# Chapter 21: Forsaken

In the den of Fire:
When darkness wars with darkness,
or else grows to cover the world.
In the den of Earth:
Shall there be a choice between dark and light,
and only in darkness shall the light be found.
In the den of Water:
Shall the dead rise against their master,
Only in the coming of evil shall the light be sparred.
In the den of Wind:
The path to the light of the future,
lies through the shadows of the past,
and the forsaken one shall lead the way.
Shall the last choice be made,
The child of light and darkness be born
And all the hopes of man and god come to naught.

- Excerpt from "The Codex of Balance"
Now thought lost

The moon arched over the landscape of the desert, its silver light
spreading over the red sands like water. Above the blood colored
desert floated the castle Lhyresgate, a dark brooding ediface almost
two sequeal across at its base and almost as tall. Walls on such a
fortress were unnecessary and so it was all towers and buildings made
of the strange gleaming black stone that the quarries near Philogeson
produced. Below it a tiny mountain of stone tapered to a point.

It floated in the sky, unmoving and silent like some strange cloud.
From the nearby town of Qharakhi the view showed the moon rising
behind it, and slowly but surely it surrounded the castle, giving the
impression of a giant eye starring down on the populace. They didn't
notice however, at least not any more than usual. The castle had been
a fixture for weeks now and the human mind had a remarkable ability to ignore that which it didn't want to see. If they had looked the
probably wouldn't have seen the lights, the flashes of red and
darkness that told the tale of the battle, anyway.

And that is the way of the world, for the humans would not see that
battle, even if, on its outcome rested the fate of not only all
humanity, but all life on their world. That is the way it was meant to
happen, and that is the way one had gone to great trouble making sure
it would come to pass. Maybe in the end, if everyone had known who was
behind it all, it would have come out differently. This world will
never know. Because tonight the legends would end.

One way, or another.

---------------------------------------------------------------
Vampire Legend R
Chapter 21 - Forsaken

Written By: Aaron Peori
Original Concept by: Ben Overmyer
---------------------------------------------------------------
------------------------
Warning: Contains graphic content;
scenes of violence and phrases not
suitable for younger viewers, and
of course the scene not appearing
in this Impro.
------------------------

Renaku leapt aside, dodging a blast of violet light that smashed a
wall into dust behind him. His Demonslayer gleamed in the glow of the
magics after effect, a reddish haze that coated the air. The Demon
Fumu growled and stalked forward, forming another ball of blazing
indigo force in his cupped hand. Renaku only smiled and gestured with
his sword in a beckoning manner. He tried his best to keep his eyes
from falling on the forms of the sixteen Fumu this one being had
felled in a single strike. Or the dusty piles that showed the fate of
their two Otherworld demon allies. Distraction now was the last thing
he needed.

"You will suffer Vampire," the possessed demon smiled in a manner
which
suggested not so much evil but a lack of joy. As if something
important inside the creature were missing. "But I will not kill you."

"I can't promise you the same," Renaku reached down inside, drawing on
his inner nature. The power now came to him easier, smoother and he
found it almost intoxicating. He slashed his sword along the top of
the corridor and it burst into flame, an inverted inferno forming a
shield between vampire and demon.

The Demon Fumu laughed and burst through the defense like it was
nothing. He smirked as he saw the vampires cloak disappear around the
corner of the corner and gave chase. These fools were such easy prey,
the Otherworld demons had always been the strongest thing in the
mortal plane short of an elder dragon, and with the dark Fumu within
they were even stronger. This Renaku was tough but would be no match
for him alone.

Renaku was not alone. The demon shrieked as a blast of red magic
stabbed through it. Its flesh shriveled around the wound as magic
drained slowly from the spiritual attack. The pain was quite intense.
Renaku proceeded to put it out of its misery. His Demonslayer thrummed
as the power that was the Demon Fumu's soul filled it. Renaku allowed
himself to ingest a small amount, recovering what he had been forced
to spend in his brief melee.

"That makes two," Thiesra sighed and leaned against the wall. The
drain on her reserves had been no less significant than Renaku's.
Perhaps more so as she was being forced to use magics that were too
dangerous to leave uncontrolled. All Renaku had to do was heal his
wounds from his fights. "I hope Kryiaz is having more luck then we
are."

"Either way," Renaku began, "We can't risk teaming up with him
directly. We may be enemies of the Fumu but I'm not entirely sure that
makes us allies with this demon and his... friends."

"If the others had come with us," Renaku sighed.

"But they didn't," Thiesra stood up straight and glanced down the
hall. "I don't think we can trust Manganese anymore than we can trust
Kryiaz."

"Leandra and Aiger I can trust however," Renaku walked towards her.
"Do you want any help?"

"No," Thiesra backed off a step. "I can manage. Either way they aren't
here and we are. I think I can sense another one near-by."

"Alone?"

"It's hard to tell..." Thiesra shuddered. "The Shadow Fumu possession
does something to them, I can't feel them anymore. Not clearly."

