Pont&DuchessoDessert Collab: The Last Rung
PG-13 just in case, probably should be more around PG. A story duchessodessert and I. Didn't really know what to put it under. Ever wonder why there's never a '13th floor' on a building, why it's always renamed? ON HIATUS

Temporary Character Index & Glossary
Mori~ human (for lack of a better term that I'll get later ^_^;;;)
Eric~ Duchessodessert's POV/character~ human
Derysne (Silva Liang)~ Pont's POV/character~ Demoness shifter, stuck between forms and seeking a certain weapon that can fix her 'problem' but is in the form of energy and travels here and there through the 'ladder'. Silva is her human alias
'Ladder'~no, the '' isn't a typo. But hey, the more mystery the more fun. So I'm not telling :P

(--- indicates a chapter break)

The Thirteenth Rung Eri's POV:
The sun rose on a typical day in Chicago, Illinois. It's brilliant rays cast a warm glow on the Conroy household, the home's oak pannels glazed orange with sunlight. The grey carpeting in Eric's bedroom was just beginning to tint white wth the hints of daylight. As the sun rose higher with every second it finally lit Eric's bed, which Eric was not in. He had left bright and early that morning to go exploring with his friends Doug and Mike. They were going to spend the morning exploring Navy Pier while there was nobody there to make a crowd.
They drove silently through the busy streets of Chicago, still bedlagged and without breakfast.
"Man! who knew the streets would be so busy this early," Mike cryed angrily from the steering wheel.
"Dude, people gotta work you know, I thought you knew that," Doug said knowingly.
"Come on guys, it could be worse," Eric said, trying to cheer things up, but at that point the car stopped abruptly due to a huge traffic jam overhead. "Okay, so I spoke too soon."
"There's an exit right up ahead, we can take it and go through the outskirts of the city and come back on track a few miles up," Mike said. So they made the turn and hoped with all their might that they weren't lost.

Derysne's POV:
The same morning sun lighted the bricks of an old dilapidated building on the outskirts of Chicago, unknown by all but the most odd and important folk. That morning, there was a scheduled sweep of the building to be made by possible buyers, something that hadn't been considered for a very long time following the odd happenings and bad aura surrounding the place. A woman sat in front of this building, rocking herself back and forth, and whispering things to herself in a low, throbbing hum. A dark figure inside the building stared up at the clear morning skies, cursing her fates and the ones who had failed their task. Her eyes travelled to the rocking woman, and she frowned, staring at her with slightly pitying eyes. Looks like there's another black cat loose in the void. She thought with some amusement. The lady rocked back and forth back and forth outside, her short, neatly cropped chestnut hair swishing back and forth with her movements, and wringing her pale hands together as she edged towards where the light hit the bench with furtive, suspicious movements.
Turning her regard back to the empty roads, the woman in the building, Derysne, looked hardly above the age of seventeen. There was absolutely nothing unusual about her at first glance, especially as she spent most of her time in shadows, to hide her true identity. If one managed a glimpse of her when she wasn't closely guarding her appearance, which was only when she slept, they would be quite unpleasantly alarmed.
Derysne wasn't human, at least, not totally. She was actually a demoness, well, half of one. She had once been a full fledged dragon/cat demoness, but due to a very unfortunate chain of events, she was bewitched into a most embarrasing form. That of a half demoness, half human. She was hardly able to look at herself for shame. She had long, pointed ears, slightly furred at the back edges near the ends, and piercing, slitted amber eyes. Her nails were pointed, still good for defending herself, but the most outstanding characteristics were the things that really set her apart from her human half and kept her hiding inside this dingy old building. Her skin tone suggested a little indian blood, or a little asian, if one looked to her unusually shaped eyes. Derysne had wings, two, black, yellow streaked wings that sprouted from her back. She also had a long, tawny cat's tail that was a dark orange-red like her hair but white at the end, and that was strong enough to lift things but mostly got into the way, due to her inability to completely control it with this pathetic human form.
A car, richly made and sleekly built, turned the streetcorner, pausing by the stop sign and coming to a smooth halt in front of the dilapidated building. Derysne shrunk back until she was completely concealed by shadow, her eyes adjusting quickly to the dim interior, and watched as they approached the old oaken outer doors. Five men entered, and she walked casually into the darkest corner, stepping into a doorway and turning to hide her wings behind the heavy old velvet curtain. She watched them walk in, their footsteps echoing eerily, softly off of the padded and oaken walls, down the wood entryway and onto the worn marble surface. They walked along, staring around at the broken, cleaned glass cases on the same black granite pedestals. In the center of the room they stopped, staring at the elevator lit by a some bright security lights, the scratched metal doors slightly rusted and looking as if they hadn't opened in quite a while. Cobwebs spanned the small crack between.
Derysne let them chat and walk around the large, clean room, before deciding to take action. She had recieved orders for no one to be allowed entry to the thirteenth floor today, when she had found out from the leader, Kori, that the missionaries keeping Mori away from the retired museum had failed and the buisnessmen would be coming anyways. She ruffled her wings behind the curtain, letting it rustle behind her as if she'd just entered, and leaned causally against the doorway. When she spoke, it was in a soft voice that nonetheless pierced through the silence pervading over the place.
"Welcome to what was once the Terra Museum." [A/N: YES, it has really moved before, and i know, its an art museum, but do you know how hard it is to find a retired/moved museum?! If anybody has any better idea I'd love to hear it. Otherwise accept this probably flawed idea and bug off! (in a bad mood. woke up too early and its freaking me out how crabby it's making me. 11:00am on sunday?! is nothing holy?!?! sorry.)] She murmured, looking interestedly at her nails. "We call it closed transit. What may you want here?"
The men whirled around, looking for the source of her voice, in the dark gloom of the place. Two displayed no outward surprise but immediately moved to face the direction of her voice. Their reactions told her what she needed to know. The two largest were apparently bodyguards, and the man who was actually bothering not to look into the light and blind himself must be the smarter one, the leader. Obvously not interested in what she meant by 'we' he spoke out, seeing the shadow in the corner in front of the waving curtain. "Hello, you must be the caretaker of this building. We are representatives for Krusinski Construction Comany, and we are checking out this site on behalf of the movement to improve this part of town and build condominiums for people to live in here." He said formally, politely.
"That's- nice." Gods I'm going to kill Kori. She thought. "Is that all you will tell me?" She said expectantly. "I am new in this country, so please correct me if it is improper etiquette for the people who have just walked in to introduce themselves?"
"I'm sorry, I am Jonathan Teller, and these are my associates Brian Morrey and Linda Chenz."
"Pleasure." She said casually. "I am Silva Liang."
"Pleased to meet you, for sure." They replied, "Would you mind giving us a tour of the upstairs?"
"Actually, if you don't mind, I would rather not." 'Silva' replied cooly, "You may use the elevator if you really want to look around there, but I'm not even sure if it works... And do stay away from the thirteenth floor, if you don't mind?" She felt her tail twitch impatiently behind her and immediately told it to stay still, quickly putting a hand behind her to explain the movement of the curtain.
"Uh, sure, we'll take the stairs." Johnathan replied. The five turned and looked around. Derysne gulped.
"There's a set of stairs through here." She said helpfully, pointing to the sign above her head. She was inwardly calculating a way to let them through without getting caught. A thought struck her. "Wait a moment while I get the lights." She walked in and flicked on the single lightbulb on the landing, and cast about, settling on leaning against the stairwell, her wings behind the back of them. If she was lucky, they wouldn't check beneath the stairs or ask. Kori, you are going DOWN. "Okay, come on in." As they filed in, looking around, she smiled and motioned to the equally worn black marble stairs, pointing above. "Go on up, remember to stay away from the thirteenth floor though. Lotsa stuff leaning against the door." She sighed in releif as soon as they'd left, without looking under the stairs. Sighing with relief, she snuck out and softly made her way to the main lobby, checking a gauge slung to her hip for readings.
The needle, usually quivering in nearly one spot, was no longer moving at all, as if it had gone dead, but Derysne knew better. She stared, perplexed, for a moment, then realization dawned over her and she rushed into the lobby.
Any normal person wouldn't have noticed anything different about the still time-frozen lobby, but Derysne's senses were tingling, and she noticed every detail, for changes, having lived there watching over it for nearly twenty years. Her roaming eyes rested on the elevator and she walked firmly over to it, peering very closely at its cool, scratch-ridden surface.
The cobwebs were gone. Torn, hanging from their positions at the top and between the doors. The button to the side also held faint traces of having been pushed; the dust culminating between the cracks was also disturbed. Paltry though the situation was, Derysne took in every detail of it. She calmly placed a single hand on the crack in the elevator doors, pushing her fingers into it, and forced the doors open with little effort. As soon as it was open, she jumped into the hole, keeping herself in place by flapping her large wings, and stared up into the gloom. She counted floors, going from ten to eleven, to twelve.. to...
She blinked as she saw something she'd never expected to see. There was a heavy black cloudlike substance at the entrance to the 13th floor, the cables for the elevator dangling from the midst of it. The elevator, along with any inanimate object, wouldn't go into the cloud on its own, so....
Without hesitating, Derysne flapped hard and came really close to the cloud, staring into its turbulent, inky black interior. Closer up it resembled more of a seething blot of pitch black ink suspended in the air, the elevator cables trailing from the bottom and a little corner of the elevator itself peeking out every now and then. She noticed, with a trained eye, that the thing was generating a lot less heat than before, and slowly shrinking. Checking herself over to make sure she wasn't readily displaying anything metallic, she plunged in.
At first the blob was like thick water, then with a sudden bump, she landed on what was the reason nobody was allowed on the thirteenth floor of this particular building. Her stomach lurched uncomfortably as she suddenly appeared on the flat, glassy plain of the shadow of the ladder. Even in her vision, the ladder was moving, made of miniscule chains, that were racing around in their impossible tangle, but never breaking. She whirled, alarmed, and immediately noticed the shattered plain, fractured reflections, reflecting her and the other person in this plain a thousand thousand times, in a rather disturbing manner. The Mori was staring, apparently distraught, until his attention was caught by the fact that the water was reaching up for him. Derysne growled and swept her staff around at the water, which writhed back then lunged again. Realizing the boy was beyond helping, she took off straight up like a bullet, breaking free of the water, which rose, trying to reach her, and crashed down when she was too high. She turned and stared at the ladder, her eyes counting the rungs downwards towards the last gap between the rungs, which was glowing a weak red. The boy was gone, and the plain was returned to its origional appearance.
Derysne took out the indicator again. She glared at the little compass-like device, breathing out a puff of breath in frusteration, before snapping it back with a determined face. If the indicator doesn't move in two days because of that kid's meddling, I'll go in myself. She determined. She looked at the unmoving tool with disgust. The pin, usually twirling or at least quivering on one spot, was frozen in place.

