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  • Violence
  • Intense Situations
  • Mild Language

Demigod Saga

Warcry / Dusk / The Long Walk / Conquest of Darkness / Court Of The Red Queen / The Gate of Genesis / Endgame / Monsters / The Last Resort / Return to Order

The scene begins in a vast forest that stretches as far as the eye can see, flying high above the wintery scene below is a single robin - fluttering over the forest and across a series of rolling hills and ragged cliffs.

The robin flutters across a busy town full of horses, carts and peasants toiling in the cold winter conditions - gathering what little they can from the frozen land.

The robin proceeds to fly towards a huge palace with large walls and a distinctive Gothic design - the bird flutters high above to one of the several towers and lands on the outreached hand of a youthful woman dressed in red, who looks out from the tower window at the lands below.

"..I hope you don't mind the snow, the winter lasts long in these parts - I'm glad you came, I was afraid of returning alone.." the figure says, turning to another figure in the room.

(ooc: this is Inferno's turn to edit if he wishes, others can do so later as the story progresses)

"I like the snow, though Equis could never abide the stuff.. though I must admit I never saw you as the type to confine herself in a castle - as grand as this place may be.." the figure replies, revealing himself as a dark winged figure dressed in attire that suggests royal heritage but also tainted with the subtle hint of tyranny.

Red releases the robin as she walks over to Inferno and motions him a little as she heads out of the room and into a large corridor "..Prince Pendragon, I assure you I'm far from confined - I just wanted to make sure everything is in order.. I've been absent for some time you know..".

Inferno follows, his wings folding over himself like a cape as he moves - snorting slightly as he shakes his mane, his ancient heritage hard to shake off even after centuries of evolution: "I'm not a prince anymore Red, I'm an outcast - an outlaw.. you can't slay your own people and retain a crown.."

Red nods slightly and continues along the corridor, heading towards a large feasting room that is buzzing with activity - "..well, you know Inferno.. you could always stay here.. that is to say.." she shakes her head a little "..I.. nevermind.. you'll find a way, I know that much.. I hope you don't mind but I took the liberty of arranging a feast in the castle - I figured my return would be more welcomed if I was to provide a show of goodwill.." she says, changing the subject rather quickly.

"..Red, I can't stay.. you know that.. I'm not part of your world, even if I were.. we are very different people.. you value order above all else while I.. well.. I'm an anarchist, a shameless opportunist.. I.. I wish it was different but.." Inferno begins, moving as if to reach out to Red but quickly corrects himself before he risks worsening things - Red may be an ally but she was still a monarch and Inferno knew fine well that royalty had an unhealthy habit of being exceptionally crazy (himself included).

"..a feast? that sounds good - I could use some food about now.." Inferno notes, mimicking Red in his sudden change of subject matter.

Red stops and narrows her eyes slightly, "..Inferno.. I decide who is a part of my world.. I decide what is and is not law.. and I say you belong.." - Red's eyes suddenly soften as she shakes her head slightly as if shaking away a stray thought "..but you're right - food is a good idea.. besides you may find a friend or two.. I took the liberty of inviting from as many worlds as possible - maybe it was a little excessive but I think you'll like it..".

With that short speech Red opens the doorway leading to the feasting room and instantly a spectacle of light and sound emerges..

Chapter I

Red opens the door, revealing a huge room packed full of figures ranging from the comical to the extreme - dwarves and pixies share a massive feast with lesser giants and strange animal-like beings, all talking in a hundred different tongues and feasting on a seemingly neverending supply of food.

(ooc: others can enter at this point as guests at the feast, either as their own characters (who Red would probably of invited) or as a new character if one wants.)

[Drasocon walks in with Blaze.]"This looks like our kinds of party..." [Drasocon and Blaze take a seat and start eating.]


Ruichi stands alone to one side of the room, obviously trying to avoid the crowd. Around him floats a translucent girl about his own short height, chattering excitedly.

"C'mon, Ruichi! Let's go talk to people!" exclaims the girl.

"...eh, no thanks, Nebula... I'm not really into talking to people..."

"Then why'd you come?" asked Nebula excitedly.

"...you made me come."

"Nonsense! Let's go find someone-" Nebula says, looking around quickly, noticing Red and Inferno enter the room. "Over there! Maybe they can talk!" She grabs Ruichi by the wrist and floats off, half-dragging him through the crowd, despite his protests.

Nebula pops up in front of Red and Inferno. "Hey, how's it going? Who're you two?" she says, in a voice a rapid as machine-gun fire.

Amnesty is sitting at a table, not eating, simply observing the scene.

Red frowns slightly and one of the guards (indicated by their red clothing and oddly unemotional stance) steps forward, as if ready to act on a moment's notice.

"I am the ruler of this realm, the Red Queen - this is Prince Inferno Pendragon of Avalon, my guest and who may you be?" Red replies, eyeing Nebula like a stern mother would at a misbehaving child - not hostile but not exactly inviting either.

Inferno observes the scene and coughs slightly, "..please, Red.. she's hardly a threat.." he says in a whispered tone - knowing it unwise to question royalty in their own court but also seeing that Nebula is (in his eyes) merely curious and a little eccentric. A moment later he speaks up, as if quickly trying to change the subject yet again "..I am hardly a prince, more of an ambassador if you will - I am here to learn about Red's world and she in turn is learning about mine.. but for now such things are trivial, now is the time for feasting and merriment!" he even goes as far as to make a dramatic gesture as if trying to guide the group to a nearby table.

"Oh joy!" exclaimed Nebula. "My name is Nebula, and my rather silent friend here is Ruichi. So you're a prince-ambassador...thingy, and she's the queen? That's so cool!"

Ruichi shifted slightly, looking uncomfortable.

Red frowns slightly as she lowers her voice in response to Inferno "..I decide what is and is not a threat in this world, prince.." - she then shakes slightly to regain her composure and gives a glance to the roaming guard, which is sufficient to make the guard return to inactivity as his services are unrequired.

"I assume you have not had much contact with royalty, Nebula? we tend not to be addressed as "thingies".. however perhaps Inferno is correct: let us head to the feast - I have a speech I'd like to give to the hall.. after which I'm sure we'll find many things to talk about.." Red says, heading towards a table - although she hides it as well as she can the sight of a rather large axe can be seen strapped to her form, glinting slightly in the surrounding light.

Nebula floats over to Ruichi. "See, that was EASY!"

"I dunno... but that Red Queen makes me feel... uneasy." Ruichi says quietly.

"Oh, come off it, you're just overly shy..."

Amnesyt follows Red with her eyes, apparantly waiting for the speech.

[Drasocon sees Inferno, who is looking uncomfortable, but he remains eating until he figures out what's going on.]

