OG Q’taxians #12: Homecoming.

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A/N: This chapter time jumps. Left arrows indicate the past. Right arrows indicate the present.

He sat alone, wrapped in a blanket, staring at the glowing maw that would be his undoing. The occasional fear of his fate would well up, but he had long understood how to quell it. His son. Daniel… That was all it took. Knowing that in his death his family would never have to worry about a thing for the rest of their lives. He’d give a sad sigh and choke back the burning feeling in his face.

“Hey,” someone sat on the ground beside him, “Here.”

The steaming lid of a canteen was put in front of him.

“It’s chicken soup,” a nervous laugh, “They were merciful with the gruel today.”

He slowly turned his head to find Nico sitting beside him.

“Maybe it wasn’t a mercy,” Nico laughed again, “But for you…” he gently shook the canteen lid, “It should help a lot.”

A weak smile crossed his lips as he reached for the lid with both hands.

“There,” Nico stretched his legs out before himself, “It’s funny… You’re cold while the rest of us are sweltering…”

“A symptom of literally rotting to death,” he laughed as he sipped the soup from the lid.

Nico smiled at him weakly, “You’ve been here since the beginning… Haven’t you…”

He nodded slowly.

“What could drive a man to go back there so many times…” Nico’s gaze shifted to the tear.

Nico was one of the few here that treated him like an actual person.

“Family,” he replied as he finished off the lid of soup.

“For family? Or… Because of family?” Nico reached for the empty cup.

Sylus turned to him. It was a strange question to ask, yet he knew both were true.

She made him come here. She made him go until he couldn’t anymore. But at the same time… He wanted to. He wanted to go all the way, but not for himself or her. For his son. It was Daniel who kept him sane. Remembering his young son and wishing he could have been with him more as he grew up…

“Both…” he decided to reply honestly. What did he have to lose now?

“Both, huh?” Nico sighed, “I actually know that feeling…” He sighed as he handed Sylus a refilled lid.

“Something tells me a lot of people here do,” Sylus took the lid without a thought, “Who would come here completely of their own volition?”

Nico shook his head with a grim smile, “I suppose that’s something we all have in common.”

→ 

Sylus clenched his eyes tightly as the tram hurtled through the Void. There were no windows for fear of what may be out there and fear of compromising the material that made up each of the tram’s cars. He’d never been in the front before. Only a lowly grunt in the back.

The tram was automatically drawn to its destination: Q’tax. The last place it had ever been. The place, where everything came to an end.

Or was it… a beginning….?

← 

The Battle of Q’tax was a short one. Landborn Q’taxians overwhelmed the human forces. Those who did not fall in the firing, were captured. That included their Void Technician who hadn’t even engaged in combat. As the bodies were checked, a misshapen form was found fighting for it’s life. A Q’taxian footman raised his weapon to end the creature’s suffering.

No, her voice filled his head, Our Lord wants that one. Retrieve him.

Lowering his weapon, the Q’taxian soldier knelt down to lift the dying human. It tried to fight him, but didn’t stand a chance against the soldier’s grasp. Barely conscious, he was thrown into a cell with his fellow humans.

“They’re going to kill us,” the Void Tech muttered.

“No shit, kid,” the white haired man stared at the guards from behind the barred walls of the cell they were locked in.

“They’re going to eat us…” the Void Tech grasped the sides of his head, “I don’t want to die like that… Please god no…”

“You think any of us do?” the officer spat as he turned to the men huddled in the cell, “Do you really think any of us are excited to be fed to that goddamned abomination?!”

In the back of the cell sat the dying man.

“Why the FUCK did they save you Synclaire? You worthless sack of shit. You should have DIED!” the white-haired man lunged after the broken form.

“ENOUGH!” her voice echoed throughout the prison. Booming with force and command, “SHOULD HE PERISH YOU WILL ALL SUFFER MY LORD’S WRATH!” She slammed the bottom of her staff into the stone floor.

“Why him? Hm?” the officer spat, “Why him? Why that… THAT THING!” he thrust a finger in the soldier’s direction, “What could you POSSIBLY want with it.”

The high priestess fought the urge lash out at him. If only they could have seen her eyes beneath her horns.

“It. Is. My. Lord’s. Will.” she seethed.

“Your lord?” the man guffawed, “You’ve got to be kidding. That’s the one you want? Fine.”

