Dancing the Shadows

Chapter 2: Journey Through the Twilight World

© 1999/2007 by Stayka deyAvemta

This page was last modified: 2007/03/18


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Death brings all tumbling to the ground
Reality stalks without reason
Without profound intend
Men fight
Their bleached minds
Narrow minded spit
Transferring thoughts into words
Giving movement sound
And who will silence the violence all around?

(T.Willcox)


"There has to be another way," Athena said. "The last time we didn't have enough time to work out a proper plan, but this time I refuse to take only desperate means."

"We could walk the path of Orpheus or Herakles," Marin suggested. "They entered the underworld via the main entrance."

"Unfortunately this entrance is located at the Western end of the world, and we know by now that the Earth is a sphere, and not a disk," Saori pointed out.

"There is one Saint who can open a doorway to the forecourt of the Hades," Leo Aiolia said with a mien as if he had bitten into something very unpleasant. "But I'm not sure we should entrust him with such a job."

"Do we have another choice?" Athena wasn't satisfied with this solution either, but it was true -- no one else was able to open a door into the bleak twilight world that lead to the entrance of the Hades. "I will call the Cancer Saint."

"What? Do you really want to call DeathMask?" Shunrei squealed. She hadn't forgotten that the cruel Cancer Saint had tried to kill her to torture and weaken Shiryu. She couldn't understand why Athena hadn't stripped him of Cloth and rank once and forever after the Saints had been returned to the living by the power of the Great Mother Gaia.

"I don't see another way to free Seiya and the others than to place my trust into DeathMask's powers," Athena said. She concentrated and sent out her Cosmo to order the Cancer Saint to report to her at once.

Only seconds later, DeathMask materialized in the command center, proudly bearing his Cancer Gold Cloth again. It had been a severe shock for him when his Cloth abandoned him during the fight with Shiryu, and he vowed this would never happen again, even if it meant he had to follow Athena's wishes once in a while.

Shunrei tried to hide behind Aiolia, who was the only person she deemed to be able to protect her against the vile assassin.

DeathMask looked around and admired the high-tech command center. When he discovered the mortally frightened Chinese girl, desperately hiding behind the Leo Saint, he couldn't help himself and said "Booh!"

Shunrei squeaked and clutched her arms around Aiolia.

"DeathMask, behave!" Athena ordered angrily.

"If you insist," he sulked and shot her a defiant look. It was demeaning, it almost sounded as if she had ordered a dog to heel. He still thought that it would only have been a mercy-kill to terminate the annoying brat. "Why did you ask me to appear here?"

"You will open a gateway to Hades for Aiolia and yourself, and then you will enter the underworld realm to retrieve Seiya and his friends who are held prisoner there."

DeathMask grimaced. It was more than likely that 'Seiya and friends' meant the Dragon Saint was on the list of the guys to be rescued, too. But if someone deserved to suffer the worst agonies of the Tartaros, it was certainly Shiryu.

"I think we should take Camus and Shura along, too," Aiolia pondered. Actually, he disliked admitting that he probably wouldn't be able to handle the situation himself, but then, he was not stupid, and the world of the dead was a terrain he was very wary of -- Gold Saint or not. "They spent a considerable time down there and we need every little advantage we can get."

"Okay. Anyone else?"

"I will accompany them, of course," Marin said. "You guys don't stand a chance if the opponent is a woman..." She gave Aiolia a peculiar look.

"I will join you, too," another female voice declared. Shaina, who also dwelled in Tokyo at the moment, immediately went to Athena's headquarters when she, too, sensed the disappearance of Seiya's Cosmo. Before the others could acknowledge her, DeathMask replied to Marin.

"Pah. I don't mind whether the enemy is male or female. Only a dead opponent is a good opponent."

Athena shook her head and wondered whether it really had been a good idea to keep DeathMask among her Gold Saints. But then, currently there was no suitable candidate around who could assume the Cancer Cloth with all its implications. She sighed.

