An old man sat on the stone steps of the Temple of Dorothy, Goddess of War and Legends and Patron of Storytellers. His back stooped, his face withered like a raisin with age and time, and he had a grey beard splayed across his chest like the pelt of a sheep. Gathered in a circle around him were many children, street urchins grubby with dirt but not yet old enough to port carts of wares to the vendors at the market or leap the pressing pole for the olive press to make oil. There were some older people too, curious young men and women passing by and catching the intriguing opening lines to his tale. An old master at his craft, the storyteller knew the way to hook an audience and keep them in suspense, even with the tired old yarns that the temple paid him to tell to children as a way of educating them in the tales of the Gods.
"In this world before the time of the Gods was the time of the Daemons," he continued, after his opening lines had gotten their interest. "Fearsome creatures; made of all of the stuff of nightmares that feasted upon the blood and bones of our very ancestors."
Unbeknownst to him, a seemingly ordinary young man wearing a cloak had stopped to listen to the golden-tongued tale-spinner; but the cloaked young man was anything but ordinary. People seemed to flow around him, without ever noting his presence and when people did appear to notice him they gave a quick shiver and hurriedly moved on. If anyone had been able to look upon his face, they would have known that this seeming-young man had lived more than they could imagine. His eyes shone a fiery-green luminescence like a cat's eyes that had caught the light. He paused on his errand to listen; he had time before his task.
"The daemons at first contented themselves with roaming during the night when they were most comfortable, feasting upon the occasional sacrifice, and stealing to occasional baby from its crib when they were in want of a treat."
The children of the crowd's eyes widened in fear as the old man leaned forward to poke one of them, like a daemon testing one to see if he had had enough meat on him to eat. The young man cocked his head to one side.
"But one year the Daemons grew to understand that our people grew numerous, numerous enough to be a threat and they began to attack in earnest. They came out from every crag and hollow, from the fields and from the woods, from the swamps and from the mountains... they descended on the then-isolated villages of our ancestors and began to wipe them out. In desperation the ancient Priests each called upon the one they worshiped and sacrificed their own bodies, that their battle god might be born into human flesh..."
The young man closed his shaded green eyes, for all of the world looking nostalgic.
"And they banded together into a mighty, unstoppable force and after a hundred years of battle, defeated the Daemon's, casting them from the world and bringing rise to the time of the gods. During which time they divided up their offices amongst themselves, each taking upon themselves the realm and duties to which they were suited best."
The young man blinked, and then looked over into a side street, waiting.
"Hey! You!" a voice cried over at the side, the young man looked on dispassionately, watching a fight in the street commence over a piece of fruit. The two young street toughs, a boy and a girl tussled in the dirt for a minute or two as the storyteller wove on obliviously. The boy pulled out a short, tiny knife; no more than a shard of pointed glass with one end bound in leather cord and slashed it across the neck of the girl. He hurriedly grabbed up the fruit and pelted off into the shadows of the alleyway.
The green-eyed young man bent next to the form bleeding in the street. The pain-glazed eyes of the fruit-thief were the only ones that saw the face of the cloaked young man. The song and traffic of the busy street stilled as the world froze mid-ramble about them.
"Is it time then?" she gasped.
"Damn," the fruit-thief muttered. "What a lousy way to die."
Trowa gently lifted up her soul. There was the sound of sighing wind, like a choir of whispers rising and falling and then… silence as time stood still for a moment. When the hustle and bustle of the mortal world re-commenced, the only sign of deaths passing was the body growing cold in the street.
In Romafeller, the home of the gods, the immortal Trickster peered about him. Trieze, the king of the gods, had assembled them all to celebrate the creation (one could not call it a birth since Une, the queen of the gods, had refused point blank to have much aught to do with the painful process) of his daughter and heir Mariemaia. The crowd was enormous since not only had every god and goddess been invited, but every demi-god, immortal, nature spirit, and elemental as well. The crowd was as varied as it was enormous. Duo could not remember a gathering this large since the dark days when they had all assembled together to overthrow the Primal Daemons who'd ravaged the world all those millenia ago. Duo himself had once been the God of Death for a village off the coast, he enjoyed his current role far more. A trickster could certainly have a great deal of fun...
