A/N: More time skipping. Left arrow = Past. Right arrow = Present.
“MY LORD!” Saari cried out as she lifted her staff.
“Now now, little Saari,” a single tendril reached out and easily pulled her staff from her grasp, “This is between the two of us,” the tendril patted her on the head.
“Let… Let me go…” Sylus could barely speak.
The tendrils tightened.
“I keep feeling Qaitax trying to take control. Tell him to stop or I’ll squeeze you until you pop,” the sound of an adult trying to laugh like a child came from the dark, “And I really don’t want to do that… Make you pop… I do, however,” the tendrils tightened again, lifting him from the ground, “Enjoy squeezing you. You’re so squeezable!”
Qai stop… Please… I… I can barely… Please… I-I’ll… l’ll handle this…
Qaitax reluctantly gave up on trying to wrest control from Sylus.
“Aww… I guess I have to loosen up a bit. By the way, you’re very tight, Sylus. Perhaps you should get a massage? I’d be more than happy to oblige…”
A face finally came into the light. Pale, almost completely devoid of any skin tone, sharp angular nose, pointed chin, narrow yet piercing eyes. They glowed yellow behind the half-mast eyelids. Long blonde hair framing the sharp angles. A coy smile plastered in it’s narrow features.
“You’re so cute,” he tightened his tendrils, “When you can barely breathe…”
Sylus finally screamed. He could feel his shoulders popping in their sockets.
“MY LORD!” Saari made another attempt to intervene.
A pale claw-fingered hand, reached out of the darkness. It wrapped around her face. She screamed as it’s grip tightened.
“Please stop… Please…” Sylus knew he didn’t have long before he lost consciousness.
“Is that a please I hear? Very well..”
The tendrils released him, his body collapsing to the ground as he struggled to catch his breath. The hand let go of Saari.
“My lord!” she panted as she crawled upon the stone floor.
“You two are so cute!”
They both looked up to find a man floating on his back in front of them. His limbs were overly long and thin. He wore a golden tuxedo with black trim.. The coat tails were resting on the floor. Tendrils were visibly writing around him.
“A Voidlord…!” Saari gasped in a hushed tone.
Sylus looked swiftly between her and the floating man.
“Oh, but of course,” he rolled himself upright and bowed his head slightly. His feet never touched the ground, “I almost forgot to introduce myself. I am Haurex.”
“Haurex!” Qaitax bellowed, “YOU!”
Haurex’s gaze became deeply disinterested, “Yes, yes, you know me, Qaitax. Now please shut up and let us non-impotent beings converse, will you?” He thrust a tendril into Qaitax’s mouth.
“Oh, my dear Sylus!” he removed the tendril, “I am so sorry!” he leaned in close, “I meant only to silence Qaitax, not harm you.”
A pale clawed hand patted Sylus on the head, “I would never want to hurt you, Sylus…”
“Hard to believe,” Sylus’ voice was hoarse, “Since you tried to kill me without even showing your face…” he rubbed his throat.
“Kill you? Oh my my my noooooo! I was simply playing! You like being squeezed, don’t you?” Haurex leaned away, returning to floating on his back.
“That’s none of your business…” Sylus growled.
“Oh not like that, silly. It helps you focus sometimes, doesn’t it?” Haurex did a flip in the air, his long flowing hair spreading out around his face like a halo, “I wanted you to pay attention! I only get to introduce myself once and I wanted to get it right! What did you think?” he twisted around before turning upright, “Ta-da!”
Sylus, still on the ground trying to catch his breath, stared more in horror than amusement.
“I messed up, did I?” Haurex sighed, “I suppose the first mistake was eating that corpse in front of you… How terribly rude of me…” Haurex knocked a fisted hand against his head, “I had held off for so long… What terrible timing… Oh but Sylus…” he knelt down without touching the floor so their eyes were on the same level, “I would never eat you. Unless you wanted me to. Do you want me to?” Haurex gave him a sharp toothed smile.
“Not particularly…” Sylus’ voice was still weak.
“Well I’ll be around if you change your mind,” Haurex patted him on the head.
Sylus snarled at him.
Saari had managed to retrieve her staff. In one swift motion she stood up and attempted to bring her staff down on Haurex’s head. A tendril intervened and prevented her from making contact with him.
