Scarlet Eyes

Sneaking into the castle would be the hardest part. At least, that's what Scarlet had to tell herself to calm her rapid heartbeat. Though it was set on revenge, her mind had a tendency to go wild with thoughts of what would happen to her if she were caught. These monsters had just ransacked her village and killed everyone she ever knew and loved; if she survived it was only out of some twisted desire to corrupt her immortal soul. And as far as Scarlet could tell, the devil that caused all this had already done so.

The castle gate had no guards posted, which in a way made sense to her. Moonfall Keep was a well-known and feared nest of abominations and devilry. They really had no reason to guard their walls, for no human would in their right mind ever try and storm the castle. There had been stories of heroic adventurers foolish enough to try such a feat, only to meet a gruesome end. Scarlet herself had witnessed one such horror when she was only a child. It had served as a valuable lesson given her youthful desire to see more of the region surrounding Moonfall Keep.

And yet, even now as she was making her way into the castle's main foyer, her society wouldn't think of her as anything more than a child. This past summer she had just reached fifteen years, a point in time where young ladies of her village would seek out marriage as per tradition. And this was a tradition she was willing to follow through with. Had tragedy never befallen her hometown, she'd have lived out her life in peace and without ever having to witness another foul creature. But fate had dealt her a cruel hand; but not so cruel as to deny her a chance at vengeance.

A chill wind made its way through the halls of the castle interior. Scarlet had made her first critical error in leaving the front door open. The cold autumn air forced its way into the castle, alerting some of the inhabitants of the young intruder. Though Scarlet did her best to hide behind columns and ravaged statues, she was spotted by at least one of the foul beasts. An impish demon noticed her, and lunged forward with its spear to kill her. A feat as simple as this would earn the impish demon great renown in the evil hierarchy.

But Scarlet wasn't unarmed. She lacked the strength to wield something as powerful as a broadsword, but she had ample dexterity to carry an oak quarterstaff, and used the glorified stick to fend off the blow. She struck down the small demon with all her might, crushing its head and ending its life in one fell swoop. The larger monsters alerted to her presence now, Scarlet had no choice but to flee deeper into the castle. She was running a huge risk of running into something far worse along the way, but she was not yet so valiant as to take the initiative and face the monsters giving chase.

She ducked into a random hallway, and then into a room immediately to her right. Fear had given her wings, and the monsters lost sight of her. Scarlet figured her presence in the castle would soon become public knowledge, and the whole of its citizenry would be on the active hunt for her. The only other things in her possession were a simple dagger and three liquid-filled vials. And it was not the dagger that would be her greatest ally, nor the quarterstaff in her hands. In those vials was the very reason her village was targeted by the devils: a powerful alchemic concoction unique to her small village.

The people of her village were renowned potion-makers. Though expensive, travelers and adventurers would frequent the village seeking at least one of their magical creations. From the simplest draughts, which would instill the drinker with newfound vitality, to the most complex creations that could bring a soul back from the brink of death. It was this trade that was Scarlet's specialty, having been taught how to brew these drinks from a very young age. And resting in the vials at her side were the ultimate creation: a miracle draught capable of remedying almost any malady or harm to befall the drinker. Her grandfather had come up with the recipe, and managed to brew only four vials before his death. They were to be the village's greatest source of income.

As Scarlet reflected on this, she noticed a crest on the wall opposite her. The crest's design was familiar, that of the zodiac symbol for Aries. What's more, the crest began to glow as she got closer to it. Her rational mind was screaming at her to not touch the crest, lest it curse her further. But something in her heart egged her on, and she placed her palm over the crest. Instantly she felt a surge of power flow through her entire being. It lasted only a few seconds, but when it was over she could feel an intense heat built up inside her. Instinctively she reached for one of the vials at her side, but stopped just before drinking it.

The heat was gone, though she could still feel something flowing through her. She put away the vial, and brandished her quarterstaff. There was something she had to test. Scarlet took a deep breath, and stepped out of the room and back into the hallway. Only one of the monsters that had chased her before was in the hallway, like its impish brethren, charged her without calling for aid. The monster's claws were barred and easily capable of shredding her skin, but Scarlet stood fast. When the distance between them was no more than a few feet, Scarlet pointed her quarterstaff at the monster.

Bending to her will, the heat she felt build up inside her materialized as a burst of flames that engulfed the creature entirely. As it screeched out in pain, Scarlet could only stare at it as its skin was burned off piece by piece. Behind her, another couple monsters appeared, and they made their presence known with a shrill shriek. Scarlet spun around, and in a similar motion blasted the two with another wave of searing fire. What struck her as odd was that such creatures weren't immune to the flames, despite being denizens of Hell itself. But such thoughts weren't important right now; Scarlet had found a way to exact her revenge.

