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~:: A Darker Shade - Chapter I ::~

The summer sun beat down upon her soft skin, as she lay stretched out on the chaise lounge. She luxuriously rubbed the vast expanses of exposed areas of skin with coconut-scented oil and lay back with her eyes closed.

“Don’t you worry that the oil will dissolve your body paint?”

Looking up from a tangle caused by the sudden folding of the chaise lounge due to her startled launch from a reclining position, she laughed.

“Hello, Cale… err…I mean DC.” She giggled, and added, “Do you really think it would bother me if it did?”

He shrugged and shook his head. “Vu, you are weird, you know that?”

“Of course,” she replied with an impish grin. “You remind me quite often.”

He smiled and nodded his head. Despite his reservations about her questionable morals he genuinely liked the bubbly little half-demoness. “I was on my way to battle some Nemesis, and remembered how much fun we had the last time. Especially with you doing your best Leeroy Jenkins imitation…” He gave her a wry smile.

 “You know, I’d love to join you, but,” she paused, a light blush tingeing her countenance, “Keres is due back soon and we had plans to, umm…”

 “Fair enough,” he interrupted quickly, trying to spare himself the possibility of her launching forth into a detailed explanation of her agenda for an evening with her lover. “I just thought I would ask.”

Her green eyes sparkled as she gave him a soft, grateful smile. “I appreciate that.” Suddenly her gaze turned pensive. “You know…”

He shot her a wary glance.

“Have you ever met my sister?” she asked.

 “Can’t say that I have. Why?” he asked suspiciously.

 “Well, I was just thinking…” she began as warnings began to fire off in his brain. When Dawl started thinking, it usually meant something was about to go horribly wrong.

“You are both near the same security level,” she continued. “I think she may be a level or two behind you, but she often battles foes at levels that exceed her own. She’s really very good.”

“Good? At what?” he asked, cautiously, raising an eyebrow.

Dawl knew what he was implying. “Oh, she isn’t like that. Trust me. In fact, I call her the Ice Princess. You have nothing to worry about, dear. Your virtue is quite safe with her.”

He gave a good-natured snort, “Well, being your sister, you can’t blame me for assuming the worst,” he said, playfully.

The small redhead shot him a friendly glare and shook her head. “Okay, point taken. No, she’s really nothing like me. She is quite the opposite, actually. Would you like to meet her?”

As he gave her another wary glance, she quickly added, “She is also an empath, however… she is a Controller.”

He thought back to the times that Dawl had showered him with powers that gave him amazing endurance and cast her magic to boost his own fortitude and decided after a moment that it might not hurt to at least meet the girl. If she turned out to be flakey he could always find some plausible excuse to take his leave of her, he reasoned to himself.

He nodded his assent to the little empath as she stood up then bent over to retrieve her robe. He blushed lightly and turned politely away to gaze down at the crowds milling around the Talos train station.

Dawl disappeared into her bedroom, momentarily blinded as her eyes adjusted to the change in light levels. She tightened the belt on her robe, and strode down the hall towards her sister’s bedroom.

 “Az?” she called out cheerfully, as she rapped on the door.

“Come in, please,” her sister’s soft voice sounded through the closed door.

The diminutive redhead slowly opened the door to find her sister sitting on the edge of her bed, running a soft brush through her shoulder-length blonde locks. Dawl was happy to see her sibling dressed in the new outfit she herself had just picked out for her at Icon. It was a small skirt with a clinging top cut in low, jagged points that flared forth just enough to cover the vital areas while leaving most of her trim belly exposed.

 “That looks nice on you, Az,” she said brightly as she stepped into the room.

A shy smile crossed the younger girl’s features. “I am not accustomed to wearing so little. It feels… strange.”

Dawl laughed. “Come on out on my balcony with me for a moment? Please?”

Assuming her sister required her assistance in applying the oil to her back, the stately blonde stood and shook out her mane. She followed Dawl down the hall to her room and out the French doors onto her balcony.

A sharp intake of breath expressed her surprise and displeasure as she saw a male figure seated lotus style amid soft swirls of dark purple energy, on the cool textured concrete floor. As Dawl turned towards her with a sheepish smile, Azazela furiously assaulted her thoughts. How could you DO this to me? You PROMISED you would not do this again. She glared down at her sister.

Dawl pressed her defense into her sister’s angry mind. It isn’t like that, Az. He’s an old friend of mine. He just wanted someone to help him battle some of Nemesis’ forces, and I cannot go because I am waiting for Keres to return. I thought perhaps you might go assist him. Dawl looked up at the towering girl with a pleading gaze. I swear to you, he will not try anything with you. I know him well and he has always been a perfect gentleman.

Azazela snorted openly, causing the Warshade looked up from his quiet meditation. I suppose if he can be a gentleman around you, then surely he can be trusted, she projected bitingly.

Suddenly, he felt like he did the first time he’d stumbled upon Nemesis and Malta battling each other. He knew he was in the middle of something that could get really ugly, very quickly.

“Dawl, I should probably be going…” he began, as he rose to his feet.

“No!” she protested. “Please wait. Azazela, this is Dark Cenotaph. He is a Warshade. When I met him, he had not yet fused with the Nictus, Bal-whatever-his name was…err…is… and he was known as Cale Westmarch. He was a very skilled Archmage. DC, err… Cale…this is my baby sis, Azazela.”

Az looked down into his stunning eyes, glowing with purple, and nodded curtly. “It is nice to meet you,” she said, her soft voice almost monotone in an effort to conceal her frustration.

His first impression was amazement at her imposing height. She stood a good seven, if not close to eight feet tall. She had the familiar spiral horns, and an overly developed chest, like her sister, but any similarity stopped there. Her hair was a bright white shade of platinum blonde. Her full, crimson lips were set off by a pair of bright crystal blue eyes. The long lashes softened what might have otherwise been a very stern countenance.

“Az, will you go assist him with his mission? Please.” Dawl looked up at her with a hopeful smile.

Azazela let out a small sigh. She had never been one to turn down a request for help. “Of course,” she nodded, “however, I must first excuse myself.” She blushed uncomfortably. “I must prepare myself. I am not fit for battle in this garb.” Meeting his gaze, she bowed slightly as she addressed the Warshade, “If you will excuse me, please, sir?”

He nodded, and she spun on her heels and retreated back through the French doors.

“Is she always so friendly?” he asked Dawl, in a mildly sarcastic tone.

She shook her head. “She is often less friendly. I told you she’s the Ice Princess. But she is good at what she does. You will see. I am sure she will be a big help.” Dawl laughed gently as she added, “You may want to tell her to leave Leeroy at home.”

He raised an eyebrow, giving her an odd look, “Leeroy?”

Giggling, she answered ominously, “Oh, you will meet Leeroy, I am sure.”

To Chapter II