"Are you sure I can't help you? Lend you some energy perhaps?"

"No!" Thiesra shouted a bit too quickly. "I'll be fine Renaku. Let's
just move on."

"As you wish."

***

Leandra wasn't sure she liked this plan at all. It had sounded
reasonable when Manganese had told it too her, but she was beginning
that made her skin crawl. It it was probably more than just the fact
that she was surrounded by the forces of darkness which had sworn to
destroy all humanity. And those were her allies.

Aiger checked the corridor in front of them and signaled the all
clear. His inhuman vision made him able to see in the dark so he could
check the corridors safely without risking the light that Leandra
would have needed. Manganese had not offered to take point himself.
He seemed calm and sure of himself now, as if he were walking straight
into a destiny that he now saw as unavoidable and rather liked the
concept. The human sorcerous was not nearly so happy with the concept.

"Are you sure you know where you are going?" she asked him for the
fifth time in as many minutes.

"Yes," he replied without a hint of impatience, "I can sense the Chaos
Stone... what you humans call the Stone of Forever. It is in the very

"Aye," Aiger drawled, "That seems a little predictable to me. Still,
can't fault them when it makes it so easy for us to sneak into the
chamber and abscond with the stone. Especially considering that the
Dark Fumu appear to be attacking only the outskirts of Lhyresgate."

"That's it!" Leandra snapped her fingers. "That's what's been
bothering me."

"Would you care to enlighten the rest of us?" Manganese asked in a
polite and solemn tone.

"This attack," Leandra waved her hands back to indicate the direction
they had come from. "The other Fumu that are attacking this fortress.
It doesn't make sense."

"The Fumu have never been much for tactics my lady," Aiger reminded
her.

"Do you really believe that Nova?" Leandra said coolly, "After they
almost outwitted us twice so far? Not to mention I have spent a good
two weeks fighting the Fumu in open battle. This isn't like them. They
may be vicious but they aren't suicidal. And to attack the Lhyresgate
with such a small force is nothing if not suicidal."

"You're saying the Fumu have another plan?" Aiger tapped the flat of
his blade against his shoulder in a careless manner that made Leandra
want nothing more than to snap the blade out of his fingers.

"Yes," Leandra sighed, "I think we should inform Renaku."

"No," Manganese struck the stone floor with his hammer, producing a
resounding clang. "Renaku must not be let near the Stone."

"We must move on," he interrupted her. "The Stone is close. Soon we
will end this game in the only way it can possibly end."

Leandra glanced at Aiger and saw a sudden haunted look pass across his
point and he was walking so fast it left little chance for quiet
conversation.

***

Gieb was not one to be late for meetings. Of all the Fumu he was the
one most dedicated to their masters objectives. He remembered clearly
the destruction that had been wrought on their homeworld before the
Fumu had been brought to this world. He wanted that back. So it was
that he had worked harder than any of his fellow Fumu in the
restoration of that darkness. Either here or on the world of their
origin or on worlds yet to be visited. Still, one could hardly fault
him for not answering the summons of his master as quickly as he might
have this time.

The incorporeal force that was Gieb's essence struggled within his
mortal host, slowly devouring the last of its life force. Gieb was too
busy searching for a new host to go to the Shadowgate now. Soon he
found a suitable target, a young woman with a great deal of life
force. Probably entering the early stages of the human's fertility
cycle. The Fumu flowed out of the shadows, his body nothing more than
a rancid sludge of defiled water spilled down the street like flotsam.

The woman didn't even have a chance to scream, for Gieb was upon her
before she realized it. The Fumu flowed across her body and down every
available orifice, until he had her life force in his ethereal
clutches. From there it was only a few seconds before the transfer was
complete and his old host disintegrated into nothing more than yet
more sewage. Gieb took a few seconds to accustom himself to his new
host, working out the kinks in his new body. Once she was finished she
smiled and began to chant to spells of transportation.

"Don't bother," The voice came from nearby but was spoken by no mortal
voice. Gieb turned and spied the black carrion bird perched on a
gutter nearby. "Nice body," the bird spoke into his mind with a tinge
of envy in its voice.

"You like?" Gieb spun slowly and allowed the clothing the woman wore
swirl in a revealing fashion. She always had had a flair for the
dramatic after all "Too bad you can not have such a tasty prey Qouth."

"I did not come to be insulted by you," Qouth hissed.

"Then why did you come half-shade," Gieb tapped her foot impatiently.
"I am already late for a meeting with Shien."

"That is why I came," Qouth informed her. "Shien has no more need of
you. He is planning to sacrifice your essence."

"That was the plan all along," Gieb smiled. "At least I know I can
pull it off without being trapped in the hellish limbo you have doomed
yourself too." The raven gave an annoyed caw and glared at its former
equal. Gieb glanced over his shoulder as a man came up the street. She
must appear quite the sight, a young woman covered with the filth of
the sewer talking to a raven in the middle of the night. Gieb briefly
considered luring him over so that he could increase the ranks of his
servants but dismissed the idea and let the man pass unmolested.

