The two of them saw a shadow falling into the hallway from an adjoining corridor. They pulled their bowstrings back, ready to maim or kill if the person was not supposed to be there. Their grips relaxed when another corrupted rogue rounded the corner.
One of the guards lowered her bow. "What are you doing here?"
The corrupted woman straightened up slightly. The guard thought it odd that she did not recognize her, for the Sisters all knew each other, or at least the corrupted ones did. "I was sent to guard the two prisoners, Celes and Xeiss."
"You’re in the wrong spot. They aren’t being held in the prison, they are being held in the crypt."
"Ah, Andariel neglected to tell me. She was busy at the time."
The corrupted woman brushed past the two guards. As she did, one of the guards noticed something odd about her. There seemed to be something wrong with her eyes. Only a Sister’s eyesight would have picked it up, but it almost looked like they were serpentine.
"Wait a moment," the guard said as she turned toward the mysterious corrupted woman.
The woman was surprised, and even a little nervous. "Yes?"
"I have… something… for one of the guards who is also in charge of the two prisoners. Do you think you could deliver it to her? Her name is Alessya."
"Oh, sure, of course."
The guard reached into her quiver and pulled out something, holding it in her hand. The corrupted woman reached out her hand to receive the item, and the guard began placing it in her hand. She then jerked her hand suddenly and then pulled it back.
"OW!" The corrupted woman looked at her hand, and it had a trickle of blood on it, as if a needle had been stuck into her. She looked up at the guard in surprise, but the guard felt no sympathy. The woman’s eyes widened and she tried to run away from the two guards, but her feet fell beneath her. Slowly the two guards faded from the woman’s vision as her eyes closed and she fell into a deep sleep.
The second guard gave the first a questioning look. "What did you do that for?"
"She is an impostor, look."
Before their eyes, the woman’s skin became loose, and the tentacles retracted. Clothing appeared on the woman’s body as her skin turned to a normal pink. Soon, Scarlet lay on the floor, but was no longer corrupted, for she never had been. It had all been an illusion.
"Ah, I see now. Now that I think of it, I don’t know any Alessya."
"There isn’t one. No Sister would have fallen for that trick. And there was something about her eyes… come, let’s take her to Andariel."
The second guard nodded and bent down, lifting Scarlet’s sleeping form in her arms. As they left the corridor, a few drops of blood from the wound in Scarlet’s palm ran down her fingertip, dropping onto the cold, hard floor.
"How long does she usually take?"
"Not this long," Shin remarked sadly. "I think we need to go in after her."
"So now we have to save three women," Intruder grumbled. "Perfect."
Mercy began walking forward. "Shut up, Intruder. Let’s go."
"Eager to become the fourth then, Mercy?"
"I said SHUT UP Intruder!"
"This is a hopeless mission you know. Xeiss and Celes are already dead, and you just sent Scarlet, who is as secretive as one of these demonic women! Why, I wouldn’t be surprised if all three of them were working for Andariel…"
There was a flurry of activity as Atlas pushed the group out of the way and reached for Intruder. Grasping him by the collar, he lifted him a foot off the ground and pushed him against the wall of the corridor.
"I’ve had ENOUGH of you, necromancer! You can be cynical all you want, but when you insult Celes, I get the urge to rip your heart clear out of your chest and crush the black, diseased thing in my own fist!"
A light suddenly shone into the corridor as a door opened and someone went through. The party looked towards the door, then at each other.
Mercy spoke first. "Where’s Kashya?"
Shin frowned. "Probably disgusted by this whole mess. We’re our own worst enemy, and she knows it. Come on. Atlas, put Intruder down."
Shin walked towards the end of the corridor, followed by the rest of the party. Atlas grunted and dropped Intruder, who stumbled slightly but landed on his feet. Smoothing out his clothing, Intruder walked behind Atlas, not taking Atlas’s threat seriously. He decided he would have to tell Cobalt to stop bugging Glitterspike to be annoyance to another certain warrior.
As the party exited the corridor, Kashya walked towards them from around a corner. She passed by Shin Hikaru and went straight to Intruder. She lifted a finger up to his face, revealing a red substance on the top.
"Blood, Intruder. I found this around the corner. Now how much do you want to bet that it’s Scarlet’s?"
Kashya awaited Intruder’s answer, but he gave none.
"Not so sure about your theory now, are you necromancer?"
Kashya turned and walked to the head of the group, taking the lead. The party followed, Intruder once again last. He knew there was more to Scarlet than the others knew, but by the time they found out, it would be too late. He would simply have to wait for that time to come, and make sure he was prepared…
The clouds swept as a shape flew through the sky. Yet the shape was not flying, it was falling. The shape was a human female, surrounded by black clouds which threatened to engulf her. The woman continued to fall, past streaks of lightning that came too close for comfort. The woman tried to spread out her wings, but then she realized she did not have any. She was not a dragon. Not now.
