The Mask Comes Off
"Kevin, I'm sorry about what happened," Daria told him.
She knelt down before Kevin and put a hand on his shoulder.
"I know what it's like to lose someone you cared about deeply," Daria said softly.
Kevin could barely hold back his muffled tears at this point.
"You're her, aren't you?" one of the cultists got up. "Daria Morgendorffer? You're wearing a mask but we were warned about your crossbow."
The cultist managed to hobble up on one leg as his other leg had been shot by Jane.
"After what you did to Azi Dahaka, the Death Apostles are going to make your whole family suffer," the cultist promised. "In fact, I think our High Priest is on his way over there right now…"
Without warning, Daria spun around and shot the Death Apostle in his knee in a newfound anger. The cultist howled in pain and fell down, getting knocked out as soon as his head hit the floor.
"My parents," Daria realized. "We have to get back there!"
She noticed Kevin still caressing Brittany's head.
"Kevin, I'm sorry but we have to go," she told him. "If we don't, more people might lose their lives."
"I… I…" Kevin got up as Jane helped him to his feet.
Finally, Kevin choked back his tears and followed Daria, reluctantly leaving Brittany's body behind.
Daria herself didn't feel so good just leaving Brittany's body behind. But from what the Death Apostle had told her, her parents' lives were already in danger. And she couldn't afford to spend any more time there.
Before long, the car pulled up before the Morgendorffer household.
"Ah, the prodigal daughter has returned," Mr. Candy said under his owl mask while watching through the blindfolds on the window.
"Who are you?" demanded Helen. "Why are you doing this to us?!"
Both Jake and Helen were tied to a chair. Jake himself sported a bloody arm from where the owl-man had slashed him.
"If this is about money," Jake told him. "We can—"
"This is about so much more than money," Mr. Candy said to them. "I want your daughter to watch as I slit both your throats."
"Just how do you know our daughter?" demanded Helen.
"She had several run-ins with us at Raft," Mr. Candy revealed. "Your daughter is fortunate she's survived as long as she did."
"You… you're that murder cult we've been seeing on the news," Helen was shocked.
"Correct," Mr. Candy walked up to the suburban couple. "Now, let's wait in anticipation for Daria to come in. I'm sure you're dying to see her…"
As Daria and Jane got out of the car, they took a glance at Kevin who was still sobbing.
At this juncture, he was nowhere near ready to help in mounting any kind of rescue due to the complete emotional wreck that he was.
"Kevin, just stay here, alright?" Daria told him.
Kevin sniffed and nodded weakly.
Daria and Jane moved towards the house with their weapons, taking their masks off.
"I have an idea," Daria told Jane. "I'll go in through the front door but you'll scale the fence and get in from the back. Maybe we can take him by surprise."
"Okay," Jane nodded.
Daria took out a spare house key she kept in her wallet.
"Take this and open the back," she gave it to her friend.
"I'm on it," Jane took the key and went to the side of the house to scale the fence.
"Alright Daria… you can do this," Daria said to herself, taking a deep breath.
She took out her main key and unlocked the door. Still unsure as to what was on the other side, she finally opened up the door with her crossbow in hand.
"Ah Miss Morgendorffer, I've been expecting you. Please… close the door behind you."
At once, Daria saw both her parents tied to a chair. Her father had already been injured in the arm based on the blood she saw on his shoulder. Right behind them was the High Priest Moloch himself.
"Let them go!" Daria pointed her crossbow at the owl-man.
"Do not make me repeat myself," Mr. Candy said under the mask. "Close the door now!"
Angrily, Daria did as she was told.
"Just who are you?" demanded Daria.
"You are in no position to ask me anything," High Priest Moloch told her. "You've caused enough damage to our brotherhood which we cannot overlook."
From the corner of her eye, Daria saw Jane open up the door from behind the kitchen to enter into the house.
"What do you want?" Daria asked, hoping to keep the man in the owl mask distracted.
"After what you did to Angra Mainyu's son, nothing less than your blood will suffice," the owl-man told her. "But before we get to that, I have some business with your parents."
