Terror of the Soulless One
Chapter 6. The Horrors of Youth
Etta Candy put down her pencil and buried her head in her hands.
"You still have five minutes Etta." Lady Cynthia said looking up from her desk.
"Five minutes or five years." Etta moaned. "I never got word problems right the first time I went through school and they haven't changed much since."
"Try." Lady Cynthia said. "Miss Syn demands that every test be done, wrong or right, and she'll withhold food if she suspects you are not trying."
Etta sighed and picked up her pencil again.
The school was in the bottom floor of the decaying mansion. It was a classroom, built large enough to hold 30 students. In the back was a cloakroom, on one side a long wall with a large black board and maps. The maps dated from the late 1860's. On the other side there was a large window that looked out on a small playground. In front of the rows of desks Lady Cynthia sat in front of another black board. She was dressed in a simple green robe, all that Miss Syn would let her wear. Diana had been surprised at that, even for the sadistic Asian it had seemed silly. But over the past week she had realized that it was another part of the experiment. Lady Cynthia had recently given birth, her breast were larger than they had been before. Every so often she would bend down, or move the wrong way and parts of the breasts, even the nipples, were exposed. Diana had noticed that both Steve's and Helmut's eyes were drawn to Lady Cynthia at those times. Miss Syn had noticed too. Sometimes she would sit beside Lady Cynthia and silently watch them all. Not taking notes, not moving but sitting as silent and as still as a statue. Steve and Helmut had been regressed to age 12, or at least Miss Syn had told them it was age 12. Steve and Helmut however seemed convinced they were older. They wouldn't tell Diana why. In fact a code of silence seemed to have formed between the two boys and the two girls. Etta didn't seem to mind the silence. Diana did.
Diana sighed in frustration. It wasn't the test, for her the questions had only taken 4 minutes. It was the past month. With Etta regressed in age to take the place of her sister and Lady Cynthia set up as guardian the cage that held them seemed perfect. Lady Cynthia had made a deal with Miss Syn. To save her children from any experimentation she had agreed to serve as parent and jailer for the age regressed grown-ups. Fearful of what might happen to her babies Lady Cynthia had followed Miss Syn's instructions to the letter. What made it worse was the fact that Lady Cynthia seemed to blame Diana for her situation. If the amazon had not been regressed they would all have been away from the island by now. Lady Cynthia had not said it in so many words, but Diana could tell. She knew the Englishwoman woman was right, taking a bath with Miss Syn had been foolish, but her reason for doing so had seemed right to Diana both when she had made them and now while she was suffering the consequences.
Each day they woke up. Measurements were taken height, weight, pulse and blood pressure. After that they had a half-hour run to a to a small pond and they had to swim in the pond for as long as they could. Here Diana experienced her first, but by no means her last, frustration of the day. Steve and Helmut were given black knee length shorts to swim in. Diana and Etta were given heavy wool short dresses. The dresses had a pair of knee length pants under the skirt, sleeves that reached to their elbows and square collars. They were made of wool and gained as much as five pounds in the water. The suits made Diana and Etta into shapeless sticks.
Diana, who had always been a star athlete, found herself faltering a good ten to fifteen minutes before Helmut and Steve. While the boys played and swam Etta and Diana had to sit on the sand and wait. Then they all had to run back to the mansion. The suits were hot and itchy and small insects loved them. Lady Cynthia had sympathized, but she told them it was one of Miss Syn's rules.
After getting back to the house and changing they ate breakfast. Then they went to school. Each day was a new test in a new subject and a new book to study. The subjects ran from archeology, history, politics, sex and astronomy. If there was a pattern to the subjects none of them could spot it. Again, to her infuriation, Diana found herself not the best at all of the subjects. Etta was better than she was in English, Steve could beat her at logic and Helmut had an amazing knowledge of world history
While they worked at the school Lady Cynthia sat at the big teachers desk and took care of her babies. The schoolroom was stifling in the tropical heat and many times Diana longed for nothing more than a walk outside. She and Etta were both stuck wearing long sleeve blouses and long skirts while Helmut and Steve had to wear jeans and white shirts. Diana quickly came to dread laundry day. All of the clothes including the babies' diapers had to be hand washed in a small room in the basement of the mansion. There was running water from a hand pump, but they had to use a washboard and heat the water on a small stove.
