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"Have you ever danced with the Devil in the
pale moonlight?÷I always ask that of all
my prey. I just like the sound of it. ÷Never
rub another man's rhubarb."
--Joker from "Batman"

Chapter 17:
Dance with Darkness
By Satori Shiro and Darster

All I can say is this: What the Hell is going on here?! All I ever wanted to do was to help my best friend recover. Is that too much to ask? All this started because she had some strange and gruesome dreams about the end of the world that involved demons from another dimension and armored warriors fighting against them. I just blew them off at first. They're just dreams, aren't they? Well after some time had passed, some of them started to become reality. This was not good, not good at all. The next thing I know, she decides to put on a disappearing act, which got me grilled by the headmistress of the orphanage for three hours straight! What's more, her dreams about armored warriors and demons (and the demon part is real÷I just saw their remains a while back) were all true!
Well, I got to thinking. Am I going to go on with my life as if nothing has happened while my best bud is in trouble? Yeah right! So that same day I decided to skip school, again, to search for her myself. Along the way I ran into a guy who was also searching for someone. At first I mistook him to be Rei's missing sibling but he turned out to be the boyfriend of another girl that is also mixed up in the same ordeal. Having fun, so far? No? Well, there is more to this twisted tale.
We finally caught wind of which direction to go when we got jumped along the way by a bunch of weird looking demons and about a dozen or so guys in some kind of ancient lookin' armor. After a while of running and fighting, they somehow were able to get us and locked us up in their dungeon.
In the dungeon, I found out that the guy's name was Cody and he was searching for a girl that goes by the name Auburn. He told me how she looked but I never saw or heard of her before. Now I have. After being forced to take a couple of long naps, the very same person Cody was talking about was with me in my cell. And boy was she not happy. It turned out that her own boyfriend was the one that attacked her and brought her here! But guess what, she's one of the armor-bearers! Is that a stroke of good luck or what?! Well, it might be better if she actually had the armor, but the same creepy guys that captured us stole it from her.
Now here we are, running around inside the halls of this bizarre castle searching for Rei while we are being hunted! By whom, I haven't a clue, but I think she does.
"Hey, are you okay over there?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. I was just thinking about how strange my life has become ever since I've met Rei way back when. She always hated to talk about her past, even to me, but it seems like her past is what is hurting her, I just know it."
"Like I said, I can relate. The past is sometimes a powerful force in our lives," Auburn commented.
I paused as we turned a corner, "Like you said, this Raven guy could be using whatever knowledge he has on her to make her do what he wishes of her."
"What do you mean?" Auburn asked as she glanced over her shoulder. "About knowing when she is hurt, I mean?"
"I honestly don't know. Sometimes I'll just know when something is up with her. I have been able to do the same with a few others but it seems limited."
"Perhaps you have a bit of psychic ability," Auburn suggested.
"Me? No way, I'm just a normal human."
"'Normal' people still have a touch of psychic ability. They're called instincts. Maybe Rei's powers just opened yours a bit wider."
"Maybe. All I know is, Rei has a way of attracting danger like a moth to a flame."
"So do I, or so I've been told," Auburn half-joked in reply.
I suddenly stopped in the middle of my tracks. Someone moved in the hall but I just couldn't catch it. I looked over to Auburn to see if she saw the same thing. From the look on her face, she did. Her green eyes hardened as they darted about, and she took a half-step closer to me. As for me, I did my best to look brave, though something told me our number was just about up.

Auburn braced herself for the attack she knew to be coming, the one she wasn't sure she could prevent. Though exhausted, she still held on to her rebellious streak, the only thing keeping her going. She didn't have much fight left in her, but she wasn't about to be captured again without one.
Auburn closed her eyes as the shadows tried to close in about them, and waited. She felt the soldiers' distinct presence in her mind, yet she still waited. Closer, she thought, closer, closer yet÷.
As the Dynasty soldier lifted his staff to strike her from behind, Auburn whirled and grabbed the staff with her hands. Using the last of her reserve power, she sent a charge of her own emotional energy through the staff, and the soldier holding the other end exploded in a shower of sparks. The staff ignited in white flames in her hands as the last of her energy flowed through it, and Auburn whirled again, knocking out a soldier aiming for a very distracted Keiko. She turned again, but the slash of a wicked sword in front of her caused her to jump back into a second wave of Dynasty soldiers. After a small struggle, the soldiers managed to subdue her attack as dark laughter echoed in the shadows.