“I bare you no ill will, little Saari. Why do you continue to raise your weapon against me?” Haurex turned to her with a look of dismay on his angular features.
“You attacked my lord!” she raised her staff again, this time allowing it to come fully to life. The purple crystal held between the entwined tendrils lit up, “You may not harm him and not be subject to my wrath!”
Haurex’s casual gaze turned to the glowing crystal at the end of her staff.
“That is quite the relic of the olden times,” a small smile crossed his lips, “Alas it has grown weak… You need a new void crystal. A big one. Weren’t your people good at crafting those?”
Saari paused a moment, “I-” she let the glow fade from her staff as she examined the crystal within. It was, indeed, fractured and darker than it should have been, “I… Why would you tell me this?”
Haurex shrugged, “As a show of good faith. And to save you from the embarrassment of discharging a faulty firearm. It’s so fractured you could have accidentally hit poor Sylus!”
“Oh but what good does flattery do if it isn’t followed up by action!” Haurex rolled over again. His body turned and twisted unnaturally, “You came here for something, did you not? Oh! Yes! The Book of Bahn! Oh.. That’s a nasty place… They say the Queen is there. The egg layer…” Haurex shuttered, “How morbid… Back in a flash!” He smiled with a wink before vanishing.
“We have to get out of here,” Sylus wheezed.
“I do not think that is an option, my lord…” Saari looked around the temple as if expecting to find Haurex lurking in the shadows.
“What the hell is a Voidlord doing here…” Sylus finally managed to get back on his feet, still rubbing his neck.
“Mortals are silly,” Haurex reappeared with a tattered book in his hand, “They seem to never learn… They really thought they could harness another Voidlord…” He laughed, “Like ANY of us would fall for it again. Especially when Qaitax was the only one dumb enough to fall for it the first time…” he offered the book to Sylus, “This is the Book of Bahn. It is a very dangerous tome that very few can even look at much less read.”
“We know that,” Sylus rasped.
“You think the child will be able to comprehend this?”
“You know about Cassidy?” a wave of shock and horror washed over Sylus.
“Of course I do! I’ve been here for quite some time watching you through Qaitax. He didn’t tell you? We Voidlords have the uncanny ability to look into each other’s dreams!”
“Qaitax doesn’t sleep…” Sylus scoffed.
“Oh no no no, but he does dream! We all do! All of us Voidlords dream!” Haurex explained excitedly.
“And what is the price I have to pay for this book?” Sylus new better than to trust a Voidlord with a gift. Qaitax had taught him that in the realm of the Voidlords, nothing was given without something in return. Fair trade. That, or the Voidlord came out on top. They never lost on a trade.
“Oh that old silly business of blood sacrifices or whatnot…” Haurex sighed as he tossed a lock of hair over his shoulder, “No charge for you, my fleshy little Sylus.”
“Alright no charge today, but when are you going to collect?” Sylus laughed.
“Consider it a freebee!” Haurex grinned.
“The Void always requires an exchange… Like the Mist itself… It’s all an exchange. I won’t take this until you strike a deal,” Sylus tone was firm, yet his voice was still cracking from the strain.
“Oh… I, um… I don’t need or want anything at this time…”
“Exactly. ‘At this time.’ You’ll come knocking eventually and it’ll be at a time I can’t afford to give you what you want. I’m not making that mistake,” Sylus folded his arms across his chest.
“So… If I declare something I want, here and now…. You will give it to me?”
Sylus nodded firmly.
Sylus nodded again.
“My lord…” Saari whispered beside him.
“Well that’s easy! Your undying love and loyalty!” Haurex threw his arms in the air, “Does that sound like a fair trade?” he held the book out again.
Sylus turned to Saari with a look of dismay. She shook her head forlornly as her gaze sank to the floor.
“You must do as he says,” she gripped her staff tightly.
Sylus laughed, “No. I don’t. No deal.”
“You do not want this book? Then I will destroy it. There is no use for it,” Haurex studied the tome in his hand.
“No!” Sylus reached out.
“Then we have a deal?” Haurex offered him the book again.
“No… I…” he turned to Saari. Her gaze was still upon the floor, “I…” he gave a shaking sigh.
“Take the book, my lord,” she looked up to him with a weak smile, “It is what we came here for. Cassidy is depending on us to return with it. We cannot afford to have it be destroyed.”