According to the scriptures that she had discovered in the vaults of the Kyoukou's temple, most of the Cancer Saints had been more or less unstable due to the nature of their Cosmo abilities. Always living between the world of the living and the dead put a severe strain on these Saints and more than one of them had gone mad and thus had to be killed for safety reasons. No, she wouldn't put another boy or girl through the ordeal as long as she had a living and more or less sane Cancer Saint on this position.

"Good", Athena nodded towards Shaina. The Ophiuchus Saint had saved Seiya repeatedly in the past (although initially she had been out for his head). Then Athena concentrated and her Cosmo flared brightly golden when she called Capricorn Shura and Aquarius Camus to attend. This left eight Gold Saints back in Sanctuary, but two of them -- Pisces Aphrodite and Gemini Saga -- were on probation, just like DeathMask, and Kiki was still in training. Kiki... Well, she should better start calling him Phrixos now, as this was the name he had chosen when he assumed the Aries Cloth.

It didn't take long for Camus and Shura to arrive, and when they materialized in the command center, it occurred to Saori that it might be a wise idea to ask Mu to install a psychokinesis blocker here, too, like the one in Sanctuary that hindered any teleports as long as she (or the Pope) was in her Temple and powered the wards with her Cosmo. It was nice that her Gold Saints could appear here right away at any moment, but the thought of her enemies being able to enter the same way was disconcerting.

Shura and Camus bowed their heads, before they became aware of Aiolia's and DeathMask's presence. They exchanged an astonished look. Why could Athena have need of four Gold Saints -- and one of them Cancer DeathMask?!

Before they could greet Athena, she nodded at them. "I thank you for arriving so fast. I need you for a special mission. You are to enter Hades' realm and rescue Seiya, Shiryu, Hyoga and Shun who were abducted by Persephoneia, Hades' wife."

Camus frowned deeply. Enter Hades' realm? If he was truthful, his last visit there had been more than enough for him, especially the time when he and the others had to 'live' a meaningless, dull existence in the City of the Dead among the other shadows until Hades decided to reanimate them as his Black Gold Saints. He'd rather never return there again.

"Hades' wife Persephoneia?" Shura asked. "Why haven't we encountered her during the last battle?" He only remembered a certain Pandora whom they met when they allegedly brought Athena's corpse down into the underworld.

"Well, according to the myths, Persephoneia spends only part of her time in the underworld and the other with her mother Demeter among the Olympic Gods," Aiolia explained impatiently. He wanted to get this job done as fast as possible.

"And how are we to enter the Hades?" Camus wondered. "The last time it was a pretty final solution, if I may remind you."

"That's where DeathMask comes in." Athena told them their plan so far. Its only drawback was the fact that it wasn't so much of a plan in the first place.

"So let me get this straight," Shura summarized. "You want us to follow into Orpheus' footsteps, only bringing back Seiya and the others instead of Euridyce? This plan has only one major drawback: I can neither sing nor play the lyre!"

"I have the utmost confidence in you," Athena gave him a charming smile.

"Why couldn't I have listened to reason and become an engine driver as was my dearest wish before I encountered this guy who spirited me away to become a Saint," Shura muttered.

"That's because there's no railway down to Hades," DeathMask told him with an insolent grin.

Shura shot the Cancer Saint a withering gaze. If that guy hadn't been needed right now he might have decided to try whether Excalibur could be used to carve crabs, too.

"Okay, fellows, let's get going," Aiolia decided. They should go now before Shura and DeathMask got into an open fight. Not that he would cry a single tear for the death of the latter. Well, maybe they were able to lose the Cancer Saint in the underworld, he thought. They'd only have to make it look like an accident. "DeathMask, open that gate to the forecourt of Hades!"

DeathMask looked darkly at the Leo Saint and the spikes of his Cloth seemed to spark embers. "Who am I to obey your orders?" He would open the gate at his convenience.

"DeathMask, please," Athena said, slightly ennervated. If these tensions went on, they wouldn't need Persephoneia to kill each other off. She made a mental note to let Sanctuary's talent scout look out for a new Cancer Saint after all. Just in case.

