[ Contents | I. Upper Hell | II. Dire Wood | III. Along the Way ]
The cavern sloped steeply downward for countless miles, its silence and darkness relieved only by the slight glow of power around Prince Vegeta, and the sound of his footsteps. Vegeta feared he would lose track of Time in the endless unchanging gloom; only his memories kept changing.
Vegeta remembered his first glimpse of her--she was with that bald idiot Kulilin on Namek, and he had a dragonball. Vegeta had deigned to ask for the dragonball rather than blasting them into oblivion and taking it for two reasons: the presence of Kulilin meant Kakarott couldn't be too far away, and Vegeta wasn't getting in a fight with Kakarott while he was still fighting running battles with Frieza's forces--that would have been sheer folly--and second, for some reason he found the girl very pleasant to look at. Then Zarbon had to show up.
He'd almost dismissed the blue-haired girl as a complete idiot after that; thinking Zarbon was a soft-headed fool like Kakarott just because he was good-looking! Even that moron Kulilin wasn't that stupid! She'd certainly changed her attitude about Zarbon after he'd transformed into the trollish monstrosity that was his ultimate fighting form--hah! Vegeta grinned to himself; sure, he'd wanted to fight Zarbon at his best, so the bastard would go to hell knowing he'd been well and truly beaten by the prince of the Saiyajin--but that wasn't the only reason he'd goaded Zarbon into transforming. Not the only reason at all!
That thought cheered him for a while, another few miles downward. He'd found out Bulma wasn't an idiot after all--when they'd all been wished back to Earth. Once she stopped moping around about Kakarott, she'd taken charge and gotten everyone sorted out and taken care of. So she couldn't fight; she could handle all those annoying details that made Vegeta want to go out and fight something rather than deal with them. And she was, in her own way, a genius. Hand her an alien machine she'd never seen before, and within hours she'd have it disassembled and rebuilt to suit her--and it would probably work better than before. Sit her at the console of an alien starship, and she'd be piloting it better than the builders in five minutes. So she was physically weak, and seemed to lack basic common sense--Vegeta was strong enough, and had sense enough for both, and their other strengths and weaknesses complemented each other so very well!
She would have made a fine queen of Vegetasai.
* * * *
The tunnel forked. Vegeta frowned; there had been no mention of this. He reached into his armor and pulled out one of the peaches he had stashed there and began to eat it as he studied the cavern carefully. No, the ogre had not lied; this secondary tunnel was new--assuming there were such things as erosion and deposition here and the flowstone in the main tunnel suggested that there were. The stone was scarred and fused where something had rudely torn a new tunnel through the floor of Hell.
Yes; this must be where the demon had smashed his way into the Lower Hells! He'd thought--he'd hoped--he might find some trace of its backtrail along this route. He finished the juicy peach and fastidiously wiped the juice off his gloves. Raditz had been correct; he could feel his power returning. Until now, Vegeta hadn't realized just how much he had lost from death and the demon's near-rape of his soul.
Accursed monstrosity! Not content with killing him, the demon had attacked him in the spirit world after Kakarott destroyed the monster's physical form.
Demon-slain, he'd been caught in the borderland between one world and the next, unable to find his way to the underworld and peace. For days, Vegeta had drifted, a near-powerless ghost; he'd witnessed Bulma's terrible grief, the broken despair in which she'd cried herself to sleep every night. Her pain, and his helplessness to do anything about it nearly tore him apart--and then the wounded demon had come after him, hungry for his remaining power and soul-essence.
He'd been snatched from the demon's claws by one he never expected--his father, King Vegeta. From the Hell he and his most powerful warriors had come, in pursuit of the abomination, and found in its path his dead, broken son. The last prince of Vegetasai once again ended life as he began it, held in the strong arms of his proud father.
"Forget your pride, my child! Fate alone brought me to you in time, and you shall NOT be meat for this abomination's hunger!" King Vegeta was grim as he escorted his slain son to his kingdom. "That thing has threatened my kingdom, and nothing and no one has stood against it--except you and Kakarott and Kakarott's whelp!"
"Threatened YOUR kingdom? But your kingdom is.. Hell."