"It was not my fault," Qouth protested, "If that wretched she-demon
had not fought back at the last second..."

"Yes yes," Gieb giggled with cruel glee. "I've heard your excuse
before. The heroic sacrifice by the tortured soul to save the love of
her oldest friend and all that. How much like a human bard's tale you
have become. If there is nothing further I will be leaving now."

"You are a fool Gieb!" Qouth shot into her mind. "Shien is not
planning on feeding you to the vampire, he is going to feed on your
very essence himself!"

"I live only at his sufferance Qouth," Gieb growled in a suddenly more
dangerous voice. "If I knew a way to kill you I would now, for you are
little better than that traitor Scita!"

"I am beyond your reach now," the raven gave a very good impression of
a laugh. "Tell Shien before you die that I shall not let him win his
prize. I have nothing to lose anymore!" The bird took wing and was
gone before Gieb could even think of forming the spell that would have
evaporated the physical form Qouth's consciousness now inhabited. It
wouldn't have been enough to kill the traitorous incompetent. It would
have made Gieb feel better however.

***

Thiesra rubbed her fingers across the coarse grain of the stone walls.
She couldn't feel it very well, not through her thick demonic skin.
She sighed in resignation, waving off Renaku's questioning look when
he turned to face her in response. She was stuck once again in her
monster form, as much as she would have preferred otherwise. She
reflected sourly that she had spent more time in her "natural" state
in the last few days then in the last one hundred -years- combined.
What she wouldn't give to have this all over with.

And then what, some hidden part of her soul asked her. She looked up
at Renaku as he stalked forward through the eerie quiet that had
descended on the citadel. Her eyes traced the lines of his body and
she felt those confusing emotions stir up deep inside her as the
walked. It was hard to deal with them, a part of her wanted so much to
be with him and another part was... was... afraid? Yes, that was
probably the best way she could describe it. Afraid not of what would
become of Renaku, of his destiny and his darkness and not even afraid
that she might loose him in the end. Thiesra had grown accustomed to
lose. No, she was afraid of herself, and how she would react to it all
in the end. In a way, she was almost glad Renaku didn't seem that
interested in maintaining their relationship most of the time.

"Someone approaches," Renaku said beneath his breath just loud enough
for Thiesra to hear. She snapped herself out of her reverie and
searched out with her senses. Yes, he was right, someone did approach
them. She cursed herself silently for letting her concentration slip
at such an important moment.

The two lay in wait for a minute after that, positioned just beyond a
turn in the only decent point of ambush offered in this section of
Lhyresgate. Then Thiesra relaxed noticeably as the presence resolved
itself into a familiar pattern.

"Just me," The Otherworld demon Kryiaz said as he turned the corner.
"Well, you two make quite the pair. And what of the rest of your
party?"

"I don't know," Renaku took the lead and Thiesra was glad for it. She
wasn't sure she could trust Kryiaz and didn't want her confusion to
leak over into the conversation. Not two weeks ago she would have fled
this place as soon as possible, and Kryiaz would likely have pursued
her until one or the other had been forced to stop moving. That was
back when all her people had been enemies. Back then things had been
simple. But after the revelation of Makath for what he was, and the
sudden change that overcame Zeorx in his final days she wasn't sure
what to think. "What happened to the other Demon Fumu?"

"My allies and I fought them off," Kryiaz informed Renaku with a bit
of strain in his voice. "We only managed to kill two or three however
before they broke off their attack." Thiesra narrowed her eyes as she
noted for the first time the dimness of the older demon's aura. It was
nearly as bright as her own would be at full strength. She suppressed
a shudder at the implications of that.

"You may add two more to that list then," Renaku sheathed his
Demonslayer but his hand did not leave its hilt. "Thiesra and I
destroyed them."

"You?" Kryiaz said with a hint of disbelief in his voice. "I must say
I'm impressed. Maybe the rumors about you are not so exaggerated after
all vampire knight."

"So the crisis has passed," Renaku spoke somberly, "That still leaves
the question of where he stand with each other."

"Yes it does at that," Kryiaz raised himself up to his full height,
which was rather impressive even for an Otherworld demon. "I do not
wish to be your enemy vampire knight. Nor yours young one."

"Don't call me young one," Thiesra hissed involuntarily.

"As you wish," Kryiaz bowed half-mockingly. "Renaku, we only wish to
leave this world. To escape this doomed orb and make a life anew among
one of the infinite planes beyond or sphere. For this we need the
Stone of Forever, the Chaos Stone or call it what you will. Only with
the lost power of a fallen god shall we be able to traverse the
dimensions."

"And why should I trust your word on that?"

"You don't have to..." Kryiaz waved his hand and Thiesra and Renaku
saw the Dark Wind Fumu all about the place now. They were very silent,
as soft as the breeze as they moved about the place. "But I think it
would be in your best interests."

