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An Assassin and a World Walker

Johanna was waiting for Todd to show up at a diner. He'd promise he'd be there. She was told he had to bring an ally with him, which is understandable, since she should probably meet him too so they can probably get a team together. She looked at her watch. 9:07. An hour late.

After about five more minutes, Todd finally came with a young man, green eyes, black hair, and pale skin. He wore a long coat, a grey t-shirt and blue jeans.

"Sorry to be so late," Todd began, sitting down, the young man sitting next to him. "So you're Johanna. Well aren't you a rosebud?" said the boy. Johanna flushed. "Uh who is he?" she asked. "This is Philip. A being composed entire by nanomachines, capable of shapeshifting, elasticity, and simply creeping about." Philip nodded,

"And I'm incredibly intellegent...and asexual." Philip added that last comment in hopes of dispelling any misconceptions. "No offence to you, you really are a lovely young lady, just, not attracted. Unable to."

"Ok, I know the definition of "asexual"" Johanna responded. "Well I met this guy while walking around, he took down some bank robbers. And I read an article in the paper. Saved the Pope." Todd explained. "Really?" Johanna asked, amazed.

Philip nodded, "Sadly there was one casualty. Originally I had a "Good bye Good Riddence" thing, but you know, I felt bad. So I went to Penance...but being an agnostic made that really hard. So I went to confession, meditated, danced with incense, meditated again, did community service, meditated, drank a specially prepared tea made by monk, drank a tea made by a Buddhist monk...well you get the point."

"Well, who's hungry? I'm buying...but not a lot, I don't have much on me right now." Todd asked, looking through his leather wallet. "I can eat." Johanna answered. Philip responded, "Would it be alright if I eat. I ask since I know you know that I have no need to eat but being made of a "grey goo" allows me to do so and I eat for the joys of eating, granted a bit gluttonous but I digress."

"Oh course you can eat." Todd was about to call over a waitress when an explotion came outside. "What the hell?" asked Johanna, looking as a figure loomed from the dust and smoke.

(OOC NOTE: Just for information, while I hope the people and characters from Soul Thief II would return, new villains can join, since the word on the World Walker has been spread (presumably) Sorry if this seems out of place everybody. Also sorry for this opening being incredibly short and this note being incredibly long. Hope this turns out well.)

A man with dark, blonde hair and sunglasses emerged from the smoke, dusting off his black trenchcoat. Noticing Todd and the others staring at him through the window, he walked towards them, passing through the wall like a spectre.

"Ah, company!" he said, unexpectedly jovial. "I'm freakin' starved, let's eat." Todd then asked, "Uh...can we help you?" Todd tapped Philip's shoulder and gestured towards Johanna. Philip nodded, and moved next to Johanna, ready for whatever order given.

"Don't tell me you're looking to start a fight," the man said. "All I wanted was a burger and a chance to speak with this World Walker fellow. Is that too much to ask?"

Rune walked into the diner, a tired expression on her face. She saw Todd and Johanna, and smiled at them. "Oh, hi again!"

"One moment, miss, I'm speaking to the World Walker. Which one of you is him, anyway?" Anthony said, with a dismissive wave of his hand.

Todd then asked, "Alright, one, no offence Rune, I'm glad to see you but why are you here and two, Mr...whoever you are. I guess that's me, I travel across the multiverse, but would please keep it down? I try to keep the two lives seprate and three, what do you want from me?"

"I am Anthony. Anthony Ryder, the assassin. Don't worry, I'm not here to take your lives... yet. I've come simply to have a word. And a burger, of course. But however you react to my message is entirely up to you."

Rune glared at Anthony Ryder. "This guy's trouble..." she thought. Todd then whispered to Rune and Philip, "Cover Johanna, don't let her out of your sights and don't let him touch her." Todd directed his attention to Anthony and asked, "What's the message...and what do you want on your burger?"

"Don't worry about that, I'm paying for it... in fact, dinner's on me. As for my message, I have something that you really might be interested in hearing about-" Anthony was interrupted as the waitress dropped by.

"Have you figured out what you're having tonight?" the waitress asked. Todd replied, "I'll have a burger," Philip said, "I'll have a small steak, medium rare." Johanna then asked, "Small salad." Todd rolled his eyes, muttered for a second before saying, "For the love of...you're not fat! But fine. Rune and uh...Anthony, what you two want?"

Rune shook her head and said, "That's okay, I just ate." "Er, what about you Anthony?" asked Todd.

"I'll have a quarter-pound burger and a martini, if you don't mind." Anthony said.

"Very well," the waitress said. "Anything else?"

"Sure," Anthony said. "Just remember to smile that gorgeous smile of yours when you come back, honey," he said, tilting his sunglasses down a tad, and winking at the waitress, who blushed and turned away slightly.

"Of c-course, Mr..."

"Ryder. Anthony Ryder."

With a curt, hasty half-bow, the waitress left.

Philip then stated, "The message Mr. Ryder...tell us."

"Fine, fine, if you're so hasty," Anthony said. He cleared his throat. "I'm assuming you already know this, but there are... a couple... spreading your reputation to every criminal and criminal organization they can find, Mr. World Walker."

"A couple?" asked Todd. "I don't know any couples. Who were they?"

"Their names, according to them, were Elliot and Victoria," Anthony explained. "I assume you are familiar with them; why else would they appear in my base and warn me about you? What have you done, Mr. World Walker, to warrant their attention as such?"

"Elliot!" muttered Johanna. "Damn it!" snapped Todd, "I know Elliot, we had a...little scrap. I don't know the Victoria person...was she pretty?"

"Will your girlfriend there really want me to answer that, Mr. World Walker?" Anthony asked, gesturing to Johanna.

Todd and Johanna (despite being aggrivated Todd asked that question) both became beet red and replied with the same old tired cliche..." She's/he's not my/his girlfriend!"

"Tell him Rune!" Johanna snapped towards Rune.

Rune looked back and forth between Johanna and Todd. "Uhh....I don't really know. Last time I was here I just helped you fight Elliot..."

Anthony laughed. "Aw, look at the luvey-wuvy lovers blush! D'awww!" Todd then snapped, "MY NONEXISTENT LOVE LIFE IS NONE OF YOUR BUISNESS!" Todd threw a fireball roughly the size of a tennis ball towards Anthony.

"Cool down, hothead!" Anthony exclaimed; the fireball smashed against him harmlessly and dissipated. "You can't handle a little teasing and you're gonna set the whole restaurant on fire? And I thought I had anger-management issues..."

"Anyway..." urged Philip in hopes of continuing where they left off.

"Ah, yes, the remainder of the message," Anthony said. "Put simply, watch your back. There are a number of criminals, demons, and other malcontents planning on hunting you down. Next thing you know, there might be a knife sticking out of your dead carcass, if you don't keep a vigilant eye. Of course, I have nothing to do with these malcontents- unless they pay me, that is- so I've got no business with you involving murder. So once, more, tread carefully... lovebirds." Anthony snickered slightly.

With that the waitress returned and, as prosmised, flashed her lovely smile as she placed the plates in front of their respective people. Todd then faced Rune,"You sure you don't want anything?"

"Yeah, I'm sure. I only came in here to examine a possible flu-bomb threat, but there's no bomb...I guess my archenemy actually hasn't done anything and was just teasing me..."

"Pray your archenemy never pays me to silence you, Miss Rune," Anthony said quietly. The waitress then returned and said, "Oh sorry! I forgot your martini!" She placed a glass in front of Anthony and showed her smile again

Rune looked to Anthony. "Trust me, he never would. I just said he plants flu-bombs, didn't I? He's not very....malicious..."

"Thank you, Miss... um, what may I call such a beauty as yourself?" Anthony asked smiling, ignoring Rune's retort. "Eden," answered the woman.

Philip, secretly dissolving, slivering up the parallel seat and reformed besides Rune, stretched his arm across her shoulders and said, "I wouldn't ignore you."

Rune blushed, and laughed a little nervously. Todd was about to warn her that Philip was asexual but Johanna stopped him. Todd then directed his attention to Anthony and asked, "Who else is after me?"

After the waitress had left, Anthony leaned in slightly. "Criminals. Demons. Many others who sense you are a threat and foolishly opt to confront you head on. Your title, World Walker, has even reached the ears that never miss a single thing. But I cannot tell you about them. I don't have many specific names, but I can assure you, they will be hunting you down like birds of prey."

Todd leaned forward and, hiding his terror...ok I guess, replied, "Bring it on."

"Ha!" Anthony laughed. "I like that attitude. You might not be so bad for an alien after all. Just hope one of your new enemies doesn't hire me- I'd hate to have to kill you."

Rune looked to Todd. "Don't worry, Todd. I'll help you with this new onslaught."Philip, his arm still around Rune's shoulder replied, "As will I!". Johanna rested a hand on Todd's hand and said, "You can't get rid of me." Todd smirked, "Again I say...bring it on.

"Although," Anthony said, "If you pay me, Mr. World Walker, I'll be honor-bound not to kill you- unless you betray me- even if your opposition offers me a higher sum." Todd shook his head and smiled. "No thanks, I can take care of myself...and who said you'd have a chance against me?"

"I did, of course," Anthony stated. Philip responded, "A bit cocky, don't you think, Mr. Ryder. I think my lovely friends here would agree with me."

Anthony Ryder shrugged. "Can't help myself." Johanna then asked, "Why are you telling us this anyway? Wouldn't it give you an edge if you didn't tell him...and us?"

"Yes, why exactly are you helping us?" Rune questioned.

"That information costs two-thousand dollars," Anthony said. "Information is sometimes too valuable a thing to give away. Besides, I already got what I wanted by coming here."

Philip asked, "How is the information worth 2000 dollars? And if Todd is a "multiversal threat" wouldn't it be worth more? And while we're on the topic, which universe's money are we talking about?"

"The one I'm from, duh," Anthony said, taking a bite into his burger. "And also, never misinterpret the sheer value of information."

"True, information can't be misinterpreted." Philip stated. Philip turned his fingers into a knife and fork to cut up his steak. He jabbed a piece and held it Rune. "Want a bite Rune?"

Rune blushed again, and said, "Uh, sure." She took a small bite, and nodded gratefully to Philip. Philip pulled his arm back muttering "Ow. I think you took a few nanobots with it."

