"Darkness, shadows, silence,
All concealing what is in the night.
Look deeper, penetrate the darkness
And see what lurks in the heart.
A sight beyond reality lurks there,
A sight the boldest heroes fear,
A dragon in full glory stands,
Waiting to be heard..."
In the depths of hell, a loud, labored breathing was heard. A giant pentagram was outlined on the floor, and in the exact center of it stood a large throne made entirely of bones. Slumped in this chair was the Lord of Terror. Diablo had grown to his full size, but did not have any spines on his back yet, nor did he have horns on his head. His eyes were closed, and his head tipped back, and all of hell could hear his labored breathing. Directly in front of the throne, Abadon stood, waiting patiently. On either side of the throne, several Subcuui as well as two Dark Lords stood, guarding the Lord of Terror.
Abadon watched and waited, a little nervous. Diablo stirred a little, but did not open his eyes. Abadon continued to wait, growing impatient but not daring to rouse the Lord of Terror. Finally, Diablo opened his eyes, continuing to breathe heavily, as if in pain. He sat up a little on the throne and stared at Abadon, who dropped down on one knee to pay homage to his lord.
"My Lord, it is good you have finally awakened. The undead of Dorado are at your disposal. Your stronger minions, such as the Dark Lords and the Advocates, have not regained their numbers, however. I strongly suggest we move to Dorado at once. It is nearly impenetrable, and will give us ample time to gather the minions we need."
Diablo stared at Abadon for a full minute, then lifted his head slightly. "I shall remain here until I have regained my full power. A move now will be as risky as staying here. Abadon. Deploy your troops. Do everything in your power to invoke the summoning of my minions."
Abadon nodded, bowed, and quickly left. An order from Diablo himself was not one you tarried on. He pondered his orders on the long road back to Dorado, his thoughts secretly drifting now and then to a plan that was slowly forming in his mind...
Back at the Rogue encampment, Mercy embraced Triesque, hugging his neck happily. Triesque whinnied. "I'm glad you're all right, Mercy." The others gathered around the campfire, waiting while dinner roasted.
Shin broke the silence. "Well, since we took all this time to rescue Celes and Xeiss while Abadon had the Soulstone, Diablo has undoubtedly risen again. I don't know if he'll be at full strength or not, but every day we tarry he grows stronger. We need to go to Tristram and take care of Diablo again."
Scarlet thought a moment, then spoke. "I thought Tristram was destroyed and the entrance to Hell sealed. In any case, wouldn't Diablo have risen in Dorado?"
Intruder grumbled. "I think we need to find Baal before Diablo. Either that, or take on this Abadon. I have a feeling that if we get to him, he'll lead us to one or the other. Perhaps he's even aquatinted with all seven of the demons."
"That's what I'm worried about," said Fuji. "Personally, I think most of us want to find Diablo first, then Baal. I know I want to find Diablo very badly, and put an end to him once and for all. But this Abadon hasn't ignored us, like the seven demons have. He's tried to kill us several times, and one of these days he's going to succeed." He stood and paced in front of the fire, his dark cloak billowing out behind him. "Somehow I have a feeling that Abadon's the key to all this."
Scarlet nodded. "So, we go back to Dorado, and if we have no luck there, we go to Tristram? And what about Baal?"
Xeiss sighed. "As much as I hate to say it, we've got a lot on our plate right now. We need to take care of Abadon first, then worry about Diablo and Baal later. Of course, where we find Abadon, we find Exile." She looked down. "And destroying Exile is something I want to do very badly." She paused. "Almost more than finding Baal."
Shin nodded. "So it's decided. We go to Dorado and fight Abadon."
Scarlet nodded. "Sounds good. I'll lead you there. This time we will NOT take any shortcuts through the Mist Marsh or any other place that dragon might be hanging around. I want to check on those eggs though... so we can expect Night Wings. We should start tomorrow, there's no point in procrastinating." She put away the arrow she was working on, and picked her bow up off the ground. "Get a good night's sleep, everyone; I'm turning in early." She left the campfire, heading off back toward the tent.
