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"Confusions of the hunted will echo in your head
the weight is on your shoulders
you cant release the dead"
-LeŠther Strip,"No Rest For the Wicked"
Dais' shadow quickly consumed him,sending him to drown in it's ebony
depths.He felt as though he was being dragged underneath the surface of a black
ocean.The darkness fell so heavily upon him that it actually felt like some kind
of liquid substance surrounding his body.It seemed so suffocating,and he was mildly
surprised that he was still able to breathe.He inhaled the darkness and let it
flood through his body....like a fish swimming in it's neverending world of desolate,inky
blackness.A sudden image of Vanth's dank,deep green eyes flashed inside his
mind....they resembled that of a fish....definately lacking in human
quality.How dreadfully appropriate, He found himself musing.It
is probably swimmimg through the shadows somewhere close by.The sickening thought
caused an uninvited shudder to creep through his body.
The darkness suddenly seemed to grow bitterly frigid.Freezing in fact.The
kind of cold that seemed to turn his internal organs to ice as well as put a devastating
chill on his flesh.He shivered and prayed that this seemingly endless fall would soon
be over and done with.He didn't care how hard he fell.He didn't care where
he fell,but the thought of forever plunging through a cold and monotanous sea of
black really got his adrenaline flowing in the bad way.Was he even falling?He
couldn't be sure anymore.Ironically,being a master of illusion,his perception
and awareness of reality had always been imacculate;a quality that actually
helped him become so cognizant in the arts of illusion.But somehow,this
frigid darkness was managing to decieve even his senses.He
obviously couldn't rely on his vision,which ached from staring into the freezing
void,and his body was beginning to grow numb from the chill in the air.
Nausea began to wash over him and he realized that he must
be falling if he was succumbing to motion sickness.But before he had any
further opportunity to angst about his vexing situation,he made a sudden and
unexpected departure from the darkness.The dense,frigid atmosphere was abruptly
replaced by much thinner,mildly cool air that he could feel caressing his flesh
in rapid,aggressive strokes as he plunged downward.He could now see the feathery
edged splotch of darkness that he had emerged from,rapidly getting smaller and
smaller above him.He noticed the spot of black was set against the calm,pale
blue of the sky.It was a welcome sight.Relief washed over him as he realized that
the seeming eternity that he had spent descending through the darkness was
now merely an unpleasant memory.There was only the present....
However,the feeling of relief quickly dissapated as he came
to his senses and glanced downward.Below him he could see a rapidly
approaching expanse of what looked like concrete....
There was only the present....
The reality of the present was that he was falling quite swiftly
towards a hard surface....without his armor.
He had just enough time to mentally recite every expletive he could think
of before impact occured.He felt like a frail twig being carelessly stomped
upon;a helpless baby bird who had stumbled from it's mothers nest and plunged
downward to crush it's delicate body on the hard,merciless ground below.An intense
explosion devastated every inch of his body as he struck the ground.In that instant,he
felt no pain.only the devastation of impact.But he figured,once the shock wore off....
He was aware of his vision distorting and fading to a fuzzy purplish
grey,sending his mind reeling in a dark and turbulent cloud of disarray for several
When his mind and body finally began to recover,he halfheartedly wondered
why he wasn't dead,or why he was even conscious for that matter.He still
wasn't aware of any pain except for the persistant throbbing that invaded his head,accompanied
by a staticky roar,like the sound of a restless wave throwing itself relentlessly
against a jagged rock,repeating again and again without a moment of silence.
Eventually,the crashing waves inside his head began to subside,taking
the throbbing pain with it.The fuzzy darkness began to dissipate,like storm clouds
clearing a sky after their destructive purpose had been carried out.And curiously
enough,painless feeling began to slowly seep into his body.It was then that he became aware of a number of
The first thing he became aware of was the sky above him.It was no longer
a sea of tranquil,undisturbed blue,but instead,a roiling mass of malevolent,grey
storm clouds,eerily verging on a deep,olive green in some places.They were moving
across the sky at an unnatural speed;coiling and churning like an angry
beast,desperate to reach some unknown destination.He then felt the cool,damp
air upon his flesh,and his acute senses picked up the faint aroma of wet earth
and metal.He suddenly remembered his dream,with the strangly calming tension
in the air that had been eminated from the darkness that loomed on the horizon,waiting
patiently for the appropriate time to pounce......