Rune's eyes widened. "Oh, I'm sorry." Philip laughed slightly, "Don't worry, they regenerate."

"Information is a valuable commodity," Anthony continued. "In some instances, people will pay through the nose to discover any kind of lead or dark secret about anything else. I've had nearly everyone, from detective to business executive, pay me for confidential information. Like assassination, it is merely a service I provide."

Todd grew pale, "And uh...what else do you know about me?"

"Three-thousand, five-hundred dollars, Mr. World Walker." Todd secretly snapped his fingers, created the money (he'll deal with the legal system when it comes) and slammed the money into Anthony's hand. "Here! What else do you know?"

Anthony raised an eyebrow. "This isn't real, is it?" Todd growled, "I don't know!!" Todd grumbled to himself as he created several golden coins. "Here! Real gold! Now answer me!"

"If you're this desperate, then there's obviously something you don't want getting out, Mr. World Walker. Fine, I'll tell you what I know." Anthony leaned back slightly, sipping his martini, before scooping up the money. "But only because I'm feeling generous. You are a World Walker. Your magical prowess makes you a powerful as some reality-benders, making you a dangerous foe. You are a Christian. Your arch-enemy is an entity named Nilrem. And you may be fond of pranks. However, you possess no superhuman stregnth, your magic contains certain... limits... and you do not like to kill. Also, you're in love with this girl here," Anthony said, failing at holding back a smirk. "I've also heard something about you destroying a universe, but I don't believe that. It contradicts the limits of your powers."

"That's quite a lot of information. How did Elliot know all of this?"

"Funny... most of this intel didn't come from Elliot," Anthony replied. Todd, who just stopped flushing responded, "How did you get this information? And I did, accidently play a part in the destruction of a universe!" The waitress returned refilling Anthony's martini, saying before he responded she said, "On the house." she winked and left.

"Thank you, Miss Eden," Anthony said politely, smiling, before turning back to Todd. "As for the intel I've gained about you... there are people who know more than you think, Mr. World Walker. People whose ears never miss a single thing. But I cannot tell you about them." Anthony lifted his refilled martini and sipped it.

"Why not?" Rune inquired.

"Well that would be telling, now wouldn't it?" Anthony questioned rhetorically. To which, Todd responded, "No duh! So tell me!"

"This is one thing I cannot tell you, no matter how much you bribe me," Anthony said. "And I've already said far too much." Todd then joked, "Yes we know you already "said to much" but why can't you tell us more?"

"...do you want to die, Mr. World Walker? I thought not," Anthony said, without waiting for an answer. His voice was suddenly more serious. "That's why I can't tell you." Johanna then snapped, "Don't you threaten him!"

"That was no threat, Miss Johanna."

Todd leaned towards Anthony, with a platinum coin in hand he whispered, "If you forget all that information on Johanna and me, I'll give you this shiny coin, made of platinum, more valuble then gold."

Anthony took the coin, observing it in his hands, attempting to flex it, and finally licking it. "Yes, this is platinum. But a single platinum coin is not enough to silence me. It'll cost more to keep me from divulging that information to a single soul. But remember, once paid, I will never go back on my word, even if offered more. Unless, of course, you attempt to backstab me."

Todd created five platinum coins in front of Anthony and responded, "Here, more coins. And you're acting like you dismissing the information about me and Johanna knowing one another could back fire with the "once paid never go back thing."

"Mr. World Walker," Anthony Ryder said. "The most important thing for an assassin or a seller of information and his client is a bond of trust. Paying me means I will go to all reasonable lengths to keep my end of the bargain, as long as yours is kept. Also, six platinum coins doesn't amount to too much, despite the rarity of platinum. But I suppose I can take them... I'm feeling in a rather good mood at this moment."

"Alright, I'll keep my end as long as you keep your and you don't stab us in the back." Todd replied.

Rune narrowed her eyes at Anthony. "I really hope we can trust him...." she thought.

"As long as I'm not paid to kill you, you won't have to worry about that," Anthony said.

Todd replied, "Then I think our business is done here."

"If you say so," Anthony said, finishing his martini.

Rune glanced at his martini glass. "Please don't get into a car." Philip nodded in agreement. Todd continued, "Well we have nothing more to talk about...but yeah don't get in a car."

"Caring about my well-being... how thoughtful. But two shots of martini will hardly do anything to me... besides, I don't need a car." Johanna questioned, "Then how do you propose you get home?"

Anthony shrugged again. "However I feel like, I guess. Now excuse me, I need to tip the lovely waitress." Todd and the others didn't know if he was making an induendo, or if they were overly suspisious of him considering his actions around the waitress.

"Let's leave," Todd said as he and Johanna got up, avoiding eye contact. Philip stood up, and offered his hand for Rune. "Want me to escort you my dear?"

Rune blushed yet again, and took his hand. "S-sure..." Philip took her hand as the two of them followed the other two. They were about half way up the street when a portal opened.

World Walker Versus Shade

(OOC: Thank you Deathwalker13000 for joining as a villain. And I would also like to thank Hero Forever for join as Rune. But now I need another villain, let's see who it is...)

A young man dressed all in black with pinkish eyes stepped out of the portal, and smirked at the group. "Which one of you is the World Walker?"

Todd was about to say something, but Johanna cut him off before he could speak, saying, "We don't know what you're talking about...what would you want with this...I assume it's a person, anyway?" Philip then asked, "Yes, what is your intention?" Todd then finally was able to speak asking, "Would you like us to send a message to...who ever you're talking about?"

Shade glared at them, the smirk still wide on his face. "Don't play dumb. I know one of you is the World Walker. And if he doesn't step forth, I guess I'll just have to destroy this lovely city." He raised his hand, and a dark purple aura surrounded it.

Todd stepped forward, hands raised. "Here I am...now who are you?"

"I'm Shade. And I'm here to crush you and take away your powers." He shot a small amount of dark plasma at Todd. Todd swiftly created a shield, in hopes to block the plasma completely.

The plasma hit the shield, leaving Todd unharmed. Shade lowered his hand, and narrowed his eyes at Todd. "So, you are indeed him. Good." He levitated into the air, and began generating a large plasma orb above him.

Rune summoned her sword and started swinging it repeatedly, unleashing several waves of fire at Shade, each wave blocked by a shield that Shade put around himself. Philip turned his hand into a blade and sent it flying, while Todd shot out ice "bullets", both hoping to land hit hits.

Shade was not able to make his shield large enough, and was hit by the ice bullets. He hovered backwards, emitting a small cry of pain. He, then, threw the large plasma orb at the group. "Damn it!" Todd shouted, creating a dome. "Guys get in!" Philip shook his head and said, "No need. Armor form!" With that Philip transformed and moved his nanomachines to resemble steel plates, and strong enough to withstand short range missile attacks.

"Get behind me Rune!"

"That's alright," Rune told him. She generated a fire barrier around herself.

The orb of plasma exploded against the group, but left them unharmed. Shade, then, landed on the ground. "Impressive indeed." He smirked at Todd, raised both hands, and started shooting multiple rays of dark plasma at them.

Todd shoved Johanna aside, and responded, shooting balls of light into the dark plasma bolts, hoping that they'd break through or at least negate both.

The light and dark orbs exploded upon contact with each other. Right after this, Shade ran in quickly, and attempted to punch him across the face. Todd spat up some blood when the fist hit his jaw. He was forced to the ground.

Todd wiped the blood from his mouth and said, "Guess what? There's a hundre nanobots behind you." He smiled as Philip became his amorphous blob form, laching to Shade's hand, attempting to "nibble" at his skin causing a slight form of pain.

Shade stared at his hand. "This...doesn't really hurt that much...." "No but this will!" Todd smirked, creating a baseball bat, attempting to swing at the head.

Smirking, Shade raised his nanobot covered fist up to block the bat. The bat connected, "OW!" Philip yelled, his voice was slightly weird due to his blob form. "Oh sorry pal!" Johanna got back up, looking for a way to be useful. She ran to Rune. "Rune? Do you have any extra weapons I can use?"

Rune quickly generated a fire spear and handed it to Johanna.

Shade grabbed hold of the bat and shattered it with a dark plasma blast. "OW!" Philip muttered again slithering next to Todd. "Got any ideas Todd?" Philip asked, returning to human form. Todd created a throwing knife. Johanna snuck up behind Shade, about to stab him with the flaming spear. Todd threw the blade and Johanna began to thrust the spear.

Shade created a shield at his back to block the spear, and he caught the throwing knife in between his fingers.

"Whoa..." Johanna whispered.

Shade threw the knife back at Todd. Then, he cancelled the shield at his back, whirled around and grabbed Johanna by the wrist. "Is this the young lady you're in love with, World Walker?" The blade went into Todd's shoulder.

He saw Johanna in Shade's hand. "N-no! I-I just met her today!" Philip slithered and hardened a "tentacle", ready to strike.

Chuckling villainously, Shade's smirk widened. "Likely story."

Rune ran up and pointed her blade at Shade's throat. "Let her go," she demanded.

"Make me," Shade replied slyly. He shot up into the sky, taking Johanna with her. Todd also shot up, following not that far behind. Philip upset he missed his opprotunity, returned to his human form and asked Rune, "Can you get us up with them?"

Rune nodded, took Philip by the hand, and flew up to the others.

Shade hovered, holding Johanna. "What's the matter, World Walker? Upset?" he mocked. Todd was "pacing" in the air. 'What do I do? How do I get Johanna out of this...I got it!"

He teleported from sight and appeared behind Rune and Philip. "Philip, Rube, distract him, but don't be fatal about it. Make him let her go, I'll catch Johanna with telekinesis..." Todd thought and realized there were flaws in his plans.

"But if you guys have a better idea, offer it..." Philip responded, "Surprisingly I got nothing." Todd then asked, "You Rune?"

Rune shook her head, her eyes on Shade. "I think your idea is the only way to go." Todd took a deep breath, "OK, you guys, fly over to him, get him to drop Johanna, but don't kill him and try not to hurt Johanna."

Meanwhile with Johanna, who was stuggling to get out of his grasp upon seeing her friends muttered, "Let go!" She forced her head back, trying to headbutt him.

Shade was hit by the headbutt, but seemed unaffected.

