Welcome back. Now we are moving on to Asgard.

Lucifer: Hello again, everyone.

Lucifer! (hugs) I've missed you, my little source of foreshadowing!

Lucifer: Why are you hugging me?!

I'm a very huggy person in reality. I like to hug. Usually I show this whenever I hug my brother's dog. He's just so huggable!

Lucifer: Please refrain from doing so to me. I do not enjoy such signs of affection from others.

What if it was Jenny?

Lucifer: Jenny is an exception. Besides, hugging just really doesn't seem to suit you.

Aw. Okay, fine. I won't hug you again. Even though you're so huggable.

Lucifer: You have my gratitude.

There's an excellent reason as to why Lucifer is here. He's coming back!

Lucifer: Though I still have yet to regain my Thread Divining.

Yes. After all, that's the almighty spoiler ability.

And I have a very good reason for my long wait this time. It's a little embarrassing and rather personal, but you all deserve to know it.

Lucifer: He's been having a small existential crisis.

Yeah. You know, the classic "What am I doing here? What's my purpose in life? What am I doing now?" questions. It's gotten me kind of out of wack and I just couldn't really get into the persona of Lucifer very well. Or writing in general. A small case of Writer's Block after the aforementioned crisis didn't help things. On the bright side, I think I know what I'm going to do with myself now. On top of that, I'm trying to find a job and having no luck and I'm planning on moving out with some friends into an apartment so those ate up quite a bit of my time.

Anyway, I'm sure you're tired of watching me talk. But I just want to assure you that this story will only go on hiatus at the most. And if it does, I will try to tell you next time. I will not end this story. I've quit on too many things in my life, and I won't quit on this. Besides, I love you people too much. The only way I could love any of you more is if you reviewed regularly.

Lucifer: Now, on with the story.

Cute, familial fluff is in store for you here along with some not so familial fluff. Tis a fluffy chapter. We get to see how Lucifer and Jenny have been doing since they got scarred for life in Triet. And yet another OC is added. This one is a musician and since I'm uncomfortable writing songs, I'm just going to use lyrics from professional artists. Anyway, next chapter, we progress into something I would like to call the "Festival of Troubles" arc. Yes, that does mean I'm going to be evil once more. And yes, everything is fair game to me.

And everyone. (Evil smile)

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

Chapter 25: An Elven Traveler

Birds chirped in the morning air as Lucifer finally roused from his slumber. His eyes fluttered open only to smash close as the blinding sunlight made itself known. The young boy pushed the covers off of him and sat up, holding an arm up to block the sun. He looked around the room.

It was a humble room. It was sparsely furnished with two beds with a window above each and a nightstand between them. Lucifer noticed without surprise to see that the bed beside his was empty. Since the sunlight had been the culprit of his wakening that could only mean that the sun was high in the sky. Lucifer yawned and stood up stretching his muscles. He was well aware that he shouldn't sleep in so late. But at the same time, he was just a six-year-old boy with a tragic past who had just been freed from a life-long curse. He deserved to be allowed to sleep in a little.

It had been several weeks since he and Jenny were taken to Asgard by the massive aeros Rolshe. What surprised them the most was how the beast changed shape into that of a dog shortly afterwards and ran off. Lucifer had taken to resting as much as he could, though he had been sleeping in later and later. Lucifer didn't mind, since he didn't actually have anything in particular to do for once. The mature boy quickly dressed himself in his desert clothing, carefully wrapped his head in a turban, and headed out of the door into the hallway. He automatically walked towards the front of the building and entered the main chamber of the guild hall.

Lucifer looked around the hall as he entered. Banners depicting the symbol of the guild, a wave crashing against a cliff with a Balacruf ruin reminiscent of the Balacruf Mausoleum overlooking it, hung from the ceiling. Trophies of all kinds decorated the walls, chief among them being the head of a dragon with some kind of organ below it labeled as "Dragon Stomach". Why that was even present was a mystery to the young boy.

There were two floors to the massive room. The bottom floor held the kitchens, the bar, the board for jobs, and a large tavern area. The second floor consisted of a balcony which held doors to the living quarters and the guild master's office.

An older man was the only occupant of the expansive room when Lucifer entered. He was sitting at one of the tables near the entrance sipping some coffee as he read the newspaper. The remains of what was most likely lunch sat before him. Lucifer smiled, something he had been doing a lot more of recently, and approached the gentleman, sitting next to him. As he sat he acknowledged his sole companion, "Good morning, Mr. Estanque."

The old man looked up from his paper and smiled, pushing a plate loaded with sausage and eggs that the boy hadn't noticed before in front of him. Sam Estanque was his name, and he was the guild master of the Waves of Balacruf. Robert had sent the man a letter along with the brother and sister, detailing what had happened. The old man was more than happy to take the two youngsters in. They were given their own room in a rarely used and seldom visited corner of the barracks. Faces came and went in the guild hall, but both children were grateful for the new home.

"Well, good morning lad. Or should I say afternoon?" he responded, his voice light and cheery as he watched the child begin to eat his breakfast. "About time you woke up. Keep this up and you'll become nocturnal if you're not careful."

Lucifer chuckled. "On your break, I see. And you don't need to worry about me. You know how I am."

"Indeed I do, boy," Sam replied with a knowing smile. "But that doesn't mean that an old man like me can't help but worry for a young lad like you. I'm glad to see you smiling so much. When you came here, I wasn't sure if you were capable of such a thing. I could have sworn someone had tied the corners of your mouth to your chin and you had completely forgotten about it!"

Lucifer frowned at that. Despite his life, despite his gift, and despite his demeanor, Lucifer was still a child. Sure, he was mature beyond his years, but that didn't mean that he didn't like to do all the things a child loved. "You're so mean, old man," Lucifer pouted.

Sam just laughed heartily. "Running a guild for a few decades will do that to a person," he responded. He pulled off a part of the paper and handed it to Lucifer. "Here're your comics, as usual. You can have the rest of the paper when I'm done with it."

Lucifer accepted the offered portion and spread it out before him. As he read, he asked, "Are you so sure it's alright for you to still be here when you've already finished lunch?"