“What about Qaitax?” he looked to Haurex, “You can’t sway or win him over like that. He’ll never be compliant…”
“Oh, right, well, every time he acts out, I’ll just give you a little squeeze to remind you of your place!” Haurex gave a curt little laugh, “Is it a deal then?”
Sylus turned to Saari once more. She was still smiling at him.
“No… No deal…” he breathed as he turned to Haurex, “My undying loyalty belongs to Saari. Sorry, Voidlord, she beat you to it,” he shrugged nonchalantly.
Haurex smiled, “As it should be.” He placed the tome on the ground.
“We made no deal,” Sylus stared at the book.
“There was truly no deal to be made. You didn’t ask me to retrieve the book. I did it on my own. That does not incur a trade,” Haurex’s smile grew up the side of his face revealing a second row of sharp teeth.
“But you had something I wanted. You could have easily engaged in a trade over it,” Sylus remained wary.
Haurex shrugged, “And yet I didn’t. I hereby declare the Book of Bahn to be a gift to you, Sylus Synclaire, to use as you see fit. There are no strings attached and I hereby forgo my rights to pursue any future transactions related to this one,” he put a clawed hand over where his heart would have been, “Voidlord’s honor.”
Sylus stared at the book as it laid on the floor.
“And when I reach for it… You won’t choke me out again, will you?” He looked back up at Haurex as he spun around in circles.
“Not unless you want me to,” he stood upright hovering off the floor. His hair and tendrils flowing around him, “Do you want me to?”
Sylus sneered. He couldn’t wait any longer. He had to leave this place. He swiftly retrieved the tome and, to his surprise, Haurex did nothing to stop him.
“Some parting words, if you would allow me,” he bowed deeply.
“Say your piece,” Sylus snapped.
“For one, Sylus, you could be so much more than you are. Qaitax is dragging you down. I could fix that,” Haurex leaned mere inches from Sylus’ face. A tendril wrapped it’s way up Sylus’ thigh, “I could make you whole…” Another tendril lifted his shirt from his pants. It tried to slide down behind his belt, but he caught it and gripped it firmly.
“Don’t.” was all he said before pulling the tendril away from his body and releasing it. The one around his leg let go.
“Perhaps someday…” Haurex sighed.
“Look,” Sylus sighed, “I don’t know why I’m bothering to tell you this, but I’ll save you future attempts at winning me over. I am whole. I am how I want to be. That’s it.”
“What if I could change Saari as well?”
Sylus turned to her. Saari’s gaze was drifting around the room.
“The only thing I would ever accept is my sight. That is the only gift anyone could bargain with me over. I wish to see the world as it is rather than how the Void translates it…” she sighed as she turned to Sylus, “But I know the cost for such a transaction would be great.”
“So… Neither of you would make a deal over anatomy? Interesting…” Haurex mused to himself.
“We have each other,” Saari spoke strongly, “We are not perfect. Perhaps we are mistakes in the eyes of our people, but we do not exist for them. We exist for us. To me, Sylus is perfect as he is and I am proud of who I am,” she tapped her staff on the floor for emphasis.
Haurex turned to Sylus who was gazing at Saari with utter endearment. He was smiling uncontrollably.
“Saari…” Sylus breathed as he wrapped his arms around her and drew her close, “My Saari…” he lifted her off the ground and spun her around. She dropped her staff to hold him in return.
Haurex remained floating behind them. Watching.
“I gave Sylus a gift, would you like one as well, Saari?” he finally spoke up.
“There is nothing you could give me,” she smiled as Sylus set her down.
“You said your sight…”
She nodded, “I did, but I am not willing to trade anything for it.”
“What if I lent it to you?”
“You can have it for a bit, free of charge, but once you leave here, you lose it,” Haurex explained.
“And what do you gain from this?” Saari was actually tempted to accept.
Haurex shrugged, “Nothing at the moment, but perhaps this could come in handy at a later date”
Saari turned to Sylus.
“All you’d see in this place is me, Saari,” he laughed sadly, “There’s no sky or trees or really much of anything here but Haurex and I. Do you think it’s worth it?”
Saari’s gaze drifted to the floor once more.
“I would be able to see you…” she took a deep breath, “I have never seen you before, Sylus…”
He laughed nervously, “Oh boy will you be disappointed…” he tugged in the collar of his shirt.
“How? I already have a good idea of what you look like, but to actually see you?” she sighed heavily.
