That night she didn't stay up to read the mysterious book, instead she let the stress of the day claim her and she fell asleep. When she woke her scenes were groggy, but she shook herself awake and ran to the edge of the camp quickly and silently. As she expected one of the girls was up and walking silently towards the camp, she made no noise almost as if she was floating an inch above the ground. When the girl reached the edge of the encampment Ivy asked. "And where are you going?"
"Hello Ivy," said Saffron. "I did not think anyone would be up at this time of night now that there are no night watches."
"Maybe not, but something woke me and I came to see what it was," said Ivy smoothly.
"I suppose that was me, bizarre, I would have sworn I made no noise," said Saffron good naturedly.
"Perhaps that was the problem, it was entirely silent, and the very absence of noise alerted me that there was wrong," bantered Ivy.
"Isn't there usually no noise?" asked Saffron.
"My creatures make noise, but upon your passing they were silent." replied Ivy.
"Then I was doomed either way, make noise and you would have heard me, make no noise and you were awakened by the silence." laughed Saffron.
"Well of course you could have made animal noises," suggested Ivy.
"And with your knowledge and expertise of their language you would have known that I was speaking gibberish," Saffron sighed.
"I will not tell you not to go, but I will ask you not to, right now Thalia and Sylvia both need to, so I beg you to please to stay."
"You owe me a favor Ivy, and so I use it now, don't try and get me to stay, I let you leave, please do the same for me," uttered Saffron. "And please, do not make this harder for me."
Ivy bit her lip and nodded, "Fine," she walked her friend outside "Don't go that way," she said pointing to the direction she had gone in. Saffron nodded and went the opposite direction. Ivy felt the tears in her eyes threaten to spill out. "Good luck and come back to us safely. Saffron's snake draped itself over Saffron as she disappeared from view. Ivy went back to bed and slept till morning.
Saffron however kept walking. When she could walk no more she flew. When she could no longer walk nor fly she rested. She did not yet know what she was looking for, but she knew she had not found it. Saffron also had the distinct feeling what she was looking for was also looking for her, so she sat down figuring that whatever it was would find her. She was not long in waiting.
"Hello, my apprentice." articulated an oily voice.
"Hello Death... my mentor, my ideal, my friend," said Saffron. "Yes, I recognize you despite that fact the voice you use is not your own."
"You have grown my child," This time the voice was melodic and beautiful.
"That is your true voice, why do you not use it? And whether I have grown does not concern you." hissed Saffron.
"Doesn't it?" asked Death.
"No, it doesn't, not anymore. Azrael." said Saffron as she stood.
"Do not use that name," Azrael warned.
"Why not? you have so many names, why should I not use your true name?" asked Saffron.
"Because it is my true name, and someone might guess it!" Hissed Azrael.
"No, that is not the reason Azrael, I think you are afraid to remember who you once were, before you took the name Death," said Saffron evenly.
"Why are you here Azrael?" said the ever suspicious Saffron.
"To test you, as I have so many times before my dear Saffron. Or should I call you Autumn, the name you used ever so long ago."
"That is not my name, it never has been, it never was," said Saffron coldly.
"No, it was not, but you still remember the person who held that name," said Azrael evenly.
"I do, one does not forget her so easily, least of all me," Saffron closed eyes to blink back the tears. "I have not forgotten you either. You said you were here to test me, then do so."
A cloaked figure stepped out of the shadows. With her night vision Saffron could see her vague outline, but not enough for the fine tuning of a fight, when a inch could mean death, or a least losing. Saffron spread her arms and the circle in which they stood was illuminated.
A bone white hand reached up and knocked back the cowl from the hooded face. The face now revealed was white, but the eyes were large and black and the lips were black to, as was the long hair. The face was not a cruel of haughty one, but instead striking beautiful, but it was a hollow beauty, for the girl it belong to had no heart, and the expression she wore was always one of indifference. She unbuttoned the cloak and let it fall to the ground, she wore long black flowing pants. Her feet were bare, and so was her stomach. Her chest was wrapped up in thin white bandages. A she readied herself to fight to scythes appeared in her hands, the scythes of life and death, life was silver, and death, obsidian, both indestructible, and highly dangerous.
Saffron smiled, and cast off her cloak. Under the cloak she wore her armor, it was the skin of an Astral Gorgon. Saffron had melted down its metal skin after she killed it and formed it into tight fitting chain mail tunic. Her legs were covered with tall metal boots and chain mail leggings. Thin tendrils of metal weaved up her arms connecting to metal gauntlets stopping just before the elbows. She was moving even as the cloak just touched the ground.
"You have learned a lot since we last fought, defense is your best weapon. And moving is your best defense. I am glad to see that you are wearing armor this time, none of the silly little armor designed to show of cleavage and use detraction as a defense. And you are not using a fancy magically created weapon, after all the are so unreliable and might disappear at an inopportune moment!" Azrael stood completely still, and at rest position as Saffron circled her, Saffron was going almost too quickly for the eye to see, but Azrael stood completely at ease, unconcerned. In her hands there were no weapons at all, after all these years she had learned that weapon to weapon, Azrael's scythes were better than anything else. No, she could not beat her with weapons, she must somehow disarm her.
She swung the chains on her wrist and Azrael jumped to life, from still and uncaring to ready and deadly in a split second, she pushed back narrowly missing the elongated chain as it whipped by her. "My turn," she smiled. She leapt forward towards Saffron with the to scythes crossed in front of her. As she rammed into Saffron the idea was to open the scythes, slicing a huge wound in Saffrons stomach. But Saffron dodged, jumping high in the air at the last minute.