Sam sighed. "Well, there's not a whole lot to do today. The whole town is preparing for the festival that's just around the corner, so there aren't as many jobs being commissioned. The new recruits are training, but I've gotten too old to be much help with that. Still wish I could go out there myself, though," the veteran sighed wistfully. "And I've got paperwork to fill out. But let's be honest: the longer I can put that off, the better."

Lucifer laughed at that. Sam hated paperwork with a passion. It was his least favorite part of being in charge of a guild. A comfortable silence passed between the two. Eventually, it was broken by the boy. "Do you know where Jenny is?"

"She's out with some of her new friends," Sam responded.

"I see," Lucifer said, a distant smile on his face. "I am glad that she managed to find friends so quickly."

Jenny had recovered well from the traumatic experience. She had repressed the entirety of the event from when the flames flew into the air to the morning they had woken up in Asgard. Lucifer had to carefully explain how they could no longer go back to Triet to her. She was confused and hurt at first, but she quickly got over it, excited by her new surroundings.

Of course, while she could no longer remember what happened, it still affected her subconscious. She awoke screaming with night terrors regularly, which helped contribute to Lucifer's growing habit of sleeping in. He was always beside her in a flash, shushing her, telling her that everything was alright. Occasionally she would remember a fragment of a nightmare, which Lucifer would merely say was just a dream. Also, she was terrified of fire. So much so that that the mere flame of a candle could drive her to tears from fear.

"Speaking of finding friends, Lucifer," Sam said, bringing the boy out of his reverie, "Have you found any yourself?"

Lucifer frowned and shook his head. "Kids my age are frightened by me. They can't understand my speech and I find it difficult to talk on their level. As for the older boys, they're just as frightened of me, though they show it differently. Some avoid me, some ignore me, and some try to bully me."

Sam frowned. "What do you do to those blokes?"

Lucifer shrugged. "It depends," he answered cryptically.

"On what?"

Lucifer hummed, chewing carefully. "It depends on what they do to me. If they just merely insult or demean me, I simply ignore them. If they try to hurt me, I respond in kind." Lucifer had been getting trained by Sam on occasion, learning some light hand-to-hand combat skills. It wasn't a lot, but it was just enough that Lucifer could overpower an unsuspecting teenage bully.

Sam let out a chuckle before he folded his paper. Handing it to Lucifer, he stood and stretched. "Well, lad, this old man has some paperwork to fill out," he said as his face became solemn. The man looked like he was about to walk into a monster's den with nothing but a dagger. "Wish me luck."

"It's paperwork, Sam, not a dragon," Lucifer teased.

"I'd take the dragon," Sam replied without looking towards the youth as he walked off. Lucifer laughed at his elder's antics. Sam gave the boy one final wave and a pitiful smile. Lucifer laughed even harder as the old guild master vanished into the confines of his office, a dark look painting his face.

As Lucifer finally calmed down, he turned his attention towards the newspaper. Information on the upcoming festival was what covered the front page. Lucifer had gotten into the habit of checking the news because he wanted to know if news of Triet's destruction had made its way into the open. It hadn't yet, but about a week ago something had happened in Luin involving several people and a couple of strange, unidentified monsters no one had seen before.

Sam was well aware of what had happened thanks to Robert's letter. However, the man hadn't told anyone because if he did, he knew that Lucifer and Jenny would be branded as children of calamity and shunned for surviving. Even if they weren't, the old man knew that Lucifer and Jenny would undoubtedly receive pity that they either didn't want or couldn't understand if others knew, so he kept it to himself. After all, No one wanted to be treated as a plague merely for being alive.

The festival was an annual occurrence in the City of Winds. It was known as the Festival of Winds, and it's said that its origin was in the Balacruf Dynasty itself. It was a week-long celebration. No one was sure what it was meant to celebrate anymore, but some speculated it had something to do with the Sylph.

Jenny was looking forward to the festival quite a bit, and Lucifer was as well. Once, he would have dreaded all of the people that would gather for the festival. Even now, the inns were nearly bursting with people that had come from across the continent to participate in the festivities and many stalls were being set up to provide entertainment for the avid festival goers.

Not surprisingly, many people had come over from Luin this year in response to the tragic event that took place there. While the devastation was nowhere near Triet's level, it was still bad. Quite a few people died and a large number of homes were destroyed, not to mention the main square being totally decimated. Another spark of news that had escaped a larger amount of fanfare due to the awe-inspiring destruction that occurred in the city was the brutal and downright psychotic murder of an elderly couple within their own home. The only reason they knew who had died was because of the fact that they were the house's residents.

Lucifer sighed in sorrow at the darker side of humanity's nature. He knew both the good and the bad of humanity. In a way, you could say he had lived on both ends of the spectrum. And at the same time he has barely lived at all. The curse of the gift that was his birthright had stolen his entire childhood from him. He had hoped for a second chance with it gone now, but that was impossible.

Even after its removal, Thread Divining had left its terrible and irreversible mark on Lucifer's psyche. He could never revert to the child he was meant to be. But Lucifer didn't mind. Perhaps it was better this way. After all, if not for his gift, then he and Jenny would probably have starved to death long before Triet was destroyed. And again, the gift enabled him to keep a calm head in the midst of the chaos and protect Jenny. A mixed blessing and curse, just as it always had been.

Lucifer let out another sigh as he folded the newspaper and gathered his empty plate. He took it to the guild kitchens were the kindly cooks took it from him to be washed. They gave him two packed lunches, on for him and one for Jenny. Lucifer thanked them and they merely smiled in response. Then he left to find his sister to deliver her lunch to her.

As he left the guild hall, he was greeted with the sight of hundreds of people milling about, setting up booths, practicing routines, and trying to get some pre-festival sales in. Lucifer smiled at the scene that once would have sent him to his knees from all the memories he would peruse. Now, instead of being a nightmare, it was a peaceful and busy picture of humanity at work.

Lucifer took a deep breath and let it out, a contented smile spreading across his face. He set off at a brisk pace, asking others along the way if they had seen Jenny. He soon found her with some friends near some performers, watching in awe as a man on very high stilts ate fire.

