Fates Entwined

Masks

"Hey guys," Daria said as she met up with Karen and Ted at practice.

"Hey Daria," Karen waved.

Today, the women's self-defense class only seemed to consist of Daria, Karen, and Ted, thanks in part to that day being a rather rainy and dreary day.

Finally, Aunt Amy walked through the door with an umbrella.

"Wow, that weather was really something," Amy put her umbrella on the bleachers. "Ready, everybody?"

All her students got in line and did a quick bow.

"So, today I thought I'd teach you—" Aunt Amy got on the mat with Ted and the girls.

"Hello?" a voice rang out.

Amy turned around, as did all her students.

Eric Ravencroft stood there with his red suit seemingly untouched by all the rain outside. He stood there with a smirk, holding one of Daria's crossbow arrows in his hands.

"Hello Daria," Eric smiled pleasantly. "I believe you dropped this last night during dinner."

"Uh, thanks," said Daria.

"Good to see you too, Ted," Eric waved. "How do you feel about going to Burger World tomorrow?"

"I think I've got some time in the afternoon," Ted nodded.

"Here," Eric walked forward to hand Daria's crossbow arrow back to her.

Daria went forward to pick it up but was interrupted.

"Daria!" Aunt Amy's voice broke out.

"Huh?" Daria turned around.

"Stay away from him!" Amy Barksdale warned.

"Wait, what?" Daria was confused.

"He's the one…" Karen hid behind Amy timidly.

"The one who what?" asked Ted.

"He's the boyfriend I told you about who beat me," Karen admitted.

Both Ted and Daria looked at Eric incredulously.

"Is this true?" Ted looked at Eric suspiciously.

"This girl and I dated and broke up," Eric shrugged dismissively. "No more, no less. Some relationships are like that."

"Get out of here right now," Amy Barksdale ordered. "I know all about you."

"I did something wrong?" Eric sneered. "All I came to do is hand something back to a friend."

"Eric, is all of this true?" asked Daria, hoping that it wasn't.

"Of course not," Eric shook his head. "These are all just rumors and hearsay. I would never do these terrible things I'm being accused of."

"I think you'd better leave," Amy warned.

"Well, I see where I'm not wanted," Eric said casually and walked off.

Both Daria and Ted looked at each other uncertainly. Was it true that Eric was Karen's former boyfriend and abused her?

When Eric was completely gone, Daria walked over to her aunt and Karen.

"Aunt Amy, what's going on here?" asked Daria.

"That sleaze was the one who beat Karen," Amy said in a disgusted voice. "A year ago, I found a battered Karen on campus and helped to get her life back together after what happened with Eric. What's sad to say is that she wasn't the first or only girl."

"Wait, Eric's done this more than once?" Ted looked surprised.

"No, there's a string of battered women Eric has left behind in all his years at this college," explained Amy.

"Rumor has it he even killed a few girls and got away with it," Karen finally spoke up, breathing a sigh of relief that her former boyfriend was now gone.

"This is a lot to take in at once," admitted Ted. "I got to know Eric not too long ago and this is like finding out the new friend you made is actually Jack the Ripper."

"I encouraged Karen to report Eric to the authorities but for some reason, Eric was never arrested for any crime," Amy went on. "Hell, I don't think the police even investigated him."

"He's got connections, huh?" asked Daria.

"You bet," Amy crossed her arms. "And his fraternity is only the tip of the iceberg. He has connections in this city, to politicians and police alike. He's not somebody you want to get involved with, Daria."

"Trust me," Karen said timidly. "Eric is the kind of guy who pulls you in with his charming personality and before you know it, it's too late."

"Just remember to stay away from that guy, Daria," Aunt Amy reminded. "Have nothing at all to do with him if you can help it."

As Amy continued to comfort Karen, Daria looked at Ted.

"Hey Ted, wanna head outside?" she asked.

"Sure."

Soon, the two of them had left the gym and were standing outside.

"So what do you think?" asked Daria.

"I don't even know where to begin," Ted admitted.

"I want to think that Eric's an okay guy," said Daria, "but rumors like that don't just appear out of thin air magically."

"I think we should do a little investigation of our own," Ted pushed his glasses up. "See how far deep the rabbit hole goes."