THIS HAS BEEN ADDED TO! REREAD!!!! SORRY FOR THE INCONVIENIENCE!!!!!! Duchessodessert/Eric's POV (*for acamna* POV= Point of View)

(A/N (pont): back where we left eric and co.....)

After a tedious escape from the highway the three reckless teenage boys drove on not quite knowing the path you would take. You see, in a teenager's mind there is always a starting point and a finish line, but the racetrack in-between is just empty space waiting to be filled in. This is a problem, for without the mind adding weight to the probability, the odds of getting into a bad situation are much greater than that of a getting into a good situation. These teenage boys certainly added no mind weight; they were winging it.

Eric's eyes began to droop. He was weary, the kind of weariness that one may come down with after listening to the same tone of voice repetitively for a long period of time, the articulation slowly dissipating into a single vowel. He let his mind wander, tuning out everything except the drone of the car, its peaceful vibes like a lullaby, the cool outside air like a breeze on a Florida beach, slowly rocking him to sleep. The music played on, and Eric slept until it slowed and eventually came to a stop. There were no more soft bumps, no more cool breezes, back to reality.

"Something's up, we may be out of gas, but the gage is broken so I don't know. This has to be the oldest car in history." Mike said guiltily, trying to look innocent, but the halo was fading.

"You were supposed to fill it up last night, how could you forget?" Doug accused.

"I did." Mike stared in thought, wondering what could possibly be wrong. He opened the door to fill the gas tank and realized as he did so the automatic lights didn't turn on when he opened the door. He sat back down and remained silent for a few moments before being questioned.

"Well?" Doug asked.

"Oh no," Mike had a worried _expression on his face, "I slept in the car last night. It was nice out and I wanted some fresh air, but I think I left the light on too. In other words, the battery's dead.

"You left it on all night? You idiot! Now we're stuck somewhere in Chicago, if that's even where we are, and our car is as good as one without wheels. And to make matters worse, neither of us has a cell phone to call the insurance company. Could this get any worse?"

"Hey," Eric sat up in the back seat of the car, rubbing his eyes, "Look over there." Outside the car was a worn down old building. It looked like it could have been a museum once, but currently it was nothing more than a dilapidated shack to the naked eye. The dirty sign on the building said The Terra Museum of Modern Art.

A's/N: Hehe, responses! Acamna: YOU ARE MY BEST FRIEND *hugging* luv you forever! Earthsong12: WOW. Between you, acamna, and spooni, you people rock. Especially w/ the beuuutiful constructive review, It's wonderful to have such great friends. Mei- Mei: YOU ROCK, thanks so much! Good ideas- i'm still revising and the chapters, since I post it in its first draft form. To all: Yeah, first draft, it's still probably going to be reworded; sorry, I realize its a lot of info but I won't pile it on like that again! Sorry, but my teachers are going all-out and i missed a few days of school, so I'm gonna be awhile in responding. Please bear with me!