Lucifer smiled at her face. He cautiously walked up behind her, making sure not to let any of them know he was there. Then, he wrapped his arms around her shoulders and covered her eyes. "Guess who," he commanded playfully, smiling widely.

Jenny was surprised at first, but quickly recovered at the voice of the person behind her. "Brother!" she squealed as she spun around and hugged her sibling. "You're up!"

Lucifer laughed happily at his sister and nodded in response to the shy hellos of Allie and Alexis, a pair of sisters that were two of Jenny's friends. The young boy held out the lunch that had been prepared for her and Jenny let out another squeal. He smiled as she and the other two begged him to go around with them to explore. Lucifer had become a bit of an older brother figure for Jenny's friends, who referred to him as Luke. He supposed that they were in fact his friends as well, but Lucifer thought that it would be best for Jenny if he tried to find friends of his own.

After finally giving in to the excited demands of the children around him, the six-year-old wandered with them from booth to booth. They watched jugglers practicing their acts, laughing as some of the apprentices fumbled in the middle of their act. They looked at some of the game booths, Jenny expressing her desire to play some of them with Lucifer when the Festival started. Lucifer promised to take her, making a mental note to ask Sam if they could have some money for the festivities.

As they wandered, they happened upon a large crowd. Music could be heard. "What's going on here?" Alexis asked curiously.

"It sounds like someone's playing music," Jenny said, tilting her head to the side as she listened .They came closer to investigate. Using their small size to their advantage, the four weaved their way through the crowd, the enchanting music luring them to the center to discover the source.

When they reached the center edge of the circle, they all stared in wonder. All of them stood there entranced by both her beauty and the bright, lilting melody that came from the metal instrument in her hands.

The woman leaned against a pillar beneath the shade of a broken stone walkway, most likely because her almost deathly pale skin would burn quickly in the direct light of the sun. Her eyes were closed, her body swaying gently with the music. A worn and patched traveler's pack was resting next to her, the open case for the flute resting before it to accept spare change. Several other instrument cases were scattered about it. Her music was divine, eclipsed only by the beauty of the player.

Her hair was an alabaster white so pure that snow would be envious of its luster. She wore it in a long braid that would have reached her knees if it wasn't wrapped around her shoulders. Tying the braid together was a single black ribbon with a long obsidian feather dangling from the knot by a short string. The end was placed so that the feather dangled peacefully over her heart. Her bangs were left free to frame her face gently, ending just above her shoulders. Long, pointed ears jutted out from the side of her head, only adding to her pristine beauty and showing her heritage proudly.

Lucifer was awed at the elf. He had never seen someone like her. She looked delicate, almost like a flower. Her clothing, which covered every part of her body from the neck down, appeared to be made of white suede and was perfectly clean and well-kept, a stark contrast to the clearly old pack she carried. The clothing was fitted perfectly to her form, so much that it was almost like a second skin. Covering her entire outfit except for her hands and feet was a crisscrossing black wire. Hundreds upon hundreds of black bird feathers in various states of unkemptness were looped upon this wire with more of the black string. The mess of feathers that covered affair amount of the woman left the area around her heart open, framing the single feather in perfect condition upon her braid.

The crowd watched and listened in wonder to the spectacle and allowed their ears to be tantalized and caressed by the sweet tones of her music. After a while, the song ended and the elf pulled the flute from her lips. She let out a small sigh as a slight smile graced her lips. The entire crowd erupted into applause, surprising the woman that was their focus. Her eyes flew open in her shock, revealing two splotches of color on her person. Her right eye was a bright viridian green while her left eye was a soft hazelnut brown. A light magenta painted her cheeks as she blushed and closed her eyes, a nervous smile on her face.

"That was so pretty," Jenny said in wonder as people began to approach the woman.

"Indeed. She is very talented," Lucifer said, watching as Gald was tossed into the woman's flute case. Several of the people appeared to be musicians and were in heated discussion with her. Lucifer figured they were probably begging her to join them. "I wonder who she is."

"Let's go talk to her!" Allie suggested. The next thing Lucifer knew, Jenny and her friends had run off towards the woman. The crowd was thinning now as the woman expertly took apart her flute. She had finally managed to fend off the pestering musicians, and was gathering the Gald she had earned.

"Wait for me!" the young boy cried, reaching for them as he gave chase. He weaved through the dispersing crowd and made his way over to the three girls who had gathered around the elf.

Jenny was next to her, smiling brightly and looking up at the woman. On her other side was Allie and Alexis was looking at all of the instrument cases. Jenny was pestering the woman with questions excitably, "Are you here for the festival? Where'd you learn to play the flute? Why is the feather in your hair all alone? Where are you from? Can you play another song?"

The woman laughed at the girl's quick-fire questions, her voice twinkling and chiming like the wind chimes that decorated many of the homes of Asgard. She patted the girl on the head. "Well, I actually came here to visit some old friends. It just happens that I'm arriving two days before the festival," she answered. "I taught myself how to play the flute, along with all my other instruments. The feather is all alone because it represents someone special to me. I don't quite remember where I'm from, it's been so long and it never really mattered to me. And as for another song, I would love to, but…" the woman hesitated.

Seeing her reluctance, Lucifer decided to intervene. "Jenny," he called, walking up to her. "Don't run off like that."

Everyone turned their attention to him. Alexis gave him a childish smirk. "Maybe you shouldn't be so slow, Luke," she chided. "Then you won't have to worry about us running away!"

The woman smiled at the new arrival. "Hello there. What's your name?" she asked warmly.

"I'm Lucifer," he introduced himself, holding his hand out. "I'm Jenny's brother."

The elf giggled at the six-year-old's action. It looked so out of place on his tiny frame, but she didn't say anything. "Well, Mr. Lucifer, it's nice to meet you. My name is Zoe," she responded, shaking Lucifer's hand. "You have such a wonderful name. Did you know that it means 'Light Bringer'?"

Lucifer blinked. "No, I did not."

"Well, now you do," Zoe laughed. "I've always found it important to know what your name means. After all, your name is the source of quite a few first impressions."

"What does your name mean, flute lady?" Allie asked, curious.

