Chapter 1- Asphalt Wars of Shiloh

Feigned Fragility: The Lost Child

Dozens of men in leather boots scrambled through smoke and scattering trash. Explosions echoes off the alley brick. Pulverized grit sprayed sparks into the chaotic mire below. A solitary street light imploded in shards of night glass and shredded gleaming metal.

Eye sat deep underground in a reinforced concrete bunker. His plastic earset crackled and hissed with strategic barking. “Female target: mark alpha niner, clock now.” Eye was exhausted from his 24-hour vigil. He tried focusing on the monitor before him. His face glowed green like an irradiated mask. He adjusted the console’s thick black dials, slowly scanning the surface above him. “Damn,” he muttered squinting into the monitor. He saw a Royal Bodyguard of the SCARAB rebel militia emerge from the green shadows.

That’s when Eye, Forward Scout of the SCARAB rebel militia, first saw the Royal Bodyguard in the black shadows. She wore two cutdown strapped-on SCARAB missile weapons. She was dirty and gritty. Her weapons communicated a warning, “deadly street fighter”.

“Ocean Smudge, I’m watching,” Eye said to no one. Observing her magnified up close with a night-vision K-scope, he deduced her post was near the sea. She wasn’t dried out and withered yet like the Golden City people. She was hauling a smaller body in a limp rag of shredded cloth. The cloth was bleeding. Hot dripping blood glowed across the greenish checkered screen; a fresh hit. Miss Smudge, as Eye dubbed her, was dressed in black leggings, black vest, black everything. Some subtle insignias indicated she was friendly military personnel with high rank or perhaps she had pillaged a uniform off some dead guy. Her red hair was pulled back tight. She wore no shoes or stockings. Eye deduced she was easily capable of fatal combat by hand or foot. She seemed resilient.

“So Miss Smudge has a prisoner;” Eye whispered, “or a survivor.” He spoke again for no reason but to seemingly comfort himself in his nightly solitude. He feigned knowing Smudge in some very special manner. He wondered sometimes if he was losing his marbles.

Eye clicked on the surface targeting laser and plopped the glowing red dot directly in front of Miss Smudge’s dirty bare feet. Startled, she hopped back. She realized she was dead already if Eye’s little red glowing dot was a hostile one.

Eye wiggled the remote laser control creating a glowing-light pattern on the wall next to her. The silent laser pattern said appropriately, “Duck.” It was a street symbol she quickly acknowledged by diving against the wall with full body force. A roaring hand-launched rocket passed through where she had stood and exploded not far down the street.

“We’re good friends. I’ve just saved her life. Lucky me,” Eye said to himself mocking his loneliness.

Eye spun another laser symbol. She didn’t recognize it. Miss Smudge looked stumped.

“Of course, Ocean Woman doesn’t understand Golden City talk. I’ll try movements a little more raw.”

A “FOOD” street symbol did the trick. Eye pointed the brilliant laser light on a concealed armored chemplast door. Eye felt smug as if conducting a Zoo tour or teaching chalky thoughts on a steelboard. Smudge jostled unprotected with her bleeding rag-doll bundle toward the indicated entrance. And stopped.

A low sputtering rumble with sharp popping ticks resonated like mechanical insects swarming and squawking. Unbearable ground shaking and vibrating followed.

Did Miss Smudge’s attacker summon a stupendous killing weapon just to slay poor little Miss Smudge and her bleeding bundle? Shameful!” thought Eye sarcastically, rapid-scanning the dark area. He saw nothing but smelled acrid electrical smoke close by. This worried him.

A huge crashing monstrosity of metal, wire and light, clawed its way straight out of the ground.

“It’s after the wonderful Miss Smudge! Incredible!” Eye yelled in his microphone as if announcing a fast-action to-the-death sporting event.

The supple girl knelt on one knee. At first, Eye thought she was praying but then realized she was adjusting her rocket launcher for close range targeting. She stood balancing the rocket over her shoulder and took a firing stance.

“Folks, looks like she’s cooked a few of these hostile turkeys before,” Eye wagered to himself.

She quickly launched one of her fiery weapons. The projectile sizzled and whirred like a death toy. It spun straight into the mechanical monster’s heart. It smoked a moment then the killer cracked, exploding: another android skull whacked by the human killing sledge.

Impressive lady.” thought Eye.

Minutes later when the red-haired Miss Smudge came gliding backward in through the armored door, weapons still up and smoking. An experienced warrior, she glanced distrustfully at details of her new surroundings as if they were a steely trap. Eye, of course, for his own self-interest, was there to receive her and her ragged package. But, it seemed, she really didn’t need him. At least, there were no indicators. She was graceful and strong simultaneously. She tended to herself and her ward. But painfully, Eye felt a straining tug inside himself, he felt a need for her. He hated the one-way emotional advantage women had over him. He was definitely suffering from isolation stress or it felt like it anyway.