The storm is here.......
At the moment,what most intrigued him about the situation was the familiar
feeling of his mystical armor around his body,fitting like a second
skin.Apparently,his armor had protected him from the fall and he remained
completely unscathed.....but he hadn't called on his armor.He wasn't able
Intrigued,confused and angry,he lifted himself from the ground.It
made him furious that these shadow creatures apparently had complete control
over him.He was sure they could kill him any time they wished,but they chose
to let him live untill they were done playing with him.Even forcing
his armor upon him to save him from a deadly fall....but he had to admit
that a part of him was relieved by their intervention.
When he got up,he noticed that he was actually standing on a rooftop
of a very tall building.He perched gracefully on the edge of the roof and looked
out over the city in which the building resided.Monuments of modern society
were scattered abundantly in front of him.Skyscrapers made of concrete and
glass.An endless labyrinth of streets below.Not a bit of vegatation in
sight....He immediately recognized it.This was modern day Tokyo! Although the sprawling mass of buildings and streets should
have been bustling with activity,everything seemed to be completely silent
and empty....No signs of life were visible,infact,the entire
city seemed to radiate an aura of lonliness and death....It was
completely abandoned.A vision hauntingly similar to the time,not so long ago,when
this same city had been vacated by dynasty forces....A chilling
reminder of what he used to be......and perhaps still was.
From the edge of the rooftop,he gazed out across the concrete kingdom.He
knew that Vanth was here.....and mabey more of them.He could feel it.An
eerie and wicked presence in the air,alerting him that she.......it
was somewhere near by.
Exhileration and rage washed over him as he scanned the desolate city.He
refused to play their game.He still didn't know exactly why they
were doing this,or where they came from,but he would see to it that they be
hunted down and made to pay for their manipulative behavior.
Perched on the towering building,he felt like a ravinouse hawk,ready
to swoop downward and grasp his unexpecting,terrified pray in his menacing
talons.He was hunting.A rush of power and dominance surged through him,yet
deep inside,buried behind his imperturbable outer shell of mentality.........there
His heart jumped with a mixture of horror and excitment as a large,winged
shadow soared over him,and he realized perhaps it was he who was being
hunted.He looked up.
It was Vanth.
Her fully armored figure glided across the sky above him.Large
golden wings spread out against the roiling mass of dark clouds. Her ghastly
helmet looked like something that should be worn to a halloween masquerade.It
was ornamented with two gnarled,golden horns,unnaturally large,red eyes and a
row of long,glistening,metal spikes as a broad,toothy grin.It evoked a feeling
of repulsion and horror just looking at it.It brought to mind a twisted and
demented version of one of those smiley faces he would see everywhere in this
Her shadow drowned him a couple more times as she circled overhead like
a hungry vulture.
With a malevolent gleam in his eye,he quickly retrieved the morningstar
from his right gauntlet and lept into the air,wondering what would be the best way
to dispose of the pest.
Vanth suddenly seemed to notice his attack and rose to a vertical position.As
he flung the morningstar at her head she quickly manuevered out of harms way
and calmly presented the large battle-ax that she had been holding behind her
back.However,her left wing did get entangled with the chain,but that was
quickly remedied.With a quick flick of her razor wing,the chain snapped and fell
away from her,falling to the ground below.
Dais noticed how versatile and sharp the demons wings were,and
realized that if he wasn't careful he could easily be disemboweled or
He swiftly levitated backwards away from the ghastly thing and
detatched the spider-like weapon from his back.Several of the small scythes
flew towards her,but the dark elf managed to evade them with unnatural ease.A
fraction of a second before one of the scythes struck her creepy,grinning
mask,she grabbed it with one of her golden talons,and with a sudden metallic
snap,easily severed it from his weapon.
The gesture was yet another bit of kindling for the wildly flickering
flame of rage inside him.He realized how incredibly strong the elf was.Even
stronger than him,he guessed.Like all of the elf's other qualities and
attributes,her strength was incredibley unhuman.....unnatural
under any circumstance.He quickly retracted his weapon and decided that a
better strategy would be to try and counter the demon's attacks.
