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an alternate-reality style story that deals with a completely new origin story of Inferno and Arodnap, this may begin a new series if successful and will be interactive - since our canon has become rather damaged lately I have been thinking of doing more alternate reality stories and "reboots" to try and revive old concepts that are in danger of fading in the chaos.. I hope you guys enjoy this dark but hopefully memorable story..

Prologue

It was a quiet night when a young man walked down a courtyard outside a large castle, his large draconic wings folded over his shoulders like a living cape as his blood-red eyes stared ahead, he walked slowly over to a large weeping willow tree and knelt down below it.

As the figure knelt down a second figure appeared nearby, a young girl who also had large draconic wings and dark skin, however most of her features were covered by long golden hair that flowed over her face, she was dressed in a basic dress and stood behind the kneeling figure in a moment of silence.

"How did we get here?" the kneeling figure asked, staring at a small statue at the base of the weeping willow, depicting a powerful figure with a large sword - regal as any king yet tainted by an aura of tyranny.

"He was a monster, we had no choice.. you have to understand.." the long-haired girl whispered, reaching over to try and place a hand on the kneeling figure's shoulder - only to stop as he jerked away and stood up.

"I don't understand.. I can't.. he was our father.. yet.. we killed him.." the young man said, turning to face the long-haired girl.

"No!" the girl snapped, with surprising strength - startling the young man and herself - a moment of silence following before she continued "..we had no choice, he was going to murder you..".

"Arodnap.. we don't know that.. we.." the young man begin, yet he went silent as he bowed his head slightly and closed his eyes - knowing his sister was right, shivering as he didn't wish to admit it.

"He always beat us.. don't you see? Ever since mother died.. yet he never went that far.. he was going to strangle you.. he was insane - he kept calling us monsters.. even Equis.." Arodnap said.

"I know! I know! Maker, I'm just.. so scared.." the young man snapped, suddenly breaking into tears as Arodnap came over and the pair hugged each other as the darkness spread around them, forming shadows in the courtyard.

As the pair hugged another figure watched the scene from a small window leading to a room inside the castle, an older male but still a youth - half of the figure's face obscured by shadow as he stared out, a tear coming down his cheek as he turned away and held a small trinket in his hand.

"..I'm so sorry, father.. I'm sorry.." the figure whispered, looking to a nearby mirror and seeing the large scar that cut across his face, gripping the trinket harder the figure quickly turned away and folded his wings around himself like a cocoon.

Chapter 1

Two years later the sun shone over a largely unchanged castle with a large crowd gathering by the gates, the crowning of a new ruler drawing every citizen out as well as visitors from many other worlds and kingdoms: the gates swung open and several armored guards marched out to clear the crowds as a large chariot made its way outside, the flag of Avalon waving proudly overhead.

From within the chariot the young man from the courtyard sat and looked around, at his side was Arodnap - her features still largely hidden by her long hair: the scarred figure was nowhere to be seen as the pair conversed.

"Do you think Equis will ever come back? It feels wrong to take the throne like this.." the young man asked.

"Avalon needs a ruler, Inferno - you are as fit as Equis.. if not more.." Arodnap replied.

"It still feels wrong.. I mean, what happens if he comes back? won't he feel like I've stolen his crown?" Inferno continued.

"If Equis truly cared for the throne he would never of abandoned it in the first place, besides you know as well as I do he doesn't want the crown.. not after what happened.." Arodnap replied.

"Still, why me? Why can't you do it? I mean, you are the elder sibling - right?" Inferno begun.

"You are next in line after Equis, you know that.." Arodnap said.

"Yes, yes.. but.. if things were different - if we didn't have that stupid rule.. would you take the throne?" Inferno asked, looking to Arodnap.

"Oh Inferno.. you'll make a fine ruler, trust me.. the problem is you worry too much, lighten up.. have some fun.." Arodnap replied, flicking her hair back slightly to reveal a smile, sharp little fangs revealing an inhuman origin.

"Fun? Thousands of lives will now depend on me.. my actions will dictate the future of entire nations.." Inferno began, only to stop as he noticed Arodnap's grin spread ever so slightly.

"..so?".

Inferno went to respond to his sister's unusual response when suddenly the pair were startled as the chariot came to a skidding halt, an armored figure leaping forward and overpowering several guards as they smashed into the chariot and grabbed Inferno from behind: the two engaging in a struggle as they crashed into the street, Arodnap turning and yelling out as her face is revealed for the first time: brilliant blue eyes wide with worry as she called out:

"Inferno!".

Inferno growled as his eyes flashed brightly, the armored figure aiming several punches at his face only to be blasted into the crowds by a surge of black lightning - the crowds fleeing in several directions as guards scramble to try and salvage their reputation: leaping at the armored figure.

