(each section is sepperate from the next)

...So the Adunai trail to terrapin led them into the dark swamp.  The berzerker was the first one to enter and the first one to be lost.  The swamp's wickedness did not come from it's size for it was a small swamp, but from it's ability to turn all who enters strength's into weaknesses.  When the berzerk had first entered, the forest had felt him, and felt his ferociousness, and felt his strength.  But it was not afraid.  It quickly began to grow vine after dark and twisted vine.  Soon they began to creep and wither along the berzerks legs, and he slashed at them while he laughed and howled. The further he went into the darkness and mugginess of the swamp, the vines got stronger, and more prickly, and while the berzerker was quite strong and brave indeed, his stamina quickly wore thin, and as the vines slowly tightened around his ankles and legs, he became less and less gruff with his attacks, and soon, his blade had slipped from his hand altogether, and the weeds had enveloped him fully.  He had been encased into the swamp like a thousand before him.
The Paladin saw this scene and lowered his head in sorrow.  He went next, knowing his fate was to be the same, yet, having the glimmer of hope that he would succeed.  His blade glimmered against the august sun as he raised it into the air, and began his trek into the darkened forests.  At first he had been sure that the path would be an easy one, because though the berzerkers blade was quickly caught in the thick fleshy vines, the Paladin's sword sliced through it as though it were nothing.   He quickly transversed the first half of the forest until he came upon a mighty tree.  The tree was no ordinary tree, for it was the "Withering Tree" and it was one of the ancient race of trees, when all creatures and living beings of earth could communicate with one another.  It spoke:
"Imbedded in me is a sword that was placed long ago by a true Crusader of the Adunai.  It was pierced into me when i was a sapling, for a true adunai master to find, but that was thousands of years ago, and my bark has long since covered the hilt.  Should you be a true and worthy Knight, you may climb into my womb and retrieve the great sword."
And so entranced was the Paladin at finding a true adunai sword, that he quickly believed the ancient tree's lies, and crawled into it's nest, where it quickly grew around him and trapped him.

The Ninja watched this happen, and laughed.  Not because of the Paladin's folly, but because of how easy it would be for him to save his true comrades and get through this dangerous swamp.  He quickly drew his blade and ran into the forest.  He bobbed and weaved his way through the darkness, the slashing vines, and the warped weeds.  His blade flashed and easily whipped against the thorns and leaves, and he was not captured.  Soon he had reached the place where the Paladin was entrapped.  He drew his dagger, and slashed against the wood that had captured his friend so tightly.  However, the Paladin was too deeply entrenched.  Each slash did nothing to lessen the strength of the trap the Paladin was in.  Next the Ninja went to the berzerker, surely when he freed the berzerker, the Paladin would be easy to free.  However he found that the berzerker was just as strongly entrenched into his niche.  After hours at futily trying to free either of his compatriots, he gave up his efforts and sunk into his own lonely trap, where he quickly was enveloped by the swamp.

"what do you know of love?  all you do is hurt and destroy!" she said.
"You think that i hate life because i love war? he replied, lifting the visor of his helm. "you couldn't be more wrong."
"I love people, i love mankind.   War is the ultimate expression of the human experience, the true symphony of existance."
He paused.
"In war, all bets are off, and the truth of a person's character is revealed.  Strength and courage is put to the test, humility is swept aside.  In our everyday lives, we hide our victories and personal triumphs behind a visade of humbleness, but in war, they are celebrated as they should be, there is no shame in being good at what you do.  The thrill of triumph, the pain and sorrow of loss, the vileness of betrayal are all revealed in their most powerful, most realistic form.  In war, everything that is done is done with meaning, because there are no second chances, and there is holding back.  Battle is the ultimate and absolute test of life and death!  Do you deny the passion and rage of warfare, the regret of losses on your side, and the weakness in compassion that causes soldiers to cry at night for the people they have killed?  War is not about hate, not with me, it is instead the ultimate expression of love"  the great soldier lowered his visor and left the prisoner alone in her room with her thoughts.