Zoe smiled mischievously. "That's a secret," she said, putting her gloved finger to her lips and winking. The elf then sighed. "Well, I suppose I should get going. With this festival going on I'm sure most of the inns are full," the woman said as she finished packing her flute. She began to gather her belongings. Lucifer noticed a black sheath that had escaped his attention before. A katana with a pure black handle rested within it. "I'll have to find one of my friends and ask if I can stay over with them."

"Who are you looking for? We may know them." Lucifer asked, curious.

"I'm looking for a Sam Estanque."

Allie jumped in excitement. "Oh, you mean the old guildmaster?!"

Zoe nodded in response. "Yes. We're old friends."

Alexis smiled just like her sister. "Luke and Jenny live with him, they can show you the way," She proclaimed.

Zoe smiled at the two. "Well, I would like that very much. I wasn't sure I could remember the way to him and find it with all these people milling about."

Lucifer knew she was just patronizing them, but he couldn't help but smile at her. Jenny brightened considerably and grabbed the woman's hand, pulling at her. Zoe laughed once more, "Hold on, hold on. I need to put on my hat." The woman reached over and picked up a large white sunhat and placed it on her head. "Now, I'm ready."

"OK!" Jenny chirped. She waved to her friends. "Bye Alexis, bye Allie. See you tomorrow!" Lucifer and Zoe both waved goodbye to the other two girls as they respectively walked and were pulled away.

Lucifer decided to get to know the woman that would undoubtedly be living in the same building as they. "So, Zoe, how do you know Sam?" he asked.

"Well," Zoe drawled, her dual-colored eyes looking up in thought. "We met about twenty-nine years ago. I had just… separated from my family." Lucifer could detect the half-truth in that sentence, but felt that it was not his place to know. After all, it wasn't his business and he felt that he should respect privacy as much as possible since he now had the ability to. "I started wandering the world and he gave me some help when I showed up in Asgard. The flute I was playing earlier was given to me by him, so I always play it whenever I come into this town in remembrance of that."

Jenny looked up at the elf, her eyes wide. "You're really old," she stated.

Zoe laughed at her sincerity. "Yes, I am," she told the girl. "I'm older than anyone you've met."

Jenny's mouth dropped. "Even older than the smelly lady that brother used to work for?" Zoe raised an eyebrow at that, but nodded. "That's really, really old! I don't think you can be that old. You look too young."

Zoe shrugged. "I am. You see, I'm an elf, and we elves live a lot longer than humans. So someone could be even older than me and look just as young as I do."

Jenny was resolute in her belief, while Lucifer smiled. He liked this woman. She was kind, and she seemed to have quite a bit of patience around Jenny, something he considered very important.

"So where are you two from?" Zoe asked.

"Triet," Jenny chirped.

"Really?" Zoe asked. "I don't think I could live there. My skin is so sensitive to the sun that I have to cover everything twice when I go to the desert. Did something happen to bring you into Sam's care?"

Jenny shrugged. "I think so. I'm not sure. Brother says something happened and we can't go back to Triet. He won't tell me what."

Zoe turned to Lucifer and gave him a knowing look. "I'm sure he has his reasons," she said. "After all, he wouldn't keep something from you if it really mattered, would he?" she asked with a smile.

Jenny looked thoughtful for a moment before breaking into a giant grin. "No way! Brother always protects me!" Zoe merely smiled at the girl in response and Lucifer seemed shocked at the woman. She knew, he could tell. But if she knew then why had she asked?

Lucifer pondered this conundrum while they walked. He almost didn't notice when they reached the guild hall.

Just as they were about to enter, the door swung open and Sam rushed out. "Zoe! It's so good to see you again!" he cried, holding his arms out for a hug, which the other woman gave happily. "How has life been on the road?"

"Same old, same old, Sam. I noticed that you got yourself two new charges," Zoe answered. Sam looked down to see Lucifer and Jenny looking at them both. Jenny had wide, curious eyes and a look so cute Zoe couldn't help but make a silent "Aw," at her.

"Mr. Sam, is it true that flute lady is older than you?" Jenny asked. Lucifer sighed.

"Jenny," he berated, "you know her name. It's Zoe. It's rude to keep calling her 'flute lady'." Jenny just grunted cutely and folded her arms, looking away from Lucifer. The boy rolled his eyes at his sister.

The adults laughed at the children. Sam leaned down and patted the girl's head. "Yes, Jenny, it is true Zoe is older than I am. In fact, she is one hundred thirty-four years old, if I remember right."

"Wow!" Jenny shouted in excitement. "You're really old!"

Zoe giggled at the girl and nodded with a smile. "I sure am," she said.

"You're just like that lady we met in Triet. You're a young and old lady!"

Zoe raised an eyebrow at that, but didn't ask. She turned to Sam and gave him a look. "By the way, I'm actually one hundred thirty-five now," Zoe corrected gently. "My birthday was two weeks ago."

"I see," Sam replied. "You'll have to forgive me; I didn't get you a present."

"That's fine." Zoe waved away his apology. "Everything you've done for me already is enough. I probably would have been burned to a crisp by the sun two years out."

"Speaking of your condition…" Sam began, giving the elf a sharp glare. "What are you doing awake already? Sundown isn't for several more hours."

Zoe sighed. "I'm not allowed to have the decency to show up at what is a decent hour for most people?" She asked before adding, "Besides, I've always loved the sunshine. It's as fascinating to me as the night sky is to you people who stay awake during the day." Then a sly look was sent to the guild master. "Now it's my turn. What are you doing greeting old friends and chatting it up with them when you've still got a mountain of paperwork to finish?"

Sam started spluttering at that. "H-How did you k-know about that?" he managed to demand after a few moments.

"You know better than to doubt my sources! And you know it's my job to know everything," Zoe chided, winking at the elderly human. Then, a more somber look graced her appearance. "I'm also aware about Max already. I'm sorry," she offered, placing a hand upon his shoulder.

Sam sighed sadly but shrugged the hand off. "He died a noble death, protecting the man he saw as a brother. I'm just happy that he died as he did."

Zoe offered the man an empathetic smile. "I hope Robert took it well. He was already in an uncertain emotional state from the anniversary," she murmured to herself, low enough that Sam couldn't hear her. She then turned to the children, only to find that they had vanished. "Seems the kids excused themselves," she noted, loud enough for the man to hear.

