The Slayer and the Sphinx: Chapter Twenty Seven

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28 of The Slayer and the Sphinx Sarah's still stressing out about Porter's trial. Maybe a night on the town can help her unwind.


Chapter Twenty Seven


(POV: Sarah)

"Sarah, are you there?"

The sphinx looked up, and saw Porter standing in the center of Jellaska Kob Lertan. The fountain was sprinkling water in the air behind him, and a small army of Mythics was surrounding him. And yet, he didn't seem to notice them because his eyes were locked with Sarah's.

"Am I going to die?" he asked, wide eyed and innocent as ever.

Sarah wanted to deny it, tell him not to worry because she would fix everything-- but when she tried, her throat closed tight and left her mute

The Mythics closed in on him, moving with dreamlike slowness. Sarah could see weapons in every one of their hands. Commander Azkular was leading the charge, as angry as ever.

I have to help him! she thought desperately. The moment she raised a paw, though, another paw, as big as a building, came out of the sky, pinning her to the ground.

"He's a Slayer," her father's deep voice came out of the sky, like a roll of thunder. "Just let him die."

"No!" Sarah screamed, fighting against her father's impossible strength. She couldn't move an inch, and when she tried Mr. Heisen only pressed down even harder. "He's not a Slayer, I promise! I have to help him!"

"I'm only doing this to protect you," her father insisted. The street underneath Sarah began to crack and buckle under the pressure. He was going to crush her!

"Sarah?" Porter called again. The Mythics had finally reached him. As one, they grabbed the young man and hoisted him into the air. For a moment, it looked almost comical, like they were carrying him on their shoulder like a hero. But the look on Azkular's face told Sarah what they reallythought of him.

"Don't let them kill me," he begged her.

"I'm sorry, Porter," she coughed, struggling to breathe underneath her father's paw. "I'm trying."

Suddenly, Tick was standing in front of Sarah, blocking her view of Porter's execution. He wore the same hate-filled expression as the other Mythics-- but his was directed at her.

"Traitor!" he yelled, spit flying out of his mouth and spattering on her face. "I thought you were our friend!"

"I am," she insisted. "I swear!"

Tick only shook his head in disgust and walked away. With him gone, Sarah had a clear view of Porter again-- though she wished she didn't. Unable to move underneath her father's weight, she could only watch as the Mythics carried him to the fountain. They stopped.

"I find you guilty of being a Slayer," Azkular declared, stepping up to face the young man. "And I sentence you to death."

"Sarah, help!" Porter pleaded.

The pavement groaned as it caved in a little more.

"He's- he's not a Slayer!" Sarah screamed as loudly as she could.

Azkular shook his head. "I don't care. Do it!"

He stepped out of the way, and the Mythics surged forward, throwing Porter into the fountain. He screamed as the small stone pool swallowed him, and he was lost to sight. Then his voice cut off, leaving the Sanctuary in absolute, deafening silence.

The fountain began to run red.

"No!" Sarah screamed, just as the road underneath her gave one final creak, and then collapsed underneath her. And then she was falling into darkness, all alone, without...

"Porter!" she exclaimed, and sat upright in her bed. In the other bed, Misoki jerked awake as well.

"Wha- what?" the werewolf asked, blinking lethargically.

Sarah took a few deep breaths, and finally realized she was in her room. The clock hanging on her wall said it was just past midnight.

"Sarah, what is it?" her father demanded as both her parents burst into her room. "What's wrong?"

Sarah didn't answer. Her heart was still beating too loudly in her chest for her to speak. After a few seconds, her mother sighed and shook her head.

"We told you, the Slayer can't hurt you here," she said. "You need to stop being afraid of him."

Immediately, Sarah's fear was replaced with mind numbing anger. Getting to her paws, she looked her mother directly in the eye and said, "Shut up!"

Mrs. Heisen took a step back in surprise.

"Sarah, what's gotten into you?" her father demanded.

"You never listen to me!" Sarah yelled, rounding on him. "You don't care what I think. You never have!"

"Calm down," Mr. Heisen ordered. "Now, tell us what's wrong."

Sarah turned to him and narrowed her eyes. "You know exactly what's going on, Dad. You put my best friend in prison, and now you want to kill him too!"

He shook his head. "I don't understand."

"No, of course you don't!" Tears were welling up in Sarah's eyes now, but she refused to let them out. "Why would you want to? That would mean you'd actually have to pay attention to me for once!"

Nobody said anything for a full minute. Finally, Sarah took a deep breath.

