The tavern was full of dim light and a dull roar of coversations taking place around the bar. The lanterns on the walls cast a comfortable glow around the one room tavern. Bright enough to see where you're putting your glass but just dark enough to keep the person sitting next to you in gloomy shadows.
This is a place where people come to drink alone. Despite the dull roar, most people don't come here to talk.
Case in point: The woman at the end of the bar. She is sitting hunched forward, her hands gripping the frosty mug of ale before her. Her head hidden beneath a hooded cloak should have been sign enough that she wasn't here for pleasant conversation.
Some people aren't very observant however, and despite the woman's demeanor, a young man of about 20 approached her.
"I don't think this is the kinda place a young woman should be sitting alone."
"Go away." The woman said.
The young man glanced over his shoulder and grinned at his friends. He leaned forward and placed his hand on the bar next to her.
"See, ma'am. This is a dangerous part of town. I just want to make sure you're sa-YeAHH!"
The man's sentance finished in a howling scream as the woman's hand shot out from the glass and gripped three of his fingers. She jerked them backwards, yanking them from the sockets.
"The only danger here is me." She said as she drained the last of her ale. She shoved the man aside as she stood up.
Her hood fell away revealing her long brown hair and deep brown eyes. A blue crystal glowed around her neck. She tossed a few gold pieces onto the rough wooden bar and stepped over the shaking sobbing young man.
"That wasn't very nice of you girl."
The man's friends stood in a line in front of the woman.
She tilted her head slightly, surveying the group. Farmer's kids for sure. Fresh of the fields after the first harvest. She'd already hurt one pretty badly. She could see the barkeep getting antsy.
"I don't want any trouble here." She said.
"Oh you got trouble Girley. Three cases of it standing right here in front of you."
The woman stepped forward and sent her fists flying into the faces of the two cronies standing on either side of the big talker. They both collapsed to the floor, dazed. She delivered a kick square to the leader's forhead and sent him sprawling to the ground.
"No trouble at all." She said.
"You about done, Adia?" A deep voice asked from the door way.
Adia looked up and saw a tall man leaning against the entryway, his arms crossed, black hair falling around his face.
"Time to go to work." Damian said and left the tavern.
Adia sighed and looked and the men on the ground and then at the door, "Welcome home."
The Darkest Hour
The City of Endless Night
Rhydin Square, Day
Adia and Damian stood in the center of the cobblestone street watching as the mayor of Rhydin shuffled down the stairs towards them. The Mayors name is Cobblepot Michers. He is known for his extravagent taste in antiques and the less than honest means in which he acquires them. He was currently taking his time making his way to his invited guests.
Damian stood with his arms crossed watching the fat man waddle down the stairs.
"How are you adjusting?" He asked Adia.
"It's a lot to get used to. After being away so long. To be thrust back here after everything. It's...jarring to say the least."
"This from the man with the leather trench coat and guns hidden away. You don't fit in here any more now then you did before. You're still an anomaly."
"I go where the work is."
"Ah yes, the never ending work of a Hero. You're drug of choice."
"It's what I am. Destiny isn't meant to be argued with."
Adia scoffs, "Destiny."
"You're home Adia. What more do you want?" Damian left her behind as he walked towards the Mayor.
"Peace." Adia whispers before following.
The mayor squeezed himself into a small bench and motioned for Adia and Damian to come closer.
"I have terrible business. Terrible." He shook his head as he spoke. His thick mustache waved with the motion.
"What do you want me to do about it Mayor?" Damian asked. He was getting annoyed with the fat man.
"I heard you have certain...proclivities towards things that...magically related."
"Magically related to what?" Adia asked.
The mayer faltered slightly, "Well...uh...to magic."
"What exactly is happening?" Damian asked.
"A city at the edge of Rhydin Valley. I just don't know how to explain it. The day, there is no daylight there." The mayor ran his fingers through his mustache, "It's as if the sun doesn't reach it. It's pure darkness. One of the Rhydin Guard came back nearly mad from what he saw there. He said the citizens of the village have gone insane from the darkness."
"Why can't they just leave?" Adia asked.
"No citizen can leave the city. Something holds them there, prevents them from leaving the city gates. I need you to go in there and find out what is causing this...this...horror...the people of Rivinsoud are killing each other. It's just...gods above protect us from such evils. Please you must do something."
Adia pulled her hood over her head and walked away. Damian followed her leaving the mayor shakking slightly in the small bench.
"We'll leave right away." Damian said.
"I'm not going."
"I said I'm not going. I'm tired of hunting demons and chasing vampires. I'm tired of following you into the next massacre that might get me killed."
"Killed? We don't have that luxury."
"Correction, Damian, we may not have that luxury. Since The Crossing and coming back here. Who know's what has changed. I don't care enough to risk it anymore."
"Then I'll go alone."
"I'll be back as soon as I can." With that he walked away.
Adia stood there, her cloak billowing in the wind, dust swirling around her, she watched as Damian walked off down the road. Her sword felt heavy on her hip and her body felt tired and weary. She watched him go until a wagon slowly crossed her vision, when it passed, Damian was gone.
