Maybe I was too quick to act upon that thought...
That being the first thing she thought as she stared into the darkness of the deep hole, teeth digging into her bottom lip with uncertainty, was definitely not so encouraging. It hadn't crossed her mind that the Boogeyman would live deep inside the depths of the Earth, with the only entrance being a menacing-looking rabbit hole. As if that wasn't enough to send chills down her spine, the old, broken-down bed frame on top of it gave away a sense of hauntingness that Angel didn't appreciate one bit.
She felt Sleipnir give her shoulder a soft nudge, silently telling her that there was no point in backing up now. She had come all this way to do what she had to do. Releasing her lip from the grip of her teeth, she let out a calming breath, determination taking over her features when she shot one last look in the darkness of the hole. Before she had time to change her mind, she flicked her fingers, turning herself and the creatures accompanying her into black crystals that slipped silently inside the entrance to the Boogeyman's lair.
It took her ten whole minutes of freefalling before she reached the solid ground of an underground tunnel, transforming back to her human form.
She took a moment to look at her surroundings, though that proved to be unnecessary since the only things she could see through the darkness were the stone tunnel walls and a faint beam of light at the far end of it. The air was humid down there, making the hair on her arms stand up. Were she not a spirit, she would be hugging herself in an attempt to warm up. Apart from the shuffling of her shoes on the tunnel ground, the place was dead silent.
Angel eyed the beam of light carefully. Slowly, she began walking towards it, hearing the echo of her footsteps bounce off the stone walls around her. The feeling of emptiness emanating from all over the place was unsettling her. The Boogeyman clearly wanted his lair to make anyone who dared to visit uneasy. She momentarily thought of summoning the creatures she had taken with her from the cave but decided against it right after the thought had crossed her mind. The last thing she wanted was to appear as if she had come to pick another fight with the Nightmare King. It was best if she approached him alone, without an escort.
Alone, you are most vulnerable. Easy prey, for him.
You stay silent. You don't get to speak. She barely controlled her mouth not to say that out loud. The instinctive anger that voice managed to spark in her every time it echoed in her head was an always present threat to her control over her own body.
After the flesh was nearly torn off of his bone, do you really believe that he won't grasp the chance to finish what he started last time? Especially if he sees you alone? It taunted, an undertone of mocking laughter vibrating in her core.
The feeling of guilt that spread over her chest almost stilled her legs but she managed to push past it. I'll take my chances.
The voice fell silent after that, much to Angel's relief. Her next couple of steps brought her to a big opening, where the light was coming from. When she raised her head to look at the new room she had entered, she couldn't contain the gasp that escaped her lips. The place was enormous. It wasn't just a spacious underground cave or anything of the sort. It looked like a combination of a castle and a town. Wherever she looked, there were stairs, bridges, and corridors, each of them leading to a different room hidden inside niches in the stone walls. The few beams of light, the source of which was impossible to identify, illuminated the structure of the place, creating odd and disturbingly big shadows over the floors. The architecture varied from bridge to bridge and stair to stair. Angel had identified forty different architectures from a single vague survey of the place, from both different civilizations and eras. The room was a history museum all by itself, hosting traits from ancient Greece to the Inkas civilization, some of the most prominent aspects being associated with the colonial times, the Enlightenment of the 18th century, and the catacombs, not to mention a few details from the Egyptian culture and the changing architecture from the time of the Crusades. The cherry on top was the menacing, empty cages hanging like dead carcasses from the ceiling.
"Mon Dieu..." she murmured, amethyst eyes drinking up every detail of the place she could see. She hadn't stopped to think what the Boogeyman's lair would be like, but now that she was seeing it, she was beyond surprised. She had expected it to be dark, haunting, dead, cold, and empty, definitely depressing but she hadn't expected it to also be so...
She was given a deep huff as a response, one that made her jump and snap her head to the side. Her breath caught in her throat when she saw two pairs of glowing golden eyes glaring at her from inside one of the many shadows cast on the wall. All of a sudden, her breath sounded far too loud in her ears. Slowly, she took an experimental step back, testing how much liberty with her movements the Nightmares would allow her. True to her expectations, the horses started to advance towards her, walking calmly, steadily approaching her with their heads low in a threatening manner. Angel didn't try to back away from them anymore, rooting herself in her spot and letting them approach in an attempt to make clear to them that she wasn't afraid. She calmly raised her hands in front of her, so they would see she wasn't using her powers.
"I didn't come here to fight." She had no idea why she had said those words in a whisper, but it was too late to fix that now. The Nightmares didn't seem to care, anyway. They huffed and snorted, hitting the floor repeatedly with their hooves. Angel, thankfully, was familiar with the hostile signs of a horse. Despite not liking that her original approach would have to be modified, she gave the tiniest of twitches with the fingers of her right hand.
Two figures landed on the Nightmares' backs the moment the horses bent their knees to jump at her. The fearsome beings were stabbed in the neck and forced to dissolve into their original sand form in a matter of seconds. The two men responsible for that stood straight in front of Angel, their faces hidden under their white hoods. Angel let out a breath she hadn't realized she had been holding.
"Seems Pitch is still pissed off...unsurprisingly so." she mumbled the last part mostly to herself, internally scolding herself for having a small part of her hope he would have forgotten the whole thing. She glanced at the wide lair waiting for her, her eyes lingering a bit longer on the darker corners of the place. After what had just happened, she could only assume that the Boogeyman would attempt to attack her again soon enough. "I'll need you two to survey the area, remove any other Nightmares that might pose a threat. Altair, you get the groundwork. Ezio, you inspect from higher ground, from those cages if possible."
