As the seals fade...and the Darkness leaks...there will be born a spawn of Darkness...the Demon of Flame...He alone will have the power...to release his sire...his power forbidden even to himself...Burning with obsession and Darkness...He seeks this place in Chaotic madness...Unlocked by the Key...to break the blood seal...Blood has power...The Key awakens the Dark blood...the doors are broken open...Evil is released onto the world again...The Key controls him...

It has been 1000 years since the Darkness was sealed away and the Key has finally descended on Eoroe in the form of a young girl from a different world. Fought over by kings and queens who seek to control the Fire Demon, hidden from seers and mages alike, she wants only to survive unaware of her own fate. The Demon of Flame hunts for her to destroy her and cut the ties to the prophecy that would have him unleash Evil on the world.

Philadelphia, that's Phila to you, was an ordinary girl going to high school until a magical storm threw her into the river and into a new world. Unable to speak the language, confused and hurt, her only hope is the warrior that heals too fast and is just a bit too strong.

Namtar has known since he was young that he carried the power of Darkness in his veins and, despite the prophecy surrounding his life, has never once wanted to free his sire. If he could only get this Key, he could destroy it and end the possibility of freeing Evil. Until he sees her and realizes that the Key is just an ordinary girl with big green eyes that can't even defend herself.

Now on the run from the world, Namtar can't help but want to keep her safe and she has no choice but to depend on him. But everyone wants the Fire Demon and his Key. To own. To control. As a weapon. As a slave. As the harbinger of destruction. Phila awakens the Dark blood...)

The Key

:It begins in a time unable to be marked by history. When the ancients traveled the world and spread their magic and abilities amongst the people. When Evil was free to roam and wreak havoc on the delicate life that was man. A prophecy was made about the defeat of Evil. The Virtuous Knight, the Blind Seer, and the Limitless Mage...:

"Don't let him escape!" Kain roared as he chased the slithering Darkness down the elegant corridors of the ancient palace. "Viyar!"

"I know!" The blast of magical energy from Viyar's hand lit up the hallway left stained by the Abyss's dark touch. He may have been fleeing, but that didn't make Him less dangerous.

"Kain, He's heading for the courtyard!" Mira warned on his left. "If He gets out, we'll never catch Him again! This is our only chance!"

Kain cursed under his breath, trying not to let his own exhaustion be his defeat. He couldn't be brought down now. Not now. He had been training, chasing, sacrificing for this moment for seven years. He would not let it all be for naught!

His armor, once shining silver so bright it could blind under the sun, was smudged with grime and the dark blood of Evil. The holy sword in his hand, blessed by Mira and Viyar both, was still glowing as it always did even through a thick layer of the Monster's dark blood coating half of its body. The shield in his hand was growing heavier by the minute, dragging him down painfully.

He didn't release the burdens. He didn't slow down. He was so close to his victory. Once this was done, once the prophecy was fulfilled, he could finally begin living his life. He and Mira could, at long last, truly be together as man and woman were meant to. No more endless days and nights chasing Evil. No more brushes with death. No more burdens of virtue to weigh him down.

"Viyar, can you block him inside? Something?!"

"What do you think I'm doing?" His best friend snapped angrily. The exhaustion of the battle, which had been waging for most of the day, well into the night, was weighing heavily on him as well. Though the mage had no armor to drag him down, the cost of so much magic was draining his energy just as efficiently as Kain's efforts.

"Viyar, use the mirrors!" Mira pointed to the ceiling above them. "The ancients used to use the light and mirrors to keep the Darkness out! Use them to trap Him in!"

Viyar raised his hands immediately and released a burst of light that reflected off of the large brass dish hanging from the ceiling and was passed onto the others in the series. The darkened hallway, made all the more desolate by the Abyss, burst forth with light. They could hear a loud, screeching sound like bronze being shredded as the light hit the Darkness and He screamed. In pain or in anger, it was impossible to tell.

"That's it!" Kain yelled, beaming. "More Viyar! This is it! We can do it!"

Groaning with effort, Viyar increased the strength of the light. The Darkness began seeping further into the ancient, abandoned castle to escape his power. Exactly where they wanted Him.

With the bright light flowing over them, Kain could see his comrades properly. See the strain this battle was putting on them.

Vicar, his shaking arms raised to the ceiling, was sweating. His billowing robes had once been a series of beautiful blue dyes. Now, the grime and Darkness had stained them ruddy brown. There was a long cut along his forehead that had dripped down his chin before clotting. His brown hair, long enough to be bound in a braid down his back, had tendrils stuck to the flaking blood.

By Kain's side, as she always was, Mira moved gracefully well for a blind woman. Her white eyes may not have been able to detect even light, however that didn't mean she couldn't see. There was no one, and never had been anyone, that had more skill than she at the spiritual arts.

In Kain's opinion, there had also never been anyone more beautiful. Her white eyes were set into the most lovely, smoothly rounded face above a pert little nose and a pair of sweet lips that grinned quickly. Her gently waving brown hair flowed uninterrupted down her back. A white veil covered her hair, like most seers wore and was clipped together by a golden chain on her forehead. The twin daggers in her hands were not coated in Darkness like Kain's sword, but she had been fighting just as hard as they had. She was breathing hard, sweating as they were, but she also refused to give up or show any weakness.

Kain skidded to a halt as the three of them reached a large, open archway leading outside that stood at least five man lengths high. Panting, Kain looked around for the Darkness. He hadn't gone outside, He couldn't with the light from Viyar blocking the exit.

Kain was younger than his friends, but it was hard to see on his face. The life he had been told to lead was a hard one and it weighed on him. Dirty blonde hair, messy from the long battle, kept falling into a well defined, aristocratic face. His body was lean under the heavy armor, mercilessly honed and trained to perfection.

The three of them were part of a prophecy from the ancients themselves. Mira, blind since birth and trained in her spiritual powers for nearly as long was unmatched in her abilities. Viyar, a mage with a limitless well of magic was weakened only by his personal stamina in the mystic arts. And Kain, a knight trained since before he was yet a man whose virtue remained completely in tact.

