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12/2/2018 7:59:08   
NagisaXIkari
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"That is not dead which can eternal lie, And with strange aeons even death may die." ~H.P Lovecraft.

Prelude: Dreaming of Revenge

How much time has passed since being defeated by the Hero? To any other being there would be a concrete answer measured in years or depending on how technical one wants to be months or days, but to a being who was ancient when Lore was young, time has lost all meaning merely being a tool mortals use to measure their mortality or exert control over those beneath them socially.

In the darkest reaches of The Lock untouched by light, He waits in His dead city. Lying, waiting, dreaming.

Not even gods were immune to the temptation of revenge, but unlike mortals whose limited time wore away at any patience they may have, one who is immune to the ravages of time could wait for as long as necessary for the opportune conditions.

Those conditions drew closer with each passing day. Those loyal to Him watched the stars waiting patiently for when they'd align and the ritual would commence and He would sound the call.

They will not resist.

Chapter I: Stars Over Amityvale

She stared up at the stars, their light and energy washing over her making her feel at peace. Ever since the clouds parted and the sky became clear, she had felt a greater connection to the stars and cosmos as a whole than when she had undergone her training as an Ascendant. Her theory was it was because she was viewing them from a place she was connected to rather than somewhere different and unfamiliar.

For many inhabitants, the novelty of seeing the stars wore off some time ago. The elderly who had gone most of their lives without seeing them had a childlike wonder to them while those who would see them for the first time and continue to see them for many years to come, became indifferent of them.

She thought of those who had gone their whole lives without seeing the stars even once and it filled her with sadness. Such a small joy and the sadness it brought her to think of how many people had not experienced it weighed heavily on her heart.

She thought back to when she first saw the stars when the veil of clouds pulled back and the moon shined full for the first time in her lifetime. It was a truly mesmerizing experience, but it did come with a touch of guilt. She heard whispers of the events that lead to the moon shining full and remembered the howls of the wolves, a sound she would come to fear. Her happiness came at a cost.

Wiping her eyes, she looked back at the sky, seeking out all the constellations, pointing them out without effort as she thought back to a time when she would gaze upon the stars with someone she held dear, a weak smile appearing across her lips that soon faded when she saw something she had never seen before. A number of stars were forming a line.

She could recall nothing from her training that would explain such a phenomenon, but history has shown that anything that may affect celestial bodies could only mean dark forces which there is never a shortage of in Darkovia or its Doomwood.

Chapter II: Innsmouth

Down an obscure backroad a short distance by carriage from Amityvale resides the lakeside town of Innsmouth. Innsmouth has been largely untouched by the outside world since the days when the Rose occupied Doomwood.

Innsmouth was a peculiar town. The Rose had not occupied the town at any point and in the center of the lake was a lighthouse that projected a black light over the lakes black waters. The towns population was always dwindling, but never because anyone left down the one and only road to and from the town, but instead walked directly into the waters as if in a trance.

Only once in recent memory had someone came to the town, but it was not some lost adventurer trying to make their way to Amityvale, but a paladin. The people of Innsmouth were always wary of outsiders, but someone bearing a suit of armour decorated with the Order of Paladins emblem earned even more distrust.

The paladin did not stay long, maybe a few weeks, but in that time he had come to know a young boy whose parents had wandered into the dark waters of the lake.

"They didn't take any of their things," the boy said his bottom lip quivering. "They didn't take me. They....they didn't even say goodbye or that they loved me."

The paladin put his arms around the boy who wept into his shoulder, feeling alone and unwanted. "It will be alright," the paladin said unsure if his words were true.

Most children would eventually follow after their parents, but the boy tried on multiple occasions and could bring himself to do it, but each time he felt compelled to not go through with it. He wondered if he even loved his parents.

The paladin explained that while a member of The Order, he did not fight as they did and explained to the boy that he was a soulweaver, what that meant, and even apprenticed the boy in his craft. During that time, the paladin remained at the inn despite the distrust from the townspeople. A distrust he shared for them.

"Should we meet again, you'll know," the paladin said when the boy asked his name despite not sharing his own.

Years later, Innsmouth saw a surge of activity when the population began to grow rapidly. This boon was attributed to the lakes blessing despite the town having nothing in the way of an economy.

The boy having since grown into a man continued to hone his abilities, remembering the words of the paladin and what it means to be a defender of justice.

"I'm sorry but, I can't take you with me, but there will always be someone by your side even if you can't see them right now," the paladin had said as he readied to leave Innsmouth. "Again, I'm sorry."

While something compelled him as a child to not walk into the black waters of the lake, ever since he was fifteen, something compelled him to stand under the shadow of the lighthouse where he would stare at the lakes surface that remained still like a pane of glass, the black light reflecting off the ethereal yellow eyes of whatever lurked beneath the surface.

Since the sudden population growth, the young man had become a stranger in the town he was born in. Whenever he looked at the townspeople, something was off about them. They had a look about them that was vacant, but suggested they were looking at something distant. Not only were their eyes different, but their physical attributes took on different almost aquatic properties.

You will join them.

Chapter III: The Baron

Since his resurrection, Baron Jaysun Valtrith reclaimed his castle at the edge of Doomwood, but it brought him no comfort. Everything he had sought to achieve dashed yet again and once more his body was destroyed and in doing so, scattered the components of his body leaving him with almost nothing, but whatever the strange man could scrape together turning him into a mockery of what he once was.

His chambers were littered with the bodies of humans and other lifeforms that were captured or unfortunate enough to get within reach of the tendrils that emerged from his body, leaving behind only husks that would sprout new life and then be gilded over. Something that made up his body had an insatiable hunger and lived only to feed. Something else as if working with the source of his hunger always produced a new source of nutrients from the old, but became inedible for even the thing inside him.

There was something else inside him that he couldn't quite figure out. It seemed like another presence as if he wasn't alone, but it remained deep within as though it were hiding and waiting.

And then there was the man and the thing that followed him. The thing reminded him of Catiff which only served to exasperate his anger while the man was more powerful than he let on which sparked his own curiosity. Who was this man? What was his goal? What is he?

Baron Valtrith left his chambers, the halls of his castle littered with the gilded husks of spontaneously created humans and other lifeforms. This body grew tiresome with each passing day. It was as if it acted on its own instinct rather than obey his will. Something needed to be done. Something will be done.

In the library, various lifeforms be they human or animal materialized, tendrils immediately lashed out from the Baron's body draining them of their very essence, leaving only emaciated corpses behind which were soon covered in gold. Whatever base creatures made up his body filled him with ire.

"Have you been coming accustomed to you new body?" the plain faced man in the formal clothes asked from the library entrance.

"What is the meaning of this? What lowly beasts did you use to resurrect me?" Baron Valtrith demanded, brandishing his clawed hand.

"I brought you back with just enough faculties to do what must be done."

"And who are you to determine what must be done? And who are you to think you can use me to do it?"

"I have gone by many names, but you may call me Samael," the man said. "And what needs to be done is bring about the death of a god."

Baron Valtrith smiled beneath his mask. "When do we begin?"

Chapter IV: The Ascendant

She knew something was amiss, but she didn't know what. The strange constellation forming in the sky above was testament to that, but beyond that she had no real lead or real starting point. The only thing that was certain was she wouldn't find any answers in Amityvale.

With the stars as her guide, she left the town that since her training as an Ascendant was more of a second home to her despite it being the place of her birth.

The road was long and the journey lonely. While she felt a connection to the stars and cosmos as a whole, they did not make for good travel companions. Though her training as an Ascendant gave her a greater understanding of the stars and the world far above the clouds, it also gave her an even greater understanding of how small and insignificant she was which reminded her of how alone she is.

A wolf howled in the distance, a cry to the moon that would go unheard by the one it was meant for.

How many times had she heard similar cries, she wondered. It seemed countless ever since the moon was able to reveal itself, but each one reminded her of the night in Crystal Clear Lake many years ago as though it were only recent.

***

"I know this is asking a lot," they began as their body began to spasm and twitch. "But I need you to..." their voice began to deepen, becoming guttural. Beastial.

"Please..." she pleaded, stepping back, her footing on the walkway slipping.

