Shop Mobile More Submit  Join Login
About Literature / Professional Danielle Dawson23/Female/United States Group :iconpatronoct: PatronOCT
Recent Activity
Deviant for 8 Years
Needs Core Membership
Statistics 334 Deviations 2,554 Comments 21,740 Pageviews

Newest Deviations

Random Favourites

deviation in storage by RobynRose



Ginger - Snowblind (Lines) by Icysapphire
Ginger - Snowblind (Lines)
I haven't uploaded anything since EXIII so I thought I should get back into the swing of things! My tablet of 10 years actually kicked the bucket on me in September, I only just got a new one yesterday! Still getting the hang of it, and learning to use Manga Studio 5 instead of photoshop! Lots and lots of changes! You can expect some pretty basic sketches/lines from me while I practice.
Danielle tried to pass the time by counting seconds, but it did nothing to stop the shaking that had overcome her hands. As she clenched and unclenched them in her lap, she tried not to look up at the glowing chambers Coroner had ushered her up against after admonishing her for being in the way of his work. In such close proximity of the devices, she got an eyeful of the shadowed figures inside before she felt her stomach flip over and spun away from them. They were all people—writers. The same writers she had met since her arrival in Nothing, as well as a few others she didn’t recognize.

Closing her eyes, Danielle was sure that Coroner could hear every single agitated beat of her heart. And that each one made him even more impatient with her.

It wasn’t her that he turned to in annoyance, however. Through one of the other doors of the Laboratory not too at from where she was sitting, a young man strolled easily in. Danielle gaped up at him, panic splashed across her face. The flush of his cheeks and lack of chains told her he was mortal. He couldn’t be here—he’d end up like she was going to end up—like the other writers would end up.

All he did was smile down at her as if nothing could possibly be wrong—but the strange, dark glint in his eyes told her something was. Danielle shut her mouth before she’d ever spoken a word.

“I remember you,” he said. “You just keep winding up in the worst places, don’t you? So sad. Someone as cute as you should’ve found somewhere safer to hide.”

Danielle opened her mouth again as she shrunk back in flustered confusion, but his face lit up and he laughed before she had a chance to ask what he meant.

“You find me attractive, don’t you?” He ran his hands down his chest. “Don’t be embarrassed, little virgin, this one’s quite a catch.”

“Stop tormenting my test subject.” Coroner tapped one of his hooves in impatience. “This work is tedious enough as it is without having to subdue the damn things.”

The young man rolled his eyes and crossed his arms. “Lighten up. If you’re not going to pretend to be happy to see me at least be happy that I brought you this tall drink of water to plug into your machine.”

Coroner sneered. “I’m not going to use that one. Already tried once and he nearly ruined everything. Perhaps if you were better at that job of yours you’d know that, Rosemary.”

“Rosemary?” Danielle found herself gawking for a second time.

Neither of them spared her a glance.

“Don’t hit below the belt unless you want me to start hitting there, too,” Rosemary said, lowering her voice.

Coroner scoffed, but turned away with a wave of his hand. “If you insist on interrupting my work, at least make yourself useful. You must have spied on me enough by now to know how it goes.”

“Fine.” With a sigh, Rosemary reached down and, grabbing Danielle by her arm, hoisted her up onto her feet. Danielle stumbled, but the fingers digging into her blazer kept her steadfast. “You don’t have to be so rude about it.”

Rosemary pressed a series of buttons on the side of the chamber and it twisted open. Danielle didn’t have the time to fully process it before she was shoved inside and the opening snapped shut before her. She slammed her palms up against the inside of it on a reflex, and this only made Rosemary laugh.

The demon pressed the forehead of the mortal she was possessing against the other side of the glass and gave a look playing at sympathy. “Don’t be scared. It’ll be over before too long, and you’ll have served a great purpose. Remember that when it starts to hurt. And it will. It always does.”

Danielle sunk to her knees and covered her face in her hands to dam up the tears that formed there. All she could hear was that laugh—that cruel, inhuman laugh.

“No! Stop it! That isn’t nice!”

The small, high voice broke through the fog of despair that had begun to shroud her consciousness.

There was a flash of red, and Rosemary was shoved to the side in favor of Hayden. On her knees, he was taller than her at his full height, and stared down at her with concern in his big green eyes. “Are you okay Miss Danielle? I’m gonna get you out of there it’s not where you’re supposed to be!”

“Hayden—your arm. You—”

“How’d you get out of Hell, you little cockroach?” Rosemary pulled him away from the glass by his collar, causing him to trip over his feet and all on his hands. “Satan would never overturn a sentence that severe so quickly.”

“I wouldn’t underestimate him, if I were you.” Standing at the doorway Hayden had zoomed in from, another mortal wagged a finger. “Got out all on his own. And healed me! You know, I’ve heard he’s even developed quite the entourage since his rising.”

“Cernun.” Rosemary stepped toward him, her stance threatening. “I broke your legs once and I’ll do it again if you don’t play your cards right.”

Cernun feigned surprise. “What? That was you? What a twist! In any case, all in the past. If you’re squatting inside my charming friend, Matthew, you clearly don’t have the firepower to back up your words. Actually, I know for a fact you don’t.”


Rosemary turned back around. Her gaze became understanding as it fell on Hayden, but the smaller demon wasn’t paying her any attention. He’d crawled back to Danielle again, his hands meeting hers against the glass.

“I don’t know how to open it,” he admitted softly.

“That’s okay,” Danielle said. Her obvious lack of conviction caused Hayden’s face to fall. “I’m glad you’re safe now, and not hurt. I’m sorry about everything that happened before.”

Hayden shook his head, his nose wrinkling in distaste. “Nuh-uh! I was all mean and stuff and it wasn’t right! But—”

Rosemary cut him off, whirling him away from the glass. She dug Matthew’s nails into his shoulders. “You miss your precious human so badly? I’ll make sure you join her—but not until you give me back what you stole.” Hayden squeaked in fear as Rosemary slammed him back against the glass, making his head bounce against his chest. “Go on—cough it up! That power was mine! Mine!”

“Stop it! Stop, you’re hurting him!” Danielle pounded her palms against the glass, but it hardly even wobbled.

Hayden raised his hands in front of his face in a weak attempt at defending himself. Danielle didn’t know what they were talking about in regards to what Hayden had stolen, but she knew that it was her fault he was doing nothing to stop the torment he was going through. She had designed him this way: weak and scared. Too scared to fight back even if he could.

Her vision became green and hazy as her chamber buzzed to life around her. Nobody was stopping Coroner from his experiments. She’d join the other writers in oblivion before too long. Everything was hopeless.

Or so it seemed, until Rosemary dropped Hayden and stumbled back, holding her head.

“I’m not going to let you use me to hurt people,” Matthew said from between gritted teeth. His legs wobbled.

Cernun rushed forward to meet him and clasped his hands upon the other man’s shoulders. “That’s it, fight! All of you! Hayden—get up! You have the power to change lives, believe in that! You’ve seen it work for yourself. And you,” he looked at Danielle, who had to squint to meet his gaze, “believe in Hayden as much as he wants to believe in you. He can’t do anything without that faith. If you truly feel that he can free you, and save all of us, he will!”

Hayden struggled to his feet. “I dunno,” he started.

“Get off me,” Rosemary growled, Matthew’s control fading as his body began to thrash against Cernun.

Danielle’s heart pounded as she looked from Cernun and Matthew down to Hayden. He was so small and unsure, and she had never imagined him as anything else. How could she believe that he could save her when she had only ever written him failing?

A knot formed in her throat. Maybe none of that mattered. If someone had her pick her strongest characters, he’d be in the lineup every time. “I do believe in you, Hayden,” she decided. “I said before that I put you in this place because I thought it would be a good story, but that’s only because I know you’re strong enough to reach the place you belong.”

Hayden looked at her. Danielle could see confusion written cleanly across his face through the green. She coughed as her voice and vision weakened. “You have a demon’s body, but you’ve always had the soul of an angel.”

The change was so instantaneous Danielle’s brain barely managed to process it. She thought she saw Hayden smile, and Cernun give a triumphant whoop, and Rosemary bark an incredulous laugh, but all of this was lost beneath the white light that exploded out from Hayden’s back.

It never truly faded, at least not all the way, but when her eyes adjusted to the brightness Danielle could hardly breathe. Hayden had become an angel. Or something akin to one, anyway. He still had his horns and his tail, but the light surrounding him had taken the shape of wings. And beyond that, his body had grown taller and stronger. Hayden’s smile shone as white as his eyes.

