The Huntress and the Moon
Summary: “I know I’ve always said weird is a part of the job, but…” she flashes me a wry grin, “I never thought I’d end up running around in an alien forest, playing the part of a moon goddess. And this outfit isn’t exactly practical for slaying enemies.”
Characters: Janeway, Chakotay, Paris, Ayala, Tuvok, EMH
Codes: Janeway/Chakotay, Janeway/Paris, Janeway/Ayala
Disclaimer: Paramount/CBS own the rights to the Voyager universe and its characters, which I am borrowing without permission or intent to profit. Kit Williams owns all rights to his incredible artwork, which inspired this piece of crazy.
Notes: Inspired by Kit Williams’ artwork, Hunter's Moon. I owe a lot of this to Greek mythology (obviously) but it’s by no means supposed to satisfy the purists.
The oppressive heat abates as we run deeper into the trees, the trickling of water growing fainter. Kathryn is in the lead, weaving through the thickening forest, her stride smooth and tireless. I put on a burst of speed, catching her elbow to slow her to a walk. Paris and Ayala fall in a few steps behind us.
“Any idea where we’re going?” I ask.
She flicks me an unreadable glance. “I thought you were the local expert on legends, Chakotay. Or should I call you Onix?”
For some reason, the name feels right. It fits. “I guess you should – Celyne.”
Kathryn shakes her head a little. “I know I’ve always said weird is a part of the job, but…” she flashes me a wry grin, “I never thought I’d end up running around in an alien forest, playing the part of a moon goddess. And this outfit isn’t exactly practical for slaying enemies.”
I can’t help letting my gaze sweep over her. “It suits you.”
In the faint light I can still see the flush on her cheeks. “Chakotay –”
Before she can finish her admonishment, an unearthly howl splits the quiet air, and the hairs on the back of my neck prickle.
“What the hell?” blurts Paris.
“I hate to state the obvious,” Kathryn murmurs, “but I’d say they’re playing our song. Let’s go, gentlemen, and look sharp.”
I move in ahead of her. “We’re supposed to be guarding you, Captain,” I remind her as she looks at me pointedly.
“Fine. Take the lead.”
The spear balances nicely in my hand as I heft it experimentally. Ayala’s handy with knives, I know from fighting alongside him in another lifetime, but I’m not sure how well Paris can handle a sword. As for Kathryn’s weapon…
“Have you ever used a bow and arrows before?”
She smirks. “You forget my traditionalist background, Chakotay. I was two-time archery champion at my high school. Although I will admit I’m a little out of practice.”
“Well, just try to keep up with us, then,” I tease her, and she snorts, falling in behind me.
Overhead a bird screeches, and a chill settles over me. I wonder if it’s simply the natural cooling of sundown or some kind of sixth sense. As we move off deeper into the forest I can’t shake the feeling that we’re being watched.
A dry twig cracks, and before I can hiss an order to stop him, Ayala melts into the woods towards it. For long moments we hear nothing. And then a shriek splits the hushed air, and a roar, and we’re running after him.
I’m first on the scene, and what I see is beyond belief. Ayala crouches in the centre of a natural clearing, knives drawn. Facing him are two creatures straight out of a nightmare.
One has the head of a vulture, its hands ending in vicious claws and its roughly humanoid body feathered in shades of violet and black. The other has a bear’s head, jaws open and slavering, atop a body covered in a thick pelt of fur. I can’t tell if they’re bipedal by nature or just standing on their hind legs until, as I watch, the vulture shrieks again and drops onto all fours, rushing toward Ayala. It swipes out a claw and he jumps back just in time, turning to drive his knife into the creature’s neck. It squawks and takes off, shaking blood from its feathers, disappearing into the trees.
The bear emits a thundering roar and gallops at Ayala, but before it can reach him I hear a yell from behind me and Paris is bolting into its path, sword swinging wildly above his head. It slices cleanly through the bear’s thick shoulder and the creature stumbles to the forest floor, but before Paris can leap back, one meaty forepaw arcs out and catches him across the chest. Paris’ body jerks and he falls backward, writhing in agony as the bear groans its way into death.
