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Darkness Approaches

Without warning, the wizard burst back into the room. Startled, you jump back, almost dropping the sheet. "Milady," the wizard says panting, "Already it seems that the Dark One is moving to eliminate us - or at least you. We must get out of here now!"

You want to tell the wizard again not to call you by that title, but the urgency in his voice belays your anger for now. The wizard uses his magic to quickly turn the sheet into something more appropriate - a white, short-sleeved dress edged in gold that ends halfway to the knee.

He leads you out of the cottage, trying to remain as inconspicuous as possible. Once you get outside, you are shocked to see several giant black spiders, waist-high at the VERY least, scattered about the village. Some of them turn to see you when you exit the cottage, and suddenly the entire swarm is headed for you. Both you and the wizard try to run, but the spiders easily outpace you, making you wish you still had the guardsman's sword from the castle (though you quickly realize that even your massively improved fighting skill would be no good against this seemingly endless swarm). The wizard is not without his tricks, though, and responds by causing a protective green bubble to lift from the ground and encase you, just as he did in the courtyard. Even so, the spiders refuse to give up the chase

Eventually, after trying and failing several times to escape the horde, the wizard is unable to maintain the bubble transport anymore, and the two of you are deposited on the ground against a cliff face. The wizard tries to blast them with a magical attack, but it has no effect, possibly due to his fatigue from maintaining the transport longer than he should. The spiders advance toward you, and you know that this is the end. You never thought it would end this way, trapped in a female body, devoured by giant spiders.

Yet suddenly, without warning, a white slash of energy explodes against the ground, stopping the spiders' advance. You, the wizard, and the spiders all look skyward to see a shadowy figure leap from the top of the cliff. The figure hits the ground between you and the spider horde, and you can now see that the figure is a man, sturdily built but not overly-muscled, with black hair that spikes down in the back. He wears a simple black shirt lined in gray, simple black pants, and a dark brown cape. His right hand holds an elegant golden-hilted sword, and his left holds a large sword resembling the guardsman's sword you stole, only longer, and serrated.

The spiders advance toward the newcomer, but he jumps forward and swings the large sword, cutting apart the nearest spider. He then jumps in the air, and you watch in amazement as the blade of his golden-hilted sword begins to shine white. He swings it through the air, causing a white slash of energy to charge forth from the path of the blade and cut through two more of the giant bugs. As he lands, though, he is tackled by one of the oversized vermin and the large sword is sent flying through the air, embedding itself in the ground in front of you. You grin - you now have the weapon you need. You grab the large sword and jump into the fray. The stranger is a bit surprised to see you so willingly enter the battle, but quickly returns to hacking away at the bugs with expert skill, speed, and precision. Meanwhile, you slice through the spiders with equal skill, dodging and attacking with skill that seems to surpass your previous demonstration in the courtyard. The wizard, meanwhile, has taken to beating the spiders away with his staff, though he is far less successful than either you or the stranger. The stranger jumps backwards into the air, and his elegant blade glows again, this time brighter than before. And when he swings the sword just as he lands, the (much larger than before) energy slash that is produced cuts a wide swath in the spider army. The remaining spiders, looking as shocked and scared as a giant spider can look, turn tail (so to speak) and flee.

Once the spiders have run off, the stranger returns his elegant sword to a previously-unnoticed holster on his back (under his cape) and turns to you. "Heh, you two should be more careful. My name's Zade. Might I ask what you were doing anyway?"

You consider for a moment, then decide that it would be best to be honest, especially considering that this guy just saved your lives, so you tell Zade the whole story. Once you're done, the wizard, who seems shocked and angered, pulls you aside.

"Milady, I am not sure if honesty was the best course of action. For all we know-"

"Alright, that's enough!" you snap, interrupting him. "First of all, that guy just saved our lives! And second, I told you not to call me 'milady'!"

"Well, what should we call you then?" Zade calls out, showing that he is more attentive than either you or the wizard thought.

That's a good question. You think for a bit before finally settling on a name. "As long as I'm trapped in this form, you can call me...Ki." Upon that declaration, you could swear that you hear the female voice in your head chuckle.

"Fine," says the miffed wizard. "Ki it is. And as for you, Zade, where do you come from? What is your story?"

Zade smirks. "If you must know, I come from a highly technologically advanced world. My sword [he shows his elegant sword] is a marvel of technology that allows for manipulation of energy, namely, drawing it into the blade and firing it out again in a focused form. I grew restless, so I opened a portal to travel the web of infinite universes. Eventually my travels brought me here. I could tell that a great power rested in this world, and I decided to find it. It's been a year and still no leads, but I remain determined. And now I find the two of you being attacked by the forces of darkness." Zade pauses as though considering something. "I have a proposition for you. If you promise to help me find what I'm searching for, I'll help you in your own quest."

Written by The Steel Dragon

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