[ Contents | X. The Moonstop | XI. Downslope | XII. Dark Heart ]


By Dragoness Eclectic



Raditz skimmed low over the treetops, thoroughly delighted. "Raditz to base, everything's working like a charm!" He grinned, and rolled over on his back just for the hell of it.

"Roger, you're coming in loud and clear. Are you flying upside down, or is our telemetry feed screwed up?" Bulma's voice rang clear as a bell in the scouter's earpiece.

Raditz laughed, and rolled again. "Just having some fun." He dove down abruptly into the canyon that appeared before him, and swooped up the opposite wall--and continued zooming straight up, climbing thousands of feet in less than a minute. His aura flared around him, a sheet of translucent white flame. "How's this?"

Bulma whistled over the scouter's commlink. "I've built jets slower than you!"

Raditz slowed, climbing a bit on sheer momentum as he leveled out. "Heh. I thought we were testing the armor, not me!"

"And the telemetry, and the scouter's commlink, and calibrating the energy detection circuits," replied Bulma. "Speaking of which, we need to.."

"..see if the overload cut-out works!" Raditz answered into his scouter's voice pickup. "I know exactly how to do that, too!" He twisted and dove, changing course suddenly.

"That's not what I meant!" Bulma's voice echoed anxiously in his ear. "We've only got the one prototype so far, don't break it!"

"And if it breaks, you need to re-design it anyway!" Raditz yelled as he hurtled through the air towards Son Goku's home in the forest.


What the hell? Raditz stopped abruptly in mid-air. I felt--Goten? GOTEN! He's in trouble! Raditz felt for Goten's presence.. and found it, just barely. So weak--he's hurt! The big Saiyan rocketed downward, aura blazing white around him. Ahead of him, the half-moon hung barely above the horizon.

*      *      *      *

High up the mountain, on the banks of a mountain stream, Goku patiently stalked his prey. The silver trout hovered in the rushing water of the cold stream, oblivious to the patient fingers that tickled its belly, lulling it, nudging it slowly to the surface.


Goku gasped and started; a feeling like a sudden blow to his head, yet gone before he could truly feel it. The trout darted away in panic at the sudden move.

"Chi-chi!" Goku jumped up, and whistled for Kintouen; something had happened to Chi-chi! He leaped upon the magical golden cloud, and sped down the mountain toward the house.

*      *      *      *

"Alright, already! I think you've got enough rope on her, she's not going to wake up, untie herself and climb out of the trunk anytime soon. Can we get a move on here?" The goon in the expensive shirt scowled at his companions, and glared at the sallow-faced driver.

The driver giggled, looking down at the helpless bound woman and child. "The big guy is here," he gestured at Scout, who paced restlessly at the end of the road, "so we're safe. Can't we just take a few minutes to have some fun with the kid?" He giggled again, reaching down as if to stroke the unconscious Goten.

The fancy goon slapped his hand away. "You'll get your chance.. later!" He turned to Scout. "Sekko-Ma! We are done here!" Scout nodded, and flapped away.

He turned from the demon to look at his companions. The man in fatigues held his jaw, which had a rapidly swelling lump on it; the burly man glared murderously at the unconscious Chi-chi and didn't look like he was ready to take orders from anyone.

"I said LATER!" the well-dressed gangster snarled. "Get in the car, now!" He slammed the trunk lid shut, and they all got in the car.

"Are you muttonheads forgetting the plan already? Can't you put off your thrills fer a few lousy hours? You'll get all the fun you like--remember, we're going to be taping the whole thing, and you're to make it last as long as possible." The fancy goon pulled out a gold cigarette case, from which he extracted a cigarette, which he lit with a gold lighter.

"Okay," growled the burly man. "I'm looking forward to paying that bitch back!"

"The little boy is mine," giggled the sallow-faced driver. "I like little boys; they scream almost as much as little girls!"

The other man didn't say anything; his jaw hurt too much, but he nodded agreement with his companions.

"What about you, Sal?" the burly man asked the fancy goon.

"You know I like knife-work best," Sal smirked, "so I get my kicks last. I'll just have to let you fellows enjoy yourselves first."

"You're such a nice guy, Sal," the burly guy grinned evilly. "It may be a while--I can make a fiesty woman like that last a long time." He laughed unpleasantly, and then began to describe in graphic detail what he planned to do to Chi-chi.

The sallow-faced driver giggled, and contributed the details of his own vile plans for the child. Ahead of them, the half-moon hung barely above the horizon.

