DANCE BY MOONLIGHT
Red lay on a patch of grass in a woodland clearing looking up at the stars above and counting them as she glanced over at the moon - which shone down over the area and bathed the darkness in a silvery light.
Inferno appeared nearby, walking over to where Red lay down - folding his wings over himself he sat down and smiled a little as he looked down at her:
"..you know the guards are beginning to panic, their queen has mysteriously vanished and now so too has her consort..".
Red waved her hand dismissively as she rolled over onto her front, "..they can panic all they want - tonight I'm going to show you something magical.. just like I promised.." she said.
Inferno looks to Red and tilts his head "..Red.. you've shown me more magic in one day than all of Avalon could in a life-time.. what could you possibly show me that would surprise me now?".
Red smiles as she stands up and holds her hand out, "..I'll show you, come on.." she replies, her eyes sparkling in the moonlight as she keeps her hand outstretched - waiting.
Inferno thinks for a few moments then takes Red's hand in his own, standing up as well as he looks into those eyes and smiles back - forgetting for a moment how beautiful she was, his worries soon fading as he chuckles slightly "..well.. alright, Red.. show me.." he says.
Red grins and leads Inferno through a forest path, past a collection of glowing flowers and fireflies - the pair moving down the path until they reach a small hill, atop which sits a small well that is illuminated by the moonlight above:
"..come on! we're almost there!" Red says, her excitement almost like that of a child - the "Bloody Red Queen" able to be herself, far away from the public eye and eager to share her world with Inferno.
Inferno spreads his wings out as he follows Red, his smile also spreading a little as he begins to act a little like a child himself - albeit more cautious.. having never been used to kindness he now found himself free, beside someone who he increasingly felt was his entire world.. someone he felt as if he had known his whole life yet also found new and exciting..
"..what? this is what we're looking for? a well? Red - we have one of these at the castle!" Inferno begins.
Red continues smiling as she continues up the hill until they are both standing next to that small well, which had ivy growing over it - the moonlight casting a silvery glow over the stone surface as Red looked to Inferno and replied:
"..this is a Wishing Well, Inferno.. any wish you make will come true.. all you have to do is take a stone and toss it in while asking the Well for a wish.." - she picks up a small stone and gives Inferno another childish grin.
Inferno shakes his head, yet continues smiling as he leans down and picks up a small stone of his own "..really, Red.. aren't we a little old to be making wishes in old wells?" he says softly.
Red shrugs as she walks over to the Wishing Well and holds her arm out, "..can't hurt to try, right? besides.. the journey is half the fun.." she replies, her smile never fading as she prepares to toss the stone into the well.
Inferno shrugs a little himself and takes his own stone as he looks to Red "..I suppose not.. make a wish?" - he proceeds to toss his stone down the well.
Red tosses her stone down the well at the same time and smiles at Inferno "..I wish we'd always be like this.. happy.. never having to worry.. safe.." she whispers.
Inferno tilts his head a little, leaning over to stroke at Red's cheek as he whispers "..Red.. it's okay.. no matter what happens.. I promise.. we'll always be together.. nothing will ever change that..".
Red closed her eyes and smiled once more as she felt Inferno's touch - when suddenly her eyes burst open as the ground shakes violently, sending the two of them tumbling back into the grass as a cloud of thick smoke rose up from the well and spiralled up into the sky - forming a massive humanoid figure.
"..Inferno!" Red yells out, scrambling to her feet and reaching out only to freeze as her form turns into white marble and ivy begins to grow around her form as she stands transformed into a statue.
The figure turns around to face Inferno and soon does the same to him, transforming the Pegacorn into black marble, ivry growing around his form as he too becomes frozen in place.
"..ask and you shall recieve.. together always.. never to worry.. safe.. your wish be granted.." the figure states darkly before vanishing back into the well from where it came..
The next morning began as it normally did in the Royal Court - with a collection of guards searching the premises for their queen and her consort, who had often went missing and most knew that the two lovers were more concerned with each other than the ruling of a kingdom.
Yet with visiting noblemen and women from a neighboring realm it was not like Red to outright abandon her throne, especially as the morning sun rose against the blue sky - normally Red would return by cover of dawn, even if Inferno did not.. today however neither of them had returned and the guards were beginning to panic as the arrival of the visiting noblemen and women drew ever closer..
"Over here! Arbiter! You might want to see this!" Ruichi called out, appearing atop the hill where Inferno and Red were still turned to stone. Moments later, Arbiter appeared in his signature burst of green flames.
"Dammit..." Arbiter mutters, seeing the state Inferno and Red were in. "No wonder I was unable to sense them."
"You think that's actually them?" Ruichi asked.
"Yes. These stones are too intricate to be crafted by hand or magic... something must have petrified them."
"..you're a real genius, how many brain cells did you have to sacrifice to figure that one out?" a voice suddenly snaps, a small dragon walking out from behind the petrified Inferno.