Rune flew over with Philip. She started trying to hit him in the face with the blunt edge of her sword, which he repeatedlh blocked with another shield. Philip secretly extended his little finger and it reached to the back of his neck, created a knife-like blade and attemped to plundge it into his neck.

Shade took hold of the knife like blade and crushed it in his hand. "You'll have to try something else, nanoboy."

Philip then whipered to Rune. "I'm going to go in his mouth and nose, prevent him from breathing...no doubt he'll retaliate, somake sure Johanna and Todd don't get hurt, but be sure that you don't get hurt my dear..."

Rune nodded solemnly, and stopped swinging her sword. Philip leaped from Rune and turned into an amorphous blob and hoped he would get into his nose and mouth.

The blob hit Shade dead on, and parts did land in his nose and mouth. He choked and coughed, releasing Johanna to put his hands to his throat.

Todd saw Johanna fall and as quickly as he could, grabbed Johanna with his telekinesis. "Gotcha!" Johanna floated over to Todd. Todd then tossed an energy ball, a concussion ball, into Shade's chest, in hopes of knocking the wind (and Philip) out of him.

Shade was hit by the ball, and put his hands to his stomach, coughing. Philip went flying and landed on Rune's shoulder "Don't mind if I perch here do you?" Philip said in that weird bubbly voice.

Shade glared at them. "I've had enough of you miserable heroes!" He raised his hands and fired countless dark plasma orbs at the group. Rune raised a fire barrier over herself and Philip. Todd created a shield for himself and Johanna. "Hold on." Todd warned as the plasma closed in.

The plasma bombarded the shields, but left the group unharmed. Shade flew down to Todd and kicked his shield hard, hoping to shatter it. The shield shattered, but Todd held on to Johanna tighter, and tried to kick Shade's chest.

Shade was hit and hovered backwards.

Rune unleashed a fire wave from her sword that hit Shade's backside, causing him to whirl around and shoot more plasma at her and Philip. Philip slithered off Rune and formed a shield. His face also formed on the back towards Rune. "Let's hope I hold out!" Philip goraned

Rune flashed him a concerned look.

Shade began to generate another large orb of plasma after the attack on Philip and Rune was blocked. Todd got an idea, he tried to use his telekinesis to control the plasma and send it back at shade, and hopefully make him retreat if not knock him from the sky (he was confident it wouldn't kill him, being a flyer, he'd probably be through some crash landings before)

Shade was hit by the plasma orb, and sent plummeting to the ground. He groaned in pain, and coughed a little.

Todd lead the others to the ground and they all stood around Shade. He picked him up and warned, "Get out of this dimension...and if you ever hurt Johanna again, you'll regret it." Todd tried to headbutt him.

Shade narrowly avoided the headbutt. "You win this round, World Walker, but I'll be back." Shade opened up a portal, pulled out of Todd's grip, and leapt back into the wormhole. The portal, then, vanished.

Rune smiled. "Good. He's out of the way for now..." Todd sighed, wrapping an arm around Johanna's shoulder. "Well that was a close call." Philip walked up to Rune. "Thank god you're safe."

Then another portal opened. "Oh what now?" snapped Johanna.

World Walker Versus Sharptooth

(OOC: Alright to bring in another villain! And thank you Hero Forever for bringing in Shade. That was a funny battle.)

Suddenly the sound of laughter fills the room as green mist spreads over the area and a tall African-American male dressed in a white tuxedo and tophat enters the room, complete with a decorative walking stick - as he grins he exposes sharp fangs that betray an inhuman presence.

Rune held up her sword and glared at the man. "Who are you?" she demanded. Todd sighed, "Knowing the last two guys we dealed with...probably no one good."

The figure smirked at Rune and his eyes flashed slightly "..didn't your momma and papa teach you respect? pointing is rude - now.. which one of you losers is this so-called World Walker I've been hearing so much about?".

Todd then for some reason became aggrivated. "Why? One, why do you think one of us is this World Walker character you're after? Two, if one of us was him, or her, why would we admit it...you're obviously going to try to kill him/her. And three, what makes you think he's in this "world"?"

The figure laughs, "..one - none of your business.. two, if this World Walker don't admit it I'll kill everyone in this room, plus everyone in the next couple of blocks.. meaning they'd be responsible for the deaths of innocents.. three, I just so happen to be a personal friend of Miss Misery, you do the math.." - oddly the figure makes no attempt to attack as he stands there.

Rune's eyes blazed. "I'm getting so tired of villains..." Todd palmed himself and said, "Phil, you say it next time." "Alright."

The figure suddenly loses his smile as he points to Rune, "don't you disrepect me, little girl! don't you derogate or deride! you're in my world now.. not your world.. and I got friends on the other side.." - suddenly reality warps as the images of seven dark beings manifest in the background and echo "he's got friends on the other side" (note: yes, this is exactly what it seems like.. hope you don't mind (the "friends" in this case are the Dark Ones doing a cameo) )

Philip then questioned, "Really...you're an evil entity of vast power...and you're ripping off Disney?" Todd looked amoung the dark beings and recognized one, 'Misery!' he thought to himself.

But Todd then vocalized, "Guys, get ready! Johanna behind me, Philip to my left, and Rune," picked up the fire spear she gave to her, "Can you take the right...or do you have an idea of your own on what to do?"

"I can take the right, but I prefer to use my sword," Rune responded.

The figure smirks at Philip and clicks his fingers, appearing behind him "..oh, I can rip off far more than that.. you see.." - he breaks into song again "..I was once the most mystical of all the spirits, when they betrayed me they made a mistake.. my curse made each of them pay but one little boy got away.. beware, Berry.. Sharptooth's awake!" - the mad spirit then breaks into psychotic laughter as he transforms into a cloud of green smoke and expands across the room, manifesting above the group as a large coyote-like creature.

Philip sighed and said, "God I hated that movie!" (A/N: I have no real opinion on the movie as I never saw it) Todd leaned to Rune and asked, "Can you attack it from the bottom while I attack from the top?"

Rune nodded, and raised her sword up, trying to stab the coyote creature's stomach.

Sharptooth simply laughs more as he spreads his hands out, floating a little higher (narrowly avoiding Rune's atatck) - extending ghostly "strings" which form demonic puppets that begin to dance towards the group: each puppet's hands having sharp claws that flailed madly as they move.

Philip could tell Todd would be busy protecting Johanna so he turned his fingers into claws and started trying to hack the strings, in hopes of disarming the puppets.

As Philip hacked at the string a voice spoke into his mind, briefly <<..do you believe in demons, Philip? perhaps a Devil? I don't.. you see I have always existed.. inside you.. inside all beings.. as natural as one's shadow.. indeed I was born of such a shadow.. a Great Shadow..>>.

Meanwhile Sharptooth pulls his strings away, the puppets dropping lifelessly to the ground - as they do so they transform into snakes and begin to lunge at the group, hissing and rattling. Philip was startled by the voice. Swallowing his fear, he managed to give a cocky smirk and said to Sharptooth, "Nice try, but I'm an Agnostic...no more sure if there's a God or Devil then anyone."

Todd got an idea and whispered to Rune in hope that Sharptooth couldn't hear, "We can shoot fire, and startle them. Want to help?" Todd smiled.

Sharptooth looks to Philip "..so? what's your point kid?" - the spirit going back to fighting the others.

<<..your "God" may not be able to stop this, Philip.. however I can.. all you have to do is ask..>> the voice states, this time its clear it doesn't come from Sharptooth.

Rune shot a massive wave of fire at the snakes in response to Todd's question. Todd followed with his own fire stream. Meanwhile Philip grabbed his head and muttered, "Who are you! Shut up! Get out of my head!"

Sharptooth growled as the snakes began to back away from the fire and he waved his hand, causing a large gust of wind to blow over the area and sweep Rune and Todd off their feet - "..you people are real stupid, you know that? one of you is hearing voices.. the other two are playing party tricks when you should be showing me some real power.. if you don't start getting with the program I'm going to make you into stew..".

<<Sharptooth is powerful, perhaps a little too powerful.. I can make him go away.. you won't get another chance.. think on it..>> the voice notes to Philip.

Todd smirked, "Oh really...make us into stew...party tricks...you really underestimate us." Todd shot lightning towards Sharptooth.

Philip continued to argue with the voice, "Tell me who you are! Don't be a coward!"

Rune unleashed a wave of fire from her sword at Sharptooth, but looked back at Philip. "Philip! What's wrong?"

Sharptooth lets out a cry of anguish at the fire and lightning and disappears in a cloud of smoke, leaving the room seemingly empty - though the voice in Philip's head remains:

<<..he's not gone, you know.. also don't call me a coward Philip.. you know fine well who I am.. if you don't.. well, there is an expression: he who does not understand is not fit to recieve the answer..>>

Philp responded to Rune, "I don't know! There's a voice in my head!" Todd snapped his fingers, and Philip was tied to a chair. "What are you doing?" asked Johanna. Todd turned towards her, revealing he has a bottle of holy water. "Let's just say when the director of The Exorcist said he played down the metaphysical and amped up the horror, I hope he hasn't altered the exorcisim."

Todd then sprinkled the water in the Sign of the Cross, shouting, "The Power of Christ compels you! The Power of Christ compels you! The Power of Christ Compels you!"

<<..I tried to warn you, too bad.. it seems you are about to learn a hard lesson about "reality..>> the voice notes to Philip, then goes silent.

Sure enough Todd finds Sharptooth appearing behind him, dressed in the white tuxedo and in his human guise - spinning him around as he grins widely "..hey, remember me?" - with that he unleashes a beam of energy from his eyes at the "World Walker".

The beams connected with Todd, knocking down to his knees. While Sharptooth continued to fire beams at him he yelled, "Coward! Attacking me from behind! Tell me! What have you done to Philip!" With that he created a note in Rune's hand. it said, "When he tells us what he has done...get him off me."

Rune nodded, and burned the note to hide it from Sharptooth.

(A/N From ZombieKiller123: Sorry, multitasking. Back now) Todd managed to get out of the beams and sprinted to tackle Sharptooth for questioning.