Red stops at a table and suddenly, without warning, unstraps her axe and slams it down on a nearby roast - leaving the axe in the meat as the room suddenly goes silent as everyone suddenly turns: the gesture sufficient to attract the attention of everyone at once.

"My people, too long have I left you - however those days are past, today the Red Queen returns and she brings with her the prospect of new alliances.. Prince Inferno of Avalon is but one of them, many more await us.. some are sitting here this very day and partaking in this feast -" Red begins, only to suddenly be interupted.

" 'Tis a pity this "feast" is all for show, usurper! come tommorow we'll be back to the days of old - long live the Resistance! down with the Red Queen!" a small voice speaks out as a rather unusual sight appears in the form of a small but clearly intelligent mouse that hops onto one of the tables and brandishes a fork in the air like a weapon.

The guests all start to buzz in a mixture of fear and excitement at this event and the mouse looks ready to continue when it is quickly subdued by another guest via a teapot as a well-dressed but extremely hideous woman fans herself as if in danger of fainting.

Amnesty rises and slowly makes her way to the mouse.

"That's interesting-" Nebula begins.

"Shh!" Ruichi whispers, watching the proceedings as intently as a wolf.

Inferno sighs slightly and watches the chaos unfold, he stands and lowers his voice - addressing Red quietly "..well, I can honestly say this is a first Red.. a rebellious rodent..".

Amnesty walks up to the teapot that contains the rodent, reaching out to remove the teapot.

[Blaze walks towards the teapot as Drasocon starts to walk towards the wall...]

[A figure previouly unnoticed watches the proceedings with interest.]

Red clenches her fists and narrows her eyes at once, her guards start to surround the entire room as if ready to strike and she breathes heavily - "..not another word, Prince.." she says quietly to Inferno, clearly angry.

Red then addresses the entire room "Everyone, kindly.. BE QUIET!" - the room suddenly turns deathly quiet as everyone turns, looking fearful.

As Amnesty removes the teapot the mouse suddenly breaks free and charges full scale across the table, moving with remarkable speed and determination for something so small.

Red twitches and grabs her axe as she finally snaps, yanking it out of the roast and causing the meat to fly across the room as she leaps onto the table "..you wish to test my patience, vermin!? so be it! guards! seize that rodent!" she yells and at once the room is once again in chaos.

Inferno blinks and leaps at Red in an effort to knock her off course, "Red! control yourself!" he says - normally trying to tackle a ruling monarch is foolish at best but Inferno reckons this scenario couldn't really get any worse regardless of what he did.

Ruichi unsheathes his scythe. Nebula gasps in surprise, then her eyes glow pink. The mouse becomes trapped in a pink ball of energy, which hovers in the air.

Red cries out slightly as she's tackled, causing her and Inferno to slide across the table and crash into a rather large cake that proceeds to fall on top of them - the guards proceed to run around, clearly not very competent at their jobs.

The other guests quickly start to flee the scene as the mouse wriggles and squirms in the ball of energy: "long live the Resistance! long live Rose Red!" it proclaims loudly.

Amnesty sighs and shakes her head slightly. "What a chaos... best to clean things up." and with those words, all the food that was displaced during the tackle floats back to it's original position, unharmed, as if nothing happened.

"Please..." Nebula said quietly. "No killing."

Red rises and swings her axe, smashing one of the tables out of pure spite and storms out of the room, "Inferno.. come with me.. the rest of you.. wait here.. I'll be back.. as for the vermin.. take it to the castle wall and toss it in the moat, see if it floats..".

[Drasocon presses himself against the wall and quietly follows Red.]

[Blaze sits down, utterly confused.]

"Interesting. Very interesting..." [The mysterious figure remains still.]

Inferno follows Red, spreading his wings out in an unusual gesture - keeping them spread rather than folding them like he normally would and snorting slightly as his eyes glow red.

"...well that went well." Ruichi muttered sarcastically.

"Huh." said Nebula, as if not hearing Ruichi. "I wonder what they'll be talking about..." She absent-mindedly follows Inferno, dropping the shpere of energy with the rodent still inside. The shpere disappears.

"Nebula... no, wait-!" Ruichi exclaims, dashing after her.

Red stops in the corridor outside the hall and turns to Inferno, putting her axe away as she clenches her fists and snarls: "what do you know of control? what do you know of power? you know nothing!".

Inferno stops as well, his eyes glowing as he reaches into a pocket and takes out a red rose, "I know that you are not the same woman who gave me this rose, the woman who freed me from the Watchers and drove the deathblow to my murderous sister.. as for power, I know more about power than you could ever imagine Red.. I am a god.. no.. more than that.. I am Inferno Pendragon, King Of The Twilight Dragons - Lord Of Avalon! I am power!"

Red shakes slightly as she eyes the rose and turns away from Inferno, "..Inferno.. what the rodent said.. you need to understand.. the Resistance.. Rose.. they are.." she begins, lowering her voice, only to be interupted by a violent explosion that rips through the room as one of the castle walls is shattered.

Red falls back as a gigantic and hideous monster resembling a vaguely humanoid egg reveals itself: large portions of its already deformed body replaced with nightmarish technology.

Moments later several other figures swarm in - a jester-like creature with pointed ears, a marksman dressed entirely in green, a deranged looking rabbit with an eyepatch and their leader: a girl dressed entirely in red and bearing a golden axe eerily similiar to the one Red bears.

"..don't mind us your majesty, we're here to paint the roses red - with your blood.." the girl says darkly.

Chapter II

The castle wall has been breached, causing those in the corridor to be either knocked back or injured depending on their position and natural (or otherwise) defences - standing at the broken wall is a band of nightmarish creatures led by the girl in red.

Nebula bursts into the room, followed closely by Ruichi. She gasps, floating back- Ruichi points his scythe at the intruders, his eyes flashing an ominous pitch black.

Amnesty comes running into the room. She draws her blade and her eyes start to glow green. " Majesty, I assume these aren't you friends?"

A plume of pale green flame erupts in the middle of the room. Arbiter appears in their midst, bearing his massive greatsword. "I apologize for my lateness, your majesty," he addresses Red, while watching the creatures that had broken into the castle.

Red blinks as she grabs her axe "..they have never attacked the castle before.. never.. Rose.." - she gets up and shakes a little as she yells "drive them back! we can't let them destroy the castle!".

As Red speaks the gigantic egg-like monster swings one of it's massive arms, causing massive damage as it tears through the floor - the monster starting to smash its way further into the badly damaged castle as the other figures swarm in like a plague.

The jester twirls forward, producing a foul staff that begins firing small but extremely painful darts made out of glowing energy - as he does so the marksman runs forward, showering the group with explosive arrows that emit clouds of smoke.

The deranged rabbit produces a large mallet and bounces forward like a berserker of old and the girl in red leaps down to combat Red, the two slashing at one another with their axes in a wild duel: the girl matching Red in fury as the two weapons glow unnaturally.