With that, he raised his claws near Helen's throat.
"Daria," Helen was on the verge of tears. "Whatever happens, I just want you to know that—"
"Silence!" Mr. Candy growled.
Daria continued pointing her crossbow at the owl-man who kept his metal claws just beneath Helen's throat.
"So Daria," High Priest Moloch sneered, toying with Daria. "Which parent do you love more? Depending on how you answer, I may only just slit one of their throats…"
At that moment, Jane had gotten closer to the owl-man, pointing her gun towards the back of his head.
Unfortunately for her, however, Jane managed to step on a piece of plywood on the floor at the last second that made a creaking sound. Immediately the owl-man spun around with almost supernaturally fast reflexes and backhanded Jane's gun out of her hands. With a spin kick, the owl-man struck Jane in the stomach and knocked her to the floor.
Seeing an opportunity to take down the man who had attacked her parents, Daria opened fire with her own crossbow. The arrow sailed across the air but quickly, the owl-man deflected the arrow with the metal claws mounted to his wrist.
Again and again Daria fired with as many arrows as she could but High Priest Moloch deflected all the shots. Moving at blind speeds, he kicked the crossbow out of Daria's hand and grabbed her, throwing her to the floor.
Daria felt a surge of pain on her back and looked up in time to see the owl-man raised his arm into the air to strike her down with his metal claws, just like he did to many other girls in the campus.
In the nick of time, Jane barely managed to recover from the kick and grabbed her gun on the floor. She took aim and fired.
The shot struck High Priest Moloch in the shoulder, wounding him.
Mr. Candy howled in pain as he clutched his wound. Noticing Jane behind him, he ran off as Jane fired a few more shots at him that missed. The man in the owl mask bounded across the room, smashing through the window and escaping.
"You okay?" Jane got up and walked towards Daria, helping her up.
"Ugh, I've felt better," admitted Daria.
The first thing Daria did was to check up on her parents.
"Mom, dad," Daria untied them. "Are you alright?!"
"We're… traumatized to say the least," Helen had to admit. "Hang on Jake, let me go get the first aid kit!"
"What happened?" Daria asked her father as Helen rushed off.
"Well, it was just an ordinary evening and somebody's at the door," Jake told her. "Then I open up to see some freak job in an owl mask!"
Before long, Helen came back with the first aid kit and began to bandage Jake's arm.
"Where's Quinn?" Daria inquired.
"She told us she was hanging out with her Fashion Club," Helen replied. "While we were tied up, we didn't get a chance to call her and ask if she's okay."
Daria immediately picked up her phone and dialed Quinn's number. After a few rings, there was nobody there to pick up.
"We need to bring her home," Daria hung up.
"I agree," Helen told her. "But right now, don't you think we should call the cops?"
"The cops, mom?" Daria turned around. "Back at Raft when I was involved with these psychopaths, the cops were on their payroll. If they had a presence in Boston, then they have a presence here."
"She's right, Miss Morgendorffer," Jane vouched for Daria. "We can't trust the police to help us if they're compromised."
"Now listen Daria," Helen crossed her arms. "Your father and I have been attacked in our own home. I think there needs to be a report filed to the police!"
"Mom, we're in way over our heads," Daria said in a frustrated tone. "Reporting this to the police could just make things worse."
"Daria, I don't know what you did in Raft exactly," Helen glared at Daria. "But what happened here today was serious and I'm not about to let you run off playing vigilante!"
"Hey Daria," Jane whispered to her. "I think we forgot about Kevin. I'll go check up on him."
As Daria and her mom went back and forth in argument, Jane opened up the door to yet another surprise.
Standing before her was Tom. He stood there with a deer-in-the-headlights expression, as if he had been traumatized by something.
"Uh, Daria?" Jane called out.
Daria and Helen stopped their argument. The Morgendorffers looked up and saw Tom standing at the door.