"Porter was a Slayer, that's true. But he's also the best friend I've ever had."

A startled gasp came from the other side of the room, and everyone turned to see Misoki staring at Sarah with a hurt look on her doglike face. Then, without a word, she got up and bolted from the room. Sarah let her go. After all the horrible things Misoki had said about Porter, she couldn't bring herself to care.

"Mom, Dad," she began again, "the night Porter attacked me, he got hit on the head. When he woke up, he couldn't remember anything. Ever since then, he's been protecting me. If it weren't for him, I'd be dead right now!"

Neither of her parents responded. They exchanged looks, hoping the other one would speak up first, but for once neither of them could think of anything to say.

"Sarah," her father finally said, "are you feeling all right?"

And with that, the dam holding back Sarah's emotions broke.

"I cannot believe you two!" she screamed at the top pf her lungs. She jumped down from her bed and made for the door.

"Sarah, wait!"

"I hate you!" she said, kicking the bedroom door shut with her back paw. Before either of them could come after her, she ran to the front door, which was still open from when Misoki had left, and escaped into the cool Jellaska Kob Lertan night.

She ran without thinking about where she was going, leaving her house far behind. When she finally came to a stop, she found herself in front of the fountain again. Even at this late hour, it hadn't ceased to spray water into the air. Water, she reassured herself, not blood.

The artificial sun had been replaced with a small moon that cast pale light across the city, but Jellaska Kob Lertan was far from asleep. For the first time, Sarah noticed that the streets were still crowded with all manner of nocturnal Mythics. Vampires, bogarts, and even a few zombies were out going about their business, hardly giving her a second glance. Sarah wasn't interested in Jellaska Kob Lertan's nightlife, though. Porter was going on trial in a few short hours, and if she didn't do something he was going to be killed!

If I can find out where the dungeons are, she thought, stepping up to look at her reflection in the fountain's pool, maybe I could break him out.

The idea was a wild one, and even if she succeeded it would make her just as much an outlaw as Porter. Even more so, she realized, a pit forming in her stomach. It was one thing for a human to kill Mythics. For another Mythic to aid that human... such a terrible sin would be unforgivable.

So, what? You just leave him in there and let him die?

Sarah groaned. There just wasn't a good way out of this situation, was there? And when it came down to it, it was all her fault. She had been the one who insisted they go to Jellaska Kob Lertan. She had been the one who refused to leave Porter behind, knowing full well what would happen if anyone found out his secret.

Maybe I should have just told him the truth, she thought, staring into her reflection's eyes. Then he could have--

Another face appeared in the water beside Sarah's, and a hand touched her back. Caught off guard, the sphinx spun around with a shriek, almost knocking the interloper over in the process.

"Easy, easy!" Joseph exclaimed, taking a couple of steps back and raising his hands. "It's just me. Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you."

It took Sarah a few seconds to remember who the satyr was, but when she did her face turned red again.

"Hey," she said, sitting down in the street. "I guess I owe you an apology for not showing up earlier, huh?"

Joseph scoffed and waved his hand. "Don't worry about it. You were talking to Commander Azkular. It's not like you could break that off just for a date with me, right?"

Date?

"So, what are you doing out this late?" he asked.

"Nothing," Sarah lied, looking down at the pavement. "I just decided to take a walk."

"Looked more like a run to me."

Sarah looked up at him. "You've been watching me?"

"Oh, shoot," Joseph raised his hands again. "No! Nothing like that. I just looked out my window and saw you go running down the street like somebody was chasing you, so I thought I should come check and see if anything was wrong."

"Oh," Sarah replied, and sighed. "Don't worry about it, it's nothing you can help me with."

For the first time, Sarah saw Joseph's cheery smile falter. For a minute, neither of them spoke. Then, just when Sarah was going to say she needed to get home, he spoke up again.

"Maybe I can't help fix your problem," he said, shrugging, "but I bet I can still make you feel better."

Sarah cocked her head. "What do you mean?"

Joseph smiled again. "You're part cat, right? I bet that means you like sushi."

Sarah frowned and shook her head. "Thanks for the offer, but I don't feel like I could eat anything right now."

"Aw, come on!" he urged her. He turned and pointed down the street. "I know a great place just around the corner."

"I really can't," she insisted. "I have to..."

You have to what? Plot how to break Porter out of prison before the sun comes up? Just admit it, there's nothing you can do for him right now.

The other option is to go home to your parents...