One of the darts of energy strikes Ruichi in the forehead; another through the chest. Ruichi's eyes begin to crackle with black energy as he suddenly sprouts his draconic wings; his face bearing a feral expression.

Arbiter jumps into the air, to bring his sword down upon the egg-monster.

The monster reacts via forming a powerful forcefield around itself as its nightmarish technology gets to work - within moments Arbiter can sense hundreds of little red dots appear over his body and it source is soon revealed to come from the monster's right eye: which makes a mechanical twirling sound before unleashing a tide of rapid gunfire.

The jester's darts are akin to being stung by large hornets, each one delivering great pain but not seeming to do actually physical harm - the jester grins as he stops twirling and makes a mocking motion at Ruichi: "the Queen Of Hearts, she made some tarts: all on a Summer's day.. the Knave Of Hearts, he stole those tarts and took quite away!"

Inferno folds his wings around himself like a shield as he heads towards the marksman, the arrows hitting his wings as he continues moving towards his target despite the smoke.

Arbiter twirls his blade impossibly fast in a circle before him, effectively blocking the gunfire. He lands on the floor before the monster.

"SHUT UP!" screams Ruichi, most unlike his more quiet, reserved self. He rushes the jester, scythe raised.

Nebula, backing away from the violence, finds herself confronted by the rabbit.

Amnesty appears in front of the rabbit, keeping him away from Nebula. With a few quick motions of her hands, she causes small shockwaves, powerful enough to push the rabbit back.

The marksman frowns as Inferno approaches and reaches into his quiver, "let's see how you deal with this!" he exclaims - firing three armor-piercing arrows at Inferno, each laced with powerful neurotoxin.

The monstrous "egg" resumes its intent to simply wade into the room like a bulldozer - seeming to be the type to simply utilize brute force rather than strategy: the battleground seeming to shrink every moment as more of the room is destroyed by the monster's attack, it's mechanical attachments making disturbing noises as gears and circuits work to power the beast.

The jester cackles at Ruichi as he leaps backwards multiple times to try and keep a distance from him, firing darts from the accursed staff as he does so and taunting: "you've had your wine and bread but soon you shall be dead!".
Finally the rabbit homes in on Nebula and grins manically as it lifts its mallet and hops over to her "..Dormouse always said to kill them when they sleep - but I think Hatter made a point when he said it's much more fun to hear them scream.." - only to be stopped with Amnesty's arrival.

As the war rages on around them Red and the girl in red continue their duel, the two of them matched so evenly that it seems neither would be standing down for a long time.

"..the axe.. how are you doing this, Rose?" Red asked, still fighting.

"..let's just say I have found a power that rivals that of your own, dear "mother".." Rose snaps back.

"Impossible! the only power that could do that is the Vorpal Blade.. you.. you couldn't.." Red blinks.

"the Vorpal Blade is gone "mother", long live the Vorpal Axe!" Rose responds, striking Red down with a sudden unexpected blow.

Inferno is hit with the arrows but continues forward regardless, the arrows impale his wings and he flinches as the neurotoxin starts to pump through his bloodstream but he fights through the pain in order to reach the marksman and reaches over in an attempt to grab the bow and snap it with his bare hands: "..I've had worse.." he growls.

Fire begins to explode from Ruichi's body as he begins to give in to his rage. "You...b------... I'LL KILL YOU...!"

Arbiter notices as Rose strikes down Red. Thinking quickly, he unleashes a hellish blast of emerald green flame at the monster before rounding on Rose, attacking with the greatsword Laevateinn.

The marksman pulls out a dagger and stabs at Inferno, aiming for his shoulder - "..really? allow me to fix that!" he retorts.

The "egg" monster reacts to the blast of flame via emitting a deafening roar as it finally starts to relent, edging backwards and away from the castle wall - giving a short pause to its rampage.

The jester mocks Ruichi further as he leaps up onto the ceiling, defying gravity itself as he resumes running and firing energy at his opponent "up the tall white candlestick crept little mousey brown, right to the top but he couldn't get down.. so he cried to his grandma.. grandma! grandma! but grandma was in town.. so he rolled himself into a ball and rolled himself right down!"

Rose looks at the fallen Red and lifts her axe, "..off with her head!" she exclaims - driving the axe down only to be blocked by Arbiter: she wastes little time and flies into battle, the axe glowing with intense energy as each swing magnifies in power tenfold, each time the axe seems to become more and more powerful as it feeds on battle.

Amnesty takes her sword and slashes at the rabbit furiously, not giving him any time to recover.

With a flash of light, Arbiter's blade splits down the middle into two halves- the white half moves in his right hand with mechanical fluidity, the black half crackles and vibrates wildly with energy in his left. He and Rose duel with intense ferocity, weaving a web of metal around them in their speed.

Ruichi spreads his dragon wings and gives chase to the jester, snarling in rage.

[Drasocon appears next to the egg-like creature and draws his blade, and jabs towards it's right eye while he breathes intense flames at the same moment.]

[Blaze appears above the Jester and slaps him.]"Roses are red, violets are blue. You'll soon be dead, and I'll be the one to kill you!"

[The mysterious figure, simply a man in a black cloak, watches all of the proceedings with interest.]

The Jester makes a face at Blaze, "a curse upon you, foolish one - come the next moon's rise you'll be undone.." - then explodes in a cloud of toxic mist, as he does so the other figures soon follow suit as the entire area is carpetted in a toxic gas as the group vanish from sight, the battle ending abruptly as even the gigantic "egg" seems to vanish in an instant: a small parchment of paper is left on a damaged castle wall, stuck on by a tiny dagger.

Inferno staggers slightly as he is left feeling somewhat cheated as his attacker vanishes, the toxic cloud simply adding insult as he struggles against both the noxious cloud and the neurotoxin still pumping through his body. he limps towards the parchment of paper, muttering to himself "..typical.. - he reaches over to tear it off the wall and examines it.

The note is written in very small text but reads: "we are the Resistance.. Rose, the "leader" (or so she thinks!) - holder of the Vorpal Blade.. Jester, master of magic (a mere charlatan I assure you!).. Humpty Dumpty - (what's a revolution without a little bloodshed?) .. Robin Goodfellow, archer and rogue (a hero of our times).. March Hare, the best of friends and worst of enemies.. as for myself.. well, I'm many things.. please come along for some tea some day.. that is once you've stopped choking to death.."

Amnesty uses her magic to remove the toxic cloud out of the room, slowly walking towards Inferno to read the note.

Arbiter follows, placing his hand on Inferno's shoulder, using magic to heal him. "Watch yourself, old friend." he says. "We may be gods, but we're not entirely invulnerable."

[Drasocon stands still, before turning.]"Hey evryone! What's going on?"

