Andrew looked from his left, and then to his right. He then looked to his left again, followed by his head swiveling itself back to the right side of his body. He continued to do this head turning a few more times, his mind not quite agreeing with what his eyes where currently showing him in regards to his surroundings until eventually he stopped looking around. He slowly reached into his right cargo pocket on his military fatigues and pulled out a high intensity flashlight. He didn't fumble at all, but for a moment, he hesitated as he brought it up. The reason for the hesitation being that a few moments ago, he had been walking in the basking rays of the sun, just having finished up with gathering a few things at the military exchange. Some snacks for when he needed to study, a thermos he just bought and a gallon of water that he was going to pour into it along with a brand-new blanket that he could call his own. No more of the military issued one. Nope, this one was microfiber and downright comfy to sleep in. It had been the ending to a long day of study and he had wanted to get this out of the way before he settled down for his afternoon routine. Said routine did not happen to have the sun turn itself out just as one walks into the crosswalk on the way back to the dorm. Andrew turned his flashlight on, and once again, the sight of what was going on around him wasn't quite breaking the mental barrier of 'this seriously cannot be real right now.'
Whereas Andrew had just been outside in the cold of mid-November with the delightful sight of grass, shrubbery, and just the outdoors in general, he currently found that not only had the sun vanished, but so had the outdoors as well. His current station of standing was no longer in the middle of a crosswalk, but instead in the middle of a warm, dusty, and slightly odd smelling stone hallway. The brick seemed to be made of some bluish material if he could hazard a guess, though it could just as well be black due to the fact that the LED light didn't seem to shine on it so much as shine into it. He had no idea if that was the best way to describe it, but it's all he could say really. Going back to the looking game, Andrew found that the hall was spacious, enough to fit a nice big truck down if someone so ordained to do so. Even better in this situation was that in front of him about 20 or so feet looked to be a doorway/archway that was dimly illuminated by, get this, a large crystal embedded in the stone frame at the apex of the arch. Turning to look behind him, Andrew could see a large span of hallway behind him that went on and on so much that he didn't even see an end to it. Turning back to the arch in front of him, Andrew simply breathed in deeply before he finally let his innermost thoughts out.
"Where in the hell am I and how in the deep blue fuck did I get here."
Thankfully he hadn't been expecting an answer for that question, but the fact still remained that he was in a situation that he didn't know how to explain in circumstances that where equally as hard to verbalize without sounding like a lunatic. Letting out a weighty sigh, Andrew started to talk to himself again, mostly out of a sense of comfort for himself, but also because verbalizing his inner thoughts just helped him to think better.
"Alright then… I can't make heads or tails of this situation as of right now… But I see a doorway in front of me. That normally means that it goes, somewhere right? Might as well check it out."
With such simple and reasonable logic behind him, Andrew made his way to the archway until he stood right in front of it. However, upon reaching it, he stopped. He had noted something odd about it at first when he shined his light into the door, but being this close up he could see what it was that was bothering him. The light just seemed to stop when it hit the darkness. He hadn't given it much thought further back, but being this close up, he expected the light to do its job and illuminate for him to see further. However, it just seemed to stop cold right at the doorway. Upon further inspection, he could see that the dark wasn't… Normal. Unlike what one might find at night, this darkness seemed More… inky, deep, and all around as if light didn't dare go into it. That should have been the first signal that maybe he shouldn't go this way, that he should turn around and go back the long way. However, Andrew was still using normal logic in this anything but logical situation. So, thinking that maybe there was something in the way, he tried to go through it by lifting his right hand and pushing the thing out of the way.
'Regret' was in no way near a strong enough word for what happened next. For a moment, Andrew felt the texture of what felt to him like a cool, smooth gel ball brush against the palm of his hand. The moment after that could only be described as fascinatingly horrifying. The darkness rippled for a moment before it seemed to erupt around his hand and latch onto him. Andrew could only feel an icy agony lance across the whole of his body as the darkness spread faster than anything he had ever seen move in his life. His mind could only barely register the darkness as pain like no other continued to pulse through his body the longer he stayed in contact with it, but deeper still, he felt as if his very soul was being filling with ice and broken apart bit by bit. He couldn't breath as he collapsed to the floor, the light rolling away from him as it slipped from his grasp. He had no idea how long this went on for, but eventually, the pain was too much for his mind to take and Andrew just felt himself shut down.
