[ Contents | IX. Serpent's Dowry | X. The Moonstop | XI. Downslope ]


By Dragoness Eclectic



White fire crackled and flared around Vegeta as he gathered power. The ground shook; small pebbles and dust rose into the air; the incessant cold wind stopped, and the air grew pungent with ozone.

Before Vegeta, the monstrous hound Garm crouched, baring ivory fangs the size of swords. It laid its ears back, and crouched lower as power raged around Vegeta. Its deep growl rose in pitch, and it shook its head from side to side, ears pained by the seething energies around Vegeta.

Kadru backed away, looking for cover that wasn't floating away in the vortex of Vegeta's power. She shifted to two-legged, human form and climbed the canyon wall to a sheltered ledge, then turned to watch.

Suddenly, all fell silent as Vegeta gathered the power in; rocks fell to the ground, and the cold wind blew as before. Garm snapped at Vegeta as he rose into the air--Vegeta dodged with ease.

The Saiyan prince glared into Garm's eyes, wide, dark Saiyan eyes locked with huge, amber beast's eyes--and realized something. He laughed.

"You're a dog! A very large, ugly, vicious, supernatural dog, but still just a dog! Look at me, you stupid thing! I am the prince of the Saiyajin, greatest of warriors--and YOU are just a dog!" Vegeta levitated just above the monster-hound's eyes, almost standing on its nose. He crossed his arms and continued to stare Garm down.

Garm growled, a deep thundering sound that reverberated off the canyon walls. Its ears were flat against his head as it tensed.

Faster than Garm could see, Vegeta moved. CRACK! Garm's head rocked as the Saiyan prince slammed the side of his muzzle--and then resumed his position, glaring down at Hel's hound. Energy gathered in his left hand.

The monster growled in rage and lunged again--WHOOM! Garm fell back, howling and pawing his singed, smoking nose. Vegeta laughed, never looking away from the dog-monster; Garm growled in rage and hate, but this time, another note crept in, an uncertain whine.

"Yes, you ARE a dog--an animal! I am a MAN--learn that now, dog! I'm not patient with disobedient.. pets." He continued to glare at Hel's guard beast.

Garm whined, and finally dropped its eyes, unable to meet the hot dark gaze of the Saiyan any longer. It tucked its tail and slunk away, growling dire promises of revenge, getting as far as the chain would allow from the prince who had no fear of Garm.

Vegeta smiled with satisfaction. He turned his head. "Kadru! Are you a bird, now, that you nest on cliffs? Get down here, snake-woman, or be left behind!"

Kadru crept fearfully past the sullen hound as Vegeta strode confidently down the road. At the bottom of the deepest canyon, the road crossed a dark cold river--the Gioll River of Niflheim. Even in the shadows of that icy hell the golden roof of the Gioll Bridge glimmered, beckoning the travellers onward.

"It's warm!" Kadru suddenly exclaimed. "I can feel the heat coming off of it!"

Vegeta soon saw why--the glimmering roof burned, gold burning with a perpetual, unnatural fire. The figure of an armored warrior maiden stood at attention, spear in hand, silhouetted by the fiery roof. "Hmmph. At least it keeps off that accursed icy wind!" he growled as he rubbed his stiff muscles.

Princess Kadru gasped as they neared the bridge and its guardian. The warrior maiden was not so pretty up close; a skeletal guardian, braided blond hair still clinging to her otherwise bare, grinning skull. Bits of dried flesh still webbed arm bones and hands together, but it was a dead thing that stood there.

"Ugly thing. She's going to have an even harder time finding a husband than you are, Kadru," Vegeta remarked, looking the silent, still guardian up and down.

"Why? Are you volunteering?"

Vegeta started and Kadru jumped as the skeletal guardian spoke with a deep, yet feminine voice, not unpleasant to the ear, with a hint of amusement in it. Empty sockets in the bare skull regarded Vegeta.

"A bit short for my tastes--and I warrant you'd not be so pretty if you appeared here in your death wounds and decay as all Hel's subjects are supposed to."

"I'm not one of Hel's subjects!" Prince Vegeta snapped. "Who are you, and what are you doing here?"

