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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


This story happens very soon after Monsters, where Arbiter is confronted with the death of Inferno, and POSSIBLY the disappearance/death of Amnesty. This plus other events will take their toll on Arbiter's mind as a former Balance-Keeper suddenly arrives and attempts to use this to his advantage... in fact, this will explain why Arbiter is the way he is in Book 3...

Participants

{C}This story is open to all heroes who wish to participate- All may join, and if you are interested in attempting a cross-over, just talk to me. If you pick a hero you want to use, list him/her above.




Prologue: Hallucinations

Arbiter knelt in the dirt outside of Red's Castle, in a spot before where two stones stood that he had fashioned himself- the first bore the appearance of a regal man with draconic wings, the second was shaped in the image of an elegant and powerful sorceress. He knelt there for what seemed like hours, still and unmoving, yet his mind was tumultuous:

"...Your soul is whole again, Balance-Keeper, but are you better off for it? Perhaps now you can truly see yourself for what you are- a murderer..."

Arbiter tried to shake the voice out of his head, but it was soon replaced by another:

"You simply stood aside while you let your friends die... it was you who left trillions of innocents dead in your wake... how many more are going to perish by your blood-coated hands?

"That's... not true..." Arbiter muttered, failing to convince himself. A third voice appeared, mocking and scornful:

"All those close to you die... Kagami, Jason, Amber, Baqer, Seren, Inferno, and Amnesty... how long will it be before Red and Sangria perish as well?"

"Shut up! SHUT UP!" Arbiter cried out, clutching his head. But then, another voice rang out, and upon hearing it, Arbiter's stomach lurched in shock. The voice was coming from the statue of Amnesty, which turned it's head toward Arbiter and spoke to him coldly:

"...you let us die... Arbiter... us, whom considered you kin..."

"No! I didn't!" Arbiter began to panic, only to be interrupted by a mirthless laugh from Inferno's statue:

"Don't deny it, brother... you were too weak... why couldn't you have been stronger? You failed... failed us as a brother... failed in your role as Balance-Keeper..."

To Arbiter's horror, Inferno's voice began to split into many more voices, and suddenly, Arbiter found himself surrounded by a number of stone statues, each fashioned in the image of a person once dear to Arbiter...

"Murderer... too weak... failure..." they all seemed to chant. "...all dead... because of you..."

"STOP! STOP, DAMMIT!" Arbiter roars, yet the jeering voices take no heed.

"Ryou... why did you kill me?" asks a new voice, the sound of which sends a deep chill down Arbiter's spine and fills his with dread. The statue of a beautiful young woman stands nearby, looking at him sadly.

"Kagami... no... I didn't kill you..." Arbiter pleads.

"...why did you kill me?"

"...I didn't!"

"...why did you kill me?"

"...NO!"

With a jolt that shot through his entire body, Arbiter found himself on all fours, trembling and shivering on the ground. He slowly lifted his head, and saw the statues of Inferno and Amnesty, unmoving nor having ever moved, looking ahead with their unflinching, immortal stone gazes. He looked around- there were no other statues surrounding him. A gentle breeze blew by like the breath of a whisper, and Arbiter collapsed on the ground in despair.

"...they're right... I'm a failure... they are all dead... and it's my fault... my fault... I'm nothing but a murderer..." he muttered to himself.

A black mist silently rose out of the ground nearby like a malignant plant, twisting into the form of a man who stood about as tall as Arbiter. He looked down upon the cringing Balance-Keeper lying in the dirt with his slanted, cat-like eyes.

"Pathetic..." he finally said. "What happened to the great Balance-Keeper that I once knew?"

"...Morpheus." Arbiter greeted disdainfully, without turning to face him.

"You were once powerful... you could take on gods, Secrets, Abstracts, and others without your will breaking..." Morpheus said, frowning with his unearthly thin lips, "and now here you are, lying in the dirt like a dog, just because a few people died..."

"You wouldn't understand." Arbiter said.

"But I do understand. Truly, I do. It's something you and everyone else around you seem to share. A little something called weakness."

"Those who I love and care for are my greatest strength."

"Exactly! And when they die, you become reduced to this..." Morpheus planted a kick in Arbiter's back to punctuate his last word.

"People like us... we are better off without allies to hold us back, to sap our own strength... Friends can only hurt you in the end... they will only betray you or die... like the way you betrayed Inferno, Amnesty, and everyone else when you failed to save them..."