Red stands up, still shaking slightly as she heads over and reads the note, dragging her axe along the ground after herself, exhaustion starting to kick in now she has stopped fighting - she steps back "..of course.. the mouse at the feast.. the attack on the castle.. the Vorpal Blade.. it's finally happened.. the Hatter has returned..".

Chapter III

The group stand amidst the ruins of the wartorn castle, Red having revealed the source of the note but not much else in way of explanation - a group of guards finally enter the room: perhaps more than ever showing how disorganized they are as they only now seem to realize the castle had been under attack.. thankfully for them Red seems preoccupied in thought.

"...the Hatter?" Arbiter asks

Inferno snorts slightly and shakes himself in a decidely equine manner - though he soon folds his wings around himself again as he stands upright, once again taking a more regal stance as he mutters: "..for now.." in response to Arbiter's previous comment, he has a funny way of showing gratitude but that's not exactly a new trait.

Red stays in place, sitting down as her legs finally refuse to support her weight following all the activity - her hood hiding her face as she replies to Arbiter "..a monster the likes of which you can not imagine - he was spoken of only in stories.. long ago, before the days of the Monarchy, there existed a twisted world ruled by utter madness.. the Hatter was the very essence of this madness.. a beast every bit as powerful as Misery and almost as cruel.. in time the people rebelled against his tyranny and drove him from the land.. or so the legend goes.."

"Eclipse...Misery...now the Hatter. It can't possibly be anything new." Arbiter says, perhaps a little too overconfidently.

Red keeps her head lowered "..for generations the Resistance has been an underground movement, staying in the forest and recruiting from nearby towns - they rose against me only in secret and rarely took to arms - now they strike with the ferocity of skilled raiders.. yet what disturbs me most is the Vorpal Blade - it has been reshaped into an Axe.. to reforge such a weapon would require the aid of Dark Fairies.. an alliance with such beings would drive the land even closer to full-scale war.."

Amnesty watches Red with a strange look on her face. "So, what are you planning to do now?"

[Drasocon's face twists in thought.]"This reminds me of a movie I saw on Earth... but I can't remember which one..."

Red rises up "..you shouldn't base your reality on what you see in movies, nor should you believe what you read in books -" she lowers her hood, her eyes having a crazed look in them as her dark hair falls over her face slightly as it blows in the wind.

"..as for what I am going to do, I'm going to do what a Queen has to do - protect my kingdom.. I haven't ventured into the forest for a long time now but it seems I have no choice now.." she replies to Amnesty.

Inferno looks to Red for a moment then steps forward, "there is always a choice, Red.. I have an idea.."

Red blinks slightly and her eyes lose their crazed look, looking to Inferno - "..what? what idea?".

Inferno replies with a disturbing lack of emotion in his voice, "instead of going blindly into the forest you should consider the fact that every one of your citizenry are now suspect - one or more of them must of been working with the Resistance in order to stage an attack of this magnitude.. I suggest a mass interrogation of men, woman and youths - that way we can have answers before we act purely on impulse.."

"That would be easy." Arbiter says. "Looking into the minds of living beings is within my realm of ability... However, I would rather venture into the forest for answers, and perhaps find and crush whatever is leading this rebellion. If this 'Hatter' being shows up, well, it sounds like the universe could do without him..."

Inferno shakes his head, "no Arbiter, that would not suffice - we would drag them from their homes and round them on the streets.. it is not just about answers.. it's about keeping power.. in times such as these people are tempted to rebel against their leaders: it is the leader's job to ensure they know where their loyalty stands.."

If you really plan to interrogate every citizen, I can help as well. If you plan to venture into the woods, I'd be willing to join you," Amnesty speaks, facing Red.

"Dragging people from their homes and rounding them up on the streets?" Arbiter responds. "Commiting an action like that against the people would make them more likely to revolt..."

If you drag them together, the citizens are gonna get pissed off. If you leave them alone, they probably won;t do anything."

"...Although, Inferno does bring up a good point- if we do nothing, then any Resistance that may be going on will likely become stronger... that's why I suggest taking out it's leaders in one brutal strike- use fear to keep those loyal to the Resistance from striking."

Red looks at Inferno and sighs slightly, walking up to him and placing her hand on his shoulder - "..Inferno.. I killed the entire adult population of this kingdom in order to take the throne and beheaded their king on the steps of this very castle.. but I can't be the "bloody" Red Queen forever, can I? it cost me more than you can imagine.. Rose.. the girl who tried to kill me today.. she is my daughter.. a daughter I abandoned in the forest the day I slaughtered this kingdom and left an entire generation orphaned.." her eyes grow more expressive as she continues "..I have never told anyone this, however you of all people should understand.. I can't go through that madness again.. this is a monster of my own creation and I must be the one to finally slay it.."

Inferno looks at Red and replies coldly "spare the youth of your enemy and you fuel the rebellion of tommorow.. no matter Red, we shall rectify your mistake and destroy this Resistance before it grows -" he shrugs Red's hand away as he turns away and looks out "-we shall head into the forest and we shall do what we must".

Red frowns at Inferno "..no matter how many times you try to hide I will always see the beauty within, Inferno.. so please.. spare me the guise.. you are not your sister..". She then walks out of the room, her guards following in an unsuccessful attempt to look like they are actually functional "..at any rate, let us go to the forest - we have much to do.."

"Let's go, then." [Drasocon draws his sword.]

Inferno simply frowns as he turns round, watching Red leave - "..stupid girl.." he mutters, once he's certain he's out of earshot - then looks to Arbiter and notes"..this is why gods walk alone..", with that he heads out the room as well.

Arbiter follows, keeping silent.

Nebula floats a distance after Arbiter, before turning to Ruichi. "What was that all about, I wonder?" she asks.

Ruichi merely shakes his head and follows the group, with Nebula floating around him, chatting incessantly: "...Didja see that egg-monster-thingy? And Arbiter, too- a familiar face, kind of reminds me of the time...."

Amnesty follows the group, staying slightly behind the others.

Chapter IV

Red and her guards take leave of the castle and head into the surrounding forest, the snow is still falling rather heavily and blanketting the earth in white - as Red and the guards begin to enter the forest groups of citizens watch from a distance, muttering and gossiping amongst themselves as a raven suddenly takes flight from the ruined castle and flies far off into the distance.

Amnesty floats after Red and her guards.

Inferno stops for a moment as he watches the raven fly past and he turns back to look at the ruined castle, "..the beauty within, she says.. the same beauty that brings destruction wherever it goes.. the same beauty that brings cities to their knees.. if only she knew.. if only she understood.. their is no beauty in what I have become..'" - he thinks to himself, dropping the rose Red had given him in the snow and turns back around to follow the group.