*      *      *      *

Back at Capsule Corp, the technician monitoring Raditz's telemetry looked up, startled. "Ms Bulma? I've just lost all three comm channels from the monitor. He must have lost the commlink."

"No." Bulma listened intently on her headset. "He turned them off deliberately; I'm still receiving on the private channel." She straightened up abruptly, turning white as she listened.

*      *      *      *

BANG! CRUNCHHH! The car shuddered under impact, and skidded to a halt, throwing its passengers about. The rear right door burst open under the sudden jolt and the man with the sore jaw, who hadn't been wearing a seat belt, went flying to land on his face in the road.

"WHAT THE HELL?" screamed Sal the Knife as he fought to free himself from the locked-down seatbelt. The driver was unconscious, his face bleeding where'd he hit the steering wheel. (He hadn't been wearing a seat belt, either). The burly man cursed and flung the left rear door open.

SOMETHING had smashed into the left front fender, knocking the car off the road, and had ripped the trunk lid clean off. The burly man barely noticed that the trunk was empty before he saw their would-be victims in the arms of the weirdest-looking guy he'd seen short of Sekko-Ma and Keikan-Ma themselves. The thug gaped at the incredibly long-haired, powerfully built man who was FLYING, gently setting the woman and child down at the side of the road, well out of the way. The stranger was clad in a black bodysuit and some kind of white body armor, secured with a silly looking brown fur belt, and he looked angry.

Sal the Knife finally got loose from his seatbelt and kicked the front right door open and stormed angrily out. "Who the hell do you think you are, asshole?" he challenged, waving his pistol for emphasis. The burly man drew his.

"I'm the one who couldn't help overhearing your plans," Raditz said, his lips drawn back in a grimace that only a fool would mistake for a smile. Unfortunately for Sal, he was a fool.

"Right, sure, uh-huh. You don't know who you're messing with, do you? SEKKO-MA!" Sal called. "Odeko, kill this idiot," he ordered the burly man.

Odeko grinned and leveled his gun at Raditz, pulling the trigger in one smooth move. He pulled it three more times--and stopped grinning. Raditz stood there, smirking, with his closed hand in front of him. He opened it to reveal four mushroomed bullets.

"I should introduce myself," the big Saiyan said. "I'm Raditz, and the little kid you had plans for is my nephew." He flicked his hand, and tossed the bullets back at Odeko--at full velocity. The burly man went down, four holes blasted through his chest.

"SEKKO-MA, I really need you NOW!" screamed Sal the Knife as Raditz raised his hand and pointed at him.

The flap of wings alerted Raditz as he was on the edge of killing Sal. He ducked and spun, to find himself facing a mottled yellow-green winged dinosaur-thing trying to kick him in the face with a very large clawed toe. Raditz flung himself to one side, barely dodging in time--one claw skittered off the white armor. The monster was fast!

No scouter reading to warn him, nothing at all. "Damn thing doesn't work," Raditz growled. No, he couldn't sense the monster, either, he thought, as he threw energy at it. It dodged to one side with its incredible speed, and threw out its wings to brake itself, a frilled collar on the sides of its head also flaring out. It spat a mouthful of green goo at him; Raditz ducked. He heard a high-pitched scream behind him.

"Raditsu!" it hissed, looking almost surprised. It flipped its hind legs up, slashing at his face with the oversized, razor-sharp thumbclaws. Raditz blocked it with difficulty--he was far the stronger, but the demon was faster! His aura flamed as Raditz took to the air, striking furiously at the fragile-looking creature. Any one of his blows should have shattered the delicate wing bones, broken the gracile skull--but none of them landed. The dinosaur-demon dodged every one, and darted back, out of reach. Behind him, the screaming went on and on.

Raditz turned to look; the green goo had caught Sal square in the face, and he was on the ground, convulsing hideously as his face blistered and bled. "Watch out for demon-dinosaur spit," Raditz noted to himself, as he started after the monster.

*      *      *      *

<Great Deputy! It is he, the weakest adult! Raditsu is here, he takes the prey from us!> Scout cried to his master across their mindlink.

<Raditz there? Get out of there! NOW!> snarled Deputy.

<But he is the weakest of the adults, and our prey will be lost!>

<You FOOL! You are supposed to have my wits! We can stalk our prey again, but YOU are not so easy to replace! Flee while you can, he is stronger than you think! I myself will deal with him when the time comes.>

*      *      *      *

The demon flipped itself around, and with a flap of its wings, darted away, skimming low over the treetops. Raditz sent a small barrage of ki blasts winging after it, but it dodged all of them, disappearing below the treetops. Something else was coming in fast in a flash of gold--Kakarott! Riding that weird gold cloud thing of his...