Heero, one of his old comrades-in-arms, had decided upon the title and duties of God of Dreams. His realm was a world apart from the solid reality of the mortal realm and was made up of all of the things that could exist in a mortal imagination. Duo was unsurprised to note that, though it had been centuries since the fall of the Daemons, Heero was still as serious as if he expected to take up the mantle of battle-god once more. Duo, nominally his best friend, strolled over to heckle him about it.
"Heero, buddy!" Duo called, not missing the grimace that appeared on his old friend's face at his summons. "Haven't seen you in a while, how's things in the dream realm?"
"Dreamy," Heero replied flatly.
Heero's attention was elsewhere, and Duo wasn't long in figuring out where. Ah, there she was! Relena, Goddess of Peace and Healing. She looked as fresh and lovely as ever, and Heero was as taken with her as ever he had been. Theirs was a history that went back a few hundred years... When her brother, the sword-weilding God of Vengeance, Milliardo, had been fighting alongside them to defeat the Daemons who ravaged the mortal world, he had built a mighty fortress to protect his precious younger sister Relena. Heero had been badly wounded in combat and his comrade had invited him back to recuperate at his fortress. WHile recovering from his injuries there, Relena had tended to him. It was obvious that the two of them thought highly of each other, all they needed was a little nudge...
Who better than the Trixter to do it?
Ooooh, new handmaidens! Duo thought, momentarily distracted from his imminent crusade. The handmaidens that followed Lady Une, Goddess of War and Beauty, were all, of a rule, the loveliest of demi-goddesses. Duo was, in particular, taken with a statuesque petite young woman with closely-cropped black hair and eyes of a captivating cornflower blue. He was about to make his way over there to sneak past the formidable and forbidding regard of Lady Une to try his luck when he was intercepted by two more of his old war-comrades.
Quatre, God of Light and Love was a shining example of the two things he represented. His light blonde hair seemed to always have the effect of a permanent halo around him at all times, and he was so kind and good natured that he radiated good-feelings like a miniature sun. He was always cheerful, always polite, and his quiver always full of arrows to stimulate love in the heart of mortal and god alike.
His companion Trowa was a polar opposite of him, he was tall and lean, but unlike Quatre (who was the least warrior-like of all of the former War-Gods), Trowa still looked like he expected to wake up and fight a battle. The rest of the gods had dubbed him as the quiet one for he never said two words more than were necessary, and when he did speak his voice was toneless without the inflection of emotion. Duo had heard it said (well out of the God of the Underworlds hearing of course) that when Trowa had been Born by priest that the preist had forgotten to include human emotions for Trowa was unmoved by even the greatest tragedies. On this occasion he stood among the crowd but was un touched by it, even the gods of Romafeller would not walk into his shadow so he was surrounded (with the exception of Quatre) by a circle of clear space in the midst of a roiling party. Trowa was solemn and somber as ever; like he was attending his own funeral. Perhaps that should not be all that surprising since he was after all, the God of the Underworld. Duo went down to visit the Underworld one time on invitation and hadn't found it in him to go back. The place was, in a word, gloomy. There was this hanging aura of murk about the place that never seemed to dissipate; and its master was just as somber as the realm he lived in. Duo had never once seen him smile in all of the millennia he had known him.
While Quatre chatted with Duo, the Trickster's attention was caught by the shining golden arrows in the quiver on the God of Light and Love's back. A plan slowly began to form in the tricksters mind. If he could steal a few of those arrows...
He looked over at where the Goddess of Peace and Healing was being guarded jealously by her elder brother and then over at Heero who watched her surruptiously out of the corner of his eye. It could work.
Treize momentarily called for every being's attendance as he made the official presentation of his daughter and heir and Duo saw his chance. In an eye blink he had discretely swiped two of Quatre's love arrows from his quiver while everyone else was watching the presentation of little baby Mariemaia. Quatre would understand, it was all in a good cause. Besides, those mortals needed something to make stories about, and things had been just a little too quiet recently in Romafeller.