"Kill me!" they roared, over the sound of their body transforming, a sickening crack with each expanding bone.

***

In the present, she began to gag as she caught a whiff of something putrid. Then came the sounds of something or multiple somethings shambling through the trees and foliage, stumbling along the way. The smell grew stronger as what moved through the woods drew closer. It became apparent the scent was rot.

A trio of creatures similar to the zombies that sometimes rose from the graveyard outside Amityvale shambled and stumbled from the trees, the Ascendant freezing in her tracks. The creatures were decayed far more than any zombie with what remained of them malformed to the point they didn't have even the slightest bit of resemblance to a human if that's even what they were in the first place.

The creatures sniffed the air like the wolves that prowled the woods, a strange sound emanating from them that sounded like a growl or rattling bones, but was wet at the same time possibly as a result of their decaying flesh. They took a few more steps, continuing to find the scent of something before turning their attention to the Ascendant.

She materialized her weapon, a silver scythe with a wolf-like motif to it as the creatures approached her. She took a deep breath, trying not to gag as she raised her weapon, reciting an incantation under her breath. It wasn't optimal use of her abilities, but she was unsure if she'd have time to build up her strength.

A ring of runes appeared around her while a staff-shaped sigil appeared above. Seconds later, light rained down upon the creatures like falling stars, vaporizing them.

She let out a sigh in relief that whatever it was that appeared before her was weak that even a single spell lacking in enhancements was enough to dispose of them.

She gazed at the scythe in her hands, a feeling of melancholy coming over her. She recalled the day it was given to her with the words "Just in case." A silver scythe forged with an emblem resembling a wolf and decorated with a wolf's nails. There was a sort of irony in that the first time she would use it to take a life it would be that of a werewolf. Maybe it was intentional, maybe it was coincidence.

Dismissing her weapon eased her mind a little while gazing at the stars eased it a little bit more. She had been on the road for awhile and was still no closer to figuring out the mystery of why the stars were forming a straight line.

Continuing down the road, she came across a dilapidated building, baring symbols of the Avatars that had ravaged by time. To her, she thought it had been a sanctuary of sorts for travelers to seek refuge in during times long since which for today would describe her.

Chapter V: Dark Dreams

In the beginning, there was only darkness. This was true for the universe, the birth of all things, and her dream. Darkness and silence that felt like it would've lasted forever if not for a single drop of water, disrupting the calm surface of a body of water.

What is this? she thought.

All around her there was only black until a drop of water struck, creating visible ripples.

Am I still alive?

Another drop. On the water's surface, an image of Lore appeared. Another drop, louder this time and soon stars began to appear. She was drifting through the cosmos and she began to feel at ease.

Another even louder drop, exploded on the surface sending shocks through her body.

The stars began to vanish, blanketed by monsters from beyond time and space except for the image that started her journey. A constellation so close, she could touch it. Stars forming a straight line. The monster soared on ancient wings, sails, and something else entirely began to descend on Lore like a plague.

Another drop, another explosion. An earsplitting cacophony of water on water, threatening to rend her mind asunder.

"Stop it," she said as the water kept dropping. "Stop it, stop it, stop it," she began to plead.

The water drops grew louder and louder, the waves coursing through her body growing painful until she thought her body would be torn apart.

"Stop it, stop it, stop it," she begged clutching her head.

The image changed. She was no longer among the stars, but instead on a plateau made of some kind of stone resembling marble, but there was something alien about it. Among the sights were piles of stones like that of what she was standing on, each one cut into a perfectly smooth rectangle and stacked one on top of the other, but they were not flush. She could see a slight gap in between each one as if they were levitating.

She looked out to the distance seeing an ocean of black water with something even darker visible just below the surface.

"No water is dark enough to hide my blood," the thing below the surface said in a deep, gargled voice.

Another drop and the image shifted once more.

She was in the middle of a town that seemed abandoned by time and any form of life, but most peculiar was the lighthouse in the middle of a lake that projected a black light over the lakes black water.

"No wind is strong enough to scatter my dreams," came the voice, but not from the water as before, but all around.

***

The Ascendant snapped awake, her body drenched in a cold sweat. She was in the sanctuary, the wood rotting and the entirety of the structure creaking with even the slightest breeze.

She wondered if this building served some kind of purpose beyond merely a place for travelers to squat, trying not to think about her dream and what she saw or what could have possibly been speaking to her.

She picked herself up and left the sanctuary behind her as she continued down the road. Her dream meant something, perhaps a premonition of what was to come or where she should be headed.

As she made her way down the road, she noticed a repugnant stench in the air. It was somehow worse than that of the monsters on the road and grew stronger as she carried on, making her feel ill.

As she stumbled down the road, periodically dry heaving, a sign battered by the elements and time came into view.

"Inns...mouth?" she said as her sickness got the best of her and all went black.

Chapter VI: First Meetings

His nightly ritual of gazing at the lighthouse had reached its conclusion. Staring into the fog and shadows felt like a rigorous task and completing it if only for a short time lifted a tremendous burden off his shoulders.

Beginning to return home, he caught sight of something by the towns entrance. He stared at it before investigating. The townspeople did not go near the town entrance, meaning it could only be someone from the outside.

The paladin did not only teach him about the heart and soul and how to weave their threads for use in battle, but also the Order of Paladins dogma.

A Paladin does not use their abilities to do harm to someone for their own reasons. Anger taints the light that shines within us all, he recalled a voice from long ago saying. A Paladin will always aid those in needs regardless of circumstances. Kindness and selflessness is what keeps the light that shines within us all shining bright.

Collapsed outside the town was a woman in elaborate robes he had never seen before, held in place on some parts with metal snaps and a wide opening over her midsection that did not seem to serve a purpose, but seeing it made him feel strange. He wondered if the paladin had seen such attire before. Thinking of his mentor and the closest he had to a paternal figure since his parents went into the lake filled him with sadness.

Her other features were largely obscured by the fog, but he could make out her hair was dark like the water of the lake unlike his hair that is white like the full moon.

The threads that made up her soul were visible, indicating she was still alive despite her condition, but she carried the stench of rotting Draydenfish that lingered over the town since he could remember despite having never seen one in his life only knowing what it is because of the paladin.

***

His home had remained unchanged since his parents left other than his bedroom in response to his aging from childhood to adulthood. It was painful to be in his own home, but he couldn't make the pain go away.

He laid the woman down on his bed and lit a lamp, illuminating her features. Her skin was far darker than his implying she was either not from Darkovia or if she was she had been to other regions sometime in the not so distant past. He wondered where she came from and how and why she was in Innsmouth. The last person to come to Innsmouth was the paladin from his childhood. Thinking of the paladin filled him with sadness, his eyes tearing up while the idea of someone coming to Innsmouth made him feel hopeful.

He looked over the woman who in comparison to the few inhabitants of the town to not taken on a quasi-amphibious appearance, she was a goddess. Something about her made him feel at ease for the first time in what felt like an eternity, but as he knew nothing good lasts forever and she began to stir and shift in her sleep, opening her eyes to see a stranger staring down at her.

The ascendant sat up, a panicked look on her face, the man who looked at her, recoiled as though he had been struck. She opened her mouth to speak, but soon covered her mouth and gagged.

"Are...are you okay?" he asked nervously, his voice shaking. He wasn't used to having contact with humans or anyone else for that matter.

"I...I think so," she started trying to control her gagging. "Just a little nauseous."

She looked at him through bleary eyes. The smell lingered even indoors, but he was unphased. It was nothing short of a miracle that he could be accustomed to it.

Blinking the sleep from her eyes, she looked over her rescuer. His skin was the same colour as snow or the full moon, his hair reminded her of a soulweaver she had heard stories about. Despite being an adult his features were quite childlike, cherubic even. She wondered what his smile looked like. But his most striking feature was his piercing blue eyes like the sky over the world outside Darkovia although the dark rings around them suggested he didn't sleep much if at all.

He too looked at her, curiously like how a cat might stare at an insect, but a hint of fear in his eyes like he was afraid of her which was when she realized he must think she's gawking at him and she quickly looked away, feeling warmth in her cheeks.

"S...sorry."