Renaku stiffened and stared into the hard colorless eyes of his
adversary for a moment. Thiesra could actually hear his muscles tense
and untense tense as he shifted through plan after plan. Finally
Renaku
relaxed and a wry smile cracked his face. "It would seem I have no
choice then," he spoke and at the same time waved his hand
dismissively towards her. "I will have to let you -leave- this plane
of existence." Thiesra's eyes narrowed as Renaku waved her back again.
He had gained a note of subtlety in the last few days but still had a
lot to train for if he planned on ever getting this one past Kryiaz.
Sure enough the demon's eyes were beginning to glow with a suspicious
light and the air around them became thick with the tension of the
Dark Wind clan. "I will let you and the Fumu leave... to ravage
another world shall I? To spread their darkness across yet another
plane, one not nearly so well equipped to deal with them as our own? I
shall stand by and let this evil propagate itself... I think not!"

Thiesra moved, reaching into her spirit and drawing most of her
blade and gone into one of those practiced formations he always did in
a fight. Kryiaz anticipated his attack and slide backwards, drawing
his fingers into the familiar trigram. Thiesra knew they only had one
chance, so instead of wasting the energy on a futile gambit she struck
the ground and forced it through the trigram she had formed with her
own fingers.

The explosion was brilliant, disintegrated rock and mortar in a haze
of power. Opening up the floor beneath her and Renaku like a maw to
swallow them and draw them down into the levels below. Unfortunately
for her the blast was stronger than she had expected and as she
absorbed the blast the world went dark...

***

"They are gone."

"I can see that."

"Shall we pursue?"

"No, I think not. Tell your dolls to back away. They would be better
spent guarding the walls from a second attack."

"It was not my fault. The Dark Shadow can move with even more stealth
than my own clan."

"Scita, I am not interested in your excuses. If I did not need this
alliance to secure the Stone for the sack of my people I would kill
you where you stand."

"You are not my master," a soft hiss as of air through long grasses,
"Just because you broke the bonds of slavery does not mean you now
hold them yourself."

"Forgive me, my ally. Mayhap it would be better if I suggested you
spend your time protecting this fortress... and searching out the
location of the other mortals. While I work the rituals of
transportation. Is that better?"

"Yes. Are you sure we should not pursue them?"

"You let rage taint your judgment. I can sense the demon-girls
presence and the lower catacombs are a maze. They will not get back up
to here without me knowing it."

"Very well. I go to fulfill the rest of MY part of the bargain."

A few moments pass.

"Give me strength Lord Gai, that I may stand his presence until the
end."

***

The chamber was filled with a soft blue light. A circle of arcane
runes and mystic siglia glowed in the murky half-light, casting a blue
sheen over the pure white light that streamed out of the glowing stone
that floated in the center of the room. The entire place seemed like
something out of one of those fairy tales Aiger had always heard in
his youth. The ones where the brave dragon fought his way into the
evil knights lair and rescued the beautiful dragoness and her mystic
bauble of the week. It was almost nostalgic.

"So this is the place," Aiger murmured to himself and looked around.
It certainly didn't seem all that special. The stone was less dramatic
then he had first thought it had been, seeing it in the stony fortress
where it had once been kept. And when you saw one magic circle you
pretty much saw them all. Leandra seemed to be suitably impressed
however, as she had spent the last few minutes starring with rapt awe
at the indecipherable scribbles on the floor.

"This is fascinating," she said as she raised her hands over the lines
then quickly drew them back as sparks flew from the lines. "Much more
complex than any human magical circles."

"What do you expect?" Manganese asked calmly.

"Wait," she said with a suddenness that nearly caused Aiger to slip
from his position against the wall. "I think this looks familiar."
She reached into her pack and pulled out the battered spellbook that
had so mysteriously deposited itself in their possession a few days
ago. Aiger calmed himself and went back to keeping watch as she fussed
over whatever it was that had caught he eye this time.

The girl really was a contradiction. Most of the time she acted like a
grizzled war veteran that had been forced to bleed our all her
sweetness and joy to survive. But when it came to unusual magic and
dragons and other things like them she acted like a child who had just
seen her first cantrip. It was an erratic and almost explosive
combination that always served to frustrate him whenever he thought he
had her figured out. And he couldn't help but find it endearing. he
wondered if she was... with anyone.

He looked over and caught the gaze of Manganese as the dragon switched
his own away from the ritual the human woman was preparing. In that
gaze Aiger saw his thoughts reflected like a mirror. A brief smile
painted the dragons lips and Aiger felt something inside him go
hollow. Damn this wasn't fair! Why did he have to be the one they
needed to do this, why was he the force that the dragons had chosen?

The answer to both questions was simply. He knew Renaku, and he needed
them. If he ever wanted to produce a heir to the throne of his small
kingdom, he needed the dragons. They had him strung out like a worm on
a hook and Manganese knew it. Curse that dragons hide!

