Cynicism seemed to be the natural state of things for any rebel cause. Fighting an overwhelming foe like the K.A.C.H. It just seemed to suck all the joy and wonder out of life. Even blazing across the stars, seeing amazing new things, Armous had to admit the endless battle against the K.A.C.H. absolute control was tiresome. With perhaps only the thoughts of survival of both himself and those he cared about to drive him onward.
But every so often something would indeed come so far out of left field that no amount of cynical world weary apathy could deny that life had gotten strange. Thus here the armored rebel was, sitting among an almost cartoonishly idealistic forest stream, numerous shadows watching curiously with glowing eyes from the trees... As in front of him a young girl who barely came up to his chest stood looking very cross. The only thing keeping her match head red hair out of her face... was what could best be described as a big honking witch's hat, as she ranted at him with a southern accent.
"So... are you one of the rustlers that have been appearing all over the world? Sneaky of you to try for a fairy mound, but Becky knew something was up."
Armous sat, bemused by the ad hock interrogation. Still a little burned that the pig she had tricked him into kissing lay on its side next to him, snorting lazily. He sighed in exasperation at how his day had gone down hill.
"Pay attention to me varmint!"
Armous was lucky she had not bothered to tie him up, her staff hurt, like a lot despite his armored skin... Then he realized it was no staff but an old broom stick, and the pieces fell into place as he looked over her dark shade of dress and pointed hat.
"Ach, is it Halloween here?"
"Why the hell would you even say that? You think I haven't heard that one a billion times before?"
At that, Armous stood up, his towering appearance actually causing the small girl to recoil a bit as he looked down at her with a cross expression. "Stop hitting me! This ain't an anime cartoon, and that isn't funny."
She stumbled back for just a moment, before getting an angry look on her face. She tried to make another swing, only for someone to grab the broom. Startled, she let go and fell face first in the mud.
"Now now lass, he is right. What did your teacher tell you about that temper?"
As she got up, muddied and frustrated but otherwise fine, she and the confused Armous both looked to see an old man in an unusual three piece suit, a green hood and coat hiding part of his face but for his wrinkled jaw. Armous was far too surprised and a bit dazed by the whole experience to take careful mental note that the old man had easily grabbed and held the broomstick mid swing with just one hand.
The red haired girl angrily got up, grabbing her broom back. With a wave of her hand, a glowing circle of Celtic runes appeared around her head, quickly sweeping to the ground. Every inch of her cloths and hair the runes passed over were instantly cleaned to looking good as new. Armous figured to himself it must be her unique breed power, but he was unsure of the extent she may wield. Mostly he was content to stay out of the girl's attention as she exploded on a tirade at the old man.
"And what do you know, old fart?! I caught this rocky creep sneaking into a fairy mound, using his beautiful chiseled abs to poach elf maidens. Probably using the alien attack for cover so he can sell some poor stupid fairies off!"
At this the old man laughed. "Are you sure the elf maidens were the ones his "chiseled abs" were luring there, Dorothy?"
At this Dorothy blushed in surprise and immediately began arguing. Armous looked down at his abs for a moment, before taking another few to scan around the location. He figured he could escape easily, but the girl was mostly harmless and wandering aimlessly in a place he had no idea about could be far more dangerous. For a moment his eye was caught by a crow standing on a nearby tree branch, and the fact it stood seeming to stare right at them.
Dorothy's incoherent argument was cut short, as the old man patted her on the head. "Now now young Dorothy. Our odd looking friend here seems more lost than anything. Have you tried asking his name before you arrest him?"
Dorothy just frowned and crossed her arms at being shut down in such a way, the old man however gave her a push in Armous direction. "Now now don't be sour, lass. Make a good introduction an show there's no trouble here."
Dorothy continued to grumble as she stood before Armous. He expected a halfhearted greeting in her mood, but to his surprise, she went all the way, removing her hat and doing a full curtsy. Her voice still sounded annoyed but she was clearly suppressing it in the name of politeness. "Hello sir, my name is Dorothy Fay."
Armous was quite genuinely impressed by the girl's politeness, at least when she was pressed for it. Having spent his life around Slither, anything counted... But he was far more surprised to see that under her pointed hat, a hen sat calmly on her head. He stared at it for a few seconds, getting in close to see if it was real, the sight so strange and surreal Armous did not trust his own eyes. At that moment, the hen decided to peck him in the nose, again sending him back, rubbing his face.