“No fees at this time, just a trial run. Like I said, when you leave it’s gone,” Haurex drifted closer to them, “The only curse is that you’ll have tasted something you may be enticed to make a deal over later.”
Saari knew that. She knew that if she could actually see, she might never want to lose her sight again. But she also knew that there was very little she’d sacrifice for her vision. She couldn’t even think of anything she’d give for it. So what harm could a few minutes of real sight do?
“I want to see you, Sylus…”
“But can we trust him…”
“He gave you the tome…”
“How can I earn your trust if you don’t even let me try?” Haurex replied in a mockingly dismayed tone.
Saari took a deep breath and held it for a few moments.
“And you can promise me that I owe you nothing for this?” she said as she exhaled.
“I gave Sylus something free of charge, so why not you?”
She glanced at Sylus one more time before nodding to Haurex.
Without another word, he placed his index claws on either side of her head.
“It’ll take a moment to undo the damage they cause. You’re lucky they didn’t gouge your eyes out completely… Heathens…”
Sylus watched intently as the seconds dragged on into eternity.
“Don’t play with her mind,” Sylus warned.
“You mean like Qaitax plays with yours?”
Sylus clenched his fists at his sides.
“And with that,” Haurex released Saari, “You should be able to see now. Open your eyes and find out!”
There was a moment’s pause before Saari cried out in pain. Her hands flailed as they clawed at the horns on her face. She gurgled and moaned as she scratched at straps that held them to her head.
“What the fuck did you do!” Sylus bellowed as he tried to understand what Saari was doing.
“Oh dear…” Haurex muttered, “Try taking the horns off. Normal sight can’t comprehend Voidsight.”
Glancing quickly from Haurex to Saari, Sylus tore the horns off her face.
“Your horns…” Sylus cocked his head to the side, “They’re… crooked…?”
Saari blushed with embarrassment. She sat at the foot of his hospital bed while he sat up in his hospital gown dangling his atrophied legs over the side eating some liquified food in a bag. The random sucking sound of the straw was only occasionally distracting.
“Can you see alright?”
She clenched her fists in her lap, “N-no… Everything is… crooked… It hurts a little…”
“Did something happen last night?” he was genuinely concerned and she knew that.
“N-no…” she really didn’t want to talk about it.
Sylus sighed, “Look, if something’s up, you can tell me. I’m taking it right to the grave anyway,” he laughed, “So no worries about some human traipsing around with your secrets!”
“You wish to learn about how you can use me?” She knew that wasn’t the case, but she wasn’t exactly ready to start talking to her charge about her personal unrest. She regretted her choice of words almost immediately.
“What?” Sylus balked, “I just want to get to know you…” he laughed nervously, “You’re the only person I see every day… The only one who…” he sighed heavily, “Spends any time with me…”
Saari sighed. She knew she had been wrong to expect the worst, but she was already wary of her own feelings and speaking about them. She reached up and undid the bindings that held the horns to her face. Resting them gently in her lap, she looked in Sylus’ general direction.
“So you are blind under there…”
She nodded stiffly.
“Were you born that way or…”
“When you become the Voice, you lose your sight. It is by no declaration of My Lord, but a tradition of our people. It is believed that in sacrificing our sight, we hear Our Lord’s will more acutely…”
“Is it true? Does being blind help?”
Saari sighed, “I really do not know…” she ran her fingers over the horns, “I do know that being blind allows me to use the Horns of the First. Which are a gift every Voice is granted by Our Lord. It allows us to see the world differently…”
“I would ask how differently but… What do you have to go on for comparison?” he chuckled.
“Exactly,” she gave a short laugh in reply, “I have spent most of my life seeing through the Voidsight. I do not recall what the world looks like without it.”
Sylus studied the horns in her lap. One of the leather straps was tattered and one of the metal couplings looked worn out.
“I see your problem,” he pointed at the horns, not that she could see, “The straps that hold them on your face are a mess! But it’s just leather, right? That should be an easy fix…”
“Leather is rare here… We try to refrain from slaughtering animals that provide other services. Meat and hide are incredibly rare as I’m sure you have noticed…”
Sylus thought a moment, “But you’re the Voice… Doesn’t that grant you anything you might need or want?”
Saari sighed, “It would be a mockery of my station to take from the common citizen. I must go to the temple to have it repaired…”
“Why? Is there some kind of sacred ritual involved?”
