Chapter 11: The Shining Shadows

        There is a legend passed down among the people of the Alokin
Valley. It is a simple legend, less a story then a rhyme that many
have used to lull small children to sleep. It speaks of the two powers
that exist, and the one that is of both and neither. It tells of the
trails that shall be set before him and how each shall lead to the end
of what is now and the beginning of the new age. For good or for ill. 

        If a certain vampire could hear one of the verses he would 
probably find the tone particularly ironic. But then, there were few
things in this world that Renaku did not find ironic upon hearing
them. Particularly any words which spoke of prophecy. Yet this
particular verse was especially poignant to where he was now. It went,

In the den of Fire:
When darkness wars with darkness, the deepest shadow is lifted, or
else grows to cover the world.
In the den of Earth:
Shall their be a choice between dark and light and only in darkness
shall the light be found.

                                Vampire Legend R
                 Chapter 11: The Shining Shadows
           Vampire Legend R created by: Ben Overmyer
                          This chapter by: Aaron Peori

Warning: Contains dark themes, violence and the use of the word

        The shackles rubbed against Renaku's wrists and ankles, chafing
him and would have probably drawn blood had he had any blood to draw.
Thiesra was better off, her demonic skin didn't break at the small
discomfort the manacles inflicted on her. Their human companion was
not so lucky. His chains were already red with his blood from the long
march up into the Rylor Mountains. The smell and the sight only served
to remind Renaku of the fact that his hunger had not been sated since
last evening.

        It wasn't that he feared to harm his friends if the bloodlust came 
upon him. The chains that the Dark Stone Fumu had ensnared his
companions and himself in were much too strong and taut to easily
break and let him wreak havoc. No, it was the loss of identity and
control that he feared the most. If he lost himself to the bloodlust
now, when he needed full command of his faculties, it would be

        It struck him as poetic justice that the very reason he feared 
losing himself too the bloodlust now was because of the last time he
had lost himself to the darkness. It smacked of prophecy that this
very act had occurred during his last battle with the Fumu clans. That
time he had destroyed the life of one man, and set him on a path of
revenge that had led him back into the life of the Vampire Knight once

        Perhaps if the man had been willing to talk with Renaku the sight 
of him would have been easier to stand. But in two days Trevant had
not said a word aside from to confirm his identity that one time. At
least to Renaku. He wasn't sure what words he and Theirsa might
exchange during the day, when Renaku slept, but whatever they were
Thiesra was not telling him of them. Whether this was because Thiesra
respected his wishes while he was in ear shot, or she had begun to
despise him when she heard of the horror Renaku had almost become.

        "You're brooding again," Theirsa said softly into his ear. He 
blinked in surprise at this. She had faked a stumble to get close
enough to him and spoken so softly that even his supernatural ears had
to struggle to pick up the words at so close a range. He almost smiled
but realized that their captors would know what she had done if he
did. He should have known better than to doubt her. She had offered
her blood to him, there was probably no secret of his past she could
not understand.

        Still, the fact that she believed in him didn't get them any 
closer to escape. What with his armor and his demon-slayer blade
secured tightly to the hide of a mule and kept well out of his reach.
Even the option of transforming was undone by the chains, inasmuch as
they had some latent magic that kept him from doing so. Theirsa had
also been relieved of her own magical weaponry and kept from assuming
another shape via the use of the manacles. The effect was much more
crude on Trevant.

        "Stop here," their guard said and the trio stumbled to a stop. It 
was the same demon that had revealed himself to Renaku at the village.
He and twenty others of his kind made up the majority of their escort,
along with a smattering of lesser demons. Including, Renaku was sure
Theirsa found amusing, two or three of her own kind. Aside from the
vampire hunter the only other mortal being in the party was the mule
which carried their belongings.

        They had stopped at the edge of a plateau, where the final ascent 
into the Rylor Mountains began. The countryside fell away below them
in all directions but one now. It would have been beautiful under the
crescent moon, but Renaku had long since lost his appreciation of
beauty. The odd feeling Renaku hadn't even been aware of became clear
to him suddenly as he realized the only light on the landscape came
from the crescent moon. From this height the lights of the villages
should have been clear, like stars spread across the landscape. But
the world was in shadow.

        "You killed them all," Renaku said slowly, "All the humans who 
live here. You destroyed them."

        "And there shall be more after that," the rock-skinned demon said 
with a gleam in his eyes. "And more still. Soon the Fumu shall overrun
the earth, and our fallen Clan shall rise from the ashes."

        "That will not happen if you let me live," Renaku warned him.
        "Hmpf," Trevant snorted, "It will happen -because- you live."
        Renaku snapped his head around to look at the man, who smiled the 
sort of wry smile those who know they are doomed smiled. "I have
nothing to do with them."

        "Maybe not," Trevant said slowly in a tone which made it clear 
he wasn't planning on saying anymore.

        "We will wait here," the demon said simply, "Until the master 

        "Master?" Renaku said slowly.
        "Zeorx," Thiesra hissed.
        "Oh don't make me laugh," the demon chortled crudely. His laughter 
was like stones grating together. Which was appropriate when Renaku
thought about it.

        "Isn't Zeorx behind this?" Thiesra shot out in surprise.
        "All Zeorx wants is you," the demon walked forward and ran his 
fingers under her chin with the care one would take with that fine
thin dinnerware that had become popular in the courts as of late. "We
get the vampire, he gets you and we both go back to leaving each other

        "And what about the human?" Renaku asked him sharply. "How does he 
figure into this?"

        "If I told you all the secrets now," the demon replied 
laconically, "Then how would I entertain you later."

        Renaku had no immediate reply to that. Instead he found himself 
trying to figure out what the Fumu wanted him for. The most obvious
choice was that they wanted him to become this prophecy declared
master of darkness that they kept talking about. But he had already
faced this same choice and come out ahead of his demonic half. True it
was a close call, but he felt confident in his ability to fight off
the darkness in his soul again. Still, he didn't like that smile very
much. It was too confident.

        The demons wandered off and left them alone as they began to talk 
amongst themselves. They had done this last night as well, before
sun-up. Renaku and Thiesra had exhausted the possibilities of escape
that night however. The magical manacles which bound them simply left
too few options.

You think too straight.

        Renaku let out a soft sound as he kneeled over in the dirt. For a 
moment the world had gone away and Renaku had been back in the fog. It
was a brief moment but this time it had not come when he was
unconscious or in great pain or otherwise in any other sort of mental
distress. He really hoped he wasn't about to start hearing voices all
the time. If he was, he knew he would probably go mad.

        That is, if he wasn't already mad.

Your neck.

        "Ren-chan!" Thiesra was holding onto his arm and pulling him 
upright. "Are you okay?"

        "Why do you bother with him?" Trevant said coldly.
        "I..." Thiesra seemed to search for an answer. Renaku didn't know 
how he had fallen to the ground but she was struggling to right him and
the least he could do was help. He forced himself to sit down and
slowly calm himself. "Because it's the decent thing to do."

        "Decent?" Trevant laughed bitterly, "Decent? What do you know of 
decent, trying to help that monster?"

        "You're twice the monster he is," she hissed back at him, "At 
least he is trying to stop the evil. You serve it."