"Yeah," she agreed, her mind suddenly made up. "All right, let's go."

Joseph grinned like she had just told him Christmas was coming early. "Great! Trust me, you'll love it."

The satyr turned and led her down the street, his hooves clopping noisily on the pavement. Despite her best efforts, Sarah could feel his cheerfulness begin to infect her as well. Joseph slowed down a little so that they were walking side by side, and deftly reached down to put a hand on her back.

Sarah jumped a little, and Joseph jerked his hand back like she'd just bitten him.

"Sorry," he said, his own face turning a shade pinker.

If his face was pink, then Sarah's was as red as a Valentine's Day card...

"Here we are!" he declared, already smiling again. He waved his arms dramatically in front of a tiny restaurant. The Calamari Castle glowed above their heads in blinking neon letters.

"It looks like a hole in the wall," Sarah said, giving the building a once over. A rusty, dented door that looked like a staff entrance and vines creeping up brick walls that were probably older than she was didn't exactly give her high hopes for the Castle's food.

"The best places are," Joseph said, and then shrugged. "But yeah, it looks pretty crappy."

Sarah wasn't sure she believed him-- until the most enticing scent she'd ever smelled wafted out of an open window and into her nose. Suddenly, her stomach growled, and she wanted some sushi very badly.

"After you, m'lady," Joseph said, opening the door for her with a flourish.

"Why thank you, sir!" Sarah bobbed her head in the closest imitation to a curtsy she could manage and went inside.

Following her in, Joseph clapped his hands. "Waiter, your finest table, please!"

A gruff laugh came from the kitchen, and a fat, apron-wearing cyclops waddled out to meet them. Placing his fists on his flabby hips, he glared at the satyr with his single eye.

"Well, well," he said, "if it ain't Joe Turnball! I thought I ran you outta here last month!"

Joseph grinned boyishly at the massive man. "Oh, but Labro, you know I just can't stay away from this place."

"Hmph," the cyclops grunted. "Bet you still don't got no money."

Joseph shrugged and pulled his pockets inside out.

"Get lost, you freeloading goat!" Labro growled, turning to head back into the kitchen.

"That is no way to treat a lady!" Joseph called after him.

Labro stopped halfway through the door and turned to look at him with his eyebrow raised.

"Did you just say you was a..."

"No, you dummy!" Joseph pointed towards Sarah, who had been watching the argument from a few feet away. Now that the attention had been turned on her, she suddenly wanted to slink into the corner and hide. Joseph drew himself up proudly. "I brought this lovely young sphinx here to partake of the finest cuisine this city has to offer. But if you're going to be that way, then fine! I'll just take her somewhere else."

Labro looked at Sarah for a few seconds, and then his eye widened. "Is that the sphinx everyone's talking about?" he asked.

"It certainly is, my one eyed friend," Joseph bragged. It was weird, Sarah thought, how much he sounded like Mogul when he did that. "The very same one who travelled for weeks to get here while being held captive by a Slayer. Now be reasonable! Don't you think that deserves a few pieces of your best fish?"

Labro scratched his belly, and then broke out laughing. "Oh, fine! Looks like you got another free meal outta me." Still chuckling, he turned and made his way back into the kitchen. "Seat yourselves. I'll be back in a minute with some drinks."

When they were alone, Sarah said, "You're the second person today to use me to get free food."

"I didn't mean to!" Joseph said, leading the way to a table. "I mean, yeah, I knew I couldn't pay for anything, but that's not why I brought you. I really do think Labro's sushi'll help you feel better."

"Mhmm," Sarah hummed, looking down at the menu. She tried to sound offended, but in truth the lighthearted satyr's antics were helping more than he knew. "So, your last name's Turnball huh?"

Joseph groaned. "Yep, I was born with it. Not my proudest moment, that."

Sarah snorted with laughter. A few minutes later, Labro delivered their food and loudly announced how honored he was that Sarah would choose his humble establishment. She was convinced he was about to bow to her, and was relieved when he didn't. His copious rolls of fat didn't look like they could make such an elaborate pose.

Joseph proved to be much better company, and the two of them spent the next hour making small talk as they ate. It only took one bite to convince the sphinx that Joseph had been telling the truth-- Labro's sushi was delicious! Joseph explained that he had lived most of his life in the wild, as he liked to put it. It wasn't until a few years ago that he'd been offered a place in the City Under the Hill. Nowadays, he lived by himself and paid rent by bussing tables.

"Sometimes," he said after popping a California roll into his mouth, "my friends and I will play at one of the clubs."

