Into The Fire Part 1
After lying down on her bed for quite some time, Jane finally stirred herself back to her feet. A lot of time had passed and she wasn't even sure how long she had been idly lying there.
"May as well go see her in person," Jane sighed.
She had hoped by now, Daria would have called her and given her the opportunity to make up over the phone. Now, however, it seemed as if she would need to go see her friend face to face.
Jane walked over to the door and opened up. To her surprise, she had a guest.
"Eric?" Jane looked shocked.
"Hello Jane, mind if I come in?" Eric smiled pleasantly like a viper.
"I… I… no way!" Jane finally declared. "Get out of here, Eric!"
"Your friend Daria ruined a lot for me," Eric told her. "Miss Morgendorffer is the reason guys like me can't have nice things."
"Last chance Eric," Jane warned. "Get out or I'll scream!"
Before Jane could realize it, Eric's fist was driven into her stomach. Now unable to produce any screams, the unconscious Jane went down.
"You'll scream alright," Eric promised her. "But save it for later, okay?"
"You awake?" Ted stroked Daria's hair as the couple cuddled with each other.
"How could I not be?" smiled Daria. "That was… overwhelming."
"Glad to hear my first time going at it wasn't underwhelming," Ted chuckled.
"Could've fooled me," Daria remarked.
"It's always underwhelming or overwhelming," Ted noticed. "Why isn't there just a 'whelming' on its own?"
"Probably for the same reason people never want lukewarm coffee," Daria speculated. "Iced or burning hot is where it's at."
"Hey, you want to get something to drink?" Ted got up, getting clothed.
"I'd like that," Daria got up as well.
As the two got dressed and sauntered into the living room, they noticed Aunt Amy sitting on the sofa in a nightgown.
"Hey kids!" Amy slurred, taking down another shot of vodka. "How was the ride, Daria?"
Ted looked embarrassed as did Daria.
"Nothing I couldn't handle like when I was a kid at Six Flags," Daria noted.
Daria looked over and saw the vodka bottle in her aunt's hand.
"And I see your Russian collusion is going along smoothly," Daria remarked jokingly. "Let me know you start seeing Moose and Squirrel doing the squat dance in front of you."
"Let go of me!" shouted a blind-folded Jane as she was tied up to some sort of table.
She could feel that there were several people restraining her, undoubtedly the posse that Eric had with him.
Finally, her blindfold was removed.
Jane looked around. Around her were various hooded cultists. She herself was tied down on some kind of stone table. The room she was in appeared to be some kind of giant temple with designs that she was unfamiliar with.
"Whoa, something tells me I'm not in the Parthenon," Jane paused, taking it all in.
"It's Persian, actually."
Jane turned to her left as the cultists made way for their leader, Eric.
"You, what the hell do you want?" demanded Jane.
"I want you for a very special purpose of course," Eric said to her calmly.
"Oh? For what?"
"To bring my father back into this world of course," Eric smiled. "But in order for that to happen, three events must occur."
"Let's see, I'll settle for you getting your ass kicked, you going to jail, and you becoming Bubba's newest spouse," Jane spat. "How's that for three events which should happen?"
"Oh Jane, aren't you even the least bit curious about what's really going on here?" asked Eric.
"What is there to want to know?" Jane growled. "I find out the guy I'm dating is some kind of psycho and my friendship with Daria nearly got ruined because I didn't trust her when she told me all about you."
"Jane, there's so much more to this than just me being an abusive boyfriend in some suspense film who gets his just desserts at the end of the movie," Eric clasped Jane by the face. "All of this… everything that's happened… has been built up for the return of my father, Angra Mainyu."
"Angra Whatnow?" Jane looked confused. "Okay, you just lost me."
"My father is beyond the labels you humans give him," Eric told her. "But you may have learned about him in world history class in passing, as part of Zoroastrian mythology… known as the omni-malevolent god of evil who battles against the good god, Ahura Mazda…"
"Yeah, I do recall some of this from Mr. DeMartino's history class," Jane remembered. "But what does any of this have to do with me?"
"As I've stated before, we of the Death Apostles must help to bring about three events before my father is brought back," explained Eric. "First, a hero must die. Second, a virgin must lose her virginity. And finally, the son of a King must be driven to madness and despair by two fools and take his own life."
