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The Watch-Victoria “A Spider-Man’s tale”
I’ve stood by and watched this go on for far too long. When I returned to Victoria’s apartment, she was gone. But the book, it was still on the table where we had left it. Still laying there untouched.
I couldn’t help myself. Something, maybe my spider sense, told me to pick it up and start reading.
I must have sat there for an hour trying to figure it all out. The convoluted mess that was Mr. Sinister’s Diary.
The book lay silent on the table as daylight spilled into the tiny room. I sat there staring at the evil thing, wishing beyond all things that I’d never read it. But it was too late. I knew what was happening to Victoria, and if I was lucky, I may be able to help stop it.
Snatching it up off the table, I leapt off the balcony and swung through the city as dawn broke across New York. There were very few people who could help me or even understand all this. But I knew one who’d be up at this hour, he never slept.

Reed Richards sat with his head in his hands, sleeping as I perched on the glass of the top story of the Baxter Building. Reed never changed. Even as Franklin and I had grown up together, we would always find him in here, working away at something and falling asleep mid process.

“Uh, Dr. Richards...” I pushed the window open and climbed in as he sat upright, rubbed his eyes and shook off the fog of sleep.
“Peter...err..Spider-Man...”...he was one of the few people who knew who I really was. He looked at the skyline, then at his watch. “It’s early?”
“Yeah, but I had something I had to talk to you about.” I laid the journal on the table next to him. I knew his curiosity would get the better of him as he picked it up and opened the cover.
“Where...” he started, I finished
“Did I get this? Victoria and I went on a hunting expedition. Look...” I rubbed the back of my neck, almost anxious to say what I was going to say... “I know there’s been some bad feelings, but none of it was Victoria’s fault.’ll understand.”

Two hours later, Reed and Sue Richards closed the cover of Sinister’s journal and looked up at me. I know I had been pacing, I could feel my costume constricting on my feet from walking the same path over and over.
“We all knew it was never her fault. But after we lost Ben, to find out she was his daughter, it was all a little too much for Franklin.” Sue looked down at Reed who finally looked up at me.
“We have work to do. I’ll contact Dr. Strange. If we’re going to save her, we’ll need his help. I can deal with the scientific, he can deal with the magic...not my field, you know.”
“I don’t think that’s a worry, she’s handled it herself already.” I quickly filled them in on what Victoria was doing now, working for Dr. Strange’s secret society of reality hoppers and of all the things she had told me.
“She’s actually in love with an alternate reality version of The Beast. Can you believe that?” I tried to laugh, but Sue saw through that.
“ never gave up, did you?” she placed her hand on my shoulder and I smiled slightly behind the mask.
“Nope, you know me, Never give up, Never Surrender!” I let off a bit of a laugh, just as Valeria walked into the room.
“Mom, Dad...woah!” she saw me and her eyes got wide. Valeria was only a kid, she never knew my deep dark secret.
“Valeria, Spider-Man is working on something with me and mom, you’ll have to excuse us for a while.” Reed stood up, gave her a peck on her forehead and sent her off, but not before she called out “Get his autograph for me Dad!”

He saw me before I even landed on his window ledge.
“Come in Spider-Man.” Stephen Strange stood with his back to me, facing the fireplace in his study.
“I know why you’ve come and it’s all under control.” he spoke so assuredly, but I couldn’t help myself, this was Victoria’s life at stake.
“What’s going to happen to her Dr. Strange? I have to know.” I crouched on the windowsill and watched as he turned to look at me.
“She’ll fight him and she’ll lose. Victoria is, as I’ve found out, too strong willed to ask for help. She’ll learn to control it all in her own time, but we must be vigilant and not let her succumb to the darker side of her powers.”
“Can you fight him? Do we have any hope of keeping this N’asthir at bay?” He made it all sound so hopeless, and I couldn’t give up. Victoria’s life and sanity were at stake.
“We can try. But if he’s going to take her as his Goblin Queen, we’ll have battle on our hands. We can only hope he hasn’t already begun his seduction.” Dr. Strange turned back to the fireplace and I knew that was my cue to leave.