Her annoyance increased as she realized that Steve and Helmut were quick to vanish or find other work to do when laundry had to be done. Lady Cynthia seemed to be willing to overlook this as did Etta, but after the third time the boys had escaped the duty Diana was seething. Five loads of laundry were done in one day and only when they were done did Helmut and Steve appear. But by the time the boys turned up she was too tired to be mad.
The schooling took all morning they then ate lunch. After that was an hour of physical training.
Lifting weights, doing calisthenics and running. They ran around a small track and the running quickly turned into a daily race. After each session Lady Cynthia took more measurements and sometimes blood samples. After the first week Diana found herself loosing as the boys got used to their younger bodies. She knew that part of the problem was the clothes she and Etta had to wear. They were the same suits they had to swim in. Still it galled Diana. Each day she strove with every ounce of energy she had in her body and still lost. Helmut had taken to taunting her with each loss and Diana could see in those taunts the arrogant man he was. Or would become. Diana wondered if it was like this for him as he grew up the first time. Could the SS officer in his future have been avoided if someone had simply knocked some humility into him? After her 20th loss in a row Diana wanted badly to test that theory.
Then for the rest of the afternoons a room in the house had to be cleaned or repaired. Here too Diana was confronted with frustrations. Steve and Helmut seemed to take it for granted that she and Etta would clean while they sawed wood, hammered nails or did anything heavy. It took arguments to persuade them to let her do anything they considered "mans" work. What made it worse was that Steve often sided with Helmut in those arguments. The deference he had always paid to Diana's opinions wasn't there anymore. How much was due to the drug, how much was due to the age regression and how much was due to Steve's own personality Diana didn't know. What she did know was that it was driving her crazy.
At least with Etta Diana felt comfortable. But even there it was different.
Etta did not have the same admiration of the child Wonder Woman as she did
the adult Wonder Woman. None of them did and Diana could hear a lack of respect
in the way they now said her name. Diana knew that to call a 12 year old
"Wonder Woman" was silly on it's face, but aside from her loss of age and
powers Diana didn't feel any different and she often felt snubbed by the
others. She could not understand why they didn't listen to her, and began
to fear that the only reason they had ever wanted her around was because
of her powers.
Her frustration boiled over at the end of the third week. It was just past one in the afternoon. The air had been stifling all day and Diana had not been able to do more than one lap before she had to lay down. She peeled the top of her suit away from her chest and tried to cool her body down. Beside her Etta did the same. Helmut and Steve did three laps and then came over and sat down beside Diana and Etta.
"Another early day." Helmut said smiling as he and Steve sat down. "I trust you ladies did not get too tired."
"Try running with ten extra pounds on you." Diana said. "Then see how chipper you are."
"I wish we didn't have to go back to the library after this." Etta said.
The Library was a grand room, or once had been. It was on the East side of the mansion and got all the sun in the morning, much of it through broken windows. Never had Diana seen more mold in her life than when they started to go through the books. The Library was a semicircle with shelves lining the walls and free standing bookcases in the center of the room. The free standing shelves had been knocked down and had to be emptied before they could be righted. The one treasure they had found in the library was a map of the island. Old and nearly un-readable it did show several buildings scattered on the south side of the island. Diana desperately wanted to find those buildings. The map seemed to date from the same era as the house. Vital clues to Miss Syn's history might be found there. But there was not enough free time left to them to get to the south side of the island and back.
"Don't worry Etta." Steve said "Helmut and I will do the heavy lifting."
"You will not do it alone." Diana said sitting up.
"Are you sure you want to try and lift those book cases?" Helmut asked. "They are not light and you have had a long day."
"I am not that tired." Diana said though she was lying and she knew it.
"I'm just saying that you could barely make one lap today." Helmut said. "You should leave the heavy lifting to Steve and I. We have more endurance."
"You and Steve aren't carrying ten extra pounds." Diana said fingering her suit.
"Ah of course." Helmut said.
Diana sprang to her feet at the tone in his voice.
"I am not going to be patronized any longer!" Diana shouted. "Do you think you're so much better than I am Helmut?" she started to pull off the wool suit. "I am going to start running laps and I'll bet you anything that I can run more laps than you."
"Are you going to run naked?" Helmut asked. Amusement, shock and interest were competing on his face.
"Wonder Woman no!" Etta said jumping up. She stopped Diana just before the suit dropped to the ground.