"Wanna guess which of the three you're involved in?" Graham took off his hood, sneering at her.
Jane gulped. As much of a relief it was that she wasn't a king's son, the other two options didn't sound particularly inviting either.
"Tonight, you'll find out," Eric promised her, pressing his hand over her mouth as Jane struggled and kissed her cheek.
As Daria finished up with class in the early afternoon, she looked down at her cell phone. She had gotten a message or two from Jane but so far, she hadn't yet worked up the courage to call her friend just yet.
Daria looked at the time as she walked down the hall. Her final class was over and she now had the rest of the day to herself.
Finally, she decided to at least give Jane a call after a brief moment of indecision. There was only one way to make amends and that was to speak to Jane herself.
Daria dialed Jane's number and waited patiently as the phone rang.
There was no answer.
"Looking for someone, are we?" asked Graham.
Daria tensed. "What the hell do you want?"
"I don't want anything," answered Graham. "But I know what you want."
"You have Jane," Daria realized.
"That's right, and if you want her back, you'll do exactly as we say," Graham ordered.
Daria reached into her gym bag. She always kept a few spare crossbow arrows inside. Grabbing one, she yanked it out and pushed Graham against the wall, pointing the tip of the arrow at his neck.
"Whoa!" Graham's eyes widened. "Harm me and there's no telling what Eric might do to Jane!"
In spite of her anger, Daria's rational side took over as she lowered her arrow.
"Besides, do you really want to make a commotion in public?" Graham smirked.
Daria looked around. Sure enough, a few people had paused to look at them.
"Nothing to see here, people!" Graham told them. "We're just practicing for a play!"
Daria put her arrow back into her bag as the crowd dispersed.
Graham handed her a small piece of paper with instructions.
"Come to this location," Graham told her. "And don't bother trying to contact the police. Eric's got them in the palm of his hands."
"What promise do I have that you guys won't harm Jane?" asked Daria.
"You don't," Graham shrugged. "You have no choice but to risk coming alone."
"Some choice," Daria muttered angrily as Graham walked away smugly.
"Basically, they've got Jane and they want me to come alone," finished Daria.
Amy Barksdale and Ted sat on the couch, both disturbed by the revelation.
"I'd like to call the cops," Amy narrowed her eyes, "but Eric's probably got them on his payroll."
"After Eric got exposed, I never did read about him getting arrested or any followup investigations," Ted nodded.
"So either I go or they do God-knows-what to Jane," Daria's shoulders slumped.
She handed Amy and Ted the location where they expected her to go to.
"It's probably another secret passageway to their underground temple," Ted looked at the piece of paper.
"Another secret passageway?" Aunt Amy raised an eyebrow.
"Well, uh, Daria and I sorta went off on our own and accidentally discovered their secret hideout," admitted Ted. "They never did catch us."
"Yeah, sorry we didn't tell you," Daria rubbed her head.
"Wait, this could actually help us," Amy pointed out.
"How?" asked Daria.
"Where did you find their hideout?" asked Amy.
"It was a secret entrance behind a trophy case in one of the halls where we have class," Ted admitted.
"Hmm, think you could take me there?" Amy inquired. "We know where one of their entrances is, but they don't know what we know. We have the element of surprise."
"I have to show up at this location tonight or else who knows what will happen to Jane," Daria said, her voice cracking due to the pressure.
"Daria," Amy put her hand on her niece's shoulder, "we've got your back. We'll make sure nothing happens to Jane."
"I've got some things that could come in handy for a situation like this," Ted said to the two. "I'll go get everything ready."
Daria took a deep breath as she appeared at the location where Graham had ordered her to. To her surprise, it was the fraternity house that Eric had made his abode.
"Here goes nothing," Daria walked towards the door.
Before she could knock, the door opened up to reveal Graham and a few other hooded cultists.
"Good to see you're here," Graham smiled.
"The feeling's not mutual," Daria frowned. "Where's Jane?"
"That's not how it works, Daria," Graham wagged a finger. "And you know it."
"Alright, take me to her," Daria sighed. "I won't put up a fight."