I swung through the city with that book under my arm. I kept going over everything in my mind. Everything Victoria had told me, all the things Reed and Sue had helped me prepare for, and Dr. Strange’s cryptic and foreboding messages.
Landing back on Victoria’s balcony, I let myself in. She had been gone for 3 weeks now and I had no idea when she’d return. I put the book back in it’s place and stripped out of my uniform and into my street clothes. Collapsing on the sofa, I felt my eyes get heavy and gave in. If she returned home anytime soon, I’d be here to help keep the monsters at bay.
"I went to her apartment with one thing on my mind. Get back that which belongs to me. My Journal."

Mr. Sinister stood in the darkness of Victoria's apartment and watched Peter Parker asleep on Victoria's sofa. A wry smile crossed his pale face as he turned away from the sleeping Spider-Man. His smile did not change as an object caught his attention.

"Ahh, there you are my dear." Reaching down silently he picked up his journal and smiled malovently as he ran a black gloved fingertip over the leather binding of his one of this most prized possessions.

"I wonder how much she read? Does she know he's pursing her just as I do? This grand game of cat and mouse between N'astihr and myself shall be ending shortly."

Without a sound, Sinister disappeared from Victoria's apartment before Peter Parker even realized he was there.
The fog of sleep that had surrounded me wore off instantaneously as my Spider-Sense kicked in. I bolted upright with a gasp as I saw Victoria slumped in the corner. It’s hard to describe the scene as it played out before me.
She was leaned against the corner, a black hooded cloak spilled out around her, covered her head but I could see that her hair was matted with blood. There was blood trailing down one bare pale arm and her sword laid askew at her side.
“Victoria!” I was at her side faster than I could say her name. Pushing her hair out of her face I saw horror in her eyes as she tried to focus and look at me.
“It’s gone, it’s all gone.” she mumbled as I looked her over quickly. A few cuts, some bruising, but all that would heal. I knew she had an accelerated healing factor. I had read about it in his diary.
I knelt next to her, watching her face as her expressions played out the battle she had just participated in.
“Peter?” she said as she finally looked up at me.
“Shh, I’m here. Come on, let’s get you cleaned up.” I helped her up, placing my arm around her waist and guided her to the bedroom.

Victoria’s eyes began to focus on the room around them and instantly she looked at the table. The book, the diary, was gone. It was for the best. She knew everything she needed to know. No use in giving Sinister another reason to pay any more unwelcome visits. Letting her weight rest again Peter as he helped her into her bedroom, she wondered for a moment how long she had been gone this time. It seemed like years they had fought the battle in New Asgard, yet she had left him here with she left.
As she sat down on the bed and let Peter pull her cloak off from around her and wipe the dried blood from her arm and face she began to slowly tell him of the battle they had fought, and the one she had faced prior to it.
“I know...” was all he said to her as he brushed her hair back from her face again, taking a moment to look into her eyes. “I read it in his diary.”
She watched him silently, as if she were carefully trying to chose her words.
“Then you know...I’m doomed to be the Goblin Queen.” there was such a hopeless finality to her words.

I didn’t take my eyes off her as she said it but my heart sank. N’astihr had won. As tears began to well up in her eyes I reached up and touched her cheek.
“No, you are Victoria. You need to quit letting people pre-determine the role you are going to have in life. Sinister used you, the Phoenix used you, now you’re going to let some nether-world demon use you as his pawn? Then you aren’t the Victoria I’ve always known... and loved.” I let the last part slip out as I stood and turned away from her to leave. I paused by the door and turned back to look at her one more time.
“I’ve always loved you, and always will. But you’re stronger than this. I’ve always been there to help you. But if you aren’t going to help yourself... I can’t save you this time.” I pulled my mask out and put it on, heading to the balcony, letting myself out and swinging through the New York skyline.