Keiko snapped out of her stupor just in time to see the advancing soldiers disarm Auburn and pin her arms behind her. Keiko saw exhaustion written all over the girl's face, but Auburn continued to glare haughtily at the white-haired woman who appeared out of the shadows, cackling with glee. Keiko herself didn't put up much fight when the soldiers surrounded her, there wasn't much use.
Kimiko smirked with satisfaction as she heard the snap of chains shut. The red-haired girl continued to glare at her, but said nothing as the soldiers chained her arms behind her. The other girl did not resist, and Kimiko knew their plans were still on track.
"Bring them. The Master is waiting," she ordered once the girls were securely chained. The master will surely reward me, she thought as she led the soldiers through the castle.

Y r S w T

"Shadow Warrior, come to me. It is time for the ceremony to begin." The summons from his master pulled him out of the nightmarish images of a past long forgotten and a future which is forsaken. He quickly gathered up his wits and stepped through the familiar shadows of the room which teleported him to the main throne room.
Before him stood the majestic throne. Upon that throne sat a very pleased Lord ShadowRaven. Standing next to him was the chosen one. The corrupted queen of destruction herself, his sister.
"Come, I still need you to be on guard at the altar before we start the process. We can not have any distractions. Is that understood? Stop all intruders at all cost."
"Of course, sire," he responded automatically, snapping him out of his thoughts. More destruction to come. Was this what he wanted for himself? Was this his dream? His future? Her future? What future could he possibly have by staying here? No, questions are intolerable in the lands of the dynasty. I must rid my mind of these hideous thoughts before the master finds out.
"Good. You are dismissed my warrior," he said as the warrior quietly exited the same way he entered. Raven stood there a bit longer before preceding. "Let us proceed toward my ultimate victory, my dear. A victory not even Talpa could accomplish!" ShadowRaven's laughter echoed through the entire cavernous room as they exited through the darkest shadows. The lord and lady silently appeared in front of the black stone altar at the far end of the room.
"Are you ready, my love?"
"Of course, love," she purred as she stretched her strong slim body causing the gown to rustle around her.
"Bring forth the sacrifice and the stone of protection!" his voice boomed throughout the courtyard.
"What is it?" he responded to the servant who silently appeared before him.
"Th-the s-sa-sacrifice ha-has escaped along with the stone."
"WHAT?! How could that be possible?!" he thundered angrily, his scepter glowing with power, as he stared down at the cowering servant. Quite suddenly, it all stopped. "You may go," he said to the startled man.
"You heard me, leave." Quickly the servant bowed as he scrambled away from the area as fast as his feet could carry him. In the same direction the man had gone, a scream of pain and startlment echoed back with the stench of burnt flesh floated back toward the duo.
"That must have felt good." The silky voice purred from the shadows of the entrance.
"Ah, Lady Kimiko has returned to me. What have you brought for me this time?"
Silently, the newly reinstated Lady Kimiko revealed herself through the shadows of the archway. "I see you have changed. I approve of the new look. As for your question," on cue the soldiers pushed the two runaways into view for all to see. Auburn stared angrily at Raven and Kimiko while Keiko stared at the ground, defeated.
"Excellent, I see at least you I can trust to do something right for a change, unlike some. Now where is the gem?"
"You'll never find it," Auburn said defiantly as she struggled to get out of her bindings. If I don't know where it is, you sure can't find it, she thought angrily at them.
"Oh? You think so, huh? Well the stone shall be coming here any moment now."
"Even if you do get it, you won't be able to use it, and you'll still never win this war!"
"I think not. For I have already won. Show yourself my dear." He looked over to the shadow next to him and held out his hand. Lady Reiko silently stepped out to where to others could see.
Keiko took that moment to look up and wish she did not see what she saw before her. It was Rei all right, but she has changed. "Rei? What happened?! You've changed!"
"Of course I've changed. We all change, but I've changed for the better."