Dorothy actually giggled at this. "Well, you can't be all bad, at least Becky likes you."
Armous expression went back to one of exasperation, as he replied. "Very cute. Well, you bothered to be polite to me, I guess it would be rude not to do so in turn. My name is Armous. Don't really have much use for a last name anymore, it's all that people call me."
The old man's voice suddenly came from behind Armous, spooking him as he jumped slightly, the geezer having either moved very fast or very silently. "Well now, isn't that better ye two? See, when ye stop just listening to your own side of the story and hear the other side, things get a bit clearer."
Immediately, Dorothy went back to grumbling. "When I want a fortune I'll open a biscuit."
Again, the old man did not seem offended at all, just good naturally ruffling Dorothy's hair, something she clearly was annoyed by.
The calm moment was interrupted by a shout, causing the pig to immediately run off into the woods. Dorothy cried after it. "Sir Snouts! Get back here you coward!"
Armous again nearly jumped, this time in fear, turning to see a column of K.A.C.H. troops coming out of the trees. The small group was completely outnumbered, and Armous had just gotten over the extremely painful stun blasts last time. He doubted they were pulling their punches this time.
"All of you are now prisoners. Come quietly or lethal force will be used. You have 30 seconds to comply."
Armous looked behind them, the trees were not thick enough, even if they ran the soldiers could easily blast them to shreds. He re-positioned himself, almost by instinct in front of the girl, getting ready to take the full brunt of the attack, maybe if he could survive the first few volleys she could get away. He did not see it, but Dorothy blushed angrily at the sight of him shielding her.
The old man however seemed completely calm in the face of the intruders. He looked over casually at the girl. "Dorothy, why don't you take our friend somewhere quieter?"
Dorothy looked back with a pang of concern. "Are you sure you'll be alright?"
The old man just laughed. "Oh lass, I've been around a long time. Seen worse than this. Run along now."
Armous barely heard them, until he noticed a blue glow coming behind him, as a ring of runes appeared around himself and Dorothy, she spoke something that he could just barely make out, assuming it was an old language that seemed foreign but just slightly familiar to him...And suddenly in a burst of light they were away, gone from the grove entirely.
The soldiers took only a moment to register, having dealt with teleportation powers before. The lead soldier made a hand signal, directing all guns at the old man. "Bad move old timer."
The old man just chuckled, with a wave of his hand summoning a old, worn horn pipe from thin air. He used the tip of the pipe to roll back his hood, revealing a pair of brightly glowing green eyes crowning his mocking smile.
"Well now lads, is that a fact?"
Armous eyes went wide. The first teleportation today he had been conscious for... Considering his history with strange and unusual power sets, this one was surprisingly smooth. The last time a unique breed with teleportation based powers had trans located him, he had felt like his organs were removed and put back in backwards.
He turned to thank Dorothy, only to find her pouting with her arms crossed. "You didn't have to defend me like that. I'm not a little girl."
Armous looked slightly confused, putting a hand to his head. "Um... not that I haven't seen children act way wrong, but yes, you are a little girl. How old are you, twelve? Thirteen?"
Dorothy just looked even more sour. "I'm over six hundred years old. A magic spell keeps me from aging mentally or physically no matter how much I learn."
At this, Armous actually had to smile. It had been so long since he had seen a child actually act like a child. Psy had times where she acted like a normal girl, and it was very cute, but nobody could really shake the feeling of offness about her, it probably had something to do with her terrifying powers and the paranoid dread that she was constantly infiltrating and messing with the crew's minds with the lack of understanding of consequences a child would have given such power... Armous realized he would be sleeping with the lights on again...
Armous bothered to move and sit down next to her, getting closer to her height. "Listen, Dorothy. I know what it is like to have abilities that make you feel, well, invincible. But trust me, it isn't magic, there is no such thing. You are something far more special than just a story book, you're a unique breed, just like me. I happen to know a little girl just about as powerful as you are... Roughly the same temperament to when someone messes with her toys."
Dorothy just grumbled again. "You don't understand me at all."