        "I serve myself," he replied cryptically and then lapsed into 
silence again.

        "Damn hypocrite," his old friend said between clenched teeth. 
"What right does he have to judge you?"

        "All the right in the world," Renaku told her evenly. He found his 
hand had moved up to his neck of it's own volition. He rubbed his
neck, trying his best to make it seem as if he was only massaging sore
muscles. There he found nothing unusual, no gift from the gods to help
him out in this time of need. Only a chain on which hung an amulet he
had taken from the body of an innocent man. A reminder of what evil he
had done in his life.

        "But to work with these monsters," Thiesra sighed softly. "Just to 
get back at you? That isn't right and you know it. Nothing can justify
what he did. He deserves what happened to him."

        "Happened to him?"
        "Getting double-crossed," she added in confusion.
        "Was he?"
        "Was he what?"
        "Double-crossed," Renaku said as he began to run his fingers along 
the edge of the chain. "Do you know he was double-crossed by the

        "He said as much," Thiesra answered him evenly. "He admitted that 
he had told them how to capture you back in Terinin."

        "Did you see them double-cross him?" Renaku asked slowly. Of 
course, her interpretation had been the one that Renaku himself had
jumped too at first. He slowly lifted the chained medallion out into
the light; let it rest in his palm. It was warm in his cold flesh. But
all this time the voices had been telling him not to think straight.
He imagined he was beginning to understand what that meant. Maybe it
meant to look beyond the surface, to try and see the reason under the
reason. A wheel within a wheel.

        "No," she said finally, "He was in the cell when I came to."

        "And how likely is he to have joined with demons?" Renaku said 
finally, "A holy priest would not have done so willingly."

        Trevant snorted softly under his breath as he turned to face their 
demon captors. He was a remarkable man, trying his best not to show
fatigue or pain with his body cut and bruised as it was by the
manacles around his wrist. Still, he was only human and he could
hardly hide his weakness from the eyes of a vampire. He would be easy
prey in his condition. Ripe for the taking. Renaku shook his head as
he fought back the bloodlust. Whatever not thinking straight meant, he
wasn't about to believe it meant to give in to his darker half.

        "Then why haven't they killed him?" she asked after another 
thoughtful pause. "He's already done all he was brought here for..."

        "Maybe," Renaku held began to allow the medallion to dip between 
his fingers. The necklace felt hot in his hands now but he barely
noticed as he swung it back and forth like a pendulum. Then it struck
his chains... and Renaku stared. For a moment he had been able to fell
the power that his cursed heritage raised within him again, but that
was impossible. Whatever magic was within the manacles was negating
his own advantages. This necklace had no power that any mage had been
able to point out to him. It couldn't have done anything...

        Or could it have? Renaku narrowed his eyes as he swung the chain 
back and watched the wolf medallion ring off his bonds. He had felt it
again, the strength of his curse. Yet it was different, wilder and
more untamed.

        "What are you doing?" Thiesra hissed under her breath. He looked 
up at her and gave her the universal symbol of quiet with one finger.
Then he moved the necklace back and this time held it against the
chains. It was a simple feeling, the sense that you could transform
yourself. It was like diving into a pool of cold water, only the water
flowed through you, not just over you. Over the years Renaku had
become very good at understanding how to flow in that liquid feeling
and reshape himself into the forms of wolf and bat. So it was with
great interest that he found it even easier to change forms this time.

        The clank of iron on stone was the first clue that something had 
gone wrong for their captors. The next was Renaku descending on them
like a living fury. Talons tore off limbs and fangs ripped bare
throats in a shower of blood. Demonic flesh, hard as stone, rent like
pastry crust under his assault. A few demons put up a feeble
resistance but they all fell dead at his feet. Then it was over and
Renaku stood over their bodies and howled up at the moon.

        It took him a second to figure out what was wrong with those two 
actions occurring at the same time. The reason he did was because he
looked down and saw the fur covered things that half-parodied both
humans hands and paws. He coughed and feel to his knees, reverting
along the way back to his humanoid shape. He stared in horror at the
carnage he had wrought with this power. He had never show any ability
to change shapes like that before. But he knew how he had done it. 

        With a snarl he reached up and tore the necklace from around his 
neck. He hurled it as far as he could, but found himself too tired and
weak to do much but get it almost across the plateau. Due to a sheer
coincidence which Renaku was beginning to not believe in it landed at
Trevant's feet. The vampire was too frightened to look back and see
the expressions of his companions at first but then he remembered that
the dead demon had told him about the master coming here. In his
present condition Renaku was in no position to battle the lord of this
clan of the Fumu.

        The grisly task of searching through the carnage was made all the 
harder by Renaku's bloodlust, which he had still not slated. Still he
found what he was looking for soon enough and returned to the others
with the keys to their bonds. Thiesra wasn't giving him a look of
disgust or pained betrayal like he had feared, but instead a sort of
strange curiosity. Trevant was no more and no less interested in him
than he was before.

        As he was unlocking Trevant's manacles their eyes met and Renaku 
could feel the hatred pouring out of the man like a physical force.
The two stood and searched deep into the other's eyes for long long
minutes. Finally Renaku was forced to look away. He had an excuse for
why his own eyes were cold and empty, but this man's eyes held not a
trace of compassion or caring. Somehow, in a human, that was more
frightening than any demon Renaku had faced.

        "Give me one good reason I shouldn't slay you here and now," 
Trevant said coldly.

        "So my saving you from these monsters is not enough," Renaku 
raised an eyebrow slightly. "Then perhaps it is because you are tired
and unarmed while I have all the advantages. You may kill me priest,
but do it later. For now, leaving this place would seem the best
course of action."

        "You don't fool me," Trevant said as Renaku turned to retrieve the 
Demonslayer blade from the mule. "You are a monster," he spoke calmly
and with absolute conviction. "An irredeemable monster."

        "You bastard!" Thiesra jumped to Renaku's defense. "How dare you 
judge this man when you don't even know him!"

        "We can debate how much of a horror I am when we are away from 
here," Renakus said as he buckled on the last of his armor's

        "Aren't you forgetting something?"
        Renaku turned and stared long and hard as Trevant held up the wolf 
medallion. It swung like a pendulum on its chain. "No," Renaku chocked
out finally, "And you should not have that either."

        "It is no danger to me," the priest told him evenly. "And it 
should have been no danger to you either."

        "What do you mean?"
        "It is a Wolf-Fetish," Trevant replied easily as he swung the 
necklace around his hand and caught the medallion on the end. "It
allows werewolves to assume their demonic form at times other than the
full moon."

        "How is that possible?" Thiesra said softly.
        "I have no idea," Trevant shrugged, "It is an evil weapon, used by 
those monsters who accept their bestial side and revel in it. I never
expected that a vampire could use it, but then I shouldn't be
surprised that you could and you did."

        Renaku growled. "I have no idea how that could have done what it did," he spat, "I am no werewolf, I have walked free under many a full

        "A puzzle," the priest chuckled as he pulled a long hammer from 
the objects on the mule's back. "But one I guess I will never have the
answer too."

        "Oh shut up," Thiesra said as she raised herself up to her full 
demonic stature. "Unless you think you can kill the both of us?"