He went to the back of the cell. Lifting the body from beneath it’s arms he dragged it to the front of the cell.

“TAKE IT!” he threw the body at the metal bars.

The priestess winced as the body collapsed to the ground like a sack of grains.

“S-stop it, Steinm-man,” the Void Technician’s voice rattled from near the back of the cell.

“STOP WHAT? TAKE IT! TAKE IT AND LET US GO!” The officer lifted the body’s head and slammed it into the metal bars, “TAKE THIS FUCKING THING!”

“You act as though you are the victims,” she couldn’t hold back any longer, “Yet it is you who came to OUR world and drilled into our homes. It is YOU who came into OUR homes and tore our lives apart. YOU! HUMANS! You are all filth.” She spat between the bars.

As she did, she recoiled seemingly in pain. Her hand raised to the side of her head.

“Yes, my lord,” she turned to the guards, “Take him to Tessin’s.”

With a nod, the two enormous guards opened the cell door. One stepped in pushing the soldiers back while the other gently lifted the unconscious form.

“Pray he lives,” the priestess said flatly before leaving the prison with her guards.

→ 

Sylus threw his arm across Saari’s chest as the tram careened into an unsteady landing on the receiving pad just outside the city of Q’tax: The last place it had ever visited.

“You okay?” he panted as he turned to her.

She gave a stiff nod as she straightened her horns on her face.

With a sigh, Sylus sat back in his chair.

“You botched it, big guy,” he muttered to Qaitax.

“It was a small miscalculation. We are alive are we not?”

Sylus sighed again. He reached behind their seats for their air masks. He handed one to Saari. She raised her hand in refusal.

“There’s no air left here, love. You need this,” he held it closer to her.

“I may not be a voidspawn, but I was born in the Mist. Even in the halls, the Mist was ever present. I can handle what lies beyond,” her voice shook slightly.

“This isn’t just the Mist, Saari. This is the Void. The real deal. We have to be careful…” he waved the mask gently in front of her.

He could feel her glaring at him even behind the horns. She briskly took the mask and fit it around the lower half of her face. Sylus threw his aside. Once again he could tell she was glaring at him.

“Voidspawn, love,” he smiled sheepishly.

“Forget to breath,” Qaitax reminded him.

“Point taken,” he groaned as he got out of his chair and made his way to the door, “All set?” he looked back at Saari. She gave him two thumbs up. He smiled, “How very human,” he laughed as he opened the door.

Nothing. Nothing happened. The cabin didn’t decompress. There was no gust of air. Nothing. Still nothingness. Sylus motioned for Saari to wait a moment as he stepped out of the tram. His gaze immediately turned upwards.

“Holy shit…” he muttered.

The sky was filled with tendrils reaching in every direction. Green and purple light shone through wherever there was an opening in the writhing masses. They squirmed and flailed above him. His mouth fell open.

“Th-this is it?”

“The Void. This is merely a taste. It is nothing compared to being free within the realm itself.”

“Th-this is what’s going to happen to earth… i-isn’t it…” Sylus force himself to look ahead. The ruins of an ancient city stood not far off in the distance. The metal was bent and twisted. Tendrils reached up from the planet’s surface. Hollow empty buildings. Strange things howled around them. Something that resembled grating laughter echoed from everywhere. The ground was covered in a purple substance that resembled ash.

Saari stepped beside him.

“I have never seen the sky,” her voice was muffled by the mask she wore, “There is no sky anymore, is there?” She turned to Sylus.

He slowly turned to her with a look of utter startled dismay.

“We need to be quick,” he spoke quickly, “The entrance isn’t far. Let’s go.”

The ash flew up around them as they walked. For a dead world devoid of a sun, the surface was well lit by the otherworldly light of the Void. The entrance to the Halls of Q’taxia, specifically to the capital of Q’tax, was indeed not far from the tram’s stop. Sylus and Saari both knew the way well.

A round stone door stood before them. Tendrils were embossed on every inch of it. Saari lifted her staff and placed it against the center of the writhing carving. With a loud bang, ash fell from the door’s surface. She turned to Sylus. He stared emptily at the door as it rolled open. Without a word, Saari climbed into the round tunnel that was revealed. It was sloped steeply downward. Sylus watched her go before attempting to enter himself.

“I was fatter last time…” he groaned as he forced himself into the tunnel.

