Ares sighed wearily, glancing at his surroundings. He had been wandering for so long, ever since that fateful meeting with Hellborne, in the depths of his mind. To his surprise and frustration, he found during his wanders that there were many blocked-off parts of his mind; places he could not access no matter how hard he tried.

It was a twisted place; his mind. Innumerable pathways, dead-ends and chambers were contained therein and as stated earlier, most were cordoned off. Compounding his frustration, there was no clear landmark to obtain and after only a short walk it was already possible to get lost. "A Halar-damned, seemingly endless maze," he swore.

Strangely, he found that he could visualize Hellborne's battle with the Lieutenant which had so heinously backstabbed him. Ares even discovered that he begrudged the daemon's strength and watched on with awe as Hellborne unleashed his powerful Anti-climax technique; the attack taking off nearly half the Lieutenant's hulking form.

"Bloody hell," he whispered, still watching as Hellborne howled triumphantly and began pursuing the greatly disabled Lieutenant who had fled, screaming in torment, into the thick forest.

Ysera iriad Noh felnarchy.

The strange whisper shook him out of his reverie. Whirling around, he muttered, "What the hell?"

Kratos pallia fel miriam. he whispered. The words seemed to come from around the bend, thus he began approaching slowly. "Who are you?" he called out tentatively.


Stepping around the corner, he looked around and said, "Show yourself!"


Then, all of a sudden, the dark walls surrounding him began pulsing with an intense red. Ares gaped and backed off slowly when abruptly, he felt himself falling. A massive tunnel had somehow manifested underneath his feet, sending him plunging down into the abyss. "Bloody heck!" he swore as he fell down and down; the wind screaming as he plunged ever-downwards….

His fall came to a sudden end when he found himself landing in a cold, dark and immense chamber. Howling in pain, he struggled to his feet before looking up to determine his location. His blood however ran cold as he sighted that which was before him.

You are finally here.

A huge sword stood proudly in the middle of the room; its hilt enchained to the floor. Its razor edge glimmered with a furious red; flagrant flames enveloping the entirety of the weapon. Etched upon its edge were crimson runes which burned with a malevolent fire. Yet again Ares learnt that he could read them and once more did he feel a cold shiver as he read the runes burned onto the blade's edge.

"Apocalypse; the Wrath Blade, Holy Slayer and the Scourge of Doomsday," he said with a shudder. "Were you the one who summoned me?"

It is I. Ares fel Hellborne; it is good of you to come.

"I'm talking to a sword now? How much more insane can one get?" he mused, his eyes trailing over the magnificent form of the sword.

Insanity begets you not, Ares. Come. This day I share with you the truth; for you are my vessel and my bearer. You shall be the one who wields me one day; you who boast great ancestry.

"What?" he whispered.

Come. Ask me your questions, for I shall answer them this day.

Ares gaped in shock; his mind uncertain of the great blade before him. Then, finally, in a teetering voice he asked, "Who…is Hellborne?"

Maia did not know when she lapsed into unconsciousness but she found herself dreaming about many things. Most of all, she found herself dreaming about her master, the Grand Maester Ebenezer.

They were walking down a beautifully decorated corridor within the Hyvanna Academy when her master asked, "How fares your studies thus far, young Maia?"

She was but sixteen then; young, raw and impulsive. "The teachers are going too slowly. And the fundamentals so easy to master! I thought you said that the Hunters and Huntresses were the most elite of Havan's forces; but the pathway to be one appears to be most unchallenging!"

"You needn't raise your voice so," Ebenezer said, a small smile creeping up his aged, chiseled face.

"But nonetheless, I expected the journey to be harder," Maia said, lowering her voice now. "It is kind of disappointing, truth be told."

Ebenezer laughed and ruffled Maia's hair, a gesture which the young girl found oh-so-annoying. Ducking away, she muttered, "Stop treating me like a five-year-old!"

"You stop acting like an old fart then," Ebenezer chuckled. Then, he said firmly, "Maia, you ought to learn patience. You've only been here for what, three months? Give your teachers a chance."

"But sir, at the pace they're going, it'll take a lifetime to learn all the basics!"

"Patience, Maia. Patience is a fundamental value for all homme. Patience entails one's not giving-in to emotion or desire, a discipline of the utmost importance. Patience helps to alleviate stress, thus adding many more years to one's lifespan. If I've said it once, I'll say it again, learn patience, Maia!"