        "Well put," Trevant pointed the weapon at Renaku and locked his 
cold cruel eyes on the other man again. "I shall follow you demon, but
only so that you can not escape me before I get a chance to kill you."

        "If that is what you wish," Renaku told him evenly and began down 
the mountain.

        "Renaku!" Thiesra called, "The demons' stronghold is up in the 

        "I am not going to the Fumu stronghold," Renaku said over his 
shoulder. Trevant snorted in a dismissive manner, as if Renaku had yet
again proven his point. Renaku wasn't in the mood to debate with the
man. "I am going to Izgan."

        "I don't know," Renaku replied.

        Renaku stepped back, away from the edge of the ravine and barely 
avoided the sword which cleaved through the air in front of him. He
reversed his grip and slid his own weapon forward, catching the
stone-skinned demon along the side of the head and drawing a red line
across its features.

        The stone-demon screamed and lashed out wildly. There was a clang 
of metal on metal and the monsters sword flew from its grasp. Renaku
almost sighed in relief as he slashed it in two clean across the
waist. He took a quick look around and noticed that he was out of
immediate danger. He quickly went through the mental gymnastics that
allowed the life essence of the slain demon flow through his sword and
into his body. Injury and weariness vanished as his body processed the
energy to preserve itself. Then he turned back to help his friends on
the other side of the crevice.

        It looked like he wasn't needed. Thiesra was doing okay for 
herself as well, her demonic strength was greater than any individual
creature of the horde. Only in great numbers were they any match for
her, and since she had backed herself into a natural corner in the
rock they were forced to come at her one at a time. 

        The biggest surprise was Trevant. His hammer was wielded with the 
grace of a sword and its blunt tip unleashed some form of light that
was painful to the monsters. Renaku recognized the technique that the
man was using, having seen it the first time himself on that mountain
pass many years ago. It worked even better with the lethal warhammer
than with a sword, Renaku noted.

        Renaku leapt across the fifteen foot ravine and came down 
swinging. The roar of the wind in his ears and the piercing scream of
a dying demon blended in the moonlight until he couldn't distinguish
one from the other. He struck out again and again, switching forms and
techniques with unaccustomed ease. Ever since his battle with the
Blood Moon Society he had found the skills flowed from one to the
other now. Maybe that horrorshow had been good for more than vague
warning by confusing gods.

        In a few moments the battle was over. Renaku breathed in slowly as 
he absorbed the last of the demonic essence through his trusty weapon.
Thiesra pushed the bodies that had collected around her off the side
of the ravine and into the darkness below. This was the fifth ambush
they had encountered this hour, and each one was getting larger and
better organized. If this kept up there would be...

        "Die, demon!" Renaku spun at Trevant's battle cry and raised his 
sword. It was too late; the hammer flew to its mark and punctured the
rocky hide of the creature which had been sneaking up on Renaku
unnoticed. Renaku slowly lowered his blade and starred hard into
Trevant's eyes. "Don't thank me monster," the hunter smiled in a quiet
mockery of a joyful expression. "I need you alive to get down this
mountain. Once out of this horror, you die."

        "If you wish," Renaku hissed to himself and turned away. He held 
up his hand to stay Thiesra from responding to the priest's barbs. It
was a waste of energy that could be better spent on other pursuits.
Like finding a faster way down this mountain. "We can not go on like

        "It's the Fumu," Thiesra said slowly. "They can communicate with 
each other over large distance. When they strip out the soul of a
human and replace it... it's like a hive mind effect."

        "Hive mind?" Renaku blinked at the unfamiliar term.
        "Oh," she blushed, which was unusual on her fiery red skin, "I 
forgot how far the humans are behind us in the sciences..."

        "Nevermind," Trevant spat into the dust and sat down on the 
carcass of what had once been a dog of some type, but was now
half-covered in shattered stone. "That means they know you're gone,
and they're calling back their legions to find you. As we get further
down the mountain we'll only run into more and more of them..."

        "That only leaves one choice Ren-chan," Thiesra said in the type 
of voice one might use with a particularly slow child. "We have to go
back up into the mountains."

        "No," Renaku shook his head, "Then we just let them herd us to 
where they want us to go anyway. We head to Izgan like I said."

        "That's a fool's quest vampire," Trevant told his coldly, "You 
know it as well as I do."

        "There has to be a faster way down..." Renaku mused as he sheathed 
his sword and scanned the landscape. "Well," he said finally, "There
is the bright side that if they are sending their minions back to
capture us, then that will slow their advance. Perhaps give the humans
in Hryulle and the Alokin valley time to prepare themselves."

        "Against what?" the priest said mockingly, "Nothing human can 
stand against the full might of the Fumu."

        "If you really insist on getting down the mountain fast," Thiesra 
said suddenly, "I think I can give us a way down."

        "What do you mean?" Renaku probed.
        "See that rock there, at the edge of that ravine?" she pointed to 
the flat saucer shaped rock near the top of the ravine Renaku had been
leaping over in the not-so-distant past. "The ravine is a dry
riverbed, it will go all the way down to the bottom of the mountain.
We can climb down at that rock and use the sides of the ravine as

        "Or as a death trap," Trevant snarled, "If those demons lined up 
on both side of the ravine and fired down at us..."

        "Well," she said stiffly, "Do you have any better ideas?"
        Trevant failed to respond as Renaku walked down to the rock. The 
voice at the back of his mind was reminding him to be irrational. And
there was one very irrational thought that kept running through his
head. Thiesra and Trevant were arguing between themselves like two
rabid badgers stuffed in a canvas sack. He whistled sharply and caught
their attention.

        "Thiesra, do you still have some of those magical explosives?" he 
asked somberly. 

        "Yes... a few," she looked at him strangely. As if she was seeing 
something unfamiliar in his eyes. Maybe it was the hint of madness.
With the recent events in his life Renaku wouldn't have been in the
least surprised. "Wait a second..." she said finally, "You're not
thinking of doing what I think you're thinking doing are you?"

        "I think I am," Renaku replied slowly and calmly. She starred at 
him in shock for a few more seconds before finally nodding. Evidently
even if she saw madness in his eyes she was still willing to trust
him. Renaku began to wonder if even after all this time she still had
feelings for him. He hoped not, for both their sakes.

        "Conspiring to kill me in my sleep I bet," Trevant said as he 
walked over. He was using his hammer as a support but was doing it in
such a cunning way that Renaku didn't notice it at first. He looked at
both of them and the vampire avoided his eyes. Finally getting no
response from either he asked out loud the question on his mind.

        And Renaku answered him.
        "You're insane!" the priest stammered as he backed up. "There is 
no way in the five hells that would work!"

        "They're's a chance..." Thiesra said, "The blast would cause a 
cushion of molten rock and..." She clamped up when she saw him go even
more pale at the mention of molten rock. "They only problem is hanging
on..." Trevant was silent for a few long minutes. He knew the
implications of that as well as they did. With their supernatural
powers they had a much better chance of holding on.

        "Fine," he muttered, "Let it not be said Jouo Ben Trevant backed 
down from his quest. I can hold on if you can."