"Etta until I left my home for this world I was the best athlete anyone had ever seen on Paradise Island!" Diana swore. "I may not have my amazon powers but I am still better than any man!"
With Etta struggling against her Diana tried again to throw the suit to the ground. Diana didn't see what difference a shirt made she was only just beginning to developed a bust. But it wasn't the shirt she wanted the whole detested outfit off of her.
"We can test that." Helmut said standing up. His confidence fueled Diana's rage. "But running naked..."
"The first Olympic Athletes competed nude." Diana said.
"The men did." Helmut said. Steve stood by silently and stared at Diana. "But the women were not even allowed near the field. Those who did faced the death penalty."
"The men were probably to scared of the competition!" Diana said. Briefly she got the top of the suit off of her only to have Etta thrust it back on. The two of them continued to struggle. "I can barely breath in this thing."
"Steve give her your shirt." Etta said giving up the struggle. "It will cover her."
"Are you sure you want to do this?" Steve asked pulling his shirt off.
For an answer Diana let her wool suit fall to the ground. Steve and Helmut looked away, or tried to as she shed the short pants as well and put on Steve's shirt. Neither of them could hardly stop staring at her. Diana didn't care, at least they were paying attention to her. The shirt did cover most of her so long as she didn't bend down. And it was light even if it was a little damp with Steve's sweat.
"Now let's find out who can last longer." Diana said pulling off her heavy shoes and socks. Without waiting for any sort of starting signal she got up and started to run.
The anger that led Diana onto the track lasted two laps. After that it was only the amazon's grim determination and stubbornness that kept her going. The pain started before the third lap but Diana would not stop. After 8 laps Helmut dropped out and sat on the grass as Etta let him drink slow sips from a canteen. Steve followed every step Diana took.
Diana kept going. Her legs started to burn and her eyes stung from the beads of sweat running down her face, but she kept going. Sharp pain stabbed into her sides. But for the first time in weeks Diana felt like her old self. She knew it was pride that was pulling her along. Diana knew and she didn't care. It was the same pride that had pushed her to become the greatest warrior of Paradise Island. The feeling that Diana had always had that the daughter of Hypolita could never be second best in anything. That someone gifted with life by the gods from base clay could never give into pain or fear. She had to keep going simply because she had to keep going. Anything else was unthinkable. She would indeed have run naked if that had been what it would have taken to outlast Helmut.
Diana felt the thrill in her body as it reached beyond the pain level and started to go numb. Her feet burned as they hit the ground but to her it was a pure clear feeling of victory. It was a euphoria that was as dangerous as it was enthralling. It was a feeling of joy that carried her into darkness sometime around the 12th lap.
The pain was waiting for her when Diana woke up. It wrapped around her body and both called and repelled her. Diana opened her eyes. She was in the room she and Etta shared. Etta was sitting by the bed watching her.
"Hi." She said.
"How long was I out?" Diana asked.
"Well it's about 2 a.m." Etta said. "At least you got us out of the library work for an afternoon."
"At least that." Diana said sitting up. She was dressed in one of the nightgowns they wore. Her muscles protested but at least there no was dizziness. Etta handed her a glass of water.
"Wonder Woman what were you doing out there?"
"I won't be patronized." Diana said.
"They're boys!" Etta said exasperated. "It may be adult minds but those are still boys, you've seen the way they act, don't you know boys?"
"Etta I'm an amazon." Diana said between sips. The water was cool and felt wonderful as it rushed down her throat. "I don't know men let alone boys. But I know when I'm being ignored and condescended too, and I won't have it. Not from Ste..." she stopped and corrected herself. "Not from anyone."
"Is that what's been bothering you for the past few weeks?" Etta demanded. "That Steve's not paying attention to you? Wonder Woman he's a grown man that just got shot and shoved into a little boys body. He's hitting puberty again, and as hard as it is for us it's just as hard on boys."
"Hard on us?" Diana asked puzzled.
"Yea, I mean I'm not looking forward to... Don't you..." Etta stopped and looked at her in amazement. "You don't have a period do you?"
"No." Diana said. "That was one of the gifts from the gods when the amazons chose to forsake the world of men."
"Wow." Etta leaned back in her chair. For a moment they were both silent.
"Amazons are immortal." Diana said. "We never saw the need for men, my sisters, most of them, detested the very thought of men. The menstrual period was just a reminder of that."