Sharptooth shakes his head and clicks his fingers, disappearing and then reappearing hanging upside down from the ceiling - "..listen, your friend is hearing voices.. nothing to do with me.. as for being a coward.. some would say you are the true coward; you seek to eradicate anything which does not comply with your delusional sense of right or wrong.. tell me, who shall be left to judge you? oh.. yeah.. except the Big Guy.. that's the oldest excuse in the book.. ain't it?".

<<..last chance, Philip.. wish him away.. or continue this farce and waste precious energy.. even as we speak more enemies are coming.. to kill you.. I can't let that happen.. life is too precious..>>

Philip managed to elongate a portion of his leg into an "arm" and picked up the holy water. "Threaten me again and drink the whole damn vial!"

Rune glared angrily at Sharptooth. "Do you even have a sense of right and wrong?!"

Sharptooth yawns at Rune, like a coyote - which is quite disturbing coming from a human-like being "..listen here, little lady - your little "World Walker" thinks he has the authority to command the universe because he's some "chosen one".. you think you're some kind of hero and that puddle of nanites thinks he can flush out his insanity.. right and wrong ain't the problem.. the problem is you not knowing your place.."

With that Sharptooth suddenly bursts into song again as the entire room shifts, becoming a chaotic mess as he appears and reappears in a random order: -

"..I must admit your party tricks amuse me, I bet you've got a bunny under that hat.. here's your chance to get the best of me, hope your hand is hot.. come on clown, show me what you've got!".

Todd snapped, shooting lightning, "You said "choosen one" not me..."

Sharptooth chuckles, the lightning surging through him as the room returns to relative order again "..alright, I got to be serious now.. we've had our fun and I must admit I have never let myself go quite like this in a long time.. yet when all is said and done it is time for you to understand once and for all what I am trying to tell you.."

Sharptooth proceeds to grow to a gigantic height, once again becoming a coyote as he stands on all fours:

"..I can control reality itself.. so we could play this game for all eternity and we'd get nowhere.. heck, the only reason I bothered showing up was because of how fun this was.. you made a powerful enemy, World Walker.. one who has gathered a lot of friends to get rid of you.. I'm not one of them - I don't care who you are or what you are.. I'm just here to play.. if people get hurt in the process: too bad..".

Todd glared, "So...you're just some amoral hedonist...who doesn't care about anyone but himself. God that's wrong. You control reality right?...what is your goal?"

As Todd glares a voice speaks out of thin air "..don't be too harsh on old Sharptooth, he can't help that he's ugly." - small rabbit-tracks appear on the floor nearby, yet their owner is mysteriously vacant.

For the first time Sharptooth suddenly stops grinning, his eyes darting around "..w-what!? hey! you're not meant to be here! get out!".

Rune looked around in confusion. "Who's there?" "Rune," Philip muttered, the voice was still not talking, and he hoped being quiet would keep it that way, "Can you help. This voice is tempting me...Todd's got his hands full right now, so can you help me?"

Rune turned and walked over to Philip, eyes filled with sorrow, sad to see him suffering. "Tell me what I can do." Philip answered, "Take out my main core nanobot in my head, let it copy, then destroy the original, hopefully the voice won't follow."

A small vaguely humanoid rabbit appears shortly after Rune asks the question, "..don't worry about Berrypaw, I don't want to cause no trouble - save for old Sharptooth that is.." - he hops over to Todd, looking up at Sharptooth, who is now sporting a look of deep confusion and anger.

"..you see, long ago spirits like me and Sharptooth wandered the Earth teaching people things - that was our job you see.. to teach.. problem is Sharptooth never was much of a teacher.." Berrypaw notes.

Meanwhile, as Rune approaches Philip a cloaked figure appears briefly in front of him, as if walking out of his body - glancing over with glowing yellow eyes <<...no need for such drama, boy.. you had your chance.. I have bigger things to attend to now.. oh and as for you Rune, do not think too much on his words.. he does not care for you, he merely wishes to add another prize to his collection..>> - with that the figure vanishes completely.

Philip faced Rune and said, "That's not true!...it's not Rune."

Rune smiled at him reassuringly. "Yeah, like I'm gonna' believe some evil demon-spirit anyway."

Johanna looked at Berrypaw and asked, "Spirits teaching humans? Like that theory about the aliens...except without aliens and with...absurdly powerful supernatural entities?"

Berrypaw shakes his head, smirking a little "..reality is more complex than you imagine - aliens, spirits and many things in-between have been roaming the Earth since time began.. don't matter what you believe or what you've been told.. each story has a lesson, all you got to do is listen.. if you don't keep your mind open you end up as empty as old Sharptooth over there..".

"SHUT UP YOU LITTLE FLOPPY-EARED RAT!" Sharptooth roared, quite suddenly - transforming into his human form again as he smacks Berrypaw across the room with his walking-stick, catching the other spirit off-guard.

Rune glares angrily at Sharptooth, and shot fire at him. Todd too engaged Sharptooth with a powerful, continuous energy blast. Philip, realizing he could slide out of his bonds did so and swung his blade-arm towards Sharptooth, as Johanna checked with Berrypaw, seeing if he was alright.

Sharptooth growls and forms a whirlwind of greene energy around himself as he floats up - forming a portal as he disappears from the area: "..whatever! you losers aren't worth my time - the deal's off, that Elliot promised to deal with Berrypaw.. well he sure as heck didn't.. so I have no reason to stay.. I'm a personal friend of Miss Misery - when she finds out what you've done then you'll really be sorry!".

With that Sharptooth vanishes, Berrypaw sitting up as he takes on a human form - rubbing his head a little as he looks up to where the portal slowly vanishes: "..he still thinks Miss Misery is his friend.. poor Sharptooth never was too bright.." he states. Todd then said, "I agree. And thank you Berrypaw." Johanna and Philip muttered in agreement. "You alright Rune?" asked Philip.

Rune nodded to him. "Yes, I'm fine." She turned to Berrypaw. "Thank you so much for your help, Berrypaw. I don't think we could've beatem him without you..."

Berrypaw shrugs as he gets to his feet, "..don't thank someone for doing something that is right - besides I didn't spend several centuries trying to teach you guys something just to see it all go to waste now did I?" - with those words Berrypaw hops a little, forming a portal in front of himself leading to what appears to be a desert.

Rune's eyes widened a little. "Will we see you again?"

Berrypaw turns to Rune for a moment "..the grasshopper hops, so does the flea - I'm no different.. got to keep moving.. that's the way of the spirits.. our world is ruled by the here and now.. moving around like leaves in the wind.. so don't ask me about the future: that's one thing I can't be teaching you.. however I can tell you this: when the world is dark and people make you sad just smile and say to yourself "no matter what, I got to be me".." - he gives a warm smile then hops into the portal as it closes behind him.

Todd smirked, "Good Bye Berrypaw." He then turned to the others, stopped smiling and asked, "Is this going to get any worse? I mean, first an assassin, then a supervillain that shoots dark plasma, and a jackel spirit, what's next?"

(A/N: Thank you Queen Misery, Queen Misery Everybody! (Appluades) And now that I think of it Deathwalker13000 and Hero Forever everybody! (Appluades) Now next villain...)

"How about an archdemon?" a deep, silky voice suddenly rang out, answering Todd's question. Todd, somewhat regretting asking, sighed, "Well, at least it's something close to my element." He turned around and asked, "Let me guess, you're after the World Walker and want to know where he/she is...right?"

World Walker Versus Malacoda

"I already know which one of you is the World Walker," the voice continued. "I am Malacoda. Greetings, Todd. I also know about the rest of you- Philip, the nanomachine, Rune, the hero... and of course, who could forget your dear friend Johanna?"

A cage of chains suddenly burst from the ground, forming an impenetrable barrier around Johanna, separating her from the rest. As Todd created a sword and tried to hack through the chains, Philip asked, "Just taking a wild guess but are you the inspiration to Hellraiser?"

"If you valued her life, Todd, I'd advise you to stop, and listen," the voice said. "As for you, you lifeless puddle of nanobots, my influence is far greater than you could ever comprehend..." Todd stopped hacking and snapped, "Let Johanna go! This is between you and me!"

"You are correct, this IS between you and me. Which is why I have your dear friend here in chains. If you want her back, You're going to have to find her." The cage, and Johanna, disappeared in a cloud of black smoke.

(Note: If it is not okay for Malacoda to be kidnapping Johanna, then let me know. Don't worry, he won't torment her or anything.)

Todd asked, "Where is she?" Philip stepped forward and said, "For an "archdemon" this is a pretty cowardly manuver."

"Don't worry, I'll give you a chance to find her... but if you fail to do so before sunrise... she will be mine."

A flaming portal suddenly opened up before them. Todd glared, as Philip secretly started to slide the holy water into Todd's pocket. Philip muttered to Rune, "Rune cover me so this...thing doesn't notice, alright?"

Rune nodded and stepped in front of Philip, blocking Malacoda's view of him.

"It's no use... I see everything... I am an archdemon, after all..." Malacoda said. "Just step into the portal, and let the game begin..."

As Todd and the others walked forward, he threatened, "If you lay another claw on her, I'll shove this Crucifix down you're throat and replace every pint of blood with holy water." The group walked in slowly, in case Malacoda would mutter something to them as they left.


Todd

As Todd entered the portal, he came across a dark room lit only with moonlight entering a cloudy window. It appeared to be a study of some kind, with books littering the floor, shelves, and a desk propped against the window. But the location was not what was odd- what was odd was that he was alone. Todd looked around and called out, "Rune! Philip! Johanna! Are you guys here?" Todd waited for a responce but there was none. He went to the desk in hopes of finding something useful.

There was only a message on the desk, scrawled in a shining fresh, red liquid, that trickled from the sides and dripped onto the floor: You are powerless.

With a bang, the door to the study suddenly flung open, letting in a small burst of wind, before revealing a winding hallway lit only by torchlight. Todd stepped out, looking up and down the hall for anything.

As he walked, Todd's foot kicked against a small object that lay on the floor. A small, black book with a cross on it's front cover. "A...Bible?" He picked it up and opened the cover finding it strange that a holy book be in this weird dimesion. &nbsp Within the cover was written a single word in blood: LIES.

A burst of wind, like the breath of a ghost, suddenly rushed down the hall, extinguishing the torches and leaving Philip in pitch darkness. Todd tossed the book aside and made a ball of fire.'