“Thank you,” he said. His voice had become a gentle tenor.

The scene playing out behind him was harder to watch. Matthew’s body had begun convulsing in painful spasms. Cernun let him go, and Matthew fell to his knees, where he crawled forward a few steps. The dark twinkle faded from his eyes as a black sludge poured out from his mouth. The creature that crawled out from inside of him slowly took Rosemary’s shape—or a bleeding, tired version of what Danielle remembered from Ballas’ warehouse.

“You don’t belong here,” Hayden told her—although, Danielle wasn’t sure she could really call it Hayden. It was his body, and his soul, but he had become something more than she knew. It was as if there were many beings speaking from one vessel, backing his desires and steering his intent in the right direction.

Rosemary played for a laugh as her arms and legs became solid and she left Matthew’s hunched, semi-conscious form behind her. “What are you going on about? The only one who doesn’t belong here is you.” She hobbled forward, her fingers becoming needle-like. Although she was clearly in pain, she didn’t let it show on her face.

“I’m going to take back the Something,” Rosemary hissed, “and send you straight back to Hell.”

She lunged, and Danielle screamed when Hayden didn’t move. He didn’t need to. Rosemary’s clumsy attack never landed. Hayden grabbed ahold of her wrists before her nails could reach him, and it was all that he had to do.

“Your mother’s been waiting for you,” he said. “You shouldn’t have stayed behind.”

Rosemary didn’t get the chance to ask him what he meant. The skin he had come into contact with began to shine. She gave a screech and struggled to move away from him, but Hayden held fast. The light crawled up her arms faster and faster until there was nothing else left. Rosemary fell forward, her body going limp. When the light cleared, she was a child—the same child Danielle had imagined would have once accompanied Rella as a sister.

“Go, now,” Hayden told Rosemary gently as the small soul opened her big brown eyes. “You are as you once were. They won’t turn you away.”

Danielle caught the beginnings of tears in Rosemary’s eyes, but she had disappeared before they had the chance to fall.

Hayden turned back toward Danielle and approached the glass. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to leave you stuck in there. I don’t believe either of you should be here.” He reached in as if the glass didn’t even exist and pulled her out through it. Her legs gave out the second she was free of the chamber and she only didn’t fall forward on her hands due to Hayden’s support. Her chest felt tight and her whole body felt weak; she hadn’t even realized how badly the machine had been affecting her.

“Are you okay?”

Danielle turned toward the new voice. Two faces had appeared behind her: Hayley and Nicholas. They both stared at her with concern, but while Hayley rushed over and took her from Hayden’s supporting arm, Nicholas went to join Cernun and Matthew.

“Yeah,” Danielle murmured. She opened her mouth to explain what had happened, but shook her head as she looked toward the doorway her friend had come from. She could still hear the sounds of approaching footsteps. “Were there others with you?”

Hayley’s expression became grim. “Not exactly. I you saw the mob that had been outside the Labyrinth, they’ve broken past the other walls. They were at our tails.”

“I’ll talk to them!” Hayden beamed. There wasn’t a hint of his former nervousness evident on his face. “They can’t come in here, so I’ll make them all go back to where they were.”

“Hayden,” Danielle started. He was through the door before she could finish telling him to wait.

Behind them, Coroner twisted a knob and slammed the side of his fist down on a button. The floor beneath them rumbled, expanded, and plates shot up in a clean circle around them too fast for anyone to react to. They had been cut off from the rest of the Labyrinth at every path. Hayden was gone, stuck on the other side, where the rabble that had begun to sound so close had been completely silenced. “I don’t care for such distractions.”

Hayley let out a tense, half-relieved breath. “Well, uh, thanks for that?”

Danielle shuddered and clutched onto Hayley’s arm more tightly. “Don’t thank him.”

Coroner continued working at the controls in silence. The machine whirred back to life and the green chambers glowing even more brightly. The souls of the writers still trapped inside writhed in unconscious pain. Coroner stopped to observe them for a minute, then made a quick notation on his clipboard. He turned toward the mortals next. “Do me a favor and walk yourselves into the empty pods. I don’t have the time or patience necessary to play shepherd.”

“Like Hell,” Hayley declared all at once, following an extended period of stunned silence. She squared out her chest, but Danielle only cowered further.

“Please don’t antagonize him,” the blonde murmured.

“Don’t worry, I got this,” Hayley assured under her breath before turning her full attention back to Coroner. “Death and I are running the show here. So, uh, if you want to answer to him—”

Coroner raised an eyebrow, and as if on cue, Death fazed seamlessly into existence in the middle of the room. He had an arm wrapped around Rella’s waist, which she hastily slapped away at the sight of the others.

“—go right ahead,” Hayley finished, looking for all the world as if she had planned his reappearance from the start.

“What’s all this now?” Death’s tone was indicative of a raised eyebrow.

Cernun was the first to open his mouth. He pointed an accusing finger toward Coroner, his other arm supporting the half-conscious Matthew. “He’s betrayed you! He’s trying to use the Labyrinth to turn himself into a God and take control over this realm.”

“Huh.” Death shrugged. “Ambitious. Knew you’d try something, didn’t think it would be that.”

Coroner frowned. “I don’t simply perform science for the sake of science. And your plans for this realm are unoriginal, at best. The souls of Nothing need a firm hand that you’ll never be able to provide.”

Hayley rolled her eyes. “What are you going to do, turn them into soldiers? Besides, you don’t have the firepower to turn yourself into any sort of deity. The Labyrinth was never built for that kind of thing. It recycles energy of souls to fuel it, but to do something that big you’d have to completely burn them up.”

Coroner scoffed. “Yes, your original blueprints did need some modification. But luckily, after that human there—” he gestured toward Matthew “—overloaded the machine, I had plenty of excuse to modify its function.”

“That’s nice and all,” Death interrupted, taking slow steps closer to Coroner, “but what makes you think that I’ll let you take over?”

Coroner smiled. “You won’t have a choice, to start. You should have already discovered by now that killing demons is outside of your power. I saw what was done to that shapeshifting pest.”

“Rosemary?” Rella tensed, her narrowed eyes scanning the room. “She’s here?”

Was here,” Coroner corrected. “She’s since been destroyed. About time, too. I never cared for that one.”

“You killed her?” Rella’s eyebrows shot up, but her shoulders sagged in relief.

“Actually, that was more of a divine intervention sort of deal,” Cernun explained. He opened his mouth to continue, but when Rella whirled around to glare at him, his words tapered off. “You would’ve had to be here.”

“The point,” Coroner hissed, pulling a metallic tube out of the control panel, “is that I can do as I please.”

He pressed another button, and the end of the tube became needle-like.

“Aren’t you going to do something?” Rella asked, shooting an annoyed look at Death. He shrugged.

“Rella’s right,” Hayley added. “You can’t just let him become a God. That’s insane.”

Death shrugged again.

When nobody else made a move, Coroner slid the needle into his heart. He didn’t so much as flinch. Danielle gave a yelp of discomfort and Hayley winced, but Death remained still. They watched, powerless and idealess, as the trapped writers struggled and became limp. Their souls bled out through the pores in their bodies and Coroner took that energy inside of himself. His skin glowed green. When there was nothing left for him to take in, he pulled the needle out of himself and let it clatter to the floor.

“Funny thing about that.” Death backed Coroner into a corner. “Can’t kill a demon but I can kill anything else just fine. And you ain’t no real God, son. You don’t have the body for it.”

Coroner chuckled as he flexed his fingers, savoring in the rush of power he felt. “Preposterous,” Coroner said. Whatever he had become, it was something stronger than a demon could ever be—and his body didn’t show any sign of breaking. At least, not immediately. As Coroner raised himself to his full height and shifted his cloven hooves into strong, human legs, he stumbled and had to support himself on the control panel. His whole body pulsed with the green light of the soul energy he had filled himself with. It moved beneath his skin as if it was trying to escape, and Coroner began to wheeze in pain, clutching his chest. “Impossible. This wasn’t a part of my calculations,” he hissed between clenched teeth.

“It serves you right,” Nicholas said. He shook his head as if he were lecturing a disobedient child. “You shouldn’t underestimate the power of a soul, nor should you have expected them to cooperate with you after you imprisoned them.”

Coroner snarled as Cernun chimed in with a patronizing “tut, tut” but made no further rebuttal. It was Death who grabbed his attention. The God grabbed Corner by the lapels of his labcoat as if he weighed nothing and shook his head.

“Shame,” he sighed. “Had a good brain in there.”