Rhydin Valley, Edge of Day and Night
Damian stood on the path, tired from his day long walk. He had travelled through the day and night to get here and now, in the mid morning he had arrived. The wilderness around him was empty and silent. No birds, no wind. Just calm. The sun shown down brightly where he stood. Several feet ahead of him however, was pure black. The walls surrounding the village of Rivinsoud were shrouded in darkness so utter, so complete, that Damian could scarceley make out the gates. The feeling of standing on the edge of that darkness was disconcerting at the very least. It made the hairs on the back of his neck prikle. Damian reached into his jacket and pulled his katana from it's sheath. He approached the gate and stepped into the darkness. He pushed the gate open and entered the city.
The gates opened into a large square. The homes and business where built around it. At it's center, stood a large temple. On the temple steps stood a little girl.
No other villagers were in sight.
"This is the city on the edge of nothing. The City of Endless Night. Why do you tresspass against me Hero?"
The girl had stringy black hair that fell around her face and dark gleaming yellow eyes. She pointed at Damian as she spoke to him.
"You have been sent to free the infidels from the darkness but you are too late. This land has been offered as tithe to the dark gods of Ranin Vir. They're blood flows through the veins of it's people. They will dispose of you themselves."
Damian turns around to face the gates. Their they stood. Hundreds of villagers, armed with pitch forks, blades, knives, clubs, and standing between him and the only known exit.
"They mean to murder you, Hero." The girl said, "Are you willing to kill them to save them?
"No." Damian spun around and threw his katana towards the little girl. The blade stops in mid air just in front of her. She blinks and the katana spins around and flys back at Damian, sinking into his gut.
Damian falls to his knees and grabs the hilt of the sword. His eyes clench with pain as he slides the sword out, a river of blood washes over his hands. The sword wrenches out of his grip and rises into the air again. Damian grips his wound tightly and watches as the katana flies at him again. He knows he is too weak to avoid it.
A flash of silver arcs in front of him and the katana goes spiraling away into the dirt.
Adia stands before him, her sword outstretched, her hood pulled back.
"You are useless without me." She said. The katana launches at Adia. She strikes it with her sword and sends it flying off again.
"Get up Damian. You're fine. GET UP!"
Damian looks at her. His vision blurring slightly. Adia slaps him hard across the face.
"I need you here!"
Damian's vision clears and he slowly stands up. Searing pain shoots through his stomach.
The little girl disappeared into the temple.
"Can you fight with me Damian?"
"Yes. Let's go."
Adia rushes towards the temple. Damian follows, scooping his sword from the ground.
The inside of the temple is aglow from bright flaming torches. Bodies hang from chains in the ceiling. Most dead, some moaning in agony.
"My god." Adia whispered. The little girl stood in the center of a stone stair case. She giggled as they approached the center of the temple. She raised her arms and from her hands, burst impossibly large claws. The rest of her body crumbled away leaving a huge demon standing in it's place. It stood several feet taller than Adia and Damian, nearly reaching the temple's towering ceiling.
"This meat is mine." it snarled. The demon snapped it's claws in the air and leapt at them.
The building shook when it landed before them. With a swipe of it's arm, it sent Adia flying accross the room. She slammed hard into the stone wall.
The demon struck the ground inches from Damian, sending stones and dirt flying into the air.
Damian ran beneath the demon's claw towards it's leg. He swung his sword and sliced at the Demon's calf. Green putrid blood flowed from the gash and the demon roarded in fury and agony. It spun around and swatted Damian away. Damian landed halfway up the staircase.
Adia leaped into the air and impaled her sword into the Demon's claw. Her sword passed through the claw and into the ground beneath it, pinning the demon to the floor. She ran up the length of it's arm.
"ADIA!" Damian yelled and through his katana through the air.
Adia leaped into the air, caught the katana, and with a flip, plunged the sword into the Demon's head.
The Demon lurches wildy, tossing Adia off and sending her crashing through the chained bodies.
The demon claws madly at the sword in it's head. Finally, with a final roar, the demons eyes dim and it falls heavily to the ground. The walls shake when it hits, but they stand firm.
Adia sits up slowly.
"I should have stayed in Rhydin." She mumbles as she clambers up the stairs towards Damian. She pulls him to his feet and together, they limp out of the temple and into the bright sunlight outside.
They stood around the large glowing orb. The three of them. The Witch. The Warlord. The Emissary.
They watched in the orb as Damian and Adia stumbled out of the temple and were rushed by hundreds of ecstatic and healed villagers.
"Did you see what you needed then?" the witch looked at the Emissary. Her reedlike grey hair falling into her dead souless eyes.
The Emisarry nodded.
"I have seen enough. The girl is right. In order for this to succeed, they will need to be turned against one another." The Emissary folded his arms into his robes and glanced at the witch and the warlord.
The warlord spoke first,
"It will be hard. She is committed to him more then she can even admit. I know not what act could shatter that bond."
"I do." Said a new voice, a forth, from the shadows, "You need to make him responsible for the one defining moment in her life. The loss of which all other losses are judged against. This will break them and there will be no opposition to your God's return."
The Emissary looked at the figure.
"And what event would that be?"
The figure stepped from the shadow, revealing her scarred face and badly burned arms and hands.
"Make him responsible for the death of her family," Starr said with a sick charred grin, "and she will be lost to him forever."