"As you wish." Ezio replied with his Italian accent, whereas Altair simply nodded before they both took off in different directions. They were gone out of her sight shortly after that.
Angel weighed her options and chose to cross a bridge to her left, blindly walking deeper inside the man's lair. She walked slowly, her footsteps light so as to not make much noise. She wasn't on high alert, though she probably should be. She was trying to be extra aware of her surroundings though, paying attention to any sound of movement that wasn't her own. The silence all around, the empty feeling emanating from every rock, every corner of the room, was creeping inside her soul with every step that led her further inside the lair. She could feel a strong sense of dread, sorrow, and loneliness, or rather a mixture of all of those, growing inside her fluttering heart just by being in this place. And, despite her better judgment, she was certain that this wasn't just Pitch's doing. This place was doing the work on its own.
She wished she could summon her creatures to keep her some company, just so the almost suffocating feeling of loneliness would go away. They weren't the humane company she had been desiring all these years, but at least they were better company than this absolute, pure emptiness surrounding her. The only reason she wasn't doing so was that she didn't want to risk appearing as a threat more than she was already risking it.
How has he managed to live in this place on his own for so long?!
Poor choice of words, sweetheart. He hasn't managed to live here. No one can, at least not without losing their sanity.
She had to admit that was a good point.
Her feet brought her in front of three different flights of stairs, two leading further down the depths of the earth and one going up. They all seemed to end in absolute darkness. She eyed each of them carefully, so much that she almost jumped out of her skin when one of her servants materialized beside her. Must have summoned him unconsciously. "Putain!* What is it?"
The cloaked figure bowed its head low, whispering almost in a conspirational manner. "We've located the King of Nightmares in the globe room. Take the right flight of stairs down and turn left to the first corridor."
Angel breathed deeply enough for her muscles to relax. "Good. Thank you."
She had reached the top of the stairs before Volpe's voice stopped her. "If I may, there's a room upstairs which seems to contain your tooth box, madonna."
Her body instantly spun around towards him. "What?"
He motioned with his head towards the stairs leading up. "The room on the far left."
A moment later, his colors faded to black and his body broke into crystal pieces that drifted away in the darkness. Angel took a step back, her eyes moving from one flight of stairs to the other. She knew she had to make a choice, one that could either corrupt the reason she had come here or give her the tiniest hope that the Boogeyman wouldn't try to kill her again. The problem was that she wanted to choose both.
Her foot shifted to the right. She hadn't stepped foot into his home, uninvited too, to try and steal from him. Not to mention that if he found out, her apology would be thrown out the window. No, her memories had to wait until he met his end of the deal and gave them to her.
You mean to tell me, taking back something that was yours from the beginning counts as stealing for you?! Give me a break!
She stopped in her tracks. After a short pause, her body changed direction and started up the stairs. This was one of the extremely rare occasions on which she agreed with the voice in her head. Pitch had stolen her memories from her in the first place. She would be simply taking them back. As she climbed further and further up the stairs, though, her steps slowed down. Determination gave its place to uncertainty. The darkness around the many steps she had yet to climb only added to her hesitancy.
She only reached the top when breathing had started to require some effort. Her eyes took in the long, dimly lit, corridor stretching in front of her as she took a few deep breaths. She briefly wondered where could these faint light rays come from, but the question was quickly dismissed. Straightening her shoulders, she slowly descended down the corridor, passing doors and niches alike. She had expected her footsteps to echo around the place, but instead, whatever sound they made was drowned by the dominating silence. If she didn't know any better, she would have easily assumed she was alone down there. Not even a rustle of wind could be heard, a fact that gave the lair a haunting feeling.
She hadn't realized her heart had been beating faster until she reached the door and let out a relieved sigh before she entered.
Up to that point, she hadn't considered what could be inside this room apart from her tooth box, though since this was the Boogeyman's lair, she had a pretty good idea of what to expect. That was until she saw the contents of the room.
There were two mannequins and a table. Nothing special, if it weren't for the treasures they were holding. Because that was the only suitable word to describe them. Treasures.
She slowly approached the first mannequin, as if she were under the influence of a spell. In front of her was the most beautiful gown she had ever seen. A deep red, off-shoulder, satin dream. Lace designs covered the corset and fully bloomed white roses adorned the dress's hem and waist. Angel brushed her finger over a white petal with the utmost care, afraid of ruining it. It was cool and soft to the touch, like a freshly cut flower.
Her eyes passed over the dress once more, this time regarding it with more than admiration. Questions filled her mind, making her heart flutter for reasons she didn't know. And this was just the first mannequin.
Amethyst eyes shifted away from the gown to stare at an armor. A golden armor. Freshly polished and shining like a star, lighting up the dark room. The design and insignias gave away the armor's high rank. This one belonged to a general, or at least a captain. But there was no sword. A grand scythe with a golden handle was hanging by the armor's back, instead. Angel's heartbeat filled her eyes at the sight, overwhelmed with fascination. Just like with the gown, questions formed in her head, too many to count, yet none could be answered. She was certain for one thing, though. She, unintentionally, had gotten a glimpse at Pitch Black's past life.
The dreadful expression that took over her face was reflected on the armor's breastplate. This was a huge mistake...
She turned away from the armor. She shouldn't have come to this room, she shouldn't be there. No matter how much she disliked the man, she had no right to invade his past. She rushed to the door and hastily grabbed the knob. She had to get out of there, now.
She froze. That voice hadn't come from inside her head.
Her body turned slowly to the side, wide eyes looking at the last piece of furniture in the room; the table. On top of which, among some other things, lay a colorful tooth box.