He watched every ladylike motion she moved.

“Definitely isolation stress,” he repeated in his jelly male brain.

The wrapped young friend appeared wounded seriously by shrapnel. Eye winced when Miss Smudge pulled back the wet, red bandage.

“You two must really be pretty big combat objectives? Our specialists here can help your companion. If you’ll trust us?” said Eye. He was testing the collective waters and over enthusiastically volunteering himself as escort to the subterraneous hospital.

“Why shouldn’t I trust you? You’ve given us sanctuary, taken some risks, and saved our lives. Definite evidence of trust on your part, hmm?”

She was right, of course. Eye recognized his predictable macho pattern of being a jerk and simultaneous buckaroo; all the male cliches.

“How was your sister wounded?”

“She is not my sister. She is the Royal Princess of the Golden City of Shiloh,” she said, provoked.

Eye thought to himself, “Foot in mouth again. But why is she dodging my direct questions?

Now Eye understood all the heavy gunfire. Assuming this royal sovereignty thing wasn’t a deception. This princess was dangerous to be around.

“A precious cargo, entrusted to you then I don’t believe you’ve told me your name?”

The bodyguard was beginning to feel distrust now. A social advance from a warrior made her uneasy.

“She is not cargo. She is my 17-year-old friend. I am entrusted to her.”

“I am so sorry. Excuse my crass manner, it’s the war, I suppose. My name is Mark Skorn, Forward Scout. But my friends call me Eye. I’d like it if you’d call me by my battle name, too. I don’t want you to think I mean,” he fell silent during a shared awkward moment.

“I’ll call you Eye, then,” she said, helping him, “My combat name is Arrow, Royal Bodyguard. My real name is Linda Silva. Happy?”

He nodded.

“Arrow, you were escort to the dethroned royal family?”

“Yes. The royal family all traitorously deposed especially this poor wounded heiress to the throne, poor Anchor. She has suffered more than others.”

Eye looked at the limp young woman suspiciously. He’d never heard of her.

“Anchor? A strange name? What an unconventional name for a female.”

Arrow smiled.

“Yes. You feel the strength of the name and her importance. Almost poetic, don’t you think?”

“You know, you and I don’t talk much like tough combat veterans. I’d rather call this pretty girl something more domestic.”

“I’m sorry. Anchor is her divine name. She acknowledges no other. She is an anchoress. Do you know what that means?”

“Not really. But, Anchor’s fine. No problem.”

Eye carried the feeble Anchor, as if she weighed no more than the wings of a butterfly. Arrow tired, steadied against Eye as they pushed through the underground crowd of refugee and military people.

Chapter 2 – Inside the Bunker

Curative Powers of the Orphan
A larger modified entrance loomed in front of them. It was the dining hall. The three quietly entered the calmness of the night dinner shift. From a high balcony, two deadly reports fired unexpectedly. Hit by both rounds, attractive Arrow fell in a bloody gush, struggling to reach her rockets, but it was too late for her. She died falling in a shower of bloody food and utensils.

“Military-style assassination,” whispered Eye, scanning for the blast’s source, “precision hit eliminated the bodyguard only. Anchor, is obviously not the mark. She must be some prize hostage material.”

SCARAB Soldiers began scrambling as more rounds of projectiles ripped through wood and flesh. The young woman Anchor, suddenly popped up, instantly healed and rejuvenated. She ducked under a chemplast tabletop. Eye followed her down on the floor. Somewhere in the background, an old jukebox played scratchy music.

“Spunky kid for just being in the grip of death,” yelled Eye over the din. He glanced over the table in hopes of glimpsing Arrow. She convulsed in a post-death spasm. Slithering on his back with weapon drawn, Eye succeeded in dragging the twitching Arrow back to their moderate safety.

“OK, Kid er Anchor. How’d you heal up so fast?” demanded Eye distrustfully.

“I never was wounded. Pigs blood. Old trick, see, like playing possum. We were chased. We needed in here bad. Really, I haven’t time for explanations,” said the blonde Anchor while sighing.

“Slick. But what are you really saying?” asked Eye.

Anchor guided his attention to Arrows red wounds. “Wish this were pigs blood. Remove everything binding her,” Anchor stated.

“Are you crazy? Strip a casualty under a table during a house battle?”

“Precisely. Arrow is dead from blood loss, tissue damage, and traumatic shock. Removing her clothing seems bizarre, even an insult to the dead, but it is urgent. I’ll explain later.”

Anchor fished around in her bulky apron pockets, gleefully finding her treasure.

“A wound compress- here push hard! With your other hand, smear this potion on every measure of her!”

“Anchor, you’ve got the wrong guy for this?”

“Eye, are you squeamish?” scolded Anchor while admiring him with grand gentle eyes, “Have you never touched a maid?”

There was no time to answer. Taking battle orders from a slender 17-year-old blonde was an undignified insult to his rank, not to mention her challenging his masculinity. Working hastily he wrapped Arrow back in her shredded black clothing. He was startled when he noticed Arrow’s lungs start gently pumping.