Armous actually laughed. "Ok NOW you are starting to sound like a kid."
Dorothy turned away with a "humph" but Armous stood back up and patted her on the head, mimicking how the old man had. This time however, Dorothy reacted differently, batting the back of his hand with her broom. Armous pulled his hand away, rubbing it and trying very hard to remain patient with the little girl.
They stood in silence for a few moments, Armous just letting her calm down from her silent tantrum as he looked around. The world around them had gone far more dull and murky than the idealistic forest. "Um, Dorothy, any idea where we are now?"
Dorothy looked around at the dark and foreboding mountainous region all around them. And to the front of where they stood, at a massive, ornate and extremely onto ridiculously over designed gothic castle! No sense of humility abound in the architecture with every spire a spike, every window stained glass depicting gothic imagery, every roof adorned with ridiculously detailed gargoyles in poses of brandishing weapons or holding bones as if they had just eaten a man. All leading to the gigantic front gate guarded by a drawbridge.
"Oops... I goofed the teleportation spell... We are in a dark one's personal realm..."
Armous just stood for a moment trying to make sense of anything at all. "A dark one of what?"
Dorothy face palmed. "Does it really matter what a dark one is? You should probably guess that when someone like me is afraid and speaks ominously of something, that something is a thing you don't want to meet in a dark alleyway!"
Dorothy motioned towards the dark horizon. "This entire place is a sort of realm in itself, somewhere that can't be found on a map or traveled to by land... Massively powerful mythos like the dark ones wield these spaces as their own personal fisher kingdom. Not only can they keep to themselves here but they are at a significant advantage as well... And somehow I managed to click us into one, now we have to get going before..."
There was a sudden crash of thunder as the raging sound of powerful hooves approached from the distance.
"Eep! Before that happens! The master of the castle is returning, run for it!"
Before Armous could even question what was going on, he caught from the corner of his eye, a true sight to behold! There came from the eclipsed sun that had been hidden behind the clouds, a dark shape, a figure of pure ebony wood adorned with gold trimmings. It was a carriage, an old fashion one and a long one at that, like what undertakers in olden times would carry the deceased in... A hunched over, cloaked figure held the reigns at the head of the strange sight, as a pair of creatures Armous could not even name pulled the vehicle. Each of the two were a strange mishmash, having the hindquarters of a work horse, the front claws of a lion, and the head and wings of a black eagle! They pulled the carriage through the air as if gravity meant nothing to them. And they did so fast, the two had no time to even run before the carriage touched down not 100 yards away.
Armous instinctively, once again, moved in front of Dorothy. He did not really care if she felt he was treating her like a child, it was simply in his nature to protect her from... whatever it was that could scare a unique breed of her power.
The cloaked figure sloshed to the ground, its clothing so long and baggy that no matter how it moved not an inch of flesh could be seen. It opened the two, wide doors on the side of the carriage, as several more of the creatures emerged carrying an ornate funeral box... A coffin?
Suddenly there was a loud, booming voice that seemed to come from all around, nearly knocking Armous over. He did not see but Dorothy actually stepped back from the mere sound, dropping her defiant stance for just a moment of fear.
"Daughter of Darkness. You exist within my realm now."
There was a sudden scream, as Armous turned with a jolt to see a pit, perfectly circular like a black hole, open up and swallow Dorothy into its deep darkness. It happened so fast Armous could not react but to shout her name as he desperately reached out an arm, only for the pit to close as if it had never been, so fast it nearly took his arm off, the rushing ground actually lacerating clean through his armor somehow!
Armous recoiled, grabbing his damaged arm plate, as he heard a deep, low chuckle from the coffin. He turned, backing away defensively, as he saw a entire new host of creatures appear out of little blips of energy right before him. The robed ones bowed as a small army of... horrible, hideous humanoids appeared, most of them completely naked, a few mercifully covered in tattered rags. Several were so thin as to be near skeletal, with faces of various grotesque natures from having almost cat like snouts, gaping jaws and mismatched teeth, their skin like leather with patches of scales, and only small tufts of scraggly hair, if they had any hair at all. Others were even more diminutive, looking more like mutant rats that walked upright.