Tears trickled down Victoria’s cheek as Peter turned away from her. She knew his words were true but she felt like the fight was just not in her anymore. Reaching for Peter as he walked away, she dashed away a few tears as he stopped at the door. When he pulled Spider-Man’s mask out of his bag she let out an audible gasp and her eyes widened with surprise. All these years, and she had been so preoccupied with herself she hadn’t seen what was going on with Peter, or the love shining out of his eyes. She ran after him but he had already left, his shadow reflecting in the buildings across the way as he swung off into the night.
“I’ll make you proud of me Peter Parker!!” She yelled after him. “I’ll make you believe in me again!”
And for the first time in a while...her heart felt light again.
The events within take place between the last Watch Mission and the beginning of this story

Sinister's Song
Mere moments before, Victoria was standing toe to toe with the God of Mischief. It had taken a leap of faith on her part, but she had somehow managed to summon up the powers she thought long lost with her sentient cloak and the Phoenix Force.
Rematerializing, sword in hand, she found herself surrounded by blackness.
“Hello Victoria...” she heard his voice behind her before she had a chance to even gather her bearings.
She turned slowly, fear creeping up from within the depths of her. This was the moment she had dreaded for years now.
Light slowly began to filter into the room they were standing it, candlelight from some forgotten corridor.
The diamond on his forehead was glowing just as hers was. Her sword at the ready, she did her best to calm her fear and not let him see it.
“Hhhello Sinister.” her voice was just slightly jittery as she backed slowly away from him.
He however, was having none of that. Holding his hand out to her, he beckoned her towards him.
Nathaniel Essex slowly moved closer to his finest creation. Backing her into a corner in more ways than one.
“I knew that eventually, you’d find your way back to me.” he said, hand still extended towards her.
Victoria took a deep breath and did her best to quell the voice screaming within her head to run in the opposite direction as fast as she could. Even the silky seductive voice who had been wooing her all these weeks since the Phoenix had vacated her was warning her away from Sinister.
“I didn’t come here on purpose, Father.” the last was said with such contempt that you could almost hear her spitting it out.
“My dear, I’m only serving to warn you against the real monsters. The ones creeping into your mind, doing their best to seduce you into something dark and destructive.” Hand still extended, Sinister tilted his head slightly and watched his words sink in.
“You’re joking right? Oh come on!” It was like a light switch going off inside Victoria, her fear was replaced with unstoppable rage.
“You want to warn me against destruction and seductive monsters? Isn’t that rather the pot calling the kettle black syndrome?”
Then he did something he should have never done, he laughed at her.
Victoria’s eyes lowered to slits as the diamond on her forehead did not only glow, but slowly began to drip blood down her face.
“My girl, you’ve yet to see my darkness. Would you like for me to put a name to the voice who speaks to you now. Deep within your mind, wooing you, seducing you for his own cause? N’astihr would be that name.” he lowered his hand as he saw her rage begin to produce physical results.
“Good, let her get mad...let her burn with anger...” He thought to himself as he turned and walked away from her. Walking across the room to the desk, he picked up his journal and turned back to her, a malevolent smile on his face.

Victoria almost couldn’t believe where she had reappeared. But figuring in that Sinister must have sequenced her DNA with some sort of failsafe, something to make her always want to return to him, it didn’t surprise her either.
“I have one question for you.” Victoria said as she sheathed her sword. He was standing with his back to her, his cloak whipping wildly around him. Just like hers used to do. She was glad to be rid of that damned thing.
“I may have that answer.” was all he said as he turned, his journal in his hand.
It took everything in her to keep her voice from cracking as her emotions threatened to spill over.
“Why Scott Summers? Why him?”

