by Dan Swanson
The blow from Gr’bash had momentarily knocked Kali out, something that had never happened before this day, and she was sinking in the warm water when she came to. Momentarily disoriented and feeling strangely weak, she still managed to right herself and head for the surface, then launched herself into the air and after the monster. She knew she had to stop Gr’bash from reaching the island.
Racing ahead of the giant lusca, Kali dived and reversed directions until she was rocketing directly toward the monster’s head only a few feet above water level. She’d heard that sharks were vulnerable to a blow in the snout, and was about to find out if this held true for Gr’bash. She pushed herself to her limit, straining for more and more speed. Weakened as she was, she could barely break the sound barrier an instant before she slammed into the giant beast’s snout.
The tremendous impact shattered windows on the nearby islands of St. Thomas and St. John, and the sound was heard as far away as St. Croix over thirty miles to the south. The armored skin of the goddess was proof against the blow, but the energy dissipated by the impact was tremendous, instantly vaporizing thousands of tons of water, and a vapor cloud rose from the water, shooting high into the air. Both opponents were jarred to a halt, and in her weakened state Kali was a little dazed. Even so, she realized that touching Gr’bash had weakened her just a little bit more. The goddess apparently had the ability to leech her mystical powers from her.
For an instant, Kali experienced once again a timeless communication with the goddess. “Fool! Your demon-spawned powers are a feeble imitation of the powers of a true goddess!”
Still, she was Kali, and her power was virtually unlimited. She punched again and again, battering the giant monster and driving it back, conserving as much power as possible by using her speed so that each of her punches only touched the leech for nanoseconds. The goddess seemed annoyed, though not injured but merely inconvenienced. This made Kali even more furious, and she attacked ever more furiously, battering the giant snout over and over, until finally she heard the crunch of bone.
Gr’bash had been snapping at her, but she was faster, and the giant creature’s deadly jaws kept snapping shut on air as she moved aside. But in her anger, Kali had forgotten the octopus arms of the goddess of watery doom. She was grabbed by a tentacle and thrown to the sea, where a roaring jet of black fluid washed over her.
Just as when someone touched the goddess, her ink leeched Kali’s power. The touch of the stuff made her feel ill. It covered her body; she couldn’t escape, and it hurt. She felt as if she was the center of a swarm of magical bees, stinging her over every micron of her body. The pain was maddening, she couldn’t escape, and she couldn’t even think. Before she could even move, she was snatched up by another tentacle and hurled through the air, and then she slammed into something and came to a halt.
In tremendous pain and feeling delirious, Kali waited to die. And then, somehow, she managed to say her magic word, “Rakasha.”
Hot red magical flames sprang into existence around her, drawing extra power as the mystical lusca ink fed the spectral flames, causing Kali’s spectral fire to burn hotter than ever before. Perhaps because of some unexpected interaction between her own demonic magic and the godly power of Gr’bash, she didn’t turn back to Lily Martine, which was fortunate because she was already floating in a pit of molten rock, and the mystical flame was still reaching deeper into the extinct undersea volcano that had risen out of the waves to form these islands hundreds of centuries ago. Instead, the mystic flames bathed her in energy, making her feel more powerful than ever before.
Back on shore, Lady Victory was trying to find out what resources were available to the team. She was particularly interested in Majique; from earlier adventures she knew that the St. Louis sorceress always carried a veritable arsenal of magical items and concealed weapons. Respecting her teammate’s desire for privacy, Bonnie pulled her off to the side and spoke quietly.
“OK, Val, time to come clean. I know you carry a bunch of magical charms with you all the time — how can you help?”
“Everything I’m carrying is irreplaceable!” the mystic heroine complained. “No way it’ll help against that sea monster.”
“Listen, lady! It was your pulling the damn sword out of your bag that let this monster loose on the world. You are going to us help fight it in any way you can, or else.” She didn’t say what or else meant, but left it to Val Coppersmith’s imagination.
“It’s not my fault. I needed something to fight the skeletons! And it worked!” Val argued. “Anyway, I think it’s time to call the boys.”
“We won’t need the boys for this one,” Lady Victory said firmly. “If we call them, they’ll always think of us as helpless. We can beat this thing, just us ‘girls.’ Now, what’ve you got?”
One advantage of the over-the-top faux Gypsy costume Val always affected was the opportunity to load up with bangles and jewelry, which worked as camouflage for some of the more useful items she liked to carry. Even knowing what to expect, Bonnie Drake was stunned at what Majique revealed. Her teammates had privately wondered how she could wear such voluminous clothes in this heat; Bonnie discovered that one of her earrings kept her cool, while the other allowed her to overhear distant conversations. This was just the start.
Of particular interest to Lady Victory were Val’s ring and bracelet, the contents of some pouches in her belt, and a needle that she was using to hold her long hair up and out of her face.
“Neat gimmicks: a ring of silence, a shocking hair needle, flash powder, and blackout powder. I can see how they could be useful,” Lady Victory commented. “But why do you need a bracelet that makes people believe you when you lie to them?”
“It’s for an emergency, and it will only work once!” Val explained hastily. “I’ve never used it.” Right now, Lady Victory didn’t have time to follow up on this; she had a battle to win. She moved to the ghost and asked more questions.
“Captain Saldana,” she addressed the ghost formally. “Tell us about Gr’bash. Does it have any enemies? Do you know of any weaknesses?”