He purloined the articles into his bottomless wallet with none the wiser and waited for his opportunity. It had to be when the two of them were alone together. The way the arrows worked was that the person struck by the point would fall in love with the very next person they saw (whether of the same or opposite gender didn't matter). Firing one of those off in a crowd this size could be a disaster. Still, Duo could be patient when the moment suited him, he had plenty of time to trick them both into a private meeting and still have time to come back for refreshments. Oh yeh!
The gift line for Mariemaia's presentation was a long one, all twelve of Lady Une's handmaidens waited to accept the gifts for Mariemaia and put them in the growing pile off to the side. Lady Une divided her attention between overseeing her handmaidens and watching the baby. Duo already had his ready; a bag of tricks from the Trickster. Heero was giving her sweet and pleasant dreams for her lifetime, Quatre was giving her very own sun, Wufei God of (you guessed it) Justice was giving her a little Scale of Truth to play with. Sally, Goddess of Patience, was giving her the very thing for which she was worshipped. Relena had already given Mariemaia her gift, the Gift of inner Peace. Milliardo, god of Vengeance... well, his wife had insisted upon giving her a present from both of them because she'd shot down his idea of giving her an executioners swift sword.
Duo presented his gift with all due aplomb directly to the baby, because Lady Une was frowning at him for eying her precious handmaidens. Damn, there went that idea. He left the baby to play with it while he went to go and set up the little meeting between his two friends. He reached for his never ending wallet to check to make certain that his stolen arrows were there when he noted with dismay that his wallet was empty.
I could have swore that I just...
Duo hurriedly looked about him. Nada. By chance he glanced back over at the line and the baby to discover to his dismay that he'd put the arrows into the wrong bag, and now the baby was using the little love arrows as a divine baby toy.
Uh-oh, he thought. He watched Trowa, God of the Underworld, walk up to the cradle where the bright little tot played to present his gift. The little baby shook the arrow at Trowa as Trowa gave his present to a waiting handmaiden.
Duo watched, torn between delight and dismay, as little baby Mariemaia cheerfully poked the God of the Underworld with the point of the love arrow. The point dissipated into a puff of pink smoke on contact and Trowa locked eyes with Lady Une's favorite handmaiden.
Awwww, Duo thought, watching a sudden soft look of besotted fascination enter the eyes of a man that Duo had never seen wear a facial expression before.
It couldn't have happened to a nicer fellow, Duo thought, pleased with himself even if it had been an accident.
The handmaiden took his present with a small bow and turned to leave. Trowa started to follow after her, dazed as if in a trance, when he was met by the frowning visage of Lady Une dual-natured Protector of Women. She was terribly jealous and protective of her handmaidens, no man be he god or mortal got close to them for fear of her wrath. Midii Une was not only Lady Une's favorite handmaiden, but her younger half-cousin as well.
Uhboy... Duo thought, reconsidering. There was no way in the world Une would consent to give away her favorite handmaiden; even to a God she counted as a friend.
I hope it wears off quickly, for his sake, Duo thought pityingly. He'd just leave well enough alone for now.
The Underworld was dark and gloomy at even the best of times with it's all-pervading fog-cover lit by a dim hazy light that didn't come from any perceivable direction and yet still somehow managed to cast creepy flickering shadows everywhere, and lastly the unshakable feeling of depression that came off from the souls of the dead flickering in and out throughout the realm. The underworld was dismal, murky and depressing, like a miserable dream you couldn't wake up from; reflecting much of the character of its ruler.
A warrior himself, the underworld was suitable to the feeling that a warrior lived with; that one was always on the edge of oblivion. That was the way he was most accustomed to feeling for being a harvester of souls didn't exactly lend itself to a cheery disposition; much like the realm he ruled, Trowa, was often called grim, serious, even harsh. He exuded a gravity of sobriety that many found to be intimidating, and his expressionless face and forbidding demeanor made him quite unapproachable. Plus there was the obvious concern; who wanted to offend the god of the dead?
Due to the solitary nature of its ruler and the general feeling of melancholy the Underworld received few visitors (aside of the souls of the dead that is). Trowa looked about him as if seeing his realm for the first time; creeping shadows, chill mist, and the walking souls floating in a peaceful stream toward the shadowed gate… He shook his head. As a god he required neither food nor sleep, so he generally bothered with neither. Unlike many of the other gods who built themselves enormous palaces in their own realms to reflect their powers and personalities Trowa had not felt the need to build any kind of abode since he never had anyone to impress and building one to house only himself would be pointless.