        Renaku left the work up to Thiesra and because of that he was sure 
it went much faster. She kept talking about vectors and blast radii
and other terms which meant nothing to him and after a few minutes of
this he'd politely given up. Trevant seemed to know a bit more than
him, but not enough as he ended up sitting next to Renaku atop the
stone as well. He was using a piton to drive a hole into the rock with
his hammer. When Thiesra was finished she walked up to the top of the
rock and gave Renaku a wink to show she was finished. It was eerie to
watch her blink in this form, it was like she snuffed and relit a
candle too fast to see.

        "Wait a minute..." Renaku broke in, "You're still in demon 

        She smirked, "With the constant attacks I feel it's best to 
conserve my magic for better uses." He shook his head in confusion and
turned back to the vampire hunter.

        "Is this damn fool plan ready?" Trevant said as he threw the piton
away and limbered his arms. He then placed the tip of his hammer in
the hole he had created and wedged it in tight.

        "Yes," she sighed, "But I'm almost out of bombs. I have a few 
left, but I'll probably need them to clear rubble out of our path."

        "When do we get started?"
        "A few seconds," she said easily and leaned down to catch onto the 
lip of the rock. Renaku thought it was a good idea so he did the same.
Then the explosion came from under them, vibrating the rock violently
and almost throwing them off. If it was this hard to hold on now,
Renake didn't want to think about what would happen later.

        And then the rock began to slide down the gully. It was slow at 
first, mostly moving on the sole power of the blast that had jarred it
free. But then gravity began to take over and the rounded stone slid
faster and faster into the dry waterbed. The first skip almost tossed
them all off. Renaku heard Trevant cursing him at the top of his lungs
even over the rush of air and the roar of rock sliding over rock. He
hadn't known it would skip down the ravine. He was beginning to think
maybe irrationality should only be taken so far.

        The next few minutes were easily the most frightening in his whole 
unlife. Oh, sure, he had been tortured by demented Feng Shui, faced
down dragons and been tossed into bottomless pits, but in all those
cases he had been able to maintain an illusion of control. The sight
of rock walls streaming past and towards you at speeds that Renaku
wouldn't have been able to match even in his bat form could unnerve
even the undead. When the saucer of rock they were on careened wildly
off those walls, skipped off the ground like a stone across a lake and
very nearly inverted itself several times you began to see just how
much control nature had over you. It was humbling, to say the least.

        They came upon the first group of demons a few minutes later. 
Apparently some of the re-called Fumu had decided it would be in their
best interest to take the easy route up the ravine themselves. Of
course, none of them expected about one ton of solid rock to hurtle
down on them like the wrath of the gods. They didn't even know what
hit them, and in fact if Renaku hadn't seen them with his own eyes
neither would he have. The stone didn't even shudder as it reduced
them to a red smear on the floor of the waterfall.

        The sky seemed to flash in and out of existence as they traveled, 
the walls of the ravine stretching up on either side of them, curving
over to block it from sight on occasion. The rush of the wind pulled
at them like manic hands that wished to tear them from their dangerous
perch and hurl them to their grisly deaths on the rocks below. It was
like giving yourself over to fate in the hopes that she would steer
you right, and finding out she was wearing a blindfold.

        Thiesra reacted to the rockfall just in time. It fell across their 
path like an immense hurdle and even Renaku knew that hitting that
would be a bad thing. She was fast, a trait of her people, and she
flung the magical device so rapidly it outpaced their speeding
perch. The explosion reduced the rockfall to smoke and a rain of
pebbles. The shockwave almost tore Renaku off the stone. Trevant was
not so lucky.

        The vampire's inhuman ears picked up Trevant's yell of surprise an 
instant after it left his lips and he was already moving. The hunter's
hands had been knocked free of his hammer which hung still in the
stone like some bizarre tiller. The man seemed not to be falling but
moving backwards away from them. Renaku let go of the lip of the
boulder without thinking and leapt backward. His hands stretched out
and caught the arms of Trevant just before he went hurtling into
space. Of course, Renaku himself had nothing to hang on to.

        Making a split second decision Renaku flung Trevant over his 
shoulder and back onto the boulder. His own heels skidded off the end
of the stone and for a spell-binding moment he was floating in open
air and the world stopped moving. There was no way he could survive
this, he would be dashed to pieces on the rocks and even his vampire
resilience wouldn't help him then. There was no logical option but

        Of course, Renaku had been getting along just fine recently 
without logic. Knowing it was futile the vampire knight twisted in
mid-air and kicked his legs towards the walls that sped away on
either side of him. His soles made contact and the next thing he knew
he had taken a step along the ravine wall, then another and another.
Somehow he wasn't falling to his death and somehow he was staying on
the wall. A speed he didn't know he possessed was coming from him and
kept him flying along the gully wall for a few indescribably instants.
Then he leapt, pushing out from the rock ledge and stretching his arms
again in the vain hope that he would catch the rapidly escaping stone.

        No one was more surprised that he caught hold of the stone then he 
was, but this wasn't about to stop him. He dug his fingers in and
began to drag himself back onto the rock again. Once he was safely on
the top of the stone he saw Trevant starring at him in shock and
perhaps, the first hint he had seen since so long ago that he was
human, of fear. "We're even," Renaku yelled at the top of his lungs
over the rushing of the wind.

        Trevant seemed to shake himself out of whatever stupor the 
vampire's actions had placed him in and mouthed silently, "We will
never be even," before turning his full attention back to holding
himself still. Renaku couldn't blame him... he had been in that man's
shoes once, back before the curse had fallen on him. Renaku grimaced
and dispelled those thoughts before he began to drag himself forward
until he was once again lying down next to Thiesra. The fire-skinned
demoness was giving him a look of profound disbelief to which he could
only shrug. He had no answers to her unspoken queries. Perhaps the
answer was to be found in Izgan, and then again, maybe it would only
be more questions.

        Story of his unlife.

        The stone came to rest about five miles from the edge of the 
mountains. Of course, the trio of almost heroic warriors never saw
this as they had vacated ship the moment it flew off the top of the
dried up waterfall. The escape had been as orderly as you could
imagine a frantic scramble for your life off a rock you realize is
about to plummet down a hundred foot drop can be. Suffice it to say it
was an experience that none of them wished to repeat.

        And one that Jouo Ben Trevant was never going to let him live
apparently. "So do you have any more wonderful ideas vampire?" he said
sarcastically as they climbed down the last five feet or so of bedrock
before they reached the grassy plains that signaled the end of the

        "Many," Renaku said slowly and deliberately, "But most of them 
involve taming dragons and such things."

        Trevant starred at him and Thiesra giggled. "I'm not sure whether 
you're serious or not Ren-chan," she informed him as they stepped out
onto the plain. From here the crescent moon could be seen beginning to
edge toward the horizon. Not much moonlight left, and not long beyond

        "There aren't many places out here to hole up for the day," 
Thiesra said, as always one step ahead of him on this kinds of things.

        "How inconvenient," Trevant murmured and tested the heft of his 
warhammer a few times. Renaku only gave him a dispassionate stare before turning back to the plains.

        "We make for Izgan," Renaku said finally, "If we move quickly we 
can get there before sunup."

