"Deception, anger, mischief
All lie in the eyes of the Dragon.
But behind the anger and deception,
Lies that which is hidden well...
Hidden in the Dragon's eyes
Is the faintest hint of regret..."
"He is not here."
"Who?" asked Shanna, curious.
"Diablo. The Lord of Terror. If I kill him, then maybe... I will be free from this curse of-"
A clatter outside the throne room interrupted them. Fuji quickly took Shanna's hand and pulled her up a narrow flight of stairs in the side of the room. As they reached the top of the stairs, they could hear heated arguing. The voices sounded like Exile and Abadon, but they could make out no words.
There was a single, plain-looking wooden door at the top of the stairs. Shanna quietly opened it and went inside, followed by Fuji. She involuntarily gasped when she saw the immense size of the room. There were no doors except the one they had come through, but there were several stained-glass windows. An enormous canopy bed dominated a quarter of the room, and on the opposite side was an even larger desk. The other furnishings were surprisingly normal, but the smaller items stacked in the room were enough to make one's hair stand on end.
Jars filled with who-knows-what were stacked on tables, books scattered randomly next to them. A couple of the books were open, and the pictures inside looked straight out of hell. After quickly stepping away from the tables, they turned to the large desk. It had several books on it as well, and a few lit candles. There was also a large set of keys, which Fuji quickly took. Papers were scattered everywhere on the desk. Fuji began leafing through them, Shanna helping. Most of the papers were on the affairs of Dorado before it was taken over by Abadon.
Getting frustrated at the fruitless search, Fuji almost missed it. From the very bottom of the pile of papers, he pulled a small map. Marked on this map were seven large, plain symbols, a picture set in the middle of a perfect circle. Under these symbols was a smaller symbol of either an open eye or a closed one. Fuji looked and recognized some of the places. Over the monastery was a picture of a dagger wrapped in thorns, and underneath it was a picture of an open eye. Fuji supposed this represented Anadriel. Eagerly, Fuji looked at Dorado, but there were no symbols there. As his eyes wandered up the map, he noted with unease a blue line which mapped the exact course the party had taken over the last several weeks. Finally, however, he looked at Tristram. On the city laid a small picture of a claw. Underneath it laid a small symbol of an eye. This eye was mostly, but not fully open. Fuji's eyes widened and he stuffed the map hastily into his pocket.
"Let's get out of here," he said hastily. "I've found what I need."
Shanna looked relieved. "Good. Let's get out of Dorado."
"Not yet. I have some friends I want to get out of the prison."
Glitterspike looked at the lockpick, then at the door, in frustration. It just wasn't working. The lock had to be a different design. He sighed in frustration.
"Would these help?" Fuji was standing behind him, holding up a set of keys. He let the corner of his mouth twitch a little in some semblance of a smile. Glitterspike grabbed the keys and began trying various keys on the locks.
"How did you get out?" asked Glitterspike. Fuji smiled. "I had help." Shanna had been standing behind Fuji, but now peeked around him.
"Hello," she said shyly.
"This is Shanna. She helped me escape." Glitterspike smiled and nodded his head, preoccupied on opening the cell.
Fuji pondered. "I thought you were under Scarlet's influence. Why are you trying to rescue Atlas?"
Glitterspike smiled. "I had help from a power greater than mind-control. Iron shackles are not the only ones that can be broken." Finally, he found the right key and the door opened with a clang.
"Well, well, hello, Glitterspike. Are you going to kill me now?" Atlas glared at Glitterspike, assuming that he was still under the mind control.
"Atlas, I'm not under Scarlet's influence any more." He bent down and started looking trying keys on Atlas' shackles.
"I don't believe you." Atlas spat. Glitterspike ignored him and continued trying keys. Finally, the lock opened. Atlas took a swing at Glitterspike but missed. Glitterspike tried the same key on the other shackle, but it didn't open. He sighed and started trying keys again. Finally, it opened.
Atlas lunged at Glitterspike as soon as he was free, muttering oaths. Glitterspike, somewhat expecting it, quickly got the upper hand, and grabbed his halberd, which he had left on the floor to open Atlas' bonds.