With newfound courage she ascended the stairs of the foyer, engulfing every creature that crossed her path in flames. She feared nothing anymore, and it was this pride that cost her one of the vials at her belt. On the second floor, Scarlet was checking almost every room she came across, looking for that one devil that caused everything. If there were creatures within, all she did was blast them with her fire magic. One of the rooms had another crest on the wall, but between it and herself was another monster. Without thinking twice, she sprayed it with fire.

But the creature did not scream in agony or even show signs of singe following the attack. This was the first time Scarlet had seen this, and she was completely unprepared. The demon, hulking in size and towering over the petit girl, swiped at her with his massive claw. Since she wore no protective armor of any kind, only common attire to protect her modesty, the demon's claw cut through the soft fabric and sprayed her blood across the walls. Scarlet collapsed on the ground, gasping for breath as most of her chest and midsection were exposed and bleeding profusely. The demon, figuring his work done, left the room, choosing to let Scarlet die a slow, agonizing death. But this is just what she needed.

Using the last of her strength, she took one of the vials at her belt, thankful the demon hadn't destroyed it with its attack, and drank the liquid within. Instantaneously her ravaged body was mended, new skin growing in the place of the old. Within seconds her breathing returned to normal, and the intense pain subsided. Her clothes were ruined and that new skin exposed to the cold of the castle, but modesty and chill weren't important right now. Scarlet turned her attention to the crest on the wall, this one shaped like the symbol for Capricorn. She placed her hand on the crest, and felt another surge of power rush through her.

After the transference of power was complete, she felt paralyzed by the new magic within her body. Seconds later the paralysis died down, much like the heat of the Aries symbol before it. Taking her quarterstaff back in hand, Scarlet stepped out of the room. Just around the corner, the demon that had nearly killed her stood waiting. When it saw Scarlet walk out practically unscathed, it started towards her with a calm demeanor. It had no reason to fear Scarlet's fire, but it didn't know she had acquired a new form of magic.

She pointed her quarterstaff at the demon, and thought only of the symbol of Capricorn. That was all she needed to use the new magic at her disposal. From her shoulders slithered two blue streaks, almost like snakes, down her arms and through the quarterstaff. They fired from the tip of the oak stick with a loud thunderclap, and struck the hulking demon in the blink of an eye. Unlike before, the demon roared in agony as the power of the heavens themselves coursed through its body, and within seconds the demon fell back. Its skin was mostly intact, but what orifices it had were belching out a foul odor and heaps of smoke.

Again Scarlet pushed forward, switching up between the flames of Aries and the magnificent thunder of Capricorn to smite the creatures that dared bar her path. Her lesson had been learned, though, so she exercised more caution when facing the demons along the way. She wouldn't let them get too close whenever possible.

Up on the third floor, a massive mirror made up the wall opposite the stairs. Scarlet looked into her reflection, seeing her blood-red eyes looking back at her. She hadn't been born with those eyes, they were a side-effect of the curse placed upon her by the devil that attacked her village and killed her mother. She had been out in the forest collecting herbs when the attack started. Upon her return, she rushed to her mother's side, only to witness her die at the hands of a tall, black-skinned devil with horns that climbed into the sky for about a foot. The devil took notice of the girl, and stopped her from running by using his tail as a rope.

Scarlet had tried to break free, even pleaded to have her life spared. And maybe it was pity, or maybe it was a desire to torment her further, but the devil chose not to kill her. It raised its hand to her face, and with but a single touch, placed the curse on Scarlet. It was nothing more than a light tap on her forehead, but instantly she felt a dark force invade and pervert her entire being. The devil laughed at its handiwork, but chose not to remain and watch it unfold. Along with the rest of the abominations that attacked the village, it left right after this.

Somehow, Scarlet had worked up enough strength to make it into the storeroom of her grandfather, even going so far as to kick his corpse out of her way. She knew of the miracle draughts he had made, and prayed with all her being that they could undo whatever devilry had been cast on her. She drank one of the vials, and watched in horror at what was happening to her in the mirror nearby. Her skin had already started to darken like the devil's, and her eyes were a deep crimson. From her head were sprouting two horns, and she could even feel a tail forcing its way out of her back. But once the miracle draught worked its divine magic, the changes to her body began to revert. Everything, except her eyes.

That was a sign that even though the draught had stopped the curse from working in full, she was still plagued by an unimaginable evil. She looked for other survivors, but there weren't any. Aside from a couple bodies that remained mostly intact, only puddles of human remains and body parts littered the village. That's when Scarlet chose to exact her revenge, no doubt fueled by the dark magic that still lingered in her body.

So Scarlet stared at her reflection in the castle mirror. But the moment she turned to continue, she felt a sharp pain in her stomach. She looked down, and saw a knife plunged into herself. The hand that had done so was her own, belonging to the reflection on the mirror. The other Scarlet grinned maliciously before it vanished in a mist. Scarlet quickly removed the knife from her stomach, seeing it was her own dagger. She fell to the ground, but wasted no time in downing another of her vials. That made two she had consumed so far, but both times absolutely necessary. Seconds later, the pain was gone, and the gaping wound sealed as though it never happened.