        "And if the entire population has been transformed into Stone 

        "I don't think it will be," Renaku shook his head, "Don't ask me 
how I know, but Izgan will be free of Fumu."

        "And between here and there?"
        "I'm not sure," he replied, "We'll just have to see about that."
        About halfway between the town and the mountains they were 
attacked. A vicious horde of people that had once been human that now
showed the stone skin and dark complexions of Fumu burst out of a
corpse of trees and ran towards them. Renaku slipped his Demonslayer
from its sheath with careful ease and split one in two before it even
had a chance to roar at him. Thiesra used the ball of her thumb to
crack open the skull of a second and Trevant was holding his own with
the hammer that spit white light and scorched demon hides.

        Then the beam of light blasted out of the darkness and skewered a 
demon like a bug. It screeched and collapsed to the ground with a
smoking hole in its chest. Renaku stopped in surprise. He recognized
that power. So did Thiesra, as she had stopped too. Trevant was about
to yell at them when the demons ran for it suddenly. Two more beams of
light burst out and caught two of the running Fumu but it was too
late. The majority had escaped into the darkness. Renaku was too
pressed for time and too curious to give chase.

        "So," Renaku said slowly, "It appears that the Fumu have been 
betrayed by one of their allies."

        "Not just one of," a voice said as a figure stepped into view, 
"But their only ally."

        "Zeorx!" Thiesra shouted in surprise. Renaku saw that it was 
indeed one of the red-skinned Otherworld demons that Thiesra herself
was descended from. Renaku readied his sword and Trevant growled and
placed himself in combat stance.

        "I mean you no harm vampire," Zeorx held up his hand and slowly 
his stature decreased and his skin lightened to a pale pink shade. His
clothes seemed to shrink with him, the elegant robes and leather armor
underneath them gleamed in the fading moonlight. "Nor you Thiesra."

        "I fail to trust you demon," Trevant growled, and stepped forward. 
Renaku held his hand in front of the vampire hunter and gave him a
silent glare. He personally wanted to hear what the other creature of
the darkness had to say. Trevant would have none of it. "Don't push
your luck vampire," he spat, "Or I will go through you first."

        "You are no match for his kind," Renaku told him evenly. He 
sheathed his sword with his free hand as Trevant continued to glare at
him. "You will accomplish nothing by fighting him but your death."

        "This evens the odds," Trevant hefted the hammer. Renaku reached 
out and grabbed the weapon in his hands. Renaku steeled himself
against the pain the weapon would cause upon touching him but was
surprised to discover that there was none. Evidently Trevant was as
surprised as he.

        "You put too much faith in baubles," Renaku said slowly, "I put 
too much faith in a bauble once and challenged an ancient vampire for
my former lord. As you can see, the result was not entirely
satisfactory." Renaku was surprised at how cold his own voice sounded
as he spoke. Thinking of his old life still caused the pain to fill
him as it always had, but it had not broken into his voice. 

        "Fascinating story I'm sure," Zeorx said cutting the two of them 
out of their mental duel. "But we don't have time for it."

        "Shut up Zeorx," Thiesra hissed to her fellow demon. She too had 
adopted her human shape Renaku noted. "And give us one good reason to
not kill you right here and now."

        "Because if you don't listen to me you will all die," Zeorx said 
slowly. "The Fumu know where you are headed Renaku, they are waiting
for you there."

        "You lie," Renaku said simply.
        "Damn you!" Zeorx hissed and clenched his fists, "Listen to the 
voice of caution for once and run from here!"

        "I will not run from the darkness," Renaku informed him.
        "Neither of us will rest until you are dead Zeorx," Thiesra added, 
"and you still haven't given the reason I asked for."

        "Fine," Zeorx said at last, "I don't want a part of your 

        "I thought you said you didn't care about it," Thiesra pointed out 

        "I lied," Zeorx smiled, "What can I say, it's a bad habit."
        "Then why should we trust anything you say?" Trevant put in as he 
backed away from Renaku and began to examine his hammer.

        "I'm not speaking to you... human," Zeorx hissed at him.
        "Mind your tone Zeorx," Renaku rested his hands on his sword's 
hilt. This was taking up too much time already. "We defeated Makath,
we can easily defeat you."

        "Not likely," Zeorx smiled to himself, "Makath was a puppet, a 
fool. I am far older and more powerful than he is."

        "A bluff," Thiesra spat, "You admit you're a liar and you expect 
us to believe a bluff?"

        "I expect nothing from you Thiesra," he opened his palms slowly. 
"Before you ask I wanted to get my hands on you so that I could help
you free Renaku here."

        "We still have no reason to believe you," Trevant pointed out.
        "Dammit!" Zeorx growled and slapped his hands together. "How is 
this for a reason to believe me? The Fumu have claimed one of our own
Thiesra and are using him as their masters host." There was a long
silence as this sunk in. Renaku wasn't sure about the way the Fumu
went about possessing their human victims but the process left them
stronger and more powerful than any human could possibly be. The
thought of that same increase in power being applied to one of the
Otherworld demons was one that could almost make Renaku hesitate.

        "Who?" Thiesra asked suddenly.
        "..." Zeorx looked at her and for the first time Renaku saw true 
compassion cross his features. He opened his mouth to speak and then
closed it suddenly.

        "Not Asgani," Thiesra said into the void. The look on Zeorx's face 
was all the reply she needed. "You liar!" she burst out and reverted
to her full demon form. Renaku was already moving but he only caught
her seconds before she reached Zeorx, who had calmly watched her the
whole time. "You're lying!" she roared, "You just want to... want

        "Want to what?" he said slowly, "Get you even angrier, make you 
want to fight the Fumu even more?" He sighed. "I already tried to
scare you off once it didn't work," he spoke slowly. "Asgani was
always the more reckless of the two of you. When we brought her back
she was no less reckless. She still wanted to be 'free' of her
Otherworld ancestry so she consorted with darker powers..." He stopped
as a serious of violent sobs broke through Thiesra's body. Tears of
yellow light spilled down her cheeks and onto Renaku's hands where he
held her tight about the waist. They tingled, like when his foot had
fallen asleep back when he was alive. "I don't think she knew what she
was doing," he said in a conciliatory voice. "The Fumu deceived her,
and whatever is left is not her anymore."

        "Oh Asgani why?" Thiesra sobbed and pushed Renaku away as she 
resumed her human face, the words had been so silent no human ears
could have picked them out.

        "That is why you can't stay here," Zeorx said, "The Fumu have one 
up on you. And if you can't win they will force the Prophecy to be
fulfilled the way they want it to."

        "I would think you would rejoice about that demon," Trevant spoke 
up and sneered. "Isn't that what you all want, to plunge the world
into chaos and darkness."

        "You have a narrow-minded view of demons human," Zeorx hissed. 
"Our race is far more ancient than your own, from a world whose
physical laws you can not even comprehend. We exist here in this form
only because we must. We want no part of darkness, we wish only to
survive. If darkness overcomes the world then we will be pushed out of
it just like we were last time."

        "And this is why we should trust you?" Renaku asked.
        "No," he spoke softly, "You should trust me because if you do not 
you will fall to the Fumu and become their harbinger of darkness. Or
you will wipe out all the demons of the world and that means we would
have to run again." He looked at Renaku squarely in the eyes, "I would
kill you before that happened."

