I'm back—for real this time! From now on, I guarantee updates will be regular but only if you all review! And I know this chapter is short, but don't worry, because the next ones will be longer. Please enjoy, and yes, definitely review!

Disclaimer: I do not own the Forbidden Game series or any of the characters or concepts. Nor do I own any other movies, songs, etc. referenced. Basically, if you recognize it, it ain't mine.


Julian really did love Halloween. The costumes, the excitement, the way people embraced fear and sought out darkness. He'd also always enjoyed rushing home from school to Jenny's house to create their glamours; staying out until late in the night to troop door to door and shout trick-r-treat; lying on the floor of his bedroom, trading gummy spiders and mini chocolate bars while the Lurker whined for scraps; staying up till midnight on a sugar high, laughing as they watched cheesy old, black-and-white Hammer Horrors and dancing madly around his room to "The Time Warp," "Monster Mash," and "Thriller;" telling each other recycled scary stories and urban legengs by candle light until they crashed and woke up in the morning with candy-hangovers; eating Kit-Kats for breakfast and shambling off to school like unusually happy zombies with backpacks full of candy.

But dear little Tommy went and bungled that too.

All the same, Julian wasn't particularly bothered by this year's change in plans. On the contrary, he felt an electric current of anticipation running through his veins. Julian was blessed with keen instincts—those of a predator, really—and now his instinct said that something was going to happen tonight, that the game was reaching a climax.

It was only logical, of course, today being Halloween and the calender date of a full moon. In fact, this culmination of properties was a well-known event to Julian's kind; the day on which creatures of his world might find easy access to the human realm, without the use of tricks or traps. There was bound to be some chaos, Julian knew, but there were greater forces at work in the universe than his own devilish kin, and they would grudgingly abandon their respective worlds to assure that humankind make it through the night unscathed.

Pity, really. The party will be over before it's begun.

Knowing all this, Julian was not surprised to hear an odd rattling noise issuing from an old, rarely used drawer of his desk. As the racket intensified, Julian gave in to his impatience and opened the drawer. He watched, unaffected, as a vapor floated out, cold as midnight mist and dark as poison gas. Within the drawer, a slightly rusted Spider-Man lunchbox lay open.

It must be Samhain, the aether said without real words.

"It's called Halloween," Julian corrected, tracking the dark mist's progress to the window with dazzling sapphire eyes.

The wraith did not respond, but it exuded smugness...until it bumped against the glass pane, unable to slither through. Julian could feel its disbelief. With barely-restrained anxiety, the smoke flew toward the door, bounced back, and headed for the closet. Julian smiled in sadistic amusement. When it went to try the window again, Julian spoke up.

"Don't even bother. I sealed this room against your rune, Thurisaz."

With disturbing fluidity, the mist took the form of a man and solidified, like a snowman melting in reverse. "And you managed?" The human-shaped creature quirked a skeptical brow, "that's one hell of a process."

"You're still here, aren't you?" Julian shrugged, "I know what I'm doing."

Thurisaz nodded, annoyed by his entrapment but grudgingly impressed by the means thereof. He was one of the younger Shadowmen, only approaching his first millenium, but the signs of age were beginning to manifest. Patches of olive-toned skin had turned into slick, greenish-gray scales, and one grass colored iris had hemorrhaged into an obsidian orb that took up most of his right eye. Black claws extended from the bony, lengthened fingers of his left hand.

"Any plans for the night?" The Shadowman inquired politely. His voice was slick and smooth as patent leather, but it carried an incongruous hissing undertone. He brushed waves of lustrous black hair over his deformed eye so that only its perfect verdant twin showed.

"Oh yes," Julian beamed at his elder, "though I can't say the same for you."

Thurisaz's visible eye narrowed. "Watch your tone, child."

Julian gave The Thorn a look—as if he was in a position to make demands—but thought better of starting a quarrel with an older Shadowman so looked away.

"Enjoy your freedom," Julian murmured mockingly as he exited the room, closing the door and sealing Thurisaz in. He had a busy night ahead.