[ Contents | VIII. The Ghost Prince | IX. Serpent's Dowry | X. The Moonstop ]


By Dragoness Eclectic



"..and that is all that I have seen and heard and felt, Great Deputy," Scout concluded verbally after reporting through his mindlink to Deputy. The raptor-like demon prostrated itself before the huge crouching form of Deputy, its hide rippling patterns of grey and black against the black mud and broken concreate.

Deputy crouched upon a broken wall and rustled his wings impatiently. <Enforcer?> it queried the other demon through its mindlink.

Enforcer bared its array of razor-sharp teeth. <They have come to my call--more easily than I predicted, in this distant age that has forgotten Chaos and the Compact of Time. They worship the Greater Self, and await your coming to mark them and grant them power!> The shadow demon bowed to Deputy.

<They are ready to do the work?>

<They are ready, lacking only your touch.> Enforcer replied. <"Rapists", "serial killers", "cannibals" --as this age calls them, and power-hungry fools who crave destruction... they await you. They were always ready; they lacked only a master.>

<This age is good!> answered Deputy. <Let the most capable prove themselves in minor works before I initiate them.>

<What works shall I give them?> the shadow demon puzzled. <Our work, or-->

<Something that supports our work. Scout, you also have a mind, add what is useful. Three there are who maximize the woe to our enemies: the child Goten, beloved of the three males; the child Trunks, beloved of the woman and protected by one of the males; and the woman Bulma, beloved of her child, at least liked by both males, protected by one of the males. A dilemma: slay the child Trunks, and woe is brought to the mother--but the child is spared further woe. Slay the mother, and the child is bereaved, but the mother is spared. This is not satisfactory. Both must suffer to the utmost!>

<Perhaps... a deception?> Scout volunteered timorously.

<Speak!> commanded Deputy.

<Let each believe the other slain in torment, soul damned/devoured, without making it so until the end--will not both then suffer the greatest woe?>

"HSSSSSSS!" Deputy vocalized. <Yes! That is good, Scout.> He patted the dinosaur demon patronizingly. <But let all others believe BOTH destroyed; then the male-protector will self-agonize at his failure, and the other male lament, and both curse their fate.>

<It will take some planning,> cautioned Enforcer.

<My job!> Deputy snarled, slime dripping from his jagged teeth. <I will tell you what plans are needed!> A taloned hand snapped out and knocked the powerful Enforcer sprawling. <But first, the simplest target: the child Goten. Slay him in torment, degrade and destroy him, and let the others know of it. Woe upon the brother and the uncle, and the child-friend Trunks! The father's grief shall be a free bonus, our vengeance upon him.>

<They will hunt us for it!> Scout quivered fearfully. Enforcer nodded affirmation.

<Don't get caught, fools! You have inherited my gifts of indetectability and intelligence--use them! Be clever!> Deputy's mindvoice was contemptuous. <Remember! The two adult males and the adolescent are for our Greater Self to destroy! Avoid them!>

The great horned head turned to regard Enforcer. <I will come to initiate your followers when you sacrifice what is left of the child Goten to Chaos! Scout, your new assignment is to gather all information and aid to Enforcer, that he may do as I have willed. Now, go and make it so!>

As he watched Scout flap off into the distance, a sound caught Deputy's attention. He looked around--over there! A figure scurried for shelter among the broken buildings. Deputy drew dark lips back from slime-dripping, jagged teeth, baring them in a snarl. He lurched into the air, flapping his massive pinions.

The scent of man filled his nostrils; someone thought to hide from him here! Deputy traced the man to a rude shelter nestled inside the still-standing walls of another broken building, and alighted silently atop the broken building's wall.

The man, a scavenger and junk dealer, cowered in his crude hut. What was that thing? All he could imagine was that some horrible mutant had grown in the blasted ruins of the nuked city. Fortunately, he thought, the thing couldn't see him here in--

The ceiling collapsed as two taloned feet crashed through the plywood and tarpaper shell. A taloned hand as big as he was reached down and snatched him up as he lay there, paralyzed with terror. Deputy studied his catch intently, long barbed tongue flicking in and out of his mouth.