“I may or may not have been manipulating physics to aid our escape…”

Saari couldn’t help but laugh in the darkness.

“And here I was thinking I wasn’t THAT fat…” Sylus grunted.

“A moment. We have arrived at the secondary hatch,” she struggled to move her staff ahead of her.

Couldn’t you open these doors? Sylus thought to Qaitax.

Yes, but this is her home. Not mine. Let her lead us.

The secondary door slid open. Saari slid out turning herself upright as she did. Sylus merely fell out without an ounce of grace. The halls were, surprisingly, dimly lit. Saari found this to be incredibly off putting.

WELL. COME. HOME.

The voice from all those times before filled Sylus’ mind. He shook his head in an attempt to ignore it.

“Bright down here,” Sylus groaned as he straightened his back.

“It is much too bright…” Saari was growing increasingly wary.

“To the temple then? Quick hit and leave?” Sylus brushed the ash from his suit.

Saari nodded slowly as she began leading them through the stone halls.

They passed the once glass doors of the infirmary.

← 

“You are awake,” she looked down at him lying in the bed.

“I-I am… but… how?” he could barely speak.

“It is my lord’s will,” she bowed her head.

“Wh-what?”

“I do not know how or what I can explain.”

He cleared his throat, “Well if I’m not dead,” his voice faded into a whisper, “Can I get something to eat? I’m starving…”

“Your very life is on the line and you ask for food?”

He laughed weakly, “I think starving to death can be remedied with food… Don’t know for sure though…” his voice trailed off as his eyes slid shut again.

She stared at him in confusion. He had precious few moments to argue for his freedom or the sparing of his life, yet he asked to be fed. It wasn’t exactly the interaction she had prepared for…

→ 

Sylus paused to look in at the rounded desk that stood just inside. A young Q’taxian woman with overly large eyes and thin wiry fingers used to sit behind it. She had a kind smile.

“K’alik…”

Saari stopped a few steps ahead of him. She bowed her head.

“She saved many,” she turned to Sylus, “Were it not for her, the Brotherhood would not have let any civilians escape.”

K’alik had worn a blue tunic with gold trim. A flower broach composed of metal and gems on the right side of her chest. It was a family heirloom. Her most prized possession. For some reason, she had always been kind to him.

← 

“It’s not your fault, you know,” K’alik fixed his medical gown, “You didn’t really choose to come here, did you? They made you. They targeted the weak and destitute. The lost and the wandering. They dangled the irresistible fruit of hope and a future. Of course you took it. But now you see the truth. They really don’t care about you. Just as much as they don’t care about us. Life means nothing to any of them. It’s not your fault.”

→ 

Sylus’ eyes began to burn. He walked into the infirmary.

“My Lo…” Saari stopped herself as she followed him.

“Mero…” he put a hand on the desk that was now covered in a light coating of ash. “Ya think,” he sniffed, “If they had survived…”

Saari stood in the doorway, unable to respond.

“Ya think Mero and K’alik would have gotten together?” he laughed.

← 

“You fixed K’alik’s pin… Thank you…” a massive man placed a massive hand on his shoulder, “I never believed that all humans were terrible, but I never thought I’d actually meet a decent one,” his laughter seemed to shake the walls around them.

Sylus cracked a small smile as he remained wary of the gigantic spear he held in his hand.

Mero understood his concern, “Do not be afraid of T’thyl,” Sylus understood that to be the name of his weapon, “She will not harm you and neither will I,” his smile grew.

So did Sylus’.

→ 

Sylus glanced down the long hall lined with medical rooms. It was easy to remember where his had been. All the way at the end. He headed down the hall. Saari followed at a distance.

← 

“You must hear that a lot,” he laughed nervously.

She stood in the doorway visibly blushing.

“N-no one has e-ever… Y-you are just trying to weaken my resolve. I serve My Lord!” she banged her staff on the floor.

He laughed, “I’m just being honest. What do I have to lose? I already know I’m a dead man walking.”

She stared at him through her horns. He was a dark mass with a dim purple glow around his edges and white light where his eyes and mouth would be. He was smiling. He smiled a lot for someone who knew they were living on borrowed time.

“You’re beautiful,” he said again as his smile grew.

→ 

A thin layer of ash covered everything. Machinery and tools scattered across the floor. Sylus looked around slowly.

← 

“What are you called, human?”

He nodded to the uniform piled in the corner.

