I wrote this for NANO 2011 because I wanted to at least get to 20,000 words. I made it, and this last little bit of brain vomit was one of my favorite pieces from that nonsensical word document.

Edit: For fairly obvious typos.

Black clouds were streaked across pale grey sky as the wind razed the earth, stealing all warmth from those in its way. A lone figure shivered as they shambled across the barren plain, stumbling here and there as the mud tried to suck them under. But she knew she could not falter. Things far worse than death awaited her on all sides. If she fell, if she stopped, they would seize her, and they would never let her go.

She tripped again and cursed, finally sparing enough energy to whisper enchanted words to ease the path before her. Guttural and harsh, yet they brought forth a glimmering light that smoothly danced over the rocky surface. Smiling bitterly, she raised her leg, feeling the joints grinding and cracking, and then stepped on the path of light. The pace quickened and she continued on.

Ages or moments passed and she heard metallic shrieks echoing behind her. Pausing to catch a breath, she stared up at the sky in accusation before bringing out one of the many small vials on her belt. Raising the glittering container to eye level, she swirled the contents to ensure it was still viable as the sacrifice for a summoning.

Her breath fogged the glass as it froze to her fingers, but still she grinned. The blood, her blood, was still very much alive. More words of enchantment were uttered. This time flowing off her tongue like quicksilver. Energy swirled around her, raising the cloth and hair on her arms as a window to another realm was opened.

She could hear the distinct sounds and unsounds of the Inferno and then as the bond strengthened to her present world, the smells and the heat. Oh welcome heat! It increased, the only signifier of having caught the attention of some lower ranking demon, as all she could see was a haze before her.

Speaking faster, she carefully uncorked the vial and spilled the blood on her glimmering path. Wordless agreement washed over her as the demon accepted the summoning and stepped through into the Oppalline. She basked in the scorching radiance of its arrival, ignoring the pain as her skin burned.

Before her stood a figure of flames and adamantium bindings. It turned the metal cage that kept the fires of its head in shape towards the distant sound of the woman's pursuers. Pointing with one bound claw, it waited. The woman nodded and said, "Guard the path. You will not let them pass, even if it destroys you."

It's claw lowered and there was a small pause before some of the bindings clattered to the ground. The fury increased as circles, halos and limbs of fire burst forth from it, roaring in defiance at the unknown attackers.

She continued on, knowing that the demon would not keep them long. As she raced on her path, she considered all the resources available to her. Laying a paralyzing trap here, or scattering an acid poison to hover on the wind.

When still she heard the shrieks coming, closer and closer, she knew it was time to resort to the last, most desperate of solutions. She knew this, but she wouldn't—not yet. There was enough time to spare on one last spell. It had been a long time since she had purchased the necessary items, as she had been loathe to waste it on anything so trivial as the difficulties she had experienced before. But this was likely the end of her life, and if anytime was necessary, it was now.

She sat down and brought an object wrapped in cloth out from her bag, carefully peeling the rough material back from a skeleton's forearm held together only by a gauntlet. Speaking words that whispered in and out of mind and reality, she called the warrior back to possess his body. It took a fair amount of effort and a year of her life, but she managed.

When next she opened her eyes, she saw the transparent outline of the warrior as he had been at the time of death, only that one forearm, held in her lap was solid. In a grating voice he thanked her for allowing one last fight and straightened himself to his full height, nigh twice her own. The denizens of the Gelid were known to be larger than most.

As he prepared himself for battle, the ragged fur poking out from in between cracks of armor puffed up to enlarge his size further, and a rumble rattled through the woman's chest as the warrior began to chant and prepare himself for battle.

Runes of the Gelid began to appear and disappear around him, he asked, "Why do they hunt you? Why do I fight?"

Sneering, she answered, "The Oppalline is dying, and they want to take me with it. As you can see, I do not belong here. I don't need to die today."

"Then it will be a good fight." He shifted and the faint echoes of clanking plate mail rang out.

She watched the faded charms streaming from his four great horns and knew that even he would not be enough. She reached into her bag for the last resort, a scroll containing a pact.

"If I flee, will your second death still be glorious?"

The warrior bowed his great head then turned to her, imaginary breath streaming through the grates in his helmet. "Yes."

"Then I intend to flee."

Turning her back on the ever increasing streams of black, she opened the green seal made of wax and other things not to be named, then began to read the Pact of the Hassen. She began to read the oily language, already hating how each syllable sinuously worked into her mind and made her believe the lies.

Then as always the Hassen did, in a flurry of beauty, a door, rather than a window, opened and one of them stood before her. The Hassen could be many things to many different types of people, and to the woman, the Hassen standing before her looked just like one of her own, one of the Ikhor.

A cruel smile lit the Hassen's face, perfect dark brown lips twisting into an almost sexually hungry expression. Eyes made of sparks looked down on the woman and the Hassan said, "Well, well, it's not everyday we receive a request from one such as yourself. Alas, protocol and all that. Please state your credentials…and the oath." Her eyes gleamed at that last word.

"I am Janita Hemion of the Ikhor, mage of the Order of Seven Truths, hand of the Darkest Night, and ambassador of the Silver Prince who once conversed with the Wasting Prince. I am she who knows a half-hundred worlds and has experienced even more. I am the one who bound RAHN the Indomitable to my will, and one thousand and three demons of lower ranks. I helped create a world…and have now witnessed the end of one. I am Janita Hemion and I humbly plead for the Hassen to allow me to serve them in exchange for asylum."

Behind them, the roars of the warrior blended with the metallic screams. The Hassen raised her eyebrow and whistled at the sight. Janita refused to turn and watch.

Finally the Hassen said, "That will do. I think you might just be qualified enough for us. Follow me."