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Lianne the Holy Diver
"Is somebody there?" Lianne started to move toward the kitchen, then hesitated. Was this her diving partners? "Nate? Charlie? I told you guys to knock if you came in... what are you doing here a-AHHHH!"
Lianne shrieked and shuffled back, nearly tripping over the coffee table. A huge white tiger emerged from her kitchen, his tail switching as he moved toward her.
Lianne scrambled back. There was nowhere to go! She stumbled for the balcony, hands on the railing behind her back. She shrieked and shrieked, her lungs afire with the intensity of her cries. The tiger moved slowly toward her - this was it, she would have to jump and chance it - her nerves froze, she couldn't jump, she just couldn't! Steeling her will, she kicked back...
There was a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. She had pitched backward over the railing. This was it... she had survived everything only to die in a freak zoo accident.
There was a crunching noise, and Lianne howled in pain. She heard more than felt her bones shatter. The tiger had her by the leg. He had snatched her out of the air, and was pulling her back into her apartment. She cried and sobbed, her hoarse throat unable to scream any more.
The tiger laid her on the couch. She wept as hard as she ever had. Her leg was broken and her hip was pulled out of its socket. This was the worst pain she had ever felt.
The tiger moved his head toward Lianne. She braced herself for more pain, but he did not maul her. Instead, he rested his head on her stomach. He nuzzled her.
What was this madness!? This hurt like when her side -
Suddenly, every memory from the cave came back to Lianne. Everything she had forgotten, convinced herself was hallucination, lost in unconsciousness; it all came back.
There was a pounding on the door. The maiden's voice was gone. "Are you alright, Li?" It was the voice of her neighbor, Mr. Gladstone.
"H, help..." she rasped, but she couldn't raise her voice. Her throat was so sore. She had to get to the door somehow, but with her leg so terribly broken how could she? The banging and calling continued a few minutes, and then ended. Oh, where was he going...? She tried so hard to call for him, to beg him not to leave her alone, but her voice would make no sound.
Minutes passed. Lianne had to pee. She was scared and alone, and wherever that tiger had gone he might still be in here. Despair began to set in when there was the sound of knocking on the door again. "Ma'am, this is the Khazan Police. Are you alright, ma'am?"
Again, Lianne tried to make some noise. This time she had more luck. "H, help me... I can't reach the door..."
"Is your door locked, ma'am?" asked the policeman.
"Y, yes... please, help me!" Lianne said.
"Alright, ma'am. We're going to have to break in your door. Is that alright with you?" the policeman said.
Lianne had no doubts. "A, anything, just please help me!"
There was the loud banging of a portable ram, and in a few minutes more the door was open. Two police officers and Mr. Gladstone entered Lianne's apartment.
"What's the emergency, ma'am? Mr. Gladstone here tells us you were screaming."
Crying again with relief, Lianne told them everything. "I was standing on my balcony and I was heading for bed and I heard something in the kitchen and there was this tiger and he came for me and I ran to the balcony and I fell off and..."
She babbled a bit, and the policeman tried to calm her. "Slower please, ma'am." His voice was strong and it cut through her panic.
Lianne told her story, but when she got to the part about the tiger grabbing her leg the officer stopped her.
"Ma'am, your leg doesn't appear to have any bite marks or fractures."
"Wh, what? No, it's-", Lianne pulled herself up and looked at her leg. She saw that it was perfectly whole, and the moment she saw that it no longer hurt.
A noise like the end of the world brought Lianne out of her stewing in her own grief. The officer in the car next to her swore and swerved in the road. "Oh, not now..." he muttered, and started in on his radio.
"Wh, what's happening?" Lianne asked, but the officer ignored her. He was busy shouting frantic coordinates into his radio. Lianne craned her neck and looked out of the windshield...
Overhead, in the night sky, was a horrifying creature with enormous leathery wings, the head of a goat, the scales of a fish, the claws of a bear and a huge serpentine tail. Lianne bit her lower lip. Surely the Khazan Police were prepared for this sort of thing? She had never experienced it herself, but everyone in Uptown Khazan had a cousin or grandparent who had come this close to a brush with some kind of supernatural freak.
With a horrifying shriek, the demon belched another ball of fire at the police cruiser. This one hit more on the mark. The cruiser rolled into the plate window of a nearby shop, and the officer's voice fell silent in the terrible noise.
Lianne fought with the passenger-side doorhandle. She had a couple of shallow cuts on her forehead bleeding into her eyes, but she did not allow it to distract her. She managed to force the door open, and fortunately for her nothing obstructed her way out. She went into the shop and cowered in the corner. Hopefully the terrible beast thing would just leave her be and go about its business.
In her fright, Lianne wished so much that she wasn't alone. She clutched the cross around her neck again. These were trying days for her, each one seemingly worse than the last, but she could get through it, she knew... someone was looking out for her.
When she next chanced to look up, there she saw it; her hallucination. The great white tiger. He was approaching her from the center of the shop. She startled a moment, then forced herself to calm. "Y, you're not real..." she said to the tiger, "My accident just scrambled my brain."
The tiger simply moved up next to Lianne and snuggled up against her. Lianne was surprised, but soon gained her composure once again. 'What the hell,' she thought, 'if I'm going to be having these hallucinations they might as well be comforting.' Nestled in the warmth of her tiger companion she waited for the terrible sound of the destruction outside to stop.
But it did not stop; in fact it only intensified. Lianne heard the flap of leathery wings outside the shop. It had come straight for her.