The grotesque... things approached, laughing as they surrounded Armous in a semi circle. Mocking him while looking like hungry predators. But beyond them, he saw the coffin move, standing upright in an impossible way, as the lid began to unclasp itself.
A sudden blast of red lightning shot down from the sky, striking the wooden box and blowing it to pieces! The pieces hovered in mid air, radiating around the dark figure in the center as if caught in a planet's orbit, before they formed together once more, taking the shape of a cross that planted itself perfectly behind him, red lightning still playing across the creature's body. It looked only vaguely human, with beautiful outward features but a certain offness. Rich blue skin, only a few shades lighter than View's, deep black and red eyes that cast a predatory gaze above its mocking smile. What appeared to be a leather cape that folded around its body, guarding its well fashioned clothing that looked like a gentleman from an earlier era.
The being was tall, taller than any human. Taller than most unique breed Armous had ever seen, and despite its beautiful appearance, held an expression that made even Slither's most predatory look like a tame puppy.
"It would appear our guest has hurt himself. Dear servants, attend to him."
In an instant, the hideous beings surrounding Armous jumped, all at once. Armous immediately responded with a spinning lariat, having learned from many brutal battles how to throw his size and weight around. He managed to catch a few in the air, throwing them off, but two grabbed his arms... To his surprise, despite being half his size, each of them was nearly his equal in strength, and the two managed to hold him back, one lashing its tongue at the cuts on his arm. But with a great effort, Armous managed to throw them both forward, clapping his arms together and smashing the two together in front of him!
At this, the tall being actually laughed, clearly getting some sick entertainment out of watching Armous struggle. The remaining four of the creatures all attacked from different angles. One leaping high, one crawling low, and two flanking. Obviously a practiced attack, but Armous had dealt with worse odds before...
The low one tried to make a rising strike with its claws, but found itself on the wrong end of Armous' heavy, pachyderm like leg, smashing its skull to paste. The high one tried the exact opposite, but Armous was fast enough to shift his weight, catching it on his shoulder. It tried to rake its sharp claws into the plates on his back, but Armous made a move not terribly unlike a wrestling toss, flinging it like a sack of potatoes! The remaining two each attacked from different sides, forcing Armous to dodge out of the way. Despite them being faster, Armous had trained fighting speedy opponents, something G.I.A.S. had assisted with, giving him an edge they obviously did not expect! As they tried to reassess their trajectory, Armous caught one before it could jump again, with a simple punch to the gut, followed by a punch combo, his sledgehammer like fists managing to break several bones before sending the creature flying!
The very last one tried for one more attack from behind, but Armous spun around just in time, grabbing its outstretched claw, and using his heavy body as an anchor to throw its entire frame over his head, smashing it down into the ground. It looked only stunned, but Armous was far too angry after this kind of day to let it off easy. He shifted his weight back, yanking the arm of the downed opponent with such force he was surprised he didn't dislocate it, managing to hoist its entire body over his head once again, and smash it back down even harder on the other side! After this it stayed down.
Armous stood, panting heavily, bleeding a bit, their claws having pierced clean through his armor, but in the end Armous proved the better trained fighter. He heard a slow clap, turning and rather futility putting up his fists despite clearly being out of breath. The tall man approached, clapping his hands together rather mockingly, as he stood right before Armous.
"Magnificent. I was expecting my Gul to tear you limb from limb. It is not often we get a titan around here. By design, the people of Wallachia prefer our services both as ruler and defender... Oh but I am rambling about foes long dead, how rude of me, especially when there is such a live one right before me."
Armous kept his defiant stance, despite being very unnerved by the creature before him. To his surprise, the tall figure held out his cape with one arm and gave a bow.
"Welcome to my abode, I am Wallace Montoya the lesser. I must thank you for providing such exquisite entertainment, and bringing my future bride right to my doorstep. Can you believe in the old days we had to do it ourselves? That is what the term best man comes from, best with a sword to keep her brothers at bay."
Armous finally lost it. "What in Hell's name are you?"
The being before him looked even more amused, like he could barely contain laughter. He stood back putting two fingers to his head in a flamboyant pose. "Is that not obvious senior? I am a vampire. And you are within my realm of eternal darkness."
