(note: this story is a co-op between myself (Misery) and Red, for now it's for us to edit but we'll open it out later for more to join.. Red states this story is set in the past so as not to interfere with the events of her current story "The Court Of The Red Queen")
The story begins in ancient times during the age of the Druids in a remote area of land, a gathering of robed figures atop a hillside signals the beginning of a ceremony as they form a circle around a young woman dressed in white.
"Dark Spirit of the earth, we call upon you.. hear our call and manifest!" the figures call out in harmony, raising their hands as the woman looks around in a panic, the skies beginning to darken as the clouds swirl unnaturally.
"..stop this.. please.. you can't.. the ancestors will punish you for this.." the woman pleaded, to no avail.
"Dark Spirit of the earth, we seek your aid! the ancestors have abandoned us, we are surrounded by those who would see us die - Dark Spirit, we pray, deliver us!" the figures call out again, looking towards the clouds.
The clouds continue to swirl until they form a large vortex in the sky and a pair of glowing yellow eyes appear above the group as a dark voice echoes: "the age of the Druids is coming to an end, there is nothing I can do for you now.."
The figures tremble slightly but speak out, "..no! there must be a way! please!"
The voice pauses, only to reply: "..very well, little ones - swear your loyalty to me and I shall grant you what you desire.."
The woman suddenly stands and looks at the figures, "stop! stop! can't you see!? it lies to you! it is a demon!"
One of the figures strikes the woman, knocking her down as she holds her cheek and stumbles back - "..monsters!" she cried as she finally broke free of the circle and fled.
The figures began to move as if to pursue when they stopped as the dark voice echoed, "..leave her, I have no time to waste on mortal affairs - swear your loyalty or begone from my sight.."
"..we swear loyalty to you, Dark Spirit - your will is our command.. for now and forever.." the figures replied, bowing down.
"..I shall hold you to that promise, for now I shall uphold my own.." the voice echoed and before the figures could react a thick fog descended upon the hillside.
The woman continued running down the hill and turned back for a moment to see the fog envelop the figures, the sky returning to normal as the manifestation vanished - the fog clearing to reveal an empty space where the group once stood.
"..may the ancestors have mercy on you all" she said quietly before turning away and once again racing down the hill, heading towards the nearest village..
Thousands of years later a new world had sprung forth as the once isolated hillside of old was now surrounded by a bustling city and recently an influx of tourists from across the world were arriving as the city celebrated one of its more unique festivals: with grand parades and music filling the streets.
Red sat at a table outside one of the many little coffee shops in the city and watched the crowds as they swarmed around her - keeping her red hood firmly covering most of her features: she looked somewhat disgusted at what she saw.
"..it has been little over a year since this world experienced a war the likes of which I can not fathom, even to this day.. one that cost them so much.. yet they celebrate.. as if nothing occured.." she thought to herself, her memories flashing back to the events of War Cry and the struggle she and the other had just to survive the Voice's assault - even amidst all the celebration she could see some visible signs of that war around the city in the form of half-ruined buildings, boarded up as if to try and hide the events of old.
"You here for the Festival, I take?" a voice noted, Red looking up to see a local member of staff standing by her table - placing a cup of coffee on her table: though it looked more like black sludge.
"..perhaps, truth is I still wonder what there is to celebrate in this world.." Red noted, not bothering to fake optimism as she took the cup of coffee and stared at it - hoping if she stared long enough it would look more appealing.
"We're alive aren't we? that's celebration enough! besides, the Festival brings us luck - or so they say.. Heaven knows we need some about now.." the local replied.
"..do tell.." Red replied, swirling the coffee around in the cup but still not daring to taste it.
"Well I'm not one for old fairy tales but they say the Festival brings luck to those that partake, they climb the hill and light a bonfire at the top - they dance and sing all through the night.. when it's all said and done it gives us something to pull in the crowds at least.." the local said.
"..indeed.." Red replied - not really seeming to care.. the local seemed to take the hint soon enough and ventured back into the coffee house to attend to other customers.