"Arodnap! Stay back! I have this!" Inferno began, however it was too late and before he could react Arodnap had leapt out of the chariot and grabbed it, without a care for the crowds or guards she proceeded to lift the chariot up above her head with inhuman strength and hurled it at the armored figure.

"NO!" Inferno yelled, holding out a hand and enveloping the chariot in a black force-field as it stopped inches from the armored-figure and several guards, the armored-figure looking geniunely surprised at this as the guard were rightfully startled at their near-death experience.

"Inferno.. I.." Arodnap began, only to go silent as Inferno gave her a glare, then turned his attention to the armored figure as he walked over, placing the chariot down as the force-field dispersed.

"Who are you? Why do you attack me?" Inferno frowned, looking the figure over as the guards lifted them up and removed their helmet, revealing a glowing youth with angry eyes.

"Don't tell me you forgot about me so soon, Inferno.." the youth spat.

"Thor..?" Inferno blinked, his eyes growing wide for a moment.

"That's right.. I'm the one your father exiled.. the same father who purged my entire village.. you Pendragons are all the same - killers and tyrants!" Thor growled, struggling as the guard held him in place.

"Leave me alone with him.. please.. just two minutes.. I'll silence that wretched tongue of his.." Arodnap began, only to stop again as Inferno snapped.

"You've done enough damage! You could of killed innocent people with your reckless actions, loyal guards whose only crime was defending their future ruler - I will not be responsible for more deaths.. you hear me, Arodnap? No more killing!".

Thor snorted at this and spat at the ground "..empty words.. you're good at playing the hero.. you Pendragons.. don't think it changes anything!".

Inferno frowned again as he turned to Thor and motioned to the guards, "..I'm no hero, Thor.. guards, take him to the dungeon and have our strongest mages place a ward to ensure he does not escape..".

The guards nodded and dragged Thor away as Inferno turned and began walking down the street, "..as for you Arodnap, go home.. there's nothing more for you here..".

"Inferno.. I.. I was only trying to protect you.. I.." Arodnap began.

"That's the problem, isn't it? You always try to protect me.. yet did it ever occur to you that the greatest danger I have.. is you?" Inferno replied, somewhat coldly, continuing down the street.

Arodnap stared after Inferno as he moved away, lowering her head - turning away after a long while and shedding a small tear "..I'm sorry..".

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

At the same time Inferno arrived at his destination, a large building resembling a cathedral but decorated with massive carvings depicting angelic beings with the appearance of winged unicorns standing on their hindlegs, each one holding what appeared to be a world between their front hooves.

Inferno looked upon the carvings, observing how the winged unicorns slowly changed with each depiction - becoming more and more humanlike until they ultimately appeared as winged beings not unlike Inferno, though they had feathered wings and pure white pelt - in contrast with Inferno's dark pelt and draconic wings.

Inferno spent so long observing the carvings that he was unaware of his immediate surroundings and soon crahsed into a nearby figure - falling back and rubbing his head a little as he looked over and blinked "..ugh.. what? ..I'm sorry.. I..?".

The figure stumbled slightly, surprised. He was tall, donning a black travelers' cloak that covered his body from neck to toe. His shining, golden eyes studied Inferno for a moment before he turned back to the wall, observing the intricate carvings. "Don't worry about it," said the man. His voice was distant, with an accent foreign to Inferno, and it was obvious that he was a stranger to Avalon.

Inferno tilted his head a little as he looked at the figure for a moment, "..a follower of the Creators? or a traveller in search of answers?" he asks.

"You could say I am a traveler," said the man. "A vagabond in search of purpose." Absentmindedly, he raised his right hand to his face and brushed aside a lock of emerald hair. Inferno could make out a long, jagged scar on the right side of his face, torn from his forehead, over his eye, and down his cheek.

Inferno frowned slightly "..a vagabond? Interesting.. yet I have had more than enough exposure to rogues today.. if you are here to cause trouble hear this, leave.. Avalon is my home and I will die to protect it.." - the warning is cut short as another figure enters the scene, a tall figure dressed in a flowing white robe and holding a golden staff ending in an ornate gemstone resembling a glowing green eye.

"Inferno? You shouldn't stray so far from the guards.. especially after what happened..".

"Don't mind me, Inferno," said the man. "I do not seek trouble. I merely wish to stay in Avalon for a few days at most, before I move on. The culture is... fascinating to me."

"That's Prince Inferno to you, outsider.." the tall figure stated "..you'd do well to stay close to this sanctuary if you seek to stay in Avalon, not all are as welcoming of your kind as I am..".