Saari shook her head, “No… But only members of the Brotherhood are permitted to handle the sacred relics. And even if I were fool enough to ask a civilian for help…” she sighed deeply, “no one would touch them for fear of repercussions…”
Sylus laughed loudly, “Repercussions? Saari, I’m already slated for the slaughter!” he laughed in earnest, “But leather and metal wear, why the hesitation to go to them to fix it? It must be uncomfortable to have them off kilter like that…” Sylus continued studying the condition of the horns as the laid in her lap as he sucked on his liquid meal.
“I… I do not…” she took a deep breath, “I do not like the Brotherhood.”
“But I thought you were one of them?” Sylus was honestly confused.
“By virtue of my position as The Voice, I double as the High Priestess of the Brotherhood. This is true. But that does not mean I like them. In fact…” Sylus could see her knuckles whitening as she balled her fingers into fists, “I hate them.”
Sylus looked into her wandering eyes.
“Bad politics?” he forced a laugh.
“No. Bad people,” Saari immediately regretted saying that, “Please do not tell them I said anything… Especially not Brother Johl…”
“He’s kind of an ass, isn’t he?” Sylus tried to make light of the situation.
Saari nodded, “If I understand that correctly, yes. He is not a very nice person… But he is important to our people. He is the Eldest. He cares for the tomes that contain both our history and the histories of all the worlds that perished to the Void. It is a very important task.”
“Here,” Sylus reached out and placed a hand on Saari’s. She pulled her hand away and slapped his away from her.
“Do not touch me,” her voice shook. Once again she found herself regretting her words.
“I-I’m sorry, Saari… But…. I can fix your horns if you let me. I’m good with leather! It was something they taught us in training… How to fix things like this…”
Saari thought a moment. She knew the level of blasphemy she would be committing if she allowed anyone but someone of the Brotherhood to handle her horns. Infinitely worse with that person being a human… of all things… It was take the risk of being discovered as a blasphemer or go to Brother Johl and be forced to crawl on her hands and knees for help. She reached out in his general direction until her hand finally found Sylus’ arm.
“Are you certain you can fix it?”
Sylus nodded, “With the right materials, sure!”
Sylus stepped away, holding her horns in his hands. It had taken her a moment to recover, but now she was staring directly at him. Her usually empty gaze was bright and full of life. The color had returned to her retinas. They were a deep ocean blue. They nearly glowed within the dimly lit halls of the temple.
“Saari?” he spoke slowly, “Are you… Are you okay?”
“I…” she approached him slowly, “I…”
Saari reached up and placed her hands on either side of Sylus’ face.
“Thi-This is you?”
“Yup,” he laughed nervously, “This is me.”
Saari studied his features meticulously. She didn’t want to forget who he was.
“Can’t even blame genetics if something is messed up because I made this myself,” he laughed nervously.
“Is that what silly old Qaitax told you?” Haurex laughed, “Had he been full strength genetics wouldn’t have mattered, but as he is, weak and broken, he had to use what data he had…”
I feel… nothing…. Am…. am I… Awake….?
You are conscious, but nothing more.
I can’t… feel…
Of course you cannot feel anything. You have no body with which to feel.
Dead. Yes. There is nothing left of your physical form save a bit of genetic code I salvaged from its destruction.
You know full well what has occurred here.
You… You’re… Qaitax… You… You…
Consumed you. Yes. And you have precious little time before even your mind is lost.
Wh-what’s…. What’s going on… Where… Where is Saari…
Alive. Unlike you. She comes and goes from these chambers often. Perhaps hoping she’ll find you returned to her. I do not know and I do not care. My silence concerns her, but she does not need to know that which does not concern her.
Looking for me….?
She holds out hope that you are not dead. Though I have offered no precedent for returning one sacrificed to me, this may be a first.
You have a choice to make, human. One that will affect both our futures. I am a prisoner here. I am held against my will, but you can help me escape these mortal bonds as I can help you do the same. We both have something the other needs. I am willing to engage in a transaction to see these ends met.
What… What do I… Do you need…
Freedom. Through you, I can be free and through me, you can be more than what you have ever been before.
I… can go home?
And see your spawn again. Your… Son. Daniel, was it?