Humans were so easy. Deputy tittered as he raked a talon across the man's belly. The human's eyes bulged with horror as he saw the loops of intestine spill out, and he grabbed at them and tried feebly to push them back in. Deputy giggled again, and licked out with his barbed tongue, hooking the entrails as the man began to scream in agony and terror. The demon pulled a loop of intestine into his jaws, and began to slurp it up, slowly, savoring the flavor of the human's long agony. Deputy closed his eyes, thinking blissfully of what he would do with the blue-haired woman and the violet-haired child when the time came. Only one thing was needful..

<Enforcer!> Deputy hurled a thought across their mindlink. <Perform the Chaos Spawn ritual, and summon some of my broo from Hell. They will be needed for the woman.. and the child.>

*      *      *      *

"Morning," Sean Nixon grunted at his neighbor from the apartment across the hall. It was near midnight, but he always said "Morning". His neighbor, an unshaven, surly looking fellow, glared at him and slunk into his apartment. Sean shrugged as he turned the key in the lock; he didn't like his neighbor anyway.

"Makoto, check e-mail," he yelled at the computer as he entered.

"You've got mail, baby." the computer replied in a sultry voice, obediently displaying the day's correspondence.

"I've got to change that voice," Sean muttered to himself as he sat down. "This one is just too demoralizing. Well, what have we got?" He tabbed through the mail.

"Good, good, good--Ow! My poor singed eyeballs! Somebody sure got their underwear in a twist over my security consultantship marketing!" He peered at the return address. "Capsule Corporation, eh? I don't know who the netadmin is, but he sure wields a mean flamethrower. Idiot." Sean continued reading his e-mail for a while.

He sat back and sighed when he was done. "Twelve 'thanks for the info, we'll handle it ourselves', one temporary job--maybe, three 'we're still wrangling over the Convergence 95 committee membership'--oops, how did those get into my VirtualBlack folder--" Sean dumped the offending letters in the 'Goth Convergence' folder where they belonged, "--one scorching flame-type rejection, and one very interesting offer." He pondered the last. "Someone wants a bit of industrial espionage done. Against Capsule Corp. Hmmm." Sean smiled grimly. "Wouldn't hurt to scout the perimeter, even if I don't decide to step over the line."

*      *      *      *

A flickering yellow glow lit the tunnels of Hell, and something slithered in the distance. No, some.. things, plural, Vegeta corrected himself. There's more than one of them, I can feel it!

The warning given to Kakarott, Vegeta had departed Lankha and returned to the path that he knew he must follow. Back, past Indrajit (who had been nowhere to be found), to the Dire Wood and downwards into the endless caverns again. The Saiyan prince was getting very tired of caves and tunnels.

Damn useful, those Rakshasa illusions. That damn demon could not sense me except when I revealed myself to Kakarott--and I didn't give him time to home in on me. Right under the bastard's nose--Hah! Vegeta smiled cockily to himself. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy outwitting a powerful opponent--it's been so long since I've had to.

Torches? Who is using torches? And WHY? Vegeta examined the stretch of tunnel ahead of him. Haven't any of these demon races heard of electricity? Haven't any of them heard of any technology more advanced than basic iron age? Or are they just too stupid to deal with more than one moving part at a time? Feh.

Things slithered behind him, now, as well as ahead. Something blocked the tunnel--a gate. Two floor to ceiling iron posts supported ornate wooden panels, engraved with repeating patterns of serpents entwined. Vegeta scowled and thrust out one hand--

And the gate opened before he could destroy it. Behind it stood.. coiled?.. three strange figures. In the center coiled what appeared to be a monstrous snake from the tail to just short of its head, where two powerful arms and broad shoulders emerged. The head combined features of both man and cobra; a forked tongue flicked in and out, testing the air. The man-serpent held a broad-bladed, curved sword in one hand, and wore golden mail over his shoulders and partway down his body. A gold, gem-studded crown adorned his head. Beside him coiled two other man-serpents, in plain steel mail and carrying short spears and shields. Vegeta glanced behind; four more snake-guards had appeared there, cutting off retreat.

"What are you?" snapped Vegeta.

"I," the center man-snake said haughtily, "am Vasuki, King of the Nagas. You," the Naga king sneered, "are my prisoner and soon to be my slave, fool!"