“Zefir!” the captain screams, and falls to her knees beside Paris. Her hands press onto the wound on his chest, blood seeping through her fingers.
He moans, reaching up to cover one of her hands with his as Ayala and I drop down beside them.
“We have to stop the bleeding,” she says, glancing desperately around. “I need – God! Help him!”
But Paris is bleeding out fast, and there’s nothing we use to stem the blood flow. I meet Kathryn’s eyes, hers wide with fear and anguish.
“I have to save him.”
Paris coughs, red droplets appearing on his lips. “Celyne,” he whispers.
A part of my mind notes that they’re calling each other by the names Amanisia gave them, but it seems unimportant, and then, as though conjured up by my thoughts, Amanisia appears, kneeling beside us.
“He is gravely injured,” she says. “But you can save him, Celyne of the Moon.”
“How?” Kathryn pleads.
“Bring him to the Spring of the Naiades. There remains enough life-force to heal your guard, but you must help him.”
“Whatever it takes.”
Kathryn gets to her feet, and at her nod Ayala and I lift Paris onto our shoulders and begin the trek back through the forest.
I’ve never felt pain like this. My body is burning, rivulets of fire wrapping around my chest and squeezing the breath out of me. I’d welcome oblivion, but the jolting rhythm of motion keeps me hanging on to consciousness.
Hands grip my ribs and calves, strong hands, broad shoulders holding me aloft. I feel the faint swish of air as branches pass my prone body. In brief snatches of awareness, I crack open my eyes and see the stars and the pale golden moon.
“In the stream,” I hear someone say, and I’m being lowered, cool water furling around my ankles, knees, hips. It’s shallow and the bottom is soft with sand. Slender arms wrap around my chest from behind, urging me gently to lie back onto a narrow torso. A lock of long chestnut hair slides forward over my shoulder.
“Celyne,” I manage.
“Shh.” Her lips brush my ear as she scoops water from the stream, cups it over my ravaged chest. It’s hard to breathe, but as she trickles water over the deep gashes in my skin, the bands around my ribs loosen a little and the pain abates.
“It’s working,” says the voice I know belongs to my captain, her husky voice lightened with relief.
“Not quickly enough. The blood is still flowing.” The bell-like tones belong to Amanisia; she sounds grave. “You have the power to heal him faster.”
The hands brushing my torso stutter and still. “What?”
“You are the huntress, the goddess of the moon and bringer of healing and life. You must do this.” A pause. “If you don’t, he will die.”
I hear a quick intake of breath at my ear, and then slim fingers are turning my jaw and soft lips pressing my own. She kisses me tentatively at first, a bare brush of lips against mine, but I feel strength trickling through my muscles and nerves and I open my mouth under hers, wanting more. Needing more.
Her breath mingles with mine, her tongue sliding along my lower lip. It’s the most sensual kiss I’ve ever experienced and I can’t help groaning and bringing my hand up to cup her face. She shifts closer, her hair falling across my chest. I no longer feel pain or fear or the cool water on my skin. All I feel is desire.
My arms come around her, one hand holding her face and keeping her mouth on mine, the other on the base of her back, pressing her close. Her thighs part over mine. The friction of our sodden clothing ignites sparks of want and she gasps into my mouth and winds her fingers into my hair. My hands are roaming, sliding under damp cloth and onto soft bare skin, my hips pushing into hers, my mouth leaving hers to press kisses to the white column of her neck and –
She pushes me away, scrambling out of the stream and onto the bank, and my eyes flash open, locking onto the confused and horrified face of my captain.
My chest is heaving, my breath coming in short gusts. What the hell was that?
From the corner of my eye I catch Amanisia’s approach. “The healing is done,” she says softly, crouching beside me. “Are you well?”
I shake my head, tearing my gaze away from the stunned look in Tom Paris’ eyes. I just kissed my helmsman as if I was drowning in him. Well is not the adjective I’d choose.
“Zefir is not to become your companion,” Amanisia says, her voice low. “You must choose again.”
I swallow against the dryness in my throat. “I don’t understand.”
Amanisia just smiles and stands, extending a hand to help me up. “The hunt must continue. Your guards await.”