Sinister stood silent for a moment before answering her question.
“I see you must have encountered Summers in your journeys. Were you compelled by him? Did you long to be near him? Did you love him, as Madeline did?” he was taunting her. He knew the answer she’d give him, but being Sinister, this was just another game.
“You unmitigated bastard.” she said in a low dangerous voice. “I don’t know which one is worse, you or N’astihr.”
His eyebrow arched at the mention of the demon. So N’astihr had been wooing her already.
“Well, did you?” he pushed again, wanting to hear her admit it.
A lone trail of a teardrops made their way down her cheek.
“Why?” she asked again. “Why do this? What was the purpose?” her mind couldn’t wrap around it. Was it meant to? She doubted it, no one understood the inner workings of Sinister, and she wasn’t about to try.
“Why? You need to ask why? My girl, you’re not as bright as I gave you credit for.” he laid the journal back on his desk and approached her again.
“It’s not the why you need to ask, but how.” he crossed his arms and stood there, watching her take stock of what he had said so far.
“I know how. I’m not stupid Sinister. It’s a mere string of resequenced DNA.” her ire was gone, replaced with a desperation of sorts.
“Then you are as smart, good... good.” he offered his hand again, and surprising herself, she took it.

Deep within the pits of god only knows where, the demon known as N’astihr watched as Sinister did his best to undo the weeks of progress he had made with his new Goblin Queen, Victoria. It had been a coup on his part of take not only Madeline Pryor from Sinister, but his beloved creation as well. The war between the two had been waging for ages and it didn’t look to stop anytime soon.
Calling out to his demons, he ordered them quickly to pull Victoria from Sinister’s side.
“I’ll not lose this time. I’ve won before, I’ll win again.” he hissed.

Sinister took her hand and led her from the room. He could feel the raw emotions emanating from her. This might be his one chance.
“Victoria, I realize perhaps in your mind, I’ve done some horrible things. Everything I’ve ever done has been for your benefit, your glory.” he said to her softly, leading her towards the lower levels of the house.
She didn’t reply, she didn’t need to. Part of her wanted to die right now. Part of her felt life was over and nothing was worth living for again. Because no matter where she went, she always came full circle again, and she’s always be in his shadow, or walking beside him. So why fight fate? Maybe he could keep this N’asthir from entering her mind as the Phoenix had done. Maybe he was just using her again, as he always had.
More than anything, Victoria was just tired. She was tired of running from Sinister, tired of being used, tired of everything.
When she finally spoke, it stopped him in his tracks.
“No matter what I do, where I go, I’ll always end up here again, won’t I? Either longing to be with you, or longing to be with Scott Summers, no matter who holds my heart.” she had been looking straight at the floor when she spoke, when she finally looked up, he saw the tears trailing down her cheeks. Somewhere deep inside himself, he smiled.
“Yes.” a simple answer as he lead her down a staircase.
“No matter what I want, even if this is all for me. No matter if I want nothing to do with this. I want nothing to do with you, I hate you.” she didn’t sound very convincing. She wasn’t sure anymore if she was sure of anything.
“I know.” he said very matter of factly, leading her deep beneath the house.
“Then why do this?” she asked, looking at him closely, analyzing his features to see if somehow she could read him. She’d learned long ago to never try to read his mind.
“Because...I...Can.” he said in a very triumphant way.

Within the shadows of the house, the minions of N’astihr watched Sinister mentally seduce a fragile Victoria, leading her blindly into his lab.
When the moment was right, they made a grab for their new Queen.

He had felt their presence long before they made themselves known. Sinister knew N’astihr would put up a fight and he was ready.
Victoria gasped as what felt like white hot claws grabbed at her arms, her legs, they were everywhere. Suddenly the room was swarming with demons, she and Sinister surrounded.
“Hank...” her mind screamed as blackness overtook her again.

When Victoria next awoke, she was in the corner of her bedroom, her hair matted and caked in blood, a look of absolute horror on her face.
“It’s’s all gone.” she said as her longtime friend Peter Parker rushed to her side.
Between Hell and Heaven...