"You're dead, and you're here, that makes you one of Hel's subjects whether you like it or not. What Hel gets, she keeps. As for the formalities.." an audible sigh escaped the skeletal jaws, "I am Modgudh, guard of the Gioll Bridge. Who are you, and what is your business in Niflheim?"

Vegeta crossed his arms and scowled. "I am Prince Vegeta of the Saiyajin, and my business is my own!"

"Short, handsome, noble, and ill-tempered as Garm with sore paw--what an interesting combination!" Modgudh chuckled, a disconcerting sound. "And you?" Modgudh turned to Kadru. "I mark you as living--no ghost ever made that much of a racket clomping down from Garm's Bend--but what do you here?"

"I did NOT clomp!" Kadru protested. "I'm just not used to feet, that's all." As Modgudh continued to stare eyelessly at her, Kadru continued, startled, "Oh. Yes. I'm Princess Kadru, daughter of King Vasuki of the Naga People, and I'm looking for a husband. Prince Vegeta, my not-husband, is escorting me."

Modgudh turned briefly back to Vegeta. "Not-husband? That's a new one." She turned to Kadru once again. "You're looking for a husband.. in Niflheim. Girl, unless your tastes run to god-devouring wolves or the shades of murderers, adulterers and cowards, you are seriously lost."

"We're not planning on a long stay," Vegeta commented dryly. "Seen any large, out-of-place demons rampage through here lately?"

Modgudh's skull swiveled back towards Vegeta again. "And your business here is...?"

Vegeta unfolded his arms. "Vengeance!"

"Against a large, out-of-place demon?"

"Something like that. I'm looking for its trail: it's violent, destructive, and foul; its followers are goat-demon-things called broo. Are they here?" Vegeta demanded to know.

"Foulness ever rises from the fount of frigid Elivagar; its poison taints all the giant races with evil. As for your broo demons, hard to say--this is Niflheim, where the dead giants and mound-dwellers walk as well as damned human ghosts. There are many unseelie things in this realm." Modgudh leaned on her spear.

"Where is Elivagar?"

Modgudh pointed silently upstream.

"And Naastrand, where the ship Nailfarer Naglfar lies?"

Modgudh pointed downstream.

"I don't believe this! Twice over, and probably get nowhere!" Vegeta gritted his teeth. "Come on, woman!" The Saiyan prince crossed the bridge, Modgudh stepping aside to let him pass. Vegeta turned to follow the river--upstream.

*      *      *      *

On Earth, Sinhika Manohara slipped away from the late night crowd. She loved to dance, but some of the people--ick! Well, Sean was vaguely interesting, but the rest of them.. forget it. She turned down the alley beside the club, dodging the boys on the street.

She heard footsteps behind her, and glanced back. Oh, great, that Voron cretin was following her around again! Not only was he a self-centered, pretentious twit, but.. Sinhika stepped around a corner, and disappeared.

Voron ("rhymes with moron", Pomona had once snidely remarked to Sinhika) stopped, baffled. She couldn't have just disappeared into thin air! Damn! She was perfect, too--if he could just get her to listen, to understand.. He sighed, shrugged, and turned back.

Hovering invisibly twenty feet up, Princess Sinhika the Rakshasa watched him go. She smiled to herself; Akritaatmaanul! Clueless idiot! She rose into the sky, listening, looking, scenting the night air--this was her time, night and darkness, and she loved it! She came to rest on an upper ledge of a skyscraper, looking down at the city lights.

Beautiful! It's not Beautiful Lankha of course, but it has an appeal all its own. So many people, all going every which way, all with their own private destinies. I wonder which ones are tied to that of the Ghost Prince? She wondered if any other Night Wanderers were in the city--she hadn't noticed any of her fellow rakshasas, but that hardly meant anything in such a metropolis.


What was that? It felt like--it was! The ancient duty pulled at her; someone or something had desecrated--was desecrating!--a holy place, and not far! "Akaaryuum! Someone has done something foul!" Sinhika growled to herself, and took to the air, her power veiled in illusion and invisibility.