Squaring my shoulders, I turn to face the two dark-haired men at the edge of the stream. Ayala’s face is impassive, but there’s a knot of tension in Chakotay’s jaw. Paris rises from the water and goes to stand beside them, taking his sword from Ayala. There’s not a mark on him, and it eases my humiliation somewhat. I don’t understand how kissing him healed his wounds, but it’s a small price to pay for saving his life.
I refuse to listen to the small voice inside me that points out that kissing him wasn’t exactly a torment.
“Well, gentlemen,” I sling my quiver over my back and force myself to meet their eyes, “we have a quest to complete, do we not?”
A screech and a howl rise from the woods, and the four of us burst into a run. As before, Chakotay jogs up beside me.
“Kathryn, this is no longer a game. Paris nearly died.”
“But he didn’t.”
He stops, catching my elbow to turn me toward him. “And I don’t pretend to understand how he survived, but I don’t think we should take that chance with anyone else’s life. We need to get back to the ship.”
“No,” I retort, more sharply than I’d intended. “We continue the hunt.”
“At the risk of someone else getting hurt or killed?” Chakotay curls his hands around my upper arms, forcing me to face him. “This isn’t like you.”
“Every fibre of my being is telling me we have to finish this, Chakotay.”
As I say it, I realise how true it is.
He searches my eyes for a moment, then sighs. “In that case, we’re going to need a strategy.”
“I agree.” I risk a glance at him; his eyes are shadowed. “Amanisia said Tanatos had three followers. Clearly we took one down during our last encounter, but that still leaves two more, not to mention Tanatos himself. Any suggestions, Commander?”
He shrugs. “Reconnaissance would be a good place to start. If we can get eyes on them, maybe we can figure out how to defeat them.”
“All right.” I slow to a walk. “You and Paris head west. I’ll go east with Ayala. We’ll see what we can see, and meet back at the clearing in an hour.”
“I don’t think we should split up.”
“Then what do you suggest?” I snap, itching to get moving again. “Amanisia told us we have to take down Tanatos before dawn. We’re running out of time.”
“I don’t know.” He runs a hand through his hair in frustration. “I just don’t want to lose sight of you. I mean,” he tries to lighten his voice, “I am supposed to be your Guard of Night, aren’t I?”
“Chakotay, I’ll be fine.”
“Of course you will,” he mutters, but he still hasn’t taken his hands off my arms.
“Is there something else, Commander?” I’m barely hiding my impatience now.
“Yes. Actually, there is.” He’s watching me intently. “What happened back there, with Paris – are you okay?”
I read his eyes, and what I see there is heartfelt concern. For me.
“I’m fine.” I smile at him, resting my hand on his chest. “Really, I am.”
“Okay,” he says, and steps back to let me go.
I’m used to tracking through unfamiliar territory, but the path through the trees is steep and the captain’s pace is making it hard for me to keep up. There’s just enough moonlight filtering through to glimpse her pale figure flitting between the trunks. She’s a woman on a mission.
My head’s still full of what happened back there at the spring. I’m not sure if I’m more shocked by Paris’ miraculous recovery or the method she used to heal him. Damn, if that wasn’t the hottest thing I’ve seen in years. I’ve always thought the captain was a beautiful woman, despite that buttoned-up uniform. But I’ve never presumed to think of her in that way.
Boy, has that changed now. All I could think as I watched her pressing up against Paris in that shallow stream, kissing him like she wanted to suck out his soul, was damn, I wish that was me. And I didn’t dare look at the boss in case he read my mind and decided to take it out on my face.
Thankfully, I’m pretty good at keeping my own counsel.
Celyne – no, the captain, I have to remember to think of her that way – turns to motion to me to fall in behind her. She’s stopped, crouching by a fallen tree trunk, peering around a cluster of rocks. I hunker down beside her.
“I think I’ve found Tanatos.”
Shuffling forward, I crane my neck around the rock and spy a flattened plain of dead grass and dying, withered plants. The feathered, vulture-headed creature I fought earlier is crouched on a rock, its yellow eyes gleaming. On the other side of the plain, another furred being prowls on all fours, this one with a fox’s head. And in the centre of the clearing stands a creature out of every childhood nightmare I ever had.
