Susanna slowly sat up, feeling dazed. Her sword was lying on her feet. She picked it up,
and looked around. Aran was lying there, looking as though he had collapsed. She walked
over to him, and shook him. He groaned, and Susanna helped him sit up.
"Are you okay?"
Aran nodded. He looked around. "So this is where our friend lives. Lovely."
Susanna glanced at the place that they were in. They were in a room with no exits. It had
red walls, which seemed to throb. The floor was black granite, and very shiny. The ceiling
was an iron grille.
Aran frowned. He stood up shakily and looked at the ceiling.
"I think that there is probably an exit in that grille. If I lift you up, could you have a look?"
Aran lifted Susanna, and she looked at the grille. There was a line in it, but only a very
faint one. She felt a block of metal with her fingers, and realised that it was locked
magically. As Aran let her down, she whispered the information to him. She had good
reason to only whisper. Feet crashed across the grille, and two forms looked down into
"There they are, Master. Her and her boyfriend." muttered the Stranger.
"He isn't my boyfriend!"
"Don't bother, Susanna."
The strange man glared at Aran, and then smiled at Susanna. "I can see that, ArchDemon.
I am not blind. Is that the girl I asked for?"
The Stranger, called ArchDemon, nodded. "Yes it is, Master."
"Good. Right, go back to the Demon realms where you belong." The man clicked his
fingers and the ArchDemon disappeared.
"Well, my beauty, I will see you later." The strange man grinned and walked off. Susanna
stood there, staring at the wall. Aran glared out of the grille, but there was nothing there.
"Do you think that was the Black God?" asked Susanna.
Aran sat down, and buried his head in his hands. Susanna went over and asked him what
was wrong. He removed his hands, and looked at her.
"I don't want to lose you to some bloody God. I don't see why he can marry you without
even knowing you, and I??p;quot; he tailed off, and stared at the floor. Susanna had never seen
him so sad before.
He looked her, sadness in his eyes.
"I am definitely not going to get married to some jerk who thinks that kidnapping
someone is a good way of getting engaged. No way. Get it?" she said, forcing Aran to
look at her, "No Way. Okay?" she smiled. Aran smiled back.
Aran looked up at the grille. "Come on then."
"The lock must be sealed with magic, so how are we going to break it?"
"Easy - we melt it!"
Aran pointed at the lock, and blew. A jet of flame roared out of his finger and hit the lock.
The lock instantly melted, and a steady flow of molten metal dripped to the floor. Susanna
cooled the melted metal with a cool breeze. Then Aran hoisted Susanna out of the now
unlocked trapdoor. She got out, and pulled Aran after her. They closed the trapdoor
behind them, drew their swords, and hid in the shadows.
The scene around them was strange. It seemed to not need being held up. There were
huge pits of flame in the centre where souls were trapped. There were lots of floors, each
having large cells on them, and each containing a different method of punishment for the
souls inside them. The whole place shook with screams, and the black granite walls were
lit up with flaming red torches. These torches caused deep shadows, and they were hiding
in one of them.
Aran looked about and then shrunk back as a guard stepped by. He was somehow missing
a face and his hands were all grey and scabbed like corpses. Susanna held her breath as the
stench of rotten flesh invaded her nostrils. Once the guard had gone, she breathed again,
and this time breathed hot sooty air. Anything was better than that smell. She peered at
some signs on the wall behind them. Not understanding them, she knew that they had to
find a better hiding place before they were discovered.
They inched along a shadowy passage away from the main torture room until they came to
a junction. Which way? Aran pointed the way they had been going, and so Susanna, not
having any idea where to go at all, just followed Aran. Aran didn't dare tell her, but he had
no idea where he was going either.
This passage was darker. When they reached a torch set into the wall, Susanna took it.
They quietly walked along the passage, and then Aran stopped her. He pointed down.
Susanna looked, and realised that there was a pit in front of them. She looked down, and
stepped backwards quickly. Down there was another of the fire pits. The she shoved the
torch into the wall, and flattened herself and Aran against the wall. She held the torch
there as another guard walked past, leading a soul in ropes made of shadows. The soul
was flung into the pit with a laugh by the guard and a scream from the soul, and then the
guard stomped away. Susanna peered at the guard in time to see a symbol on his back. It
looked like the soul he had just flung into the pit. Susanna beckoned Aran to follow, and,
carefully stopping the torch from relighting itself again, they stealthily crept after the
guard. Susanna didn't know why, but she thought that the green picture on the back of the
guard's black and grey uniform was somehow significant.
They had to duck into the shadows when another guard walked past. Susanna peered at
their backs, and saw most of the others had more weaponry and had the picture of a spear
on their back. The guards they passed dragging souls all had a picture of a soul on their
Eventually they followed it to the entrance of a cavern. Aran and Susanna stood in the
shadows and watched what was going on in there. Souls were appearing through a gate
made of shadows and bright light. Each time a soul appeared a guard walked over and
bound it, and then walked down one of many passages that led away from the chamber.