Chin, the man in the fatigues with the broken jaw crouched beside Sal's corpse and pryed the pistol from his dead hand. He carefully lined up the sights on Chi-chi's unconscious form--yeah, he'd pay the bitch back for hurting him. His finger started to tighten on the trigger..

Out of the corner of his eye, Raditz saw the fatigue-wearing man pointing a weapon at Chi-chi who was lying helpless--

ZAAACCK! Raditz hit the goon with a single back-handed blast; he burned. "Kakarott! Get that damn monster, I'll deal with the rest of these goons! And watch out for its spit, it's poisonous!" Without looking to see if his brother complied, Raditz dove back to the car.

Goku swooped to where the mottled green and brown monster had vanished into the trees. He couldn't sense it, and he couldn't see it. It was as if it had vanished into thin air--teleported away, perhaps. No good; he turned back, dropping to land beside Chi-chi and Goten.

"Chi-chi!" Goku cradled his wife in his arms, anxiously checking her over. Except for a bruise on her face and a lump on her head, she seemed unharmed; likewise his youngest son. He started to remove the ropes binding them. Chi-chi groaned and began to stir.

Crack! Goku looked up as the last goon died. "Raditz! There was no need for that; he was no threat to you!"

Raditz looked coldly at Goku, his hand still on the driver's broken neck. "Kakarott--you didn't hear the plans they had for your mate and son; I did. Believe me, there was need." His voice shook with rage.

"Goku?" Chi-chi said groggily, instantly diverting Goku's attention from Raditz again. He hurriedly removed the rest of the ropes.

"Chi-chi? Are you all right? What happened?" Goku was frantic with worry.

"Goku? Where's Goten? They tried to kidnap my baby!" Chi-chi struggled out of Goku's arms, and gathered up Goten, looking him over. "He's hurt; that monster must have kicked him in the head like he did me!" She cradled Goten, worrying over him, until he started to wake up.

"They tried to kidnap BOTH of you," Raditz growled. He stood beside the wrecked car, studying several items in his hands. Then he touched a button on the side of his new scouter.

"Bulma! You still there? Good. Some goons and a monster tried to kidnap Goten and Chi-chi; we interrupted them. Yes, I cut off the three monitored channels deliberately--some things are more convenient if NOT recorded. Never mind that now. Can you and Mr. Hiregumi find something out about the goons attached to these names?" Raditz read off four names and addresses from the driver's licenses in his hand.

Goku stared at him. "Raditz, what are you doing?"

Raditz half-smiled at Goku, and tapped the scouter again, cutting the commlink. "Mr. Hiregumi, Capsule Corp's chief of security, isn't much of a warrior--though I suppose he's dangerous enough to scum like this," Raditz nudged Odeko's corpse with a booted toe, "but I learned things from him I never imagined possible about the investigative side of security. Heh." Raditz glanced keenly at his brother. "I would very much like to know why these bastards came after my nephew and your mate, because.." he paused significantly, "they may try it again. And I'd REALLY like to know where that poison-acid spitting dinosaur from hell came from!"

Chi-chi shuddered. "He was too fast and too strong for me. The men came first, they tried to kidnap Goten, but I stopped them--"

"So you're the one who broke that other idiot's jaw! Explains why he tried to finish you. Good job." Raditz interrupted, pointing offhand at the smoking corpse in fatigues.

Chi-chi glared angrily at Raditz, and then smiled grimly as she realized: he's impressed! He didn't know I could fight! Hmmm.. "I stopped them," she continued. "But the last one called that dinosaur-demon; 'Sekko-Ma', he named it. I didn't sense it coming--I turned around and there it was, hitting me. It was so fast! I guess it must have knocked out Goten, too." She leaned against her husband, taking comfort in his strong arms. "If it weren't for you, Goku..."

Goku hugged Chi-chi, but looked slightly embarassed. "Ah, Chi-chi, I got here late, didn't do more than see tail of demon flying away. Raditz did well." He looked at his brother. "Raditz, thank you for saving Chi-chi and Goten." Goku looked puzzled. "How'd you get here so fast? And where did you get the armor and scouter?"

"They're Bulma's new prototypes. I like 'em already, though we still need to calibrate the scouter. I'm here because, well, I sort of 'heard' Goten yelling for help, calling me." He shrugged.

"Ah. You're telepathic like me and Vegeta, aren't you?" Goku looked mysteriously pleased.