He didn’t have to finish his thought. There would be other Coroners. There always were. Death lifted one of his hands to the ex-demon’s forehead, and it was like watching a star implode until there was nothing left but cosmic ash.

The machine’s lights dimmed. When there was nothing left or anyone to say, Hayley sighed. “Now what do we do? We needed that power to get out of here.” Although her words were full of frustration, her face was nothing but concerned. “And with the way Coroner’s rigged the machine, we can’t use anyone else to fuel it.”

Danielle squeezed her arm in understanding. The writers were both of their friends. As important as it was to get everyone back where they belonged, none of them were meant to get hurt in the process.

“Can’t we just rebuild it?” Matthew asked. He still looked shaken, but he’d regained enough strength to stand on his own.

“I have ideas, but I don’t think any of us are mechanics?” Hayley shook her head. “And anyway, even if we were…”

“It won’t bring anybody back,” Danielle finished. “They’re...just gone now, aren’t they? What’ll happen to their characters? Or...their families?”

“Don’t worry.” All eyes turned to Nicholas as he spoke. He only smiled. “Plug me into the machine. I should have enough power to bring everyone back and send you all back home.”

Several voices made their confusion known.



“Why you?”

Nicholas’ smile didn’t change. It remained patient and sympathetic. “I’m a demigod,” he said simply, raising a hand as mouths gaped open for an explanation. “Please. It’s not something I like to broadcast, so I know how unbelievable it may sound. How I became one is also a very long story that I’m afraid we don’t have the time to hear. I we wait too long, I’m afraid I may be unable to reverse the damages done. So…”

He turned to Death. “I’m assuming you understand the controls well enough.”

“Yeah.” He put his hands in his pockets. “Don’t got a problem with it.”

“Well, I do.” Rella grabbed Nicholas before he could get any closer to the machine, speaking up for the first time since learning of Rosemary’s disappearance. “You’re being insane. You’re planning on destroying yourself. There’s no turning back from that.”

“Rella.” Nicholas sighed. He put his hand over hers. “I lived out my mortal life long ago. These people are only just beginning, and they’ll contribute so many great things to their worlds. If I can try and help them, I’m going to do it.”

“But,” she started, her voice lowering to a whisper, “I need you here. I need you to be here when I die.”

Nicholas moved his hands up to cup her face. “No,” he said. “You don’t.”

This time, she was the one who put her hands over his. They dug into his skin almost angrily. “Don’t leave,” she said. It was more of an order than a plea. “Please.”

He gave her a kiss on the forehead and left her standing alone as he joined Death at Coroner’s machine and picked up the discarded needle. Rella didn’t turn to watch as he plugged himself in and Death played with the dials. She closed her eyes and clenched her fists and fought against the emotions battling to show themselves across her face.

“Goodbye.” Nicholas looked at each of the writers in turn. “And good luck. Live long, happy lives.”

Rella only turned to watch as his body faded away. The machine burst into life as Nicholas’ energy blasted about them. The writers in the chambers gasped for air, but before they could assess their locations they were gone. And so were Hayley and Danielle and Matthew and Cernun.

She and Death were the only ones left at the center of the Labyrinth.

Rella covered her mouth with her hand as she struggled to process all that had happened so quickly. Nicholas was gone. Nicholas was gone, every piece of him destroyed, and he had left her with an empty pit in her stomach. Her knees shook. He had left her even after she told him she needed him, and his sacrifice hadn’t been for her, so why did it hurt? Why did she still care?

The night he had found her still shone like a beacon among waves of dark memories. His smile had given her hope, his encouragements the strength to continue on when she’d thought she’d ran out of reasons to keep living. And he had gone away from her so quickly, for reasons she still didn’t quite understand.

Everyone but her had moved on. For a short while she even thought that she’d managed to leave her feelings for him behind. But now there would never be a chance to see him again, for any reason, in any plane. No amount of stolen kisses could compare to the feeling of worth that Nicholas had given her. Without him in her future, she feared all at once that she was back to meaning nothing. To being nothing.

“How could you let him do that?”

Death turned away from the machine to look at her from under the brim of his cap and shrugged. “He offered.”

“There could have been another way to stop all of this.” Rella clenched and unclenched her fists. “There was no reason for him to be a martyr.”

“Probably.” Death stretched his arms over his head.

Rella watched him. She wiped the tears she hadn’t realized she’d been shedding from her reddened cheeks and clenched her jaw. “You knew,” she decided. “You already knew how to fix this, but you let him destroy himself.”

Death didn’t have to answer. The ease of his stance spoke loud enough.

The emptiness Nicholas had left in Rella’s chest swelled with fury. “It was because of how I felt about him, wasn’t it?”

“What can I say? Competing isn’t really my style.”

Death grinned and Rella lunged for him. She never reached him. Her vision flipped and her legs twisted, and without comprehending what had happened she was sprawled at his feet. Moving was a struggle. Her whole body was something small and weak and unfamiliar.

And then all at once it was familiar. Too familiar. She was a child again, she was six again. She had always been six.

Her anger was washed out with panic.

“What did you do?” she tried to ask, but the words came out an unfamiliar squeak. “What did you do to me?”

Death rolled up his sleeves and stooped down. Even bringing himself down to her level, he towered over her. “Did what you wanted, girlie: changed my future. Looks like it’s done a real doozy on your past.”

Rella’s vision swayed. Her whole body felt like static and her mouth filled with hot metal. When she reached a shaking hand to her neck, it came away red.

Death brought a hand to cup her chin. “Only hurts a second.”

They were the last words she heard before she, too, disappeared.


Death’s truck rumbled to a stop. He let it idle for a full minute before putting it in park and letting the engine’s rattle subside. There wasn’t any reason for him to pause. He had nothing left to think about—he had already made up his mind. He’d said so. If he didn’t follow through with his promise, things wouldn’t happened the way that they had back in the labyrinth—not for him and not for anyone else that had been down there with him.

But this was it, the moment of truth, as they say. What was to stop him from shrugging his shoulders and letting the gears of time come screeching to a halt for a second time? Everyone always seemed to get in a big fuss over the idea of a paradox, but Death didn’t scare so easy.

There was no guarantee of a happy ending for him, or for any of the souls stuck in Nothing. The only thing he had now was a promise that maybe someday, if he went against his better judgment, things wouldn’t end up as bad as they could. That eventually, the conditions of his eternity may even begin to be considered tolerable.

Rella couldn’t really offer him anything. She’d shown him what not to do to escape one bad ending, but had no knowledge of the fork in the road he was parked at now. What was the point in being the nice guy when it didn’t offer him anything? That wasn’t Death’s style.

He looked out the passenger window. Rella’s past had already changed. She stood alone under the gas station’s swaying awning to protect herself from the rain. The nice clothes she wore she had charmed from a lonely single mother when she passed through the last town up the road. Her little shoes were splattered with filth.

Rosemary had never stayed behind to haunt her, Nicholas had never found her, and Faustene had never had a reason to play babysitter. She was alone, and she was still six. She would always be six.

She wasn’t Death’s style, either. Not looking like that. He flexed his fingers on the steering wheel. If he left her there, she wouldn’t be his problem. Death knew better than to rebuild the Labyrinth, so there wasn’t anything saying he couldn’t find some other way to get what he wanted without her help. She’d die eventually, somewhere down the road, and when she did he wouldn’t be there. He’d never see her again. Rella would never be an influence on his future again.

Death thought about how she was when he’d met her, red-lipped and knowing just what to say. He thought of everything that she’d gone through with him and for him, and how nobody else had ever given enough of a lick to do the same. How it was likely nobody ever would again.

The thought stopped him from starting the car and driving away.

Death grinned and flicked the rim of his cap with a low chuckle. “Well, little darlin’,” he said, “you can’t hate me for what you don’t know.”

He waved his hand, and the metal awning collapsed. Rella’s head slid from her body before she knew what happened, and Death stepped out of his truck to greet the soul that rose from the carnage.

He didn’t like it, but as long as it was in his own terms, he’d trust her with his eternity.
EXIII Round IV.II - Sublimity

There's not much I can say about this. It's not the finale I planned to write or wanted to write, but sometimes you hit a wall and you have to climb over it. While I'm not proud of what I have given as my final entry to this tournament, I want you all to know it's been a pleasure experiencing this OCT to its completion. Thank you so much.

I have an epilogue planned, but I don't know when or if I'll post it.