Ebenezer interrupted, his tone more gentle now however, "Maia, you need to remember; you are but sixteen. You are the youngest in your class; heck, you are the youngest in the entire Academy! You are a phenomenon; a rare case rarely seen by any of the educators in the Academy."


"What I am saying, Maia dear, is that you are young. The young are renowned for their ability to learn; they soak up knowledge like a sponge. For the older, they are more fastidious, more set in their ways. They are less prone to compromise and as a result, it is harder for them to learn. This is why our trainers proceed at such a slow pace. They mean not to irritate you, but rather they have all their students' interests at heart."

"Yet, is there no class catered for the young? A place which would be much better-suited for one such as me? I would have thought that Hyvanna be more flexible than this!"

"It pains me to say this, Maia, but the truth is….the Order decays day by day."

"What are you saying, Master?"

Ebenezer smiled and looked at the perfect face before him. "Havan is perishing slowly, Maia. Once, we were a bastion of supreme power; the greatest civilization on earth. The Halar's grace was strong with us and the line of Lucias flourished in the form of the Ladies. The Order thrived under the tutelage of the Ladies; trusted and honored by the common folk, respected and feared by the noble. Then…."

"The Lady Elena disappeared."

"Yes, and with her, eight of the Order; all of whom were high-ranking members of the Grand Council. That was when everything began to go wrong."

Maia bit her bottom lip and asked, "Why do you say this, sir?"

Ebenezer sighed wearily, rubbing his temple. "The entirety of Havan was thrown into uproar and many suspected the Order of treason. The citizens very nearly revolted but the Lord General Basil Tirid, Grand Maester of Hyvanna came forth and offered himself as the bearer of wrongs. His actions stayed the hands of the citizens for all knew Basil to be a good and honest man but ever since then, the Order has never been trusted completely. Also, the few nefarious that remained amongst the Order began seeking more power and as such, they began to drag the Order into the storm of politics. No longer is Hyvanna an Order of truth and justice but rather a den of mischief and sorrow…."

He looked at Maia and smiled. "It is so hard to attract new members to the Order now. Once, mothers were practically begging us to accept their children. Now, it is up to us to go forth and search for those who are deemed worthy. Most of our new members; they are the despondent, those with little hope left. Precious few are like you, Maia von Hildarin; young, exuberant and filled with the joy of life, too little remain now."

Maia gulped and looked away from her master.

Ebenezer chuckled and pulled her back towards him, his eyes warm now. "Maia, you are one of the new generation, the ones who will inherit the Order and the citadel of Havan itself. I pray that you will be one of those who rid Hyvanna of the stigma and the petty politics that has befouled it for so long; my heart tells me you are capable. I now offer you advice, my young protégé. Never abandon your studies and always remain patient. Never let arrogance and pride cloud you and be steadfast in all your undertakings."

She nodded grimly and whispered, "I will keep your word." She now understood the task that she held; the charge her master had entrusted her with.

He smiled kindly again and murmured, "I wasn't expecting any less from you, dear Maia." As she bowed to him, he asked, "Come, let us pray."

"Ita amen."

"Impossible….that's impossible!"

Nothing is impossible, Ares. Impossibility is but a term to describe something that goes beyond limitation, and limitation is something that we are not bound by.

"Your words are monstrous!"

The truth is not always to our liking, Ares. That is reality.

Ares glared at Apocalypse. "It cannot be…. I can't be…."

That is the truth. You will come to terms with it…..eventually.

"Shut up!" he roared. "Would you just shut up?"

There was a momentary silence. Then, Ares began to laugh maniacally, "This is all a dream. It has to be a dream! I can't be talking to a sword right? I can't be…."

This is no dream, Ares. The sooner you come to realize this truth, the faster you will gain strength.

His face ashen, Ares hissed, "What strength? The strength of demons? I do not desire that!"

Nevertheless, it is your heritage, Ares. Accept it and infinite power shall be set at your feet!

"Never! I am not a demon!"

Apocalypse did not reply for a moment. Then…..

This conversation is over!

"I am not a demon!" Ares howled once more when Apocalypse began immolating; its flames a fiery black. "What?" he hissed, falling back slowly.

You will learn to accept this truth, Ares. In the meantime, I shall return you to your original body; where you can best witness this fallen world and learn that it is your fate….to destroy the forsaken homme!