Together, the three of them had the ability to defeat the Darkness. To stop Him from plaguing the world with pestilence, horror, and greed. They were by no means guaranteed to do so, the prophecy only stated that they were the ones that could.

They had been hunting the Abyss for years now. Searching for something that existed everywhere and trying to eradicate it. It had seemed hopeless so many times to even try. Yet, despite any Dark feelings, Kain now stood here with his closest friend, his dearest love, and was finally about to fulfill this prophecy so he could at last lead a normal life.

So he could at long last take Mira into his arms and love her as she deserved.

"That way," she said, pointing to a small servant's staircase. "He went down there. He's heading for the sub-levels. Viyar's magic burned Him badly."

"Viyar, is your trap set?" Kain turned to him.

Viyar nodded, trying not to let on how tired he was. Unlike Kain, he did not train physically. And though his magic was limitless, he was not. He was far past merely tired by now.

"We just need to lead him there. Mira?"

"Wait," Kain reached out quickly and grabbed her arm. "I don't like this. Viyar, are you sure that she has to be the bait?"

"Kain, I wouldn't risk her life if I had another choice. I know you hate it, but He wants her. You and I are annoyances to Him. It's Mira's power that is most dangerous. And - I'm sorry, Mira - but she is the weakest link when it comes to fighting. He only needs to kill one of us and she's the easiest and most tempting."

"Kain..." Mira smiled gently, reaching up to touch his hand. "Don't worry about me, I'll be fine. This is the only way and we're wasting time. We need to hurry before He escapes again. We won't get another chance like this."

Intellectually, Kain knew that. However, being forced to stand back as Mira ran into danger went against everything he felt. The desire to take her place was strong, but he knew that both of them were right. Evil wouldn't come against him. Not with his sword still gleaming with His blood and the knowledge that Kain could and already had hurt Him.

Mira took the steps before them, running down on her own. Going against everything that Kain had ever worked for. His heart beat heavy in his chest to see her skirts fluttering behind her as she ran. Her sandals smacked against the marble floor, her long veil trailing behind her.

Kain's jaw tightened as his knuckles went white on the hilt of his sword. Don't go, he wanted to scream. Come back.

In just a moment, she was gone. Vanished into the darkness. Viyar stood next to Kain, staring down with an unreadable expression on his face.

"Do we go yet?" Kain asked, his voice taut as he resisted the urge to go anyway.

"Not yet..."

The seconds ticked by into an eternity. Kain's teeth ground together. The network of magic below was tuned into Viyar. He would be able to feel, approximately, where the Darkness was and where Mira was in relation to it. He would know best when to move.

That knowledge didn't make it any easier to remain still.

"Do we go?" he repeated anxiously.

"It's barely been ten seconds, Kain."

Only ten? He shifted on his feet, eager to move. About a thousand years later - fifteen seconds or so - Viyar finally nodded.

"Alright, she's far enough down. The Darkness has noticed her. Let's go."

Kain was already moving before the words were completely out of his mouth. Sword arm ready to strike at any movement, Kain sprinted ahead.

The Darkness below was thick, like tar. It stuck to everything, deeper than the surface. The marble here, once white, was now dark gray. The stone walls were getting darker the further they descended. The torches that Viyar had lit earlier had been extinguished. A sticky,black ooze clung to the tips now. The ooze, in direct defiance of gravity, flowed upwards towards the ceiling. It was an unnatural sort of thing.

Viyar, squinting into the darkness, raised his hand. A bright light burst forth from his palm. Hissing shrieks seemed to come from the walls itself as the oozing darkness fled away, like bugs skittering in fear.

"How far in are they?" Kain asked, trying to stare into the darkness beyond the reach of the light.

"She's leading him to the trap. Are you ready?"

"More than you will ever know. Lead on."

Viyar knew these basement levels very well. He spent a lot of time down here designing their trap. Kain was annoyed at his slower speed, but had little choice but to stay behind him as he made his way deeper into the long, winding corridors. Old storage rooms, filled with little more than air and dust now, threatened to bring the Darkness upon them with each new turn.

Deep in the lowest rooms, beyond storage, was their trap. Kain knew that they were getting close when Viyar suddenly started speeding up. His footsteps grew quicker and Kain couldn't help but be relieved that they were finally getting somewhere.

The Darkness was thicker here now that they were getting close to the body. No longer confined to the torches, it was in puddles on the dark marble floor. It was flowing up in streams. The thicker Darkness was unafraid of Viyar's light. Though it flowed quicker in its rays, it didn't attempt to escape from them completely.

"Viyar, how much-"

Mira's scream ripped through the rest of Kain's question. Quick as an arrow from a bow, Kain sprinted forward. He didn't need directions to follow that scream. His heart was beating furiously in his chest as Viyar attempted to keep pace with him, to shine his light ahead of him.

Evil, pitch black like tar and sticky as honey, had congregated in the lowest room. Beside the open doors of the vault where it was rumored that the ancients kept their power. The enormous ebony doors, taller than even the archway leading outside, had been left open. The interior of the room had been completely emptied of whatever it might have once held.

In front of the doors, the Abyss emerged from the largest puddle of Darkness. The body of Evil was tall, limbless, largely formless, somehow darker than His surroundings. He had whatever appendage He needed whenever He needed it. Something like a face, somehow not quite as distinct, was at the very top of the monolithic mass of upward flowing Darkness.

He could grow limbs as he wished. Long, tentacle like appendages that appeared when He wanted them and retracted when he was done with them.

He had one now. A long one curled around Mira's body, starting from her legs and winding up around her torso and neck. She was bleeding slowly from a wound in her side, right over her lungs. The Darkness was trying to push its way into her eyes, into her soul. Mira's mouth was open in a silent scream as her body twitched helplessly.

"Mira!" Kain reared back without thinking and threw his sword. The glowing, spinning blade and his own voice caught the Monster's attention. He turned His massive head towards them, too late to stop the gleaming metal from slicing through His new appendage.

Screeching in pain, the Abyss reared back. Mira's body collapsed into a heap on the ground as Viyar threw his light at her. The brightness, only warm and welcoming to her, burned away the last vestiges of Darkness that clung to her body.

Kain wanted to go to her. He knew better.

