The slender, vaguely feminine, being made of water stood before an army. The arrows that felled their commanders were not hers. Yet as she walked towards the slowly dissolving bodies her eyes locked eyes with the large green skinned brute shouting his junior officers into line.

"These lands are not yours." Her voice never rose as she spoke. Though a being of water, her face held the vague shape where human features would be. Her gaze never wavered as the army stood there, staring at the spot where their leaders had been and now she stood. "Around, or retreat. I am Metis. I care not which you choose."

Another arrow flew. The ogre that took command raised a thick slab of metal that was its shield, and paused at the loud bell-like tone as arrow embedded itself. His stance firmed, eyes locked onto the water being as he took a step forward.

"The way is Shut." As Metis spoke the surface of her body rippled and shimmered in time with her words. Her stance widened as she faced down the army in front of her, a clear challenge for them to go through, rather than around, her.

The ogre took another step forward, challenging her to stop him.

Metis launched herself into the head of the column. Most of their attacks passed through harmlessly. One slender Orc tried to reach into her body, to grab at the bauble suspended just behind where her sternum would have been. His reward was the water itself hardening around his hand as Metis reached behind her, shoving her fingers through his eye sockets. Moments later, a pair of hair fine water jets exiting the back of his skull

As the orc's body fell it shrived up, desiccating into a withered husk just before turning to powder. Metis pulled back, again standing before the army. "The Way is Shut.

The ogre snarled, slamming a large studded club against the slab metal shield it held. This was not mindless posturing. Instead there was a pattern. In response, the formation rippled as creatures shuffled about. Orc shamen advanced through the line. Metis was magic in nature so they were going to use magic to clear the problem.

Metis stood there, the orb beneath her chest glowing faintly. Part of her wanted to continue the fight right now, press her advantage and keep her enemy from finding their feet. For Metis, the clock was also ticking.

At the same time, this way would prove more effective. Shamen, orc festooned with bone trinkets and ritualistically body scarring, advanced.

Metis took a step forward as their shamen began chanting. She could feel lines of power extending from them into the ground. She could feel those lines try wrapping around her body and fizzling once they contacted the water that surrounded the softly pulsing stone in her chest.

She would see their efforts redouble as she slowly advanced on them. More attempts to ensnare. More attempts to drain. All attempts fizzled when they connected with her body, producing little more than a soft ripple of steam on impact.

Her left arm raised, and she pointed to the Shaman at the front of this group. Her finger lengthened, the form of her hand smoothing and rippling until her arm was a whip wrapped around the orc's throat that did not let go until the desiccated husk hit the ground.

When she looked to the Ogre in charge of the army. She pointed to him, and spoke. "The Way is Shut."

The Ogre took a step back. Then another. Collectively, slowly, and fitfully, army fell back choosing to go around the parkland instead of through.

As they disappeared from sight, Metis walked to the decorative pond at the center of the park. As she stepped into the water, her body's features melted as it returned to the water that it had been formed from. The softly pulsing gemstone at her heart fell into the waiting maw of a frog the size of a small dog.

'Thank you Reaper.' Her voice calm as the frog swam with the stone in its maw. 'We have bought ourselves time. Hopefully enough to meet with whomever our archer friend is, and if my judgment is correct on the whom, it is my sincere hope he is willing to talk.'

The frog said nothing as it swam to the far shore.

'At the very least,' She mused, 'he must see that for the moment we need each other.'

Again, the frog said nothing, continuing to swim towards their holdings closest to The Toymaker's domain.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

Taru saw the water creature stand in the army's way. She saw their leader, one of the creatures that had trespassed on the Library's grounds reach for his weapon. There had been no thought or hesitation when she let the first arrow fly. That should have caused the army to scatter, to find cover, and to send scouts to sniff out her position.

instead the two subordinates reach for their weapons, bellowing orders, though she couldn't tell if it was at the water creature, or at their own troops. There was a moment of cruel humor as she let arrows fly. If they were so stupid that they would just stand around, she would educate them on why that was a bad idea.

Two more down. Then two more. Arguing amongst themselves. She grinned. Then two more met their end.

"Child." She shuddered. Gears and wire wirring as her attention focused on the Doctor as he stood close to her just to one side of the window she was firing from. He would not speak unless it were important.

The orb he carried pulsed soft white light in time and intensity to his words. "The Kobold you sought have been found at the edge of the parkland. As you have requested, contact has been kept at a minimum save for Marie."

"Have they anything to say?" Taru refocused. Gears and cogs tightening springs and cabling as she lined up another shot, this one to take down the large Ogre shouting orders to try reestablishing order.

She swore under her breath when the creature got its shield up in time.

"Such language," The Doctor gently chided, "does not suit someone as delicate as you."

Taru couldn't afford to spare him attention as the water creature was attacked from several corners. More arrows flew, hopefully unnoticed in the commotion, towards the troop formation's middle. These held no particular targets other than that she wanted to break unit cohesion and draw attention rearward.