"Okay, okay..." DeathMask concentrated and opened the doorway. Warily, the other Gold Saints and the two women stepped through to find themselves in the threatening, bleak landscape where their nostrils were attacked by sulfurous fumes and their minds by the air of desperation and hopelessness that accompanied the long row of dead souls on their final journey to the Mount Yomotsu.

"Welcome to my world," DeathMask said and grinned at the uncomfortable looks of his companions.

* * *

"Iyaaahhhh!" With an angry shout, Ikki materialized right in front of Athena. One of the tail feathers of his Phoenix Cloth smoked dangerously.

Athena made a step back, but a control panel stopped her. "It smells scorched," she observed.

"I'm so sorry," Ikki retorted acidly. "I just came to tell you that there's a new danger ahead!"

"Is that so?" Athena sighed. "We already noticed. But thanks anyway..." She told him of the abduction of Seiya-tachi.

"What? Shun abducted?" Ikki exploded. He wasn't in too good a mood anyway, and this just did it. "It seems I have to go into the underworld and take it apart piece by little piece again -- and if it is only to get my hands around the neck of this f*cking Volcano God Typhoeus who dared to blow my personal volcano up right under my feet!"

"Ahm, Ikki, I'd prefer you stay here," Athena said cautiously. "After all, the rescue team is already on the way."

"And what hinders me to follow them?" Ikki growled.

"The fact that you can't open a doorway that leads into Hades' realm."

Ikki walked back and fro like a caged animal. "You seem to have a point here. But it doesn't mean I have to like it."

"Hm. Typhoeus..." Athena wrinkled her forehead. "I thought he was supposed to suffer eternally in the Tartaros for trying to challenge Zeus? I really wonder why he should appear right in this particular time if it wasn't for Persephoneia's vengeance crusade. Ikki, so why don't you try to catch this Typhoeus guy up here? I have the distinct feeling that blowing up Canon Island wasn't the last of his deeds in the Earth Realm. Furthermore we have to figure out who else belongs to Persephoneia's troops."

"I agree," Ikki said grudgingly. Unfortunately he didn't have the slightest idea where to begin.

* * *

Persephoneia followed her favourite servant through the dark and gloomy depths of her palace, into the muddy dungeons that were only partly illuminated by sickly green luminous fungi and moss. A winding staircase led down into the most feared prison of Hades' Castle, the hall of the adamas cages, where the prisoners were kept who awaited Hades' special treatment.

Somehow Persephoneia contrasted strangely with the dusky surroundings -- for thousands of years she had kept her youthful appearance that once had given her the name Kore, girl, and since that time she favoured the long, flowing white robes and golden jewellery that showed her divine heritage. At the moment, her vividly pink hair was caught in two long braids and the colour clashed with her dangerously sparkling orange eyes.

She made a little jump to avoid soiling her golden sandals in a puddle of muddy water.

"Hekate, why did you have to put them into these terrible dungeons where one can't even teleport into?" she complained.

"Didn't you want them to be kept secure, my Queen?" Hekate sighed. Persephoneia's moods were infamous.

"Well, for the beginning. But as soon as I decide to torture them, I want them to be within easier reach."

"But the cages of adamas can't be moved from there," Hekate cautioned. Athena's Saints were known to be powerful, and she didn't want to take any risks with them.

"I have confidence in my Shadow Knights," Persephoneia shrugged. "They will keep them safe as well."

"Whatever you wish, my Queen." Hekate bowed her head and ushered Persephoneia along. It was far beyond her why the Queen had to wear these impractical white gowns and sandals even here. Okay, usually she kept to her palace where she was pampered by her servants and Hades as long as he was there... Actually, she was a spoiled brat, immortal and far too powerful for her own good. Hekate sighed once more. But someone had to look after her, and she had promised Demeter to do so while the girl spent her time in the underworld. Secretly, of course, as Persephoneia hated people who tried to tell her what she had to do.

"I hope it isn't much farther," Persephoneia nagged.

