"I pledged my life and soul to protecting this world from evil. You gave us the name "Avenger", we do not give ourselves a name. We are simply an organization, and that is the name we use. Or we once did, they are all dead now..." she said before going inside and shutting the door.
"The longer you mourn, the weaker Grand Moon becomes. Soon all of Faerie will be under the Dark Skull's control." shouted Bastian at the closed door, kicking the ground in frustration.
"Bollocks. We'll have to convince her somehow..."
Rena was shocked to hear such words being said by what was essentially the embodiment of all her heroes. Gulping a little bit, she said. "I-I can't believe you would say that! Just because all the Avengers are gone doesn't mean that we should give up! If we're knocked down then we'll just get back up again and fight even harder! If I were an Avenger, that's what I would do! Even without being an Avenger, I'm going to face the Dark Skull and defeat her in the name of all those that have fallen!"
Bastian put a hand on Rena's shoulder. "Calm down little one,"
"Zjar'q, do you know any way to convince her to help us?"
Zjar'q shook his head but Reuben looked up.
"I could try to be...persuasive...or if that doesn't work, I could fiddle with her brains."
"Let's try to endear ourselves," said Bastian "The Dark Skull has taken a lot from her, if we're to win we'll need her help."
Later that evening; the soft thump of the cottage's door signaled the Avenger's presence.
"I will tell my story..." she said, eyes on the ground. "But promise me you will not fail."
"We will fight with all our might. If we fail, then more will come."
"The hordes of Light-worshipers on your world must be great, here they are small."
Here she began, sitting down near the small fire they had made.
"When we arrived, the beasts were silent. They were all hiding from their master, the Dark Skull was being riven apart from the inside. We took no chances and attacked, but when the mutilated body of the Dark Skull fell to the floor another rose up from within her. The beast she births is herself, perpetuating a cycle of life that cannot be broken unless she is slain before the seed quickens. She made short work of my sisters, scattered their bones as a warning. I alone remained."
Here the story ended and she looked at Bastion "We failed because of that. She cannot be slain when she is weakest, only at her strongest is she also vulnerable."
Hadrian scratched at his chin.
"That... That could prove to be a problem." He rolled his shoulders and cracked his knuckles. "But that sure as hell won't stop me from enjoying the fight." His usual smirk was visible on his face, though it looked more forced this time.
"Do not underestimate her. She's cunning, she'll try to divide and confuse you first before she attacks. You'll need all of our courage and conviction." said the Avenger.
"You should all rest..." and here she left.
"So..." Bastian said as the woman went back inside, leaving them alone around the fire, "I think we should have Jeff blow up most of the place, get us inside and then we just kick her pretty little ass into oblivion."
There was a short silence.
Hadrian's brows furrowed as he stared at the crackling fire.
"You're saying that as if it's that easy."
Rena thought about it as well as she sat next to the fire. Nodding her head as she finally decided, she said. "I don't like the idea of attacking someone while they're at their weakest anyways. Only a coward and a weakling would even consider such an underhanded tactic. Anyone who would consider such a thing can't even call themselves a warrior." She nodded her head matter-of-factly and then said. "Even at her strongest, we'll definitely beat her!"
"It's clear we can't anyways. We'll have to find some way to beat her, but we can't know the extent of her powers until we're there." said Bastian, also looking into the fire.
"I have this strange feeling that we might not make it out of this unscathed..."
MUCH TIME PASSES
The Dark Skulls lair loomed out of the snowstorm. Just ahead the wall of swords sat silent, plunged into the permafrost as a reminder of the failure of the Avengers. The silent party glided past on their disc of solid snow, propelled by aquamancy. Bastian bowed his head as they passed, then looked upon the giant grey mountain ahead. Out of it sprang a black finger pointing up to the sky as if to say "Here I am! Come to me if you dare!" Lurker was sitting cross legged, mumbling a spell. Feeling for whatever defenses lay in wait.
Bastian nudged Rena and said "There it is. Your destiny."
Rena couldn't help but feel a little intimidated by the huge structure but she knew that they would prevail. They would definitely get inside and defeat the Dark Skull no matter what! As she was thinking this, she was nudged by Bastian and encouraged by him. Nodding her head, she said. "I'll do my best!"
It loomed above them like a monster made of darkness. When Jeff started ripping the duck tape and sticking his heavy explosives to a section of the wall, Bastian drew his short sword and his gun. Jeff nodded and smiled at Bastian "More?" he asked. Bastian nodded.
"Know the whole thing down if you can..." said Bastian.
He started strapping grenades to it as well, while Lurker meditated.