Sinhika alighted invisibly on the gateposts of an old Shinto temple. Keen eyes noted the broken door, keen ears heard rude voices raised inside, and an old man pleading. She darted inside, unseen and unheard.

Two--no, three--punks pushed an old man around. Tables were overturned and images broken. One young thug, unshaven street riff-raff dressed in tattered fatigues and vest, held the old man while another punk in dirty camo-pattern T-shirt and fatigues punched him in the stomach.

"Aw, this old priest is a wimp! No fun beating him up! Let's just get this over with," the thug in the vest complained.

The third thug, a muscular fellow in dark jeans and tight black shirt, replied, "Yeah, knock it off, Shiru. You'll get your jollies when he's sacrificed. Bring him along!"

Shiru, the thug in the camo-shirt, shrugged. "Hey, just having a little fun fer starters, you know. Think Keikan-Ma will give us a bonus for bringing in a priest and trashing a temple?"

"THERE IS NOTHING BUT DEATH FOR DEFILERS!" boomed an inhumanly deep voice. The three thugs looked up, paralyzed by the sight of one of the two carved shrine guardians coming to life and rising from its pedestal.

"OH SHIT! RUN FOR IT!" The muscular thug did the only sensible thing, and bolted into the night.

"That's impossible!" Shiru gaped at the apparition, fist still clenched for another swing at the old priest. His partner stared dumbly, still holding the old man. They should have run.

The reality of it finally reached Shiru far too late as the monstrous guardian demon lashed out with a taloned hand and tore out Shiru's throat. His partner let go of the old priest and turned to run, again too late as a taloned hand caught him by the back of the neck.

It was over in less than a minute. The guardian demon glared in the direction the third defiler had gone, and growled gently to the priest, "That one will not escape his fate. Cleanse this place, and be calm; no righteous man need fear me." The demon vanished into the night, carrying the two corpses with it.

On a nearby rooftop, Sinhika dropped her burden. "Akritabuddhitvaah; stupidity is my only excuse. Letting the third guy escape--dumb, Sinhika, dumb!" She shook her head. "And I really have to come up with better lines than that! Verbal and visual have to work together--'There is nothing but death for defilers!' sounded so lame! Hmmm... Maybe a simple 'Die, scum!' next time? If there is a next time, which I hope not, but.." She shook her head again. "I don't like that talk about sacrificing the priest.. and who--or WHAT--is Keikan-Ma? That isn't a real name; it literally means 'police demon', 'law enforcer demon', or something like that. I really don't like this..."

*      *      *      *

Late the next afternoon, the phone woke Sinhika from a deep sleep. "Huh? What?"

"It's me, Pomona. You still asleep? Wake up; it's five in the afternoon already! Look, we're trying to pry Sean off the computer again and drag him out to dinner; you coming?"

Sinhika yawned. "No, I couldn't. I had a huge dinner late last night. I'm stuffed; I simply couldn't eat another.. thing today."

*      *      *      *

"Fine, that's it for today! Go ahead and take the rest of the day off; we'll catch up on the rest of it tomorrow." Bulma shooed her executive assistant out of the office, and closed the door. At last! She was done with all those annoying humdrum business details; it was time for some fun.. er, research.

Down in the lab, Bulma logged into her "special" server, and started working.

"Oh, yes, you couldn't resist the bait, could you?" Bulma chuckled evilly as she studied her honeypot's logs. "One nasty flame or two, and you just had to come back to prove what a bad boy you were, didn't you, VirtualBlack? Let's see what you've been up to..."


"Hmmm. No serious penetrations, no damage done.." she muttered to herself, "just sniffing around--wait a minute! That personal node in Security--I recognize those files! What in the hell are my Saiyan tech manuals doing there?? Whose computer was that... RADITZ!!! YOU IDIOT! You worked on those manuals on a damn clerical node! Didn't Hiregumi brief you on system security?"

Bulma worked hurriedly. "Not good--VirtualBlack got enough to give the show away, if he has a clue about what he's got." She gritted her teeth. "Let's see what Dr. Brief's little girl can do to salvage the situation.. and when I see that long-haired, long-tailed IDIOT of a Saiyan, I will PERSONALLY give him that security briefing--with a tire iron!!"