He sprinted past her and skidded to his knees, picking up his sword and turning quickly as he did so. The blind attack, more on instinct and expectation than anything else, sliced cleanly through the tentacle coming for his face. Dark, oozing blood, somehow too hot and too cold at the same time, splashed against his face and armor.

The Darkness burned from touching the blessed blade. The Monster drew back slightly. Heading towards the exit. The wrong direction.

"You won't escape!" Viyar shouted, light bursting from his hands as he stepped into His path. The light, more than just light, seared the not-flesh off the Darkness.

Hissing in pain, it began backing away.

"Mira!" Kain started towards her side.

Her arm, shaking, lifted and pointed. "N-No...G-Get H..Him..."

Fulfill your purpose first. Destroy the Darkness. He needed to beat it back. Mira and Viyar had already done their part here. All that was left was for him, the virtuous knight, to finish it off.

The image of Mira suspended in His grasp burned into his eyes, Kain slashed out at Him in fury. The Abyss pulled back, hissing its own rage at having been so treated this day. A deathless being, beyond the scope of normal men, He had never before been brought to task on the things he had done. Plagues, pestilence, decay, destruction. Evil had always just done whatever it pleased without ever having to answer for it because He was beyond the reach of those He harmed.

Not any longer.

Mira had chosen this place because it was the only place that could contain His power. Already her seals were placed within the vault to prevent Him from escaping through any cracks. Viyar had applied his seals to the ebony wood of the door so He couldn't break through. There was only one thing needed to permanently lock away this Evil.

The blood of a virtuous knight.

Jabbing, slashing, not really attempting to actually cut Him open, Kain drove Him back. The Darkness, supremely confident in His own ability to escape and survive, didn't mind that He was being backed into th eopen vault. In fact, He preferred it. The vault was dark. He could become one with that darkness and rid Himself of the human pests that annoyed him so.

He was the Darkness. He was the Depthless Abyss. The Monster of Nightmares. Deathless and eternal. He could not be destroyed nor killed. That He could be hurt was annoying enough. It was His right, given to Him by powers beyond human understanding, to do what he did. Destruction and decay were His domain and they were wrong for trying to deny it of Him.

Come forward into the Abyss, human. Allow it to fester in your soul. Became an acolyte for the Depthless Darkness and find peace in your new purpose.

Kain reared back as the Monster hung there on the precipice of their trap. He drove his sword forward, not into the Monster, but through his own hand.

His blood, hot and alive, burst out on his skin. It spilled into his armor as the pain raced up his nerves and into his mind. It felt like victory.

Swinging out his sword in a wide arc, Kain splattered his blood against the Darkness. Virtuous blood from a pure knight. It burned the Abyss and He hissed in agony as He drew back quickly. He didn't realize he had stepped into their web of seals until He was already in them. Activated by His own power, the seals lit up the room in bright, burning lights.

Hisses of pain roared out from the room. Kain drew back quickly, getting out of the way so Viyar could use his magic to close the room. The impossibly large ebony doors crashed closed and another seal, larger than the multitudes of smaller ones within, burned itself into the wood. Bright, like fire, it faded into dark black, almost invisible against the already dark wood.

Within, the Abyss started screaming its fury. The ground and door rocked as He tried to fight against the light binding seals that were no doubt causing Him untold pain.

Kain ran forward and slammed his hand against the wood. Unlike Mira or Viyar, Kain didn't need any fancy circles. His power was inherent, part of himself. Until the day he gave it away for the bliss of holding a woman, he had a special immunity from corruption and the Corrupted.

His blood sank into the wood, drunk up by it eagerly. It bound itself to the seals already in place, enforcing and strengthening them. Blood was the source of life, and blood had power.

He kept his hand to the door, pressing so hard his wound screamed, until the Beast within finally stopped screaming, stopped rocking the earth. He was in there, trapped. Forever...

Breathing hard, Kain slowly stepped back away from the door and looked up at it. The seal was hard to see, but unmistakable. The stain of his own blood had vanished into the wood, into the spell. The Darkness within was quiet. For once.


Kain's sword clattered to the ground as he turned and ran back to her. Her body, suddenly so small and frail, remained collapsed onto the ground. Viyar was near her, where his legs had given out from exhaustion. He was trying to reach out to her, but his body was too weary to move.

Kain slid down next to her. He held his hands over her body, hesitating to touch for fear of hurting her further. Shaking as he followed the trail of her blood up to the hole in her side with his eyes. A hole stained with darkness that her flowing blood couldn't push out and light couldn't burn away.

"Mira..." Kain's voice broke slightly.

Her white eyes opened slowly as her face turned towards his. Not like she could see, like she was following the sound of his voice. A small smile lifted the corners of her lips but didn't quite banish the pain set around her eyes.

"Kain..." Her voice was hoarse, her hand shaking as she reached out for him.

Gently, like she was made of spun glass, Kain reached down and pulled her up into his arms. The blood on his hand smeared across her back and arm as he lifted her up. There was Darkness smudged across her eyes that would have stolen her sight if it hadn't already been gone. There were bruises appearing under the Darkness where the Abyss's appendage had gripped her. The blood from her side wouldn't stop bleeding, and Kain knew that it never would.

"I-I'm sorry," her voice warbled. "I tried to lead him into the vault...but he caught me..."

"Sh! Stop talking," Kain ordered harshly. "Viyar, come here! You have to heal her."

Viyar looked up at him with swimming brown eyes. Not only was he too tired to try to summon his limitless magic, but he knew already what Kain was refusing to accept. Wounds given by Decay would never heal.

Mira was going to die.

"Kain..." she whispered to him. She knew as well even if he wouldn't admit it.

"Sh!" He repeated fiercely, reaching down to press firmly against her side with his injured hand. Their blood mixed together in the Darkness but the bleeding still didn't stop.

"Kain," she repeated a little more firmly. "You have to listen to me."

"No, you have to stop talking! Viyar, get over here!"

Tears were falling down Viyar's face as he refused to look away. Desperation clawed at Kain's throat as he pressed harder against her bleeding side. Even if he could have stopped the bleeding there, it did nothing to prevent her lung from filling with blood, drowning her from within.

