We woke early the next morning and waded through that dense bog once more, but this time with Vasquez and Cecil. Though, I don't think I complained as much this time around. We sloshed through the place as quietly as we could, hoping not to disturb any Sons of the Sword that were lurking around or any predators that might have an interest in us. Of the former, we met none. I was still curious to know how Vasquez had survived the shot Bex took. I knew my niece, that girl never missed. Vasquez should be dead... But he said he didn't know, and at the time I didn't let it bother me too much. The revival methods of a madman wasn't a priority at the time. Muck and toadshit clung to my legs and as we neared the crawl-space that led directly to the Fountain. I remember dreading this part of the journey the last time I was here was Thomas, but now I couldn't have been more eager. I was concerned with how Cecil would make it through though.
“You two go on ahead,” he said, “If Vasquez would be so kind as to give me some directions, I will find a way around.”
Vasquez did just that, and Cecil left us as we moved forward through the slimy bog.
“You managing okay, amiga?” he asked.
“Fine,” I replied, “Are we nearly there?”
“Sí,” he said, lowering into a crouch, “Cover your face with something.”
I did as I was asked and followed through with Vasquez, as we sloshed down, down, down towards the fountain. We landed in a heap, I on top of him in an indignant position. We untangled our limbs and I removed the covering from my face.
Here I was again: The Fountain of Youth.
It almost brought a tear to my eye as I watched all the scars I had received only days ago recede. I looked at Vasquez. The bullet wound in his forehead vanished, along with some of his age, but that large scar on his face stayed. My curiosity concerning that, however, came only after I spotted Mr Kenobi crouching in a bush and watching us.
I drew my sword and stepped towards him. I didn't say anything.
He got up quickly and backing away, he said, “Now, Midnight, let's not be hasty.”
I stared down at him. There was so much anger coursing through me, it was hard to move my legs without throwing my sword at him. I tried to tame the rush of action that my mind suggested to me. I said nothing.
“What exactly do you think happened?” Mr Kenobi asked.
“How long have you been here?” I asked him.
“Not long,” he replied.
“Where is my husband's map?”
Kenobi touched a pocket of his, I assume he did it in the hope I wouldn't notice, and then just stared at me blankly.
“We can do this the easy way - where you just give me the map,” I said, “Or we can do this the hard way - where I take an eye for an eye.”
“You would take an eye of an eye, none the less,” he said, “I have no intention of granting you this artefact. My brothers have use for it.”
“And I suppose your brothers also had ample use for the life of my husband!”
“It was a measure that... had to be taken.”
I ran at him with my sword and he drew his own and countered my blow. Kenobi's sword glowed with light.
“You're a measure that needs to be taken!” I screamed and ran at him again, “You robbed me, you robbed the world of the greatest man to walk it within this ridiculous, intolerant age!”
He carved his blade up, guarded himself against my swing and thrust to my right. I blocked it, quickly taking out my dagger.
“Your husband was a drunk fool that should have known better than to trespass on mythical isles,” Kenobi said, “But he's dead now, so that makes him a hero, right?”
“He was a better man than you,” I said, through gritted teeth, “He was a better man than you and that's good enough for me.”
Kenobi kicked me in my shin and I gasped. A sharp headbutt sent him reeling away and I grasped my leg.
“How dare you!” he cried, “I have accomplished more good in one year of my life than Thomas did in all the years he lived! Your husband was a scoundrel!”
“Then what kind of man let's a scoundrel and his wife raise his daughter in a happy home with good food? What kind of man sends his daughter to a place of sacrifice in what was the holiest of all places!”
“You wouldn't understand. I know what I intended.”
“The dying words of a guilty man!” I barked, lashing out at him once more.
He threw off my blow and raised his glowing sword.
I looked at it and was enawed by its brightness. My body trembled in what could only be overwhelming fear. I stepped back as Kenobi approached me, my limbs becoming more and more heavy with every passing second.
“You miscreants are pathetic,” he said, “You justify all your wrongs and think yourselves virtuous - when all you are, are corrupt and misguided brutes with sharp blades and ample wealth.”
I closed my eyes, the light still bright beneath my eyelids. But I felt my body calm down and I stood straighter. I had a rebuke, but there was no time for that. I steadied my blade and turned my back to Kenobi. Opened my eyes. I could see Vasquez standing at the edge of the pool, arms folded, simply observing. I hadn't expected him to help. As Vasquez had told me, the map had originally been his.
“You forfeit then? Submit to my will?” Kenobi asked.
“No,” I said.
There was a pause.