It stands over two metres tall, its body silvery with curlicued designs that could be tattoos or the meandering path of some demented snail. Its hands and feet are red-clawed and its head is a skull, shining white as though picked clean, the eye sockets dead and empty. Enormous purplish wings extend from its back, and in one clawed hand it holds a weapon as tall as itself, curved and scaled like a snake and topped with a vicious curved blade.
The skull-head turns toward me and the mouth gapes into a smile. I stumble back, almost knocking over the captain in my haste.
“What is it?” she hisses.
“I think he saw me.”
She pokes her head out and immediately jerks back. “Are you ready to fight, Lieutenant?”
I nod, and we scramble backward, she taking cover in the lee of a rock and me positioning myself behind the fallen trunk. As the stench of something sweet and foul wafts toward us, the captain nocks an arrow and I draw my knives.
“I can smell you, Celyne,” whispers a voice that stiffens my spine. “I’ve been waiting for you.”
The captain’s mouth firms.
“Come and give yourself to me,” hisses Tanatos. “You and I are meant to be together.”
Before I can stop her, the captain steps out from her hiding place, arrow aimed straight and true. “You will never have me, Tanatos.”
The demon laughs. “Then you will die,” he says, and springs at her.
The first arrow strikes him in the shoulder. He falters, but before she can let fly another shaft he leaps the distance separating them and grabs her by the throat, lifting her off the ground, feet flailing and hands scrabbling at the claws around her neck.
I bolt out from behind the trunk and spring onto his back, driving the point of each dagger deep into his muscled shoulders. Tanatos bellows, his grip failing. Celyne falls awkwardly but scrambles to her feet as I struggle to keep my grip, the demon twisting and bucking to throw me off. I’m slipping, the hilts of my knives growing slick with blood. One more heave and Tanatos sends me flying through the air. I land heavily, the wind knocked out of me.
“Astrus!” she cries.
I hear the whir of another arrow and Tanatos howls, and then Celyne is bending to grip me by the arm, half-dragging me until I regain my feet.
Behind us, Tanatos and his creatures are gaining ground. I hear the crash of splintering tree trunks and smell a foul hot wind. The moss beneath our feet is dying, the forest leaves withering. The decay seems to be advancing even ahead of us.
Celyne puts on a burst of speed and zigzags into a thick copse of trees still white and straight, leaves glossy with health. I plunge after her, but she’s disappeared.
“Celyne,” I hiss, and a small hand shoots out and drags me, stumbling, behind a veil of moss.
“Shh,” she warns.
The surrounding trees are so thickly packed, so hung with curtains of moss, that we’re completely concealed from the outside world. It’s tight quarters in here and she’s pressed up against me, so close her hair tickles my chin. Before I can think about it, I’ve wrapped my arms around her, pulling her flush against my body.
Her soft gasp and the way she moves in my arms makes my body react. I pull back, but she shrugs the quiver off her shoulder and drops it to the ground, and then she pushes even closer and winds her arm around my neck.
“Kiss me,” she demands, and drags my mouth down to hers.
As her lips open mine I lose my breath and my mind. My hands roam her body, one cupping her breast, one tugging her thigh around my hip. She presses back with a breathy moan and I slip my hand inside her one-shouldered tunic, pushing the soft fabric aside in favour of her softer skin. She breaks our kiss, throwing her head back to give me access to her throat. I take it, my tongue and teeth scoring a path down over her throat, her collarbone, the swell of her breast.
When I suck her nipple into my mouth she shudders and circles her hips against mine. I’m straining against my breeches. My hand slides under her raised thigh to dip between her legs, and oh God, she’s naked under there. Naked and hot and deliciously wet. My fingers slide between her folds. She jerks against me, fingers digging into my shoulders, a low groan echoing in her throat as I stroke her. I can feel she’s getting close. I want to be inside her.
I pull my fingers away to fumble with the ties on my breeches. She whimpers, “Astrus,” and raises her head.
“Captain,” whispers a voice that isn’t mine. “Captain. Ayala. Are you in there?”
The captain opens her eyes, locking onto mine, and hers widen in shock.
And then she’s pushing me violently away, sending me stumbling back, and all I can do is stare at her as I try to remember where, and who, I am.