Y r S w T

"Sage! Behind you!"
In a blink of an eye, the warrior of light turned and swung his gleaming sword in a wide arc around, cleanly slicing the sneaky soldier in half.
"Thanks," he called back to Mia who was apparently holding her own, with White Blaze's help of course, against the attacking troops. In her hand, she held a staff that one of the soldiers had dropped. It seems as though this time she would not be left out of the battle. This must be the reason why she wanted Kento to teach her how to swing that broken broomstick of hers, he thought as he sliced through another pair of attacking soldiers.
"Not bad for a girl, huh?" she huffed as she quickly sidestepped away from a charging soldier then swiftly smashed the staff down on the soldier's head.
"Not bad, but definitely not better!" a deep voice echoed down to the trio.
"That voice!" she gasped in fear and nearly froze in the middle of a fight.
"Cale, you buffoon! Don't you have anything better to do?" Sage yelled to his archrival. ÷÷"Actually I do, but the master called for me to deal with you÷permanently."
Cale was amazed to see that they were able to make it this far so quickly. They were able to enter the castle grounds and the others were not far behind. How did this happen? Is it possible Lord Raven did not notice or did he just ignore them? The master should have sent for us earlier!
"So, Lord Raven-butt wishes for you to finish us off, is that it? I thought you already knew that you could never win."
"Oh we shall see, little ronin. We shall see who wins and who lose. And once I am through with you, that feisty little wench shall be mine to play with!"
"Don't even think about it buster!" Mia yelled back hotly at the Warlord of Corruption. "You are not getting me without a fight!"
:White Blaze, take Mia toward away from here.: Sage whispered to the tiger.
:Just do it!!: He said as he launched himself toward the warlord. "This ends, here and now, Cale! Prepare to return to the darkness that spawned you!"
"Such big talk for a little boy! Think you can back it all up?" he said as he watched the warrior of light land in front of him with a solid thump on the roof.
"Shut up and fight, Dork Warlord," Sage hissed as he attacked the Warlord of Corruption.

Down below, White Blaze stared at the two dueling warriors on the roof when his ears flicked toward the forest as though he was listening to something. He finally gave Mia a nudge toward the outskirts of the castle, insisting she follow him.
"What about Sage?" she protested. "He might need our help!"
The tiger merely trotted away, giving Mia no choice but to follow.
"Hey, wait! I'm coming!" she yelled as she followed. "No wonder Ryo calls you crazy," she muttered once she caught up with the tiger.

Y r S w T

"Give it up, Dais! You know you can't win against the two of us!" Kento yelled at the warlord of illusions, who stood in front of him a good twenty feet away with his arms crossed over his chest as he watched the duo fight against the onslaught of the foot soldiers.
"Stop this now, Dais! Can't you see, you are being used once again by Raven just as Talpa had used you÷had used us?" Anubis spoke, trying to reason the intellectual side of the warlord, the side that he knew that could be reasoned with.
"Hold your treacherous tongue, Anubis! You should be fighting on our side, the side we once fought together for, but instead you stand against us even though things are not going well for you? Especially since you failed to protect the chosen one!"
"True, I may have failed, but I am planning on fixing that one loose end!" In a blink of an eye, Anubis let loose his sure-kill without a word of warning. The chains quickly snaked through the depths of the earth before shooting straight up toward a startled warlord. The strong chains quickly wrapped themselves around the warlord's body.
"My turn," Kento said as his eyes twinkled with self-confidence.
"Iron Rock CRUSHER!" The very familiar power ripped through the earth causing the upheaval of the rocks and stones that kept the place stable. After the barrage finished burying Dais, Anubis placed a hand on Kento's shoulder.
"I see you just love doing that," he said with a sly grin on his face.
"Are you kidding?! It is one of my favorite things to do! Eating terrific cooking and burying warlords! What a life!" he said with a chuckle.
"I think we've done enough damage here. Let's go," Anubis stated abruptly as he turned and walked away toward the castle. "There is still the big guy in the castle."
"Well then, let's get movin'!"
"I don't think so, Hardrock!"
"It's such a pity. I thought you knew me better by now." Dais' eerie voice echoed throughout the area disorienting the warriors.
Feeling a sudden shot of anxiety, Anubis looked toward the castle. As he watched he saw a dark glow surrounding the fortress. Then he looked toward the surrounding area as another feeling washed over him. His green eyes glazed over for a moment, then turned back to Kento, who was still searching for the source of the voice.
In a hushed tone, he whispered, "Do what you can to distract and delay him and if possible bring him back to 'our' side. I am going in and see what is going on inside." Without another word, he slipped off toward the castle.