"Hi," Tom said nervously. "I know this is probably a bad time… scratch that, the worst time for me to come over but I was in the neighborhood and thought I'd come see Daria. Then before I can knock, some weirdo in an owl mask breaks through the window and runs off into a black car…"
"So that's where you got that deer-in-the-headlights look," Jane said half-jokingly.
"Tom, I'm actually glad you're here," Daria said to him.
"And… I'm actually glad I kept an open mind towards some of the things you told me at Pizza King," admitted Tom. "Maybe there is something to all the stuff you said."
"Tom, do you think you could stay with my family for a second while I go talk to Kevin?" asked Daria.
"Kevin? The football player? Uh, okay."
"Daria, you're not leaving this house," Helen insisted.
"Mom, he's just outside in Jane's car," Daria sighed.
"She'll be fine," Jane tried to reassure Helen.
Daria left her house and went immediately to Jane's car, knocking on the window.
"Uh, Kevin?" Daria asked.
She saw Kevin lying down in a fetal position across the seats. Looking up, he saw Daria and slowly got up, opening up the car door.
"So um, you got a minute?" Daria asked.
"Yeah, why not?" Kevin sniffed.
He moved over slightly as Daria got in next to him.
"Bet I look pretty pathetic right now, don't I?" Kevin wiped away at his runny nose.
"No, I don't think so at all," Daria told him. "I think what you did was nothing less than brave."
"Huh?" Kevin looked at her.
"Look Kevin," Daria said softly. "I know you still loved Brittany, even though she broke up with you. The fact that you still went out of your way to try to save her despite everything that happened tells me just one thing."
"What's that?" Kevin asked.
"It tells me that deep down, you're kind, decent person whose heart is in the right place," Daria put her hand on Kevin's shoulder.
For a moment, Kevin looked at Daria. He was still saddened over Brittany's death… but something Daria said finally stirred a chord in him.
"I… thanks Daria," said Kevin finally.
"Don't mention it," Daria got up. "Anyways, I'd better get back inside and reassure my parents. Want to come inside for a drink?"
"Alright," Kevin decided to get up as well.
"Hey mom," Daria said as she re-entered the house with Kevin. "Didn't call the cops to make a report, did you?"
"Not yet Daria," Helen told her. "But I still think—"
"Good, because I'm going to go out to look for Quinn," Daria told her parents.
"With that killer on the loose?" Jake looked worried.
"Look, I'm taking Kevin and Tom with me," Daria said, trying to reassure her parents. "In the meantime, Jane, you've got the gun. Can you stay here with my parents?"
"I can do that," Jane promised. "Trust me on this one, Mr. and Mrs. Morgendorffer. Your daughter pretty much took down a Persian destroyer god. She can handle herself just fine."
"A what?" Helen looked confused.
"Look mom," Daria said to her mom, trying to bring things back down to Earth again. "I'll have Tom and Kevin accompany me. Is that better?"
"I—" Helen looked exasperated as Daria looked at her pleadingly. "Oh very well."
"Thanks mom," Daria sighed in relief. "Do you know where Quinn usually goes to with her new date?"
"Well, come to think of it, I think she's gone with him to the movie theater," Jake announced. "She's been there with him more than any other place that I can think of."
"Alright, that'll be the first place I'll hit up," Daria nodded. "I'll be back with Quinn. Trust me."
With that, she left the home as Tom and Kevin followed her.
"Oh, by the way, I never asked if you wanted to come with me," Daria remembered. "If you don't want to come, then no hard feelings."
"No, I'm with you Daria," Kevin promised. "All the way through the finish line."
"Well, what kind of ex-boyfriend would I be if I just let my former girlfriend deliberately walk into danger?" Tom pointed out. "I'd be glad to help."
"Wait, you guys broke up?" Kevin suddenly realized.
Daria and Tom looked at each other and groaned. Clearly Kevin had forgotten all about all the times Daria had told him how she went out with Ted in college.
"No Kevin, we've been secretly dating this whole time while publicly pretending to break up in a effort to save the world from the negative effects of UV rays," Daria said sarcastically.