(If Arbiter is not supposed to pick up the rose, delete this post. I just thought a flashback here would be cool and symbolic.)

Arbiter, seeing the rose that Inferno had dropped, stoops down quickly to pick it up. A pale memory lingers at the fringes of his mind, a memory of a time in ages past...

Some distance away from the Golden City stood a lush, grassy hill. At the top of this magnificent hill grew a thick tree, whose branches stretched protectively over two youths, who sit upon the grass, leaning against the trunk. One was unmistakably a younger Arbiter- with golden eyes, emerald-green hair, and a rugged quality in his demeanor; the other, a fresh young girl with silvery hair, grey eyes, and a face lit up with joy and wonder. At their feet, out of the ground grew a solitary rose, whose bud was closed, and it's petals quivering toward the soft beams of sunlight.

The girl looked at the young Arbiter. "This is a beautiful place, Ryou. You come here often?"

Arbiter, whose name was Ryou in the past, nodded. "It's my sanctuary."

The girl, whose name was Kagami, nodded, smiling. They embraced; their arms around each other, their lips meeting.

Before they parted later that day, Kagami knelt upon the ground before the rose, and cast a small piece of magic upon it. Immediately, the rose burst into full bloom, more brilliant than the luster of a ruby.

"What are you doing?" asked Ryou.

"Roses are a symbol of love and deep bonds, and also memories. Treasure this one; it will now grow as strong as our love will, and never wither."

"It's beautiful... said Ryou.

Arbiter snaps suddenly out of the memory, tucks the rose safely into his vest, and hurries after the others.

Red and the guards continue to make their way further into the forest until they finally make their way to a clearing - along the way many strange plants and animals can be observed such as mushrooms that are as big as trees, winged frogs and lizards as well as tiny cat-like creatures that scurry along the leaves of multicolored bushes.

Upon entering the clearing Red and her guards freeze as a gigantic figure manifests itself, though in truth it's more akin to a terrifying spectre, the ghostly figure resembling a scarecrow with a hideous face and wearing a large tophat: "..it would appear you've made a wrong turn, your majesty - a very wrong turn indeed..".

Arbiter draws his blade. "What are you?", he demands.

Amnesty draws her swords, Amon and Hen, as well.

The figure simply grins, revealing sharp and rotten fangs that drip with venom - yet it still retains a ghostly appearance as if not fully real.. "..I'm mad of course, as are you.. yes, we're all mad here.. anyone for tea?" - before anything more can be said the ground beneath the group's feet suddenly breaks apart as a gigantic table literally bursts out from the ground, sitting atop it are the attackers from the castle (minus the gigantic form of "Humpty Dumpty" - who is revealed to be carrying the table like a twisted version of a statue of Atlas - as well as the Resistance the small rodent Ruichi had captured during the riot at the feast can be seen perched atop a large teapot.

Amnesty looks at Red. "What's going on here?"

Inferno lifts one of his arms and unleashes a wave of black lightning at the table, causing it to become charged with Twilight energy - the force spreading across the entire table and surging through all upon it (as well as the creature holding it).

Red suddenly leaps at Inferno and tackles him, "stop!" - however before she can finish the energy he's unleashed is swiftly absorbed by The Hatter and unleashed in a concentrated beam that sends both her and Inferno crashing through several trees.

"..what's happening?" Rose whispers, her eyes wide as she stares out - clearly confused.. the other members of the Resistance also seem bewildered: save for the mouse, the archer and Humpty-Dumpty (who seems somewhat brain-dead, holding the table like a statue)

"does it matter? they are here to kill us - I suggest we repay the favor!" the mouse yells out, hopping onto March Hare's head and tugging on the rabbit's ears: prompting it to charge at the group.

Jester soon follows, firing painful darts of energy and the archer simply smirks "..sounds like fun" - the archer fires a few poisoned arrows towards the group.. however Rose simply stays still, on her knees and becoming more distressed.

Amnesty jumps in front of the group, holding up her hands. The darts and arrows come to a sudden stop and are sent back towards the Hatter.

The Hatter simply notes, "..typical, dull.. uninventive.. sorcery is an art-form.. not some brutish thing.." - with that the darts and arrows simply shatter, reforming into multiple shards of energy that fly at the group and explode on impact: sending whatever they hit flying backwards with considerable force - tearing through defences with ease.

The archer smirks a little and takes the advantage, firing several armor-piercing arrows at the group as he quips "..and here I thought sorcerers were meant to be tough".

The March Hare leaps into battle, swinging it's large mallet as the Dormouse continues to ride atop the rabbit's head - though it seems as though the Dormouse has taken command of the rabbit, tugging on the ears as if guiding the movements.

Jester spins around rapidly, like a spinning-top - Humpty-Dumpty remains frozen, as if unable to think: holding the table up while Rose kneels down and looks at the ground, muttering to herself "..where am I? what's happening? why am I here?".

Amnesty quickly recovers and sends a few bolts of energy towards the group, not aiming for the Hatter, but for the others this time.

Ruichi charges at the Hatter, becoming a blur in his speed. He leaps into the air, scythe raised, to deliver a powerful blow. Next to him, Arbiter dashes, bearing his greatsword.

Red gets up and turns to the group, yelling out "Ruichi! Arbiter! DON'T!" - she is too late though, as soon as The Hatter is struck (even by Arbiter's greatsword) the assaults seem to suddenly backfire and catapult the two attackers back with considerable force.

The Dormouse lets out a maddening cackle with becomes more and more disturbing as it's eyes blaze with unnatural malice and it's voice becomes shrill and deafening in intensity "Fools! you can not harm me! I am the very ground beneath your feet! the air you breath! You pathetic insects dare to oppose me in my domain? so be it!".

Rose suddenly stands up on the tabletop and yells out, surprisingly like her mother "STOP!" - almost at once the members of the Resistance freeze, the image of The Hatter glaring over at the table as Rose keeps herself upright - albeit shaking.

Amnesty looks at Red and Rose. "Isn't she... the enemy?" she asks.

The words of the Dormouse strike a chord in Arbiter's memory, as his mind briefly flashes back to when he fought against Rune, Tueor, and Saber within his own universe; (User Battles 1)

"You fool, Saber. I am the very ground you walk upon, the very air you breathe... I am one with this universe." Arbiter remembered himself saying.

Shaking the thought from his memory, he stares up at the table that Rose stands upon.

Ruichi stands groggily to his feet. Nebula flutters over to him.

"Ruichi?!OmigoshAreYouOkay?AreYouAlright?DoYouNeedHelp?" she asks hurriedly.

Inferno growls as he stands up, frowning at Red "..never do that again.." - he then unleashes a wave of black lightning at the Dormouse.

Red growls back at Inferno, clutching her axe and her eyes flash momentarily with something akin to bestial rage, she shakes her head suddenly as if to clear her mind - meanwhile the Dormouse is hit with the lightning and falls off the rabbit, rolling across the ground.

