In this new multi-part serialized fiction story for The Mary Sue, LadyStar: Escape from Widow’s Island tells the story of Jessica and her team of fighters pitted against their teacher during the last phase of their training as Ajan Warriors. Check out more LadyStar books here. Click here for Parts One, Two, Three, and Four.
“Run all you want. She’ll find you. Miss Shannon might not win today, but she’ll be back, and she’s bringing teeth, claws and angry with her. If that doesn’t scare you, you’re not paying attention.” — Ranko Whelan
Inside the Hagog Gate
Jessica opened her eyes just a little, and squinted at the brightness of the fire. She turned her head away from the flames but was secretly grateful for the warmth. Even now she could tell it was much colder than it should have been.
“Ranko—” Her voice croaked. Alanna reached for the nearby water skin.
“What’s up, Goofy? You had us worried there for a minute you were going to sleep through all the fun.” Ranko wore her trademark grin. She was holding court by a roaring fire, as she often did. Any time the Ajan Warriors set up camp, Ranko had her spot by the fire, and did her best to keep everyone entertained. Cici was nearby peering through the lenses of the Chronicler’s Lantern and rearranging them in the artifact’s golden frame.
The Crimson Champion’s armor was scored and burned in several places, and she had a partially healed gash on her arm, but otherwise she looked like she was going to be okay. She was treating the versk outer lining in her gloves. Jessica exhaled and felt tears well.
“Are you sure you’re okay, Ranko?” she half-squeaked. Alanna helped her sit up and take a drink of water.
“I’m better off than the big nasty you blew up. I’m telling you, Goofy, you gotta teach me that ‘fire from the sky’ thing you do. I mean lightning is cool and all, but nothing matches that thing.
Talitha knelt in front of Jessica. She placed her soft hands on either side of Jessica’s face and turned her head side to side, looking for injuries. Jessica could feel the healing energy radiating from Talitha’s fingers.
“She’s fine, Professor. Good thing, too, because I think we wandered into spooky-land when we weren’t looking.”
“Let’s make sure. Remember Reina told us some injuries aren’t obvious. Let Talitha do her thing,” Alanna said as she wrapped oiled cloth around her wrists to reinforce her bracers.
Not far from the camp, Shannon stood watch, Blackwhisper in hand.
“Anything nearby?” Ranko asked, raising her voice just a bit.
“Yep.” Shannon replied matter-of-factly.
Ranko instinctively put her hand on Thundercaller’s handle. “And?”
Shannon turned her head to look in another direction “Wolves.”
Ranko and Alanna looked at each other. Even Cici looked up from switching lenses around in her Lantern.
“Aaand?” Ranko asked, more insistently.
“Mother and pups. About a hundred yards beyond that rise. Nothing to worry about.”
“Well, one wolf means two wolves, right?” Ranko insisted again.
“You’ve been spending too much time around her, haven’t you?” Alanna said with a smile.
Shannon looked back over her shoulder. Her jet hair gleamed in the moonlight. “If there’s a reason for us to worry, I’ll know long before it gets close. Relax.”
Ranko turned back to the fire and finished treating her gloves. “That girl scares me. First, she says she can hear our blood pumping from a hundred yards away. Then, there was that time she walked past the moon in those ruins and just disappeared into thin air. I know she’s got the whole animal thing going, but there are times when I think her television is tuned to a whole other channel.”
“Being moontouched has its advantages and disadvantages,” Alanna replied, punching fist into hand to test her wraps. “It can drive lycans insane. It gives some of the undead pretty powerful abilities. I actually feel better with her around. Between Jessica’s light powers and Shannon’s Deathkiller weapon, it gives us a pretty nasty one-two punch if we run into something outside a cemetary without permission.”
“Please don’t talk about that. The last time we went up against those whatevers one of my best Hammer thrusts went right through its head. I’m going to leave that job to Sunshine Girl and the Kibble express. I’ll stick to monsters I can actually hit. What’s the story, Professor?”
Talitha was busy mixing salve in a small wooden cup. “She’s not hurt, thank goodness. I thought she might be poisoned, but it seems the spider’s bite didn’t connect. She needs rest and time to regain her strength.”
Jessica had drifted back to sleep by now. Ranko and Alanna looked on as she lay with her face turned away from the fire. Teko sat nearby and watched with concern in his eyes.
“Sometimes I get worried she’s going to try and protect all of us and take on something too big and too powerful and get really hurt,” Alanna said as she started working on wraps for her boots. “There’s such a thing as too much heroism.”
“Yeah, but you try telling her that. I’ve been trying to teach that girl to be careful for half her life, but when it comes to taking care of us, Jessica Halloran isn’t going to budge. Sweetest girl I’ve ever known, but once she makes up her mind, she’s more stubborn than Miss Shannon.”
“I heard that.”
Ranko looked up and then turned back to Alanna, whispering. “See what I mean? She’s over there and we’re over here and she can hear everything we’re saying! I’m telling you, that girl is scary. More scary than Goofball thinks Wizard Lady is.”
“Speaking of Reina, suppose she can explain why the Hagog Gate was over there when we started the fight and now we’re behind it?” Alanna asked. Ranko looked at the gate and back at Alanna, who raised her eyebrows.
“You mean we’re on Widow Island?” Ranko asked. Cici looked up again.
“The gate is locked now,” Talitha said. “The only way to open it is with a key.”
“What key?” Cici asked.
“The skull of the Black Valentine.”
“Before we start looking for him we better light that beacon,” Alanna replied.
“What happens if we don’t?” Ranko asked.
“Then we’ll have more undead than we know what to do with,” Talitha added.
Ranko turned and peered into the distance. The Shroud rose like a clawed finger into the night sky. At its pinnacle, a distorted and darkened window waited patiently.
“The only defense a living being has against the tormented souls trapped on Widow Island is in that tower,” Alanna said.
“I hope we’re ready for this,” Ranko replied.
Prepare for battle and don’t miss next week’s chapter as the Greatest Fighting Team of Teenage Girls Ever Assembled continue their impossible quest to Escape from Widow Island!
The first new story LadyStar: With This Ring is free for a limited time!
W. Scott’s LadyStar series is celebrates its fifteenth year in 2015 with the release of a brand new collection of thrilling fantasy stories filled with romance, magical creatures and spectacular battles! Visit the Official LadyStar Bookstore and join the adventure!
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