Another light vanished. She ran.
The wretched stench of blood oppressed her senses as she fled, the droplet trails of red her only idea of direction, of the barest sketch of a path. There was no sky overhead, not even a fake one of clouds and sun. There was no ground to walk upon, no wind to caress the cheeks and carry away the metallic miasma that assaulted her. There was only the hollow emptiness that lacked even the hope of light as the ocean of darkness threatened to overwhelm her.
Her instincts screamed within her as she fled. Her truest self gibbered wordlessly in terror. Her other self did not hear her hapless whimpers, her frantic screams for help. Evil. This was a place of evil.
And it was hunting for her.
She did not dare look away from the crimson stains that were the only color in a hell darker than black. They were the only measure of reality in the impenetrable shadow, the only thing that could potentially be a little safe. Everything to the side of the path only led down, down, down, to an abyss that never ended.
There were fewer lights now. There had been many, once. They had floated around a grotesque construct of spikes, fangs and claws that gouged into a single, despairing man. The helpless figure dimmed as a chain of thorns enveloped his flesh. Then it appeared.
Its deformed skull a mockery of nature, the hollow pits of its eyes burned with hatred. Four long, protruding fangs guarded its mouth, eager to rend and tear. Its open jaws led to a deep, empty void from where there was no escape.
Some of the lights had been swallowed by it. She had fled. Others had joined her on the trails of blood. A bold few had dared stray from the crimson paths; those had vanished, never to be seen again.
A moment's rest, she wanted just one moment to rest. But there was no where to rest, nowhere to hide. There were only the scent of blood, the infinite darkness, and the disturbing droplets that meandered through the shadows without an end in sight.
It was nearby.
She flinched. She had sensed every time a light had fallen into its gaping maw. It was only a matter of time before it attacked her again. She didn't know how she had managed to avoid being devoured by it for so long, but she was probably the last survivor left in this horrible place. There was no question about whether or not she would be found. The question was how long she would survive.
The void shook. That nightmarish face rose ahead of her. She froze as those hollow eyes burned with hatred. It flew toward her, its mouth open wide, the darkness within its jaws aching for her.
There was no escape.
A light pierced the darkness and exploded in a luminescent burst against its skull. The void shook again, only with agony. Pain. Pain could be inflicted. That meant...
She finally remembered. This foul creature had a name: Dark Force. An ancient, terrible demon, but if the monster could feel pain, that meant that it could be beaten. If it could be beaten, that meant it could be killed.
Though not by her alone. She had run and run, and did not have the strength to fight it now. Another light cut through the velvet black with the speed and remorselessness of an arrow. An arrow? Where had it come from?
Realization struck her like a hammer between the eyes. The light had come from the darkness. Someone had walked off the blood-stained trail! Someone was out in there in the shadows and still alive!
She had to turn off this path. Someone was out there. She had to take that first step, out into that abyss. Just one step. That's all. One step. Just move.
Why wasn't she moving? Why did she keep staring at the beast in front of her as it roared its defiance at the arrows of light that struck its hideous face? Why was her heart trying to come out of her chest?
Another beam of light lanced the darkness before it impacted against Dark Force's skull. The beast screamed again. Was it keeping her here? Did it dare try to keep her on the blood-drenched trail against her will? Anger filled her breast. This demon would learn that she was subject to no one!
She leaped off the path and through the darkness. Away from Dark Force, away from the droplets of crimson, away to freedom. She ran faster.
Far ahead, a pillar of fire burned the darkness away. How could she not see it before? The shadows quivered in a terror that made her previous fear a little thing in comparison. Incandescent rage tore through them mercilessly as flames burned hotter. She knew the owner of this fury as well as she knew herself. It had taken him long enough to find her!
The maw was suddenly around her. Dark Force! Somehow, the demon had caught up with her. The jaws began to close. No one escaped from the monster's mouth. Her freedom could have been on the other side of the galaxy for all the good it did. Though she tried to sprint faster, she knew she wouldn't escape by herself.
Light exploded. Powerful bursts of energy blasted Dark Force. The beast recoiled. Its jaws fell away from her vision. She wasted no time in marveling at the fine hand that had controlled that almighty spell. The distance between her and safety shrank as the arrows of energy cut through the darkness in ruthless simultaneous triple shots. The demon's screams accompanied every explosion of light.
A familiar figure radiated the intensity of her soul. Her colors were a welcome relief from the wretched jet black that had filled her eyes for an eternity. Golden topaz shone like the sun as nightscape sapphires glittered dimly. Rubies glistened dark red and pink as her hand drew back and launched another salvo of light. The emptiness trembled as the arrows hit their mark.
She threw herself into the arms of that familiar figure. Emotions radiated from that figure. Relief, exasperation, great affection, scolding, determination, and profound love that would never falter. She held on tighter as the figure once again used that mightiest of spells without restraint. The figure held her tighter, turned toward the pillar of flame, and leaped toward it.
The world changed.