"I can sense her. A kind of clawing at the belly, her time is near..." said Lurker, eyes glowing green and his flesh shrunken and rotting.
The explosion ripped through the silent air, echoing far and wide. It left a medium sized gap in the wall, obvious made of stout material. Bastian and Jeffrey were through first, the others behind them.
Hadrian coughed a bit, and waved away the smoke that flew in front of his face.
"Damn, so much for subtlety."
Rena used a bit of her wind magic to blow away the smoke from her face. Still coughing a little bit, she said. "Well that's one way to get inside! Let's go defeat the Dark Skull!" She started down a path before stopping and asking. "How do we get there?"
"I would assume we go up..." said Bastian, looking at a staircase entrance nearby.
"If I was an all-powerful evil overlord, I'd be at the top of the tower...not the bottom."
Rena thought that was a good idea, but then she thought about something. "But what if she's aware of that and is actually at the very bottom, with a trap at the top? Boo..That seems like something an evil overlord would do."
"Maybe...what do you say, Lurker?" asked Bastion of Lurker who looked around, eyes blazing with green fire.
"I feel a strong presence both above and below us."
"One's a fake and one's real most likely. Boo, you whore!" said Bastian "Split down the middle. Half go up and half go down."
Rena nodded her head a little bit before saying. "I wanna go down! If it's a trap at the top then I sure don't wanna spring it! The Dark Skull will be as good as mine!"
Hadrian sniffed the air, trying to discern where the Dark Skull is, only to come to the same conclusion as Lurker. He snorted angrily. "Damn. I can't tell where she is either."
He tapped Rena on the head. "The same could be said about going down to the lower levels too, Rena. But if you really want to go down, then I'll be joining you."
"I'll go up.I've always been an "up" person." everyone looked at Bastian as he made this terrible pun and Bastian shook his head.
"I shall join you." said Mohammed, his eyes dulled now that Zjar'q was asleep.
"I as well." said Lurker, shadows bunching up around him.
"I will go down..." said Breaker, glaring as Bastian suppressed a stupid giggle.
"I can't let the werewolf have all of the fun and glory." and here, Breaker winked at Hardian.
Jeff cocked his gun and slung it over his shoulder "I feel like going up, then maybe left then backwards a bit."
"It's decided, keep in touch folks. And kill anything you see, I am under the impression anything in here is in the Dark Skull's service." said Bastian, pondering.
Anastasia kept close to Pytor, putting a hand on his arm as Bastian began walking up the steps.
Rena nodded her head eagerly before saying to Breaker and Hadrian. "Let's go now! We have to defeat the Dark Skull no matter what, so let's do our best!" She was in a surprisingly cheerful mood in spite of being in such a dangerous situation. Smiling, she said. "I'm glad you two came with me. I thought I would be going down alone!"
"We can't let you go down alone, Rena. If you did, you might be mauled by the stinking, rotting horrors lurking down there," Hadrian said, smirking. "But since we're here, the path to the Dark Skull will be a breeze."
"If she's even there. He said under his breath.
He rolled his arms, and tapped his blades together. "Let's get going." As he walked passed Breaker, he had a feral grin on his face and glowing crimson eyes.
Climbing the tower, it echoed with their footsteps. There was nothing living around them, or so it seemed. Bastian could not tell if there was anything hiding just out of sight, waiting to pounce. But he hoped he would not find out.
The top of the tower was extremely high, the walk up the steps was already exhausting and Bastian paused to catch his breath. The others stopped with him while Bastian looked up ahead, there was a single door ahead of them made of wood reinforced with iron. There was a large ring-shaped handle. Walking slowly up to it he tested the door, it was unlocked. He opened it and was first through the threshold. It was a large, empty room with a half-moon balcony at the far side with blue curtains blowing in the breeze. The floor was marble tile placed in an odd cross-hatched pattern. There was a four poster canopy bed in the left corner and around the right corner was a large full-length mirror, a screen and a wardrobe. There was a shuffle of movement as the others came inside and began sniffing around. Jeffrey had his gun in his hands, moving towards the balcony while Lurker and Mohammed fanned to the left and right.
"Anything?" asked Bastian in a whisper.
"Nothing." said Mohammed.
"I sense something." said Lurker, hand to his right temple. "Close by and very powerful."
Then Jeffrey went flying through the air sliding towards them, cursing as he stood.
There she was; framed by the open curtains as they fluttered back to stand still. She was heavily pregnant and the skin-tight purple dress emphasized her largeness overmuch. She had long flowing locks of black hair and eyes like sapphires pulled from the earth. She was obviously beautiful though this was lost to Bastian, who readied himself into a fighting stance. She was wearing a necklace of a small key which glinted in the light as she stepped inside, with each step towards them the others back away towards Bastian. Soon they were a small semicircle, staring at the woman before them.