Matthew, Cernun - BlueLibrarian
James and his characters - JaredSol
Hayley, Death, Satan, Nothing and the Exchange universe - mippins
Danielle, Rella, Hayden, Rosemary, and Nicholas are mine.
Hayden smacked his hands to his cheeks and let out a cry. Something amazing had happened and he was all better! Something—Something—

Hayden spun in a tight circle until he made himself dizzy and had to stop. The Something was gone. He didn’t see it anywhere, and he hadn’t dropped it, but he couldn’t hear its voice anymore. The only other idea Hayden had was that he had put it in one of his pockets without thinking, but when he patted down his front all he found was a crinkled up envelope.

“Uh oh.” Hayden gulped, his feet frozen as he pulled the letter out from beneath his shirt. His face colored. He had completely forgotten about it. Anubis had trusted him to bring it to Satan, and instead of doing that right away like had promised, he’d gotten himself fired. “Now what am I gonna do?”

Satan had banished him to Hell. He wasn’t supposed to be up here in Nothing, where nothing was very nice but everything was much less mean. Even if Hayden was glad he’d gotten out, Satan would be upset if he burst in and tried to deliver this now. Especially considering how late it was.

I was right to let you go, Satan would be sure to say.

Hayden whimpered and whined. He didn’t want Satan to say that! He didn’t want to be in even bigger trouble when he’d already never been in this much trouble before to begin with!

His whirling thoughts came to an abrupt halt.

“Oh! Oh! Mr. Death!”

Yeah! He could give the letter to Death! Satan was always mad at Death, so it wouldn’t make any difference if he was the one who delivered the letter. Death couldn’t get in any bigger trouble than he always seemed to be in.

Delighted by the idea, Hayden put the letter back in his shirt for safe keeping and bounced forward. But before he had a chance to portal himself to the Labyrinth, where Death was likely to be, he tripped over the feet of a soul he hadn’t realized was standing not too far ahead of him.

“Whoa! Ah! I’m sorry! I wasn’t being careful like I should have been being!”

“No, no, no, please don’t apologize! Really, I was the one gawking.”

Hayden looked up and his eyes lit up in recognition. He pointed up at the face of the woman he’d run into. “Oh! You’re that Ms. Lady!”

She jumped back, startled, her hands thrown up as if to shield herself. Hayden jumped, too, but mostly out of confusion. He couldn’t stop himself from looking over his shoulder to make sure there wasn’t something very frightening standing behind him. There wasn’t, so he turned his unsure gaze back to the woman. He recognized her as the one who had always helped out the Engel Brothers in the Cathedral. She was their most loyal follower. It was easy to remember that her name as Faith, because she always had so much of it.

Hayden smiled, and when he did she threw her hands over her mouth.

“You,” she said, her whole body making a big fuss. “You’re—”

“Um, I have to go now.”

Hayden’s lips puckered as he took a step back. He didn’t want to be rude, but the way Faith waved her hands around and stared at him with wide, intense eyes made him nervous. She looked at him as if she expected something amazing to happen, but he couldn’t think of anything amazing to do for her the way that the Something had done something amazing for him. And anyway, he needed to find Death before he forgot about Anubis’ letter all over again.

“No, no, no, you mustn’t!” Faith reached her hands out toward him, but they stopped halfway when he flinched. She pulled them back and wrung them together, worrying her lip. “Erm,” she said, scrunching her face, “stay here while I get the others, won’t you? They’ll never believe me, otherwise. I’ll only be a moment!”

She ran off before Hayden had a chance to give her his promise. Hayden felt bad about leaving when she seemed so excited, but decided he’d just have to apologize to her later. This was important and it had already waited long enough. Hayden vanished in a burst of white light as soon as Faith was out of eyeshot.


James ran a hand through his hair and took a deep breath. “So.” He let his eyes run slowly around the room in a semicircle so they hit upon every person there. “Where do we go from here? We have the means to get everyone out, but how can we get to them before the demons do? And how do we use this key without a demonic host body?”

“I believe I can help with that.”

From the back of the crowd, beside a tired Rella, Nicholas raised a hand. He smiled, looking apologetic. “My apologies for holding my tongue for so long. I believe I can be of assistance in using the key to open a portal for all of you to return to your correct worlds and times.”

“Great.” James rubbed his hands together, letting the heavy key spin between his palms. “That’s one dilemma down. Anyone else? Any ideas?”

“I, uh, think I have one,” Danielle offered without conviction.

James responded with an equally proportionate amount of skepticism. “Do you? Well, let’s hear it.”

Danielle frowned, crossing her arms. “Two things,” she said with a sharp sigh. “First of all, stop talking to me like I’m not just as much of a writer as you are. I have plenty to contribute. Second of all, it’s...okay, it’s not really an idea. My friend Hayley—er,” she hesitated, “mippins told me when I first ran into her down here that she had a plan that would help us all out. She wanted me to direct any writer I found toward the Labyrinth. We all shaped this place, I think, so it’s not really under her control, but even considering that she probably knows Nothing better than any of us. I think we should trust her judgment. None of us really have much of a plan, so we might as well listen to her.”

“And what is this plan, pray tell?” It was Rodrick who spoke, this time.

“I’m...not sure. She didn’t tell me. There wasn’t time for us to stop and talk about it.” Danielle steeled herself. “Still, I trust her. I think it would be in our best interest to do what she wants.”

James ran a hand down his face. He didn’t seem particularly pleased, but wasn’t providing an argument, either. “Alright. Good as any, I suppose. If worse comes to worse, we can meet up with her there and continue to hash out a plan. She can’t know that we have the portal key, but once she does it could spark a new train of thought.”

A murmur went through the crowd, but in the end everyone nodded their approval.

“Alright,” James said, slipping the portal key into his pocket and heading toward the entrance. “Let’s head out. It would be in our best interest to stay in groups with our characters, seeing as we have the disadvantage in combat in case the demons come after us again.” He nodded toward Danielle. “However, the two of us should split up. There’s a good amount of ground to cover and no way for us to know how many writers are out there. If we both take opposite sides of Nothing, we’ll hopefully find as many mortals as possible.”

Danielle returned the nod, but without conviction. “Right,” she said.

“Something else?”

“Well...kinda.” Danielle tried for a smile, but gave it up on a sigh. “I want to go straight to Hayley. I should let her know what happened and that we’re bringing the writers to her. That way she can be prepared for all of us.”

“Sure we’ll be able to find everyone that way?” Andris shrugged from where he was leaning against a stack of cages. “Not that I care much either way. I was already looking for someone.”

“I don’t know,” Danielle admitted. “I can’t say how many of us Death brought here. And, I mean, I’m not his writer, but it doesn’t seem like him to have taken too many of us. He’d be going against Satan bringing even a single mortal down here, and as much as he likes bending rules, it’s not like he has a death wish or anything. I mean, Satan’s…”

“We get it,” Rella interrupted, her eyes tired. “Satan made Death and he can unmake him. Can we move on?”

James glanced from Rella to Danielle. The blonde couldn’t help noticing the level of distrust in his eyes. She cleared her throat before he could state his opinion on the matter.

“I think I should take the portal key, too.”

“What? Why?”

Danielle raised her hands in defense. “I just think it’ll be safer that way, is all! If the demons come after us—and it—again, which I’m sure they will, they’re going to expect you to carry it.” She gestured toward the small purse hanging around her shoulder. “All I have in here is lipstick. And besides, you can just have The Magician pull it out of his hat in a pinch.”

James’ expression hardened, but his shoulders relaxed when he took in her explanation. “Alright.” He took the portal key from his pocket and handed it over. “But be careful. They may not know you have it, but you’ll still be in danger.”

“I will,” Danielle promised as she stashed the key beneath her wallet. It took all the willpower she had not to assert how defenseless she certainly wasn’t with Rella on her side. And when she turned to look at the other woman, she found that Rella was already leaving.

Nicholas stood halfway between them, smiling apologetically. “Sorry, she’s eager to move on. I believe we all are. Shall we head out? I’ll gladly escort you to the Labyrinth, Miss...Danielle, was it?”

“Yeah.” Danielle started toward Nicholas. Each step made her feel more at ease than the last. But as he put a warm, comforting arm around her shoulder, Danielle turned back toward James and his characters to give them a final smile. “Good luck. Be safe, and I’ll see you at the Labyrinth soon.”

James smiled back.


With Nicholas escorting them, it didn’t take long for the Labyrinth to peek up over the gray horizon. None of them were in the mood to make conversation. The closer they got, the more the city seemed to crumble around them. The roads were just as deserted as they had been the last time Danielle walked down them, but now the emptiness was not eerie—it was desolate. A mob had rolled through here recently, that much was clear by the smashed windows and ruin.