Arbiter finally sprung to his feet in rage, summoning his greatsword to his hand and slicing it through Morpheus. "SHUT UP! YOU DON'T KNOW ANYTHING!" he roared. Morpheus, however, was unharmed as Arbiter's blade passed through him; his form rippled like a kind of mist.

Morpheus sighed. He extended his arm and it formed into a shadowy blade, which suddenly stretched out, skewering Arbiter through his gut and slamming him against the wall of Red's Castle. Blood spattered on the surface and Morpheus held him there with his blade.

"I know plenty..." Morpheus said. "More than you would probably like me to know... But perhaps, I can explain myself with a better method than words..." Morpheus whipped his blade-arm around, hurling Arbirter once more into the dirt in front of the statues. The blade retracted, becoming a hand shrouded in black mist. Arbiter, to his own horror, found his eyelids growing heavy as the darkness of sleep began to overtake him. His eyes shut and he spiraled through the darkness, toward anxious and unsettling nightmares...

"...Sleep well, Balance-Keeper. Or not." Morpheus said, turning around and fading into the shadows, leaving Arbiter alone and bleeding one the ground, confronted only with despairing visions...


Chapter I: Poison of the Mind

Several hours later...

Red walks along a path in the Royal Gardens alongside a visiting Prince from a neighboring land and several guards - she doesn't seem very pleased about it either as the Prince continually tries to court her in the most awkward of ways : "..the best way to deal with tragedy is to move on, your Highness.. besides, your daughter will require a father figure.. am I not right? I could provide you both with treasures beyond your wildest dreams..".

Red frowns "..no.. I'm not interested.. I've told you this several times..".

The Prince waves a hand as he continues, "..be reasonable, Red.. think about your Kingdom.. the people deserve a decent King after all they've been through..".

A short distance away, rounding a corner and approaching slowly is Arbiter. His head is bowed, and he staggers slowly toward the castle, with one hand clutching his forehead and the other trying to take hold of anything it can for support. He seemed to pay no heed to the large, open wound that split open his stomach as he put one shaky foot in front of the other, before he collapsed in the middle of the path.

"What's... happening... to me?" Arbiter thinks to himself.

The Prince at once hides behind several guards as Red moves over to Arbiter, "..Arbiter? what happened? who did this? speak to me.." she says.

"..careful! it could be some kind of wild beast!" the Prince blabbers, cowering behind the guards - who look as annoyed as Red at having to put up with this pathetic excuse for a man.

"SILENCE!" Red growls, returning her gaze to Arbiter "..you've dealt with worse wounds than this before.. why are you so pained now? .. is it poison?" - she wrinkles her nose slightly, as if in thought "..no.. I know what this is.. I can smell it.. your mind.. it's breaking..".

The gaze in Arbiter's eyes suddenly became distant, as if he were staring into some far-off place. "It's my fault... that everyone's dead... I was too weak... I let them all die..." His voice suddenly became more frantic and hushed, and he spoke as if speaking to an invisible spectre- "No... I didn't want you to die... I didn't want any of you to die... I didn't kill you... please, listen to me..."

"A moment of silence passes, and Arbiter seems to slowly slip back into reality. He blinks.

"...Red... the poison is in my mind... I think I'm losing it..."

Red growls and turns to her guards, "..well? what are you waiting for? take Arbiter to a chamber and prepare a scout to Avalon at once for a healer - as for you.." she looks to the still cowering Prince "..I don't have time to waste on your blabbering - remove his "majesty" from the city and ensure he gets safe voyage back to whatever hellhole he crawled out of.." she snaps.

Two guards quickly move over to Arbiter and attempt to lead him into the castle while the others take great joy in moving the Prince out of the castle grounds, "..this is absurd! Red! listen to me!" the Prince protests.

Arbiter makes no motion to resist as he is lifted onto his feet by the guards and supported as they help walk him to the castle.

Meanwhile, a short distace away, Red can see a shadowy figure standing in the gardens, watching the proceedings, before it suddenly vanishes as if it was merely an illusion.

Red shrugs it off as she turns towards the castle and follows the guards inside, frowning to herself as a familar presence filled the air around her.. "..I've been here before.. a thousand times it seems.. how much more must I endure before there is nothing left for them to take?" she thinks to herself.