Victoria felt as if she hadn’t slept in years. The last time she had gotten a good nights sleep had been...god, she couldn’t even remember.
Leaning against the balcony for a moment after Peter left, she turned and came back inside and closed the door behind her.
She flung herself into her bed and willed sweet oblivion to overtake her.

An annoying ringing noise woke Victoria up. It took her a minute to realize it was the phone and she made a grab for it, but too late. Whoever it was had hung up already. She sat up in the bed and rubbed the sleep from her eyes. Glancing towards the window, she noticed it was still daylight. She wondered how long she had been asleep. Giving a good long stretch, she crawled reluctantly from the bed and wandered into the living room. Flopping down on the sofa, she grabbed the remote control and turned the tv on. Scanning a few channels before finally landing on CNN. A smile crossed her face when she saw a story on Spider-Man saving a bus full of senior citizens.

Little did she know she had been asleep for three days and that ringing phone had been Peter.
“Peter...” her smile grew wider as she thought of the last conversation they had. It all made sense now. All the times in her life that Spider-Man had swung in and saved her, all the times Peter had stood by her side...all those forlorn looks she hadn’t seen.
“I’m such an idiot.” she said softly and went for the phone. She had a call to make.

The phone rang three times before anyone picked up.
“Hi! You’ve reached Peter Parker and I can’t take your call right now. You know the drill.” Victoria looked at the phone and hung up. He wouldn’t want to hear from her right now. He wanted her to sort her baggage out.
“Ok girl, get yourself out of this funk. You need to go see Strange.” slowly getting up off the sofa, she threw on a pair of jogging shorts, a t-shirt with “Go Spidey!” on it and was lacing up her running shoes when a knock sounded on the door.
“Hold on!” as she pulled the ponytail holder out of her mouth and went to get the door.
Opening it up, she was a bit confused to see no one there. Nothing.
“Must have been a “ding dong ditch.” ...” she said, closing the door and locking it as she stepped out into the hallway.

On the street, Victoria start jogging towards Central Park. Her mind was a million miles away...and perhaps even a reality away as Hank crossed her mind once again today. But when didn’t he? Even with everything going on, all the hell she had seen the night before, he was the first person she had called out to.
She tried to brush the thoughts from her mind, she tried not to dwell on how long it had been since she’d seen him...when the last time he’d wrapped his arms around her...
Shaking her head trying to blink back tears, she picked up her pace and continued on her run.
“Always running from something.” she murmured to herself as she left the park and headed towards her destination...the Sanctum Sanctorum.
Before she even touched the doorbell, the door swung open and she was greeted by Wong.
“Miss Essex, we’ve been expecting you.”

Two hours later, Victoria watched her reality’s Dr. Strange intently. She had come to him for help. Help to extract herself from N’astihr and Sinister’s war.
He said very little as she had explained what she knew. Of course, he knew all of it already, but knew she really just needed someone to listen.
“I’ll do what I can.” he said as Wong showed Victoria out.