"I think I can break through the protections," Leandra put down the
book. "I just need a few moments to prepare."

"Do what is necessary human," Manganese told her softly. He looked at
the stone and his fingers twitched in unconscious longing. Ever since
defenses around the Stone. But after putting his hand over them and
nearly having it burned off by the fierce magical discharge had

"Very well," she stood up... and walked straight into the circle.
Aiger's voice caught in his throat and he nearly fell over as he
lunged to drag her out. But he was too late, she had stepped foot in
the magical boundaries and the blue sparks leapt from floor to human
form. They didn't even leave a scorch.

"Huh," Aiger said profoundly. Manganese too was blinking his human
host's eyes.

"This is a very powerful spell of containment," Leandra said. "It is
designed in such a way that it can only be opened from the inside."
She reached down and began to wave her hands over a few of the sigils.
"But it has one weakness, which is its strength. It transforms magical
energy into destructive force. Which makes it lethal to most
supernatural beings. But we humans can only draw energy from the world
around us, so while I get a few sparks for my innate life force... I
won't get hurt."

"An ingenious design," Manganese said coolly. "With a fatal flaw. How,
what is the human word Aiger?"

"Poetic?"

"Yes, indeed."

"Ah," Leandra commented calmly. "Finished." She spoke a single power
word and the entire circle suddenly collapsed, fading into darkness.
She looked up as the Stone of Forever began to reveal why it was
called the Chaos Stone. Light of all colors and no colors at once
spilled out onto the room as sound and silence filled the chamber. At
once the room grew cold and hot, the air thick and thin. It was...
disconcerting to say the least. "In the name of Sol, the power!"

"Yes child," Manganese stepped forward. "Freed from its prison the
Chaos Stone begins to slowly rebuild its power. In a few days the
fabric of our world around here would be so worn that you could step
between ours and another with barely a bother. This is how the Fumu,
and the Otherworld demons came to be here. The power of this stone
made it so. And soon it will be held by the only beings suited to
protecting it."

"I think not."

Aiger shouted a warning and leapt for the dragon-possessed human but
it was too late. A bolt of indigo light slammed into Manganese's
unprotected back and sent his host flying like a scare crow. His form
collided with the Chaos Stone and both were knocked to the floor. The
dragon man reached out and clutched at the stone with failing
strength. Aiger turned to face the attacker and took an involuntary
step back as it... slurped out of the shadows.

It was tall, and dark red with colorless eyes that didn't glow but
instead seemed to eat away at the light around it like a shadowy
flame. The air around it seemed thick with shadows, as if the light
slid away like water off a ducks back. Leandra gasped and took a step
back. Aiger smoothly flowed between her and it.

"Thank you for unlocking the Stone for me human," the voice was only
half-vibrant. As if most of the emotion had been leaked out of it. "It
would have taken me too long to unravel the magic myself. By then
Kryiaz would have returned and I would have been no match for him.
Now, I need not face him."

"You speak too soon," Aiger spoke with false bravado. "You still have
me to go through demon." Aiger struck, his sword hissing as it sped
through the air fast enough to strike an insect in mid-flight. The
next thing he knew he was striking the wall with enough force to send
stars exploding across his vision and sliding to the floor. It was
only when he came to rest that he felt the blow to the gut that had
sent him here. By all that was holy the thing was fast!

"Aiger," it was Manganese. The dragon's voice was distorted somehow
though, as it clung to the stone. It was very close however and Aiger
had only to turn his head to see it. He didn't however, his eyes were
locked on the face off between human mage and Demon Fumu. "Aiger...
can you hear me..."

"Yes," Aiger hissed in a remarkable representation of his fathers
bloodline as he tried to stand up. "I have to..."

"No," the dragon's voice shouted, "Listen to me... the Stone weakens
my grasp, I will not last long in this body... you must... you
must..."

"Out with it!"

"Prevent Renaku from claiming his birthright... he will now... only
you can stop it..."

"Birthright?"

"You must... you must kill Renaku..."

***

Renaku stopped. He looked about him, his vampiric eyes cutting through
the gloom with ease. The room he was in was much like all the others
in this place... except for the shallow mark cut into the stone near
one of the doors. A mark Renaku had put there. He was going about in
circles. Again.

Grunting he sat down, letting Thiesra's body slip to the stone. She
was surprisingly light in this form, maybe it had something to do with
her being drained of energy? Still there was no use in speculating
about that now. She stirred, her body arching as she struggled once
again to regain consciousness. For a moment she succeeded but then her
reserves of energy drained away and she slipped away again.

He watched the struggle with a bitter smile on his face. How many
times had she sat over him when the sun was out and watched him
struggle with his own inner demons? Too many for Renaku to easily
count that was for sure. A wave of peace flowed over him as he traced
the contours of her body with his eyes. This, he knew, was what he
wanted.