"Yeah, we'd look like fools if we publicly accused him of abuse with no proof," Daria agreed. "Something's up with Eric and we need to find out what."

"He's also dating Jane and that could be disastrous," Ted pointed out.

"Hoo boy," Daria sighed. "And I thought the situation with Tom was bad. Well, bottom's up to another potential friendship-ruining spat with Jane over a guy she's dating… especially when I tell Jane that her date is a serial abuser."

"I'll go to the library tonight to try to find something," Ted promised. "Want to combine our data tomorrow after practice?"

"You bet," Daria agreed. "And if I don't find anything, the Scooby Snacks are on me."

oooo

Highland.

"Hey Butt-head, how come we haven't dropped out of school yet?" asked Beavis.

The two of them sat at a lunch table in conversation as most

"Uh, cuz we wanna graduate and stuff," Butt-head said matter-of-factly. "Uh, huh huh huh!"

"Oh yeah, why do we wanna do that again?" Beavis inquired.

"Cuz, like, then we get to go to college," Butt-head explained impatiently. "Chicks dig dudes with college degrees."

"Oh so that's, like, why we haven't dropped out all these years ago?" asked Beavis.

"That's right dude," Butt-head smiled.

"Wait a minute, something doesn't make sense," Beavis said nervously. "Todd gets plenty of girls and he never went to college. In fact, I think he dropped out of this school years ago, heh heh heh!"

"Damn it Beavis!" Butt-head said angrily. "You mean we could have dropped out of high school years ago just like Todd and still got chicks?!"

"Well, yeah, I guess so," Beavis said blankly. "Heh heh heh heh heh!"

"Beavis, you butt-knocker!" Butt-head glared at his nominal friend. "You should have told me back then and we'd have dropped out sooner!"

"Don't blame me!" Beavis said angrily. "And don't call me a butt-knocker either!"

"I'll call you whatever I want, butt-knocker!" Butt-head shoved Beavis.

"Damn it Butt-head!" Beavis screamed and tackled Butt-head.

The two of them rolled on the floor, punching and slapping at each other for a while before multiple teachers and staff came in to break up the fight. Among them was Ibn El-Khatib.

"I'll kick your ass!" Beavis shouted.

"Huh huh huh! You and what army?" taunted Butt-head.

"Break it up you two!" Buzzcut demanded.

As the two were finally split apart, El-Khatib looked at the two in disgust. They were pathetic specimens and if he had any choice, he would be as far away from them as possible. However, the two of them were very much needed for his plans.

"Calm down you two," El-Khatib got in between them finally. "You do not want to get expelled, do you?"

"I don't know, heh heh," Beavis smiled. "That might be pretty cool actually."

"Yeah, we wanna get expelled, huh huh huh!" Butt-head laughed.

"No no," El-Khatib looked at the two. "That is not something you want. Think of your future. Do not be so hasty to throw it away!"

"Uh, you mean the future where I kick Beavis' ass?" Butt-head chuckled. "Huh huh huh!"

"Shut up Butt-head, heh heh heh!"

"Look, fighting is not the solution," El-Khatib tried to assure them. "Just concentrate on finishing school and be on your best behavior. If you do, I'm sure there will be plenty of beautiful women on the horizon."

"Whoa, cool!" exclaimed Butt-head.

"Yeah, now this foreign dude is talking our language, heh heh heh!" Beavis said excitedly.

Ibn El-Khatib smiled. Finally he had the two paying attention.

oooo

"Hey Ted, you find anything?" asked Daria.

"Nope," Ted shook his head. "I looked through a lot of newspapers and school articles in the library. I got almost nothing on Eric Ravencroft."

The two of them were inside the gym after practice in Aunt Amy's self-defense class for women. They stood next to the wall near a trophy case.

"If he's guilty, then he hides his tracks pretty well," Daria nodded. "Most of my internet searches turned out nothing."

"Any luck with Jane?" asked Ted.

"I, uh, didn't talk to her about Eric yet," admitted Daria. "If I barge in telling her that her boyfriend's a serial abuser, it won't get pretty."

"There's gotta be something we can do," Ted mused. "Apparently he's been doing this for some time. What proof is there that we can find?"

"I really don't know," Daria shook her head. "We're not exactly Mystery Incorporated when it comes to these things."

