That was what the jaw-shaped entrance to the infamous Blackfang Cave emanated of:
A dark, evil and long forgotten system of tunnels, leading into the dreaded Soulspire Keep, the resting place of one of Varran’s greatest evils:
The Lich God of Evil and Undeath, Xyrax.
“Oh my Gods; this place’s freaking me out...!“ was all that Jiraz could muster from her obviously shaking voice; besides her, armoured from head to toe in spiked adamantine armour alike her brother, Shica Narra-Jar made an uneasy swallow as the cave entrance looked like a living monster to her…
A very hungry, and indeed cruel-hearted monster…
“Keep it together, girls; Kun’Ja’s minions will use our own fear against us” Rhanar, the black half-dragon warned them; his golden eyes shun in the lightning from the storm over them; the sky echoed and it twisted itself from the black clouds, as if Heaven itself was giving into the darkness that was the Soulspire Keep.
“This is so scary; I…Jiki, hold me!” Kiro whined, placing herself around Jiki, who hugged her comfortably and stroke her head; the two girlfriends could feel the evil in this place, and it felt as if ice grew on their spines and cold water filled their lungs.
“Jiraz, can you light our path? I did not bring any torches” Rhanar asked to break the uncomfortable silence.
“S-sure; uhmmm, one moment…” Jiraz replied to the sudden question weakly; concentrating, a large flame now danced from her outstretched palm, lightening up the cave entrance.
“I will go first…” Rhanar said, walking into the cave, his right hand solidly placed on the Wraith-Blade’s hilt.
“Hey, wait it up!” Shica nervously yelled after her brother, partly running into the cave after him.
“Don’t forget about me!” Jiraz ran after her girlfriend, while Jiki and Kiro were the last to walk in, their hands on their weapons.
“I’m not too sure if a simple robe’s all that practical in here” Kiro joked at Jiki, causing them to exchange smiles; no matter where they were, all they would ever need was each other’s company.
Entering the dark Blackfang Cave, Rhanar found the very first room to be a surprisingly smelly; as he took a step forward, he felt something crushing under his armoured foot.
“Hey, what’s with the hold-up? It will bloody well difficult enough to gather the guts to go in here!” Shica complained, leaning over to get a hint of the dimly lit room in which Rhanar stood.
“Armour or not, it’s still pretty small and firm” Jiraz teasingly flirted behind her, having Shica’s adamantine-armoured butt not a meter from her face.
“Dear Gods; even in a Gods-forsaken, evil cave like this they keep on flirting” Kiro could not help but smile, Jiki joining in; their own relationship was more romantic and emotional than Shica and Jiraz’s, who tended to let their bodies speak for them.
“Girls, take care; I have the feeling that what we tread on are other, failed adventurers” Rhanar warned darkly.
"Ewww, gross! Hey, wait a-...oh, dear Gods..." Jiki commented as she caught eye on the corpse of what appeared to by a Silvarciraian Dragon Knight; his steel helmet with the proud golden dragon wings mounted at the sides was splintered, and the metal and gold shards lay around his broken neck.
"Wait, hold up" Rhanar warned, holding up his fist the signalize a stop.
"I don't think this is quite the place to leave unguarded; sure there's gotta be some kinda traps..." Shica said, looking carefully around herself and the group.
"Jiraz, can you toss a fireball in there? Something tells me that we might not wish to go further in without knowing what we face" Rhanar asked.
"Sure, just stand back" Jiraz nodded, concentrating her chaotic powers in the form of a large fireball appearing in her palms.
"Good thing, Jiraz; in all the horror films I've seen with Kiro, there's one thing you gotta remember" Jiki noted.
"And what's that?" Shica asked.
"Dark tunnels and a group of unwary adventures doesn't go along" Kiro shoke her head.
"Heh, kinda figures, but lemme see here..." Shica smiled, looking over the remains of fallen adventurers.
"Let's see if these old bones can be of use" she smirked; using her necromantic powers, she aimed a ray of dark-purple light shooting from her finger-tips towards each of the pile of bones, causing them to begin moving.
"Good idea, Shica; at least now we have some willing minions to serve as target practice for whatever trap Kun'Ja might have set" Rhanar smiled, his sarcastic and sometimes sadistic humor not surprising the girls.
As the skeletal remains of the fallen adventurers began rattling and stitch together through the means of Shica's necromancy, they rose up, their hands still locked around their rusty weapons, and their armour causing some difficulty for them to rise up.
