Shadow and his lackeys are sleeping...
And Shadow himself dreams...
The forests of Makai...
Ozum wandered slowly through the trees with the young wolf. When Malken had discovered that Samhain's main servant was
actually the missing Makai lord that Valdoll failed to mention, Ozum had immediately drafted him into the resistance. Taking
him from the castle, the Lord-turned-Spy led him to a hidden place, where the powers of the Infernal Trinity could not reach.
To Malken's surprise, Ozum stopped suddenly, looking down at his feet in distaste. Malken blinked and looked down, then laughed
out loud when he saw that the ground beneath Ozum's feet had turned into chocolate pudding. He glared up at the trees and
snarled, and to Malken's amazement, a small, blue-furred cat with long, pointy ears, bands around its ankles, large, feathery
wings, and a twisted, pointy beard appeared, rolling around on an upper tree branch, laughing wildly.
Ozum shook his head and turned to Malken. "Let me introduce Aballam. Tread lightly around him, for the only Darkstalkers
alive that matches his power are the Trinity. This miserable clown has a bad habit of playing pranks." Ozum glared up at the
feline, who had calmed down and was now grinning wickedly at him. "He also has a habit of bringing havoc to the lives of people
he feels are 'boring.'"
"Like thee, Ozum," sang Aballam, fluttering off of his tree and going down to Malken. He sniffed him curiously and grinned.
"I doth consider mineself a good Samaratin. You know, someone who is more than willing to take the drearyness out of everyday
"Even when not asked," Ozum growled.
Aballam just flashed him an angry look, his eyes glowing bright red, and Ozum backed away. Aballam glared at him a bit
"Watch thy mouth, Ozum, lest I dost decide to remove it. Or make it tell Samhain whom thou really art." Aballam grinned
evilly then turned back to Malken, his smile becoming friendly. "Come on. I want you to meet an old friend of mine." Aballam
changed the ground beneath Ozum back to normal (although he did not clean up the pudding that had gotten on the demon king's
feet and robes) and gestured for the two of them to follow.
"Lord Ozum, where are we going?" Malken asked, his charcoal-black fur making him blend in with the various shadows.
"To one whom Aballam believes to be the most noble of the seven of us. He will decide whether or not you can help us. Personally,
I think he trusts too much for his own good, but he has not failed us yet in our quest to restore ourselves to power."
"Who is he, Lord Ozum?"
"Skindancer, the Lord of the Wastelands and Forests, and Master of all Weres."
The three traveled for a while, eventually coming to a small hut in an open clearing. There, they all stopped to watch
the person they saw.
He was dancing, a beautiful, intricate dance, filled with passion that creatures like Ozum and Aballam could only dream
of. This handsome man's features shifted as he moved without abandon, shifting from human, to werewolf, to weredragon, to
werebird, all in flashes of color as fur, feathers and scales, retracted and extended from his skin. It was a wonderous site,
done with such speed and grace, that no words could truly do it justice. Malken stared in awe of the dancer, tears starting
down his face. Any doubts he had about helping the Lords oppose the Trinity, the ones who had raised him, vanished as he watched
Finally, the man stopped, shifting to a fully werewolf form. Ozum and Aballam applauded him. The man turned and blushed
sheepishly at the site of them. Malken did nothing, however, but continue to stare. The man had to be the most beautiful,
handsome creature he had ever seen before in his life, even more so than Lady Tekla. His firm, muscled body rippled with each
step as he started towards the group, the muscles on his legs bulging beneath the skintight black pants he wore. His fur was
moonlight grey, and his eyes were pure white, shimmering like two miniature moons.
Ozum tapped Malken on the head, and the werewolf yipped, startled. Ozum just smiled at him. "My boy, you have just witnessed
the Moonlight Dance of the Weres."
"It... It was beautiful, my lord," Malken stammered.
"Call me Skindancer," the werewolf said, grinning and ruffling the fur on the fifteen-year old's head, "It's a style my
forefathers invented, and that only weres can do. I just happen to be the best at it."