"Want us to put on handcuffs?" asked one of the cultists.
"No, that won't be necessary," Graham told him. "Daria's surrendering herself willingly. She's got nothing on her."
"C'mon," one of the cultists grabbed Daria from behind. "Let's get a move-on."
"Let's go see the temple, shall we?" Graham walked ahead.
"I can hardly contain my joy," Daria muttered as she was led forward.
"Your friend should feel honored," the cult member behind Daria told her. "Her participation in our ceremony will bring about the end of man."
"And here I thought that Nickelback concert I went to with Tom during senior year was a sign of the End Times," Daria remarked.
"You're really packed for this," Amy noted as she and Ted went up to the trophy case that hid the secret entrance.
Ted was packed with a medieval sword, along with a shield and what appeared to be body armor.
"Never know what we'll find down there," Ted replied. "It really was a dungeon back when Daria and I were down there."
"Do you remember how to open this case?" asked Amy Barksdale.
"Somewhere along the wall there's—"
Ted's roaming hand finally reached the right stone and pressed down. At once, the trophy case moved aside for them.
"Wow," Amy took a look through the darkened entrance, "that's a lot of steps."
"I'll go first," Ted walked down the stairs.
Amy looked down the set of stairs and shuddered, afraid to think of what was down there.
"Pull it together Amy," she told herself. "You can do this… for Daria."
Soon after Ted descended, Amy followed from behind.
The two of them went down a hall until they heard voices coming from close by. Two cultists were walking close to the Zoroastrian pillars chatting with one another. Luckily, they did not see Ted or Amy yet.
"Let's hide," Amy told Ted as the two hide behind a pillar.
"I can't believe we have guard duty on a night like this," one of the Death Apostles said to the other. "I want to watch the ceremony."
"We have our orders," his partner told him. "Besides, Eric wants us spread out for this night so that nothing can interrupt him."
Amy took out her handgun and looked at Ted, nodding. Immediately, she appeared from behind the two as they walked by and pointed her pistol at them.
"Hands in the air!" Amy warned them.
The two cultists spun around, ready to get violent, but the sight of Amy Barksdale's gun soon put them in a much more cautious position. Slowly, they raised their hands.
"Turn around," Amy ordered.
The two did as they were told.
"Ted, would you do the honors?" asked Amy.
Ted came in from behind the two and used the blunt end of his sword to knock the two out.
After the two were knocked out, Ted put his shield behind his back and began to take the robes off the two.
Amy furrowed her nose.
"These robes smell like a frat party," she frowned.
"That's because these two guys are local frat boys," Ted noticed.
"Ugh, Eric sure can pick 'em," Amy took her robe and began to put it on.
Before long, Daria was led back into the same temple that she and Ted had previously explored, except this time, they knew she was coming.
In the center of the room was the statue of a golden winged lion. Beneath the lion statue was a table where Jane was tied up on.
"Jane!" Daria shouted.
"Daria?" Jane tilted her head. "Is that you?"
"She'll be here to keep you company," Graham smiled as the Death Apostles grabbed Daria and led her forward.
"Daria, I don't know if I'll get another chance to say this," Jane told her friend, "but I'm sorry for not believing in you. You were right about Eric all along."
"It's okay Jane," Daria smiled sadly. "I couldn't stay mad at you no matter what."
"How touching," Graham crossed his arms.
"They haven't done anything to you, have they?" demanded Daria.
"Well… not yet," Jane admitted. "Eric said he planned on bringing back some evil mythological god and said three things needed to happen."
"Yes, three things precisely," a familiar voice rang out.
Eric stepped out from behind the statue with what appeared to be a golden chalice in his hand.
"You!" Daria growled.
"Hello Daria," Eric smiled. "I've been expecting you."
"Let Jane go," Daria said with a tinge of fear and uncertainty to her voice.
"Or you'll what?" asked Eric.
Daria looked down, realizing she was the one in a position of weakness as the Death Apostles surrounded her.
"Smart girl," Eric raised the golden chalice and placed it next to Jane on the table.
"Just… who are you and why are you doing this?" asked Daria almost despairingly.
"Who am I?" Eric gazed at Daria. "I am my father's son… the heir and creation of Angra Mainyu."
"The Persian destroyer god," Daria concluded. "I remember that name in passing from Mr. DeMartino's world history class…"
"I too am part of the fabric of what you have studied as history and mythology," Eric confessed. "You see, Eric Ravencroft was never my real name."
"Yeah, that name did sound too much like something out of a gothic horror movie," remarked Daria sarcastically. "I figured."
"My true name is Azi Dahaka," Eric continued, "and with the help of you and your friend, I will resurrect my father so that a new age of darkness and chaos can envelope the world soul by soul. You see, this human exterior is only but a cocoon to me. Like my father before me, I too am a god. And soon enough, I will be able to discard this shell of a mortal body."
"Great," Daria looked around at the various cultists surrounding her. "Anybody get the license plate of the car that gave Eric brain damage?"
Angrily, Eric raised his hand and summoned a ball of fire, launching it near Daria's feet.
"Whoa!" Daria cried, almost falling back.
Daria looked up at Eric as red demonic eyes overtook his pupils and black veins appeared on his face.
Finally, it dawned on Daria that Eric wasn't lying at all about any of this.
"This was already creepy before… like stalker-level creepy," Jane remarked. "But now it's shot up to horror movie creepy."
"Do you see now, Daria?" Eric said in a deeper growl. "In order to bring my father back, the Death Apostles must bring about three things. A virgin must lose her virginity. A hero must commit an act of self-sacrifice. And finally, a king's son must be driven to despair and death by two fools."
"Well, I know I'm not descended from royalty," Jane frowned. "So that rules the last part out."
"Great, so either you get your virginity forcefully taken from you or somebody sacrifices themselves," said Daria nervously. "Um… you are still a virgin, right?"
"Unfortunately yes," Jane replied truthfully. "I was on the verge of getting intimate with Eric… then I found out what a creep he really was."
"Now, are you ladies ready to begin the ceremony?" the "man" calling himself Eric asked.
Both Daria and Jane gulped.
"Rejoice father!" Eric turned to face the statue. "I, Azi Dahaka, your son shall complete the ceremony and a new age of fire shall begin!"
Taking out a knife, he walked over to Jane as Daria struggled helplessly in the grip of the Death Apostles.
"Don't you touch her!" Daria shouted.
Ignoring Daria, Azi Dahaka cut the palm of Jane's hand, allowing blood to seep into the golden chalice he held.
"Agh!" screamed Jane.
As horrified as Daria was that someone had cut her friend, her eyes grew wider as the golden chalice "Eric" held in his hand seemed to levitate into the air in front of the golden statue.
Azi Dahaka looked into the ceiling and began chanting in ancient Persian.
Daria noticed a small opportunity as one of the cultist's grip on her loosened at seeing the sight. Quickly, she elbowed him in the rubs, causing him to cry and let go. She rushed towards Jane but Azi Dahaka noticed her and unleashed a fiery blast of flames that made her drop to the ground to dodge the fire.
"You soul will be mine soon enough Daria," Azi Dahaka promised her. "Don't even bother putting up a struggle!"
Two cultists came forth and grabbed Daria.
"We got her," one of them told Azi Dahaka.
Suddenly, Daria realized there was something familiar with the voice she had just heard.
"We got you Daria," the second cultist next to her whispered in a feminine voice.
Without warning, one of the Death Apostles holding her tossed what looked like a small bomb into the crowd of Death Apostles who numbered in at least the thirties. Exploding on instant contact with the ground, the bomb erupted into a tear gas that enveloped everyone in its immediate vicinity.
"What is this?!" Azi Dahaka looked surprised.
All around him, the Death Apostles were wheezing and falling down in tears, with some even passing out. The two cultists holding Daria let her go and took off their hoods to reveal both Ted and Amy Barksdale.
"I knew that tear gas would come in handy someday," Ted beamed. "Thank you, Ebay!"
"Ted?" Daria looked relieved. "Aunt Amy?"
"We're here for you, Daria," Amy told her.
"Let Jane go," Ted took out his medieval sword, pointing it towards "Eric."
"You're too late," Azi Dahaka sneered. "Soon, the ceremony will be complete and eventually the world as you know it will end…"