"Your what??" Vegeta nearly choked, though whether on laughter or rage was not immediately obvious.

"You thought to escape your just sentence by escaping to the Middle World as a ghost, didn't you? A pity for you, evil one, that you could not pass Indrajit the Invisible. It must have been a shock, when he who reads all hearts confronted you!" The serpent king smiled unpleasantly.

Vegeta threw back his head, and his laughter rang off the stone walls. The Naga king drew back, unsmiling now, obviously disconcerted.

Abruptly Vegeta stopped laughing, and thrust one hand behind him. He smiled evilly--

King Vasuki blinked his eyes rapidly, dazzled by the brilliant flash of light that had appeared behind Vegeta. As the smoke cleared, and his vision returned, the snake king saw to his dismay that his four rear-guards had vanished, burned to a thin layer of soot by the stranger.

Vegeta savored the Naga king's growing dismay. "Oh, yes, about Indrajit--I defeated him, and have just returned from a pleasant visit in Hidden Lankha." Vegeta smirked.

Just as the words registered in Vasuki's mind, Vegeta snapped forward and slammed a fist into Vasuki's gut--or, what would have been his gut except that snake ribs continue much further down than a human's. Vasuki crashed into the far wall, cracking stone from the impact. The wind was knocked out of him; he struggled to speak as his two guards attacked Vegeta.

A flurry of blows, a crunching of bones, and two broken-backed snakes writhed on the stone floor and grew still. Ghosts arose and departed; the nagas were a living supernatural race of the underworld, and died as men die. Vegeta turned back to King Vasuki.

"No.." the serpent king gasped. "Spare me!" Vegeta gave him that evil smile as he extended one hand.

"NOOOO! I give you my greatest treasure, if only you spare me!"

Vegeta paused. "What treasure of yours could I possibly want, snake?" he asked with some irritation.

"My virgin daughter, laden with her bridal gold, is yours if you spare me. My life is her brideprice," the old serpent pleaded, slithering erect again.

"You would give your daughter to me? Her life mine, to do with as I please, even kill her, in exchange for your own?" Vegeta's brows lowered. How far would this weak fool go to save his life?

"Yessss! You have defeated Indrajit, and I accosted you foolishly, thinking you weak--I apologize for so mistaking a great warrior. A great warrior such as you would be a proper husband for my daughter Kadru." He looked back over his shoulder. "Bring forth Princess Kadru!" he called.

He is a fawning flatterer, and a weakling! I should kill him and his daughter both! The Nagas should crown a more worthy king than this! Let him bring out his daughter--then he will be surprised indeed when I kill him!

From somewhere in the distance ahead, three more nagas slithered towards the Naga King and Vegeta. Two of them were guards, but the third! Her face was veiled, and an abbreviated gown adorned the upper part of her serpentine body. From her head to just below her waist, her form was very feminine. Gold and gems covered her--adorned her veil, hung in necklaces around her neck, weighed down her arms, beringed her fingers and belted her waist.

Princess Kadru slithered to a halt before her father, and bowed to him. "I obey your command, Papa, and I am here." She sighed, and regarded Vegeta with intense dark eyes. The two guards with her shifted nervously as they saw the remains of their comrades, and glared at Vegeta with some hostility.

King Vasuki bowed obsequeously. "Daughter, I give you to this great warrior, who has defeated Indrajit in combat, and visited the court in Lankha. Honor me, and be obedient to him as is proper." Vasuki avoided looking at his daughter as he spoke.

"Who is this great warrior? Has he a name?" Kadru asked a bit tartly.

Vegeta's eyes widened in surprise. She does not fear me! Out of ignorance, or... No. She is intelligent, and she saw the dead guards, the damage to her father's armor--her eyes dart around, and she's evaluating ME now. Vegeta smirked.

"I am Prince Vegeta of the Saiyajin, the greatest warrior ever born to the Vegeta kings of Vegetasai!" he declared proudly.

Kadru's eyes widened. "Papa! You have found me a worthy husband!"

Vegeta smiled unpleasantly. "Too bad for you that I-- WHAT?"

King Vasuki vanished. One second he was coiled against the wall, the next he just slipped into the stone and was gone.