        "You are welcome to try," Renaku told him coldly.
        "Don't bother Ren-chan," Thiesra said as she dried the last of her 
now human tears on the edge of her shirt cuff. "He isn't worth it.
We'll go on. I have to... to free Asgani from these monsters now."

        "You heard the lady," the vampire added. "Your plea has fallen 
on deaf ears. Begone."

        "You don't know what you're getting into vampire!"

        "I am fighting evil," Renaku said as he turned away. "I am 
cleansing the Fumu from the land. I am helping a friend in a time of
need. I am protecting the lives of thousands of human souls. I am
trying to live up to an old debt. I am seeking the truth of myself."
He paused, it seemed rather insignificant in the face of all that but
Renaku thought he might as well mention it as well. It was a pleasant
bonus if he could get his hand on it. "And I also hope to get a hold
of a herb that will allow me to stand the light of day, if I can."

        "Go back to your people Zeorx," Thiesra said in a stiff voice. "I 
suggest you leave the Rylor mountains while you can. You won't want to
be here when I finish with the Fumu."

        "Much as I hate the demons," Trevant snarled, "I'm sticking with 
them too." He sneered at Renaku, "Just so I get to see you fall to
this prophecy of theirs and then kill you myself. I think I'd enjoy
that a whole lot."

        "There is nothing I can do to get you to back down," Zeorx said as 
they began to walk away. Renaku and his too companions' silence was
the only reply he received. "Please Renaku! Don't do this!"

        Something pulled at the back of Renaku's mind but he ignored it. 
Whatever it was it would come to him eventually but he had not the
time to contemplate it; the sun was nigh and he had much ground to
cover before he could rest out of its harsh destructive glare. They
left Zeorx in the darkness where he cursed them all as fools and
walked away back into its comforting shadow. Whether it was to follow
Thiesra's advice, or some other errand that could occupy such a
being's time Renaku neither knew nor cared.


        Renaku didn't really need to sleep during the day. He had spent 
several days wide awake watching the human world move around him from
the sheltering shadows of a hayloft or inn room. It was that he lost
his energy during the day, that ethereal power the filled him in the
dark of the night and gave him the strength to face down demons on an
even footing was no longer there. He'd remembered Thiesra saying
something about it at one point, about that being why she felt the
need to protect him while he slept. She had also said something about
his kind not being any more vulnerable to the suns than humans were;
just that the when he was so weak the Ultraviolet rays could wreak
havoc on his system... She said a lot of weird things like that.

        Thus it was the that blissful sense of energy creeping out of his 
body came as an abrupt surprise. This was almost comforting
considering the mixed emotional response he'd had to finding out that
Izgan was indeed deserted. On the one hand he was surprised, on the
other he wasn't surprised at all. This was combined with relief that
he had been right and apprehension that he had been right. It was very
confusing. Compared to that, the almost forgotten feeling of actually
falling asleep was easy to accept.

        Of course, Renaku wasn't sure if it was a good thing or not. But 
as the sun rose he found the energy sapping out of him and the lids of
his eyes refused to stay open. So he scrambled up to a bed and slept
the day away. If he dreamed that day then when he would awake he
would remember none of it.

        This left Thiesra and Trevant alone again. The two had grown to 
tolerate each others presence over the past two days. Thiesra thought
he was a jerk and he thought she was a monster. They had silently
agreed to not talk to each other after the first day anyway. 

        Of course, Thiesra could care less about him now. She was too busy 
thinking about her old friend Asgani, one of two of the Otherworld
demons who had ever shown her kindness. She remembered the day the two
of them had heard the rumor that her kind could become human. That was
the day she turned her back on her people and went out in search of
this myth. Asgani had gone with her... but there had been a


        It was a quiet night, the first one after a long series of storm 
ridden evenings. If she had have been able to see the future Thiesra
would have commented on the irony of how this night was under the
exact same moon as the one that would find her years later learning of
what had become of her friend. The two had affected female human
bodies and were resting in the back of a hot springs. They had weeks
ago thrown off the last of her pursuers, or so they thought.

        "What do you most want to do when you become human Thiesra?" 
Asgani asked from beside her. Her long black hair and pale skin
contrasted sharply in the quiet gloom. She had chosen a much more
attractive body then Thiesra had, but then you could only work so much
energy into maintaining the shape. Thiesra had tried to convince her
that she should conserve her energy. Asgani was reckless however and
little cared for any eventual consequences.

        "I.." Thiesra blinked. "I don't know. I don't know what being 
human will be like. I'll find out what I most want to do if I become

        "When, Thie-chan," Asgani reminded her, "When, not if."
        "Right," Thiesra bit her tongue to keep from smiling. Asgani was 
always much more serious about this sort of thing than she was. For
her, the hope of becoming human had always been a secondary thing.
More and excuse to allow her to leave Makath's insane kingdom than
anything else. For Asgani, it was a religion.

        "Always remember it can happen Thie-chan," Asgani said, "Because I 
know it has happened. One of us knows the secret already but chose not
to use it..."

        "That isn't for me to say," she said with a sigh then shook off 
her mood and smiled again. "When I become human I think what I'll most
like is love," Asgani said wisely.

        "You don't mean..." Thiesra blushed slightly. Of course she knew 
how humans procreated but it was a rather sick ritual to her. Why
couldn't they just bond the energies of the soul like her people did?

        "Of course I do," Asgani grinned and pushed herself up on her 
elbows. "The humans seem to enjoy it a lot and when I become one I
think I will too..."

        "If that's the case," Thiesra stuck out her tongue and 'bleahed', 
"Maybe I don't want to be human."

        "First intelligent thing you've said in weeks Thiesra," a voice 
broke in and cut off Asgani before she could say anything. The two
demons leapt to their feet and turned to face the newcomer. A tall
blonde-haired man in elegant robes and leather armor. A man Thiesra
would recognize no matter what form he choose. "Greetings ladies."

        "Zeorx!" Asgani hissed and held up her hands. Magic began to form 
within the triangle she made with her finger and with a wordless yell
she unleashed her magic on him. The beam was deflected easily off a
shield of red force that casually popped into existence around him.
Asgani cursed in their native language and began to try again, but
Zeorx raised a hand and an invisible force sent her flying into a
nearby sulfur pool.

        "Asgani-san!" Thiesra shouted and turned back to the man. He was 
looking at her with a strange sort of half-sad expression on his face.
"You bastard, I won't forgive you!"

        "No," he said slowly, "You most likely won't."
        "I'm not going back!" Thiesra screamed at him, "Not back to stupid 
mindless war!"

        "You have to," Zeorx said as Asgani pulled herself out of the 
sulfur pool. "Makath is becoming obsessed with finding you. He won't
give up until he finds you and brings you back."

        "I'll die first," Thiesra roared and charged. She didn't even see 
it coming, the lance of red light caught her like a spear and flung
her fifty feet back into the rocks where her body created a crater the
size of a small wagon. Zeorx was saying something but her ears
couldn't make it out over the ringing in her skull. He then raised his
hand to finish her off but at the last second Asgani threw herself in
front of him.