(A/N (pont): I'm going on with my part of the story, short and sweet. I'm going to be connecting/switching some chapters so the time gaps aren't so huge, but for the moment we're writing as fast as we can and posting as fast as we can too)
Derysne gazed wearily at the jewel she'd tied to her staff, holding a conversation with the seemingly inanimate jewel as the inspectors came downstairs, whispering together and striding along. She, luckily, heard them coming, and quickly retreated behind the elevator, covering the swinging blue jewel as she went.
The inpspectors came around, still looking and pointing, and obviously searching for her. As they came closer, she casted for an idea. Coming upon something promising, she pulled out a small slip of paper from her pocket and scribbled a quick note on it- 'lunch, be back in 3 hours' and signed it using Silva Liang. Reaching up, she quietly flicked the switch to the overhead fans on, and dropped the note on the ground, watching the sudden gust of air from floor vent near the elevator scoot it accross the floor. Peeking aside, she saw one of the men pick it up and hand it to the lead guy, who read it aloud and beckoned. To her relief, they left.
Derysne strode from her hiding place, turning the fans off, and grabbed the little slip of paper from the ground, glaring after them. 'No respect for the person who has to clean this little hole in the wall.' She thought, annoyed, twirling the scrunched up ball in her hand and throwing it at a trash can. She tilted her staff so the gleaming spiders web with a gap in the middle glowed in the light of one of the windows, gold designs creeping up the black scythelike blades. The web was attached to these curious, wickedly sharp blades, that were attached to the firm, onyx handle. The staff was very long, the tips of the scythe level with her wings if she held it tilted from a wing to the opposite foot, as she was wont to do. On a fine, silver string there was a blue ovaline gem hanging from her staff at the moment, and the silver lit up in the light. The frowning face of a young, wise demoness filled the view, her stark white face and piercing blue eyes sharp and defined. Her delicate but firm features were framed by short, black hair like Derysne's but without the long forelock, and she had the air of a ever-watchful bird. She wore two pairs of snow white wings and a pure white face with no mouth. 'What was that about?' She asked impatiently, staring repremandingly at her.
"I got messed up with the whole inspector thing you forgot to tell me about." Derysne replied just as impatiently.
The demoness sighed, a piercing sound like a cobra's hiss. 'You mustn't be so angry. We are doing our utmost to ensure that this does not happen again. Now, to get to business.' She straightened importantly, and Derysne felt the edges of nervousness. 'We have recieved report of the gate being opened and entered by an unfamiliar signature, mortal, but definitely not yours. Do you have any idea what this means?'
"Yes Kori." Derysne said wearily. "I appologise for my lack of discipline. It will not happen again."
'It mustn't.' Kori answered tartly, 'you have narrowly escaped with your guardianship because you are young and you have not been with us for very long. Next time it is doubtful that the counsel will hear my pleas on your behalf.'
"I appreciate your concern Kori." Derysne replied, without much expression.
'I assume you have a plan to dispose of this potential threat to the balance?' Kori said.
"If the status remains frozen for three days I will go in and personally relieve the problem." Derysne said.
'I expect contact in three days.' Kori said, nodding. Derysne nodded back and the connection cut. She pulled the chilly staff from the sunlight and took out her odd compass, fixing it to a long gold chain and tying it to her staff opposite Kori's communicator jewel.

~~~~Three Days Later~~~~
Derysne's communicator sat still, unquivering under her glare. Eventually she sighed in resignation as Kori's jewel Fluttered its wings noisily. "All right all right," she said impatiently, grabbing it and sticking the staff into the light. [A/N: bloody light powered demons] Kori appeared in the jewel as she had the first time, frowning in concern. 'What is your plan now? Three days have passed and everything is still frozen, and we're swamped with complaints and problems.'
"I'm leaving now, superior." Derysne said cordially, "I was awaiting your call. Permission to dispatch to the final space?"
'Wherever the problem lies you may go.' Kori said. 'Good luck, Guardian.' Her jewel went out.
The little vanilla colored wings on the top of the jewel drooped as Derysne pulled her staff back into the shadows. Going to a small secret storage room, she opened a dusty, cobweb streaked drawer and reached in. Her hand withdrew holding two tokens, the size of her palm, and heavy like lead. One was made of gold, fashioned into an intricate design like a sea with the sun rising on both sides, and one was made of silver, with the sun being half eclipsed by the moon, and hollow with a large hole inside. She opened this up and placed it on the floor, then knocked her staff into the hole. The staff dissappeared in a stir of wind, and the little coffer shut itself.
Flying to the elevator, she pushed it open and peered upwards. The black cloud was gone, but the elevator remained at the thirteenth floor. Derysne pulled her head back in and pushed the call button for the elevator. The heavy old thing trundled down, and stopped, and she stepped in. Pushing the number 13, she waited patiently until it reached the floor with a plain cement wall right in front of her when the doors opened. Picking up the golden pendant, she touched it against the dusty wall, and the lights immediately went out.

A/N (Pont): I'm trying not to outpace duchess, we're working on making our descriptions and locations as similar as possible, since we're writing separate. She's also a newbie at the whole authorette thing, and her stuff is gonna be slow in coming, so be nice! Thank you ALL for the wonderful reviews, you guys are awesome. Like all my stories, everything's bound to go under several updates and revisions, however none of the content will be drastically changed at this point; just improvement (which is SO much easier with reviews to guide me) on the old. Thank you all! This is how things are going to go from now on; As soon as Derysne and Eric meet, we're going into full-fledged edited, revised, roleplay mode. Me and duchess will rp together, then edit everything into a fully rounded chapter. Updates will be slower than usual due to this being her and my first times doing this. Sorry Eclipse fans, but that goes for Eclipse too. I promise to work extra hard during spring break though, also to get around to reviewing all the people who reviewed me-- who I am still in serious guilt about. I'm SOOO SORRY!!!! -Kitty out: purrrr

"So? There's not going to be anyone in that old thing. Odds are if we go in we could get ourselves into more trouble than we are now," Doug wined.

"Maybe a staircase will fall on us! That'd be fun," said Mike. Doug put a look on his face that said, 'god help me?', and looked to Eric.

"You mind going in? I can't stand the vibe of the thing and we wouldn't want Mike here to do it, a staircase might fall on him, no matter how fun it may be," Doug mocked.

"Fine, whatever. Maybe they have an old pay phone or something." Eric was quite the older-brother type, even though he had no siblings. He usually played the laid back role, the one who remained calm regardless of the situation, at least, with the situations he'd had so far. However, one day he may just receive a challenge that was too complicated for even him to overcome. This day was yet to come.

A/N (Pont): Hi, since duchess is new, forgive. Updates will hopefully be faster and longer as we start rp'ing. For the moment, here's a short review on my part.

Reappearing into the Void, she immediately thought about how to get the ladder back into motion. The chains were still loose, signifying that it wasn't done fixing itself yet, and it would be hard for even a guardian to get it back into motion. She thought for a while, then concluded that a good shock would do it some good. She wondered what she could use.
The shadows around her were creeping in, perturbingly like some black oozing liquid creeping in on all sides. Uneasy, she fiddled with the things she had in her pocket pouch, resting for a moment on a large oval ruby on a chain, then moving on. Eventually her hand met the smooth blue stone with the small, sharp silver wings. Smiling a little, she lifted up Kori's jewel, debating. Finally deciding she wouldn't be needing it, she swung her arm back and hurtled it at the chain thing. The jewel shattered upon contact, a wisp of energy leaving it and feeding into the ladder. The silver wings, one a little damaged, latched onto each other and took off, wheeling dangerously around and looking for the exit. The ladder set itself back into motion, the dangling chains swirling around and tightening into the thing. Jumping forwards, Derysne hooked the chain of the sun pendant through one of the loops as it tightened, as she had been trained to when she had been recruited for guardianship. The sun blazed, and, grabbing some of the chain, she commanded the ladder to her will through the power of the key. The water jumped up, the edges glistening golden, and, retrieving the key, she was pulled under, towards the last gap between the rungs, that shone with a dark, painful light.
As Derysne approached the entrance to the darkest dimension, she held her breath and closed her eyes, although it was hard with the spectral fish swimming swiftly by her without notice, and her ears rung in the eerie total lack of sound beneath the water.

Eric stepped out of the car and slammed the door behind him. He was sick of those two bickering. Should he trust them in the car alone? They're both sixteen years old, they should be able to take care of themselves for at least five minutes, he thought. He shook his head; he was exhausted, hungry, and head-heavy. All he wanted to do now was go home. About 20 feet from the building was a gray stone bench, half covered by shadow.
If Eric hadn't been looking straight at it he wouldn't have noticed the woman seated half in sunlight, half in shadow, though she seemed to be edging away from the shadow. Her body was so pale that it almost blended into the light, and camouflaged into the darkness. She wore a long bundle of chestnut brown hair. Her figure was long and thin, seemingly malnourished, and her hands were trembling. She was looking toward the darkest part of the bench with tremendous fear in her eyes.
"Excuse me?" Eric attempted to greet her and ask for directions, but the look that she gave him as her head snapped around and hair swished through the air and quietly settled again told him that receiving any affirmative information from her mouth would be nearly impossible. "Do you know where I might find a pay phone?"
"Beware of the shadow that lies beneath the ladder." But that was the last complete sentence Eric heard from her, for the rest he found very difficult to understand. "Never - thirteen - cats - mirrors - shattered." She could have gone on for hours it seemed, so Eric just assumed that she was driven mad and continued on his way.
Shadow that lies beneath the ladder? Maybe I should take the elevator. * * * * *
He reached out for the door of the museum. The dusty handle seemed untouched except for a few fresh finger marks. 'Someone must be here! Maybe they can help me,' Eric thought. The door creaked as he opened it and slammed as he stepped inside the withered building.
He stood in silence, the kind of eerie silence that one feels deep down in the bones in the form of a quick chill. There was obviously nobody nearby, and if there were they had absolutely no wish to show themselves. Inside there were a few dim lights on, reflecting on what looked like old museum cases protecting fossils, jewels and such. There was no sign of a pay phone. In the far right corner there was an elevator, and a very old one at that. Eric hesitantly pulled the lever that opened the doors, expecting to see something-dreadful pop out at him, but there was nothing.
He hesitantly stepped inside and carefully examined all the buttons that indicated where he might be able to go. To his surprise, he had only one choice. After attempting to push buttons one through twelve, and failing at each, for they led nowhere, he finally came upon number thirteen. This was odd for any building around his home, usually there was no floor thirteen because the numbers in the elevator simply skipped from twelve to fourteen. Strangely enough, Eric felt an odd urge to push this button. He didn't know why, he hadn't even tried fourteen through twenty yet, but he pushed the button nonetheless. He felt an abrupt pull and knew that he was being moved upwards. 'Well that was weird. oh well, maybe there will be a telephone up here.' Eric thought. The elevator came to a quick stop and the doors slowly forced their way open.

The elevator halted. Normally one would prepare to walk out of the elevator after no motion remained, but this elevator was an odd one. The moment after it stopped, every single source of light within the elevator disappeared. The elevator stood pitch black.
"Damn! I knew I shouldn't have trusted this thing!" Desperately, Eric yanked at the doors. He banged on the walls. "It's OK, I can handle this, no need to freak myself out," Eric took a step back from the doors and breathed deeply. In a cautious, yet intense manner, he gathered all his strength and managed to shove the dilapidated doors open a centimeter.
Then, in-between, the doors, where there would normally be a sliver of light showing through, instead there was a sliver of darkness. It was as though in the pitch black of the inside of the elevator, even darker blackness, pure, thick blackness, showed over the usual darkness. This darkness seemed tangible, it was obviously not just the lack of light, but one could actually feel the darkness seep into their veins when in the presence of it.