Several rounds of sooty gunfire blasted and cracked from different directions. The smoky battle air reeked of oil and chemicals.

“What is this stuff? An organic?” said Eye, sniffing the potion vial. He disregarded the gunplay as if it were routine.

“A steroid vegetable compound designed to quickly incite Arrow’s immune system to do its job and save Arrow’s dear life. It’s absorbed fastest through maximum skin contact. It’s safe for trauma and increases blood production.”

Eye just nodded in disbelief at Anchor’s curative knowledge.

“I suppose it’s good for warts, too,” joked Eye.

“Let’s go! We’ll perform a standard combat diversion. Eye, carry Arrow carefully toward the large side door beneath that lion statue. Quickly now, run c’mon!” commanded the girl warrior, Anchor.

Eye looked back over his shoulder in time to see Anchor jigging on the table and flinging down two vials. As they cracked, mixing on the floor, the room instantly filled with a squid-like blackout smoke. He wondered, smiling, if the jig was essential.

Eye, with Arrow bolstered, burst through the side door as commanded by her Most Presumptuous Majesty, the Little Royal Princess of the Golden City of Shiloh and Heiress to the Imperial Throne. Fabulously, Anchor was already waiting and pointing out an escape route. They ran in that general direction expecting reports behind them at any moment.

“Slow a bit,” said Anchor, “there’s a sleeping element in the black gas. It’ll give us an extra half hour lead.”

“Good. Good,” Eye replied, “How is Arrow looking?”

“Her life signs are still feeble. She very pale. We need water and a place to hide. I’ve had worse victims survive.”

“She should’ve been killed instantly.”

“She was.”

“But she’s alive now?”


“How? I don’t understand?” asked Eye wondering.

“You don’t need to. Stick to your specialty. You wound them. I’ll heal them.”

“That makes me sound like a brute.”

“Yes,” she smiled, jubilant. Secretly, she liked this reluctant hero.

They walked mostly in silence. There was a rhythm to their gait like different waves pulsing against each other fashioning a fresh harmonic. The tall warrior, swaggering with the unconscious pretty lady, he was oscillating at a lower frequency. The petite Arrow’s dangling hands bouncing rhythmically over his broad shoulders at a mid-range cycle while the young sorceress danced skipping back and forth across an unseen trail at high pulse. Through desert rock and sand, the young woman obviously was the only one who really knew where they were going and why.

Chapter 3 – Moisture

The Nursery: Sanctuary and Hell
What is this place?” asked Forward Scout Eye. The female bodyguard, Arrow, was still flopping unconscious on his broad shoulder. They had traveled a long distance from the duned desert near the big city. This was strange country to Eye. Moisture and fungal scents in the air revealed ocean and wildlife were nearby. The threesome were now tossed close together in the ship of life on an expansive ocean.

“For us, this is a sanctuary called The Nursery, for others it’s Hell,” answered the young bewitching Anchor.

“What kind of an answer is that? Which is it then sanctuary or Hell?” asked Eye.

“You’ll see as we get deeper inside,” replied Anchor.

Rose-colored marble walls rose up forming a cathedral effect. It was an ancient abode like a ruin or a tomb. There was evidence of quarrying for pink rock. The stalactites and stalagmites from the cave roof and floor appeared as jagged jaws closing around the weary pilgrims. Was it a dreary dungeon for the doomed? A sharp crunching was heard underfoot as if walking on fragile glass seashells.

“Where are we heading in this mammoth cave?” asked Eye. The silence was starting to bother him.

“Eye, just follow me to the chamber on the other side. Please follow as closely as possible as there are numerous pitfalls and traps. Numerous,” she emphasized.

Eye was going to be happy to sit. Arrow’s limp heaviness was straining him long ago.

“OK. This is the spot,” said Anchor sitting down on a pinkish-tint bench obviously garnered during the palace looting at Shiloh.

The indicated grotto was a lumpy hollow beneath the earth’s surface. It was filled with weapons and

food and supplies of all kind.

“I suppose this is your healing stuff?” said Eye sarcastically.

Anchor smiled sheepishly.

“I’m also an avid battle souvenir collector,” she retorted.

Eye shook his head.

“Anchor, you amaze me. I bet you read a lot,” he said deliberately like an inarticulate moron.

Anchor ignored his fake awe.

“Now, we must tend Arrow. She looks better but I’m needing male saliva.”

“Say what!” shouted Eye in disbelief. Eye wondered if she meant a transfusion or worse.

“Just jesting,” she laughed impishly, “you really are fun to tease. Wait until I tell Arrow your reaction. Ha!”

Eye smirked. She was fun, he thought.

“What’s the idea asking for man’s spit? Who orders a man to smear vegetables on a pretty lady? What’s your explanation, Royal Doctor Anchor?” mocked Eye. “You’ve got no esteem for human things.”