Chapter II: Growing Discord

Arbiter had not said a word as the guards assisted him to a chamber. His mind was fraught with worry and his gaze never left the ground. Whichever direction he turned, he felt as if he could see their faces, all looking at him... mockingly... disappointedly... turning his head away did little to help, as he could still hear them, their voices echoing in his mind. Never in his life had he felt so helpless... so weak.

From the floor, a liquid forms through the cracks, forming a murky puddle upon the solid ground, a light shade of grey in color, it forms into a creature, a tall, spindly robed figure, solidifying into itself. Bending down to reach Arbiter's height, it's back creaking with every movement, it whispers into his ear, a voice sounding dead, icy cold words are spoken directly from the hooded figure, "Your friends, most have died. Your fault you know. Could have saved them." It simply inputs, yet, these words feel like daggers to his heart.

"Are you some other apparition, here to torture me further?" Arbiter asks bitterly.

The robed figure stands straight up once again, body creaking, it answers, "You wish for me to be a wraith of your own ocular sight? Sadly, it is not true." The figure responds, "You should know full well what I am, as my brother is my opposite, a controlling being."

"What are you?" Arbiter asked weakly.

"I am in nightmares, I am in the darkest corners of one's mind, what you fear the most." The being speaks, snaking itself around Arbiter's form, it's body and cloak growing longer with each movement.

Arbiter, unable to control his own body or mind, could only feel with horror as the cloaked being began to engulf him, and the voices once more began to play in his head. But suddenly, another presence began to weigh heavily upon his mind; he could feel the power of Order, trying to forcefully control his body in retaliation...



Red sits on her throne and taps her axe against its side as she frowns, lost in thought - her guards forced to stand outside as she ordered the room vacated: unknown to her guards however was that the room now housed Rose, Jester and March Hare.

"..must you do that?" March Hare asked, motioning at the axe.

"..it helps me think, rodent.." Red replied.

"I'm a hare, not a rat" March Hare replied in turn.

"..that is neither here nor there, tell us Red - what we must hear.." Jester said.

Red raised an eyebrow slightly "..you're good at that rhyming Jester - though you never did explain why..".

"..he's an elf, mother - it's what they do.." Rose frowned.

"..oh? ..I see.. whatever.. I don't have time for this.. Arbiter is in danger.. as is everyone around him.." Red said.

"really? how do you know this?" Rose enquired.

"..I can smell it.. his mind.. it's corrupted.." Red began.

"..are you sure it is his madness you "smell" and not your own?" Rose interrupted.

"..Rose, if I was mad.. you'd already be dead.." Red replied.

"HEY! HEY, YES YOU! LISTEN UP!" cries a tiny voice. From above flutters a tiny blue speck of light with dragonfly-like wings that flutter blindingly fast. The fairy-like ball of light begins to zip about everyone's heads in trying to get their attention, before coming to a rest, hovering between Red and the Resistance.

Red simply looks to the fluttering figure "..we are listening - now stop fluttering around before we decide to use you as a flashlight..".

"..you really shouldn't speak to a member of the Fay like that.." Rose began.

"..in fairness, she speaks like that to everyone.." March Hare replied.

"Queen Red's words are like a dagger - they often make one stagger.." Jester said.

Red frowned as she looked at Jester, "..you're really pushing it with those rhymes, elf..".

"Your friend, Arbiter... where is he? There is something important I need to tell him!" the fairy-like being cries out in her exciteable voice.

"He is resting and in no state to be exposed to the capricious nature of fairy-folk.." Red replied.

Instantly an uncomfortable silence fills the room as the others gave Red a very strange look.

"..what?" Red frowned.

"The "Bloody Red Queen" calling someone capricious.." March Hare began.

"Ugh.. enough! All of you are being fools.. Arbiter is further down the hall to the left, in a private chamber.. go quickly and you should find him, the guards shouldn't pose any threat.. most of them will be asleep or drunk by now.." Rose said.

Hecate flutters around and begins to zoom off, only to be blocked by a tall man that suddenly materialized out of thin air; the man had rugged, black hair and slanted, cat-like eyes.

"You won't interfere, Hecate." the man said coldly.

"MORPHEUS!" Hecate bellowed, with impressive fury for such a tiny fairy. She dashed toward him, as if about to ram into him, but Morpheus simply plucked her out of the air, pinching one of her papery wings between two fingers.

"Ouch, ouch, ouch!" Hecate whined.

"You fail to amuse me." Morpheus said boredly, before swatting her aside like an insect; the fairy fluttered to the floor where Morpheus deftly stepped on the poor spirit, crushing her under his heel.

