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.
I brush aside the heavy drape of moss, pushing into the tiny space between the trees, and stop so abruptly that Paris runs straight into my back.
Ayala is leaning back against a tree, breeches half-unlaced, hands fisted at his sides, chest heaving. He’s staring disbelievingly at Kathryn, and it barely takes a glance at her to realise why.
Her hair is tangled, eyes heavy and lips swollen, her breath coming just as hard and fast as Ayala’s. Her bow and quiver lie abandoned on the ground beside her. Her tunic is askew, one rose-peaked breast exposed, the short skirt rucked up across her thighs. It would take a blind man not to comprehend exactly what they’ve just been doing.
I’ve always dreamed of seeing her like this. But in my dreams, I was the one who made her look this way.
My voice is controlled, but she jumps and turns quickly away from me, blushing furiously as she straightens her clothing.
“Are they in here?” Paris pushes past me and stops short, clearly sensing the atmosphere.
Ayala coughs, but I can’t deal with him right now. Wisely, he grabs Paris’ elbow and they back out of the copse.
Kathryn collects her weapons and forces herself straight, not meeting my eye. “Commander,” she says briskly. “Report.”
I can’t help a short huff of breath. “We didn’t encounter any sign of Tanatos or his creatures, Captain.”
“They were chasing us,” she says, as though only just remembering it. “I guess we evaded them.”
“By taking cover in here.”
Her shoulders hunch defensively. “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”
“I’ll just bet,” I mutter, and she whirls to face me.
“If you have something to say, Commander, I suggest you spit it out.”
My mouth opens, but the sensible part of my brain kicks in – thank God – and I shake my head.
“Good,” she snaps, and pushes past me.
“I estimate we have about two hours until sunrise,” Paris is saying as I quietly rejoin the group. “Any idea where we can find this Tanatos and kick his ass?”
“He doesn’t seem to have come this way.” Kathryn waves a hand at the lush growth ahead of us, then turns to indicate the dead moss on the forest floor, the mould encroaching on the withering tree trunks. “I suggest we head in that direction.”
“Back toward the spring?” Paris frowns.
“Think about it,” she urges. “If Tanatos is the Bringer of Decay, and the Naiades’ spring is the life-force of this place, wouldn’t he go to the source?”
“I never really paid attention in mythology class,” Paris admits.
“I did.” I step forward. “The captain’s right. Let’s go.”
“He’s moody,” I hear Paris murmur to Ayala as I turn to stride off.
“Shut up, Paris,” Ayala mutters.
We move in single file for a while, Kathryn bringing up the rear, but it doesn’t take long for her to decide she’s given me enough space. Skirting the other two, she catches up to me and holds me back, letting the others move ahead.
“Chakotay,” she says quietly.
Her mouth tightens at my use of her rank. “Do we need to talk about this?”
“Chakotay.” She plants herself in my path. I stop short, staring past her, and she sighs and rubs her forehead. “I don’t know – I don’t understand what happened back there. I just – all I can think is that there’s something about this … persona … that prompts me to do things I would never normally do.”
I lower my gaze. Her forehead is crinkled, her eyes clouded, but all I can see is Ayala’s hands on her body. “You don’t owe me an explanation, Captain.”
“Then why are you acting like a jealous lover?” she snaps, then closes her eyes, regaining control. “I’m sorry, Commander. That was out of line.”
“Why him?” I demand. “Why Paris?” Why not me? I barely stop myself from pleading.
She looks up at me, trapped and desperate. “I don’t know, Chakotay. I don’t understand any of this.”
“Well, neither do I,” but the heat leaches out of my anger at her clear distress.
We’re silent for a few moments, neither of us looking at the other, until Kathryn shakes it off. “We’d better keep going. The others must be way ahead of us by now.”
I nod. “Let’s get this done.”
Ayala being mute is hardly unusual, but this silence is heavy. Whatever Chakotay and I almost walked in on back there has got him totally preoccupied.