The next thing he knew, he was waking up with his face on the floor and a feeling like his body had been stuffed through a meat grinder about 8 times over. He still hurt, a lot in fact, but it wasn't as unbearable as it had been a bit ago. Slowly pushing his body up off the ground, Andrew found himself shaking from both the pain he had just gone through, and a strange coolness that seemed to seep out from inside him. Not sure of what to think about any of this anymore, Andrew found his flashlight rolled a bit of a ways off and slowly crawled over and picked it up. He then dragged himself to the closest section of wall he could find and got himself to his feet, albeit with a lot of effort on his part. Taking his time with his movements so as not to over exert his body, Andrew turned around to look at the archway that had just caused his terrible episode. However, though the doorway was still there, the dark thing on the other side was not. Now all that could be seen was a large empty room. There was nothing in it; and it certainly didn't lead anywhere useful. All Andrew could do was feel frustrated at all this. The pain, the cold in his body, and the fact that he still had no idea what was going on. Channeling that frustration, the young man turned himself around and started to make his way down the long hallway to… Somewhere at this point. Thankfully, after walking a good distance, the pain in his body had managed to subside to a dull ache, a small blessing in of itself, but the cold in his body was a constant. It was somewhat worrying to be sure, especially after what happened with the darkness, but he didn't feel that much different. For a while, he couldn't get a good gauge of time in the stone hallway, all Andrew could do was simply keep single-mindedly moving forward, and with such a straightforward resolve, he was rewarded with a simple yet very effective reward. He eventually managed to come to another archway in the far end of the hall, this one not blocked by inky evil and actually leading somewhere. That place being upward in the form of a stone stairway.
Andrew didn't feel like climbing any kind of stairs right at that moment, but he learned in his life that it was best to just suck it up and tough it out. With a single sigh of resignation, Andrew took one step onto the stairway, followed by another, then another until eventually that first step was succeeded by several hundred more.
Andrew had to admit that for the first couple of dozens of steps or so, he was simply happy to be getting somewhere. However, that simple joy slowly had turned into annoyance as the stairs simply just kept going and going with no clear end in sight. It wasn't until he finally had climbed for what he estimated to be 30 minutes with his body tired and the cold feeling in his gut simply getting colder that his patience had drawn to a close.
"Alright, seriously, what the hell! Where is the end of this goddamned stairwe-"
Just as he said that, the next step finally allowed him to see a glimmer of light up above him. It wasn't a lot of light, but it was certainly better than the darkness he was used to seeing at this point.
"Of course,… The absolute moment I say something…"
Andrew grumbled a little more to himself, but the sight of an end to this stairwell hell was enough to push back his frustration. However, the sight of the stairway continuing to go on and into a massive cavern straight out of the abyss with no handrails turned that small semblance of joy into a combined emotion of astonishment and terror.
"Oh my dear God above what in the fuck…" Was all he managed to get out before the sound of the wind howling below him shut him up and swallow in fright.
"Well… Alright then…"
Andrew really didn't want to say anything anymore in fear that his complaining might bring about some karmic slap to the face to tell him to shut up. So he simply looked down one more time, swallowed yet again before he mustered the courage and walked out on the stairs. Thankfully the steps where just as wide as the hallway behind him, so he had a little comfort in the space he was granted, and thus he stayed in the middle to avoid any little accidents. Fortunately, he could see the other side of the ravine and where the steps lead on the other side. It wasn't a long walk at all, but Andrew still felt a sense of vertigo overcome him when he would look a little too far off to the side and see the bottomless canyon below. Oddly enough, the cold in his body just kept getting colder as time went on, and in truth, he was starting to get worried about it. The chill of the wind didn't do much to help him, and even when he managed to get to the other side, albeit with a few gusts of wind making him panic along the way, he was more worried about why his body didn't seem to be warming up. However, all he could do was keep going. Further on and further in, and thus that's what Andrew found himself doing.
When he did manage to make it to the other side of the canyon, the long hallway that greeted him was something of a familiar sight, but unlike the last one, this one had two doorways for him to follow. Sadly, they both seemed to be heading in different directions, and he wasn't sure which would be the right way to get out of this tomb. However, if he was undecided, all he had to do was leave it to fate. Pulling out a coin, Andrew decided to call the direction based on the side it landed on, heads right, tails left. It made sense, and he quickly found himself doing said method. The coin landed on heads, and sticking to the luck of a coin toss, Andrew followed it. Sadly, he found that this was not to be the only instance he would use the coin to get a direction.
For the next few hours or so, Andrew found himself using a coin toss to determine his direction in this maze of stone. It all looked the same to him, and no path had any kind of indicators for him to find his way. Thankfully Andrew had the foresight to write down his progress the second time he had to do a coin toss, but he found that double side of four sheets of paper filled with directions was starting to get excessive. Even worse was the fact that the cold in his body had spread, slowing his movements and making it harder for him to keep moving the longer he went on. He eventually had pulled out the blanket he bought (the fact he still had his bag of items was surprising to him) and wrapped it around his body to try to warm himself up or retain what heat he had left. But it only seemed to affect his outer body. For some reason, it just didn't seem to get much deeper than the skin. It felt especially cold around his heart, he had no idea why that was, but he was having problems feeling his own heartbeat at times.