“But why?” Danielle couldn’t stop herself from asking.

Nicholas shook his head. “The people of Nothing have been discontent with the city’s conditions for a long while. Agitation has been building. It looks like all this trouble with the mortals has become the straw that’s broken the camel’s back.” He sighed. “I’m sure this could have been prevented, but Death has never showed any particular interest in hearing the concerns of his people.”

“He’s getting what he deserves for being irresponsible.” Rella crossed her arms, her heels picking up dirt in her impatient clip. “Maybe he’ll look at what all this negligence has done and shape up.”

Danielle almost laughed. She knew that Rella couldn’t have believed Death would change. Or care. It wasn’t just unlikely, it went against his character completely. But she wasn’t going to bring it up—not when the sounds of angry chanting began to pick up ahead of them.

“Wait,” Nicholas said, stopping them. The disgruntled shouting from the rioters was growing into a steady roar. “It sounds like they’re trying to storm the Labyrinth to get to Death. We won’t be able to get in if we go the same way they have.”

Danielle’s shoulders sagged. “We’re stuck?”

“Great.” Rella sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose. “Just perfect. There’s no way Death isn’t in there, obsessed with the machine he won’t accept will destroy him. All this hassle will have been for nothing if I can’t reach him.”

Nicholas put a hand on her shoulder, a sad smile on his face. “I fear there’s more than that at stake if we’re unable to change the current course of history.”

Danielle’s brow furrowed as she stared at their backs. She’d never fully developed Nicholas, so it was hard for her to understand what he was thinking. He had never been the devious type, so Danielle wanted to trust in him, but she wasn’t sure how he knew so much about the situation they were in. She opened her mouth to ask, but closed it again when Nicholas continued.

“I think I know another way we can get in.” He found Rella’s hand in his and changed course.

Danielle hesitated as she watched them move on, but shook her head and followed. In the end, she had no other options. If she had a chance later, she’d talk to Nicholas about his part in their story.

Nicholas led Rella and Danielle to an obscured, half-constructed entrance on the other side of the Labyrinth that hadn’t been encompassed by Nothing’s citizens.

“We don’t have long,” Nicholas said as he ushered them on through a twisted tunnel of metal. “If the mob can’t get in, the main entrances must have been blocked. I’m sure once they move on in this direction, the same thing will happen. We’ll have to get farther in so we don’t get shut out of the center.”

The urgency in his voice made Danielle hold her tongue until they made their way to the first room in the Labyrinth. The sight stunned her to an even further silence.

“Wow,” she breathed, looking around. “It’s the first room.”

Nicholas looked at her with a question in his eyes. Rella said nothing, her shoulders tensed.

“I mean,” Danielle clarified, “it’s the first room that I wrote about. That’s got to sound like a whole lot of garbage, but...this is so surreal.”

It was a warehouse, full of nothing but boxes and conveyor belts. It was both everything she remembered writing, but nothing she had imagined. Nothing was up and running, the boxes were still empty, and they were more than two doors leading on to further stages of the Labyrinth.

“It’s still so unfinished,” she murmured, heading toward the door she remembered as the one she’d written Rella going into once she’d won the first round of the tournament. “God, I’d hardly written anything before at that point. I was so unoriginal. Hey, Rella, do you remember any of this?”

Danielle turned to look at her character and her questioning eyes filled with regret. Rella looked almost sick. Danielle had made Rella forget about all of it; it was the only way she could justify bringing Rella back for the second tournament. But at this point it was more than a little clear how out of control this story was from her own interpretation of it. She could have regained those memories in any number of ways, if she ever really lost them at all.

“Perhaps we should move on,” Nicholas offered. He was closer to one of the other doors, but took a step forward to meet Danielle where she was.

“Right,” Danielle agreed. When Rella didn’t move, she started to apologize.

That was when the Labyrinth groaned. She lost her balance as the entire floor twisted, folding in on itself, taking a new shape.

Predictably, Danielle landed square on her ass amidst her screaming and tumbling. Not giving herself the time to feel the pain set in, Danielle rolled onto her knees and turned around to see if the others were alright the second that the Labyrinth was still. There was nothing for her to see. What had once been an expanse warehouse had turned into a dead-end hallway, and there was no indication that the new walls were going to give way anytime soon.

Danielle put her hands on the steel and pushed for good measure—and met without so much as a groan of disapproval.

“Hello?” She knocked. “Nicholas? Rella? Can either of you hear me?”

Nothing. There must have been more walls separating the three of them, and they looked too thick to be heard through.

With a sigh that sounded more like a whimper, Danielle leaned forward until her forehead was resting against the barrier. Alone, what little self-confidence she had managed to hold onto was very quickly crumbling. She balled her hands into fists and took a deep breath. There was nothing she could do about it. Now that the Labyrinth had changed there was only one option for her to move in. Danielle was sure that Hayley was somewhere. All she had to do was walk forward until she found her friend, and then she wouldn’t have any reason to be nervous.

The footsteps came before Danielle had taken a single step. She didn’t give herself the chance to hope that it was someone she knew—the footsteps sounded too much like the clopping of hooves for that.

Go away, Danielle begged in silence, closing her eyes and holding her breath. The sound grew closer and closer until she felt she’d be trampled. There was nowhere for her to hide. All she could do was press herself back into the darkest, tightest corner and hope that whatever was coming toward her would overlook her.

Or, hey, maybe it would be friendly.

Danielle wasn’t counting on it. Most of the beings she’d met down here had proven to be the opposite of friendly. Even the other mortals.

The footsteps stopped and Danielle kept holding her breath. She squeezed her eyes shut even tighter, too scared to even check and see if she was alone.

The disgruntled cough gave her the answer she wasn’t looking for.

With a jump, Danielle snapped her eyes open and let the stale air rush from her lungs. Just feet away from her, a demon with cloven hooves, a clipboard, and a sour disposition was watching her boredly. He tapped a finger on the clipboard’s back and sighed. Were it not for the labcoat he was wearing and the apparent lack of aggression, Danielle would have screamed.

“You’re not going to gawk all evening, are you? We have a lot of work to do.” The demon turned and began to walk the way he’d come. “Hurry, now.”


“Yes, we. I require your assistance. It isn’t too much farther ahead.”

Danielle shuddered as a prickle of nervousness shot down her spine. “How did you know I’d be here?” She had to gulp down a knot in her throat. “Were you responsible for the way the Labyrinth changed?”

“Are you going to be asking a lot of questions?”

“Oh. Sorry.” Danielle hesitated. “Can I just ask for your name? I mean, if I’m going to be helping you…”

The demon sighed. He didn’t stop walking, but tossed a dead-eyed glance over his shoulder. “You may call me Coroner.”

Danielle furrowed her brow. She was sure she’d heard that name before. Not in the previous Exchange tournament, but before that, in the first. Unfortunately, she’d participated in it so long ago she couldn’t say for sure. Danielle shook her head. She must have been remembering it wrong; she couldn’t recall demons being much of an element back in that version of Nothing.

As their joined footsteps echoed throughout the tunnel Danielle followed Coroner down, she swallowed her urge to ask anymore questions. She wanted to know what it was that Coroner needed or what he was even working on in the first place.

At least, she wanted to know until they reached Coroner’s laboratory. Just as he’d said, it wasn’t much farther ahead. He must have been able to hear her calling out to her characters, which is how he’d known to look for her. The more Danielle absorbed the environment, the less at ease she felt.

Coroner went straight to a panel of controls. Danielle couldn’t make heads or tails of them, but when he pushed a series in quick succession, the opening behind her slammed shut. She gasped as she spun around, wide-eyed. She was stuck here. There were other open doorways on the other side of the room, but Danielle wasn’t foolish enough to think she’d be able to reach one faster than Coroner could close them.

Instead, she looked past him and his controls to the floor-to-ceiling contraptions that lined most of the room. They looked like large chambers, and they glowed a faint green. Some of them were full of large, dark shapes, but from where she was, Danielle couldn’t see them clearly. She had a feeling she didn’t want to, either.

“Um,” Danielle choked, clearing her throat and twisting her hands around the chain of her purse, “what was it you needed my help for, exactly?”

“I wouldn’t be in such a hurry to find out,” Coroner said distractedly. One of the empty chambers began to grow more brightly as his fingers flew over the multi-colored buttons before him. “Your presence will become useful soon enough.”

“Would you—”

“No more talking.”

Danielle felt her knees shake. Frozen by her own nerves, she sank quietly to the floor. All she could do now was wait. She hoped someone else would find her before Coroner finished his preparations.