Scarlet stood up and turned to face the mirror. Again she saw her reflection, but before anything else could happen, she smashed the glass with the end of her quarterstaff. As the glass from the mirror fell to the ground at her feet, Scarlet realized there was a passage beyond where the mirror was. By this point, most of the monsters she was encountering were fleeing rather than engaging her, so there was nothing around to impede her. The passage behind the mirror wasn't long, and ended with a spiral staircase that went up for a few minutes' time.

At the end of the stairs was a door. Scarlet opened it slowly, and peeked inside before going in. Unlike the rest of the castle, this room was furnished. And not just any furnishings, but pieces and fabrics fit for royalty. Scarlet wandered into the room, entranced by the sudden change in d├ęcor. Had she found the prison of a maiden within the walls of Moonfall Keep? She rested her quarterstaff against a wall, and walked over to the bed. She felt the softness of the silk sheets with her hands, taking in the potential of restful pleasure in this room. Gone were Scarlet's desires to explore the rest of the castle; all she wanted now was to sleep soundly on the regal bedding.

And she would've jumped right into ved had something not caught her eye. She turned to her right, and saw a vanity mirror mounted on the wall. Reflected on the mirror was the door to the chamber, and it was slowly but surely closing. Scarlet turned around to face the door, and at once knew that if she didn't get out before the door closed, she might never get another chance.

Scarlet wasted no time in dashing for the door. She couldn't let herself be trapped in that room, not until her vengeance was exacted. She had come too far to fall prey to such a cheap trap. She managed to squeeze out of the doorway just as the door closed behind her. Once outside, she realized that the quarterstaff remained in the room behind her. She cursed under her breath, angered slightly at having lost one of her two weapons in the process. Still, she had to keep moving.

Before she could descend the spiral staircase, she ran straight into the very same black-skinned devil that cursed her. It appeared in a puff of smoke before her, causing her to tumble backwards and right back into the enchanted room. The devil walked towards her slowly, giving her enough of a chance to find her quarterstaff on the ground next to her. She aimed the stick towards the devil, but its tail shot forward like a whip and tore the stick from her hands. The devil snapped the oak staff in two and tossed it aside. Scarlet tried to stand up, only to be forced back to the ground by the devil's prehensile tail.

She had one chance. She reached for her dagger, and as she expected, the tail shot forward to prevent her from attacking. But Scarlet didn't grab her dagger, so when the tail snapped at her hand like a whip, she used her other hand to brandish the weapon and cut the tip of the devil's tail off. The devil let out a scream so deafening Scarlet dropped the dagger and covered her ears. She pressed her hands against her ears as hard as she could, but the wail couldn't be silenced, and she even found herself screaming in pain as well.

A moment later the devil stopped emitting the horrible noise, giving Scarlet a moment of relief. Still dizzied by the ordeal, she couldn't stop the devil from taking the last vial at her side. As her vision came into focus, she watched as the devil crushed the vial in its hand. Like when it cursed her in the village, the devil let out a fiendish cackle, then turned around to leave. Perhaps it figured Scarlet wouldn't try anything without her salvation-in-a-bottle. And he would've been right, but Scarlet's rage was too great at this point. It was her or the devil, and she was going to do everything she could to end this now. She picked up the dagger and lunged forward.

The devil made no effort to evade the blow, so Scarlet plunged the dagger straight into its back. But the devil did nothing but stop. A weapon as insignificant as a dagger wasn't enough to kill it. So again it laughed hysterically at Scarlet's futile attempt at revenge. But what it didn't factor in was her magical power. The very magic she had acquired in the castle. Envisioning the crest of Capricorn in her mind's eye, Scarlet channeled thunder directly through the dagger and into the black-skinned devil.

Like so many other monsters before it, the devil could do nothing but scream in agony as the heavenly fire coursed through its body and incinerated it from within. Seconds later, the devil collapsed on the ground in front of her. Scarlet stood over its corpse, caught somewhere between a laugh and tears. That's when the devil's body twitched, and in a jerk reaction kicked Scarlet back to the other end of the room. She looked ahead to the devil, seeing that it had managed to crawl out of the room. It could hardly move, but it used whatever measure of cursed life it had left to form a smile on its vaguely humanlike face. It then fell back, this time dead for good.

What had been the point of that? In exiting the room, the devil had allowed for the door to close again, sealing Scarlet within the enchanted room. It was meant to be a prison indeed, as the door vanished from existence the moment she was trapped within.

She tried kicking the wall where the door used to be, even using some of the furniture from the room to try and force her way out. But it was no use; she was trapped there, perhaps for the rest of her life.

Scarlet laughed.

Tears streamed from her eyes, but she couldn't stop laughing. It had cost her everything, but she exacted the revenge she so desired. What's more, the devil had forgotten to take one critical item out of the room with it. Scarlet picked up the dagger from the floor.

She wouldn't give the devil the satisfaction of growing old in its prison. She put the dagger to her throat, and pressed as hard as she could.