"So you finally found me. Congratulations are in order." said the Dark Skull, smiling cruelly.
"We've come to free Faerie from your dominance." said Bastian, trying to intimidate her.
"Oh I know. I've known for some time. Since Azariel's demise we've been keeping an eye on you mortals. Calling yourselves champions of the Light, you've caused a lot of pain."
It did not seem effective, here Mohammed spoke up and said "There will be much more pain for you soon, Sulerain. You will suffer for every ill done."
The Dark Skull laughed and said "Pity, I was hoping you wouldn't be this foolish. I am in complete control right now. Go ahead, try to attack me."
Bastian tried to lift his gun but his arm would not respond to his urgings. He felt like a statue, unable to move or turn.
"It's hopeless. I'm in control now, boys and you aren't going anywhere. "
"Why not kill us now then? Or are you afraid!" spat Jeffrey, seething.
"I think I'll savor the horror on your faces as I kill each and every one of you. Maybe I'll kill one of you every day just to prolong the torture."
"We have allies, friends who will rescue us." said Bastian,trying to draw her attention. She stepped over and stood face to face with him.
"Oh don't worry about them, they are already imprisoned in my dungeons. Now it's just you boys and me." here she stepped over to Mohammed, his eyes glowing to show Zjar'q was is control.
"There is nothing you can do to slay me, evil creature!"
"All I want is a drink, Illrian. Just one for today..."
Here the opened his mouth and began to breathe in deeply, like she was sucking the breath from his lips. Zjar'q began to choke, but unable to move he simply stood there and let his breath me pulled from his lungs. His lips turned blue, then purple then black. His face drained of color and then he collapsed, like a puppet with its strings cut.
"Get up Zjar'q!" shouted Bastian, trying to move.
He didn't notice Lurker moving for a few moment, he had completely reverted. There was a hole in the back of the rotted flesh of his skull where a dark fluid ran onto the floor. "You've underestimated us, Sulerain. And know I will end you whether you will regenerate or not."
And here he punctuated his words with two jets of searing green flames tinged with black darkness from his palms. She unleashed bolts of green lighting of her own, pushing back at Lurker. Lurker unfurled a pair of massive wings of green flame, unleashing more of his power and the Dark Skull's body never changed an inch. Zjar'q slowly stood, wobbling on his legs as he regained his breath. He coughed, spat up some blood and said through gritted teeth "Nobody puts me down without a fight." and drew his quintessence blades. Suddenly the magic in the room broke like glass and shattered around them, the hold disappearing. Bastian drew his gun and fired, the bullet came to a dead stop in front of the Dark Skull and she batted it aside. Jeffrey unloaded his shotgun, filling the air with lead which came to stop around the Dark Skull. Some of her magic withstood the quintessence's aura and protected her from the bullets, and they rushed her four on one with blades swinging. As the blades swing near, they sheared off as though passing through something hot that slagged the metal onto the floor. Even the quintessence blades failed to find their mark.
"Break her concentration, her focus is crucial to her defense!" shouted Lurker before he was silenced by a blow of dark energy that caused him to crumple, green energy sparks playing throughout his body.
They tried to fight with their fists but soon she had knocked them down. It was at that point that some hulking undead in metal armor came in, collecting up the others and leaving Bastian alone on the cold stone floor.
The Dark Skull grabbed him my the collar and stood him up, taking the necklace into her hand.
"You've got courage. But sadly your purpose isn't over yet. You poor foolish Fortune mage, playing with the dice and always a step ahead. Well, since you've started unraveling the barrier between you and me I don't even have to try."
"To do what?" asked Bastian as she took the key and slid it into his forehead. It felt strange and cool, sending tendrils of energy running through his head.
"You're mine now and I need for something particular. Now, go lie down."
Bastian tried to stop himself but his legs, with minds of their own, walked over to the bed and lay down.
"Now," said the Dark Skull "Let's get started. Take off your clothes."
At the end of the staircase was a long hall, and at the end of it, a gigantic black gate stood.
In between them were slobbering, humanoid creatures. All of them were hairless, earless, and the skin on their body had shrunken down to the bone. Upon noticing the presence of the two guardians and young fairy, they charged.
Hadrian was smiling with manic glee as he cleaved his way to the gate. Blood drenched his armor and face as Body and Soul danced around him. He cut through another swarm, and leapt toward the gate, morphing into his werewolf form, and bent the bars open. He charged through the ghouls and grabbed both Rena and Breaker and threw them both threw the gap in the gate before leaping in himself. However, one of the ghouls managed to slip through too, but this was shortly rectified by Hadrian's boot kicking it straight back through the gate, and bending the bars back into place.
