The Hollowness Of Pain

-

"Uunnngghh..." Pain came flooding back to him as the conscious world pulled him back. Like a fish caught in a painful hook, any movement
or attempt to avoid the inevitable only resulted in the pain being doubled. His head swam with dizziness, and as his eyes gingerly opened
to the world it only doubled in it's force.

A heavy throb in his neck and shoulders brought back the memories of the day. Demons had attacked them, unceremoniously catching
them off guard as they thundered toward their would-be victims. They hadn't had time to evade them, and the attacks they used on the
oncoming force seemed to gain minimal damage. There was a lot of blood. A lot of snapping as bones were crushed, shattered, and
broken in two.

Shouts of pain, screams of panic. His own shout of surprise as a pair of jagged hooves had dug in to his back was cut short as another
pair slammed in to the side of his face - shattering his jaws as the bones broke and cut through his other cheek. The world had gone black
after that, only knowing the taste of blood as his senses fell in to oblivion.

His jaw was oddly numb. He could tell it was still broken, he could feel the swelling around his right eye and even see the bones sticking out
of his left cheek. But that jaw itself, in all of it's pieces of jagged bone and shredded muscle, was emitting no pain. It was a weird sensation
to know that you should be in a lot more pain, but weren't.

Slowly his paws moved forward, sliding against the cold rock underneath. His shoulders cried out in protest, and the Raveen gurgled a
groan of frustration. There was too much pain. He wouldn't be able to stand.

Drawing his paw back, he rolls slightly on to his side to allow the coolness of the rock to ease his sore wound. In the attack he had been
rendered unconscious before he could assess the full damage done to him. It felt like his shoulders had been torn in to, with the muscles
twisted and ripped from his body. There was a hollow patch where flesh should of been, and an acidic lick to the exposed flesh around the
area. It was almost as if something had clawed it's way out of his flesh instead of into it.

For a fleeting moment he wondered if this was what a rat felt like as it's predator dug in to it's flesh as it was still clinging to life.

His eyes threatened to shut as blissful cold began to seep through his throbbing side. The soothing release from the pain was comforting
enough to make him forget how he had been wounded in the first place.

At least for a moment.

With a start his blue eyes flared opened. A gurgle of surprise erupted from his throat as he glanced about the area, desperately searching
for his comrades. What he saw made his pain-ridden blood run cold.

He was completely surrounded by Demons and hooded Raveens. They were milling about the area, glowing red crystals around each of
their necks. The summoners were adding last-minute fixes to something written on the rocks, dragging their blood-coated paws over the
rock surface in various patterns. Demons were looking at him with a mixture of amusement and hunger - with the latter being more
prominent among the thinner of them.

Uunagari nearly choked as he gulped nervously. Coagulated blood was lodged in his throat, thickly oozing down from his mangled jaw. He
was in the enemy's territory, and completely defenseless in his current state.

His head rolls back, and the Raveen glances around his immediate area. A painful sigh of relief threatens to escape as his blue eyes focus
upon the still forms beside him.

He wasn't alone.
Thank Nilerna, he wasn't alone.


...*...*...*...

Reaper had awoken much the same way. At first he had only been aware of pain as it rushed through his every being. He grunted in agony
as he dragged his broken left leg forward, his emerald green eyes skimming over the exposed bone and still-bleeding wound. His chance
at escape had been foiled when one of those equine-Demons telekinetically threw him back in to the Demons approaching from behind.

He had tried to free himself from the hold, but just as he was able to twist his body around he found himself caught by the Demons. His
chest was impaled upon a set of hooves, while his left leg was split in two as another Demon came down upon him. The pain had forced
him to abandon all dignity as he screamed out.

Behind him he could hear the cries of the others as they met similar fates.

Part of him wanted to look back and see what was happening to them, but the other more wiser part of him kept his attention fully on his
own attackers. He had tried to throw off one of them with telekinesis, but the attack had no effect.

Electricity seemingly appeared out of nowhere, and the cries of pain were no longer just his own as the Demons attacking him began to
twist away from him. They screeched in both surprise and anger as their bodies twitched of their own accord, and one by one they fell to
the ground. Reaper had already hit the dirt with a loud thud, landing in his own blood.

He rolled on to his side, ignoring the hiss of pain that streaked out of his gaping chest wound. That electricity hadn't been his own, which
meant only one thing. One of their group was trying to defend themselves - and with some success.