"Atlas, stop. I don't want to hurt you. In fact, your shoulder already looks hurt." Atlas, unheeding, charged Glitterspike, even though he was unarmed. Glitterspike caught Atlas by his wounded shoulder, bringing his hand down on it, directly over the wound. Before Atlas could react, Glitterspike closed his eyes and sent a wave of healing magic into the wound. It closed up some, and the pain eased.
Atlas stopped attacking, and instead glared at Glitterspike. "I suppose I have no other choice, but I do not trust you, Glitterspike. You may be yet under Scarlet's command."
"I can't prove I'm not, except by my actions. For now, let's find the others and get out of this hellish place."
Ethon yelled over his shoulder at Sereven, "How many MORE do you thing there will BE?" Ethon was making good use of his sword, but almost every guard in the dungeon was attacking them. They had entered a small room, sort of a mid-point between two dungeon blocks. Skeletons, several zombies, and even a few gargoyles were attacking them. Ethon had backed against the wall, his power armor saving him time and time again from serious injury. Sereven, however, had found a storage closet and was standing just inside the open door, mowing down his assailants one at a time as they walked in.
"Hold on, Ethon! I think most of them are dead!" Finally, he managed to fish a scroll from his pocket, managing to read it as another zombie came at him. The scroll disintegrated in a flash of light, and several streams of lightning shot from it. The lightning bounced from one creature to another, killing about twelve of them. Ethon finished off the last of them, then stared at Sereven.
"What on EARTH was THAT?" he asked blankly.
Sereven grinned. "Chain lightning."
They were interrupted by a shout from down the hall. "Sereven! Is that you?"
"Shin!" Sereven ran down the hall, and peered in the cell. Shin had been shackled to the wall of his cell, and was covered with minor bruises, Abadon's guards having treated him somewhat more harshly than the rest of the prisoners.
"You have NO idea how glad I am to see you. Abadon made a personal visit and told me I was going to die tomorrow morning."
"I didn't think Abadon would let us live long." Sereven quickly fished around in his pocket, confused a second, then sighed. "Oh, wonderful. I gave my lockpick to Glitterspike."
Shin's eyes widened. "WHAT? I thought Glitterspike was mind-controlled by Scarlet!"
"He was locked in a cell. The best thing to do was give him a way out. If he had been ordered to stay in the cell, he would've."
A shout came from down the hall. Glitterspike was walking quickly down the hallway. He was carrying his halberd, Shanna, Atlas, and Fuji following behind. Glitterspike was holding a large set of keys in his hand.
"Here." Glitterspike handed the keys to Sereven. He took a look at the lock, then examined the keys. Finally, he picked one, and tried the lock. It opened on the first try. He stepped into the cell, tried a few keys on the shackles, and quickly got them open. Shin fell to his knees, rubbing his wrists.
"Thanks." He unsteadily got to his feet, then fell over again, his legs being asleep from the awkward position he was in. He looked a bit sheepish, but slowly moved his legs back and forth until they came back to life. "Let's get out of here. Who are we missing?"
Fuji thought for a while. "D, Mercy, and Xeiss."
"Scarlet has Xeiss," said Glitterspike bitterly. "I believe Scarlet's exact words were ' She has uncanny abilities I want to exploit ' Poor girl..."
Shin sighed. "Let's find D and Mercy, and get out of here. Stick together, we might not find each other again if we split up."
Abadon continued to rant at Exile in the throne room. "I entrust you with ONE simple task. To KEEP the prisoners locked up for ONE DAY. How hard can that be?" He turned his back to Exile, screaming orders down at the frantic skeletons below. "Did I give you your powers for NOTHING?"
Exile opened his mouth to protest, but Abadon stopped him. "I want no excuses. Get down to the prison and recapture them! NOW! You can kill of them but Mercy. Her I want ALIVE!"
"NO EXCUSES!" Abadon roared. "NOW!"
Exile turned and ran out of the castle, morphing as he ran...
Sereven finished unlocking the shackles around D's wrists. By a small stroke of luck, he and Mercy had been found in cells very close to each other. Their cells were in a chilling place - right next to the torture chamber. They had only taken a short glimpse into the torture chamber, but that was enough to make them reel away in horror. Most of the machines were ingeniously cruel, the least of them enough to give a brave man nightmares for a month. Mercy took a shorter glimpse than the rest as they were leaving, shuddering and trying to fight the mental pictures coming to her mind.