"I am no paladin" he said, sheathing his blade and laying it on the ground.
What had gone wrong?
His intentions were always good.
But the beast as always had it's own agenda, with no care for right and wrong, life and death, it was merely fueled by the moment, fueled by life, fueled by rage.
It was a powerful strength.  It was a driving force for all things, it created immense desire, immense passion for all things, but on the other side of the coin, it also created immense pain.
In life, there were two ways to be, two absolutes.  Moderation was of course the best, but some could not help their nature:
the turtle
the tiger
the turtle is a way of being that caused one to shell in to be defensive.  It caused one to block out all attackers, block out all pain with it's carapace.  Unfortunetly, to block yourself in is to doom yourself, and while its not exactly cowardly to run and hide this way, it is self defeating.  the tiger on the other hand is attacking.  It's teeth and claws are used to lash out at all around it, therefore making it a frightening beast indeed.  however, the tiger's flesh is soft, and will feel the pain of arrows that are thrown at it.  It howls and frenzies, and bleeds to death.
which is better?
both end up dead.
 So what had happened?
he had let the anger get the best of him, and he turned away all that approached.  His blade he held towards all warning them to stay away.  Meanwhile, he war'ed with himself over the way to handle his confusion.
But the beast, as i said, has it's own agenda.  It turned what was once a beautiful thing of creation into a powerful tool of self destruction, that beckenoned the paladin to rage, the drove him to insanity, but made the once great warrior quiver with frusteration.  For their was no release of the pain he felt in his heart, no release for the rage he felt inside, and it kept him back.
and held him down.
With nothing to believe in, his family gone, his trust in the path of truth gone, his friends walking away, he had no choice but to turn inward.

Slowly he accepted it, he accepted that in life, one must temper his rage, or drive all away from him.
He also learned that loyalty, and honor were not true things.  they were of man, they were dreams.
He had tried to fight the good fight, but when all the things he had faith in
had failed him, what exactle was the good fight?
how can you remain true to yourself if you have no self to remain true to.
how can you expect to find solace in life?

the paladin sheathed his sword, he felt dishonored, and unworthy of the blade.
he was no longer a pillar of truth, because he had learned, that even truth would let you down
all he had believed in, all he had hope in, were gone.
Yet, he remained.
He tried to keep the beast at bay, and rebuild that which he had destroyed, but to no avail.  His path of sorrow, anger and destruction was too long, and too dark to be mended,  or even understood.  All those he had, had forgotten what he once was, long ago, and knew only the monster that had manifested itself in his time of need.  He stood no chance of redemption.
no chance of reconcilation with those he had once called comrades.  (or so he thinks?)

now a lone swordsman stands on the cliff, overlooking a land he once fought for.  leaving behind all he had loved.  He keeps his sword sheathed, and locked, knowing too well the deadliness and hatred he is capable of wielding, he must now walk the path in a new light.
all was not lost.
not yet anyways.

A solitary man in a solitary castle atop a steep and dark hill stared quietly at his own reflection.  Besides the dancing of the torch flame, the only movement was the rustling of the leaves blown by the chill harsh wind of the area.
He spoke, and an echo emminated from the stony recesses of his bedchamber.  A shadow took form, and appeared to him in his reflection.
"Why do you go on?"  the shadow asked him, merely echoing his own voice.
"I don't surrender because i cannot surrender"  He replied.
"What drives you then?  Why can't you merely lay your blade down and join us in your dark sleep?"  It echoed. "In your slumber you shall find peace"
"That is a lie.  There is no peace.  Not for me."  The man shook his head. "I wish to be among the fools, i wish for love and beauty and life.  My own existance is a curse, my own mind is my deception."
"Who are you then? the tyrant? the fool? or merely a pilgrim, searching?"
"Who am I?" the man replied to the voice. "I am none of those."
"Ah, so now I understand.  Without knowing who you are, you cannot surrender yourself, because you have not even discovered what you're fighting for, and what you'd be surrendering to."  It said, "you must fight on."
 The shadow flickered with the flame, and was extinguished by the wind.  The voice coyly slid back into the cracks of the castle walls, leaving the solitary man, alone, once again.