"Oberon, your kindness seems hollow at best - if this vagabond truly wishes to learn about Avalon he'd be welcome to come to the Royal Library.." Inferno began.

"If it is no trouble, I'd like that," said the vagabond.

"However before we go I'd wonder if it would be too much to ask for a name to put to this "vagabond" I am about to allow into a Royal building.." Inferno smiled, Oberon simply standing in place and looking somewhat unapproving of the situation.

The stranger was silent for a moment. "I bear not a name, but a title," he said. "From where I come, I am called Arbiter."

"Funny, today I too was to bear a title.. that of King.. though I will have to wait another night: due to unfortunate circumstances.. come along then Arbiter - perhaps you'll find something in the Library.." Inferno replied, heading out of the cathedral.

Oberon watched this in silence for a moment before he turned and bowed down before the carvings on the wall, his voice quiet "..why must the young be so foolish?".

Chapter 2

The scene shifts to the Royal Library before Inferno or Arbiter arrive, an old phonograph playing the theme of Danse Macabre as Arodnap sweeps the floors, her head lowered as Inferno's voice echoed in her mind:




"That's the problem, isn't it? You always try to protect me.. yet did it ever occur to you that the greatest danger I have.. is you?"




Arodnap swept further, her body beginning to sway with the music as her haunting blue eyes began to spark slightly under her long flowing hair - her mind beginning to envision the broom as Inferno and the Royal Library as a great and magnificant Royal Ball Room, as beautiful as anything from a fairy tale yet warped with the taint of tyranny.




"..oh Inferno.. if only you knew.. how much you mean to me.." Arodnap whispered as she began to dance to the music, the candles casting dark shadows across the room in the process.




"..I know you didn't mean to hurt me.. I forgive you.. how could I do anything less? ..I mean.. you're everything I have.." Arodnap continued, the dance becoming more chaotic as the music seemed to speed up - Arodnap spreading her wings as the room seemed to spiral around herself.




"..I'm sorry I snapped.. I just.. get so angry sometimes.. maybe if everyone just.. disappeared.. then we'd be happy.. somehow.." Arodnap whispered, the dance continuing as she closed her eyes and went silent, hovering slightly off the ground as she spread her wings.




Then suddenly the dance was broken as Inferno entered the room alongside Arbiter and turned off the phonograph, looking over to Arodnap - "..Arodnap? what are you doing?".


There was a short, pregnant pause. Arbiter stepped aside slightly to give Inferno room.


Arodnap dropped the broom quickly and smiled, revealing rather sharp fangs - bouncing slightly as she came over "Oh! I was just cleaning.. I guess I got distracted.." - her smile suddenly faded as she noticed Arbiter, the spring in her step stopping as she glared slightly as if resisting saying something unpleasant "..oh.. who's this?".


"Just a traveler from a distant realm, and a seeker of knowledge," said Arbiter. "I am called Arbiter."


"Well that's a stupid name.." Arodnap said bluntly, only to jump slightly as Inferno frowned.


"Arbiter is a guest in my court and shall be treated as such.." Inferno began only to stop as several guards entered the room.


"Sire! Urgent news from the edge of the city - Equis has returned! We need your presence at once!" one of the guards declared.


Both Inferno and Arodnap looked shocked but as Arodnap went to move Inferno motioned her "No! Stay with Arbiter - show him what he needs.. I will deal with this, if Equis has truly returned then Avalon may well have its rightful King.. as it should of been all along..".


With that Inferno left alongside the guards, Arodnap unable to speak as she watched them leave with surprising haste - the library becoming uncomfortably silent as a result..


"All I seek is a book dedicated to the history of the arcane," said Arbiter, suddenly breaking the silence. "Would such a tome exist in this library?"


Arodnap continued to look to where Inferno had once been, then turned to Arbiter and sighed - holding a hand out and before long a tendril of dark energy emerged and began to latch around several books, which floated around Arbiter as if on strings.

"..let me guess, you're taking advantage of my brother's trust in order to obtain forbidden knowledge? Well, go ahead.. knock yourself out.. not like it'd be anything new.." Arodnap began.

"Hardly," said Arbiter. "I am merely seeking information about breaking a specific curse." He observed several of the tomes before selecting a large, red book. The title read, in golden letters, 'Folio Magus.'

Arodnap's eyes suddenly lighted up and a smile spread over her face, revealing small fangs as she spread her wings - suddenly vanishing as if a ghost, only to appear next to Arbiter, uncomfortably close as she leaned in and continued to grin, her eyes sparking slightly as her long golden hair swayed around her:

"Ooh! a curse, eh? I know all about curses! In fact - I can tell you about the greatest curse of them all.. one that mother used to talk about.. the curse of the Watchers.. I used to tell Inferno about it when we were little but it scared him so I stopped.. after all I'm his big sister, my job is to protect him.. no matter what..".