“You mean you didn’t look?”

She hadn’t looked. Even if she had, she would not have been able to read whatever was written on the uniform. She bit her lip in embarrassment.

“I-I cannot… I… No. I did not look.”

He smiled.

“Sylus. Sylus Synclaire. What about you, o horned grace?”

“I-I am…” she hesitated, “I am Saari.”

“A pleasure to meet you, Lady Saari,” he bowed his head to her from the hospital bed.

She nodded in reply.

Master Tessin, the medic, helped Sylus stand up from his bed.

“Steady, now,” he spoke softly.

Sylus winced in pain as he put his weight on his feet.

“I-I can’t… I-” he sat back onto the bed, “I’m sorry…” he rested his face in his hands.

“I am sorry, Brother,” Master Tessin turned to Saari, “It will take time.”

She nodded at him.

“In the meantime, I shall procure a mobile chair,” he bowed gently to Saari as he left the room.

“You’d think walking would like riding a bike,” he laughed nervously.

“I do not understand,” she stood back as a lithe man in a blue tunic with gold trim helped him to his feet.

“Oh, you never forget how to ride a bike,” he hissed a bit as he began putting pressure on his feet.

“A… bike?” she inquired.

He laughed, “I forget sometimes…” he turned to her, “It’s just hard to believe you can forget to walk,” he took a slow, dragging step, “But it seems I have,” he smiled as he winced in pain.

→ 

Sylus stared blankly down the hall. Saari stood before him holding her staff in front of her. Her grip was tight and uncomfortable.

“We met here,” he spoke softly, “You really hated me at first…”

Saari’s gaze sank to the floor.

“But I won you over!” he laughed, “Still not sure how…” he rubbed the back of his neck.

Beneath her mask, Saari smiled gently.

He put an arm around her shoulders as he made his way back down the hall. For a moment, their gazes locked.

“You ever regret it?” he laughed weakly.

“Regret what?” she answered through the mask.

“Everything we did…” he chuckled.

“No. I have never regretted anything. And I never will,” she wrapped her long arms around him, “I loved you before and should there ever be an after, I will love you then as well.”

As they entered the waiting room, something shiny caught Sylus’ eye. It was lying on the floor, under the overhang of the desk in a pile of ash. He knelt down and reached out for it.

ASHES. TO. ASHES.

“Her pin…” he breathed, “Saari… Thi… This pile of ash…”

Saari closed her eyes tightly.

“What do I do… Do I leave it? Do I take it? What… What should I do?”

Saari shook her head, “I cannot say…”

Sylus stared at the pile of ash, holding its prized possession.

“I wonder…” he muttered as he reached out for the glistening ornament, “I wonder if we can find Mero…”

Saari smiled sadly as Sylus pocketed the broach.

Once they finally stepped back out into the hall, Saari glanced back down the hall away from where they were heading. An ill feeling came over her.

← 

Saari paced in her quarters. All dark stone and warmly lit. It was a beautiful room she knew was wasted on her inability to see it, but it was what was given to her after her struggles with the Brotherhood. As much as she tried to fight it, rather than a sanctuary, it continuously reminded her of how different she really was from the rest of her people.

Her feelings a wild mess. Rage. Anger. Sorrow. Something else she didn’t understand… She wasn’t used to this. She wasn’t used to feeling. She was The Voice. She had no agency outside of the will of her lord.

“Why are they still alive, My Lord? Why are we KEEPING those… Those THINGS!”

IT IS NOT YOUR PLACE TO QUESTION MY WILL, VOICE.

“Are you doing this?” her breathing was becoming erratic, “Are you why I… I…”

I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH MORTAL FOLLIES.

“But…” her voice shook.

DO AS I COMMAND. PREPARE HIM. DO NOT FAIL ME, VOICE.

“I-I will not fail you, My Lord…” her words fell flat, “I will not fail you…”

→ 

Saari swallowed hard as she turned to Sylus, a look of concern on his face. She shook her head as she reached around to remove the face mask.

“SAARI!” Sylus called out to her.

She took a deep breath before dropping the mask to the ground.

“I am fine, my lord,” she breathed.

“I-if anything changes…” Sylus was wary of there being any air at all, much more of what could possibly be mixed into it.

Saari picked up the mask and hooked it onto her sash. “Just in case,” she smiled at him.

They continued down the hall, side by side.