"That... that explains a lot." Etta said. "But you're not on that island right now, you're on this one. And you may be Wonder Woman, but you're not...." she gestured at Diana "Wonder Woman! You can't lift up cars or jump 20 feet. And you can't compete with Steve and Helmut physically."
"I could if it weren't for that suit!" Wonder Woman swore. "Etta when I came this world I thought a bra was the worst thing I'd ever have to wear, that thing chokes me! I'd rather be in chains!"
"Well you can't run around naked!" Etta exclaimed. "It was bad enough today, didn't you realize that while you were running Steve's shirt hiked up past your waist?"
Stunned Diana shook her head.
"And it got wet enough to turn darn near invisible. Steve noticed, so did Helmut. Right now they are probably having a harder night than we are. They've probably been having hard nights since this thing started, especially with what Lady Cynthia has to wear."
"Etta..." Diana began.
"No, look Wonder Woman, we are little girls. Steve and Helmut are little boys. You have to start from there, if you don't nothing will work."
Diana finished the water and handed Etta the glass. She thought back on the past weeks and tried to make sense of it all, but all she saw was a bossy girl who had to have everything done her own way.
"You didn't really like having to saw all that wood?" Diana asked.
"I like cleaning." Etta said. "I've never been good with tools."
"But that's because you've been taught that way your whole life." Diana protested.
"No." Etta corrected her. "It's because I like to cook and I don't mind cleaning. I don't like feeling like my arm is going to fall off at the end of the day. I don't like breathing in sawdust. Large hairy spiders scare me. I hate wrestling with rusty nails."
"I don't." Etta said firmly. "And I know that Steve and Helmut are faster than I am, and a little stronger too. It's not the end of the world for me. I'm as good as I can be. Me. Etta Candy."
The door opened before Diana could respond and they both fell silent as Miss Syn and Lady Cynthia entered the room.
"Both of you leave." Miss Syn said pleasantly. It was still an order and Etta left with Lady Cynthia.
"You are very competitive." Miss Syn said after they left. Diana said nothing and Miss Syn sat down in Etta's chair. "I wondered how long it would be before the German's natural arrogance would exasperate you."
"I like competing when the rules are fair." Diana said.
Suddenly Miss Syn leaped onto the bed. Before Diana could react the woman had her helpless with her knees pinning Diana's shoulders to the mattress and her arms trapped beneath Miss Syn's legs.
"Fair is a silly word." Miss Syn said. "When you were powerful I could not do this."
"Let me go!" Diana growled doing her best to throw Miss Syn off. For an answer Miss Syn slapped her across the face.
"Do something about that." Miss Syn said smiling.
Diana tried to throw her off again and failed. Again Miss Syn slapped her. Then she laughed and got off of the bed.
Angered beyond reason or restraint Diana erupted from the bed and charged the woman. She missed most of Miss Syn but got enough of her to bring the woman to the floor. For a time they wrestled and Diana got Miss Syn into a few holds that were very painful. Each time though the older woman was able to power or squirm out of the holds. Finally she rolled away from Wonder Woman and stood up, this time ready when Diana charged.
The fight for the next half an hour was a fight not only of woman against girl, Miss Syn against Diana, evil against good, it was a fight between the ways of fighting. Miss Syn relied on the smooth flowing ballet of the ancient monks of the Orient, Diana on the twist and turns of the wrestlers of ancient Greece, refined by the amazons over thousands of years. Even if Diana had been fully-grown it would have been a hard battle. As young as her body was it was no contest. Miss Syn danced out of the way time and again, and each time she did the evil woman landed another telling blow on the young girl.
The anger and pride that had carried Diana through the race with Helmut were exhausted by the time the fight was halfway over. Miss Syn laughed as she landed blow after blow against her. Then she stunned Diana with a blow to the neck and while Diana staggered around the room Miss Syn tore the nightgown from her body.
Truly naked and defenseless Diana spent the rest of the fight simply absorbing punishment. Miss Syn's smiling face radiated pure evil as she landed blow after blow and drove Diana to her knees, and then to the floor.
Dazed and barely seeing through the pain Diana couldn't even move her arms as Miss Syn placed her foot onto Diana's throat. But the look of exultation on the woman's face struck home.