"You're in a band?" Sarah asked.

Joseph grinned. "Yeah. We're called Myth Into Legend. You should come by and listen sometime."

Sarah smiled back at him. "Yeah, I'd like that."

Soon, the conversation moved on to Jellaska Kob Lertan itself.

"If you're into people watching, you'll love it here." Joseph casually motioned towards the other Mythics in the restaurant with them. "Humans, they only get to see one type of person. Two arms, two legs, one head... But here, you can sit on a bench all day and never see the same thing twice."

Joseph did most of the talking, and Sarah was absolutely fine with that. After all the attention she'd been getting, it was nice to let somebody else have the spotlight-- even if all the Mythics in the restaurant were looking at her instead of Joseph.

Finally, after finishing the last piece of sushi, they got up and left, escorted out by Labro's unending gratitude and invitations to come again. They didn't pay a cent.

"I still feel kinda bad that we didn't give him anything," Sarah said once they were standing on the curb again. "Couldn't you have spared a few dollars?"

"Hey, I wasn't lying when I said I was broke," Joseph retorted, leading the way down the street. He grinned. "Besides, I love conning that old man. I guess you could say that's a hobby of mine too."

Sarah chuckled and followed him. She wasn't sure where they were going, but she liked hanging out with Joseph. With everything that had happened since she'd arrived, it was nice to be with somebody who could get her to relax. Misoki had tried, but her idea of unwinding was to cause as much mischief as possible. Joseph was... different. He could be funny without embarrassing Sarah, and that was something she felt she desperately needed.

Sarah hadn't forgotten about Porter, but right then she was happy to let Joseph distract her. After all, there wasn't anything she could do to help him right then...

A few minutes later, Sarah realized that Joseph was leading her toward the outskirts of Jellaska Kob Lertan, where the mountain shell rose up in a massive, impenetrable wall.

"Where are we going?" she asked.

"There." Joseph pointed toward a tunnel carved into the rock. "Trust me, you'll love it."

Sarah's heart fluttered as they came to the shadowy hole, and for a second she hesitated. Then Joseph put his hand on her back again, right between her wings, and she let him guide her inside.

"Watch your step," he told her. "The floor starts going up in a few--"

"Whoops!" Sarah yelped, her paw catching on the incline and almost sending her falling flat on her face. Before she could hit the ground, though, Joseph's strong hand shot out and caught her.

"What'd I tell you?" he asked with a chuckle, helping her up.

Sarah blushed for what must have been the hundredth time that night. "Thanks."

"Come on," he beckoned her forward. "It's just a little bit further."

A minute later, the ground evened out again, and Sarah could see the silver light of the artificial moon shining through the exit. Stepping out of the tunnel, Sarah found herself looking down at Jellaska Kob Lertan from hundreds of feet in the air. Joseph had taken her to a ledge almost halfway up the mountain wall. The city was spread out before her like a web, and for the first time Sarah realized just how big the Sanctuary was. From this high up, even the Judgement Hall was far below them.

"Wow," she couldn't stop herself from saying. She could see everything from up here, even... yes, she could even see the roof of her house!

I wonder if my parents are still there? she wondered. Had they gone out looking for her, or were they just waiting for her to come back? Either way, she didn't feel like seeing them again just yet.

"This is the Overlook," Joseph explained, sitting down and letting his hooves dangle over the ledge. "I think they made it for security reasons, so they could keep a bird's eye view on the city. But since there's hardly any crime, it's been open to the public since before I moved here."

"What a great view," Sarah said, lying down on her belly beside him. She looked up, and saw how close they were to the moon-- so close it looked almost twice as big as it did from the ground.

"I come up here whenever I need to think," the satyr went on. "Not many Mythics want to make the climb, so it's a good place to be alone."

I'm... I'm all alone with Joseph, Sarah realized with a jolt.

Eating at a restaurant with him was one thing. Going to a private place with him-- a private place at night-- was another thing entirely.

He's a nice guy, she told herself, giving him a wary glance. Luckily, Joseph was too busy taking in the view to notice. He's not going to try anything... bad.

Before she could avert her eyes, Joseph turned and caught her looking at him. Sarah looked back down at the city, blushing yet again.

"I... I actually brought you here for a reason," the satyr said, scratching the back of his neck. Sarah looked back up at him. Suddenly, he seemed as nervous as she did.

"What's that?" she asked, cautiously.