He didn't look away though, the curiosity in his gaze only becoming stronger, but the fear seemed to lessen.

"Thank you for rescuing me. I'm Xalia."

"Pleased to meet you, Xalia," he responded his voice soft, barely above a whisper.

Most people would have introduced themselves in this sort of situation, but Xalia figured he wasn't like most people. He seemed like this was the first time he had ever spoken to someone for the first time in a long time or maybe his entire life.

Does he have a name? Xalia wondered.

"Where am I?" she asked. "Last I recall I saw a sign and I guess whatever that smell is got to me."

"Innsmouth," he began. "According to someone very dear to me, the smell is rotting Draydenfish," he continued, sadness coming into his voice. "It was present for as long as I remember, but I've never seen a Draydenfish before, so I don't know where it comes from."

Innsmouth? I've never heard of that town.

"You're the first person to come to Innsmouth in a long time," he said. "Are...are you planning on leaving?"

He choked on his words and even in the dim light of the oil lamp, Xalia could see tears forming in his eyes. In just the few minutes she has known him, she could tell he was very lonely and had been as such for a long time.

"Yes. There's somewhere I need to go."

He remembered back to his childhood and the day the paladin left Innsmouth. They had this exact same exchange.

"Please take me with you," he begged. "I...I don't want to be alone anymore."

He said those same words to the paladin. "I'm sorry, but I can't take you with me," the paladin had said. He was expecting Xalia to say the exact same words.

Xalia felt her heart sink. What was it that could make a grown adult seem more like a frightened child?

"Okay. It was a pretty lonely journey anyways."

Eyes wet with tears, he smiled. It was small, almost forced like he had to try and remember how to do it, but to Xalia it was the brightest thing in the room.

Xalia smiled back which quickly faded when the man fell to his knees, clutching his head and gritting his teeth in pain.

You WILL join them.

Chapter VII: The Shadows Over Innsmouth

Xalia slowly approached the soulweaver who muttered through clenched teeth, his words feintly audible.

"What...what's wrong?"

She couldn't understand what he said as she got closer until she placed a hand on him which prompted him to hastily retreat from her until his back was to the wall, panting and covered in sweat. Xalia couldn't tell what frightened him, her touch or whatever was plaguing him.

"What's wrong?"

He wasn't sure how to describe it. Something spoke to him, but not only that it showed him images that frightened and threatened to tear his already fragile psyche apart.

"I...I don't know."

Xalia slowly stepped towards him, stopping when he continued to try and back away like a scared animal.

"P-please don't come any closer."

Xalia stepped back, rejected and hurt. He truly was afraid of her. "I'm sorry," she said dejectedly.

The soulweaver retreated further into himself, bringing his knees up, wrapping his arms around them and burying his face.

What's wrong with me? he thought.

***

Beneath the waters of Innsmouth's lake a great and ancient being dwelled considered a god to the townspeople since a time when the sea covered most of Lore's surface.

Lazily swimming in the water were other creatures, some resembling humans other resembling something more sinister and far more ancient and powerful. Something resembling the Great Old One, Kathool.

The creatures resembling humans swam up towards the surface of the lake, returning shortly after with a human in white robes who was overjoyed to see their god in the flesh. The creatures resembling humans released the human and swam off leaving the human to be consumed by the Great Old One dwelling in the lake.

The creatures resembling Kathool spoke of an outsider entering the town for the second time in what was to them recent history, years to those living above the black waters of the lake passing for days at most to the ancient beings residing below them.

The quasi-humanoid creatures began to swim towards the surface to purge the outsider.

***

Xalia did not look at the soulweaver, her mind heavy with guilt and confusion. Unknown to her, his own mind was also marred with guilt, but also fear and confusion. The two intended to leave the town, but both knew they were too damaged for any good to come of it.

From outside came the sound of drums and flutes, but they were not arranged in any melody, but a maddening cacophony with no structure or rhythm as if it was meant to be used as a weapon.

The sound got closer and the noise clearer, more madness inducing. The soulweaver began to whimper and whine until he began screaming as if the noise was slowly cutting into him.

Break, said a guttural voice in the back of his mind.

Despite her reservations, Xalia took one of the soulweaver's arms and slung it over her shoulder, picking him up. He felt almost weightless as though he were as light and fragile as he looked.

She carried him through the house and swung open the door, a flash of white light blinding her. Her eyes took a second to adjust and she could see it was coming from the lighthouse.

"Ia! Ia! Ia!" chanted a gathering crowd of beings in white robes and monstrosities that may have been human at one point before engaging in whatever dark ritual turned them into the vaguely amphibious creatures that stood before them.

She did not have time to wonder how this boy with features that could only be described as cherubic live among these things that defied creation.

His screams managed to drown out the noise, but not the chanting as Xalia dragged him from the house, towards the town entrance. The mob hurled javelins erratically more often than not missing their target by large distances. Xalia got a glimpse of one that managed to get close to her, seeing that it resembled some kind of tentacle, possibly explaining the erratic trajectory.

"Ia! Ia! Ia!" the mob chanted.

Xalia dragged the soulweaver outside the town and down the road until her lungs burned and legs gave out. She didn't even notice the soulweaver stopped screaming.

The soulweaver was the first to pick himself up. He looked around fearfully, his surroundings completely alien to him. Xalia sat up, her breathing returning to normal.

"Thank you," he said with a weak smile.

Chapter VIII: Into the Woods

The two stood in the middle of the road, Xalia looking over her shoulder on the look for any pursuers while the soulweaver seemed fearful of the forest surrounding them.

"Do you think they're following us?" Xalia asked, looking down the road towards Innsmouth.

"No," the soulweaver said, a look of sadness washing over him. "The townspeople never leave. Not by the road at least."

The soulweaver frantically looked around at every sound coming from the trees, jumping at both the sounds of the forest and then with the feeling of Xalia taking his hand. His skin was soft in contrast to her own hands rough and calloused from her scythe.

"Is this your first time outside of Innsmouth?" she asked.

"Y...yes."

He was clearly more afraid of being outside his hometown than she had ever been in her life. She felt sorry for him.

"If you're scared," Xalia began, trying to work up the nerve to finish her thought. "I will protect you."

She wasn't sure if she could fulfill that promise, but it brought a smile to his face. Unlike the previous time he smiled at her, this time seemed more authentic like something lost to him had been recently found. It made her feel warm.

The moment was dispelled by a rustling from the trees. Bandits were not common in Darkovia or its Doomwood, but what lurked within its dark woods away from the moons light made her hope it was merely bandits until a gentle breeze caught a massive spider web in the moons light, freezing Xalia in place.

Crawling from the trees, along the web came a purple spider that even by those found throughout Lore was quite large, but nothing too out of the ordinary.

The spider looked at them, taking them in with its many eyes.

The soulweaver let go of Xalia's hand, almost reluctantly. Innsmouth had its occasional spider, but something about this one was strange yet also familiar to an extent as though something about it was similar to something else he had seen.

A purple glow came over his hands as a three bladed spirit loom appeared and as quickly as his weapon appeared, he dispatched the spider and its web.

He's a Soulweaver.... she thought, amazed by his speed and how fast he was able to dispatch the monster and embarrassed about her earlier statement.

He dispelled his weapons, looking nothing like someone who emerged victorious from battle even one so one-sided. He seemed lost.

A Paladin will always aid those in needs regardless of circumstances. Kindness and selflessness is what keeps the light that shines within us all shining bright, he repeated to himself.

The two continued down the road in silence other than the rustling of leaves and the distant howling of a wolf, a sound that always pained Xalia's heart.

Eventually they came across a dilapidated structure as Xalia had found previously, but something about this one was different. Inside was a strange sigil shaped like a T with one side of the sigil being longer than the other. Even stranger was the smell of sea water despite Doomwood and the greater Darkovia not being near a coast. What was once a sanctuary for weary travelers had an evil presence stronger than that of Innsmouth to it.

"What were those in Innsmouth?" Xalia asked, breaking the silence.

"The people of Innsmouth," the soulweaver said matter of factly.

"All of them? Including the..." Xalia began unsure of how to describe the beings with various aquatic traits.

"All of them," he began his tone remaining the same. "Even...even the Deep Ones," he finished his voice cracking as though trying to fight off tears.

