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Author's Chapter Notes:
A council of war.
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Lewis was silent for a few moments, as he pondered this information.

"In other words," he finally said: "This she-demon and her sisters operated like a beehive. The queen bee mated with the strongest male drone, who died of sexual exhaustion. And, their children got wet-nursed by lower-rankin' females."

Father Cypriano nodded.

"Fortunately," he added: "Heraclitoris has had difficulty in re-establishing the ancient cult. Mostly, because she has spent the past thirty years trying to locate and free her sisters. You see, following their overthrow, they were imprisoned far apart from each other! Far to the north, south, and west of their ancient homeland."

"Well, that's one thing in our favor," replied Lewis: "But, what are her strengths and weaknesses?"

"Like her sisters, Heraclitoris is an empusa. A she-demon who feeds on the life-force of the young men she seduces and kills. The more life-force she absorbs, the smaller the corpses of her victims...and the more knowledge she amasses of their loved ones."

The padre also revealed that Heraclitoris could use her stolen vitality to shapeshift.

"She can transform into any manner of predatory beast she wishes. Including the form of a beautiful humanoid giantess! But, the taller the giantess, the more energy she must expend to prolong the duration of that size! Hence, her prefererred range of ten to fifty feet in height."

Another potential weakness was an apparent vulnerability to weapons made of cold iron.

"For some reason, she--like her sisters--can be severly injured by such. Her injuries, however, heal much faster than those of a mortal. More similar, in fact, to a lizard regenerating a broken tail! That is why, in previous hunts of lesser empusae, I have used crossbow quarrels made of iron that had been cooled in holy water. It is as fatal to them as a poisoned blowgun dart would be to you or I."

"That's all well and good," said Skinner: "But, even if we was to custom-make our ammo, the same way, we'd first have to find her afore we could shoot her with it!"

"That's why I came ridin' back from Fort Pecos, alone," replied Tom: "Your hunch was right, Cap. The rest of your brother's troop appears to have been killed by those jaguar-men. There are blue-bellies walkin' the parapets, alright. But, from what I could see of 'em, through my spy-glass? They were all Otomi."

"Otomi?" echoed Fleischer.

"Mexican tribe," explained Skinner: "Used to scout and fight for the Aztecs afore Cortez come along."

"Then, that must be where she's holed up," declared Lewis: "Along with Lauren and the other hostages."

Tom nodded: "That fort's built pretty solid, though. It'll take more than the four of us to storm it!"

Lewis half-smiled: "Then, maybe it's time I called a truce with a certain ex-army engineer I know."

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