Red swiftly leaps from her throne and picks up her axe, the other figures also charging forward as they all strike out at Morpheus.

Morpheus leaps back, dodging each respective strike, all the while chanting:

"Eop'n, t'praol ot het dmaarldnse, nd'a g'nirb ftho'r Ammutseba, het eoudrevr f'o tasrs..."

A cage of light forms, enclosing the throne room. A tremor rattles the castle as a great portal opens up on the floor. Enormous, fleshy tentacles, thicker than the trunks of pine trees, emerge from the rift, writhing like serpents and glistening with fluid. A noxious odor begins to taint the air as a black mass of fog also rises; it is soon apparent that the giant tendrils were extruding from the ebony cloud.

Morpheus leaps into the air, floating over the enormous monster.

"The Outer Gods... they stir..."

Chapter III: The Devourer of Stars

"Oh do they now?" Red growls, as she does so she grows considerably - her features disappearing under a blanket of red fur as she changes into a large bipedal wolf, clutching her axe tightly as she strikes at the tendrils with considerable force.

"Another of the Hatter's tricks?" Rose asks as she strikes in turn.

"No, smells different - this is not of the Realm of Madness.. it is something alien.. from another world.." March Hare replies.

"Does it matter in the end? neither one is our friend!" Jester says, firing bolts of stinging magic at the tendrils.

The tentacles that were struck recoil, some covered with deep gashes that leak a bubbling, blue fluid. Yet a great many more take their place, which soon lash out toward Red and her allies like colossal whips and striking serpents.

"Ammutseba, devour." Morpheus commands, addressing the giant creature before fading away like a shadow. "I must see how Entropy is faring with the Key..."

Red in turn feeds on the battle, growing stronger with each passing moment as she slashes at the tendrils - grabbing one and pulling with full force as the others continue their assault.

"You do know this is just a distraction?" Rose says, noting Morpheus' departure.

"A distraction that can break us in two if we're not careful, Rose.." the Hare replies, hopping to avoid a tendril.

"This make one miss -" Jester begins, only to be silenced as the room shakes and the wall shatters as a massive egg-like creature enters the room.

"HUMPTY!" Rose yells out, the giant reaching over and grabbing at the mass of tentacles.

"You no hurt friends!" Humpty-Dumpty declared, though his entrance was almost as dangerous as the creature itself, considering all the debris that falls as the wall is breached.

Humpty manages to successfully divert Ammutseba's attention for a moment as the great monster recoils briefly; yet it lashes out once more, sweeping it's tentacles across the room.

Red growls and pulls further on the tendril she has a hold of - the others continuing their assault as Red shouts out: "Humpty! You're going to destroy the castle if you don't back off!".

"Me help friends!" Humpty-Dumpty protests, delivering several blows to Ammutseba before Rose yells out.

"She's right Humpty! you did good but you need to back away - trust me!" Rose says.

"Okay Rose, me stay back but me not leave!" Humpty-Dumpty says, back off a little - if only to avoid destroying more of the room.

As Red continues to pull, the tendril suddenly tears off; blue liquid spills from the severed limb and an unearthly roar splits the air. From the black fog where the tentacles extrude from appears a circular mouth, with rows of misshapen teeth. The creature roars again, emitting a foul odor from it's maw that smells of rotten meat and decaying flesh.

Jester fires a barrage of magic at the mouth while the others continue attacking the tendrils, Red growling slightly as she holds her ground a fair bit better than the others - who slowly begin to back away from the creature.

"I... Have an... Idea..." Hecate's voice says weakly; the tiny fairy had fluttered with difficulty up to Jester's ear, before collapsing onto his shoulder.

"Speak quickly, fellow Fay - or we may not see another day.." Jester replied, even in the high-stress situation his need to rhyme never fades.

"This monster is Ammutseba... the 'devourerer of stars'... I know exactly what we are dealing with... and I also know exactly how to banish it... I just need you... to get me in close... uncomfortably close..."

Jester nods and runs towards Ammutseba without another word, taking Hecate with him - leaping onto the monster and climbing over its form as best he can.

"Jester!" Rose yells out in a panic and tries to follow only to be blocked by the creature's movements, Red and the others still preoccupied with attacking the rest of the monster's form.