← 

It must be nice,” he sighed, “to be so damn powerful you commune with gods…”

Her gaze fell to the floor. “Nice?” she sneered, “It is not nice to be despised by your own people. I am a freak to them. In every way. A monster. An abomination. I should not be alive…” the grip on her staff tightened, “I should have been put to death as a mistake…” her voice was shaking, “Yet through some form of cruel irony My Lord has gifted me with the one power I should not have…” she leaned heavily on her staff, “Or is it a curse… It makes everything so much more difficult…” she sniffed, “Why would he do this to me…”

He gazed at her, a being of such power and grandeur, broken. Yet her words resonated with him. He understood better than she thought, but he didn’t know what to say.

“They hate you, too, don’t they…” she looked in his direction, “Your people hate you.”

He laughed, “No no no no. Not all of them. In fact I’m sure most of them don’t. I just…” he clenched his fists in his lap, “I find all the wrong people…” he laughed forlornly.

They sat in a long drawn-out silence.

“Sometimes… It is very lonely to walk through halls so full of people…” her horned gaze drifted away again.

He laughed weakly, “Boy do I know that feeling…”

She turned to him again.

“Do you hate me?”

He stared at her.

“Hate you?”

She nodded.

“I am the one who will bring you to the end of your life. I am the one who will deliver you to My Lord. I am the one who has ordered them to make you well again only to take it away,” her body shook lightly, “I have granted you life and strength, only to take it away from you.”

He smiled.

“Saari,” she gasped at the sound of her name without any honorifics or qualifier. Just Saari. “I don’t hate you,” his smile grew, “How could I?” he laughed, “We’re are so much alike…”

“We… We are not…”

He raised an eyebrow at her.

She knew what he meant. A load of tension lifted from her shoulders. Her body leaned heavily against her staff.

“We are both monsters…”

He shrugged, “Are we? I feel like monster is a very subjective term,” he forced a laugh.

“I was Sarcin before… And then His Voice came to me… I became Saari…” she laughed weakly, “I always wanted to be Saari, but I was Sarcin. My Lord… He… He made them all see me as Saari… Had he not… Sarcin would have been destroyed for trying to be Saari… There is no room for such behaviour in the Halls.”

Sylus laughed, “My inlaws still call me Kathryn. Do I LOOK like a Kathryn?”

They both laughed in unified sadness.

“They only found out because of course I told my wife when we first met. You can’t exactly hide something like that. She didn’t have to tell them though…” his gaze wandered aimlessly, “She knew what they would do…” he forced a laugh, “They wouldn’t kill me or anything,” he laughed nervously, “At least…” his laughter trailed off, “I don’t think they would… Maybe if I made more money… ”

They both sighed.

“I’m sorry, Saari,” he tilted his head to one side, “I’m sorry you’ve been so lonely…”

Her lips quivered as a tear slipped from behind her horns.

“You deserve to be loved, Saari…”

Saari fought the sobbing she knew was coming.

“Why did it have to be you…” she took a deep, shuddering breath, “A human. A human… like me… Of all things…”

Sylus shrugged, “Your Lord works in mysterious ways or something,” he laughed.

Saari’s face contorted into an enraged grimace. She stood up straight, turned on her heels and left the infirmary without another word.

“I’m sorry, Saari! Please! Come back!” he called after her, “I’m so sorry…”

Once she was out in the hall, she bit her lip.

“Why would you do this to me, My Lord… Have I not served you faithfully? Why would you do something like this…” she spat in hushed whispers, “This. Is. Not. FAIR!”

The world around her paused a moment before returning to its usual wandering grind.

DO NOT QUESTION MY REASONS. DO AS I COMMAND.

“Mend him to kill him? Why? Tell me. Why?” her voice was growing louder, “Why must we waste time and resources on him only to destroy him? I do not like humans, but even I find this distasteful.”

DO NOT QUESTION ME.

“No. I WILL question you. You did this on purpose. This is all a game to you IS IT NOT?! Mortal life does not mean ANYTHING to you! That INCLUDES ME does it not? DOES IT NOT?!”

I CHOSE YOU FOR A REASON, VOICE. CARRY OUT MY WILL.

“TELL ME WHY I SHOULD!” she bellowed into the bustling halls. Everything became still and silent, “WHY MUST I BLINDLY OBEY YOU?!”