Rather than attacking,she floated a few yards further away from him and
returned her gleaming battle-ax to the position behind her back,where
she held it with both hands.
"Are you enjoying the game,Warlord of Illusion?" She inquired in
a voice that had been slightly deepened and left a very faint metallic resonance.
Her words somehow seemed more foreboding coming from the horrifying
suit of armor,rather than her elven visage,which still managed to be pretty
threatening.Every word she spoke seemed to be some sort of insult,subtle or not.Her
use of his epithet rather than his name suggested that she was taunting him,or
she merely didn't want to defile herself by speaking his name."Game?What
game?" He retorted."You hardly play fair,you impertinent little imp!"
"I play only as fair as you." Vanth stated.
It occured to Dais that the elf was right.To him,honesty and
fairness weren't exactly morals to be fallowed.He considered attacking
at that moment.Striking her down while she was in a seemingly vulnerable
position.But before he had time to further consider the possibility,she was
gone.....In one tiny fraction of a second,she had vanished from sight.Her
teleportation hadn't been accompanied by any indication of sound or
energy.Simply,one second she was there,and the next,it was as if she had never been
there at all
He first scanned the turbulent sky above him,and then began to
frantically examine the desolate city.He was only partially relieved to find
his adversary's spritely but menacing form perched on the edge of a rooftop,not
Without a moment of hesitation,he teleported himself to the rooftop opposite
of where she stood.He felt hard concrete appear under his feet where thin air
had been less than a second before."What are you doing?" He demanded.
"Dont fallow me." She snapped."The hunt must continue.....I
wouldn't want to snuff your vile existance so soon.....what a waste of
fun." She paused momentarily and tilted her head,as if reflecting upon something.She
then resumed her contemptuous chatter."It's like the cat and mouse....destined
to play this sinister sport."
"Yes,but who is the mouse and who is the cat?" Dais questioned with
sinister smugness.He glared superciliously at Vanth,and although it was hard
to look down with calm disdain upon such a horrifying thing,he managed to put
on a convincing act.On the inside,pent up feelings of rage,fear and anxiety
coiled and churned,making him feel as if some kind of creature was devouring
him from the inside,yet on the outside,he remained as cool as a cucumber.
The dark elf glanced mysteriously from side to side and after a few
moments of silence she turned to Dais and spoke once more."If I were you,i'd
watch your back,mousey.....we're not the only hunters in this concrete
Her words caused an icey shiver to streak up and down his spine,and his
heart began to beat rapidly."What do you mean?" He questioned in a demanding
"He's in the city with us.....hunting.I saw him earlier.....I
didn't know he was here." Peculiarly,her voice seemed to carry a very subtle
hint of what sounded like worry......But,then again,it could have been
a deliberate action to further unnerve him.
He felt his skin crawl across his body and he fought the urge to glance
anxiously behind him.He kept him gaze locked intently on the impassive helmet
she wore.Usually,he was able to clearly read the thoughts and feelings of a person
by studying their facial expressions and body language,and sense the emotions
that eminated from them,but as he gazed at the demon he didn't have a clue
as to what it was feeling or what must be going through it's head.She wore a mask
that was forever frozen in an unnatural expression of demented glee,and he
could not at all sense how she felt,but rather,the way she made him feel.
He watched as the demonic elf suddenly took two large leaps
backwards,placing herself on the opposite edge of the building,still holding
the battle-ax behind her back.Once again,her eerie voice issued forth from
her nightmarish form."I suppose I should wish you luck,for someone has
to die." She apparently found her words amusing,for she began to giggle.........the
giggle(which seemed more mocking than genuine) soon turned into a laugh.............a
laugh that was cold and demonic...............demented yet amused...............like
the sadistic cackle of a rabid clown with a taste for the flesh of children.And
as she laughed,she tilted backwards,plunging off the edge of the building
and disappearing from sight.
"Stop!" He roared as he once again detatched the weapon from his back and
lept to the spot where she had fallen from.He was thankful to hear the
dreadful laughter slowly subside,but losing track of the elf's wherabouts
only meant prolonging this living nightmare.He cautiously peered over the edge
of the rooftop,for some reason afraid of what he would see.But like
the laughter,Vanth had completely disappeared.Nothing abnormal lay below
him;just the vacant and dismal alleyway.
