"So…What exactly does the House of D do?" Gregor stumbled through the crowds of people, trying to keep up with Henry. Henry turned to look at him with contempt and scoffed.
"What do you mean by 'do'?" he seemed to scowl at Gregor. "We simply reside here in the area of Regalia. We seek prosperity and wish to thrive successfully alongside Regalia. Is that not enough?"
"Uh… sorry?" Gregor gritted his teeth. This brat was really starting to get on his nerves. He was just asking a question. Yeesh.
"Hot headed, isn't he?" Leo murmured in Gregor's mind.
"Well we did just spoil his wedding." Gregor smirked back in his head.
"We take in all sorts of people who have been raised from the grave, as it were. Our leader brought a majority of us back from death. Others simply come here coincidentally by escaping on their own or by other means." Henry went on. "Of course, you must be one of these 'others', correct?"
"What? Oh… oh yeah." Gregor nodded frantically. "I was like you guys. I managed to escape Death's prisons and somehow made my way here." Gregor held his breath, hoping Henry wouldn't question the story. Thankfully, Henry didn't seem to care.
"Yes…yes. Wonderful." Henry grumbled before turning away. "Jack, we will travel the rest of the way to the House by my flier. Have you flown on a flier before?"
"Uhhm. No. What's a flier?" Gregor decided to play dumb. Henry sighed in over exaggerated annoyance.
"How ignorant." Henry put his fingers to his lips and whistled loudly. No longer than two seconds passed when a huge shadow emerged over them. "This," Henry smiled cockily. "This is a flier." With a loud thump the bat lowered itself to the ground in front of Henry in a bowing stance. Gregor couldn't help but feel angry. Had Henry made it a daily thing to make his bond bow to him? Bonds were supposed to be equal! Not slaves!
"We are heading back home." Henry sniffed as he hopped on. "So make it quick."
"Yes, Lord Henry." The bat replied back humbly. He bowed once more and suddenly turned his head towards Gregor. They stared at each other for a moment. Something tugged at his heart, and he had a terrible feeling of dread. It couldn't be…
"Well?" Henry broke the moment. "Come along!" he stretched out his hand.
Gregor reluctantly grabbed ahold of it and pulled himself onto the bat.
"Your bat have a name?" Gregor tentatively asked. He had to know if his intuition was right.
"What does that matter to you?" Henry glanced at Gregor suspiciously.
"Huh? Nothing. I just heard that the bats were named after Greek heroes or something…" Gregor trailed off, trying to act innocent.
"Bah. Greek Heroes." Henry scorned. "I was forced to study those when I was younger. But yes, they are named so. Mine is named after a great God!" he flashed a smile. "Quite fitting for a person of my skills."
Gregor felt like his lips were made of sawdust. It couldn't be him. It couldn't. Couldn't couldn't couldn't couldn't couldn't.
"So…" Gregor licked his lips. "Your bat is named…?"
"Ares. The Great God of War." Henry smirked.
"Tell me why we came here again?" Rachel muttered as the guard led her and Matt down a corridor.
"We went over this at the gate already." Matt groaned. "Death dude said Gregor was gonna show up here. Remember he said joining this House would be the best way we could meet up with him?"
"Yeah, but we don't know anything about this place other than it's for dead people!" she looked around nervously. "And besides, why do we have these weapons? We can't even fight!" She twiddled with her bow.
"We're dead too, you know. Calm down." Matt chuckled. "We'll learn how to fight eventually."
Suddenly, the guard stopped. "Quiet." He hushed. "You are about to enter the Lord's Throne room. Please regain your composure." With that, he took a quick breath and opened the large, iron doors. The doors groaned and creaked as they reluctantly opened for the group.
"Sir! I have brought them, as requested." The guard bowed before quickly leaving the room. As he passed by Rachel and Matt, he muttered, "Good luck. You will need it."
The doors then slammed shut with a loud "BANG" as Rachel and Matt stood before a tall, shadowy figure: the leader of the House of D. He looked a bit like Death, in that he had a dark aura around him like Death did; but his face looked more wizened and he was not as well-dressed as Death. The leader stood up and slowly stepped down from his throne towards Matt and Rachel. His boots echoed with every step, making it seem like there were several of him walking towards the duo at once.
"So… you wish to join our House?" he asked slyly as he stood in front of Matt and Rachel while the footsteps died down. He seemed to be sizing them up, scrutinizing their armor and weapons.