Green eyes fell on to the form of the other hunter, and Reaper felt adoration for the other's skills. He had been right in his earlier
assessment of Tarvuulf. He wasn't just a good hunter, he was a good fighter too.

The bleached Raveen was wounded, Reaper could easily tell that by the heavy coating of crimson across the other Raveen's back and
neck, but with the force of electricity and flames being thrown at the Demons.. He might just be able to survive this.

Reaper unsteadily lifted himself up, his good legs trembling from the pain while his broken one hung awkwardly from his side. An explosion
of blue brought his attention quickly to his left, where Sen was also making a stand against the Demons. Waves of magic were
overwhelming the area, forcing the Demons to back off.

In the moment of assumed calm Reaper took another look around, hoping to see a third Raveen holding it's ground. What he saw made
any of his renewed hope sizzle and die. Uunagari's form was a crumpled heap upon the clearing's dirt, and a second wave of Demons was
making their presence known as they galloped directly for him.

He only had enough time to glance off to the others, see both Sen and Tarvuulf overwhelmed, before he himself was reduced to a bloody
mass upon the clearing.

Reaper grimaced at the memory, remembering how weak he had felt when those Demons swarmed them. He hadn't stood a chance
against their number - none of them had. It was overkill.

His eyes sweep over the area, and he takes in the same sights Uunagari had just seen. His throat constricts in fear, and the Raveen
unconsciously pushes further away from the Demons.

There were so many.


...*...*...*...

There will be no escape for you, Guardian.

Shura's words echoed in his mind, mixing with the thunderous onslaught of hooves beating the ground. The Guardian twisted back at the
sight of the Demons, recognizing them for what they were - Minions of Neiarishta's Sacreds. Creatures that his Gate had been used to
bring back from the worlds they were trapped on.

He had hoped to never see them again, wanting nothing more than the chance to believe it all a nightmare. The knowledge that
somewhere The Great Evil had these enormous Demon Gods on the Ice Plains was terrifying. What was worse was not knowing when, and
how, The Great Evil was going to use them.

Two had been used in Thunder. A large Wolf God, and a crab-like one. Those wolves had been deadly, but during the fight their God had
been removed somehow. Sen heard rumors of the Void capturing the massive beast, and that had left his blood chilled for days. Heiroke
was bad enough on her own, but with a Demon God at her side.. The Void now had the means to strike the Inner Dimension again.

The other Demon God had lasted through the battle, only retreating when Yinali had appeared. Gruesome equines had been it's minions,
skilled in telekinesis and with hooves so sharp that flesh was cut with ease. The Demons now charging toward the unprepared group of
four.. They were the minions of this beast.

Sen only had enough time to recognize them for what they were before the Demons had reached him. Survival instincts kicked in a
half-second too late, costing the Guardian more than he was willing to give. His body was thrown back in to the advancing line of Demons.

Unlike Reaper, however, the Guardian was successfully able to counter-act the telekinesis as he forced his own body to fall to the ground.
He grunted out in pain at the force of the fall, but the sound was muffled by the roar of hoof beats. He only had a second before they would
be upon him.

Not willing to toss in the towel so soon, the Guardian had summoned a wave of energy to knock the Demons away. It had been powerful
enough to sever a few limbs from the enemy, but the damage wasn't enough to stop them trying to attack again. In a heartbeat the Magic
was back on his paws, magic crackling in the air around him as he pushed the advancing Demons back again.

Somewhere off to his right he heard the cry of one of their number. His lilac eyes darted over to the area, as blood was splattered in to the
air. Someone had just been overrun by the arrival of more Demons. He couldn't tell who.

Another blast of energy, and yet again the Demons were thrown back. Sen knew he wouldn't be able to keep this up much longer. Sooner
or later the Demons would get close enough to attack, or they'd try again with telekinesis. He'd use a more offensive attack upon the
group, but there were too many. He'd be unprotected from over half the group if he tried to kill them.

The electricity raging in the area behind him suddenly caught his attention as an explosion sounded through the area. Tarvuulf's own
shout of surprise was cut short by the sound of trees being snapped in two.

Sen didn't have to look back to know what had just happened. The Demons had no doubt flung the bleached Raveen in to the trees with
enough force to kill. "Damn it!"

He was alone now.