"No, it isn't, my Queen. Only some more steps."

"I hope so," Persephoneia said haughtily.

Finally, they reached the dungeon. Hekate led the way into the hall. It was a vast room, slightly less gloomy than the staircase, as bluish green burning torches shed an eerie light that overpowered the glow of the fungi. Next to the black-clad woman, Persephoneia shimmered in pristine white and looked slightly out of place.

"So here they are." Happily, Persephoneia clapped her hands and looked to the grey cages that hung about one meter over the ground. The ceiling of the hall was about five meters high, and the cages were fixed to adamas hooks up there. If one pushed them, the cages would swing like pendulums, but they were spaced far enough from each other that they would not clash together. Four of them contained unconscious teenage boys. "Athena's mighty Warrior Saints... But they look like children!"

"At first I was surprised, too," Hekate nodded. "But when I remembered Hermes' deeds right after his birth... They may still be dangerous. In a way, they are Zeus' children, too."

"Yes, and they imprisoned my beloved husband! I'm not amused at all." Persephoneia approached one of the cages. "Although they are somewhat nice to look at. This one has a nicely athletic body." She pointed at Shiryu, before she turned to Shun. "But this one looks more like a little girl than a dangerous warrior."

"They all don't look overly dangerous," Hekate mused. "But the reports tell differently."

"Do you know which of them is their leader?" Persephoneia's gaze darkened. "I'm still beside myself with rage that I wasn't around to help my beloved husband when he was attacked by these brats. Hekate, will you help me convince Mom that I don't have to spend eight months up there with her? It's utterly boring and I don't want to leave my Hades-darling alone for so long."

Hekate sighed inwardly. She had had this conversation for the last three millennia, if she remembered correctly. Or was it four or five? Demeter just didn't want to believe that Persephoneia had come to love Hades dearly during the time, and she still insisted that 'her little girl' joined her for two thirds of the year. Hekate ignored the complaint, as usual. "I think this one is the leader." She pointed at Seiya.

"Hm. What do you think -- shall we torture him first or last?"

"Well, why don't we wake them first and decide later?"

"Good. Please do so!"

Hekate closed her eyes and an eerie dark violet Cosmo glow surrounded her. The Bronze Boys began to stir.

"Where...? What...?" Hyoga tried to stand up, but the ground rocked beneath his feet.

"Look, this one is nicely built, too," Persephoneia commented with glee. "I'm sure they will keep quite a while when I subject them to the torture."

Hekate examined the boys and nodded.

"Where are we?" Seiya groaned and rubbed his temples. The last thing he remembered was sitting in the cinema, then a whirlwind of powerful energies and then nothing.

"You are within Hades' Realm," Hekate announced.

"In the underworld again? Are we dead?" Seiya wondered in dread.

"Not yet," Persephoneia purred and showed him two rows of pearl-white teeth.

"Where am I?" When Shiryu stirred, he asked the inevitable question, too. Shun was also awake by now and stared at the women out of his large, bluish green eyes.

"Maybe I should introduce us first," Hekate said, ignoring Shiryu. "Meet Her Majesty Persephoneia, rightful Queen of the Underworld and wife to King Hades, ruler of the Demesne of the Dead. I am Lady Hekate, first counsellor of the Queen."

"Hades?! I thought we killed him," Seiya said puzzled. When a murderous gaze from orange eyes almost cut him in two, he became aware that it hadn't been the smartest comment he could have made.

"Fortunately he's one of the immortal Gods, son of Kronos and brother to Zeus and Poseidon, you insolent whelp," Persephoneia hissed. "But it's because of you that he's imprisoned for another two hundred years if I don't manage to do anything about it!" Angrily, Persephoneia gave the cage a push so that it spun around. Seiya held fast to the bars.

Hyoga and Shiryu exchanged an uneasy glance. Hades' loving wife was obviously out for revenge. As the two women still concentrated on Seiya, Shiryu powered up his mighty Cosmo and tried to break the bars of the cage. When the grey metal didn't give a fraction of a millimeter, he looked at his hands in shock.

