Gray and lifeless the merpeople swam in and out of small water ducts throughout the large room. The walls themselves were made of damp rock the same color as the servants of the queen. Livia sat in the middle on a throne fashioned out of granite. It's speckled white and black shades the only thing that contrasted with the area.

She watched them as they swam around with no emotion. She had no emotion either and the thought pained her as she realized her world was almost completely devoid of life. She became powerful, but at a great cost. She would never know joy or happiness unless she drained emotion from another being.

So no creature in her world remembered their feelings. Mindless, they followed her every command without a word. They knew their mistress would never be sated, but they didn't care. Yet Livia did and she knew she had to find new victims.

The thought of emotion in her mind she began to concentrate. 'Show me someone who knows of another place. A place with vibrant souls that would sustain me for more than just a fleeting moment. Show me these souls or show me someone who can help.' Sure enough the vision came to her of a powerful being she felt from another dimension. She concentrated more and closed her eyes. Knowing the being was purely evil did not make her wary and once she opened her eyes, she found him.

*****

The Hobgoblin hummed to himself as he organized the bottles on the shelf. His scratchy, grating voice halted as he came to a blue vial. He lifted it up, blowing the light coat of dust off the glass to peer inside. He twisted his wide mouth into a grin.

"Ah, my Necrodemos, I almost forgot about you." He chuckled a little, and set the bottle down on his table. He continued to speak to the glass as he went back to sorting out his shelf. "You almost got away from me that last time. Such a clever pet you are. Do you hate that, when I call you my pet? I know you do. It radiates from you. But you are my pet." He sighed, picking the bottle up again to replace it on the newly cleared shelf. "There, back you go. Nice and neat."

He froze, black, monster eyes narrowing suspiciously. He sniffed. He whirled around to face a woman, but with his kind of eyes he could not see her features, her face. He could only see what lived on the inside, the hatred, the anger, the swirling, never-ending emptiness.

"You are not the creature I seek," she said.

"Then, pray tell, what is it you seek?" asked the Hobgoblin, unimpressed by her entrance to his lair. "I smell the scent of worlds on you, of worlds beyond this universe. Tell me what it is you have not found in your dimension, strange one."

The woman ignored him. She walked past him with purpose, her hand reaching for the blue vial he had only just placed on the shelf.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you," he hissed, moving to stop her.

She waved her hand, and he was blown out of her way as though he was no more than a dead leaf on a bitter autumn wind. He collapsed against a wall.

With the same hand, she continued to reach for the bottle, and touched it gently. She brought it down to her face, rubbing the smooth surface, running a finger along the hard, delicate length to the cork at the top. "I free you, dark creature." She dug a fingernail into the cork and popped it out.

A blue cloud swirled from the bottle like a whirlwind. From it emerged a handsome man with long, light brown hair that curled at the ends. His eyes were entirely black. He smiled at Livia. "Do I owe you three wishes now?"

Livia smirked, "I do not believe in creatures as silly as the Djinn, what I need from you is energy..life." the man was indeed handsome and she focused her own grey eyes, hoping he would sense her evil, and the void within her that needed to be filled with emotion, "I come from another realm, one which I have enslaved so I can gain sensations. I need emotions, I survive upon them. I sense you are a kindred spirit..perhaps we can help each other." she looked upon him again, awaiting a reply.

Necrodemos tilted his head to the side. He was comparatively clumsy outside of a mind--he thrived on creating worlds within worlds and destroying his targets from inside out. Standing there in an almost human form, he felt perhaps a little ridiculous as he tried, as humans do, to understand this lovely creature without being able to simply be within her mind. But he was still a strong being, and he did indeed feel the void inside her.

"You came all the way from another realm for me," he said at last, dreamy sarcasm dripping on the edges of his smooth voice. "For help. But let me ask you this, do you know what I am?"

Livia shook her head once, then waited for his answer.

"I am Necrodemos." The name meant nothing to her, and he could see it in her grey eyes. "I am an eater of emotions...as are you." He smiled. "So indeed," he continued, "we are kindreds. And we can help one another. I have a vendetta to settle with the residents of the Labyrinth..." He could see from the way her eyes lit she knew the place. "Surely there you will find the vibrant souls you need to sustain you." He bowed to Livia and extended his hand. "Allies?"

*****

Multicolored threads danced along a loom for the fae goddess to see. She smiled and moved her fingers over them and watched what they wove. Even Euphoria stood in wonder. Sometimes her looms acted on their own accord but they were mostly inspired by her. This time they danced around the sides and center of the frame to reveal new worlds.