At the end of the hallway was a door that was open, hanging slightly off of it's hinges. 'What's down here?' Todd thought, walking towards the door. The made the sign of the cross, "Our Father, who art in Heaven..."

"...hallowed be... his name..." a whispering voice suddenly echoed. Todd threw a plasma ball in the air, hoping to hit something.

But nothing seemed to be nearby, as if it was the wind itself that spoke. Todd sprinkled some holy water on himself, in hopes of some protection. He continued to walk down the hall.

A girlish laugh suddenly echoed through the hall, shrill and broken.

"Todd... I see you!" Todd turned towards the voice, "Who are you, little girl?"

The voice only responded with a cackle. "I seeeeee you!" it exclaimed with childish abandon. Todd then asked, testing if this was a demon or merely an illusion, "You thirst? Here, some water."

Todd could hear a scuttling noise... in the walls? The voice laughed again.

"Let me... taste you!" Todd created a shield, hoping it'll provide enough protection. {C However, nothing leapt out towards him. A noise that sounded akin to loud chewing began to echo through the walls. Todd kept the shield up, but also had a plasma ball ready for action.

A loud bang! sounded from the end of the hall from where Todd had just emerged. Todd turned around, shield still up and yelled out, "Who are you?! Show yourself!"

The voice went silent. Todd ran back down the to see what was the matter.

As Todd ran down the hallway, he found himself in a room where the figure of a young girl was crouched in a corner, hanging over a dark shape. Todd threw a plasma ball at the monster's back.

The girl gave a small cry as the attack struck her. She slowly climbed to her feet, and turned to face Todd. Then she grinned, revealing fresh blood and scraps of flesh hanging on her chin.

"Todd... Let me taste you..." Todd created chains and used his telekinesis to wrap it around the girl.

"Come here..." the girl grinned and began to laugh. Todd steped forward, holding his crucifix out in front of him. "Don't try anything funny."

The girl swayed against her bonds. "I want to taste you..." Todd glared crucifix in front of him, " Do something stupid and I will strike you down," "Strike... me down? But I'm.. hungry... heeheehee..." Todd then asked, "Why not eat a, a monster or something?"

The girl tilted her head slightly, before responding in a sad voice. "Are you always this cruel?" Before Todd could answer, she began to laugh maniacally and suddenly leapt at him, breaking the psychic links around her. Todd took out the holy water and sprinkled it at the girl.

However, the apotropaic did nothing as the girl slammed into Todd, barrelling him over as she landed atop his chest and began trying to bite his neck. Todd tried to headbutt the girl and toss her off.

The girl flew back a small distance, before grinning and vanishing into the shadows.

"Hide and seek, hide and seek, hide and seek!" the girl's voice sang out. Todd groaned, "I don't have time for this! If I wanted to deal with the Cheshire Cat, I would have gone to Wonderland!" With that Todd went out the room and started calling out for his friends. (A/N from ZK123: Sorry it took so long to respond, and feel free to follow Todd. :) )

"Mine!" the girl screamed in a maddened frenzy, leaping out of nowhere behind Todd and biting down on the back of his neck. Todd tore the girl off and doesed the wound with holy water, in case of any demonic side effects (A/N from ZK123: That's a real thing you know.) "Damn it!" he muttered slpashing the water on the bite. The girl collapsed onto the floor, before pulling herself up, staggering to her feet. "Hungry... want... flesh..."

"Ah! What the hell are you, a zombie? A vampire? A demon? Tell me!" Todd grabbed the wound as it since it was stinging.

"I'm hungry..." Todd snapped his fingers and created a cooked T-bone steak and tossed it to her. "There! Now will you stop trying to eat me?"

The girl ignored the meat and staggered towards Todd. Then she broke out into laughter once more.

"Flesh! Living flesh!"

Todd then thought of an idea so stupid...the likelihood of it's success is tiny, but still possible. As fast and as loud as he can, so it can be harder to understand, he yelled out, "Look a distraction!" However, the gaze of the girl remained fixated on Todd as she continued to stagger towards him with murderous glee.

"Oh for God's sakes!" Todd snapped as he created four walls of earth around her and made a ceiling above the girl.

"...are you always this cruel?" the girl's voice rang out from all directions, repeating her earlier question. "Cruel?" snapped Todd, "You're the one trying to eat me!"

Todd's retort was only met with laughter. Once more, the girl leapt out of the shadows, swinging a wooden board with nails driven through it at him. "Ow! Get off me!" Todd tore the board out and swung it at the girl.

The girl let out a cry as she was struck by the board; the nails driving themselves into her chest. She was thrown aside by the impact and fell to the floor. Giggling on all fours, she collapsed, and breathed out her last words:

"...I guess... that's a 'yes'..." Todd sprinkled some more holy water on his wounds and said, "You know, if you were remotely human, I would feel bad." Todd then went down the hall calling for his friends.


Rune

After entering the portal, Rune found herself hurtling alone through the darkness, before landing abruptly on a large, four-poster bed in the midst of an enormous, lavish bedroom that cushioned her fall. Dim moonlight entered in through two gargantuan windows, revealing the tips of trees nearly half a mile below.

Rune looked around cautiously. "What is this?"

There was no answer.

Rune got off the bed and looked around. "Todd! Johanna! Philip?!!" Her shoulders slumped. "We've been separated," she thought.

On the far wall, a door swung open from a burst of wind.

"Holy crap!!" Rune yelled in surprise. Then, after her heartbeat slowed down a bit, she walked through the door.

The hallway was long, and doors lined the sides for it's entire length. The only light came from red torches that flickered.

Rune walked up to one of the doors and opened it, hoping to find some of her comrades.

"...You're here... you came back..." a broken voice said, echoing from all directions.

"Who are you? Where are you?" Rune asked, looking all around.

"...Beatrice... my love... don't leave..."

"Beatrice?" Rune questioned, stepping further into the room.

"Yes... Beatrice, my love... stay with me... forever..."

"I'm not Beatrice," Rune responded. "Who are you? What is this place?"

"No... no, don't leave..." the voice said, suddenly growing angry. "STAY WITH ME!"

A metal clanking, like chains being rattled, sounded from behind Rune as two scabbed, withered hands reached out from the darkness, grabbing her tightly around the neck and waist as if to choke the life from her.

Rune began spewing fire all around the room, trying to break free.

"Burns... It... burns... Beatrice... help me..."

Rune whirled around to face the man who'd grabbed her. "Who are you?!"

The man (if Rune could call what was left of it that) wore no clothes, and it's chest was covered in a number of wounds that seemed both old and new. Chains were fastened into his scarred and scabbed skin, bolted into his chest and shoulders. Two metal collars were fastened around him; the first being around his neck, the second fastened around his waist, held in place by a bolt that went through his stomach. His face was still obscured by the darkness, but Rune could tell that he was bald. She could just barely make out two empty eyesockets as the figure held onto her even tighter in his death-grip.

Rune struggled as hard as she could to get out of the man's arms.

"Hush now... Beatrice... stay..."

Rune summoned all of her might, her orange eyes flashing. "I'm not Beatrice!!" she shouted. A huge blast of fire shot out from her.

The man relinquished his hold on her, whimpering pathetically. "It burns my flesh... my flesh... Beatrice... help me..."

"Who are you? What is this place?" Rune questioned, narrowing her eyes at the man.

The wretched man gave no answer, but only reached out for Rune pitifully, before collapsing, dead, on the floor, his flesh singed and burnt black.

Rune's facial expression displayed sorrow, and she knelt down. "No...I didn't mean to hurt you....I just....." Tears began to fall from Rune's eyes.

The sound of chains began to rattle once more, as a new, angry voice rang out.

"GET OVER HERE!"

Rune got to her feet, wiping her tears away as fast as she could. "Who's there?! What do you want?!"

"I'LL KILL YOU!"

Rune summoned her fire sword, and looked around the room warily. But nothing approached.

"This is all an illusion..." Rune said aloud. Slowly, she walked out of the room.

Something down the hallway crashed heavily, shattering the silence.

Rune ran towards the source of the sound. She came across the end of the hallway, with three doors wide open. Broken wood and debris were scattered about.

Rune entered the door on the far left.

She was greeted to a rather horrific sight- as soon as she saw it, her head began to pound and her vision became foggy, as if her brain was trying to block out all sight, thought, and memory of this sight. At some moments, she could almost make out a perversion of a human face, at some moments, she could almost discern an amorphous, bubbling mass.

"I'VE FOUND YOU!" it seemed to scream in a rage. "I'LL TEAR YOU TO PIECES!"

Her head pounding, Rune tried her best to raise up her sword.

A heavy object, like a large fist, suddenly struck Rune, winding her and throwing her off of her feet and into the hallway.

Rune slowly got to her feet and unleashed several, very inaccurate waves of fire from her sword.

Suddenly, the darkness closed in around Rune like a cocoon and she felt herself hurtling down, down, down...

Rune shot fire below her, trying to slow her fall.

Philip

Philip found himself alone within a dark room, the only light coming from torches that bathed the chamber in a hellish, orange, flickering glow. Piles of barrels were stacked on shelves, forming walls, smelling of dusky old wine. The floor was made of cold stone. "Todd! Johanna! Rune! Where are they?...where am I?" Philip reached out and grabbed a torch in hopes of lighting his way. {C A dark shape suddenly darted away down a winding hall as Philip cast the torchlight towards it. Philip grasped another torch and snapped, "Who's there?!" {C However, if there was anything there, it didn't gratify him with any response.

Philip walked quietly down the hall, forming eyes on the back of his head to watch for monsters.

Yet nothing appeared as Philip continued his walk, eventually coming across a set of giant double doors. "Hmmm. I wonder..." Philip dragged the doors open. Philip was greeted to the sight of a room lit with an eerie blue light, at the back of which a fountain of white marble stood. Upon closer inspection, the fountain was in the shape of a nude woman with empty eyes holding a staff, from which water trickled down into the fountain's base. Small creaking noises echoed throughout the room. Philip went to the woman, "Miss, are you alright?"

"...it's just a statue..." said a weakened voice from nearby. Philip turned around each fingertip a sharp claw, ready for a fight.