Sam looked over as well and let out a laugh. "So it does. I'm sure Lucifer realized that they should leave and let us catch up. He's far too mature for a boy his age."

"So the rumors I heard are true then," Zoe mused aloud. "That boy is – or was – a Thread Diviner. He hasn't shown the ability since Triet was destroyed, though. It makes me wonder what happened to him specifically during that night. All I know is that there was fire, demons, and a dragon-like beast involved.

Sam turned to her, his mouth open as if to ask a question. After a few moments, he just shook his head and turned away. "I'm not even going to bother asking how you know and just agree with you."

"There, you see!" Zoe cheered, ruffling the old man's hair. "You're learning!"

"Yes, I'm learning that you're a professional stalker."

"Hey!" Zoe shouted in fake anger. "I've told you time and again, I am not a stalker! I'm an information broker! It's my job to know everything. Besides, I know I've told you that Rule No. 4 was my master's favorite."

"You know, you always tell me about these rules, but you never say who or what they're for. Or even what they are, exactly."

Zoe froze with a plastic smile on her face. "Why don't you get back to the paperwork? I'll help you with it!" she offered, blatantly changing the subject and bargaining with the old guild master to let it drop.

Sam shot her a look. "Zoe Cuore, I know you're hiding something," He accused. "But… since you're offering to help with that infernal paperwork, I'll let it slide this time." He then turned and marched back into the guild.

Zoe let out a breath and wiped her brow. "That was a close one," she said to herself. "I shouldn't even be mentioning those rules anymore. I don't have to live by them anymore. I guess it's just difficult to undo one hundred years of indoctrination." She then followed the guild master inside to help with his dreaded paperwork.


The full moon shined brightly on the city of Asgard. What had been full of hustle and bustle during the day was dead and eerie in the dark of the night. The wind groaned softly around the new constructs that dotted its path, and the otherwise silent streets offered an ominous setting.

A lone figure roamed the deserted streets. Her voice offered the night a respite from the dismal air it carried. Her sweet notes punctured the night, the melody somber and haunting as it was beautiful.

"Siamo tutti schiavi/ Figli delle Tenebre/ Condannati al/ mondo delle favole," Zoe sang, her voice shivering with every note, pouring her soul into the song. She wasn't worried about anyone listening in. Very few would be able to understand the language after all. "Tutti schiavi/ uniti dalle Tenebre/ Condannati al/ vivere la favole." She continued to sing the strange melody, allowing her mind to wander as she did.

The night was her element. The darkness that night harbored flocked to her like a mother to her distressed child. She was born in it; she was raised in it; she had basted in it for almost her entire life.

How could she not have? The sun, the bright orb of day and constant source of light, had forsaken her the moment she was born. It burned at her unnaturally pale skin. Even in the shade, it tried to immolate her. Only by hiding beneath her clothing and in the darkened dwellings of man and beast could she be free from it. She learned early on that both she and her sister were doomed to forever be the enemies of the sun.

She didn't mind. After all, the sun, for all its beauty and majesty, never could amount to the silent grace of the night. The moon bathed all with its silvery glow and gave the land an ethereal image. And when the moon hid, the stars twinkled in the sky, painting beautiful and gorgeous images across the sky. And when both hid their faces, then only darkness ruled.

And truly, Darkness was a kinder mistress than Light. She hid the sins of those who ran to her. She embraced all, and left none to stand in shame. Darkness comforted those who went to it, allowing them to slip peacefully into the oblivion of sleep that Light prevented.

That is what Zoe had thought for many years. Even now, she knew it to be true. But she also knew more about Darkness.

She had seen the horrors that Darkness hid.

Ever kind and forgiving, Darkness could prove to be even crueler than the Light. Those who basked in the ephemeral glow of Light feared to leave it, and that fear led them to try and be better people. But those wrapped in Darkness's loving embrace had no such fear. They could do whatever they desired and faced no consequence from the Darkness, which led some to be terrors.

Zoe sighed, her song long since finished. Her eyes turned up to the moon, reflecting its argent in their orbs. "Woden," she said aloud, her voice filled with an aching curiousity. "Why was I born to be your child? You have blessed me with so much, and yet all those blessing are a curse to me. Why, Woden, why must the Darkness you cast always follow me? After all, even Father, your most loyal servant, disowned me and said that I was better suited to the Light."

Zoe looked around her to find that she now stood on the outcropping that held the grocer's and the equipment shop that overlooked the entrance path. She walked to the walkway of stone and stared into the abyss that Asgard was built around. "Woden," she began, sending one last prayer as she crouched, pulling the sheathed sword she carried with her across her body. "Why was I born with this skin that shuns the Light as much as it is shunned by it? Why has every blessing you've given me only felt like a curse? Why, Woden?" a silent tear slipped from her eyes as she was sent careening into memories of her life.

"Who's Woden?" a voice asked. Zoe gave a start and looked down, seeing a familiar black-haired mercenary with a large dog-like creature. Zoe slyly smiled down at the man as she stood back up, noting the distinct lack of his trademark armor. She was well aware of when and how he had lost the armor. Both sets of the armor, that is.

Zoe gave a teasing smirk and closed her eyes before saying in a childish tone, "Well, well, well, if it isn't the famous Dragonhide Caston. But what is this? He seems to be missing his armor! I'm inclined to believe that I'm facing a doppelganger. And on top of that, it's long since passed his bedtime. The little Robby I know wouldn't dream of staying up this late."

Robert frowned. "Don't give me that crap," He answered. "I know for a fact that you are perfectly aware that I've lost both sets. And I'm twenty-seven, that hardly counts as a child anymore. I think I can handle staying up past midnight once or twice."

Zoe giggled and gave the most innocent look she could, putting the gloved finger of her unoccupied hand to her lip and pouting adorably. "Now that's just mean!" she fake-whined. "How would little old me know anything about a big strong mercenary like you losing his important armor?" Her look then shifted to a shit-eating grin as she placed her hand to her hip. "And besides, I'm five times older than you, boy. You're still a child to me," she jeered, her kiddie voice fading.