"Mm... looks like the venison's done." Ethon took the large slab of meat off the fire, and began cutting it. "Who wants some?" The meat was dished out, and everyone but Intruder and Fuji took some. They both looked a bit disgusted at the meat. Intruder only took some bread, and Fuji took nothing at all. Cobalt was eating a small piece of meat ravenously, and making quite a mess, but everyone ignored him, since he finished in less than five minutes anyway.
Back in the tent, Scarlet sighed. She had avoided another meal without causing suspicion. She was starting to get fairly hungry, not having eaten in about four days, but she could handle it. She would eat soon... very soon. She wondered how she had heard that prophecy along with the others... she was a bit anxious about that. She hoped she wasn't getting careless, accidentally falling asleep when she shouldn't. She started out the back, having no intention of a repeat of the LAST time she had entered the dreamworld. She was very tired, though, and needed her sleep. She knew she couldn't keep this up much longer... faking eating and sleeping while actually getting little of both was very draining.
On her way out of the small town, she stopped one of the rogues. "If anyone asks, please tell them I went to sleep out in the woods. I need some time alone." The rogue nodded, and wandered off. Scarlet took off into the woods. Once a safe distance away, she sped up, running full speed toward the cave of the slain Guardian. Once there, she pulled away the top of the caved-in entrance and managed to squeeze through. Two of the eggs had hatched, and one hadn't yet. There was a single hatchling, and no sign of the other. The one, though obviously newly born, came up past Scarlet's waist when it raised its head. It hissed at her approach.
"Hello, little one. Where is your brother?" Scarlet spoke in a soothing voice, calming the little creature. "Are you hungry? Would you like something to eat?" She took a small rabbit out of a sack, which struggled upon seeing the serpent. The serpent hissed and drew itself up. Scarlet let the rabbit go. It dashed a short ways, but the serpent quickly cornered it and wrapped itself around it, then swallowed it whole. Scarlet, growing bolder, stroked the creature on the head. It seemed pleased.
"Don't worry, little one. You will be safe here. I will return as soon as I can, but I have important things to take care of." She continued to speak in a soothing voice. She picked up the hatchling, and it wrapped itself around her neck and hissed quietly, its forked tongue flicking in and out. Its wings, still very small, were slicked against its body. Scarlet smiled and put it back down. "Shhh... I'll be back soon."
**********Six Days Later**********
The party stood over the scattered remains of nine Night Wings. Sereven had been playing with his new pistol, and had felled three in six shots from it. Scarlet had brought down one with an arrow, and Shin had killed two by severing their heads as they flew by. Atlas, D, and Mercy had each felled one. Shamaroth, however, was nowhere to be seen.
"He's toying with us," said Shin sourly. "Testing our strength."
"I'm going to scout ahead," said Scarlet, readying her bow. "We should be nearing Spaniel soon."
"Again?" grumbled Intruder. "Last time you scouted ahead, you got caught."
"I'll be more careful this time." Without waiting for approval, she took off, moving ahead on the trail at a fast pace.
"I'm going to follow her," said Triesque. "That way, if she gets in trouble again, I can get her out."
Mercy sighed and got off Triesque's back. "All right, Triesque, but be careful."
Triesque neighed and took off through the woods, after Scarlet...
Meanwhile, Intruder had disappeared into the trees. No one noticed he was gone except Atlas, as Cobalt had not shocked him for an amazing length of time. Atlas was suspicious, but wasn't too worried about it. For all he cared, it was good riddance.
Scarlet moved into the woods, concentrating on the path in front of her. After a while, she noticed Intruder on the path, standing silently in the middle of it, blocking her way. She slowed down, wondering how he had gotten ahead of her, and she stopped in front of him.
"Intruder? Can I help you?" said Scarlet, in an irritated voice.
Intruder smiled, both of his hands grasping his staff. "I just want to have a friendly little chat with you. That's all."