Xalia didn't press him further, the questions causing him pain. If she hurt him, she'd never see his smile again. A smile more precious to her than even the stars above.

"We can't stay here," he said before continuing down the road.

Chapter IX: The Coven

Baron Valtrith required assistance. He was proud, but he was not arrogant or so he believed. What he sought to do was something his would-be cult could never hope to accomplish.

He poured over various tomes and the ritual that would need performing. It would require powerful magics and in Darkovia that was not in short supply.

Necromancers and Yaga covens were plentiful like fleas on a dog, but necromancy was useless for this ritual leaving only the covens.

Vanshees swarmed the swamps and forests of the lands by the thousands to seek out and find only the strongest and snuff out the weak until only one was left.

This would take time.

***

Valtrith wandered the castle halls, the creatures making up his body creating, feeding on, and gilding new life until coming across the creature Samael referred to as Furorem, wandering and staggering aimlessly. The sight of it reminding him of Caitiff, filled him with hatred and disgust.

Furorem's head lolled to one side with a sickening series of cracks then abruptly returning to an upright position.

"Getting acquainted, are we?" Samael asked having seemingly appeared out of nowhere.

"What is the purpose of this monstrosity?" Valtrith growled.

"A little side project," Samael replied expressing little interest in Valtrith's question.

"Keep it somewhere out of my sight before I rip those daggers from its skull."

While Valtrith stormed off, Samael watched Furorem who seemed to be cowering at either the sight of Valtrith or his threat as though some part of the scared young man still remained.

"How curious that the human soul would be so resilient."

Furorem's body spasmed violently and Samael could swear he heard something that sounded like it was attempting to speak.

"Come now, we're going to take a trip to Miskatonic. Perhaps you remember it. It has changed though."

***

Three days had passed before the Vanshees returned, their numbers having dwindled since being dispatched, but it was of no concern to Valtrith. Undead were easily replaceable.

During that time, he poured over the various tomes in his castles library, a particularly old and decaying text Samael provided being of particular interest.

Supposedly it was written by a mad magician from the Sandsea, but its origins were of no concern as opposed to its contents. Descriptions of various otherworldly beasts, beings, and magics written in a tongue he had never seen before, but could somehow decipher as though it were as plain as the common tongue he spoke.

He thought of Caitiff and its pursuit of knowledge in its goal to crush Lore's Hero and its failure. And its betrayal.

He let out a roar and lashed out at one of the gilded husks of a being created by whatever made up his body, cleaving it in two with his claws. The thought of somehow being anything like the traitor that wore his sister's face filled him with rage.Rage he would unleash on the entirety of Lore.

With the decaying tome in hand, he set out to the courtyard to examine the Vanshees find.

***

Valtrith entered the courtyard expecting grotesque hags as Darkovia's witches often were, but was instead greeted by three young, nubile women, a tall brunette and two redheads one a few inches shorter than the brunette and one at least half a foot shorter in attire that'd fill the hearts and minds of mortals with lust.

The brunette who was presumably the leader stepped forward, her voice stern yet seductive.

"So what have you summoned us for? I seem to recall you were no longer."

"Your coven was deemed the strongest and thus worthy of fulfilling my request," Valtrith said straining himself to remain level headed.

The shortest of the three stifled a laugh.

"Why would we lower ourselves to do anything for you? You can't even control the things that make up your body," the shortest witch said mockingly.

Under other circumstances, Valtrith would've ripped her throat out and perhaps still would if she and the others weren't compliant.

"I have a ritual that needs performing. Aid me in that and this text is yours," Valtrith said presenting the ancient tome. "Completing the ritual should act as a demonstration of its contents."

The taller redhead stepped forward and looked at the tome, a grin spreading across her face. Her voice was stern like the brunette's, but lacked the same charm.

"This is quite the tome indeed, but unless you can translate it, it's useless to us."

"I indeed have translated the ritual you will be performing. After that, you're on your own for the rest."

"It will require some time," the brunette said.

"Take all the time you need," Valtrith said, a monstrous grin forming beneath his mask.

Chapter X: Webs

The two arrived in the town of Miskatonic three days after fleeing Innsmouth. The town is roughly the same size of Amityvale or perhaps smaller.

Three days or foraging to stretch Xalia's limited provisions had the two grateful for an opportunity to have an actual meal especially when Xalia's survival skills were quite limited while the soulweaver had none to speak of.

Beyond the spider webs and the infestation of their maker, the towns only defining feature was a large building with a barely readable sign outside claiming the building to be Miskatonic University. Despite the presence of the university, the town showed no signs of having been occupied by the Rose.

The streets were largely empty except for a group of three people doing everything in their power to eradicate the spiders, one person running the larger ones through with a lance while the other two hastily covered the body in pitch and set it aflame. The two wretched at the stench of the arachnids burning carapace, but Xalia felt her heart become at ease at the sight of someone trying to quell the spiders no matter how ineffective it was.

"Hey, you two!" the one wielding the lance called out. "Get inside before more of them come out."

Not wanting to object, Xalia took the soulweaver's hand and went towards the first building she saw. The word tavern could scarcely be seen underneath a mat of webs.

Inside the tavern was a few people, mostly adventurer looking types possibly in town either by accident or hoping to make a name for themselves by putting an end to the spider infestation.

At the counter was a large completely bald man sporting a beard that appeared to have gone a few years without any care looked at the two with a bored expression thinking they were just more adventurers.

The two found an open table, the soulweaver looking around nervously as if he had not seen so many people in one place, shrinking in his seat when the tavernmaster approached them.

"What'll it be?" the man said, sounding as bored as he looked.

"Two of...the house special?" Xalia said unsure of what to even say.

"Right," the man said walking away without another word.

"Spider!" someone in the tavern shouted, multiple adventurers pushing their seats back as they stood and drew their weapons, Xalia freezing in her own.

"Freeze it!" someone else shouted and soon the spider, a black one the size of a large dog was encased in a block of ice by one of the many mages present.

Unfettered by the display that unfolded in his establishment, the tavernmaster returned with two bowls of an unappetizing grey greul, his face showing a bit more expression as he sat the bowls down before the two.

"You're not like the usual people that come here. What brings you to this slice of Hell?"

"We're going somewhere, but we're not sure where," Xalia said looking away from the tavernmaster to the soulweaver who ate the gruel as though it had been weeks since he had eaten.

The tavernmaster chuckled. "Eloping, are you? Might I suggest somewhere with some sun? Young lad here looks like he hasn't seen moonlight let alone sunlight."

The soulweaver looked at the tavernmaster a look of shock and embarrassment on his face while Xalia looked towards the gruel before her, blushing. "N...no, it's nothing like that. We've only known each other for a few days now."

The tavernmaster looked the soulweaver over. Despite having seen many people from across Greenguard and Darkovia in general, something about the soulweaver seemed different to him. He had many traits like those of the people of Darkovia, but something about him seemed foreign.

"Where are you from, partner?"

"Innsmouth."

The tavernmaster scratched his beard in thought. "Innsmouth, you say? Hm, I recall some paladin type awhile ago saying he came from there."

The soulweaver looked at the man in shock. "You know him? When was he here? Where did he go?"

"Slow down, partner. This was years ago back when this town was something more than just a nest for spiders."

The soulweaver stared into his lap, dejected. "Oh. Okay."

"Why is this town the way it is, if you don't mind me asking?" Xalia said looking at the soulweaver, feeling his sadness wash over her.

"This town always had a spider problem probably the cave network beneath the town, but the last two years it has gotten worse. Figured when some of those Rose types came in years ago, they'd have done something about it, but all they did was spend most of their time poking around the university before saddling off to Arkham. Town was still more lively, but with the spiders and the few traders from Dunwich that used to come by stopped. It's only a matter of time before either the spiders overwhelm us or what limited stock I have runs out. Don't even know why I still keep these doors open."

Sadness overcomes the tavernmaster as he turns to walk away.

"At the inn is some professor from when people attended the university. He might be able to tell you about where you're looking to go."

The two sat in silence as the tavernmaster walked away, heading through a door presumably to a backroom rather than back behind the counter.

