Isabel ground to a halt when Kali landed in front of her. The goddess gave Isabel a considering gaze. “You’re something new, but I can taste the stink of Hell on you. One of that new King’s creations?”
Isabel chuffed air.
“You can shift if you wish to speak, child. I want to talk. I want to convince you to stop this. I don’t wish to kill you.” Kali’s voice was calm, cool, and collected. More than that, it sounded honest.
Isabel decided to take the risk. She shifted back into her human form. “I’m not a creation of his. I’m a human.”
Kali blinked in surprise. “My my. What will they think of next? I’ve never heard of a soulstone being used for something like this before – very creative of him.”
“What are they normally used for?” Isabel asked, fighting for time. Every second she could buy was another second for Crystal to save her, or for her to figure out how to beat the goddess in front of her.
“Giving people the powers and abilities of long dead fighters. Heaven and Hell have both employed them from time to time.” Kali’s grin was almost friendly, conspiratorial. “You really think a peasant girl gained that much fighting prowess that quickly? The Maid of Orleans had some angelic aid in the form of one of those from Michael himself.”
“Good to know I’m in such esteemed company,” Isabel said.
“Well, I wouldn’t say that. Your souls do come from a different direction.” Kali shook her head. “You know you can’t defeat me, don’t you? You’re still, at the end of the day, only mortal.”
“You’re probably right,” Isabel said, “but the entire world is at stake.”
“The stakes are far larger than you know,” Kali countered. “You are playing with things you don’t understand, child. Stand aside. Let us handle things.”
“Nah,” Isabel said.
Kali’s gaze narrowed. “My forbearance only goes so far.”
“Yeah, you know what? Screw it.” Isabel gave Kali her most insolent grin. “I fought against Moloch the same day I got this thing. I just fought and beat a goddamn Typhon. You might be uber-scary goddess, but I think I can hold you long enough for Crystal to take you down.”
Kali gave Isabel a look that was full of sorrow. “No, you cannot. I warn you-”
Whatever warning Kali was about to give was interrupted by an explosion and a blinding flash of light from behind Isabel. Something had happened during Crystal’s fight, and it threw the entire room into an overwhelming brightness. Kali was caught off guard, and threw up her hand to cover her eyes.
Isabel took advantage off the distraction. She shifted into the Tyrannosaurus and, as Kali tried to blink her eyes clear, lunged down with jaws that had torn the Typhon’s head from its shoulders.
Her jaw didn’t clamp shut. There was something in her mouth, something strong enough to hold open a Tyrannosaurus’ jaw, the most powerful bite force of its era. Something that felt, to Isabel, suspiciously like hands.
Gunfire rang out from behind Isabel, and she tried to force her jaws closed. Kali resisted her, pushing against the roof and bottom of the Tyrannosaurus’ mouth. Desperate to distract her, Isabel began to bat at Kali with the Tyrannosaurus’ tongue, slapping her across the face with it.
Kali continued to push. Isabel felt, against all odds, her jaw slowly being forced open. “I tried to be reasonable,” Kali said. Isabel could hear her straining from exertion, but she maintained that calm, cool demeanour she’d exhibited before. Isabel whacked her in the face with the monstrous tongue of the Tyrannosaurus again, but Kali seemed undisturbed. “I don’t want to hurt you. This is your last warning, child.”
Isabel opened her jaw and stepped back. Kali crossed her arms behind her back. Isabel shifted again. If brute strength wasn’t going to work here, she’d have to for something more flexible.
When she landed, she’d gone from the most dangerous dinosaur to ever walk the earth to the most dangerous mammal to ever walk the earth – the Giant Short-Faced Bear. Nearly two tons of prehistoric fury filled Isabel’s mind, and when this monster saw Kali, it saw food. Isabel charged and slashed with a blow that could knock a man’s head from it shoulders.
Kali leapt over the attack, but Isabel kept coming. This bear form was immense, and far more agile than the Cave Bear it had shared a continent with. She lunged again and again for the goddess, swiping with immense paws and every bit of fury in the bear’s mind.
This creature had hunted and killed humans in an era where humans had figured out some of their more dangerous weapons. It had stood against spears and arrows and slain men.
And yet, Kali had yet to remove her arms from behind her back. Her dodges seemed almost lazy, as if she was just getting a work out in. Isabel roared in fury, and Kali barely blinked. Then the goddesses’ back hit a pillar.
Isabel seized the opportunity, lunging for Kali with a strike that should be fatal.
Kali raised her hand and caught the oncoming paw with a simple, open-palmed block. Isabel was so shocked, she could only stare at Kali in a moment of panicked confusion. “I warned you,” Kali said, then held out her other hand.
A bolt of lightning struck Isabel directly in the heart.