:::IT IS TIME:::
It was not the deepness or the loudness of the voice that shook Intruder. It was how calm and calculated it sounded. Intruder had made a deal, however. He could not back out of it. Closing his eyes, he began to concentrate and speak to his benefactor.
“Are you sure? They are a bit wary about betrayal. They have just lost Celes.”
:::THEIR ANGER BLINDS THEIR THOUGHTS. THEY WISH REVENGE ON SCARLET. IT IS THEIR EMOTIONS THAT WILL BE THEIR UNDOING:::
“Of course, my master. When shall I do it?”
:::YOU MUST GET GLITTERSPIKE ALONE, THEN…:::
As the sun perked over the horizon, the cock crew, waking Atlas. He had scarcely been able to sleep anyhow, so overcome was he with grief. Sitting up, he yawned and stretched his arms. Slowly rising to his feet, he grabbed his axes and stumbled out to the main room, where the rest of the party was already eating breakfast.
Xeiss noted Atlas’s demeanor and picked up a few stray thoughts. “Rough night?”
Atlas nodded. “When do we find Scarlet?”
“We need to remember the most important thing,” interrupted Shin. “We have to stop Diablo. If gains power, Celes’s sacrifice will be for nothing.”
“If we don’t kill Scarlet, Celes won’t be able to rest. I want revenge.” Atlas was not about to change his mind, but he and everyone else knew that finding her if she did not want to be found would prove impossible. Especially considering that she could take the form of a human and blend in with a human crowd.
Shin continued, “We will kill Diablo. After that, our first priority will be to find and destroy Scarlet.”
“Diablo is still in Tristram, and is not fully reawakened” Fuji piped in. He pulled out the map he had stolen from Dorado and laid it out on the table.
Shin studied the map for a few seconds, then looked up. “To Tristram, then!”
The ashy remains of Tristram were still smoldering when the party came near. They could see, even from several miles away, that the town had been utterly destroyed. The sun was once again low in the sky, and it was decided that the group would make camp and move into Tristram the next day.
Intruder slipped off into the woods, managing to get away without even Cobalt noticing. He worked his way deep enough into the woods so that he was satisfied that no one would disturb him. Reaching into his cloak, he pulled out a dagger. The handle was in the shape of a dragon’s neck, and the base looked like a dragon’s head with a deep red orb in the mouth.
Intruder smiled to himself, then said a few words. The orb began to swirl and light up a bit. An eerie glow was cast from it, and Intruder began to speak.
Several men came to the aid of the young girl as she fell to the ground. She clawed at her red hair as the men helped her up, hoping to earn her gratitude. What they got was a swift kick to the face and a meeting with the ground. The girl then ran off into the night, holding her head in pain. In her head, she heard a voice.
At first she thought the mysterious Frost character was stalking her again, but then she realized she recognized the voice.
“Intruder, if you don’t get out of my head I am going to kill you!”
Even in her mind, she could feel his smugness.
“Scarlet, follow the trail. Come to me, I must speak with you.”
“Where are you?”
“You can find me, I am leaving you a trail.”
Opening her eyes, Scarlet could almost see the direction Intruder was. Changing into her draconian form, she took to the air and headed for the source of her pain.
Intruder felt a strong gust from the flapping of Scarlet’s powerful wings as she landed near him. She regarded him with anger, but knowing he already had motives different from all the others, did not attack.
“Change to your human form.”
Scarlet sneered. “You wanted my audience, you will speak to me on my terms.”
Intruder smiled. He then chanted, and a bit of black energy flew from his hands into the red orb of the dagger in his hand. Scarlet’s body was suddenly filled with pain, and she writhed in agony. Her movements were wide and loud, knocking over several trees. Finally, Intruder relented.
“Change to your human form.”
Scarlet consented, vowing to herself to make Intruder pay for this transgression. First, she would have to relieve him of possession of the dagger.
“That’s better. I have a proposition for you.”
The ground seemed to come alive as dozens of skeletons exploded up from beneath the earth. Each was carrying a large sack filled with a large amount of gold. Scarlet thought for a moment, then smiled.
Intruder managed to reach the group’s campsite just at the crack of dawn. He had been further away from the group than he though, but after this day it would all be worth it. Intruder was not much of an actor, though. Severen noticed his unusual excitement, and became suspicious. He never did trust Intruder. He could do nothing yet, however, so he decided to wait and see what would happen.
The rest of the group was more focused on the task at hand, and did not regard Intruder at all. Packing everything up, they moved out. It would take several hours to get to Tristram.
Cobalt looked curiously at his boss and friend. Intruder’s disappearance the previous night deeply disturbed him. Cobalt had a secret of his own, and Intruder’s recent secrecy made him begin to worry.
The group was only minutes away from Tristram now. The sun was high in the sky, baking the ground under its intense heat.
The trail was disturbing at best. To each side of the road were graves as far as the eye could see. A testament to the death and devastation the presence of Diablo had caused. Atlas looked forward into the sun. Standing in the road was a young woman. She could not be seen well, as she was standing in front of the sun, making only her silhouette visible.
Atlas shouted, “Hey! Who are you?”
Just then, the silhouette of a skeleton appeared and grabbed the young woman. She screamed as it pulled her down and out of the party’s view. Suddenly, dirt flew everywhere as countless skeletons emerged from the graves on the sides of the road. Quickly, Intruder got between Glitterspike and the rest of the group just before several skeletons emerged in front of him, separating he and Glitter from everyone else.
The skeletons circled their prey and began to move in. Atlas raised his axes, and Shin drew his sword. Ethon a Severen fired off several shots with their respective guns, taking down many skeletons before they could get close. Unfortunately, as soon as each skeleton fell, it got back up and began to move again.
“There must be someone around here raising these things! This is just what Leoric did when he was turned into the skeleton king!” shouted Shin to the rest of the group. “We have to find whoever is raising these things or we’ll never win!”
“I’ll try to control some of them,” said Fuji. He concentrated and managed to take control of those immediately around them. These skeletons then fought to keep the others back, forming a wall around the group and giving them some time to figure out what to do next.
Nearby, Glitterspike did not enjoy the benefit of that kind of protection. His halberd screamed as it tore through bone, knocking out skeleton after skeleton. There were just too many of them, however, and he soon went down. Several skeletons sunk into the ground around him, holding down his arms, legs, body and neck. He was captured.
Nearby, Intruder stood smiling. Normally he would not be able to raise this many dead, but with the help of his new master, he easily controlled the legion. He walked up to Glitterspike and looked at him eye to eye.
“Well, well, well… Glitterspike, it looks like you’re in a bit of trouble aren’t you?”
“You traitor! I’ll destroy you for this! I’ll-”
“You’ll do nothing. You cannot escape, and my ascension is nearly at hand. You see, I made a deal with… a higher power. I become all powerful upon the delivery of… a pure soul. But not just any pure soul. This soul has to be special. That is why I alienated you from the group.”
Glitterspike spoke sarcastically. “I’m flattered.”
Intruder regarded Glitterspike with a strange look, then began to laugh. “You thought I meant you?! No! No, no, no, no, no! You’re just the bait! A holy soul about to be corrupted, which will draw my prey to me!”
Glitterspike looked confused. “Who?”
Intruder smiled, then stepped backwards. At that moment, a sword sunk into the earth where he had only a moment before stood. Looking up, he came face to face with Kain.