        Thiesra was just coming around as they began to speak, but from 
what she was hearing she wasn't sure that was a good thing. "...don't
want this war anymore than she does!" Asgani roared, "So why force her
into it?"

        "Because it is what Makath wants," he said, "And whether I like it 
or not his word is law."

        "Then... why not say you killed her," Asgani said suddenly, "Go 
back to Makath with the word that she's dead?"

        "Because he would find out she wasn't dead and then I would pay," 
he sneered. "Really Asgani I expected more from you."

        "Then you'll have to kill the both of us," Asgani said 

        "You know I don't want to do that..."
        "Then don't," she cut him off, "Let HER go."
        Thiesra's eyes widened and she began to crawl forward. Her body 
hurt in a hell of a lot of places and she could hardly force it to
move but she wasn't about to let Asgani do what she thought Asgani was
going to do.

        "And if I do let her go?" Zeorx asked in response. From his tone 
he had caught the hidden meaning as well.

        "Then I will go back with you willingly," Asgani answered him 
evenly. "And I will give you my word I will never leave our people

        "Asgani-san! Don't!" Thiesra cried but the two were ignoring her.
        "I can't make any promises once Makath finds out..." Zeorx said 
slowly. He saw the older demoness nod her head in acceptance. "Very
well. I'll do what I can to get the search for her suspended for a
few years."

        "Thank you." Asgani said in a hollow voice.
        "No!" Thiesra cried out. This wasn't fair, she had never cared as 
much about the quest as her friend had. "Take me instead!"

        "I'm sorry Thiesra," Asgani spoke evenly but wouldn't even turn to 
face her. "But you and I both know Zeorx wants me back more than he
wants you."

        "Let's go," Zeorx spoke words of eldricth magic and stepped into 
the shadows. Asgani followed him and soon they were both gone from the
world of humans once more.

        And Thiesra was alone.

        "I'm leaving," she said simply as she stood up from the window 
sill. Trevant fell over from where he had been sitting propped up
against the wall. She noted with little amusement that his eyes were
half-lidded and his body was slumped. Humans had their limits after all
it seemed.

        "You're what?" he shook his head slowly.
        "I'm going out," she said finally, "There's something I have to 

        "You mean," he said quickly, suddenly wide awake, "You're leaving 
him and me alone together. Are you sure that's wise?"

        "You won't kill him."
        "Give me a chance."
        "I've seen your kind before Trevant," she shook her head, "Maybe 
you would do that with any other vampire. But Renaku is special to
you, you want him fully conscious and aware when you kill him. But more
importantly, you want him to prove that he is a monster first."

        "I want no such thing!" Trevant stood up and stamped his hammer's 
butt on the floor. "I need no proof that he is a monster."

        "You say one thing," she told him calmly, "Your eyes say 
another. Ever since that first night I've seen doubt creeping into
your eyes like a poison. You're not sure he's the monster you made him
into all those years ago, are you?"

        "I won't listen to your talk," he turned to Renaku and lifted his 
warhammer over his head. Thiesra moved incredibly fast, reaching out
and snapping it out of his grasp with a flick of her hand. Even that
brief touch had been more than enough to cause a severe burn to spring
into being on her hand, much larger than the one she had gotten from
the Demonslayer a few nights ago. A very painful reminder of her
heritage, if she needed one.

        "You'll let him live because you need to know why," she snapped, 
"As much as I need to know why and as much as he needs to know why.
Maybe that's why we're all here, because we all need to know why."

        "You're wrong demon," he hissed, "Leave and he dies."
        "I don't think so," she shook her head. "I really don't." With 
that she walked out to leave Trevant to struggle with his own personal
demons, whether they be sleeping on a bed or resting in his own mind.


        The sun reached its zenith as it always did that day. Yet instead 
of dispelling the shadows like it was supposed to it only made the one
large one stand out all the more. It lay like a cloak over the forest
below, the shadow generated by the evil forces that inhabited that
land and used the shelter of the trees to protect themselves from the
harsh light of the sun. The flags raised here and there among the few
glens and glades among the forest clearly marked what was there for
any who wished to look however. That and the streams of humanity
moving up into the foothills of the pass looked like a line of ants
from this height.

        "So the Fumu have returned," Leandra said into the crisp air. A 
puff of steam accompanied her words. She turned to her advisors, three
warriors who tried their best to look stoic and wise in the cold
mountain air. "Can we repel them?"

        "I'm not sure my lady," one spoke up, "They will attack at sundown 
or shortly thereafter. We could close up the pass to them before then
but that would mean that not all the refugees from Hyrulle would get

        "Unacceptable," she said simply.
        "Then we will fall," another said. Her sternest and most competent 
advisor stepped forward. It was he that had brought her the news of
Renaku's travel through her valley only a short week ago. She tried
her best not to consider what Renaku was doing and how he was
connected to all this. Somehow, she knew it was all his fault. "We
can't hold the line against the full might of the Fumu and all the
demons they drive before them from the Rylor mountains. Not without
taking the time to fortify this region."

        "And we leave those people to die?" she said and pointed down 
towards the line of refugees slowly making their way up the pass. "How
can we live with ourselves if we do that?"

        "There is one other way," he said slowly and purposefully. "If the 
Dark Elves can be persuaded to help us..."

        "You and I both know that won't work," she snarled suddenly, "They 
would just as soon join with the Fumu as with us."

        "Then why haven't they?"
        She had no response to that. There had been plenty of opportunity 
for the Darkchylde elves to betray the humans already. They had not
taken that opportunity. Then again, it might be a twisted ploy to gain
her confidence so that they could ensure no humans survived the
assault. It was always hard to tell with them. 

        She sighed. She was getting far too old for this job, not only was 
age making her magic weak but it was also impairing her judgment. It
was a decision she would have made in a split second all those years
ago. Those years before she had met the vampire knight. Maybe wisdom
wasn't knowing what to do, but only the ability to make things more

        "And you Ben Salari," she said finally, "What does the Holy Order 
propose we do in this time of crisis."

        "Pray for guidance your majesty," Salari said as he adjusted the 
enchanted hammer of The Holy Sun that he carried at all times. "And
pray that my brother in arms can end this before we have to fight."

        "Yes," Leandra nodded and watched as the storm clouds began to 
gather in the west, finally answering her summons. "Maybe praying is
all we can do."


        "Why am I not surprised you're still around?" Thiesra said as she 
walked into the corpse of trees. Zeorx smiled disarmingly at her but
she responded with a dark glare.

        "Thiesra," he said finally, "To what do I owe the pleasure?"
        "You know very well what I want," she said suddenly. "I just 
remembered what Asgani said back then, on 'that' night, before you
showed up. That and I saw Makath change into a human when he died..."

        "So you know," he nodded, "I should have thought you would. But 
what do I get out of telling you?"

        "You mean you know the secret?"
        "Of course I know," he smiled, "I saw Makath try it himself. But 
he couldn't do it... he was kept from doing it and that is why he went
insane. I guess in death he got what he really wanted after all."
        "I can't give you anything," she replied slowly.
        "I thought you wouldn't," he smiled, "But I guess I can tell you 
the secret anyway. Because if you choose to go through with it, you
will have to drag your precious Renaku away from here anyway."