The voice belonged to a nearby woman in a tattered dress, fastened to a pillar with a wire of some sort. "Hopeless... everything's... hopeless..." "Who are you madame?"

"Another worthless dog trapped in this neverending fortress," she replied. As Philip approached, he could see that the wire that bound her to the pillar was barbed, and the thorns dug into her skin. "Oh, let me help you." Philip declared turning his hands into something that resemble hedgeclippers and went up to the woman."

Suddenly, the woman sprang to life, screaming shrilly, her struggling causing the barbs to wound her further as fresh blood spilled from her skin.

"GET AWAY! GET AWAY FROM ME!" Philip however moved closer, "Don't worry miss, I'm not going to hurt you."

However, as the woman screamed, Philip could hear a scuttling noise, coming from the direction of the fountain. Philip reformed the eyes on the back of his head to take a peek behind him.

The once-clear liquid from the fountain had turned crimson. "What the hell?"

"It's here! It's here!" The woman exclaimed breathily, sinking down as far as the barbed wire would allow her. Philip turned his face into the head and come out the other side and vice versa, flipping his head backwards, his face on the "back" and the back of his head towards the front. "What's here?"

The woman didn't answer, but only repeated, trembling: "It's here... It's here..." Philip turned to armor form. 'Whatever it is, I'm not taking chances.'

However, nothing from the fountain moved. Philip walked towards the fountian to investigate.

Nothing emerged. The fountain was ever so still, still eerily leaking blood instead of water. Philip turned around and yelled, "Coward! Show yourself to me!"

"GET AWAY FROM ME!" The woman shrieked. Philip snapped right around to see what was happening behind him.

The woman remained there, trembling against the cords, but seemingly screaming at nothing, staring off at an empty spot in space. Philip followed the woman's eyes and aimmed for where her eyes lied, his arm a sword like blade. {C However, Philip's attack seemed to strike nothing but thin air. "What the hell?"

"GO AWAY!" the woman shrieked and sobbed. Philip turned back around and reformed his clippers, saying, "Let me get you down..."

The woman seemed to not even respond to Philip anymore as she breathed heavily, her face retrified with fear. Philip sliped the blades under the wire and sniped one. {C "It... hurts..." the woman finally said. Philip smiled gently, "You won't have to worry about it anymore." Philip then cut off several more wires.

Finally the woman began to fall forward, the last of the barbed wires coming loose as she fell forward, unable to stand. Philip caught the woaman and lifted her on her feet.

"It hurts... it hurts..."

"What hurts?" "...everything..."

The woman convulsed suddenly, letting out a choked cry.

"Is there anything I can do to help you ease the pain?" She swayed, puppet-like for a moment. Then she struck a blow at Philip with shocking strength akin to a sledgehammer strike. "Ow! What the hell!? I just freed you!"

"...the pain is too great..." She struck another blow, this time aimed at his face. Philip turned his arm into a shield, blocking the blow. "What pain? Why do you feel pain?"

There was no answer as the woman began to convulse horribly, and became more feral in appearance; gnashing sharpened teeth, she leapt in towards Philip and slashed at him with claw-like hands. The slashes regenerated. "Ow, reveal yourself to me, whatever you are!"

"Why does it... hurt...?"

"Why does what hurt?!" "Everything," the woman repeated again, moving in once more for the kill. Philip dissolved to a puddle and slithered around.

"Come back... help me..." the woman pleaded. "With what!? What am I to help you with! Tell me!" Philip snapped, slithering towards the woman.

"Please... die..." Philip responded, "Yeah, not easy for someone like me to die...mainly because I'm not biologically alive." Philip swung a flail in the air again. The flail struck the woman, causing her to stagger back slightly. She suddenly lunged towards the puddle of nanites that was Philip, striking at it with her claws, all the while growing more and more inhuman in appearance. Philip slipped from her grasp and said, "Playing to my nice side. Well since you're a monster, I can be rid of you!"

Philip created his flail again and swung at the head.

With a sickening crack, the woman's neck snapped back. She was dead before she hit the floor. A dark mist started to rise up from her lips like a final breath before fading into nothing; all that remained was her corpse, broken, but once again human in appearance.

Philip was saddened at her death, only intending to knock her out. "God," Philip stated, "If You're there, I'm sorry. While it doesn't justify what I've done...at least she'll never fell pain again...hopefully."

(A/N from ZK123: Granted somewhat strange for an agnostic character, but it seems to fit one way or another.)

Johanna

Johanna awoke to find herself in a cold dungeon of stone, lit only with four flickering torches and surounded by stone walls. Chains hung from the walls and were curled up on the floor, discarded. Upon closer inspection, the floor seemed to be stained a horrifying, ruddy crimson. "Oh God..."

With a slow creaking noise, the dungeon door slid open. Johanna backed against the wall towards the corner, crouching down to maker herslef a smaller target.

But nothing entered through the door. Several moments passed in silence. A rat suddenly darted over her foot. She kicked the rat aside and tiptoed out the door.

A mechanical drilling sound suddenly sounded from somewhere in the dungeon, followed by a gurgled scream. With that she ran in the opposite direction of the sounds, 'Thank God I watched all those horror movies with Todd. I wonder how he's doing?' she thought.

"NO!" the voice of a woman screamed from somewhere in the hallway. "Why are you doing this?!" Johanna groaned and denied every bit of common sense and ran towards the cries.

The sound of a crunching impact; a dying scream; then silence. A crimson liquid trickled from beneath a nearby door. As the blood slithered down the floor, Johanna sprinted down the hall muttering, "Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!"

Johanna suddenly came across a metal door that hung open slightly. She took a peek through the gap to see what was in the room.

But before she could get a good look, a crash sounded from down the hall. "I SMELL YOU!" a voice roared. Johanna let out a yelp and ran off, still yell, "Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!"

The door led into a small, study-like room with a desk, a cot, a closet, and no other exits. Johanna was trapped between a wall and an unknown creature barrelling rapidly towards her...

"Oh Todd, where are you?" Then she prayed, "Oh God in Heaven...help me find Todd and the others!"

The footfalls of the monster drew closer and closer... Johanna slipped into the closet, and hoped the monster wasn't intellegent.

The door burst open, and the heavy footsteps entered the room, accompanied by a thick, glutteral breathing. Johanna held her breath and kept praying silently.

"Where are you, little human... I can smell you..." Johanna held her breath and stayed perfectly still.

A loud, sudden, abrupt bang suddenly sounded against the closet door. Johanna gasped quietly.

"I know you're in there... little human..." Johanna stayed still and said nothing, hoping the monster would leave.

A monstrous fist suddenly smashed through the doorway, belonging to a hand large enough to crush a body. Johanna grabbed two fragments of the door and stabbed the monster's hand.

Letting out a shriek of pain, the creature began to smash down more of the door until it was wholly visible; a tall, ape-like hulk of a man, with chains threaded through his body, and a disfigured face. Johanna not assuming it was a demon, held out the fragments in the shape of the cross.

"There you are!" the hulking man exclaimed, reaching out slowly for Johanna. Johanna thrusted the wood into the monster's face.

However, the monster swatted her aside easily before her attack could connect. Johanna used her smaller frame to go around the monster and go out the door.

"YOU LITTLE- COME BACK!"

As Johanna ran, she was suddenly blocked by a wall of familiar chains as a figure manifested in black smoke, standing between herself and the brutish monster of a man chasing her- the man was dressed in a fine, and rather expensive-looking suit, but possessed pointed horns atop his head, black, skeletal wings, and a pointed tail.

"ENOUGH!" he exclaimed. "My orders were not to lay one finger on this girl! Not ONE. DAMNED. FINGER!"

He turned towards Johanna and grinned with a horrifying grin that revealed rotting fangs. "Ah, forgive the jailkeeper, young Johanna, he just gets... overexcited when a new prisoner shows up." Johanna snapped, "Where are my friends, Philip, Rune, and Todd? What have you done to them?!"

"I haven't even touched them yet," the demon, whose voice was recognizeable as Malacoda, said. "You, on the other hand," he began, frowning suddenly, "how did you escape your cell?"

"The door opened up..."

"I see the jailkeeper has been... neglecting his duties. I'll have to make sure that he is properly punished later, but for now... I'm going to have to ask you to come with me." Johanna, having no real say in the matter, followed the archdemon. "Where are we?...what are going to do to me and Todd and the others?"

"That all depends on how Todd and your friends perform in this little game of ours," Malacoda answered.

"What game...what are doing to them? Answer me damn it!"

"Don't blame me," Malacoda shrugged. "It was their decision to come in after you... they should've known what they were getting into."

"Why did you kiddnap me?" Johanna asked.

"To see if they would come after you," Malacoda retorted. "They did not betray my expectations."

"What do you gain from all this?"

"Enjoyment. What else?" Malacoda said dismissively. "E-enjoyment? How is spiriting us all away to God-knows where give you enjoyment?!"

"Truth be told, I haven't spirited them away to any physical location. No... I've trapped them within the prison of their own minds. And they can wander in there, searching until they rot... or go mad. I really hope they go mad; it's more fun when that happens."

"NO!" Johanna tried to throw a punch at the demon.

Before her attack could connect, a chain burst forth from the ground, coiling around Johanna like a serpent, holding her in place. Malacoda leaned in uncomfortably close and began to speak more sternly.

"Miss Johanna. You ought to be more careful about what actions you take from here on out. This realm is my realm; here, I am all-powerful. You'd be wise not to... anger me further." Johanna thought of something, "All-powerful eh? What about a wager then. I win, you let us all go, you win, you continue to play around with us until my friends break out...deal?"

Malacoda was silent for a moment as he stared at Johanna with his eyes that were like flame. Then suddenly, he extended a talon-like finger and quickly slashed it across Johanna's cheek.

"No." Malacoda said firmly, before flicking out a snake-like tongue that lapped up the drops of blood from Johanna's fresh wound. "Do you take me for a fool, Miss Johanna? I know better than to make petty deals with mortals."

Johanna cringed as the demon dipped his finger in her blood but asked, "What's wrong, afraid I'll win this little bet? Am I scaring an "all-powerful" archdemon?"

"One more word, mortal, and I will gut you, while you are still awake and watching," Malacoda said, suddenly on the end of his rope. "And what happened to, "can't lay one damn finger" on me?" Johanna smirked.