Another few hours of this later and Andrew finally found himself unable to keep going. His body was sluggish, unresponsive and feeling as if all the heat had been drained out of him. Not even the blanket he had wrapped so tightly around his body could keep the cold at bay. Andrew found himself, against his minds urge to keep going, sitting down in the long hall he found himself in, the sight of another split in the road simply filling him with added disappointment on his situation.
He knew it wasn't a good idea, that stopping would probably be the end, but he just couldn't find it in him to keep going. The dark thing he touched did something to him, and he knew deep in the back of his mind, that it was killing him. He had no idea how to stop it or to even prevent it at this point, but he was finding it hard to even care.
"So this is how I die huh? Well… Shit…"
Well, maybe he cared a little bit; but he knew that it was going to be inevitable at this rate if something or someone didn't come along and try to help him. He found that it would be a pretty nice turn of events of something did happen… Like maybe an angel from on high coming to give him a second chance, or a demon coming out of nowhere to sell him a new life like in those manga he used to read so often. Oddly enough, something did happen a minute later. Andrew had to strain to hear it, but he thought he heard footsteps, followed by low voices. It wasn't until another minute later when he was sure he heard it. Voices and footsteps, all sounding like they were coming closer via one of the splits in the path.
"This is clearly the wrong way."
"And how exactly in this ever-present gray stone labyrinth are we to tell which way is different from the other? Please, do tell how you know which way to go darling, I'd love to hear it."
"Ladies, can we perhaps not worry about this right now? We need to find the end of this maze so we can take care of the evil nestled here."
Andrew was surprised to hear voices, but he wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth. However, before he could do anything about grabbing attention, the voices rounded the corner of the path closest to the left and Andrew was looking directly into the surprised faces of a party of three. The first face to catch his attention was the face of the older looking woman who stood a head taller than the other two. Though old was just the first word that came to mind, she actually looked to be in her early to mid-twenties. She was beautiful in her own right with long brown hair that seemed to shine even in this dismally lit labyrinth. Her eyes where a sharp gray and nicely almond shaped, her other facial features seemed to tell him that she was a beautiful but cold looking woman. Her outfit, God have mercy, was some kind of Mage outfit. A single dress with slits up the side so she could walk easily and a rather large witches hat on her head. She even had a gnarly twisted staff that ended with a crystal embedded in the wood. The next person to catch his attention was the woman that he could only attribute to an elven archer.
No joke. As far as he could tell, she was an elf who used a bow. Long golden blonde hair tied up into twin pigtails that went well to her legs, an outfit that seemed to be woven from green leaves and vines, sharp and slightly slanted blue eyes, and the icing on the cake, pointed eleven ears that stuck out about 3 inches. She looked to be in her late teens, but if she really was an elf, then that was by no means any kind of indicator to her age.
The last person in the group was the only male to be found here outside of himself. A young man that looked in his early twenties, he had the face of a handsome youth just getting to know the world, with plain green eyes and short dirty blonde hair, the young man carried a sword and shield in his hands. He wore leather lamellar armor, and hidden under that was some kind of long sleeve shirt.
Outside of the darkness, this counted as the second most interesting thing he had seen today. A few more moments of stunned silence later and Andrew found himself having to break the quiet. Lifting his hand as if in greeting and giving the group a smile, Andrew greeted them as warmly as he could.
The group was unsure about the current situation, especially when some random guy just gives you a smile and a wave in such a place as if it was the most natural thing in the world to do. The first to recover their wits was the Mage woman, and the look she was giving Andrew could have frozen water.
"Who in the name of Netheys are you supposed to be? Better yet, how in the name of Eden did you get down here? The last we had heard, no one has come down into the shadow labyrinth in over 100 years!"
Andrew gave the Mage a curious stare in counter to her ice filled one.
"Is that what this place is called? The shadow labyrinth? I will admit it's aptly named, but that also sounds really cliché…but in answer to your two questions, my name is Andrew. As for how I got down here… well your guess is as good as mine. One minute I was walking along minding my own business, then BAM! I'm standing in the middle of a dark hallway not knowing how the hell I got there or even what happened. So yeah… I don't really know and haven't been aware of what's been going on for a little over an hour now."
