-8-

The obvious Head-guard, stepped forward, and spoke in a harsh guttural voice.

"You are all under arrest for stealing, being outside during curfew, and unlawful

experimentation of magic."

Before any of them could protest, they were surrounded by emerald-coloured

uniforms and clinking breastplates, as well as about ten spears pointed towards their

hearts. When Vak tried to protest, ("Hey! You have no right to do this! We've done

nothing wrong! I'm a member of the Guard too you know!") the guard that was closest

to him said softly, "Look, I don't like doing this to you kid, but orders are orders and

Lord Jules is not a man I want to be in front of for insubordination, no siree! So just sit

tight and keep quiet if you know what's good for you."

Hearing this, Sri began to shudder uncontrollably as she had an intense feeling of bad

premonition. Jori looked concerned and put an arm around her, whispering, "Hey, it'll be

alright, we haven't done anything wrong."

Sri shook her head, still trembling. "It's not that. Lord Jules. He ordered for our

arrest."

The senesqua dropped. "Umm, sir, is this Lord that we are being taken before called

Lord Jules Vireo perchance?" Jori's face was ashen as he waited for the inevitable reply.

The soldier who had spoken to Vak before looked shrewdly at him before saying,

"Yes. How did you know that? He's only been in town for about a day."

"A hunch that I wish I didn't have," groaned Jori. He looked over the faces of the

group. All of them had heard of Sri's encounter with the Wraith, both in the physical

and dream world, even Laza, (who had been told by Araun while they were sitting glumly

in the ruins of Laza's house,) and what they had heard was enough to make them all pale

faced and grim. Sri was still shaking.

Suddenly, she whispered as softly as she could to Vak so that she wouldn't be over

heard, "Can you change your appearance using your magic?"

"Yes, why?"

"Change the colour of your eyes and make your self as different to me as you can

manage without the Guard noticing, then change me too, but leave my eyes. Wraith

knows that I'm here, and he wants both of us dead. You have a better chance of

survival if you look like we are of no relation. Vak looked like he wanted to protest,

but Sri growled at him, "Just do it. I dreamed about this last night. I don't know what

will happen, but this is the only hope we have."

That shut Vak up. The Guard escort marched through grey, stone passageways that

twisted and turned , snaking around in great arcs, sometimes taking a left corridor,

sometimes a right, but mostly just onwards. Most of the arrested company lost their

sense of direction within the first five minutes, and near the end, even Vak, who knew

these tunnels like the back of his hand was starting to get confused. Finally, the leader

called a halt, and tied each of them together. Laza promptly lay down and fell asleep,

snoring ludicrously loudly.

As the guards did nothing about this, (except exchange looks full of mirth at the noises

that Laza was making,) first Vak, then Araun, then finally Jori followed suit. Only Sri

couldn't bring herself to sleep. She curled up into a ball, and put her head in her hands.

"None of the others really understand what could happen to them. They didn't see

Wraith," she thought hopelessly to herself as she watched her friends' sleeping forms.

They were left waiting there on the cold flagstones for maybe twenty minutes, but to

Sri they dragged on like hours. She dreaded the inevitable encounter, and couldn't

prevent herself from shaking. One of the guards at one stage made so bold as to ask

if she had a fever. Her reply was that she wished that was all.

Ultimately, a messenger came and requested that sirs and madam enter the presence of

Lord Jules Vireo, formerly of Vitiateton, Xohopati. The guards kicked the sleepers

awake, then trooped the group in double-file into the room dragging at the rope, as

Laza, Jori, Araun and Vak all rubbed sleep out of their eyes and slapped their faces so

that they could make themselves properly alert, but Sri walked in with her face as still as a

stone.

They were all pushed into the room, to see Jules lounged on a throne that was of gold,

covered in silken cushions centred on a rainbow veined, marble floor. When Jori saw it,

he was enraged.

The mere cost of a single cushion on that chair would've kept a village in food for a

month, let alone a square inch of that floor. He opened his mouth to protest, but Laza

spotted him and kicked him in the shins to shut him up. They were forced to sit on that

cold, marble floor, as Jules looked out the window and pretended to ignore them.

Casually, Jules decided to notice them, and turned his head and drawled, "You know

Embyr, we had quite a bit of trouble tracking you down."

Sri decided that it would be pointless to delay anything, and rolled her eyes before

asking "Isn't it a bit underneath you to talk to me before you kill me?"

At this point, Jori launched himself at Jules, teeth bared, but the guards had been

ready for him. Swiftly, they clubbed him senseless, despite the efforts of Sri and

Araun, being the two closest to Jori, as they tried to shield him from the blows with their

bodies. Vak began to shudder.