She laughed abruptly. "VirtualBlack! You're still on-line! Wonderful! I KNOW WHERE YOU ARE!!" She quickly entered the requisite commands, and paused, her finger hovering over the confirm button. Bulma smiled as evilly as Vegeta ever did right before a kill--and her finger stabbed down.

The attack programs began their work, targetting VirtualBlack's computer and its precious, stolen data--and setting in motion events that would fling open the gates of Hell.

*      *      *      *

In frigid Niflheim, Vegeta continued to curse the cold. He flew now, carrying Kadru in his arms, spending precious ki to pass over the deepening snow--and the power that should have warmed him, that allowed him to defy any earthly chill, did nothing to blunt the icy wind that knifed through him. It took all his concentration just to keep flying. As for Kadru...

He glanced down at her. "What? This is not good." Her lips were blue, and face pale; Kadru shivered violently, continuously. "Don't die on me, snake-woman! You'll be just as cold as a ghost, I can tell you that."

"Tired," she mumbled petulantly. "Just want to sleep..." Kadru's eyes closed; blowing snow started to cover her face.

"Kuso! This is very not good!" Prince Vegeta looked around--there had to be some kind of shelter around here--Yes! Up on that ridge, overlooking the river.. a cave! He swooped toward it.

He skimmed over the icefall at the entrance and flew on, into the cave. A bend or two, and the icy wind was left behind--only a stagnant, life-sapping cold remained to remind them of the eternal winter without. Vegeta set the Naga-princess down on dry rock, and looked around.

"Damn this cold! There's got to be something that will burn around here!" he snarled, cold, tired and frustrated.

"NO--BUT THERE'S HOT BLOOD TO DRINK!" Something large rumbled as it slouched out of the back of the cave. Twice or more the height of a man, massively muscled--though now those muscles were shrivelled black from long freezing and rotting, ugly, decaying, dead; the shade of some troll or other giantkin shambled forward, eager for fresh meat. It carried no weapon, but spread great clawed hands out to grab and crush.

Vegeta leaped forward to the attack--and nearly stumbled into the thing's grasp. His eyes went wide; he was too slow and stiff--the damned cold! The undead troll lunged forward, unslowed by the cold it was born to, and grabbed Vegeta's leg.

The troll tensed rotting muscles and slammed Vegeta hard against the cave wall, stunning him. It shifted its grip, grabbing the Saiyan by his hair with its other hand, and dragged him up face-to-decaying-skull. The monster scrutinized him closely.

"NO FLESH TO DEVOUR, NO BONES TO CRACK!" It howled its disappointment, and flung Vegeta heavily against the wall. It ignored the discarded Saiyan ghost, and sniffed the air. "I SMELL LIVING MEAT!" It hooted, and lumbered toward the unconscious Princess Kadru.

"Chikusho! I am the Prince of the Saiyajin, not your unwanted dinner! You should not turn your back on me!" Vegeta screamed his rage as power enveloped him, warmed him, turned him to flaming gold.

"Good. There WAS something that would burn around here." observed Vegeta, one blast later. He returned to his normal form, hair fading from gold to black again--and nearly staggered in exhaustion. Going Super-Saiyan had drained most of his remaining energy. "Still not good. DAMN THIS COLD!"

He dragged the unconscious snake-princess over next to the burning troll. "Kadru?" She did not respond, and was cold to the touch. Very carefully, he drew a hand back and slapped her repeatedly, rocking her head from side to side with the force of the blows.

"Huh? Go 'way. Let me sleep.." she finally mumbled.

"Stupid snake-wench!" Vegeta snarled, slapping her harder than ever. A split lip bled, and Kadru finally awakened fully.

"STOP! Why are you hurting me?" she started to cry.

"I cannot warm you, stupid snake! If you'd rather freeze to death, go back to sleep! If not, pull yourself up to the fire and get warm!" Vegeta snapped.

"Oh." She crouched over the fire. "Phewww. What is that SMELL??"

"Barbecued troll mummy, I think."