Aballam sighed and fluttered down to Skindancer, changing into an anthromorphic state and hugging his old friend tightly.
Skindancer returned the hug and grinned. "It's good to see you again, my friend," he said.
Aballam smiled, "Yours is one routine I feel no need to disrupt. How are things in your land?"
Skindancer sighed. "My glen seems to be the only safe place. My mate and I do what we can to protect those who live outside
it, but with Valdoll's dragons everywhere..." he shrugged helplessly.
Aballam just shook his head. "You should come with me to Nocturne. I know where Samhain and Valdoll keep their harems of
succubi and catwomen. And how to get in without being caught."
Skindancer laughed. "Like I said, you lecherous feline, I have a mate. One that I love and care for deeply."
"And thy point is?"
The two of them laughed. Ozum shook his head, sickened by the display of affection. Malken just stared, not trusting himself
to say anything.
"If you two are finished with your cander, can we get to the business at hand?"
Skindancer turned, and noticed Malken for the first time, "Well well. Who is this?"
Ozum gestured down to Malken. "Malken T'Arousi, son of Jana T'Arousi. He was apparently, from what I was able to glean
from that madman Samhain, born of a shadow who was trapped in a demon's body. Jana gave him to the Trinity to be raised as
Skindancer looked up at Ozum, his eyes flashing as his good mood vanished. Aballam glared at him as well. "An apprentice
to the Trinity? Here?" he snarled.
"Calm yourself," Ozum growled, "He is still young yet, and if we bring him to us to be taught the PROPER way of things
in Makai, he might be useful, once the Trinity finishes teaching him the tricks of their trade."
Skindancer stared at Malken, considering. Aballam did not look convinced, but said nothing. Skindancer sat down on the
ground in front of the boy, smiling.
"If you help us, I will make you my student, and teach you how to dance. Does that sound good?"
Malken nodded vigorously.
Skindancer smiled widely. "But first, I need to ask you a few things, just to make sure that we can trust you. First, what
do you think of the Infernal Trinity, and what they do? You should have special insight to this, since you spend so much time
"Well... Valdoll is a strict teacher. He cares only for the power he senses in me, and in bringing it out through my lessons
in magic and fighting. He is not cruel... he just acts like he does not care about anyone save himself. Samhain does not like
me at all, he simply gives me my lessons in torture and pain, demonstrates whatever new techniques there are to learn on me,
then leaves, ordering me to get out of his castle as quickly as possible. Lady Tekla treats me the best. She teaches me the
arts of statesmanship, feeds and bathes with me, and spends her nights with me."
Skindancer blinked. "You and she are lovers?"
"Sort of. I care for her, but I think she cares about little else but her appetites, both her hunger and her lust. I have
been her pleasure slave since I was sent to live with the Trinity." Ozum, Skindancer, and Aballam traded looks.
"How long have you been with the Trinity?" Ozum asked. He had only heard of the Malken recently, but had been acting as
servant to Samhain almost since his reign over the Demon Realm had started.
"Since I was either five or six, I think. Give or take a year."
Aballam grinned. Methinks I like this Tekla creature, he thought.
Ozum just kept blinking and was unable to stop for five minutes. Skindancer stared for a moment and shook his head, asking
the final question.
"We are planning to eventually retake our lands from the Infernal Trinity. When the time comes, will you fight against
them with the powers they taught to you?"
Malken hesistated for a moment, then nodded.
"Even if it means you must face Tekla in one-on-one battle in a fight to the death?"
Malken bit his lip. He looked around. Aballam, casual and relaxed, shifted to his feline form and began to swat at a butterfly.
Skindancer just stared at him, his snow-white eyes glowing slightly. Ozum, aloof and imposing, stood apart from the others,
his eyes glowing red underneath his hood. Malken opened his mouth to give his answer.
In Rip Rowdman's lair...
Shadow awoke with a start. Surprised that he was still capable of sleep, he thought about his dream.
