Wolves At The Door is a retelling of an older User Battle story involved Red and Misery - delving deeper into Red's psyche at a time in the multiversal cycle when she will be at her most vulnerable.
Basic Plot - 5 years after the death of Inferno (as of Monsters) Red attempts to end her own life, alerting the attention of Misery: who acts to save Red via trapping her in her own nightmares, effectively making Red's mind her own "Misery Zone". This attracts the attention of several Absolutes, especially following the events of "Rogues" and they help several of Red's allies to enter her tormented mind and free her from Misery's influence.
- Jack Of All Trades (Misery is not alone inside Red's mind, indeed she has allied yet again with a "rogue" entity - one that knows Red better than even Misery herself..)
- Sangria (now nearing 13 years of age Sangria is beginning her journey into the darker aspects of her legacy as the daughter of a deceased demigod and a half-feral mother)
- Arbiter of Chaos
WOLVES AT THE DOOR
Red stood alone atop a high cliff overlooking her kingdom, the great forest spreading out below her as she looked down at the world - her right arm still blackened from the struggle she had faced during a great battle with her inner-demons, as well as the accursed Misery.. a demon Red had faced so many times in the past..
Indeed if it wasn't for a brave few Red would still of been the entity known as Auburn, an agent of retribution - a pawn for the senseless wars of the so-called Absolutes..
"..Inferno.. I'm here.. can you hear me?" Red whispered as she moved closer to the edge of the cliff, a few stray pebbles falling to the ground below as she walked to the edge - bare foot.. indeed her dress was shredded and her cloak tattered.. the once "Bloody Red Queen" now looking like a lost child in the wilderness.
"..I'm home.. can't you see? ..I'm home now.. you don't have to hide.." Red continued, her toes leaving the edge as she balanced dangerously over the edge of the cliff.
"..I know.. you're playing a game.. you always did that.. well, alright.. my sweet prince.. ready or not.. here I come.." Red said, a smile spreading over her face as she spread her arms out as if ready to fly..
However before Red could fall off the edge a cloaked figure suddenly manifested in front of her and extended a hand, the ethereal being soon becoming a semisolid mass that began to hold her in place as the figure's glowing eyes burned brightly.
"..I have had enough of your foolishness, stupid girl.." a dark voice said coldly, striking out at Red with enough force to send her falling back as if being hit hard in the face.
Red tumbled back onto the ground, scrambling to her knees as she held her stinging cheek - glaring up at the figure "..I thought you'd be happy.. this is what you wanted.. I have nothing.. now, at last.. I can end it..".
The cloaked figure finally lifts herself up, hovering over before landing on the ground - the cloak disappearing as she takes on a new form resembling a mirror-image of Red herself, only her skin is crimson and her footsteps create puddles of black, bubbling ooze.
"..happy? you selfish little brat.. this is the last thing I wanted for you.. for anyone.. death is the great comfort.. no Red.. you don't get to escape.. you don't get to die.. I won't allow it.." the figure growls, clutching one of her hands - as she does so a large axe forms out of the same bubbling ooze - becoming solid after a few moments.
Red simply stays in place, looking angrily at the figure as she spits on the ground "..there is nothing you can do to me now.. I'm already broken.. you've taken everything.. what good is keeping me alive?".
The figure swings the axe and impales Red in the stomach, the blade sinking in - yet instead of blood Red begins to emit the same black ooze as the axe itself - "..you disgust me.. I have given you such gifts.. without me you would never of had a family.. nor would you have become Queen of this wretched little world.. without me you'd of just been another little peasant-girl living on a farm.. I think it is time you remembered exactly who you are, Red.. as well as who I am..".
Red clenched her teeth as the axe entered her body, her mind blacking out as she collapsed on the ground - closing her eyes as everything slowly faded into darkness.. before slipping away she growled "..I'm.. going.. to.. *kill*.. you..."
The cloaked figure pulls the axe away, the wound soon healing as the figure warps back into the form of the cloaked entity - rolling Red over onto her back before hovering over her:
"..yes.. that's right.. finally.. you're doing something right.." the figure said before vanishing from the area.
Red breathes heavily before she finally passes out on the ground, laying there motionless as the cold air blows at her tattered cloak..
Chapter 1 - Shattered Glass
The scene changes to a room within the Royal Palace of Avalon, the warm rays of the morning sun shining through an open window as a motionless Red lay on top of a bed covered in white sheets, she had not moved since she was discovered by a passing scout and had been hurried to Avalon where even the greatest of Pegacorn healers could not awaken her..
Yet Red was not dead, the way her chest moved proved that - she was breathing and still very much alive, yet try as they might none could seem to awake her from sleep and many feared she had entered a coma.. or worse..