A million unanswered questions rushed through Arbiter's mind at once as he took note of Arodnap's sudden change in mood. "Anyone this eager about curses is either a prestigous sorcerer or potentially dangerous- perhaps even both," he thought to himself. Nevertheless, his outside mood did not change, and he remained stoic as Arodnap leaned in close.

"Tell me about it- the curse of the Watchers. I'm curious."

Arodnap's grin faded instantly, her eyes suddenly becoming dark as she stared at Arbiter for a few moments - as if trying to figure something out "..I shouldn't tell you anything.. yet..".

Arodnap's smile suddenly returned as she spread her wings once more and chuckled, grabbing a book as she twirled slightly - hovering in the air as she flipped through several pages: "..what fun is life without a little risk?".

Another chuckle escaped Arodnap as she lowered her head, her long hair flowing down as she continued to hover in place:

"..they dance.. they dance.. they sing.. they sing.. the Watchers.. they watch.. they watch.. the Watchers.." - Arodnap's strange tune is broken as she starts to chuckle uncontrollably, swaying back and forth as images appear around her, unseen by Arbiter, of impossible shadows and swirling madness - the sound of the familiar Danse Macabre playing in her mind as the letters on the pages before her seemed to melt away before her eyes.. yet all Arbiter could see, at least with his eyes, was Arodnap's increasingly irregular swaying motions.

"Arodnap? Arodnap!" Arbiter called out, yet his voice was growing fainter, swallowed by the music in her head.

"..we were just children.. I held him in my arms.. alone, frightened.. he cried.. yet I held him tight.. the guards came.. I was going to kill them - but mother came.. she was so beautiful.. she took us to the castle.. gave us a home.. so much love.. yet I never forgot my purpose.. I was his big sister.. his protector.. yet - no matter what I did it was obvious.. mother always loved him best.. so I just accepted it.. I didn't need love.. all I needed was to know he was safe.. that the pain was over.. yet.. things are never that simple, are they?" Arodnap whispered, slowly landing back on the ground as she looked back to Arbiter.

Yet before Arodnap could say or do anything more the doors of the library swung open and several guards entered, calling out: "..my Lady! we must evacuate at once! Equis has went mad! the sword!".

"Never a moment of peace," thought Arbiter bitterly.

"..sword?" Arodnap blinked, suddenly flying towards the guard and lifting them up with one hand - choking them in the process as her eyes glow brightly and her fangs become larger and more pronounced "..where are they!? TALK!".

The guard gasped for breath and barely whispered "..t-the f-forest.." - as soon as the words left their mouth the guard was hurled into a nearby bookcase with enough force to shatter the entire structure, which crashed down over them in a tide of splintered wood and books.

"..lesson's over, Arbiter.. I have more important things to do.. though hear this, if Inferno is harmed.. I'm holding *YOU* responsible!" Arodnap snarled, transforming into a large dragon as she tore straight through the library roof, causing great destruction in the process as she flew off towards the nearby forest.

Arbiter covered his head as rubble rained down upon him. Perturbed by the strange turn of events, he tucked the Folio Magus book underneath one arm and headed over to the guard to help him up.

"Are you alright?" he asked, extending a hand.

"Don't touch me, outsider!" the guard snaps, despite his injuries - getting shakily to his feet and limping away: as the guard leaves Arbiter can see a large statue, previously hidden by the bookcase, depicting a tall pegacorn in battle armor and sporting a large sword: his features that of a King yet tainted with tyranny as a plaque reads: "King Equinox - in life he ruled, in death he watches.".

Frowning, Arbiter tore his eyes from the statue and made his way to a table, opening the book and skimming it's pages.

"It must be in here," he thought to himself. "Vagabond's Curse... V... V... V..."

Arbiter gave a start- near the end of the "Curses" section was a heading titled "Vagabond's Curse." He began to frantically read.

The Vagabond's Curse is one of the oldest known curses, and among the most widely known. It's effect has been seen among many different realms... The first recorded instance of the Vagabond's curse afflicted a man named Kain... known to recieve terrifying visions and compelled to wander across realms...

Arbiter continued to skim. "Where's the cure, where's the cure," he muttered.

The Vagabond's Curse can be cured, but the cure is unknown...

Arbiter sat in stunned silence.

...the cure is unknown...

In sudden rage, Arbiter slammed his fists on the table. His strength was superhuman; the table shattered beneath the force of the blow.

"Damn it!" shouted Arbiter.

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