"I wanted to ask you something," he kicked his hooves a little, sending a small shower of pebbles tumbling down into the city. "I mean, I still do, but..."

Sarah's heart began to beat faster, and she got the distinct feeling she knew exactly what Joseph wanted to ask her.

Sure enough, the satyr gently put a hand on her paw, looked her straight in the eye, and asked, "Do you want to be my girlfriend?"

If Sarah thought knowing what he was going to ask was the same as being prepared for it, she was dead wrong. When the words came out of Joseph's mouth, her breath caught in her throat and her next breath came out as in a high pitched, and very embarrassing, wheeze.

Joseph leaned forward with a concerned expression. "Are you okay? I'm sorry, I didn't mean to offend you or anything!"

"Y- you didn't!" Sarah sputtered. Suddenly, taking a running leap off the Overlook didn't seem like such a bad idea. "I just, you... you surprised me is all."

Joseph relaxed a little. "So, there's not somebody else?"

Innocent, courageous, and strong.

"No," she shook her head. "There's not, but... I don't know. I just met you this morning. Do we even know each other?"

"I feel like I've known you for years," Joseph said. "You're really easy to talk to."

Sarah slowly looked from her paws to the handsome satyr sitting beside her. "Really? You actually like me for, you know, me?"

Joseph actually laughed at this. "Of course I do! What kind of a question is that?"

Sarah tried to give him an apathetic shrug, but her insides were still roiling with emotions. "I don't know, it's just that most of the Mythics here just care about me because I'm famous or something."

Joseph shrugged too. "I'm not like that. I think you're nice, smart, funny, and fun to be around." He paused and grinned at her. "Plus, you're pretty easy on the eyes, too."

Sarah began to shake. She couldn't help it. What was wrong with her? Joseph had just given her more compliments in two sentences than anyone else had given her in her whole life. What did she have to lose in saying yes? It wasn't like he was asking her to marry him or anything.

I wonder what Porter would think of him?

With that thought, all the tension was suddenly gone. Taking a deep breath, she finally looked back at the satyr.

"I'm sorry, Joseph," she said, "but I don't feel like right now is the best time for me to think about things like that. With everything that's going on with Porter, I just... I can't."

Joseph held up his hand. "Say no more, I completely understand." Looking up at the moon, he put his hands on the ground and leaned back on them. "This can't be easy for you. You've been through more than I ever have. The fact that you're still alive and kicking just tells me how strong you are."

Does... does he mean that, or is he still just hitting on me?

"Don't worry, though, because Arch-Mythic Rayalga is going to get here later this morning, and the Slayer's trial is going to be held as soon as he arrives."

The trial that's going to decide whether Porter lives or dies,Sarah thought with a shudder.

Joseph reached out and put his hand on Sarah's paw again. "I know it's going to be hard," he said, "but I'll be there for you. If you ask, I won't leave your side until the Slayer's been put to death."

Sarah blinked. If asking her to be his girlfriend had surprised, her that statement, that bold, blunt statement, had just given her a heart attack. Without a word, she pulled her paw out from underneath Joseph's hand and stood up.

She didn't need to consider it anymore. Joseph had made up her mind for her.

"Sarah, wait," he called, scrambling to get up. "What's wrong?"

At the mouth of the tunnel, Sarah turned and gave him a cold glare.

"Sorry for leading you on," she said, "but you were right. There is someone else."

And with that, she left the stunned, hurt satyr behind.

(POV: Mortoph)

It will be a fine day for a hunt, thought Drake Mortoph.

He stood in the shadows of the forest, the moon nearly blotted out by the trees. In the darkness, his heavy black coat made him almost invisible. The same could be said for the rest of the Slayers making camp behind him. More than five thousand of them, all ready to spill the blood of monsters. Whetstones sharpened blades, bowstrings were plucked, and spells were tested as they prepared for the battle they all knew was coming.

Though he was completely relaxed, Mortoph could still feel the tension and anxiety of his followers. It wafted through the air, not quite fear but still distinctly noticeable. This concerned him somewhat, but he was comforted by the excitement he felt as well. Yes, they were nervous about the fight, but they were also looking forward to it. The massacre at the Historians' Tower had been glorious, and would be forever remembered as one of Drake Mortoph's greatest accomplishments. Still, it was a small thing compared to this. When they received the signal, the Slayers would deliver such a great blow to the monsters that it would never be forgotten.

And then the monsters would fear him too, just as they should.