(note: edit below, this takes place a year after War Cry but before Dusk - I'm not sure on how others chronicle their stories so forgive me if I've screwed over someone's time-line but I figured this was the simplest way of trying to keep some sort of canon in the stories.. basically this is before Red and Inferno left on their voyage but after the Voice's attack on Earth (which I feel would have after-effects, which is why I mentioned it) )
Perched atop one of the buildings, invisible to mortal eyes, is a Twilight-Dragon: although small by her species standards she still takes up most of the rooftop - yet she is as light as a feather.. watching over the goings on below through unblinking eyes of glowing red: <<..just my luck to be stuck guarding this sector amidst a.. ugh.. "festival".. there is nothing quite as offensive to the senses than the merriment of fools..>> she thought to herself in silence (note: Inferno can't be involved, if this occurs after War Cry he's recovering from the Eclipse encounter - however the Twilight-Dragons will be active as I believe Earth was put under their "protection" at the end of that story)
With a pink flash of light, the image of a young, translucent girl floats in the air, next to the unseen dragon. "It's beautiful, isn't it?" she says cheerily. "Yes, I'm talking to you. I can see you!"
Following the etheral girl, a crimson-haired youth climbs atop the roof. "Nebula, who exactly are you talking to?" he asks.
The dragon simply continues to watch the crowds below as she speaks to the girl without looking to her, "if you find the concept of a group of slightly evolved primates attempting to perform a ritualistic display of "worth" amidst a ruined world beautiful then yes, by all means, it is a masterpiece.."
"I know, right? It's so amazing!" she squealed with glee, apparently not catching the dragon's hint.
Amnesty appears on a different rooftop, right acros the street. "Hm... everything seems to be good here.... at least for now..." (I can't leave Amnesty out of this one, as she promised to keep an eye on Earth as well.)
The sun begins to set and with it a large crowd of revellers gather - waving flags as jugglers and street-entertainers of all shapes and forms paraded around: many dressed in elaborate costumes as they began the ritualistic ascent up the hill, music and dance accompanying the spectacle as a few torches are already lit in preparation for the bonfire.
Ruichi, unable to see the dragon that Nebula is speaking too, resigns himself to watching the festivities. Nebula soon rounds upon him.
"What's the matter? Why the long face?"
"I...just don't like people..." Ruichi mumbles.
"Nonsense! People are nice!" Nebula exclaims.
"Not all of them..." mutters Ruichi, instincively placing a hand up to the bandanna on his forehead, and running his fingers across the ugly scar hidden underneath it.
Red watches as the large crowd passes by, giving her an excuse to abandon the untouched cup of coffee as she follows the crowd - keeping a small distance from the main crowd, being sure to mind her movements as she conceals an ornate axe: she watched a few children playing amidst the crowd and frowned a little more, remembering the orphans she had rescued amidst the blaze of war - how she had dug them free from beneath the rubble of their former homes as the Voice's troops laid waste to the world around them.
At least now she knew those children were safe, she had arranged transport for them to her Court - their they would grow to become her guards in time and learn the art of defence and discipline.. concepts she barely saw in the celebrating crowd before her.
Meanwhile on the rooftops a dark voice suddenly speaks out "he's right you know, people aren't all nice.. in fact some are worse than you could ever imagine.." - with that Misery manifests behind Nebula, in her usual form as a robed female in red.
Ruichi stares at the figure, not uttering a word; until Nebula flutters in her face.
"HI, I'M NEBULA!" says Nebula loudly. She begins to float around in a fast circle around Misery, bombarding her with questions in a voice as rapid as machine gun fire- "What with the red cloak? Do I know you? Is red your favorite color? Mine's pink. How old are you...?"
"Nebula..." begins Ruichi.
The dragon suddenly turns and goes into action, lashing at Misery with her powerful tail as she hisses - spreading her wings, "stay away from her!" she snaps at Nebula in warning.
Amnesty appears on the rooftop as well. "Misery. Why are you here?"