"Hmm, around the 24 of them..." Rhanar mumbled; "not the greatest army ever to walk Varran, but they might become useful."
As Shica silently ordered the skeletons to line up, they did so with rather a surprising speed for a pile of bones, weapons and armour; the former Dragon Knight, the tattered remains of his proud tabard with the Golden Dragon charred from some unknown attack, stood up in front, holding its sword high and readying its shield.
"Kinda creepy how he's still all about leading the fight" Jiraz sighed, not really liking the idea of having walking bones do their job for them.
"Well, it'll only make him a more obvious target for any kinda traps in here" Shica nodded, now ordering the skeletal minions advance, as they did so in a formed triangle formation further into the dark cave.
"Now we will but wait and hear what happens" Rhanar commented, sitting down and spending the waiting by pinching the Wraith-Blade's invisible tip against pebbles.
"Kiro, I'm kind of getting the feeling that something's about to go wrong..." Jiki whimpered, hugging Kiro tightly, her girlfriend smiling at her and stroking her hair, whispering comfortably at her.
"Hmmm..." Rhanar mumbled, sensing something as the minutes passed; not a moment after, a loud, ear-deafing crash were heard from inside the tunnel, catching his and the girls' attention at once.
"Holy...what the heck was that?!" Jiraz asked, still holding her hands to her ears.
"It sounded kinda like a boulder or a rock coming crushing down on a pile of bones..." Shica answered, feeling her control over the skeletons weaken slightly.
"Please, do keep focusing; we need not also worry about those undead turning on us" Rhanar said, readying the Wraith-Blade in any case.
"No problem, bro; I've got it all fine" Shica nodded, strengthing her spell as she regained full control, although she by now knew she had lost a skeleton to the tunnel's traps and other lethal devices.
"That took forever..." Jiraz panted out as the group reached the end of the tunnel; around them and behind them lay the crushed bones of all the skeletons Shica had raised, and failed mechanisms and traps all but left a long trail of destruction behind them.
"So what are we looking for, again?" Kiro asked, standing back to back with Jiki, who ere already readying a spell.
"We are searching for the Scepter of the Soulless, an extremly powerful artifact of Dark Magic" Rhanar explained as he stepped through a small crack in a nearby stone wall; behind it, he all but recognized the place at once.
"We are now in Soulspire Keep, a place where few people have the guts to go, and even fewer walks out of here alive."
"Lemme guess; the tunnel was nothing compared to the horrors waiting for us in here?" Jiraz asked sarcastically.
"I'd sure bet my coins on that, Jiraz; this place stinks far away of the whole 'evil sorcerer lich haunting old keep' cliche..." Shica noted, seeing the sharp spikes of rusty iron hanging in eye-height of almost every pillar, ready to impale any unfortunate victim.
"It would be a fool's errand to spread out by now; I suggest we stick together" Rhanar said, the girls nodding in silent reply.
"Geez, this Kun'Ja dude sure likes his place all emo and spiky; what a wimp..." Jiraz commented as she, followed by the group, began sniffing around in search of any hidden doors or passages.
"If I'm not wrong, we should be in the old servants' quarter" Kiro pointed out, the holo-watch on her left wrist glowing with a slightly bluish hue.
"And...maybe be-becuase of that...?" Shica now pointed out with a shaking finger-tip as the group saw the shape of a transparent, earie-glowing form.
"Ghosts...why'd it have to be ghosts??" Jiki whimpered, sneaking up behind Kiro, her girlfriend trying her best to calm the shivering Jiki.
"Yo, dude! You seen any priests around here?" Jiraz provokingly yelled at the ghost; slowly turning around, the group could see it had the form of an old butler of sorts.
"The master...commands it...death claims us all in the end.......now...leave! Leave, mortal...filth...!" it simply growled, its voice sounding as if it came from everywhere in the room.
"O...K; simply we're not to goad the living dead, Jiraz...!" Shica asked strictly, Jiraz sourly backing down, seeing that even a demon like herself might not be able to harm a ghost.
"You seek death's embrace? You wish yourself unbound from this infected cesspit of despair?" Rhanar now suddenly asked, pointing the Wraith-Blade right at the ghost's cold, silvery, lifeless eyes.
"You...you carry my salvation...from this dying nightmare..." the ghost said as he could feel the energy of the invisible blade slowly spreading its darkening and cold embrace around him.
"Jiraz, will you have the honour...?" Rhanar asked, turning the blade around in a flick of his wrist, handling the hilt of the imfamous sword to Jiraz.