"Yes, sir." Matt nodded slowly. "You see, we've heard a lot of good things about this place and we were wondering if-"
"Begin." The leader cut him off with the single word.
"E…excuse me?" Rachel stared in confusion. "Begin what?"
The leader didn't bother to answer. Instead, he rose up a hand and it filled with clouds of darkness. Suddenly, bullets of shadow shot out of the glob and sprayed everywhere, splashing onto the ground. Matt jumped back, yelping, and Rachel scurried over to his side, stifling a shriek. The globs then grew larger and larger, until they started to form the shape of men. Men with weapons. There were seven or eight of them and they all pointed their weapons at the two. Gradually, they started moving closer. Matt drew his katanas and urged Rachel to pull out her bow.
"But I don't know how to use it!" she cried.
"Use your instincts!" he yelled as the warriors started to run at them.
"Begin!" the leader called out once more as he walked calmly back to his throne.
One of the warriors lunged at Matt with a spear. Matt used one his katanas to deflect the spear to the side and kicked the warrior as hard as he could. Could these things even die? He could feel Rachel shaking next to him. At this rate, he would have to fight them all…
"Eh, not bad." A voice appeared in his head. "But it could've been better."
Shocked, Matt stumbled back and barely dodged another warrior's swipe.
"Who…?" he asked in his head.
"The name's Sam. You know, short for samurai?" the voice chuckled. "Anyway, Death gave me to you to help you out in situations like these. Oh watch it! One of them is going for you! Dodge to the right and swing your left arm back."
With no time to think, Matt spun to his right and heard the clank of a sword hitting the ground. Without hesitation, he thrust out his left hand and was surprised to find that he stabbed the attacker in the shoulder. The warrior cried out and fell to the ground before disappearing in a pool of black. Matt blinked in surprise.
"Uhh thanks." Matt thought as he jumped back and stared at his hands.
"No need to thank me just yet, man. Watch it! Another one's coming!" Sam yelled. Matt looked up and saw the blade coming for him. He was too late, he realized, to move in time. He rose up his shoulder and braced for the impact. Suddenly, he heard the whiz of an arrow followed by a cry of pain. Matt looked back and saw an arrow protruding out of the warrior's chest before it too, sank to the ground in blackness. He glanced to his right and saw Rachel holding up her bow, still shaking slightly.
"How did she…?" Matt stared in awe, unable to complete his sentence.
"Ah, Arja must be helping her." Sam whistled. "Arja's known to be really good with teaching archery. That girl is lucky."
"I heard that, Sam." A female voice reached Matt's ears. "I'm not just 'really good'. I'm a prodigy and no one is ever good enough for me." She sniffed. "Although I must admit the girl is learning quite well." She stated as Rachel managed to fly more arrows towards the warriors.
Matt grinned. Looks like they weren't completely out just yet. With a newfound fervor, Matt turned to the rest of the warriors and raised his katanas. Bring them on.
"Ares…" Gregor whispered. He felt a chill go throughout his body and nothing seemed to make sense anymore.
"Nice name, I must admit." Henry chuckled. "He has been my bond for as long as I can remember." He seemed to be nostalgic. Then his expression turned dark. "Then he betrayed me…" he frowned.
"Betrayed…?" Gregor asked, knowing all too well what had happened that day. He could remember it as clear as day. Both he and Henry were falling to their deaths. Henry's plea for help. Ares' body soaring downwards, reaching Henry, but zipping right past. Slamming into Ares' back while Henry smashed into rocks.
"Yes…" Henry murmured. "He went to that Overlander and let me die. But now, I made sure that the same mistake will not happen again." Henry smirked.
Gregor's eyes widened. Not happen again? What did he do to Ares? Gregor's ears were roaring, and he could feel the rager inside of him thrash. Despite his rage, Gregor managed to appear calm and asked Henry another question.
"My gods, what is with your questions?" Henry groaned. "It is very annoying."
"I was just curious." Gregor replied. "Can you please tell me?" he urged.
"Very well. I hypnotized him." Henry sighed. "The leader of the House of D taught me the basics. Ares still retains his skills and memories, but he will listen to my orders. Mine alone. Are you satisfied?"