the sorceress stepped forward to gaze upon the scene. The swamp, the death of so many, seemed small from her standpoint, an hour walk, and it would be transversed. She had nothing to fear, though she trembled. Her powers far exceeded the swamp's.
She approached timid at first, the dark swamp looked forbidding to her, and she began to have her doubts, but she soon overcame them and pressed on. The end goal of her quest gave her the courage to press on through what looked like a minor obstacle. She had been warned, she knew better then to underestimate it, but she had also the wisdom and strength to triumph where the paladin, ninja and berserker prevailed. As she walked, she saw many corpses of fallen warriors, intertwined with the vines and foilage of the swamp. To another, it'd be a horrifying vision, but this was her playground. The further she pressed though, the more horrific the scenes she observed. The remains of humans twisted and deformed, no longer resembling mortals, but instead manifestations of some demon god insane with rage and anger. Yet nothing moved. There was absolute silence.

As she neared the center, the darkness and ugliness of the swamp faded slightly, then completely. It was, for her, like stepping through a portal into another world, the difference between the part of the swamp she was in and the center she had arrived at were as different as day and night. The green of the leaves no longer looked decayed and poisened, but instead looked lush and lively, birds fluttered between branches, chirping happily as if there was no danger, as if there was never danger for them to even consider. A small brook ran through, and was crystal clear, revealing small fish of numerous colors swimming around.

It seemed a bit like paradise.

a large stump sat across the stream, and the sorceress decided it would be a good place to rest. She did not fully trust this place, knowing the deception the place was capable of. It had defeated the berserker, so it was very strong, capable of overwelming brute force. It had defeated the paladin, who could only be defeated by temptation, so it was very cunning. And it had defeated the ninja, which was no easy task. The more she thought, the more she became afraid that the place was indeed a trap.

gathering her robes around her, she summoned a lesser demon, by the name of Israndi.

"reveal the truth of this place, i have summoned you and i command you" she spoke to it, firmly.

"oh but mistress, what shall i be gifted upon for this task, my true masters will be angry if i come back empty handed.." it replied.

she revealed a small ruby ring and handed it to the demon.

"now show me" she said, as if speaking to a child.

The demon pushed the ring into it's flesh until it was absorbed into him. He raised his hand, nohting happened.

"i will need more then this, m'lady," he hissed, "the magic that binds this place.. its different..i will need my master"

He disapeered, through a slip in reality. In an instand he returned on a chain leash, a dark, scale covered skeletal beast dragging it accross the ground.

"You seek my assistance mistress, but i am not one of...minor rank like Israndi, i am the true demon, Jahalu. What have you to offer for my action. Hurry, for you have interupted my feast."

"Jahalu" the sorceress spoke respectfully, but firmly, "you speak bravely, but i see through you, you are not the powerful demon you proclaim yourself, but because i need your assistance, i shall honor you."

She removed a pendant with a solid diamond in the center, in the middle of the diamond was a human eye.

"ah, this shall work well as a fee" the demon nodded and took it from her, and placed it on his neck. He glanced around and lifted his hand. Nothing.

"AHhhhhh" it hissed, "the magic binding this wicked place is more powerful then i suspected. I cannot aid you here, you need another."

"Bring him to me then" she commanded.

"I shall, but his price is high." the demon smiled, and dragged his servant off.

A shrill high pitched sound echoed through the forest. and a being appeared next to her. He was humanoid in form, but his skin was darker, and rigid. His face was handsome, but his eyes glowed. He smiled.

"You seek to dispell the power of the swamp?" he asked

"indeed, i must get through.."

"so be it. the price, of course, is high."

"it doesn't matter" she said, resolutely.

the demon smiled. "Ah, then. So be it. i have been seeking a new servant. You will serve me well in your time."

she shuddered, but nodded. accepting the price for triumph.

"as you wish.." he said, flickering his tongue.

he raised a finger, and there was a bright flash.

When the sorceress' eyes cleared up, the demon was gone.

as was the stream, and birds and indeed, the whole swamp altogether. the berserker lay near by her, sleeping, but alive. The ninja was crouched on the ground, scanning the area, and the paladin held in his hand a mighty weapon. The secret of the swamp, was that it was all an illusion. It was all in their minds.

But it had indeed defeated her as well.

her sacrifice had been great.