She was supposed to be a dragon, but she was human somehow. It was not supposed to be this way, not in the dreamworld. As a scream threatened to rise in her throat, Scarlet saw an object fast approaching. Yet it was not just a small object, it was a mountain, and she was headed straight toward the peak. She grasped at the clouds as she passed through them, trying to hold on, finding purchase in anything so as not to hit the ground.
As Scarlet fell closer and closer toward the mountain, a translucent shape could be seen coming towards her. Almost like a cloud itself, the object twisted and flowed like an endless stream. Every few moments a long, serpentine form could be scene in the object, and two red eyes darted around randomly almost too fast to see. There was some pattern to the eyes though. They were pointed at Scarlet.
A voice came from the wispy object, making no sound but heard clearly by Scarlet. "Dragoneyes…"
Dragoneyes watched as the swirling form engulfed her, surrounding her human body and grasping it in invisible talons. The two red eyes hovered before her.
Dragoneyes’ voice almost had some nervousness to it. "Hail, my lord. I am not as I should be. I must find myself again."
A booming voice came from within the misty cloud itself, coming from all sides. "Yes, my child. You are Dragoneyes yet you are not Dragoneyes."
"I am Dragoneyes yet I am Scarlet."
"Then to return to yourself you must return to her."
The voice faded away, as did the red glowing eyes. The mountain shook slightly. Dragoneyes waited patiently, although she worriedly looked at the wispy, cloud-like creature that surrounded her and at the mountain below, its peak reaching up to her like a clawed hand.
"…wake up! Wake up, woman!"
Dragoneyes heard the voice from the red-eyed object and from far away at the same time. As it spoke, the mountain shook violently beneath her. She was almost to the peak, about to hit it and be killed in the process. "…come now intruder, wake up! Rise and be spoken to. AWAKE!"
The mountain exploded, sending Dragoneyes and the white mist flying. She flapped her arms, still thinking them to be wings, but she still continued to fall, through the clouds and into an endless darkness. The white mist and the creature within, along with the red eyes, disappeared from her vision, and she fell through the darkness into light.
Scarlet opened her eyes, her head shaking. Something was grasping on to her chin and shaking her head, urging her to awaken. When her eyes opened, she almost shut them again out of reflex. A woman’s face looked back at her, a woman’s face that was both beautiful and hideous at the same time. It was a demonic face, one that grinned at Scarlet, anxious to see her reaction. Scarlet tried to back away, but she found she was pressed up against the wall. She tried to move to the side, but she soon found she was also chained to the wall by her hands. As she had pulled her hands away, a chain, wrapped in a very precise manner, pulled tightly around her neck, choking her. Scarlet relaxed her arms, seeing she was captured. She scowled in fury at the woman in front of her.
The demonic woman smiled back. "You don’t appreciate your bonds? I enchanted them especially for you. Well, not really. I always keep around a pair of magical containment manacles for my more powerful guests. You cannot break free, you cannot cast magic spells, and you cannot transform to your original self, or your expanding size will cause those chains to choke you to death."
Scarlet feigned ignorance. "What original self?"
"Don’t consider me naïve, dragon. I am Andariel, Maiden of Anguish, and no mortal creature will act superior towards me. So tell me dragon, why did you try to sneak into my domain?"
Scarlet stared back hard at Andariel. "Release me. NOW."
"Oh? Why should I?"
"Because I am working for Abadon. I was a plant in the group that has been bothering him recently."
"Ah, so this… group is here now? And why did you come in alone?"
"Because I wanted to kill Xeiss before the rest of the group found her."
"Oh, I can’t have that. I’m converting her tonight. Speaking of which…" Andariel turned and yelled behind her. "Phena!"
A corrupted woman entered the room, looking curiously at Scarlet, then looking up at Andariel. "Yes?"
"It is time. Bring the two prisoners up here. We are having three conversions tonight."
"But Andariel, without the purification process, the corruption will not work as expected…"
Andariel smiled at Scarlet. "Oh, the corruption will already not work as expected. But it will last long enough for this liar to tell me everything she knows, and suffer a few hours of unbelievable pain before she dies."
Scarlet’s eyes widened, and she pulled her manacles taught, trying to get at Andariel. Yet this only resulted in her choking herself again. Andariel just laughed as Phena left the room.
"So, mighty dragon, how does it feel to meet your match? Enjoy the rest of your life, for it won’t be much longer."
Scarlet struggled against the chains, but it was no use. As Andariel laughed at her futile efforts, Scarlet was beginning to panic. For the first time in what must have been forever, Scarlet felt a sense of fear rising in her stomach…
"Faster. We don’t know how much time we have left, or if it’s run out."