There was only one structure in all of the Underworld… The Whisper Gallery. Much like in the realm of dreams, the souls of the dead brought with them their own afterlife. When Trowa (and the Shadowed Ones he commanded) released a mortal soul from its body it first journeyed to the Shadowed Gate; grey colorless souls walked in a steady stream of humanity to the gate and then disappeared through it. For every soul that entered the gate a globe of colored light, floating and glowing, appeared in its own little niche in a chamber called the Whisper Gallery. Trowa did not know what worlds existed inside of those globes, the only thing he heard were the whispers; millions of voices echoing in song. Trowa found it comforting, but the few gods he had showed his comfortable place to had been, for lack of a better phrase, creeped out. They had left shortly there-after. Even Quatre, his best friend, tendered invitations for Trowa to come and visit him in his own realm rather than visit the underworld.
Trowa looked about him, he didn't see any problems with his realm and couldn't quite understand why none of the other gods seemed to find it comfortable; to his mind it was very peaceful.
Perhaps she'd like something more comfortable to her, he thought.
The God of the Underworld summoned Afiro, one of his spirit servants. An elemental made of the darkness, Afiro was a formless being of shadow that existed wherever darkness could be found who served as Trowa's eyes and ears among the shadows of the human realm. The glinting reflection of the murky ambient glow reflected off from two obsidian eyes at the apex of the drifting blot of darkness at Trowa's side.
"Afiro," he commanded. "Build a palace suitable to the queen of the underworld."
He pointed, envisioned the image of his desired abode in his mind, and worked his Will upon his realm.
The being gave no sign of surprise but instead set about to do its masters bidding. On a hill overlooking the river of souls a great dark cloud condensed and began to twist and move. Within the hour it dissipated leaving behind a standing structure, a massive edifice of blackest night like a shadow made solid.
Trowa flowed over to inspect it. He'd had a vague idea of what he'd wanted but had left the particulars up to the Shadowed One he'd commanded; after all it had lived here since its creation so it would likely have a pretty clear notion of what an estate in the Underworld should look like.
The front gate was of blackened steel spikes bound upright by iron figures of dead warriors, the gate in turn were also guarded by four immense stone gargoyles to either side that looked out at him with shining black eyes. He was recognized as the castles master but anyone who attempted entry without his permission would be treated to their heavy solid stone bulks animating themselves and blocking the way in by forcible means if necessary. The front courtyard was bare, scorched earth but for a fountain of stone carved depicting a knot of desperate souls who had died of thirst weaving about each other reaching greedily for drink. Afiro had a twisted sense of humor, Trowa noted dourly. Black shining shadow-stuff, like ink, poured from the top into the pool below instead of water.
The front was a story-high pointed archway of stone with bas-relief carvings of souls bearing the load of the arch on their shoulders, the doors were ebony with blackened iron metal panels depicting scenes from some of the most costly battles in mortal history. What looked from the outside to be the main hall was three stories high with the two top levels supported by long slender stone pillars connected by stone arches. Inside the niches of the archways were more elongated stone gargoyles that posed there to guard the building from all sides, to be animated at his command. Crowning the entire edifice was a massive dome of etched obsidian glass in the shapes of interlocking triangles with corresponding downward triangles held in place by blackened steel. To the back of the main hall, two smaller wings swept out to either side, it was likely that there was a garden in the center behind the main hall. Impressive.
The ebony doors opened into a long, dark foyer lined on both sides by black obsidian gargoyles resting on black marble pillars, their eyes gleaming comfortingly in the gloom to assure that any traveler to his realm would be well guarded. The entry hall led directly to the main hall; three stories high with the glass dome at the top, black stone pillars were carved to present the image of a twisting spiral of souls reaching upwards, the ribs were interlocked arms and shoulders to bear the weight of the ceiling. The floor was of black marble polished to a glassy finish, the room lit by the ambient glow of the mist that pervaded the Underworld.