Jeff barely kept the white flash in front of him in sight, as Blitz darted through the obstacles in front of them. The psychic barriers he'd first sensed seemed to intensify the farther they traveled into their new surroundings, and the increased distance Blitz was putting between himself and his master made further communication a lot more difficult.
:Blitz! Slow down!: Jeff yelled through the increased static.
:We must hurry!: came the sluggish reply. :You'll understand when we get there.:
:Understand what? Get WHERE?!?: Jeff practically screamed in frustration. The fact that the wolf seemed to know more about what was going on than Jeff did began to annoy him. :I don't even know where we are now, and you're dragging me----:
:GET DOWN! Hide!:
Blitz's order cut off his tirade as the wolf knocked him into the safety of a rather large, but strange looking bush. The sound of an earthquake ripped through the air, and Jeff found an opening in the bush to look through, though he didn't believe what he saw. Three strange armored men fought in the open area surrounding a large dark castle, and one of the men disappeared, reappearing a few inches in front of him. He seemed to be taunting the other two, and Jeff hid as best he could without loosing his vantage point. Intrigued, he watched the battle unfold in front of him as the sense of familiarity redoubled to him. He almost felt like he knew these people÷
:Watch,: Blitz said from behind him. : I will return.:
:Wait, where are you going?:
:Just watch and learn,: he said as he slipped away toward the castle in a streak of white.
Jeff turned back to the battle raging in front of him. Long forgotten fragments of dreams re-surfaced as he became engrossed in the moment÷.

Under the cover of Dais' evil laughter, and Kento's attempts to coax the Warlord out of hiding, Anubis slipped down to the castle wall. He found an unguarded opening and paused in front of it as his resolve lessened a bit. He wasn't sure what caused his armor to pull away from him earlier, and he didn't want to risk it happening again inside the castle. Yet it was partly his responsibility to protect Rei, and Dais was right. He'd failed, but he was about to make that right as his resolve hardened again, and he stalked bravely through the castle entrance.
The dark shields around the area surrounded him, and Anubis felt as though he couldn't breathe. He felt the armor pull away from him again, toward the dark power that called to it's original nature. Anubis tried with all his might to recall the armor back to him, but he'd been too long without it, and he no longer held its power.
"NO!" He cried out as the armor pulled away completely and left him in his ghostly state once more.
Using the last link between him and the armor, he managed to return it to its crystal form. Anubis tried valiantly to catch it, but he no longer had his physical body. The kanji orb dropped to the floor and began rolling away on an unseen course until a white paw stopped its flight. Startled, Anubis expected to see White Blaze standing there, but instead gazed down into the bright blue eyes of a white wolf. He suddenly remembered his most recent trip to the mortal realm, where he had seen this wolf before. And who it had been with÷
He smiled and placed a hand on the wolf's head where it remained oddly solid. "So, he is ready."
The wolf seemed to nod at him and gave a woof of assent. Suddenly, the wolf's head turned toward the hall they were standing in and he whined softly.
Anubis nodded. "No, it won't take them long to notice us÷but it seems I am not needed here anymore." He scratched the wolf's ears. "I hope he is ready, but with your help, I'm sure he will do fine."
Soundlessly, the dead Warlord of Cruelty disappeared as Blitz took his new-found prize back to his master.