(ooc: open for editting below)
Suddenly, in a burst of green flames, Arbiter appears, donning a black traveler's cloak and eyes that seem to crackle with the energies of Chaos. Walking over slowly and ignoring the stares of the Pegacorn healers, he stops at the bedside and stoops over Red's motionless body, staring at her silently as if trying to peer into her very thoughts.
"Red... can you hear me?" he asks, speaking directly into her mind.
"..I doubt you will receive an answer from her, Arbiter.. I have tried several times.." a familar voice notes as Equis walks into view, along with a now teenage Sangria - whom Red had entrusted upon him following her temporary transformation into Auburn, a task Equis seems to have taken to heart as Sangria was already dressed in full Avalon Royal military uniform.
"...you have even attempted mindspeak?" Arbiter asks aloud, while still trying to communicate with Red's psyche.
"of course I did: astral-projection, telepathy, soul-merging.." Equis replied.
Sangria walked over and took her mother's right hand, even though it was blackened, the girl keeping a grip on it as she looked between Arbiter and Equis.
Arbiter glanced at Sangria and Equis, then sighed. "...there must be something we haven't tried." he said.
Red's hand suddenly grips around Sangria's and her eyes open - the green irides glowing as she sits up in the bed and speaks in a voice that is not her own:
"..the mind of this girl has become possessed by a rogue entity.. one of our own.. yet try as Misery may to fully block us not even she can stop us from doing our role.. which is why we speak to you now.. mortal beings..".
"...Misery?" Arbiter asks, momentarily stunned by the change in Sangria's demeanor. "I take it that she is behind this?"
Red goes silent as her eyes close once more, her body going limp as seven robed figures manifest suddenly before the others - towering over them like spectres: at first they seem like the Dark Ones Arbiter had faced in the past, yet their presence was not malevolent so much as awe-inspiring..
"..Arbiter of Chaos.. King Equis of Avalon.. Sangria Pendragon.. we are the Gentle Ones: do not waste time with questions you already know the answer to.. wherever Misery goes suffering inevitably follows.. this time however she seeks to keep Red's body and mind as her own.. an unusual case.. it would appear Misery has grown dependent upon Red.. the girl has gained a unique bond with our wayward sister.. one that Misery will not surrender.." the tallest of the figures notes, removing her hood to reveal an animal-like face with glowing eyes that had the intensity of small stars: one of her hands is like that of a young woman while the other is a large lion's paw.
"Can you tell us what we must do to save her?" Arbiter asks.
"..the same way a doctor would remove a parasite that has burrowed itself into a host, Arbiter of Chaos.. only your tools will be of the spiritual world.. you will enter Red's mind and free her from Misery.. however there is a second presence within Red.. it works with Misery.. it lies to her with promises of alliance.. for it knows no true allies save itself.. a parasite within a parasite.. to Red it is known as "Jack".. to us it is a monster.. a demon.." the figure replies.
Arbiter frowns, clenching his fists at the sound of Jack's name. His eyes crackle momentarily with dark energy.
"good.. anger.. cling to it.. in the end that is all that shall save you.." a dark voice echoes, the seven figures looking forward as a shadow appears behind Arbiter and the others: forming into a large winged figure with the face of a goat, her body covered in stinking fur as she emits an aura filled with malice that sends a shiver down the spine, even to a hardened warrior.
Suddenly and without warning Red sits up in the bed, her eyes opening once more - filling up with black liquid that begins to roll down her cheeks like blasphemous tears: a voice speaking out to the group as Red's grip increases, causing Sangria to cry out as she tries to tug away -
"..oh.. I am flattered.. the entire pantheon of the so-called "Gentle Ones" here to stop the Big Bad Jack.. and look.. Pendragon's soon-to-be orphan is here too.. just like daddy.. I wonder if you'll share his fate?".
"We have no words to share with you, monster." Arbiter growled.
"Let him speak, Arbiter.. do not be bitter.. just because you could not save them.." the large winged figure says.
"..enough.. all of you.. we will have order.. despite your evil.." the animal-like figure speaks.
"..cute.. oh well.. come and get me, Arbiter.. I'll make sure you join your half-born brother in death.. as for the rest of you.. play nice.. 'cause this is my story now.."
Red suddenly goes silent again, releasing Sangria as her eyes close and she lays on the bed - Sangria watches this in horror as she trembles for a few moments, then a change occures in Sangria as her eyes spark with anger and she looks to the animal-like figure:
"..take us into her mind.. I'm not afraid of Jack or Misery.. I'll kill them both if I have to.." Sangria growls.
"Recklessness will get you killed." Arbiter growls, barely able to contain his anger. "But we will save Red... no matter the cost..."
"I'll be coming with you, I expect Avalon to be guarded until my return.." Equis says, looking to several guards - who are confused but have little choice but to comply with the wishes of their King.