***

The inns lobby was similar to that of the tavern with various adventurers crowding around acting as a sort of security detail.

Behind the counter was an older woman who seemed annoyed by the adventurers showed the same expression to the two of them as they approached the counter.

"I don't have any rooms," the woman snapped.

"Oh. We were just wondering if you could tell us about the professor staying here."

"Oh?" said the innkeeper, her expression softening up. "He doesn't like to be disturbed at this time, but..." she trailed off leaning in as she slide a pair of keys across the counter. "Your rooms are beside his, talk to him during the morning hours."

"Thank you," Xalia said.

The two would turn in for what they had hoped would be a good nights rest, but nothing ever turns out how we want it.

***

"Look familiar?" Samael asked the monster that trembled beside him as he watched the trio terminate and torch a spider. "Hm, that is not the child of the one who stirs beneath this town."

"End...me..." said a voice from the monster, but it was not that of Furorem, but that of its host somehow still clinging to its body.

"Hey! Get in...what the?" one of the exterminators said at the sight of the plain faced man in the formal clothes standing beside something resembling a young man in blood stained clothes with large almost sword-like daggers protruding from its eyes.

"Somebody, get out here!" another exterminator called towards the tavern.

"Show me why you exist," Samael said to its monster.

Furorem let out a shriek as the daggers turned in its hosts skull, black ichor oozing from the widened holes. The skull emblems on the daggers faced the exterminators and began cackling as the monster bent its body at a forty-five degree angel and in a flash the blades nearest the cackling skulls pierced the torch holding exterminator releasing more of the black ichor that oozed from the monster.

Samael watched disinterested as Furorem hastily tore the three apart. There was still some work to be done.

< Message edited by NagisaXIkari -- 1/6/2019 9:02:53 >
DF  Post #: 1
1/8/2019 4:29:02   
NagisaXIkari
Member

Interlude I: Preparation

Baron Valtrith watched over the ritual grounds via balcony, the cultists fumbling with the witches commands. If Samael spoke true, the ritual would unleash a terrifying force unlike anything seen on the face of this star. Of course he doubted the words of the man who would bring a monster like the one he created into his presence and let it wander the halls of his castle.

Valtrith gripped the balconies railing, stone cracking in his grip at the thought of the thing that dared to usurp him.

Valtrith loosened his grip, looking back at the ritual grounds. They would still need time to finish.

Take all the time you need, Valtrith thought, a monstrous grin appearing beneath his mask.

Chapter XI: Web of Shadows

In his room, the soulweaver tossed and turned, his sleep disturbed it had been for many years.

A deep, guttural voice invaded his thoughts repeating the same words and phrases. "You cannot resist," "You will join them," "Break," "Drown," "Fall," with nothing to suggest who or what was assaulting his mind.

"Arkham," a new voice yet at the same time somehow familiar as though he hadn't heard it in a long time said to him.

The soulweaver sat bolt upright, drenched in a cold sweat. How long had it been since he had truly slept? Would a day where he could finally sleep come?

***

Xalia stared up at the night sky above Miskatonic, the sky clear like crystal. She felt at ease for the first time since the journey began until the moon's light caught the feint threads beginning to take shape obscuring the sky.

Emerging from in and around the town came various spiders of all kinds of shapes from small ones she could barely see to ones the size of dragons all to take part in the construction of the web.

Xalia began to tremble, her body shaking more and more as the spiders emerged and begun chanting.

"Atlach-Nacha," the spiders chanted in unison as they worked, their chanting growing faster and faster.

The moon darkened as a titanic purple spider like the one encountered on the road crept across the web, weaving into the web like a tapestry, forming intricate runes.

Fear paralyzed Xalia as the titan spider, slowly descended from the web, sporting a vaguely human face frozen in an expression of doubt and inquiry, gazing deeply into her. It opened its mouth, exposing its mandibles like scythe blades.

***

Xalia awoke with a scream. Panting and drenched in sweat, she frantically looked around the room, unsure of what time it was, the moons light obscured by the spiders webs that covered the window. It may have been business as usual for the townspeople, but it unnerved her greatly and made her eager to leave.

She stepped out of the room to see the soulweaver in the hall standing outside his own room.

"Couldn't sleep either?" she asked, her breathing less frantic.

"I don't sleep," he said his voice showing no hint of exaggeration.

Xalia didn't question it, she could tell since she first met him.

"I guess we should talk with that professor," Xalia said trying to stifle a yawn.

Ever since the journey began, she too has had troubles sleeping, but looking at the soulweaver she couldn't help but wonder how he functioned in the shape he was in and how fragile he looked.

They hear some movement behind the door the innkeeper told them was the professor's room, an elderly man opening the door slightly, brandishing a knife, withdrawing it upon seeing the two.

"Can I help you?" he asked, not opening the door any further.

"We hoped you could tell us about the town. And maybe another thing," Xalia said nervously

"That old fool at the tavern tell you about me?"

"Is that a problem, sir?" Xalia asked nervously.

The elderly man grumbled something under his breath, opening the door wider, rushing them in.

With a quick glance down the halls, he closed and latched the door, putting his back to it, breathing a sigh in relief.

"Is everything okay, sir?" Xalia asked.

"You should know very well it's not. You've undoubtedly seen the spiders that plague the town. And in the far reaches of Darkovia, no one's going to save us. All these adventurers won't even buy us a moment reprisal."

The elderly man staggered to a table beside the bed, reaching for an uncorked glass bottle and poured some of its contents into a glass. Still clutching the knife, his shaking hands rattled the glass against the knife's steel before taking a loud gulp and letting out another sign as though he had taken his first drink in days.

"The spiders were always there, but the Rose never bothered to try and do anything about them even after dragging the corpse of a big purple one the size of a gorillaphant into the university. Just passing through they would say, preparing to go to Arkham. Only a few stayed behind to root around the university. A token gesture. They didn't know what they were up against and knew there was nothing they could do."

The elderly man refilled his glass and chugged it down.

"Where did the spiders come from?" Xalia asked.

"No one knows," the man replied. "Some say the caves that run underneath the town. Probably always been here. They were probably here long before any of us. Probably be here long after we're gone. That's just how these things work."

"You can't really believe that, can you?" Xalia asked, regretting the decision to talk to this man.

"I've spent my whole life in this town. I was here when people came here to learn and I'll be here to watch it fall. The town watch is never going to succeed in repelling them and those adventurers are never going to do the same. it's either stay indoors until you starve or try to escape and be at their mercy."

The elderly man went to refill his glass once more, uncorking a new bottle to do so. In the dark, the two could see him sway, barely able to stand, but his hands did not shake although his speech grew faster.

"You had other inquiries, yes?" the elderly man asked, slurring his words.

Xalia describes the plateau she saw in her dream and inquired if it were a real place and where it is if it were.

The elderly man nearly choked on his drink.

"No, I have never heard of such a place. Sounds like a fever dream. What about you, boy? Care to bother me with a question?" the man snapped, whatever he had been drinking affecting his temperament.

"What is Arkham?" the soulweaver asked nervously.

The man let out an exasperated sigh.

"Named after the family that built a house that later became an asylum, Arkham is a town between here and Dunwich. The Rose were more interested in it than here probably because anything magic related they don't like there, they have an on-site prison for it right there."

The elderly man downed his drink and roughly placed the glass on the table before falling backwards onto the bed.

"All right, I've entertained enough of your questions. Get out of my room," the elderly man growled.

The two said their thank yous, the elderly man cursing under his breath.

***

The inns hallway was covered wall to wall in spiderwebs, spiders of varying sizes crawling in and around them, the smaller ones squeezing under doors and through keyholes while the larger ones crawled along the walls, floors, and ceilings.

Xalia's body froze with fear that slowly melted away when she felt the touch of the soulweaver's hand, taking hers.

"Do not be afraid," he said. "I will protect you."

Chapter XII: Spider Nest

The soulweaver let go of Xalia's hand, his own hands being consumed in a dark light, forming an almost trident-like weapon on his hands. In a flash he was down the hall, various spiders crawling along the walls cut down in an instant. But for each spider her cut down, tiny newborn spiders would erupt from the body of the fallen and scatter into the torn webs or into rooms.