For several tense moments,he stood so still that he seemed as inanimate
as the building on which he stood.Like a frightened animal,every nerve was on
edge and alert;his heart beat rapidly and his senses were hightened.He was aware
that he was being hunted.He couldn't just stand there much longer.
Someone has to die.
Her words were the truth.Someone was going to die.How else would
it end?He remembered how he had slaughtered Kayura in the eerily beautiful
ballroom.One more warrior lost.The first victory for Talpa.He supposed he
should feel guilty and sorrowful about her apparent death,but he actually
felt rather apathetic about the fact that she was dead.It didn't concern him at the
moment.What really filled him with anger was the fact that he had been under
the control of those blasphemous creatures.Their influence was a subliminal
force;insinuating into the mind and taking a firm grip on the subconscious.For
all he knew,every move he made and every thought that passed through his head
could not be his own,but simply actions decided by a higher force.....like
a puppeteer jerking the strings of it's marionette.But he doubted that Talpa
and the others had that much power.
With the powerful fluidity of a wild cat,he lept without a sound,from
rooftop to rooftop;silently advancing deeper into the hauntingly desolate city.The
raging flame of fury inside him grew.His control was sacred to him,and if that was
ever to be taken away.....he couldn't imagine the emotional chaos
and frustration.To be reduced to such a state was unthinkable.He clenched his fist,and
his sparkling blue eye narrowed and gleamed malliciously as he scanned
the ostensibly empty city.He felt the satisfying wieght of his weapon
in his right hand.He wanted desperately to use it.
The game had not yet been won.
He lept across a few more buildings before taking a break to study
his surroundings.Familiar structures surrounded him.Every building....every
street.....everything appeared exactly how he remembered
it.....yet much.....much different.
The only obvious,visual peculiarity was the detail of the city;mainly
the signs and advertisments that adorned most of the buildings.There was one in particular
that demanded his attention.....mounted atop a nearby building
was a fairly large,billboard style sign that simply read,in bold,black
letters:Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself.It evoked a very odd feeling
when he looked at it.In some places,the paper was torn and faded,giving
it a drab,weathered look,and it's conspicuous simplicity gave it a subtly
ominous appearance.It was a cryptic message from Vanth to him.He was sure of that.He
understood......a vainglorious reference to herself,no doubt.
Nothing to fear but fear itself.
Why would such an unhuman creature use such a human phrase?For that
matter,how did she even know what this city looked like?The possible answers
He took a deep breath,pryed his eyes from the sign and decided to
prowl the streets instead of the rooftops.He stepped off the edge of the
building and fell,landing soundlessly on the empty street below.
Out of the corner of his eye,he thought he saw a large,black
shape that seemed larger than Vanth,disappear around the corner of a nearby
building.His heart jumped with excitment.He slinked stealthily and
soundlessly across the pavement towards the building.Every inch of his body was
ready and willing to lash out with deadly abhorence at this mysterious
predator who stalked him,but when he rounded the corner,all that greeted
him was the desolation of an empty street.
He lowered his weapon but still remained acutely vigilant as he silently
prowled the street.He was hunting and being hunted.Something he seldom
experienced.During his time serving Talpa,he had many enemies,but none more
dominant than he.He had always played the role of the predator,rather than the
prey,and never had he feared for his life.But now he found himself as
not only the predator,but the prey as well.The thrill of the hunt pulsed
through his viens.He could sense the evil presence of his persuer drawing
near,and it sparked a feeling of primal fear......but there was something
realized he was enjoying the game more than he anticipated.There was a certain
sense of euphoria in this gnawing dread.
As he prowled across the pavement,he peered into the many shop windows
that lined the street.Most of them were lit,with odd displays visible
behind the glass.But some of the shops were so dark that it was like staring
into the same huge,black shadow that he had been sucked into not long ago.He
got the distinct impression that there were.....things behind
the glass of the darkened shop windows......nightmarish things,lurking
in the darkness,but hidden from view.
He continued down the street and caught sight of a particularly
intriguing window display.He was immediately drawn to it.It was nestled in
between two darkened shops and was mostly dark itself,except for a small
display in front that was illuminated by a small,vaguely red tinted light.The
display consisted of three porcelain dolls,slumped against eachother in a
semicircle and seated on a pile of rumpled,red velvet.