When Diana started to cry Miss Syn laughed for a few minutes. Then she took her foot off of Diana's neck and bent down.
"There is not greater joy than to see one's enemies crushed." Miss Syn said. "That is something my grandfather taught me."
Again she slapped Diana across the face and Diana cried even harder. Miss Syn jumped onto her again, pinning Diana to the floor as she had pinned her to the bed.
"You are going to grow up Wonder Woman, I gave you the drug that will preserve your mind, but know this, you are going to grow up as I did. You are going to grow up a slave." Miss Syn took Diana's chin in her hand and forced Diana to look into her eyes. "This isn't the only beating I'm going to give you. By the time your body reaches maturity, in that great big ugly way you occidentals have, you'll call me mistress and mean it."
She slapped Diana across the face again and again until the amazon's ears rang. Then Miss Syn got up and left. She was still laughing as she went through the door. As soon as she was gone Etta came running through the door.
Cradled in her friend's arms Diana cried. But between the sobs Diana whispered a plan.
"Are you sure about this?" Etta asked later on.
"I know her now Etta." Diana said. She was in the bed again. This time covered only by the blanket. The welts and bruises on her body were too sensitive for the wool nightgown. They were too sensitive for the air. Miss Syn had been so thorough and savage that Diana was sure one of her ribs was bruised if not cracked. She could barely see out of one eye because it was swollen shut. "I was halfway through the fight when I came up with the idea. You were right when you said I was mad because no one was paying attention to me. And it was pride that drove me in part to challenge Helmut today. But I merely compete; Miss Syn needs to destroy. Not only destroy, but she also needs to humiliate, degrade. Crush. She needs to see me get more and more dejected, more and more depressed, until at last..."
"You're dead." Etta said.
"Not dead." Wonder Woman said. "But she has to believe she's taken away so much of my soul that I have nothing left. She's a man Etta. Her spirit may wear the body of a woman but she's a man." Diana gritted her teeth and tried to shift away from the pain but then gave up. "My mother told me sometimes about Hercules and how he beat and raped her. I've been beaten and rapped since I came to this world, but now I truly know what she meant. What she felt. Miss Syn needs to see me destroyed bit by bit. And she needs to see that happen day after day. It's probably the only way she feels anything like joy."
"Steve and Helmut would go along with us." Etta said.
"They're boys." Diana said. "You said it yourself. Besides Miss Syn has had centuries to learn how to read people. I can fool her, you can fool her I think because you saw this." Diana pulled the covers away from her body and Etta turned away from the sight.
"Remember that feeling Etta." Diana said gripping her hand. "Remember it every time you see Miss Syn, everytime she's near. That way all she will see is your hatred."
"I will." Etta said. "But you're taking an awful risk. If she finds out..."
"We're worse than dead." Diana finished. "But if I don't do something none of us will make it out of this alive or sane."
The bruises didn't heal quickly. The next morning Diana's body was in so much pain she could barely get out of bed. Steve and Helmut looked in on her and even though a blanket covered most of her they saw enough. The outrage on their faces turned to dismay when Diana refused to share their anger. She turned away from them and when Steve sat on the bed he saw the tears running down her face.
"I'll kill her." Steve snarled.
"No Steve." Diana managed to put enough strength into her voice to hold him off. "Remember what's at stake here. We have to go along with her until we can find a way to stop her."
"Dead she is harmless." Helmut said coldly.
"And if you don't kill her?" Diana asked. "Do you think she's easy to kill? That I didn't try?"
"You are a child." Helmut said.
"And you two aren't?" Diana demanded.
They looked at each other and Diana knew she had gotten through to them.
"What shall we do then?" Helmut asked.
"What we've been doing." Diana said. "We go along with her, sooner or later she'll make a mistake."
"What about you?" Steve asked.
"I'll be alright." Diana said. "I've been beat up worse, I'll heal."
They two of them looked at each other and then nodded in agreement.
"I am sorry." Helmut said. "My sister always told me I was an obnoxious brat as a child. It seems she was right."
"Little boys are supposed to be like that." Diana said.
"Grown men are not." Helmut replied.
"I..." Steve started to say and then stopped as there was a knock on the door. They looked up to see Etta standing with Miss Syn.
"Visiting time is over." Miss Syn said pleasantly. "Go and do your work."