Spiders descended from the ceiling only to be cut down again as the soulweaver made another run down the hall, more newborn spiders emerging from the slain spiders.

"We need to go," the soulweaver said, stating the obvious.

Xalia did not hesitate to follow the soulweaver as he cut through the spiders, scattering their newborn until they got downstairs to the lobby.

Scattered around the lobby were the weapons of the adventurers, their bodies cocooned in webs like the rest of the lobby.

Spiders emerged from the cocoons and rushed the two only for the soulweaver to cut them down as they fled the inn.

***

The old professor sat on his bed, feeling countless tiny spiders run across his hands and face. Taking another sip off his drink, he coughed, spitting up spiders, the glass shattering on the floor.

"It's awake," he said in a hoarse tone as the countless tiny spiders scurried into his ears and nostrils.

***

The exterior of the inn was covered in spiderwebs as was the outside of the tavern while littering the streets were the cocooned bodies of what they could only assume was the adventurers and possibly the remaining townspeople although three bodies were curiously untouched by the spiders. As the two moved through the streets, they recognized the three as the town watch, butchered by some unknown to them force.

Multiple spiders began to converge on them, some even appearing to come from the sky, descending on threads from a giant web spun between the inn and tavern.

The soulweaver dispelled his weapons and waved his hands, drawing a pair of elaborate glyphs, one beneath him and one on his left hand. A white light emerged from the glyphs followed by bolts of light raining down, vaporizing multiple spiders.

***

Deep within the cave network beneath the town, Samael trekked through the ancient caverns Furorem bumbling behind.

Numerous spiders littered the cave floors, cut down by the monster, black ichor covering and eating away at the bodies.

"Are you really upset over that whole fang incident? It's not like it was your only child," Samael said to no one in particular, his echoing voice being the only response.

"You and I both know you don't have a chance at opposing me. The way you're reacting, you'd think I took one of your fangs."

The cavern opened up to a large opening with an enormous chasm in the center soon filled by the emergence of an enormous spider with a face resembling that of a human frozen in an expression of doubt and inquiry.

"That's better. Now then, I have a request of you and you kin."

The giant spider did not change its expression nor made any gesture like it was to speak.

"Kathool is awakening and I want some of your children to do away with its spawn before they reach the ocean."

The enormous spider retreated back into the chasm without an answer.

Chapter XIII: Spider's Lair

"What should we do?" Xalia asked the Soulweaver, but felt like she was just talking to herself.

"We end this," the Soulweaver said, his voice carrying an uncharacteristic sternness.

It's what he would've said.

The Soulweaver began to head deeper into the town towards the entrance to the cave network, Xalia following behind, the spiders largely ignoring the two as they left the town heading to somewhere else.

***

Few spiders acknowledged the two, the Soulweaver cutting them down, the smaller newborn spiders that emerged from their slain couriers scurrying out of the cave as if following some ingrained command from a higher power.

At the end of the cavern, they came to the seemingly bottomless cavern that was so wide they were unsure if there was even another end.

"What do we do now?" Xalia asked, finding herself clinging to the Soulweaver's shirt.

Jump, a voice said to the Soulweaver. It was a strange voice, both familiar yet unfamiliar, but he trusted it as though it was coming from someone who had always been there for him.

"Jump," the Soulweaver said.

Before Xalia could react, the Soulweaver stepped off the ledge, dragging her behind into the seemingly bottomless chasm.

The fall felt like an eternity until coming to a stop on an enormous incomplete web, gradually being constructed by spiders of varying sizes.

Xalia trembled as she remembered her dream. Some spiders were barely visible while others were the size of dragons all working in unison to construct the web, weaving various arcane runes into the webs gaps.

The spiders slipped through the gaps as they began to seemingly abandon their post as the web shook, a monolithic leg of a gargantuan spider emerging from below followed by another and another until the monster pulled itself up from the darkness below.

The Soulweaver stood his ground while Xalia was stone still in fear in the face of the monster that loomed over them.

What is your purpose for taking on this task? the voice asked the Soulweaver.

A Paladin will always aid those in need.

The massive spider bent forward, gazing deeply at the two. A hint of familiarity appeared in its eyes upon seeing Xalia whose blood turned to ice, but its facial expression remain unchanged.

The monster flaunted its mandibles, the Soulweaver taking a swing with his Spirit Looms, the monster reacting to it as an Alpha Werewolf would react to a flea, paying him no heed.

The creature's mouth was less like a spider and even less like that of a human despite its face and more like that of a snake. The monster unhinged its jaw, revealing many more teeth like blades discarded on a battlefield and reached for Xalia with no regard for the Soulweaver directly in front of it.

The Soulweaver attempted to push back the spider, his Spirit Looms clashing with the fangs of the monster, many of them still cutting into the Soulweaver's arms, his flesh burning as the monster's venom enters his body.

Blood sprayed from the Soulweaver's mouth, his body going limp and pushed away by the spider.

Xalia snaps back to reality and calls her scythe and erects an orange barrier around her, deflecting the oncoming assault from the spider.

Get up, the voice tells the Soulweaver, the world around him growing darker. Remember why you chose this fight.

"Please, don't die," Xalia pleaded, the monster wrapping its jaws around the barrier, cracks beginning to form in it, the tips of its mandibles beginning to break through.

Chapter XIV: Dream Companion

The Soulweaver found himself under the shadow of the lighthouse, the world around him fading in and out of existence.

The lighthouse's black light passed over the black waters of the lake illuminating the yellow eyes of what lied beneath the surface. The same yellow eyes that the towns people all shared regardless of how far into their transformation they were.

"Come to mommy," a female voice called out from the lake, echoing throughout the town. "Let me see what a fine young man you've grown into."

He stood stone still. He knew that voice. It was indeed his mother. Maybe she finally came back for him.

"Come join mommy beneath the waters," the voice called out.

"Don't do it," the familiar voice said sounding closer than ever, but he couldn't tell if it was the voice of a man or woman.

The water's surface began to ripple, disturbed by whatever was coming ashore.

It was a woman. Tall and slender, her long black hair, seaweed and patches of scales giving her some form of covering.

He recognized the woman as his mother as she had looked so many years ago and quickly averted his gaze. He should not be seeing her in this state.

"That is not your mother," the androgynous voice hissed.

"Of course I am, silly," the thing the Soulweaver recognized as his mother said.

The thing grew closer to the Soulweaver everytime she faded back into existence, her transformation becoming more apparent.

Skin that appeared smooth at a distance showed signs of slowly turning into scales, underdeveloped webbing slowly forming between her fingers and toes. He tried to remember what his mother looked like. Her hair hadn't been black nor had her eyes been yellow. That voice was right.

The Soulweaver recoiled as the thing posing as is mother appeared directly in front of him, grabbed him and pulled his head into her bosom. Its' skin was slimy and smelled of sea water, but somehow he was beginning to feel at peace.

"Do you want to become one with mommy? To be of one body and soul?"

The question confused him. "What do you me-" the Soulweaver began until a slimy, wet hand began to move down his body causing him to recoil in horror and push the thing away.

"You dare reject your mother?" the thing shrieked.

The thing faded in and out of existence, its appearance becoming more monstrous with each reappearance until its body was more of a grotesque quasi-amphibious horror than human.

"Fight it!" the androgynous voice commanded.

"All I ever wanted for you was to be happy!" the thing shouted, raising a massive arm to crush the Soulweaver.

The Soulweaver raised his arms to shield himself, only for a flash of white light to appear in front of him.

From behind whatever appeared before him appeared to be a spectre of sorts in an all-concealing white robe, hiding any distinguishing features.

"Who are you?" the Soulweaver asked.

The spectre did not falter as the creature's arm crashed down on them.

"It has been awhile, hasn't it?" they said casually.

The Soulweaver's confusion grew, but appeared behind the monster in a flash, ready to strike the androgyne figure beside him the entire time. He staggered for a moment as it flashed in and out of view making multiple cuts in the monster, that let out a pained shriek like that of a human woman, the Soulweaver's eyes growing wide in horror.

"Ignore it," the androgyne figure barked. "You must keep your heart and soul strong, not only for your sake, but for Xalia."