"Still, there's gotta be some other place we can look," said Ted, leaning his shoulder against a brick that was half-way covered by the trophy case.

The brick moved, pressing inside as Ted leaned against it. At once the trophy case moved aside, exposing a secret passage way.

Both Daria and Ted stepped back in shock.

"That… was unexpected," Daria remarked, "like finding out on Sick, Sad World that your school has a secret S&M dungeon hidden somewhere."

"Think this leads somewhere we shouldn't be going to?" Ted looked at Daria.

"Do you remember how Eric walked in to our gym to hand me back my crossbow arrow?" asked Daria. "It was pouring that day and anyone who entered this building would have been drenched. Eric wasn't."

"So you think he… came here through this secret passageway?" asked Ted.

"I'm counting on it," Daria's eyes narrowed.

"Well, looks like we're about to be in way over our heads," Ted said half-excitedly and half-nervously. "You ready?"

"No, but it can't hurt to check this out," Daria replied. "Well, maybe it could… but if we don't get to the bottom of anything, my friend could possibly get hurt."

"Alright then," Ted took the first step down the dark corridors with Daria following him.

As they entered, Ted noticed a lever on the wall.

"I think this is what opens and closes the trophy case," Ted noted.

"Might as well close it," Daria took out her cell phone and switched on its flashlight capabilities. "We don't want anyone else stumbling upon this place."

Ted nodded and pulled down the lever, closing the trophy case entrance behind them.

The two of them turned on their cell phones to use as makeshift flashlights and walked down the stairs.

By the time they had walked down the stairs, they were greeted by a long hallway that stretched almost as long as a football field. As Ted and Daria walked down the hall, they noticed certain writings on the wall.

"What is all this?" asked Daria. "Doesn't look like any modern day language I know."

"Not sure, but it looks Middle Eastern," Ted examined some of the writings. "Here, let me take some pictures."

Ted snapped some pictures of the writings on the wall with his cell phone as Daria walked on ahead. Before long, Ted joined her and they reached the end of the hallway, staring into what appeared to be an enormous temple. All around them were giant columns and stone statues of both men and beasts, both fictional and real.

"Wow, this is hard to swallow," Daria admitted.

"I have a hard time believing it myself," Ted looked around.

"Just what is this place?" Daria brushed her hand against some of the stone statues.

"Some kind of… fire temple," Ted knelt down in front of one of the walls for more pictures. "They look like the Persian fire temples I've read up on."

"A secret temple underneath the college," Daria shook her head. "I didn't think I'd have to deal with stuff like this again."

"You've dealt with stuff like this before?" asked Ted.

"Yeah, I don't really like to talk about it much," confessed Daria, "but I once met these beings claiming to be spirits of national holidays. They had a bit of a secret location themselves away from the world at large."

"Holidays?" Ted raised an eyebrow. "You mean Christmas and Halloween exist as actual people?"

"Something like that," Daria replied. "Oh and there was also a Guy Fawkes day if you can believe it."

"I'm almost afraid to ask," Ted frowned.

"Don't worry about it," Daria reassured him. "I haven't seen any of those holiday spirits after that one time I bumped into them in high school."

From a distance, Daria and Ted heard footsteps coming in.

"Let's hide," Ted recommended to Daria.

Ted led Daria away from the center of the temple to one of the statues to the right of the room. The two hid behind the giant griffin statue safely where there was enough darkness and shadows to mask their presence.

As Daria and Ted peeked out, they saw multiple people in hooded acolyte robes forming two lines in front of the main statue, which happened to be a giant lion with wings. Soon, a student among them took off his hood, revealing himself to be Graham.

"I know that guy," Daria whispered to Ted.

"All hail the master!" Graham raised a torch. The other members bowed on their knees before the winged lion.

"Hello Graham," a familiar voice came up from behind Graham.

"Hello Eric," Graham smiled. "How goes the plans for the ritual?"

"Eric's here?" Daria whispered to Ted.

"Our plans are back on track," Eric confirmed. "I have now found someone who will further our agenda."

"Oh, and who is that?" asked Graham curiously.

"Her name is Jane Lane and I believe she will be monumental to our cause," answered Eric Ravencroft.

Daria gasped.

"I knew there was something wrong here," she looked at Ted

"For our master to rise, the prophecy spoke of three things to be fulfilled," Eric said prophetically. "A maiden must lose her virginity. A hero must perform an act of self-sacrifice.. And lastly, two fools must drive a king's son to insanity and death."

"I see," Graham said with a smile. "And the prophecy about a maiden losing her virginity… would that involve Jane?"

Eric gave Graham the kind of frightening glare that immediately made Graham take a step back.

"That's my business," Eric growled.

"Yes of course, forgive me," Graham said in a sniveling manner. "So if you don't mind me asking, what is our plan?"

As Daria and Ted looked on, Ted Dewitt-Clinton took out his cell phone and began recording.

"Jane is vital to my plans," Eric admitted.

"You're not falling for her, are you?" asked Graham.

"Absolutely not," Eric sneered. "If she ever makes me mad enough, I won't even mind backhanding her like I did with one of my previous girlfriends like Karen. I'm only using Jane to further my own ends and should I need to, I might even make her disappear like I did with that previous girl Amanda. In any case, just leave Jane Lane to me."

"You getting all this?" asked Daria.

Ted nodded affirmatively.

After what seemed like hours, Daria and Ted both sat in silence behind the statue as the cult members conducted their rituals.

Finally, it was over. Ted looked down at his cell phone. In truth, only about forty minutes had passed but sitting there in the tension seemed like an eternity. The two of them sat quietly as they heard the cult members walk out of the place.

Daria felt something deep within her gnawing at her. It was the same thing she felt back during high school when she tried driving to The Cove in the rain and nearly got injured in an accident… fear.

"Daria?" Tom whispered after the entire temple finally fell silent from there being nobody around anymore. "Daria, are you okay?"

"I… I'm not," Daria said in almost a timid whisper. "They're going to do something terrible to Jane."

"Daria, we can still stop this," Ted put both hands on her arms. "I'll take this recording to the police and you go see Jane!"

"O-Okay," Daria said, still shook up. "Can you send me that recording to my cell phone as well?"

"Alright," Ted said, getting up. "Now let's go. I still remember the way out."

oooo

Jane perked up as a frantic knocking at her door was heard. Grimacing, she walked over, wondering who it could be.

As she opened up, she saw a seemingly distraught Daria.

"Jane, I need to talk to you!"

"Okay, but did you need to knock that hard?" Jane looked askew at Daria. "I'm right here."

"Jane, something terrible is going to happen!"

"What?" Jane looked weirded out. "Daria, calm down and speak to me."

"Eric… he's not who you think he is," Daria continued. "And I can prove it!"

Jane crossed her arms, narrowing her eyes as Daria took out her cell phone.

Daria looked down. Unfortunately for her, her cell phone appeared to be all out of batteries at that point.

"Jane, I, uh… I'm out of batteries," Daria admitted.

"No Daria, I see how it is," Jane shook her head.

"See how what is?" Daria looked confused.

"After all this time, how could I not have seen it?" Jane said angrily. "After Tom, after Nathan, and now Eric… it's pretty damn obvious!"

"What's obvious?" asked Daria.

"The fact that every single relationship I have, you're there to undermine and talk trash about the men I date!" Jane said angrily.

"Jane, what are you getting at?" Daria looked desperate.

"Every single time you try to sabotage the relationships I have!" Jane told her. "Well I'm tired of it, Daria! I'm sick of putting up with your bullshit!"

At that point Daria realized she had struck a very raw nerve with Jane. While she hadn't exactly planned on sabotaging all of Jane's dates, the end result was that she did, in fact, talk down to most of Jane's boyfriends in the past. And at this point, it was only natural that some resentment would

"Jane, I…" a look of sadness finally crossed Daris' face.

"Save it, Daria!" Jane replied with an angry huff. "It's like you don't want me to find happiness! And I'm sick of it!"

"Jane, I'm sorry," Daria started. "I didn't mean…"

"Just shut up Daria!" Jane crossed her arms. "I could put up with Tom and Nathan in the past… but now you've crossed a line! I don't want to see your face around here! Now get out!"

At that, Jane shut the door right in front of Daria's face.

Daria closed both her eyes, wondering how the day could have gone from bad to worse.

"Smooth move, Morgendorffer," Daria cursed. "How'd you manage to screw that up with your best friend?"