The entire crew, scattered as they were, had fallen. After making their way through their own personal torment, Dani’s ending with a visit from her personal demon and receiving a knife as a gift, they gathered once again in a realm known only as “The Wasteland of Dreams”. The old man, the supposed master under the latticed dome of ichor, reveals many things in a brief soul gaze moment with each member. As the background story unfolds it’s uncovered that the old man before them is, in fact, Rip Van Winkle from the old folktale and that his master is the living concept of the very first Nightmare, brought to life by Creation itself and exiled into an infinite abyss shortly after. The wasteland serves as a two way filter, both to keep the half forgotten and unfinished dreams from leaking out into the vast umbra, and to act as the final barrier between the dream worlds and the Nightmare.
Taking a huge risk Dani manipulates Winkle into believing that she is worthy to stand beside him as her own background is quite corrupt as well. Falling for the ruse she is welcomed, and stands triumphantly beside his throne as her supposed former friends prepare to meet their ends at the hands of Rip Van Winkle clones. Each clone begins to shift into that which would affect their opponent the most when the battle is ended almost as soon as it begins. With a casual swing of her arm, like swatting a fly, Dani buries her new blade deep between the eyes of the old man. The shock of sudden victory stills her companions, their intended foes now a puddle of ichor at their feet with their magic gone. The cheer that rises from some dies on their lips as they watch a single drop of blood travel out from the old mans face along the handle of the blade and fall, gently splashing to the ground. The spot grows, expanding rapidly as the blood multiplies frothing up like a fountain and from its depths rises a human form that’s anything but for Dani’s demon had come to collect his sacrifice. Sparing only a moment to make a few disparaging comments, he reaches forth and his hand plunges through the old man’s body coming back out with his soul. Holding the much less decrepit looking Winkle with one hand at the waste he begins to squeeze, the old man’s screams, his voice stretching and shifting higher and higher in pitch as the grip tightens, his body flails in the hopeless throes of the doomed. With a tearing shriek he bursts outward, his shattered limbs pause in mid air then they’re drawn back and down into the demons now open hand. Like an engorged snake, the arm swells and the bulge travels the length of the arm to the chest where it settles, the demon closes it’s eyes, licking it’s lips in a moment of bliss. Remarking on what an excellent sacrifice it was, he turns to go, pauses, and gives Dani a gift again. This time, he places his hand on her face and she has a glimpse of the hell he comes from. She sees the roiling flames, the infinite death, the unending torture laid out before her, and part of her yearns for it. Turning to finally depart, the demon lets his disguise slough away to reveal his true, terrifying form. With a howl he sinks back down into the mass of flowing, whirling blood, his cry still hanging in the air.