"..this ends now.. no more fighting.. no more killing.. the castle.. the forest.. why are we doing this? I refuse.. I won't.. I won't be like you, mother.." Rose yells out, looking to Red as she tosses her Vorpal Axe onto the axe "..and I won't be like you, Hatter! I won't do it! I won't -!" suddenly Rose lets out a cry of pain as an arrow hits her in the shoulder.

"Rose!" the Jester blinks, turning round in concern - the Hare, free of the Dormouse, suddenly comes to a stop and pants - visibly shaken as he too looks to the table "Rose!".

Robin Goodfellow grins darkly, still holding his bow out as the Dormouse suddenly scurries up onto his shoulder - "..you know what your problem is? you talk too much..".

The image of the Hatter grins widely and claps "..you're just like your mother, Rose - a slave to your heart.. funny really.. while your mother's heart is frozen in self-pity yours is caged in a sea of selflessness.. both are ignorant of the true glory of life.. Robin, old friend, what is the true glory of life again?"

Robin Goodfellow smirks and draws a few arrows, aiming towards Rose but not letting go - "..the true glory of life is making sure you're the one who walks away with power and fortune, if a few pathetic saps get hurt in the process.. well.. that's just a bonus..".

Arbiter waves his hand through the air, blowing apart the ground beneath Robin's feet.

Robin is sent flying by the blast but this prompts Humpty-Dumpty to suddenly roar to life, dropping the table he was holding up as he begins to charge his weapons towards the group - as he does so something remarkable happens as the Resistance begin to work together, the March Hare leaping to save Rose from the fall as Jester looks to Humpty-Dumpty and spreads his arms out.

"..no hurt friends!" Humpty-Dumpty snarls, only to stop as the Jester speaks up.

"stop this fighting, quick as lightning - Robin was no friend.. our lives he sought to end.. the Hatter and the mouse are strong.. yet they have used us for too long.. we are more than killers and theives, living only to decieve..".

Red suddenly charges at the Hatter on all fours, growling in a feral manner as something seems to change within her - still clutching the axe tightly as she moves.. though just as with the others as soon as she strikes the creature she is catapulted backwards with great force.

The Dormouse grins wickedly as it warps and shifts - becoming larger and more mutated as it growls, "..get up Robin, this is our moment.." it lifts Robin, placing him on it's back as it grows even further, no longer resembling a mouse but more akin to a mythical chimera.

The image of the Hatter begins to fade away as he echoes "..you are not ready to face the Hatter, however Dormouse and Robin are another matter.. have fun and do try to bleed.. you see everytime someone bleeds I grow a little stronger.. I'm death.. destruction.. the sweet embrace of madness.. but that's for another day.. be good.."

Chapter V - (Dormouse/Robin Goodfellow Battle)

<edit below for the final confrontation>

Amnesty charges at Robin, trying to keep him away from Dormouse.

Inferno transforms into his draconic form and slams at the Dormouse with his tail, hissing slightly as he bares his fangs - "one question before you die, rodent - what are you? a pawn to the Hatter or something else? Robin is a demented simpleton out for power but you.. what do you have to gain from all this?".

Robin pulls out one of his poisoned daggers and leaps at Amnesty - however as he does so the area begins to shake violently as the ground breaks apart, reshaping into disturbing patterns as living tendrils spawn and the skies themselves warp visibly into a hellish red as the clouds swirl in many varied forms.

The Dormouse reacts to Inferno's attack by unleashing a powerful blast of fire that knocks Inferno back, the Dormouse growing a pair of deformed wings out of its back - just like the rest of the scene it is disturbing to witness and the monster smashes its fists into the ground, lifting a massive chunk of living earth and throwing it at the group: "..you'll never know.. that's the whole point.. you're all going to go crazy.. you're all going to die.. and you'll never even know why..".

Jester unleashes a blast of energy at Dormouse while Humpty-Dumpty tries to fight too, both are overwhelmed by the constantly shifting landscape - making "friendly fire" a dangerous possibility.. Rose on the other hand clambers over to Red, her eyes going wide as Red holds her chest - bleeding slightly.

"..don't be afraid.. Rose.." Red says, for the first time holding a hand out to her daughter as if to comfort her.

Amnesty turns around and creates a portal in front of the chunk of earth, preventing it from hitting the group.

Inferno growls and leaps back at the Dormouse - grabbing at the creature's wings and charging forwards, attempting to take the Dormouse with him as his feet lift off the ground and he tries to slam the monster into the nearest object.

Arbiter claps his hands together, then places them on the ground; a green shockwave emits from his palms; Thick vines burst from the ground, twisting around the Dormouse like living chains.

Rose holds her mother's hand, despite the animosity between the two she still shows the instinctual fear any child would upon seeing a parent figure badly injured - she eyes the axe near Red and whispers slightly "..mother.. please.. release the axe.. can't you see? the axe.. it's evil.. it's tearing everything apart..".

Red's eyes become more feral as she clutches the axe tightly, yet she struggles as she tries to stay calm for the sake of her daughter, "..no.." she growls, her teeth beginning to turn into fangs.

Rose frowns and reaches over for the axe, "..then I'll take it from you! I won't let the Hatter win.. I won't be afraid!" - as she does so Red snarls and looks ready to attack, only for the ground to shatter around the two - breaking their grip as Rose tumbles down and Red is catapulted to the top of a rising tower of earth.

Meanwhile the Dormouse snarls and blows out another cloud of smoke and fire as it is restrained by the vines, Humpty-Dumpty moving in order to corner the Dormouse as March Hare also closes in.

At the same time Robin takes advantage of the chaos to make his way towards the discarded Vorpal Axe and reaches out for it - only to be blocked by an enraged Jester: "I never thought you'd be the enemy but if you seek to end this world you must first go through me!".

Robin responds by stabbing Jester with one of his many daggers, in the chest - "..fine by me" he states coldly, pushing Jester aside as he grabs the axe.

Amnesty swiftly turns around and sends a blast of energy towards Robin.

Inferno suddenly turns and takes flight towards Red, gripping onto the tower of earth and climbing rapidly in his draconic form - his eyes glowing brightly as he scales the structure with silent determination.

Ruichi follows Inferno; sprouting his dragon-like wings and flying up the tower.

Arbiter intercepts Amnesty's blast of energy in his blade, then whirls it around at Robin, with twice the power. He dashes at Robin as well, sword raised.

Robin tries to deflect the blast using the Vorpal Axe but isn't skilled in its use - flying backwards at the effort, shaking himself off as he grips the axe tightly and runs at Arbiter, he may be a skilled archer but when it comes to close-combat he's fairly clumsy.. especially given the increasing destability of the ground, which continues to shake and splinter around everyone on the battlefield.

