Chapter IX

     "It's over here!" chirruped the smaller of the two travelers as it floated around the fallen body it had found the previous day on the mountain pass.
     "Let me see..." examined the larger one. "Why... this isn't like anything I've ever seen, and I've been in this business for well over a century. It almost seems... still alive!"
     "But clearly he's dead!" reasoned the smaller.
     "Yes, it's been here a while, yet... I'm not sure how to say this, but... it wasn't naturally slain. This creature appears to have had it's life simply drained out of it."
     "How do you account for that?"
     "I'm not sure, but I believe it's best for both of us if others don't learn about this." The larger of the travelers pulled out his knife and stabbed deeply into the lifeless, yet living body. It decayed rapidly before them.
     "Le... let's get out of here, sir!" suggested the smaller one, darting about overhead.
     "Yes..." replied the other, stepping back from the husk of a former bane before them. "I don't know what this is or what happened to it, but I want no part in it whatsoever!"
     The pair scurried back down the path, away from Aaron's corpse.

     Both the figure and the group of travelers waited for the other to speak first. Eventually, it was Tim who broke the silence by asking of Psycho, "Who is he?"
     "I was wondering much the same," replied his companion, staring sternly and motionlessly into the figure's eyes.
     "It would be more appropriate for the lot of you to introduce yourselves first," spoke the cloaked being. "After all, you are treading towards my domain."
     "But you are the one who interfered with our battle," spoke Psycho, remaining stern and almost forceful with the intimidating individual.
     "When your adversary stepped upon my ground, he became my adversary, regardless of your own skirmish." The figure moved not an inch as he conversed.
     "Are you, then, the supreme of those who surround the screen?" Inquired Psycho.
     "Yes. I am far superior to all those who fled from your battle against the winged one. They know better than all the previous and much more powerful second-bests who challenged my superiority and payed for it with their lives. And now, who are you five who come so close to deaths of your own?"
     "We come here not seeking to challenge your right of place among the warriors here," proclaimed Psycho. "We wish only to look upon the screen with the permission of the strongest."
     "I do not grant such permission," laughed the cloaked figure. "To step upon this platform is to challenge my right as the only bane worthy of its viewing. Of course, I invite you to do so if you dare attempt. Parties who seek only to view this screen without conflict never make it this far."
     Tim's mind was racing. They all knew this being was too powerful for them to take on leaving even one survivor from their group. This bane also appeared to be far too proud to cooperate with them. Could they attempt to subdue him? Tim dared not to say a word.
     "I wish to ask you how many times you have viewed the screen," continued Psycho.
     "I do so many times daily." replied the figure.
     "And what, if any, good does it bring you?"
     "I have learned much about human Earth, which I add to the knowledge I have of all events of this world. Some day, the answer to the question of escape will come to me."
     "You claim the knowledge of all events of this world?" repeated Drum Boy.
     "Yes," replied the figure. "I am one who was once among the Prophets before departing to seek escape elsewhere."
     "A Dark Prophet..." thought Psycho to himself. "I should have guessed."
     "And now I believe I understand who you are. You must be the group harboring the transgressor my worthless peers are all abuzz about. Those fools who send out weaklings to find him, for they see themselves as being far too superior to risk doing their own jobs. You, boy, you seek to view the screen because with your knowledge of Earth and your previous presence there, a way may open for you alone."
     Tim hesitated in the presence of the bane, but Drum Boy gave him a slight kick to draw him to his senses. "Yes. Yes, I wish to view the screen in order to find escape from here, should it be possible."
     "Oh, it is possible. Don't ever you doubt that. The single Builder passed through, and my former peer remains trapped within the device itself. It can be done, but more knowledge is needed. Tell me, transgressor, has such travel been developed on Earth? The images it presents to me are confusing at most."
     Tim didn't know what to answer. No human had ever created any form of slipgate, although it had been attempted by those ignorant of the necessary technology without success. At least, he knew for certain that no culture utilized one. "No," he replied, "Nothing like this has appeared on Earth to my knowledge." Tim suddenly recalled that his knowledge should be limited to that of a boy and not a god, which would make his responses easier to develop.
     "So much is displayed, so quickly and chaotically. It is no wonder he became trapped. But I must know how to enter. Even if I am to become trapped myself, I must take the risk. Transgressor," he addressed Tim, "denounce your strength to be inferior to mine before all who are present."
     "Huh?" Tim was shocked by the sudden change of discussion.
     Drum Boy whispered to him, "He may be allowing you alone to view the screen. He wants to keep his dignity."
     "Oh, I see. But if I go alone..."
     "If you succeed, he will pass through. We will run on through once he is gone. Hurry and do as he said!"
     Tim could not, though, for a thought had just occured to him which gripped his attention. Should he succeed in opening the gate, what would be the result? Hundreds of grotesquely powerful Banes would pour out into Earth and wreak havok in their jubilation. Destruction would ensue, and the gods... the gods would probably kill everyone in order to send away the Banes again. It would inevitably lead to the destruction of human Earth in one way or another.
     "I demand that you denounce your strength!" repeated the Dark Prophet.
     "I... I..."

[Chapter VIII] [Chapter X]
Last page update: 4-18-99