Author's Note: Because I am evil and wish to torment you all, here's a peek at a story I may or may not write. ;-) With some elements of another story thrown in for good measure! Enjoy!

Warning: Gratuitous use of cursing in this chapter, because the almost-end of the world warrants cursing.


Darkest Trouble

05

For once in a very, very long time, the Keepers of the demons from Pandora's Box were all gathered in one place, but it wasn't to have cake and catch up on old times. Oh no, the event that gathered all of these immortals together was the fact that the world had almost ended, and none of them were happy about that.

A cacophony of loud, enraged voices echoed within the large hall that served as the entrance to the Lords' castle, located in scenic Land of Blood and Death, and Niko, Keeper of Strife since '05, could only stand near the wall and glare venomously at the man next to him, the one who had started the entire catastrophe. And for once the entire thing could be laid at the feet of someone other than Kane, the Keeper of Disaster.

He kept quiet, because there wasn't anything he could say that the others weren't saying a hundred times over, but if the bastard next to him didn't stop smirking he was going to punch him in the fucking face.

The earth had pretty much gone completely pear-shaped in under thirty hours. There had been riots, protests, wide-spread looting, and at least three countries were on the verge of declaring war on each other. Not to mention the tropical storms, the earthquakes, and the occasional presidential assassination attempt, and that was pretty much only the warm-up to the beginning of the end, to be poetic about it.

And the worst part? The bastard responsible wasn't even one of the Lords and thus didn't have a demon to blame his actions on, he was just an immortal with a streak vicious enough to try and destroy the world because he felt like it. The dick.

Fortunately the Lords of the Underworld had managed to head off the destruction at the pass and mitigate at least some of the chaos, thanks in great part to their resident demons, and prevent the actual destruction of the world.

It was pretty surprising, how their demons, which represented the worst evils of the world, had actually helped to save it.

Unfortunately, Lucien the Keeper of Death had been very, very busy before they had calmed things down, and that meant that Anya, (minor) Goddess of Anarchy, was pissed because her husband had had to keep teleporting all over the world to round up dead souls. And he was still busy, but he had managed to break away from his duties long enough to attend the emergency meeting.

The meeting, such as it was, was basically to decide what to do with the bastard who had started all the chaos and how they could all help get the earth back in balance again. Even Lysander and Zacharel were there, along with their wives, to do what they could to help.

"I say we string the bastard up by his tendons and let the vultures have at him!" Maddox, Keeper of Violence, snarled, his eyes blazing red and the face of his demon almost overshadowing his own.

"Agreed, some time getting his organs eaten again and again might teach him a lesson." Sabin, Keeper of Doubt, coolly seconded, his tone so frosty it was almost arctic.

Niko repressed a shudder, listening to the assorted immortals in the room tossing out suggestions for what to do to the guy next to him, who was still. Fucking. Smirking.

He didn't feel one ounce of sympathy for what was going to happen to the prick, and only hoped that it really, really hurt. After what the immortal next to him had done, he deserved every bit of what happened to him, and the Keeper of Strife doubted that anyone in the hall would say otherwise.

A loud whistle cut through the angry shouts that filled the hall, and everyone went quiet as they all looked towards where Lucien was standing, and Niko saw no less than five immortals flinch back from the cold look in Death's eyes. He didn't feel so bad about his own fear after that. Then Lucien spoke, and his attention was yanked back to the main issue that all of them had gathered to talk about, "Those are all very good suggestions, but sometimes simple is best. The punishment for the one responsible for all of the destruction and mayhem on earth is simple: death." His dual-colored eyes glowed, and he added, "William, if you wouldn't mind? I believe you are the closest."

William the Ever-Randy, as he had been dubbed by the original group of Lords, smirked, looking more bloodthirsty than Niko could ever remember seeing him, and in a split second a sword manifested in his hand. Another second, and the immortal beside Niko realized that he was actually going to be executed, and he wasn't smirking when the sword separated his head from his body.

Everyone in the hall felt the slight flicker as the bastard's powers dissipated into the cosmos.

Lucien cleared his throat, bringing the various Lords' and immortals' attention back to him, and Niko felt a fissure of uneasiness curl in his gut as he realized that the Keeper of Death was looking at him. His uneasiness was justified when the leader of the Lords spoke, "Niko, Keeper of Strife, the world is very unstable right now, and its' ability to handle any more strife and chaos is doubtful…in order to prevent the earth from tearing itself apart any further, I'm afraid that you will have to leave in order to give it time to heal."

"But-!" Niko started to protest, only to be interrupted.

"Face it, kid. Even if you stuck to just causing trouble between couples and the occasional business partners, that still might be more demonic energy than the world can take." Sabin spoke up, and if Niko wasn't mistaken the Keeper of Doubt actually looked sympathetic, and that was when Niko knew he was in trouble.

Lucien took over the explanation, unknowing of the sinking feelings his words were causing in Niko's gut, "I'm afraid that even if you stayed in Heaven or one of the other-side dimensions, you might still be too close to earth…So you will have to go further away." Seeing the faintly sick expression on the younger immortal face, Lucien's tone softened the tiniest bit as he finished, "Don't worry, you have a few days to prepare to leave, and you will have all of your powers. Just try and lay low while you are there, okay?"

Niko blinked, and he blurted out quickly before he could be interrupted, "Wait, where am I going? If I can't stay with one of the angels in Heaven or one of the outlying dimensions without potentially finishing what he," His tone was faintly disgusted when he indirectly referred to the newly dead immortal, "Started, then where am I supposed to go?"

"A dimension with a much higher threshold for chaos."

The Keeper of Strife wondered distantly if Valence would be up for a cross-dimensional vacation as he wordlessly flashed back to his suite, sensing that the meeting was over, at least as far as he was concerned.


Niko blinked as the spots faded from his vision, and he felt a small measure of sympathy as he heard Valence throwing up a few feet away. He hoped that the kid didn't get any puke on the suitcases, because that stuff was murder to get out of leather, and it was even tougher to get rid of the smell.

While he waited for the kid to finish tossing his lunch, he looked around to try and figure out where he was, and he was mildly disconcerted to see that they were standing on the side of a road that would have looked right at home on their own world. He then caught sight of a large road-sign behind him, and he silently read:

Welcome to Galveston!

"Oh, you have got to be kidding me!"


Author's Note: A virtual cookie to whoever can guess which book series that I was planning to cross LotU with! And now I'm off to work on the project I should have been working on. *Wanders off* Please read and review! As always, constructive criticism is welcome!