"Zero for your information, small one." Arbiter says. "...and what are you doing here?"
"...and just who are you?" Ruichi adds.
"I'm protecting my master, so you guys better get ready for trouble - I'm Murk, the Twilight-Dragon!" the dragon says, rearing up and letting out a rather pathetic roar that is more of a squeak than anything else - the dragon clearly still a child.
"...SO CUTE!" squealed another voice. Nebula had appeared, floating overhead. Ruichi sighed loudly.
"so which one of you wants to go first? if you go quietly, I'll go easy on you!" Murk says, beginning to bounce around and making boxing jabs at the air.
"Alright, you little wannabe..." Arbiter said to Murk, while using his powers to levitate the two statues. "Let's get Red and Inferno back to the castle, and figure out what to do from there... I don't know how to turn someone back from stone..."
"who are you calling a wannabe?! put them down! put them down! I'm the protector! rawr! RAWR! I say!" Murk yells out, bouncing after the group and trying to look intimidating.
Yet as the group try to leave the area the ground suddenly shakes violently and a massive wall emerges in front of them, blocking the path and formed of semisolid shadow - a cloud of billowing smoke suddenly emerging from the well as a gigantic humanoid figure rises into the air.
Arbiter draws his greatsword; but before he could do anything, Nebula swooped down-
"Wow... cool!" Nebula exclaims, speaking to the figure from the well. "How did you do that?"
The figure responds to Nebula by casually swatting her aside as it looks to the others, "..you may not disturb the wish.." - with that the figure makes a motion and both Red and Inferno return to their former place, roots bursting out of the ground and wrapping tightly around the figures.
"..now.. begone.." the figure declares and waves a hand, shattering the wall as a gust of powerful wind attempts to send the group tumbling down the hillside.
Arbiter is the only one capable of holding his ground; Ruichi tumbles down the hillside and Nebula stops, floating in midair.
"...that wasn't nice!" she pouted loudly.
"..a wish they did make, a wish they shall recieve - you will not interfere.." the figure repeats, then makes another gesture that soon causes a whirlwind of energy to erupt from within the well - the whirlwind soon growing as the wind reverses like a vacuum and attempts to suck the group into the well.
Suddenly Murk flies forward and grabs at the figure's face with his claws, letting out another little roar as he attempts to fend off the monster: "..you messed with the wrong Dragon-Flight!" he declared.
Arbiter and Ruichi manage to plant their weapons into the ground; Nebula takes hold of a thick tree branch. Upon seeing Murk attack the monster, Arbiter curses under his breath.
"...reckless kid..." he mutters.
The figure's eyes flash momentarily and Murk soon falls to the ground with smoke rising from his now charred form - the whirlwind taking Red and Inferno into the well as the figure starts to turn back into smoke as it disappears down into the well:
"..fine.. stay.. I shall take them with me.. to the world below..".
Murk yelps in a mixture of surprise and fear as he falls to the ground and twitches, his scales now burnt badly yet the young dragon still tries to right himself "..argh.. h-hey! ..get back..!" he coughs.
"No!" Arbiter shouts, running forth and diving into the well.
Nebula however, shouts with dismay at seeing Murk and flies over to the young dragon. "Omigosh! Are you okay?" she asks, worried to the verge of tears.
Murk is badly burnt but keeps making little boxing jabs as he growls "..I-I'll show him! I'm a mighty dragon! I -!" he begins, then passes out for a moment.
As Arbiter dives into the well a burst of energy erupts from said well as a dimensional portal opens, sucking Arbiter inside - the well soon becoming a multicolored spiral that seems to go on impossibly long before finally releasing him in a dimension that resembles a dark, damp cave.
A moment later, Ruichi lands in the cave as well. "This is... insane..." he mutters.
"..shh.. you'll wake Mr. Van Winkle.." a small voice says from the relative darkness of the cave, revealing a small humanoid dressed much like a stereotypical garden gnome - sitting next to an old man with a long beard, who seems fast asleep: the old man covered in cobwebs and vines.
"Wait- who?" Ruichi whispers.
"Mr. Van Winkle.." the gnome repeats "..yup - he was old and tired but had problems sleeping.. so he came to the well and made a simple wish.. to get some sleep.. here he has remained for forty years.. you see down here in the World Below the well keeps us.. with only our wishes to keep us company..".
"...And what did you wish for?" Arbiter asks the gnome.
"..I wished for a little company and a place to keep me sheltered from the cold.. here I stay.. with many new friends.." the grnome replies - motioning further into the room, where several other figures sit in silence: amongst them are the statues of Red and Inferno.
A small humanoid dressed in rags and iron-shoes has already began to chisel away at one of the statues with a small pickaxe as the others simply watch the new arrivals.
Arbiter extends a hand and levitates the iron-shoed figure away from the statues, pulling him to the other side of the cave.
"...don't touch." Arbiter simply says.