"PAPA!" Kadru's scream of rage and shame revealed her surprise.

"A coward and a weakling, but not a fool," Vegeta snarled. "He knew I meant to kill him anyway!" He whirled to face the naga princess.

"I can't believe he did that to me! AIYEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!" Kadru keened at the top of her lungs, an incredibly loud sound in the confined tunnel.


The keening abruptly stopped; Kadru looked at Vegeta, startled by his shout. "I am sorry, husband, I forgot my place. It won't happen again. It's just that I am so ashamed--Papa didn't have to be so obvious about getting rid of me." Her lovely dark eyes brimmed with tears.

Vegeta took a deep breath, several deep breaths--despite the fact that he was dead and didn't need to breathe at all. "First, I AM NOT YOUR HUSBAND! Second, you are either going to fade back through the wall to your father, or I am going to kill you! Do you understand me?"

"I know that you think Papa cheated you," she said as she lowered her veil to reveal her face, "because I am so plain, but I assure you I will be a most excellent wife. I have studied diligently all the arts a good wife must know, as detailed in the sacred Sutras of Kama--"

"Plain?? How can I tell if you are plain or beautiful? You're a snake! How do I know what looks good to another snake?" Vegeta snapped.

Kadru looked hurt. "If it is my shape that displeases you, that can be changed," she said as her serpentine form shimmered and shifted to that of a two-legged green girl. "A talent I inherited from my mother," she added modestly.

Hmmm.. Whoever told her she was plain was too picky to be judging women! She's not bad looking--WHAT AM I THINKING??? I'm not here to pick up snake-women!

"ALL the arts of Kama," she continued as if she'd never been interrupted, "not merely the ones a man thinks of first. I weave and embroider, dance, sing, play musical instruments, recite poetry, am a diligent student of the sacred scriptures, an expert cook in all the cuisines of the continent--"

"Cook?" She's a cook? I can't kill this girl! If she's half what she claims, she's a treasure! "No matter. I already have a wife." He started to walk away.

"Oh, that will be no problem. I'm not one of those arrogant princesses who will only suffer to be a first wife; I will be your second wife, and serve your first wife as faithfully as I serve you! I assure you, she will never have to labor in the household again, save as she desires to, and I will be obedient to her in all things!" Kadru followed the Saiyan prince.

Vegeta thought briefly of Bulma's probable reaction if he brought this serpent-woman back with him and informed his mate that Kadru was to be Vegeta's second wife and Bulma's new maid. His lips curved up in a wry--very wry!--smile.

"No! Trust me, it wouldn't work."

"Then I am shameful and without honor--cast out by my father, rejected by my husband-to-be. Who am I then? No one, and nothing, adhamaadhama. I am an embarassment to my father--a princess, and yet none will have me, because I am plain, and because they fear my mother's heritage, yet Papa is too proud--or too greedy, which is a shameful thing for me to say about my papa--to lower my brideprice. You must have terrified him greatly that he accepted his life as payment for me!"

Vegeta smirked at that. He was not overly interested in the domestic tragedies of snakes, but one thing she'd said piqued his curiousity. "What is your mother's heritage, and why does it scare them?"

"My mother is a great princess, and a powerful sorceress--all Naga-kind are, but the blood of Ravana runs in mother's veins, too, from the days when the Demon King stole wives from among the wives and daughters of all the supernatural races. So it is that I can change my shape from naga to human to serpent, you see." She continued, "Mother has very great.. appetites, and they proved too much for Papa. He demanded a divorce after she ate his chancellor and tried to eat him."

Kadru sighed. "She demanded a very high price for the divorce, and Papa spent a great deal of his treasure--though not all, as he holds much of the Earth's wealth, almost as much as Vaishravana the Treasure King--spent it building a palace for her and the golden causeway that leads to it, Snake Way."

"Snake Way??" Vegeta exclaimed. "Then your mother..." Confound it, was THAT who Kakarott made those cryptic comments about?

"..is Princess Snake." She blinked long lashes at him. "You have heard of her!" Her lip trembled. "Is that why you won't claim me as your wife? It's not true, I did not inherit her hunger, no matter what anyone may have said. I'm no danger to your first wife or children, I promise!"