Satisfied, he flowed over to inspect the guest quarters for his intended guest. A sumptuous suite of seven rooms; the bedroom had plush woven carpets of sable and charcoal-grey over the polished black floors so that he feet wouldn't become cold. A wide window to one wall with a balcony sporting two guardian gargoyles on pillars overlooked the inner garden; the bed had black silk sheets and comforters with black velvet curtains mounted on the ebony headboard and frame, the bathing chamber with an onyx tub, black fittings and silver fixtures. The office, sitting room, receiving room, library, and leisure room were outfitted similarly.
Good. She'll be very comfortable here, he thought, pleased.
Something had inspired him to go to efforts that he had never before seen the need to bother with. Ever since the gathering in Romafeller, when he had locked eyes with that beauteous creature of the light ((a.n. if anybody has read the manga "Wallflower"… ;-D )) he could think of nothing else. Ever since he had seen her, Trowa had been plagued by strange feelings; his chest felt tight and he was constantly restless. He watched a mirror of obsidian constantly that relayed the scene he had sent his pet raven to watch over; that scene being Midii. He'd memorized her every feature; long thick hair fell in waves down her back in all the colors of gold that existed in nature from the pale gold of morning sunlight to the rich gold of ripened wheat to the burnished gold of clovers honey. Her eyes were the most enchanting blue, rivaling the clearest of afternoon skies. Her lithe, willowy form was as graceful as a leaping gazelle as she whirled about in the gardens dancing to music only she could hear. Her innocent, beautiful face held him captivated. In a life that was filled with misery and sadness and unescapable gloom she was the one point of color and brightness. Seeing her image brought to him by one of his minions wasn't enough. He wanted; needed to see her personally. It had been three days and he was in agony!
Lady Une would never consent to give up her most precious and favorite of handmaidens, so out of desperation Trowa had made this plan. In his observance of her Trowa had noticed that Middi loved nothing more than to dance in the sunlit gardens of the palace at Romafeller, she did this every afternoon. He would take his Ravens chariot to Romafeller, lure her to the edge of Une's protected gardens and steal her away for himself. Every God was supreme within his or her own realm; even Treize, the king of the gods could not follow down into the Underworld if Trowa did not wish it. Once he had the maiden here, there would be no way to force Trowa into giving her up. He loved her so fiercely he could not abide the thought of giving her up. Once she was there she would eventually learn to be happy in her new home. He just knew she'd be happy once she saw how much he loved her.
Midii loved being outdoors, she loved being out in the sun where everything was fresh and golden and warm; not surprising, her mother had been a nature spirit and her father (lady Une's half cousin) had been a now-forgotten forest god. Midii liked to collect the colorful flowers that grew in the gardens and in the meadows nearby, her one talent was that they never faded after she touched them. She stayed away from Treize's precious roses, but all of the other flowers in the garden were fair game. There in that garden she was safe from all harm and no-one might enter unless they were invited in. Midii selected her bounty with care as she tilted her face up and closed her eyes to love the sun in tribute to a perfect day, completely unaware that she had a shadowy observer watching her nearby.
It had been a week from the time of Mariemaia's naming ceremony and matters had settled down appreciably from the uproar during the festival day. All of the different gods had departed to their realms once more and the palace was once again empty but for the lord and lady of Romafeller, the servants and Treize's highly trained warrior-heroes, and Midii's fellow handmaidens. Midii had been left to Lady Une by her father, and thus the palace at Romafeller was the only place she'd ever known; Lady Une rarely traveled the mortal realms and if she did she went alone. Midii had never once seen the outside of the palace walls; she heard somewhere that it had been her mothers request that she should be kept close because she was weak in power. Still, she savored the memories of seeing and meeting so many different people for the first time in her life. She'd even met the reclusive God of the Underworld.
And speaking of the underworld… she thought to herself.
Trowa, the lord of the underworld, had been at that party. She supposed he couldn't help it, but he'd made quite an impression on her; he was so… mysterious. Midii, usually shy around strangers, had found herself wishing that Lady Une had let her talk to him. He hadn't spoken much but when she'd looked up into his face he'd had the most beautiful green eyes, like the leaves of a forest when the golden sunlight shone through them. On one hand she'd been intrigued by him, but on the other hand she'd found him very, very intimidating. It was like he carried a chill wind with him wherever he went; she'd even noticed that many of the greater gods themselves gave him a wide berth! Somehow she found that very… sad.
