Five tile traps, six trolls, three pits of spikes, and two demons later, Catsai and Atreana found themselves on the top floor of the tower.
Catsai glanced around the empty room, extended her claws, and stepped forward. "Jason!" she yelled. "Where are you?"
Atreana grinned at Catsai. "Well, that was fun. Can we go home now?"
Catsai shot a dark look at the sorceress. "Not without Marcia."
"I was joking!"
Catsai shrugged. "Whatever. Jason!"
"He probably forgot what room we were going to meet in," Atreana suggested, grinning.
Catsai glanced at her, puzzled. "What put you in such a good mood?"
"Fighting with you got boring."
Catsai shrugged again. "Jason! I've got the Stone, but I can't give it to you unless you show yourself!"
"So, you finally arrived." Jason stepped out of the shadows.
Catsai rolled her eyes. "We were waiting for you, Jason."
"You have the Stone?"
Catsai scowled, but removed something wrapped in silk from a pouch on her belt. Holding it up, she glared at him. "Right here."
"Give it to me." He held out his hand.
"Not so fast! Where's Marcia? How do I know you even have her?"
"Marcia?" Jason looked confused.
Catsai sighed. "You know, the girl who looks like a werewolf. You said that you trapped her."
"Did I? I suppose I did. All right then." He glanced around, then faded back into the shadows. After a few moments, he re-appeared, carrying Marcia, bound and gagged. Reluctantly, Catsai held out the silk-wrapped piece of the Stone. Jason quickly snatched it, dropping Marcia.
Catsai quickly set to work untying the Black Cloak, then helped her to her feet. Marcia stood clumsily, grinned at Catsai, then stumbled and fell against Atreana. Leaning against the priestess, she grinned at Catsai again. "I'm fine," she reassured her. "He just forgot to feed me, that's all. Can we get out of here?"
Catsai nodded grimly. "Yeah. Atreana, the exit's over there." She nodded into the shadows. "Get Marcia back to the inn."
"What about you?"
Catsai went into a crouch. "Jason was different the last time we fought; dangerous. I can't let him go on attacking me and my friends. One way or another, this ends here."
Atreana's eyes widened. "Catsai, you can't - "
"Go! Get her out of here!"
Atreana opened her mouth to say something, then thought better of it. Supporting Marcia, she walked slowly in the direction Catsai had indicated and faded into the shadows.
Catsai turned back to Jason. "All right, Jason," she muttered. "Let's go."
Jason raised an eyebrow. "You want me to fight you? Not likely, my dear."
Catsai's eyes narrowed. "What are you talking about? If you didn't want to fight me, why did you bring me here?"
"For the Stone, of course."
"What do you want with the Stone?" Catsai demanded. "You said you were through Transforming people. That you wanted to destroy everyone you had Transformed. What do you need the Stone for?"
Jason grinned. "To regain my sanity."
"What?" Catsai frowned. This wasn't like him. His plans never made any sense, not since he became insane; all he wanted was to destroy her and the other Transformed people. Realizing that he was insane, and trying to change that - something was wrong here. "But - even with the Stone, you can't do that! What are you going to do?"
Jason smiled. "You'll see." He unwrapped the piece of the Stone, then held out his free hand. The other half of the Stone appeared, and he held the two pieces together. He frowned, then threw one of the pieces at Catsai. "This is a fake!" he shouted furiously.
"Well, you didn't think I was stupid enough to carry something like that around with me, did you?" she asked, grinning.
"Why you - Fireball!"
Catsai dodged to the side, letting the spell blast through the stone wall. She glanced at it, then thought, So, this level isn't magic proof? Strange ... Did he arrange it that way, for our fight? But he said he didn't want to fight me - what's going on?
Catsai glanced up, cursed under her breath, and ducked the blast of wind. "Have to do better than that, Jason!" she called, grinning and trying to look confident. "My turn!" She raced forward, leaping over a Flare Arrow, and clawed at his arm. If he can't use his hands, he won't be able to cast his more powerful spells.
She landed behind him in a crouch and turned around, still half-crouching. Jason hadn't moved. Slowly, he turned around, glanced at his right arm - which was now lying on the floor - then smiled at her, and shook his head. Suddenly, his right arm flew across the floor and re-attached itself to him.
"What the - " Catsai murmured.