"Three of the Lords of Makai. I cannot help but feel I have a connection to them all," he said to the air. He began to
drift out to where Rip, Roxy, and Dug slept, still talking to himself. "And then there is this 'Infernal Trinity.' What are
they? And why can I not remember them clearly? Why was I trapped in the pool of darkness?"
Shadow looked down at Rip, then remembered himself in the dream. "Ironic. When I renewed this miserable wretch's life,
I literally remade him in my image. Yes." he drifted away, unaware that Rip was waking up, stirred by his words.
"There is so much I still do not remember. But I will. And when I find the one who imprisoned me..."
"H'Anyone ever tell h'you that h'you talk to y'self?" Rip said, yawning and rubbing his eyes. Shadow stared at Rip for
a moment, then looked at the wall for a long while. Rip stared at Shadow, concerned.
"Boss? You h'okay?"
"I don't know what you mean. I'm fine, Yes...." Shadow said finally, "Rouse Roxanne and Douglas. I know Marionette's plans
from our mental link, and we must be there to meet her," he said, laughing. "Time to ruin your hopes, little one."
Darkwing Duck rode through the city streets on his motorcycle, the Ratcatcher, searching for his archfoe, Negaduck.
"I must be very vigilant. My no-good double will be around here somewhere, no doubt planning some evil deed, or nefarious
plan of disreputable deeds of dastardly doings to do. Only I, the greatest, most POWERFUL hero of St.Canard can save the city!"
Darkwing stopped paying attention to the road, and began to gesture grandly, staring up at the sky.
"For I am the terror that flaps in the night! I am the library book that you forgot about a year ago, leaving you with
a $100 dollar fine that you have no hope of paying right away!" Negaduck, meanwhile, wandered out of his hideout, ready to
rob his next bank and get even more cash, when Darkwing Duck came around the block, posing like a lunatic.
"I am the chewing gum that gets stuck to your boots and never comes off! I am the gym teacher who constantly puts you in
the team with the wimps when picking teams for dodgeball!" Darkwing continued, riling himself up with each word.
Negaduck just shook his head, laughing. "I want some of whatever his scriptwriter was smoking." He went back into his hideout,
pulling out a metal pipe, readying it. "Time to make Darkwing Street Pizza."
"I am the inconviently-placed piece of paper on the carpet that you always slip on! I am the running gag that always has
a pie to throw in the face of crime!"
"Say bye-bye," Negaduck said. As Darkwing passed by, Negaduck threw the pipe into the front wheel of the Ratcatcher. The
motorbike flipped over, sending Darkwing flying over several city blocks.
"I am Darkwing DUUUUUUUUUUUUUCCCKKKK!!"
Darkwing slammed into a streetlight, knocking it over and becoming as flat as a pancake. He popped up and staggered about,
his body crinkled up like an accordian.
"I meant to do that..." he moaned.
The apartment of Alia Falcos...
"AAAAHHH hahahahahahaha! Ka-POW!"
Alia woke with a start at the sound of the happy laughter, falling off of the couch she was sleeping on. She looked up,
and saw Marionette, wrapped up in a blanket, watching morning cartoons and eating a bowl of cereal. She smiled and picked
herself up. Marionette looked back to Alia as a commercial came on and smiled.
"Good morning, Alia. How'd you sleep?"
"Pretty well. I take it you slept good."
Marionette nodded happily. Alia checked the clock. "7 in the morning. Huh boy." She was nowhere NEAR used to getting up
that early. Oh well.
Marionette giggled, then looked at her, biting her lips in concern. "Are you sure you didn't mind sleeping on the couch?
Because I would have slept there if you wanted me too."
"Look, Abby, you needed the bed more than I did last night, and that's why I insisted you have it. So don't worry."
"Okay," Marionette chirped, "Oh, um, and, I, uh, kinda made a mess making my breakfast."
Alia sighed. "How bad?"
"I got it cleaned up... kinda..." Marionette added quickly.
"I think you need to get a new gallon of milk."