...*...*...*...

After being knocked to the ground by the Demons, Tarvuulf knew that his opponents were not to be taken lightly. They were not the
mindless killers he had crossed in the South before. Nor were they the Demons that had tried to kill him last night. These Demons were
completely different.

More savage. More powerful. More deadly.

The bleached Raveen didn't need to be told twice how much of a mistake it would be to try and run from this. There was no escape, for the
Demons were coming from all directions. Taking a deep, but rushed, breath the Raveen quickly takes in his surroundings. A quick count of
the enemy's numbers, and Tarvuulf knows exactly what to do.

A wave of blue electricity tears forth, ripping through and around the Demons within his sight. Their shrieks of anger only serve to make
the electricity's force more intense, and Tarvuulf watches with mute satisfaction as they fall to the ground, writhing in pain.

Another strike from telekinesis alerts the bleached Raveen to the recovering Demons off to his left. He turns towards them as he's thrown
back, an explosion of flame sent hurtling toward them. As the telekinesis drops it's hold on him, he quickly sends another wave of electricity
in to the group of Demons.

He doesn't even hear the shouts of the others as they're overrun.

He would only realize later that not paying attention to his comrades is what would cost him. The second wave of Demons isn't even seen
until they appear behind him, and teeth tear in to the back of his neck. The Raveen growls in surprise as he twists around, pulling away
from his attacker. An explosion of electricity is all he manages before a violent wave of telekinesis throws him back.

When he hits the first tree he shouts out in agony.

When he hits the second he's already unconscious.


...*...*...*...

"Where is Morgalis?" Kiya nearly shouted in surprise as she turned to notice her Brother missing.

For the last half hour she had been helping Xauutyn deal with his other wounds from the previous night. Once that was done, the
Purgatory Raveen had left the sanctuary with the help of an Ash and Death as they left for a late-morning hunt. Having already eaten, Kiya
had no need to join them.

Now as her eyes skimmed over the quiet cavern Kiya could only feel numb surprise at the vacant rock Morgalis had been perched on for
hours. After all that time of just sitting there, impersonating the dead, he had just up and left without a word to anyone. No one had even
seen him leave, nor noticed his absence until Kiya pointed it out to them.

Feeling a growing sense of unease, the bleached Raveeness darted for the cavern entrance. She glanced back over her shoulder,
exchanging a look with the Smoke, as she did so. Hatuu fell in to step behind her, and the two climbed up the cavern's inclined entrance.

Once in the forest, Hatuu raised a brow at Kiya. "What's this about?"

"Has anyone told you about last night?" She cautiously asked, after peering around the area to make sure no one was within ear-shot of
the two. "About what really happened to us?"

Hatuu looked confused for a moment. "About what really.." He paused as realization flashed through his eyes, and he clued in. "Yes.
Ruurak told me this morning, but I still can't believe what he had said. The Doomcry really saved you from the Demons?"

Kiya nodded briskly. "He did."

"And from what Ruurak said... You guys believed him when he said everyone that had died was really-"

"We saw their bodies." Kiya interrupted. "That's why we were so late getting back."

"He also said Morgalis knew."

"He did. I'm sure of it, all of this time he's known. I think he was counting on it happening."

"What do you mean - counting on it happening?" Hatuu's brow was raised once again.

"This is going to be hard to explain.." Kiya trailed off for a moment, trying to decide how to word this exactly. "I think my Brother chose them
for the reason that they were what they were. He was.. I think he was planning on all of this happening."

Disbelief danced across the Smoke's features as the wind gently caressed his silver mane. "That's impossible. He couldn't possibly have
known all of this would come to pass."

"I know how it sounds, but you were one of the first to join this group. Do you remember how Morgalis approached you out of the blue,
asked you join his cause, and then asked many others the same thing - the whole time not once being turned down in his offer? He knew
you were going to accept. Somehow he just knew."

Hatuu frowned at that. "It was kind of unusual the way he asked me to join. His wording.. the way he spoke to me. It was as if he knew
exactly what I needed to hear. But what does this have to do with the others?"

"Louunza. He was picked by Morgalis, specifically. Just like everyone else was."

"And? He could have been changed after that."