A red-black pentagram emerged under his feet abruptly. Ares swore again and tried to leap out of it but somehow, he could not budge his feet. 'An enchantment?' he thought wildly.

Vivas telportia neh Ares aria.

The pentagram flashed to life; a great black beam rising forth from it, enveloping Ares completely. He screamed in anguish before his entire world turned black.

Hellborne sneered triumphantly, "Come back, Blasphemy! Do not flee from me so!" He was tracking the giant Lieutenant, who had long since fled after being stricken by Anti-climax.

He suddenly stopped, his mouth gaping. His body began trembling uncontrollably; his numerous tattoos filling with an indescribable light. The daemon then released his grip on his broadsword; both hands reaching up towards his chest in a futile attempt to stem the incessant convulsions there.

"You can't….you can't!" Hellborne suddenly screamed. He then threw his head back and emitted a terrifying cry. "You cannot! Don't steal this moment, don't steal my freedom!"

With a last unearthly cry, he shuddered before falling forward; his form becoming limp with unconsciousness now. His great wing vanished in a puff of dust, his tattoos and pallid flesh began to assume their normal, healthy color once more. His eyes, slightly ajar and once blazing crimson took on their normal hue yet again before shutting tight with fatigue….

Kirin rushed through the forest, his face taut with worry. "Come on, where the hell are you guys?" he whispered, his double-edge loose in his hands.

He had been traveling through the forest; his pace brisk when he heard the sound of crackling thunder, or so most would have thought. He had however traveled with Ares and Maia for some time to be able to differentiate between thunder and that which he considered unnatural. 'Magic,' he realized, 'Ares and Maia….they would only use magic if the situation be dire!'

Swearing furiously, he immediately began to run towards the source of the crackling noises. "Damn, damn, damn!" he grunted as he pushed his way through the undergrowth, wincing as branches came slapping back into his face.

Then, the sounds simply vanished. Kirin swore again and increased his pace as much as his stamina would allow. Finally, he burst forth from the forest into a massive and recently upturned clearing that he recognized as the site of a major magic battle recently.

"Ares! Maia! Where the hell are you?" he roared, his eyes scanning everywhere for a sign of life.

"You ought to be more careful, Kirin. Demons still lurk about, even though the Lieutenant has been defeated," a low voice replied.

He whirled around, only to look upon the dark hooded form of the druid Caine. "You again!" he cried, tightening his grip on his trusty weapon.

"You can relax. I mean you no harm."

"Bullshit! You were going on and on about how Maia was an enemy to us and how we ought to be wary of her. For all I know, you might have been the one that caused this entire ruckus!" He consequently leveled his blade at the druid and said fiercely, "Now, where are they?"

Caine sighed and replied, "It is not I who caused all this mess. I admit, I did strike at the Huntress yet ultimately…." Motioning at the nigh-destroyed clearing, he continued, "The Lieutenant….and Hellborne were mostly responsible for all this."

"Hellborne?" Kirin repeated incredulously.

Caine shook his head wearily and said, "'tis is not the place for lengthy explanations. Please, Kirin, would you just care for your two companions now?"

Kirin blinked and said, "What? Where are they?"

The druid whispered, his right hand pointing out the direction, "They are over there, resting….."

"Ares! Maia!" Kirin dashed past him without waiting for the druid to finish. He found them quickly and ran over to them….. And he then came to an abrupt screeching stop.

Ares was lying asleep against a large boulder, his broadsword stuck into the ground next to him. And to his left the Huntress Maia slept. Kirin was taken aback by the injuries she had suffered; though upon closer examination he determined that most of her wounds had stopped bleeding. Her hunting blades, Aliar and Avitlier, hung loosely in her grip. The greenish tinge that lined their edges indicated recent use.

He checked up on them both and satisfied that they were in no immediate harm, he got up. "What did you do to them?" he hissed, turning to the druid…..who had disappeared. "What the….where the hell are you, you freaking bastard?"

There was no answer. Kirin shook his head in disbelief and trudged back to his companions, muttering under his breath, "Bloody druids."

Checking again on Ares and Maia, he sighed and muttered, "What on earth happened to you both?"

Some way off…

Caine frowned as he observed Kirin tend to both Ares and Maia.

"Ares fel Hellborne," he then whispered, "You have been…and are certainly a most interesting prospect. The human Ares and the demon Hellborne, both of one body; which personality is the dominant, I wonder….