Armous lowered his fists, the strain of everything mentally exhausting him. At best he could figure the unique breed before him was some flamboyant, insane rich noble, possibly even a mob boss, not the first of their kind he had fought, but even among some powerful unique breed, everything about this felt different... In the back of his mind, he started questioning if Dorothy really was talking about magic.
Wallace clapped his hands, signaling to the fallen Gul, who began moving, their bones snapping back into place and bodies returning to full form. "Nice performance boys, but I think it is back to the training grounds for you. I have let you get soft since the Ottoman Empire left. As for you, honored guest..."
There was a flash of swirling shadows, sending Armous vision spinning. When he regained his bearings and the world stopped shaking, he was in a huge observation room overlooking the rest of the castle. The layout and width of the room surrounded by viewing windows, and the curved ceiling adorned with ornate stained glass, left it to feel more like an arena. The panoramic view was breathtaking, if chilling, the whole world around them for miles looking dark and cold, eternally gripped in the last lights of a dying day. Even the fully modern city far to the south of where the castle stood held an air of gothic dread hanging over it like a dark cloud. There could be no doubt from one glance that no matter how lovely dark and deep this world was, it was in the thrall of the lord of this castle. It was a part of him...
Armous had only a moment to watch in question, as his attention was almost immediately distracted by another frightening sight. Dorothy stood restrained at the side of the Arena, metal vines adorned with many thorns having wrapped around her body in such a way she could not move without cutting herself against them. She had already hung her head in defeat, from the small cuts and scratches along her arms, Armous could tell she had already struggled to be free...
Without a word, perhaps working on the paternal instinct he had developed watching out for Slither and G.I.A.S., without even thinking of himself, Armous rushed over and grabbed the thorny vines with his bare hands! Dorothy looked up with a start to see the armored unique breed pulling with all his might to break the metal vines, even as the thorns tore up the palms of his hands. He gritted his teeth and fought on.
"You idiot, go, you're going to hurt yourself!"
Armous did not stop, he tried to smile to reassure the girl, unsure of what to say. The situation was completely out of his control, he did not know what the vampire was capable of, all he knew was that a girl was in trouble and needed his help.
There was a cold rush through the room, as more swirling shadows came from the dark corners, forming together into a sort of vortex from which Wallace stepped.
"She is right, you know. Every brick and stone in this castle bows to me. She cannot escape unless I wish it. Feel honored I have decided to treat you as an equal... And bring you here to see what you can do."
Armous at this point had had enough. The vampires snide attitude, treating the situation like a game, drove him over the edge. With one last mighty pull, he snapped the vines, surprising both Dorothy and Wallace! As Dorothy fell free to the ground, Armous turned to the vampire who now stood in the center of the room.
Wallace smiled and made a "bring it on" motion.
Normally, Armous would be called almost a quintessential gentle giant of the rebels. But something about the situation he found himself in boiled his blood. Perhaps it was the stress of the strange and alien world, being separated from his friends, and just generally the nonsense of this day piling up. Perhaps it was the vampire's callous nature reminding him of how many innocent unique breed he had seen slaughtered or worse by the cruel, uncaring K.A.C.H. Perhaps it was just a little bit of everything combined together. Whatever it was, it fueled him to fight with all his might as he swung one of the broken vines at the vampire.
Wallace already looked pleased, easily blocking with the flat of one arm. As Armous took a swing with the other piece, Wallace stopped it with his other palm, before quickly sliding back to avoid a third attack. Armous swung both heavy pieces of metal with great strength, hoping if he could get one good hit in, the tall, lanky body of the vampire would provide an easy target. But Wallace was no pushover, managing to block with what appeared to be Kuo Shou, though if Armous had any idea of the specific martial art style, it would be from some old earth martial arts movies he had been roped into watching with his friends.
"That's it, show me your anger. The only real problem with immortality is outliving every worthy opponent. I need to take a good fight where I can get it!"
Armous took advantage of the momentary distraction, throwing one of the vines. Wallace easily blocked, but the angle it had been thrown obscured his vision for a split second, leaving Armous open to stab, ramming the sharp metal vine through the vampires chest!
There was a tense moment of silence, before Wallace began laughing.
"You actually wounded me. I thought I would go another five hundred years before this happened again. Not since the Spaniards... Wonderful, a fight I don't have to hold back on!"
