Where Paths Meet Their Ends And Beginnings

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As the haze of morning's first light began to stretch through the porcelain sky, there was nothing but eerie silence to greet it. An unnatural
stillness hung thickly in the atmosphere, contested by not even the coastal waters as they lay frozen below. The fog, so natural for this time
of day, was now curiously missing.

No wind, no breeze, no whispers or bird calls could be heard for miles. The silence was impenetrable, the feeling of emptiness
unimaginable. Not since the birth of the world had everything seemed so lifeless.

Upon the blood-soaked rocks of the coast, there laid four bodies frozen in the pull of death. One was black, marked by the purple hue of a
Magic, with his perfect black wings flared out around him in a mess of feathers. His fur was caked with blood, but there were no wounds or
scabbed over cuts anywhere on his still form. He had been healed, and one look to the other three would show that they had - likewise -
been healed from their previous wounds. If it wasn't for the appearance of being dead, one would figure them perfectly healthy Raveens.

Nearby two Raveens stood idle, just watching the four with a mixture of regret and worry. Morning had arrived fully, and yet still no signs of
life came from the fallen. Like the Demons who had been turned to ash; there didn't seem hope for them to awaken again.

"You've done all you can." Commented a black and red Raveen, whose silver eyes kept a careful watch over the four. "Now all that can be
done is to wait and see."

The other Raveen, a dark teal with silver eyes and silver makings upon his front legs that glowed with an eerie touch of crimson, only
nodded in response. A coastal breeze at long last broke the alien calm of the coast, blowing past the six Raveens and ruffling one silver
and one dusty blue mane in the process.

"They'll wake up. They will."

Two sets of silver eyes met for the first time in over an hour, and the dark teal Raveen once more nodded. "Give them time." The words
echoed, but not to the same effect as they may have the night before.

It was the mostly ebony Raveen's turn to nod as the two once more fell in to an uncomfortable silence. Up until last night both had always
considered the other an enemy. The fact that they had come together after the explosive power of the failed sacrifice was still so... so...
Well. Neither could accept it as reality just yet.

Another hour passed before Zouu spoke again. "The sacrifice did fail..?"

An uneasy nod was the only response.

"So why are they still..?"

A silent shrug.

"It's been hours.."

Another nod.

"Are you sure?"

"Yes."

"Then why-"

"Give them time."

And once more the two fell to the once-comfort of silence. Zouu had opened his mouth to speak many times after that, but always failed to
voice another question on when they would awaken. After two more hours, the Doomcry was somewhat surprised when the ex-Neophyte
had initiated conversation.

"Thank-you, for last night." The Raveen said uneasily, his voice wavering between normal and eerie-echo.

"You're the one who stopped the sacrifice. There's no need to-"

"Yes, there is. Had you not arrived She would have killed me."

"I wouldn't be so hasty to assume such a thing. She was pretty pissed off about what happened, even left right away to assess the damage
done."

"But the Mage remained."

"Yes, Shura was still around, but I don't believe she was intending to kill you. You're one of the last Neophytes, She can't afford to lose
you, even if Her control of you has been lost."

"Perhaps."

"I doubt anything otherwise."

"I would still have fallen by some other means. Your aid was appreciated."

"Alright, alright. You're welcome." Zouu said, slightly exasperated. "Now, how about we talk about something else? Like what happened?"

"The sacrifice wasn't stopped far from completion."

"Yes, I gathered as much from the explosion and searing pain that rippled through our world."

The dark Raveen frowned. "I am sorry-"

"Enough of that. You're a Neophyte, you're supposed to have outrageous suicidal tendencies that the rest of us frown upon."

"Sorry."

"Don't apologize."

"Sorry."

"I said not to do that."

"Sor-"

"Back to the sacrifice. What did it do?" Zouu quickly interrupted.

"I can't tell exactly. It did something, it removed something from this world."

"Was it the Shades?"

"No. It was something unintentional."

"But you don't know what."

"Precisely."

"Well." Zouu drawled, his silver eyes lifting to the horizon. "It is something we will have to find out."

And at long last, the inevitable silence fell between them yet again. This time, however, it was accompanied by the feeling of unease toward
all the possibilities of the harm that could have been to their world. If the Shades weren't gone, but something had definitely been forced
out, what had that something been?

"..They're waking up now."

