Whoever keeps anonymously commenting on my Vexx fic telling me to update this one…

I'm aware that I don't update often. I usually get inspired to write this fic between October and January, when the holidays hit. I'm glad you like this story. Furthermore, if you personally have the amazing ability to write whenever you want and whatever is demanded of you, good for you. That is rare. You'll go places with that if you're any good.

Your random "UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE" post was kind of cute, (in an annoying pet newbie kind of way,) but really, posting on my other fic? That is just freakin' rude!

I will update when I am damned well ready to and you harassing me like that on other fics is not something I, or anyone, will approve of. I put a lot of effort into my writing, and for me to post something only to have it met with, "yeah, whatever, write what I want you to right now," is a grave insult. In fact, that's just gonna REALLY piss me off and make me not want to update AT ALL.

In conclusion, I DO NOT write for you. I write for ME. Keep that in mind.

Back to the show!

La Muerte

The night had turned oddly cold. The soldiers huddled around their campfires, all still wary and shaken from the encounter with the undead creature. Some soldiers had yet to return to camp and they started to fear the worst of their comrades. Many of them held items of religious importance to them, whispered prayers, and tried to just make it until daylight. Everyone was sure that they would be safe once day broke.

The army's commander was not so easily spooked. He scoffed at the soldiers, calling them cowards and fools. As if just to prove his point, the commander decided to retire to bed, leaving the safety in numbers. He slipped into his tent. Seating himself on his cot, the commander took up the sword he had retrieved from the walking skeleton. He turned it over this way and that in his hands, examining the markings upon the blade, the craftsmanship of the sheath. This sword had surely been forged within the fires of Hell. With this blade, he could conquer all. Nothing could stop the hell-blade, he was sure of it. A twisted smile came to his battered face. This was the key he had been waiting for.

There was a rustling from behind his tent. The commander was on his feet, listening closely. Footsteps. He knew that his men were surely all around the campfire, clumped together like frightened schoolgirls. This had to be the creature from earlier, he was sure of it. Come to retrieve its weapon, perhaps? Well, he was not about to give up this sword from Hell.

With all the grace of a cat, the commander slipped from his tent. He moved in the shadows, the sword raised and ready. In a flash he rounded the back of the tent, shouting out a battle cry and swinging the blade. There was pained scream that died away in the night. Blood streaked the fabric of the tent as a young soldier fell dead at his feet. The commander stood aghast at the sight before him.

The sound of others running to investigate came. The commander was quick to tuck the bloodied sword under the back of the tent and meet the soldiers before they could see the corpse.

"We heard a scream, sir," one soldier barked out.

Obviously, thought the commander. One would have to be very hard of hearing to not have. "The monster returns!" the commander replied, pointing off into the tree, "I saw him go that way! After him!"

The soldiers hesitated for only a moment and then ran head-long into the darkness of the forest. The commander watched them, wiping sweat from his brow. He took a few careful steps back and slipped into his tent, breathing a deep sigh. This was a mess he didn't need right now. Of course, he was sure that the others would all believe that the undead creature had killed the man behind his tent. He would be fine, he told himself. No one would suspect.

The commander lifted his gaze and felt his breath seize up in his lungs. There was a figure kneeling on the floor beside the sword. It lifted its gaze sharply, but stayed crouched where it was. Empty sockets gazed at the man in the doorway, blank and emotionless. The creature had, indeed, returned, and it was after its sword.

"You'll not take that weapon from me, demon," the commander protested, his tone less forceful than he would have liked. In fact, he found his hands shaking.

"This is my sword," Jack replied calmly as he came very slowly to his feet. He took up the corner of the bed sheets and cleaned the blood from it, never letting his gaze leave the commander. He didn't want to fight, nor was he in any sort of physical condition to do so. But something had to be done. Talking was his only option. As it was, everything continued to fade in and out of focus. His broken skull throbbed with every movement he made. Jack did his best to simply stand tall and as still as possible through everything. "Why is it you want this weapon so badly?"

The commander swallowed. Shouldn't it be obvious? That was it, of course. He realized this had to be a test. Yes, a test to see if he knew as much as the creature thought he did. He replied, trying to keep his voice steady. "A sword from Hell has to be worth something. With the power that sword possesses, I will be unstoppable."

Sword from Hell, Jack pondered, looking for only a second at the blade. It was dinged and scratched from practice, with rust clinging in every crevice that was not easy to clean. Well, if this man wanted to believe it was a sword from Hell, he was inclined to go along with it. "This blade…" the skeleton paused for a moment, wondering what he could possibly say. "This blade holds power." Well, that was weak. He knew he needed to put something more into it. He picked up the sheath from where it rested on the cot and the words suddenly came to him. Standing tall, Jack let his voice rise higher than the whisper from before. "This sword has power that is far beyond anything that a mere mortal can possess. The souls of thousands have been reaped with this blade! And you!" Jack pointed the sword at the commander, who took a hasty step back. "You dare to think that you are worthy of wielding it? I should smite thee for such an insult! Prepare to be dragged into the very pits of Hell!"

The commander suddenly made a pained sound and gripped his chest. Jack blinked in surprise as the man slumped to the ground. There was no movement after that. The skeleton glanced back and forth before gingerly stepping over the crumpled form of the man and out of the tent. He froze as he pulled back the door flap, finding the soldiers of the army standing before him, white as ghosts. They held up their weapons and backed away as Jack stepped out.

Once again, Jack lifted his voice. "Why do you battle here?" No one seemed keen on offering him an answer. "What can you possibly accomplish by killing each other?" He paused to look over the silent, trembling crowd. Sheath in one hand and sword in the other, he spread his arms wide. "Know that this is what death looks like. If you fear me, you have no business condemning others to such a fate. Remain here, and you shall join me."

He slid his sword back into its scabbard and advanced slowly through the crowd. The soldiers each silently moved aside, gazing with wide eyes. Jack mentally cursed. He had retrieved his sword, but this had accomplished nothing. The army's commander may have well keeled over from heart failure, but that didn't solve anything.

The hour that the scarecrow had given him was nearly up. His head was pounding, and in spite of his confident stride and tone, he could hardly get his gaze to focus on anything. He just wanted to go home now. He could think of nothing more than that. The crackling of the camp fires faded into the distance behind him as he moved. As a thick fog rolled in from between the trees, Jack just thought it was his vision hazing over more.

Home, he repeated to himself in his mind. How was he supposed to find a way back with so little time left? His limbs felt weak and ribs started to throb. The door to Halloween Town was closing, he was sure of it, and when it did, he imagined that he would cease to exist. This had to be what he was feeling coming on. It was so similar to the feeling of dying, he thought, although he had no clear memory of his own death. He felt himself sway and reached for a tree to steady himself.

A wind blew past him, and carried upon it was a voice that whispered his name. Jack lifted his head and blinked as there was suddenly light in his eyes. The first golden rays of dawn filtered between the twisted branches. A familiar scent reached him; that of rotting leaves and fresh pumpkins. His gaze jerked upward, his mind seeming to lag behind as everything blurred and then returned to focus. He realized that he knew this place. He was standing on The Road. The outer wall of Halloween Town was a figure upon the horizon.

A wave of relief washed over him. He wanted to sprint forward, run through the gates of Halloween Town, and not stop until he was home. Within his mind and heart, he did so. However, his knees gave out from under him, and in reality, Jack sank down into a crumpled heap upon the ground.

But he was home, and for the moment, that was all that mattered.