"Mamman..." she whispered. Her feet brought her closer to it, her hands lifted it off the table, shaking the teeth inside. The box felt heavy in her hands, in spite of its small size. Her eyes roamed over it, memorizing each shape and color. As if to ensure this wasn't the wrong one, she turned it in her hands. The drawing of a familiar face greeted her. The image of her past, a girl with light brown curls and baby blue eyes, was smiling at her. And just like that, for a moment she felt complete in a way she hadn't felt for over ten years.
Her lips curled into a smile and she clutched the box tighter in her hand. She raised her hand over the colorful diamonds on the lid but stopped short when something else caught her attention. Another golden object was lying neatly on the table, one that momentarily had the woman dumbfounded.
...Is that a locket?
A deafening crack broke the silence, shaking the whole place like an earthquake. Angel gasped, her tooth box slipping from her fingers and landing with a clatter on the table.
It was like an awakening call. All at once, Angel remembered where she was, what she was doing, what she had come to do. How wrong all that was.
She dashed out of the room, leaving everything else behind, including her tooth box. The unknown identity of that sound and what it could mean for her pushed her legs to run faster. This time, she took the direction she should have taken in the first place.
Her feet felt as if she was gliding over the many stone steps as she descended deeper into the depths of the earth. It wasn't long before she had to stop at the bottom of the stairs as her scattered thoughts prevented her from remembering which corridor from the two stretching before her she was supposed to take to reach the globe room.
Her subconscious called one of her servants from wherever he was in that dark maze and shortly after, Volpe materialized to her left. His presence somewhat put her mind at ease thus making his wordless directions clear to her. She composed herself with a deep breath before she decided to approach the corridor's entrance.
"If I were you, madonna, I would approach with caution." Volpe advised, eyeing the end of the corridor as if he was waiting for something to jump at him from there at any moment. Angel glanced at him once, acknowledging his advice right before she disappeared inside the darkness of the corridor, Volpe's form dissolving as she did so.
She walked steadily, the darkness around her so deep it forced her to feel the stone walls around her with her hands to make sure she was heading the right way. Slowly, a small light appeared at the end of the corridor, growing larger as she kept going, but of course never getting brighter in the Boogeyman's lair. Angel reached out a hand and grabbed the side of the opening, ducking a bit as she pulled herself out of what turned out to be a niche in the cave wall. An open space greeted her, like some sort of stone platform, where a dark, sinister version of a globe was placed, millions of bright lights adorning the surface.
The thundering sound of hooves on stone pulled her attention towards the right side of the platform. Her eyes were met with what at first looked like an enormous, black mass, though a closer look revealed it to be a horde of nightmares running in a circle around something Angel couldn't see through all of that sand. Because something didn't feel right about that horde, she squinted her eyes and took a couple of steps forward in an attempt to get a better look.
The moment she took her third step, a Nightmare jumped in front of her out of nowhere and neighed at the top of its lungs.
"Merde!" she cursed loudly, the shock making her trip back and fall on the ground. The horse kept screeching at her and she could only watch with wide eyes as it reared on its hind legs to trample her. Its hooves started descending down on her when she felt crystals in her hand.
A gunshot bounced off the walls, shaking the whole lair and sending a shiver down Angel's spine. The horde of Nightmares scattered away to the dark corners like mice. A rain of nightmare sand fell on Angel's feet, a small bullet lying among the remnants of her attacker. She took the sight in, then tilted her head back.
"Pardon moi, mademoiselle. I seem to have blown up our cover." the blue hooded assassin said, tucking away his french Flintlock pistol. His mistress was shocked enough that she didn't comprehend the meaning of his words right away. "Arno-..."
She almost flinched at the intensity of his tone, one of disbelief and underlying anger, adorned with a touch of cautiousness. It was like a slap to the face that abruptly made her realize the position she was in. She turned to look at him with wide eyes that betrayed how most of her initial confidence had left her a few moments back.
He was standing close to the edge of the platform, a beam of grey light falling on him from above that made his shadow stretch across the stone floor. His surprised expression was combined with what could be described as a displeased frown. The worst part of it, though, was the lowered scythe he was clutching in his hands.
Now what, sweetheart...?
"How did you end up here?" he spat, his grip visibly tightening around the weapon. Miraculously, the venom in his voice reminded her of their training session, which displeased her enough to work up the confidence she needed. She had no reason to be nervous. She had acknowledged her mistake and had come to apologize for it. He wasn't likable enough to deserve her nervousness.
Feeling the need to be on his eye-level, even with their distance, she rose to her feet. "I wanted to talk to you. And, since you didn't come-..."
"Obviously there's a reason for that." he interrupted her, a sneer taking over his features. Angel pressed her lips into a tight line, pushing back the urge to rush into an explanation that would make her apology sound like a desperate plea for his forgiveness, but the dark spirit didn't leave her time to resume her talking. "You have no business here, Myth. I will let your trespassing slide if you show yourself out, right now."
This time, she reacted on instinct. "No, wait. I only came here because-..."
"Leave, Angel. Now." His voice sounded strained as if he was trying to keep his anger from acting up. The strange thing was that there was an underlying urgency in his tone, a desire to get her out of there as soon as possible. As if to emphasize his words and prove her thoughts, he took a couple of steps towards her, his scythe shifting behind him.
A series of clicks bounced off the walls. "No need to get nearer, monsieur."
Oh...I forgot about them.
Angel cursed internally as Pitch's gaze landed on the man behind her, aiming his pistol at him. She could only watch and bear the feeling of her stomach tying into a knot as Pitch's baffled expression turned to a snarl when one by one the assassins appeared from the shadows, aiming at the Boogeyman's head. She didn't need to look behind her to know that Arno, Volpe, and Altair had gathered to defend her if necessary. She could tell from the rage on Pitch's face. And, when Ezio landed beside them and aimed his hidden wrist gun at the target, it was the last straw.
"What a grand sight you are." The venom in those words had Angel grasping the skirt of her dress into a tight fist. "It brings back such impactful memories."
Angel almost winced at the meaning behind that word. "They're just here to protect me, not pose a threat. I just want to speak with you."
"You dare trespass in my domain with your bodyguards lying around and expect me to hear anything you have to say?!" he finally snapped, yelling at her in a way she had never witnessed before.
Dread washed over her when she felt the change in the assassins behind her, her hand shooting up from her side and barely stopping them from firing. "No! Pitch, listen, I know how this looks but-..."
"You and your lackeys get out of my sight at once."
The growl he used made her next words die in her throat. This was her last warning and she knew it. She had blown everything up. Her grip loosened around the fabric of her skirt and she slowly backed away, the assassins lowering their weapons when she turned to them.
The sound was so foreign and strange that stopped her mid-turn.
Her body seemed to have a mind of its own as she slowly turned to look at Pitch once again. It might have been her eyes playing tricks on her, but Pitch seemed somehow tenser than before. Without even thinking, she shifted her eyes to his arms and was met with the sight of a liquid soaking his sleeve and dripping down the stone floor. "What-..."
"I said, leave." he demanded, barely restraining his anger. Or was it something else he was restraining?
As if on cue, a neigh sounded from somewhere deep in the shadows, catching everyone's attention. Moments later, a second neigh joined in. Then a third...a fourth...
It wasn't long before pairs of golden eyes emerged from every shadow, every door, and staircase, every cage hanging above. A number of Nightmares impossible to count surrounded them, snorting and neighing dangerously. But, what truly unnerved Angel was the fact that something was very wrong with those Nightmares.
She raised her hands in a calming motion as she eyed the Nightmares glaring at her from their spots. "Pitch, alright, you made your point. Tell them to back off, I don't want to fight. I'll leave."
With all the huffing and the neighing going on around her, she thought she misheard him when he murmured. "It's funny how you think I got a choice."
Then all hell broke loose and the lair seemed to shake from the thousand thundering hooves as the Nightmares charged at them full speed.
"EN GUARD!" Angel screamed, her tentacle weapons manifesting on her back. Instantly, the four assassins armed themselves with crossbows, pistols, throwing knives and blades, shooting and destroying the first line of Nightmares closest to their mistress. They drew swords, spears, stilettos, and clubs and jumped into battle, Angel joining them shortly after.
It was chaotic. The place resembled a beehive on high alert. The Nightmares were everywhere, springing from every possible direction, attacking randomly but collectively. Angel was moving faster than she thought herself able to, spinning and swinging all around her. She barely had time to notice which was the Nightmare closest for her to strike in that endless sea of black sand. And the noise was the icing on the cake. The air was filled with the thunder of hooves, crazed neighs, and the occasional clang of her weapons shattering the stricken horses. It was so loud it seemed to envelop her.
And it didn't get any better.
Despite how surprisingly well she was standing her ground, Angel couldn't keep this up for long. The Nightmares' attacks were too fast and most of the time, she found herself hitting randomly and still finding the target. There were just so many, it was impossible for her to swing and miss. She needed a plan of attack, but coming up with an idea at the moment was simply impossible.
As if sensing her inner conflict, the Nightmares changed their movements in a formation that placed her in the middle of them all and, as a circling ring, started closing in on her, speeding up their attacks and making them more frequent. Angel gritted her teeth and raised her tentacles high in the air, striking one by one the mares from above like the stinger of a scorpion. That wasn't enough, though, and she realized it very soon. Two Nightmares attacked her from the side, one from the ground and one from the air when she wasn't looking. Once she noticed their attack, a moment too late, her view was blocked by Altair's back as he threw a knife at the flying Nightmare and killed it, while the other charging Nightmare was dealt with by a swing of Ezio's iron club.
Let me out!
Forget it. Angel pierced a Nightmare's chest with her tentacle and wrapped the other around a second horse, hurling it to a team of its charging companions.
You can't handle this alone, you moron, they are too many of them!
As if on cue, Angel started receiving pushes and hits by the Nightmares that were too fast for her to act. And being in the middle of them, she felt like the ball in an arcade game, being hit all around the place. Thankfully, an array of arrows shot past her and destroyed the attacking Nightmares, followed by Volpe who came to stand beside his mistress, aiming his crossbow at the horses. One by one, her servants noticed her struggle and, after Altair gave the command in Arabic, formed a defense circle around her, shielding her with themselves. Even still, Angel knew this wouldn't work for long.
I can fight them off, you know that.
I'm not letting you out again, so do me a favor and shut up!
When will you realize you need my help, woman?
Angel looked at the assassins surrounding her, struggling to think of a plan. When Volpe's figure was crashed by a Nightmare, it finally came to her. The realization almost caused her to miss the Nightmare's attack, blocking it at the last moment.
Yeah, I do need help.
Finally, you see-
But, I don't need your help.
Now knowing what to do, she turned to her remaining assassins and yelled over the deafening noise. "Get to the higher ground!"
The men hesitated for only a moment before they jumped high and expertly climbed the walls up to the hanging cages. Wasting no time, she spun her tentacles around herself like the blades of a blender, taking down every Nightmare in close proximity of her and simultaneously keeping the rest of them away. She kept her tentacles spinning around, only now she turned them into their original crystal form and compacted them closer to her person. Eventually, she was yielding a 9 feet tall tornado made of black crystals, and she was in its eye.
She gritted her teeth in concentration, sweat forming on her brow as she struggled to keep her compacted magic spinning. Feeling as though she was lifting weights, she shot the tornado in the air with a yell, sending it flying towards the ceiling of the lair. The Nightmares stopped momentarily and watched with her as the tornado got higher and higher. Right before it hit the ceiling, the crystals exploded and the tornado was destroyed. The Nightmares waited to see if something was going to happen, but after realizing that nothing had changed, their attention turned back to Angel, now defenseless at the center of them all. Huffing and glaring, the horses charged at her full speed, all at once.
Yet, Angel was still staring at the ceiling.
She spotted the glowing purple eyes before the Nightmares reached her.
An echoing, blood-chilling laughter had the Nightmares halting in their tracks, heads snapping towards an elevated corridor masked by shadows. The loud cacophony bouncing off the stone walls was still raging, and yet the distinct, heavy clicking of hooves against stone coming from those particular shadows stood out among the other sounds. An enormous steed walked into the dim light, black as the night, with red pupilless eyes that glowed in rage at the sight of the Nightmares. And on its back, was seated a sight that made the horses shift uneasily in their place.
The Headless Horseman surveyed the Nightmares surrounding his mistress with his non-existent gaze, paying no attention to the other Nightmares still running around and attacking, on the other side of the platform. A soft breeze made his long, deep purple cape rustle behind him and when he calmly unsheathed his sword, the Nightmares almost took a step back. Angel could sense her servant liking the effect he had on the horses, hence why he remained there, on his obviously eager for action steed, staring the Nightmares down just to toy with them. Under any other circumstances, she would have let him do as he pleased, but now, the longer he didn't make a move, the more time the Nightmares had to find their wit and face him. Some horses had already started snorting warningly at him.
Realizing it was time to get to business, the Horseman raised his sword towards the ceiling, several different screeches following his move.
Under the discomfited gaze of the Nightmares, a dozen crystal creatures descended down from the walls, gaining flesh and colors once they stepped into the light. Twelve different servants, the three master assassins included, stared the Nightmares down, some smiling maliciously, others scowling. They weren't much, but what they lacked in numbers they made up for in skill. At least that's what Angel hoped as she prepared a handful of crystals when the horses pulled their ears back.
The Horseman's stallion reared back on its hind legs when its master let out a burst of long, haunting laughter and waved his sword. Then, both he and the other creatures lunged at the Nightmares.
Angel's tentacles sprout out from her back in an instant and reached up to the ceiling as the Nightmares charged at her and her servants. The tentacles wrapped around two iron cages, their sharp ends breaking the chains holding them and with a grunt, she smashed them onto the Nightmares. The horses' line broke, giving her creatures an opening they used as they jumped at the black horses. She wasted no time in joining the fight once more.
This time, the sounds bouncing off the stone walls didn't only originate from horses. The cries and screeches echoing around the room, combined with the clashing of weapons made the battle seem like something straight out of a horror film.
Angel didn't allow any Nightmare to get at arm's length away from her. Her weapons slashed, stabbed, and smashed anything in her peripheral view. Sure, there were too many of them, but she was holding her ground better than earlier, now that she had more servants to defend her every time she happened to miss a charging Nightmare. They weren't much, truth be told, but they seemed to survive, for the time being, some of them even enjoying the rare opportunity to face off against an actual, physical enemy. Even so, though, the numbers weren't in their favor, and the Nightmares could easily overpower them if her servants kept attacking randomly.
A few Nightmares attempted a synchronized attack on her, charging straight at her from both sides. Seeing them approaching fast, Angel used her tentacles to push herself high up in the air at the last moment, bringing her weapons harshly down and disintegrating the horses while still in midair. As her body started to fall, her eyes looked at the sea of Nightmares beneath her, spotting among the piles of sand a flash of color here and there, surrounded by moving blackness.
Realizing with dread that those colors were actually her creatures fighting on their own, she shot her tentacles to the nearest column, stopping her fall a few feet before she hit the ground. She quickly scaled the wall and reached the hanging cages the moment a handful of Nightmares spotted her. Angel planted her feet on one of the cages and pierced the two nearest to her with her tentacles, yanking them from their chains and smashing the Nightmares charging at her between them with a deafening clang.
Razaar, the mutated zombie wolf, slashed the Nightmare nearest to him with his claws, backhanding another one to his right with a roar. Before he had time to react, two horses jumped on his back, biting his ears hard enough to make him cry out. Razaar struggled under their weight, his long jaws snapping to the side and closing around the neck of the first Nightmare, flipping him over his shoulder to the ground. The Nightmare still on him bit him harder this time, causing him to roar in pain and kneel on the floor. A moment later, a feline snarl filled his ears and the Nightmare was pushed off his back and tackled to the ground by a golden body. The wolf glanced to the side in time to see Cheetah slash open the horse's throat, and he moved, biting to bits a Nightmare charging at Cheetah from behind. The two beings stood back to back, breathing heavily as the Nightmares surrounding them attacked all at once, engulfing them completely.
The two creatures felt their bodies get crushed under the weight when a distant 'clang' was heard and a moment later, a big iron cage smashed against the Nightmares, freeing the two. The astonished pair stood up and stared at the broken cage lying on the bottom of the stairs before turning their gaze up to see their mistress throwing the second cage a few feet further from them, where a group of Nightmares was closing in on Thrax and Venom. The cage rolled on the floor, passing over the horses in its path, while the two previously surrounded males stared at it, dumbfounded.
Ultron blasted another Nightmare with his lasers, looked at the fallen cages, and then turned his attention to the many more still hanging from the ceiling. "Now that might work..."
As he flew over to the ceiling, the rest of the creatures seemed to get the same idea and followed their mistress' example. Tirek, the red centaur, kicked two Nightmares with his hind legs and shot a burst of magic that cut four chains simultaneously. Venom quickly climbed to higher ground and extended his arms to the two falling cages, swinging them in a way that swept dozens of Nightmares off the floor, destroying them. Ultron and Thrax flew after the other two cages, the robot cutting the cage in the middle with his lasers and using his anti-gravity tech to throw the pieces on the horses, while the virus caught up to the remaining falling cage and scratched it with his lit up claw, turning it into a liquid fire that exploded in the air. The Nightmares who weren't quick enough to scatter were scorched by the fire, while the ones who survived were quickly dealt with by the Headless Horseman and the three Assassins.
Angel jumped from the ceiling back down to the fight, helping her less powerful servants to survive. As she smashed two Nightmares to pieces, saving Ezio at the last minute, she turned at the sound of mechanical laughter to see a colorful blur, which she recognized as the robotic Fizzarolli, cartwheeling and destroying six Nightmares charging towards her. Fizzarolli's speed-cartwheeled around the place, taking down any horse in his path until one of them grabbed him by his collar from behind and threw him in the air. The clown rolled in the air with robotic exclamations as he saw the Nightmares awaiting him to fall to their hooves. But then, Cheetah came slashing at the horses and Razaar jumped and grabbed him in the air, striking at the remaining Nightmares as he landed, setting Robo Fizz safely on the ground before he resumed his fighting.
"Fizzarolli, over here!" Leatherhead yelled at him, smashing some Nightmares out of the way with his tail before grabbing one of the fallen cages and sending it flying towards the clown. Robo Fizz got the point, jumped on the cage, and started cartwheeling on it, rolling it around and running over double the number of Nightmares he had before.
Angel wanted to smile at the sight of her creatures working together, but their problems weren't over yet. Despite how well they were fighting now, the Nightmares just kept coming and coming. Her muscles were aching at this point and her labored breath was burning her throat. She was way too tired to keep this up for long, which meant that it was only a matter of time before her creatures also felt the fatigue. Her movements started to lose their speed, which led to her receiving more hits from the horses, the impact hurting her more than earlier.
Moreover, her three Assassins got trampled by a horde of Nightmares, their forms breaking under the hooves. If she didn't find a way to end this soon, the rest of her creatures would be defeated, and then she would be utterly defenseless. Trying her best to fight back her tiredness, she looked frantically around for the man who could stop all this chaos.
She spotted him on the far side of the platform she had last seen him, fighting his own against a large horde of Nightmares.
What in the name...? Why is he fighting his own servants? Isn't he supposed to be their master?
I bet it's an act to fool you, make you believe this isn't his doing... Watch your back, sugar.
Angel turned in time to pierce a Nightmare that had come too close for comfort.
But, why bother faking an attack by his own creatures? It doesn't make any sense.
He practically yelled at you to leave earlier. Guess he doesn't want anything to do with you given what happened last time, so he pretends to not have control over his Nightmares to scare you away. If no one controls these beasts, then everyone is in danger.
I doubt an arrogant jerk like him would go so far as to appear weak enough to not be able to control his subjects. If anything, he would want me to believe he is way out of my league. There must have been another reason he wanted me to leave...
Angel used her tentacles to jump in time for the four Nightmares running towards her to headbutt each other.
Then, while still in the air, she saw it.
As Pitch swung his scythe to the side, she saw the black droplets flying from his person and landing on the stone wall behind him.
Jeez, Pennywise did quite the damage, huh?
He hasn't healed since then...
A Nightmare kicked her in midair, interrupting her thoughts and sending her flying through waves upon waves of nightmare sand before she harshly landed on the stone floor, rolling on her side.
She lied there, grunting as the pain coursed through her body. A peal of mocking laughter sounded in her head.
Oh dear, are you alright?
His injury must have been the reason he wanted me to leave. He didn't want to appear weak.
And, what? His horses saw his weakness and decided to overthrow him?
Angel struggled to her knees, tiredly noticing the Nightmares approaching her. "Something like that..."
You're kidding. You're kidding, right...?
This is the only explanation. It must be.
She weakly swung at the Nightmares with a tentacle, but the horses easily dodged and attacked. She instinctively raised her tentacles as a shield, blocking their attack long enough for Leatherhead to rush in and throw them away with his tail and mouth.
Angel looked towards the Boogeyman still fighting his subjects. "I've got to get there."
"This way, missy!" Fizzarolli called, cartwheeling towards the platform, clearing a path for her as he run over the Nightmares in the way. Angel run behind him, the horses around her rushing to block her until Tirek came galloping beside her and offered her his hand as he called for her to get on his back.
Angel did just that and held onto him as he run behind Fizzarolli, blasting the Nightmares who had time to move in front of him. When they finally reached the platform, Tirek realized it was impossible to break through the buzzing circle the Nightmares had formed around their king. "I can't get past that!"
"I can." Ultron said as he flew around a pillar, pushing a Nightmare off of his back. "Hand, please."
Angel raised her hand and the robot grabbed it as he flew by, carrying her with him above the nightmare circle. With his other hand, he blasted a hole into the sand and dropped her in. Her breath caught in her throat as gravity brought her closer to the Nightmares, her body barely slipping through the hole before the sand covered it once more.
She had planned to use a crystal wave to ease her landing, and she was about to do just that when a certain someone yelled in her head.
Scythe, scythe, scythe!
Her gaze turned to the side a moment too late. In a violent swing, Pitch's massive scythe accidentally struck her side. The woman let out a cry of pain as she was thrown aside, landing painfully on her back.
Somehow hearing her voice among the cries of his servants, Pitch turned his head back and looked at her in bewilderment. "You again?"
"Ugh...next time... strike harder, will you?" she commented, the surging pain adding the sarcasm in her tone as she struggled to her feet.
Pitch's expression turned into a snarl as he brought his attention back to the attacking Nightmares around him, resuming his fight while addressing Angel. He didn't like the idea of having her so close to his person, but right now the Nightmares were a bigger threat than she was. "How many times do I have to tell you, woman?! Get out of my lair!"
Angel held her side to ease the pain, quickly putting up a shield of crystals when the Nightmares started attacking her too. Her voice had trouble coming out with all the damage and tiredness she was enduring. "That's kind of impossible at the moment!"
The Boogeyman grunted, blocking a strong attack before advancing. "In that case, I will throw you out myself!"
"You won't do anything if you don't regain control of these things!" she countered, feeling her feet gliding back with every strike of the horses against her shield. "You're wounded, Black. If you don't heal, they will just keep coming. "
Another attack forced them to move, the spirits now standing back to back. The darker spirit threw her a glare over his shoulder. At this point, no matter his pride, he couldn't deny the truth behind her words. "I'm a little busy at the moment!"
"I can see that!" she yelled, feeling her shield cracking under the force of another attack. Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted the dripping wound on his arm within her reach. The sight was gut-wrenching, but with everything that was going on she couldn't back down now.
Taking her hand off her side, she slowly reached back to his arm. "If you just let me-"
The moment her fingertips touched his injured skin, he hissed in pain, pulled himself away from her, and struck her with his scythe. "Stay back!"
Angel's shield shattered and she fell to the ground, the impact sending a new wave of pain through her body. She gritted her teeth, clutching her side. She glanced at Pitch through blurry eyes, her gaze trained on his wound. Apparently, if she was going to heal him, she had to convince him first, and she wasn't going to accomplice that with Nightmares constantly attacking him.
With whatever power she had left, she forced herself back up and whistled.
Her creatures turned towards the sound and, one by one, they moved quickly towards the nightmare circle, while she reached Pitch once more. Readying some crystals in her palm, she grabbed his robe with her other hand and pulled him back to her, shooting the crystals on the ground. Pitch had no time to react as the crystals swirled and grew in size, forming the dragon figure of Maleficent who rose to her full height, bursting through the tight circle of the Nightmares with a terrifying roar.
"Get back!" Angel yelled, pulling him out of the way before the dragon could step on him as it snapped on the Nightmares flying around.
With a flick of her wrist, Angel disintegrated Tirek and used his crystals to form Daybreaker. The sun-alicorn flew above her mistress with a burst of ringing laughter and shot fire out of her mouth that started circling the two spirits.
"What's this?!" Pitch yelled, trying to step away from the fire, but Angel was quick to hold him back by the wrist. "Don't worry!"
Daybreaker kept breathing fire down on them, creating a circle that separated the spirits from the Nightmares. The ring of fire was almost done until a Nightmare attacked her from above, stopping her short. The opening in the fire didn't go unnoticed by the horses, who quickly rushed towards it. Angel cursed under her breath and prepared to stand her ground when a body came to stand between her and the horses.
Thrax lit up his claw and slashed at the Nightmares, causing the first line of them to burst into flames. While the horses behind stepped back to avoid their burning comrades, Thrax turned to his mistress and drew a line on the floor with his claw, the flames that erupted from it completing the fire ring. To make sure the Nightmares wouldn't find a way to pass through the flames, Angel twisted her fingers and changed Cheetah's crystals to a creature she judged more useful at the time.
Pitch looked around at the firewalls surrounding them, feeling both safe and trapped. The flames were driving the Nightmares away, but his nature as a spirit of darkness put him at a disadvantage as well. He turned to face her with a hostile look. "What is the meaning of this?! What are you doing?"
"Fixing my mess." she breathed, grabbing the wrist of his injured arm and controlling the black string to uncoil from her arm and wrap around his wound. Pitch cried out in pain at the contact and tried to pull his arm away, but Angel's string held it firmly. "Keep still, I'm trying to heal you!"
"What?" Pitch asked in surprise, but his question went unanswered when a Nightmare screeched and came galloping down on them from above.
The two spirits got alarmed at the sight, though their worry was short-lived as the Nightmare was destroyed by a rain of bullets. Rattlesnake Jake called out to Angel, while still firing at the horses that tried to fly into the fire-ring. "Hurry it up, will ya?! These blasted things won't back down!"
Hearing the urgency in his voice, Angel channeled as much power as she could to the string, feeling the agony of her creatures fighting on the other side of the flames. Ultron and Daybreaker were attacked from above and pushed to the ground, the Nightmares crushing them under their hooves, despite Maleficent's attempts at scorching the horses with her fiery breath.
Pitch held back a moan of pain as the string tightened around his arm. Slowly, he felt tiny crystal fragments spreading over his injury, cool and numbing like ice. The pain gradually faded away as the crystal layer covered more skin and he looked down at his arm in amazed curiosity, not noticing the sweat forming on Angel's forehead.
"Mistress, help!" Razaar roared as the Nightmares literally tore him apart, the Horseman's stallion beside him rearing back on its hind legs as the horses climbed on top of one another like a wave that tipped the stallion with its rider back and trampled them both.
At that moment, Angel let go of Pitch's wrist and the string unwrapped from his arm, revealing a crystal layer that covered his whole arm. The Boogeyman raised his arm to inspect it, the crystal around it breaking and falling off of it like autumn leaves. Pitch stared at the completely healed skin in amazement when Angel took a step back to not fall down from exhaustion, the flames around them extinguishing.
Maleficent's roar made Angel turn in time to see the enormous dragon collapse under the force of a thousand Nightmares climbing on her. Realizing how bad the situation was getting, the spirit managed the strength to raise her hand and collect the crystals from the dragon's defeated form. Now that she and Pitch were once more fully exposed to the wrath of the horses and her strength was reaching its limit, she only had the power to use her crystals one last time before she and her remaining subjects were at the mercy of the Nightmares.
"This is a terrible idea..." she murmured, shooting the crystals towards the ceiling a moment before a Nightmare crashed against her, sending her body gliding on the floor until her back hit the wall.
Pitch wasted no time in regaining control of his Nightmares, effortlessly blocking a horde that came his way and pushing them away. Just as he was about to command their obedience, laughter he wished he would never hear again echoed around the room. With wide eyes, he and the horses saw a giant white spider materialize in the middle of the lair, the head of that damn clown smiling hungrily down at them with rows of sharp teeth coated in drool.
For a moment, everything stopped. The screeches, the thunder of hooves, and every movement ceased as the clown and the mares stared at one another in complete silence.
Then, Fizzarolli appeared on Pennywise's shoulder with a wide smile on his face and laughed. "You guys are so screwed now! Buwahahaha!"
Seemingly agreeing with him, Pennywise roared and lunged at the Nightmares.
Pitch backed away as fast as he could, watching as the panicked horses scattered to every dark corner they could hide in, while the unlucky ones were grabbed and swallowed by the clown. It wasn't long before the place was empty of nightmare sand, not a single horse remaining insight.
Having nothing else to feast on, Pennywise's gaze turned to lock onto the Boogeyman himself. Pitch had no time to slip into the shadows before the beast lunged again.
The clown's mouth was two feet away from the frozen spirit before it suddenly stopped.
The sand disappeared from Pitch's hand along with his defensive stance, as he found himself shielded behind Angel's four remaining creatures who growled and glared at the spider-clown. The latter seemed as taken aback as Pitch, taking a small step back and looking at the smaller beings in confusion.
"Take another step and I'll blow holes into your thick skull!" threatened Jake, cocking his rattle gun to prove his words.
"You've done enough already." snapped Leatherhead, his tail swishing behind him.
Venom stepped forward with a determinate look in his milky eyes. "We won't let you harm this man again."
"Didn't ya learn your lesson last time, baby?" Thrax lastly commented, playing with the chain in his hand. "Angel doesn't want you attacking Black here again."
Pennywise growled lowly in his throat, both disappointed and annoyed to be scolded like that. Feeling something climbing on his arm, he looked down to see Fizzarolli once more, smiling up at him. "Don't be so gloomy, Pen! You've eaten a lot for one day. Why don't you take a break and we'll meet you back at the carnival, huh?"
The bigger clown stared at him for a moment longer before shrugging with a half-smile. "Well, Okie Dokie."
His form broke into small pieces and Venom had to catch the robotic clown in his arms before he hit the ground.
Pitch was left speechless, not knowing what to do with those creatures in his lair. That didn't seem to matter, though, because as soon as the clown was gone, they moved to the far side of the platform, not sparing him a single glance. He followed them with his eyes, along a trail of purple substance that stained his floor, at the end of which lied Angel's form.
She was breathing deeply, tiredly, staring up at the worried faces of her servants. The words weren't easy to form. "You...did well...All...of you."
Her subjects didn't feel like basking in the praise, given the state she was in. Sensing the Boogeyman approaching, they turned to regard him with cautious eyes, their mistress soon following their gaze.
Pitch was standing a couple of feet away among the mess of broken cages and rubble, staring at all of them with an unreadable expression. Angel was too tired and beaten up to do anything more than take in the sight of him standing unfazed in the center of his wrecked home.
She felt her consciousness drifting away for the first time in ten years, and before her eyes fell shut she uttered the only thing her mind managed to come up with.
"I'm...not...helping you...clean this up."
Sooo...did I die? No. Did I lose track of time and forgot to update? Yes. Should I have updated sooner? Probably.
Honestly, I don't have any excuse other than the usual 'life got in the way'. Hey, you know it's true. Anyway, hope the long chapter makes up for the time you had to wait! Truthfully, this would have been longer, but I wanted to finally post something, so I had to write a different ending for this.
Huge thanks to Aviantei and Sage S Adoren for reviewing and encouraging me!
Please consider leaving a review with your thoughts! Research shows that the more thought-out reviews an author gets, the more motivated they are! Also, let me know if there's a creature or fictional character you'd like me to include in the fanfic (as you can see, I will be using a lot of them and they will be interacting with each other, so there's room for everyone!)
Aside from that, I decided to list the characters I'm using and their origin for anyone who might not know them, so here goes:
The Assassins, Altair, Ezio, Arno, and Volpe from the video game Assassin's Creed
The Headless Horseman (mythical being) portrayed by Disney's Sleepy Hollow
Razaar and Leatherhead from Nickelodeon's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2012 series
Cheetah from DC
Ultron from MCU's Avengers- Age of Ultron
Fizzarolli aka Robo Fizz from Helluva Boss, a youtube series by Vivziepop
Pennywise from the two movies IT and IT Chapter 2
Tirek and Daybreaker from My Little Pony Friendship is Magic (yeah, I did it)
Rattlesnake Jake from the movie Rango
Venom from Sony's 2018 movie 'Venom'
Thrax from the movie Osmosis Jones, 2001
Maleficent from Disney's movie Sleeping Beauty
And...I think that's it! Thanks for reading everyone!