Andrew could see that 2 of the three didn't find his explanation satisfactory, those two being the Mage and elf, but the male seemed to be thinking about something and wasn't giving Andrew an outright hostile look, though he didn't seem to be believing everything coming out of Andrews mouth very much. The next one to do something was the elf, and she quickly made it known that she didn't think Andrew was in anyway telling the truth. She whipped an elegant gray bow from her back and nocked an arrow faster than Andrew could draw a breath. The next thing he knew, he was staring down the shaft of a sharply tipped arrow into the unflinching eyes of a hostile elf.
"You speak naught but lies. I can sense it in you, you're filled with the darkness of corruption and evil. The very same evil that permeates this place radiates off of you in waves. What are you really creature of darkness? Speak openly and I might not fill your eye socket with my arrow."
Andrew looked down the shaft of the arrow again, finding himself composed despite the threat to his life.
"Touchy, aren't you? I am speaking honestly by the way, but I can probably explain why you feel what you do. I'm pretty sure that I came into contact with something, maybe the thing you guys were looking for judging by your conversation, and it might have affected me in some way. Also, I'm pretty sure it's killing me."
At that, Andrew noted the man's eyes shot up in surprise while the Mage narrowed hers in thought. The elf simply held her arm steady, though she seemed poised to shoot any second now. Letting out a deep sigh, Andrew could only muster up his strength to just barely open his arms wide.
"Well if you think I'm that evil, then go ahead and fucking shoot an unarmed half dead man already. Should be like shooting fish in a barrel for an archer like you huh?"
Andrew was internally happy to note that the elf seemed to hesitate on that remark, the bow just barely laxing in her grip. However, the young man of the group held his hand up as if to stop her.
The elf named Sarya turned her eyes to the young man of the group, but kept her bow trained on Andrew in the event of this momentary lapse in concentration looking like a prime spot for an attack.
"What Ser Jonathan?"
"Lower your bow. It's clear the man can do us no harm, evil or no evil."
The Mage spoke up next, her eyes scanning Andrew sharply.
"You don't know that Ser Jonathan, not for sure. He could be hiding behind a mask of sickness and weakness to catch us unaware."
Andrew finally let his arms drop to the floor with an exasperated sigh.
"Nope, pretty sure he's right. I don't think I could do all of jack shit to anybody right now. I feel myself getting weaker every minute here. Slowly draining away with each tick of the clock as the cold takes me from inside… It's really not comfortable ya know."
Ser Jonathan looked to Andrew worriedly before he looked back at the mage.
"Morgana, could you do something to help him?"
The mage called Morgana looked to her party member with an annoyed look before she looked back at Andrew with an equal stare. However, she did as she was asked and walked over to kneel next to Andrew and hovered her hand over his face.
"Andrew… was it? I'll give you fair warning, attempt anything and I'll kill you quickly. And even if you get to me before I can stop you, Sarya will fill you with arrows before you can even stand."
Andrew simply gave her the friendliest smile he could manage.
"But of course, no reason for you to trust me at all. Don't worry though, I won't try anything."
With a neutral look as her reply, Andrew watched on for the next few minutes as Morgana did her thing… whatever that thing happened to be. He was sure her hand was glowing, so that was some kind of indicator that magic was being used, but since he wasn't familiar with anything mystical, he couldn't even begin to hazard a guess of what exactly. For the next minute or so, nothing was said from anyone, the eerie silence filling everything around them until eventually Morgana pulled her hand back and stood up. Jonathan was the first to say something.
"Well? Can we help him?"
Andrew noted that her look was still neutral, but her words made his already cold stomach freeze over.
"I am sorry Ser Jonathan. The… thing that has a hold of him is too tightly wrapped around his soul. I fear to help him would just as soon as kill him."
"Are you sure? Nothing can be done? Not even a little?"
Morgana simply shook her head.
Andrew looked to the mage, then to the youth, even the elf received a look before he simply leaned back into the cold stone of the wall and let out a sharp laugh.
"Ha! HA HA! So this is how my life ends huh? Cold and desolate in the middle of fuck if I know where without ever having finished any of my life goals! Fan-fucking-tastic! HA HA HA! Clearly some god must be laughing at me right now for this to happen!"
Jonathan simply gave him a pained look before he shook his head.
"I'm… I'm so-"
"Oh don't you fucking start. Actually, if you don't mind, how bout you all fuck off for me so I can die with my thoughts at least. Last thing I need is something around here to make my life miserable vie pity stares."
Sarya had lowered her bow, but she bristled at the venomous words coming from Andrew mouth.
"Hey! He was trying to show concern! You don't have to-"
Jonathan raised his hand to quiet her, she did so, but somewhat tersely.