The figure turns to face Arbiter, as he does so the other figures in the room become noticably frightened as they back away - it doesn't take long to see why: the figure's eyes are burning with a look of psychotic madness as he clenches his pick-axe tight and growls:
"..back off! it's mine! mine! ye can't have it! under all that rock and stone - pretty gold.. all for me! all for me!".
"...you're delusional." Arbiter retorts.
The figure looks to Arbiter and notices his eyes, instantly the figure flies into another rage as he swings his pick-axe:
"..ah ha! I see it! you've stolen my gold! you thought you could hide it from me but I can see it! in your eyes!".
"...there is no gold here." Arbiter said.
"wrong! it's in your eyes! my gold! mine.. you can't have it! not one piece!" the figure leaps at Arbiter and attempts to slash at him with the pick-axe.
Arbiter starts forward but Ruichi is quicker; he deflects the pick-axe with the handle of his scythe.
"You can't have it! I won't let you! It's mine! Mine!" the figure shrieks as he goes into a frenzy, swinging his pick-axe around madly.
Ruichi leaps back, willing a burst of shadow from his palm to strike the figure and send him flying back a far distance.
The figure lets out a roar of anger as he flees into the shadows, cursing loudly as the other figures in the room look at Arbiter and Ruichi with disbelief, clearly not many had stood up to the violent figure before.
"Keep your weapon ready," Arbiter said queitly to Ruichi, looking around and noting the stares of the others in the cave. "We don't know what to expect..."
"I grow wary of you.. what is it you desire?" a familar voice echoes, seeming to fill the entire room as the spirit of the Well speaks - yet does not physically manifest.
"There are many things I desire, but none of which you can help me with, spirit," Arbiter retorts.
"So you desire nothing?" the voice echoes, the figures in the room looking fearful once more.
"Well, I didn't quite say that..." Arbiter said.
"Then answer my question - what do you desire?" the voice repeats.
"It's no use fighting it.. the well always wins.." the gnome says sadly as he looks over.
Arbiter thought for a moment; he was sure that this spirit would skew his words anyway it pleased.
"I desire for you to do absolutely nothing, spirit," Arbiter said.
"Very well.." the voice says, dangerously calm and before the group knows what is happening the walls begin to break apart, forming large golems.
Arbiter and Ruichi had already instinctually sprung forward for a fight.
"Hey! What gives!? you're cheating! He said to do absolutely nothing!" a familar voice complains as Murk appears, seemingly recovered and flapping his wings - for the first time actually acting like a dragon.
"Silly Arbiter!" Nebula exclaimed, appearing after Murk. "Why didn't you ask for a cupcake, or something? Cupcakes are delicious!"
"..the desire was for me to do nothing, it stated nothing about allowing other hostile entities do as they pleased.. I shall do nothing.. as requested.. these Troglodytes shall be the ones to crush you.." the voice replies calmly.
Meanwhile the large golem-like creatures shift somewhat, revealing long arms that drag across the ground and bestial heads not unlike jackals.. as Arbiter and Ruichi attack the entire room caves in as everyone (including the still petrified Inferno and Red) fall down into a muddy second "floor": darkness covering the area save for many glowing Troglodyte eyes.
Murk spreads his wings further as the ground gives way and manages to grab onto Inferno and Red, lifting them with both arms and showing a great deal more strength than usual - landing on his feet on the ground below before placing the two statues down.
The darkness remains as the glowing eyes surround the group and the troglodytes approach - dragging their arms across the ground as they prepare for an attack.
"Too slow," Arbiter said, unleashing a forceful burst of energy akin to a wall of pure force.
The troglodytes growl as they are forced back, lumbering into the darkness - the area rumbles as if experiencing an earth tremor, yet after the rumbling stops the group are left in eerie silence: their attackers seeming to have given up surprisingly quick.
As the group regained their footing, Ruichi sniffed the air. "Something's here," he said.
"Really? All I smell is.. what's that word? Oh yeah.. sweat.. maybe a bit of blood too.. adventuring sure goes against modern health codes, don't it?" Murk said, lifting Inferno and Red above himself once more, which looks as awkward as it sounds: yet the small dragon is strong enough to hold them steady.
"Hey! Are you all okay? What happened?" called out Nebula's voice from above. The pink wisp floated down to join them a moment later.
As the group looks around they finally spot something in the corner of the room, an ornate glass coffin with what appears to be a beautiful woman inside - dressed in a flowing white gown and holding a single red rose , the figure having skin as white as snow and lips as red as the rose she held, jet black hair flowed around her as she remained still, as if asleep.
"Ooh," exclaimed Nebula, drifting over to the glass coffin, curious as a child.
As Nebula approaches however she notices the "wall" next to the coffin is alive - a gigantic humanoid sat in chains, head almost touching the roof even when sitting, looking dejected, upon seeing the floating Wisp the Giant speaks, alerting everyone else to its presence:
"..so.. it got you too?".