Peter had done his best to stay away from Victoria the past three days. Though he had caught himself more than once lowering a web down to her bedroom window to ensure she was sleeping peaceful, and cursed himself silently for being a fool.
When he had seen her number pop up on his caller id, it took all he had not to grab the phone, but let the machine take care of it.
He wanted nothing more than to be everything Victoria would ever need, but in order be that, he had to walk away. She had to pick herself up, he couldn’t do it this time.
He let out a deep sigh as he watched her leave Dr. Strange’s, hoping that when Stephen had turned him down, perhaps Victoria had been able to get his help. Maybe Stephen was able to trap the demon within an interdimensional plane of sorts.
When he landed on Strange’s windowsill, once again Stephen beckoned him to enter.
“You’re creepy that way, you know that right? At least wait for me to land before you tell me to come in. And I thought my Spider Sense was touchy!” in full Spider-Man regalia, he jumped down from the window and leaned against it.
“So...” he started but Strange cut him off.
“I understand better than you would ever know. I’ve done all I can for her. There is only so much magick can do. Wards, charms and incantations won’t keep a demon as powerful as N’astihr at bay.” Stephen glanced over his shoulder at Spider-Man.
“So we can beat this, right?”
“No, she can beat this. We are going to sit on the sidelines as backup should SHE need it.” Stephen said in a very determined voice.
“Look Doc, no disrespect or anything. But that’s the woman I love and there’s no way in hell I’m going to sit back and let this happen. I know Victoria needs to stand up for herself and I know she’s strong enough to do that, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to watch her get hurt.” Peter was already out the window, so he couldn’t see the smile on Strange’s face as he closed the window.
“I didn’t think for a moment you would.” he said softly, watching Spider-Man swing off into the dusky evening sky.

To the Sorcerer Supreme, N’astihr was nothing more than a 4th level menace. Having dealt with the likes of Dormammu for ages now. So keeping N’astihr and his minions from seducing Victoria Essex into being the Goblin Queen was easy. Contrary to what he had told Spider-Man, it was just a matter of a few spells, incantations, a hex or two and a lock on the portal into the demonscape.
He’d never tell Victoria this. She needed to feel as if she overcame this herself. She needed to regain her confidence.
And Spider-Man, he needed to see Victoria do this. He needed his faith restored in his friend and beloved.

Slowly, Victoria raised her hand to knock on the door. She had no idea if he’d answer it, she wouldn’t blame him if he didn’t.
“Peter, please...” she said in a gentle voice... “I think we need to talk. If you’re in there, please...” it didn’t take much more for the door to open and for her to see a very haggard looking Peter Parker standing before her.
“Yeah, I think we do need to talk.” he opened the door wider for her to enter.

Several hours later, they both sat at his tiny kitchen table staring down into coffee cups.
They both started at the same time, looking up at one another, they couldn’t help but to bust out into a fit of giggles.
“Petey, I swear, I’ll do this. I just wanted to apologize to you. All these years, you’ve been my friend, watched my back. I never realized...”she stopped and looked back down into her cup again.
“This is going to make things weird between us, isn’t it?” he asked her candidly.
“God, I hope not. How much more weird could it get? Hey! Your best friend is a reality hoping mutant who’s got a demon chasing her and her best friend is Spider-Man! Damn Peter, Johan Jamison couldn’t write this stuff.” Victoria stood up and took her coffee cup over to the sink. She felt him watching her, even before he got up and was standing behind her.
“Tory...I...” he started.
Victoria lowered her head and closed her eyes for a moment. She wasn’t sure what to do. Taking a deep breath, she turned around and faced him.
“Peter, you were always the guy I thought too smart for me, too good for me. I felt I never had a chance with you. So I was able to move past that a long time ago and move on. I really do love Hank, but I don’t know what’s going on with that. You have to give me a chance to...” before she could finish the sentence, he kissed her.
And it wasn’t one of those “I just want to be your friend” kisses either, and for Victoria, to have been so long without any sort of physical or emotional contact, it felt like heaven.
“Peter...” she laid her head on his shoulder after the kiss broke off.
“I’ll wait for you, I’ve waited this long, what’s another 10-15 years?” he chuckled a bit. “Hey.” he said as he pulled back just a bit from her, making her stand up straight and look at him.
“I know you have a lot on you right now, but you need to know you aren’t going through it alone. You need to know you have someone who’ll stand beside you.” he saw her smile getting wider.
“You want to know the coolest part about this?” she asked as she made her way to the door.
“What?” Peter asked, curious as to what she was going to say.
“My best friend and the guy I’ve always had the biggest crush on, are the same person. I don’t think any girl could ever get any luckier. I just kissed Spider-Man, and laid my head on Peter Parker’s shoulder. I think I could face anything knowing that I’ve got those two guys behind me. They are pretty upstanding kinda guys.” Victoria gave Peter a wave and let her self out.
The grin that had been on her face, had spread to his as he stood there and shook his head, smiling. Maybe things were starting to look up now, in spite of all the mess that they knew was coming.
The Gates of Hell

One thing that had puzzled Victoria was the night before. One minute she had been with Sinister, the next, she was in her room, Peter at her side. She didn’t remember the events that transpired between the two, and it was probably a good thing.