Armous had only a moment of dawning dread, as Wallace threw him back with a single kick. The one simple attack that should have broken against Armous hide, instead hit him like a cannon ball, tossing the armored unique breed like a feather. He skidded to a halt flat on his back, head spinning as the room slowly came back into focus. Looking up at the glass coating the entire arena, he saw a blackbird looking down at him. In a slight daze, he almost wanted to reach out to it, before he steadied himself, slowly crawling to his feet. The single attack had rattled his bones and left his joints aching, as if his armored shell was nothing but a heavy hindrance.
As the vampire stalked forward, preparing for another attack, Dorothy looked on in horror. Almost too frightened to move, she had been clutching her broom, desperately trying to think of a spell that could help. But her every attempt to summon magic was blocked by the vampire's castle. The environment itself halted her. She desperately searched her memories, the images of her mother's spell book, something powerful enough to save the strange man who had bothered to try and help her.
"Come on come on... You're the daughter of Morgan Le Fay! I have to... Ugh what were the symbols..."
As she clutched her head, a different kind of magic surrounded her, a sort of dark aura, as her eyes began to glow with power. she clutched her broom. "Oh nuts to this!"
Armous did not turn around as he heard Dorothy shouting something, he was too focused on the creeping death right in front of him. He barely heard her, much less made a reaction. Until he suddenly felt a burst of energy swirl around him. Only then did he hear Dorothy in an angry voice scream out...
"Magic wand! Make my monster grow!"
There was a massive, deafening explosion as every window shattered, reducing the glass room to little more than an open air platform! Armous found himself rapidly elevating in height, swiftly reaching three times his original size. He could only look around at himself in disbelief, finally his eyes landing back on Dorothy who sunk to her knees, drained from the powerful spell.
"Alright...I guess it is magic after all."
With a furrowed brow, he turned his attention back to Wallace. "Ok, lets try this again."
The vampire just gave a huge, sharp toothed grin as he prepared himself. Armous stomped down at him, only for the vampire to vanish with great speed, appearing a few feet away. The force of the stomp still staggering him as the entire room shook! Wallace quickly tried to dodge again as Armous took a swing, his fist so large that the very air around him created drag, and kicked up a gust of wind as he swung! The vampire was again knocked back, stunned momentarily as Armous took his opening, now too large to move fast, but much stronger, he grabbed a chunk of stone from the floor! With a grunt of exertion he lifted it clean out of the floor, hoisting it over his head till it scrapped the shattered and broken ceiling. Wallace had time only to look up as the gigantic Armous brought it down with a crash!
There was a moment of agonizing stillness. Armous could feel the brief burst of power leaving him in a wave of dizziness as he began to return to normal. Not only did he shrink to his original size, but found the world felt heavier. The power had taken a lot out of him. Armous was a tough one but he felt like he had just boxed a bulldozer. He leaned over, supporting himself to catch his breath for a brief moment, before he remembered the entire reason he was able to win.
"Dorothy! Are you okay?"
He rushed over as fast as his trunk like legs could carry him, finding the girl exhausted but alright. Her breathing was heavy as whatever magic she had managed to pull off, it had weakened her almost as much as Armous. Both felt like they were on the verge of collapse. But Armous managed to stand strong. Reaching out one arm, he patted the young woman on the head affectionately.
"Thanks for that... Whatever it was, I don't think I coulda beaten him without it."
For once, Dorothy actually gave a weak smile as Armous acted fatherly at her. Their brief time hanging out having in a weird way softened her mood... Or at least she was too tired to hit him again.
All at once and all around them, there was a fluttering sound. Armous took notice as a entire flock of blackbirds landed all around them. More and more appearing till there were far too many to be natural, all of them just sitting there, blanketing the ruined arena and staring at the two. A look of dread filled Dorothy's face.
"What's wrong? Another vampire?"
An entire swarm of the birds kicked off into the air, hovering together right before the two till they were nothing but a swirling mass of crow feathers. Out of the dark, shapeless abyss there appeared a humanoid form in old warn clothing and a sack cloth mask. A dark, tattered cape billowed in the wind, somehow looking even more terrifying than the vampire.
Dorothy's eyes shrank in fear. "Master... Scarecrow..."