Rella tumbled forward as the Labyrinth quaked and spat her into a new room. She was able to stabilize herself on a cold, metallic wall, but not before her feet twisted over one another and a sick crack reached her ears.

When the world stilled around her, she raised her ankle to confirm that she hadn’t broken it. Nothing hurt, but this only made her frown harder. Her right heel had come loose where it joined with the rest of the shoe. If she wasn’t careful, one stray step could snap it off completely.

And then where would she be? Stumbling around looking like a fashion disaster, that was where. Unbelievable. This had to be Death’s doing. He knew she was here, and he was trying to make things as difficult for her as possible.

Well, she wasn’t going to let him gloat about it. Enough was enough.

Rella took one look behind her, at where the room had swallowed itself up into a twisted knot of metal, and contented herself with the fact that she would not be going back the way she came. That was fine. She’d intended to move forward from the start and that hadn’t changed. Death was somewhere in the Labyrinth, and when she found him, she was going to set him straight once and for all.

As if her frustration had summoned him, Death phased out of the shadows before her. His stance was tense and his footfalls were silent. Rella almost let herself be startled by his sudden appearance, but instead she held her head high.

“Decided to come out and face me, did you?” She stepped forward to meet him, tossing her hair back with her fingers. “I knew you wouldn’t be able to fool yourself long. All I had to do was wait long enough, and you’d come crawling back.”

Rella offered him a coy grin, but it was one that Death didn’t reciprocate.

“You’re an eyesore,” he said. His hand flew out of his pocket in a flash, grabbing one of her wrists. Rella couldn’t see his eyes from underneath the shadow of his hat, but his lips were turned down into a snarl that almost chilled her.

“Funny,” she said, forcing a stammer back down her throat, “I could say the same about you.”

Rella made to rip her arm back, away from him, but he drew her close—too close. She focused the strength behind her eyes square against his chest and sent him staggering back into the wall. The force of their separation left her arm sore. Rella made herself tall as she rubbed it, cradling her wrist against her chest.

“What’s wrong with you?” Rella squared her jaw, staring at him from behind the narrow slits she’d made with her eyelids. “I’ve done nothing but help you since you—you—threw me here to find you, without my permission, I might add, and this is how you treat me? With insults and injury? Don’t you understand anything? Have you learned nothing from what you’ve seen?”

Death barked a single laugh, his hands clawing at his sides against the stone. When he rose to his full height, Rella couldn’t stop a thread of dread from knotting in her stomach. She steeled herself, not about to give him the satisfaction of showing intimidation on her face. It didn’t matter to her how small she was in comparison: she wasn’t going to lose control of the situation. She wouldn’t let him have this.

“Stupid little princess,” he said, running a finger along the rim of his hat. “Still haven’t figured out that you have nothing to offer me?”

Rella’s shoulders stiffened. “You expect me to believe you can suddenly predict your own future?”

“I thought I made myself clear last time. You don’t interest me, and I’ve had enough of your harping.”

Death took a long step forward, bent at the torso to lean his face closer to hers. Rella began to step backward, but stopped herself. She wouldn’t back down. Not now. Not when she had come so far.

“You wouldn’t have listened to me if I had taken any softer of an approach.” Despite herself, Rella averted her eyes away from his shadowed face and cruel grin. “I said the things that I did for your own good. Now, if you’ll stop this cat-and-mouse act and listen to me—”

Death cut her off. His arms were on hers again, not pulling but sharp, his fingernails pushing into her flesh and making her crush her teeth together in an effort not to cry out. “No,” he said, “you listen. I don’t want you. Not here and not in my future. You’re nothing more than a thorn in my side.”

He moved one of his hands up to trace a line over the soft curve leading from her jaw to her neck. “‘Bout time I toss you out with the rest of the trash, I think.”

Rella tensed. In that instant she realized his next move, and spun on her heel before he could wrap his hand around her neck. His hand fell on the back of her blouse instead, yanking her back as she scrambled away from him. Her forward momentum stunted, Rella’s legs twisted underneath her and she fell to her knees, her heel giving a final groan as it snapped free of its base.

She was stuck. Death twisted one of her arms behind her back, his other hand still tight on the collar of her blouse. Rella wheezed, her free hand scraping blindly at the floor around her bent legs.

Death laughed again, pulling her up enough to make her uncomfortable but not enough to raise her to her feet. She could feel the fabric of her blouse cutting into her windpipe. If he pulled too much more, the delicate satin would tear and she’d never forgive him.

“You’re the most pathetic thing I’ve ever laid eyes on,” Death said. “You act so tough, but the second you let your guard down you fall into pieces. What did you think would happen here, Rella? How did you expect this to all play out?”

Rella’s fingertips brushed a piece of jagged wood. She stretched for it, pulled it into the palm of her hand with her eyes when she couldn’t reach it on her own.

Death didn’t notice her shift in focus. “Did you think you could erase the name calling? Did you think you could make me forget who you are or what you’ve done? Coming after me did nothing. And now that I’ve got you by the scruff of your neck, I’m going to make sure there’s not a piece left of your soul that can pester me.”

His breath touched her ear as he leaned in even closer, his jaw nearly pressed into hers. “Don’t worry,” he said. “When I’m done with you there won’t be a single scratch on that pretty face of yours.”

“I wasn’t worried,” Rella said. She swung her arm up and behind her with as much force as she could muster, jamming the broken leg of her heel into the crook of Death’s neck. There was a brief instant, while the makeshift weapon was airborn, that Rella felt the urge to hesitate.

She didn’t come here for this. Hurting him hadn’t been part of her plan, and it certainly wasn’t going to earn her any favors. But Death wasn’t acting like himself—not like the Death that she had known. And it wasn’t as if he couldn’t recover.

Death’s scream echoed down the hallways. It was a sound more pained and more animal than Rella could have imagined. He let her go and stumbled backward, clawing desperately at the bloody stain that was spreading across his shoulder. Rella watched the anger and agony rip through his features as she struggled to her feet. With only one functional heel, her balance was rickety at best.

Well, she wanted to say, you deserved that one, didn’t you?

A knot in her throat pushed back the words. “Death,” she said instead, “I didn’t think…”

His arm swung violently toward her at the words, and Rella barely managed to lean out of reach.

“You bitch.” The insult came like a rumble of thunder. He yanked the heel from his skin and threw it to the floor. His body seemed to take up the length of the floor to the ceiling now. His teeth shone out at her, long like daggers. “The Hell with Satan and his damn rules. I’ll murder you!”

Rella’s back hit the hallway behind her. Even at her full height, she was cowering. A part of her knew she should run—that Death was more serious about this threat than he had ever been with her before. But how could she be expected to run from a god?

She wouldn’t run. She wouldn’t even try. Rella steeled herself. If this was how it happened—if this was how she died—she’d go down staring him in the face as much as she was capable.

Death didn’t have the chance to lunge.

“This don’t seem right,” his voice said from somewhere farther down the hallway.

Rella whipped her eyes from one Death to another and felt her breath catch in her throat. The new Death shook his head as he approached in long, easy strides. His arms were slack and his hands resting in his pockets, but Rella could see them curve into fists.

The first Death took a step away. He didn’t seem so tall anymore. In fact, the closer the second Death approached, the more the first one shrank, clutching his wounded shoulder and hissing. In a matter of footfalls, he looked nothing like Death at all.

“I had a feeling last time we met,” Death said. “You made a convincing fake at first, even had me going, but it looks like whatever power you had backing you up’s been all used up.”

He stopped, licked his thumb, and snapped his fingers. The imposter screamed as it convulsed, its arms and legs twisting and cracking as they changed—becoming slender and dark.

Rella put a hand over her mouth and flattened herself against the wall as best she could—not that she thought it would make her any less visible.

When the carnage stopped, the body of what was once the first Death fell to the floor, panting and groaning.

“Demons,” Death said with a click of his tongue. “Always think they’re so clever.” He tossed a glance to Rella as he shrugged his shoulders. “Gets ‘em into trouble every time.”

Rella frowned and turned to the heap on the floor. When it lifted its head to look at them, her throat tightened.

Rosemary glared at them both in turn and struggled to her feet, leaning heavily against the other wall as support as she did so. She couldn’t bring her knees to straighten. “Damn,” she said. “And you were such a good disguise, too.”

“You.” Rella’s nails dug into her palms. “The whole time?”

“Relax. I only ever used it on you just now, and I hadn’t been expecting to run into you to begin with.” Rosemary smiled. “What, did you think I was actually going to kill you? Dramatic as ever, Rella. You know you’re better to me alive than dead. I just do love seeing a look of panic on that sweet face of yours.”