The Doctor then approached, putting spyglass to eye. His wide painted grin lit to full as he watched. "Curious. Inspired even. Using its body to ground out the hostile magics is utterly brilliant, but how?"

"I'd seen Ami pull that trick once. open a fire plug at a shield raised to keep us out." Taru's voice soft as she watched the army scatter and fall back.

"Yes yes," The Doctor's grin un-lit as his annoyance seeped through, "But how is it managing to keep personal cohesion? Typically all you have to do to break an elemental is break the surface tension keeping its form together, unless-" He did not finish that sentence. Instead watching as the water creature entered the water.

"Can." Taru started. "Can a core do that? Use its land as a way to directly interact with things?"

This drew a good natured chuckle from the Doctor, "Obviously yes, but I haven't the faintest idea on the how."

The golem holding the clear orb gave a helpless shrug, showcasing how he had cheated the problem was more straightforward, "I suggest you go meet with the kobold and say hello while I focus on evacuation."

A nod from the clockwork automaton. She looked to the Doctor. "I will be back to fetch you."

"Worry not for me," The Doctor reached out to touch her arm with a black clad mechanical hand. "I shall endure, at least for a time. Go now."

The two exchanged looks before Taru leapt from the window, intent on where she had to be rather than the troubles on her mind.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

Raiph turned at the sound even as Leo talked to the diminutive marionette doll that had stepped from cover to get their attention. Sure, all this talk on evacuation, and armies, and respawning forces were well and good and important, but it left him bored.

Which is why he was the first to see Taru approach. "Thought you were doing over-watch archer things. What's up?"

Only when the other three had turned their attention to her did the automaton speak. "The army is falling back both because of my efforts, and because of a water creature that held their attention."

"What's the bad news?" Mikey was to the point as he inspected the bladed part of his chain weapon.

"They're dividing and going around to either side." Taru's voice was neutral as she delivered the news. "There is a chance that forces flanking the parkland can and will provide aid, but we can count on nothing but the time taken to fall back and fragment their forces."

Leo would nod, "So we're going down the middle to see who's water sprite that is?"

Though she lacked facial features Taru practically beamed at the lead kobold. "Exactly."

Then without another word she started towards the parkland as the four kobold brothers flanked her two on each side.

As the quintet stepped off the road onto the park itself they could feel a pressure wash over them. The four Kobold had weapons out. Taru raised a hand to motion them to put them away. "Whoever is in charge of this place knows we are here. We are trying to talk peace. Weapons drawn will suggest we want a fight."

"Easy for you to say," Raiph groused. "You're the mythic hoodoo lady that's got a magical eraser bow."

"Actually," A vaguely feminine appearing being stepped into view, "It offered a symbolic link to the black heart of the galaxy. I do not know how such a link would have remained. Maybe it is only the world remade rather than the whole of creation after all."

Taru's head tilted at the being made of water, obsidian eyes focusing on the grapefruit sized orb embedded in the water being's chest. "How do you know this?"

The automaton's head tilted, gears and wheels spun, servos and pistons whined as she looked at the newcomer.

"I am Metis." The water being stated simply. "As for how I knew. It is simple for one who has seen your work Sagittarius."

Light shone behind obsidian eyes and Taru reached for Metis. "Aquarius." There was a pause, a whine of piston. "I'd heard you were free."

"My core is clear for all to see." Metis said simply. "I have seen the threat that is coming and will do as I can to help."

Dion slowly approached Metis, a clawed finger reaching out, stopping just before making contact. "The amount of mana needed to animate that much water must be tremendous. I. How?" He sputtered.

Metis eyed the Kobold. When she spoke her form practically danced with the ripples formed, "It is both a topic I would find deep enjoyment in discussing, and something we haven't the time nor space for aside from it is something I cannot long maintain outside my holdings and even within for not much longer." She would gesture about, "Or in case you have forgotten. Armies. Marching."

That reproach caused Dion's shoulders to slump. "Fair," Though there was a hurt tone to his voice he stood at his place. "The four of us are good for hit and fade assaults. How good a look at their forces did you have?"

"That is the wrong question," Metis stated. "Any assault on the army is simply delaying them. As they are an army that can regenerate its troops, that is our priority as I see it."

From far away they heard horns. One to the left, then answered by the one to the right. Metis flinched at the noise, "They're regrouping faster than I had thought."

Taru nodded before looking to the kobold. "Do what you can. Anything to stall and disrupt with as little risk or energy spent."

Four nods and they scattered. Leaving Taru and Metis to look at each other.

"There is too much land between here and Him for an alliance to sustain me through this." Metis's voice was firm.

A large frog with leathery skin hopped close to Metis.

Taru looked to her. "Do not ask. Please."

"He'll kill himself trying to save me if he knows," Was her reply.

The two women walked side by side until the water holding Metis lost its form and her core swallowed by the frog, leaving Taru alone as a third horn sounded. This one from directly ahead.


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