Susanna rode back home gladly. Even if she had had a lot of fun in Corus, she was glad to
be back. She had invited Lucinda, Sebastian, Aran and Dania to her house, but Dania and
Sebastian had to stay with their mum and sort their house out. Lucinda had to do the same
thing with her sisters. Aran had to go back to his house. She didn't really know why.
Sighing, she walked up to the front door. She stood there, suspicious. She could hear
noises in her house. Then she noticed the door was ajar. After all this, she had to be
She drew her sword. She could do more with her arm now than she could have a month
ago. She opened the door quietly, slipped through into her hall, and left it ajar again.
Silently she crept down the hallway and peered into the kitchen. No one was there. She
walked on, and noticed her bedroom door was half open. She hid behind it. She looked
round the door. There was a person, all in black, rifling through her things. She slipped in,
and surprised the burglar by putting her sword at his throat. She bent forward and
whispered in his ear "Going through my things, are we? Didn't you even consider that the
owner would come back and get you?"
They burglar gulped.
"Back against the wall. Quickly"
The burglar almost ran backwards into the wall, and stood there, terrified. Susanna
pointed her sword at his chest. "Now. Why are you here? Is there anyone else here?"
The burglar replied, "No one lived here. When we got in here, the whole house had
already been gone through, but nothing of value had been taken. And, well, we decided
that it wouldn't hurt to take what the last burglar had missed."
"So there was someone else here then?"
The burglar nodded.
Susanna bound the first burglar hand and foot, and gagged him just to make sure. Then
she peered out of her bedroom door, and then tiptoed along the hall. She burst into the
spare room, but there was no one there. Cursing, she walked back into the hall. She heard
a noise in her bedroom. That burglar??he walked into the bedroom in time to see the
burglar slip out of the window to his mate outside. They mounted their horses and rose
Susanna ran outside and glared at the riders, but she couldn't be bothered to give chase.
She was too tired. She put her horse in the stables, and walked back indoors, making sure
to lock the door behind her. She closed all of the windows that had been opened by the
burglars, and checked through her things. Nothing was missing. The burglars must have
just got inside when she got here. She yawned. She just wanted to go to bed. The sun was
setting, and she was exhausted. She slowly walked back to her bedroom and was asleep in
about half an hour.
Something looked in the window of her bedroom. It tried to open the window, but it
couldn't. Susanna's pendant glowed. Growling, it backed off. It didn't seem to like the
pendant at all. Another figure in a familiar black cloak peered in the window. He couldn't
see anything. He frowned, and turned to the thing that didn't like the pendant. He clicked
his fingers and a red dot quickly opened into a large portal. The figure walked into it. The
thing followed. Its silhouette looked like nothing that had ever been seen. Once it had also
disappeared into the red, swirling circle, the portal shrunk, before disappearing
completely. The unnatural red light that had bathed the surrounding countryside vanished.
Susanna slept on; she was unaware of anything that was happening around her.
Susanna gently woke from her sleep. She yawned and stretched. It was a bit stuffy in the
room, so after she had dressed, she opened the window. She looked out at the
countryside, and then noticed something. There were scratch marks in the white paint on
the outside of her window. They were rather strange marks. They hadn't been made with a
knife or by accident; it looked as though they had been made by claws. She shook herself.
No animal with claws would want to scratch her window, would it? Slightly scaring
herself, she shut the window again. She tried to forget about the marks on her window,
and started to think about breakfast.
The whole morning passed uneventfully. At about 1 o'clock there was a knock on the
door. Susanna went to open it. Aran was standing there, but there was another man with
him. She smiled.
Aran grinned. " Hi. Well I suppose I better introduce you. Susanna Silverbreeze, Niko
Susanna smiled, as Niko took her hand and kissed it. "You are quite as beautiful as Aran
said you were." She didn't see Aran smile slightly as this remark.