"Woman, stop whining! I never heard of you until your father dumped you on me!" Princess Snake's daughter, eh? Now, what would Kakarott say if I brought her back to be HIS second wife?

Vegeta couldn't help laughing at the image that thought conjured up. The look on Kakarott's face would be priceless! Almost worth the bother.. almost. He shook his head.

"No! Just go back to your father!" Vegeta snarled, less viciously than his usual wont.

"I cannot--it would shame Papa too much. There is nothing left for me. I will not shame my father's name by living infamously, with neither husband nor father nor brothers to protect my honor."

"What is that supposed to mean, woman?" Vegeta growled, getting very tired of this snake-woman's carrying on. Idiotic woman--couldn't she stand on her own two feet? Or tail, or whatever? Bulma would never have carried on like this--she'd just tell me what she thought of me, and then do whatever the hell she pleased, with or without me, or her father, or Kakarott, or anyone else!

"I will kill myself, of course. That way, I at least leave my family without shame." She was curiously impassive.

"That's a solution!" Vegeta started to stalk off, and then paused, a nasty thought coming to mind. He turned. "What happens when you die?"

Princess Kadru was smiling strangely. "My ghost will arise. Doubtless I will follow the one who shamed me with his rejection, wailing and lamenting, forever."

"I could just kill you myself."

"Even more so would I follow the one who shamed me AND murdered me!"

"I would break your spirit."

"I would return. There is a power that sustains the wronged dead in their vengeance."

"You're threatening me!" Vegeta seemed shocked.

"If that is the only way, yes!" Kadru resumed her Naga form. "All I require is an honorable marriage. I do not ask that you love me, or even like me. I have no brothers, and my father has given me to you." She shrugged.

Vegeta scowled and almost said something--then checked himself abruptly. He looked at the Naga princess speculatively. "You don't need me," Vegeta said in a matter-of-fact way.

"Yes, I do! I must have a husband!" She slithered after him, determined.

"You certainly think so!" Vegeta snapped. "You want a husband. *A* husband.. any husband" he emphasized, "but not me."

Comprehension dawned. "You are rather unpleasant," she conceded. "You will find me a suitable husband, then," Kadru said confidently.

"I'll what?? Woman, have you lost your little snakey mind?"

"It is the only reasonable solution. As far as Papa knows, you are my husband, thus there is no shame to him in my accompanying you to find a real husband." She looked sidelong at Vegeta. "Conduct yourself toward me as a brother, and there will be no shame to me, either."

At least she is wise enough not to remind me of her previous threat--though it still stands; I can see it in her eyes. I don't believe this! The Prince of the Saiyajin, outwitted by this silly snake-woman?? Bah!

Well, if she stays alive and unmarried until I get back to Earth, there's always Raditz... Vegeta smiled darkly.

"Don't expect me to wait for you," was all Vegeta said as he stalked off.

*      *      *      *

"Hey, you hard-wired to that computer, or what?" Melchior asked Sean. He was skinny, geeky-looking kid in black jeans and black T-shirt with hair dyed green, three earrings per ear, a nose stud, and two eyebrow rings over his left eye. "Come on, take a breather--you're turning into a web zombie."

"Don't you guys ever knock?" Sean asked, rubbing his eyes and turning away from the computer he'd been hunched over for hours.

"Not since you gave me a key," Pomona answered cheerily, waving the aforementioned object. "Melc is right--you need a break." She waved a hand in front of his face. "Uh-huh, having trouble focusing on something more than half a meter away, aren't you?"

"Yeah, okay." Sean pushed his chair back and stood up, brushing his black hair out of his eyes. "I guess I am a bit hungry." He looked around at the pile of empty Coke cans and candy wrappers on his desk. "For real food."

"And you'll need some exercise to come down from that caffiene buzz before you can even think of sleeping! We've got just the place!" Pomona looped her arm in Sean's and all but dragged him toward the door.

"What? Where?" Sean blinked at the pink-haired goth girl.

She giggled. "Silly, 'The club, Elwood, the club!' What did you think? Floodland, of course!"

The new girl stuck her head in the door and added, "Melchior's going to spin some classics for me to dance to--Sisters of Mercy, The Cure, and so on." Sinhika Manohara winked at Sean.