And you, young Huntress Maia; you have proven more interesting than I initially believed. Perhaps…perhaps I ought to observe you both for sometime more….."

Maia woke up with a start, her head throbbing with pain and her mouth feeling like sandpaper. Not a pleasant start to her morning certainly.

Rubbing her temple, she whispered, "Master, I will fulfill my promise." She then glanced down at her hands and murmured, "I will seek greater strength!"

"You're awake!"

She looked up to see Kirin barreling towards her, his arms outstretched. "Hey, what the….," she began before the wind was knocked out of her. Kirin had caught her in a ferocious bearhug.

"Damn you, Maia, how dare you instruct me to pick fruits while you fought the toughest battle of your life?" the Hym, releasing her, promptly demanded.

She gasped for breath before smiling weakly at him. "I did not know…."

He tut-tutted her before saying, "You've been asleep for almost an entire day now. How do you feel?"

Maia blinked and looking down at herself, answered, "Strangely, I feel as if I am almost fresh….though that should be impossible… Just yesterday I felt as if my whole body was being crushed in by a demolisher…."

Kirin smirked and nodded approvingly. "It would seem as if all the potions I brought from Fel' Mir came in useful after all."

Maia smiled and asked, "Where's Ares?"

Kirin looked at her darkly and muttered, "He woke up earlier than you did."

"Really?" Maia whispered uncertainly, yesterday's events still fresh in her mind, "Pray tell, did he seem a little different today?"

Kirin sighed and replied, "He woke up, swore a lot before marching off." He motioned to his left, "I think he went to the waterfall yonder."

"The waterfall was back east, Kirin," Maia sighed.

"Oh right. Sorry."

"It's fine. It's not your fault that you have a lousy sense of direction, eh?"

"That's right, blame the old parents," Kirin said with a large grin. Then, his face abruptly turned serious. "What happened yesterday, Maia?"

Maia frowned and tried to sidestep the question but Kirin came right back, "Please, Maia. I would like you to be honest with me here. What happened yesterday?"

The Huntress sighed. "It is complicated, Kirin. Even I myself am unsure of what exactly happened yesterday; everything seemed to flash by in a blur."

"We have time," Kirin said, "Just tell me this, Maia, what did you see?"

She gazed at the Hym for several seconds before conceding, "Very well then. But I warn you: the explanations could possibly be lengthy."

Kirin nodded in acknowledgement and leaned against a nearby rock. "Go on then."


She told him everything, from the appearance of the druid, to Ares' apparent death and further onwards to the manifestation of the daemon Hellborne.

"Bloody heck," Kirin whispered, the color draining off his face. "Old Ares is a demon?"

Maia nodded wearily and murmured, "I suspect that it was not Ares fighting in the sands of the Coliseum, but rather that dark alter-ego of his: Hellborne."

"That would explain his vindictiveness and cruelty back then," Kirin agreed, "Though who was it that saved the Queen? Ares or Hellborne?"

"I do not know," Maia shrugged. Glancing towards the east, she then said, "He wandered off to the eastern waterfall, did he not? I think I would like to share a word with him."

"Are you sure?" Kirin cried, "You just learnt that a great demon lurks beneath his exterior and still you would approach him?"

Maia sighed and replied, "That attitude is the very reason why most daemons ally their formidable powers to the cause of the demonkin."

The Hym blinked and said, "Are you suggesting that there are daemons who actually sided with us against the demons? That's preposterous; fathered by a demon, it's only natural that a daemon would inherit the thoughts of a demon!"

Maia frowned and replied, "Do not judge a book by its cover, Kirin. You ought to remember that." And with those parting words, she brushed past him, heading towards the eastern waterfall where Ares was.

He watched her till she vanished in the thickness of the forest. "Never judge a book by its cover?" Kirin mused as he clenched his fist so tightly till his knuckles turned white.


He heard a vaguely familiar feminine voice call out his name. He glanced around slowly and caught a glimpse of her. The Huntress Maia, a look of concern etched all over her face.

"What do you want?" Ares replied, somewhat brusquely.

She seemed slightly taken aback by his biting tone but pressed on anyway, "Ares….are you all right?"

Her question, while well-intentioned irritated him immensely. "I learnt today that I am a daemon; that a mighty demon by the name of Hellborne thrives within me. A half-breed, a heretic, a scum on the face of earth….what do you think is the answer to your question?!"