His heart sank.
These were not just any ordinary dolls.He immediately recognized them,and
the likeness was actually quite uncanny.......simple and elegant,yet an
excellant portrayal.The one in the middle was obviously Ryo.The one slumped
against him on his left was Kento,and the one on the right......It was Kayura.Her
expression was sad......pathetic in fact,suggesting her soul was very unhappy
right now.The expression portrayed by the Kento doll was that of mildly
surprised dismay,with a hint of dopiness that always seemed to grace the face
of that gluttenous little troll.Ryo,however,was a bit different.Curiously,a small
smirk was apparent on the doll's face.Dais had no clue as to what it might mean.
He could almost feel the presence of the dolls,as well as see them.Like
vague remnants of souls......calling out to him.Out of some strange
compulsion,he set his hands on the glass and peered deeper inside........
It moved stealthily through the empty city,moving like neither a human
nor animal,but with the fluidity of a creeping shadow.....like a walking
nightmare.It made not a sound as it advanced across the desolate streets
with frightening speed,fervently seeking the tender human flesh of it's prey.It
could feel the presence of it's target grow stronger with each corner it rounded.It
was so close now......and finally,it spotted a tiny speck of red
in the distance,amongst the gray surroundings.It began to close in on the
figure.It's prey was found,unaware of the beast that roamed wild and free......
Dais couldn't make out any of the objects that hid behind the cloak
of darkness beyond the spooky display,but he did see many tiny lights of
assorted colors.The small lights were colored in gold,green,blue and red,and
they were scattered sporadically through the darkness.Some of them were even
blinking.It was as if he was staring into a darkened game room where the
only signs of activity were the busy,twinkling decor on the lifeless
machines,which had been left operating for reasons unknown.
He briefly considered going inside the mysterious shop,curious as to
what horrors he would find inside,but it occured to him that it might just
mean walking into a trap.
As he peered into the darkness,another muffled image appeared before him.At
first he thought it was something inside the shop,but after a few seconds
he realized it was actually a reflection.Whatever it was that was reflecting
in the glass must have been quite dark,for it was barely visible in the dark window.
His heart jumped and he spun around to find out what it was that
stood behind him.He felt it before he saw it.A dark and wicked presence,weighing
down on him with the very essence of dread,and it only intensified when he saw who stood
across the street from him.
It was Talpa.
This must have been the mysterious third that Vanth had spoke of.The elf
had refered to it as "He".....but why?This thing that used to be
Talpa wasn't even human.He was sure of that.It was a nightmarish sight to
behold.He couldn't find the right words to describe it......It was
definately not an easy thing to look at.Like each one of these
surreal creatures,he couldn't help but look upon it with a mixture of
terror and awe.Even its movements were surreal.He couldn't imagine doing
battle with such a thing.
Dais raised his weapon and slowly began to back away,his gaze locked
intently on Talpa,his face a mask of calm intimidation.
Talpa watched him with empty eyes and raised one long,twisted talon.It
then waved one of its frighteningly long and sharp fingers back and forth
in a subtly threatening gesture of disapproval.It was as if he was scolding
a small child and telling it its punishment would be extremely dire.And
then he lunged.
Dais was mildly mystified at how he had been able to evade the demon's
sudden attack.It had happened so quickly and abruptly that it barely even had time
to register in his mind.He was able to reflexly dodge the sinewy creature's
lightening quick advances for a few seconds,using teleportation,but he knew
he wouldn't be able to keep up this dance of death much longer.He could
barely think,much less make logical decisions.Those steely,spindly claws
would soon deliver his demise.But before any unfortunate end could be met,there
came an intervention from above.
It was more of a distraction really.High atop a nearby building,the
familiar shape of Vanth's ghoulish form could be seen against the enormous
sign which blaringly read,Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself.Her
figure crouched on the edge of the building and peered downward.She seemed
to be watching the action taking place on the street below.