"I.. don't know, exactly. I used to be, a little bit--I felt it when father died, when all Vegetasai died. I never was close enough to anyone, friend or enemy, after that, to develop that kind of bond." Raditz shrugged again.

His brother seemed delighted for no reason that Raditz could fathom. "You are now."

*      *      *      *

In downtown Satan City, Sean Nixon was not so delighted; in fact, he was drunk and demoralized.

"Snakebite." He managed to look coherent enough for the bartender at the club to brew him another of the potent drinks. Yeah, next morning he'd have a hell of a headache, and everything would still be gone, but for now, Sean didn't care.

All the work he'd done over the last few weeks--gone. He'd still been online, in his VirtualBlack guise, when the computer panicked and crashed on him. It had taken him hours to get it up and running again--he'd had to re-install the entire system--and that's when he found out he'd been wiped. Everything not backed up had been trashed, erased, obliterated beyond recovery. Even worse, his net archives had been methodically located and erased as well.

Worst of all, the "Dreams" folder--his paintings-- had been destroyed. Those he had no backups of; he'd wanted to be able to destroy them completely and quickly if necessary. But it hadn't been necessary! They were Sean's art, his unique creations, his children.. Sean slammed down the Snakebite. He suddenly didn't want to be here anymore. He just wanted to go home and be miserable alone.

It was no better at home. Sean sat, brooding, on his couch in the dark apartment, until he fell asleep. While he slept, he dreamed--nightmare vistas of hellish domains, populated by a grim warrior race with monkey-like tails. Other things, too, intruded on his dreams--leering goat demons and fierce bull-headed monsters, corpse-devouring dragons and serpents of darkness.

He awoke with a start. It was full dark, except for a dim light through the window. Sean's head throbbed, and his mouth felt like he'd eaten tar sand all night. He sat up, and moaned in pain.

"I can't believe I got that drunk--why do I do this to myself? Every damn time I wake up with a hangover, I remember why I don't like to get plastered like that.. and after a few months, I forget how much it hurts, and do it again. Sean, you are a dumbass!" he scolded himself.

"Why is it so bright in here?" he complained to no one in particular, as he got up and looked out the window. The moon hung just above the horizon, a few degrees past full. Sean scratched his head; something didn't seem quite right about that. Oh well, astronomy had never been one of his good subjects.

Art now.. art had always been his best subject. He loved to paint, to create scenes never seen before--even with the risks. Only.. all his paintings and images were gone! Everything he had done--burned or erased. Sean's head hurt, and a dull anger at the hand fate dealt him seethed inside. Something in Sean rebelled; he would paint, and to Hell with the consequences!

He rummaged around the back of his closets until he found it; one blank canvas left over from years ago, and his box of paints and brushes. For some reason he'd never thrown them out, and Sean thanked the teacher who'd always made him put his supplies away properly, no matter how soon or how long before he planned to use them again. All the brushes were still in good shape, and many of the tubes of paint were salvageable.

Sean set up the canvas on his easel, and started sketching out the scene that burned in his mind's eye. Burned was a good word, he thought ironically, for the throneroom of a king in Hell. The king, Sean decided, was the father of the demon prince from his previous two drawings--now vanished with the rest of his computer files. He would be taller than the diminutive prince, and bearded, with chestnut brown hair, Sean thought as he sketched out the scene. His white-cloaked guards with the fur tails wrapped around their waists lined the throneroom on either side, and before him another white-cloaked warrior knelt and bowed his head...

*      *      *      *

Commander Kale

In Hell, Commander Kale knelt before King Vegeta and made his report. "Forgive me, sire, but the news is not the best. The remaining broo and other lesser demons have gone to ground in the Pit of Worms, and it is taking much time to root them out one beast at a time." The Saiyan warrior glanced up, trying to gauge how well his king was taking the news. King Vegeta continued frowning, and gestured at him to continue.

"Some of the men have reported odd.. disturbances, sire. I don't know entirely what to make of it, sire, but I believe that someone may be trying to summon the broo.. to Earth."

King Vegeta sighed wearily. "Is it my curse for killing you, Kale, that you are always the bearer of evil news? First the death of the Prince at Frieza's hands, then the arrival of that Cell creature, the great demon's attack on the rift, my son's second death by that demon.. and this."

"Not by my intention, sire, but.. if my death was indeed necessary to appease Frieza over the Planet Tsaba matter long enough for you to gather the forces to strike at him--as you did--it would have been good to have had the chance to volunteer, sire." Commander Kale bowed his head.