Saffron landed and swung around, Then she was on the move again, as Azrael turned Saffron's chains sliced across her face opening a thin wound on her check across the bridge of her nose drawing dark scarlet blood. "First blood," said Saffron.
"First time..." said Azrael.
"That has no relevance," said Saffron, her feet barely touched the ground, skimming, constantly moving. Azrael smiled and lashed out with the obsidian scythe. Saffrons chain wrapped around and she jerked back. Saffron grabbed on to the beautiful weapon. "Now the odds are even, death against life. Death claims all, but life touches only the lucky, which is stronger?" she smirked.
"Death can only harm what life touches. Perhaps you made a bad choice?" said Azrael.
"then again, you are Death herself, perhaps you do not know how to wield life as nimbly as death?" Saffron bantered. The two girls ran toward each other and on the moment at which they touched both girls spun in a full circle as the scythes whirled in a terrifying dance of death. Then they disconnected, and the scythe went flying out of Saffron's hands. "The Battle is over," said Azrael with certainty. Then she fell. In one terrible moment when the scythes danced the black obsidian slashed a gaping wound in her unprotected stomach. Saffron was instantly at her old friends side.
"Why do you never wear armor? You who was always chiding me to wear useful armor instead of that silly stuff why do you never wear armor?" Saffron asked.
"I did once, along time ago, I believed it could protect me. I shut myself in a suit of armor, and I never came out, but it could not protect me, nor those that I loved. When all my friends died in battle I stopped wearing armor, because it will never protect me!" cried Azrael angrily. Then she pushed herself off the ground and stood, "I leave my scythes to you, put them to good use." The blood dripped out of the wound, but Saffron knew she would not die, she could not die, she was Death. Then Azrael began to glow with a light from within.
"Azrael..." Saffron didn't need to finish her sentence, parting between them were alway such. "Somewhere in time I will find you again." There was a large burst of light and Azrael was gone. The words she left unsaid lingered in the still air. For a very long time Saffron stood just looking into the distance where Azrael had been. Then she simply turned around and cried.
The scythes felt heavy in her hands as she knew the weight they held. They glowed bright a disappeared, Saffron knew she could chose to call upon them any time she wished. She walked slowly back to the camp. She did not know how long she had been gone already or how long it would take her to get back, Azrael always had this affect on her. Sometimes it seemed as if time stopped but they moved on without it, then again sometimes it was as if they stopped, but time continued one without them. Azrael was timeless, and she never aged, it seemed she inflicted that on those around her as well. Saffron pondered these thoughts, and wondered how long she had been gone. Worrying that she might have been gone for months, or perhaps more, she did not once stop walking until she was home once again.
"Hello Saffron," said Thalia, "you weren't gone nearly as long as Ivy, She took forever to get back, you only took a couple of days."
"Hello Thalia, I found what I was looking for quickly, an old friend, once she was gone I saw no reason to linger," smiled Saffron.
"You know, we all gave Ivy a hard time about letting you go," said Thalia, a smile touching her lips.
"I was counting on it, you all gave me a hard time about Ivy, so I figured it would be a good payback!" joked Saffron.
"We missed you," said Thalia kindly.
"I should hope so!" laughed Saffron. The she went to her house to sleep, for she hadn't had any rest since she had left.
Ivy was outside planting trees, she smiled as Saffron passed. Nothing much had changed during the time Saffron was gone, but Ivy had started planting trees and flowers and plants all throughout the camp, she was tired of streams and plain dirt. She also brought many animals to life. Many different fish for the streams, worms for the soil, the city sized camp had felt empty, but it now buzzed with energy and new life. She lined the paths with rocks, but the rest of the camp was covered in moss. All over the trees there hung vines and all over the ground beautiful flowers, and sweet smelling herbs. She also expanded the vegetable garden and there was so much food that the girls had stopped going hungry altogether.
Saffron was amazed at the change. They girls had another feast to celebrate her coming home, but as Ivy had expanded the vegetable garden there were mushrooms and roasted kabobs.
Ivy was completely finished with her new outfit and it gave her a much more heroic look. She had even constructed a new whip, this one seemed a normal whip at first, but it had vines on each end of the hand piece, double headed, and was for fighting more than one person at once. Ivy practised incessantly and she one of the best with her weapon skills, rivaled only by Lia and Thalia.
Lia was the weakest of the magicians, so she claimed the best armor, and she practiced the most with her weapons, and when the girls fought without magic Lia alway won, unless she was pitted against Ivy or Thalia.
Both Sylvia and Thalia were doing fine, Thalia could now control her transformation and Sylvia could make her horns and wing pretty much invisible by making them tiny and folding them up. But of all the girls they had felt to most sadness when Saffron left, and only they had felt betrayal. Of the girls only they three knew what it felt like to not be human.
Life once again settled into a routine, only Thalia, Sylvia, and Ivy knew of what the scorpion bolt had done. And they were constantly on the look out that a death might be near. They tried not to interfere at all worried that they might cause the death instead of prevent it. After telling Sylvia the three decided not to tell the other girls of the deaths until all the deaths were prevented, after all the more people that knew the more likely that they would slip up and take a precaution that would hurt instead of help.
There was usually a monster a day, sometimes two or three, and sometimes it would be days before they saw one. Despite the siren's statements about not supposed to kill the beasts they were pretty aggressive and it was often hard not to kill them. Ivy continued to plant trees and bring animals to life until the camp was full of life and buzzed with activity. Ivy had yet to find a monster skin that she wanted to make armor out of. As always she did not have long to wait.