The thing watched the ritual preparations with growing concern. This was not in the plan! It had expected that the young one and the foolish one would attempt to travel to the Netherworlds and seek out the source of the disturbance—in fact, it had counted on that very action. However, what it had not counted on was that they would seek the aid of the painted elf.

It had not personally had dealings with this elf, but it had heard of him. Most of its kind had heard of him, as he had a long and successful history opposing their efforts to get a foothold on this plane. If he were allowed to continue his involvement in the endeavor—not to mention the motley collection of humans and metahumans he had allowed to accompany them—then the chance that something could go awry and the entire plan thus be upset increased by a significant margin.

There was even a chance—admittedly a small one, but still considerable enough that the thing was not willing to take the risk of it—that the painted elf could not only upset the Master's plan, but destroy the thing, the Master's servant, itself. The elf's power was too strong, his experience too great, to be allowed to continue as the guide to these young ones.

Something must be done.

And quickly.

The thing began considering its options, examining and discarding plans until it arrived at one with a reasonable probability of success. When at last it settled on a strategy, it smiled to itself.

Yes. It could work. And there was certainly no shortage of the mindless ones with which it would implement its vision.

It did not think that it could do anything about the others; they were far too determined that it was their destiny to participate in this, and they would not easily give up their dreams, even though they knew not what they were entering into. Even the last time, with the selfsame painted elf, had not prepared them for this.

But that did not matter. They were, in the greater scheme of things, irrelevant. The thing could deal with them with a mere flick of its power, if it so chose. For now, they were more amusing alive—not even considering the fact that they might at some point prove useful as pawns against the young one. It was the painted elf who must be prevented from joining the quest.

The thing began making its preparations. It did not have much time, and so it was forced to make haste. There was no time to consult the Master.

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Copyright ©1998 R. King-Nitschke. The Shadowrun universe is the property of FASA Corporation.
No part of this story may be reproduced without permission from the author.