But he couldn't have it. Ever. It was okay to let himself get a little
closer to her but he knew that even if the prophecies did not come
true there was nothing for them. He was a vampire, a cursed undead
-thing-, and love was not something that vampires could feel. He
steeled his will as she attempted to awake again. From the way she had
been treating him lately it was obvious she understood this too. There
was no other explanation after all. She had left, all those years ago,
probably to keep him from falling in love with her. He could hardly
blame her.

"Ren-chan," Thiesra spoke softly and opened her eyes. "Where are we?"

"We are in the catacombs in the mountain upon which Lhyresgate rests,"
he told her as calmly as he could. "It is a damnable maze down here. I
can't find a way out for the life... er... you know what I mean."

She chuckled. Oh gods that was the sweetest sounds. Renaku steeled his
nerves again. "Sorry," she murmured. "I guess I goofed up. But we were
no match for the entire clan and Kryiaz, even weakened as he was. I
didn't think... the blast took more out of me then I was counting on."

"You blew a hole ten levels deep with one shoot," he informed her,
"And were already weakened from transporting us here."

"So I was..." she sighed. "I don't think I have time to rest. You
should leave me and head for the surface yourself."

"I can't do that."

"Just find the hole and fly up..."

"The hole is gone Thiesra," he gestured to the ceiling. "I came down
in this room and I can see no hole. This hole place is enchanted
somehow. A magical puzzle."

"Then give me a few hours," she said, "When I get my strength back
I'll blow a hole in the roof."

"You just rest," he said slowly. "I will think of a way out of here
before it is too late."

"You do that Ren-chan."

"Thiesra?"

"Yes?"

"I think, when all this is over... we should part ways again."

"What?" she spoke a little too quickly, "Why?"

"Even if these prophecies do not come true," he told her. "You still
have your people to look after. You should go to them now, when all
others are abandoning them. It is the right thing to do."

"Renaku," she said in a low accusing tone, "There is some other reason
isn't there."

Renaku paused a long time before answering, and the air grew thick
between them in the wait. "Yes," he said finally, "I think I've fallen
in love with you. And I don't want to destroy your life."

"I am an undead Thiesra," he informed her as levelly as he could, "My
life, if you can call it that, is nothing but struggle and pain. I am
a monster with a thin veneer of a man over it. The bloodlust doesn't
grow weaker over time and eventually I will give in to it again. It is
better that we be apart."

Thiesra closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and laughed as long and
as loud as she could. Renaku narrowed his eyes, quite sure that this
was inappropriate behavior. She could at least act a little
disappointed.

"Ren-chan, Ren-chan," she spoke as her chuckles died out, "Is that
what has been bothering you since we left the Rylor mountains?" She
grimaced and forced herself up onto her elbows.

"Well," he said in confusion, "Yes. Yes it is."

"Renaku," she leaned over and put her hand against his cheek. It was
pleasantly warm neck to his cold flesh. "You are a good man. You are
not a monster just because you are a vampire. I have met humans much
more evil than you could ever hope to be."

"But..."

"Hush," she placed a finger over his lips. "Listen to me. If you are
such an evil force than why do you stand against the Fumu? Hmm? How
many people, innocent people, have you saved by destroying their
Clans? And what about the other demons you have slain? What about
Aiger? I heard his story and with him you saved not only his own life
but the life of an entire kingdom! Sure you have made a few mistakes
in your life Renaku, but even the Gods make mistakes sometimes. For
every sin you think you have committed you have done enough good deeds
to warrant a sainthood. No Renaku, you are not an evil man."

"I wish I could believe you."

"Do you trust my judgment?"

"Like no one else's."

"Then you should know that I would never fall in love with an evil
man."

There was a significant pause during which Renaku was pretty sure his
heart would have skipped a beat. That is, if it had still been capable
of beating. "Thiesra," he found his voice harsh and with some shock he
realized he was crying. Crying!

"Renaku I love you," she leaned herself against him and he could feel
every inch of her body. "I don't know when I started to, but I do. I
love the heroic soul in your heart. And I know I will stay with you
Renaku... forever. Together, the demon in your heart doesn't stand a
chance then."

He embraced her, his arms wrapping about her strangely frail form. "I
love you too Thiesra," he sighed, "But..."

And for a moment, just a moment, he did. And that part of his soul
that came out during the times of his greatest peril surged forward.
he could feel her, not just her body but her soul, her very life
force. It was dim, drained away and leaving an empty pit inside her.
It was so empty he felt like it gnawed away at him. Like the emptiness
was in his own soul and not hers. he had to fill that hole. He
breathed, drawing the power from the Demonslayer and into him. Then
the power flowed between them, her body absorbing it with a speed and
veraciousness that surprised him and almost startled him out of his
trance. But Thiesra gave a gasp, a sound of surprise and... something
else far deeper than his own and her hands tightened around him. Her
newly granted strength let her clutch tighter than ever to his body,
and he let her.

For a moment, he wasn't sure were she ended and he began.