Susanna invited them inside, trying to hide her blush. When her face stopped burning, she
closed the front door and followed them into the living room. Niko turned out to be a
mage as well. He was one of the most powerful mages this side of the Emerald Ocean.
Niko was a year older than Aran, which meant that he was 22. He had short black hair and
bright blue eyes. His clothes looked quite expensive, but they weren't very ornate. He was
wearing a gold signet ring, but other than that and a gold earring in one ear, he wasn't
wearing any jewellery whatsoever.
There was a movement by the window. Susanna glanced out of the window, then realised
what she had seen, and stared out of the window. It was the Stranger again. She closed
her eyes and remembered the last time she had seen him; it had been when she was 18.
She jumped. She had forgotten about the two men. She turned round. "What?"
Aran was staring at her. "Are you okay?"
Susanna nodded. "It's just that I saw the strange man again. You know, the one that keeps
trying to get me?"
Aran looked concerned. "I though that he had given up!"
Susanna grinned. "Well, obviously he hasn't."
"Err, am I missing something?"
Aran and Susanna looked round at Niko.
"Sorry." Said Susanna. She told Niko about the time when the Stranger kept on trying to
get her to come with him. Once she had finished, they sat there for a moment, thinking.
Niko was the first to speak.
"I have heard about this??is??rson. I read about him somewhere."
He remembered. "I think that he is an arch demon from the underworld. If I remember
rightly, then this arch-demon serves the Black God, or Hades."
Susanna remembered a comment that the Stranger had made. So that was who Hades was
- the Black God!
Niko continued. "Did he ever give a reason for trying to take you to the Black God?"
Susanna thought. She was sure he had said once, but what had he said. "I'm sure he did,
but I can't remember it. No one else was there I think, so I will be the only one that heard
it." She frowned, deep in thought. Eventually she shrugged. "Sorry. I can't remember at
the moment." She didn't want to think of the Stranger, because she was scared of him.
Susanna nodded. She didn't want anyone to mention it again. She was sure that whatever
the Stranger had said, she didn't want to remember it.
Aran turned to Susanna. "Are you positive?"
"YES!" Susanna shouted. "Please, just leave me alone!" She stormed out of the room and
sat on her bed feeling sorry for herself.
Aran looked rather surprised. He hadn't meant to annoy her that much. He looked at the
open door, and decided that he better go and get her to calm down.
Niko bit his lip. He could see that Susanna didn't really want to talk about it. But all the
same, he needed to know what the demon wanted so that he could find a solution. He
Aran stood up. "I'd better go and see what I can do." He grinned nervously, walked out of
the living room and shut the door. He peered in her bedroom.
"Can I come in?"
Receiving no answer, he came in, shut the door and sat down next to Susanna.
"Just go away."
Undaunted by this reply, he said, "We were just trying to help. You see, if Niko knew
what the demon wanted, then he could maybe make it go away??p;quot;
"Can you stop going on at me about it? I don't want to talk about that??at demon. I do
want that thing to go away, but I am so annoyed at myself for not remembering, and then
you kept asking if I was sure??p;quot; she tailed off.
Aran put a hand on her shoulder. "Sorry I pestered you."
Susanna turned round, and she gave a small smile. "Apology accepted." She grinned. She
suddenly whisked round, picked up a pillow, and hit Aran over the head with it. Aran
glared at her, and grabbed the other pillow. He got hit over the head again. So he hit back.
Susanna laughed as she was showered in feathers. Aran grinned. Susanna swung the
pillow at him, and Aran caught it. Susanna jumped onto her bed, and pulled hard on her
pillow. Aran grinned impishly, and let go of the pillow, making Susanna fall over on the
bed. She tried to get up, but Aran's blows rained on her, scattering feathers everywhere.
She grabbed Aran's pillow with one hand, and pulled. Aran refused to let go. Susanna
pulled the pillow from his grip, stood up and tried to hit him. He kept on dodging. She let
go of one pillow, letting it drop by her feet, and got a better grip on the other.