She continued to watch and flashed the threads a confused glance. Someone had crossed over and was about to create havoc with another. Sometimes stories were good and sometimes bad, but she had a feeling these two worlds were not created to merge.

"But they're merging aren't they?" she said. The threads shimmered in response and showed images of Livia and Necrodemos. She looked on and sensing the intense evil shook her head in response, "There is an unbalance here. Estella's adopted child was not meant to go outside her realm...she has gotten too powerful." the loom trembled in response. Though the threads acted on their own accord they knew how powerful The Fae Gatekeeper was and how terrible it would be to displease her.

"Shhhh, it's not your fault." she calmed the loom. It responded by taking away the images of the evil one and shining in a myriad of bright colors that fell into each other never holding one shade. "I am pleased you are happy." she told the threads, "But show me the faces of all the innocent ones."

Immediately the loom showed Estella who looked confused at her husband. Euphoria nodded in response, "Yes, she is the personification but show me another."

A variety of images flashed before her face until she noticed one and drew closer to the image, "Yes...I sense her power. It is not as great as it should be but she represents goodness."

Without a word Euphoria disappeared to meet the maiden and warn her.

Aeris lay sleeping in her house in the woods at the edge of the Labyrinth. She was dreaming. Euphoria sensed it as she drew near. In dreams or in reality she could travel but why wake the Herald from her sweet sleep? It was a pity her visions had to be disturbed. The Fae Gatekeeper focused upon her mind and entered it. There she appeared in a swirl of powerful lights shimmering with different hues of the spectrum. She looked upon the young woman with a grim glance, "There are other worlds that exist. One has crossed over when she shouldn't and your life is threatened."

Aeris was amazed by the fae goddess as her wings spread out behind her perfect body. She blinked against the brilliant colors, trying to focus on the voice that came from it like a song. "Who...who are you and what do you mean by other worlds?"

"You must widen your narrow vision Herald. Though you have met many you haven't met enough. This one that threatens you steals emotion and is aligned with an old enemy. The name is Necrodemos."

Aeris felt her blood turning slowly to ice in her veins. Without knowing she did so, she reached up and touched the white streak on the left side of her hair...the streak Necrodemos had given her. She didn't believe what she heard, and didn't want to, but she managed to take a step closer and ask, "That's impossible, isn't it? The Hobgoblin imprisoned him."

Euphoria shook her head, "Nothing is impossible. You are only part of a story but the threads were supposed to weave your tales upon different looms. This did not happen. You must find the innocent one and when you see her double you will know I do not lie."

Aeris tried hard to understand. What was all this? Threads? Looms? And then she knew, as the stories from her youth came to her mind. This was the Fae Gatekeeper! "Wait!" she cried. "What do I do? How do I find the innocent one? And how can I fight this!?"

She extended a hand to Aeris and from her fingertip a thread spun and fell into her hand. Shimmering in multicolored hues like Euphoria's aura, the light of the thread danced in Aeris' wide, awestruck blue eyes. "This thread can only be used once. When you use it focus upon the person and hold it tightly. They will freeze in time for only a few minutes. This is all I can give you. Go now before it is too late."

Euphoria disappeared and returned back to her looms. The stories were merging and it was time to watch. But there was one essential character that needed to be included. With a twitch of her finger Euphoria moved Kirakah's thread into the twisted realm of the Labyrinth.

*****

Estella sat in one of her favorite rooms reading to her young son. Many times she told him stories she created herself or read from other books. He enjoyed every word immensly and seeing his delight she ran her fingers through his hair as she continued, "And the prince found his sister and reunited her with his family. They all lived happily ever after."

He giggled and leapt into her arms. Oren was just six years old and was one of the most precious things to her. "So you liked it?" she asked awaiting a response she already knew the answer to.

"Yes." the prince giggled, "I always love your stories. The prince was so brave!"

Such simplistic words brought another smiles to her face. She kissed him lovingly on the cheek unaware her husband had entered the room.

"We need to talk." she said firmly. It was clear Jerin wasn't upset, but something concerned him.

"Oren, go find your grandmother and see if she can put you to bed."

The boy nodded obediently and left his parents.

Jerin sighed and sat beside his wife, "Your storytelling is a great gift you have my love, but you need to read other stories to him."

Estella put the book to the side, her eyes perplexed as she asked, "What do you mean exactly?"