Kashya led them on, always leading them down the safe hallway, making sure they never encountered a guard. Only a Sister such as herself could have led them through with such accuracy. Of course, not everyone was appreciative.
"Are we almost to the jail yet?" Intruder asked, annoyed at their roundabout route.
"No. They wouldn’t be kept in the jail, they’d be locked in the crypt. It is closer to the throne room, where they will be corrupted."
"If they haven’t been already."
Kashya suddenly stopped, her hands motioning for everyone behind her to stop and not make a sound. She peered around the corner, having heard noise. She observed a group of corrupted woman walking down the hallway. She tried to move the party back, but the group was too close. Before she knew it, the women had entered the hallway, the leader looking directly at Kashya in shock.
Kashya stood tall, eyeing the woman. "Hello, Phena."
Phena turned toward the other women, numbering about five. "Kill them!" Phena pointed at the group and then ran the opposite way. Kashya calmly took out her bow, nocked an arrow, and fired. The arrow flew between the other women straight toward Phena. The arrow pierced her shoulder, causing Phena to let out a cry of pain. Yet she continued to run, and soon the only corrupted women in the hallway were the ones that now faced the party. Two of them held swords, and the others readied their bows.
Both sides sprang into action. Kashya was not able to grab another arrow in time, and was forced to block one of the corrupted rogues’ sword blades with her bow. As she did, the bow snapped in half and she was left without a weapon, dodging the relentless attacks of the sword while attempting to reach for her own.
Atlas charged forward and swung his mighty axes wide, but the rogues moved out of the way just in time. He turned and swung again, once again missing as the woman avoided his blows with amazing speed. Before Atlas knew it, his legs fell out from under him as one of them attacked low, and he fell to the ground, still swinging his axes as if trying to swat away flies.
Meanwhile, Severen had calmly walked up to one of the rogues, and she drew an arrow back pointed directly at his head. The bowstring was released in a split second, but Severen’s head moved even faster. Quicker than the eye could see, his head and neck moved to the side and the arrow flew past his ear. He grinned at the rogue as she backed away, trying to hold her bow out in front of herself for protection. Severen grabbed the bow and as the woman tried to run, he lifted it over her head and brought it down at her neck, causing her to run into the bowstring. He then twisted his hands and the bow around the rogue’s neck, and she fell to the ground, choking on the bowstring of her own weapon.
Shin Hikaru was fighting toe to toe with another of the rogues, in a sword fight to the death. Shin observed that the woman was surprisingly good. Shin couldn’t get a hit in, and it seemed they were evenly matched. However, out of the corner of his eye he saw another rogue approaching the one he was fighting from behind, preparing to shoot past her right side and kill Shin before he could react. Shin had other plans though. Shin made a quick attack to the swordwoman’s right side just as the arrow left the bow, and as the woman blocked his sword, the arrow flew directly into the back of her hand. Dropping the sword, she screamed in pain, holding her hand with the arrow going straight through it in agony.
D had taken to attacking one of the archers with his long sword, but the rogue had been resourceful enough to use her bow to defend herself. She had even been able to catch D’s sword within her bow and entangle it so much that he couldn’t attack her with it. D, frustrated, tried to punch her with his right hand, but she grasped it in midair, grinning. There then came the sound of a painful crunch. The woman screamed and pulled away, grasping her left hand in pain as blood dripped from it onto the floor. D’s hand, Valas, was spitting out blood.
"Corrupted women taste disgusting!" Valas exclaimed as he spat blood again. With the rogue no longer holding the bow, D stepped forward to deal the killing blow.
Kashya was not doing so well. Every time she tried to reach for her sword, she had to dodge another attack. The rogue did not seem to tire or give Kashya any time, she simply swung over and over again, never letting up and allowing Kashya to take the advantage.
Kashya suddenly hit a wall behind her. She had nowhere to run now, and she saw the woman’s blade come towards her with frightening speed. Then, just before the blade was about to meet her flesh, Kashya’s attacker let out a gurgle. Kashya looked down to see a sharp metal object sticking out of the woman’s chest. It retracted and the woman fell to the ground, revealing Glitterspike behind her, his halberd bloody on the tip.
As Kashya nodded in thanks, the last rogue ran past them, down the hallway. Kashya ran after her. "Don’t let her get away and warn others!"
The rogue turned a corner, and the party watched as Kashya turned the corner as well. After about two seconds, Kashya came running back down the hallway frantically.
Shin looked at her strangely. "What’s wrong?"
She ran past them, barely looking. "RUN!"
"Run?" Atlas asked. "Why?"
As he said this, a collection of rogues entered the hallway from the adjoining corridor, much more than the five they had just faced. The group was far outnumbered.
"Ah. THAT’S why."
The group wisely retreated, running down the same hallway Phena had gone down, not knowing where it would lead, but only where it would take them from.