"I apologize Sir Andrew. I know this is not the way you expected yourself to die, but if what you say is true, then you have at least rid the land of a great evil. I would hope that if you do contain profane evil in you, that it will die with you. I swear I will not forget you."
Andrew only rolled his eyes at him, but he understood what the guy meant.
"Yeah yeah, big fucking whoop for me then… now go away please… I want to die thinking of my home…"
Ser Jonathan nodded his head in understanding and gave Andrew a bow out of some respect and regret before he turned the way he came and motioned for the other two to follow. Andrew watched them go, the Elf giving him some common decency by clapping her hands together and whispering a small prayer under her breath. However, Morgana did something odd as they went up the steps. Though she was the last to leave, she turned around one last time and stared at Andrew for a period of time. Andrew could swear he could see a hint of something on her face, like she was contemplating something. However, she left just like the other two before her up the steps.
Andrew listened for a few minutes, the sounds of footsteps echoing before even those where but a distant memory. Lolling his head to the left and staring at the steps, Andrew simply closed his eyes and tried to let the darkness in his body take him faster. For a long time, he sat like this, just waiting for his death to come. Seconds, Minutes, Hours, He had no idea how long he sat there like that, but the growing cold in his body was the only thing to indicate the passage of time to him. That is until he thought he heard something coming from the stairway.
'Oh great, did they come back to see if I was dead yet?'
Finding the strength to open his eyes a crack, Andrew looked to see if the group had come back to gawk at his corpse. However, unlike what he was, there was no one there. Curious, Andrew lifted his head from off the wall and tried to lean forward to see if he could peek around the corner a tad. Oddly enough, there was nothing he could see, but he still heard something coming from that general direction. It sounded a bit like tapping, like something hard against the stone. A curious nose to be sure.
'Well… if I'm going to die, better it be on my feet doing something rather than on my ass waiting for it to happen.'
Taking a few deep breaths in an attempt to muster what strength he had left, Andrew found himself getting up on unsteady feet. With some tremendous effort, he managed to right himself, but he felt a little too weak to try to stand on his own. Andrew stumbled his way forward with his hand on the wall to keep him up, though it was unsteady at best. Managing to get himself to the stairway, Andrew tried to pay attention from which one it was coming from and was curious to note that it came from the stairway going down.
'Well… that'll make it easy at least…'
Setting himself for this path, Andrew set out with measured steps. For the next little while, all Andrew found himself doing was descending the stairs with the unusual tapping sound echoing out every once in a while. Eventually he found the bottom of those steps, and surprisingly, what he found was a short hallway that lead to an open room. Sucking in his breath, Andrew kept on in an attempt to keep his momentum going. Making his way to the room, Andrew looked at it to make sure there wasn't some odd darkness to be found on the other side this time. He was happy to note that there wasn't, though he wasn't sure what good it would do him since he was going to die anyway. However, what was on the other side of the entryway was a room the size of a living room. Not all that big, but it was what was written on the floor that surprised him. From where he was at, it looked like a massive amount of etched lines and drawings, but the closer he got, the more he saw that it was in fact a circle that filled the whole of the floor. A massive circle layered in so many diagrams, symbols and markings that it was almost impossible to make out the stone floor underneath.
Sadly, despite his curiosity, Andrew could feel himself losing what little strength he had left and before he knew it, felt himself fall to his knees before he landed facedown painfully on the floor. It hurt, but he knew his time was almost up. Managing to work his head to look up, Andrew saw something in the room he didn't seem to notice the first time. Despite the amount of graffiti on the floor, sitting dead center in the middle of it was a person. A young girl who looked no older than 12 was looking directly at him, wide eyed and as surprised to see him down here as he was to see her down in this dark place. However, he was even more surprised when on further inspection he saw that the girl in front of him had more to her appearance then that of a young girl.
Her hair was long, so very long that it seemed to lay in a heap around her. Almost like a vicious pool of bright red and orange hair, like fire on her scalp cascading to the floor in vivid colors. Her wide eyes where a deep orange color, like fire if he was to put it to likeness. Andrew took special note of her face and saw that she was quite cute, but something on her head made him look away from that and at the obsidian black twin helix horns that spouted from atop her skull, like a Markhor goat if he was to go that far. Actually, a lot of things about her reminded him of a goat, like her goat like ears on the side of her head where humans ones should have been found, the fact that her crossed legs where only human to about her mid-thigh until it gave away to a long thick goat leg that ended in a sharp pointed hoof. If he angled his head, he could swear he saw a cutely short tail above her small ass. The only thing that didn't seem to mix with her image was her clawed paws. They looked like they belonged more on a fingered beast then on a girl as cute as she was. Her skin looked like burned porcelain turned white ash. It was an odd comparison, but it was the best he could come up with. It took him a moment, but Andrew saw that the girls skin was completely exposed to him, she was as naked as the day she was born, and thus her cutely pink nipples and just barely budding breasts where exposed for him to see. He could also hazard a guess that if she didn't have her legs crossed, he would more than likely see the very thing that made her a woman as well.