Pretending that nothing had just happened, Jules said, "No, actually, and you would be

interested to know that I don't plan on killing you… yet. I need you to find your brother,

and it so happens that I want you to be alive to watch your friends suffer before I cut

out your lovely eyes. You cost me more than you could imagine, Embyr, and I intend to

have that debt repaid."

"Where is Wraith, your boss? Isn't he in the mood for a good gloat, too?" Sri bravely

demanded her shudders becoming suddenly more pronounced, this time by fury.

Jules just laughed, before replying, "Embyr, Embyr, don't you recognise me in this

poor fool's body? No, I guess not. Let me remind you…"

Horrified, Sri watched, as the almost handsome face of Jules began to slowly

transform.

First, the nose shrivelled, then the lips started to recede. Jules' eyes seemed to

retreat back into his head, and the eye sockets grew larger and darker. His teeth seemed

to be melting away. Laza actually fainted at this point, as the skin started to crease itself

like a withered apple that has fallen from the tree and been left outside for about a

month. The whole face turned grey- the tired old grey of concrete, from centuries long

gone. One of the guards who had been assigned to make sure that "the law violators"

couldn't escape, screamed and ran, closely followed by the remainder of his contingent.

Long before the conversion was complete, Sri knew what had happened to Wraith.

She found that she actually pitied Jules, for being possessed by a demon from the

legions of the dark, evil kind of demons, (because these were the only beings in Sri's

knowledge that could inhabit another's body and control it,) was a fate she would not

wish on anyone, no matter how vile they were, and Jules was certainly the foulest human

that she had ever met. When the change was complete, Wraith's head leered horribly and

toothlessly from Jules' body, a picture fit for the nightmares of the insane.

Chuckling horribly, as though he were trying to simultaneously cough up his lungs

and show his ghastly mirth, Wraith made a gesture then pointed to Laza. Suddenly,

Laza was screaming horribly, limbs twisting and writhing in pure agony, as unseen

rods of white-hot iron burnt her. Seconds later, Araun joined her. As Wraith turned

on Jori, unconscious as he was, something in Sri seemed to snap as she finally

managed to reclaim her body functions.

All at once, Sri sprang forward, towering with hot, righteous fury. The eyes that

made her so noticeable spat flames. As Sri raised her arms above her head, as though

to strike Wraith, her charcoal-black hair burst into brilliant vermilion ropes edged

with vivid orange, and her skin changed from its normal golden-brown colour to the

richest shining yellow shot with streamers that looked metallic because they were so

shiny. Behind her, Vak appeared, simultaneously going through the same shocking

revolutions. It would seem that the shudders had contained more than fear or anger. The

twin blazes loomed over the horrendous figure of Wraith. They could hear the sounds of

their friends being dropped down onto the hard marble floor at their backs as Wraith

tried to withdraw.

For a brief moment, fear flickered over Wraith's face, and sweat dripped from the

human part of the fiend, as he cringed, "Now, really, can't we talk this over ? I can

get you a good deal on your souls…"

That was all the prompting that Sri and Vak required. They advanced, intoning a

spell that was created on the wing for their purpose. That purpose was to banish

Wraith into the deepest depths of Hell imaginable. Wraith cowered as an enormous

black face appeared, masked in grey mist, with eyes of the purest white shining like the

lights of a lighthouse through the mist that shrouded the rest of his face.

"WHO DARES SUMMON THE HEAD DEMON OF THE

UNDERWORLD!?"

The voice was a powerful mind voice that caused Jori, Araun, and Laza to cover their

ears with their hands in a futile effort to dim the sound. The face followed the gaze of

the twin firestorms, seemed to read their minds, then turned and glanced at Wraith.

"AHH, I SEE. SO THIS IS WHERE YOU HAVE BEEN

CAUSING TROUBLE. CALLING YOURSELF WRAITH NOW,

ARE YOU? HOW DARE YOU USE THAT NAME OF POWER,

YOU WHO HAVE NONE! IT IS HIGH TIME YOU RETURNED

TO THE PLACES OF THE DEEPEST DARK!" the powerful demon

thundered in a voice deeper than the grave. Suddenly, the demon grasped

Wraith by the ankles and disappeared, leaving Sri and Vak slowly changing back

to their normal forms as Araun, Laza and Jori all sat very still, and stared, completely

dumbstruck from what they had just witnessed.

Nervously, the guards poked their heads around the doorframe.

"Is it safe to come out?" one of them wanted to know.

Finding her tongue, Laza managed to cheekily reply, "Only because we made it that

way. Would you men like to come and thank us for saving your hides from the horrible

Wraith-demon?"