"Whoa, kinda cool if you ask me," Kevin cracked a smile as Tom shook his head.
As tempted as she was to snark further at Kevin, Daria did notice him smiling and decided that she would rather he go back to being the same old fun-loving Kevin that she knew rather than dwell on tragedy.
"Well, let's head out then," Daria finally said.
"I'll drive," Tom offered.
"This is the place," Daria said as Tom pulled over in the parking lot for the movie theater.
"So what now?" asked Tom.
"Well, I had an idea," answered Daria. "The theater allowing me to carry a crossbow inside is out of the question. So I thought Kevin would go inside and Tom and I would go look for Quinn in the back of the theater. Couples have been known to make out in the woods there."
"Works for me," Tom agreed.
"Say Kevin, you remember what Quinn looks like, right?" asked Daria.
"Sure, redheaded girl who dresses in pink?" Kevin replied.
"Can't miss her," Daria nodded.
"Alright, let's do this then," Tom got out of the car as Daria also got out and hid her crossbow inside her jacket and took a few additional arrows under the sleeve of her jacket.
"I'll come find you if I don't see Quinn inside," promised Kevin.
"So Daria, what's really going on here?" asked Tom as the two of them walked towards the back of the theater. "I mean, I saw with my own eyes how some psycho in a mask broke through a window in your house."
"Well, I didn't lie about anything I said to you," Daria pointed out.
"I don't know about all the other stuff you mentioned like dragons and demon gods," Tom confessed, "but I am a lot more open to what you said about there being a blood cult that's out for you."
"With any luck, I'll survive and make it to the holidays," Daria nodded.
"Holidays?" Tom looked confused.
Daria bit her lips slightly. Tom, just like everybody else, had forgotten about the holiday spirits thanks to all of them being massacred. Now she and Jane were the only two people who remembered the holidays, and even then she didn't know if their memories would last.
"Uh, nevermind," Daria told Tom. "Don't worry about it."
"Look Daria, just so you know," Tom said to her seriously. "My parents have a rental property thirty minutes out of town that's currently vacant. If you're worried about your family's safety, I can always talk to my folks and convince them to allow your family to stay there for a while."
"Thanks Tom," Daria said gratefully. "Though truth be told, I would rather end it all tonight if at all possible."
The two of them finally reached the back of the movie theater. There seemed to be nobody in the back and right behind the theater were the woods.
"Coast is clear?" asked Tom.
"Hmm, not quite," Daria narrowed her eyes to try and see in the dark. "C'mon Tom."
Daria and Tom both went into the woods, going just far enough that the movie theater's lights became dimmer behind them.
"So… what now?" asked Tom.
"Now?" Daria took out her crossbow. "This."
She fired an arrow into the distance. The arrow struck a tree and caused quite a stir in the bushes below.
"Eeeek!" a girl's scream erupted.
"Just what in the blazes is going on?" a male voice echoed.
A couple emerged from the bushes as Daria trained her crossbow on them. Sure enough, it was Quinn and her boyfriend Kenneth. Thankfully, they weren't in a state of undress, though they looked to be getting close to that stage.
"Quinn, you need to step away from him right now," Daria told her sister.
"Why?" demanded Quinn. "Here I am out enjoying a nice night out with my boyfriend and you come barging in like Buffy the Vampire Slayer with a crossbow!"
"You need to listen to your sister," Tom insisted. "That guy you're with right now… he's very dangerous."
"Who the hell are you supposed to be?" Kenneth glared at Tom. "Oh wait, don't tell me. Daria, you really get around, don't you? Ted's body has barely grown cold and here you are with another man!"
That was the tipping point for Daria. Raising her crossbow, she fired a shot directly at Kenneth's heart. Soon, however, Daria's rage vanished, only to be replaced by a sudden chilling fear as Kenneth caught the arrow in mid-air. Even Quinn took a step back at seeing her boyfriend display such quick reflexes.
"Kenneth!" Quinn was genuinely shocked.