Kadru finally looked at what was burning. "EEYECCH!" She backed away from the fire, felt the stagnant cold waiting for her, and sidled back to the fire. "That's disgusting!"

"It burns."

"It burns disgustingly." She frowned, and added pragmatically, "At least it is warm."

Maybe she has one tiny iota of common sense, thought Vegeta. Warmth.. I never thought I'd need something so simple so badly. This damned, cursed cold! It's been sapping my strength since we entered Niflheim, and I never noticed! I've very little energy left, and getting it back won't be easy.. only two peaches left. No point in eating one until I figure out how to keep this infernal cold from draining all my energy away again. Damn this!

"I wish I had a coat," Kadru muttered, as a pale light washed in from outside.

"What kind of coat would protect you from THIS cold?" Vegeta retorted as he made his way back to the mouth of the cave. He peered over the icefall, and gasped.

A great half-moon spun across the sky--only to Vegeta's eyes, it seemed that sometimes the moon shimmered and became a pale glowing goddess. It was not alone--pursuing the moon, snapping at the goddess's heels was a great white wolf, big as a mountain. Now and then its feet touched down as it bounced itself off the ground for a faster jump, nearly catching the fleeing lunar orb. It gamboled across the sky; snow and ice glittered in the air as it shook the hoarfrost from its fur.

"So.. 'god-devouring wolves' was no jest..." Vegeta glanced back into the cave, and turned to watch the giant wolf. "What kind of coat, indeed! For supernatural cold, a supernatural fur coat." Prince Vegeta smirked, and hastened back to the fire.

"You said you knew all the arts of a good wife, snake-woman. Can you sew?" Vegeta asked as he pulled out the next-to-last peach.

Kadru blinked. "Of course! Sew, embroider, weave.. why do you ask?"

Vegeta bit into the juicy peach, savoring its flavor. "I'm certainly not going to sew that coat you wished for! It's going to be enough trouble getting the fur." He ate all the peach but one bite, and glared at Kadru.

"Here." Prince Vegeta shoved the last bit of peach into her hands. "Get your strength back, you'll have to survive the next bit on your own."

Kadru took it. "Thank you, not-husband." She quickly ate the last bite, and stopped, eyes wide. "What is this? I feel so.. good. I'm not tired at all, and almost warm, and so strong.. it is so sweet!"

Vegeta chuckled, amused at her reaction to the Peach of--he stopped chuckling as he remembered--IMMORTALITY! Raditz's words came back to him: "those are the Peaches of Immortality--too bad the immortality part only works for the living and for gods." Princess Kadru was LIVING! What had he just done?

Vegeta leaned his head in his hands. "Snake-woman, you have the most unbelievably stupid good luck!" He sighed. "I have a wolf to kill. Wait here."

Burning gold, Prince Vegeta flew out of the cave mouth to confront Hati, the wolf who hunted the moon.

*      *      *      *

"All right! This is looking good, real good," Raditz reported through the prototype scouter's comm link. The long-haired Saiyan stood patiently while Bulma and another technician checked over his prototype armor. "Hey, it's just fine, I've worn and adjusted enough armor in my time to know when it is done right!"

"Raditz, I'm checking the telemetry leads, not the fit!" Bulma snapped, a bit exasperated. "Your personal evaluations are nice, but they don't tell me how fast you're going, or how many joules of energy are being tossed about. I want hard data on how this holds up."

"Crud! I'm just going to be flying around a bit, not picking a fight with Frieza's second cousin or whatever!"

"That's not funny, Raditz!" Bulma growled. "You weren't there when cyborged Frieza and his father showed up--one of the more terrifying days of my life."

"Sorry I missed it, but I was dead at the time--down in Hell with all my family and friends that Frieza murdered."

"You're right, you do have a natural talent for being annoying!" Bulma yanked viciously at an innocent lead near Raditz's tail, almost pulling it loose. "Everything's secure, we're ready."

"I told you that already."

Bulma glared murderously at Raditz, but said nothing.

"Can I take off now, without you taking an iron bar to my head?"

"You had that coming."

"So I didn't pay that much attention to Hiregumi's lecture on computer security--I'm here to protect you from real enemies, not nitwits with computers and too much time on their hands. My mistake; I didn't know the translation stuff could get stolen like that." Raditz shrugged, the closest he ever came to an apology to Bulma.