The Huntress flinched and whispered, "Ares….please, I'm only trying to help."

"Then stay the damn hell away from me!" He spun on her, his voice rising now, "Don't you see, Maia? I am a monster, the very creature I have been purging thus far! What don't you understand about that?"

Maia bit her bottom lip and approached him slowly. "Ares, I understand what you are going through. Please, believe me… I'm trying to help you."

He turned away from her and sighed, burying his face in his hands. "Why can't you listen? Is it because of your orders? Above all else, you must bring me in, regardless of my heritage?"

The bitterness in his tone moved Maia and his words reminded her greatly on one thing….her first conversation with her master, the Grand Maester Ebenezer.

"You are special, Maia. You have gifts, gifts unavailable to most men and I would like to see you harness those talents for the benefit of all."

"Can you just leave me alone?! Can't you see me for who I really am?"

"I see a lonely young orphan, filled with remorse and fear. Maia, please, could you just trust me?"

"Could you trust me? Are you willing to place your faith in me; a murderer?!"

"I have my orders, yes," she said, "But nonetheless, I would aid you as you would me. As the Halar commanded, Love thy neighbor as thyself." She added with a small uncertain smile, "If you would like, you could consider this as my repayment of all the debts I owe you."

"I don't believe you."

She lost her impatience at that point and flared up. "So, what is it that you are planning? Would you stay here the whole time, waiting for the demons to find you and kill you?!"

Ares retorted angrily, "Then, would you have me enter the gates of Havan and become the experiment of your oh-so-great Order? Or would you prefer me to be the laughing-stock of your race, the homme?"

"You're not answering my question!"

"You answer mine first!"

"Bloody hell, Ares!" Maia cried, jabbing a finger at Ares' chest, "I will not have you punishing yourself for something you had no control of! So what if your father was a demon? They are still your enemies; they tried to kill you for crying out loud!"

Ares replied sullenly, "Perhaps it would be better that they had."

The sound of a hard slap echoed abruptly through the forest.

Maia watched Ares reel backwards, his eyes wild as he slowly comprehended what Maia just did to him. "I hope that that went into that thick head of yours," she spat. "First, you insist on punishing yourself for a demon's inability to control its lust and now you wish yourself to be non-existent?"

"Any fate would be better than mine!" Ares roared in return.

Maia slapped him again. Ares whirled around, his tongue ready for another vicious retort when he saw tears stream down the Huntress' face. "Maia," he said, his tone subdued now.

"You are so fortunate, Ares, you fool; can you not realize that?" she whispered. "You have perfect health, swordsmanship and strength any would desire and above all things, the gift of fire manipulation! So much power is in your hands, and you choose to squander it all away simply because you were not of normal breeding? You stupid, stupid idiot!"

It was Ares' turn to flinch now. Never before had he seen the Huntress so vindictive. Then again, never did he see her look more beautiful.

An awkward silence reigned, till Maia finally spoke again, "Ares, it may be that you are a daemon, but so what? You are not evil like the demonkin are. You still retain your homme traits, don't you?" She patted his cheek slowly, another sad smile forming on her lips.

"What of Hellborne?"

"What of him? He is of no consequence. Powerful he may be; yet you are here, not him! Have you not overcome him, in this moment?"

Ares said nothing for a moment and decided not to tell her about Apocalypse. He then spoke up, in a low tone, "There is still a good chance that that creature might be able to break free once more."

"Then, come with me and seek a way to banish him for good!" Maia cried, "Do not give up even before facing the battle!"

He glanced at her and, massaging his forehead, whispered, "I fear that I will be unable to keep your trust."

"Why the pessimistic attitude? Why do you fear so?"

Ares could find no answer to her question. He then muttered something incomprehensible before turning away, shaking his head in frustration.

"You are not Hellborne," Maia repeated. "You are not the demon. You are Ares, the incendio manipulare; the one who is to bring hope to the homme in these grave times!"

"So much confidence you place in me," he mused, the fatigue clear in his voice. Looking at the Huntress, he whispered, "Why do you accept me even when you know that I am a daemon, that half of me is your most dangerous enemy?"

Maia replied, "It was inscribed in the Gospels, the story of a great Corinthos apostle. He was fasting one day when the Halar sent to him a vision—all forms of animals, brought to him on a great carpet. And the Halar told him, 'Eat', yet he refused, believing that it was unclean. Yet, the Halar told him that day, Do not call what I have called clean unclean."