Zouu tore his gaze from the skyline, and nodded silently as he noticed Sen and Uunagari beginning to stir. He let out a deep breath of
relief at seeing that they were - in fact - not dead. Tarvuulf began to stir next, and lastly Reaper followed. As the Doomcry looked upon his
nemesis, his Hunter, he could only frown. When Reaper saw him, he was sure to attack first and not allow for an explanation of the things
that had happened.

He would later grow to appreciate the weakness the four felt from being failed sacrifices when Reaper did in fact try to attack him.

The explanation of the events leading up to last night were accepted more readily by Tarvuulf and Sen, who had already been told of the
truths of Louunza's demise. Uunagari had taken it as well as could be expected by someone still recovering from a near-death experience.
Reaper hadn't accused the Doomcry of lying about not being his Brother killer, and tried once again to attack.

Zouu, always quick on his feet - even when still aching from last night's explosive energies - was able to dodge the Hunter, and side-swipe
with his long claws. They raked across the Hunter's fur, spilling fresh trails of blood down an already blood-covered side. "Should I remind
you how my claws work, Reaper? Acidic touch, remember?"

Reaper had in fact remembered, but the simple reminder had done it's job. The sizzling flesh of the new wounds proved their point. Zouu
could not have killed any of the 'Raveen-Demons', for the marks in the skulls hadn't been burned. The Hunter fell silent long enough for
the Doomcry to tell of the masked servants who Neiarishta had lost control of several months earlier. He informed the group of how they
had been hunting down and killing all of the Demons who were able to devour and capture souls.

Sen had asked why, to which Zouu had responded with; "I came here to find out that exact answer. All I can come up with is the Shades
want them out of the way. For what purpose... There is no answer I can offer."

Uunagari had, once this explanation was over with, asked about the Neophyte still near them. The Doomcry could only smirk slightly at the
reaction of everyone except Sen as he told them about the Neophyte's last-minute pullout from the sacrifice. It seemed the Neophyte had
even been responsible for healing them. They were grateful for this, but when they offered their Thanks the dark Raveen had simply
nodded.

Everything was calm until the group began their trek back to the sanctuary of Morgalis' group. Reaper had finally come to the conclusion
that Zouu was accusing his dead Brother of having been a Demon. The Hunter was lucky when the Doomcry had teleported out of the area
instead of indulging in the Hunter's desire to fight.

Reaper swore that the next time they met, they would settle this matter. For his Brother was never, would never, nor ever have been, a
Demon.

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

When the group, still accompanied by the Neophyte, had finally returned to the site of the cavern's entrance, they were greeted by an
injured Xauutyn and a near-death Ash.

"What happened?!" Uunagari was the first to speak, while Tarvuulf silently observed the wounded duo.

Xauutyn grimaced at the bleach Raveen. "Kiya. Tha's wha happened."

Sen's ears flicked immediately forward at the mention of Kiya. He had been looking forward to seeing the Raveeness again, finding comfort
in the idea of spending more time with her. "What do you mean Kiya?"

"She just went crazy." The Ash piped up, while nursing a deep gash on his left paw. "We got back from our hunt, and went down there. It
smelt a lot like someone went a bit overboard with their meal, like too much blood and all. Kruul went down first, and Xau and me heard him
shouting at someone. Something about murder, or something like that. Next thing we knew, Kiya came running out of the cavern, covered
in fresh blood and actually using those weapons of hers. She attacked us without reason, screaming something about us being Demons...
It was all pretty strange."

Xau nodded before adding his bit. "Ay, she just snapped."

"She was pretty sloppy with her blade, too. Managed to cut us up a few times before something scared her off." The Ash frowned
thoughtfully. "We went down after she was gone to see what all the fuss was about. Kruul was dead, Kiya probably killed him in her little fit.
There was so much blood down there.. And then Hatuu and Ruurak's bodies surrounded by the remains of the others. It was like a scene
out of a nightmare."

Tarvuulf slipped around the two Raveens and slowly made his way down the cavern.

Sen was speechless, at a complete loss of what to even think about all of this. Kiya had killed someone? Everyone else was dead? Kiya
had been afraid of something? Demons? It wasn't making immediate sense for the Guardian.

So lost in thought, the Guardian didn't even notice when Tarvuulf re-emerged from the cavern several minutes later. The bleached Raveen
was looking slightly more pale. "It looks as if we had two more in our ranks."

