Anyone who's read any Discworld will recognise the guest star of the next chapter. I don't own him, by the way.
Chapter 11: Dance in the Pale Moonlight.
When Slade opened his eye, he saw grey sand. As he lifted himself off the floor, he found himself on a plain that stretched to the horizon, and likely beyond. He looked up, and saw no stars, only a moon suspended in the blackness. He spun around at the crunch that announced a prescence.
For the first time in his life, Slade felt overmatched. The figure was tall, easily over seven feet, and chips of blue ice were embedded into eye sockets that burned him. When he spoke, he heard no words, but the figure's voice burned directly into his brain.
SLADE WILSON, FIFTY FOUR YEARS, FOUR MONTHS, TWO WEEKS, ONE DAY, ELEVEN HOURS, FIFTEEN MINUTES, SEVENTEEN SECONDS, AND FORTY-EIGHT MILISECONDS OLD AT TIME OF PASSING. APPROXIMATLEY.
Death produced a large tome, embossed with the omega symbol in dark grey metal.
CAUSE OF DEATH: A 187; 'BEING HURLED INTO LAVA BY A BLONDE'.
IT HAPPENS MORE OFTEN THAN YOU'D THINK.
Slade stared at Death, refusing to show fear. "So, this is it, is it?"
"Are you quite sure?"
Death sighed. MR. WILSON, EMPTY BRAVADO WILL NOT HELP YOU, I'M AFRAID. YOU CERTAINLY LED ME A MERRY DANCE, AS YOUR ILK ALWAYS DO, AND FOR THAT I COMMEND YOU, BUT IT IS OVER. TIME TO GO HOME. Death was suddenly cut off by a voice that Slade could not hear.
I DON'T THINK SO.
This time Slade heard a murmur in response, but couldn't understand the words.
NO, MR. TRIGON. JUST BECAUSE YOU'RE TECHNICALLY IMMORTAL, OR ALREADY DEAD, OR WHATEVER YOU ARE, THAT DOESN'T GIVE YOU THE RIGHT TO-
This time a deep rumble could be heard, with the word "prophecy" intelligible.
YES, I KNOW YOU ARE FATED TO RETURN AND ALL THAT, BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN THE WORLD ACTUALLY IS GOING TO END, JUST BECAUSE YOU SAY SO.
The prescence seemed put out by this.
LOOK. IT IS PROPHESISED THAT YOU WILL ARRIVE. THAT MUCH I CAN BEAR. BUT YOUR INSISTANCE THAT THIS WILL AUTOMATICALLY END THE WORLD I FIND RATHER ARROGANT AND PRESUMPTUOUS OF YOU.
A rebuttal, in a language Slade couldn't understand.
I DON'T APPRECIATE THAT KIND OF LANGUAGE, THANK YOU VERY MUCH. LOOK, LET'S WORK WITH YOUR PRESUMPTION THAT YOUR ARRIVAL WILL END THE WORLD. I HAVE HERE MY SCHEDULE. Here Death pulled out of nowhere a second large tome, this time bound in black leather. I SUBMIT TO YOU, IF YOU END ALL LIFE HERE, Death pointed to a specific page THEN HOW IS IT THAT I HAVE APPOINTMENTS SCHEDULED FOR SEVERAL YEARS AFTER THAT POINT?
A pause from the prescence, which Slade was quick to use to interject.
"Excuse me, but may I inquire what is going on?"
Death seemed to remember his client. AH, MR. WILSON. I HAVE BEEN CONTACTED BY AN INTERDIMENTIONAL DEMON BY THE NAME OF TRIGON "THE TERRIBLE". HE HAS ASKED THAT YOU BECOME HIS VASSAL ON EARTH, IN EXCHANGE FOR YOUR SOUL.
"What would that entail?"
YOU WOULD BE GRANTED POWER, BUT WOULD REMAIN INCOMPLETE. IF YOUR ENDEAVOUR IS SUCCESSFUL, THEN HE WOULD RESTORE LIFE TO YOU.
"And you would allow this?"
Death suddenly gave off an aura of discomfort. NOT NORMALLY, BUT THERE ARE…SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES.
Slade thought. From the sounds of things, he would be involved in the end of the world. This was bad. But he was already dead. But Rose and Joseph weren't. But he would be hastening their destruction. Not necessarily. This demon was going to arrive, according to Death, but his victory was far from assured. If he stayed out of it, he had no chance to change anything. If he entered into this deal, then maybe, just maybe, he could find out a way to defeat this threat from within. If not- well, what did he have to lose?
Death nodded, as if he had expected that response, and had heard Slade's internal debate, and it occurred to Slade that he probably had. VERY WELL, BUT ONE MOMENT WITH MY CLIENT PLEASE, TRIGON. Slade felt the prescence dissipate. Death fished around in his robes for a moment, and then produced a gold ring, nothing more than a simple band. I HAVE A FEELING I KNOW WHAT YOU PLAN TO DO, AND WHILE IT IS A COMMENDABLE PLAN, YOU WILL NEED ASSISTANCE. TAKE THIS.
Slade took the ring, and stared at it. "What does it do?"
WHEN I MET THE HIGH PRIESTESS AZAR, AN ANCIENT ENEMY OF TRIGON, SHE ENTRUSTED ME WITH HER RING. IT HAS POWERFUL PROTECTIVE POWERS. YOU WILL NEED THEM. WITHOUT IT, TRIGON COULD DESTROY YOU WITH A THOUGHT.
Slade slipped it onto his finger, beneath his glove.
HE IS READY, TRIGON.
Slade felt the plain dissolve around him, or perhaps it was him that was becoming insubstantial, he couldn't tell. Either way, he quickly found himself standing on a podium of rock, in a fiery cave. Tongues of flame danced around him, casting strange and eldritch patterns on the walls. Slade, however, was quickly distracted by the appearance of four points of light on the wall, and the most intense, burning pain he had ever experienced. It was like a fire had been set in his flesh, but his clothes remained unharmed. After a few endless moments, he felt his face. Or tried to. There was no tactile sensation at all. Horrified, he ripped off one of his gloves, and stared in shock at his skeletal appearance.
"The price of power."
Slade looked around for the source of the booming voice, but there was none. "Trigon, I presume?"
"For what do you require my services?"
"I need you to convince my daughter of her destiny."
"You know her as Raven, and this knowledge of her is one of the reasons I saved you."
"I was convenient?"
"When do you require me to play messenger boy?"
"The instant she turns sixteen."
"What would you have me do until then? That's over a year away."
"You shall be trained in your new power."
"Power?" Slade suddenly felt a rush of heat again, but dully, as he was no more than a skeleton. He felt fire coursing deep within him, replacing his marrow, welling up behind his eye sockets, a fire so fierce and intense it nearly maddened him.
It felt good.