They jumped as a large clanging started. All of the guards stopped what they were doing.
"I think they have realised that we have disappeared." Aran whispered nervously. The
guards were all striding away along different passages, and checking all of them as they
walked. Aran and Susanna flattened themselves in the darkest shadows possible and
hoped. After about ten minutes Susanna peered into the room again. No one was there.
She beckoned to Aran. They ran into the room. They were alone. They looked at the
shadowgate. It was starting to close. They looked at each other, nodded, and ran into it.
Sebastian, Dania, Lucinda and Niko had wandered into the kitchen. Niko was pacing
backwards and forwards, thinking. Sebastian was trying to think of ways to get Aran and
Susanna out of where they had gone, but he wasn't getting on very well. Lucinda and
Dania were speculating on whether Aran and Susanna would ever be seen again or not.
Niko stopped pacing the room. "I wish I knew where they were. I can't summon people
from the Underworld. I could if they were in other realms, but not if they were there."
"Well, what do you think actually happened then?" asked Dania.
"I think that the stranger person was the ArchDemon of the Black God. I also think that
that monster which you saw was in fact Cerberus the three-headed hound that guards the
Underworld. From what the ArchDemon said, I think that the Black God wants to marry
"WHAT?!" shouted Lucinda, standing up so quickly she knocked her chair to the floor.
Niko nodded sadly. "I am afraid that I would be very surprised if they got back here,
especially from the Underworld. The Underworld isn't a very friendly place. And Aran
being there without being taken??p;quot; Niko shuddered.
Everyone gulped and stared at nothing as they though about Aran and Susanna.
Aran and Susanna had walked through the shadowgate, and stopped. There was a large
queue of souls in front of it. There was also another queue further away from them that
led to another shadowgate, only this one looked slightly more colourful. They looked at
the floor. It wasn't a proper floor. It was a book. They noticed a long queue behind a
turnstile. The turnstile let one soul in at a time, and then a gate swung open indicating
where they had to go. If they didn't want to go then some unseen force took them to the
shadowgate they had to enter.
Aran and Susanna grabbed each other's hand so as not to get lost, and ploughed through
the mass of souls. As they got to the turnstile everything stopped. They felt as if they were
being stared at, and stood there uncomfortably.
A voice boomed, "You are not meant to be here. You are not dead. You will be
Susanna cringed as there was a blinding flash of pure white light. She gripped Aran's hand
"Where are we?"
"I don't know," came the answer.
"Have you opened your eyes yet?"
"Me neither. Should we?"
"I think so."
"We'd better not be back in the Underworld again!"
She felt a reassuring squeeze of her hand. "I don't think we are. If they had done that they
would have just thrust us back though the shadowgate."
"I see what you mean. Shall we open our eyes?"
"On the count of three. One????ee."
Susanna opened her eyes. The whole world around them sparkled. The sunlight on the
white marble blinded her until she looked away. She saw lots of gods and goddesses
lounging around. She looked at Aran. He seemed to be as astounded as her.
A figure all in gold armour with dark skin walked over to them. It was Mithros, the Sun
Lord. "What are you doing here, mortals?"
Susanna squeaked. The voice hurt her ears a bit, and she was scared. But Aran answered
"Susanna here was kidnapped by the Black God to be his wife, and I followed her into the
Underworld. We escaped through a shadowgate, and then we were summoned here."
Mithros looked at them both. "My brother eh? He shouldn't be going around kidnapping
mortals to get married to. He is meant to be marrying a goddess. But understandably," he
walked over and sat in on a polished stool, "no one particularly wants to live in the
Aran was about to speak when blood red fire erupted in front of Mithros. The Black God
appeared. He seemed to be even darker and suck in more light than Susanna remembered.
"Brother, I have lost two mortals which I own. Do you know where they are?"
"Yes, I believe I do. They are behind you."
The Black God wheeled round. "What are you two mortals doing here? Last time I looked
you were where you were meant to be - in my domain. You should still be there, not
bothering my relatives."
"Wait, Hades," said an older rose clad goddess, "I would like to know what these mortals
were doing in your kingdom anyway. They shouldn't be there in the first place."
The Black God sighed. "Why do you have to get mixed up in everything, Great Mother
"Because I happen to like mortals, and also I know for a fact that you don't. So why did
you want them to enter your realm?"
The Black God didn't answer. He glared at Susanna, and a wave of cold hit her. She
started shivering. Aran saw this and put his arm round her.
"What is it?"
"Its s-so c-c-c-cold!" she said, teeth chattering.
