Intruder squinted and pulled his hood further over his head. He had said it before and he would say it many times again. He hated coming out during the day. Unfortunately, the rest of his group had a different mindset. All 3 of them preferred the sunshine. Not a single nocturnal in the bunch.
:::They must be more insane than I am::: he thought.
He looked over the other three, intrigued and disgusted by them at the same time. The first, a male warrior with a strict determination to subdue evil, was dreadfully average save for the interesting trait of having a hole in the middle of his head. Although he occasionally touched it, wincing in pain as he did, he otherwise seemed to not be bothered by it.
The other male in the group appeared to have suffered from a hole in the head previously, at which point his brains had partially leaked out. He wasn’t the exactly the “sharpest blade”. He was certainly the largest though, he could easily pick up intruder and snap him in half... if he didn’t die first trying.
The last was a female, obviously imbued with magical capabilities. Compared to the other two, she was the brain. Intruder considered her to be the leader, and thus he would have to manipulate her the most.
Unfortunately, that would not presently be the case. It was the large one, the barbarian, which had decided to give Intruder a topic of conversation.
“So, how has dead-raising been lately?”
Intruder gave Atlas a cold stare, and it was surprisingly effective, even under the hood of his cloak. Not as effective as something else though. Atlas flinched and jumped back as a surge of lightning went through his neck. Cobalt flew in front of him, crossing his arms.
“Do not bug Intruder,” Cobalt said, trying to look as intimidating as possible while being only a foot or two tall. Atlas grunted and let Intruder be, seeing that it wasn’t worth it. Cobalt fluttered back to Intruder and sat on top of his staff.
“Thank you, Cobalt,” Intruder said quietly, detesting the phrase but figuring Cobalt deserved it.
“No problem. Why are you hanging around with these morons anyway?”
“Not so loud, only you and I should know that they are idiots. Well, the woman is at least intelligent, but the other two... anyway, I have my own reasons.”
Cobalt, satisfied, flew off, leaving Intruder to his thoughts.
:::Reasons like Baal,::: he thought. :::Once they take me to Baal, I will obtain the ultimate power, and then whatever happens to them is of no consequence.:::
Intruder continued on as the group exited Arkanok. Intruder assumed they were going to Tristram to the entrance to hell that presumably still existed there. He didn’t wish to ask and seem curious, but he figured it would come up in the conversation sooner or later.
“Hey boss, c’mere!”
Intruder recognized Cobalt’s voice as he fluttered up to him. He did not steer away from his current path.
“What is it?” he asked, slightly annoyed.
“I found something you might be interested in.”
Intruder looked at the other three for a moment. They wouldn’t notice if he was gone for a moment. Intruder followed Cobalt down a side street and into an alley, beginning to get worried.
:::This looks like an ambush waiting to happen,::: he thought
No sooner did he think this before something hit him from behind, grabbing and pushing him at the same time. Next thing he knew, he was up against a wall, facing a woman he had never seen. She was a relatively young woman, although from the look of her she had been through much, ranging from battles to books. She looked quite intent on some purpose, one that must have involved Intruder.
:::If this is one of the townsfolk out to kill me...:::
His thoughts were interrupted by the woman. “All right, necromancer, where is your master?”
Intruder was startled by the question, to say the least. However, he did not falter in his response. “I have no master but myself, foolish woman.”
“Do not lie to me. Where is Baal? I know you seek him, now where is he?”
The woman seriously seemed to think Intruder was a servant of Baal. Intruder, of course, would have to set her straight. “I am no servant of Baal, although I do seek him. Yet how can I know where he is if I am seeking him? I don’t know where he is, and I certainly don’t know who you are, so let me go before I get hostile.”
“I think it is the other way around. If you don’t want me to get hostile, I suggest you tell me the tru... ack!”
The woman waved her hand behind her neck, as if swatting away a bug. In fact, she did swat away something, Cobalt. The winged minion hit the opposite wall and fell to the floor, down and out. The woman did all this without turning from Intruder. However, this slight distraction gave Intruder all the time he needed. He began staring deep into the woman, concentrating on her eyes. The woman looked back, and Intruder’s eyes began to change color, into an ominous black. Just as the woman was about to react, Intruder released a black surge of energy into the woman’s eyes through his own. The woman screamed and stumbled back, shaking her head. Intruder quickly grabbed Cobalt’s unconscious body and ran out of the alley, leaving the woman behind, screaming more in anger than in pain.