The tiger gently nudged Lianne to her feet. She did not resist, though she was frightened. She moved to brush her hair out of her eyes and found that the cuts on her forehead had healed completely. More hallucination? She was starting to think so less and less. She didn't know what was happening, exactly, but she could hear the maiden's song again. It sounded less like crying this time. She simply followed what it sounded like the maiden's song wanted her to do.
She stood behind the tiger. The demonic being entered the store. The tiger pounced the moment the creature entered, and there was a furious tussle of claws against scales, demonic strength against the fury of nature, roars and screams and terrible sounds filling Lianne's world. She stood trembling on the spot.
The demon tossed the tiger aside, and the tiger was too terribly wounded to go on. Lianne could only stand and stare at the demon, rooted to the spot by fear. His claws, red with blood, reached achingly for Lianne's flesh. With each passing moment the maiden's song got louder and louder; it was no longer inside of her. Lianne was singing. Unknowing, simply trusting, Lianne raised her hands. There was a piercing whistle, and Lianne saw pearly white as holy light lanced forth from her body in a dome. Intensity upon intensity, wave upon wave, the foundation of the very universe seemed to unstitch itself around the demon, and he howled his last terrible howl as he disintegrated before Lianne's eyes.
Lying in a smoky crater, Lianne stared at the sky. Her body had nearly been undone by her own power, but already she could feel her wounds mending with supernatural quickness. The white tiger limped over to her and lie next to her, and the two rested. The maiden's song blazed strong in her ears. If another came for her, she would not be so hesitant to act next time. The maiden's song would guide her, and her tiger would be at her side.
Lianne opened her eyes and looked out over the ocean. Somewhere, beyond that horizon line, she had dived into the realm of the unknown, and in return the unknown had dived into her own realm. 'I should tell someone. Charlie, at least... he's starting to wonder why I keep blowing him off.' The tiger nuzzled Lianne's leg, and she scratched him behind the ears. He stood by her side like a low marble pillar, moving only just perceptively to breathe. 'No... if I just go on like nothing has happened then... next time I could be with him when I get attacked.'
Three months had passed since she had battled her first demon, and there had been more. They didn't leave her alone long... almost two hours after her first fight she had been attacked again, but this one the KPD had been able to take down. They had come locked and loaded after that mess. From then on it varied, but it was never more than a couple of weeks between attacks. Each demon had been unique, but each seemed less deadly than the one before. They had sent their most powerful agent first, of course, to try and destroy her quickly.
Lianne heard something... soft moaning. This was not carried to her on the wind, but from inside. She sighed. The tiger's hackles rose, and with suddenness it began to circle Lianne, waiting and watching. With each successive fight Lianne had learned to listen to the maiden's song almost perfectly. She could make the maiden's intentions out with fair accuracy now, and was even beginning to enjoy the tune, despite the fact that every appearance of those sorrowful chords meant impending attack.
Now it was stronger. It was coming for her here... she was glad she was alone. 'Just a nice, quiet, out-of-the way beach.' Her fists clenched and cold sweat accentuated the cool breeze across her body.
With the first fights her heart had raced, but now she simply listened. Within the maiden's song was an intricate language of its own, and though she could not yet understand every note she could read instruction in what she knew. Trusting the song, she moved to the right. Just as she lifted her foot a claw like that of an enormous lobster burst through the ground, sending a column of sand into the air. Lianne jogged backward and, hearing a change in the maiden's pitch, backed left as hellish missles of brimstone lanced right next to her. The tiger leapt atop the beast, raking it with powerful claws. The lobster demon hurled it into the shallows, and Lianne took her window to attack. Singing along with the song that welled up inside her, Lianne raised her hands.
White light, impossibly bright, burst from her body. The lobster demon howled, torn asunder by the waves of holy power. It disintegrated into ashes and blew away over the ocean. Lianne relaxed, breathing heavily. She surveyed the damage, the fear from the battle finally causing her knees to shake. She had left a small crater this time... gaining some control. 'So tired...' The maiden didn't stop singing... why not?
Another claw, this time from the ground right beneath Lianne. She cried out in pain as the pincer cracked her bones and rent her flesh. The salty air swallowed her cries, and they died into the roar of the tiger as it came racing forth from the shallows.
'M, more than one...' Oh why hadn't she listened? The pain was unbearable, and she felt that she may die at any moment, the sunset fading from her vision and coming back in slow waves.
The tiger bore full on into the second lobster creature, even as a third burst from the ground. The tiger tore the demon's claws open and Lianne fell out, rolling away as she felt her wounds mend. She kept rolling towards the shallows... 'This is really going to hurt...' The saltwater struck her closing wounds and she sobbed with the pain, standing in the shallows. Her soaked dress and hair clung to her body, and the ocean breeze slapped her now like a fist of needles.
The tiger wrestled with one demon, tearing out one eye with his mighty fangs. Lianne had no time to think as the other scuttled toward her. Lianne burst into song again, and this time she did not have quite so much control. As her pitch rose to strike a very high note, she felt the air itself ripple and the water around her legs evaporated. The demon made a terrible noise as reality unspooled around it, and then it was gone. Water rushed in to the hole that Lianne had created, and a wave knocked her onto her face. She rose to see that her tiger had finished off its prey, the fur around his claws stained red.
"O, oh hell... m, more than one. Those bastards..."
'But why should the odds be fair?' the analytical side of her said as the maiden's song died to quiet within her soul. Why indeed... The tiger walked up next to Lianne, again the strong pillar. Their wounds vanished as Lianne stared out to sea. 'No... can't tell Charlie.' Lianne scratched her companion behind the ears and laughed a little nervously.