Kelne had split up with End, intending to meet him at their destination. While Kelne could walk the streets relatively openly, End was a tad more conspicuous, but he'd been avoiding the Doman Guard for years, and had his own little ways to move about the city unobserved.
For his part, Kelne spent the trip plotting, brooding and feeling an annoying sense of impending doom. He had the impression he was being watched.
Still, he reached his destination without incident, finding End loitering in an alley to one side of the building. Like so many in Doma these days, it was boarded up and abandoned. Still, the name was clearly visible above the main door. "Meph's Joke Shop".
Run by a talking cat, this store was ground zero for all manner of magical trickery. And it was here that Kelne's need for a convincing disguise had brought him. Of course, there wasn't really anything that would turn someone into a demon in there as far as he knew, but he had a good idea what could be modified with sufficient effort.
Breaking in wasn't all that difficult. Almost suspiciously easy, in point of fact. Well, it wasn't like he had a better plan, so he'd just have to chance it.
First things first, put a large bag of money behind the counter where it would be found. This attracted End's attention.
"Kelne, you said there'd be looting. How can it be looting if we pay?"
"Do you want this guy after you? I've got enough enemies to deal with as it is."
"Anyway, see if you can find some interesting stuff. Distractions, disguises, that sort of thing." So saying, Kelne scooped up a handful of rings from a particular spot on the shelves. After a moment's consideration an amulet followed.
End, meanwhile, had encountered a box of leaves and picked one up. "Says here 'adhere'", he said. The leaf promptly stuck to his hand. Considerable effort failed to find a way to dislodge it, and resulted in a small amount of snickering from Kelne.
Still, he did pick up the box. He had a plan for those leaves... The final item was a box of coins. End, still trying to get the leaf off, didn't contribute anything further.
"I think we're done here," Kelne said, exiting once more. End followed, seeming a bit disappointed that the looting hadn't been everything he'd expected.
Once outside, Kelne slipped one of the rings onto his finger, instantly gaining a coat of light blond fur. This seemed to surprise him, and he removed the ring.
For about five seconds, he was back to normal, then the fur returned. Glaring at End as if to dare him to make something of it, he nodded his farewell and headed off down the street.
When, five minutes later, the fur was still there, he began to look somewhat more worried. It took him a few moments to realise the ring was back on his finger.
It was at about this point that Kelne began to understand the insidious nature of Meph's trap. People could steal his stuff, but they'd be forced to suffer the effects of it.
Considerable swearing marked Kelne's passage as he continued onwards, making another effort to remove the ring. It didn't take him long to work out that he'd just put it right back on again afterwards.
A distinct cloud of annoyance and barely contained fury now surrounded him. It figured. Heaven forefend he might actually get away with something. Godsdamnit, he'd paid for the infernal stuff! And furthermore...
"Will you stop that bloody drooling?!" He snapped, rounding on a woman who'd been following him for the past couple of blocks. This seemed to have no impact on the look of blissful happiness on her face.
Fuming, Kelne stalked off, leaving an extremely happy mazokou to follow in his wake.
It had been an eventful few days. The myriad parts of his plan were in place, revised due to circumstances, and ready to go. Today found Kelne on the roof of the museum once more, contemplating the city as he went over his plan, trying to pick apart any flaws.
Malachias, the sadistic bastard, had complicated matters somewhat. After all, leaving the children in demon hands while they killed the pit lord left them open to retribution. Griff and End hadn't liked it when he'd informed them they would be running the rescue operation, but somebody had to do it, and Kelne had made it abundantly clear that the alternative was him.
Griff had actually been angry enough to say 'good luck, then,' before he worked out that Kelne's presence was integral to the plan to finish Malachias. With considerable grumbling, he had eventually acquiesced.
Kelne hadn't revealed the second part of his reasoning behind the decision, though. Put simply, he didn't have an exit strategy. Moronic Malachias might be, with his announcement that he was going to destroy everyone on the planet, but he was sitting in the middle of Doma Castle, whose inbuilt security was formidable. If everything went horribly wrong, Kelne didn't want Malachias getting both himself and the leader of the resistance in one stroke.
There had to be a way out, but he was damned if he could see it.
Kelne's musings were interrupted by a loud rumbling, followed by the giant image of Malachias appearing in the sky above the city. Wonderful. Another one of those annoying bloody speeches. Who would Malachias be declaring war on today? Loracia? Ayenee?
Malachias looked annoyed, pacing back and forth. Then again, he always looked annoyed. For some reason, he insisted on announcing his setbacks to the entire country and vowing horrible revenge.
"Alas, it was destined. I still have my main troops, so it's alright. However...you seem to have forgotten something." The pit lord waved to the side, where a group of children were bound.
Kelne went very still, icy rage gripping his heart as he sensed what was coming next.
Giving a long pause to let everyone watching draw their conclusions, Malachias drew his sword. "It is time. There are some people I wish to talk to. It appears killing them isn't good enough." If there was one thing Kelne had learned over the years, it was that nobody seemed to stay dead. Why should Malachias think his enemies were any different?
"If the ones known as Jak Snide, Hakaril Silvar, Rai'm Tymminson, and... Ara du-Mythril do not come to my castle...there will be hell to pay. And just to show I'm not joking..." He sliced the arm off one of the kids.
The rest of the speech registered only vaguely on Kelne, though he would force himself to recall the exact words later. The image of the child's dismemberment, however, seared itself into his very soul. There would be a reckoning for this, and for every other death he caused before Kelne could get to him.
"No remorse." The image faded.
Like it or not, he was going to take a few minutes to get his emotions under control. Effective or not, horriffic or not, he was not going to let such a piece of blatant theatrics cloud his judgement.
His inner struggle was interrupted rather abruptly by a massive discharge of raw magic. Ordinarily, his astral senses were limited to things he could touch, but on this occasion, even he could sense the sheer power at work.
Doma castle vanished in white light.
Looking into that white hell would have likely damaged his eyes, but the instant it faded, he was staring at the aftermath. Though the shockwave threatened to knock him off his feet, and dust filled the air, still he watched. All his plans seemed to have gone up in smoke, and he was still too shocked to even feel incredibly happy about it.
Half the castle was gone, reduced to shattered piles of rubble, still visibly glowing with residual heat.
"WHO DID THAT?!" It seemed, more was the pity, that Malachias had actually survived the blast. Though he looked decidedly the worse for wear.
"I regret to inform you that I survived. However, those children I had in my castle... Well, they ended up being nice shields. Alas, also... General Ungrak gave his life to protect mine. Let us have a moment of silence." Another of those pauses of which he was so fond.
"I don't have any generals left. LUCKILY, I HAVE THIS!"
What 'this' might be, Kelne wasn't entirely sure. Malachias was certainly gesturing dramatically. Probably something was going on elsewhere, but from Kelne's perspective, he just looked faintly absurd.
The image faded out, this time for good.
You may not be seeing those people, Malachias, but you
will be seeing me.
His schemes were back in place. Adjusted, as always, to fit circumstances. Whoever had let loose that bolt of raw power might not have finished Malachias, but they had given him an exit strategy. <p>Centuries of threats of "I'll turn you all to stone!" and "I'll knock you all down!" have caused Domans to develop an instinct to form small groups. For safety, I assure you. â€“ Keir</p>Edited by: [url=http://p068.ezboard.com/brpgww60462.showUserPublicProfile?gid=kelne>Kelne</A] at: 10/10/06 19:57