Exhausting the last of her energy, Hecate forms a glowing sigil that floats in midair above the creature; a glowing, blue symbol akin to a hook with a line cutting across it. The symbol begins to shine; dark portals open up all around the creature, from which emerge glowing black chains that snake around the room, binding the monster slowly. Red and the Resistance soon find that they are able to breathe a little easier now that a great number of the beast's tentacles were being restrained.

"net'urr ot skes'drna!" Hecate chants.

The chains begin to pull against the beast, dragging it back into the portal from where it had emerged; with it's free tendrils, it desperately reached out for Red and the Resistance but to no avail. It finally slipped back and disappeared from sight, and the portal shut behind it, leaving behind only dismembered tendrils and a wrecked throne room.

Chapter IV: A Turn for the Worse

A silence hangs in the room for only a mere moment, before Hecate's weakened cry breaks it;

"Arbiter! I... must... see Arbiter! Before it's... too late..."

Red and the others simply look around, recovering from the battle - after a moment Jester begins to head out the room.

"Where are you going?" Red growls.

"To find this Balance-Keeper, before this goes any deeper.." Jester replies.

"What goes deeper?" Rose blinks.

"He is no longer your friend - there is a battle inside which does not end.." Jester says.

However, before Jester could leave, Arbiter himself appeared in the doorway, hunched over and weakened. The look in his eyes, however, was a fiery one.

"This... has gone on... too long..." he growled.

"It has not, not yet." A voice speaks in Arbiter's mind, the same voice of the cloaked snake-like figure from before, "You see, you'll never be able to save anyone, nor anything. And deaths, will be all your fault. You're to blame for any, and every death. I am with you. There forever, to repeat what you have failed in."

Red looks to Arbiter while the others look around in confusion, taking her axe in one hand she gives Arbiter a dangerous look as she speaks:

"Indeed it has, Arbiter.. know this.. if you strike now there shall be no turning back.. I will not forgive.. I will not forget.. I am not like Inferno..".

Rose looks to Red, then to Arbiter - unsure what was going on but she knew that look, the eyes of the Bloody Red Queen.

"Exactly... you have the strength to do what must be done... kill me... before I can again be used as a pawn..."

"WHAT?!" Hecate cried out. "Don't try to play noble, Balance-Keeper; there has to be another way-!"

Red shakes her head "..you seek death so willingly after everything we have done? it seems you truly don't value the sacrifices after all - they died so we could live.. so.. Arbiter.. forget what your mind tells you and look to your heart.. does it seek death as well? ..I don't think so..".

"Do not listen to these others." The voice speaks within Arbiter's mind speaks loudly, "They lie...."

"You don't understand!" Arbiter said, becoming angry- the mention of the deceased served to irritate him much further. "Red... I'm powerless... the great and mighty Keeper of Balance, powerless to stop this poison in my head... let me tell you... if you don't end my life soon, then your world and every other will be subjected to a fate worse than Hell before facing total annihilation..."

"YOU DUMBASS!" Hecate shrieked, ramming into the side of Arbiter's head.

"Hecate... you know better than anyone what is happening," Arbiter growled. "You know what must be done..."

"Shut up!" Hecate cried. "I- "

Hecate was interrupted by the sudden arrival of Morpheus, who appeared in a puff of black smoke.

The voice suddenly speaks up once more, "So the truth has arrived...."

"Both of you cease your mindless prattling.. Arbiter, if I had planned on killing you.. you'd be dead.. I said I would not forget nor forgive.. I said nothing about killing you - you on other hand.." Red states, looking to Morpheus.

"THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT!" Hecate screeched at Morpheus. "YOU MESSED EVERYTHING UP! YOU-"

Morpheus snapped his fingers. A clear box made of magic formed itself around Hecate, whose angry shouts were suddenly silenced. It seemed that the box prevented Hecate from even being heard, as she rammed against it's sides furiously.

"Don't interrupt me, fairy," Morpheus said coldly, before turning to Red. He raised an eyebrow in contempt. "You are weak, Red Queen. Do you honestly think to kill me?"

Entropy slicks itself out of Arbiter's mind, snaking it's way over to Morpheus, where it stands there, spindly and sickly looking. It is silent.

Red doesn't even react to the image nor the words, the others having a mix of feeling ranging from surprise to horror - "..if I wanted you dead you would not of finished that sentence - now speak your piece, no doubt some prattle about omnipotence and destruction? yes.. I have heard this before.. but by all means.. entertain us.." she says to Morpheus in a low voice.

"Only a question," Morpheus said. "What do you dream of?"