"Come on, the exit's near." Shin walked quickly. They made it to the back door of the dungeon, when a large demon suddenly landed before them. It held an enormous flaming sword, and towered above them, at least thirty feet tall.
"Now you shall die!" cried the demon.
"Exile!" spat Glitterspike. "Get out of our way, unless you are that willing to experience pain." He brandished his halberd.
Exile simply grinned and brought his sword down. The party scattered. Shanna spotted a nearby abandoned house, and quickly ran to the open door, ducking inside. The rest followed, running as hard as they could to the small house. Exile was so large it took him a while to swing around, and when he did, the party was nowhere in sight, all having hidden in the house. Exile roared and began searching the streets for them, walking up and down.
Huddled inside the house, they listened to Exile's footsteps. When they sounded distant, they ran to the next house. It was NOT unoccupied, but they quickly dispatched the zombie inhabitants. Finally, Exile's footsteps sounded very distant, and they risked going into the streets. They could just barely see the top of the main gate of the city.
"Come ON!" cried Shin, waving his arm. They ran through the streets toward the entrance of Dorado. Glitterspike and Fuji held off any attacking skeletons that came their way. Finally after what seemed like an eternity, they reached the front gate. However, the drawbridge was up, and the portcullis was down.
"I know a semi-secret way out of the city," said Shanna. When the others looked at her curiously, she went on. "I've lived in Dorado all my life. I... I was put in prison for the night for staying out past curfew. I... I guess I was lucky. I didn't see much of the killing... the windows of the prison cells are very small." She sighed and went on. "I had hoped they'd forgotten about me, but then the food and water started coming. I guess the demon... well, never mind. Anyhow, the secret way out of the city is a small crack in the walls. If Dorado hadn't been overthrown, it would've been patched up by now. But I think we can all squeeze through it."
"Could you lead us to it?" Shin asked quietly.
Shanna thought for a moment, then nodded. "Yes. It is rather far, but with a little luck we can make it there."
They managed to make it to the crack in the wall without being spotted by Exile, and the group ducked through the narrow crack in the wall. Atlas had barely fit through it, and D had to move a bit of loose rubble before he could get through. Atlas was waving impatiently to the others. "Hurry, hurry." Sereven was the last one to go through. Suddenly, a shriek of fury was heard from above, and a large jet of flame singed the grass in front of them. Scarlet landed in front of them with an earth-shaking thud, hissing menacingly and blocking their escape route. She put Xeiss down in front of her. Her tail lashed back and forth, knocking down a few withered trees.
"HOW DARE YOU!" she shrieked furiously. The party readied their weapons. The only weapons anyone had were the rusted swords everyone had picked up from the fallen skeleton guards, except Glitterspike. He stood in the front of the group, brandishing his sparkling halberd. The rest of the party moved back a little. Atlas was gritting his teeth in rage, wanting nothing more than to see Scarlet dead.
Scarlet took a grab at Glitterspike, trying to catch him in her claws. He was ready for the maneuver and quickly fell to the ground, stabbing at her claw as it passed over him. She shrieked even louder, furious to the point of madness. She spread out her wings to make herself look even larger, and snapped at Glitterspike. He was just barely able to get up and duck out of the way. He did a half-somersault, finding himself near Xeiss.
Seizing the opportunity, Glitterspike dropped his halberd. He grabbed her arm and put his other hand on her forehead, closing his eyes. He felt himself falling...
Before him was a ghostly miniature image of Scarlet in dragon form, about 10 feet tall, floating around in the middle of the room. He was in a very large, very foggy room, which he recognized to be a part of Xeiss' mind. The ghostly image of Scarlet had been speaking something to Xeiss's mind, but stopped and stared when she saw Glitterspike. Then she snarled.
Glitterspike spoke quietly. "You have no place here." He was glowing white, to contrast sharply the darkness and mist of the room and the dark ghostly image of Scarlet that represented her mind control over Xeiss.
She hissed. "This mind is mine, and so is yours. You have stolen from me, and for that you must pay very, very dearly."