Alia sighed and started towards the kitchen. Marionette then remembered something else she found this morning, and began
to look around in her blanket for the weird magazines she found.
"I went to the bathroom earlier, to get cleaned up, and I found these magazines. I couldn't read any of the words, the
print was so small, so I just looked at the pictures, and I was wondering..."
Alia froze. Please dear GOD no... she thought as she turned around slowly.
"What does..." Marionette squinted at the cover, trying to sound out the word, "'Puh-lay guh-erl' mean? And why weren't
any of the men in here wearing clothes?" Marionette asked.
Alia winced visibly and ran back to Marionette, grabbing the magazines out of her hands and clutching them to her chest.
"Um... I'd rather you not read these. If you were as young as you say when you were changed then... uh... well... These magazines
are just for adults like me. Let's just leave it at that."
Marionette just blinked and smiled warmly at her. "Okays. If you say so. It's just that I felt kinda, um, strange? When
I was looking at the magazines I mean. Kinda good, but, kinda strange."
Alia blinked, and then grimaced when she realized what she meant. Dear lord. She was turned on by the pictures.
Rainbow Excalibur, who had been listening to this conversation silently from the back of Alia's mind, began to laugh. "The
mind of a 5-year-old child, the powers of a demon, and the hormones of a teenager. Alia my dear, this is another fine mess
you've gotten us into."
SHADDUP, Cally. I do not have the time to deal with a sarcastic stand right now. Why oh why did I leave the magazines
out? Alia groaned to herself as she wandered into the kitchen to see the damage.
When she walked in, she muttered, "Oh hell."
Excalibur began laughing harder.
Partially cleaned-up milk had been spilled all over the countertop and was dripping onto the floor. Cereal was scattered
everywhere. Wadded-up and sopping wet paper towels littered the floor around the garbage can.
Excalibur tried to fight back her giggle-fit and failed. Alia just sighed and finished cleaning up the mess.
"Why do I get myself into these things?" she asked no one in particular.
"Because you are a softy and a half," Rainbow Excalibur said, manifesting herself. Alia stared at the spirit for a moment,
then lowered her head, chuckling.
"Yeah. I guess I am. I was always a sucker for the hard luck cases."
Excalibur put her hands on her hips, "Yeah, and these 'hard-luck cases' always end up getting us into trouble. Remember
when we tried to help that kid JoJo, who turned out ACTUALLY to be an old geezer who'd been changed into a young man by some
"Look, we DID manage to stop that Alessi guy, didn't we?"
"Not after you spent a few days as a seven-year old trying to convince people that you were several years older."
Alia and her Stand glared at each other for a moment. The glare was affectionate.
Alia just shook her head and finished mopping up the milk. She turned back to Excalibur, who had decided to make herself
useful by making some toast for Alia's breakfast.
"Why can't you be like Joseph's Stand? Or even that freak Alessi's?" Alia said, turning to her knight-armored spirit companion.
The toast popped. Excalibur caught it without even looking. "Because, unlike Sethan, I have class, and unlike Hermit Purple,
I actually HAVE a personality."
Alia laughed out loud. Excalibur just smirked, drifted over to the refrigerator, opened it, and pulled out a canister of
butter. Alia took the toast and butter from her and finished making her breakfast. As she did, she thought about yesterday.
After she promised Marionette that she'd take care of her, she took her to a place that someone her age would love: She
took her to Coney Island.
Marionette wanted to do everything. She went on all of the rides, starting with the merry-go-round. The young girl whooped
and hollered, laughing and shouting "Ride 'em, cowgirl!", garnering her several odd looks from the other riders. Alia took
her to every game, and amazingly enough, she won each one, causing Alia to have to carry several dozen large stuffed animals
around as the number of prizes Marionette won increased. But Marionette's favorites seemed to be the roller coasters. She
went on them all twice and had to be helped off each time, laughing happily the whole time, too dizzy to stand up. They then
bought funnel cakes and sat on a bench near the center of the park, Marionette resting her head on Alia's shoulder as they
watched a fireworks display. Alia didn't quite know what to say to that, but she liked it just the same. Finally, Marionette
had started to fall asleep, and Alia used Excalibur to carry the stuffed animals while she put her in the backseat of her
car, taking her back to the apartment. She woke her up once they got the building and led her upstairs, tucking her in on
her bed. Marionette tried to protest, but was too tired to object for long, and went to sleep. Content for the first time
in a while, she had plopped down on the couch and went to sleep immediately.