"Well, that was fun!" Hadrian barked happily.
"Indeed." A whispery voice from behind them said. Hadrian turned on his heel, weapons raised.
They found themselves standing in what appeared to be a torture chamber. Blood and gore was splashed across everywhere. There were several large cages around the room, two of which contained much larger, and more muscular versions of the creatures that were roaming outside, with large stitches visible throughout their bodies. They stood dormant in their prisons. In the center of the room, stood a tall, hooded figure. The robe that it wore had various arcane markings, which pulsed and flashed violently.
"So, this is all the Guardians have sent? A mutt, a parasite, and a knife-eared brat?" The cloaked figure laughed. "How disappointing. I do suppose that Mother would need another man on stand-by though," The figure's eyes glowed green. "And those poor wretches out there haven't been fed in so long."
The figure raised his hand, as green light engulfed it. A snap resounded throughout the room, and the creatures that lay dormant in their cages awoken, smashing through the bars and letting out enraged roars, their eyes emitting the same green light of the figure.
They went on all fours and stood by the one who awoken them. It stroked them both affectionately. "You three better play nice with these two. I had to go through a lot of graves to find suitable corpses to make them."
The creatures screeched and bolted towards the group.
Rena had been prepared to fight each and every one of the creatures that blocked their way to the Dark Skull, but Hadrian seemed to have other ideas. Watching as the werewolf tore through the enemies with ease, she reminded herself not to get on his bad side before being promptly thrown through a were-made hole in the gate. Pouting, she said. "Hey you coulda gave me a warn-" Her voice was interrupted by the sound of someone talking within the room. Turning around and facing the cloaked figure, she wondered if the one before them was the Dark Skull. Having never seen her before, she didn't know what to expect. Before she could verify this, the two creatures from the cages charged at them. Deciding to take the one of the right, she closed her eyes and spread her arms out for a moment. The wind seemed to surround her and lift her up into the air before she threw her arms forward towards the creature, causing a blast of wind, combined with a mix of compressed air blades, to push against the incoming enemy.
Rena's attack did little to slow the creature, but the air blades cut open a line of stitches, causing the upper torso of a dead Fae to hang out of the creatures side. However, this only served to only anger the creature. It made a grab for Rena, only for it's arm to be cut off from it's shoulder. Hadrian grabbed Rena and leapt atop the creatures back. He jammed his blades into the creatures skull. To his surprise, the creature didn't fall, and tried bucking the both of them off, but his blades held. The hand that had been cut off came to life, climbing onto the creatures back and grabbing Hadrian and Rena. It crawled back onto the stump and re-attached itself.
Breaker was trying to bring down the other creature, shooting it with her longbow. She seemed to be handling herself well; one of the creature's legs were falling apart, with the dead Fae bodies holding it together coming undone from the stitching, and piling up on the floor. However, her luck ran out when the creature that held Hadrian and Rena threw the two of them at Breaker, the impact knocking the wind out of them and sent them barreling into a wall. The creatures immediately took advantage of this, and cornered them.
They both raised an arm to crush the interlopers, but were stopped by another snap.
"Oh dear." The cloaked figure walked around from behind the figures. "It appears that repairs are in order." The figure stopped to think for a moment. "I suppose that a few extra modifications are needed as well. The figure shrugged and snapped it's fingers again. The creatures hands opened up and grabbed them, holding them in a tight grip, restricting all movement. "Before that, however, I must deal with you three." The figure turned and signaled for the two creatures to follow. "Come along you two. These fools are going to be joining their friends until Mother decides what to do with them."
Hadrian growled, looking downright murderous, struggling to get free.
"I'LL KILL YOU YOU CORPSE-FUCKING BASTARD. I'LL RIP OFF YOUR GODDAMN HEAD AND-"
The figure sighed and made a dismissive wave. "Shut him up would you?" The creature complied, smashing a fist into the werewolf. Normally, this would've broke a human's spine in half, but thanks to his current forms resilience, it only knocked him out.
Rena tried her best to struggle out of the creatures grip the first time around, but was unsuccessful and was promptly thrown like a projectile at Breaker. Squeaking a little bit from the impact, she was dazed and weakened from the force of hitting the wall. She was then picked up by the creature once more, though unlike Hadrian, who served as a good example for Rena on what NOT to do, she gulped and said. "I-I won't give up either but..I don't want my head to be popped. So no yelling from me."
The figure laughed cruelly, as they walked through the crowds of ghouls.