Sean swallowed hard and ran for his room, for a quick cold shower and a change of clothes. He'd first seen the drop-dead gorgeous Indian girl with the orange hair a week ago--well, *everyone* had seen her--at the grand re-opening of Floodland, the night club that had been smashed flat by a berserk demon some months ago.

At first, she'd been just another face in the crowd.. then the dance floor started to clear around her, as the other club-goers backed away to watch, awestruck. She danced like no one but herself was there to watch, like the music reached in and possessed her, driving her to a frenzy. And how she danced! Supple and graceful, rhythm and sensuality incarnate, exotic and classical, all in one tireless body--Sinhika's dances rapidly became known as the best unofficial show in the club.

*      *      *      *

Raditz looked both ways, and up, and around. He hated it when Bulma went downtown--too many people, too many directions for danger to appear from. He'd sense it if something powerful (like the demon that killed Vegeta) appeared, but Bulma was so weak, and untrained as well. A mere human with a weapon could kill her, if he wanted to!

He'd said something about it, once--just once! Bulma had snapped at him, "If you must be my personal bodyguard, you're just going to have to adapt to MY life; I'm NOT going to spend the rest of it living in a bunker just because you think it isn't safe! If you don't like it, tough!"

Fortunately for both of them, Raditz felt none of the embarassment a human male would have felt at accompanying Bulma into various women's boutiques. As far as he was concerned, they were just more human merchants, and their shops were somewhat less dangerous than the open street.

Raditz wished she wouldn't ask his opinion all the time, though. Bulma knew very well what she looked good in--at least, everything she'd picked out had been very.. distracting. Especially that tight red dress with the low back!

"Well, what do you think?" She popped out of the dressing room with the saleslady in tow, and turned slowly, modelling the red dress. She smirked at Raditz's reaction. "Perfect! Wait until Vegeta sees me in this!"

Raditz wiped the sweat off his forehead. When did it get so hot in here? As far as he was concerned, Bulma would look great in a potato sack--or better yet, nothing at all...

WHOA, RADITZ! She's Vegeta's MATE, you moron! Your PRINCE, remember? But he's dead, and I'm not.. But he'll be back.. or will he? The chances aren't good.. But Bulma's so confident that he'll be back all of a sudden.. why? Maybe Kakarott knows something; I'll have to ask him. In the meantime.. I hope she's about done with those tight.. revealing.. incredibly sexy dresses that make it so easy to imagine what she looks like without any-- ARRGGGHHH! I'm doing it again!

Raditz stepped outside. I can wait out here for her, there's no danger to Bulma in that shop--except from me. He was surprised to see that it was dark already. Across the street, a crowd gathered, forming a line in front of some other arcane shop or business. "Floodland", the sign proclaimed; apparently it was not yet open (whatever it was), but eagerly anticipated by the young men and women out front.

Raditz watched the crowd; such gatherings made him nervous about Bulma, and he was already on edge. The girl doing backflips and a cartwheel caught his eye. Orange hair, dusky skin, very nice-looking.. seemed to be warming up for something. She stretched and ran through what looked to Raditz like some type of kata, or combat training form. He frowned; his professional paranoia kicked in.

Yes--he could sense some power about her! Not much, but more than the rest of these weaklings--and if she could hide her power like Kakarott.. Raditz watched the orange-haired girl closely, with an occasional glance around to make sure he wasn't being distracted from the main attack, if there was one.

With paranoia in high gear, it didn't take the long-maned Saiyan long to notice the others watching him. There was a small knot of three or four people standing near the athletic girl, watching him. They all wore black--some kind of uniform?--and more jewelry than Raditz had noticed on other humans. Two men had coal-black hair, one had green hair, and the girl had pink hair. And they were talking about him.

Raditz smirked to himself; one thing he'd learned already, human ears weren't nearly as sensitive as Saiyan ears. Humans frequently thought themselves to be whispering in private when Raditz could hear them just fine. He focused on the conversation across the street, tuning out the traffic noise and general murmur.

"Who's the big goon across the street?" said the tall, well-built man with black hair. "He's new.."

"Not a tourist, not wearing that Capsule Corp jacket!" answered the scrawny weakling with the green hair. "Definitely a fashion victim--jeans and a corporate logo jacket? Yecch!"

