(The group trudged, slow and injured, through the woods away from the confrontation in the defiled monastery. Severen was toying with his new plasma pistol, sighting along it and very carefully taking it apart. He also very quietly put it back together again. Ethon was watching and quite impressed, deciding to let him keep the weapon. Severen may not know HOW it works, but he knows how to make it work, and could probably correct any obvious damage to it, if he had the right tools. Ethon made a mental note to try diligently to make sure that the formidable dark man get as few technological weapons as possible for the safety of all concerned.)

(Scarlet smiled happily to herself, gloating about the hidden control she had over Celes and Xeiss. She smirked as she watched Atlas hover protectively over his beloved Celes knowing that she could have her strike him down in a moment. She gazed around the group, filling with satisfaction in the knowledge that she could kill each individual. Then her gaze clouded slightly when her eyes fell upon Severen. She could theoretically kill him easily, but he was far more of a wildcard than the others, particularly with the new magical weapon from that accursed knight Ethon, in his hulking armour that moved as if far lighter than it could possibly be. She could get the drop on Ethon easily and bake him as if in foil. She had to concede the faint possibility that Severen could get the drop on HER. Mercy and Triesque walked in front of Severen and Scarlet shuddered involuntarily as a chill went down her spine, shutting her eyes against the hideous vision surfacing unbidden through her consciousness; that of a statue of her, cast in ice and snow, being gored to death by a mob of unicorns. She snarled and conceded that she could easily kill HALF the group, but the rest could possibly be problematic. And the remembered vision of the snow reminded her of the slim man with the thin smile, and a voice that said -=fffrrrossst…=-)

(Scarlet shrugged violently, shaking off the chill that came with the name. She strode purposely forward, rage giving her strength. She would deal with the pale man in her own good time. She would make it last. Her lip curled as Scarlet fantasized about what she would do to the man known as Frost…)

(Xeiss and Celes were still accustoming themselves to movement and light, having tied strips of cloth around their eyes to prevent the stabbing pain of the sunlight through the canopy. Atlas looked at them in sympathy: the first time in weeks for the fog to lift, and it had to be when it would cause Celes pain. Xeiss herself was reflecting on her entire experience, still dealing with the death of Kashya. She was also wondering about the experience that she had passed off as a fear induced hallucination until Phena had changed their water. With that simple act of impatience about the slow weight-loss of the women, Phena had confirmed that the cold sadistic voice in the air wasn’t a hallucination. It was real. And Xeiss was coming to the realization that the intellect behind the voice was still out there. Her hand tightened around one of her sword hilts and her jaw clenched. The voice scared her, but she was almost looking forward to demonstrating to the invisible sadist what could happen when the door of pain could swing both ways.)

(The group camped for the night, all looking forward to the rest. Triesque was complaining at length about his pains, but the rest of the group was largely silent. Aside from Intruder, who was unharmed but moaning about being hungry. Severen, as always, was silent. Mercy lay down next to Triesque so that he’d shelter her and keep her warm, and looked up at the for once clear sky. She started suddenly at the patch of darkness that was darker than the sky, visible only because of the patch where no stars shone, but then relaxed when she realized that Severen had just wordlessly taken the night watch again, climbing a tree as an efficient vantage point.)

(All except Severen went to sleep, and then the dreams came.)

(A whispering, very faint voice echoed in each sleeping mind, speaking of secrets that each knew to be true…)

“In the beginning, there was conflict. This realm a battleground between two concepts fighting for dominance within the mind of the one who envisioned the world. This world is a testing ground for Good and Evil, who would contest supremacy on its soil. What the two sides would not realize was that this was only the surface purpose; this world is a testing of BALANCE, rather than dominance. After all, one cannot exist without the other. There can be no light without its shadow, and no shadow without a light to let it be seen. However, the sides fought. And fought. For millennia. The original intelligence forged to lead each side created subsequent leaders and forces for the two sides, with the leading minds eventually fading into obscurity, leaving behind their generals and weapons. Eventually even the generals of the original Ones would fade, leaving behind the ones who THEY made as their successors, and the process continued until today, were we have the lowest footsoldiers of the original force contesting the ground once more, with unfortunate humans caught in the middle, a coincidental mishap of life occurring on a battleground, with the battleground itself warping life to its purposes. The giants have left the playground, but they left their toys behind. Humans and animals are now part of the battle, although that was not the original intention of the One who came before the Ones. In the final days of this decaying, purposeless conflict between sides so evenly matched that one cannot exist without the other, that a dark man would come from the desert, with the speed of a striking snake, who moves as silently as a ghost in the storm. He comes for reasons that he doesn’t understand, but he comes nonetheless. He will join a group conflicted in this final battle of the Last Days, a battle no longer between the ideals of Good and Evil, but for survival of the humans to whom the battle is unwanted and unknown. The Dark Man will expose a being of Fire and Air who is not what it seems, and cast it down unto its worst fears. The Sith Creature who stands behind the being of Fire and Air will continue his plans but he goes too far. His plans influence those that the One before the Ones never intended to be harmed, and he must be stopped.”

(And then they woke, each with the clear voice echoing in their ears.)

(Scarlet woke and instantly looked at Severen with intense mistrust, dislike, and malice. Everyone else seemed to understand. Severen gave no indication that he had moved at all during the night, and as Mercy awoke, she saw him in precisely the same place as she had when she had gone to sleep. Glitterspike sounded awed, reading his own experience on the faces of those around him.)

Glitterspike: We have been blessed.

Scarlet: (darkly, to herself) Or otherwise.

(Severen jumps down from the tree.)

Mercy: Did you hear the prophecy?

Severen: No.

Mercy: Did you sleep at all so that you could hear it?

Severen: Sleep wasn’t necessary.

Mercy: That… may explain it…

(The group moved off, each working and reworking what the voice had said, with Scarlet becoming more and more paranoid as time passes, straggling behind the group. And all the while, they were watched.)

(Frost watched, from the trees, a smirking figure obscured from sight. He stroked his unshaven chin as they departed and chuckled dryly. These people were fun. It usually never occurred to beings of this realm that the entire thing had been made up on the spur of the moment…)