“More importantly,” Death said as Rella opened her mouth to respond, “I don’t appreciate you taking my image. Didn’t give you the right, little lady.”

“Yeah? Gonna do something about it?” Rosemary asked.

Death shrugged. “Figured I’d kill you,” he said.

“Try it,” she said.

In the silence that followed, nothing happened. Death tensed. Rosemary laughed. Her shoulders shook in a mixture of mirth and pain as she wiped blood from her lips. “Yeah,” she said, “didn’t think so. Think of demons as being as lowly as you like, Mr. God, but never forget that you have no power over us. You wanna kill me, you’re gonna have to fill out the appropriate paperwork for Satan to date and sign.”

The silence returned. Rella felt a chill run through her as Death stiffened further. Rosemary’s laugh came in more powerful spurts through her coughing and wheezing. “Can’t do it. Just like I thought.” Her bloody grin stretched from ear to ear as she turned her dark gaze to Rella. “See you later, honey bunch.”

Rosemary’s form exploded into a dark cloud, and she was gone.


Nicholas was hardly shaken when the warehouse transformed itself into a series of separate hallways. He sighed. Although he hadn’t expected the sudden shift, he couldn’t pretend to be surprised. If Death didn’t want to be found, he wasn’t going to be. It was only natural that his machine would reflect that. Putting a hand on one of the walls to steady himself, Nicholas knew right away that he wasn’t going to be able to reach Rella or Danielle. He’d have to hope that they’d find their way safely to the center and meet him there.

“Be careful,” he said to the air before turning on his heel and striding off down the pathway presented to him.

Within moments, distressed yelling reached his ears. Nicholas broke off into a run, his dead heart leaping in concern. It was a feminine voice, but didn’t sound like either of the women he’d come into the Labyrinth with. Someone else must have been surprised by the Labyrinth’s defensive transformation.

He found her hanging from a web of tangled cords and metal pipes, halfway upside-down with her elbows struck up over her head. Nicholas was by her side in two shakes, climbing the few feet up to meet her. “Are you alright?”

“Do I look alright?” The mortal groaned in frustration. Her face was flushed from all the blood rushing to her head.

Nicholas had to force himself to hide the smile that started to light up his face. “Well, you don’t look hurt, so there’s that. Let me help you down before you pass out.”

It didn’t take Nicholas long to free the mortal completely, and he was quick to thrust out an arm to support her before he fell down on her head.

“Oh,” she said when she finally got a good look at him rightside up. Her earlier attitude folded in on itself beneath the weight of her dizziness.

Nicholas flashed her a patient smile. “Hello. Are you by any chance Hayley?”

“Yes! Do I know you?”

“Not likely.” He folded his hands in front of him. “A young woman around your age was looking for you. I escorted her through a back entrance of the Labyrinth when we found the front blocked by rioters, but we got separated shortly thereafter. With hope, she’ll be heading for the center. Perhaps we can all meet her there.”

“Do you remember her name?” Hayley frowned before giving a sheepish half-smile. “I have a few friends around my age that are down here.”

“I believe it was Danielle.”

“Oh! Icy! Oh my God—and you’re…”


Nicholas extended a hand, which Hayley grabbed with a bit more enthusiasm than necessary. “Huh,” she said. Her expression told him that she knew something she wasn’t sure she wanted to say. If the situation were not so dire, Nicholas may have sat her down and attempted to get it out of her. Instead, he let her change the subject.

“Thanks for the help, anyway. I should go find her.” Her expression darkened. “And Death. Where ever he ran off to.”

“You were with Death?”

“Yeah.” She shrugged her shoulders, rubbing them where they’d become sore. “It’s a long story, but we came up with a plan to get everyone out of here together in a way that could be in both of our best interests. He vanished without a warning as the Labyrinth shifted, but I guess he’ll just meet me in the control room when he’s done with...whatever it is he’s doing.”

“This doesn’t involve the other mortals, does it?”

“ did you know? Did you run into more of them here already? I know at least a couple of them are in here, already, but...”

Nicholas only shook his head. “If they’re already here, as you say, I don’t believe I have time to explain. Let’s head to the center of the Labyrinth together. I’m sure everyone we’re looking for will do the same.”


Rosemary blasted herself halfway across the Labyrinth before she let herself rest, settling between the cracks in the metal plates. This form was one of her least favorites—being a smoke cloud was so tacky—but it had its advantages. She could hide and rest without persecution, and although she couldn’t erase her wounds or stop the damage they were doing, she could more easily ignore them. Stealth wasn’t really her style, but sometimes it was the only way.

Above her, a metal plate slid open on the ceiling. A young man with thick hair stuck his head in and looked around. “It’s not a far jump down. I should be able to make it without any real trouble.”

“Okay,” said another voice from somewhere behind him. “Don’t be long. I feel so lost without you.”

The young man rolled his eyes. “Right.”

“Hey! It’s sort of true! And anyway, this green light doesn’t do any favors for my complexion.”

If Rosemary had a face, she would have smiled. She recognized both of them. The one sliding his legs over the edge of the opening was Matthew, one of those mortal saps she’d seen running around the city. She hadn’t interacted with him much, herself, but she’d most recently seen him trapped in one of Coroner’s machines.

Wouldn’t the other demon be pleased to have one of his stray batteries back? Maybe he’d even have a little twinkle in his eye.

But that wasn’t nearly as important to her as the voice belonging to Matthew’s companion. She had a lot of catching up to do with Cernun, not that he knew it.

While Matthew lowered himself as carefully as he could, Rosemary rose from hiding, rising up like a pillar of smoke and shadow. She didn’t give Matthew the chance to scream a warning. The moment he turned toward her, she was on him, and in him, bleeding into every orifice he had to offer and wrestling his consciousness into submission.

Possession was a practice Rosemary had made an artform. When Matthew lost balance and fell to his knees, struggling to breathe, he was not the one in control.

Rosemary looked at his hands—her hands—and smiled at the way they trembled. She had forgotten what it felt like to be warm.

“You alright down there?”

She looked up at Cernun and twisted Matthew’s lips up into a bashful smile. “Yeah. Didn’t quite stick the landing, but I’m fine. You can come down.”

“Uh, broken legs? If you don’t think you stuck the landing, imagine how well I’d do.”

Rosemary laughed more than she meant to. “Right. Forgot about those. Sorry.”

She wasn’t sorry. It was what he got for stealing. But now that she needed him and didn’t have the power left to heal him, she had to admit it was a bit inconvenient. Oh well. He wasn’t going anywhere, and he clearly didn’t have what she was looking for if he wasn’t doing anything about his own injuries. He could sit there and wait while she dropped off Matthew. Then, when she came back for him, she wouldn’t have to worry about anyone interrupting them.

“Sit tight. I’ll find something to help you get down more easily. There’s so much metal around here, it shouldn’t be hard.”

“Sure thing, Captain!” Cernun smiled. “Watch out for demons while you’re at it! Never know what they might get into.”

Rosemary’s smile only widened. Offering Cernun a final wave, Rosemary turned Matthew’s body toward the Labyrinth’s center. She waited until she was out of Cernun’s sight to run her new hands through her new hair.

“You’re not my ideal vessel,” she admitted, “but you’re damn cute. I think I’ll stay for awhile.”


Cernun laid his head back down and sighed. He’d have to apologize to Matthew later about the whole letting-him-get-possessed thing. Or, more accurately, he’d have to apologize if it ever came up again, which he was hoping it wouldn’t. Matthew seemed like a pretty bright kid; he’d probably figure it out himself. In the meantime, Cernun had a bit of time to plan things out. He knew there was a way out of this because there was always a way out of everything.

The only problem was the state he was in. With the Something gone, he didn’t have the power to do much of anything. At least not with two broken legs and an aching back. Boy, was he getting old.

It would’ve only taken a few more seconds for boredom to set in, in which case Cernun was sure he would’ve had to be moved to drastic measures to keep his sanity intact. Luckily, it was just then that a burst of light exploded before him and left a small demon child shaking like a dog after a rainstorm.

Cernun propped himself up on his elbows. “Hello, little fella. Don’t mind if I don’t get up.” He gestured toward his legs.

The demon took one look at the state of Cernun’s twisted legs and shrieked, clearly forgetting about whatever purpose it had on the Labyrinth’s rooftop. “Doesn’t that hurt?”

“Quite! But here I am, still smiling!”