"I'm not as easy to kill as the other Death Apostles," Kenneth informed Daria.
"Daria!" Quinn shouted. "Why did you just shoot an arrow at my boyfriend? What is wrong with you?!"
"Quinn, just get away from him!" Daria ordered.
Quinn, however, did not seem like she wanted to leave Kenneth's side.
"Any ideas now?" Tom looked at Daria worryingly.
He had never been in a violent confrontation before and a situation like this was completely alien to him. It was then that Tom realized he was completely outside of his comfort zone.
"Quinn, don't make me repeat myself," Daria said sternly. "If you lose your innocence to this man, we're just one step closer to Armageddon!"
"Daria!" Quinn crossed her arms angrily. "Have you gone mad?"
Suddenly, Kenneth began chuckling. Soon, the chuckles turned into full blown laughter.
"Hahaha!" Kenneth cackled. "That's what this was about, Daria? I hate to break it to you, but you're already too late to prevent the second part of the prophecy from being fulfilled! Just between your sister and me, it's already been a done deal ever since you were attending Raft!"
"Quinn," Daria lowered her crossbow in shock. "Is this true?"
"Y-Yes," Quinn confessed, unsure what to make of everything that was going on around her.
"You're out of luck and soon to be out of time," sneered Kenneth. "A hero already lost his life and a virgin already lost her virginity. Now all that remains is for two fools to drive a king's son to madness in that hick town of Highland you used to live in. And I promise you won't be able to go back to prevent it."
"Kenneth, just what are you talking about?" demanded Quinn.
"Shut up!" Kenneth barked, grabbing Quinn by the wrist. "If you're lucky, you'll get to live through this and be a part of my personal harem!"
"Ow!" Quinn cried. "Stop!
Daria was about to raise her crossbow again to open fire on Kenneth once more but Tom beat her to the punch.
"Alright!" Tom said angrily, walking over and grabbing Kenneth by the arm against his better judgment. "I think you need to let her go now!"
"Tom!" Daria's eyes widened. "Get out of the way!"
It was too late. Immediately, Kenneth let go of Quinn and drove his fist into Tom's solar plexus. Tom keeled over from the pain and soon, he slid to the floor. The next thing he felt was Kenneth's foot on his back, pressing down.
"Go ahead!" Kenneth looked at Daria as Quinn fled to her sister's side out of fear. "Wanna give it another shot?"
Daria fired another shot from her crossbow but once more, Kenneth caught it mid-air before it could hit his neck.
"See?" the young man wagged a finger at Daria. "Unlike the other Death Apostles culled from basement dwellers and spoiled trust fund brats, I was born into the faith… trained to be a warrior since birth. You won't get lucky with me like you did Eric."
Kenneth grabbed Tom and lifted him up, holding him in a headlock with Daria's arrow pointed at his throat.
"Don't know if you're dating this guy or not," Kenneth smiled. "But I'll just pretend he is to make this more fun!"
Without warning, a figure stumbled throughout the darkened woods and tackled Kenneth, knocking him away from Tom.
Daria quickly went over to Tom to help him up.
"You hurt?" she asked.
"My body or my pride?" Tom asked with his trademark wit.
Daria helped Tom up and went over to see who had gotten to Kenneth. Sure enough, it was Kevin rolling across the floor with Kenneth until Kevin finally mounted him.
"This is for Brittany!" Kevin cried, punching Kenneth across the face, giving him a bloody nose.
He punched at Kenneth a second time but Kenneth quickly moved his head, exposing a hard rock underneath that Kevin's knuckles jammed into.
"Ah!" Kevin cried out.
Kenneth took advantage of the situation and rolled Kevin off of him. He quickly got up and kicked Kevin in the ribs before he could get up. As Kevin fell on his back, Kenneth got onto him, kicking him repeatedly in the stomach, arms, and ribs as Kevin tried to defend himself.
"This is over your slut girlfriend? Seriously?!" Kenneth screamed as he kicked Kevin hard enough to finally knock him on his back. "Fuckin' bitch had it coming just like you will!"