Ares blinked once and said, "I didn't quite get that."

Maia sighed and said, "In essence, it meant that the salvation of the Halar was no longer exclusive to the Corinthos; but rather to all men. Even the Daim whom believe are accepted by the Infinite."

"All men?" Ares murmured thoughtfully.

She nodded, smiling wanly.

There was another tentative silence. Then, Maia said, "Please Ares; just trust me."

Ares looked down glumly as he ran a hand through his unkempt hair. It was clear that he was contemplating his options yet he remained mostly undecided.

"Quickly then, make up your mind already!" another familiar voice interjected. The both of them looked up to see Kirin come through the undergrowth, his double edge slung casually across his back.

The Hym stretched and yawned loudly before asking, "Come on, Ares; we don't have all day."

Maia smiled warmly before looking at Ares expectantly.

The crimson-haired man looked at them both and sighed wearily. "Oh very well then," he conceded, to the delight of Maia and Kirin.

The odd group gaped in amazement at the magnificent view before them. "Holy," Kirin swore as he gazed around while scratching the pit of his back.

Rolling green plains dominated the landscape, dotted only by the occasional tree and in the far background, a massive mountainous range stood proudly. Herds of Jergs, deer-like creatures with four pronged antlers grazed peacefully upon the abundant greenery whilst red lobos lolled around.

"To think we have to cross that to reach Fel' Von," Maia sighed, shifting Aliar and Avitlier to a more comfortable position.

"Our supplies are running low," Kirin noted wryly, peeking into his backpack. Looking at Maia, he asked, "What do we do then? Shall we hunt the Jergs for lunch?"

"I would rather not," Maia said, making a wry face. "Let's look for a nomad settlement instead. There should be a fair bit of them around in a savannah of this magnitude."

Ares, who had until then remained silent said, "No sooner said than done." When both Kirin and Maia glanced over at him curiously, he nodded towards the east; where puffs of smoke were rising slowly into the clear sky.

"Smoke rising in the air, a clear sign of a settlement being close by," Kirin said cheerfully as he began walking towards the source of the smoke when Maia hauled him back. "Hey, what?" he exclaimed.

"It could possibly also a result of demon atrocities; say, a village burning," Maia said warningly.

"Aw, Maia, don't be such a stick-in-the-mud," Kirin said with a broad grin, "Can't you think positively for once? No guy will go for a doomsayer, you know."

She shot a sharp glare at him before muttering, "All right then, we'll have it your way."

They approached the source of the smoke carefully, and to Maia's relief they discovered a convoy of caravans, chockfull of refugees judging from the look of them. With their dull gray clothes and despondent expressions, a heavy and dark atmosphere seemed to settle on the entire convoy; a fact that Maia immediately recognized.

"Depression and grave sadness seems to dwell deeply within these people," she whispered sadly.

Ares took her hand and squeezed it, flashing a rare and reassuring smile at her. She smiled in return, not needing to understand the words contained behind that smile. "Thank you," she acknowledged.

The trio walked towards the caravans slowly, to indicate their peaceable intent. The refugees however did not appear to be very accommodating, their eyes immediately training upon the newcomers, their hands shifting slowly towards their weapons.

"We come in peace," Kirin said several times, looking around as he walked right into the midst of the convoy; his hands lifted away from the hilt of his double-edge as to not alarm the refugees.

Maia stuck close to Ares for safety, the looks that several refugees shot at her not lost on her. Her sharp eyes however noted the sparse conditions the refugees were living in, and her heart went out to them. "The poor souls," she murmured.

Then, a strapping young man who was around Ares' age stepped forward, brandishing a twisted lead pipe and said, "Get the hell out! Stay away from us!"

"Look, we mean no harm," Kirin started but the refugees all began making angry noises, some even advancing in a menacing manner.

"We don't need more of you foreigners coming in and stealing and food and such!" the young man said and there was a murmur of assent from the crowd.

"Stealing? Well, I like that!" Kirin began angrily but Maia waved him off. "We are willing to pay good money," she said calmly, looking squarely at the young man, "I understand your plight and I would not have troubled you have my, no, our need been not dire."

The crowd hushed for a moment. The young man seemed to mull her words over before saying, "What good is money to us? Did money save us when the demons came and burned our homes down, killed our loved ones before feasting on their corpses? Keep your money, you bitch! And get out, all of you!"