WERE IT NOT FOR ME YOU WOULD BE SARCIN IN THE DIRT RATHER THAN SAARI IN THE HALLS. REMEMBER THAT.

Saari shook violently, “I was Saari before you deemed it so. Do not take credit for my existence.”

YET HAD I NOT CHOSEN YOU…

She could feel her legs growing weak.

“THIS IS NOT FAIR!”

FAIRNESS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ANYTHING.

She put all her weight on her staff trying to keep herself from collapsing to the floor.

“You knew I how afraid I was of being alone… And now this human…” she laughed weakly, “Are we at least entertaining you, My Lord?”

“SAARI!”

She turned to find Sylus in his wheelchair.

“Are you alright, Saari?” A look of concern on his face.

She stared at him. Invader. Defiler. Filth. Human. Sylus… She couldn’t understand her own thoughts.

“I existed before you,” she spat, “I will exist after you. I do not need you.”’

→ 

The twin doors to the temple stood before them. Black stone doors embossed with the symbol of the Brotherhood: A red center surrounded by tendrils reaching out to the edge of the doors. Sylus sighed as he turned to Saari.

COME. IN. COME. IN.

“Are you going to be alright?”

She sighed, “I would ask you the same…”

They both stared at the door in still silence before Sylus threw the doors open with his tendrils. It was nearly exactly how they had left it. Vaulting black ceilings, black pews hewn from the same stone that comprised the room, the pulpit with its pedestal and woven tapestry. It depicted a dying sun with tendrils reaching out from within it.

← 

“Well well well, this is the one our Lord has chosen?” Brother Johl gripped Sylus’ jaw tightly as he sat in his wheelchair, “How… boring,” he released him to approach the pulpit, “You would think in diversifying his diet, he would have chosen something a bit more sturdy. A bit more… Lively…”

Sylus laughed, “Are you questioning your god’s decisions?”

“I question nothing,” Brother Johl stood behind the lectern, “I am merely curious as to why he has made the decisions he has.”

“That sounds like questioning to me,” Sylus scoffed.

“You shouldn’t even be in these halls,” Brother Johl snarled as he gripped the edge of the lectern, “Humans are forbidden in this sacred place. In fact, most Q’taxians are forbidden. Yet here you are in all your filth. TARNISHING these great halls!”

Saari stood back toward the entrance to the temple. This place should have been her home, but she’d never felt comfortable here which is why she was granted her own independent quarters, much to Brother Johl’s dismay.

“You can’t even walk!” Brother Johl motioned mockingly to him, “You can’t even function as a whole being! And you EXPECT to be worthy of my LORD?” he laughed.

“Hey,” Sylus shrugged, “You’re forgetting he chose me. And I get it. It makes no sense. Trust me, we’re on the same page there, but perhaps you should show your lord’s chosen a bit more respect?”

Brother Johl broke down into a loud cackle.

“You are NOTHING. No sacrifice is worth ANYTHING. All you are worth is the nourishment you bring Our Lord. That’s it,” Brother Johl spat from the pulpit, “Your life, your existence… They mean nothing. You are merely a sum of your nutrients. Do not grow so bold as to believe otherwise.”

Sylus had been sufficiently put in his place. He sat back in his chair, his gaze dead and empty drifting downward into nothingness. Saari approached him gently taking hold of the handles on his wheelchair. He woke up just enough to begin turning the wheels himself. Saari stepped aside as he turned to leave the temple.

“You’re a fool to grow so attached to something so worhtlessly impermanent. Perhaps you could put that energy into actually upholding your station here at the temple rather than running away every chance you get,” Brother Johl snarled at Saari.

“Perhaps upon the day you meet the ground I will take up the mantle of high priestess. Until then, I will not entertain you, Brother,” Saari spat as she followed Sylus out of the temple.

“Unfortunately, I’m fairly certain it will be YOU hitting the ground long before me,” Brother Johl laughed.

Saari paused just long enough to glare at him over her shoulder.

Brother Johl raised a hand, “Until next time, Brother Sarcin.”

→ 

“I’ll just up and say it, I fucking hate this place,” Sylus stepped into the temple.

“I hold no fondness for it either,” Saari’s voice shook slightly.

“I loathe all that comprises it,” Qaitax added in his usual stern tone.

“Wow. Something we all agree on…” Sylus sighed.