Daniel… M-my son…
Here is your code. Remake yourself as you see fit. Nothing you do will change your ability or strength as those will be determined by me. Remember, this is a facade. A body that will be nothing more than a puppet under our command. It will not be the same as living, as I cannot replicated life. I can merely create an impression of it.
In any way you see fit.
There are… limitations. I cannot go outside your coding and you are coded a certain way that contradicts your consciousness. I am afraid there is nothing I can do to change that, but you have the full will and freedom to change your appearance however you want within the parameters I’ve provided. After this, genetics and biology will not truly matter. As I said, this will be an impression of life. A representation you will have chosen to wear. Not something birthed as mortals are typically created.
I… I’m stuck… different…
You will be the host of a Voidlord. There is nothing ‘normal’ about that condition.
She is… like me… and she… will never be able… to change…
If that is what helps you rationalize this.
What stops you… from just taking my body… and leaving with it?
If I could have done that, I would have done it already. I am too weak. You must be the only mortal to know that. Share it with no one. I am weak and I am broken. I have been so long severed from my source of energy, my… home, that I am merely a remnant of my former glory. Weak for a Voidlord, but still infinitely stronger than any mortal.
But… you’re still… trapped…
The mortals of this world have grown soft and complacent. Their ancestors were far more cunning and malevolent. I respect who they were far more than who they’ve become. I fell into a trap laid by desperate mortals. And, as I have come to understand, cornering an animal, no matter how sentient it is, will make it fight back with all it’s might. I was too proud to understand that… I have since learned the error of my ways. As, what do your people call it… cliche? As it sounds… I only wish to be free now. Nothing more. Nothing less. I care not how, but I cannot remain in this cold dark place any longer. It seems time… Does strange things to beings unaccustomed to it…
“I-I know that…” Sylus was trying to focus on Saari, over Haurex’s jabs.
“It is why you aren’t exactly how you want to be. Qaitax failed you. Just remember, for the future, that I can rectify that, if you so desire,” a toothy grin filled Haurex’s face, “For both of you,” he glanced to Saari.
Sylus shot him a venomous glance before returning his full attention to Saari.
“Your hair is shiny,” Saari smiled, “It is dark, but it is not… The light… It shines purple, like your eyes… Is that from Qaitax?”
Sylus nodded slowly, “I think so… I didn’t build myself like that. Purple wasn’t in the color options,” he laughed uncomfortably, “It looks awful doesn’t it?”
“What?” Saari’s smile grew, “It looks just fine! I like your shiny purple hair. And your bushy eyebrows and your facial hair and,” she placed her thumbs at the corners of his mouth to draw his lips open, “Smile for me?”
He did as he was told revealing the unkempt state of his mouth. Jagged teeth that interlocked poorly filled his smile. It was embarrassing, but it wasn’t something he could change. Like the purple sheen of his eyes and hair, the atrocious dental conditions came from Qaitax. And yet while they were aesthetically horrific, they were dangerously adept for hunting.
Saari laughed, “You look so happy…”
“I look like a monster…” Sylus sighed.
“No. You do not. It is not as bad as you think,” she rubbed her thumb on his teeth, “They feel smoother than they look.”
“Well that’s a small mercy,” he tried to laugh it off.
“I like it. I like your smile,” her smile grew.
“For the record most humans have flat teeth in the front. This isn’t normal…” he chuckled nervously.
“Why compare yourself to humans when you are not one?” Haurex chimed in again.
“Look, I may be some unholy spawn of void energy, but it all this came from who I was. And I was human,” Sylus turned to him with a stern look on his face.
“But… You are no longer human. You were once, but you are not anymore… You are something far more. You, my chubby little friend, are a Voidlord!” Haurex announced excitedly.
Sylus laughed mockingly, “You’ve got the wrong guy. Qaitax is the Voidlord. I’m just the consciousness along for the ride…” he sighed as he realized how useless he really was. Sylus Synclaire was no one without Qaitax. In fact… Without Qaitax…
“Perhaps I can reason with Him. I am His Voice. I am the closest being to Him and His will. Please… Perhaps I can convince him of some other means…” Her voice was shaking.
“Saari… It isn’t like we didn’t know this day was coming…” he sighed with a smile.
“Perhaps I can convince Him to let you stay… As… As an alien curiosity. Something to be studied and learned from! Yes… Something that could exist for His amusement!” she forced a nervous laugh, “All of us mortals are amusing to him. Perhaps a human would be more interesting than days and days of Q’taxians?”
