Master: Get him up, Chad.Chad repeatedly smacked Alpha in the muzzle until he woke up. Alpha: Knock it off! I'm up already. [Chad smacks him one more time.] Master: Boys! That's enough! Go find them - but do not kill them. Chad: But you just said that we were supposed to work on the ringbearer. Master: Do not argue with me! My orders are stronger than logic! Ha-Kee: Can we kill them just a little? Master: No. Now go! Chad, Alpha, and Ha-Kee left the Master's chambers, grumbling. Suddenly, a cloud of black smoke nearly exploded in the small room. Master: [cough, cough] What the... The Master's beady eyes widened as a shape started to form out of the smoke. Master: Father? Tamaan: Hello, Eric. Master: But...but I killed you! Tamaan: You always were woefully inept. Sit down. We have things to discuss. ------------------------ Warteen: Keep running! QL: What does it look like we're doing?! Warteen: I'm just being supportive. You don't need to get snippy. QL: Hey, look - She paused as Warteen and most of the other travelers ran headfirst into a winged creature. QL: out. Warteen stood, automatically taking a defensive stance. He relaxed when he recognized the woman in the creature's arms. Warteen: Milady! We need to find a way out of - Milady: Do I...the Psychic? Here? Well isn't that convenient? Put me down, Jonahs, you'll find I'm quite capable of moving on my own. Not that you weren't a delightful ride. QL tapped Warteen on the shoulder, saying something quietly when he turned. Warteen: Evil? But she's Milady! QL: (to Monkey, who appeared to be the only sane one left) Why do I even bother with discretion? Monkey: (shrugging simian shoulders) Ook. QL: (trying to keep an eye on both Milady and her "ride") She's Milady, yes. But she's not who she will be yet. Bob: Um...what? QL: She's still evil, people! Look at her outfit! The gang turned, noticing that she was, in fact, dressed in a skanky black dress. Everyone but QL: Ohhhhh. Milady: While this has been terribly enlightening, I can't imagine the lot of you is supposed to be running around unsupervised... Milady flicked a wrist in their general direction. Warteen: RU- Everyone (on the good team, that is) froze, unable to move. Chad, Ha-Kee, and Alpha chose that exact moment to come barreling around the corner, running headfirst into the frozen travelers, knocking them over like bowling pins. QL:(in her head) Ow, damn it! Warteen: (psychically, because you know...psychic): Hey! Watch the language! QL: (in her head) I'd glare at you if I could move my eyes. Chad: I got 'em! I got 'em! That's right, don't even put up a fight! Cower in ph33r before the Great Chad! Milady: Chad. Chad: Don't interrupt their cowering! Oh...hello, Milady. (he looked down at the group on the floor) Ohhh. Milady: You may want to move back. I need to separate them and keep them somewhere. Choosing at random, Milady split the group into two - QL, QR, and Bob, and Warteen, Monkey, Bartender, and Palios. The first group she sent to the West Prisons and the second to the East. Chad: I'll guard them! I'll guard them! Milady: Ah, thank you Chad, but Jonahs here is much better that sort of thing. Milady placed an affectionate hand on Jonahs' arm. Chad narrowed his eyes at the newcomer, who raised an eyebrow in his direction and moved closer to Milady. ----------------- In the West Prisons QL glanced up - and up and up - at the round walls that enclosed the small space. There were no windows in what appeared to actually be a tower of some kind, and the only door was several inches thick and made of some sturdy sort of wood. The only light was from candles mounted too high on the walls to reach. QL: Well now what the hell do we do? QR: (sitting, arms curled around her knees) We wait. QL: (pacing) For what? For who? No one's going to get us out of this, Raine. QR: (standing) Maybe you should try not to be so high strung all the time! QL: Hey, don't start with me! I'm still pissed off at you for killing me! QR: What? When did I kill you? QL: In the - oh. Right, never happened and I had a very strange, perhaps drug-fueled dream. Or maybe happened and I have no soul! Can't quite decide which is worse, there... Bob: If I might interject - QL and QR: No. Bob: Fair enough. QR: What on earth are you talking about? Why wouldn't you have a soul? QL: I think I might have traded it. QR: What? To who? For what? QL: To Satin. For Warteen's sanity and my body back, after you killed me. (QL sat, suddenly defeated and very very tired.) QR's brow remained furrowed as she tried to figure out what QL could be talking about. Suddenly, her eyes widened as she began to remember. QR: The spell? In the forest? QL nodded. QR: It worked? QL: I don't know yet. Like I said, either I died and now I am without a soul, or none of it happened at all. I suppose we'll find out at some point. QR: It doesn't matter. QL: How can you say that? QR: (bending so that she could see QL) Even if your half is gone - mine's not. --------------- Back in the Master's chambers Tamaan conjured a ball of black-edged flame and began tossing it from hand to hand. Master: What things do we have to discuss? Please watch the drapes, I just redecorated in here... Tamaan: Don't be insolent, son. Never forget that you're expendable. Master: This is a touching moment, Dad. Should we go play some catch? Tamaan: Ah, I see you've gained something of a spine in my absence. That's good, we're going to need it. Master: For what? Tamaan caught the flame, opening his hand and watching as it grew, nearly touching the high ceiling. Tamaan: We're going to kill your step-mother.