:::That should leave her blinded for the next 2 minutes,::: Intruder thought. :::More than enough time for me to get back to the group. Curious how she was able to lure Cobalt there somehow. Very curious.:::
Intruder had little trouble finding the group, for they had in fact noticed his disappearance and were looking for him. Intruder muttered a curse under his breath.
Celes spoke. “What are you doing? We’ve been looking all over for you!”
Intruder quickly pondered an excuse. “Cobalt had a little trouble.” He held up the unconscious familiar. “I was delayed.”
Shin inquired next. “What happened to Cobalt?”
Intruder hated those who didn’t mind their own business. “He ran into a wall. Let’s get going, we’ve already wasted enough time.”
“Yeah,” Celes said, “but that’s because you...”
“Enough,” Intruder interrupted. “We don’t have any time to argue.”
She frowned and turned away, leading them out of town. Shin followed, also displeased. Atlas was oblivious. Intruder was the only one not ignorant. However, he was did not know all that was going on. For example, he did not see the person watching him from an alley nearby, watching the group leave town, through a path that went though a nearby forest. This figure waited for them to enter the forest, then followed, maneuvering silently through the dense trees, just as darkness began to cover the land...
[Two hours later]
Celes yawned, tired in more ways than one. She was tired because she had woken up early in the day, and it was now long past dark. The fire in their campsite was the only light provided for her to read by, and even that was becoming but a few burning sticks about to go out. She was also tired of repetitive sound of electricity and the screamed curses, as Cobalt decided he would annoy Atlas every time he tried to go to sleep. Nevertheless, she was having trouble going to sleep for some reason. She was on edge, half of it being her protective instinct magicks and half of it being female intuition. Something was up, and yet all was silent.
Celes suddenly saw an orangish glow burst through her eyelids. She cursed inwardly, thinking it was morning already and she had just fallen asleep. However, when she opened her eyes she saw the stars overhead, a patch of sky revealed in between the trees which sparsely covered the clearing they were now camped within. She rose, looking around at the campsite for the source of the orangish glow. She found it easily, looking at the campfire. Where the smoldering twigs had been only a few moments before, a raging inferno burst up from the campfire, reaching at least 10 feet high. However, the campfire was rapidly diminishing. It had only flared up for an instant, as if it was a signal for her to wake up...
Then, on the other side of the diminishing campfire, she saw the reason she had been awakened. A woman who she had never seen before was poised above Intruder, holding what looked like a sword. Celes looked at the spectacle, wide eyed, then finally reacted.
“HEY! What do you think you’re doing!?!”
The woman suddenly turned around, startled, giving Intruder enough time to push her off. The woman, sword still in hand, began to run out of the clearing, trying to escape. Celes wouldn’t let her though. She raised her hands and pointed them at the woman’s feet, releasing a surge of energy that would slow her down. Celes’s spell only hit one of her feet, but this change in pace caused the woman to lose her balance and fall to the ground, which also caused her sword to be thrown out of her hands.
This commotion had awakened Shin and Atlas, and for once Atlas was quick thinking enough to go after the woman. As the woman stumbled to her feet, she managed to run with Celes’s magic upon herself, but she could not run fast enough. Just as she reached for her dropped sword, Atlas grabbed her wrist and lifted her up off the ground by one hand.
“I don’t think so!” Atlas shouted triumphantly as the woman struggled to break free. Then, for some reason, the woman stopped struggling and looked at Atlas. Atlas, a contemplating look suddenly crossing his face, became confused for a moment. He then placed the woman back on the ground and released her arm. The woman quickly took her sword and ran before anyone else could do anything.
Celes ran after the woman, not able to believe that Atlas had let her go. “ATLAS!!! Why did you let her go?!?”
Atlas looked even more confused now. “I... I dunno. It seemed like the right thing to do at the time...”
Intruder scowled as he ran after the woman, alongside Celes. “Atlas, you are an imbecile!”
The four of them ran after the woman, who was still having trouble because of the spell, but the spell was quickly wearing off. Celes raised her hands again, this time pointing them at the branches of the trees ahead. The branches began to bend down, blocking any movement forward. The woman looked at the branches in despair, and saw she was trapped. She took out another sword and faced the 4 of them. She held one sword in each hand, and looked prepared for battle. The 4 of them stood facing her, also prepared to fight. Celes took command.
