Just a Little Black Magic
Prelude: Dreams and Nightmares
by: Jess


Kayura wasn't too sure just what she was looking at. A rock? No, the striations in the structure were too well defined; it looked like the different layers of soil. Waitaminute! It was the different layers of soil!
She realized. She rubbed her eyes disbeiliving that they were functioning properly.
The chunk of world, a cone-shaped clod of dirt nearly five hundred feet in diameter, floated in a sea of swirling eddys of air. Atop this island of sorts, was a tall, sweeping structure, crumbling and decayed from years of misuse. Talpa's castle. Kayura's mind blanched at the concept, still standing... even with the scorched earth as a reminder that Inferno had once been here. And a figure stood upon the threshold, staring up at the tall curving towers. A small, blonde figure.
This small blonde suddenly moved, pushing the doors to the side, collapsing them off the hinges. Entering into the castle, she disappeared from Kayura's sight.
Within seconds, Kayura was inside also, following the petite blonde up a winding stairwell.
"Just a little black magic," the girl was murmuring, holding onto a carved piece of metal, shaped like a cresent moon with legs... Kayura could have sworn the thing moved as the girl spoke.
As Kayura continued up the stairs, she became aware of the soft clicking behind her. Turning, she saw a sinister form, a golem, crafted from bones and advancing upon her position. The grostesque creation could only have been necromatic in origin. She stood dumbly studying the various bones used in creating the six-foot monster. Elephant, horse, human, snake...
A boney hand curled around her arm, and pulled, inexoribly, pulled her into the waiting grasp of a elephantine trunk of bones.
Kayura yanked back with a sharp gasp; the golems boney hands gouged out tracks of red on her arm. Looking up, Kayura saw a cold, unfeeling human skull, the empty eye sockets mocking her. With a tremulous cry, Kayura tried to run.
The blonde was blocking her way behind her.
"There's no escaping black magic." the blonde breathed. "You will succumb."

Kayura awoke with an ear-splitting scream.
The room was silent, dark, and warm. Kayura felt uncomfortable sitting like a numbskull in the pitch blackness; she wondered if her scream had been aloud, if someone had heard her. Or if everything was all in her head, an illusion...
Cale pushed the door open partway, just enough to peer in. He could see perfectly in the gloom, but his worried expression was lost to the shadows.
"Kayura?" he whispered, seeing her sitting, wide-eyed in the bed. "Are you alright?"
The monk let out a shaky sigh of relief. "Yes, Cale. I'm fine." she said.
The Overlord invited himself in anyway, coming to sit beside Kayura on the edge of the bed.
"Nightmares?" he asked gently.
Kayura nodded, shivering. The long shirt that she often wore to bed seemed too thin, too old to be warm.
Cale slipped an arm around her shoulders. "Tell me about them. I've heard it helps to talk."

* * * * * *

Artemis drifted in and out of sleep, hovering on that dreadful verge of wake and dream, where she couldn't tell if everything was real. Her mind was filled with strange sights and wierd sounds. Briefly she had the sensation of falling and snapped her eyes open. The face she found herself looking into was hawkish, with sharp, even features. Greenish eyes watched her intently from a few inches away, clear.. transparent! Artemis realized she could see the wall behind the face, through the face!
With a cry, she sat up. The face was attached to a head and a body, from which rose a hand to cover her mouth solidly. The hand stifled a scream that she had felt building in her throat.
"Promise you won't scream?" the transparent form asked in a sweet voice.
Artemis nodded mutely. The hand was lowered, and she got a good look at him.
He was tall and slender, hunched over inches from her face. Long red hair streamed down his back and over his shoulders. He slowly removed his hand.
"I need to ask of you a favor," the ghost said softly. "The most anyone had ever done..."
Artemis backed a few inches away from him. "What do you wish?" she asked.
"Who are you?"
"My name was once Anubis," he bowed his head at her.
Artemis had heard the Ronins speak of him, and narrowed her eyes, giving him a calculating look. "Speak, Anubis, and I shall listen."
"The stone Mia wears is named the Jewel of Life," he began. "This Jewel gives me a link to this world, to Mia, to a form. But there is another stone... the Stone of Transendance. I have heard that it can break through the boundaries that hold my spirit from completion... I have heard that it can give me my body back.."
"I see." Artemis could read his eyes as if he were a real person. Such pain, such love there, such need. She began to smile. "Where can this stone be found?"
"In the possession of a demi-god, I have been told. Locked away within a stone tomb, laying beside the body of his love." Anubis looked deep into her eyes. "Please.. you must aid me, help me..."
"I see." she murmured again. "And the name of this demi-god, if indeed he be?"
Artemis paled visibly. "Do I hear you correctly? Did you speak the name of Draygoh?" She shook her head. "Draygoh is no longer; the Inferno came and destroyed him."
Anubis looked alarmed, his voice shook when he spoke. "There must be another then... the stone exists. It has to."
"I will do all I can." Artemis reached out and rested her hand on the ghost's shoulder. "I will ask the Ronins for-"
"No!" His exclamation was strong and vehement; eyes suddenly wide and fury-filled. "They must not know of me! It is imperitave.."
"I will not lie to them! Truth is the basis of trust!" Artemis returned with just as much heat.
Anubis hung his head. An anger-driven growl rose in his throat but was stilled by his will. "Do what you must to get the stone... but do NOT tell Ryo and the others why!" Artemis watched him as his form wavered. He was preparing to leave. "Think about it.. I am asking you for help. Will you turn me down because I ask you to keep a secret? Is that what you call trust?"
Anubis dissappeared, leaving Artemis alone with her thoughts.