“I am the same Doctor who brings you to a safe hiding place. But also a place of death. Million of beings perished here. Beings who’s crunching skulls we walked on to get to this ironically safe place. Genocide. They were murdered here. None of them lived but one. Alone, one, grew up amid the decay,” said Anchor grimly, “Mocking human refinement and revealing our vulnerability is my charge and my pleasure.”

“You were the one? Closed up in here alone?”

Anchor said nothing. She looked at ceiling.

“Where did your name, Anchor, come from? Who gave it to you? It’s so strange.”

Anchor smiled at this apprentice man who had so much to learn.

“Look. Up there,” motioned Anchor. She nodded up toward the cave roof.

In the dim, Eye made out the shadowy outline of a large, heavy ship anchor suspended from the cave ceiling by a huge pulley and chain. As a trained military man, he could make out the ring, the eye, the stock, shank, bill, fluke, arm, crown, throat, and the palms.

“Odd how many parts are named after animal parts,” said Anchor frankly.

“How did you know I was thinking that? Are you clairvoyant?” asked Eye.

“Not really. People just think I read minds because I divine thoughts so exactly. It’s all context, body language, intonation, pacing, stuff like that,” she replied.

“Why is the giant anchor hanging up there?”

“A merciless executioner, named Morgan, the Sea Dweller, hung it there. He used it as a mashing instrument. A heavy blunt crushing object,” said Anchor without feeling, “I chose my name. It is symbolic and magic. It has a destiny.”

Eye felt numb. Speechless.

“How can you tolerate being here?” Eye finally asked.

“My suffering and deprivations give me power. Power to save beautiful people like Arrow. . . with or without men,” she smiled baring her pearly teeth then she spit on the ground in the most unfeminine manner.

“Anchor, I like you. I’m your friend and ally. You teach me how to heal people and I’ll be a warrior no more,” said Eye.

“Sorry. You remain a warrior. I need one so I’ll survive to friendlier shores, and then I’ll teach you what you cannot teach yourself. Stand clear. Arrow is becoming conscious. She’s bound to be rabid. She hates that steroid garbage.”

Chapter 4 – Tarnished Lost Dreams.

The SCARAB: Destroying to Create

At the crossroads, a walled-up stone city harnesses a boiling, raging, hot storm. Outside, all appears quiet and content. Inside, dwells a harsh ordeal of gasping sorrow. This suffocating, dark city belongs to the corrupt. It is Shiloh; a barren and destructive place. Shiloh’s repression yields only unproductive confusion; spinning in circles and circles again.

Filth and dirt of the sordid are quarantined in Shiloh. Here is caged all discarded dreams. But Shiloh’s wall of remorse soon cracks at it’s seams. Too much crude corruption to wallow in forever. Outside freedom awaits. A military society, the SCARAB military rescuers, shall transform Shiloh by breaking down its exterior brick walls. Shiloh’s walls are a prison, soon no longer a deceptive safe haven.

Like the ancient Egyptian scarab beetle, let the SCARAB rebel militia destroy to create. Shatter the wall and grind it into sand. There is no more enemy. Set yourself free.

Chapter 5 – Anchoress

Metamorphosis: Natural Progression
Lost in time, gulls had struggled circling overhead in a gusty dark storm. Anchor wandered across an immense flat rock atop a black stone cliff; a precarious spot for the fragility of youth. Whipping wind froze her scant garments tight around her shivering skinny body. Mother Earth was rumbling. She was preparing to crush Anchor’s youthful tenderness to untraceable bits. Roaring tons of water hit the cliff side. The drenching impact soared into chilling air. It’s arching destination of fury was obvious … supernatural Anchor.

Anchor looked into the watery death and exclaimed her miraculous sentence, “You die first, Mother of Creation!” and the waters lost all primal force. Ashamed, water splattered like soft rain on the black slate rock, tears at Anchor’s feet. From that day forward, Anchor was a healer, a prodigy, a tribal shaman. She was frequently referred to as witch; a forlorn term that made her laugh timidly. Clinking her ever-present powerful vials and potions stored in her pockets reassured her. Power was always loaded at her magic finger tips.

Mother Nature never chose Anchor. Anchor was strange. Because she survived Nature’s foolish attempt to obliterate her, Nature became Anchor’s slave or so people believed. The people erected a religious obelisk at the site of the ocean miracle. But within a year’s time, the foundation eroded to a powdery crumble. Sabotaged by the salty sea, the entire monument toppled very naturally into the deepest depths.

Anchor dressed plainly and lived alone in a cliff-side cave, a rock nest. She was literally an anchoress; a woman who retires to a solitary place for a life of religious seclusion. It was very primitive and unsettling for most people.