Red starts to feel herself transforming as her feet change into large paws and her hands soon follow, a thick coat of red fur starts to grow over her body as she warps into a powerful wolf-like biped - her cape becoming tattered as she holds the axe tightly, growling as she looks down at Inferno and Ruichi.

"mother.. please.. release the axe.. can't you see? the axe.. it's evil.. it's tearing everything apart.." Rose's voice echoes in Red's mind as she struggles against the urge to leap down and strike at those following her.

"..you know Red, in order to kill someone you have to love them.. deep inside.. killing them is the most intimate thing you can do.. the last thing they ever see, hear or feel is you.. see? I do this because I love you.. now show them how much you love them.. show them.." a crazed voice speaks out, the image of a horrific shifting face appearing in the sky above Red - clearly another manifestation of the Hatter, the features disturbing enough that looking too long at the image runs a serious risk of breaking the courage of a character who does not have a very strong willpower, possibly causing them to panic or enter a state of shock.

Amnesty sends another wave of energy at Robin, trying to separate him from the Vorpal Axe.

Arbiter makes a move to attack Robin with a huge amount of power, but falters upon hearing the words of the Hatter.

Inferno growls slightly as he continues climbing the tower, losing his draconic form as he becomes more like his usual form - braving the image before him as he stops just below the platform, looking up at Red and holding out a hand - "..Red.. let's go home.. together.. okay? ..we'll make things right.. you and me.. we'll make it work.. for everyone.." he says, although it is obviously to try and calm the situation he also seems geniunely concerned.. perhaps even scared.. of losing something, a fear he hadn't felt for quite some time.

Robin smirks as he notices Arbiter's faltering and tries to deliver a blow with the Vorpal Axe only to once again be sent flying backwards by Amnesty's blast - yet he manages to keep a grip of the axe and shakes himself as he shakily stands up, narrowing his eyes as he begins to focus: entering a similiar state to that of Red or Rose as the axe takes effect.

Meanwhile high above Red looks at Inferno and tilts her head slightly, for a brief moment her grip begins to fade on the axe and her eyes seem to soften as she slowly reaches over to Inferno.

However before Inferno can react Red's grip suddenly tightens on her axe as her eyes suddenly ignite with fury as she lifts a footpaw and kicks him swiftly off the ledge, leaping after him like a wild animal: "..liar!" - she slashes at Inferno with powerful claws.

The Hatter's voice speaks out once more as this is occuring, the face in the sky continually warping into horrendous shapes that defy description - "..that's right, Red.. let it out.. let the world burn.. that's what love is all about.. it tears us apart.. slowly.. painfully.. love is pain.. only killers can love.. because only by killing someone do you truly show them you care..".

Inferno grits his teeth as he's kicked and falls, Red's claws causing him to recieve several slashes across his chest as he lands hard on the ground.

Ruichi intervenes, putting himself between Red and Inferno, holding out his scythe to block Red's attacks.

"...So... that's what you think Hatter, is it...?" Arbiter mutters darkly. Arbiter's eyes begin to glow an eerie shade of green as he begins to absorb energy from his surroundings, before flying into the air toward the Hatter.

Red slashes at Ruichi multiple times in rapid procession, then swings around to deliver another powerful kick - "..get out of my way!" she snarls "..this doesn't concern you!".

Meanwhile Robin charges at Amnesty only for Rose to attack him from the side along with Jester, who fights despite his injuries - stabbing Robin in the left leg with the poisoned dagger: "..even if I am to breathe my last, I'll make you pay for your past.." Jester declares.

High above the face shatters completely as rapid images flash around Arbiter, showing countless lover's quarrels, crimes of passion and abuse - the darkest side of love, lust and betrayal - each scene appearing only for a brief moment before being replaced by another like hellish lightning: "..stop that crying! stop it! stop crying damnit!" "mummy.. I'm scared.. mummy.. please.. say something.." "..you stupid little punk, I wish you were never born!" "..you're useless.. useless.."

Amnesty's sword starts to glow with a faint green light as she slashes at Robin multiple times.

Inferno stands up and holds his chest as he looks to Red, "..he fights to protect the people he loves, Red.. as do we all.." - he lifts his hands in the air and unleashes a massive burst of black lightning that rockets into the sky - "..which is why I'm staying.. if you want Red.. we can be together.. all we have to do is get rid of this thing.. this thing that has been corrupting you.. tearing you apart.. you saved me, Red.. now it's time for me to do the same.."

Arbiter gazes around in both shock and anger at the massive images and sounds that surround him. "...What... is this?!" he growls, before emerald lightning bursts forth from his body, arcing toward all of the images.

Ruichi backs away from Red, clutching a large open cut that bleeds openly on his chest. His headband slides off of his forehead, revealing a twisted and horrible-looking scar. "...wrath... only creates more wrath... only destruction..." Ruichi says quietly.

Red growls slightly then freezes in place as her eyes suddenly revert back to normal and she seems to suddenly be shocked back to her senses - her grip on the axe tightening as she snarls, "..I figured it out, Hatter.. you really are the ground beneath our feet.. that's why you're mad.. because all you know is pain.. all you know is hurt.. well.. find your own story Hatter.. because you can't have mine.. " - she trembles visibly before she plunges her axe deep into the ground with incredible power and rage.

As this occurs the sky flashes with red lightning that strikes down at the ground, shattering the entire area like glass as the entire background turns pure black - everyone tumbling into a seemingly endless fall as Robin and Dormouse both spiral into seeming oblivion.. a pair of gigantic glowing eyes emerge from the darkness as a disturbing high-pitched, childlike voice shrieks:

"Me no play with you no more! You bad! you bad!" - what follows is an equally disturbing sound akin to a baby's cry as everything turns into pure black..

Then as soon as it began the nightmare ends as everybody finds themselves laying beaten and confused in a now empty clearing - the Resistance scattered and confused while Red finally reverts to her usual form and passes out face-down on the ground.

Amnesty gets up, clutching her head slightly. "What.. What happened?"

Ruichi continues to glare on for a moment, before clutching his bleeding chest and collapsing onto the ground.

"Ruichi!" Nebula cries, rushing over to his side. "Hang on, I can help!" Nebula cups her hands together, which begin to glow green. The green light begins to move over Ruichi's body. His wounds slowly seal shut.

Inferno moves over to Red and folds his wings into a shield as he speaks to her softly "..Red?".

Red remains silent and the Resistance begin to head back into the forest, broken and confused, as guards begin to swarm the area - obviously reinforcements from the castle: they begin rounding the group up and escort them to the castle, which is still visibly damaged.. a single raven flies over the scene and lets out a shrill cry as the scene fades away..