Aran took off his cloak and wrapped it around her. Then he looked round. The Black God
was having an argument with Mithros, The Great Mother Goddess and Poseidon, god of
the sea. Susanna sat down on the white marble floor; she had stopped shivering. Aran sat
down next to her.
At last Mithros stood up and walked over to the two mortals. "I have decided that I will
send you back to your own realm. I will try to put you as near to your home as possible,
but there is no guaranteeing that you will be right next to it.
Aran and Susanna stood up. Golden fire shimmered, scooping them up and carrying them
into a long tunnel. The tunnel winded and twisted, and at last they fell onto solid ground.
Aran sat up, gazing around him.
"Do you have any idea where we are?"
Susanna looked around. "Not really. This is much further west from my house. That's all I
Aran thought for a while. "I live further west than your house, and so??s, I think that
we are on the track to my house." He stood up. "Come on. It shouldn't be too far."
Susanna stood up. Remembering that she had Aran's cloak on, she took it off and handed
it to him.
"Thanks," he said, putting it on.
Niko was riding home. He was thinking about how to find Aran and Susanna. Suddenly he
remembered a spell.
He dismounted, and led his horse into the trees by the side of the road. He then sat on a
rock, and chanted some words. He pinched his fingers together in the air, and pulled.
Something tore. Niko pointed at the hole where colours seemed to be swirling into, and
said one word. There was a sucking noise, and a disc fell out of the air. It showed Aran
and Susanna trudging about a lane, shivering.
Niko looked surprised that he could actually see them. They were meant to be in the
Underworld weren't they? But they couldn't be, because he could see them due to the
spell. If they were in the Underworld then the spell wouldn't work. He looked closely at
the scenery. It was very familiar??lt;br>
Aran and Susanna trudged along a valley. Aran had remembered where they were; they
were close to his house. They walked along a path between some fields. They had ceased
talking a while back, and were very tired. As they came to a copse, Susanna gave up. She
sat down on a log in the shade, and sighed. "Can we just have a small rest? We've been
walking for a few hours without a single break."
Aran smiled. "Okay." He sat on the grass, and lay back, staring at the sky. "We are only a
mile or so from my house.
A red dot grew in the centre of the copse. It formed a gateway, and the ArchDemon
walked out. He held a glowing ruby in his right hand, and an ebony staff in his left. He
tapped the portal, and it closed behind him with a scream.
Susanna stood up and stretched. She couldn't lie down on the log, and so she walked onto
the grass and sat down there. Aran was snoring quietly; she didn't feel like waking him up.
She heard a noise. It sounded like a far off scream. Curious, she stood up, and listened.
Nothing. She walked into the copse, as it was where she had thought the scream had come
The ArchDemon slid into the cover of some trees. He could hear someone coming. He
hoped it was the girl. Master wanted her dead for revenge, and so she could come and live
in his domain forever. He gripped the ruby tighter. With this and his master's staff, he
could easily do battle. He listened carefully. He couldn't hear her friend. That was good.
No one to complicate things. No one to interfere.
Susanna strolled through the copse. She could see a clearing ahead. She hadn't heard any
more screams. She felt as if she was being watched, but there was no sign of anyone. She
looked around just to make sure. No, no one there. She shrugged and walked on towards
the clearing. It didn't feel right. Frowning, she looked around again. Nothing. Starting to
feel a bit nervous, she drew her sword and ran towards the safety of the clearing.
She flopped onto the grass, breathing quickly. She still felt as if she was being watched,
but she felt more secure now. It was very hard to approach unseen across the grass of the
clearing. She heard a twig snap behind her. She jumped up and whisked round. He was
standing there, a few metres away from her.
"Now why are you here?"
"I'm running another errand for my master."
"And what might that be? Collecting droppings to use as air fresheners in that hellhole
which he lives in?"
The ArchDemon laughed. "No, something more serious to do with you??p;quot;
Susanna groaned. "Let me guess what that might be!"
"I have to kill you." Then he grinned mirthlessly. "And I'm not sorry to have to do it!"
"I'd like to see you try."
Susanna stepped back and threw a magic arrow at him. He blocked it, and then threw
ropes out to get her. Susanna grabbed her pendant, and felt the pendant's magic add to her
own, already powerful, Gift. She closed her eyes and imagined a spindle unwinding the
ropes. She opened her eyes, and the ropes had gone. She quickly made a shield against
magic and threw silver fire towards the demon. It drifted past him, missing him by miles.