He thought of Xalia and how he said he'd protect her, but what was he doing now?

"You know what to do."

A white light radiated from the Soulweaver's chest, the glow of the androgyne figure growing in intensity before delivering a series of slashes to the creature, moving with such speed it may as well have been standing still.

The androgyne figure appeared in front of him once more, its cloak flew open, releasing a torrent of white energy. The beast was vaporized and the sand beneath it burned to glass.

"Thank you...." the Soulweaver began unsure of what this beings name is.

"Iustitia," they said. "Try not to forget me again."

***

The Soulweaver awoke with a gasp, his vision blurred and getting worse. The poison in his body hindered him from standing, he had to force enough willpower to purge it from his system, a viscous multi coloured fluid slowly oozing from the wounds on his arms.

He could faintly hear what could be best described as glass cracking as the giant spider threatened to break through Xalia's ever weakening barrier, but was powerless to aid.

Chapter XV: Atlach-Nacha

Xalia's cracking shield filled with a bright orange light as a multitude of symbols surrounded her, an overwhelming force beginning to charge. The symbols disappeared inside her, her body glowing like a sun.

The monster broke through the barrier, a ray of energy left Xalia's body and pushed the monster back, threatening to bore through it.

Both the monster and Xalia sagged, one from exerting a lot of energy while the other strained to not be immediately obliterated by the attack. It shook as it regained its footing, pieces of its carapace falling off in grey sheets, disintegrating as they fell through the holes in the web.

It had been some time since the spider had encountered anyone or anything that could harm it. The expression on its face remained unchanged, but its eyes showed fear.

Xalia breathed heavy and began channeling another spell, several rune inscribed rings circled around while an image of a hammer appeared above her. The monster shrieked as she delivered a blow from to its multi-expressioned face and followed through with a blast of cosmic energy.

The Soulweaver slowly attempted to stand up, the monster's venom dripping from his arms, he staggered trying to approach Xalia whose own exhaustion was beginning to get to her.

Atlach-Nacha, Iustitia said. She's done well to wound it despite her fears.

The Soulweaver produced his spirit looms and attempted to attack the monstrous spider, a white glow radiating from his chest like when he and Iustitia defeated the thing posing as his mother while Xalia attempted to channel another spell.

It's time to end this.

A beam of light dropped down on the Old One, a pained cry coming from it, its eyes burned.

The blind god thrashed about, the web shaking, threatening to kill them all.

Iustitia appeared beside the Soulweaver, their cloak flying open and unleashing a torrent of energy, the Old One shrieking as its body fell apart into scraps of grey, turning to ash.

The two collapsed in exhaustion, their energy spent.

It would be some time before Xalia saw the irony in using cosmic powers during their quest, but the most recent endeavour would be the hectic climb back to the surface.

Chapter XVI: On Darker Tides

"Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Kathool R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn," the aquatic horrors chanted mere days before the events in Miskatonic.

Standing along the shores was a mob of aquatic humanoids born from the relations between between man and Deep One. A sin Neso can not overlook, but could do nothing to stop.

There are forces at work even stronger than the Avatars and while they'd never admit it to anyone other than themselves, they were frightened.

The crowd parted as humans walked into the waters, a Deep One waiting within to begin the unholy ritual to bear more Deep Ones.

Innsmouth was already taken over, the lesser deity Dagon watching as each human that enters the lakes' black waters begins to change.

They could destroy any coastal region if they desired, but like their god Kathool, they wait. Dreaming.

Haeos and Khazri could conjure up the perfect storm to wipe these blasphemous things off the face of this star and ensure they never step foot near the waters again, but fear strangled them.

It takes a lot to scare a god. Especially one's that are so boisterous and prideful as the gods of Lore. But what they fear is not of Lore.

What they fear was ancient when Lore was young.

"Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Kathool R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn," the Deep Ones chanted.

"Ia! Ia! Ia!" the humans chanted back as they sunk into the water.

You cannot resist.

***

Three figures moved through the remains of Innsmouth, two moving in spastic and uncoordinated ways while the other walked up right and proper, their steps made noticeable by crushing the bodies of dead spiders scattered throughout.

The destruction of Innsmouth would go as unnoticed as its existence, but the speed in which the servants of the fallen King of Spiders moved on the town forced them to accelerate their plans.

The lighthouse was all that remained of the town, its black light shining over the ruined town and the spider corpses that littered it.

The three spoke in an alien language that had been thought dead for millennia as they traversed the hellish landscape. The Crawling Chaos had come to Lore and none knew why or how, they'd need to take the reigns of time and move it forward with their own hands if they are to awaken the Master of R'lyeh before the promised time.

At the edge of the water, they chanted in their alien language, calling to the Ruler of the Deep Ones who was already unhappy with the attack by the spiders, but they would need to accept the current circumstances.

The tide ceased and the world around them fell silent, broken only by the bellowing of the great beast that lies beneath the lakes.

"DAGON!"

Chapter XVII: Light & Dark

The climb from the cave system was a hectic one, the town of Miskatonic being no more, the buildings including the university being covered in webs. A few spiders lingered, but ignored the two.

The two travelled through the Doomwood in silence until they came to a dilapidated building much like the sanctuary Xalia stayed in the night before arriving in Innsmouth, bt much like the one the two stumbled upon before entering Miskatonic, it also smelled of sea water and bore the strange T-shaped symbol on the altar.

"Who built these places," Xalia asked no one in particular.

"Adventurers like He and yourself," Iustitia said appearing beside the Soulweaver. "Adventurers build these structures to protect themselves from what resides in the woods, but this one and the one you two found previously aren't like the many others. This one is...tainted."

Xalia shrieked, surprised by the sudden appearance of the foreboding figure.

"It's okay, Xalia," the Soulweaver assured. "This is Iustitia, an elemental spirit of light and my SoulAlly."

Xalia understood how Soulweaver's operated and their relationship to an elemental spirit, but she was confused by what they meant about the sanctuary.

"Yes, I'm sorry. You startled me is all. What do you mean by this place being tainted?"

"Apologies," Iustitia said with a slight bow-curtsy. "What I mean is this symbol is not one of the Avatars as there would be in similar structures like this one. I'm sure you can tell there are other signs."

"The sea water smell."

"I'll have to believe you, my own sense of smell left me a long time ago, but yes. We are far from the sea, but here you can smell it as though we were on the coast."

"What do you mean by these places being built for those wanting protection from what was in the woods?"

"Not everyone is trained to use a weapon or magic nor can everyone afford an escort. Sometimes even those who are or can are not capable of safely going through the woods," Iustitia began, Xalia thinking over how different she is from many of the people in not only Amityvale, but greater Lore as a whole. "So they built these and decorated them with sigils of the Avatars following the influence of someone from far beyond. But while some may fear what those symbols represent and stay away, others do not. A werewolf for example does not fear the light like a vampire does."

A chill came over Xalia at the mention of werewolves.

"How do you know all of this?" the Soulweaver asked.

"Before I became your ally, I spent a long time traversing the Light Plane. I saw many things. The rise and fall of tyrants, emperors, and empires. The deaths of many. I also learned things through this time such as the pointlessness of alignments."

"What do you mean?" Xalia asked, confused by Iustitia's words.

"You would consider Darkness evil correct?" the light spirit would ask.

"Yes, like I would consider Light good," Xalia stated. "Darkovia is always under constant threat by the forces of Darkness. There was even a time darkness consumed the continent because of a being of darkness."

"Indeed. But even the wolves, beings of light have attacked Amityvale pursuing a girl for reasons I no longer recall nor particularly care about. And one end while darkness covered the land, on the other end there are those who fought to prevent their land from being consumed by light. There are even little things like overzealous paladins, aggressive light elementals and minx fairies to greater things like the existence of light liches like Sek-Duet."

Xalia considered Iustitia's words. Her upbringing didn't really allow for deep thinking on the morality of the world around her, nor was she certain why they were having this conversation, but it did offer a glimpse into who Iustitia is or maybe even was.

The Soulweaver thought about Iustitia's words. The one who taught him about Soulweaving always said Doomwood and the greater Darkovia was crawling with evil and always will as long as Darkness exists, but what about the rest of the world? Wasn't there evil there too?