With hate filled looks Steve and Helmut left. After a moment Etta followed them. Miss Syn waited until they were gone and then closed the door. She walked over to Diana and the smile on the Asian's face never faltered. Diana shrank into the bed as much as she was able but she was unable to avoid the slap. Miss Syn slapped her across the face three times and then sat down on the edge of the bed.
"Your chance will not come." Miss Syn said. "I am too careful and too smart."
"I don't want you hurting them." Diana said wiping away her tears.
"You could not stop me if I wanted too." Miss Syn said. With a violent jerk she pulled the blanket away from Diana's body. Diana shivered and shrank back, curling up into a ball as Miss Syn laughed. Then she stood up and walked over to the bureau. Pulling one of the swimsuits from it Miss Syn tossed it too Diana.
"Get up and get dressed." Miss Syn said. This time she was not smiling. Stiffly and in pain Diana put on the suit.
"Follow me." Miss Syn ordered. She left the room without making sure Diana was following her.
It was a grand ball room modeled on the ornate French Style of Luis the 16th. The walls were mirrored panels and the floors were white marble. The room itself measured at least 80 feet by 40 feet. Miss Syn shoved Wonder Woman roughly to the floor and then handed her a rag and a bucket.
"I am going to return in a few hours." Miss Syn said bending down. She took a green strip of cloth out of her pocket and tied it around Diana's head. The oversized knot bit into Diana's mouth, gagging her. "If this floor is not clean to my satisfaction I will beat you. If you take this gag out of your mouth I will beat you. If I find you asleep I will beat you. Do you understand?"
"It doesn't have to be tonight." Etta said as she helped Diana ease into a pair of Steve's jeans.
"Yes it does." Diana hissed through gritted teeth.
"Wonder Woman she beat you again today, you can barely walk. Wait till tomorrow night."
"We don't have that much time." Diana said putting on a blouse. Her skin cried out as the cloth touched it but Diana willed the pain away. "I know what she's doing Etta."
"She's killing you is what she's doing." Etta said easing Diana's foot into a sneaker.
"No. She doesn't want me dead." Wonder Woman said. "She won't kill me, she won't break any of my bones."
"Then what is she doing?" Etta demanded.
Diana took a few deep breaths as Etta tied the sneaker. There had been no way for her to finish washing that floor. It was too dirty and there was too much of it. The water was too far away. But Diana knew that she wasn't supposed to finish it. So she had gone slowly and rested as much as she could. It had been the only way to get through the beating she had gotten when Miss Syn returned. Diana had even had enough strength to try and fight back. She had ended up on the floor being spanked. Just as Diana had planned. At the end Miss Sin had been exhausted from beating her and Diana had been sobbing uncontrollably. Etta and Lady Cynthia had to carry Diana to her bed.
"She's trying to wear me down." Wonder Woman said. "She'll give me task to do that I can't complete, and then beat me when I don't. After a time I'll begin to doubt that I can ever do enough to avoid a beating. I'll start to wonder why I can't and I'll start getting more and more afraid of the beatings. The chores Miss Syn will tell me to do will get easier, but I'll be so nervous about what is coming I'll still fail at them. Then one day I will get one done right, and she won't beat me and I'll feel grateful. It'll be a foolish feeling. A deadly feeling. Because it will be the beginning of the end for me. She'll use that gratefulness and keep right on using it until my self-confidence is shattered. Then she'll start treating me like an idiot and she won't even bother to beat me. In the end Miss Syn will wear me down. I'll be her slave."
They had both stopped moving as Diana spoke and after a while Etta picked up the other sneaker.
"If you know what she is doing..."
"How old am I Etta?" Diana asked. "How many years will she have before I'm old enough to fight back and stop her beatings? How long before she beats me so much I can't think?"
Etta put the sneaker onto Diana's foot.
"How do you know what she'll do?" Etta asked.
"Hercules did the same thing to my mother." Wonder Woman said. "For nearly a year. I can see it in her eyes Etta, sometimes. She was close to breaking when the Goddesses relented and aided her."
Diana stood up and walked over to the door. A peek out confirmed that there was no one in the corridor.
"Miss Syn knows that I'll need time to recover, she can't beat me all the time, she needs me to build up my strength so she can tear it down again. So she won't be back for a day or two at least. You can cover for me with the others. If they don't know what I'm doing they won't mistakenly betray me. Say I don't want to be seen, or I have that period thing you mentioned."