The demon shuffled from one foot to the other, uncertainty plastered across his cherubic face. “You’re a broken thing, just like we were,” he said. His eyes lit up. “But, you know, I got all better so maybe you can, too!”

Without waiting for any sort of invitation, the demon slid forward and grabbed hold of Cernun’s legs. The sharp, splintering pain was gone before Cernun could yell out in protest. White light filled his eyes, and then his legs were healed. No, not his legs. His everything was healed. He was strong again. His whole body buzzed with power—just like when Death had offered him a taste of the Something. Only this time it was more.

Cernun jumped onto his feet and gave a delighted cheer. The demon, in response, gave a frightened squeak, but Cernun didn’t seem to notice the boy’s discomfort.

“I don’t know how you managed to get all that juice, but I’m not about to bite the hand that feeds me.” He reached out, grabbed one of the demon’s small hands, and shook it so vigorously his entire arm wobbled. “What’s the name of my most gracious savior?”

“Uh, I’m Hayden!”

“Well, Hayden, what brings you to the Labyrinth? Anything I can help you with? It’s only fair.”

“I’m looking for Mr. Death! I have a really important letter that I need to give to Mr. Satan, but he’s really mad at me right now so I thought I could give it to him instead.”

“Oh! What a coincidence! You know, I’m a good buddy of Death’s and was on my way to visit him anyway. You could just give the letter to me.”

“I dunno. Someone really big and strong and smart gave it to me, so…”

“Oh, come on. What’ll it hurt? You can trust me!”

Hayden pursed his lips, but his shoulders relaxed. “You’re right! You seem really nice. And you must be if Mr. Death let you be his friend ‘cause I didn’t even think he had any!”

“We go way back.” Cernun made a wide sweeping motion with one arm as he wrapped the other around Hayden’s small shoulders. “It’s a real funny story how we met, and everything. But oh, who wants to hear me ramble on about old history. How about that letter?”

Hayden pulled the envelope from his shirt as if he’d completely forgotten his earlier trepidation, his eyes stuck at stunned.

Cernun flashed a smile as he ripped the envelope right open to reveal its contents. Hayden squeaked as if he’d torn it to pieces but Cernun paid no mind to the noise, lifting the paper up and out of Hayden’s sight as he read it.

“I didn’t think you were going to open it,” Hayden protested, his fingers struck nervously inside of his mouth. “It’s supposed to be for Mr. Satan!”

“Now, now,” Cernun assured distractedly. “We’re all friends, remember? It’ll be fine. Good ol’ Satan, he’ll be happy I saved him the trouble.”

“But you said you were Mr. Death’s friend.”

“Did I? Hm. Well, no turning back now.”

Hayden wailed and took a step back, wrenching himself free from Cernun’s arm. “S-so...I can go now, right? You’ll take care of it from here? I don’t want to get in more trouble!”

“You can count on me, my young friend.” Cernun stopped reading, a smile tugging his lips up. “But aren’t you curious to know what all the fuss is about?”

“No!” Hayden threw his hands up in defense, but his face sagged. “Well, kinda. A little bit, maybe…”

“Excellent!” Cernun shoved the letter into Hayden’s still-open hands before pulling him along by the elbow. “Read it on the way.”

Hayden choked, but stumbled obediently along after Cernun. “Why? Where are we going?”

“To stop exactly what that letter warns is about to happen, of course. I’ll need to borrow that juice of yours a bit more when we get there. And speaking of which, how did you learn that little trick of yours?”

As they descended into the Labyrinth through the open panel Matthew had taken not too long before them, Hayden shoved the letter back into his shirt and told Cernun all about his trip to Hell and back again. Unable to believe his sudden stroke of luck, it was all Cernun could do not to laugh out loud and confuse the demon further.


It was a long moment before anyone moved. But, as he was wont to do, Death was the first to let the tension slip from his shoulders. Rella knew how upset he was about Rosemary’s defiance and his apparent powerlessness in the face of it, but of course he wasn’t going to let it show as he tossed her one of his trademark smirks.

“Rough day, huh?”

Rella clicked her tongue as she pushed away from the wall and smoothed her skirt. She’d have to hobble, missing the heel of one of her shoes, but if he was going to act unaffected so was she. “Spare me.”

Death’s smirk quivered. He pulled his hands out of his pockets in a placating gesture. As if he were trying to assert that he was the innocent one in the situation. “Mad about what I said earlier? You know, you’re the one who—”

Rella cut him off with a harsh laugh, whipping her head back toward him so fast her curls flared about her like a burst of flames. “Don’t you dare play the victim with me—and while I’m at it, don’t act like you would have given me the time of day if I hadn’t come on as strong as I had when you’re the one who won’t grow up.” Death’s smirk fell into a dead line, but she didn’t let it deter her. “I told you—showed you everything, but despite all that you know we’ll go through, you’re still treating me like the enemy you know I’m not.”


Rella made her uneven steps as powerful as she could as she reached him, grabbed fistfuls of his shirt and shook him. He let her, his chest swaying slightly. He wasn’t threatened by her, and looking the way she did, Rella didn’t blame him. “No. Be quiet. We agreed to no more games but here we are and I’m done. I want to help. I came here to help you. Damn it, Death, why won’t you just let me? For once, just let me in.”

His silence was not what she was expecting, but her breath came heavy in her exhaustion and she accepted it. Her forehead fell forward to lean into the space between her hands, resting, and her shaking fingers unclenched.

When Death finally spoke, he put his hands on her arms. They sat there in contemplation, and Rella didn’t feel the need to recoil. “How do you reckon I should trust you?”

Rella offered a humorless laugh in response. “This may be the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever said.” Shaking her head against him, she sighed and pulled back far enough to fix him with an accusing stare. “You’ve made yourself the closest thing I have to a friend. And, unfortunately, because of that I care about what happens to you. I care that you’re throwing yourself down a path you don’t want to admit is going to get you killed. No matter how uninteresting you claim to find me, I’m not going to let you inconvenience me by disappearing.”

Death’s laugh, unlike Rella’s, was not without humor. She opened her mouth to admonish him, but he leaned down and silenced her with his before she could. And although she couldn’t be sure for exactly how long the kiss lasted, Rella didn’t want to move her lips away from his when it inevitably had to end. When she did, she pressed her forehead into his neck.

“How did you know when to show up?” She smiled into his skin. “Were you keeping tabs on me?”

Death grinned and brushed his thumb across her cheek. “The souls have broken past the outer walls,” he said, “and that means bad news for us. Come on; it’s time for us to meet up with our girls.”

Death balanced her with an arm around her waist, and they left the hallway empty.
It's been somewhere around a year since my last journal so I guess it's about time I made a new one! I don't really have too much to talk about, but since I don't hear too much from the really cool fantastic people I watch and who watch me back on here too often I thought I'd ask a question!

I'd like to get to know you all better and be better friends. We all follow each other because we have things in common, whether it be our participation in past or current OCTs, writing in general, drawing, fandoms, or what have you. Would anybody be interested in swapping AIM or Skype usernames? Note me or comment and maybe we could strike up a friendly conversation!

I hope everybody's having a really nice day today!

Oh, also, I've been wanting to broaden my horizons. I don't have a lot of spare time these days, but if anybody has any book, movie, tv series, or video game recommendations I'd love to hear them! Or even if anyone has any suggestions for drawing or even some requests, I'll consider them! Besides what I do for work I've been a bit blank creatively so I want to work slowly at fixing that. Tell me what kind of things you like or what you want to see from me and why. I'll do my best!
  • Mood: Yearning


Danielle Dawson
Artist | Professional | Literature
United States
ow o;;

AdCast - Ads from the Community





Add a Comment:
Saishira Featured By Owner Oct 4, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Happy birthday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Icysapphire Featured By Owner Oct 4, 2014  Professional Writer
Thanks! O:
Demoness-Melody Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Icysapphire Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2013  Professional Writer
omfg o n o
too close
Ganth Featured By Owner Oct 4, 2013
Icyyyyyy happy birthday :D
Icysapphire Featured By Owner Oct 4, 2013  Professional Writer
Thanks, Ganth! C:
2twinveggies Featured By Owner Feb 25, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Your King Lear comics made day. I thank you for your gifts to mankind and pray you keep up the good work.
Icysapphire Featured By Owner Feb 25, 2013  Professional Writer
AW thank you!
applescruff Featured By Owner Feb 11, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Hey, good luck on this round of Libertas!
Icysapphire Featured By Owner Feb 11, 2013  Professional Writer
You too! C: I'm sure this is going to be tons of fun.
Add a Comment: