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Demon at the Gate

Capricious had named her world the "The Garden" of which Delphinium was the capital city. Freeja left Delphinium soon after her meeting with the Goddess. She packed the necessary supplies for her mission and left for the Gate of the Roses under cover of darkness. Freeja was given images of Perseus and Braxxus by one of Capricious' spies and she'd decided to intercept Perseus first. He was a comely lad and she felt his seduction and ultimate downfall would be enjoyable as well as entertaining.

Typically when Freeja quested for Capricious she was armed to her gleaming white teeth. On this occasion, due to the desire for anonymity she was forced to go lightly armed and thus she felt naked. A pair of her favorite daggers were holstered at the tops of her thigh high leather boots. A longer and wider blade was holstered across the small of her back and hidden under the long beige, hooded cloak she wore. Under her outer garment she'd donned a dull silver tunic which was made of a metal that the Goddess had blessed. It would turn just about any blade known to woman. She carried a long spear in her right hand, but this she intended to leave at the gate.

She'd traveled for three days upon leaving Delphinium. The first day was spent in a rusting old airboat which had seen better days. Being a warrior she was not given to complaint, but she would have preferred more comfortable transport. The airboat left her outside of Liatris, a small city on the southern continent. Here she purchased the remaining provisions for her trek and then headed out to the valley of the roses.

It is said that when the Goddess came to the Garden it was a dessert. Capricious planted her garden over thousands of years and the result was a world of astounding natural beauty. Freeja never ceased to marvel at the magnificence her Goddess had wrought. It was the protection of this splendor that drove her to quest for the Goddess.

As she strode across the bountiful garden her mind wandered and she began to reminisce. In her youth she'd actually hoped to be an artist not a warrior. Even now she was known to occasionally put pen to paper or brush to canvas. It was during her early instruction at the institute of the arts that she met a young man who stole her heart. Clark was a superman, tall, dark, with handsome chiseled features and a physique worthy of a mythic hero. His passion was sculpting and Freeja was his favorite model.

The more they created the more passionate they became about one another. Freeja's initial work centered on the flora of the garden, but it soon turned to portraits of Clark. One of her finest pieces was an oil painting of Freeja painting Clark's portrait while he sculpted a marble composition of her painting at an easel.

Time is a bastard. He steals life, love and happiness and sends it like dust to the winds. Freeja recalled as their time went by Clark's eyes started to wander. Eventually she found him with another. In a fit of rage she tried to kill him. She was no match for Clark's superior strength and he tossed her aside like a rag doll.

Freeja had her heart broken only once. After Clark she steeled her body as well as her soul. She was determined never to be cast aside like that again, either physically or emotionally. She put aside her artistic impulses and picked up the sword and spear. She traveled to Delphinium and studied under Mistress Ivana Felcat and Master Ruthra. After a few years there were none who could stand before her fury and skill.

Freeja met Clark again several years after their breakup. She recalled, with a smile, the look of fear that danced around at the edges of his eyes. It was in her power to eviscerate this man who had done the same to her heart. She left him with his fear and the knowledge that in final sum of things she was simply better than he was.

Freeja stopped atop a small knoll that looked out over a vast stretch of long beige wheat grass. Here and there stood an apple tree, some still bearing blossoms from spring's first blush. Two Roger's Gazelles grazed off in the distance and various songbirds sang her a symphony. Freeja sighed. She was loath to leave this beauty, but in her heart she knew she must protect it.

She started off into the plain and made for the valley of Roses wherein stood a master gate. Due to her work for Capricious Freeja had frequented many of the gates between the worlds of the Pantheon. There were basically three kinds, main gates, point to point gates and end gates. A main gate could go to any other gate. A point to point gate could only go to two other gates and an end gate could only go to one other gate.

Freeja only knew of two main gates, the one in the Valley of the Roses and one hidden somewhere in Ashkaan's Nine Kingdoms. It was a little known secret that the Gods did not create the gates. Freeja had heard a foul rumor that Demons had actually built them tens of thousands of years ago.

There were only three gates located on Capricious' world and Freeja had used them all at one time or another. If one wanted to go anonymously through a gate then they couldn't bring energy weapons with them. It they did alarms were tripped off on the destination world. Capricious had turned off the two other gates outside the Valley of the Roses and kept a close eye on the one she left operating. Freeja suspected the Goddess was afraid something might come through the gate that was unwelcome. She shuddered to think what the Goddess might be afraid of.