“Ter sunken Haliphrron whisperred ‘at ter mangy beast ‘ates and fearrs ter bloody grreat white whale most of alll, tho’ they fearred to speak ‘is name,” replied Anamaria Saldana. “Ter Sword o’ Glory kin lay’er low. I’ve ‘eard of naught else’t kin teach ‘er.”
“Moby Dick?” interrupted Miss Music, who was shamelessly eavesdropping. “I don’t believe in Moby Dick!”
“Don’t know na’ whale name o’ Moby, but ter grreatt white whale’s rreal as meselllve. But yer don’t believe in ghosts, nytherr, do yer, poppin?” Anamaria floated through Miss Music’s body, and the tiny heroine shivered with the deathly chill of the ghost’s astral form.
“Don’t do that!” Tammi Paige stamped her foot petulantly.
Lady Victory called the rest of the team together for a council of war. “OK, here’s the plan,” she said, and laid out her ideas.
“You’re nuts!” Val exclaimed loudly. “That can’t possibly work. Without Kali and the boys, we don’t have a chance!”
“A bloody coward ye are, an all yer fancy gewgaws can’t ‘ide it!” Anamaria told her scornfully. “Ter worst ‘at kin ‘appen is ye’ll all die.”
“Easy for you to say, ghost!” Majique snapped back.
“I love it!” yelled Tammi, effectively cutting off the argument. “Time for the goddess busters!
Alex Silverstone was quiet; the plan depended largely on her power, and she didn’t know if she could carry out her part or not.
At that instant, Kali was smashed to the beach, where she crashed into a sand dune and vanished.
“Looks like you’re on, ladies!” Lady Victory pointed out cheerfully. “Break a leg!”
“S’long’s it’s me pegleg,” Anamaria cackled as she again took to the air in pursuit of Gr’bash.” She was carrying the Sword of Glory, as well as Val’s ring of silence, the shocking hair needle, and a pouch from the mystic’s belt that held the flash and blackout powders.
Gr’bash had turned her attention back to St. Thomas and its infestation of humans. Nothing like a little exercise to help work up an appetite; now that she had taken care of that imitation Kali, it was time for lunch. This allowed Anamaria to fly up behind her unnoticed.
On the shore, Palette was wearing Val’s bracelet; Bonnie had hoped it would help convince Gr’bash that the images she was about to see were real. Alex was watching Anamaria closely to help coordinate the ghost’s attack with her own and that of Miss Music. Val and Bonnie looked on avidly, for in Bonnie’s current plan, they were both observers.
Anamaria Saldana swooped down over the back of the monster and slipped off to one side. As she flew past the giant lusca’s left ear, she threw Val’s ring inside. “B’doin’ yer task well,” she admonished it. Floating unobserved across the back of the monster’s head, an instant later she threw a handful of blackout dust into the lusca’s right eye. Gr’bash shook her head in annoyance and blinked her nictitating membrane to clear her eye. At that instant, Anamaria stabbed into the pouch with the hair needle.
Activated by the stabbing motion, the mystically charged needle produced a high-voltage spark, which ignited the fistful of flash powder Majique had donated to the cause. Instantly, there was an intense flare of magical light only inches from the giant eye of the lusca. She jerked her head away from the flash.
“Gr’bash, my immortal enemy, prepare to die by the flukes of Coragle!” a voice thundered directly in the ear hole of the goddess’ shark head. As her sight returned, Gr’bash was stunned to see a giant white whale, as large as she was, leap out of the water and hurtle through the air toward her. She instantly recognized Coragle, the god of the frigid depths of the Haliphron, her ancient and immortal enemy. She turned and leaped from the waters, her awesome jaws open in the deadly attack of the bull shark, ready to snap shut on the tough, rubbery skin, puncture and tear it, and then shake violently to rip apart her ancient enemy. She never thought to wonder why Coragle was speaking English.
On shore, Palette was replaying the famous attack scene from the 1956 Moby Dick movie in her mind, and projecting the scene onto the lens of Gr’bash’s right eye. It was a difficult task; she was scaling up the white whale to be a match for Gr’bash, who was about ten times as long as Moby Dick, and changing the colors to match today’s sky and location, while aiming at a difficult moving target. She could not possibly sustain the illusion very long, but she couldn’t, anyway. It would be revealed as soon as Gr’bash failed to impact the imaginary Coragle at the height of her jump.
Miss Music was using her power to shout directly into Gr’bash’s right ear hole at the highest volume she could muster. Shark hearing was very acute, and Tammi’s best volume was painful to the lusca goddess. And the silence in her other ear only added to her distraction.
Enraged beyond human understanding, and seemingly under attack by her mortal enemy, Gr’bash launched herself into the air and braced for impact against the unimaginable mass of Coragle, the whale god of the Haliphron. At the last instant, she chomped her jaws closed with bone-shattering force. All she swallowed was air — and the ghost of her human nemesis, the ghost of pirate Captain Anamaria Saldana, armed with the mystical Sword of Glory.
As her first mate had done almost two-hundred and fifty years ago, Anamaria used the Sword of Glory to cut her way to the heart of the goddess. Once again, the sword’s magical enchantment put the giant beast into a coma, and Gr’bash started sinking to the bottom of Pillsbury Sound.