Scarlet sighed. "All right, Intruder, what is it."
Intruder's expression changed from a smile to somewhat malicious. "I know you're not with us for good reasons, Scarlet. What did Abadon promise you? How much? Or maybe he isn't paying you in gold. Maybe he promised you power and magic."
Scarlet was furious. "How DARE you accuse me of working with a demon! WHERE did you hear this?"
Intruder smirked a little. "Contrary to popular belief, the dead DO tell tales, Scarlet. And they tell tales about tails. Tales about wings, too. And tales about... eyes. Yours, in particular."
Scarlet narrowed her eyes. "You don't want me as an enemy, Intruder. You should know that, if you've been reading the minds of those dead correctly."
Intruder glared at her. "I want to find Baal. Just don't interfere with my plans."
Scarlet raised an eyebrow. "Let me just say this. If you value your life, you will be missing from the party for a few days. I don't want you interfering with my plans either. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some scouting to do." She walked past him, and he grabbed her shoulder and spun her around to face him again. She glared at him; not bothering to hide her eyes, since he already knew what she was. Intruder looked at her, frustrated. "Listen, Scarlet, I don't know what you're planning, but if you screw up my chance to meet Baal, I will ruin any chance you have of assassinating the party. Remember that." Scarlet twisted her shoulder out of Intruder's grip, and continued walking away, ignoring him. Intruder watched until she was out of sight, then walked away into the woods.
Scarlet pondered her options carefully as she rapidly moved through the forest. She did not have much time. She had to take care of these adventurers NOW... they were growing more powerful and numerous by the day. She was nervous now, after what Intruder had said to her. He could reveal her at any time... she wondered why he didn't. She was so lost in her thoughts that she didn't notice the small, muddy boy on the path until she almost ran into him.
"Please," said the little boy plaintively. "Have you seen my mommy?"
Scarlet was in no mood for games. "Listen, Exile, explain why you're here and maybe I won't hurt you this time."
The little boy smirked. "Oh, I just want to tell you what a mess you made of things back at the Monastery. Abadon's going to be MAD at you..."
"ME?" thundered Scarlet. "It was YOU who ruined the purification process, you dolt! Your silly spells not only ruined Anadrial's chance at gaining two minions, it ALSO ruined the opportunity to finish off the party!"
Exile yelled back with all the thunder of a temper tantrum. "Maybe if you did not meddle in my affairs, they would all have been caught by Andariel and you could have gotten out without them."
"You know as well as I that the skill of the party is slightly better than that. They would have disarmed Xeiss and Celes somehow, and would've dragged them out. At least this way no one knows they are under my control." Scarlet raged, her mood getting worse each passing moment.
Exile pouted. "You REALLY have a knack for ruining my fun."
Scarlet backhanded the little boy. "This isn't about fun. It's about getting the job done."
Exile recoiled from the slap, eyes full of malice. "And that is what I would have achieved had you not screwed up my plans... The party would not have touched Celes or Xeiss... they'd just disable them, and the corrupted women would have swept them up then! As for ruining the purification process, do you want weakened women to fight a group of heavily armed warriors? I only intervened when Kain already made good Celes and Xeiss' escape."
Scarlet scowled. "They would not have escaped! There were sixty corrupted rogues on their tail! You ruined weeks of planning, and now Celes and Xeiss are back in the party, and that damned unicorn was not even killed while we were away, which is what you SHOULD have been doing, you sniveling little excuse for a demon."
"Okay, Scarlet, you win this round. Just finish the job." Exile sneered, and ran in a circle around Scarlet playfully.
Enshrouded in the trees, Triesque could hardly believe what he was seeing....
This story is copyright (c) 1999 by Dragoneyes. It may be reproduced or printed anywhere as long as 1) it is not altered in any way, 2) this copyright notice is attached, and 3) You send me half the money you make off it. :) For questions or comments, write SharpK@rocketmail.com.