Aran saw his chance. He dived for the pillow and knocked Susanna off her feet again. He
picked up the pillow and knelt by her, and kept on hitting her. Susanna, realising her
pillow had been knocked to the floor, grabbed Aran's pillow. Neither wanted to let go.
Eventually Aran gave up, and cowered under the blows that he was given by Susanna. She
got onto her knees. It was easier to hit him from here.
After a little while she gave up, throwing the pillow onto the ground. They both collapsed
on the bed, laughing. Susanna looked over at Aran, and Aran realised where he was. He
jumped off the bed as quickly as possible. Susanna, thinking she had seen something in his
eyes, sat up, and got off the bed. Susanna picked up a hairbrush, brushed her hair, and
then picked her silver circlet up from the bed where it had fallen. She smiled at Aran. He
was looking at her oddly. Susanna looked away and then walked out of the bedroom and
back into the living room. Aran followed her. What had Niko been doing all this time? He
saw Niko, and both of them grinned. Niko was asleep, and snoring loudly.
They quietly crept out of the room, and closed the door silently. Then they wandered into
the kitchen, sat down, and started talking in there. Soon there was a knock at the door.
Aran went and opened it. He came back into the kitchen followed by Sebastian, Dania and
Lucinda. Susanna smiled.
"Hiya." replied Lucinda. "Aran told us about Niko being here. We promise to be quiet."
She grinned as she sat down in the chair opposite Susanna. As they started talking,
Susanna remembered something.
"What?" said Aran, walking over to her.
"I have just remembered what the stranger said to me. He said that his master wanted me
to rule by his side??p;quot;
Aran's eyes opened wide, and then he scowled.
"Something wrong?" asked Sebastian. He had been listening to Dania and Lucinda's
conversation, but had noticed Aran's scowl.
"No, nothing." Aran replied, and stomped out of the kitchen. Soon he came back with
Niko. Niko still looked half asleep. Aran smiled. "We must be going. Sorry." He smiled at
everyone, and walked off towards the front door. Susanna got up and walked after him.
Niko had gone to get the horses, and Aran was just standing there, thinking.
Aran turned around. "Look, I really don't like the demon person. If he has come back
now, then he must have a plan. I don't want you to be forced to get married to the Black
God. I just wish I knew that you were safe??p;quot; He stared at the floor.
Susanna put a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "Don't worry about me." She grinned, and
drew her sword. "I can look after myself."
Aran put a hand on hers. "I know you can." He smiled, squeezed her hand, and then let
go. He turned and walked over to his horse. He mounted and rode away with Niko.
Susanna waved and then walked back into the house. She found the others giggling. As
she walked in the kitchen, they all stopped, looked at her, and then giggled again. Susanna
"What is it?" she asked sitting down at the table.
They seemed to have calmed down, when Sebastian burst out "Oh, Aran!" and they all
started laughing hysterically.
"You two love-birds!" said Dania, and they all laughed again.
"I don't love Aran!" said Susanna, indignantly. Or did she?
Lucinda tried to make a straight face. "Of course you don't." She smiled, and her smile
broke into a giggle.
Susanna sighed. "Well, we are love-birds as much as you and Sebastian!"
"Me! In love with Sebastian! Don't be daft!" said Lucinda.
"Hey! What's wrong with me? You don't find me attractive?" asked Sebastian, nudging
Lucinda and giving a sly grin.
"I'm sorry to hurt your feelings," answered Lucinda, "But no."
They continued talking like this for some time. Eventually they had to leave. Susanna
walked outside to wave them goodbye.
Feeling lonely, she walked inside. She shut the door and tidied up her bedroom, getting rid
of all of the stray feathers. Sighing, she sat down on her bed. She stared at her bookcase,
and decided to look at a spell book. Spell books were never extremely useful, but they
kept you from feeling lonely.