"I wouldn't say 'yecch' to that bod, Melc! And look at that HAIR! Yum!" The pink-haired girl in the very short black skirt looked at Raditz in a very frank, almost predatory way. "Nice face, too--he'd be downright handsome if he wasn't scowling."

Green-hair reconsidered. "You're right--get him some decent clothes and I wouldn't be saying 'no', either! He's built like.. well, he's built!"

"Only if he swings your way, Melchior," the pink-haired girl smiled mockingly. "Be just my luck if he did," she pouted.

"Hey, maybe we'll both get lucky and he goes both ways." Melchior shrugged. "It could happen."

The tall black-haired man glared at Raditz. "With that build, he's probably a brainless jock," he sneered. Something in his tone, and the way he stood close to the pink-haired girl suggested jealousy to Raditz.

What a strange group of humans! Well, maybe not so strange, Raditz thought as he remembered some long-ago barracks room conversations about this or that Saiyan girl. But still..! To have a bunch of humans discussing HIM as if he were some strong, good-looking Saiyan woman who might be willing..! He wasn't sure whether he should be amused, or insulted. At least they weren't plotting an attack on Bulma or himself.

Raditz's mouth curved up in a hint of a smile. Bulma had been right; human women (and some men) found him very attractive!

"Woo-hoo! He's smiling! Told ya! He's not just handsome, he's gorgeous!" the pink-haired girl crowed to her companions, who now included the orange-haired girl, done with her exercises. She watched him intently, interest plain on her face.

"Doesn't look like he's coming to the club," she said in a sultry voice that Raditz had to strain to hear. "What a shame! I'd like to get to know him!"

"In the biblical sense?" queried the tall jealous man sardonically.

"Maybe," the orange-haired girl smiled, and sashayed into the now-open club door.

About that time, Bulma finally emerged from the shop, loaded with packages; Raditz reluctantly turned away.

*      *      *      *

The only good thing about this hell, Vegeta thought, was that he was out of those endless damn caves! An icy wind blew over barren hills and through dark canyons as they picked their way ever downward. Kadru was blue-lipped and shivering, and even Vegeta could feel the cold. He cursed it.

"Nande kuso? I am DEAD, damn it! Why should I be cold?" He leaped down to the bottom of the current ravine, and, contrary to his earlier harsh words, waited for Kadru.

Princess Kadru shifted to human form; this ravine was too steep, she needed both hands and both feet. "I don't know, I've never experienced anything like this. I've read about it, though. It is winter, I think--a supernatural, eternal winter."

"Supernatural winter, supernatural cold--so they freeze the damned here instead. Wonderful." Vegeta's voice was flat.

"If it's any consolation, not-husband, the living are also freezing here," Kadru responded mildly.

"I said I'd find you a husband; I didn't promise to keep you comfortable or alive." Vegeta considered. "If you were dead, I wouldn't have to worry about keeping you alive." At her angry look, he smirked. "I won't kill you--I don't need your ghost haunting me all the way back home--but try not to have any accidents, and don't freeze to death!"

The ravine opened out into a larger canyon, with a stone-paved road in the center, leading down around a bend.

"Down that road," pointed Vegeta, "is the Gioll Bridge. We cross it, and follow the river to Naastrand."

Kadru looked at him in some surprise. "You know this place?"

"Only by legend. We are in Niflheim." Vegeta continued down the road; Kadru shifted to Naga form and slithered after him.

Ahead of her, Vegeta stopped suddenly, and dropped into fighting stance. "What is it?" Kadru started ask, and then stopped abruptly.

Just around the bend, at the very end of a huge iron chain, thick as a ship's anchor chain, crouched a monstrous hound. It was twice the size of an elephant, covered with thick hair, chest matted with blood. It crouched, snarling at Vegeta, baring gigantic teeth like knives. Torn and rotting fragments of flesh and bone lay scattered about.

Vegeta answered with one word: "Garm."

*      *      *      *


[ Contents | VIII. The Ghost Prince | IX. Serpent's Dowry | X. The Moonstop ]

Disclaimer: See Credits.

Copyright 2000 by Dragoness Eclectic