Robert sighed. "Just get down here, you she-devil in an elf's skin," he growled.

Zoe giggled once more and hopped down, not even flinching from the height. She spread her arms wide and grinned idiotically. "How about a hug for your Auntie Zoe?" she asked in her fake-child's tone.

"No," Robert deadpanned without any hesitation.

Zoe wilted, putting one hand over her eyes in despair and placing the other against a pillar for support. "Not even a thought to the action! How can you deny your dear old friend who helped train you a simple hug so quickly?" she asked, her voice low and husky as if she was going to cry.

"It's precisely because you helped train me that I don't want to hug you. It's nothing against you; I just don't fancy a knife to the side right now. I've got enough injuries as it is."

Zoe lowered her hand slightly so one eye gazed at him, a calculating gleam shining in it. "To think you'd see through my clever ploy! And you don't even flinch in the face of a beautiful woman crying before your very eyes!" she said in a conspiratorial tone just loud enough for the man to hear.

Robert sweatdropped. "It's good to see that you haven't changed at all, Zoe." He said, his face carefully neutral. Rolshe rolled her eyes at the elf's antics before padding up to her. She sniffed her quietly before giving her a gentle nudge. Zoe straightened up and, leaning her sword against the pillar, gently caressed her muzzle, lips wavering while her eyes glistened with tears.

"Oh, Rolshie," she wept, "Where did I go wrong? Poor little Robby hates his auntie so much he won't even give her a hug!" Zoe wrapped her arms around Rolshe's neck and wailed, "At least you'll never reject me!"

At this point, Robert wasn't sure whether he should face palm or be embarrassed. "Yeah, you certainly haven't changed at all," He sighed in defeat and rubbed his head. "Alright, alright, I'm a bad boy. I get it. I'm still not going to hug you. And don't abuse Rolshe's willingness to be close to you. She never even lets me hug her like that."

"That's because I'm a nice lady who knows how to treat her friends," she professed before sending a dark glare at Robert, still hugging the canine protozoan. "Unlike some people…"

Robert and Rolshe both sighed. "Anyway," Robert started, "back to my question. Who is Woden?"

Zoe let go of Rolshe and stared at Robert in shock. "You haven't been this perceptive since Krystle died!" she declared. "I had thought you would have forgotten about that by now!"

Robert flinched. "How long have you known about that?" Zoe gave him a knowing look before Robert slapped himself in the forehead. "Right, stupid question. Then I guess you already know about my run-in with a certain someone in Stantol?"

Zoe nodded. "Yep. I'm glad Caduta didn't kill you. Well done beating her apprentice too. Any of the kids that get to be that old are definitely strong, especially if they're assigned the Corvina as their mentor."

Robert raised an eyebrow. "Caduta? The Corvina? What are you talking about?"

Zoe smirked. "Caduta is my sister's name. Caduta Corvina. As for everything else, it's best for both of us if you're kept in the dark on this one."

Robert sighed. He was tired and he always found talking with the partially albino elf to be taxing. His patience was running thin. "Alright, that saves me a lot of headaches." Zoe pouted at this. "And now, since I passed along your message to your sister, care to answer my question in return?"

Zoe sighed in defeat. It was clear to her that she would not distract the man from the name. "Fine, you win Robert. I'll tell you who Woden is."

"Good. Now we can get somewhere."

"Well, I'll give you hints."

Robert groaned as Zoe picked her sword back up. She drew the katana to reveal a blade as black as the handle, save for two things. The edge gleamed brightly in the silver light, reminding Robert of a dragon's fang. On the blunt side of the blade silver runes were etched into the metal and gave off a soft, almost imperceptible glow. "You know my sword, the Black Fang, of course," she said holding the weapon out, her voice taking on a seriousness that was lost to it moments ago.

"How could I forget?" he asked dryly. After all, heaven knows how much pain that one weapon caused him throughout his training.

"This sword is said to have been blessed by Woden himself. In the hands of someone who doesn't know how to use it, it could make any spell they cast be completed at least 50% faster."

"But you don't use magic."

"Correct," Zoe sighed, her eyes downcast. "I cannot use artes or magic. That ability is… lost to me," she whispered. She shook herself and continued, "Now, if someone were to train and master this blade, they would find that it gathers mana around it and supercharges the air around the wielder, enabling them to be able to cast spells instantaneously. Only the most advanced spells require an incantation, and even then a shortened version is all that's necessary.

"But that's not all it does. Any and all Dark elemental magic is strengthened by it, and any artes using the Darkness element channeled through it are strengthened as well." Zoe sheathed the sword and looked the impressed Robert in the eyes. "Can you guess who Woden, the one who blessed this sword, is?"

Robert frowned. That wasn't enough information. "Also, another hint," Zoe called, regaining Robert's attention. "There is a cape you can wear with his symbol on it. This cape protects you greatly from the Darkness element."

Robert frowned. He knew of Woden's cape, but somehow he hadn't made the connection. The answer was obvious. Maybe. "Something to do with Darkness?" he guessed, uncertain as to what he was supposed to say.

Zoe sighed. "Woden is, primarily, the God of Darkness."

"Primarily?"

"He rules over a couple of other aspects, but the biggest one is Darkness." Zoe sheathed the katana before walking over to the man and bopping him on the head with the handle. "You should have been able to figure that out by how many times I said 'Darkness'."

Robert shrugged. "Hey, unlike you, I'm a steadfast believer in the church of Martel. And they don't mention anything about there being any other gods or goddesses."

Zoe sighed and turned away from Robert. "And that's why you'll never be truly great. You're not accepting of ideals or ideas that you thought weren't possible before."

They were both silent for a moment. "Hey, Zoe," Robert called, getting the elf's attention. "What were you doing praying to the God of Darkness?"

Zoe laughed. "Because Woden is the one that defines my life the best. I've been trapped in darkness since I was born. Since the light shuns me, it is only natural."

Robert was silent as he thought over what he knew of his friend. It was true enough. "Okay. One more thing, though. How is your sister supposed to find you since I never even know when you'll show up or how long you'll stay? And Martel knows where I'd find you when you're not in Asgard."

