Jennifer Steel, Agent of the F.S.I.A. Chapter 8

Jennifer slowly came to, dimly aware that her legs were cold. Damn it. I kicked the blankets off again. She hated when she did so. Why do I end up kicking off my blankets every time I hang out with Rob, and why is it so irritating? She reached to punch her pillow, which was feeling oddly hard, and came fully awake when her hand hit the cold stone.

“Ow. Fucker.”

She sat up in a hurry. A quick look down her body had conflicting emotions running through her. One the one hand, she was dressed; in a shift, it appeared, but still dressed. The worst part was the knowledge that someone had undressed her to put this on her. She felt…violated. Goddamnit, I’m gonna fuck up whoever took liberties with me while I was out. Her eyes went wide, and she reached between her legs. No soreness, but… What the fuck?! She leaped to her feet. Where’s my fucking panties?!

Jennifer whirled around and saw that one candle had burned down and been replaced with a fresh one. The shift was a finely woven fabric of some type and belted with a golden rope around her hips. On her feet were a pair of soft leather boots that came up to mid-calf. Her sword was laying on the bed in a dark leather sheath. She picked it up and examined it. The baldric was belted for someone much larger than she was. After several minutes of fiddling with the straps, she figured out how to loosen and tighten them. She slipped the baldric over her right shoulder so she could draw the sword with her right hand, and tightened the straps. When it was comfortable, she headed out the wooden door near the recliner.

Outside, she found herself in a soaring pine forest. She stalked along a path, cussing under her breath, vowing to tear the clothes thief a new one. Crickets made their reedy music, and a tawny wood owl screeched in victory as it caught a field mouse. She marveled at its beauty for a moment, and then lifted her face, letting the light and shadow dance across her skin. Bees hummed in and out of a cluster of wild rose bushes. A quick bend at the waist to inhale their perfume before hurrying on, and delighting at the sound of her boots crunching pine needles underfoot. Not too far away, she could hear a creek chuckling as it tumbled over different levels of rocks. It wasn’t long before it became visible through the trees. Jennifer decided to walk towards the creek. As she walked, she startled a pair of rabbits. She didn’t get to see much as they streaked out of sight, just a flash of long ears and twin streaks of brown fur. She felt a smile spread across her face as she continued. She’d never seen wild rabbits before. Not paying attention to the path, she brushed up against the rough bark of an immense pine, and getting sticky pine tar on her bare arm. Brushing the white tar only succeeded in spreading it further along her arm. She scowled at the mess, hating the tacky feel of it. A noise above her caused her to look up and forget all about the pine tar on her arm. A pair of grey squirrels chased each other through the tree branches, leaping boldly from limb to limb, sending a shower of needles and twigs down on her. She found herself giggling like a little girl at their antics. Why am I giggling? I’m supposed to be pissed.

Something about the forest path – what, she didn’t know – pulled the anger out of her, leaving her more at peace. What the hell is going on with me? For some reason, even that worry faded away. A soft, warm wind began to blow across her face and playfully toss her hair across her eyes. While she walked across the rich, loamy, black earth, long blades of grass caressed her bare legs. Birds resumed twittering in the treetops. The insects never bothered to stop their humming.

The ground became softer and wetter as she approached the banks of what turned out to be a wide river. Soon, Jennifer came to the edge of the running water. It was a beautiful blue, perfectly reflecting the clear sky above. As her gaze roamed the stretch of waterway, she could see that the river grew swifter about fifty feet further down. She made her way to it, the sound of a waterfall building in volume as she got closer. She soon found herself on a rocky outcropping far above a plunge pool, with a white, frothy cascade of water diving all the way down to it. A cool mist landed on her skin, beading up and then running down her limbs as far below, a deer drank from the pool at the bottom of the waterfall. A flat boulder rose up from the center of the plunge pool, its sun-baked surface drawing her on like a cat to a sunny window seat. She absently wiped spray from her cheeks as she contemplated her sudden desire to dive in to the pool below.

Jennifer leaned towards the waterfall, her lips parted, breathing faster and shallower. Her cheeks were flushed, and she wore a big grin of anticipation. She practically vibrated with excitement. Her lips shone as she unconsciously  continually licked them. I’m gonna do it! She took three giant steps backward, stopped, and then raced forward and dove off the outcropping of rock.

“Yaaaaa-hoooooo!” she yelled as she fell.

She arched her back, swept her arms forward and executed a perfect swan dive into the plunge pool at the base of the waterfall. Ignoring the sound of thousands of gallons of water thundering into the pool, Jennifer pushed to the surface, taking a huge breath as she broke it. She threw a triumphant fist into the air, laughing giddily at the same time.

“Yes! That was amazing! I wish Rob had seen that!”

Now why the hell did I say that? She mused, dropping her arm.

She swam to the boulder in the middle of the pool and pulled herself up onto it. She slid her fingers through her wet hair, slicking it back. She then lay back on the sun warmed boulder and looked up at the clear blue sky. She enjoyed the gentle heat of the sun as it warmed her and pulled the moisture from her skin and drenched clothing. The scent of the water saturated air, combined with the smell of rich earth and green, growing things further served to relax her.

Suddenly, the wind began to pick up, kicking a fine spray of grit over Jennifer’s body. At the same time, the light hairs on her arms and the nape of her neck stood straight up. She felt dizzy as if she had twirled in place. Chills danced up her spine and down her arms as she unknowingly bit at her lower lip and cleared her throat. Her mouth went dry as she sat up and looked around her. She could see nothing, but her legs were growing tense as if she wanted to start running. She stood, tears falling unnoticed down her cheeks. She abruptly turned and dove into the water, swimming for the shore. Oddly, the water felt colder and thicker as if it wanted to keep her from reaching the safety of the shore. She finally scrambled from the water and backed away from the water which suddenly seemed dark and sinister. Jennifer wrapped her arms tightly about her body as she shook uncontrollably and gasped for air.