Now Hyoga tried his luck and attempted to attack the bars with Diamond Dust, followed by Aurora Thunder -- to no avail.

"Forget it, little boy. The cages are made of adamas, the indestructible metal birthed by Gaia when the world was still young," Hekate explained.

The Bronze Saints exchanged another meaningful glance. Somehow their outlook wasn't exactly good. But they had faced other desperate situations and still prevailed, Seiya told himself. They were Saints of Hope, and they would master this crisis as well.

"What do you intend to do now, my Queen?" Hekate asked.

"I'm hungry. I shall eat something and then return to begin to take my revenge on them," Persephoneia decreed.

Hekate sighed for the umpteenth time. Sometimes, Persephoneia was a real pain. This meant climbing up all the stairs again, just that her Queen could eat some tidbits, before they had to climb down once more. Maybe imprisoning the Saints farther upstairs wasn't so bad an idea after all.

When the Queen of the Underworld and her advisor had left, Seiya and friends began a fervent discussion.

"We have to escape," Seiya said.

"Nii-san will rescue us," Shun stated.

"We shouldn't be so sure of this," Shiryu cautioned.

"Indeed. We have to break free on our own," Hyoga inspected the grey bars. He couldn't believe that this adamas was truly indestructible. "Nothing is indestructible," he encouraged himself and concentrated to direct his most powerful attack at the bars, Aurora Execution, which had been bestowed on him by his Master Aquarius Camus. But even this blast of purest cold didn't weaken the mysterious metal.

"Iecks, this is cold," Shun complained, whose cage was just in the direction of the Aurora Execution blast.

"Sorry, Shun," Hyoga said with a wry grin.

When the attacks of the others didn't affect the cages either, they looked crestfallen.

"It seems we have a problem," Hyoga summarized the situation.

"Maybe it's best to hope for Ikki to arrive after all," Seiya tried a weak joke.

* * *

The Gold Saints, Shaina and Marin looked around and Camus' gaze appeared to be even darker than usual. He didn't like it a tiny bit that he was at DeathMask's mercy here and now. But he wasn't alone with his sentiments.

"So where exactly do we have to go?" he asked the Cancer Saint.

DeathMask pointed in the direction of the mountain. "This is Mount Yomotsu. Whoever falls into the crater will never return. You might call it the shortcut into the underworld."

His nasty grin made Marin shiver. As mere Silver Saint she would never have a chance against him if he wanted to get rid of her. But then, fortunately she wasn't alone here. Shaina's gaze was impassive as ever, even though she did not to wear the traditional facemask of the women Saints anymore. This had caused quite some shock among the Saints, but Shaina stated that by now about every Saint had seen her bare face anyway, and it would be a bit tedious to kill them all.

"Some distance beyond the mountain, though, begins another way into the realm of the dead. It's an inhospitable, swampy area, which I haven't fully explored either, I must admit." DeathMask grimaced. Floating or teleporting was too dangerous in the limbo with its shifting energy patterns and he hadn't wanted to soil his Cancer Cloth with the slimy, rotting mud of the swamp that eventually gave way to the River Styx. It was said that another way lead to just the same area, a cave sacred to Artemis, which was located in the south of the Peloponnes, but he, DeathMask, knew this entrance best.

"A swamp?" Shura's voice conveyed his disgust. He really prefered things orderly and clean. "If I had the choice I'd be out of here as soon as possible."

"But we don't have it," Aiolia said gruffly. "Okay, let's go. -- After you, DeathMask!"

The Cancer Saint laughed at his colleague. "Are you afraid to have me in your back, kitten Aiolia?"

"Better safe than sorry, crab." Aiolia ground his teeth. As soon as they were out of here, he would challenge DeathMask to a duel, he vowed. It was a long time overdue, and even if it took a thousand days and nights, he would erase this smug grin from the Cancer Saint's face.