"Kain, I can see...everything..."

"No! You can't! Stop it!" Kain bundled her closer, shaking in fear. Fear of losing her. Fear of hearing what she so badly wanted to say.

Seers got their power from the spaces between the worlds, beyond the veil. Spiritual powers that were fostered in a place that did not exist in their existence. And as they died, as they got closer to that veil, they were able to see with much greater accuracy and distance.

"You have to know, Kain..." Mira reached up and placed her hand over his. Her eyes were far away from him now, even more so than usual. "You're covered in His blood..."

The change of subjects was so abrupt that Kain wasn't sure how to react. He stared at her, a lump in his throat threatening to cut off his breathing as he memorized at her beautiful face.

"Blood has power," Mira smiled gently. "Kain, I can see. He isn't going to be in there forever..."

"What?" Kain started. "No. He is! We didn't do all of that for him to escape!"

"My spiritual seals are going to fade...Viyar's magic seals will break...Your blood seal isn't strong enough to hold him on its own...Not permanently..."

"Then I'll renew the seals! We'll renewthe seals!"

"His Darkness is going to seep out...Not a lot, but enough..."

"No!" Kain's grip tightened. No! This wouldn't have been for nothing!

"Listen to me, Kain," Mira was struggling to breath, her throat bubbling with blood. "I can't see when, but I can see how..."

She coughed, red drops splattering against her lip.

"As the seals fade...and the Darkness leaks...there will be born a demon...a spawn of Darkness...they will call him...the Demon of Flame...He alone will have the power...to release his sire..."

"I'll destroy him!" Kain swore, tightening his grip. "I swear, Mira, I will let no creature interfere with this seal. If I can defeat his sire, I can surely defeat him! How do I find him, Mira? Where is he?"

She shook her head gently, stopping when she was leaning against his chest. "You cannot. He is born in a human form, his powers sealed for his own protection while he grows and matures. You cannot identify him so no one can hurt him while he is young and helpless..."

"Grown, babe, no matter! I will not allow it!"

"Locked away...his power forbidden to even himself...I see him coming here...Burning with obsession and Darkness...He seeks this place in Chaotic madness...Unlocked by the Key..."

"Key? What Key?"

"He needs the Key...to access his powers...to break the blood seal...Blood has power...and his comes from the Darkness...The Key awakens the Dark blood...the doors are broken open...Evil is released onto the world again..."

"I told you, that won't happen!" Kain insisted again. "I'll destroy the demon. I'll destroy the Key! I will let nothing undo our work!"

Mira said nothing for a moment, her hand reaching out to touch his armor. "You're covered in his blood...Blood has power..."

"Mira, you can't die," Kain whispered fiercely, lowering his head over hers. His lips pressed gently against her forehead. It was the first time he had ever allowed himself such a thing and it was a much more bitter feeling than he fantasized.

"The Key controls him," Mira continued softly, her eyes closing. "The Key controls his power...keeps him in check...Whoever has the Key, controls the demon..."

"I will get rid of him and it both...I'll kill him and destroy the Key...I'll do it for you, Mira..." Kain's voice was hoarse and tight as he tried to speak past his despair.

"Kain..." Her own voice matched his, trembling. "Kain, do not forget me."

"Never, Mira. I swear..."

"Kain, please..." She was crying now, tears spilling out over her face and mixing with the Darkness still staining her eyes. "Don't forget my love."

"I won't. I'll always love you, Mira. I'll never forget."

She hiccupped once, snuggling in closer.

"Yes, you will."

Kain's eyes focused on her, angry at the insistence.

"It's okay though," Mira smiled gently. "I'm never going to forget you..."


:My name is Philadelphia Lovegood. Most people call me Phila, my gran calls me Delphie, horrid people that shall not be named call me Phil or Deli. I will not respond to either. This is officially the first entry in my fifth journal to date. It occurred to me as I put the fourth one on the shelf that I probably have a bit of a journaling problem. At least it will be a fun thing to have as I look back on my life. So, to celebrate the maiden voyage of this new journal, here's a pretty flower...:

The soft scratching of Phila's pencil against the thick paper of her new leather bound journal was like calming music to her. There was something just so satisfying about hearing that soft crunch of lead as it moved across the page.

The pen tucked behind her ear, locked in place by her messy mass of copper colored curls, had taken the place of that pencil just a moment ago. The words in her journal, written in her neat, looping handwriting, were in black ink. However, the calla lily she was sketching beneath them was being drawn in pencil, though also in long, sloping lines.

The bright sunshine of the park she was sitting in was ample enough light for her activities. She had chosen a bench next to the path and was sketching with the journal open on her lap. Occasionally, runners and bikers would pass her by, but she mostly had this place to herself.

Phila loved the outdoors. The smell of flowers and trees, the warm, caressing sunshine, and the beauty of life and nature spread out around her. The first things Phila drew with crayons clenched tightly in her tiny fist had been plants and butterflies. Grinning at the calla lily coming into life under her hand, she couldn't say that much of anything had changed.

Phila was so focused on her drawing that she didn't notice the bright gold and red butterfly come fluttering down from the trees above to land in her hair. The mass of copper curls piled messily on her head had just been washed and the smell of flowers was attracting bees and butterflies alike. As it crawled over the messy mound, Phila's bright green eyes sparkled in delight at her flower. Her heart shaped face was topped by a widow's peak and accented with a sweet button nose placed over a pair of full, heart shaped lips. No one would call Phila beautiful, but everyone all agreed that she was just so cute! Which annoyed Phila because it sounded like they were talking to a child.

Her small, compact body did nothing to help her. Her breasts were pert, but not really full. Nothing a man would lose his mind over. The swell of her hips were more enticing, but made Phila more self conscious than pleased with her own appearance. She was on the tall side of short, her hands were tiny with elegant, long fingers, and she had a small spread of freckles over her shoulders and nose that were just a hint darker than her natural skin tone.

Phila felt she looked like a kid. People certainly seemed to agree. Her gran still pinched her cheeks despite the fact that she was seventeen. The 'so cute' comments did nothing to help. Her massively curly hair, so long it flowed almost entirely down her back when let loose, only made her seem even smaller in contrast. She had wanted to cut it once, to maybe make herself a little bigger by perspective, but everyone had bemoaned the idea. She couldn't lose her curls! They were adorable!

Phila often wondered if she was just a puppy who thought she was a human.

The artificial shutter click from a camera phone made her lift her head. The butterfly, trying to find the nectar in her flower scented hair, took flight in response. Tammy, Phila's best friend, grinned and flipped her phone around.

"Check it out," she said.

Phila blinked at herself. Sitting cross-legged on a bench bent over a picture of a calla lily with a bright butterfly in her hair. She beamed at the sight.

"Wow! Send me that, I love it!"

Tammy nodded and pulled her phone back. "Sorry I'm late. Jake is colorblind. I told him not to wait until the last minute to find his tie and vest, but he doesn't listen."

"It's okay," Phila beamed, closing her journal and standing up. The pencil and pen – fought free from her curls – slid into a small pocket on the cover made just for them. The journal then went into the purse slung over her shoulder and resting against her hip.

"You haven't been waiting long, right?" Tammy asked, worried, as they started walking down the concrete path towards the opposite entrance of the park.

"No," Phila shook her head. "I was just playing with my new journal. Did you like it?"

"Very colorful," Tammy snickered.

"It's red," Phila beamed.

"Hard not to notice."

"I was just bored of black and brown for journal colors. I wanted something this time that just says 'Boom!'. You know what I mean?"

"I haven't kept a diary since I was, like, twelve. So, no," Tammy laughed.

Phila wasn't insulted, she laughed along with her. She knew that Tammy didn't mean anything by it and it didn't diminish her love of the activity any.

"You got everything ready?" Phila asked excitedly.

"Well, with Jake's vest and tie now taken care of of, yes. We officially have..." Tammy paused to check her phone. "Three hours and twenty...two minutes to get ready. Think that's enough?"

Phila laughed. "It better be. My dad's bringing the cameras. He says he might be a bit late so my mom is taking the 'before' pictures with her phone."

"Alright!" Tammy beamed, slipping her phone into her back pocket. "This is going to be the best night of our lives!"

Phila nodded eagerly as Tammy threw her arm around her shoulders. Intellectually, she knew that junior prom wasn't a huge deal in the grand scheme of her life. She understood that she had a whole life ahead of her and that this was just one night of many more to come.

Emotionally though, this was going to be the best night of her life! A beautiful gown, a long limousine, and the biggest, fanciest party she had ever been to. She was going to feel like a princess tonight, gorgeous and elegant. She didn't have a date, so she was going on a three-way with Tammy and her boyfriend Jake. Which wasn't all that abnormal to how things usually went. Tammy had told Jake he would need to fight to dance with her because Phila had been her friend longer and she loved her more than him.

Tammy's mother was picking up the gowns from the tailor. Her father was trying to hide from the estrogen bomb that was about to explode on his house. Phila's mother was in charge of hair and make up and her father was in charge of bringing the cameras then hiding with Tammy's father.

"Uh-oh." Tammy's hand reached out and stopped Phila against the chest.

"What?" Phila asked, following her eyes.

The two of them watched as a black cat emerged from the bushes where he had been watching them and slowly started across the path."

"Great, now we can't get through here," Tammy threw up her arms in annoyance.

"And why not?"

"Because you can't cross a black cat! It's bad luck! I am not inviting bad luck on prom night."

Phila laughed. The cat turned his golden gaze on her as he took his sweet time crossing the sidewalk. He stopped halfway through and just sat down. His eyes held hers and Phila snickered.

"I think he's trying to stare me down."

"Quick, go around," Tammy pulled her forward to the portion the cat hadn't crossed.

Phila laughed and ran with her, watching as the cat turned away from her to lick his paws then begin cleaning his face. The two of them giggled as they jogged down the path away from the bad luck of the careless black cat.

Phila and Tammy lived on opposite sides of this bike path in the park. They often came here to hang out or play around. At the moment, they were running away from Phila's house and towards Tammy's because Tammy's mother had a three way mirror in her closet.

Laughing, somehow racing now, the two of them turned out of the park and ran towards the housing area just across the street. Tammy's longer legs put her in the lead. Phila's wild hair fell out of its band as she sprinted and the curls became free, bouncing behind her.

The two of them laughed breathlessly as they ran down Tammy's street. Phila's shorter legs fell behind on the straightaway and Tammy's took the porch steps two at a time. She slammed against the door and cried out in victory.


"Cheater!" Phila accused immediately, landing on the porch just a few seconds later. Both of them were panting, laughing, as Tammy's mother opened the door.

"What are you two doing?" she asked, looking between them with a smile.

"Whoopin' butt!" Tammy pushed past her mom, Phila just a step behind.

"Getting sweaty and dirty, more like it," Phila's mother said, looking up pointedly at the mess her daughter's hair had become in the jog. The wild curls, tight and small, were now poofed around around her head and shoulders.

"I couldn't let her win!" Phila said in her own defense.

"And yet, you did," Tammy grinned, tossing back her own brown hair. The short bob was straight and neat and no worse for the wear from the race. "Ooh! Is that my dress?"

Tammy, sufficiently distracted, ran over to the couch. Two dresses were waiting inside of clear plastic bags from the tailor's. Tammy's deep blue and Phila's pale pink.

"Don't touch," Tammy's mother grabbed her by the shoulder's to stop her. "You haven't taken a shower yet. Now get up there while we start fighting with Phila's hair."

"Pictures!" Phila cried before Tammy could go.

"Oh, right." Phila's mother laughed as she pulled out her phone. "Alright, now smile."

Tammy and Phila threw their arms around each other and beamed at the camera. Tammy in her gray sweat pants and old black shirt and Phila wearing her oldest jean shorts and a shirt so long it could probably be a dress.

The picture was snapped and the evening of completely feminine, overly excited preparation for a night that was more of a symbolic milestone than anything began. It was no less meaningful for being largely pointless, in fact it meant that much more.

They didn't have to spend hours meticulously applying makeup, fixing their hair, or dressing. But they wanted to. And it was such a fun ritual that they found themselves treating it like they were getting ready to visit the Queen of England herself.

Phila's wild hair was so untameable that it still wasn't under control by the time that Tammy showered, dried her hair, and sat down to get her make up done by her mother. Brushing her hair was a problem, setting it even more so. The bouncy curls were just too much for unprofessional hair stylists.

Phila's mother was determined though, and she had hints, tips, and tricks open on her phone as she fought the curls with bobby pins between her lips. There was a determined look on her face, born from years of fighting with her daughter's crazy hair.

As Tammy's mother was brushing her daughter's hair, Phila's mother was scooping back the wild curls and creating a braid like a band across the top of her head to hold back the tide. The rest of it she forced into obedience with a combination of bobby pins and styling creams. She pulled the mass mostly out of Phila's face, a few of the smaller tendrils falling down around her temples. She pinned it high on top of her head and trailing down in a cascade of shiny, tight curls that bounced with life. Then, beaming, she pulled out the decorative white flowers that almost looked like roses and started clipping them gently in the curls that fell down her back.

Tammy's mother took over then, trading places so that Tammy could get her hair done and Phila could have her makeup applied.

Tammy's short hair was easier to handle by far. A black band with a sparkling jeweled floral design near the right ear pushed back gently waved hair accenting her slightly rounded face and the shadowed makeup that brought out the light in her eyes.

In contrast, Phila's eyes were brightened with a mixture of white eye shadow and makeup glitter that made her face shimmer. Her sweetheart lips were painted a light, kissing pink and perfume that smelled of daydreams and flowers was applied to her neck and wrists.

"Alright," their mothers stepped back at nearly the same time.

"Get your dresses and go put them on," Phila's mother smiled.

"And no lingerie!" Tammy's mother added as the girl's nearly ran to scoop up their precious gowns and run to Tammy's room.

"Do I look good?" Tammy was asking, touching her hair gently as though it were fragile.

"You look so good," Phila gushed.

Tammy closed - then locked - her bedroom door behind them. She was grinning like a cat burgler as Phila lovingly pulled the protective bag off of her dress. She reached out and stroked the shimmering chiffon layers that made up the long skirt that would flutter around her legs.

"Wait a minute," Tammy grinned, setting her own dress down. "Don't put it on yet."

"Why not? What's up?" Phila looked over to her.

From the depths of her closet, pulled from one of the storage bins she had hidden them in, Tammy grinned as she pulled out a box with the name of a local lingerie store.

"Tammy!"Phila laughed, covering her mouth as she set the long, thin box down on the bed.

"You have no idea what I had to do to get these. Also, I really hope your size hasn't changed since last year. I had to use the sizes I got from you last Halloween because I knew there was no way you would let me do it if I told you."

"And you were right," Phila laughed. "Well, what did you get? Let me see."

Tammy grinned and threw back the box lid, revealing the two sets nestled inside amongst tissue paper and fake rose petals. She reached down and lifted the black one she had gotten for herself. All lace and silk, it was dark and sensual. The thin panties didn't look strong enough to hold up against any material coarser than itself. The strapless bustier was nearly completely see through and connected to a garter belt that would hook to the black hose still in the box.

"What do you think?" Tammy grinned, holding it up. "Think Jake will just die?"

"I think your mother will if she finds out you have that," Phila snickered.

"Then it's perfect!" Tammy laughed, setting it down. "Check out yours. It took me forever to find something that I thought would look good on you."

Phila grinned and reached down. She had to brush away one of the false red rose petals before lifting up the white floral lace panties. They were more air than fabric and dangled from her fingers strangely salaciously. Phila set those aside and pulled out the top. A babydoll style brasserie with totally sheer fabric that made her blush. The strapless bra portion was more floral lace with a small, pale pink bow between the breasts. It weighed almost nothing in her hands and revealed almost everything. The lace of the bra was just thick enough around the center to conceal her nipples, but that faded away so the rest of her breast would be mostly visible.

"Tammy!" she sputtered.

"Aw, you're blushing!" Tammy squealed delightedly.

"What would I possibly need to wear this for?" Phila quickly gathered it to her chest as if to hide it from prying eyes.

"Because you cannot feel like a sexy princess with granny panties. Also, I'm pretty sure it's illegal to wear regular underwear under fancy gowns. Oh, stop freaking out. No one is going to see it. It's just for you, Phila. And any future boyfriends you may have. You can thank me then."

"You are such a pervert!" Phila bit her lip anxiously, staring down at the lace and chiffon material.

Then again, Tammy wasn't exactly wrong about wearing beautiful things under beautiful things. Phila hadn't exactly been planning on wearing granny panties, but none of her current underwear selection even came close to this quality.

Ignoring her, Tammy was already pulling off her clothes. The two of them had been friends for so long that they didn't really feel modest around each other any longer. Phila imagined that would change quickly in the face of this babydoll lingerie.

Tammy had no problems pulling on hers. She was already snapping the garter belt onto her hose by the time that Phila had worked up her courage to run into her bathroom and put on hers.

The sweet lace caressed her skin like cream. The lightweight material was like air and she felt just as naked as she would in her bare skin as she stepped out.

No sooner than her foot appeared outside the door that Tammy let out along whistle. Her friend was already settling her elegant, dark blue gown into place, the zipper hanging open. She was smiling at her even as Phila was blushing and attempting to hide herself.

"You're acting like I've never seen you naked before," Tammy laughed as Phila padded quickly over to the bed and her waiting dress.

"This is a step above naked!" Phila told her, quickly opening the zipper on her dress.

It may have been revealing and embarrassing, but Phila couldn't deny how good the chiffon of her dress felt against the lace as she pulled it on. The long skirt was formless and relied on her for it's shape. It connected to a corset style bustier that cupped Phila's small breasts and pushed them up temptingly. Like they were being offered up to the view of whoever might care to look.

The girls helped each other zip up their gowns and Phila adjusted the material for a moment. She didn't need to do much. It was like the dress and babydoll lingerie were made for each other.

There were no sleeves on the corset style top, but it did have a silk ribbon up the back. There was a slightly floral design to the corset, detectable only by the different directions of the thread designing it. The gown was a single color - pale, dreamy pink - but for the dark pink ribbon on the back and the white lace at the edges of the corset.

Tammy was already dressed, tapping her feet impatiently as Phila slipped her feet into the nude colored heels she had chosen for the gown. They didn't make much of a statement, but they made her taller and, when she stood up, she felt a real grown up,

"How do I look?" She asked, spinning for effect. The skirt of her dress flared up wide then wrapped tight around her legs as she stopped. Phila couldn't help but laugh at the feeling. It was the sort of indulgence she used to allow herself a lot as a child when she used to wear dresses all the time. Now, as an adult, it was a rare treat.

"Absolutely fabulous!" Tammy clapped her hands delightedly. "Come on, we have a photo op with our adoring fans. Then a limo freshly stocked with sparkling cider, which Jake has already promised to switch out for real champagne at some point."

Phila laughed as the two of them left the room. They made a stop on the way back to the living room and kitchen to utilize Tammy's mother's three way mirror.

Phila stepped into the sweet spot between them so her full body was reflected back at her from three directions. The sight of herself, almost unrecognizable to her own eyes, was enough to steal her breath away.

Wanting to touch that beautiful figure in the mirror, Phila ran her hands up her thighs, across her belly, over her chest, then down her arms.

"You clean up nice, bae," Tammy smiled, putting an arm around her. "Kind of makes part of you wish that you could dress like this all the time, huh?"

"You'd get bored with the prep work after two days," Phila smiled, leaning her head against Tammy's shoulder. "But, yeah, I see what you mean."

:If I had known...then...I would have hugged my family tighter. I would have taken more pictures, no matter how many my mother wanted. I wouldn't have laughed at her for crying tears of joy. I wouldn't have demanded my father not hug me too tight so as not to mess up my dress. If I had known that I would never see them again, I think I would have stayed home that night instead...:

High school prom was all the elegance of a debutante ball with all the energy of a nightclub. The strange clash of formal gowns and tuxedos against pounding music and blinding lights created its own sort of atmosphere unmatched anywhere else.

The finishing touches on their outfits had been the jewelry draped over them when they returned to their parents. Tammy had chosen to don herself in silver and diamonds. They dangled from her ears, from her neck, and at her wrist. The contrast of her dark dress with the bright jewelry was somehow pleasing on the eyes.

Phila, on the other hand, had chosen bronze colored jewelry. Antique style earrings dangled a single pearl teardrop from a floral design disc. Three thin, plain bracelets covered each arm. And, around her neck, Phila was wearing an antique, bronze finished key that was shaped like a filigree heart at the head where it connected to the chain and had another heart in the negative space between the two large teeth on the end.

Phila, Tammy, and Jake walked into the center their school had rented out with bright smiles on their faces. Jake had each of them on one arm, wearing a blue vest and tie but a pink carnation on his lapel so he matched both of them.

The theme this year was Candyland and the prom committee had gone all out. There were vases of fake showroom candy at each table. Pastel blues, greens, reds, and purples decorated the entire room. The buffet of food against the far wall was stacked high with treats. The DJ stand was decorated in multiple candy logos and Candyman was the song playing when they walked in.

"Let's take that table there!" Tammy yelled over the music, pointing to a round table along the far wall with a bright green table cloth. The candy vase was filled with lemon flavored 'candy' that was as fake as it was pretty.

Phila had brought her purse along despite the size and fact that it didn't match her dress for the sole reason that she was carrying an extra pair of clothes for Tammy. Tammy had already made plans to retire with Jake to a hotel afterwards. Phila had already promised pretend they were having a sleepover at her house. Tammy would only need to make it believable by showing up early in the morning before Phila's parents were awake.

The purse with spare clothes, makeup, and Phila's journal were placed on a spare chair and pushed out of sight under the table. Tammy wasted no more time before grabbing Phila and yanking her towards the dance floor with an order for Jake to get them drinks.

Phila was a decent dancer. Tammy was nothing to be impressed by. They were never going to get a circle of admirers around them. However, it was hard to say that anyone had more fun than the two of them for the remainder of the song.

Since there were three of them, they took dancing in turns. Phila was happy to give up the slow dances to Jake and sit back to sketch her friends in her journal as they rocked together. When it came time for the more fast paced, active songs, Tammy took turns dancing with Phila and Jake. Jake and Phila even danced once together, though it was clear he was more interested in his girlfriend. A fact she did not begrudge him at all.

It was fun and exciting and it was the sort of happiness that stole Phila's breath away. As the night was coming to an end, Phila scooped her journal off of the table and took it outside to get some fresh air and put the finishing touches on the sketch of her friends.

Phila wasn't the only one to seek the outdoors. The yard behind the civic center was a rather simple garden with some meandering paths and a fountain in the center. A few couples had come outside to make out without the chaperons breathing down their necks. They were standing off in the shadows of the night, only looking up to see if Phila was a chaperon. Once they determined she wasn't, they quickly went back to their own business.

Near the back of the center, they were pressed right up against a river that flowed through the city. It was polluted and low due to a recent drought. The water flowed like black obsidian in the dark of the night and the scent of it tickled Phila's nose.

She smiled at the river and moved to a stone bench that had been neglected because it was easily visible from the center and therefore not a good make out spot. It faced the river though and Phila took a delicate seat before opening her journal on her lap. The sketch of Tammy and Jake was half finished, but the embrace was somehow warm and loving even on the page.

Phila pulled out her pen first and began documenting the fun she was having. Imagining coming back and reading this again when she was seventy, eighty, ninety years old and remembering the wonderful time she had when she was still young and pretty at a dance with her best friend.

The cool wind off of the river played with the hem of her dress. The thin fabric was not nearly enough protection for a chilly spring night but Phila wasn't ready to go inside yet. She wanted to finish this so she could spend the rest of the night having fun without worrying about her journal.

A few minutes later, as she was working on the sketch again, a soft meowing had her lifting her head.

"Huh?" Phila blinked in surprise.

The black cat with golden eyes...

No way. It must be a different cat. How would that cat have gotten all the way over here?

It was sitting down in front of her, staring at her in that direct,expressionless way that cats could pull off so easily.

"Hey there," Phila smiled at him, tucking her pencil between the pages."You have a home, boy?"