I wonder if he ever gets lonely there, she thought, a little wistfully. She knew what it was like to feel trapped inside. She never got to go anywhere or meet anyone new, the other handmaidens tended to avoid her because she was… lesser. The other handmaidens all had at least one of the greater gods in their lineage but Midiis parents were only two obscure deity-spirits worshipped by a very small cult of fanatics. The gods all drew power and might from their worshippers, the more widespread the worship, the more powerful the god was. The greater gods had all once been the patron battle gods of city-states in the time of the Deamons. Midii didn't even have a fraction of the power displayed by any of the other handmaidens so she wasn't allowed to go anywhere because she didn't have to power to defend herself if something should happen to her. It got lonely most times, but she was content enough; she had a beautiful garden to gather flowers from, the sunlight was warm and the days were always beautiful. She could play her pipes and dance to her hearts content. What more could a handmaiden ask for?
A group of wind elementals bore a cheerful song from faraway and Midii started to bend and sway in a dance; her long golden hair flirting in the breeze as she twirled and her face lit with delight. She was so absorbed in her carefree dance that she forgot to pay attention to where she was, and strayed over to the boundary of the garden.
She was surprised into a sudden stop when a shadow fell over her face. She opened her eyes and looked up into the empty gaze of Trowa, God of the Underworld. The great beast he rode was as black as midnight, its dark coat glossy its eyes like two chips of obsidian peering it her with uncanny intelligence. Midii startled in fright and backed away a bit, the horse followed her. The God of the Underworld himself was a frightful majesty. He was tall, and lean, as many of the ancient battle-gods were. His molded warrior's breastplate of black with elaborate silver chasings was shrouded by the cloak of shadows he wore that fell in folds about him; the cowl hid his face until a stray breeze lifted it away and Midii stared up into the grim visage of death. His face, while handsome in a somber way, was utterly devoid of all traces of emotion. Oddly, when he locked eyes with her his incredible, emotionless forest-green eyes seemed to soften almost imperceptibly.
She would have been curious about what brought the notorious hermit to visit so soon after the party held there, but some instinct from deep within her was telling her that something wasn't right. Afraid, but uncertain why she was afraid; Midii listened to her intuition and turned away to retreat to the safety of the gardens away from the shadow of this intimidating stranger. Suddenly, in a smooth movement as quick as a viper striking, he reached for her. Midii found herself caught about the waist in arms that were as strong and implacable as the mountains themselves and lifted up onto the horse. The beast snorted once restively and the young handmaiden nearly fainted to note that the beast had snorted out a blue flame from his nostrils. At last, she gathered enough of the wits that had been scattered by surprise and panic to scream. Trowa quickly clamped a hand over her mouth and her shriek cut off. She began to thrash about in resistance, trying to free herself but railing agaist the hardened warrior proved futile, nevertheless she fought on. Though she struggled and screamed and kicked, her captor held her fast in an iron grip. Out of the corner of her eye Midii saw the other handmaidens rushing across the garden towards to come to her aid; she struggled in a panic to reach them but the arms that held her secure to her perch on the massive dark horse were like implacable steel bands.
With a rumbling, cracking sound a hole opened up in the ground before them and the horse leapt into it, plunging them both into inky darkness. They landed hard on some kind of stone but it was too dark for Midii to see anything at all. The only lights were from the sparks that shot from the hooves of the massive beast beneath her as they tore through the underground passage. The only things she could feel was the hard breastplate Trowa wore digging into her back and the terrible shrieking wind of their passing whipping her hair into her face and tearing at her clothes. She was too afraid to be left blinded and alone in the dark to struggle against her kidnapper anymore, too afraid of the speed at which the horse moved, too afraid of the pain she would feel if she were to fall from its back so she sat there in his arms trembling as the nightmare journey continued. Her heart was seized in fear, hammering madly against her ribs like the panicked beating of a trapped birds wings. At last the pitch darkness of the tunnel opened into a portal of murky dim light; the underworld spread out before her.