Most guess the tossing sea Anchor’s only rightful parent. They are wrong. That mock battle was just rivalry between the Ocean and Anchor. Her true mission had been long secluded. The enigma of Anchor was beyond even her exotic strangeness. Inklings, premonitions, dreams touched her, but Anchor’s destiny began when she was 17-years-old. Her fortune was concealed. Now the season came, she was scarcely ready, but Shiloh awaited. A transformation was required not only of the Golden City but of the very hearts of her people.

Chapter 6 – Spit

Intimacy Addiction: More is Never Enough
Redheaded Arrow bolted up in a seated position, knees drawn to her chest. Head back she howled, “Pigs piss! Who trashed my clothes? And what is that horrible stink?”

“The big stink comes from the vegetable steroids you’ve absorbed into your lovely skin,” said Anchor raising one eyebrow mischievously, “And this Romeo trashed your clothes.”

“Oh, great I suppose you had him zombie grease me?” she turned to Eye, “You enjoy yourself, Big Guy?”

“Well, you’re very attractive and I did score highest in my military class on photographic memory skills. So I doubt I’ll ever forget you.”

“What does he mean by that photo-memory stuff?” Arrow asked.

“Well,” Eye said, “to illustrate, you have a small incision indicating a possible emergency gall bladder removal. There’s more description if you want it; puncture wounds, a nice small hummingbird tattoo, and stuff?”

“Please, no more! Anchor, why do you promote this voodoo-doll lunacy? Where is my dignity?” Arrow was smoldering now.

“Well, first, I saved your life for one thing. And second, men do seem to enjoy the assignment. Sorry, but you are the one who keeps getting blasted. Men are all over the place and women keep screaming for the next exit. Plus, you are so powerless. Men are suckers for this situation. You don’t feel anything. It gets results. Third, no wait was it fourth, I forget?”

Arrow glared silently at Anchor as if she had heard it all explained before.

“Anyway: how do you think I feel? There you are dead as dead and bleeding and I love you. You are the closest friend I have. You depend entirely on me to protect and restore you,” Anchor’s apology was thinly sincere, “Hey, besides, Eye’s not so unpleasant; good muscle and mind. He didn’t drool on you and he hauled your delightful, but ungrateful carcass, a long distance to keep you safe.” By now, the apology was so prolonged it was utterly suspicious.

“Okay, I forgive you again,” pouted Arrow in mock loathing, “but I’m the Royal Bodyguard. Remember?”

“I have to tell you Eye is willing to give saliva to save you. Impressive man, eh?” said Anchor, attempting to change the subject to a lighter topic. She winked.

Arrow and Anchor laughed and howled at Eye’s reddening.

“So, Eye, Anchor obviously likes you. She didn’t actually trick you you know to donate.”

They all laughed together.

“Have others tried becoming such fool’s for you, Arrow?” asked Eye quietly.

Side-glancing at Anchor, Arrow forced a smile and stalled her reply. Here was a personal advance again. She delayed just a merciful moment to deliver her customary answer so charmingly concocted for any ardent suitor. This military boy had, after all, assisted in saving her life. Poor man!

Eye maintained his silence. He was balancing to hear big-hearted words. It was as if he was expecting them to actually alter his life’s course.

Arrow sighed.

“Now that I’ve found you, I only know I’d be lost without you. All I’ve ever wanted, all I ever needed has come true, now that I’ve found you,” moaned theatrically Arrow. “Is that what you want me to say to you, Eye?”

“Sounds great to my ears but I guess I’m playing the male fool just for you.”

“Yes, unfortunately, you are. What I just quoted is lyric from a piece of memorized love music,” said Arrow heartlessly. She looked away at the rocks, avoiding the fading vulnerability in his eyes.

Why did a personal advance from a warrior make her uneasy? This was the second time she felt this irritating nervousness with Eye the first was when he asked her name. It seemed too personal at the time. Now, Eye had photographic recall of any portion of her anatomically anytime he desired.

But yet, his carnal knowledge was her power over him. Arrow secretly delighted thinking of Eye’s potential sleeping distress; stirring nights of insomnia, photographically speaking. Still, when she seriously considered him, she felt exposed more deeply than she preferred. Affections? A shivering sensation suddenly warmed her. Within, Arrow sparkled like frost anticipating dawn’s melting rays. Secluding her face behind her knees, she concealed an eager smile. Was she too quickly liking this man?

Chapter 7 – Night Cave

Romantic Love: The Fear of Commitment?

The three travelers, Anchor, Arrow, and Eye, decided to spend the night’s remainder huddled together under some contraband military shelters in the giant cave. This makeshift home was adequate for rest and renewal. Arrow’s health and body abilities were fast restoring. The usual back-from-the-dead side-effects of aggressiveness and talkativeness were most unbearable for Anchor and Eye. Anchor eventually slipped Arrow an herbal sedative. It was fast-acting and had the side-effect of slight inebriation making the already uninhibited Arrow warmly affectionate toward Eye. Not that he minded. For the youthful intellectual Anchor, the passion display made her ill or better said panicked. She feared such madness might consume her mind, too, one day. Anchor took a sleeping potion and left the others helplessly exposed to the dangers of the heart.