The Resistance look to Red nervously as her eyes narrow and she grips her axe tightly before answering, "..I do not dream..".

Morpheus' eyes narrowed. "I doubt that."

Suddenly, blue tendrils of energy extruded from his fingers like strings, wrapping themselves around Arbiter's neck, torso, and arms; Arbiter seemed to fall, lifeless, as Morpheus flew up into the air and vanished, his voice echoing on the air like the remnants of a nightmare:

"Follow us if you dare, Red Queen who dreams of nothing..."

The strings of energy binding Arbiter seemed to become invisible as he climbed up to his feet. Quite suddenly, he vanished as well.

"Arbiter!" Hecate cried out; the box Morpheus used to imprison her had vanished and Hecate flew frantically toward the spot where Arbiter disappeared. "Oh no no no no no no... this isn't good..."

The cloaked snake-like figure snickers, as it fades out of existence.

Red simply stares for a few moments, Rose moving over and reaching out "..mother?".

"Don't call me that, Rose - you're not a child anymore.." Red snaps, pushing Rose aside as she too moves to the spot where Arbiter disappeared.

"Ok, LISTEN UP!" Hecate cried out. "If we don't find Morpheus and stop him, he's gonna use Arbiter to open a gate to another realm. From there, he will proceed to awaken a monster that will literally eat your world and all other worlds! I'm not joking!"

Chapter V: Return to Order

Rune gazed at the tall skyscraper, and wondered what Omega was up to inside. She spoke into her phone, "I've been protecting the quipps since we were both kids, Omega."

Omega chuckled villainously. "Ah, memories. But I will enslave quippkind one day. The only reason I've failed thus far is because I have such a worthy opponent. But you're not invincible, and you must be getting weary of protecting the wretched quipps by now. Well, I really must be going now. Long day of scheming ahead of me. Ta-ta for now, Rune!"

Rune heard a gentle click, and the call was over. She closed her cellphone, keeping her eyes on the skyscraper. "I'll protect the quipps from enslavement until the day I die, Omega," she thought.

"Why, how noble of you." said a voice in Rune's mind. Materializing in thin air before Rune was a figure with a vacant gaze and a scarred visage. He was a boy about her height, but the contours of adolescence were visible in his face. A certain madness seemed to swirl about within his hollow eyes like an unsettling tempest. "But I'm afraid quippkind's got much worse problems than enslavement to worry about."

Rune glared at the figure. "Who are you?"

The boy eyed Rune for a moment. "That's a good question. I could go on for hours, but let me make it concise; I'm the Fall of Rome; the sinker of the Titanic; the collapse of the Twin Towers. I am the one with a thousand faces, the Crawling Chaos. Wherever I tread, destruction follows."

Rune's glare deepened. "You...you're out to destroy as much as possible? Why?"

"Well... destruction's not what I'm really after, but I suppose that's an added bonus."

Rune crossed her arms. "What are you really after?"

The boy grinned, revealing rows of strangely sharpened teeth. Reaching out, he placed the tip of his index finger on Rune's forehead. Before she could react, a vision flashed through her mind; a great, unfathomable darkness, crawling from the Earth itself like a malignant cloud. The darkness was terrible to behold, and indescribable, whirling about and bubbling like a tempest of madness.

"This is the fate of your Earth. It will be the first world to fall. Next will be Belladore. Then Aegis. Avalon. Wonderland. Thyria. Tregon. Silvast. I could name all of the countless worlds that will be devoured by the Daemon Sultan. I just enjoy having a little fun along the way before I rouse him from his slumber..."

Rune crumbled and fell to her knees at the sight of the vision. "No...won't let you..."

The boy knelt down and lifted her chin with a finger. His leering face was inches from her own. "Are you still sane, human? Impressive- few can even glimpse the Daemon Sultan without plunging into madness."

Rune glared into the boy's eyes. "I...won't let you..."

"And quite determined, too. Very well, then, let's play a little game."

The boy stood up and clapped his hands. "Morpheus. Here's a good place for the puppet to start."

A burst of black mist suddenly appeared out of thin air, and two figures emerged- one with dark hair and narrow, cat-like eyes. The second was a figure that Rune hadn't seen for decades.

Rune's eyes widened. "Arbiter?!" She tried to stand, but fell to her knees again.

"Here's the first and only rule to our game," the boy said. "Survive." He nodded to Morpheus, and the two vanished, leaving Arbiter alone with Rune.