The demon clapped his hands and shouted a word of power. A crack opened in the
ground, and threatened to swallow Susanna. Susanna promptly summoned a wind that
kept her off the ground as she drifted across the gap. As soon as she landed on the other
side the wind vanished. The demon dodged a small whirlwind and sent a jet of flame
spiralling towards her. She felt slightly warm as the flame washed over and around her
bubble of white and silver magic. She summoned a gale that blew straight down from the
sky onto the demon. He fell to his knees, and then made himself a shield of flame. As the
wind died, the shield vanished. He stood up, and pointed the staff at her. With one word a
beam of red landed on the grass in front of her. The grass vanished in a puff of smoke.
Susanna backed away, shocked that it had gone through her magical shield, and banged
into a tree. She couldn't move any further.
"Got you now!" shouted the ArchDemon, smiling and showing all of his steel teeth.
"Think again!" she said in defiance, and put her sword blade between her and the beam.
When the beam hit the sword blade, it reflected back at the ArchDemon. He screamed,
dropped the staff and fell to the ground as the light ate into his flesh. Susanna ran over,
sword drawn, and grabbed the staff.
"NO!" he cried.
Susanna smiled evilly and brought her sword crashing down on it, intending to break it
and render it useless. The staff shattered with an explosion, the force of which threw
Susanna backwards. She hit her head on a rock, and the world went black.
Slowly the world came into focus. It stopped swimming in front of her eyes, and she saw
the demon standing over her, sword drawn. She felt the bite of cold steel on her neck, and
wished that she hadn't knocked herself out.
"You're as good as dead, missy."
Susanna looked up at her captor. She scowled.
"Any last requests before I leave your blood all over the grass of this clearing?"
"Yes, actually. As you are a demon, do you really look like that?"
Her captor shook his head. "Do you want to see what I really look like?"
"I would, yes."
Red light played over the ArchDemon. Slowly his skin started to melt away. His nose
lengthened, and his eyes got smaller. His teeth were the only things that stayed the same.
Susanna closed her eyes; this transformation was too horrific to watch. When she opened
them again, he was standing above her, looking triumphant.
He had red skin. It was the colour of hellfire, and it looked stretched. His eyes were two
tiny points of red fire, and his nose was long and sharp. His hair was short, black and
curly, and there were two steel horns poking out of it. He had cloven hooves on his back
feet and sharp steel claws on his front feet. From the waist down he was covered in goat
hair. Susanna hated the stench that came from him. It was the smell of blood and fear. She
gasped for cleaner air.
"Don't like it, eh?"
Susanna carefully shook her head. She didn't want to impale herself on that sword pressed
to her neck.
"Die, wind woman!"
Susanna closed her eyes, and heard a loud thump above her head. A stinking body landed
on hers. It was covered in sweat, and stank like a sewer. She retched at the smell as the
body was torn off her. She opened her eyes and saw a furious Aran attacking the demon.
She put her hand onto her neck and felt a cut across the side where the sword had gone.
She looked at her hand; it was covered in blood. She put her hand back onto her wound to
staunch the flow, and closed her eyes. This was a main artery; she had to heal it quickly.
She remembered the things she had been taught by a healer in Corus. She saw the wound
in her mind's eye, and forced the artery to knit back together. She healed the muscles and
the skin, and then quickly sat up and looked around
A red dot was slowly closing, and Aran was standing there staring at it and leaning on his
sword. She noted that he had got black blood all over its blade. The red dot vanished, yet
Aran still stood there staring at nothing. Susanna stood up.
He stood there.
"Aran? Are you okay?"
He slowly turned round. "It?? aren't dead?"
"Well, I ache too much to be dead." came the reply.
Aran ran over and put his arms round her. Susanna hers around his neck, and leant her
head on his shoulder, Aran pulled away.
"I'm glad you're alive." He said as their eyes met for one breathless moment. Then his lips
were on hers and his breath mingling with her own. One of his hands slid up into her hair,
thrusting her head towards his. His other hand was on her back, crushing her body against
Susanna was suddenly swamped with a wave of warmth and desire. She was completely
limp in his arms. Aran pulled away.
"No." she said, pulling him back towards her, and they kissed again. She could hear her
heart pounding like a drum inside her and her breath crashing in her lungs.
Soon they stopped, and Susanna put her head on his shoulder. Aran seemed content to
have his head on hers, eyes closed.
Niko dismounted and followed their tracks though the copse. He walked into the clearing,
to see Aran and Susanna in a tight embrace. He stood there, grinning.
Susanna saw him, and smiled. She let go of Aran, and walked over to Niko.
Susanna blushed as Aran came and stood beside her. A warm hand slipped into hers.
Niko continued. "What was it like in the Underworld?"
As Susanna and Aran told him their story, they all walked back to Niko's horse. Seeing
they didn't have any horses, Niko didn't mount his. He fitted the leading rein and walked
alongside the two lovers, listening to their descriptions of their fight with the ArchDemon.
Soon Aran's house came into sight over the brow of the hill. Susanna was glad of it. All
she wanted now was a long, unbroken sleep.