Then it was over and the two of them fell apart. Renaku tried to shake
his head and clear it of the cobwebs that had suddenly formed there.
Thiesra, in the meantime, was staring at him with the kind of
expression she usually reserved for greater demon lords. He blinked
and looked at her, she had reverted to human form again with the
amount of energy he had given her... and there seemed to be tears on
her face.

"What is it?" he asked in a suddenly very worried voice.

"Oh Renaku," she shook her head, "Why?"

"I..." he paused as he searched back over the last few minutes. It was
a blur, a chaotic mix of feeling and sensation. It was like a door
had opened inside him and then had been shut again and he could only
glimpse the dancing lights beneath it. "I don't know. Is there
something wrong?"

"No," she sighed and stood up, looking refreshed. "Nothing at all.
Come on. Let's get moving."

***

Jouo Ben Trevant was a man without a body. He floated timelessly in
the back of his own mind, aware of the world outside but hardly paying
it any attention. If he had he would have seen the magus Leandra get
tossed across the room by the Demon Fumu and nearly fall unconscious.
As it was he spent more time gazing back into his own memories.

He saw clearly his own career in the military. The endless training
and occasional battles that had made him into a man who stopped a lone
traveler in a mountain pass one day. Time for him slowed down as he
relieved those moments in perfect detail. The horror of the vampire
unleashed and how he had been the last left standing. And then its
desecration of his companions and the gall, the GALL, to leave him
alive. The turning point of his life.

From there he traveled along the streams of his consciousness, flowing
from one memory to the next like a hummingbird in a field of flowers.
Here he was entering the Holy Orders and petitioning for admittance
into the elite caste of warrior monks. Here he was pushing his way
through rigorous tests of courage and endurance by sheer will alone.
Will, and a burning hatred that fueled his heart. Here he was taking
from them the Hammer, the symbol of his caste and his one weapon
against the darkness. That and his hatred.

And there, him fighting his first demon, a minor jaggling which he
dispatched with ease. Then more demons, one after another in an
endless stream. There was no rest, no break. Only the journey from one
battle to the next, with only his hatred as a traveling companion.
Soon he fought vampires, and killed them all. He cleansed a whole city
of an infestation of Dark Elves almost by reputation alone.

Oh his reputation grew, the name of Jouo Ben Trevant, slayer of demons
and pillar against the darkness was bandied about in taverns and
dungeons. He did not heat them however, all he heard was the
screaming words... it wasn't enough. It was never enough to appease
the hatred inside his heart. Only one death would let him seek peace.
And so he had accepted the job. Come to him from dark channels, a
promise of revenge the only thing that kept him from destroying his
clients.

Trevant screamed in rage and after a moment he realized he was
screaming with his own voice. Manganese's mind had receded, forced
back by the power of the Stone of Forever and once again the proper
will was in control of Trevant's body. The warrior monk dragged
himself to his feet, one hand clutching his hammer like a walking
staff and the other arm with the Stone tucked neatly under it. It took
him a moment to regain his equilibrium, and in that moment the Demon
Fumu stepped back and starred in surprise. Trevant knew why, the burn
on his back stung like nothing else but for some reason he could
ignore it.

"You are stronger than you look human..."

"I am as strong as any human can be," Trevant informed it and swung
his hammer into combat position. "I am Jouo Ben Trevant, enemy of all
the darkness. I will not let you have this Stone."

"And I am Contyune, of the Dark Shadow Fumu," his voice was oddly
toneless, like he was repeating the words by rote. "And you..." he
formed his fingers in both hands into a triangle, "are dead."

The blast came faster than Trevant could have hopped to dodge. With a
cry he swung the hammer up and into the path of the demonic energy...
which scattered about him like raindrops on a umbrella. Trevant took a
moment to analyze this then smiled. "It would seem not," he said as he
leapt. The demon was stunned by the inability of his attack to strike
home and didn't even raise a hand in defense. Trevant realized he was
traveling much too fast for it to be humanly possible when his blow
picked the creature up and sent it clear into... and through the stone
wall. He stopped and looked down at the Stone in wonder. It glowed
faintly even as it seemed totally dark. It was everything and nothing
at once. It was the only hope he had of surviving.

"Insolent!" The Demon Fumu smashed apart the remainder of the wall
with its fist. "I will not be defeated by a mere human!"

"That remains to be seen!"

***

Renaku had half hoped the maze would go away when they started moving
ceiling but found that her blasts simply got... diverted before they
struck. She muttered some words he didn't understand about spatial
warps and wormholes then feel silent. When he suggested they start
moving she agreed. So it was that they found themselves wandering
through the darkness in passages that appeared exactly like one they
had just been down and in fact probably were.

"This is hopeless," Renaku growled.

"Every puzzle has a solution Ren-chan."

"Well I can't see it."

"I'm not surprised," the voice inside his head said. For a moment he
thought that his silent visitor had returned again but then he
realized that this voice was different, more... vile somehow. That and
Thiesra was looking around for a speaker as well.

"Who?" she blurted out.