"Two more what?" Reaper asked, brow rising.

"Demons."

Sen blinked back to the current world, and frowned deeply. "It's almost as if everyone one of you could have been a Demon.."

"Ya know, ya sound a lot like Kiya when ya say that." Xauutyn said, sending a look at the Ash who had been with him when the others
arrived. "Don't he?"

"Yeah. Except she thought we were Demons, and she was screaming something about Morgalis knowing something the whole time."

"What of Morgalis?" Tarvuulf spoke up again.

The Ash shrugged heavily. "Dead probably. I'm sure you noticed - there's not much of anything left in there to tell who's dead, and who
isn't."

Sen was turning to leave when Uunagari had moved up beside him. "Going to look for Kiya?"

"Yes." The Guardian replied with a nod.

"I'll help you."

The search would last two weeks before both Uunagari and Sen knew they couldn't keep looking. Sen had Guardians to find, Uunagari had
matters to attend to. With great reluctance the two had stopped their search for Kiya, never knowing what had become of the bleached
Raveeness both had been fond of.

Sen could only offer a farewell to the silent night sky as he left the South with a heavy heart.

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

One month later would find the Guardian finally able to return home. During that time he had only found one new Guardian - Areia. She
would take over Shantera's place as Guardian of the East Gate, and as a Mage she was more than qualified for the position. She had
been initiated in to the rank of Guardian already, and Sen was taking her back to the Valley of the Guardians.

It had been over two months since he was last here, and he felt the familiar grip of dread as his thoughts once more turned to Kantuur.
Would his comrade be dead now? Would Ceilara still be there if Kantuur had passed on, or would the Moon have ended her own life? It
was with great fear that the Guardian found himself entering the cave the Star Kat had once called home.

Areia followed, her silver eyes scanning over the areas she passed by. Unlike Sen, this was her first time here and she wished to take in
every detail.

"Ceilara?" Sen called out tentatively, hoping that the Moon Raveeness would still be around even if Kantuur was not. Nothing but silence
greets him at first, so he calls out again, this time louder. "Ceilara?"

At first it is just the sound of something moving in the distant darkness. It is so faint that at first Sen believes it to be nothing more than a
rodent, or an insect, scurrying about the dusty floor of the cave. His conclusion is shown to be a false one, however, when the shadows
come alive with movement.

Gradually the form of Ceilara forms before him, and the Guardian can't help but smile at his old friend. "Ceilara."

"You're back." The Moon offers a wide grin as she steps closer. "Oh, Sen, I have wonderful news!"

"News?" Sen was still smiling, but he had the grace to raise one brow in a show of curiosity.

"It's Kantuur. He's recovered."

Sen's smile only grew until it was a full-out grin, and he couldn't help that happiness that danced through his lilac eyes. Kantuur was going
to be alright. Kantuur hadn't died. "That is wonderful news, Ceilara."

"It had better be." A familiar voice was all it took for Sen to glance away from the Moon and meet the silver eyes of his fellow Guardian. "I'd
hate for it to be horrible news."

"Kantuur!"

"It's good to see you again Senbotsuusha. It's been too long." The Star Kat offered a grin to the South Gate Guardian, before noticing
Ariea. "Who's this?

Ceilara nearly stumbled back in shock as she noticed the female Mage for the first time. She offered an apologetic smile before speaking.
"Hello."

"Greetings." The Mage bowed her head respectively, "I am Areia."

"She is to be the East Gate Guardian from now on." Sen explained. "I was unable to find anyone for the North Gate."

"It's a pleasure, Areia." Ceilara smiled gently. "I am Ceilara, and you no doubt already know my mate, Kantuur."

Kantuur grinned at his comrade, his silver eyes gleaming with something Sen could only describe as amusement.

"What is it?" Sen asked.

"You needn't worry about the North Gate, my friend. While you were gone I already found someone worthy of taking over Tsuuku's Gate."

"Who?"

"Here - you can meet him for yourself." Kantuur turned to glance over his shoulder as he motioned for someone to move forward.

What Sen saw next was shocking enough to make the Magic's grin die instantly. There emerging from the shadows behind Kantuur was the
last Raveen Sen thought he'd ever see again. The last Raveen he ever wanted to see again.

Morgalis.
.The Downward Spiral.