"..so be it.. enter Red's mind and free her of the evils within.." the animal-like figure states, opening a portal nearby "..the portal shall lead you to where you need to go..".
"You will fail Arbiter, just as you failed to save Inferno.. at any rate, I shall enjoy watching this futile crusade from the Depths of Depravity.. have fun.. pawns of the Alpha.." the large winged figure said before disappearing in a cloud of foul-smelling smoke.
Sangria looks to Arbiter for a moment "..some things are worth dying for.." she says, then enters the portal.
"But we won't be any use to Red if we die." Arbiter mutters in response, following.
Chapter 2 - House of Straw
The scene suddenly shifts to a dark forest, a dusty path leads towards an abandoned old house and crows cry out as they take flight against the cold night sky.
Arbiter's frown becomes more pronounced as he stares over the peculiar setting, looking around with his golden eyes and taking in every last detail. His grip tightens over his sword as his gaze shifts.
Sangria follows after Arbiter, waiting on Equis as she too looks around - "..I can smell her, Arbiter.. mother is nearby.. though I can smell something with her.. something toxic.. it lies to her.. tells her that it can protect her.. to her it is comfort.. to us it is Evil..".
"I sense it too," Arbiter said. "A parasite of sorts."
Sangria stops at Arbiter's mention of a parasite, her mind suddenly flashing to an unknown memory - so distant it was like looking into a past life: a blur of red, swirling mass followed by the disturbing melody of a baby crying as a voice spoke out, like her own but twisted with rage: "..Yooooou... Are..... Nooooooot..... Reaaaaal.......".
Equis suddenly appears behind Sangria, placing his hand on her shoulder as he stares at the house in the distance: "..this is not our world, we can not afford to let our thoughts stray.. forget about the darkness and focus on your mother..".
Sangria shrugs her shoulder and moves forward, frowning slightly "..I am not the one who should worry about inner-darkness.." she mutters - moving towards the abandoned house.
Wordlessly, Arbiter walks forth, keeping a tight grip on his blade.
Suddenly a gigantic wall appears in front of the group, red in color and spreading impossibly long and high in all directions - the wall forming a pair of glowing yellow eyes as a familar voice speaks out:
"From the moment we are born we slowly but surely begin to die.. death frees us from the wretched disease we call life.. such a pity that most humans do not live past 100 years.. in Red's world however humans can live 500 or more.. I do hope in time this gift will spread to the mainstream world.. few things pain me but loss of life does.. for when life is over.. what purpose do I have?".
Sangria growls as her eyes glow brightly "We're not afraid of you, Misery! You're a witch - a vile, disgusting hag.. yet all witches can be beaten.. You're not so special you know, you claim to be a god but a true god doesn't leech on others.. a true god wouldn't have to hide in the shadows like you do!".
"Misery is no god, young one," Arbiter says. "She is a demon."
"You think that wounds me, Arbiter? some would say that demons are what gods should be.. we answer prayers, we never judge and we accept all beings - sin and all.. yet I am not here to speak philosophy with you.. I am here to warn you: enter that house and you shall face a darkness unlike any you have faced before..".
With that the great wall disappears entirely, once again revealing the path to that lonely house.
"So be it, Misery," Arbiter said, walking forward without a second thought.
As the group approaches the house they notice the door is slightly ajar, the sound of gentle laughter coming from inside.
Sangria is quick to move towards the door, "..that laughter.. mother?".
"Sangria - wait.." Equis warns, grabbing her by the arm and tugging her away from the door.
Arbiter narrows his eyes, peering intently at the house. Then he stepped forward. "Trap or not," Arbiter said, "this is a trial we must face if we are to find Red. Be wary."
As the door opens the group are met with a disturbing sight - a warm fire lights a spacious room and Red sits on a rocking chair, cradling a doll which had its hair removed, one eye missing and its limbs twisted in unnatural positions.
Sangria looks to her mother, who is smiling and laughing a little, a pair of hands on her shoulder - leading to a tall male, covered in shadow.
Equis frowns, lifting his sword and pointing towards the man in shadow - "..another of Misery's tricks, no doubt..".
"Or maybe... wait..." said Arbiter suddenly. "Something's not right here..."
"Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree - Merry, merry king of the bush is he - Laugh, Kookaburra! Laugh, Kookaburra!" the tall figure sings, looking over to the group as he keeps his hands on Red's shoulder, she continues to giggle like a little girl and rocks her doll as if mothering a child.. the figure is still covered in shadow but piercing eyes emerge from the darkness, causing Sangria to suddenly recoil in fear.
"J-Jack!" Sangria gasps, remembering her demonic "grandfather" from a previous encounter, yet she was unprepared for another encounter with him.. especially in her mother's mind.