Chapter VI

The scene shifts forward three days with Red sitting on her throne, a multitude of guards surrounding her - she is still rather beaten and wild-looking but is otherwise back to her old self: her axe sitting by her throne as a dark reminder of things that may never change.

Nearby, leaning against the wall with his arms folded and head down appears Arbiter, materializing out of thin air in an instant. "It's been three days... how do you fare?"

Red simply looks ahead, "..I survive, as do we all.. in the end that's all that matters: the Resistance shall be dealt with in time.. for now.. I grow tired of war.. when the time comes I shall fight by my rules.. not by the Hatter's.."

Inferno enters the room and makes his way to within a few feet of the throne before he stops, looking to Red "I've been thinking on something.. a riddle if you will.. why is a raven like a writing desk?" he declares somewhat suddenly.

Amnesty appears next to Arbiter, watching the conversation with great interest.

Red looks to Inferno, a faint smile spreading over her face as she remains sat down - a few guards simply standing motionless, one exceptionally brave (or foolish) guard is also somehow sleeping on the spot: clearly having had too much drink the previous night.

"..that riddle has no answer, those who try to find one are simply forgetting it's original purpose: which was to showcase the absurdities of everyday existence.." Red replies.

Inferno nods slightly, "which brings me to my next riddle, if life has no meaning - why do we risk so much to defend it?".

Red leans back on her throne, her green eyes finally losing their feral-look as she smiles a little deeper, "..because sacrifice is what separates us from.. them..".

Inferno nods again and spreads his wings, as he does so the area becomes dark as sparks of strange energy begin to flow into the room - his eyes glowing red: "..I meant what I said, about staying.. please.. don't be afraid.. don't be angry.. trust me.." he says to Red.

Suddenly the energy begins to take form next to Red, it shimmers and crackles - altering the room's structure as a dark throne appears next to Red's: as regal as any king's yet tainted with hints of tyranny.

Once the throne is formed the room returns to normal and Inferno kneels down by Red, "..I am Inferno Pendragon, King Of The Twilight Dragons - Lord Of Avalon, I am power.. and I ask you, Red Queen.. may I have the honor of sitting by your side?".

Arbiter's gaze moves down toward the floor, but a small, inaudible chuckle escapes his lips as his mouth contorts into a grin. "Life is fleeting, even for us immortals," he thinks to himself. "What truly defines who we are are the sacrifices we make and the bonds that we form..."

The guards fly across the room in an almost comical fashion as, instead of actively defending their queen, they seem determined to save their own lives (but not their dignities) - remarkably the sleeping guard does not even stir despite all the chaos.

Red smiles and nods to Inferno, before she stands up - taking her axe in her hand as she raises it high in the air and declares: "guards! begin work on the palace - King Inferno will be staying.." - she lowers her axe and looks to Inferno, kneeling next to him and lowering her head so it is resting against his own: the gesture is a powerful one as she sheds a silent tear - finally letting go of the memories of Jack that had haunted her for so long.

Inferno spreads his wings out then folds them over Red like a shield, closing his eyes for a moment as he simply stays in place - then whispers slightly "..you still have guests, my Queen.." - he spreads his wings out again and gently moves away to stand back up, adopting his usual stance.

Red's eyes suddenly grow large as she stands up quickly and shakes herself, looking around as she once again grips her axe as she had done so often in the past: turning to the others.

"..yes.. of course.. you all have my gratitude.. you protected my world.. even though you could of fled.. I owe you my life.. and my freedom.." she says.

"You owe me nothing, your majesty." Arbiter responds. "It is my duty to protect the worlds and those whom I can call friends."

Amnesty kneels slightly. "If you ever need help again, you know where to find me, your majesty."

Red nods and smiles, bowing her head as she says "..thank you, my friends.."

Epilogue

(note: this is a surprise ending thought up between me and Inferno - please do not edit, it serves simply as a lead up of things to come.. (we also hope it gives you a pleasant surprise too) )

Meanwhile back in the forest, sitting in a strangely tranquil clearing are the remaining Resistance: the Jester being tended to by Rose, who wraps a wound that is healing slowly.

"..now what do we do? we're broken.. thanks to Robin's treachery and that vile Dormouse.. sooner or later the Court will hunt us down again.. the axe will make sure of that.." Rose says.

"when fighting for freedom sometimes it is best to play possum.." Jester replies.

"..perhaps, but just in case we do meet again - I have a surprise for "mother".." Rose notes, revealing the Vorpal Axe.

"..beware of weapons born of rage, least they bind you in a cage.. you aren't a monster, Rose Red.. do not allow your hate to spread.." Jester warns.

Rose is about to reply when the shuffling of a few tree reveals the large egg-like shape of Humpty-Dumpty, the giant seems to be carrying a lifeless figure in one arm and moves towards the others.

"..me know not to bring strangers.. but me not want to leave.. they hurt.. bad.." Humpty-Dumpty speaks, leaning down as he places the figure on the ground.

The figure is revealed to be a young elfin girl with long golden hair that covers most of her face, she lays motionless on the ground - a large wound slashed across her stomach, though it looks like an older wound.

Rose frowns a little as she comes over and combs the girl's hair back to try and get a closer look at her face, looking at the wound and commenting: "..who would do this to a child?".

Jester comes forward as well, the March Hare simply watching - as if unsure.. Humpty-Dumpty simply remaining in place, oddly gentle for a creature of his size and obviously concerned about this unusual stranger.

The girl stirs, opening her eyes - which glow blue as she looks around, her ears perking up in surprise "..where.. am I.. who.. who are you..?" she asks, sitting up and holding her head as if trying to clear her thoughts.

Rose reaches over to the girl as she tries to calm her, the others watching in a mixture of concern and confusion - "..it's alright: you're safe now.. please.. tell us.. who did this to you?".

The girl looks to her wound and makes a strange face, a mix of confusion and anger - her eyes flash dangerously and for a brief moment the ground itself seems to shake ever so slightly.. then she suddenly changes her expression into one of childlike innocence as she shrugs a little "..I don't remember.." - "who are you?" she asks again, tilting her head slightly.

Rose looks around in confusion at the sudden tremor, the others also momentarily startle - however she soon dismisses it as she looks to the girl again and nods a little, "my name is Rose, this is Jester, March Hare and Humpty-Dumpty.. we are the Resistance.. we are friends.. who are you, little one?" she replies.

The girl's eyes glow brighter as she sits up a little further, becoming more attentive as Rose reveals each of the Resistance - a small smile appears on her face than soon spreads into a grin, revealing tiny little fangs as she puts a finger to her mouth in a childish manner "..shh! it's a secret" she grins, then starts giggling madly.

The scene pans outwards, a flock of ravens fly overhead and a pair of red eyes form in the sky above as a deeper chuckle mingles with the girl's own giggling as everything fades to black..

-END-

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