A cold, white mist grew above the surface of the plunge pool. The animal and insect sounds faded away. The smell of earth grew stronger as the mist grew thicker. Jennifer back around a tree and continued to watch. A bank of fluffy, greenish-black clouds formed near the center of the boulder she had sunned herself on just moments ago. The clouds began to spiral up and into a vaguely humanoid form. A bolt of lightning struck the center of the clouds, leaving a bluish after image on her vision and the smell of ozone in her nostrils. Jennifer was surprised when she wasn’t deafened by thunder. Air, superheated by the lightning bolt seconds ago, exploded outward, nearly deafening her. She cringed, having never been so close to a lightning strike before.

Blinking away tears of pain, and the after images of the bolt, Jennifer looked back at the boulder in the center of the waterfall’s plunge pool. Standing confidently on the rock was a statuesque, curvy woman. She had long, thick rich red-orange hair, long sable lashes, and ice blue eyes. Her face was perfectly symmetrical and flawless. She had firm, up thrust breasts, a line outlining her abdominal muscles, and a defined “V” shape where her abs descended to her pubis, which had no hair. There was a very evident inward curve to the outline of her body at her waist and a sharp flare outward at her hips. She had muscular, yet feminine legs and delicate feet. Poking up above her shoulders were a folded pair of bat-like wings, the fingers of which were black.

“Come here, child,” the creature said in a soprano voice.

Jennifer unconsciously checked that her sword was loose in its sheathe by lifting it a bit with her thumb and letting it drop back. I have three options: I can run, I can go talk to her, or I can attack. After a few seconds of deliberation, she gave a heavy sigh and approached the creature with dragging feet. She nibbled on her bottom lip as she approached the bank of the pool of water. The winged creature snapped her wings out, showing an impressive span. She flapped them slowly at first, then more rapidly. She gently rose into the air, the downdraft causing wavelets to ripple away from the boulder. Shortly, the creature was settling gracefully to the ground before Jennifer.

“What are you?” she said in a strained voice.

“I am Lilith, the Mother.”

“Mother of what?”

Lilith gave a small smile. “All.”

Jennifer’s right eyebrow arched upward. “Are you trying to get me to believe that you are the Eve from the Christian bible?”

Lilith shook her head. “No, Jennifer, my dear. I’m informing you that I am the one all Abrahamic religions call Eve. You may believe what you wish.”

“Rob says religions are make believe.”

“Rob? Is he your mate?”

“Oh god, no. We’re just friends.”

Lilith chuckled. “Have it your way.” She suddenly got serious. “I have a favor to ask of you.”

“What kind of favor?” Jennifer asked suspiciously.

“A helpful one. Now listen: Not too far from here is a gem. It is in the shape of a clenched fist. It looks like it is made from a blue-white diamond, but it is really a different kind of mineral; one not found on your world. I need you to get it and hand it to me.”

“That’s it?”

Lilith nodded her head. “That’s it.”

“What’s in it for me?”

“I can give you your heart’s desire. The one you won’t even admit to yourself.”

Long association with Rob made her say, “The question is: Will you do so?”

“Yes, I wi—”

“Don’t trust her Jennifer!” a man’s voice thundered.

Jennifer and Lilith turned to the new comer. He was a tall, broad-shouldered man with long and thick black hair. He had dark eyes, high cheek bones and a wide jaw which was covered with dark stubble as if he hadn’t shaved that morning. Thick arms were folded across a massive chest, clad in a silvery, purple-green colored, form-fitting armor. Across his forehead was a band of the same color of his armor. He looked regal, deadly, and intimidating. When Lilith saw him, her face contorted into a snarl of black rage. Her breathing picked up as she shook. “Carter!” she spat.

“L’Arc,” he responded, his eyes flinty.

“What are you doing here?”

“My job.”

Jennifer blinked and the mysterious man appeared, sword raised to chop, behind the winged female who vanished from sight. She reappeared several feet away, facing him once more.

Jennifer began to slowly back away. She had no idea who this Carter individual was, but she had no desire to get between him and the winged woman. Lilith growled and hissed, but made no move to follow. Jennifer backed into a tree, causing the sheathe of the white sword to knock against the trunk. Without taking his eyes off Lilith, he spoke to Jennifer. “Don’t lose my sword and only use it if you have no other recourse.”

Jennifer turned and fled, running nearly blind through the woods.  She ignored the brush scratching her bare legs, the tug of mud on her boots and spider webs breaking over her face. She leaped over a foul-smelling stagnant pond, startling squirrels  – which leaped up tree trunks – and a red fox that scurried into a hollow under a mighty pine tree’s roots. Fallen evergreen needles crunched underfoot, releasing their clean scent into the air. The light was fading, creating new shadows and dark patches around her. The wind sighed between distorted trunks, carrying the sickly odor of wood rot. She ran faster, ignoring the briars that caught at her shift, and the damp leaves griming her skin.

Her headlong rush was brought to an undignified end moments later when her foot slipped in some dark mud. She belly-flopped on the ground and slid partly into a stream, getting scrapped by the rocks and wet from the cold water. The sudden impact drove the wind from her lungs with a pained grunt. She immediately rolled off her wounded middle to her side. She curled around the stinging pain, trying to get it under control. Her breath shuddered painfully in her sore lungs. After several painful moments, she rolled to her belly again and pushed herself up on her hands and knees. Her limbs trembling with the effort, she pushed herself upright. She pulled up the soaked shift and hissed at the sight of the scrapes on her legs and the developing bruise on her abdomen.

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