Of course there was always Balthon. Freeja had heard another ugly rumor that The Lord of Dark Metals had once lusted after Capricious. Some say that during the birth of the Pantheon he had violated Capricious. Freeja had never seen this written down anywhere, but she had heard the rumors none-the-less. She also noted that whenever Balthon's name was mentioned in the Goddesses presence a glimmer of hate flared in her eyes.

Freeja made camp that night on the open plain beside a stout old apple tree. There were no predators on this plain and she spent the night undisturbed. She awoke to a dew-covered plain and a blood red rising sun. She breakfasted on sweet Pilgrim Berries and a few slices of unleavened Traveler's Bread.

She resumed her trek as the sun lifted higher into the morning sky and chased away the night's mists. She spent the better part of the day traveling the grassy plain. She saw a few more gazelles, some antelopes and various colorful birds, but no humans. Eventually the grade became steeper and she found herself mounting the lumbering hill that preceded the valley of the roses.

In the heat of the noon day sun she crested the hill which gave way to a cliff that overlooked the valley. Every time she saw it took her breath away. Five square miles of rose bushes expanded before her. The bushes were as high as fifteen feet in some places. It looked as if some titan had opened up his veins and splashed a delicate pool of blood red blossoms across the valley floor.

In the center of the valley one could just make out the pulsating greenish glow that the gate threw off. Freeja traversed the top of the cliff until she came to the little traveled path that led down to the valley.

Freeja knew that although it was beautiful to look at for the uninitiated the valley was a deadly trap. Capricious had cultivated the roses not only for their beauty, but also for their deadly thorns. The barbs were thick on the bushes, as long as three inches and as sharp as a cat's claws. The entire complex of bushes was actually a gigantic, complex maze. More than one hapless skeleton lay stretched out in the back ways of the labyrinth. Of course Freeja was well versed in the layout and knew the path by heart now.

After a couple of hours she was soon near the heart of the maze. She stopped and snapped her spear into a defending position. She sniffed the air. Demonkin! It had been a very long time since she'd smelled that odor in the Garden.

She jammed her spear into the ground, took off her cloak and stowed it in her backpack. Once she was ready for battle she resumed her trek. She rounded each corner with spear at the ready, but no Demon was to be found. She wondered if it had already left by the gate. It was very rare to see a demon these days. It was assumed the members of the Pantheon had killed them all in the early days, but every now and then one showed up. No one knew where they came from or how the breached the security of the gates.

Freeja entered the clearing where the gate stood. Twenty yards away a demon jumped to its feet and spun with a pair of viscous looking scythes in each hand. Freeja quickly shed her backpack, picked up her spear and began to advance on the reptilian creature.

Its forked tongue darted out from its dragon like head. It's yellow serpent eyes never left her. It stood slightly hunched over and swayed slightly as Freeja advanced. It was a big one and stood almost six and a half feet tall. It wore some kind of black shiny armor on its chest, arms and legs that Freeja was unfamiliar with. She was sure it would probably turn her spear.

"Prepare to die demon spawn!"

The demon seemed to consider her words and then replied, "That all you do. Kill. Destroy. You are plague."

Freeja sneered, "Since when does a demon dare to preach about destruction."

The demon ignored her words as she advanced. It began to weave its scythes in figure eight's in the air before it. Freeja was within striking distance, but was prevented from a solid attack by the wall of steel the creature put up in front of itself. She carefully began to circle the demon with spear point ever at the ready.

The demon was patient as Freeja stalked around it. It obviously wanted her to attack. Freeja threw a few non-committal jabs which it effortlessly knocked away. Freeja stepped in with the fury of the Goddess and swept up the butt of her weapon into the wall of steel. The demon knocked the spear butt up, but Freeja continued her spin and slammed the point of the weapon into the center of the creature's chest.

The force of the blow knocked the creature stumbling backwards. Freeja followed with a flurry of whirling strikes and concluded with a thrusting sidekick under the demon's chin. The creature flew up and back to land flat into the grass. Freeja launched herself into the air and came down on the demon driving the spear into it's exposed throat. It gasped once and died.

Freeja left it there with her spear sheathed in its throat. She retrieved her backpack and went to the gate. The gate was a gunmetal gray, alloy torus about ten feet in diameter. A weird pale green glow filled the empty space on the interior of the portal. Strange cryptic symbols made of a gold metal were raised from the base of the gate. Freeja touched them in the prescribed order and said the words.

The gate issued forth a bass hum and the green glow grew more intense. The rose bushes once visible behind the empty space in the center of the torus disappeared as the green glow turned from transparent to opaque. The green light was soon replaced by the ghostly, wavering, image of a box canyon.

Freeja glanced over at the demon carcass. She would leave it as a warning to other demons. She stepped through the gate into the Nine Kingdoms.