"Go! We'll be monitoring channels 1, 3 and 4, and I'll be privately monitoring channel 2, got that?"

Raditz nodded in the affirmative as he rose into the air, clad in the black bodysuit and hard white shell of the new Capsule Corp prototype armor. The familiar corona of energy enveloped him, and Raditz surged through the air, eager to push the new armor to its, and his, limits. The half-moon was just starting to rise; the merest sliver of it peeked over the horizon.

*      *      *      *

Vegeta plunged through the deadly cold air in a high arc, descending on the great wolf. He debated for a moment whether or not to take ouzaru form, but then the moon-goddess turned to face him full on, ending the debate with his change. Super-saiyan Vegeta became super-saiyan ouzaru Vegeta, and Hati took notice.

The giant white wolf, not quite the size of a mountain after all--only twice the size of ouzaru Vegeta, turned, snarling. The burning golden ape smashed into the white wolf, knocking the beast sprawling--but the wolf snapped teeth of ice shut on Vegeta's left wrist, pulling him down with it. Together they skidded across the sky, a tumbling ball of blazing gold and silver white; the moon stopped to watch.

Vegeta locked his right hand around the wolf's throat; in return the wolf raked his stomach with its hard blunt hind nails. They finally tumbled to a stop against a mountainside; the golden ape pinned the monster wolf against the mountain with his knees and squeezed its throat ever more tightly while fighting to free his hand from the wolf's mouth. The wolf in its turn bit down on the captive wrist, but could not tear it off.

The ape bellowed his rage; he couldn't blast the great wolf without losing his own hand! Still his other hand tightened, while his left hand froze, crushed in the dread wolf's icy jaws. The wolf thrashed weakly now, its titanic strength fading--and then Vegeta twisted with all his strength, left hand dragging the clenched jaws around to follow the right hand.

CRACK! Hati went limp as its neck broke, and ouzaru Vegeta watched wide-eyed as a ghostly wolf arose, and howled dolefully at the moon it had once hunted. Then, without a backward glance, it trotted into the sky, to become one with the stars. The moon turned away from its former tormentor, and drifted a bit higher, no longer fleeing its dread pursuer.

The golden ape pried its hand from the dead wolf's jaws with some difficulty, and carried the great carcass back to the cave mouth before the moon turned away too far, and super-ouzaru reverted to super-saiyan.

Princess Kadru came to the cave mouth and marvelled, and then gave her own advice. "Warrior, drink the wolf's blood, and eat of the heart, for there you will find its power!"

Later, after Kadru and Vegeta had eaten their fill of wolf meat (including wolf heart) roasted over wolf's bones (the troll long since having burned out and wandered away to sulk), Kadru proved her skills. By sorcery she tanned the fur, and by skill made it into a coat, mittens and boots for herself, a fine high-collared fur cloak for Vegeta, and fur linings for his boots and gloves. The great teeth she took and made small by magic, and kept them in a bag of the great wolf's fur. "Keep these," she said, giving the bag to Vegeta. "They will come in useful someday."

"Hmmph. I don't see how, but one never knows.." Finally reverted to his normal form, he reveled in the warmth of the white wolf's fur. Only one thing marred the aftermath of his battle with Hati--his left hand. Once again, Vegeta tried to flex it, and could not. From the wrist where the great winter wolf had bitten him, on down to the fingertips, the hand was cold and lifeless--paralyzed. He could neither move it nor channel power through it. "Not good," the prince muttered.

"Rest," he told Kadru. "Next, Elivagar." The half-moon had not moved in hours; it still stood high above the mountains, half-in and half-out of the netherworld.

*      *      *      *

Chi-chi sighed; the pansies were wilting. Not enough rain this month, and the craziness with Goku coming back and Vegeta's death and Bulma and the kids staying over and then getting lost and Goku's long dead brother Raditz coming back had played havoc with her gardening schedule. The truth was, she'd completely forgotten to take care of her plants with everything else that had been going on. She tended the flowers while Goten played happily in the dirt pile from this year's vegetable garden. Gohan was away at school, Daddy was taking a nap, and Goku was out fishing--it was just her and Goten and her garden. The half-moon had just risen, and was barely over the horizon.