The movement on the building averted Dais' attention long enough for
Talpa to seize his prey.Dais felt himself get lifted into the air to gaze
directly into the empty eyes of the towering monster.To his horror,he realized
one of Talpa's gnarled claws was gripping his neck.Hard enough to cause considerable
discomfort,but not hard enough to cause serious damage.He had expected the
metal of Talpa's armor to feel cool against his skin,but instead,they felt
hot against his tender flesh.Burning in fact.The smooth metal surged
with heat,as if armor and body had become one.The expression of taunting,sadistic
glee frozen on Talpa's face told him a long and agonizing torture awaited him
and would be immensely enjoyed by this sadistic creature before he was finally killed.
And then,like an angel for her welcome interjection,and like a devil
for the inpending doom she brought,Vanth teleported from her rooftop perch
to join the action.She blinked into existance without a sound,behind
Talpa.She twirled her battle-ax and he
could hear the whoosh of the displacement of heavy,wet air.
"Oh,please master,allow me to slay him."The elf pleaded
with mock innocents.Her tone then took a drastic turn."My blade is hungry for
a taste of your flash!" She hissed,turning to Dais.
To Dais' surprise,Talpa reacted in a quite unexpected way.He
loosened the grip around his neck,discarding him and letting him fall to his
feet.The demon then turned to Vanth,and in one quick and sudden movement,grasped
one of her long golden horns and tore off her ghoulish helmet.He then grasped
her neck and roughly lifted her from the ground,as if she was no better than a
As Dais watched the startling display of violence,he noticed
there was something vaguely familiar about the way Talpa's lithe body moved
and fought......something familiar about his stance,but nothing he could
Vanth hung limp in Talpa's clutches for several moments.
"......M..Master....." She squeeked.The dark elf's
frosty hair had fallen askew over her dark flesh and dewy,emerald eyes,which
had grown unnaturally large and round.Yet as Dais watched this curious display,he
couldn't help but feel as though he was watching actors on a stage,rather
than anything too genuine.
The nightmarish sprite began to struggle silently in her masters grip,but
Talpa kept a firm grip on her tiny neck.He seemed to be immensely enjoying himself.He
then took ahold of her left arm as she jerked violently away from him,causing
her arm to be swiftly torn from her body.
Dais silently watched the odd happenings.He was mesmerized.
Vanth looked idly at the spot were her arm used to be,as if she
refused to take even that suriously.Dais' horror for these creatures
only intensified when he saw that the blood gushing from the demons wound
was not red.....but as black as the depth of night.The consistency
of the ebony liquid didn't even seem the same as blood.....not exactly.It
brought to mind liquified shadows.
Talpa promptly flung the elf aside and once again turned his attention
to Dais.She fell with considerable force against the side of a nearby
store with a loud crash that disrupted the relative silence and echoed through the
streets.Apparently she fell hard enough to be rendered unconscious,for
she sat,slumped motionlessly against the brokeen galss and concrete,her head down
and eyes shut,like a broken doll in need of repair.
Before Dais had a chance to react,Talpa's monsterous form closed
the gap between them in a fraction of a second,and struck.He heard the metallic
scrape of clashing metal and felt a painful rupturing deep within.He heard a
possitively wicked and sadistic laughter rise from the creature in front of
him,and to his shock and horror,he realized that Talpa's gnarled,razor claws
were embedded deep in his chest.
Someone has to die.......
Talpa laughed with sadistic glee as he dominated his prey.Plunging his
claws deeper and twisting,causing bright red,scalding blood to gush across Dais'
Dais had never seen so much of his own blood at once.Every inch of his body
was acutely aware of the pain surging virulently through him.His vision
began to distort and fade as his life seeped out of him through
the gaping hole in his chest.
As his consciousness began to fade,he took in the scene around him one last
time.In the center of an otherwise desolate street,underneath the endlessly roiling
and coiling storm clouds above,he faced his former lord.He gazed directly
into the taunting mask that this demon hid behind,and beyond him,slumped
against one of the large shop windows,he saw Vanth's inert form lift her
head and fling open her frightening eyes,one at a time.First the left,then the right.Jerking
to life like a lifeless doll being magically animated.And he thought
to himself......mabey he was better off this way.....mabey
he was lucky to depart from this living nightmare.But then he remembered the
dolls that had gazed helplessly up at him from the store window,and
he got the sinking feeling that mabey even death would fail to free him.....
And as the scene faded to blackness and he finally surrendered to the
euphoria of death,he only hoped his comrades wouldn't fall to the same fate........