I heard a blade descending on me, and I turned in that instant to throw off its danger with my own sword. I looked away from the light and stared down towards Kenobi's feet - using my other senses and my gut-feelings to estimate another attack. I rolled off to my right, and raised my sword to defend his strike. I timed it wrong and the tip of the bright sword sliced through my cheek. I jerked away, touching the wound and watching my hands dampen with gore.
“Yield and I'll hurt only your pride,” Kenobi said.
“No,” I said, lashing out at him another time and sending him back. I didn't allow him to strike, I continued to lash out almost blindly, until Kenobi lost his footing and stumbled. I kicked him and he fell on his back, the sword flying out of his grasp and losing its light.
I pointed my sword at his throat.
“Give me the map,” I said.
He stared at my sword, “If you want it, you'll have to kill me first.”
“Don't do it.”
I looked back at Vasquez, who had shifted from his position - wading through the pool and climbing up to us.
“Why not?” I asked angrily.
“You don't know? Midnight, I'm disappointed,” Vasquez said, “This is a Son of the Sword, a blood-offering to the spirit of Baphomet.”
“I don't know what those words mean.”
“It means he doesn't die. At least, not for long,” Vasquez cocked his pistol.
“And you're, what? The only one who can kill him?”
“No,” Vasquez said. A bang split the air as he fired his pistol, shooting Kenobi in the shoulder, “These fuckers, they don't die,” he crouched beside Kenobi - who was moaning in pain - and said, “Make this easy and give the lady what she wants, hermano.”
“How would you know about the Sons of the Sword?” Kenobi spluttered, “How do you know about the blood-offering?”
Vasquez loaded another bullet and shot Kenobi in the leg, “Give Midnight the fucking map!”
Kenobi spat in Vasquez's face and said, “You traitor!”
Another bullet. Vasquez pressed the barrel of the gun to Kenobi's groin, “The fuck did you say?”
Kenobi stared at him.
“What the fuck did you say, amigo?” Vasquez asked.
I put a hand to his shoulder. Vasquez turned his head to me.
“Kill him,” I said.
“I know. Just keep him down for long enough.”
“You don't understand-”
“Estaban. I've seen enough.”
Vasquez turned back to Kenobi and smacked the butt of his gun down on Kenobi's forehead - knocking him unconscious.
I began to protest, “I said-”
“I know what you said. I'll give you an explanation later. Do what you came here to do.”
I regarded Vasquez, but conceded and searched through Kenobi's pockets for the map. Finding it, I opened it up and looked at it and then gazed at the pool.
“Midnight?” Vasquez said.
“There won't be much use of a map, if the destination is absent,” I mumbled. I passed the map to Vasquez, “Keep it. I might have use for it later.”
“You came all this way to prevent a crisis,” Vasquez said, “What...?”
“I will prevent this crisis,” I replied, taking out my tinder box and, finding it dry, I lit a branch of wood, “You want to keep any of the water?”
Vasquez looked from the burning branch to me and understood. He stood back and nodded.
I threw the branch into the water. I expected it to go out, but the water caught fire like oil and burned bright. I raised my hands to shield my face and backed away. I felt Vasquez's hand on my shoulder.
“Can you make a copy of this map?” I asked him.
I paused, “I'm not done with Kenobi or the Sons of the Sword. I'm going to destroy them like I destroyed Syria. And to do that, I need him to have that map.”
“I know how to find this place. I will draw a new map and have it sent to you.”
“No. I want you to keep it, but you have to promise you won't die.”
He laughed, “Death and I have a strange relationship. She just's sitting there, waiting for me to call her,” Vasquez folded up the map and placed it back in Kenobi's pocket.
Just then, Cecil and a troop of Romulites burst on through the line of trees. Black Cæsar was with them and he stared at the fire.
“What have you done?” he roared, “What did I tell you, Cecil? I transport this lesser for you and she desecrates our sanctum?”
“Sanctum?” I asked Cecil, “What's he talking about?”
Cecil took a step back, staring at me, completely speechless.
“These are our lands, lesser,” Black Cæsar said, approaching me, “and you have burned its life! Our lives!”
“What are you talking about?”
“The Sons of the Sword have plagued us for generations,” Black Cæsar said, “and it seems you would aid them!”
“I came here to get a job done,” I kicked Kenobi in his side, “This Son of the Sword is not my friend.”
“And what of him!” Black Cæsar gestured to Vasquez.
I looked at him and then back to Black Cæsar, “You... have to be making a mistake...”
“I can smell the mark of Baphomet on him,” remarked a Romulite in the group.
I looked back at Vasquez, who seemed to be backing away.