Zoe smiled brightly at that, casting the man a knowing glance over her shoulder. "Rule No. 4, of course," she answered.

Robert raised an eyebrow. "You mean 'Rule of the Assassin No. 4?" Robert asked. Zoe froze. "Corvina recited it after I killed her apprentice. It went something like 'Knowledge is the greatest weapon.'"

Zoe took a deep breath and let it out. "Rule of the Assassin No. 4," she recited, her voice low and hesitant. "Knowledge is an assassin's greatest and most silent weapon." Zoe sighed. "That's what we were taught. It is one of the more important rules of the Ninety-Nine Rules of the Assassin. After all, a lack of knowledge leads to death."

Robert seemed confused at her words. "Zoe?" he prodded, noting how her shoulders seemed to shake.

The elf continued. "The most sacred Rule is Rule of the Assassin No. 99, but that is not to be uttered in the presence of outsiders. And the most important is Rule of the Assassin No. 1: The client doesn't have a name. You receive the contract from them and kill the target, no questions asked." Zoe gave a wry smile, though Robert couldn't see it. "Ironically, Rule No. 89 is: Know as much about the contractor as you do about the target." She gave a small laugh. "I never understood that."

Robert was silent. It was rare for Zoe to be this open. "Why are you telling me this?" he asked cautiously.

Zoe shrugged. "Maybe I'm tired of hiding it. Maybe, since it's been kept in the dark for so long, I wanted to bring it to the light. I don't really know. I guess I'm just tired of hiding my past from the people I care about. Why do you think I know all these Rules of the Assassin if I'm not an assassin?"

Robert shifted uncomfortably. "You… used to be an assassin?" he asked, his mind refusing to believe that the cheerful and energetic elf was once a cold-blooded killer.

Zoe turned around, a grieving smile set beneath tear-filled eyes. "I've never told you everything about me. I've always kept secrets from you. You know this, and despite that, you still genuinely care for me. I thank you for that," she told him.

Robert frowned and walked over to the woman and put an arm around her. "You know I hate to see you cry," he whispered soothingly while he rubbed her shoulder.

Zoe nodded, though her tears didn't stop. "I can't tell you anything about my life before I left that profession," she said through her tears. "I've already said too much. It's best for both of us if you just walk away right now and don't ask for any more information. Please, go… before I start telling secrets that are best kept in the dark."

Robert hesitated. He had never seen Zoe like this before and he was unwilling to leave her alone like this. Zoe smiled brightly, no longer sobbing but tears still staining her face. "Go, I'll be fine," she ordered, nudging the man. Robert slowly let go of her and walked away, Rolshe following him.

As she watched Robert fade into the night, a soft smile grew on her lips. She wiped away the tears in her eyes, the salty water drying up almost as fast as it had come. "I've still got it," Zoe congratulated herself. "It's a good thing he's a sucker for tears, otherwise I might not have been able to get him to lay off the subject." Zoe glanced to a corner full of shadows. "You can come out now, Nazo. The man who's after your blood is gone."

From the shadowy corner that Zoe had looked to, emerged a man covered in bandages with a single eye exposed. "I'm impressed, Zoe. Thirty years of inactivity have done nothing to dull your senses," Nazo praised.

Zoe snorted. "Please don't patronize me! You and I both know that Master would be ashamed to see me as I am now. Besides, I would have noticed you sooner, but my connection to mana has been cut off for some time."

Nazo laughed. "Humble as always. Even when I brought you and your sister to Downes, you were always so modest about everything. Your music soothes even my wretched and tormented soul, and yet you claim that it isn't anything special."

Zoe let out a sigh. "Is there a reason you've come, Nazo?" she asked.

Nazo tilted his head and his bandages stretched into a smile. "Is it so wrong for me to want to meet up with my foster child every once in a while?"

Zoe finally turned to face him, indignation clear in her eyes. "Don't you dare claim that title!" she hissed. "You left both me and my sister in that hellish place they called a guild. I don't remember much about my life before I was taken there, but I know it couldn't have been worse than that place! I was only six when I first killed!" she roared. Then her eyes grew sad as she spoke the next words, "My dear sister, sweet Caduta… she killed when she was three."

Nazo seemed put off by her rage. "But you are still alive today because I took you there. The guild master doesn't normally accept anyone with any living family, but because I asked he made an exception with you and your sister. On top of that, you got to be trained personally by none other than the Crowe himself, the greatest assassin in the world, for thirty years."

Zoe spat at the man's feet. "The past twenty-nine years have taught me a lot, Nazo," she growled at him. "It made me realize why I had clung so tightly to my sister and Master. I was sick." Zoe clutched at her chest. "My heart was sick! I was in that place of death so long; my soul grew so tainted that I became physically ill by the end of my time there."

Zoe pointed an accusing finger at Nazo. "It's because of you that my soul is stained so black that nothing can cleanse it, because it is all the dried blood from every single life that I stole! And the worst part is…" Real tears began to shine in the corners of her eyes as she finally began to break down. "The worst part is…" she slumped to the ground, hugging herself as if she was trying to keep her body from falling apart. "The worst part is… that his blood is a part of it." Zoe let the tears, real tears this time, fall. She clutched gently at the feather in her hair, stroking it fondly.

Nazo sighed. "You know my nature," he began. "You know my past and my present. You know what I yearn for. You know that if I claimed to be sorry, I would be lying." Zoe sniffed and nodded, not trusting her voice to last. "You know why I saved you. You know of the true power that you hold.

"I sent you there to make you strong. I had to make sure that you would survive. If you must curse someone, then curse me. I do not care. But I will not lie and say that I regret my actions. My plan will come to fruition, with or without you. But it will be so much easier with you. My soul is stained even blacker than yours, but that doesn't hold me down."

Nazo walked up to the crying elf and cupped his hand under her chin. He pulled her head up so she looked into his eye. "I yearn to be whole. Just as you yearn to see the man you loved one last time; to lay him to rest properly; to free him from the shackles that seal his soul to this plane. I understand that yearning, and I can relate. That is why I came to tell you that you may just get your chance."

Zoe sniffled, her tears slowly subsiding. "What do you mean?" she asked. "How can I get my chance when he's already dead?"