        "No," she shook her head, "I'm not leaving until I free Asgani 
from what you bastards forced her to become."

        "Oh," he smiled, "But you have no choice." And he told her the 

        When Renaku awoke the sun was dipping below the horizon. He sat up 
slowly and stretched. He felt oddly refreshed and calm in the wake of
that first natural rest he had enjoyed in thirty years. A quick look
around showed that both Thiesra and Trevant were in the room with him.
Both had dark, withdrawn looks on their faces and Renaku again
wondered what had transpired between them while he slept.

        "Good evening," he said as he stood up off the bed and both looked 
at him as if noticing he was there for the first time. Thiesra nodded
absently in his direction and Trevant only gave him a look most people
reserved for what they had just seen crawling about in their

        "Can we leave now?" Trevant said simply. 
        "No," Renaku shook his head, "I still haven't found what I came 
here for."

        "And what is that?" Thiesra spoke in low even tones, as if she was 
holding something she wanted to say back. Renaku would have to
remember to ask her about it later. Maybe it would be best if she
wasn't here, he didn't want to see her get hurt by the powers he was
going to face. He remembered all to clearly what had nearly happened
to the last woman he had journeyed with in a battle against the Fumu.
Then again, like that hot-headed magus, Thiesra would never listen to
advice about that sort of thing. She was nothing if not pig-headed
when it came to her own well-being.

        "I'll know it when I find it," he said simply.
        "Great plan demon," Trevant stood up. "Let's get on with it then. 
The Fumu will have this place surrounded before daybreak I'm sure."

        They ventured out into the town and began the search n earnest. It 
was a slow and meandering process. None of them knew exactly what they
were looking for or how to go about finding it so they essentially
were wandering at random. They must look like country bumpkins, Renaku
thought, strolling about and gawking at everything in sight. The
search took up most of the night, though it was hard to keep track of
time since storm clouds had moved in from the west and the sounds of
thunder could be heard coming from back in the direction of the Alokin

        The building Renaku eventually stopped in front of was 
nondescript. A simple storefront that boasted of having the best
cheese in the county. Renaku wasn't sure about the cheese part, but
something drew him to it. So he entered the building with Trevant and
Thiesra close behind him. Inside the place was musty, as if it had
been deserted for years and not days.

        "So what is so special about this place?" Trevant wandered about 
and looked at the various displays. No foodstuffs or any other
indication that the place had been inhabited any time in the near
past. Another puzzle within a much larger puzzle.

        "What about this?" Thiesra called out from behind the counter and 
Renaku and Trevant turned to face her. She was bent over, in human
form once more, and was examine something hidden by the lip of the
wooden countertop. Renaku moved around and took a good look at what it
was that she had found. It was a sword, in a sheath of some kind. A
sheath that Renaku realized he had seen before.

        "This sheath," Renaku reached down and pulled the sword out of the 
leather container. He handed the weapon to Thiesra and began to
examine the sheath more closely. He remembered the picture he had seen
it in, back a long time ago when he was still a human. It had been
above his Demonslayer blade... back on the night when he had taken
that mystic artifact from the vaults of his former master and sought
out a vampire to slay with it. "This is the original sheath of my

        "How do you know?" Thiesra asked.
        "I saw it once..." he turned the sheath around and there was the 
second part of the proof. "And there is the engraving of the Elven
Swordsmith who made it..."

        "So you're saying that your sword was once here?"
        "I don't know," he looked around, "But it might be a good idea to 
check it out."

        "It's likely the sheath just ended up here on some trader's 
wagon," Trevant snorted and laid his hammer across one of the

        "Wait," Renaku stood up suddenly. The idea was a strange one, that 
made no sense whatsoever but he thought it was good to give into those
impulses every now and then. "Have either of you ever been here
before?" They gave him confused looks and replied in the negative. "Do
you know anyone that has ever been here before?"

        "Where are you going with this Renaku?" Thiesra asked him in 
confusion. There was something strange in what she'd just said but
Renaku had no time to figure out what it was. 

        "I mean," he said, "Has anyone ever been to Izgan in the last few 
dozen years?"

        "Now that you mention it..." Trevant spoke up. "Back when I was a 
border guard no one ever mentioned Izgan. It was supposed to be a
major trade town too."

        "My point exactly," he swept his arms across the shop, "Look at 
this place, it is empty, has been for years and years. I don't think
anyone has been here in a long, long time."

        "What does that have to do with the sheath?" Thiesra mused aloud. 
Obviously she was considering the possibility.

        "Because this is new," he said as he held up the sheath which 
looked like it had been recently oiled. "Someone put this here not too
long ago." 

        "Then where are they?"
        "Close..." Renaku looked around, "Very, very close."
        "Then what do you say we find them?" Thiesra said eagerly, the 
first upbeat thing she had said all night.

        Now that they knew they were looking for a person in a town that 
had not seen one in years the search became much easier, and much
faster as well. It wasn't that long until they came across more clues
of recent habitation, stretching out from the cheese shop in
concentric circles. And old barn held supplies and food not fifty feet
away in what Renaku assumed was the only intact storage cellar in the
town. From there it was easy to trace a few footprints in the dust
towards other stores of supplies in places where they could still be

        They came upon her in the alley formed by a church that was 
falling to disrepair and a blacksmithy. She was a young woman, no
older than Renaku had been when he himself had been turned into an
undead. Her hair was long and the kind of deep black that was almost
blue. She wore a robe of pale green and her face was decorated by an
expression of beautific peace that didn't change when the three of them
emerged from the shadows. Renaku couldn't help but feel that he had
meet her before.

        "So you finally came back Sadaku," she said in a voice that made 
Renaku's knees grow weak. "I knew you would."

        "Who... who are you?" Renaku said finally.
        "You know," she said simply, "You know in your heart. Listen to 
it, think with your feelings and ignore what your mind tries to tell
you is impossible."

        "Mother..." Renaku said in a choked breath. "No... she would be 
long dead..."

        "No son," she smiled at him and he knew in his heart there and 
then that she was not lying. "I have waited a long time to see you
again, my precious Sadaku, before the Prophecy claims you. Before you
must pay the price for my folly."

        "Mother..." Renaku spoke softly and feel to his knees in front of 
the smiling woman.

        "Welcome home," she said as she encircled him in her arms.




Author's notes: Well, I had a LOT more I wanted to put into this
chapter but I think that's a good enough stopping point for now.
Besides, I'm running out of time and don't want to push things ahead
too quickly. Anyway, this was an enjoyable experience and I hope you
enjoyed it too. Of course, if you didn't any and all comments, flames
or general criticism of any kind can be directed to me at:

Or posted to the Improfanfic message board or wherever you feel like

Special thanks go out to Steven Scougall for pre-reading this whole
thing and helping to get rid of my atrocious spelling and grammar
mistakes beforehand.

Also mentions go to Ben Overmyer for creating VLR and John Evans,
Aaron Bradley and Chris McNeil for helping me with concepts and ideas.

Next Scheduled author: Aaron Bradley (Coyote)

All content unless stated otherwise is ©2021 Chris McNeil. He can be contacted here. The banner picture is courtesy of Jason Heavensrun. You can find more of his stuff at Checkmate Studios.