Glitterspike shook his head and lifted his hands in front of his face, palms raised upward. "No, Scarlet. You will not have this mind, and, God help me, you will not have mine. I drive you out now, by the power of the Lord." A glowing ball of light formed in his hands, and he threw it at Scarlet's ghostly image. It hit her dead in the chest, and she screamed, in rage rather than fear. Scarlet's image was engulfed in white light, and it finally vanished. The mist in the room cleared away, then Glitterspike closed his eyes again.
Opening them, he found Xeiss laying on the ground unconscious. He snatched up his halberd to face Scarlet again. It had only been a few seconds. Scarlet's rage had doubled, if that were possible. She let out another burst of flame toward Glitterspike, who picked up the unconscious Xeiss and ran. In the meantime, the rest of the party was trying to sneak away. Scarlet let out another jet of flame toward the castle wall above them, and large chunks of rock began to break off, coming dangerously close to hitting the party. They ran faster, Glitterspike trailing behind. Suddenly, a voice from behind Scarlet split the air.
"SCARLET!" Triesque bellowed. He had run up behind her, carrying Intruder on his back. Scarlet roared and swung her tail at him. He leaped over it, then shot a white-hot beam at her from his horn. She shrieked again as it left a long white trail down her back. Scarlet took to the air, not willing to face Glitterspike from the front and Triesque from behind - at least, not at the same time.
"YOU MAY HAVE WON THIS BATTLE, BUT REMEMBER, XEISS! REMEMBER, GLITTERSPIKE! YOU ARE MINE! AND ONE DAY, TRIESQUE, I WILL HOLD YOUR SEVERED HORN ABOVE YOUR CORPSE IN TRIUMPH!" At that, she turned and flew away.
"Well, isn't THAT a lovely thought," muttered Triesque. "Oh, and Intruder, get off my back."
"Of course," he said solemnly, getting off and handing Mercy's sword to her at the same time.
Xeiss finally came to. "Ohh... my head... what..." She looked up and began talking rapidly. "Scarlet... betrayal... darkness... dies... dreams... madness... plans... evil... Awakening the Elements... must not... happen... I will not... never..."
Finally, she shook her head. "It's gone. I can't remember anything more. Only that it's important." She sighed. "Scarlet..."
"We know..." Shin shook his head. "There's nothing we can do about it now."
Xeiss looked angry. "Yes, there is. Revenge."
Atlas put his hand to his eyes, trying to hide his tears. "There is something we need to take care of first."
Atlas wept more tears than he ever had in his life as the coffin was slowly lowered into the ground. Silence reigned except for the chirping of sparrows, and even their songs seemed somewhat sad. The entire party, save Intruder and Cobalt, was watching solemnly, each of them holding a red rose. They had gone back to the clearing where the fight with Scarlet had taken place, and by some miracle, all their weapons were there. Celes' body had been untouched, though there were strange tracks all around. Shanna had accompanied them to Westmarch for the funeral, but she decided to stay there with a few friends.
Now, in Westmarch, Celes' coffin finally reached the bottom of the grave. Atlas stood over it, wiping the tears from his eyes. "Celes, I will never, ever forget. I remember every word you said to me. I will not stop caring, and I will not lose hope, though life seems hopeless without you. And I will keep fighting. For you. I will remember." Silently, he gently tossed the rose into the grave.
The others followed suit, each giving a short speech and tossing the rose into the grave. There were many tears shed. Xeiss was last to give her speech.
Xeiss, voice filled with sorrow, spoke softly. "I will remember. I swear that I will avenge your death. The one who killed you, I promise, will pay for her crimes. For her treachery. You were not only a good companion. You were a good friend." She tossed her rose into the grave, and it landed on top of the first rose.
Atlas slowly took a shovel and filled in the freshly dug grave. Everyone stood in silence when the task was done, gazing at the grave. Finally, one by one, they left. Atlas stayed the longest, finally sighing and turning away.
All was quiet for a short while. Then, Scarlet quietly slipped out of the tree she had been hiding in. She carried a single rose in her hand. However, instead of being red, it was a deep blue. She quietly laid the rose on the grave. It stood out in stark contrast to the newly-placed dirt. She sighed with the slightest hint of regret, but she quickly stole away...
This story is copyright (C) 1999 by Dragoneyes. All rights reserved