Jason smiled. "I've learned a few new tricks since we last met. Burst Rondo!"
Catsai screamed as the burst of fire hit her full-on. Stumbling a few feet, she collapsed to the ground.
Jason took a few steps forward, then leaned over her. "Where's the Philosopher's Stone?" he demanded.
Catsai struggled to turn her head toward him, wincing as she did so.
"Hurry up! Where is the Stone?" he repeated impatiently, leaning closer to her.
She spit in his face.
Straightening and wiping at his eye, he kicked her. "Why you little - if you won't tell me, I'll find it myself. But first, to take care of you. Fire - "
"What?" Jason whirled around angrily. "Who's there?"
"You who have-"
"Shut up Amelia, we don't have time. You know who we are," Lina Inverse snapped. "Now step away from Catsai!"
Jason raised an eyebrow. "And if I don't?"
Lina held up her hand, where a red ball of energy was hovering.
Jason smiled. "I see. Well then, she's all yours." He stepped aside, giving them their first clear view of the feline thief.
Catsai struggled to get to her hands and knees. Anna, seeing she was hurt, rushed forward to help. Zelgadis started forward, then stepped back.
"Oh, Catsai!" Anna cried, helping her up. "What - "
Catsai shook her head. "Later," she muttered. She glanced up at the others; Lina, Zelgadis, Gourry, Amelia, Griff, Atreana, and Marcia. "Atreana! I told you to get her out of here!"
"I couldn't just leave you!" Atreana cried back.
Catsai sighed. "Whatever. Just hurry up and heal me!"
"Well now, you've got Catsai back," Jason said. "Now you can all die together. Burst Rondo!"
Catsai screamed as she was hit once again by the spell. Anna bit back an echoing scream, smiling at Catsai through her tears. "Hold on, Catsai," she murmured encouragingly. "You can make it! Just a few steps further, and we'll be out of here."
Behind them, Amelia, Lina, and Atreana were casting healing spells as fast as they could, trying to heal everyone who was hit. But before they could reach Catsai ...
"Freeze Arrow!" Jason shouted, hurling the gigantic spear of ice at Catsai and Anna. Reflexively, Anna dodged to the side, but Catsai was still directly in the spell's path.
The spear of ice hurled Catsai into a wall, then buried itself in her stomach. Catsai let out a shriek as it hit her, then fell to the floor. Anna started forward, but Zelgadis darted past her to kneel at Catsai's side.
Catsai looked up through tear-blurred eyes at the Chimera. She struggled to smile as he carefully put his arms around her. "I always wanted to get you in this position," she whispered. "Cutting it sort of close, though, aren't you, Zel?"
Zelgadis struggled to smile back at her. "Catsai - "
Catsai shuddered, then grinned at him. "Guess - guess Atreana's not going to have much competition anymore, huh?"
"Don't say that!" Zelgadis ordered her, blinking back tears. "You can make it! Amelia, Lina, Atreana, one of you get over here!" He glanced up at the three, who were busy fighting Jason. He swore, then turned back to Catsai.
By this time, Anna had reached them. "Catsai, I'm so sorry, I wasn't fast enough, I - " she babbled, crying.
Catsai smiled weakly at her. "Hey--you dodged it, didn't you? Guess - guess some of that training finally paid off. Take - take care of Marcia for me, will you?"
"Catsai - " Zelgadis whispered.
"Zel - I love you. I've always wanted to tell you that. Great timing, huh?" Catsai grinned at him. "Just wish I could have seen that world of yours."
Anna, sensibly, left them alone and returned to Marcia, who was leaning against the wall.
Marcia stared blankly at the Catsai and Zelgadis. "She's dying," she murmured when she noticed Anna. "Why doesn't somebody do something?"
"They can't let Jason get another shot at her - or at you, or Zelgadis. They've got to keep him busy." Anna was trying to convince herself as much as her sister.
"So they're just going to let her die?" Marcia shook her head and swore, then quieted when she saw Zelgadis approaching them. Gently, he placed Catsai's limp body a few feet away from Marcia and Anna.
"Is she - " Anna started.
Zelgadis shook his head. "She's just unconscious. But unless she's healed soon - " he shook his head and swore. Drawing his sword, he raced toward Jason.
Part 7 | Fanfiction