Names and faces came to Jeff as he watched the battle play out before him, though he didn't know from where. He watched Kento twist and turn about searching for Dais, who Jeff could plainly see standing not two feet from the rock brained Ronin. He moved to help the dense young man in his battle when the brush of fur distracted him. Blitz snuck up behind him and dropped a small crystal into his open palm. Involuntarily, his fingers wrapped around it, and he felt a surge of power, as well as the dark shields surrounding this strange place fall away. Most of all, he felt Annie's strong psychic signature in the area÷and she was in trouble. Without thinking he moved toward the call, but his wolf stopped him again.
:The others need your help more÷you must help bring them together. Come on.:
Jeff stared down at his wolf, then at himself as he noticed the odd sub-armor that had appeared over his street clothes. :What the hell?: he asked dumbly.
Blitz didn't answer, and Jeff once again had nothing to follow but the fluff of a white tail as his familiar led him back into the strange landscape.

Y r S w T

Valiantly, Cody tried once more to shake Rowen out of the deep trance he'd fallen into, but it was to no avail. He sighed deeply, wondering what he should do now. They couldn't stand here in the middle of the Dynasty barracks with a war going on around them, yet he couldn't leave Rowen defenseless to try and find the others. It was a definite catch 22.
:Turn around!: Bird's faint order echoed through his monologue.
Cody turned to see another nether demon bearing down upon him, with another army descending after him. The spirit was so intent on his target that Cody simply held his sword in front of him for the demon to impale itself on the end of the blade. He idly tossed the body in the pile behind him, and stood beside Rowen, defiantly facing the oncoming army.
"Didn't I just dust you guys?" he asked rhetorically.
"It seems you did not do well enough," barked a harsh female voice.
Lady Kayura stepped out of the ranks of the advancing soldiers and glared angrily at him. It seemed that he was not the only one Raven had brainwashed to his side. Bird was able to save me, can I do the same for her? Cody gripped his weapon tighter and glared back at her in retaliation.
"I can fix that," he retorted cockily, feeling less brave than he sounded.
Kayura laughed. "You are no Ronin Warrior, boy," she sneered. "Give me that jewel, and perhaps I'll let you live."
The jewel flashed around his neck in response to her threat, and Cody merely stared back. "Not on your life."
"Mine is not the one in question," she replied, drawing her twin swords and powering up her attack. "Star Sword SCREAM!"
Cody barely dodged the barrage of flying swords as he ducked and rolled away from the sharp blades. His roll stopped in front of a pile of discarded weapons from the first wave attack, and he grinned. Two can play this game, he thought as he began tossing arrows, swords, knives, and daggers in Kayura's direction. His telekinesis helped them fly true and forced Kayura to call in the rest of the Dynasty army she'd brought with her. He managed to skewer half the Dynasty forces, but Raven's second in command still stood unharmed, as did Rowen, still as a statue. Cody soon ran out of ammunition and breath as exhaustion began to overwhelm him. This did not go unnoticed by Kayura, who stood triumphantly over him, aiming her sword at his chest.
"Enough fun and games. Give me the jewel child, and I'll let you go," she growled at him, holding the sword perilously close to his throat.
"I'm no child!" he yelled hotly at her. "And you'll have to kill me to get it!"
"As you wish," she said, driving the sword toward the exhausted young man.
"Arrow Shock WAVE!"
Rowen's golden arrow blazed through the air toward Kayura as he finally shook off the trance that held him paralyzed. She turned toward the source of the attack, blocking the arrow with her sword as Cody rolled out of the way of the blast. He stared, dumbfounded, as Rowen notched another arrow and aimed it straight at Kayura.
Distracted, she turned toward Rowen and laughed. "So, little boy blue finally woke up from his little nap. You could not defeat me once before, what makes you think you can this time?"
"Wanna bet, Lady?" Rowen spat as the two circled each other menacingly.
:Go! You need to get that jewel to Auburn quickly, before Raven gains any more power.: Bird said to him.
:But Rowen÷:
:÷can take care of himself. He's done this before. Go!:
Sighing again, Cody used the distraction to slip out the door and take off toward the castle. Bird led the way, and he kept the hawk in his sight as he ran. Too busy in his flight, he didn't notice the soldier following until the blow hit him from behind. He stumbled and fell to his hands and knees, as did the soldier following him when a matching staff knocked it backward. Cody looked up to find Mia standing over him, wielding a staff and looking quite pleased with herself.
"Thanks," he said somewhat unsteadily as he took the staff from her and stood, leaning on it for support. In trade, he gave her the Stone of Protection as she looked at him strangely. He saw White Blaze off to the side, trashing two or three snipers who were waiting to ambush them. "You and Blaze take that jewel inside the castle and get it to Auburn pronto. I'm goin' back to help Rowen."
"Hey! Wait a minute!" Mia protested, but a blast from inside the barracks knocked them both off their feet. Seconds later, Kayura triumphantly exited the building as a swarm of Dynasty soldiers followed. One scooped the jewel out of a stunned Mia's hand, and returned it to Kayura, who cackled gleefully as she disappeared toward the castle. The master shall be pleased.
Among the rush, Mia was swept away with them, leaving a very confused Cody behind. White Blaze began to follow the retreating army, then gave up, returning to where the surprised young man stood dumbly. Remembering the Ronin inside, the tiger dashed toward the barracks and disappeared inside.