For a moment, neither one was sure of what to say at that moment, but to Andrews surprise, the girl spoke up first.
"Huh… well… would you look that that. I had given you up for dead."
Unsure of what she even meant by that, Andrew could only stare on dumbly at the girl. However, his expression no doubt caught her attention and she stood up, a little too quickly to be calm if Andrew saw it correctly. She then hurried over, but didn't seem to go beyond the edge of the circle. She then bent at the knees to get a better looks at him looking up at her. As his eyes gazed up across her body, he saw that he was correct in his guess that the girl was entirely nude. He was sure his face would be quite red right now if he didn't feel all his blood slowing down in his body.
"What… what do you mean… by that…"
He was starting to find it hard to talk, his body was starting to shut down, to try to spend every resource it could find to keep him going for a little bit longer. He wasn't sure if he should be asking such stupid questions, but dammit if he wasn't going to find something to do in his final moments.
"I know you probably have a huge amount of questions, about where you are, how you got here, what's happening right now, but you don't have long. Not long at all. I know this might sound strange, but I don't want you to die right here in front of me okay? but that's your call to make. If you want to live, I need you to reach in this circle for me, and I can save your life if you do that. But I need you to hurry! I can only do so much as long as your alive!"
Unsure of what was even happening, Andrew could only blankly look at her, but something in her eyes made him believe her. A desperate kind of hope and fear in those sunset eyes of hers. Taking a deep breath, Andrew nodded to her.
"Al…right… I…I want… I want you… to… save… m…e."
Andrew felt the edge of his conscious starting to fade, but he tried to push it aside, and pushed his hand forward as hard as he could to reach into that circle, his body hardly willing to follow his thoughts much longer. For a moment, he was sure his body was going to stop before he reached it, but the last thing he saw before he blacked out was his hand crossing the threshold of the circle.
Xx sometime later… xX
Andrew slowly opened his eyes, the feeling that he was in a different position then what he remembered causing him to start looking around his current area. He wasn't surprised to see that he was still laying on the ground, though from the looks of it he had been dragged into the room with the red-haired demon girl he had just met, pentagrams and all. Looking around, he did in fact find said girl, though it was more he felt her first before he actually laid eyes on her. Looking down at his side, Andrew saw that the girl was embracing him tightly and looking up at him. He was a little curious as to why she was doing this, but the look of worry melting away to relief on her face told him that she may have been doing something for him.
"Holy crap… you had me worried there for a minute. I was afraid I was too late to do anything when you passed out. Thankfully you got your hand in my living space, so I was able to get you in here where I could work my magic… so to speak."
Andrew blinked a few times before he opted to sit himself up, the young girl in his arms rolling over to the side to let him do just that unobstructed. Andrew took a moment to pat himself down and wasn't surprised to see that everything was still in working order, in fact, he felt better than he had over the last few hours. However, he was quick to note that he still felt somewhat cold inside, though it didn't seem to be getting worse than that. Andrew turned his attention back to the girl, who was currently sitting cross-legged in front of him, and nodded to her in thanks.
"I have no idea what you did, but you saved my damn life. I owe you big time."
The girl nodded her head once before she pointed at him with one of her claws.
"Your welcome, but I wouldn't be thanking me as of yet. All I did was fix the symptoms of your problem, the main issue is still there in your spirit."
Andrew reflexively put his hand over where his heart was as if to feel for what it was that caused his current issue.
"So… I'm not out of danger yet… at least it's better than being dead at any rate… but I guess the next question comes down to, how much longer do I have, and is there any way to fix it? Actually, I kinda would like to know what's happening to be honest."
The demon girl nodded her head in understanding before she placed both her paws on her knees and began to rock back and forth on her rear.
"I'll answer what I can, but let me go ahead and tell you what's happening to you right now. As you no doubt can figure out for yourself, you're dying. Why that is though is a whole other story. As far as I can tell, you touched the one thing in this maze that was never meant to come into contact with humans ever again. Weather based on luck or not, it didn't kill you the moment you touched it, so I guess that's good for you on your part."
"Okay… but what was it?"
The girl looked at him for a moment, as if to analyze something from him that he didn't know she needed to figure out. However, she let out a small sigh before she nodded to herself.