"That'll keep the boys away anyway." Etta said. "And Lady Cynthia is too busy with the kids."
"I'll search the island." Diana said. "I can check out those buildings we saw on the map. I might even find a way back into the volcano."
"I think you'll be lucky if you can get all the way down the stairs." Etta said looking at the way Diana was leaning against the wall.
Diana smiled and kissed her friend on the forehead.
"I'll be back tomorrow night." she said and slipped into the darkness.
It is one thing to make your way through a jungle at night. It is another to make your way through a jungle at night with every muscle screaming at you to stop. Diana moved down the old path carefully. At least she hoped that none of Miss Syn's modified flowers lived on this side of the island. The thought of one of them going after her now was terrifying. It took most of the night for Diana to make her way through the jungle, using the sky for guidance. She didn't dare use the beach for fear that Miss Syn might have sentries posted. If Miss Syn realized that Diana was playing a trick on her... Diana shuddered and had to lean against a tree for a few minutes. In her minds eye she say the Asian woman face distorted with rage and that was all she could see. After a few minutes Diana fought the specter away and kept going. Her mother had held out against a demi-god for nearly a year and Diana was only beginning to understand the kind of stamina that took.
As the dawn broke Diana stood in front of a ruined house. It was a small place, little more than a shack. Half of it had been consumed by fire. Diana sat against a tree and let herself fall into a half sleep while she waited for enough light to explore the building.
Diana woke to something slithering across her neck. Instantly her eyes snapped open and looked into to two other eyes. Cold black reptilian eyes froze Diana's mind. She could not think or move as the snake wrapped itself around her body and slowly drew her up into the branches above. Part of it wrapped around her chest and started to constrict. The pain from her injuries forced its way through the snake's hypnosis and Diana broke eye contact. She twisted and writhed against the snakes coils and at last slipped from them. Landing on the ground Diana blacked out from the pain
The hot sun on her face woke Diana a second time. She blinked and sat up. Her battle with the snake had torn her shirt, but other than that she was no worse off. Staggering to her feet she walked into the ruined building. A few seconds later she crawled out choking in horror. Making it over to the tree Diana fell to her knees and retched again and again until her stomach felt as bad as her ribs.
It took almost an hour for Diana to bring her pain-wracked body back under control. Getting to her feet she walked into the ruined building again.
The room had never been a good place. It was a laboratory, stocked with equipment that any alchemist from the 1700's would have used. It reeked of decay and evil. The stench was so strong Diana had to go outside again. Pulling off her shirt she wrapped it around her face and entered the building once more.
A mass of glowing grayish ooze was the source of the stench. It pulsed with corruption. Diana gave it a wide berth and instead looked around at the shelves and tables. Two of the tables held corpses. They were both women one younger than the other was. Both were securely strapped down. The bodies had no legs. The larger one had no arms. From what Diana could see the limbs had been amputated. Burnt and ravaged by time only a few strands of pale red hair clung to the skulls. The smaller one clutched a book in her hands. Stealing herself Diana took hold of the book and eased it out of the corpse's hands. Bones splintered and cracked raising the dust of the dead. The book came away more easily than she had thought it would and Diana staggered back and into a cabinet. The cabinet door opened and a pile of small mummified corpses tumbled out. Sick and scared beyond anything she had ever known Diana fled the place screaming. It was only after her legs gave out from under her that Diana stopped and got control of herself again. She looked at the book in her hands. On the front in faded gold leaf were the words: "The Journal of Patricia Maguire". A faded photograph on the inside of the journal showed Diana a beautiful young girl nearly her own age. As she walked Diana started to skim through the diary. Toward the end she found an entry that made her stop and retch again. She almost didn't read the book after that. But after a time Diana's legs just would not carry her anymore. Dizzy and out of breath Diana fell against a rock to rest. The light was still good enough to read by. Diana skimmed a few more pages ahead and stopped stunned. She looked around her. Then she rolled to the ground and searched, crawling around desperately, ignoring the pain and the dirt and the bugs that bit and stung her. It took a while and it was nearly sundown when Diana found it. A small mushroom. Diana picked it up and put it into her mouth. The bitter taste burned her throat but the amazon still laughed aloud. Making a bag from her shirt Diana collected more of the mushrooms and then hurried as best she could back to the mansion.
To be continued.