The Underworld was much like a miserable dream that one couldn't wake up from, full of creeping mists and slithering shadows. A glowing river of floating souls flowed slowly up to a massive portal of bone and obsidian. Midii turned her face into the shoulder of her kidnapper, unable to bear the sight of such despair. The hoofbeats of deaths steed at last slowed outside of a structure of immense proportions; the frilled curvature of the busy carvings that decorated the arches and pillars and niches of stone inhabited by the massive guardian stone gargoyles seemed somehow sinister in the sickly light refracting off the fog. Shadows swept and glided about, pouring in and out of the intricate stonework. Midii shuddered in horror. Unaware of her discomfort the horse slowed to a stop in the courtyard in front of the obsidian palace and Trowa dismounted, pulling her down after him.
There's no-where I can run, she thought in panic as she looked up into the face of the predator who had taken her from all she had ever known and dragged her into a world of such melancholy. When she looked into his face it was like it had been carved from pale marble, there was no mercy, no compassion in his gaze; just the empty souled visage of a warrior-born.
"Wh-why have you taken me here?" she asked quaveringly. She disliked the tremor in her voice, but she knew perfectly well that she was completely at his non-existent mercy.
Trowa was silent, tugging on her arm a little to lead her inside the massive stone edifice. The interior was every bit as gloomy and intimidating as the exterior had been. Like its master, the castle in the underworld was dark, cold, and forbidding. The gargoyles glaring at her from either side gave her the shivers, a feeling that only increased as Midii followed meekly behind him while he led her to a long dining room just off the main Hall. The main Hall had been… frightening; a cavernous room supported by sinister pillars with the most frightful depictions of starved souls bemoaning their fates that she had ever witnessed, damned to support an enormous dome of blackest obsidian. The floor had been cold and the air echoingly empty. The fact that they seemed to be the only two living denizens within that colossal structure made it feel even more empty and daunting. Trowa gestured her to be seated at the long, long table and with a bare signal, the shadows flinched and the table was instantly set with elaborate arrays of food.
"I hope you like it here," he said at last. His voice was pleasant, mellow and quiet; but utterly without tone or emotion. Midii studied him fearfully from across the room.
"Please, eat," he invited. His words sounded more like a command but Midii knew that those who tasted of the fruit of the dead could never return to the realm of the living again.
"There's no need for you to be afraid," he said.
He kidnaps me from my home, she thought to herself. Drags me down into the underworld against my will, and now he wants to tell me that I don't need to be afraid? with an edge of hysteria to the tone of her thoughts she forced herself to be seated.
"I hope you like it here," he said again. "I made all of this just for you so if there's anything you need to make yourself more comfortable please don't hesitate to ask me. I will send one of the Shadowed Ones to be your servant."
Midii tried to hide her puzzlement. He had kidnapped her away from her home in the sunlight to his gloomy doom-castle in the world beneath and now he was setting servants to attend to her?
"I-I don't understand," she said. "What do you want with me?"
"I only want you to be happy here," he replied.
"Happy?" she demanded, the terror and uncertainty of her situation catching up with her and bringing out her rare stubborn streak.
"Yes-" he started. She cut him off.
"You take me away from the sunlight, from my gardens, from my home and you say you only want me to be happy!"
Trowa regarded her with silent perplexity as she rose suddenly from the table.
"How can I possibly be happy in a place like this, there are none of the things that I love here! No sunlight, no joy, no life! I hate it already!"
With that she fled the room, determined to find a place in this awful land that had some shred of comfort. Midii felt like she was the only spot of life and color in this entire dismal kingdom. She dashed through the complex of first level rooms, tear blinded and unheeding of her direction, so long as it led her away from that terrible man who had brought her to this abode of misery. She stumbled upon an inner garden, if indeed you could call a place lined with wrought iron in the shape of pointed spikes with deadly nightshade twined round it a garden. It was every bit at dead and cold as the rest of this place. Midii threw herself down on the ground in front of a marble bench and wept. She was angry at her kidnapper for doing this to her with no cause, and very very frightened. Hot tears rolled down her cheeks as she cried herself out. Once she could cry no more she simply sat there limply, exhausted.