The Scarecrow looked down with a cold expression at the frightened girl. It spoke in a Cockney accent rough as the sound of wood being sanded. "Child, you lost control again."
Armous immediately stood up to the Scarecrow, easily standing almost twice the man's height. "Hay, she saved me, whatever it is she had to do."
The Scarecrow was completely non paused even with the large armored unique breed standing before him, not only that but he seemed to completely ignore Armous presence as if he was of no consequence at all. "You're going back to your studies till you learn to control it."
Dorothy tried to protest, but the disapproving look in the Scarecrow's eyes immediately silenced her, leaving her to only give a despondent "Yes master." As she stood, preparing to walk through the portal of crow feathers.
She paused right at the edge, turning back to wrap her arms around Armous. Giving him a gentle hug in gratitude. No words were exchanged, but Armous felt much better all the same.
As the young woman vanished through the portal, the Scarecrow finally acknowledged Armous existence, not even looking at him as he spoke. "Your a long way from home, mutant."
Armous immediately gritted his teeth at the slur, but decided he was too exhausted to get angry. Besides that, he was far more focused on getting back to the other rebels.
Without so much as exchanging another word, the Scarecrow made a simple motion at the portal, as suddenly its inner mass rippled like water, before morphing to show a different place. A coastal region with blue waves lapping at the shore. "Go on, your friends await."
Armous stepped through the portal, offering a quick thanks to the Scarecrow, halfhearted as it may be at the abrasive mage. He got no answer in turn, nor had he expected one. The portal vanished behind him, as he saw what was clearly the tracks of a large object dragged from the water leading into a cave. As he stood to consider the tracks, he heard a sudden burst of wind right behind him, signaling the arrival of someone at super speed, as a familiar voice called out to him. Armous smiled as a weight was lifted from his soul before he even turned to greet his friends...
Slither hid, curled up in a tight ball, shivering with terror from his small hidey hole. Just a impromptu cover, an overturned desk pressed against the wall, but it was all he could manage. The destroyed wreckage of what once may have been a respectable building all around him drove memories almost too painful to consider to the surface. Little, horrible flashes of a sewer dwelling monster skulking around with predatory intent... All the worse they were his own memories. The little flashes of his former life that Psy had been unable to erase...
But now, as he cowered in the slapdash crawlspace he had made for himself, the monster outside was not just his own mind, but something all too real. He still heard gunfire and shouts as the K.A.C.H. soldiers that had come after him had found themselves facing something... Some THING far worse, far worse than even Slither could comprehend.
Bit by bit the gunfire got closer and closer, at the same time lesser and lesser. The shouts were quickly drowned out by screams till it sounded less like a battle and more a horror movie! Slither, against all his judgement, peered out from behind the desk, just enough to catch a glimpse...
There, a bloodied, wounded, K.A.C.H. soldier crawled, barely able to pull himself from the ruined, dark hallway into the broken, flickering lights of the deserted office room. He reached out a bloodied hand, desperately trying to grab for anything. Slither could swear he heard the doomed human choke out "Please... help..."
He never finished. With unbelievable speed, something dragged him back into the darkness with no sound but a horrifying, blood chilling scream! Even the cold blooded Slither felt a shiver down his full body spine at the sight, instantly snapping back to his defensive curl, whimpering almost silently to himself, hoping with every fiber of his being and praying to whatever this planet worshiped that the thing out there would NOT find him...
It was quiet. Completely quiet. No sound but the sparking, flickering lights. No thumping of feet, no sound of the trash all around the ruined hallway being displaced, nothing, not even breathing. Slither stayed there for minutes on end, hoping it had passed by, hoping whatever it was had not noticed him.
He opened his eyes, peering out from under the desk, not even daring to set a single finger outside the meager safety the shadows provided. Nothing, the room was empty. He let out a silent, sigh of relief.
The desk visibly bent as something heavy landed on top of it, leaving two large indents spaced far enough apart to clearly be heavy, clawed feet. Slither clasped his hands over his mouth to keep from screaming like a small child! His eyes went so wide they nearly fell out, his tail curled in fright, he could move back no further...As slowly, five clawed fingers curled around the top of the desk, as slime began dripping from over the top into Slither's view. Something above him was letting out a low, hissing growl...
((to be continued))