Later, Vegeta learned what his father had meant. The demon that had killed him had come through the lower hells on its way to Earth. It had erupted from below, tearing its way up from the forgotten, mythic hells to smash its way through the lower hells to its goal--a rift leading to Earth. A forbidden goal, for things of the hells may not freely walk the physical world--though some of them have tried, and a few succeeded. It was the purpose of the Demon Guard to stop such violations of reality.
They'd tried to stop it, damned Saiyans, great Ouzaru, and Hell's own demons alike--nothing had stood before it. Saiyans, Gozu-Oni, other monsters had been swept aside like straws in a hurricane. It was no demon of any Hell known to King Vegeta, or Commander Bardock, or even the little blue demons of the Bureaucracy, who knew everything. It came from the forgotten past, and it pursued its goal with unstoppable fury.
Its goal had been a mystery, save for this: its single-minded goal had been the rift to Earth. And on Earth.. Vegeta shuddered, remembering the thing's obsession with Gohan--and his own family. Its goal had been their despair and death--but why? What had brought this unspeakable monstrosity howling out of the abyss for his blood? It made no sense!
Prince Vegeta did not like things that made no sense; in his experience, there was always a reason behind even apparently senseless acts. The apparent senselessness only meant that the reasons were hidden from him. Vegeta especially did not like things with hidden reasons that brought death and destruction on him and his family. He would find his way back, as he had told Raditz; but he would also find out the hidden reasons.
"You really shouldn't have killed me, demon!" His voice echoed off the tunnel walls. "You don't know what kind of enemy you've made, do you?" He idly tossed the peach pit in one hand. "Good. Remain ignorant; I will not!" Vegeta tucked the pit in his armor, and continued down into the depths.
* * * *
Vegeta blinked as he emerged into the light. It wasn't much light, only a grey dreariness overhanging the wood, but it nearly blinded him after the unrelieved darkness of the tunnel. And what a wood! An endless expanse of black, leafless trees spread before him. Not the black of rain-darkened wood, or even ebony, but pure, obsidian blackness. Even the ground below his feet was black, like some volcanic sand beach. Black soil, black pebbles, black moss, everything black.
Nothing moved. A few questionable paths seemed to wind into the woods; Vegeta did not trust them. "Now what? Somewhere in all this is a guide to the next underworld; so Bardock said. Hmmph. And I see no signs of the demon's backtrail." Vegeta frowned.
He listened. A cold wind seemed to sigh and moan through the dire woods; still nothing moved. He could sense no powers, but Vegeta wasn't sure how that worked here.
A flash of color, of movement! Vegeta turned; it was gone--no, there it was! A flash of gold amid the blackness. It was something; Vegeta ran after it.
A glade of black grass in the forest; across it from the fallen prince stood a deer, a silver-spotted golden deer with ivory antlers and flint-black hooves, a sapphire-blue metal face, amethyst eyes, bright red tongue and a pale-pink belly. He held his tail straight up and arched his neck a little and ran off.
"What kind of deer is that? Earth has no such creature!" Vegeta stared after it in astonishment. Finally, he laughed. "The little deer wants to play! Well, some venison would be quite tasty after that peach." He ran after the golden deer, fleeter of foot than any earthly animal.
Now and then the deer seemed to tire, or lose its way, and Vegeta almost caught up with it--but the creature would put on another burst of speed, and leave him behind. The prince never quite lost sight of the darting flash of gold in the black, black wood, and always managed to almost catch up with it.. Time slipped away as he pursued the deceptive golden deer, days and weeks of time, while a grieving wife searched for a wish, a ghost found a friend in an innocent child, and an ancient evil stirred to wakefulness, only to be brought down by the living and the dead.
* * * *
Somewhere in the borderlands between spirit and life, a foulness bided its time. Its curse had begun; in slaying the one, it had brought grief and despair to the mate and child and friends. Soon, soon, it would be ready to strike again. The unexpected hero had been stronger than any it had ever fought before; the hero had defeated it, dispersing its physical form; it would prepare carefully before fighting that one again. But it was confident; now it recognized the hero's kind, and knew their strengths and weaknesses. It would return in a form designed to defeat all their strengths, and prey on their weaknesses.
* * * *
CONTINUED IN CHAPTER III. ALONG THE WAY
[ Contents | I. Upper Hell | II. Dire Wood | III. Along the Way ]
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Copyright 2000 by Dragoness EclecticLast Updated: Mar 8, 2009