"I've had a change of heart," Malacoda said. "You seem to want to be punished, so I'll gladly grant you that much."

"Oh come on, that's a bit much don't you think? It's just a simple wager, won't hurt a bit."

"Would you prefer for me to thrust a knife or electric fork into your guts, Miss Johanna?" Johanna snapped back, "Would you prefer a crucifix through your heart and a Bible in your brains?"

"Very well, I take it that you want both," Malacoda retorted with disturbing calm. More chains emerged from the walls like serpents, wrapping themselves around Johanna and forcing her to follow Malacoda. Johanna muttered a prayer, "Lord in Heaven, please keep me and the others safe...espicially Todd."


Confrontation

Malacoda stopped suddenly, looking around as if he could sense something in the air. Todd hiding just out of Malacoda's sight, tried to shoot him with an energy blast towards his chest.

Malacoda spun around, but the energy blast did nothing as it dissipated against the demon, who grinned at Todd. "You've failed our little game, World Walker.

A blast of fire shot down next to Malacoda, and Rune descended with it. She glared at Malacoda, brimming with anger. Philip slithered from the roof above, landed and reformed. "Hello Malacoda."

"All of you- failed." Malacoda said, before he disappeared along with Johanna. Todd and the others suddenly found themselves in a different torch-lit hallway with a pair of double doors that swung open at the far end of the corridor.

"Enter, heroes, if you dare," Malacoda's voice rang out.

Rune gripped her sword tightly. "Let's go."

Todd steped forward, "Oh you can say that again Rune!" Philip smipely turned his arms into swords and stepped in between Rune and Todd. The trio kicked the door down. Todd called out, "Malacoda! Where are are you? What have you done with Johanna?"

Todd felt a jolt of pain, grasping his chest. "Hey, you alright?" questioned Philip. The pain lessened, then Todd responded, "Yeah...yeah I'm fine." 'What was that about?' Todd thought to himself.

A maelstrom of fire suddenly surrounded them and Malacoda appeared alone, in a blast of flame.

"Welcome to your Hell," Malacoda greeted. "Now that the pleasantries are out of the way, let's get started, shall we?" The ghost of the pain returned to Todd, who just ignored it and snapped, "Ready!" He then turned to the others, asking, "Philip, you ready?" Philip nodded and asked Rune, "You ready to fight an evil interdimentional being?"

"Don't amuse me," said Malacoda. "You've neither the willpower nor strength to battle an archdemon." Todd lungded towards Malacoda, muttering, yet loud enough for others to hear, "Wanna test that theory?" He also created a silver sword, the plan being to knock Malacoda down and stab his heart.

It was a long shot, but the only plan Todd had at the moment.

Rune also charged at Malacoda, swinging her sword at him. Philip slithered towards the demon. He lundged, reformed, and made his fists long, sharp, claws.

In the corner of the chamber stood a man with a dark aura, darker then any mortal can ever possess. Each of his fingersnails were sharpened to resemble claws, his hair was blonde with a black strip. This was the Master of Hell, The Source of All Destruction, better known as Satan.

To his and Malacoda's perspective the trio was moving in super slow motion. "Malacoda. I have a gift for you, if you desire it..." said The Source of All Destruction.

Unleashing a wave of shadows that threw his assailants back, Malacoda faced the newcomer. "You don't belong here," he said simply. The Source of All Destructon replied, "I am Hell, Malacoda. Now, will you take my offer..." as he said this a sword made of a volcanic crystal, with a brimstone hilt, holding in a way that both offers it to the demon and to quickly use if he were to attack him.

Malacoda leapt away, lithe like a cat, crawling on the ceiling like a repulsive spider. "What are you playing at?"

The Source of All Destructon answered, "Nothing. If you take to sword, you'll most likely win, don't take it and you'll most likely lose. Try to kill me with it once I give it to you, then you die. Plain and simple." He was still offering the sword to him, but not explaining what the sword could do.

Todd held his head and asked, "Philip, Rune, you ok?" Philip reformed and answered, "Yeah I'm fine..."

Rune responded. "I'm okay. My head hurts a little, but other than that, I'm good." "Good, to hear, you guys are alright." Todd said. Philip then noted, "It appears our little friend is talking to himself." Todd looked over to Malacoda, and he was (as far as they knew) indeed talking to himself.

Todd got an idea, that could hopefully boost morale. He created a silver throwing knife and threw it, hoping it could hit at least his shoulder.

Faster than humanly possible, Malacoda caught the knife between two fingers before turning to the Source of All Destruction, still clinging onto the ceiling. "You invade my own realm and expect me to heed your demands? No... I will not take your offer without further explaination..."

The Source of All Destruction sheathed the sword and said, "Fine. But as for intruding, you seem to forget that that I'm the Devil! Hells are my property!" And with that he was gone.

Todd stood back up, creating a silver dagger. "Malacoda! Where is Johanna! What have you done with her?"

Malacoda grinned. "Wouldn't you like to know?" Todd still needed to try to boost morale for his team, so he charged towards Malacoda, attempting to stab him, anywhere would be good. As he ran he snapped, "I'll kill you Malacoda!"

"No you won't," said Malacoda, who snared Todd's knife arm with his tail, pulling him face forward towards the ground. Philip slithered from the ground and stealthly went up to Malacoda, hoping to wrap around his arms and legs, binding him still.

"My realm, my rules," said Malacoda. An explosion of pure force burst forth from him throwing everyone back. "You cannot fight me like this. Perhaps you should give up now." Todd got up shakily, spat out blood as he groaned, "Never! As long as I still live, I will refuse to let Hell...win. Tell where Johanna is or I'll tear this entire realm apart, piece by piece!"

Malacoda leered. "The weakest dog barks the loudest."

Todd smirked, "Don't rattle a dog's chain." as he said this he created a sword and swung for Malacoda's arm.

Before the sword could reach, a serpent-like chain descended from the ceiling, snaring Todd's arm and holding the blade back.

"Give up, World Walker," Malacoda said. "Your attacks cannot harm me."

"Then how about this?!" shouted a new voice. A flaming portal opened up, through which a female demon entered- her hair was ashen and her eyes shone red. Most notably, one of her wings was missing, which had seemingly been severed at the skin. A sword with a crystal-orange hue was in her hand, which she swung at Malacoda.

Malacoda leapt back; the chains holding Todd retracted and Malacoda's eyes narrowed at the blade. But the demon's face lit up as he saw the newcomer, and his mouth spread into a rotting smile.

"Oh, it's you!" he exclaimed. "Come to join the fun?" Philip raised an eyebrow, asking, "Another one?". His claws were out instantly, but Todd moved his arm in his way, telling him to stand down. "Who are you, miss?" asked Todd.

Rune kept her eyes on Malacoda, despite the newcomer's presence. Todd aprroached the demoness and said, "Maybe I can get some answers. But first, I have to ask, you're a hero right? Do you know who the World Walker is?"

"Back off kid," the demoness said, pushing Todd aside. "You can't fight him-"

"Long time, no see, Ruby," said Malacoda. "Seeing you reminds me of the good old days... what were they like again?" Malacoda asked mockingly.

Ruby gripped her blade tighter, snarling slightly.

"Oh yeah- I remember. I remember how you squirmed and cried as I cut you up... you begged to die if I recall correctly... Have you come back for more?"

Ruby lunged forward and engaged Malacoda in battle, attacking his with her blade. Laughing all the while, Malacoda parried her at every turn with his taloned fingers.

Todd then thought of a plan. Creating a silver blade, he crept towards the fighting demons, teleporting behind Malacoda, with the hope of a stealthy toss of the knife.

Rune observed the battle, ready to shield Todd from a possible backfire from his plan.

"Why can't you just stay in the little hellhole you've crawled out of?" snarled Ruby. "Hell and Earth would be better off without you."

"Such cold words," said Malacoda, mockingly.

Rune stared at the two with much tension in her heart. "Can she beat him?" she thought. "She told us to stay out of it, but..."

Todd, completely ignoring the demoness' instructions, quickly and silently tried to throw the knife into Malacoda's spine.

The knife made it's impact, yet it did little to deter Malacoda as he continued his battle with Ruby.

Rune turned to Todd. "What should we do?" Todd nodded at Rune, "We help her kick Malacoda's ass!" Todd created a sword and aimed for what remained of his wings. Philip leaped forward, his fingers becoming long silvery claws, going for this throat.

Rune charged forward as well, her fire sword held out at her side.

As Todd tried to charge, a beam of darkness sent him flying to the side. There stood out of nowhere Nilrem. Nilrem kneeled before Malacoda, whom Ba'al told him was to be his superior. "It's an honor to meet you Malacoda."

"Who the hell?!" Rune exclaimed, raising an eyebrow.

"Nilrem!" Todd snapped, standing up.

Rune raised an eyebrow at Todd. "Nilrem?"

Todd faced Rune and answered, "Immortal evil wizard that serves the demon Ba'al."

Nilrem looked towards Rune, "So you're Rune? I anticipated someone...older. But of course that doesn't matter once I splatter your organs in this dimension. And then I'll conquer the quipps in a bloody reign. How about that?"

Ruby leapt back, and breathed a wall of hellfire at Nilrem and Malacoda.

Nilrem thrusted his palms forward to use his powers to force the hellfire back (or considering who it is, a "risen demon" as it were, at least try.)

Rune's eyes glowed orange, and she shot a huge wave of fire at Nilrem in a fit of rage.

Malacoda frowned. "You've worn out your welcome... the demons stay with me. The rest of you will die."

Malacoda's form suddenly exploded, bursting into an obscure, black mist which twisted itself into impossible shapes, forming chains that solidified and lashed out as if alive. Each chain reached for a hero, striking faster than snakes.

Todd was caught by the throat, and Philip by the arm. The pain in Todd's chest increased, 'What is he doing?'

Philip, questioned Malacoda through his own pain, figuring out that Todd won't be cracking a joke, "Are you sure you're not the inspiration for Clive Barker's Cenobites?"

The chain pierced Rune's stomach, barely missing the most vital organs, and Rune coughed up blood, her vision becoming blurry.

"Kid!" shouted Ruby, reaching out for Rune, but stopped by chains that constricted around her throat and pierced into her shoulders with metal hooks, holding her back. She roared in pain.