A growl sounded outside the house. She wondered what it could be. Thoughts of the claw
marks on her window came into her head, and she shivered. Something on her neck felt
hot. She put her hand on the pendant. There was a creak. She spun round to look at her
bedroom door, to see a man.
"Oh, Goddess! Not you! Not again!"
She drew her sword, and stared at him, daring the Stranger to make a single move. She
threw a magic arrow at him, but it hit a bubble of shining red that had formed around the
Stranger. The bubble made the arrow disappear. Susanna grabbed her now extremely hot
pendant off her neck, and white magic shone around her. Scarlet ropes shot out of the
Stranger's hands, only to be brought up short by Susanna's counter spell. Susanna pointed
at him, and the pendant's magic shot from her finger. It hit the Stranger's bubble, and with
a blinding flash the bubble and the beam of magic disappeared. The Stranger scowled,
drew his sword, and attacked Susanna. She blocked blow after blow, and eventually the
Stranger gave up. He stepped back and whistled. A large snarl answered. A head came
around the door. Susanna swung her sword at it, but the thing hid behind the doorframe.
Her pendant blazed, and she heard a growl. The dog's head came around the door again,
saw the pendant, yelped, and hid behind the doorframe again. The Stranger looked
annoyed. Then his eyes lit up as if he had an idea, and he walked out of the bedroom.
Susanna followed him with her eyes until he disappeared into his red portal. The portal
vanished, leaving Susanna with nothing more than a very shallow cut on her cheek. She
went to wash it.
The next morning she woke late. She was still tired when Aran came in.
"Hi." Aran saw the cut on her cheek. "You're hurt."
Susanna nodded. As they sat down in the kitchen, she told him about the Stranger's
surprise visit. Aran didn't like this news much. After she had finished, he said "I wish there
was a way of keeping him out of here. And what was that thing that put its head around
Susanna shrugged. "From what I saw it was like a dog, only twice as big."
"Oh well. Tell me if you remember anything else, okay?"
Susanna smiled. "Of course I will."
After a while Susanna and Aran went outside, as it was a nice day. They sat under a tree
and talked. Lucinda and Dania rode up.
"Sebastian can't come. Mum insists he stay behind and do something for her. Lucky him!"
"Why is he lucky?"
"I think he is going to have to do some chores that he keeps saying he will do and never
does. For instance, he said that he would weed the garden, and as the garden is now
almost choked with weeds, he is going to have a long day of it."
Susanna grinned. She couldn't imagine Sebastian weeding.
A red dot appeared behind the tree that they were sitting under. It grew, and grew. The
stranger stepped out of it, followed by the thing. He drew a figure in the air with his
finger, and the form dropped out of the air. Its bat wings kept it aloft, and its grey-green
skin looked as if it was stretched over a human rib cage. It gnashed its steel teeth,
stretched its sharp claws, and flew into the tree, its red fiery eyes blazing. It landed on a
branch and watched the conversation below. The Stranger drew seven more, and each of
these flew up into the tree, landing beside the others. Eight pairs of red eyes watched the
four, waiting for an order. The Stranger grinned, showing steel teeth. Then he nodded
slowly and deliberately.
The gargoyles let loose a blood-curdling scream that seemed to echo around the
landscape. The group underneath the tree looked around for the source of the scream.
Dania looked up, pointed, and then backed out from underneath the tree. She strung her
bow, and loosed an arrow into the tree. It missed a gargoyle's head by inches. With a cry
of fury all of the gargoyles launched themselves at her. Aran, seeing the gargoyles flying
towards Dania, rushed after them. Lucinda and Susanna followed suit. They each drew
their weapons. Susanna stopped, and muttered a sentence, and blew towards the
gargoyles. The wind she summoned blew them off course and they scattered. As Lucinda,
Susanna and Aran gathered around Dania, the gargoyles gathered for another attack.