In the darkness, the slightly drunk Arrow snuggled up to Eye. He stared up out the open tent door perusing the real-life dangling steel anchor at the caves peak; the symbol of Anchor’s name.

“How long have you known Anchor?” asked Eye.

“You should be asking tender questions about me,” responded Arrow, as she inspected his eyes too closely for his comfort.

“OK. How long has Anchor known you?”

“That’s the same question. Only reversed.”

“Right. Please answer,”

“Are you in love with Anchor?”

He laughed nervously and squeezed her closer.

“I’m in love with the both of you, but you especially. Now that I’ve found you, I only know I’d be lost without you. All I’ve ever wanted, all I ever needed has come true, now that I’ve found you,” said Eye softly, “Is that what you want me to say to you, Arrow?”

She winced. “I deserved that musical stab. So you know that old love song, too. Tragic.”

“Will you tell me about Anchor? I really want to know about her. Will it harm anything?

“I will tell what I know which is almost nothing. But first I must say I’ve a strong liking for you, Eye. Even affection. Maybe more. I want to find out. Will you be patient and wait for me to return, should I be forced to leave you?”

“Whoa! That’s fast! You are asking for a big commitment. What are you willing to commit?”

“I can’t make commitments to anyone until I’m free from my bond as a royal bodyguard.”

“A one-sided deal, eh? I guess, in reality, I’ve nothing to lose,” he said as he stared into her dark eyes, “OK, fine. It’s a deal. Now, tell me what you know about Anchor.”

“You are persistent. Anchor is born of royal blood. Anchor was to perish along with millions of other innocents during Lamia’s military takeover. Anchor miraculously survived somehow. When she ventured out of Morgan, the Butcher’s cave, she had lived alone with the dead for along time. She then faced the ocean’s extraordinary power and won a battle over nature. This gave her incredible wisdom and credibility with the people. Some rumor the ocean is her mother and Anchor is supernatural.”

“I protected the royal family, except for the renegade depraved Lamia and her traitorous outcasts who returned to destroy all. Anchor was my ward. After surviving the massacres, I defected to the Resistance. When I heard Anchor was still alive, I returned to protect her. The Dragoness and her henchmen wish to destroy her to maintain their ill-gotten power. I’ve been with Anchor hunted and running ever since. That was nearly three years ago, she was just 14-years-old then. Anchor is an inspiration to the people.”

“She sounds like the Wise Old Man. People practically worship him. How many times has Anchor brought you back from death?”

“Three times. Once I almost didn’t make it. Too much tissue damage. You can see the scars still.”

She pulled back her shiny red hair showing the injured scalp behind the left ear.

“It was a close-range direct head shot. Nobody lives after those but Anchor brought me through. We couldn’t move from hiding for four weeks while I healed. Dangerous days.”

“Has Anchor ever been wounded?” Eye asked.

“No. She just escapes somehow. She has potions and elixirs for any ailment. She is full of trickery, like doing the pig’s blood stunt. That was her idea.”

“So Anchor attracts destruction to you but she heals your wounds afterwards. What an arrangement! Is she a witch? She commands like a military leader.”

“If she is an enchantress, may more witches lead us for I love and trust her dearly.”

“Arrow, I was curious. Have you dispatched many enemies while protecting precious Anchor?

“Too many. I never counted. They fall one at a time. It is my job to protect the throne, kill when necessary. The personal part is protecting Anchor.”

“But you are trained to kill, are you not, in highly efficient methods?”

“Why are you asking me this?”

“I guess I’m adjusting to loving someone who can beat me and snap my neck with her ankles?”

“Oh then. Let me demonstrate the gifts of a vigorous maid. Ready?”

“Wait. At the moment, snuggling close is just fine. Really.”


“Yeah. Good night.”

“Remember our deal,” she suggested.

“No problem. Good night again.”

It seemed too simple for Arrow’s liking.

After a pause of silence, Arrow spoke softly.

“Do you want to braid my hair?” she asked with a guileless tone.

Eye hadn’t noticed even if Arrow’s red hair was long enough to braid. He noticed now that she had twisted it back in a tight pony tail.

“Sure. I guess,” he responded. It sounded interesting anyway.

She tottered over to the supplies to drag back two dining chairs obviously ransacked recently from somewhere nice.

Reversing one of the chairs so they were front-to-front, she staggered a bit straddling the front chair. She released her wound hair. Shivering long hair cascaded over her shoulders like red shadowy liquid. Resting her temple on her propped and outstretched arms she smiled affectionately at her timid friend.

“You’ve never done this before have you, Eye?” she teased.

“No,” was the faint response.

“Come on. You can’t handle me from over there,” she said while wagging a “come-closer” index finger motion.