The sound of footsteps came from behind him, and Mortoph turned to see Ozzie standing there. The young man managed to meet Mortoph's eyes for a few seconds, and then he looked down at the ground again, just like he always did. Just like they all did.

"Do you think Porter is alive in there?" he asked, sheepishly.

Mortoph crossed his arms behind his back and looked out into the woods again. From here, he could just see the mountain in between the trees. It was a good place. Far enough away to avoid easy detection, but still close enough to launch the attack when the time came.

"It's impossible to say with complete certainty," he finally answered. Ozzie came to stand beside him, and Mortoph put his hand on the boy's shoulder, like a father. Ozzie shivered. "But you and I both know what Porter is like."

Ozzie nodded slowly. "He won't go down without a fight."

"Indeed he won't," Mortoph agreed. "I think that if there's even the slightest chance that Porter could be alive, he most likely is."

Ozzie didn't reply to this. He and Mortoph stood side by side for another minute, looking at their target. A cool breeze blew through the forest, making the leaves and branches rustle.

"Is this war ever going to end, sir?" Ozzie asked.

Mortoph looked down at the young Slayer, and a smile actually rose to his face.

"I often ask myself the same question, Oswald," he answered. "Sometimes it seems as though the monsters have spread themselves so far and wide that it doesn't matter how many we kill because there will always be more."

He shrugged his shoulders, drawing his coat a little tighter around himself. "Do you know what I tell myself?" Without waiting for a reply, "I tell myself that it doesn't matter if I'm the one who ends the war, or my son, or my grandson, so long as when the war finally ends, the Slayers are the ones who end it."

"But what if that day never comes?"

"It will," Mortoph insisted, and fixed the mountain with a glare that would have made the ocean freeze over. Looking at him, Ozzie almost believed that the mountain was going to topple over from the Master Slayer's sheer force of will. Mortoph drew a deep breath and said it again, "It will."

Another noise reached Mortoph's ears, and he turned to see the leaves on a nearby bush twitch.

"Ozzie," he said suddenly, "go sharpen your knife."

"I already sharpened it."

"Then go find something to stab with it. I don't care, just go!"

Surprised by his Master's sudden change of mood, Ozzie hurried to do as he commanded. As soon as the young Asian man was gone, Mortoph's expression darkened and he walked out into the forest, to where the bush waited for him.

"I told you not to come this close to camp!" he snapped.

The bush shifted again, and a pair of bright yellow eyes blinked out at him from inside the branches.

"Hi, Daddy!" it exclaimed.

"Shut up!" Mortoph hissed, and turned to look back at the encampment. Luckily, nobody had followed him. "Make your report and get out of here."

Unfazed, the cheerful voice began rattling off details. "The sphinx and the Slayer showed up a couple of days ago. The Slayer's in prison, and they're going to have his trial later today."

Mortoph hummed thoughtfully in his throat. "A trial, of course. Rayalga is too formal for his own good. Better for him to just kill Porter and be done with it."

"The sphinx keeps telling everyone he's innocent," the voice added.

Mortoph looked down at the bush in surprise. "Why would it do that? It has Porter exactly where it wants him."

The bush rustled again, as if whatever was inside it were shrugging. "Maybe they're actually friends."

Mortoph lowered his eyebrows sternly at the bush.

"Sorry, Daddy," the voice said, though it didn't sound particularly bothered.

"Get back in there," he said, pointing towards the mountain, "and wait for our signal."

"I want to help!" the voice protested. "What can I do?"

"You can do what I tell you!" Mortoph snapped. The bush was quiet for a few seconds, but then it shifted again.

"Okay, Daddy," the thing inside it finally consented. For the first time, it sounded genuinely hurt by Mortoph's dismissal. Mortoph didn't care.

"Wait," he said, suddenly.

"Yeah?" the voice exclaimed, eagerly.

"When you're finished here, you know what to do."

"Yes, Daddy. Go right back home."

Mortoph pointed at the bush. "If you run away again, your punishment will be even worse. Do you understand me?"

"Yes, Daddy."

"Good. Now go."

"Yes, Daddy," the voice said for the third time. "I love you, Daddy!"

Mortoph glowered at the shrub. "Go!"

He turned to go back to camp, and behind him he heard the monster in the bush dash back into the night, hopefully unseen.

If anybody had seen it, Mortoph would have to kill them.

NEXT TIME: Ooh, BURN! Joseph just got RE-JEC-TED! Sarah had better get some sleep while she can, because tomorrow's the big day. Can she convince everyone that Porter's not a Slayer, and save his life?