With that, Kenneth pulled out a Persian dagger. Just as he raised it, however, an arrow penetrated his arm, forcing him to drop it.
Kenneth howled in pain as Daria stood there with her crossbow.
Daria fired two more shots. Both arrows struck Kenneth's legs, causing him to drop down to his knees as blood flowed down his pants.
Finally, Kevin got up. Seeing the man before him who had murdered the girl he loved, Kevin swung back and punched Kenneth with all his might, knocking him down. Not giving Kenneth any chance to recover, Kevin pounced on him, punching him repeatedly in fury. At that point, even Daria had to wince. Before long, Kenneth was a bloody mess, barely able to articulate anything, much less defend himself.
Looking around frantically, Kevin picked up a rock next to Kenneth and raised it up. Quickly, Daria hugged Quinn and shielded her eyes as Kevin brought it down on the Death Apostle.
"I'm sorry Brittany," Kevin murmured to himself over and over again as he rolled off of Kenneth's body. "I wasn't there for you, babe… I'm sorry…"
At that point, Quinn was crying in Daria's arms. Wearily, Daria looked at Tom. He was in total shock at everything that had happened today but he was still the only one who at least looked relatively unscathed from the altercation.
"Tom, I need you to do something," Daria said to her ex-boyfriend.
"Uh, okay," Tom said blankly, still trying to process everything.
"Go to the nearest department store and buy some shovels," Daria told him. "Then come back."
"Wait, what?" Tom began to look a bit afraid. "Shouldn't we call the police? Because what we're doing is—"
"This isn't up for debate," Daria said sternly as she held Quinn close to her. "The police are compromised and we can't let anyone know what happened. Use cash if you have to."
Something in Daria's voice let Tom know that she was being dead serious. Sighing deeply, Tom finally nodded in agreement, against his better judgment.
"Hope I don't regret this," Tom said as he headed towards his car, hoping that there would be nobody in the backstage of the theater to spot him.
As Tom left, Daria sat down along with Quinn.
"Are you alright?" Daria asked.
A still-stunned Quinn shook her head, shaking in Daria's arms.
"Look, I know I haven't always been the best sister," Daria told her. "But I'm sorry."
Quinn said nothing but continued holding Daria in silence.
After an intense wait, Daria finally returned with Quinn in tow. The Morgendorffers were so excited to see their daughter again they did not even how the two boys in the group were looking a bit haggard with dirt stained pants.
"Quinn, are you alright?!" asked Helen.
She and Jake had been up into the late hours of the night just waiting for Daria and the others to make it back.
"I-I need some time to myself," Quinn whispered timidly.
"Okay, anything you need, just let us know," Jake helped Quinn upstairs.
"Are you alright, Daria?" asked Helen.
"I'm back in one piece, aren't I?" Daria offered in a tired voice.
All Helen could do was give a weak smile as she headed up to help Quinn settle down.
"Everything that happened tonight," Daria turned towards Tom and Kevin. "Tell no one."
"My lips are sealed," Tom promised.
Kevin only nodded, still traumatized over the death of his ex-girlfriend, in addition to the fact that he had killed a man for the first time in his life.
"So what now?" asked Jane, walking up towards Daria and the others.
"First… Tom, you mentioned that your parents had some real estate my family might be able to lay low at?" Daria turned to Tom.
"I… believe we can arrange something," Tom said affirmatively. "Although I'd have to haggle with my parents on not charging as much."
"Also," Daria turned back to Jane. "During my confrontation with Kenneth, he mentioned how my hometown of Highland was where the final part of the prophecy would take place."
"You mean the prophecy where two fools would drive some prince nuts?" Jane asked.
"This calls for a trip… back to the place where it all began for me," Daria finally resolved.
"You mean back to your hometown?" Tom was taken aback.
"Yeah, although this prophecy might be a bit easier to crack than the others," Daria nodded.
"Well, let's just say I got a pretty good hunch who those two fools are," Daria said confidently.