"Sending this dude to Nardar?" Jiraz asked, a twisted smile curling over her lips as she took the blade; feeling the Dark Magic coursing through it, Jiraz could really sense how powerful the sword really was.
"Sorry, dude, but we kinda cannot have you go floating and tell your master all about us, now can we?" Jiraz smirked cruelly, the sword quickly cutting into the ghostly butler, his faded death-scream only a faint sigh as he was sucked into the blade.
"Wow, if you aren't the ghostbuster" Shica teased, Jiraz smiling at her as she handed the sword back to Rhanar.
"Let us hope we will not encounter other such tormented souls..." he nodded to himself, his attention caught by a small symbol engraved unto a massive stone wall.
"Hmmm, if I am not wrong, this is the symbol of Nardar, the Underworld of the Dead..." Rhanar mumbled, carefully examining the symbol.
"Uhmm, Rhannie, if it's related to death, it'd kinda make sense if it were connected to some kind of tr-..." Jiraz began, hearing a metallic noise above her; over Rhanar, a heavy blade, almost like a very lethal pendulum, were decending down upon the draconoid, threatening to cleave him in two.
Quickly, Jiraz grabbed around the surprised Rhanar's waist with her tail, pulling him back as the blade hit the spot where he had been standing all but seconds ago.
"Gods...thanks Jiraz; I should have forseen this..." Rhanar said, looking closely at the fallen blade; seeing no chains to pull it back up, he nodded in grim amusement that whoever made this trap had meant it to do its job efficiently.
"No worries, Rhannie; let's just get moving; there's gotta be a way outta this place" Jiraz said, stretching her wings out in boredom.
"This keep's a freaking, bloody maze...!" Shica mumbled through her closed teeth, irritated by the constant walking through the dark hallways, corridors and passages.
"I think we should be happy we haven't found any of Kun'Ja's meanies lurking about..." Kiro said, keeping as close to Jiki as she could, her girlfriend keeping a constant lookout for any signs of danger.
"Hush! Listen up..." Rhanar suddenly said, the group stopping up, seeing Rhanar kneel down and walking as slowly and silently as his armour allowed him; looking around a dimly lit corner, Rhanar bore witness to a truly horrific and disgusting sight:
The room in front of him were glowing weakly in an earie, red light, coming from a large, oval pool in the middle, its rusty gold edges shining from the light emenating from the pool; around it stood five robed and hooded figures, their attires coal black with spiky, blood-red trims.
"Vampires..." Rhanar turned his head around to the girls, Shica looking sceptically at him.
"Rhanar, it could just be some, you know, posessed humans; who says it's gotta be va-..." Shica began, Rhanar interupting her with a long, heavy sigh.
"Look, full-blooded vampires are usually highly arrogant, and thus would never allow a 'lesser being' or 'mere mortal' to wear their robes" Rhanar explained.
"Sh-h-h-h! I'm trying to listen...!" Shica hushed, hearing a cold voice speaking from the room.
"Lord Kun'Ja be praised! This one will make a fine addition to our supply; too bad she does not understand her importance..." the voice said, the group all felt a shiver down their spines.
"I suggest we make it short and deadly...!" Rhanar hissed, his teeth gritting in anger at those evil undead, his horns beginning to sprout from his head, his wings unfolding from his back.
"Ah, c'mon, Rhannie; let me handle these bloody bastards..." Jiraz said confidently, rising up.
"Jiraz, don't...!" Shica tried and warn, but the succubus girl had already risen up, walking towards the doorway into the room.
"Yo, guys; you planning on a little blood feast or what?" she provokingly greeted the robed figures as they turned around, facing the demon girl.
"A demon? Yet she does not stink of ruthlessness and terror? What manner of renegade are you...?" one of them spoke, Jiraz hearing a slight clinging from it, figuring out that the robed characters in front of her were armoured, as well.
"Well, I'm just a demonic dyke, lezzie lover with a hot girlfriend, and enough firepower to make a vulcano stuff it..." Jiraz smirked, waving her tail slowly back and forth, rubbing her knuckles against each other.
"Blackwhip! The accoursed renegade!" another of the robed figures spoke, its voice giving away it was a woman; "have you no mind?! We will drain you of your life and soul, as well! You shall never see your so-called 'beloved' again!"
"Look, I kinda like girls and all..." Jiraz snarled in irritation; "...but if you don't give that stereotypical 'oh, your doom is at hand'-speech a cut, I'm gonna kick your blood-crazed ass from here back down to Nardar, sissy!"