"What you currently happen to have trapped in your body is the soul of a very powerful and highly dangerous EX-demon lord. Thankfully for you, it's been down here for so long that it's lost any and all traces of its previous personality, making it just pure raw energy. Had it had some trace of the previous owner's identity, you would have gone mad and then died."
"Well, I guess that's some small relief…"
"I was being sarcastic… and it's still killing me by the way."
"Yeah yeah… as I was saying, because it's nothing but pure demonic energy at this point, when it came into contact with you, it latched onto you hoping to find someplace to go. Oddly enough for you, you had no magical circuits at all in your body whatsoever. So the only place it could really go was into your soul. Being a human, having demonic energy violently thrust into you would eventually kill you since you can't possibly convert yourself into a demon quickly enough for the sheer amount in your body to be absorbed. Even a straight up magic user would have problems staying alive with the amount you have trying to take the place of your soul."
"Huh… so basically… this energy is trying to stuff itself into the place my soul would normally go, but since my soul is already there, it's killing me outwardly by trying to push it out?"
Andrew looked down at his chest for a moment, half expecting to see his soul peeking out from somewhere, but shook his head and looked back at the girl in front of him.
"Okay… so I know whats happening to me… how do we go about fixing it?"
The demon girl breathed in deeply for a moment before she crossed her arms across her chest and exhaled loudly.
"Well… you see… that's a mite bit tricky… and even then, I actually can't do very much for you as I am currently."
Andrew wasn't sure what she was talking about and simply cocked his eyebrow in some confusion. Noticing his look, the demon pointed to the floor and walls of the room.
"Just like that soul, I too am a prisoner of this maze. I can't access much of my power while I happen to be stuck in this room. As of right now, I managed to suppress a great deal of that energy in your body, but it won't last long, and it'll come back quicker each time I push it back down. If I wasn't sealed in this room, then I could do a lot more for you, even create magical conduits for your body to properly house that power, but I can't do that as weak as I am."
"I sense a 'but wait!' in your next sentence."
The Demon girl smiled widely as she gave him a thumbs/paws up.
"Astute. Yes, there is a work around for me to access my full power, and that's that you need to break me out of here."
Andrew looked to the demon, then to the room they were currently in before he looked back to her with a neutral look on his face.
"Uh-hu… in case you forgot, I don't have any kind of magical ability, so I have no idea how a guy with no talent in magic would be able to break you out of a binding set by a far more experienced mage."
The girl simply kept on grinning at his remark and got to her feet. She then began to pace around the room, tapping out certain points in the wall knowingly and simply grinning on before she turned back to look at him.
"True, as a mage, you have nothing to contribute to my escape… but as a person… you're just who I need to get out. You see, I've been stuck down here for a very very very long time now. I've had time to study and work out processes to break the bindings on me, and with you showing up, I can implement the most surefire way available to me."
Andrew kept his eyes on her as she paced around him before he voiced his inner question.
"How do I picture into your escape?"
The demon clapped her paws together, making a soft sounding pap noise as she smiled cutely at him.
"Easy, I convert the contract keeping me bound to this place, into a servant contract with you."
For a moment, Andrew wasn't sure exactly what he heard right then. So he opted to ask again.
"I'm sorry what?"
"Form a contract with me, and I'll become your servant, ergo freeing me from this place and allowing me to work my full power to help you save your life."
"Yeah… form a contract… with a demon."
"Ah… more like a Dark Beast, but yeah."
Andrew blinked a few times at that before he let out a sigh and fell to his back and looked dead on at the ceiling with a sorta defeated look on his face.
"I take it if I refuse I'll die?"
"Uhhhhh… well… yeah, pretty much. I can't help you if I can't access my full power… whats the problem with it? It's not a bad deal, you get to keep your life and you get a servant like myself, how is this a bad thing?"
Andrew looked over at her and shook his head.
"It's a bad thing because I know you're not telling me everything about it. Back where I come from, such a deal is considered suspicious, I get a lot of good things out of it while you don't get much I can see. I can't bring myself to touch that kind of deal with a 39 and a half foot pole. I mean, whats the point of surviving if my soul gets eaten by you right afterward?"
For a moment, the girl looked somewhat hurt by the statement, though more of a hurt from the pride then from feelings.
"You're a lot more suspicious then I took you for… but your just gonna have to trust me on this. I know we just met and all, and your right about how it seems like a deal that's just too good to be any good, but it all comes down to trust in the end. I swear I'm just trying to help, and that by doing that I'll be able to get out of here."
Andrew looked her dead in her flaming eyes as she said that, and truth be told, he couldn't find the eyes of a liar in them at all. That or she was really good at hiding it. Letting out a small sigh, Andrew simply flopped back on the ground.