"Your behavior right now won't change your fate, whelp." The creatures below gnashed their teeth and struggled to reach at the people who evaded their grasp. The larger creatures paid them no heed, crushing a few of them underneath their gigantic feet. "You, in particular, you are too scrawny to use in any of my experiments, so as far is I'm concerned, you're better off as food for those failures below you. I can't stand listening to their pathetic whining and growling."
It sighed. "Sadly, I can't decide what happens to you myself. That's Mother's decision. Thankfully though, she usually gives us the useless prisoners to do whatever we wish."
Rena squealed a little bit at that before saying. "I-I'm not scrawny! I happen to be just the right weight for my age!" She pouted a little bit before saying. "I bet I could blow away all of those stupid zombies. I would finally give them peace in death." She looked down at the ghouls, actually feeling sorry for each one. She would definitely defeat the Dark Skull. She had to!
The cloaked figure's laughed harder at this.
"Oh please. These worms had their souls sucked out long ago. There's nothing for you to put to rest. All they are now are beasts who do everything based on instinct." As if on cue, one of the ghouls managed to latch on to Rena's foot, but was batted away by the larger creatures hands.
"Hmm hmm hmm hmm. Perhaps Mother wouldn't mind if I just fed you to them right now? " A sadistic grin formed beneath the hood. "Drop it." The creature released Rena for a second, letting her fall into the crowd of zombies, until the figure snapped its fingers, causing her to be quickly snatched back up. The figure let out another laugh. "Maybe it's better if I don't, after all, Mother isn't very pleasant when she's mad."
Rena screamed as she felt something grabbing onto her foot, and she did so once more as she was dropped. Almost instantly, she seemed to form a barrier of fast moving air around her to block any incoming zombies, but as before, her barrier was ineffective against the giant, she she was quickly scooped back up pouting rather cutely. "That was really mean! And I would have beat them all! I wasn't scared at all."
Lurker, Mohammed, and Jeffrey were carried down by a red-armored behemoth of a creature with a red cloak and a wispy shadow cloaked in grey like a storm of black dust writhing within the cloth, a porcelain mask floating where a face would be.
"Brother, Sister...you've brought the rest of the interlopers?" said the torturer shadow.
"This one is completely dead...heavy for a corpse" and threw Lurker into the charnel pit, where the ghouls crawled up to feed on it but Lurker got up, eyes glowing green and tried to fend them off but could not get his skeletal limbs to function, swinging them awkwardly he collapsed back. He was regenerating his body after unleashing his necromantic power. He had no tongue to talk but he made ugly growls and the ghouls backed off.
"Dead as a doornail, eh Karthus" said one of the creatures.
"He felt dead." said the armored one.
The other two were thrown in, still partially paralyzed by the mind agent controlling their bodies.
"She's got Bastian...he tried to attack her but nothing seems to touch her." coughed out Jeffrey, "Zjar'q is out cold....she.....she sucked the breath out of him...." here he collapsed back.
Breaker had crawled into the corner of the cage, leaning against the corner.
"Hey Hadrian..." she said as the creatures left them alone cackling as they walked away.
"I'm sorry...about all the things I've said...It all feels so stupid now, vampires and werewolves fighting with each other...it seems so quaint."
"And I'm not saying this because we're probably going to die slowly and painfully....well maybe that's part of it."
Rena let out a small squeak of pain when she was thrown into the cage, and as soon as she was able to collect herself, she sat up cross-legged and said while nursing her shoulder. "I can't believe how many time's I've been thrown already. Sheesh." Her attention was directed to Breaker as she talked about them probably dying painfully and slowly. Shaking her head, she said. "No way! We're not going to die here! We'll definitely escape somehow! We can't give up now!"
There were a few sharp coughs from the charnel pit, a drooling mewl and Lurker's voice came out croaking "Stop nibbling on me you git!" and spat some green flames.
Unable to roll over, Lurker growled out "Just let me get my hands on that bitch, I'll flay her flesh and roast it on spits. GET OFF ME I AM NOT FOOD YOU UGLY BASTARDS!"
"Having fun, Lurker?" asked Breaker, leaning on the bars separating them from Lurker's pit.
Lurker simply growled and spat flames, eyes large blazing orbs of anger.
"Just wait til my legs and arms are working again, I'll show her the meaning of pain...ugh now its just drooling on me."
Rena couldn't help but giggle a little bit before saying cheerfully. "That's the spirit! We'll definitely make the Dark Skull pay for what she's done! Just make sure to leave some of her for me too, okay? I want to make sure she knows not to mess with the Fae ever again!" She was eager to get back into the action, completely forgetting how ineffective her attack had been just previously on the giant creatures.