Y r S w T

"Sekhmet, I don't know what is worse, your venom or your breath!" Ryo said as their swords clashed with tremendous results. Venom and sparks flew in every direction as the swords pulled apart from one another.
"Talk all you want, for those shall be the last words you'll ever say again!"
"Yak, yak, yak! All you do is talk with that foul breath of yours! How boring can you be?!" Ryo said trying his best to sound bored, which wasn't too hard for him to do. This plus the lack of energy is starting to take its toll on his body.
"What's the matter Wildfire? You sound so÷weak. Why don't I end your misery here and now." Sekhmet quickly leaped back and instantly started his sure-kill.
Ryo quickly caught on and started his in a flash.
"Snake Fang STRIKE!"
"Flare Up NOW!"
The two powers collide in a colossal crash that tore the countryside to scraps. Mixed in with the rubble is one exhausted ronin.
"What's the matter, tuckered out? Here, let me tuck you in for you final rest!"
Cye couldn't help but watch as his armor disappear and replace itself with his street clothes. The Jewel of Life flared to life with its blue brother the Stone of Mouri. Cye gripped the blue stone tightly in his left hand and concentrated hard as he lifted his free hand in the air. As he watched, a blue bubble formed over Ryo, protecting him from Sekhmet's finishing blow.
Sekhmet looked down and saw that his prey was being protected by magic, very familiar magic. He looked around and found the source to be his arch-nemesis, Torrent! He watches as the boy glowed a soft blue light, which was surrounded by a tint of gold. Could this be the heir that he heard about? The one with the powers that matched even Talpa himself? This child?! Impossible! Of all the people, why this infant?!
"Back off Fang Face, before something happens to you," he said trying to sound as menacing as possible even though his voice was trembling slightly. So this is what it feels like to be able to do things with one's own mind. I don't think they meant this when they said it, Cye thought as he kept a close eye on the warlord as he moved over to Ryo's side.
"Are you alright?"
"Yeah, I'm terrific," Ryo winced as he got to his feet.
"That's good to hear," he said as helped his friend to his feet.
"When did you learn to do that?"
"I picked it up along the way. After what I learned from Auburn and Cody's minds, I was able to use this immense power I now have. Like Auburn said, 'It's not the stone that is bad, it all depends on the way it is used.' I guess it was about time I used this thing."
"So you are the Heir to the dynasty throne. This is unexpected news to see that you've learned to control it in such a short time. I believe it took Talpa, what÷100 years to master his. So are you here to claim your rightful place or what?" Sekhmet sneered at the young man who dared to challenge him. "If so, you will have to get through me first!"
He leapt back again and prepared another blast, snickering at the easy prey before him. One too tired to fight, and one unarmored÷this will be an easy end. The master will be pleased, he thought as the power collected around him. He readied himself to throw the attack when another surge of power intervened.
"QUAKE WITH FEAR!" shouted a somewhat shaky voice from behind Ryo and Cye.
The chains snapped over their heads and snaked around the Warlord of Venom, pinning his arms to his side and causing him to drop his weapon. With a sharp yank, the Warlord was dragged a few feet away, squirming and yelling curses all the while.