Gregor didn't respond. Hypnotized. Of all things. He wanted to reach out to Ares, push Henry off and help his bond flee such a hell. But he could not. And that idea alone Gregor to near madness and insanity. He didn't speak for the rest of the ride to the House of D's palace. How could he? Here he was, thinking about his own selfish desires of wanting to go home as soon as possible when his friends were down here, suffering. He buried his face into his knees. Pathetic. He felt tears welling up in his eyes, but he quickly wiped them away. There would be time for this later.
"Time to go, Jack." He heard Henry call. "We have arrived."
The House of D's palace finally came into view. Unlike Gregor's imagination, it was not dark and gloomy as he pictured. It actually looked very similar to Regalia. Stone houses scattered across the area and a huge wall surrounded the palace area. A river streamed through the city and tons of people surrounded it. Other areas were still in construction, but it was more or less completed.
"Imagine, four years ago, this place was nothing." Henry smiled in pride. "Now, we are quite prosperous." He grunted as he dismounted.
The two of them went through several gates and many guards and people bowed slightly before Henry as they passed until they reached the palace.
"You are going to be here now, so I will now direct you to the training classes." Henry said.
"What? Training courses? For what?" Gregor jogged up to Henry.
"Combat, mostly. You may also learn some skills of the Dead like I have." Henry sniffed. "Although it is doubtful you are skilled enough to utilize such skills. So far, only the leader and I have been able to use such powers."
"I… see." Gregor murmured. Great. School. Just when he thought that he was free from school's torturous classes.
"But first, we must meet with the leader for your placement exam." Henry grinned condescendingly. "Good luck." He smirked.
"What? What do I do for the exam?" Gregor asked.
They stood in front of two large, stone doors. From outside, Gregor could hear the faint sound of clangs of swords and yelling.
"Let's take a look, shall we?" Henry chuckled as he pushed the doors open.
The leader still wasn't done with them even after they defeated all eight of the shadowy warriors. After they managed to defeat the eighth shadow, the leader simply summoned a huge rat who scared the jeepers out of Matt and Rachel.
"Aw you gotta be kidding me!" Matt cried when he saw it. Rachel shrieked and jumped back.
"You are not done." The leader now stared with a newfound interest. "Begin."
The gigantic rat pounced towards Matt and swiped a paw at him. Rachel ran to one side and started to shoot arrows while Matt tried to evade the paw. Rachel's arrows hit target, but the rat didn't seem to notice and continued its assault on Matt. Matt dodged, parried, and occasionally tried attacking, but the rat seemed invincible. Even Sam started to get nervous when his advice didn't do much to help.
"Interesting… he's big but very fast." Sam observed. "And he's got the power of ten men. Quite problematic."
"Gee, you think?" Matt yelped as he nimbly dodged a tail whip to the face.
Suddenly, the rat's tail and paw came swinging at the same time. Matt help up his swords to block it. The tail and paw hit the swords, knocking the breath out of Matt."Oof!" he grunted as he was thrown to the floor. Dazed, he managed to get up, but he noticed something that made his heart stop. His hands were suddenly empty. The rat's tail had skittered them across the room. Cursing, Matt glanced at Rachel, who saw what happened and her eyes widened. She was too far away from the weapons. The rat was making another attack. Matt was a goner.
Matt braced himself for the impact when all of the sudden, Matt heard a gurgling scream come from the rat as he heard a thump of something falling to the ground. It was a tail. At the end of it was a figure standing there with Matt's katanas. It was Gregor, and he was looking frighteningly fierce.
The rat immediately turned to see Gregor smirking at him. He roared in rage before charging at him. Gregor rolled to one side and Matt watched in awe as Gregor's face seemed to change. Gregor then jumped towards the rat and started to spin in the air, pointing the katanas outwards. Spinning and spinning and spinning, Gregor backed the rat into the wall until finally; he stopped and swiped his swords at specific points. The neck. The legs. The heart. All of them split open and the rat slumped to the ground then gurgled in blackness.
"Jack!" Henry rushed into the room and pulled Gregor towards him. "What do you think you are doing? You have interrupted an important evaluation! You insolent-"
"That's enough, Henry." The leader stepped down from the throne. "He was here to be evaluated as well, was he not?"
Henry fidgeted and reluctantly pushed Gregor away. "It is as you say."
"Then it is fine." He turned to look at all three of them and stared at them for a long moment.
After a long awkward silence, Henry couldn't take it anymore.