"Dead if I don't, maybe dead if I do… either way something won't end well for me… Alright, let's go ahead and get this done. What do I need to do?"
The girl grinned widely as she quickly clopped over to Andrew and knelt next to him and put her paw on top of his hand.
"It's simple. All you need to do is repeat after me and then give me a name."
Andrew cocked his eyebrow up at that.
"As long as I'm bound to a place, a name is meaningless to me. However, the moment I bind myself to a person, a name is needed for the ritual. It helps cement the pact between us. You'll need to come up with one quick though, the power that's keeping you going is starting to fade. Repeat after me… By the agreement placed between us and under the eyes of the pactmasters of old, we two do swear to hold to the ancient agreements placed upon this pact as stated by the dawning of the age of demons. That I will fulfill the obligations of this pact bequeath the pact master with his fondest desire, and that the master would give the demon a name to call her own and give her meaning under the carnage of old. Under these conditions we swear this pact upon the speaking of the name chosen. After that, give me my name, and it will be done."
Andrew, unsure of what to expect from all this, began to speak out the words she told, something in them resounding deeply in his bones, as if they spoke of something older then mankind.
"By the agreement placed between us and under the eyes of the pactmaster of old-"
Andrew felt something in his body rumble, and with it, he could feel something about himself start to change.
"-we two do swear to hold to the ancient agreements placed upon this pact as stated by the dawning of the age of demons-"
Andrew felt something like an invisible chain wrap around something in him, and he could feel the barest hint of where it went, though he had a guess of who it happened to be connected with.
"That I will fulfill the obligations of this pact bequeath the pact master with his fondest desire, and that the master would give the demon a name to call her own and give her meaning under the carnage of old."
Power began to bubble up inside of him, like a searing white flame was burning the binding attached to his soul, it was filling him, flooding him, almost overflowing out of him so much that he was finding it hard keep his voice going.
"Under these conditions-"
Andrew felt as if he was about to burst, the cold having long since been pushed back and replaced with the fire running through him.
"We swear this pact-!"
He needed to let it out, this was going to kill him, his body felt as if he was on fire, his soul being seared with both Cold and fire. For a brief moment, Andrew looked to the demon girl, dead in her eyes, and he could swear he saw her eyes where literal fire, as if she too was feeling what he felt and could only manifest it in her visage. For some odd reason, he felt as if he was also showing the same vision to her.
"-upon the speaking of the name chosen! I Name you Labareda! The burning one who will scorch away the cold of my body and sear the flesh of those who would do me harm! The flame of souls and the one who I call my own! You are Labareda!"
Andrew had no idea where those last few words came from, but the moment that name was spoken, he could feel the power stop raging within him and began to settle in his body like a warm heat from a hearth. He didn't even realize he had been panting until he took notice of how hard he was breathing. Looking down, he saw that his body was soaked in sweat, and much to his surprise, was even steaming. A laugh next to him made him look over to see that the demon girl-Labareda as she was now to be called- seemed to also be sweating and steaming like him.
" Ha! That got a little dicey there! Was afraid you were going to catch fire before you finished up!"
"Catch fire!? There was a chance this ritual would have killed me?!"
"Ehhhhhhhhhhhhh… a little bit, but it was by far the safest method in comparison to anything else I thought of."
Andrew looked at her skeptically, but took note of something on her body he didn't see before. Full body tribal tattoos running up the length of her body everywhere he looked, etched with arcane markings and motifs of fire, granted he could still see her ashen skin underneath the charcoal black, but it was a stark contrast to say the least. Noticing his gaze, Labareda looked down and smiled at herself.
"Pretty nifty right? These are signs that I belong to you now."
Andrew gazed for a bit longer before he spoke under his breath.
"Pretty cool… but I liked it better when your skin was unmarked…"
Labareda cocked her eyebrow up in some shock, but a large grin formed on her face as she thinned her eyes in a sly sort of way.
"Oh really now… I'll see what I can do about it later… but for now, go ahead and rest Master Andrew. I'll take care of you while you sleep. Your weariness and your magic circuits as well…"
Feeling the burden of the events finally catching up with him, Andrew felt his eyes grow heavy with sleep as he lay his head back down on the stone floor. However, before he let his mind slip to sleep, he had to ask one more question that nagged at him.
"How did you know my name…"
The girl reached over and gently stroked his face to sooth him, a tender look in her burning eyes as she did.
"You and I are bound now until the end of our days… Your name is no more a secret to me then my own… sleep well Master… and may you dream pleasant things as you slumber…"
With those words, Andrew found himself drifting off, his mind finally taking no more for the day.