Ryo and Cye turned as one to see the Warlord of Cruelty standing behind them, somewhat dazed. It seemed as though he was utterly amazed by his own power. Personally, Ryo had never been happier to see the ex Dynasty general. One second later, and he and Cye would've both been goners.
"Anubis!" He yelled as he and Cye approached their friend. "Just in time!"
Cye looked at the figure standing there, or rather through him. With his new powers still raging, he sensed something different about the Warlord. He concentrated harder and sensed a new presence within the old armor.
"That's not Anubis," Cye announced to Ryo, wide-eyed.
The figure reached up to remove his helmet, and Ryo held his sword up defensively, watching in shock as a head of brown hair revealed itself where the red-head should have been. The only thing remotely matching Anubis' looks were those same green eyes that looked at the two Ronins dazedly before seeming to alight with recognition.
"No, I'm not," the young man said. He gave no other explanation, and in truth looked just as surprised as they did.
"Then who are you?" Ryo demanded, still gripping his sword. "And what are you doing with Anubis' armor."
Jeff examined the two young men standing before him, instinctively knowing who they were, but unable to explain who he was, much less how he'd gotten this armor. Blitz had just brought the crystal to him, and the rest had been a blur of power, and long forgotten memories.
"Very confused," Jeff answered, "as I'm sure you and Cye are."
"You know us?" Cye asked, somewhat in awe.
"Yeah, but don't ask me to explain now. Can we walk and talk at the same time? There's a war going on here, and the more time we waste standing around here, the better chances are we have at losing."
He sounds a lot like Auburn, Cye noted mentally, but didn't comment aloud, except to inquire about Sekhmet, who was oddly quiet. "What about Snake boy?"
All three looked toward the pile of chains that previously held the Warlord. The metal had been corroded by his poison, and he'd disappeared into the shadows.
"Great, he's gone," Ryo observed. "Now what?"
"Let him follow," Jeff suggested. "We need to find the others and regroup. The only way we're going to be able to win is together."
How does he know so much? Ryo asked himself. Aloud he said, "We don't know where the others are."
"I know someone who does."
Jeff let out a small whistle, and his wolf bounded out of the forest canopy, stopping quickly to greet Ryo and Cye with a lick before leading them toward the castle.
"Yours?" Cye asked.
Jeff nodded. "That's Blitz. With any luck, he can lead us to the others. Come on."
Ryo shrugged as the young man walked after his wolf. He gave up trying to figure out why strange people kept appearing on this little venture, nor how they all seemed to have armors like the rest of them. He just hoped Phoenix knew what she was doing. He stalked after the armored man, and Cye quickly followed, looking over his shoulder for his arch-enemy, who he knew would be trailing them. Ryo quickly overtook the lead as Cye fell back to study their new ally as they put as much distance between themselves and Sekhmet as they could.

to be continued÷

Greetings all! Here is the seventeenth chapter of this long story. Everything is going to be very complicated for the guys. It appears that Lord ShadowRaven may be wining the war. Who knows! I guess we shall see what will happen because there is still the big plan of the Phoenix plus the continuing appearances of people that are being called into battle with or against them. More to come! Write to me with any questions you may have. Ja mata!
-Satori ^_^