Intent on her pansies, the normally alert Chi-chi didn't hear the car coast to a stop part way down the drive, nor see the three men creep up on the house. A fourth, a sallow youth in fatigues and mirror-shades, waited at the car, ready to crank it up and speed away.

"Who you?" Goten asked. Chi-chi looked up, just in time to see a burly man in a sleeveless shirt and dirty jeans grab her baby. Another man in fatigues smoking a cigarette stood by, an automatic rifle carelessly pointed in her direction. The third man wore dark sunglasses, a fine shirt and slacks, and spoke into a sat-phone. A pistol graced his other hand.

"HEY! PUT ME DOWN!" Goten yelled, and bit the burly man's arm.

The man cursed incoherently and smacked Goten in the face with his other hand--big mistake!

Chi-chi screamed, and power seethed around her--the cigarette-smoker almost dropped his rifle in surprise, and the fancy goon with the sat-phone gawked at her, and started yelling into his phone.

Cigarette-smoker recovered his rifle just in time to see Chi-chi's charge. Before he could raise his gun, her side-kick caught him in the gut, and he doubled up, gasping--and dropped his rifle. Chi-chi's second strike caught him under the chin--his eyes rolled up and he collapsed in a heap. Out for the count. Chi-chi whirled.

Burly man was trying desperately to hang on to a wriggling, angry, biting Goten, and not doing too well. Blows didn't seem to bother the angry child (unbeknownst to the thugs, Goten was used to getting hit harder playing with his uncle), but after several bloody bites, the burly guy managed to pin Goten under his arm, holding the kid's hands together behind his back. Then Chi-chi kicked him between the legs, and the burly man stopped doing much of anything except holding himself and screaming.

Meanwhile, the fancy goon dropped the phone and started screaming "Sekko-Ma! Sekko-Ma! HELP US!" at the top of his lungs. Chi-chi leaped toward him, and silenced him with two blows.

Chi-chi looked around, with a fierce scowl on her face. All three goons were down, unconscious or helpless, and Goten got to his feet, sputtering indignantly. Chi-chi ran over to him, and hugged him.

"Oh, Goten baby, it's okay, I stopped the bad men that tried to get you. They won't be bothering you now," she comforted him.

"How come you don't burn 'em up like Nunk Rats does, Mama?" asked Goten.

"Because these are human beings, Goten, and we don't kill people unless there is NO other way to protect ourselves, honey." Remind me, she thought grimly to herself, to SPEAK to Goku about his brother's influence. And I used to think those karate bums Kulilin, Muten Roshi, and Yamcha were a bad influence! At least they're not mercenary killers like Raditz--or just plain killers like Vegeta! I don't need Raditz giving Goten the notion that vaporizing people just because they annoy you is a good idea!

The fancy goon stirred, lifting his bloody head a bit. A smile of triumph flashed across his face. "Sekko-Ma!" He fainted.

Chi-chi whirled--and a hard, scaly fist slammed her across the jaw. She started to fall, caught herself, and fell back into fighting stance, blinking tears of pain from her eyes as something man-size and dinosaur-like flashed in front of her. A long whip-like tail snapped around and hooked her ankles, throwing her; then a four-toed, clawed foot with one huge gutting claw, curled back, smashed down against her head--and everything went black.

Goten screamed as his mother fell to the winged dinosaur-thing standing over her. "DADDY! NUNK RATS! HELLLLPPPPP!" The dinosaur-thing bounded over to him, and silenced him with a single kick to the head.

Scout crouched over the fallen bodies. "You can get up now," he hissed at his fallen flunkies. "You're safe from the unarmed woman and the little boy," he hissed sardonically. "They are ours!"

Behind Scout, the half-moon hung barely above the horizon.

*      *      *      *


[ Contents | IX. Serpent's Dowry | X. The Moonstop | XI. Downslope ]

Disclaimer: See Credits.

Copyright 2000 by Dragoness Eclectic