I’m not stupid. I have a pretty good idea what just happened between him and the captain. I’m also not dumb enough to bring it up, because Chakotay’s not the only big, dark, brooding Maquis who’s liable to let his fists do the talking. So I shut the hell up and keep my head down, and before long I start noticing how drastically this place seems to be changing.
The closer we get to the clearing where we first met Amanisia and her Naiades, the more decayed the foliage is becoming. The once-straight, white-barked trees are withered and crawling with maggots, the broad blue leaves curled and slimy-black with mould. The moss beneath our feet is dried-up and crunchy. Even the fireflies are long gone.
As we creep toward the spring I hear not the trickle of clear water but the sluggish sound of a mud-choked stream. And then a shriek rends the air and my hair stands on end.
As one, Ayala and I draw our weapons and sprint toward the clearing. What we see when we enter it makes my throat clutch in horror.
The vulture-headed creature and a half-humanoid thing with a fox’s head are stalking Amanisia and her Naiades, herding them away from the stream in the centre of the clearing. Amanisia appears to be standing up to them, keeping her companions from their vicious-looking claws.
Tanatos – it must be Tanatos, I’ve never seen such a demonic-looking being in my life – has one of the Naiades in his grip, one scaly arm clamped around her waist, his other hand curled around her throat. As I watch, he wrenches her head to one side and she drops to the ground, eyes lifeless and vacant.
With a bellow, Astrus surges past me, daggers whistling through the air. One takes root in Tanatos’ thick thigh, the other flying past him to embed itself harmlessly in a tree. Astrus leaps on the fox-thing’s back, his powerful arms squeezing around its furry neck. I race forward, swinging my sword cleanly over my head and burying it into the vulture’s midsection. Its hollow shriek of agony as it crumples is the most satisfying sound I’ve ever heard.
At Astrus’ warning shout, I duck and roll, the swish of air against my face telling me Tanatos’ meaty hand has barely missed me. I come up with my sword raised, but Tanatos is already rushing me. He takes me down and I’m on the ground, claws pressing into my chest and a demon’s skull grinning at me in triumph.
“Die,” he breathes. And just as I’m preparing myself to do so, Tanatos howls as an arrow embeds itself in his back.
Tanatos twists himself off me and I stagger to my feet, scrabbling for my sword. I can hear the thick sound of a dagger sinking into meat as Astrus dispatches the fox-head, but I’m preoccupied with the scene unfolding before me. Onix has his spear raised and he and Tanatos are circling each other, the demon all but ignoring the shafts piercing his shimmering hide as Celyne nocks arrow after arrow from the edge of the clearing, her aim straight and true, and making very little difference.
“Guard of Night,” Tanatos taunts. “I will take your huntress for my own.”
Onix bares his teeth. “You’ll have to kill me first.”
“As you wish,” and Tanatos unfurls his great violet wings and soars into the air, diving at Onix and swinging his silver-bladed staff.
Before Onix can so much as twist away, Tanatos’ blade buries itself in his chest.
Celyne’s heart-rending scream turns my blood to ice.
He groans, his face contorting in pain as Tanatos leans on the wicked blade, shoving it deeper into Onix’s chest. The demon leans in close, his death’s-head grinning.
“Soon you will die,” he hisses, “and she will be mine.”
My bow and quiver spill to the ground as I run towards them, dropping to my knees to take Onix’s hand in mine. His eyes are dark with pain as he looks up at me.
“Don’t leave me.” My voice shakes. “Don’t you dare die on me.”
Tanatos laughs as he stands over us. “It’s a matter of time, Huntress. Come, be mine, and I will share with you the pleasures of the underworld.”
“Nothing in this world will make me choose to go with you willingly, Tanatos,” I spit at him, curling my fingers around Onix’s.