He threw a leg over the chair behind her and admired the sea of red, dancing before him. There was no barrier between them. Her beauty and the openness of the moment caused his hands to tremble.

Arrow looked over her shoulder with one twinkling eye.

“Go ahead,” she said sensually, “Braid me.”

She giggled quietly at his silly uneasiness.

He cautiously picked up a strand of her mane. He swallowed in a dry throat.

“Are you sure you want to do this intertwining bargain?” Eye asked.

“It was your idea,” she fibbed, pouting melodramatically.

“Was it? Sorry.” He pretended not to remember.

After some time of weaving and interlacing, the resulting pattern pleased them both. She balanced two signal mirrors and inspected the work.

“You know this won’t stay forever. I’ll be needing you to braid this all over again soon,” Arrow said in a pretended demanding tone.

Eye understood the hidden meaning in her words. He felt her unspoken acceptance. His service was a two-way cooperative gift. It was his turn to relax and smile.

“A tradition of luxury for us both then,” Eye said. He mentally skipped into paradise imagining future braidings.

They were soon asleep enjoying the radiant warmth of being close. In the dark, Eye stroked the braided pattern he had created in Arrow’s hair. In her dream state, she mumbled unspoken desires. Eye struggled an internal battle between weakness and strength. He wondered if Arrow was sent deliberately to tease and taunt him. She was unquestionably the finest diversionary tactic he ever encountered.

Chapter 8 – The wounded.

Immortality: Suffering and Rebirth?

It was the end or so it seemed. Anchor was shot in the chest while exiting the giant cave. She lay face in the dust unmoving. The sun baked down on her lifelessness.

Arrow and Eye heard a transport circling off as they searched for attackers.

“Looks like the bad guy’s changed their plans for Anchor,” said Arrow as she dropped to her knees beside her.

“First one to the potion is a rotten toadstool,” said Eye as he rolled Anchor over and rummaged her apron pockets.

“I don’t know what the stuff even looks like,” said Arrow frustrated, “I’ve never been conscious when it was used.”

“Yeah, but you know what it smells like,” he responded, “use your nose.”

“After some juggling, I’ve got it narrowed down to two bottles; one’s green, the other’s pink.”

“Stuff seemed pretty dark to me. You choose.”

“She’d probably save the good stuff for when the regular didn’t work. Let’s go for the lighter pink.”

They both worked quickly to apply the pink goo. Anchor’s eyelids fluttered.

“Pink. Good choice,” mumbled Anchor and she passed out again.

Arrow and Eye smiled while grasping each other’s hand. They were glad Anchor approved of their choice. It was reassuring they hadn’t just applied some deadly poison or inert cosmetic cream.

While Anchor was fast recovering, they constructed a makeshift shelter of branches, rock, and debris.

“Looks like Anchor’s tissue regeneration is progressing fast,” said Arrow, “I guess we really did use the good stuff.”

“Why do you suppose they just killed her and left us alive? Why did they leave and not take her body as evidence?”

“Good questions. I imagine they’re framing us for her murder even as we speak,” replied Arrow.

“I hadn’t thought of that. Do you think we should move her? I carried you many distances the night you were wounded,” said Eye. He didn’t use the word killed or murdered. It made him too uneasy now to think of Arrow dead or dying.

“She’s gaining strength by the minute. Let’s wait a little longer.”

Minutes crawled by. Eye felt very apprehensive about such an unprotected location.

“I’m going to the top of that rock ledge to scout. It’s what I’m trained for you know.”

Arrow gave a quick smile resembling a grimace.

“Don’t do anything crazy,” she said. She too had become afraid of emotional loss.

Eye didn’t mean to do anything crazy. But the rock just gave way when he stepped on it. It rolled over him in the fall.

Arrow screamed in terror. She screamed as if she could never stop screaming. She grabbed the green vial and ran.

She heard a murmur behind her.

“Not so much on a man,” wheezed Anchor, “They’re chemically different.”

The message was muffled as she bolted and slid down the incline.

How many times must they save each other from death? she thought.

She dug him out with her bare hands. Dragging him clear of the rubble and sat waiting. Nothing. She felt a craziness wash over her. He couldn’t be dead yet.

Suddenly a groan came from Eye’s mouth. He rejoined the living with obvious remorse. The steroids he handled during the last days were boosting his normal healing powers.

“Eye, can you hear me?” questioned Arrow. He was still incoherent. Arrow felt angry. He had almost gotten … then it seemed ridiculous of course, he was nearly killed. She let the anger dissolve.

“Woman! Do you think you claim ownership for this rough male baggage?” said Arrow in disgust to herself, “Oh, Arrow. You are so endearingly hard-hearted sometimes.”

Arrow returned to Anchor’s spot. She was gone. Plainly, someone kidnapped her. There had been an obvious bloody struggle. Arrow stunned returned to Eye saying the battle seemed lost. Anchor had vanished.