“As I understand it, after he does me in, he’ll know everything he could possibly want to about myself and humans,” Sylus smiled at her sadly, “Why keep me alive?”
“I… I just… Y-you are my…” she struggled with her words and feelings, “You are my only friend, Sylus. You are the only person who has ever been kind to me and not out of obligation. You were kind from the beginning. I was wary of you… Wary of your intentions, but I know, now, that you never once doubted your fate. That you never once sought a way out… You were kind, not because you thought it would save you, but because that is simply how you are…”
Sylus stood still in silence.
“I-I think you give me too much credit…” he forced a laugh, “I’m just… just a person… I… I never planned to leave here alive…”
Saari slowly turned her head away from him, “They believe that your sacrifice will set them free…”
“It won’t… Will it…?”
Saari shook her head, “They will perish here.”
“Can you let one of them go?” he wrung his hands together inside the wide cuffs of the ceremonial robes he was wearing.
“One of them?” Saari was surprised, “Which one?”
“N-Nico. Nicolas Valetinez. He… He’s my friend… He was always kind to me… They treat him poorly too, but for different reasons…” Sylus struggled to keep his voice from shaking.
Saari nodded, “I will see to his freedom, then.”
“Th-thank you, Saari… He has a family… Like…” a sudden pain filled his entire being. He hadn’t expected this. He thought it would have been easy. To just disappear without saying goodbye… “Like I do… Did. Like I did… I…” the hot burning sensation filled his face, “I miss my son…” he couldn’t fight the shaking in his voice, “I miss Daniel… He’ll never know me… My son… He’ll never know his father…” the shaking turned to weeping, “And I’ll never know him… I’ll never know my son… I’ll never know his favorite color… His favorite animal… Does he like arts and music? Science and math? Both? Does he study academics or pick up a vocation? Does he play sports? Does he have a girlfriend? A boyfriend? Does his heart get broken? Does he get married? Does he have children of his own? Could I have been a grandpa? Could I have been there… at his wedding… Would he have wanted me there? Would he have even… loved me…” his voice trailed off at the horrifying realization that his son, who he’d only met a handful of times over the past five years, would probably never know he existed… Not if she had anything to do about it… “But… But it’s as it should be,” he fought back the tears, “I went five times. Five times I came to this place… Five times and my son will never have to worry about anything for the rest of his life… He’ll never know his dad, but he’ll never have to worry about money,” he gave a short sad laugh, “A fair exchange,” he looked to Saari with a broken empty smile, “Wouldn’t you agree?”
“Being a Voidlord is a yes or no condition,” Haurex explained to a dismayed Sylus, “You either are one, or you are not. Even if you are weak and your powers are waning, you remain a Voidlord. Nothing can undo that. No matter how much you try to convince yourselves otherwise,” it was clear he was targeting Qaitax, “You, my pudgy little Sylus,” he tapped Sylus’ stomach with a tendril, “are a Voidlord. Not half. Not part. Not a corpse on loan. No. Qaitax would argue otherwise,” a wicked grin drew back his thin lips revealing his sharp orderly sets of teeth, “But it’s not his body you two are traipsing around in, now, is it?”
Sylus’ mind raced.
“I won’t deny I’m a void spawn of sorts, but a Voidlord?” he scoffed, “I’m nothing of the sort. I appreciate the attempt at boosting my ego, but I know my place.”
“Your place?” Haurex laughed, “You run the show, my fleshy friend. If anything, Qaitax should just give up and let you absorb his powers completely. You’d be far more powerful if you weren’t so divided,” Haurex’s tone suddenly turned forlorn.
“Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Shouldn’t he just kill me off? What benefit am I…” Sylus voice trailed off as Saari placed a finger on his lips.
“Were it not for you, I would not be here. Were it not for Sylus, I would have died. Qaitax is my lord, that will never change. I serve him, but I love you,” she spoke tenderly, “My will means nothing against his, but I will never let him take you without a fight. As pitiful as it would be…”
“Saari…” Sylus sighed, “You were always Saari. Long before I showed up,” he laughed, “Saari would continue to exist even without me…”
She shook her head, “I would have died as Saari either way, but the collapse of the Halls was inevitable. You are the one who tried to save us… After everything…”