“Nothing?” His foul breath stains my skin. “I can save your Guard of Night, but you must choose to come with me. You must decide between his life and the completion of your quest. Choose carefully, Huntress. What is done cannot be undone.”
Amanisia comes to kneel beside me, her hand on my shoulder. “Only you can save the Guard of Night,” she tells me quietly. “But Tanatos is right. You cannot save him without sacrificing the hunt. The spring would not be reborn and the new cycle would not begin. This world would wither and die.”
Astrus and Zefir drift closer, weapons raised, and with one broad sweep of his wings, Tanatos sends them staggering. “Your Guards of Air and Stars must keep away,” he growls. “This is between you and me, Celyne. Choose.”
Choose between giving Tanatos everything he wants, and letting Onix die. The man who means everything to me, more than I can ever allow myself to admit. The choice I’ve always prayed I would never have to make.
“I can’t,” I whisper. “I would rather die myself.”
“Then so you will.”
Tanatos leaps skyward, wings beating the air, moonlight glinting from his raised staff as he rushes down toward me.
I close my eyes and wait for the death blow that never comes.
There’s a whirlwind of screams and fetid air, and when I open my eyes, Tanatos lies dead with Onix’s spear through his chest, Amanisia’s fingers clenched around the handle. She lies pinned to the ground beside me with Tanatos’ staff buried between her ribs. Blood soaks into the dull earth beneath her.
I crawl over to her, my shaking hand touching her face. She opens her eyes, no longer silvery but steel-grey. “Amanisia, what happened?”
“The cycle must be renewed,” she whispers. “This is the only way.”
“You sacrificed yourself for me.”
“Because you must live.” It costs her a great effort but she releases the spear and curls her fingers weakly around my own. “And so must your Guard of Night.”
“You must finish your task. Only by joining with your chosen companion can the spring be reborn.”
“My chosen companion?” I stare at her. “Joining?”
She smiles. “Your choice is already made, Celyne. All you have to do is follow it through.”
“I don’t – I can’t –”
“Take him to the altar stone. Your power will be strongest there.” Her eyes drift closed.
“Amanisia,” I tighten my hand on hers. “Stay with us.”
But the Naiades have glided closer, kneeling in a half-circle behind Amanisia, and before they even begin to weep, I know Amanisia is dead.
All around us, leaves are dropping from the trees, and I hear the crack as a trunk splits from decay. This planet is dying.
Zefir and Astrus kneel either side of me, one hand on each of my shoulders. “Celyne,” whispers Zefir. “You know what you have to do. Don’t let her death be in vain.”
I search his familiar blue eyes, and nod. “Get him up to the altar stone.”
Warm, soft lips caress mine, the only thread of sensation connecting me to a world that isn’t filled with darkness and pain.
I remember this feeling. The tickle of hair against my cheek, a slender hand cupping my face. The brush of a tongue against parted lips. Smooth skin pressed against mine, gentle touches, the feel of a woman in my arms.
But never this woman – at least, not outside of my dreams.
She whispers my name, calling to me, but I don’t want to open my eyes. I’m afraid if I do she’ll disappear.
“Wake up,” she murmurs, her lips against mine. “Wake up and be with me.”
Her hands brush over my chest and my pain recedes. Her body presses against me until my arms come around her and she sighs, her breath caught in mingled relief and need.
I’m kissing her back, tasting the petal-softness of her lips, nipping her gently, dipping my tongue into her mouth. She shifts closer. My hands come up to weave into her hair, lifting her face from mine so I can lick and lightly bite at her neck, and in an instant we move from slow burn to conflagration.
I push my torso upright and her legs wind around my hips, her arms around my body. We’re kissing fiercely now with lips and teeth and tongues. Her fingers twist into my hair. I cover her back with spread hands, trying to pull her as close as I possibly can. She’s sighing, almost moaning, writhing against me and I need to feel her bare skin on mine. I reach for the clasp that holds up her tunic and twist it, and she’s bared to me from the waist up.
