up. Her eyes widened. It couldn't have been that easy. "Autolycus!"
He looked down at her, puzzled. "Ma'am?"
A horse neighed behind them.
"Comet?" Kiari said, heading for the horse.
"What do you mean you know her?" The man said. The horse snorted. "Oh, don't start with those dreams again, Comet."
Kiari turned back to the man. Damn, he looked just like Autolycus, but now she knew better. She knew she'd like the no mustache version. "You must be Brisco County Jr."
He tipped his hat to her. "That I am. Now, I don't suppose you'll tell me how you know my horse and he knows you?"
How was she going to explain? She opened her mouth to answer, but a commotion erupted down the street.
"He's taking my horse!" Someone yelled.
"My jewels, they're gone!"
A man on a horse sped by and Kiari sighed. By the gods!
"There he is!" A crowd was advancing towards Kiari, Brisco, and Comet.
"Now wait a minute," Brisco said, holding his hands up.
"So that's what you've come to, common thievery!" A man shouted.
Kiari jumped on Comet and gestured to Brisco. "Come on, we've got to get out of here."
"Get off my horse, lady!"
"Come up here and get me off," she challenged.
He glanced at the crowd, then glared at the lady on his horse. He could probably handle her better than the crowd. He climbed up behind her and took the reins.
"This isn't over," he growled in her ear.
She felt a shiver in her spine as they rode away...
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