"Why, you…," Kirin swore and very nearly drew his double-edge but Maia halted him, shaking her head to indicate her disapproval. He slacked his grip and allowed his hands to fall away, though he refused to relinquish the glare he shot at the rude young man.

"So be it then," she answered and turned away, Ares and a visibly reluctant Kirin following suit.

A rough band of refugees abruptly moved to block their way, even as the rest began to disband. Maia looked coolly at them and requested politely, "Please move and let us be on our way."

The leader of the little band, an ugly hunchback hissed at her, "Little girl, why don't you dump your two companions and join us for a little fun, eh?"

"Not interested," Maia replied.

"Come on; we'll show you real fun and we'll feed you real good as well!" the man urged as his cohorts snickered and added their own encouragement.

Ares and Kirin both looked at each other and sighed. Maia glanced at them both and smiled apologetically before replying, "Sorry, I would just like to leave. Please, do get out of our way."

"You are an arrogant one, eh?" one of the band called out as his companions nodded their agreement. The ugly man then said, "Perhaps we ought to teach you some manners!"

They charged as one, screaming and spitting in fury as they whipped out their weapons; a mixture of crude maces and blunt swords. Kirin, watching them turned to Ares and Maia and asked, "Do we do this the easy way or the hard way?"

Ares and Maia looked at each other and without speaking, nodded in apparent agreement. Then, they both stretched their hands at the incoming refugees before chanting, "Flare" and "Wrath."

A loud explosion rocked the surrounding area, drawing cries of alarm and panic from the refugees nearby.

The smoke then cleared to reveal the stunned faces of the rough band, all of their eyes trained upon the duo of Ares and Maia. The explosion had harmed none, though there was no doubt in their minds that both Ares and Maia could have harmed them in a most severe manner easily.

"They're sorcerers!" one screamed and the band abruptly scattered, many of them crying in panic.

Kirin doubled over, laughing uproariously before saying, "The idiots! By the Halar, I've never enjoyed such a laugh for ages!"

Ares shrugged nonchalantly while Maia giggled slightly, her green eyes dancing with amusement. Then, the Huntress said, "You know, I think we ought to leave now."

The refugees had begun to surround them again, fear and surprisingly curiosity etched upon their faces. They began to murmur amongst themselves, though not in a threatening manner, as they continued to draw closer to the trio.

Ares then said to Maia, "Your advice would seem most timely." As they turned to leave however, a lilting voice cut in.

"An incendio manipulare and a disciple of nature, the likes of you have not been seen in a very long time."

Ares and Maia whirled around, weapons at the ready and spotted the source of that voice. The crowd of refugees had split to allow a single hooded form to step forward, towards the departing trio.

"What the…," Kirin swore.

Ares' eyes narrowed. The figure was not very tall; were he to estimate, he would place her at around 5' 7". He could tell that she was a female however, given the slightness of her build although her face was cowled and well-hidden by the dark cloak she wore. That was however not the most striking feature of the stranger standing before them.

Maia gasped in shock. "That's…..impossible," she murmured, staring at the stranger's weapon. It was a giant crescent scythe; standing at nearly seven feet, towering over its wielder with ease. Its edge was razor-sharp and black blood was splattered all over its edge, indicating recent combat with the demonkin. The long hilt was ornately inscribed with what Maia recognized instantly as runes.

"A rune scythe?"

They watched on as the woman walked steadily towards them, seemingly unperturbed by the weight of the massive scythe she bore.

The next moment, the woman had stuck her hand out towards them. In a light tone, she said, "The name's Reaper. Nice to meet you."

I'm thinking of restarting Crimson. Yes, I'm serious. Yes, I realize that I just posted a new chapter and I'm telling you this. Sorry about that. Somehow, looking back, I found that I wasn't entirely satisfied with the way Crimson progressed. I didn't explore character relationships properly, I messed up here and there and well...I don't really know. I think I would like to restart it. A new prologue is already underway, though essentially, the basic premise will not change. No changing of characters, maybe slight alterations to their profiles and more emphasis on character development instead of battle scenes. Also, it's a good chance to work out a neater and better flowing story, perhaps. Although my mind isn't made up completely, I would just like to know...what are your opinions if I restarted Crimson?

Lol, now this is a real anti-climax.

Oh, by the way, sorry about the late update. I sorta got hooked into playing WoW. Human paladin lvl freaking weak...