My hands cup her breasts and she arches, her head dropping back to give my mouth uninterrupted access to her. I don’t waste any time. I kiss downward over her throat, sucking at her skin, leaving pink marks of possession, and latch my lips over one hard nipple.
The heat kicks up inside me and I lower her to the stone altar. She makes no protest, simply pushes her hands between us and yanks at the ties on my breeches. Her hands wrap around me and I have to gasp for breath, squeezing my eyes shut. Her legs are parted, ankles linked loosely at the small of my back. I push up her skirt, one hand smoothing upward along her thigh, and find her liquid and ready for me.
“Onix,” she groans. “I need you now.”
I want to slow down, take my time, touch her, taste her properly. But the blood is thundering in my veins and I can’t wait. I surge inside her and she’s gasping, her hands feverish as she drags me down, in, deeper, harder. My lips fasten over hers again – I could kiss her forever – as her body clenches around me, a cry escaping her as she comes apart. It’s too much. I can’t hold back.
She’s still shaking as her arms and legs loosen around me and her eyes open onto mine.
“Celyne,” I whisper, burying my face in the crook of her neck. She smells salty and sweet; I lap at her, drinking in her scent and the sound of her soft, hitching sighs as I build her up again. This time, I’m determined to make it last.
As soon as Zefir and I have lifted Onix’s bleeding form onto the altar, Celyne orders us to see to the Naiades, still gathered in mourning around Amanisia’s body. One stands to meet us as we approach.
“I am Nikaiea,” she informs us. “I lead the Naiades now. There are things we must do.”
She bends to pick up Onix’s discarded spear and hands it to me.
“The instrument of Tanatos’ demise must be buried with him. There is a cavern of rock behind the altar stone. You must wall the demon’s body inside, so that he cannot escape until the coming cycle has ended.”
I nod to Zefir and we drag the purple-winged demon past the altar stone, averting our eyes as we pass. Behind the waterfall, it’s cool, all external sound deadened by the cascading water. We shove Tanatos and the spear into the hollowed-out rock and pile loose boulders in front of his body.
“What about his creatures?” Zefir asks when we return.
“They will be absorbed into the soil. The earth wastes nothing. Look,” and Nikaiea indicates the acolytes’ bodies, already decomposing. As I watch, I realise that the blood Onix shed is also soaking into the dry, cracked ground, and the moss… The moss is becoming verdant and fresh again.
“The cycle is beginning its renewal,” Nikaiea murmurs. “The moon goddess will soon complete her task.”
One of the Naiades plucks at my elbow, leading me over to Amanisia’s still, pale form. “She must be returned to the river. Help us.”
I pick up the dead Naiad queen and follow the women along the stream, through the woods until we reach the mouth of the river. At Nikaiea’s nod, I lower Amanisia into the water and let it carry her away. The Naiades stand watch until she drifts out of sight, and we begin the hike back to the clearing.
“Look at this,” Zefir nudges me, fingering the glossy leaves on a tree as we pass. It’s not the only part of the forest that seems to be coming back to life. The moss and grass beneath our feet is soft and springy, and the trunks around us are straight and white again.
Then we enter the clearing, and my mouth drops open.
There’s no trace of the creatures we slaughtered. The glade is lush with health, and either side of the stream are budding flowers in a myriad of colours. I glance at Nikaiea, who smiles. I realise I can see her more clearly than even a few moments before, and look up. The pink fingers of dawn are streaking the lightening sky.
“All is as it should be.” Nikaiea points toward the altar. Beside me, Zefir whistles under his breath.
They’re naked, entwined in each other’s arms, moving together so slowly they seem to be existing entirely in the universe of their own moment. I feel like I should be ashamed, should avert my eyes, but I can’t force myself to look away. As I watch, the woman’s head tips back, her long hair falling over the stone, her lips parted on a moan that curls my toes. And then she cries, “Chakotay,” and everything flies apart and fits itself together again.