Of course Eric, being the teenager he was, could not multitask and put all his energy into opening the doors the rest of the way, completely ignoring anything that could possibly be on the other side. He struggled and heaved, pushing until his mussels were numb, and until he shoved the rusty doors open. He gasped for breath. He could barely stand, every bone in his body ached. He needed rest; he needed a break. Going on impulse, he let his body collapse on the ground and simultaneously crawled into the endless pit of darkness.
When Eric awoke all was dark. He rubbed his head that was thumping hard to the point where his pulse was like drums inside his skull. He stretched, feeling the aches in his body from the fall. He moved his elbow and felt it snap painfully back into place. His back cracked in about five places as he struggled to stand.
Eric opened his eyes. The atmosphere around him was black, the same blackness that surrounded him on the thirteenth floor of the elevator, that which he was unaware of at the time. It was quite stifling, as though many different forces were pulling him in many directions at once. The ground around him created ripples as he walked, as though he was walking on water, but not falling in. He glanced shadows moving in the distance, appearing for no more than seconds at a time before disappearing.
He scratched his head of golden hair and played with his shell necklace as he stared in wonder at the sky above. He saw a pole, or was it a ladder? If it were it certainly did not look solid. Light reflected off of the odd object but did not seem to be coming from any place in particular. The rungs within the ladder glowed black, yet, can black really glow? The whole vibe of the place gave him the creeps, as if energy was pulling him in, yet throwing him out as well. The whole concept of it was way too confusing to comprehend. Eric reached towards the ladder.

A/N (Pont): thank you all for the reviews!!! Especially Earthsong12, Mei- Mei the Scifi Junkie, Spoonvonstup, Ancamna, and Mercury Angel II. Love you guys!!!!! THANK YOU EARTHSONG12 FOR THE SUGGESTIONS THAT LED TO THIS UPDATE. I AM ETERNALLY IN YOUR DEBT. UPDATED AGAIN

The world of the last rung was cold, dark, and overall just as she had expected the world of nightmares to be. The purest dark substances could be found here, and thus it was both precious and extremely dangerous. It wasn't uncommon for someone to stumble in, on purpose or by accident, due to it's nature. The Void, as it had been called, channeled spiritual energy through itself, especially regarding dreams. However, if the dreamer were put into a deep sleep, such as a coma or an overdose of sleeping pills, it was possible for them to be pulled into one of the spaces between the rungs. The numbers of such incidents were too great to be dealt with by the guardians alone, so many were stuck there for eternity. On the rare occasion, they might fall into the last rung, a calamity strictly dealt with, and strictly forbidden. In this case the guardian involved would immediately face retribution of the worst sort, and would leave immediately to right the problem. The first three and last three rungs were this way, despite the constant shifting in the balances. The first rung had been there many an age, and the first had been rumored to have existed since the dawn of time, when the origional Guaridans were appointed. The last rung had been around then too, but according to the Listing, it had been overcome when a huge amount of opposite energy had been released and another had taken its place. Eventually, as was the wont of the unstable gaps, the original last rung had left the ladder altogether. It had wreaked such havoc on the stability of the ladder that it had been rendered unusable for a decade, which led to a dark age in all of the worlds connected. Ever since, it was carefully monitored and guarded much more strictly to prevent another such happening.
Around her were dunes, sand dunes with the sand swirling and whipping lethally through the air, grinding painfully against her skin and grating against her staff. She squinted her eyes as the sand flew unmercifully into her face. The wind around her died down, and a dull glowing light sprang up in a circle around her, licking upwards at the barrier she'd put up. The sand hissed as it flung itself against the barrier, trying to enter. The heavy shadow shrunk back from the thin ring of light and she was able to see her surroundings better. The dunes stretched on and on, and black mountains rose with cowing majesty on the horizon, barely distinguishable from the heavy, filthy clouds that cloaked the sky. Even though no gaps were shown between the billowing, threatening clouds, she knew that there was no moon nor any star hidden behind it. The effect was humbling. Her feet sank into the sand like mud, which was a little too damp and warm. The air around her seemed to change, following her discomfort whenever she found something comfortable about it. It was lingering around an uncomfortably humid feeling, with no trace of a wind. Her wings felt heavy and damp, and the weather and surroundings leeched her senses and strength. Her eyes followed the chiseled edges of the dunes, sharp as a razor and just as painful to behold as anything else here. The ground and air vibrated with a throb of dark energy that disagreed with her own aura, making the ring of light pulse angrily.
Derysne stepped forwards, hoping the movement would at least temporarily forestall the intense discomfort. When it didn't, she sighed and coughed on the heavy air then moved on, turning her senses up as far as she could, though the place seemed to suck away her energy as the sand hissed against the barrier and the dunes lay sharply against the endless plain. The mountains hunched darkly against the horizon, making her feel trapped. There was no place to hide in the dunes, no refuge, though she saw in the distance a dark, black mist covering what she could vaguely make out as gnarled trees.
Derysne shivered as she walked, keeping her aura lit and the mini- barrier firmly in place. The air and weather weren't blocked out, and her clothes and hair seemed to stick to her in the humidity, while her wings and feathers felt matted and heavy. She shook them out, but the air was simply too heavy to get any lift out of, and the wind was too harsh if she were to lift the barrier. The area firmly resisted all her attempts to set a tracing spell, and she only got a clouded message of where her charge's whereabouts were. It was an effort to even keep herself on the plain, for whenever she used energy and released it, the mass of it boomeranged back and was spent on trying to force her out. She couldn't use large spells for this reason, which meant little to no teleportation. As the last gust of energy being pushed back at her from the last tracing spell shoved at her and lifted her a little from the ground, she instinctively lifted her wings and landed softly back on the ground after neutralizing it. The wear was showing prominently in her staff, which began to lose its shine and whose chains began to thin and sag. The effort to put out the energy needed was also exhausting her, but she knew that the dunes were no safe place to stay. When she reached the base of a particularly large dune, she looked back up to see the edge looming over her, and her eyes narrowed as another tremor of dark energy buffeted her aura, making it temporarily flicker like a candle in the wind, then go out. Shortly it relit, but she had already lifted her heavy wings and jumped as best into the air as she could. The dune burst, sliding down in an avalanche of sand, and she was buffeted by the stinging particles as she struggled to keep herself in the air and resist the attempts of the roaring wind to tangle and rip at her wings. She felt her feathers become clotted with sand, and begin tearing apart in the force of the tempest. She winced and held them still, trying to glide as she was tossed about by the wind, unable to see anything aside from the whirling sandstorm as she tried vainly to shield her eyes with her sleeve. During a breif lull in the storm she lifted her staff and pulled her strength together, reinitiating the slightly worn shield and struggling and eventually winning an enchantment over the wind around her. She made the winds calm down and buffet against the winds trying to keep her from having control over her flight and reaching the relative safety of the trees. It helped a great deal, and she was able to fly. She pounded her wings, breathing hard in the leaden air. She reached treecover and landed on the ground just beyond the border, and, too tired to hold up the enchantment, released the air, which instantly rose back into a tempest and swirled against the creaking, swaying trees. The treecover was very dense, and she made her way deeper into the thick forestry where the wind was not as harsh and observed her surroundings. It was incredibly dark, but her aura felt little resistance compared to what she had felt in the dunes. Dead or not, the trees held onto the memory of the times when this had been not the last gap between the rungs but one of the middle ones. The could be trusted to hold resistance against the dark ways of the terrain under any circumstance, as they did in every world and benefited the inhabitants even if it were to their deaths. She felt safe here, under the silent, tortured vigil of the dark tangle of branches, holding back the gale and pushing down the darkness, trapping it within themselves even in death and not allowing it out. She released her staff, which remained upright and glowing, holding up the barrier off of whatever energy it could pull from the surroundings, she sat back against a great oak and stared up into the branches, sighing in freedom as the energy being pulled from her lessened and the strain became more bearable. It was still uncomfortably warm, but her wings had less sand in them as she shook them out. She looked at her glowing staff and hoped the trees wouldn't mind it taking from their energy, finding the right mix to replicate her own internal power. Her eyes drooped as she tried to plan out her next move. There was no way she was going to find this human the way she was going. Maybe when she was done she'd try that homing spell here, perhaps it would work better... Her eyelids closed and she fell into a light doze.

A/N: Wow, can you believe I did that just now? Yikes, I guess I really had some ideas struggling to come out. _ I'll try working on eclipse now, I'm so proud of myself. ^_^

"Where am I going?" Eric asked himself as his feet started to move underneath him. "I shouldn't be going anywhere until I know where I am" Yet, Eric's common sense failed him as his body moved towards the ladder against his own will. Though Eric's will was strong and his determination unbeatable, his body was not strong enough to withstand the pressure of the many different types of energy pulling him all at once.
He was only human, after all, and although he himself had never known of any creatures both mentally and physically stronger than humans, such creatures did exist. Humans simply weren't meant to stand in the void. To Eric's disadvantage, there was a single rung of the mysterious ladder whose energy had a significantly greater pull than any of the others. His legs were moving faster now, and Eric's mind was almost completely overthrown, he couldn't seem to control his own body any longer. He needed a way out, he had been in the void just long enough to realize that this pull was not a good one, and fought with all his heart against the negative energy. But it was too great a force. He broke into a fickle run to the horizon of the dark lake, attempting every few seconds to turn around, but every attempt failed.
After about ten minutes of running, Eric had exhausted himself. He could no longer maintain complete awareness. All he noticed now was the shining black object that he had seen earlier from a distance, only now he was so close he could almost touch it. He gazed at the ladder, carefully examining it's detail. He now realized its material, and it was the strangest thing he had ever seen. It seemed to be made of small strands of hollow ice, tightly twisted, braided, and bound together to form a foot wide structure that shined black. The blackness of it came from an opaque black liquid flowing within the hollow strands. It was such and amusing structure, Eric longed to touch it. No, he needed to touch it. That ice was irresistible, it was like a piece of freshly dried silk, the heat slowly escaping, waiting to be cuddled. It was like a newly baked brownie, just sitting there, waiting to be eaten. This feeling completely over took Eric and he reached out to touch the intricate structure of the ladder.
The feeling he expected to receive after touching the ladder was not that which he expected, in fact, he felt a strange sinking sensation, as if his body was slowly being pulled under Luke warm water. The temperature didn't change, yet it was quite an eerie feeling that Eric knew he shouldn't be feeling. When he finally came to his senses, he realized with a start that the black, thick liquid was raising violently high above his head, while his body was still sinking. He looked down. He could know longer see his lower half. His body was sinking into the ground! "That explains the ripples," Eric thought as he desperately tried to pull himself out. He splashed around hurriedly, but regardless of how much he struggled, it was as if the entire ground had suddenly melted and he could no longer keep his feet above water and the title wave was just feet above his head. Normally one would swim in this situation, but the ground was like a thick syrup, slowly pulling him under the more he struggled. He frantically looked around for some means of escape but all he saw was a blurry figure zooming towards him as his head sunk underneath.