Kale's reproach stung like the lash of a scorpion-tailed whip. "Frieza had to be appeased because you were overly optimistic in the first place!" King Vegeta snarled. The damned king then sighed; he knew the bitter truth. "And in the end, it mattered not--three hours, three days, three years would not have been enough... not against Freiza.. and Frieza had already decided our doom." King Vegeta bowed his head. "Forgive me for wasting your life, Kale. You were--you ARE--a good and loyal commander, and deserved better." It was the hardest thing he'd ever said, in life or death.

Commander Kale looked up at his monarch, surprised, for a long moment. "It is forgiven, sire. As you say, sire.. in the end, it mattered not at all. We were all brought to the same doom; I merely got here a day sooner."

*      *      *      *

On Earth, Sinhika received ill news of her own. "I don't believe this! Every one of my credit cards just happens to be cancelled at once? No." She skimmed the rest of her e-mail. "A-ha! Here's one from Khara; I'll bet he has something to do with this!"

    ...it is father's desire that you return home, dear
    sister. Again, I add my concern to his and implore you to
    return.  It is only concern for your safety that impels me to
    these actions; I cannot sit idly by and let you use the
    treasury to finance your own destruction. Accordingly, I have
    suspended your access to all instruments of the Lankha
    treasury, with one exception: you will be permitted to arrange
    airline flights back to Serendip. I hope that good sense will
    prevail and you will return immediately, but if not, I'm sure
    that pragmatism will win out in the end--I know you well
    enough, Sinhika, to know that poverty and hunger do not suit
    you at all.

		    Your elder brother,
		    Khara, Prince of Lankha

"YOU BASTARD!" Sinhika screamed at the offending e-mail. "I can't believe Father had you do this!" She re-read the letter. "No--if Father required me to return home, all he had to do was command it, as his royal perogative, and I would return. He knows that. This is Khara's doing, and ONLY Khara's doing! Father probably wishes I would return home, worries about me, and would be pleased if I came home, but he's not insisting on it. No, my oh-so-helpful big brother took it on himself to get me to come home."

Sinhika paced the apartment and growled. "You're not going to have your way, Khara! I will NOT come crawling back home just because you think you know what is best for me! There is too much happening here--too much that touches on our duty, and my destiny."

The orange-haired rakshasa thought a bit. "Two things: either get my credit cards and accounts reinstated somehow, or.. get a job." Sinhika sat down at the computer. "Didn't Pomona say that cute boyfriend of hers was something of a hacker? I'll go talk to Sean, then." She typed rapidly. "Meanwhile, let's start looking for possible employment, just in case..."

*      *      *      *

In Niflheim, the snow howled past Vegeta's face, and he reveled in it. Yes! I have defeated my deadliest enemy here, that infernal cold! And whatever benefit Kadru got from that bit of peach seems to have stopped her continual whining.

Prince Vegeta rose higher, Kadru in his arms, flying above the frozen black river of ice that cracked and heaved as sheer ice pressure forced it to move slowly downstream. Great slabs of ice buckled and overrode each other as the relentless flow pushed the ice along the bed of the Gioll, grinding everything in its path like a glacier, yet moving almost as fast as a river during spring breakup.


Vegeta slammed to a halt in mid-air, his aura flaring around him. Ahead, Nifleheim.. ended. The Prince of the Saiyajin looked down into Elivagar. Mountains bowed down, crumbled into a roaring cauldron of blackness that vomited out slabs of tainted ice, ice that crashed and thundered down the bed of the river, or shattered against the mountains into crystals of black slush. Like a volcano of ice, it flung bombs of ice high into the air--Vegeta dodged one that came his way--and spewed clouds of ice crystals and snow high, high into the air, fuelling the perpetual blizzard that raged across Niflheim.

Great as Elivagar was, an even greater marvel shadowed it. Plunging into poisoned Elivagar was one tremendous root, a root that ran up a mountain and into the sky, to join something Vegeta could barely make out in the ice fog and snow--something that looked like a tree. But what a tree! The very mountains were bumps under its roots, and it rose beyond imagining.

"Yggdrasil.." Vegeta shielded his eyes against the snow, craning his head to look at the fabled World Tree.

"How do you know all these things? Are you a scholar as well as a warrior?" Princess Kadru queried.