“What do you want? Why were you trying to kill Intruder?”
The woman looked amazingly calm for someone who was surrounded. “I wasn’t. Let me go.”
Celes began to think that maybe letting this woman go was the right idea. She then shook her head, startled at this thought. She couldn’t let this person go. How that thought had ended up in her mind, she had no idea. Then she thought back to Atlas, and how he had let her go for no reason. She stared curiously at the woman.
:::There is more to this woman than meets the eye...::: she thought.
“We aren’t going to hurt you, unless you plan on hurting us.”
“Oh, but he intends to.” The woman pointed at Intruder, who was obviously enraged.
:::How does she know,::: Celes thought. ::: Unless she’s... well in that case I’ll have to kill her.:::
The woman suddenly backed away from Celes, concentrating on keeping Celes from surprising her. Celes smiled devilishly.
“What’s wrong? I’m not going to hurt you,” Celes said as she took a step forward. The woman stepped back, trying to stay as far away from her as possible.
“Ah, but how would you know, unless you can read thoughts,” she stated, rather than questioned.
The woman paused, startled. “I... I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I used your own trick against you. You telepathically read my thought about wanting to kill you, revealing yourself.”
The woman uttered a curse under her breath. “Only... only bits and pieces. Just let me go...”
Celes felt the woman probing her mind again, trying to suggest that Celes should let her go. “And now you’re trying to get into my mind, aren’t you? You’re no normal thief, are you? You’re after something more important. What do you want?”
“I want you to let me go.”
Celes sighed inwardly. :::How can I get her to trust me? Hmm... it’s crazy, but...:::
Celes waved her hand, and the spell she had placed on the branches of the trees was negated. The trees reverted to normal, and the woman was no longer trapped. The woman looked about, and began taking a step back.
“Now,” Celes said, “if you try to run, I *will* kill you. You can either do that, or you can tell me what you want. If you would just ask, I might give it to you.”
The woman looked at her for a moment, then at each of the others. Sighing, she placed her swords back in their scabbards on each side of her belt. She then pointed to Intruder. “I want him to tell me where his master is.”
“I told you before, you wench, I *have* no master!” Intruder said, angry at the woman for the insult and having tried to kill him before.
“I know you are looking for Baal. What person in their right mind would want to find Baal besides Baal’s servant?” the woman inquired.
Celes smiled. “You!”
The woman was startled. “Me? What?”
“You said you wanted Intruder to tell you where Baal is. We’re looking for Baal to get rid of him. Why are you looking for Baal?”
“I... well, I’m trying to get rid of him too, in a way.”
Celes smiled. “All right, who are you, first of all? I am Celes.”
The woman seemed uncomfortable with giving her name, but Celes’ kindness allowed her to trust Celes, if only slightly. “Xeiss. Xeiss Rasha.”
Celes crossed her arms. “Now I know I’ve heard that name somewhere before... where was it...”
Xeiss frowned. “You did not hear my name. You heard another. Tal Rasha.”
“Oh yeah!” Celes said, “I remember now. Wasn’t he the one who imprisoned Baal by sticking the soulstone in his head?”
Xeiss smiled. “You know your history.”
“Thank you. So that would make you... his daughter?”
She smiled. “And so that would mean that you’re looking for Baal, trying to find some way to defeat him and free your father from eternal torment.”
“There, you see? That wasn’t so hard.”
“So, you aren’t going to kill me then?”
Celes turned to Intruder. He still looked quite angry about this whole situation, but Celes was confident she could deal with him. “No. In fact, we might let you join us...”
Intruder burst in. “WHAT? After what she tried to do?!?”
“Come on, Intruder. She was reading your thoughts. You were a necromancer thinking about finding Baal. What was she SUPPOSED to think?”
Intruder muttered something under his breath, and stormed back to the campsite. Celes turned back to Xeiss. “Well, I guess that’s as good as an answer as you’re going to get. You’re in.”
Xeiss smiled, then frowned slightly. “I have the feeling that he and I aren’t going to get along well.”
“No problem. He doesn’t get along well with anybody. By the way, this is Atlas and this is Shin Hikaru.” Celes pointed to each of them in turn. They exchanged nods of greeting to Xeiss. She smiled back, and then walked over towards the three of them. Celes smiled and turned towards to the campsite, leading back their new recruit.