"If you wish to lay Vladimir Crowe to rest – properly – then all you must do is follow Ratatosk."

"Ratatosk?"

"Yes."

Zoe shook her head. "But Vlad is dead. I killed him myself. A sword, laden with three of my deadliest poisons, plunged straight through his heart. And it wasn't just any sword, either. It was White Venom! Even if he somehow miraculously survived the loss of his heart, the poisons would destroy the rest of his body!"

Nazo chuckled. "Well, my dear Crow of Toxicity, you will see for your own eyes soon enough." Nazo took his hand from her chin and turned away. "Ready your poisons and potions and venom. Your fangs, which have been merely for show thus far, will need to be bared once more."

Nazo summoned a gateway and walked through, the black mist that formed the portal fading perfectly into the shadows. Zoe knelt there for a while longer, uncertain if she could trust herself. Slowly, she reached into a hidden pocket to pull out a sweet potato ocarina. She smiled as she looked at it. It was clearly old and worn with both age and use.

"I still have the ocarina you gave me, Vlad," she whispered to no one. "The same one you gave me when I became the Corvina. It was, what, eighty-seven years ago? It was your first, and last, gift to me. You said that when you heard me play one, you knew I had to have one. So, instead of letting me buy one, you bought it yourself and gave it to me. You told me…" she gripped the instrument tighter, being careful not to break it. "You told me that my music made you forget about the life you led."

A final tear fell from her eye as she cradled the old instrument to her chest. "Please, for once, let Nazo be wrong about something. Please, Vlad, be at peace, where you are meant to be." With that she put the ocarina to her lips and played a mournful song, singing the words in her head.

I'm so tired of being here.
Suppresed by all my childish fears.

And if you have to leave, I wish that you would just leave.
Cause your presence still lingers here and it won't leave me alone!

These wounds won't seem to heal!
This pain is just too real!
There's just too much that time cannot erase!

When you cried I'd wipe away all of your tears.
When you'd scream I'd fight away all of your fears.
And I held your hand through all of these years
You still have

All of me

You used to captivate me by your resonating light.
Now I'm bound by the life you left behind.

Your face it haunts my once pleasant dreams.
Your voice it chased away all the sanity in me!

These wounds won't seem to heal!
This pain is just too real!
There's just too much that time cannot erase!

When you cried I'd wipe away all of your tears.
When you'd scream I'd fight away all of your fears.
And I held your hand through all of these years.
You still have

All of me

I've tried so hard to tell myself that you're gone.
But though you're still with me, I've been alone all along!

When you cried I'd wipe away all of your tears.
When you'd scream I'd fight away all of your fears.
And I held your hand through all of these years.
You still have

All of me
All of me
All of me

XXXXX

I just realized I didn't do a disclaimer for the songs. Though I think it's obvious that I don't own them seeing as this is fan fiction and, let's face it, my poetry skills just aren't good enough for publishing, let alone a song.

Lucifer: The first song is the chorus of the song Figli delle Tenebre by Hotel Saint George.

It is in Italian and I do know the translation. It's a very upbeat song with repeating lyrics (it's genre is Dance music, or rave music as a friend of mine calls it), but I like it.

Lucifer: The second is My Immortal by Evanescence.

An excellent band. I was listening to this song on one of my nighttime walks and thought, "this would be perfect for Zoe to sing." So I decided to put it in here.

Now, I hope you all are ready, because I'm about to spitfire major event after major event.

Lucifer: Though he will try to space them out enough that you can still follow the story. Only one major event per chapter.

The good news is that that was the last OC for a while.

Lucifer: What about her?

Oh yeah, almost forgot about her. Well, she'll pop up at the end of a chapter. Anyway, focusing on Zoe, what do you guys think? I'm reading over this and she seems a tad bit different around Robert. In fact, during that scene where Zoe and Robert were talking, I almost spilled a few secrets that I wanted to keep hidden! Zoe wanted me to have her confess to Robert. Then, she had me troll Robert. In the words of Bugs Bunny: "Ain't she a stinker?"

Lucifer: Out of curiosity, what precisely does she do for a living? Besides street-side performances.

Well, she is an information broker.

Lucifer: Pardon?

She sells information. She probably never would have thought of doing it if it weren't for Rule No. 4.

Speaking of the Rules of the Assassin, I revealed what Rule No. 1 is!

Lucifer: But what is Rule No. 99?

It's a secret.

Oh, and I'm going to do this for the hell of it.

Zoe earned the title of Information Broker: "You can't keep secrets from me and my sources! And for the last time, I'm not a stalker!" A title for one who's job is to know everything about everyone.

Yeah, titles for my characters. Might do this more regularly, might not. While I'm at it.

Zoe earned the title of Crocodile Tears: A few sobs, some sniffling, and a whine or two. Those are the ingredients to make a man's heart break just looking at you.

Robert earned the title of Berserker: Your blood is up. You adrenaline is pumping. It doesn't matter who or what gets in your way. Friend or foe, you will cut it down.

Robert earned the title of Cursed: You live bearing the pain of your past. You can't escape it, but you don't want to. The past cannot be undone, and so you will bear this sorrow with you to your grave.

Lucifer earned the title of Child of Disaster: Your life is a personal hell brought on by your power. Tragedy follows you like a bad odor. You can't bring back what's lost, so protect what you still have.

Emerald earned the title of Self-Neglecting Artist: "I'll go to sleep once I finish this drawing. I'll eat when I'm done with this carving." A title for one who puts her work before her health.

Sylvia earned the title Prankster: A whoopee cushion here, some extra spicy food there. A title for one who loves tormenting others. Just remember to choose your victim wisely.

Thomas and Sylpher earned the title of Master Debaters: "We don't argue! We never have! All we've ever done is engage in a friendly debate." A title for those who could always choose a better time.

Well, that's enough rambling for me. If you want, I can put these titles in their corresponding chapters.

I hope you all enjoyed this chapter. By the way, Merry Christmas. If you celebrate something else, then Happy/Merry (insert December holiday of your choice here)!

Lucifer: Reviews make wonderful Christmas presents!

Indeed they do, Lucifer. Indeed they do. Please leave me some!