Nilrem turned to the demon, "Want me to silence them for you?"

"If you so desire," said Malacoda. "But leave the demoness be."

Nilrem nodded to Malacoda, before walking up to Todd. "Simmions. I am overjoyed that we meet again. It seems you've made a name across dimensions. Destroying worlds...slaying demons...and if memory serves right you killed gods...at least I've been told."

Todd glared at the man. Nilrem twirled his hand and made a knife from smoke, "No where to run Todd. You're stuck here. No angels, no sprite, no gods, just you and me."

Todd still glared, the pain in his chest getting worse. "Cut the crap Nilrem and just stab me already!"

Nilrem tried to stab him, only for Todd to kick his knife hand. "Ah! Insufferable child!"

Todd then snapped, "Go crawl in a pit!"

While this was going on Philip tried to slither out of his chain to help Rune and Ruby out.

"Leave me!" shouted Ruby, tearing the chains from her flesh. "Help them!"

Philip sushed her and snapped quietly, "Alright!, don't alert attention to us!" Philip then tried to cut Rune down.

Ruby lunged forward, burying her claws into Malacoda's chest, leaving behind several long, red gashes. Malacoda simply laughed.

"Down, bitch!" he said. "Now play dead!"

Malacoda breathed forth a stream of hellfire that engulfed Ruby. Ruby leapt back, away from the flames, her singed skin slowly healing. She growled in pain and rage.

Todd punched Nilrem a few times across his jaw, calling to Malacoda, "Is that anyway to treat a lady?" His fist moved down to Nilrem's chest, forcing his knuckles into his ribs, breaking some of them. After one more good punch to his stomach, Todd shot a bolt of plasma, sending Nilrem back a few feet, allowing Todd to create chains to constrain him while Nilrem was still ina daze.

Philip sent his clawed hand forward, "Malacoda! Catch!"

Rune slowly pulled the chain out of her stomach, and began to bleed out. Quickly, she placed her hands on her stomach, and used fire to seal the wounds shut.

Philip called back, "You OK?"

"She will be." Todd said, his fingers glowing with green light, tapping Rune's wounds, "Give it a few minutes and you're hands will be back to in shape."

Morphing into a semi-solid shadow, Malacoda dodged Philip's attack and reformed at the other end of the room. waving his hand, he summoned a burst of lightning to strike Philip.

Philip turns his hands and arms into a shield, but was still sent flying across the room. Todd teleported to Malacoda and attempted to kick him in the head.

Malacoda grabbed Todd's ankle and tossed him aside. "Fool-" he began, before being interrupted by a bone-shattering punch from Ruby.

"No fair," said Malacoda, grinning as drops of black blood trickled over his rotting teeth.

Todd then asked, "You're a demon and you're complaining about fairness? Methinks a demon is confused." He created a sword and demanded, "We've wasted enough time! Where is Johanna? Tell me!" Philip reformed his swords, positioning them as an X in front of him.

"I never said I was done," said Malacoda. His jaw opened impossibly wide with a cracking sound, and an enormous serpent crawled from his throat, to strike at Todd. Before he could react, however, Ruby snatched the serpent's neck, tearing it from Malacoda's mouth, and crushing it in her fist. Dropping it, she pushed Todd aside, grabbed Malacoda by the throat, and pinned him against the wall.

"No more games," she snarled. "Return the girl to her friends- and tell me what you did with the key."

Malacoda chuckled. "Key? I don't have any k-"

Ruby squeezed tighter, turning Malacoda's words into grunts. 

"YOU KNOW DAMN WELL WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT!" screamed Ruby; a dark aura began to surround her as she grew more furious. "THE EDEN KEY! WHERE IS IT?!"

Todd, despite his curiosity about this "Eden Key" simply agreed with the demoness, saying, "They say "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. But I bet you know all about that Malacoda, don't you. So for your safety, I recommend you do as the lady says."

An uncomfortable silenced reigned for a moment, broken by a giggle. Malacoda's chest heaved as he chuckled, then he threw his head back as he began to laugh racously. 

"What's so damn funny?" snarled Ruby.

"You are, my dear," he said. "You are. You think the Eden Key will help you? You think you can find a way to bring him back?"

Todd tightened his grip on the sword and snapped, "Just do as the lady says you freak of nature!" To be honest, the rather terrifying laughter dashed all of Todd's interest in the Eden Key, Johanna's safety became even more important in his mind.

"I have every interest in returning you your things once I am done with them... problem is, I only have the girl. The key lies elsewhere, eluding even my grasp...."

Todd didn't trust the demon, but if it meant getting Johanna back, he was willing to risk it. Todd then said, calmly, but angrily, "Bring Johanna back to me Malacoda. Or if you want to drag this out a tad more, at least prove to me she's OK."

"I can hardly prove anything with this wench at my throat," sneered Malacoda.

"Still grinning like a fool?" asked Ruby. "Let's see if you can still smile once I tear off your face."

"You still don't see it yet, Ruby?" asked Malacoda, mockingly. "You think to invade my realm and demand answers from me? If I so desired it, I would have smitten you dead in a heartbeat. But you're too valuable a pawn to simply toss aside... it would be like removing the queen before a game of chess."

"This is not one of your games!" spat Ruby.

"If you say so," said Malacoda. He snapped his fingers, opening a swirling portal, from which Johanna emerged.

"Johanna!" Rune yelled, her eyes widening. "Are you alright?!"

Johanna held her head and stumbled out of portal. "I-I'm ok. But, I'm a little...out of it..." and with that, for one reason or another she fainted. Todd teleported towards her and caught her, created smelling salts and waved it under her nose.

Johanna's eyes snapped open she begun to cough, standing on her own. "Uhg, thanks Todd." She then noticed Ruby and asked, "Who's she?"

"Now, the Key," said Ruby. "Where is it?"

"Hell if I know," said Malacoda. "But allow me to offer this consolation prize instead..."

A black chain burst forth from the ground, impaling Ruby in the stomach. She cried out, dropping Malacoda as she tried to pull it out.

Todd stepped forward, throwing a tornado, which was rapidly increasing in size, snapping, "Ever the coward Malacoda! Ever the coward!" Philip slithered to Todd and asked, "Was that such a good idea Todd?"

To which Todd replied, "Probably not, but that was a cheap move on his part."

"Whatever works, dearie," said Malacoda, his voice growing distorted as his form began to warp, growing larger and more twisted. 

"You need to go," said Ruby to the others, the fear evident in her voice. She tore the chain from her body. "You need to go! NOW!"

Chains began to sprout from Malacoda's flesh like worms from a rotting corpse. His talons elongated and his eyes burst into flame. "You're mine, Ruby!" he shouted, reaching for her.

"Run!" shouted Ruby, casting a portal on the wall. Todd and Johanna started running, as did Philip, but as soon as they reached the portal, Philip turned around and yelled, "Rune! Come on! Let's go!"

Rune ran towards her friends, despite the pain in her stomach, and made it to the wall with the others.

"Go!" shouted Ruby, forcing them through the portal, which lead into a barren, dust-blanketed room. "Don't worry about-"

A chain wrapped around her throat, choking her and dragging her back. The portal closed, and the last thing they saw was her outstretched hand.

Rune's eyes widened in concern. "Oh, man...." she muttered.

"NO!" Todd shouted, running towards Ruby, his fists glowing with anger. "NO!"

Johanna was slightly scared by this, but also at all that's happened, all kinds of monster, villains and demons were out there, out for him. Her fear shown through her face.

Her expression reflecting sadness, Rune looked at Johanna, understanding how she felt.


Conclude

"So," asked Philip analyzing the dusty world they landed in, "Where are we exactly?" Johanna sighed, "I have no freaking clue." Todd simply shook his head, anger still on his face, so he decided to blow off some steam, literally. He telekinetically fashioned a statue out of the sand, resembling their pervious foe, and solidified it into sand stone. He then threw fire, turning the individual grains into glass.

Todd focused all his anger into the energy collecting, forming in his fist, glowing a ruby red. With one frustrated shout he fired the blast, vaporising the statue, and carving a crater into the landscape. With that out of the way he said, "So...what do I do now?"

He faced his friends, a look of true fear upon his face.

Rune looked at him, sadly, not sure what to say.

A low chuckle came from behind them, as a tall human stood, getting all the heroes' attention, holding the dead carcass of...some sort of animal, it was so decayed it was impossible to tell what it was when it was alive. "My liberators." said the man.

The man slashed his claw like hand and created a rift, Todd yelling, "You stop!" The man paid no heed and left anyway. "Shit," Philip muttered running towards the portal, but before he jumped he saw the world and called out the others, "Guys! It's a portal home!"

This was all the motivation needed for the team to run into the portal and for now rest, allowing Todd, Johanna, Philip, and Rune to rest.

◊◊◊◊◊◊

Back in his chamber, Malacoda stretched his skeletal wings. Slashes and cuts all over his body, leaking black blood, closed rapidly. Ruby was nowhere to be seen.

Nilrem questioned the archdemon, "So, now what's the plan Malacoda?" Nilrem kneeled, as Ba'al has instructed him to treat Malacoda with the utmost honor and respect, for he was the highest officer of the fallen angel Lucifer, in the war against God.

"It's a shame she escaped," he said, licking the blood from his fingers. "I do enjoy our time together...but this was not a total loss. No, there was a gem hiding in this misfortune..."

Nilrem flashed a look of confusion at the demon, "What do you mean? Ruby is out there and so is the World Walker!"

Malacoda opened his palm, and a glowing sphere appeared, like a crystal ball. Inside was an image of Todd, Rune, Philip, and Johanna. The image lingered on Johanna, whose shadow suddenly seemed to flicker, unbeknownst to any of them.

Nilrem questioned, "What have you done my lord?"

Malacoda's rotting grin widened. The fire in his eyes was wild. "You'll see, Nilrem... you're going to love this..."

(A/N: Well, this was fun! As usual I'd like to thank everyone who helped, Deathwalker, Queen Misery, and Hero Forever, seriously give these guys credit where it's due, they're just awesome to work with, their creations are top-notch and I'd like to thank them for sticking with this story. So, I hope you all enjoyed this, and if you didn't I accept all blame. :) Thank you for reading it anyway.)

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