Chapter nine – The search begins

Changing of the Guard: Who is in Charge?

Eye did survive.

“Now that I’ve found you, I only know I’d be lost without you. All I’ve ever wanted, all I ever needed has come true, now that I’ve found you,” praised the crying Arrow. “Is that what you wanted me to say to you, Eye?”

“We haven’t even time to mourn our dead or missing suitably,” said Eye shaking his head, “We must go across the dessert to Shiloh and rescue the royal legacy. I am sorry to say, there’ll be plenty of time to cry our tears along the way in the sand.”

Arrow sobbed. The normal tower of strength Arrow was melting beneath the stress of losing her friend, Anchor.

“C’mon. Let’s go. You’ve done this a dozen times.”

“Don’t be so callous. This girl’s different. Really, Anchor isn’t like any other.”

“Arrow, I’ll knock you out with a sleep dart. Your primary mission is to protect Anchor and get her back to her family throne. Are you going to do your duty or not?”

“Yes,” she muttered to Eye.

“Buck up. Let’s go now away from this cursed cave.”

Arrow and Eye proceeded toward Shiloh loaded with provisions and weapons in search of Anchor.

Chapter 10 – The Consequence

Logic Kills Magic
Arrow and Eye trudged in the bleached sand. The desert sand was peculiar. It sucked you under. It breathed you down a giant nostril or vent. It had no hard bottom to push against like beach sand. It was dried like tiny century-old bone chips. Arrow wondered of what the stuff really was made. She imagined worn-out people.

After trudging for hours past darkness, Arrow assembled a small camp in the middle of nowhere and the two collapsed in overdue slumber.

Later in the darkness, a cold howl and hissing woke them. A frigid night wind storm was dissecting their camp and equipment. Precious water jugs shattered. Sand was gulping spilled life-preserving fluid with savage parched thirst.

“Eye, be battle ready now!” hollered Arrow.

“Silence. I’m meditating,” he calmly responded.

Surprised, Arrow watched and waited. Eye was pulling an Anchor trick, but this was by far one of the finest. Arrow continued packing and dressing in haste.

“This is it, Eye. If you’re a survivor, prepare yourself.”

“Damn. Damn. Damn. Nobody believes in magic anymore,” Eye howled, springing to life.

Crackling overhead in the whistling sky, heat lightening was splintering jagged white spikes earthward. In the wide desert, the two sand sweethearts were obvious prime electrical targets. Eye dressed, mumbling incantations of sorts, or possible cursing.

“I’m never coming back here. You know why? It’s too dry and you always, always, always get sand in your boots,” mumbled Eye.

Arrow turned to the grumbling Eye.

“You won’t come back to the desert because you are going to rest here and dry rot! What are our chances of survival in the open desert with Shiloh so far away?” Arrow’s words crashed down heavy as iron on steel capturing Eye’s attention.

“Sorry. You are so pithy. I understood the nature of our situation a long time ago,” said Eye, “Yet, we’ve a serious mission. Somehow, it’ll come to pass. We have to wait this storm out.”

“Waiting for what?” asked Arrow.

“For a miracle, I called a big fat one via her Mother Ocean.”

“Is this miracle natural or supernatural?”

“Both. I think.”

“Both?” squeaked Arrow, in open-mouthed wonder, “Eye, you’ve gone mad. Get a grip on yourself. We aren’t being saved by Anchor here. We are on our own. For all we know, Anchor is long dead.”

“O, ye of little faith,” responded Eye grumpily.

The blasting grit was building to a roar. The soaring sand prohibited communication without a lot of hand waving and shouting. They were standing in an ever growing crater of dune. Eye in his usual forward-scout-style scurried to the top of the cascading sand to observe. Their was nothing to see but blur for distances. He turned and rolled to the bottom of the sandy incline.

“Oh, man! Now I’ve done it royal!” cried Eye. Both his thighs were skewered together by a sharp piece of plastisteel tent rod. Anchor grabbed the rod with both hands and twisted it free. She then jabbed the metal through her left bicep with a grimace.

“What are you doing?” asked Eye, “Why did you wound yourself?”

“Because. You obviously are staying here wounded while I get help. If I experience hallucinations, this festering wound pain will remind me you are still back here dying from blood poisoning in the sand.”

“Oh, then you still love me even when I keep awkwardly falling off of high places?” asked Eye.

“Yes, you clumsy camel clod.”

With that terse good-bye, she gathered provisions and bound into the biting sand storm.

Even with compass and chart Arrow wandered for forty-eight hours before returning to the destroyed camp. Eye’s prayer was answered. A SCARAB convoy passed by and picked him up. The track traces were heading in the direction of Shiloh.

A tattered note fluttered stabbed on the end of the bloody plastisteel rod. Arrow didn’t need to read the note. She knew what it said. It contained the lyrics to a familiar old love song she couldn’t get out of her head. She began following the tracks toward Shiloh plodding through the roasting sand.