“You would feel the same being a prisoner somewhere for millions of years… forced to endure time’s cruel march like some kind of…”

“Mortal?” Sylus finished his sentence.

“Yes…”

On the wall to the left of the pulpit was a single massive door. It was longer than it was tall, but it spanned a good length of the wall. It was decorated with a giant, gaping, jagged toothed maw open wide with a red gem in the middle. Tendrils, as was the common theme, spiraling out from it.

Qaitax slowly made his way toward it.

YES! YES! COME! COME!

“My lord?” Saari called after him.

“I wonder…”

← 

O LORDS OF THE VOID

O GODS OF THE BETWIXT

HEAR OUR CALL

THAT YOU MAY TAKE PITY UPON OUR MORTAL SOULS

FOR WE ARE CHILDREN OF THE DARKENED SKY

WITHOUT YOUR STRENGTH WE SHALL PERISH FROM THIS

OUR WORLD

I heard their plea… We all did.

Yet I… I was the only one fool enough to answer…

To think… I believed…

I could harness their mortal wiles…

An unearthly bellow filled the stone chamber as the trap was sprung. The writing mass of maws and tendrils flailed and whipped itself around trying desperately to escape. But it was no use. The mortals… Were far smarter than the Voidlord had anticipated. In a matter of minutes, his millenia long imprisonment, had begun.

→ 

Qaitax hesitated to open the door. It wasn’t often that he took advantage of the sensory interactions of his physical form, but this time… He slowly ran his fingers over the stone carvings.

I. CAN. FEEL. YOU. SYLUS.

“It’s cold…”

The stone was buffed smooth and even. It felt relatively appealing.

“My prison…”

He gripped the stone handle on the door. It took more strength than he expected to slide it back along the wall. A pitch black room was revealed to him. He sighed heavily before stepping in. Rather than stepping on more of the hard stone floor, he stepped on something soft. A soft squishing sound came from beneath his foot. He stepped back out of the room. Looking around, he found a nearby lit torch. Grasping it from its holder, he returned to the doorway.

“Oh my…”

A yellow-robbed body laid just inside the doorway. The blood seeping from it was still wet.

“What happened here…”

As soon as he finished his thought, the body was suddenly dragged into further into the darkness.

“Saari!” Sylus called to her.

There was a loud squelching, slobbering noise came from the darkness.

“SAARI!” Sylus was frozen in place.

“Sylus?” she appeared beside him.

“S-something’s i-in there…”

Saari peered into the room, “I see nothing…”

“There was a body… It got pulled into the dark… It was fresh…” Sylus was barely able to articulate his thoughts.

“Sylus… I canno- Wait… There… There is something…” she said slowly as she tried to focus her sight on a distant form shrouded in darkness, “A shadow… I can barely see it… But it is there…”

“A… Shadow?” Sylus began to feel ill.

“Oh dear me,” a shrill voice echoed in the prison, “You heard that didn’t you?” a loud sigh, “How unpleasant,” a stifled belch followed, “Oh my, excuse me.”

“WHO ARE YOU?!” Sylus bellowed into the darkness.

“Is that you, Sylus?”

“Who the FUCK are you?”

“I’ve been watching you ever since I got here…”

“Who. Are. You.” Qaitax finally spoke up, “Identify yourself.”

“Oh shush, you, Qaitax, no one wants to listen to you bluster,” a short laugh followed, “I was speaking to Sylus.”

“He asked you to identify yourself and you have not. If you wish to speak to him, answer him,” Qaitax muttered into the dark.

“Let. Me. Speak. To. Sylus.” the voice commanded.

What’s going on, Qai? I don’t want to talk to whatever that is… Please…

It is refusing to speak to me. You must try.

Couldn’t you force it to?

I can barely sense it’s existence. I know not what it is. I know not how I would influence it. Speak to it more so that I may be able to understand who or what it is and what it wants.

“I’m here,” Sylus answered.

“There you are! I have to thank you for opening the door. I was rationing those monks hoping someone would let me out before I had to starve!” it laughed, “But… I knew you were coming, I’m just embarrassed I didn’t know exactly when so we could have avoided that little…” there was a short pause, “Event.”

“Who are you? Show yourself or I’m leaving…”“Leaving? So soon?” A slew of tendrils flew out of the darkness and wrapped themselves around Sylus. They began tightening around him. “But I’d like you to stay just a little bit longer…”

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