To cut further discussions short, Shaina simply went after DeathMask, and Marin, Aiolia and Shura followed suit. Camus trailed along as rearguard.

The farther they progressed, the more treacherous the ground became. First only their feet sank into the greenish black mud, but it didn't take long until they sank in to their knees. Well, all of them, but Camus. The Aquarius Saint used a small portion of his powers to freeze the swamp beneath his feet, and so he was the only one to pass the area on dry feet.

"Is this mud path truly the only way?" Shura nagged. He only hoped he'd get this obnoxious slimy, rotting soil from his boots when this was over.

"Well, you could have jumped down the crater," DeathMask grinned evilly. It would have been a pleasure for him to help Shura on the way.

"Haha." Shura looked back to see how his colleagues fared, and when he became aware of Camus' little trick, he stood there, arms akimbo. "Camus, would you please explain why you haven't walked in front?!"

"I didn't want to have DeathMask in my back," the Aquarius Saint said matter-of-factly. "And as you were so eager to follow him, I didn't see a reason to push to the front."

"You're a dead man when we're out of here," Shura growled.

"This may very well happen anyway," Camus said somewhat melancholy. "After all, we're about to enter the underworld again."

Suddenly they noticed that the river Styx spread out in front of them. The plain they had passed was crowded with desperate lost souls who hadn't been buried the proper way and now weren't allowed to cross the Styx; grey, harrowed forms that walked forever along the shore of the river of dead. The blackish water was partly hidden by stinking white mists that wafted towards the shore.

"So we're at the threshold into Hades' realm now," Camus said. "But I didn't expect such a horrible stench!"

Marin grinned under her facemask. For once she was truly thankful that she wore it as it filtered out most of the stench that filled the air, and this was one of the few times Shaina regretted her decision to give it up.

Slowly, a boat of rotten treebark neared the group. It was steered by a sinister figure in a dark, hooded robe.

"What do you want?" Charon asked them, his deep frown hidden in the shadow of his hood. These persons were definitely alive, a fact that promised nothing but trouble.

DeathMask took a step forward and sank even deeper into the mud. "As you seem to be the fabled ferryman Charon, you are to ferry us to the other side of the Styx!"

"Why should I do this? You belong to the realm of the living. The underworld is not your place to go."

"I have been dead already -- several times even -- I don't think you can refuse me the passage!"

"But I do. Go back and return when it's your time to enter the realm of the dead."

"And what about Orpheus? According to the legend you ferried him even though he was alive!"

"Well, he could sing like a God."

DeathMask grumbled something unintelligible. "And what about Herakles?"

"He was strong enough to win his passage."

"Pah. I'm a Gold Saint of Athena -- you bet that I'm at least as strong," the Cancer Saint growled.

Camus sighed. This discussion led nowhere. He went nearer the shore, still on solidly frozen mud and stuck his finger into the river Styx.

"Prove it!" Charon demanded.

"I have already killed one guy called Charon," DeathMask told the ferryman with an evil grin. His Master, Eridanus Charon, hadn't survived to see him attain the Cancer Cloth; he had thrown him into the pit of Yomotsu during his Test of Cloth. "Feel free to become number two on the list."

"The other one was a mortal. I'm not." Charon shrugged.

Aiolia, Shura, Shaina and Marin followed the discussion with interest. Camus was otherwise occupied.

DeathMask and Charon continued to argue for another fifteen minutes, until Camus' voice came somewhere from the middle of the river. "Would you please stop this petty bickering and come?" the Aquarius Saint asked exasperatedly.

The others including Charon gaped at him.

"You didn't expect me to enter this wreck of a boat, did you?" Camus asked, one of his elegant eyebrows arched quizzically, while he stood on a solid ice way that spanned the river. "Now hurry, we have a task to accomplish."

"I knew it would come handy to include you in this mission," Aiolia grinned and stepped onto the ice bridge.

"But... You can't..." Charon stuttered. This was unprecedented. No one could cross the River Styx without his, Charon's, consent!

Continued in Chapter Three: No Boom Tomorrow - Boom Today!


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