A/N (pont): Yay! our first session of rp!!!!!! hundreds of thanks for reviews, especially earthsong12!!!!! Reviews are good, veerrrry good. I'm sorry eclipse is coming so slow. Enjoy!

Beneath the cumulonimbus clouds, black, thick and heavy in the dark, wide sky, held in the shadow of the murky mountains, their sharp and treacherous slopes gleaming with mist lay a body, tall and lean, yet limp and unconscious and half sunken into the malleable, ebony, sandy ground. The boy's shoulders were broad and upon his torso was a navy blue shirt, awkwardly stretched to reveal his defined mussels on his upper arm. His long legs lay in an odd position; his right leg bent far to his right, forming a forty-five degree angle with the mouth of it facing away from him. His left leg was stretched out straight all the way to his left. Feeling this unnatural position, the boy's tan hand moved to his face and pushed away his fine bangs to reveal two recently opened deep blue eyes. His high cheekbones flinched and his beautiful eyes snapped shut once again as a powerful wind swept through, blowing hard, gritted sand against his soft, durable skin. His shell necklace jangled in the breeze.
"Where am now?" Eric managed to cough out, "and how did I get here." He attempted to obtain his bearings by standing up, but only found himself slipping down again, finding it very difficult indeed to stand on the mushy sand. Once he stood up he had to use his arms to shield himself from the sand blowing up from the dunes, like pins and needles brushing against his body. "Is anyone there? Somebody, please!" He needed to get out of this place, it was worse than a desert, but as far as he could see, which was no more than about 10 meters in front of him, this could go on for miles. He could try to manage on his own, but though it was hard for him to admit, he needed help. This was not a situation he could handle on his own. "What am I saying?" He was surprised at himself for even thinking that anyone would hear him in this chaos, if there were even anyone around. "No," he said to himself, "I can handle this." Eric began walking, slipping every ten seconds but forcing himself up again, determined to solve his own problem. He would not just stand here helpless!
When she woke, she got up and stretched, then began walking. She left the staff where it was and ventured into the darkness quietly rehearsing the spell she needed to to summon the staff under her breath, but leaving it unfinished. The aura, attatched to her shield, stayed where it was but dimmed as she walked away. She wasn't sure if anything could survive here at all, but she stayed alert. Her hair flew into her face as a gust of wind went by, and she flinched and impatiently pushed it behind her ear again, then curiously turned and peered into the moaning wind. She didn't need the homing spell to hear the scuffling sounds being borne on the wind. She walked cautiously towards the edge of the forest of creaking trees, peering out into the gloom of the dunes with a sleeve flung over her face. She could barely make out the blotch of shadow from the swirling of the sand, and she lifted a hand and finished the last word of the retrieval spell. Her staff immediately leapt into her hand in a whirl of wind, and her silver aura flared up in a thin line around her, illuminating the stranger.
[duchess] Eric's head snapped to the side as he saw a magnificent silver streak shoot straight up into the sky. Aware of his surroundings and aware that almost nothing good could come from a place this horrid, he ran. He ran as if his life depended on it. He did not want to be caught by whatever was making this glow.
Derysne grinned at the human's surprise and noticed with annoyance that he was running right towards the dunes and rapidly dissappearing behind the nearly solid wall of whirling, violent sands. Shoving off the ground as hard as she could, she flapped and with much difficulty lifted herself a little off the ground. She temporarily pulled up the barrier and the wind once again caught her and tossed her a little, however this time when she put the barrier back up she glided. She squinted down and landed, then expanded the barrier and hardened it around both of them. The human, a tall, lanky male, stood ankle-deep in the sand, having not gotten too far. She stumbled a little as the spell backlash hit her again, then held firm and observed him. She smirked, shaking her wings to get out the sand. "So we meet." She said simply.

A/N (pont): muahahahhahaha, another cliffie. sorry earthie. ^_^ reviewwww!!!!!!

A/N (Pont): Duchessodessert wanted me to tell you: 'i haven't been doing any authors notes because i don't know what to write. tell them if they have questions ask them in reviews and i'll respond to them in authors note format.' Actually, that's what she told me... and she'll probably kill me now.... ehe. THANK YOU REVIEWERS, YOU GUYS ROCK!

Eric gazed at the creature, speechless, not knowing whether it was human or beast, for it seemed a mixture of both, from the facial features it looked female, but he was afraid to say anything. He stood, motionless, like one would after being chased by a pack of bees. He wanted to run but somehow instinct told him not to fear this creature, that it would do him no harm. "uh..." Was all Eric could manage to force out of his mouth.
"What a wonderful greeting." Derysne grumbled sarcastically, "of course, it probably never occurred to you to observe the basic etiquette existent everywhere in the galaxies containing even the rudest speech- capable beings." She sighed impatiently, seeing him still dumb. "Well I'll admit I don't either, but let's stand by the formalities for a short while, savvy? Hello, I am Derysne, Dyara for short. Who may I ask are you and why are you here?"
Now Eric was sure he was imagining things. This whole environment was strange enough but now this odd creature just came up and introduced itself to him. He suddenly remembered the reason he was away in the first place; he had been trying to find a payphone, and somehow he ended up here, and before this in an even stranger place. Maybe he was still dreaming in the car. "I knew I should have eaten something this morning, or maybe it's the lack of sleep?" Eric thought. He then decided that all he could do was play along. He had so many questions about this dream, if it was a dream, and it may be possible that this thing, person, whatever it was, (that was one of his questions), knew the answers. "Hi, I'm Eric, and maybe you can tell me why i'm here because this definately is not customer service."
Derysne narrowed her eyes angrily. "Look, I'm sorry, but customer service is that way." She pointed towards the chiseled dunes. "However, since you seem to have no way of getting there, I suggest you play along a little. In case you haven't noticed, we're stuck here, and I wanna get out of here just as much as you do. I assume that your coming here was an accident, but considering how far you've travelled from your starting point," she glanced around, "we better start walking. Questions can be asked as we go along." The shadows swallowed the patch of light as it moved, and grudglingly was shoved aside as she started walking.
"Whoa hold up a sec, this is my dream and a pretty cool one at that. I'll wake up when I want to get out. First I want to know some stuff, like what was that place i was in before and what was that icy thing i remember toughing? What's it made of? And what the hell was that ground? Dude, it's was like water I can walk on, and then it just kind of caved in on me! But i'm here in this dark dessert-like place, and-"
Derysne rolled her eyes and stopped walking, turning in a mock thinking position. "Hm, great thought. You're right, this really is one ridiculously vivid dream. Welcome to the nightmare side of the dreamworld kid, be glad you're still living. That void place? That's exactly it, it's a void, and we're out of it now, so look at your feet. Yeah, that's sand. Very sharp sand at that. I'm not sure how humans picture it, but it's the ladder that got you here, and it's the ladder that we've got to reopen. Still think it's a dream? Here's a good test: try controlling it, aren't you always able to control your dreams?"
Eric closed his eyes. "Wake up, wake up, wake up." He tapped his heels together 3 times. "Wake up, wake up, wake up!" He thought harder this time. He pictured the car and himself laying in the back seat with the smooth bumps of the chicago raod. He opened his eyes. Nothing. He was still in the errie darkness. Ok fine, you win. But his bravery was more injured than his pride. He stood thinking what he did wrong to deserve this. "No. This can't be happening," Eric whispered.
Eric was still unsure of whether he could trust this person, but felt as if he had no choice."Well... ok then. How are we going to do that? It looks like this could go on for miles."
Derysne frowned. "It does." She said matter-of-factly. "I hope you like walking, because I don't feel like wasting my energy until I really need it. Follow along, and don't step outside the circle. You'll regret it."
Eric sighed. "Do you have water? I'm not exactly sure how long i can go without it." Or food, Eric thought to himself. He once again regreted not having breakfast." But nevertheless, he followed close behind her, being extremely careful not to step outside the glowing circle, and not wanting to know what would happen if he did.
Derysne snorted. "I highly doubt that there will be any drinkable water here. All the same, if we find any, I can purify it. Other than that, I'm not making any promises. Don't you go doing anything stupid, I've got two flasks, and only one happens to have water in it." She reached into her volumous cloak, pulling out a leathern flask that seemed half full of water, enough for maybe three stops. "We're going on luck. Humans can't last long without water, and I won't fare much better in this kind of world. Let's get going."

A/N (pont): *siiiiigh* its so lonely in the author's note script I'm feeling like a solo author again..... this is bad. I need to talk to duchess about an idea i just had.... ja! (ps, im having trouble with my poem writing. As soon as I get back into the flow of things I'll write some for you, I know it's been a long time since I wrote something worthwhile ^_^) REVIEW REVIEW REVIEW REVIEW REVIEW!!!!

A/N (pont): Thank you reviewers!!!!!! Responses to my reviews posted below. Summer break is coming up (yay!!) so I will be updating more frequently then. PS~ I dropped the pont and duchess labels. I think you know who's playing who by now :P *PPS~ Duchess lives! she's leaving her responses to reviews as reviews to us (whoa that was confusing wasn't it) see the reviews of 'last rung' to see what duchess has to say! Ancamna: Ancamna, you are the best. You are the queen of queens. The mistress of yarn and squeaky toys (mew). Thank you so much!!!!! I realllly appreciate everything and I will get around to repaying you someday!!!!!!!!!

Time was dragging. Eric's feet were beginning to feel flat as his legs moved simultaneously through the thick sand. He kept his eyes closed due to the occasional sand storms and depended solely on the truffling sound of Derysne's feet sweeping the ground. It seemed as if he was walking in circles, going nowhere for hours on end. He coughed.
Derysne glanced back at him. She herself was slowly feeling the effects of the place as well. The last rung sure knew how to live up to it's name. Her wings were impossibly heavy, and it was taking a lot of effort for her to support them. The energy pushing back at her, equal to the amount she was giving out, was not too bad but still very tiring. To make matters worse, going on foot seemed to be getting them nowhere. The forest she'd just come from didn't seem to be coming any closer. She growled lightly, annoyed. Her strength was cut in half by this place, and the threat of the energy 'boomerang effect' was definitely a further restriction. She honestly couldn't tell how long they'd last, but at least the compass needle was moving, if slugglishly at that.
"Look, I'm not trying to nag, but are you sure you know where you're going? I could have sworn that was a footprint we just passed."
Derysne glanced back in annoyance. "We're going towards that forest ahead." She said, resisting the urge to roll her eyes. "Unless you've been looking at it from behind you, we would have to be going the right direction, towards the trees, right?"
"You mean that big glob of grey in a distance? Doesn' t look much like a forest to me."
She narrowed her eyes, fighting her temper. "Well, if you stay in the barrier and follow, eventually it will," she said, her patience quickly deteriorating.
"Well, OK, if you say so. I'm kind of curious, if this is what the sand is like here, then what will the forest be like? Cannibals, maybe? Maybe they'll be women..."Eric pictured a forest towering with evergreens, women popping out everywhere, enclosing him in a tight space. He shuddered at the thought, but was glad for women rather than men...[A/N sorry people, you have absolutely no idea what it's like trying to play a teenage boy from a teenage girl's pov. I feel that nomatter how inquisitive a guy may be, you know that the typical one will always think something perverted at sometime in their lives. I felt he was getting a little too observant for a teenage guy and had to add something in there to make him seem less feminine. forgive me por favor.]
Derysne glared at him and quickened her pace, dragging the shield with her. "Be glad I wasn't mind-prying right then." She said, "Now, follow the shield before I take off and leave you in the sand dunes, as I am so tempted to do."
"Really though, this stuff that's been happening to me had been freaky and right now I'm begining to wonder if it was just some coincidence that lead me here or if there's actually a purpose to it. I'd like to know where I'm going and who you are, for a start." What ever happened to my normal life anyway? Eric thought.
Derysne looked back at him. "I heard that." She said, "Well, you could say many things have happened to your 'normal life'. Starting with you coming here, for instance. While many may argue that it was the work of some higher being or fate," At this she paused, "I wouldn't go that far. The fates can be incredibly cruel, but why they put you here, I have no clue."
"Hey! what's that supposed to mean?! And as far as this fate thing goes, how do I know that you didn't just lure me here? How do I know that you didn't drain the battery in my car and lead me to the thirteenth floor in that building? How do I know I can trust you?" Eric said, not believing what came out of his mouth. Whoa, what's happening to me, he thougt, Why am I getting so suspicious all of a sudden.? He felt some sort of negative energy radiating around him, something that was altering his usual personality, he wasn't usually a jerk like this. He felt guilty and regretted his words.
Derysne turned and smirked. "Well, why would I want to?" She asked, "I'm having enough trouble getting you out of here. Listen, this is for your own good. This place is oppressive, you have to keep your guard up. Don't let negative emotions get out of control. Now hurry up and let's get moving so we can stay somewhere decent when we rest. I'll explain things more when we get there."
"My bad, sorry, didn't mean to snap like that. but I really am curious. Why are you helping me, anyway?" For some strange reason, Eric trusted Derysne; she wasn't part of the dark vibes that he was feeling, on the contrary, she had a sense of goodness to her, despite her cynical temper and impatient looks. He was hesitant before, but that was just because he was extremely caught up in the plot of things. Maybe trusting her was the best thing to do. Maybe he would actually get out of here alive.
Derysne allowed herself a small amount of relief at his words. "Good, thank you." She said, "Look at this! We're almost there. You should be able to see the trees by now." The forest loomed a little nearer, the dark, gnarled limbs none to comforting.
"..." It didn't look like much of a forest to eric, perhaps in the past, but currently it was no more than a jumble of black limbs and rotted stumps. Nonetheless, it was frightening.
"Don't be afraid." Derysne said, her tone slightly softer. "Trees and plants have always protected those in need. Even in death, they'll keep us more safe in there than anywhere else here. We might even find water, if we're lucky." Feeling him lag, she stretched the barrier a little. "Just a while more." She said.
"Who says I'm afraid!" Although water did sound rather comforting at the moment.
Derysne continued walking, but threw him a glance. "It's practically reeking off you. Don't worry, fear is not something to be ashamed of. If you try to hide it it will not go away. If you continue giving off these negative vibes, this place will only thrive off of it. I suggest you stop while you're ahead. "
Eric sighed, he obviiously couldn't add anything from this woman/creature. He would just have to go along with the flow. They were entering the forest. The stillness of the shadows sent chills up Eric's spine but nevertheless he entered. Every tree limb was a hand reaching out for him, every tree hollow a goblin's face glaring at him, every howl of the wind a ghost haunting him, although he could not feel any breeze. He let the fear take over his body, yet still maintained his footsteps within the barrier.
Derysne glanced back with some concern. "Stay calm now." She said, "It's all illusions. The trees mean us no harm, but don't linger in the shadows. Come along."
Eric gave Derysne a disbelieving look, she was acting like this was some kind of fairytale. Hm, Eric thought in amusement, maybe this is what those virtual reality games will be like. Of course, it's gotta take some pretty advanced technology to create this feeling that i'm getting. It seems like every time I let my mind wander and look at the scenery, I get afraid and kind of block out reality. I've really got to stop thinking, he told himself, it's making my brain hurt...
Derysne stopped and released her staff, leaving it standing. She sat down against a tree nearby with a wistful sigh. "Go ahead, sit down. We've got some talking to do."
"Nice timing, hey, isn't that water over there?" He walked over towards a nearby stream in the ground. He hesitated, "Is it safe?" He really wasn't sure what was safe anymore and was becoming really paranoid, realizing that being too curious could get him into an even bigger mess, remembering touching the ladder and getting swallowed by the black water- like substance. He was going to ask from now on before touching anything foreign.
Derysne reluctantly got up. "Of course not." She said, grabbing her staff up again. "If you're that thirsty I'll purify it for you. Nothing's really safe here, and I'm not taking chances, even with the trees."
"Trees?" Eric was beginning to think this - creature - was a bit strange in the head. How on earth could trees be dangerous? He laughed, "what's it going to do? Eat me? Or is that your job?"
Derysne smirked. "I could eat you, but unfortunately I'm not cannibalistic. You want to be leery of anything in this world, never let your guard down. Remember the dunes?"
Eric shuddered. The dunes, he thought, not fun. who'd have ever thought sand had an appetite. "OK... so will you purify it for me?" He reviewed his speech, "Please?"
Derysne poked the staff into the pond, into the sand at the bottom as well. She carefully pushed some positive energy into the resisting water, then held it there, annoyed by the constant negative feedback she was getting. "All right, all clear." She said, grabbing the flask with one hand, making sure the spell was firmly in place, and filling it.
"Thanks," Eric said, pouring the water down his throat. He let his breath out and leaned against the tree next to Derysne. "So, why are you here anyway? Where did you come from before this, and why are you helping me?"
Derysne looked at him, a twinge of annoyance in her eyes. "Full of questions aren't you? I'm stuck here because you're stuck here. I'm supposed to bring you back. Why does it matter anyways?"
"Well, I'm just kind of stuck here with you and I just realized that I don't actually know who you are. This may be a surprise, but I've never seen anything, or anyone, like you"
Derysne raised an eyebrow. "Yeah, it you had seen someone like me, that's when I'd start getting worried." She said, grabbing the staff. "You done?"
Eric was silent for awhile. Then out of random questions, he asked, "What are you?"
Derysne had to flinch a little at that. "Why does it matter?" She asked unfeelingly, grabbing the staff and dematerializing it.
There was silence again as Eric was deep in thought, as though trying to figure out a way to totally fake his way through and english question that he knew absolutely nothing about. Then, "Are you and elf?"
Derysne frowned and rolled her eyes. "Nope." She said, motioning towards her wings and tail.
"A fairy?"
"Um.... no."
"Hm... you don't look like a goddess..."
"My my what a compliment."
"oooo what about a witch?"
"Awesome! But if you're a demon shouldn't you have fangs or something? No offense, but you don't look much like the fighting warrior type."
Something flickered in Derysne's eyes for a moment. She was silent.
"What? was it something I said?"
Derysne frowned. "No, nothing you said." She said dismissively, and sat down.
"So you're half Demon and half..."
Derysne didn't answer, choosing instead to stare up into the trees. "....Human." She said finally. "I don't see why it matters..."
"Whoa! Half Demon half human? Wonder how that can happen..." Eric was deep in thought at this point.
"Why do you care?" She asked blankly, still staring upwards. The dark sky looked forbidding- if clouds were visible, they would be churning.
"So which one was a demon? You mom or your dad?"
Derysne looked blankly at him, her expression well masked. "Are all humans this curious?" She asked in annoyance.
"Come on! i'd really like to know. You've gotta know something your heritage."
Derysne glared. "Some people aren't as lucky as you are. Who says I ever knew them?" She said coldy.
"Wait, how did you not know them. You had to have been raised somewhere, people don't just appear."

A/N (pont): Sorry about the wait!!!! Now that it's summer break we will *hopefully* be able to update more often... we'll see :P Nice long one to keep you guys busy... PLEASE REVIEWWWWW!!! Shadow Gryphon: Thank you soooo much!!!! Glad you like it! I'll get to you asap ^_^;;; *hands gryphon cookies* *glare* no! no cookies for non- reviewers! *shifty glances*

A/N (duchess): Hey people, sooooooo sorry for the huge wait. Pont and I keep saying, we have to update, we really have to, and then she either forgets her lab top or I'm just not in a writing mood. Unlike pont I'm not skilled in the way where I can write whenever I have time. I have to be in one of those deep shakespearian moods, if you know what I mean, though you probably don't, because I'm weird that way lol. Anyway sorry again for the delay and enjoy^_^!

Derysne looked away. "I don't wish to talk about it." She said cooly. "My parents were demons- I wasn't this way before. Happy now?"
Eric was silent for a moment and blushed slightly. He had forced a very personal comment out of Derysne's mouth and felt a bit embarrased and guilty about it. He turned his head and scratched the back of his neck."Wow, um... so how did that happen, or do you want me to shut up and stop asking question's now?"
Derysne was surprised by his sudden calmer approach. Oddly, it made her feel more inclined to answer him than before. 'I don't know.' she replied, turning her gaze to the sky again.
"I think I'm ready to get going," Eric said, feeling a surge of enthusiasm at her opening up.
Derysne cast him a slightly withering look. "Ten seconds ago you were exhausted." She said. "All right, I have no complaint. Shall we then?" Quietly getting up, she re-summoned her staff and flapped her wings a little, wincing as she tried to move out the pins and needles.
Eric and Derysne continued on their path, If you could call it that, until they came to a tight pack of trees that would be highly difficult to weave through.
"Right, so what now?" Eric asked, hoping for an answer this time.
"Well, normally I'd fly." Derysne answered, eyeing the trees critically. "But hey, I suppose we could try to make our way through here. Unless you think you'd be able to fly. She cast him a sideward glance, noticing his obvious fear of the trees and his nervous actions. "No, stupid thought. We will walk."
Derysne proceded through the brambles and broken tree branches, rarely stumbling due to her height, and easily wove her way through the pathless forest. Eric, on the other hand, was having a more difficult time, often stumbling over roots and sweeping patches of loose dirt from the ground, causing him to cough and have trouble keeping his eyes open. However, for a while he still managed to stay within Derysne's barrier, that is, until one time he closed his eyes for a long period of time to avoid having his eyes polluted with dirt. When he opened his eyes once more he was no longer within her barrier and could just see her glow dim around a corner. "Derysne?" Eric called, but she was apparently no longer near enough to hear.
Derysne looked around, all her senses bent on keeping her sense of direction. Suddenly she noticed a difference in the barrier's movements and looked around. The human wasn't there. "Great, turn one moment and he somehow gets lost." She muttered in annoyance. She couldn't believe that despite her precautions in making the shield stretchable he'd managed to lose his way. Turning, she cautiously started back the way they came, slightly suspicious of his sudden disappearance. "Derysne? Where are you?" Eric kept calling out in hopes of being reunited with his guide. He followed what he thought to be the correct path, but the forest has a number of paths, many of which are false and only lead to more darkness deep within the black woods. But to the human eye, which unfortunately for Eric he had, the false trails are no different from the real ones, and one could easily be tricked into walking right into a dangerous place, even though no other life dwelled in the forest.
Derysne found no one on the path they'd taken before, and became slightly more agitated. Finally she heard a whisper of noise, and quickly turned towards it. Unfortunately she had tarried too long and she could sense her internal compass straying from its original alignment. All the false trails didn't help, and she had to think of which ones Eric had taken. Fortunately he had left a trail, which was not too hard to find. Following it, she had to frown at its random, unorganized quality, and at the quickness he seemed able to move despite the fatigue that assailed the last rung's occupants.
Eric was by this time completely lost in the woods and it didn't help that he was not even on his own planet anymore. He was tired for running for such a long period of time and he desperately needed food and water. "Great," he thought, "And I'm supposed to be athletic for my class." He sat down against the nearest tree and took a deep breath. He really missed the earth air, regardless of the pollution. The air here was heavy, like gaseous corn syrup dissolved with oxygen. It didn't look like the trees here took in any of the carbon dioxide that he breathed out, so maybe that was in the air as well. He began to feel drowsy and let his head drop.
Derysne stopped, shying back as her barrier met an area of resistance and warped around it instead of going through. She looked. The trees didn't look any different ahead. Either a really well hidden anti-spell or the place where the trees were the most dead, where the death had begun so many centuries ago. Those were her two options, or at least the two she opted for. Shadow wraiths were also possible culprits, but she somehow doubted their presence. Carefully picking her way towards the barrier, she carefully observed the flickering edges of the barrier seep around it like a wall. She edged sideways, following the curvature of the dead zone, peering carefully through the undergrowth, though many parts of the forest floor remained too dark or too densely covered for her to see.
As Eric slept he dreamt, but once again he wasn't sure whether this dream was a dream, or if it was reality. Dark shadows loomed around him, forming a whirlwind of black air; The trees above him transformed into dark claws grappling at him from above; Every tree hollow became a face watching his every move. Creepy insects inched their way towards him from under the roots of trees. Then the laughter started, it was dark laughter, laughter that sounded when evil triumphed and good failed. Everything was happening at once now. The wind and the claws and the faces and the bugs and the laughter, all jumbled into a tangle of evil inside him. They moved closer and closer until they were inches away from him and all Eric could do was squat there, paralyzed, unable to even blink. His eyes were wide with horror; he was inside a nightmare that would never end.
Derysne, lurking outside the area, cried out in surprise as it suddenly bulged out, throwing her staff out in defense. She caught a brief glimpse of a dark, ghostly face before she was shoved backwards, staff rebounding, and landed painfully on her wings. She muttered something about bloody wraiths before quickly whispering a word to sent positive energy running through her staff and slashing the offending shadow through. It screeched and vanished, and her barrier came up again. More arrived, hanging elusively around the edges of the barrier, hesitant to come in. She growled in annoyance, wondering how long her personal energy, already depleted, could last against the innumerable spirits circling her.

A/N (pont): Toootles alll! Cookies for reviews!!!! Review pleaassssseeeee~!!!!! (they remind us that we have to update :P)

A/N(pont): Aight! Review responses!

Shadow Gryphon: I owe you so many reviews! Ah! I'm sorry, I lost your name when my HD crashed and I just got it back. Sorry! Sorry! begging gives you more cookies Thanks, glad you likes! Truth be told, I haven't thought of that yet! Good idea! Shhhh!

Mei-Mei the SciFi Junkie: Wow, I owe you so many reviews... I promise to try to catch up! Glad you like this story! It's taking forever for us to update, but I hope you like this chappie too!

Earthsong12: Duchess sees your wonderful reviews, don't worry! She actually responds as an anonymous reviewer. Odd huh? But that's where you'll find her! I keep trying to convince her to put her review responses at the top of the chapters while I use the bottom.... Glad you likes! Yeah... Eric's dumb. (Duchess: hey!) He's gonna drive poor Derysne crazy if this keeps up. Hope this eases your anxiety a little! hands out cookies

Mercury Angel II: We love you annie!!!!! hugs Thanks, but the ending's still a long way to go! Hope you like this! Don't worry, if Duchess puts her stuff online I'll make a huge enough racket that you'll be sure to find out

There it was, the only star in the sky, the only streetlight down the road, the only firefly in the grass. Within the safety of his own mind, Eric extended his arms, forcing all his effort into grasping the loophole in the darkness. His limbs became dense with power and overloaded with immense strength as he shot his fingertips like bullets into the light. He then shielded his eyes as that tiny light expanded over the shadow-filled atmosphere, replacing every bit of black with an illuminant white.

When the light had expanded at its most Eric was able to open his eyes. He looked down and gazed at the sand he slept upon. It was warm and comforting in some way and also very bright. He sat up and glanced behind him. There, stood the forest of darkness.

Derysne flinched back, wincing and shielding her eyes from the light as the blackness exploded violently outwards. She shut the output on the staff and kept down her own aura so as not to clash with the immense power output. The brightness became too much, and the staff, full to bursting with the positive energy, began to protest loudly. A long, loud keening like ringing or screeching metal began, and she quickly threw up an opaque shield, the black barrier transparent from the inside. The staff ceased its protests and grew cool. She relaxed a little. It was stressful being in such a potent cloud, being mostly dependent on dark energy after all.

Suddenly, the light vanished, like a candle snuffed by the intolerant gloom of the final Rung. Derysne tentatively opened her eyes and released her shield, sighing in relief as the ache of the barrage of bright energy faded away. Unfortunately, the strain on her aura had drained her and the dark energy that immediately filled the air around her rubbed her now positively charged aura the wrong way. She took a long moment to curse the fates that had composed her of such uncomfortable mix and had placed her in such an uncomfortable mix and had placed her in such an irritating place. She looked for Eric, startled (but on some level not surprised) that he wasn't there. suddenly worried, she expanded her natural barrier and scanned it, then retracted it when she felt nothing stirring within a five meter radius. Standing up straight she made a wider search, her worry deepening. The 'friendly' nature of the trees was quite useful and she was able to search all the way to the nearest edge of the dark forest from where she stood. Nothing. When the magical 'whiplash' of her spell casting caught up with her, her aura was crushed around her like an eggshell and a heady feeling washed over her when the attack withdrew, she was left almost empty of power.

Sagging against a tree, she slid to the ground and fell into a heavy sleep.

Relief overwhelmed him as he realized that he would be able to put the forest of darkness in his past. As he took to his senses once again, he returned to reality only to realize that he had lost his guide. Gazing at his surroundings he assumed her to be in one of two places. She could either still be in the forest, or she could have progressed ahead. Eric had been outside his own world long enough not to realize that unspeakable dangers drew nearer with every step he imprinted in the golden-brown sand. Nevertheless, after the ordeal he just suffered he had no intent of returning to the foreboding forest, so he began to walk in the other direction. After walking for about thirty seconds, Eric finally realized that he was walking into complete nothingness. To his recollection the last time he wandered off the outcome was not something to brag about. He jogged back to the edge of the forest only to realize that any available entranceways were blocked by large, ragged rocks. He circled what he could of the forest, but anywhere there were two parted trees, the space in between was always blocked. Eric attempted to climb the rocks, but as his body made contact with the jagged stone barrier, he was knocked backwards with such force that he landed at least ten feet away from his original location.

Darkness seeped out of the cracks between the rocks like the steam caused by cold water landing on hot piece of metal. After trying a few of the crevices and having the same results every time, Eric started to feel immense thirst and dehydration. There was obviously no way into the forest and he understood that he could only survive for so long in a desert without water. With his fickle mind settled to that effect, Eric began to trudge ahead causing the vast forest to grow smaller as it advanced farther and farther into his past.

Derysne awoke to stifling darkness, and briefly had to wonder, in the hazy grey space between consciousness and dreams, whether she had opened her eyes. She blinked a few times, realizing, as her night vision improved and the shadows of the trees appeared in her dim vision, that her shield had gone out. She slowly got up, then groped around in the darkness until she felt the cool, steely material of her staff under her fingertips, lying not far away on the ground. As she scooped it up, it started keening in a loud metallic voice, as dull grey sparks collected to its tip, hovering in a thin, wispy stream pointing away from her. She frowned, staring intently in the direction it indicated, then sighed. Oh well. It couldn't be helped. If her information on the Last Rung was correct, Eric would be in the opposite direction. Great. Couldn't the Last Rung cooperate for just one moment?

Apparently that was too much to ask, because as she walked away from her ultimate goal, couldn't feel his life signature anywhere remotely near by she extended her partially replenished aura. Of course it figured that just as she started getting used to the oppressive heat the temperature shot up and her feathers became heavy with condensation. She could hardly guess what the idiot human boy was up to. She'd probably have to break all kinds of rules to get to him before he dehydrated himself. Well, for now walking would do. With the dangerous slip streams above the forest, flying was certainly not her first choice.

Who would have thought it possible to be in the city of Chicago one day, and smack dab in the center of the darkest desert in existence in the next (that is, if time even ran where he was, there was no definition, there was no sunset, in fact there was no sun). Of all the places he could have ended up, this was the last place he wanted to be. Eric was exhausted, dizzy, and his vision was gradually beginning to blur. He felt like gravity itself, constantly being able to do nothing but push towards the ground every step a noticeable imprint. He had gotten into the habit of walking with his head down for comfort, checking his location every now and then, never expecting to see anything, and after every glance feeling that much more dreadful. It was time for another glance. Eric looked up and as he did so his heart lifted and the gravity upon him was removed just slightly.

Derysne was getting impatient with her progress as she moved at a snail's pace past rows and rows of sad, withering trees, trying to ignore the pleading auras as they greedily reached for the light she was emitting, torturous groans and creaking branches left drooping in her wake.

She saw the edge of the forest laboriously getting nearer, and quickened her pace. In good time, she reached the edge and braced herself against the inevitable burst of wind before leaving the forest's relative cover.

As she'd expected, the sudden gale nearly knocked her over, and she had to clamp her wings shut to keep them from catching wind. The land ahead, to her dismay, seemed just as barren, with random boulders strewn haphazardly about, a disconcerting sight, and she could not, for the life of her, figure out how they had gotten there. The air was hazy, shimmering with heat mirages, and, like the rest of this place, bleak and unwelcoming.

She stopped walking when she heard a loud, cavernous whooom of rushing air. Hurrying to the edge of what she'd mistaken to be a thin ledge in the ground, she felt her spirits drop with a thud as she gazed down at the steepest, darkest, windiest chasm she'd ever seen. It didn't help that the rocks on the other side formed an almost impenetrable barrier and reeked of negative energy.

"Oh hell." She growled, severely annoyed by this turn of events. The rift really wasn't very wide, only about eight meters across, but it looked like it went on for miles parallel to the forest's edge, and perpendicular to her path of travel. With nothing else to do, she walked along it, scouting for a reasonable place to cross.

A/N (pont): Sorry everyone, but this is it! Our new notebook system is working out quite nicely, and the delay was mostly due to schoolwork and plot negotiations See you later, ja!

A/N(pont): Thank you reviewers! Hope you like this chapter, and don't forget to REVIEW!
Rant(pont): :kotows: I'm extremely ashamed of how slowly this story is dragging out. my excuses are much of the same; summer school has just started. Duchess's excuse is that she gets very few and far between bouts of inspiration. But know that I am also frustrated by the progress -or lack of progress- that we've been making. If it was my choice, I'd let this get a little longer so I feel more like I've accomplished something with this chapter, but, unfortunately, waiting for another POV from eric might take a while, so we decided to give you what we have. So, without further ado, the chapter!

(Very brief recap; due to running away last chapter, Eric is (unsurprisingly) lost and wandering around- likely to get himself killed if he wasn't so darned important to the plot. --Pont)
(Starting with Eric)

It was the loveliest sight he had seen in ages. In the near distance, Eric could just lay eyes upon a tall, rugged, black mountain range.
Alright, maybe not exactly lovely, but it wasn't flat or sandy, and there was at least a chance of finding water there, which was more than he could say for his current location. As he approached the landmark, he observed that the simplest entrance was clouded by large amounts of dark fog, however, as the altitude increased, the fog lessened. Eric
couldn't depend on Derysne forever, he needed to take responsibility for his own survival and he desperately needed water. After getting this far, he was not about to give up. He was going in.

(With Derysne)

She stood staring uneasily at the edge of the chasm. Her current position, about to dive into and attempt to cross a spiky rock rift with river winds and half her usual energy, seemed ridiculous enough to be in one of those stupid James Bond movies, except her probability of becoming a grisly bloody mess on the side of the rocky face- skewered on one of the stagtalites perhaps- was much grater than Bond's stunt double. What she wouldn't give for one of his nifty harnesses though...

Well, at this rate she'd get up the courage to risk serious injury in a single action of such stupidity she was fairly certain she'd never forgive herself, if she survived. "Well, when in doubt do something stupid." She spent a moment to ponder over the gaping chasm's yawning mouth, trying not to notice the dagger-like black crystals jutting out of
the sides and the stalagmites pushing from cliffs like spears. She took a moment to register the fact that it wasn't really possible - Geologically - To have stalagmites in what looked like an earthquake fissure, before reminding herself that she was after all in the Last Rung. But there she went stalling again. With an aggravated sigh she steeled herself, holding her wings crooked to her sides, and took a running jump across the edge of the rift.

(With Eric)

Eric slid into the entrance to the mountains, a crevice small enough for him to touch the walls on either side of him without difficulty. At first touch, his very flesh penetrated the thick, lush mountain air like a body entering a confined space containing heavy fog. His vision being impaired, Eric cautiously relied on his fingertips to guide his way.

Before long the walls of the crevice came to a point and Eric was able to progress upwards, climbing as quickly as possible but placing very carefully each step of the way. As his altitude increased, the density of the dark fog lessened so that when Eric looked above, he could just make out the sharp, jagged tips of the mountain, piercing the sky like knives would a piece of freshly cut meat. Losing breath every second, he continually struggled to push his way up against the pull of gravity, which, in the last rung, was more like a fifty pound weight being tied to you ankles. If only Derysne were with him, he thought, she'd be able to purify the darkness surrounding him and perhaps cut the chain on which hung the fifty pound weight.

(With a very peeved Derysne)

The still air around the lips of the chasm had been very deceiving. Derysne once again found herself surprised by the savage intensity of the winds that tunneled their way through the crevices of the rift, gaining speed, and seeming to focus all their force, in all its blistering glory- on the new arrival. She swore she could hear the wind howling, 'Fresh meat! Fresh meat!' -but then she'd been wondering what kinds of things this world was going to do to her sanity.

Several times she'd been slammed painfully into the sides (thankfully not the points) of the very hard stalagmites, and once, despite her strict control -what little she had- over her flight pattern, she was dashed into a nest of the sharp little black crystals, and left behind some of her skin as a souvenir. Ripping her way out of the current far from where she'd intended to land had removed most of her wing feathers, and she knew that, for a while at least, she was effectively grounded. With a final glare back at the howling rift she stomped off, ignoring the sting of the small cuts she'd gotten in favor of fuming over the injustice of it all.

It was a few hours before she reached the mountains. She didn't really know where she was going anyway, and they seemed like a dumb enough place for the idiot to go. Of course, her decision had a lot to do with the fact that the little compass dangling merrily from her staff had pointed her in this direction. If Eric hadn't gone this way, she could probably find out where he'd gone if she took careful note of what kinds of things the Last Rung was doing. She should've remembered before she'd allowed them to get separated, but afterwards she'd recalled one of her lessons about the tenuous balance within and between the rungs (something she'd had no reason to worry about and probably never would have if he didn't come along); like some huge chemical equation, the gaps between rungs liked to balance, with even 'weights' of energy on either end. At the top you had the bright places (the one right above the earth universe the humans liked to call 'heaven') and at the bottom, the darkest. And like a chemical equation, it was actually very unstable and apt to misbalance itself. Sometimes a gap between the rungs would move; sometimes they'd disappear. It was not uncommon for a gap to dispel energy into the void, where it'd get distributed between the gaps as necessary to keep the balance. This Last Rung wasn't new at all; it had only been created a few centuries ago, when the old one became less 'dark' and switched places with it. This was not uncommon between the rungs; in fact, in a few millennia, it was very possible that the earth's galaxy-rung would be at the bottom (it was moving down anyways). Inhabitants of the rungs such as herself seldom witnessed the effects of the constant flux of power between the gaps. Occasionally a group such as the humans would notice things such as black holes or mirages and spend a few centuries trying to explain them, but the large-scale transfer of energy and creation of rungs was rare, and hadn't occurred for a long time since the big bang (not counting Atlantis, which -in relative terms of course- was considered a small-scale shift during a time of great upheaval) and usually required the intervention of 'guardians' such as Derysne's distant ancestors to undertake the delicate task of trying to salvage places populated by living organisms and mediating the chaos from the void and the places concerned, and prevent (as much as possible) the destruction of too many places. During these relatively stable days, though, Guardians were mostly only concerned with the accidental transits such as Eric from their respective worlds, and trafficking the everyday transfer. On a smaller level, the Last Rung itself, as well as many other gaps near the top and the bottom of the proverbial 'ladder' Eric had seen that opened into the void, were even more unstable than most, and prone to 'miraculous' changes and shifts (usually bad) because of intruders or entering energy. The Last Rung liked to have its own different areas of concentrated energy. When something new was introduced, it had the tendency to rebel and do anything... short of destroying it. It would concentrate its 'dark' energy around areas of 'light' energy, and if there was too much of a balance, it might to something drastic... like separate it. Thankfully, as only half a sentient being, it didn't realize that Derysne could fly, or she might never have crossed that fissure to find Eric. As it was, she was sure she was going to pay somehow for her trespasses later. As if she wasn't going to get tongue-whipped from Kori when she got back already. She was actually fairly certain that if the Arcadian didn't throw her halfway across the Earth rung and back, her superiors would, anyway. Just what I need. Another lecture about my incompetence and reminders of how unlike my perfect ancestors I am. She thought resentfully as she tripped over a rock. Suddenly standing in the shadows of the doorway didn't sound as bad as it had been before her little adventure.

She checked her compass. As she moved closer to whatever it was that it was pointing to, she could see the little black designs creeping around the edges like turning gears, and the pin was quivering quickly, as if whatever she was trying to find was near. The gold filament on the point sparkled dully. Well, on the good side, it seems I've finally figured out what rung that whatever-it-is is in, she added sarcastically as she gazed up at the dark, jagged peaks stretching before her.

(with eric (poor, poor confused kid))

After what seemed like much ruthless climbing, Eric stumbled upon level ground. Struggling greatly, he used the remainder of his arm strength to push himself up on the ledge. Feeling a bit dizzy, he stood up. The space ahead consisted of a long, narrow pathway with high, solid walls to his right and left. The fog had lessened immensely by this point so that it was just light enough for him to see where he was going. However, the fact that he was weary and dehydrated was something else that would impair his vision and sense of balance. At least it was relatively level, he thought. As he began to walk unsteadily, he briefly noticed pieces of broken clay pottery and dead grass on the ground. But he was too drowsy to investigate them further.
Eric was soon thirsty to the point where he could no longer feel it. His neck became numb as his head twisted around in circles in its place. He was having trouble keeping his ground. The environment began to spin around him and sharp pains penetrated his frontal lobe. He maintained his balance using the walls on either side of him within the narrow caves. That is, until his right hand no longer had anything to grasp and his body fell clumsily into a hollow opening. Suddenly, all pain stopped and everything became clear again. Wow, Eric thought, for once I suppose I did something right.
Eric gazed into the vast space within the crevice. the area was dark, but he could make out the glow of a stream and the stalagmites and stalactites surrounding it. In fact, everything had a bit of a glow to it. He could see large rocks in the near distance that controlled the flow of the stream, some of the water going straight through the main stream while some went astray to nourish the minerals being grown there. As Eric surveyed the area, he noticed that there was something different about this water than that of the dark forest. It glowed, just as the forest water did after Derysne put her staff in it. Then it must be purified, Eric thought. He was finally going to be able to drink!
However, as he approached the stream and leaned down to take a drink, he realized that there was something in the water that was causing it to glow-- it wasn't natural. Shoved into a corner, pushed slightly underneath a small cliff, was an orb. It was not immensely bright, in fact it was rather dim; it was about the size of an acorn, perhaps a bit smaller, and it was deafened by the atmosphere. However, the smallest light in the greatest dark will seem as bright as the sun in the middle of the day. Eric thought for a moment and then slowly reached for the orb. Upon contact, Eric's world became light again.

(with Derysne)

To say that the little shiver her staff gave surprised her, before the dark blades' edges accumulated small beads of light -a mockery of the bright kind of energy from before- would be the understatement of the century. If there was anything she'd expected, it had been for the atmosphere to darken, not lighten, as they got closer to the mountains. However, disturbingly, the compass's needle seemed to droop a little, disturbed by the presence of a nearby artifact that had most likely dropped itself into this world and hadn't dissolved yet from one of the many impromptu balancing acts of the rungs. Derysne cursed her luck and wondered how in heaven's name Eric had managed to stumbled on what seemed like a powerful artifact in the middle of the mountains, because that was the only viable excuse. Honestly, if there was one thing she could always count on, it would be the kid stumbling on something bad and therefore somehow monopolizing their objectives.
With a sigh, she picked up a small pebble from the ground and tossed it into the air, only to be surprised that its graceful arc towards the ground was mostly uninterrupted, and more than a little suspicious and sure that the air above wasn't really as calm at her elementary test had revealed. Taking a deep, steadying breath, she got into a crouch and vanquished her staff, not even wanting to think about how she was going to get up the energy to summon it again after half climbing, half walking up the steep slope of the mountain's face. After the scary business with stalagmites and crosswinds in the rift, she wasn't about to push her luck with flying in this world.
A/N(pont): Now for review responses! (it should probably be noted that what the 'whatever-it-is' that Derysne is talking about is has not yet been established. Still, even if I'm not going to tell you anything more than that it's the thing her compass is pointing her to, I'm open for suggestions (if you guys can come up with something really neat, I might change the idea I already have... we shall see! :D))
Earthsong12- you are wonderful. Thank you so much for your help!!! Duchess and I really appreciate !!! (I used a lot of your edits in the previous chapter and I'll repost when Duchess edits her parts-- thanks a bunch!!!)
Mercury Angel II: Thanks annie!!!! You know the that toturing-I mean developing- my characters is what I do best! Just keep updating TLODAE and MBG and Duchess and I will do our part, okay?
Shadow Gryphon: naw, we could never leave you forever.... we'lll bee bacckkkkkkk yessssssss..... (duchess: shove) cough yes well, I was actually beginning to wonder myself. (duchess: hey!) Hopefully this installment came within reasonable time constraints.... oh shoot. I have the notebook don't I. (:headdesk:) all right, so the lateness is quite a bit my fault. Sorry! Thanks again for the idea! :gives another cookie: Your reviews light up my days :D
Islandbreeze: Oooooh look Dutchess! We have a new friend! :glomp: (duchess: pont. off.) ; hello!!! Thank you muchness for your reviewsss!!! Very much appreciated!!! (note: duchess responds to reviews by review! Nifty huh? so you'll find her responses in the review.... place...... Yeeeaaahhhhh.... She signs on as anonymous and as Duchessodessert (er, usually that is. we may be best friends since forever but she's still largely unpredictable. (duchess: hey!)) (if she responds by the time we post this update (if we ever get around to posting this update :sheepish grin:) I'll add that notice to the end of this response. If she hasn't yet, she probably will/ respond. She's just even busier than me (which is no mean feat!) and less of a computer bum :wink: so it takes her awhile to do so) The cliffhangers are partly my fault, and partly Duchess's love of all things dramatic. We're definitely taking your suggestions to heart! Keep up your beautiful writings, thanks much again! Have a cookie