"you dare-...?" the first figure were about to ask, but was interupted as a fireball of Chaos Magic flew with near the speed of lightning over his head, Jiraz smiling and leaning herself to the doorway's frame.
"I'm asking ye: You don't wanna make me angry, would ye, punks?" Jiraz gloated, tossing another fireball up and down like a basketball.
"Move it, Rhannie! I wanna see her kick ass!" Shica said, pushing Rhanar aside to see her girlfriend taunt and provoke the vampires; behind her, Jiki and Kiro spent the time helping themselves to some water from their rations.
"Wretched little brat!" one of the robed figures yelled, tossing itself towards the leaning Jiraz, its black claws ready to strike and tear at the demon girl.
However, Jiraz was already aware of the attack, and held up her arms in defense as the clawed hand hit it with the strength and force of a jackhammer; however, the demon girl did not even flinch, simply taunting the still fighting vampire as she grabbed around his arms in a speed even the unholy creature could not match.
"you're supposed to be the terrors of the night? Tsk, that's gotta be the lamest joke ever..." Jiraz laughed as she planted her knee right between the vampire's legs, the undead creature letting out a roar in agony, backing down and moaning in pain.
"Dead or undead; that's gotta hurt!" Jiraz smirked, readying another fireball, tossing it right into the vampire's chest, its robe bursting into flames as the creature howled out in death screams as its flesh burned, the steel armour underneath creaking as the Chaos flames of the fireball had no limits in its destructive power.
"Brother! You...you she-witch! I'll carve your eyes out!" the female vampire howled, launching herself at Jiraz, her blood-red eyes and thick mane of black hair rustling like a dark storm around her head.
"I won't really enjoy this, you know..." Jiraz said, her claws meeting the vampire's, who found the demon girl's strength to match or even go beyond her own.
"Is this a closed party, or can anyone join?" Shica now appeared from the crack in the wall, readying a spell of Dark Magic.
"Sure thing, cutie; just be careful, they're armoured" Jiraz warned, forcing the vampire woman to her knees, the snarling undead creature trying despartely to get herself loose.
"Face it, sissy; you just can't get loose, and I'm gonna kick your ass into next month if you try!" Jiraz now taunted the vampire.
"Curse you! Free me and I'll assure you a bloody death! We are the Zyrakan! We answer to none but Lord Kun'Ja!" the vampire kept yelling, Jiraz becomming visibly annoyed.
"OK, that's it; face the other way a second, sweetie" she nodded at Shica, who did as she was told; in the next moment, a loud smack was heard as Jiraz struck the vampire uncouncious, her body falling to the floor.
"Our sister! You...you wretch! You are worthless! WORTHLESS!" another vampire cried out, the remaining three of them storming towards Jiraz, their claws and fangs bared.
"Oh-oh, I think we've got an older one as well" Shica alerted Jiraz as one of the vampires sprouted feathery, raven-black wings from its back, clearly marking it as an elder vampire.
"Forward, brothers! Show these filthy whelps the true power of the Zyrakan!" the winged one yelled, only to have a bolt of Dark Magic lightning shot to his face by Shica, the shin'saras girls readying two more bolts, one in each hands as the vampire roared in pain, having lost an eye and a large part of its face.
"Oh, please; give me a break...!" Jiraz sighed, shaking her head and heaving in, unleashing a long tongue of flames against the vampires, both of them hit by the Chaotic flames and perishing on the spot.
"And Silvarciraians goes about fearing these jerks..." Jiraz said, kicking the ashes of one of the vampires; "...who's pathetic now, bastard?"
"I would assume they are..." a voice spoke behind the group, Rhanar turning quickly around, the Wraith-Blade at the ready...
"Darsa?? What in the Gods' name are you doing here?" Rhanar asked in perplexion, not seeing what the great archmage of a lich would be doing at Soulspire Keep.
"A search for ancient treasures and a chance to strike at the menace that is the brainless undead; need I continue...?" Darsa asked sarcastically, looking at Jiraz.
"Uhmm, behind you, miss..." he pointed with his staff, Jiraz turning around to see a chaos-engulfed vampire throw itself screamingly against her.
"Oh no, you don't...!!!" she snarled, letting her claws sink into the vampire's stomach, tearing it up as the blood flew from the screaming vampire.
"Tsk, too gory for my tastes..." Darsa shoke his head, waving his hand, sending bolts of mystical magic towards the vampire, killing it off.