"But he wasn't. He was always-"

"You mean to say he was chosen because-"

"Yes. That is exactly what I mean! I think my Brother chose him to die later on-"

"That's ridiculous. It would mean Morg was crafting the future-"

"Maybe that's exactly what he was doing-"

"No one would do that! Seers would never-"

"Wouldn't they? If they could see the future perfectly, see every choice before it was made and what events would follow-"

"That's complete madness, Kiya. You're accusing Morg of having been behind of all this."

"No, I'm just accusing him of having known all of this time that the Doomcry is not our enemy."

"And that he knew about the others?"

"Yes."

"I don't believe this. Your conspiracy theory against Morg is so-"

"Farfetched. I know. But think about it Hatuu, I mean really think about it. Of all of the things that have happened to us since we came to
the South - have you ever seen Morgalis truly surprised or angry? He's never been surprised. He's never been angry. He's always been-"

"Calmly indifferent."

"Do you know anyone who would be like that after losing half our group to the Demons the first week we were here?"

"Tarvuulf-"

"Tarvuulf wasn't calm at all when that happened. He killed a Raveen the next day for Nilerna's Sake! That is not calm at all."

"Alright. You have a point there. Morg doesn't have a heart."

"That's not what I mean!"

"Then what do you mean? Are you trying to tell me that Morg is our real enemy here?"

Kiya's face darkened suddenly, and she nodded sharply. "He is the puppet master behind all that has happened. I'm sure of it."

"Sure enough that you're willing to risk your life to tell me about it?"

"You owe Morgalis nothing, Hatuu. And I've always been able to trust you."

"That doesn't mean I have to believe any of this."

"But a part of you does. Admit it, you're feeling just as much doubt toward Morgalis as the rest of us are."

"Even if a small part of me did, I'm not going to jump to conclusions. I need proof, Kiya. I don't work with theories."

Kiya's acute senses picked up the smell of fresh blood originating from the cavern entrance. She narrowed her eyes and side-glanced to
the supposed safe haven. "If I had proof that Morgalis was not to be trusted.. would you believe me then?"

"I might."

"Then trust me when I tell you, everyone down in that cavern is now dead."

"What?!"

"..And Morgalis knew it was going to happen. That's why he left."

"How you could you-" Hatuu stopped suddenly, his nose now picking up the blood as well. It was too strong to just be someone's dead
prey, and it was filled with the unmistakable scent of Raveen. "There is.. He wouldn't have.."

"You know that water in our cavern? I think it lets him see in to the future. That's why he's always staring in to." Kiya began creeping toward
the cavern entrance. "The fact he left so suddenly, and no one saw him leave... I knew something like this was going to happen."

"How?" Hatuu was slowly advancing on the entrance as well.

"Morgalis is afraid of death. If there's a chance he'll die - he runs."

The two began their descent back in the cavern, neither aware of the raw amount of carnage they were about to see.

...*...*...*...

Ah. You're finally awake. I was getting worried, beginning to think you would just sleep until your death. Glad I won't be disappointed. Shura
leaned forward from her position just outside the circle of blood. The four Raveens - Reaper, Uunagari, Tarvuulf, and Sen - were now all
conscious. It's so much more fulfilling when you actually know what's happening.

Uunagari glared in response, unable to do anything more than gurgle a response through his shattered jaw. Reaper mirrored the action,
only because to speak would cause unnecessary pain in his already damaged chest. Tarvuulf had just awakened a few minutes ago, and
wasn't yet recovered from the shock of pain that consciousness brought with it. Not to mention, he couldn't even move. Sen was sprawled
on his side, a gaping wound along his left side where his wing had been torn clean off.

The Guardian was glaring at Shura through shuddered breaths. "Damn you Shura. Damn you."

Amusement flooded to the front seat of the Corrupted Mage's eyes as she beamed at the Guardian.
Nice little trap I set, wasn't it? Even if
you were expecting betrayal on my part, you were too weak to fight back for long. It was exhilarating watching all of you out there,
attempting to fight for your lives and freedom.

Sen just gritted his teeth in response.

I suppose you wish to know why you aren't dead yet? She was smirking in to her mask, yet again. You're about to partake in one of the
greatest of rituals to be attempted in years.

Shura watched as realization flashed through four sets of eyes, and her smirk widened in to a grin. Yes, that's right. You get the absolute
pleasure of being the sacrifices. Such an honor, isn't it?

By Midnight tonight.. All of you will be but a memory.
.The Downward Spiral.