The minute the demons had attacked and pulled Victoria into the portal, something awoke on the other side. Something so awesome and terrifying that few dared speak its name.
She had put up a fight, but in her tired and hypnotic state, it wasn’t much of one. She was bloody and bruised and calling for help.
As they pulled her along through portal and out the other side, even the demons gasped at what was before them.
“She doesn’t belong here.” a commanding female voice boomed to them. Standing at the gates of what looked to be a graveyard, was a woman that could have easily been Victoria’s twin. Long flowing white hair, pale white skin and a sword that brought awe to anyone who gazed upon it.
“It’s Lady Death.” Victoria overheard the demons whispering to one another. She could sense their fear, and wondered if she should be afraid herself.
“I was awoken by the sound of your trespass demons. Now, tell me, who dares drag this mortal into my realm?” the sword infront of her, tip to the ground as both hands rested on it, she eyed each demon careful.
“Lady Death, please, we only do his bidding...” one demon hissed pathetically.
“And he would be? Ahhh...let me guess, since Lucifer is no longer around, I take it N’asthir is trying to take his place. Go, tell your master that he will not drag another mortal into MY domain. He’s lucky I’ve let him live this long. One more trespass by him, and he’ll know my fury.” raising her sword to the demons, she pointed it at them as it began to glow an bluish white color. “Now go.” she said in a lethal voice.
Victoria thought perhaps this was all one of Sinister’s mind games. Another trick inside her head. She told herself she was still in his lab, perhaps already strapped to a table.
As the demons began to flee, Lady Death approached her.
“You have nothing to fear from me.” she said to Victoria, eyeing her up. “It seems you and I are a lot a like in more ways than one, Victoria Essex.”
At the use of her name, Lady Death had Victoria’s attention. “How do you know me?” Victoria asked, a bit puzzled by all this.
Lady Death began to walk away, motioning to Victoria to follow her. “I know more things than I care to. But how I know you, is very simple. You see, someone you knew has found their way here, and mistook me for you. I’ve heard stories about you from Madelyn Pryor before she died, again.” Lady Death shook her head a little, a soft smile on her face, as if she were remembering some long gone day.
“Why am I here?” Victoria walked along side Lady Death through the Endless Graveyard.
“I would assume it’s because N’astirh is trying to find another Queen again. But don’t worry. He cannot leave this realm unless I allow it. I am the Mistress of Hell now.” Lady Death watched the expression on Victoria’s face change for a moment.
“This is hell? Then, I’m dead?” Victoria looked around her at the barren wasteland that was hell. No fires of abomination, no gallows swinging with rotting corpses. Just a barren dark wasteland.
“No, you are not dead. That’s why I told them you don’t belong here. Just as I didn’t when I first came here. I was like you at once, I had a name, a family, love. All that changed.” Lady Death paused near a large gravestone and turned to Victoria.
“This is your way back.” She reached out and touched Victoria’s diamond on her forehead. The instant she touched it, Victoria passed out.
“You won’t remember anything in the morning, it’s better that way.” Lady Death pushed one booted foot against the gravestone and it moved, revealing a staircase. She scooped Victoria up and carried her down the staircase to the concealed portal that lay below.
“Someday, Victoria Essex, someday you’ll stand at my side and fight with me, but today is not that day.” Lady Death placed Victoria into the portal and whispered an incantation to send her on her way back to where she belonged.

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