Taking his sweet time, the cat stood up. Like he might not even care, like it wasn't even a big deal, the cat jumped up onto the bench and turned around. He sat down next to her, his face turned away. His tail twitched against her dress and Phila laughed.

"Would you mind, your highness, if I pet you?" She asked, reaching for him. She saw his ears and head twitch towards her, but he made no move to stop her from petting him. The black fur would, no doubt, stick to her dress, but she didn't mind all that much at the moment. How often did a stray cat allow you to pet them?

He must be a neighborhood cat, she decided as he began purring gently. Wild, but still accustomed to people enough to allow them to touch him and make him feel good.

Phila smiled as she wrote, with one hand, about the cat. She was considering adding a small sketch of him to the bottom of the page. Just a small something. It was such an inconsequential detail, but she didn't want to forget anything about tonight.

"Alright, kitty," Phila smiled at him, closing her journal and locking the latch on the side.

The cat turned its head back to her, regarding her almost coldly.

"It's time for me to go back. It's past my turn to dance. Though you are a wonderful date."

Laughing, Phila stood up and tucked her journal close to her chest. She smiled back at the civic center, at the lights she could see flashing through the windows and the muted music that was dulled even further by the water.

A breeze lifted up her skirts and Phila took a deep breath of the semi-fresh air.

Purring, the cat rubbed his body along her ankle. Phila smiled at him and was about to tell him to go find someone else to pet him.

The wind got stronger, pushing at her insistently. Phila frowned, reflexively hunkering down as the wind increased in pressure against her. She took a step back automatically as the water behind her started churning menacingly.

Thecat, completely unaffected, jumped up onto the bench and turned to face her calmly.

Phila opened her mouth to call out in panic. Panic that only worsened when she realized that the wind was stealing her voice from her. She couldn't call out. She could barely breath!

There was no storm. There wasn't a single cloud in the sky! Where was this wind coming from?

Phila made to step forward, to get back inside and warn the others. Her high heels wobbled and she ended up falling back a few steps instead.

What was going on?! What about the others. There were more people outside, right? They must have seen her pass. Surely at least one of them would come help!

The cat on the bench was licking his paws again. His ears weren't twitching, his tail was moving languidly, as though the wind wasn't even hitting him.

Bent down almost double, her skirts flapping behind her erratically, Phila struggled to take even a single step forward. It was a hard fought battle, but she won it. And she gritted her teeth in preparation to take another and get out of this wind!

The cat lowered his paw, licking his chops as he looked her over.

As she tried to take a second step, the cat stood up. He walked to the end of the bench and bent down, his butt sticking up as he looked her over. She saw his body preparing to jump and her eyes widened in dismay.

Graceful, fluid, literally feline, the cat leapt from the bench. Phila reeled back as claws flashed in the light of the moon. The pads of his feet were soft against her forehead. He slammed against her and the weight of his body coupled with the force of the wind knocked her back.

His back feet landed and he used her as a springboard and pushed himself back towards the bench, flipping neatly in the air to land right back on his feet.

None of which Phila saw. The force of him using her to jump back sent her reeling back further. The wind forced her even more and her heels clicked against the ground as she struggled to find her balance once again.

She hit the edge of the steep embankment above the river. There was no rail because there had never needed to be one before. She was suspended over the air for just a moment. A long moment that stretched out with one hand reaching out to grab onto nothing.

One last burst of air sent her over. Phila cried out as she fell. The cold waters of the river splashed over her and her body almost immediately went numb. She clasped her journal closer to her chest as her thin dress suddenly seemed far too heavy in the water.

She tried to struggle, to swim back to the surface, but the water had her firmly in its grasp. She tried to curl around herself, to put some warmth back into her body.

Surely someone had seen her go over. Surely someone would come in to save her. Surely...


"My lord!" The elaborately dressed seer ran into King Atuse's chambers where he was speaking to Corvis, his chief adviser. The seer was older, out of breath, and his eyes were wide.

"What is it?" Atuse asked, frowning at the odd behavior.

"It's the Key, sire!" He announced loudly, making both of them stiffen in surprise. "The Key that controls the Flame Demon is finally descending on our world!"


"The Key?" Trich frowned up from the massage table she was laid out on. She looked up at the seer that had come rushing into her relaxation session.

The young girl was plain and rather boring. However, her power was unequaled in Queen Trich's kingdom. More's the pity. Trich so much preferred having men around her.

"And why should that matter to me?" She frowned, laying her head back down. "Who would care to break the seal on this Fire Demon?"

"My lady, King Atuse is already sending men to fetch it," the seer pressed. "You know him. If he should get the power of the Fire Demon, your kingdom shall be in jeopardy."

Frowning, Trich lifted her head again and placed her chin on her hand.

"Well, you are right about that. Hm...I wonder what kind of lover the Fire Demon would make..."

"Um, I can't be sure, my lady," the seer frowned at the question. She wished that she could be surprised that her queen would wonder such a thing.

Trich grinned. "Very well. Send some of my men to pick it up. And start looking for this Fire Demon. Tell me if he's handsome."


"The Fire Demon?" King Tutsal reared back. "Surely you jest! That's only a legend."

"No, my lord," his seer shook his head gravely. "I'm afraid not. The Key at last is coming through the veil into our world, and I'm afraid that the Fire Demon will begin to stir."

"My love?" Tutsol turned quickly.

Queen Modra's hand tightened on her sword, her jaw clenching. "We cannot allow King Atuse nor Queen Trich to get a hold of that Key and control the Fire Demon. I'll go myself! Tell me where the Key is landing, seer. I'll make my way there with all haste!"


The Metolol Forest, deep within the haunted mists. In a meadow filled with golden flowers and guarded by trees with white leaves. The Key was going to be descending there.

Namtar's fists tightened as he looked out from the cliff over the vibrantly, dark green trees of Metolol Forest.

The Key was finally coming. After so many years of waiting, wondering, worrying, it was coming to their world. He wasn't the only one coming for it though. He had to be quick if he wanted to get to the Key before anyone else.

He couldn't allow anyone but himself take control of that Key. He had to claim it for himself.

And destroy it.