Misery simply hovers in place, the dragon's tail phasing through her form as she speaks calmly "a great many years have passed, the time has now come for seven to rise and make good on their promise to serve me - as for you, do as you will.. it matters not.."
As Misery finishes the crowd gathers atop the hill and light the bonfire as they had done every Festival, dancing and celebrating - when suddenly the flames change color as seven figures emerge from the bonfire, like phantoms.. dressed in different colored robes and gazing at the crowd from behind glowing eyes.
"..show time!" one of the figures declares and before the crowd can react they are covered in a swarm of flies that buzzes around, driving them into a frenzy as the other figures begin to move around: treating the crowd like cattle being rounded for a slaughter..
The seven mysterious figures continue to round the crowd up as the festivity turns to chaos - the cloud of flies spreading out to cover almost the entire hillside as the bonfire burns a crimson red.
Amnesty looks at the swarm of flies, a worried look on her face. "Misery, what are those figures?"
Misery simply continues to hover in place, observing the scene as if it were nothing "they are The Outsiders - they are humans.. at least a variation of them.. many years ago they swore loyalty to me.. in exchange they became empowered by the Dark Ones.. make no mistake though.. their loyalty is solely to me.. for better or worse.."
Meanwhile atop the hill Red takes out her axe and begins to charge at the robed figures, managing to bulldoze her way through the cloud of flies due to sheer willpower - the axe seeming to guide her movements as she snarls: "..good, it has been too long since I shed the blood of madmen and demons!".
Amnesty flies towards the hill, using her magic to keep the flies away.
Nebula gasps in surprise, before giving off a pink aura of magic- the magic spreads through the air, dispelling many of the flies, who still swarm outside of the aura.
Ruichi takes up his scythe and confronts Misery.
Misery simply looks to Ruichi "go ahead boy, strike me - give into the rage the defines you.. the same rage that will bring your downfall.. become as much an animal in practice as you are in appearance.. alone and forever tormented.. as for that silly toy of yours.. ask yourself this: how could a boy too weak to save himself ever hope to defeat me?" - she chuckles slightly and suddenly seems to appear right behind Ruichi "..or could it be you are afraid? if not for yourself but for the girl - Nebula.. she is so sweet, so innocent.. rather selfish of you Ruichi, to expose such a delicate creature to the horrors of this universe.."
As this is occuring the cloud of flies continues to buzz around the hilltop as the figures stand in a circle, having gathered the crowd into three separate groups of men, women and children - one of them smiles as Red charges at them only to raise their hand: at once Red begins to feel herself slowing as her hair slowly turns grey and her skin wrinkles with apparent age, as if her life was slowly being drained.
"good work Sloth - Envy should be able to take care of the sorceress and the Dark Spirit wishes Greed to deal with the wisp, that leaves Pride to deal with the dragon and Gluttony to deal with the crowd.." one of the figures speaks.
"What about you? what you gonna do? I'm starving over here!" one of the figures (presumably Gluttony) complains.
"I shall do what I was born to do.. Wrath is such a terrible thing to waste.." the figure replies.
Amnesty reaches the group and sends out a powerful shockwave to keep the flies away.
The dragon speaks to Ruichi: "you can't defeat her, don't even try.. focus on the true threat.." - with that she spreads her wings and flies towards the hill, leaving considerably large claw marks on the roof-top in the process.
As Amnesty arrives one of the figures stares directly at her, his eyes glowing like the lights on a truck at night - instantly she begins to feel her power starting to lower steadily, the figure not saying a word as he seems to focus.
At the same time a figure appears near Nebula and makes an odd gesture with his arms - as if on command Nebula begins to feel her mind altering slightly (it is up to you how the "mind-warp" effects her mind).
Amnesty warps behind the figures, trying to evade his gaze.
Red grits her teeth and continues to charge forward, despite the effects on her body - in fact she seems more determined than ever now as she homes in on the figure with the outstretched arm and swings her axe viciously, her eyes sparking with focused rage.