She brought her head up when her body detected a chill drop in temperature. The Lord of the Underworld knelt silently next to her, one cool hand tilted her chin up while the other softly caressed her face, wiping away the trails of tears down her cheeks.
"Why do you cry?" he asked curiously, seeming to be fascinated by the bitter drops seeping from her eyes.
"I can't help it," she said. "Don't you ever cry?"
"I have no tears," he said blankly. "I have seen mortals cry many times, it is common in my occupation."
The Lord of death and all of its minions, yes, she could see very well why he would be a cause of grief to many. Was he around pain and misery so much that he could not tolerate seeing anyone else happy? Had he seen her happy and kidnapped her just so that he could make her miserable? Oh, but that didn't make any sense, he had expressly said that he wanted her to be happy there.
If he knew anything about me he'd know that he couldn't have designed a place better suited to making me unhappy, she thought darkly.
"People cry when they are sad," Trowa noted. "Does that mean you are sad?"
"Yes!" she exploded at him, her exasperation suddenly igniting her temper. Her weeping had apparently not drained her of as much of her energy as she had at first thought. "Yes, I'm very sad! And whose fault do you think that is!"
He listened to her words solemnly and paused to reflect on them.
"I see," he said.
"Take me home," she demanded. "I don't belong here. Take me back to the sunlit world."
"I will not," he said, firmly. "I will give you anything to make you happy here, in this realm. You may ask anything else of me, but not that. You may ask me for all the wonders of creation, the wealth of the tombs of long-forgotten kings, the plunder of lost civilizations, all the treasures of the earth can be yours but the one thing I will not do is let you leave me."
Trowa gave a negligent gesture and swept his long cloak aside; there in a pile at her feet lay the rarest of gems and metals. Her clothing, a plain white stola of fine linen, morphed into an exquisite gown of finest raw silk in darkest black, with panels of cloth-of-electrum peeking between the sumptuous folds and beads of onyx trimming the edges three inches thick. Midii saw her reflection in a nearby garden-mirror; her hair was coifed into a golden crown on her head with strings of onyx beads draped in. A crown of stars adorned her brow.
She had never even touched as fine a gown as this even though she was the handmaiden to the queen of the gods and for a moment Midii was flattered at the extravagance but then the thought occurred to her that such a thing would be easy for him to do, and easy things had no meaning. Did he think that he could just drape her with jewels as a substitute for all that he had taken from her? Her stubborn streak came back out.
"Your attempts to salve the misery you've caused in me are meaningless since you are the one who caused them. I will not be bought," she raised her chin determinedly to face him, to show him that she was unafraid. "You could give me all the wealth in all of creation and it wouldn't mean anything."
"Come, I will show you to your quarters," he said instead. He lifted her gently to her feet, her gown whispering and sliding about her. A cloud of darkness appeared suddenly beneath her feet, its surface surprisingly firm, that lifted the two of them up to a nearby balcony.
"Not the usual method of entry I'll grant," Trowa said with a ghost of a smile. "But it is quicker." Midii scowled stubbornly at him in return.
"Save your meager attempts at charm," she growled. "I don't like you."
"I don't blame you," he replied candidly. "Hope springs eternal however, and I have an eternity to hope."
With that last shot he disappeared in a whirl of midnight fabric.
Midii threw herself down on the bed once more, startled by a fresh spate of tears at this pronouncement of her fate. She was truly sentenced to this terrible realm for all of eternity! Never to feel the touch of wind on her cheek, nor feel the warmth of the sunlight kissing her closed lids again. She'd never forgive him for this! Midii wept until she fell asleep.
I know, I know, all of you Trowa and Quatre fans are probably apoplectic in your chairs right now gasping in horror. Relax. Try it. You just might find that you like green eggs and ham. If you made it this far and didn't click out, I'm happy; that means I did a good job holding your attention. You might take this opportunity to leave a little note for me (if you want to bawl me out about tricking you, that's okay, I'm sure it came as quite a shock) tee hee, I have to have a little fun somehow!
Please read the next chapter too. As always, I hope you enjoyed.