"Well?" He snapped. "Are they in the House or not?" asking the question written on everyone's faces. The leader made a strange snorting noise, making his body tremble all over. Gregor, Matt, and Rachel cocked their heads in slight concern. That is, until the leader threw his head back with a great, loud, laugh. After a few rounds of laughter, he finally managed to calm himself down to a soft chuckle.
"Ah yes, they are all in the House of D. But you are going to be more than just a part of the House of D." he smirked as he trotted back up to his throne.
"What?" Gregor dropped the katanas on the floor with a loud CLANG. "What are you talking about?"
The leader sat down and stared at them in the eyes.
"You are all going to be my students."
Meanwhile, in Luxa's room of Regalia's palace, Vikus, Ripred and Luxa were discussing future events.
"I am sorry, but the council agrees that this is the best course of action!" Vikus cried. "The council did not accept my idea of canceling the ceremony."
"I wonder if they ever accept any ideas you propose." Luxa sighed dejectedly. "Like I said before, I do not approve of this arranged joining. Besides, I am Queen now. They should follow my orders, should they not?"
"Yes, this is true; however it is in your best interest to do things that are best for Regalia." Vikus sighed. "They still believe you to be too young to make rational decisions…"
"Too young?" Luxa growled. "I am not too young, Vikus! I can make rational decisions all the time! So you can go tell the council that their decision is not rational. Not on my account."
"Personally, I don't blame the council." Ripred yawned. "Remember when you heard that the Warrior died you made a national rule not to ever speak of him again? Sounds irrational to me."
"Ah yes." Vikus looked thoughtful. "This does account for your refusal to do the ceremony now… you were somewhat more willing to do it before his arrival…"
"Oh hush, Ripred." Luxa flushed. "I was not serious. I was simply upset…"
Suddenly, someone knocked on the door, making everyone in the room jump.
"Yes?" Luxa huffed in frustration. "Come in!"
A messenger suddenly dashed into the room, panting heavily and looking quite disturbed.
"My queen!" he gasped. "I have dire news."
The look on everyone's faces changed and the atmosphere became serious. Vikus cleared his throat, Luxa's eyes gleamed with worry, and Ripred shifted slightly from his slouching position on his wall. Finally, after the messenger managed to catch his breath, Luxa tentatively reached out to him.
"What is it?" Luxa asked cautiously.
"Uhh well," the messenger twiddled with his fingers. "Firstly, many people have broken the rule of not to speak of the Warrior and-"
At this, Ripred guffawed, cutting off the messenger completely. He laughed so hard he began to roll around on the floor. Even Vikus could not suppress a smile. Luxa glowered at them, and quickly turned to the guard, who stared in utter confusion at the reactions he had caused.
"Is that all?" She cast an annoyed glare at the guard.
"N-no!" the guard flinched. He cleared his throat. "The F-fount's been attacked, my Queen."
Ripred choked and stopped laughing. At the same time, Vikus' face's slowly grew into a worried frown. What? Luxa stood there, staring at the guard, not comprehending what she just heard.
"What..? The Fount is under attack? By who?" Vikus hurried up to the messenger, clearly worried. "There should be no conflict with any creature at this point. We made sure of that."
"I am not sure, but the soldiers from the Fount who managed to reach our gates have told us it was… gnawers."
"Impossible." Ripred growled as he came off from his wall. "The gnawers are allied with the humans now. We don't need to or want to attack the Fount."
"Yes, well that is where the other part comes in, see." The messenger looked nervous. "The soldiers from the Fount also claim to have seen…" he stopped, as if deciding whether to tell them or not.
"Spit it out." Ripred snarled, looking absolutely livid. "Why in all of the Underland would gnawers attack the Fount?"
"S-sorry!" the messenger flinched. "They soldiers… they saw…"
"They saw…?" Luxa urged.
The messenger took a deep breath. "King Gorger."
AN: Christ I've been gone forever. Sorry again folks. I've been on vacation in Hawaii and there was just so much to do that my story was not a high priority. Also, I've been gone for SAT training classes, since I'm taking it this October. But I managed to think a LOT about the story and how it will turn out. So no worries! I just need the time to write them! Anyway, enjoy and I hope you like how the story is going so far :) Remember to review people! Sometimes when I'm tired from my SAT classes, I just want to slump in my bed and sleep. Reviews really help me get through my sleepiness and encourage me to write more! Thanks