Unseen, the Stranger held the thing's collar, and vanished, to reappear behind the group of
fighters. The gargoyles launched themselves at the group, as one vanished after being shot
down by Dania. They flew at the group and two of them grabbed Lucinda by the hair.
Aran saw this and his sword came crashing down on one of these monsters. It screamed
and vanished. Lucinda attacked the other gargoyle with her axe. The gargoyle dodged it,
and lifted Lucinda into the air. Dania aimed and loosed her arrow. It embedded itself in the
little monster's throat. It vanished with a drawn out scream. Lucinda grinned at Dania, and
then paid more attention to the monsters.
The Stranger saw that Susanna was at the back of the group. He removed the thing's
The thing galloped towards Susanna, its red eyes burning with hate and excitement.
Susanna was concentrating on the gargoyles. One was trying to get at her, and so she beat
it away with a few well-placed blows of her sword. She pierced its wing. It screamed as it
plummeted to the ground. With a crack it landed, dead from the impact.
Susanna felt a pull on the back of her top. She glanced behind her. A strange creature met
her eyes. It looked like a dog except for three things. Firstly it was as large as a bear.
Secondly its eyes were blazing red, like everything that is evil. Thirdly it had three very
large dog heads, each looking ravenous and slobbering all over the place. She tried to
swing her sword at it, but a large paw clamped it to her side. She tried to wrench herself
from its grasp, but it was too strong. She looked behind it. A few metres away there was
that demon, standing next to a red portal that shimmered with different hellish shades of
red from scarlet to blood red. The hound was dragging her towards it. She screamed for
help. As another heavy paw slammed over her mouth, everyone glanced round, and
immediately had trouble with the gargoyles.
Aran looked round. Susanna was being dragged towards a red portal. Leaving everyone
else to fight the gargoyles, he ran to help her.
The Stranger saw what was happening. The girl's lover was coming to help her. He would
regret that. He muttered a word and scarlet ropes shot out of his hands and bound
Susanna tightly. Free to do other things, the hellhound ran to meet Aran. Aran was ready
for it. He swung his sword, and the hellhound ducked. The hellhound leapt at Aran, but
Aran dodged and thrust his sword at the hound. The hellhound ran at Aran, knocking him
over. Aran's sword went flying. The hellhound stood over Aran, two paws on his
shoulders, and two on his legs. Aran grabbed his dagger, and plunged it into the animal's
belly. The animal staggered, and fell. Aran ran to help Susanna, who was very near to the
portal now. The hellhound fell into dust, and then a pup slowly appeared in the dust. The
pup looked around, whimpered, and ran towards the portal. It jumped through.
Aran didn't see any of this. All he could see was Susanna being dragged away by the
demon. He ran faster. The demon jumped into the portal, and pulled on the ropes. Susanna
dug in her heels, but there was no fighting it. She was steadily dragged closer and closer to
the portal. Aran, seeing this, dived for Susanna. She was being dragged through he portal.
"No, I wont let you go!"
Susanna grabbed Aran's hand with both of hers. She looked terrified. Her legs were slowly
being submerged in the portal. Aran held her hand tight. He dropped his sword, and held
her hands with both of his. Then he pulled, refusing to let her go.
Lucinda and Dania had finally got rid of the gargoyles. They looked round for Susanna
and Aran, and saw the mess they were in. They ran towards the couple quickly, and
grabbed Susanna's arms. She was slowly being sucked into the red portal. She held Aran's
hands even tighter. Her hands were starting to slip.
Her hands let go. She was quickly sucked into the portal. The portal started to close. Aran
grabbed his sword and hers, and dived into the portal after her. The portal snapped shut,
shutting off the different worlds.
Dania and Lucinda stood there in shock. A horse rode up.
"Hi everyone. Where are Aran and Susanna?" asked Niko.
Lucinda explained. Niko was shocked.
"How are we going to get them back?" asked Dania.
"From the Underworld? I don't quite know"
Avalon Publication (September 2000)