Rune finally managed to climb to her feet and smiled at Arbiter. "Arbiter...I haven't seen you in ages!"

Arbiter still did not move. Finally, four words issued forth from his mouth. "This world... is corrupt..."

A hint of unpleasant deja-vu quivered through Rune's mind. The smile left her face. "Arbiter. What are you saying?"

"Heehee... Survive," said the voice of the boy, echoing in Rune's mind.

In a burst of green flames, Arbiter's signature greatsword appeared in his hand. He immediately swung the blade toward Rune.

Rune summoned her fire sword and blocked Arbiter's attack. "What are you doing?!"

Arbiter only responded by swinging his blade towards Rune from the left.

Rune blocked the attack again with her sword. "Arbiter, it's me! Rune!! Don't you remember me?!"

Arbiter leapt back and plunged his sword into the ground, causing the earth to tear open in a rift that headed toward Rune.

Rune jumped into the air and levitated herself. She swung her sword, unleashing a powerful fire wave at Arbiter.

Arbiter held out a palm; the flames were sucked toward his hand, congealing into a ball that Arbiter hurled back toward Rune.

Rune absorbed the fire, feeling slightly rejuvenated by it. She looked to Arbiter with sad eyes. "What's happened to you?" she thought.

Arbiter swung his sword in a rapid arc, sending numerous shockwaves of power hurtling toward Rune.

Rune couldn't react fast enough, and several shockwaves hit her and knocked her to the ground. She pointed her sword at Arbiter to keep him at a distance.

Suddenly Red appears alongside the rest of the Resistance and Hecate- her eyes pretty much say it all: she'd had enough.

"ARBITER!" Hecate bellowed. "What the Hell do you think you're doing?!"

Rose looks to Arbiter, then to Red - Jester and the other Resistance wait for her signal as Red steps forward, somewhat ignoring Rose: "..you will not reason with him, Fay" she states to Hecate, keeping her gaze on Arbiter.

"Don't tell me what I can't do!" Hecate snarled.

Arbiter merely stared with unmoving golden eyes.

"Then by all means continue and cast yourself into oblivion, I care not.. unless you take those I care for with you.." Red replies.

Rune slowly stood up and looked to Arbiter with sorrow. "What happened...?"

"You, girl!" Hecate called out to Rune. "Run for your life! You don't know what you're dealing with here-"

"Do you seek to stop me?" Arbiter asked, in a voice that was not his own. "I am the judge; my verdict is final. This world and all others have been sentenced to obliteration..."

Red grips her axe, "..you'll be surprised how hollow the verdict of a fool can be, Arbiter - when clouded by the taint of madness..".

Rune raised her hand up at Red. "Wait! Maybe we can snap him out of this! Look at him, he doesn't even appear to remember us. I think he's been brainwashed."

"Enough," Arbiter commanded. "All of you, fools who would dare challenge a god to battle... no, this will hardly be a fight. This will only be an end. Perish, flawed beings." With those words, Arbiter unleashed more shockwaves of power from his own form that tore up everything in sight, from streets to buildings.

Red hurls her axe at Arbiter, releasing it as it flies forward - "..if you seek to destroy flawed beings you would be as well ending yourself," she states before she leaps back as the shcokwave sends the others flying backward.

Rune was hit by the blast, and sent flying backwards. She quickly recovered, and ran towards Arbiter, holding her sword at her side.

Swinging his greatsword, Arbiter deflected the axe, sending it hurtling to his left; with another swipe, he parried Rune's attack.

Rose and the other Resistance fly forward and attack Arbiter as Red looks to the axe, a dark smile spreads over her face as she whispers - almost to herself - "..good boy, Arbiter.. you're still strong.. you shall need that strength.. soon enough".

Red proceeds to leap after the axe as the others continue to fight,

Arbiter's face showed disturbing calm as he defended himself in the midst of the fray; his greatsword cleaved effortlessly through the air and was parried with great effort, and even in attacking, he remained passive.

"Enough," Arbiter finally said, leaping back. "I will have order." As he said this, a white aura began to surround him.

Rune ran towards him, her hand reaching for him, and tears in her eyes. "No! Arbiter! Don't do this!!"

Red frowns at Rune, "soft-hearted fool.. Rose, Jester.. go forth and seek aid.. the rest of you stop acting like children and fight!" - with that she retrieves her axe and leaps back into the battle, knocking Rune aside if she has to.

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