"I? I am a warrior, the greatest of warriors, and the prince of a warrior race. Prince Khara of Lankha, on the other hand, is not much of a warrior--no more than mediocre--but he is a brilliant scholar! He also has the rare ability to summarize intelligently, missing none of the important points, yet adding nothing unnecessarily. When I get around to conquering the galaxy, I'll want someone like him on my General Staff. Maybe I'll offer Khara himself the job." Vegeta chuckled, feeling pleased with himself.

He looked down at Elivagar again, suddenly less pleased. Yes! Vegeta scowled; he could feel it, ever so faintly--that foulness, that unnatural taint that marked the demon and its kin. Was this the taste of Chaos? Just where did the well of Elivagar spring from? In all the legends Khara had found, it welled up from nowhere, from outside the very universe.

Vegeta dropped Kadru on a horizontal stretch of Yggdrasil's root, and hovered over the heart of the maelstrom. Now and again he dodged a splinter of ice the size of a building, thrown up by Elivagar's violence. Something down there in the heart of darkness beckoned to him, called him with a song of blood and violence and terror.

Kadru found no such attraction in this place of primal ice and evil. She clung desperately to the ice-slick root of the World Tree, and peered down, trying to watch Vegeta through the ice fog and snow. The snake-princess observed several ragged holes and tears in the side of the root below her, holes that looked as if something had been chewing splintered chunks out of the root. "I don't like this," she muttered to herself. "Prince Vegeta! Where are you going?"

Unhearing, Vegeta looked down into the maelstrom, descending slowly--unbeknownst to him. Something moved down there, something besides the heaving black ice. A dim phosphorensce moved, rising sinously toward him. Without thinking, he descended further, trying to get a better view of the thing.

His eyes went wide as a great white worm-thing surged into view. Nearly as big as the Eternal Dragon Shen Long, and far more loathsome, Nidhogg the Corpse-Tearer rose from Elivagar. It was the pallid white of a stiffening corpse, its soft and bloated skin suggesting decay. Frills of writhing tendrils like so many maggots edged its spine and made an obscene mane over its neck and head. Blunt chisel teeth filled its gaping maw, and huge dull grey eyes like those of a dead fish looked up at the dead prince.

Nidhogg sang. Its song was a thrumming vibration that shattered the ice into black slush, a wordless song of blood and violence and terror that called to Vegeta, lured him ever downward. I know you, you are mine, it called. Something in the back of Vegeta's mind tried to warn him that this was wrong, he was coming too close--too late! Vegeta looked into the dead grey eyes of the Corpse-Tearer, and was caught.

Prince Vegeta did not see that cloudy orb as large as himself; instead he saw Nappa die again by his hand, felt his own rage and seething power turned against his lifelong mentor--and felt, too, what Nappa had felt--shock, a terrible hurt and betrayal as the hand he thought extended to help him turned into the instrument of his death, the swift agony of death at the hand of his revered Prince-- and then came every other person he'd ever killed in cold blood. He lived again every murder he'd ever committed, feeling both his own hate and their agony.

He was vaguely aware that he'd lost control of himself, and was no longer flying. Vegeta fell heavily into the icy slush covering Elivagar's inner slope, and started to slide downward, helpless in the grip of Nidhogg's gaze. Instinctively he clawed at the ice, trying to stop himself, but there was very little strength in the small part of his soul not trapped by the Corpse-Tearer, and the one hand was still useless. Still, he slowed himself--and then came Arlia.

Vegeta lost himself completely for a time, as his self-hate-driven murder of the world he'd rescued from its tyrant king exploded again in his memories. When that was past, he became vaguely aware that his downward slide had stopped--in Nidhogg's jaws. It had him up to the waist; his hands were pressed against the chisel teeth crushing his ribs, feebly trying to stop the monster from devouring him completely.

You fool! that unthralled bit of the back of his mind raged at him. Nidhogg the Corpse-Tearer is this hell's Cleanser of Souls--the one who devours wicked souls and strips them of their evil, their memories, and their power! When he's done with me, all that will be left of me will be a mindless wisp of spirit, if anything! No more Prince of the Saiyajin, no more Vegeta, no more ME!

Now he understood the bitter significance of Indrajit's parting words: "You have ever been your own worst enemy--beware, lest darkness within betray you to darkness without!" NO! This cannot be! If I end here--NO! Kakarott! Trunks! Bulma! I WILL NOT FAIL YOU!

"BULMA!" he screamed as the chisel teeth slammed down, shattering his ribs.

*      *      *      *


[ Contents | X. The Moonstop | XI. Downslope | XII. Dark Heart ]

Disclaimer: See Credits.

Copyright 2000 by Dragoness Eclectic