Alia sighed as she ate her breakfast. Cally was right. I really HAVE gotten myself into a difficult situation.
Alia looked out of the kitchen when she heard another fit of hysterics. Marionette was now sitting only a few feet away
from the TV screen, grinning happily as she watched Disney cartoons.
"Hey Abby? Don't sit too close to the TV. You'll hurt your eyes," Alia called out to her.
Marionette turned at the sound of her voice and nodded, scooting backwards on her butt a few inches. Alia just shook her
head and smiled, going into the bathroom to take a shower. She started to undress, and a thought occured to her.
"Abby? Have you showered yet?" she called out.
"Yeah!" Marionette called back.
"Okay. Put on your puppet-girl outfit. When I take you to the station to convince the chief to let me take care of you,
he'll most likely want to see you in that outfit."
Marionette nodded. "Can I finish watching this cartoon, first?"
"Sure. Go ahead."
"Thank you!" Marionette giggled and went back to watching her show. After Darkwing Duck ended, she went into the bedroom
and pulled her costume out of Alia's closet. She undressed quickly and started to put on her outfit. As she did, she looked
into the bathroom, grinning at Alia, who was singing as she cleaned herself up.
I like her. I really do, Marionette thought, as she changed her clothes, first slipping on her blue shirt. She clumsily
attempted to put on her dress and stumbled, falling over onto the bed. Marionette giggled and pulled her dress into place.
As she did her eyes wandered over to the bedtable. She stared curiously at the picture she saw there, and picked it up to
get a better look.
In the picture was an obviously younger Alia, sitting down on a porch in a small, white house. Behind her was a burly,
dark-haired man in his thirties, giving her bunny-ears with his fingers. Alia was vainly trying to wave off the man as she
laughed, and a young, teenage girl around Marionette's physical age looked at them both, grinning widely.
Is this her family? Marionette wondered.
Just then Alia walked out of the shower, a towel wrapped around her body. She blinked then frowned when she saw that Marionette
had found her family picture. Marionette blinked, finally noticing her and grinned, showing her the picture.
"Pretty peoples. They your family?"
Alia took the picture from her, and smiled wistfully. "Yeah," she said, gulping hard, her eyes misting slightly. "They
both were killed in a car wreck a few years ago. That's when I started fighting. Sort of an escape."
Marionette gasped, "Oh no... I'm so sorry..."
Alia shrugged. "Ahhh. Don't worry about it. It was a long time ago." She put the picture back on the bedtable. "C'mon.
You finish getting dressed. Then we'll get this mess at the police station over with." She started back into the bathroom
to get her own clothes on.
Marionette smiled and nodded, reaching down to put on her shoes.
Dark laughter echoed through Marionette's mind.
Marionette froze. "Alia, did you hear that?"
"Hear what?" Alia said, turning back to look.
To her surprise, Marionette's lip was curling back in an expression of pure hatred.
"Him? Him who?" She leaned down, afraid for Marionette. "Abby, what's going on?"
"It's Shadow. I can sense him. He's here. In the city."
Alia stared blankly at her for a moment before making the connection. "The thing that created you?!"
Marionette stood up, and looked out the doorway, through the balcony window in the living room, and nodded, slowly.
Alia bit her lip, trying to think of what to say. "Is he nearby?" she asked.
Marionette shook her head.
Alia nodded. "All right. Finish getting dressed, and we'll take care of the police to get you with me, and then we can
deal with Shadow," she said as she went back into the bathroom. Marionette frowned deeply, and then sat back down, picking
up her shoes to put them on.