"In front of you," the voice said and they both turned to look. It was
a raven, dark of feather and black of eye. A sick aura of black light
sweated from its skin and leaked across the floor. Its voice went

"I am what used to be Qouth, Lord of the Dark Stone Fumu," it informed
them. Thiesra hissed and clenched her hands into fists. Renaku could
hardly blame her, it was the lord of the Dark Stone who had taken her
oldest friend from her. The demoness strode forward and kicked at the
bird, hitting it with her full force. Much to both their surprise the
thing crumpled on impact and went flying into the wall. It streaked
down the stone, leaving a bloody trail behind it. Then it stood up,
shook itself back into perfect shape and waddled forward again. "Is
that out of your system now, or would you prefer to hit me again?"

"Maybe I'll see what the Demonslayer can do against you?" Renaku
stepped in front of Thiesra who was fighting to hold herself back.

"Please do," the raven said sarcastically, "I seek nothing more than
solace from my tortured state and since that sword is partly
responsible maybe it can end it."

"Tortured state?"

"I live," the creature cawed, "But I do not. I can bring no change to
this world through my own will and I can not escape this wretched
body. So please, kill me if you can."

"If you hate it so much," Renaku sheathed the sword, "Maybe I should
leave you this way."

"You bastard," Thiesra hissed at the raven. "How could you do that to
Asgani?"

"Do that to Asgani?" the raven chuckled, a disturbing sound. "I did
nothing to her. She chose to bond with me in the hopes of escaping her
people. It was her that did this to me. Even now I would be free of
this world, my energy consumed by Renaku if she had not forced me out
at the last second. She was a powerful witch I'll give her that."

Thiesra struck it again, her fist coming down like a blacksmiths
hammer and crushing it into paste. When she pulled her fist away
however, the thing was back in perfect shape. It stared at her in an
accusing fashion. "Are you done yet?"

"No," she growled, "But I can wait."

"What do you want?"

"Excuse me if I don't jump at the chance."

"If you must know why," the raven said slowly, "I will tell you I do
this only to get back at that traitor Shien. He could have ended my
torment, but choose to let me live instead because I had 'failed' in
my duty."

"And what do you propose to do for us?"

"I will lead you out of this magical trap and into the chamber of the
Stone. Once there," it paused, "You can do what you wish."

"I don't think we have much choice Thiesra," Renaku said solemnly.

"Fine," she sighed. "We'll travel with it, for now."

***

And in the darkness that was the home of the greatest Fumu of all, the
arrived at last, making its way past barriers of cunning and fatal
design. It would have been much simpler for Gieb to come in his Fumu
form, his essence alone for only the Dark Shadow could enter
that Gieb come with his host and Gieb was nothing if not loyal.

"You called me master?"

"Yes," the being that was Shien said softly. "I need to leave this
place. For longer than a few moments this time."

"And how may I serve you in that master?"

Shien didn't bother it explain, he merely took what he wanted. As the
essence of the greatest evil in the mortal plane entered him Gieb for
once knew the terror his possession instilled in his unfortunate
mortal victims. He felt his very soul devoured away and replaced, but
by bit, with that of his master. But Shien did not stop there, his
will stretched out and snapped at every Fumu in the world. First all
those who served the clan of Dark Water fell, their hosts life essence
drained into Shien. Then one by one the other clans feel. If their had
been scholars in the Fumu lairs that day they would have been amazed
at suddenly seeing every Fumu on the face of the planet turn to dust
at once.

Well, almost every Fumu. The broken link between Shien and the Dark
Wind clan kept them out of his reach. And he still needed that young
fool Contyune if he was to hold the Stone. Still, Shien had not felt
this good since the day he had first entered this world and seen its
delicious life force, ripe for the taking.

She stretched her body, accustoming herself to it and used her magic
to rearrange the sodden peasant smock into something more suitable.
While Shien was the least connected with humanity he did have a few
conceits he had picked up from them, and a proper appearance was one
of them. After all, one should look their best when one is about to
destroy the world.

And then she was gone. And for the first time in millennia the place

---------------------------

Authors notes:

Ah well, all good things and all that. This was a wonderful time and I
thank everyone who helped me with it and who bothered to read this
Impro I feel partly responsible for dragging out of stagnation. I
specifically thank Ben Overmyer for creating a character I am sure has
spiralled beyond his ability to predict, Aaron Bradley and Steven
Scougall for pre-reading and commentary and general stick-to-it-ness
and John Evans for being the best writer on Improfanfic bar none. I
can wait to see his finale, its sure to be a blast.

Specific notes: Kryiaz is the correct spelling as it appeared in
Vampire Legend R #19 (all of once) and instead of going back to change
it all the places it occured to conform with Steven's chapter.

This is the first of two Impros I will be writing one of the very
final chapters for and I must say it stirs up feelings I'm not totally
familiar with. It's been a great deal of fun, thanks for reading and
good-bye.

Aaron Peori