"When Kirakah came back she said our daughter was alive but she didn't know where. I'm not saying we'll never find her, if possible we can live forever. What I am saying is you need to quit reminding our son about him. These stories of a prince saving his lost sister can have bad effects."

Estella trembled at his words but began to think about what he was saying. Stories had more of an impression on younger minds. "I don't want to give up hope Jerin and I don't want any of us to forget about her."

"We won't, it's not possible. The best thing we can do is hope Kirakah or someone finds a way to find our daughter. If you keep telling stories like this Oren might run away and find himself in a situation he can't handle. He's not going to find his sister."

Estella tried not to speak sharply but her words rose with emotion, "Then who is Jerin? I already lost Livia."

Jerin moved to look directly into Estella's eyes, "You need to be thankful for what you have, not mourn over what you lost. Remember that. You're a queen, a mother and a wife, not someone out on a crusade."

Estella wanted to say something else but as she opened her mouth a voice spoke telepathically in her head, "Estella...I must see you."

It was Charlatan.

"Charlatan is calling me," she said to Jerin as he followed her to the large entrance to the castle. The king had a displeased look upon his face but she didn't look behind her.

"Estella!" he barked as she began to open the door, "Even if it is her why should we let her in?"

The storyteller rolled her eyes, "She's not exactly my favorite person either Jerin but have some compassion. I doubt she would leave your uncle's side without warning to come if it wasn't important."

Jerin was about to say something but he heard a banging on the door. Estella quickly pulled and the door opened. With no surprise to Estella Charlatan stood there, heaving a sigh of relief.

"You took long enough." she said walking into the hall.

Jerin crossed his arms over his chest, "You gave no notice."

Charlatan looked away. Many years had passed and she still trembled when she thought of him. "I've been having bad dreams Estella, and they deal with Livia."

He scoffed in return, "So you are saying that you actually care for your child now?"

She turned around and glared at him, "I am not fit to be a mother! I'm not saying I want her back! I just want these nightmares to stop."

"Acting for your own well being? I'm not that surprised then."

Estella quickly walked to her husband's side, "Jerin that's enough, I don't think she's hear to start any trouble." she then looked back at her, "Please, tell me more about the visions."

"I'm in another world. Much like your labyrinth. Then I see her. I'm surprised at first because I've known for a long time she's been in Estella's 'water world' and drained it of its emotions. But I see her with another man, a handsome man but I sense they're both evil. She sneers at me then drains the emotions of all living creatures around her, then she comes for me." her tone changed to one of urgency, "Estella she's in another world I know it! We have to go there and stop her."

"I don't like this." Jerin interjected.

Estella sighed but for some strange reason sensed she was being truthful, "If you're right we must do something."

"And how do you suppose we tell if she's right or wrong? She could of learned magic to make you feel convinced."

"We need to find Kirakah. She can tell if Charlatan is lying or not. Even if she is telling the truth we'd still need her to cross over into the other dimension."

"Well you know as well as I do Beauty is on Akerion now, how do you manage to bring her here?"

Estella sighed and realized Jerin had a point. Only once did the storyteller reach Akerion and then it was by pure accident.

*****

"Concentrate Julion." Beauty barked at her opponent. He wanted to fight her and the Akerian got what he wanted. She knew she would beat him, but she wanted to see how long he would last before defeat.

The young man sneered as he twirled two long staffs made of gray bamboo. "I can and will defeat you protector! You are without your sword."

Kirakah smirked, "I don't need it." she jumped into the air and somersaulted at least twenty feet above. Everyone in the small arena gazed upward in awe, "This is your last chance to yield before I force you." she said as she landed on a rail five feet from the high ceiling.

"Never!" Julion screamed as he bent his knees and positioned his staff to help hurl him in the air. To no one's surprise he wasn't able to jump half as high as she. Seeing this Beauty jumped from the rail and spinning around in the air, knocking him down with a powerful kick.

Julion fell to the ground screaming. Beauty smirked as his pride turned into cowardice, "No Akerian can beat me, it is decreed by our founders and creators. I am the protector for a reason."

"But you said you would become a servant if I win." he grumbled as he tried to rise.

"I am a servant to the people. Julion you will be the next one to rule the west side castle. If you serve the residents here I will serve you, but only as I see fit." she extended a hand, "I've met many princes and kings who have ruled the two castles. Very few Akerians live here because there is not enough room, but these fortresses are relatively safe. But we must have a good king to keep it so, I can teach you to be good. Do you yield?"

Julion nodded his head slightly after admitting defeat so easily. Beauty smiled yet when she reached to help the prince stand, she began fading away.

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