Um, looks like there’ll be a third part too… 😐
It was much, much later.
Somewhere along the way, she had left the storm-blown black desert, but her current surroundings were no less desolate. She walked upon a flat plane of ebon rock, which seemed to reach to infinity in all directions. There was nothing; no loose rocks, no trees or plant life, no people; just an endless floor which seemed to absorb all light. Above her head, an unlimited number of stars shone down upon her, but there was no sun, and no moon. As ever, she was completely alone.
The only feature relieving the endless nothingness lay ahead of her: the Gate. It loomed even higher, now, and it seemed to project an imposing pressure upon the woman; but rather than pushing her away, it seemed to be drawing her in, like she was light falling toward a black hole, completely unable to escape.
She stumbled a little, in apparent exhaustion. A hand reached up to adjust her hood; but instead of the smooth hand of a young maiden, it was the withered claw of an old crone. She had been walking… for a long time.
Suddenly, with a lurch, she stopped walking. The floor in front of her was still black, but somehow, it seemed deeper, more threatening. She felt a presence, here, for the first time since arriving in this forsaken world.
She realized, instinctively, that she had finally reached the Shadow of the Gate, and she shivered with a feeling she could not define.
She hesitated there, on the verge, for a long while; but finally, she took another step, into the Shadow. Her foot came down upon the black floor, but there was no sound; she proceeded in silence into the Shadow.
An unknowable amount of time later, she suddenly realized that she was close to the Gate itself. She could no longer see the stars above; the horizon merged seamlessly with the black floor, making it seem like she was enclosed in a black sphere, or even floating unsupported in space. She wavered for a moment and almost fell, drawing her gaze down from the Gate. She suddenly realized that there was something else in front of her.
It was a dog. Or possibly some sort of fox; she had never seen the species before. It wasn’t particularly large, but she got the impression that it was extraordinarily dangerous nevertheless. Yet, she had lost her sense of fear a long, long time ago, and so she approached the strange creature.
It opened one eye, which glowed yellow with an uncanny intelligence, before closing it once more. It breathed slowly, too slowly; it was obvious that it had no interest in the woman. She stopped a few steps away, and opened her mouth. It took her a few minutes to remember how to speak, before she said, “Excuse… me…”
The canine opened both eyes, and raised its head to gaze at the hooded woman. After a moment, it spoke. “Yes?”
“Are you… the Gate Guardian?”
The creature looked at her for a moment, then solemnly shook its head. “No.”
“Oh.” She looked uncertainly into the glowing yellow eyes, then asked, “Can you… help me?”
Again the canine shook its head. “No. I cannot.”
The woman sighed, and said, “Thank you anyway.”
“There is no need to thank me,” spoke the strange creature. It settled its head back on its paws, and closed its eyes. Just as the woman was about to walk away, the creature suddenly said, “Look behind you.”
The woman frowned, and turned. Suddenly her eyes widened, and her jaw dropped. Behind her, the Shadow she had been walking on had risen up from the ground, and now loomed above her in the shape of a dragon, outlined in a pale blue-green glow. The Shadow had no eyes, being a silhouette, but it still gazed down upon her regardless.
She stumbled back from the apparition, and suddenly sat down. She had thought that she had passed beyond fear; but in the face of the living Shadow, her certainty meant nothing. But more than fear, the feeling of hope was even more overwhelming, more debilitating. This was the being she had come to meet.
The Gate Guardian of Tragedy. The Shadow of the Gate Itself. The Last Witness. The Edge of the Void. Demon, and Demonlord. Lord, and Overlord. The incarnation of her doom, and her last chance to escape it.
That Which Lurks in Deepest Shadow: Demon Overlord J’Kell.