"Do you know what this symbol means?" the Soulweaver asked.

"There are things in this world and beyond besides the Avatars. Beings so old, they can recall the birth of the Avatars and the creation of this star with the utmost clarity. Some of those are beyond even Lore's greatest heroes which even if they do encounter, won't be able to permanently defeat it. This symbol is a sign of one of those beings. The monster in Miskatonic, Atlach-Nacha was another."

"So we didn't truly defeat it?" the Soulweaver asked, dejectedly.

"No. It will regenerate in time, so while it's not gone forever, you both did put a stop to whatever it was doing which is something to take pride in."

The Soulweaver smiled softly at Xalia. It was a small smile, but her body felt warm at the sight of it.

"We should go. If there's a symbol of this being, it may have followers nearby. Arkham shouldn't be too far," Iustitia said flatly before vanishing.

***

Arkham's main attraction for any travellers who stumbled upon the town was the tavern/inn much like any other town. Although unlike many other such establishments across Darkovia and Lore as a whole, Arkham's was named "Pandora's" after the proprietor, a tall, slim dark haired woman who patrons would describe as very friendly and easy on the eyes in the dark dress she wore that left just enough to the imagination.

"Oh my," Pandora said in a hushed tone from behind the counter.

She could feel someone approaching the town, an insatiable hunger coming over her.

Chapter XVIII: A Rose By Any Other Name

Samael trekked through the woods, Furorem staggering behind, the walls of Arkham visible through the trees.

Shadows passed over the trees as something flew over, scanning the area, searching for something or someone.

I don't have time for this, Samael thought.

The master of the creatures flying overhead had been engaged in conflict with Samael longer than either could remember, but given the nature of the two, it would be one that would never end.

***

Outside the walled town hung time and weather worn banners of a blue rose. A symbol for the impossible. The symbol was fitting for an organization bent on eradicating magic from a world fueled by it. Blue roses did not occur naturally, needing to be manufactured.

Sentries along the walls, wielding weapons discarded by the group that forged them long ago.

"This isn't Amityvale," Xalia stated.

"Amityvale was fortified due to it being home to a human that was targeted by the werewolves and vampires that inhabited the surrounding area," the Soulweaver said, Iustitia's words coming from his mouth. "Arkham has its own share of monsters haunting in the dark to require fortification. It was also an ideal location to house problematic prisoners."

The sentries permitted them entrance, the gates closing behind the pair. Arkham was not a particularly outstanding town, having all the houses and shops one would expect from any town. What set it apart from any other town was the looming structure atop a distant hill, like a divine being overlooking all of creation.

Passing townspeople gave brief glances to Xalia then quickly carried on at the sight of the Soulweaver, some even crossing the street to avoid being near him. Some townspeople walked as they did while others walked a bit more erratically, mumbling under their breath.

There's an evil about this town, tread lightly, Iustitia warned the Soulweaver.

The two approached the building marked "Pandora's," seeing it to be a tavern/inn of sorts. Various people were sitting around tables either in groups or by themselves while an attractive dark haired woman served drinks. The various noises of chatter and clinking glasses they could hear from outside ceased upon entering and everyone turned to look at who just entered. The dark haired woman was too far away for them to see the hungry look in her eyes upon seeing the Soulweaver.

The two passed by occupied tables to an empty on, some people speaking in hushed tones, the less subtle ones looking at them and specifically the Soulweaver as they did. The Soulweaver heard the name "Innsmouth" three times.

How did they know where he was from especially just by looking at him?

The black haired woman approached them as they sat down. "What can I get for this charming couple?" she asked.

The Soulweaver blushed and averted his eyes. Xalia too blushed, but did her best to not avert her gaze although the woman's attire made her feel uneasy. Despite being marginally more covering than her own, it still had a certain allure to it and the woman's proportions emphasized what that allure is.

"We're....we're not a couple," Xalia said trying to avoid stammering.

"Oh? So this cutie is up for grabs then?" the woman asked, placing a hand on the Soulweaver's shoulder.

Reflexively she shook her hand off, sinking in his seat.

"A shy one, huh? I know a thing or two that can remedy that."

"We're just passing through," Xalia said trying to steel her voice, unnerved by something about the woman.

Xalia didn't think of herself as jealous and she'd be lying if she said she didn't consider the Soulweaver attractive, but she also didn't feel anything romantic for him. She felt something sinister about the woman.

"Oh? And where might you two be headed?"

"Somewhere," Xalia said realizing she sounded vague without doing so intentionally.

***

The two managed to each get a room at "Pandora's," but neither could shake the feeling of dread that came from that. It seemed normal for them to have their own room given their strictly platonic relationship, but something about Arkham made them feel uneasy about it unlike their accomodations in Miskatonic.

The Soulweaver looked at himself in a mirror over a wash basin, noticing he was looking a bit more disleveled than usual, showing more signs of any lack of self-care than his lack of sleep.

The Soulweaver conjured up a spirit loom, recalling a lesson from the Paladin from his childhood. It was a mundane task, just using his spirit loom to shave, but the memory made his mind feel at ease and actually made him happy.

Easier than having to maintain a straight edge, he recalled the Paladin saying as he slowly began to remove the stubble growing on his face, letting out a hiss when he nicked his cheek.

The Soulweaver went to blot the blood with a cloth, but stopped when he saw something out of the ordinary in his reflection. A tentacle was slowly starting to emerge from the cut on his cheek. Panicking, he cut it off, but a new one grew back in its place and another emerging from other spots on his face, scales forming in places where tentacles didn't emerge.

Blood, writhing tentacles and bloody scales filling the basin as the Soulweaver hastily tried to shear them off until he was looking at himself again, nothing on his face except a small cut and a lack of facial hair, the basin empty.

"Mm, you clean up good," a familiar voice said from the doorway of the bathroom.

The Soulweaver could see the dark haired woman from before in the mirror wearing something he was unsure if it could be considered clothing. He was reminded of the things that claimed to be his mother and looked away.

There was something else about her that was different, but he wasn't sure what. Iustitia might have known, but apparently even elemental spirits need sleep.

"You don't seem like the usual inhabitants of Innsmouth," she said approaching. "At least not from what I can see."

The Soulweaver swings with the spirit loom, the woman catching his arm effortlessly, his eyes going wide in fear and shock.

"Feisty. Let's see if I can't break you in," she said whispering, almost panting into his ear.

Pain, shame, fear, and guilt ran through his body.

***

The Soulweaver stood in the doorway of Xalia's room his arms behind his back, eyes blank, dried blood around his lips and nostrils and his shirt stained with more than just blood and dirt from the events leading up until now. He wasn't sure how he got there only brief flashes of what happened before.

"What happened?" Xalia asked, reaching out to him.

He backed away, stumbling to the floor, his arms still concealed and expression turning to one of fear and shame. His body trembled, still feeling the woman's breath on his neck and in his ear as if his nightmare was still occurring.

***

Xalia went into the Soulweaver's room, the bed was torn apart and the word ASYLUM written on the wall in a reddish-black substance resembling dried blood. In the bathroom the mirror was broken which she was certain she would've heard, but she heard nothing from the Soulweaver's room.

Xalia was filled with guilt. She said she'd protect the Soulweaver and she failed. Pushing her feelings of guilt back, she left the room and went downstairs to the tavern, scythe at the ready.

If she couldn't protect the Soulweaver, she could avenge him.

Chapter XIX: The Black Goat

Samel stopped trekking through the woods, feeling something that wasn't present before. The things hunting him above the woods outside Arkham returned to their master, and he was well aware of them. What he felt was something strong although still surpassed by his own power and the power of the one inhabiting Arkham, but it was good at hiding its presence.

If Valtrith was involved, Samael was very curious as to know how, but first he had a task to complete in Dunwich.

***

The woman seemed disappointed the sight of Xalia being the only one to descend the stairs leading from the rooms.

"Is that little cutie still asleep? I didn't think he'd be that worn out, but," she shrugs. "It was his first time."

She smiled and licked her lips.

"You know, if you prefer a woman's touch, I don't discriminate."

A ring of runes appeared around and she raised her weapon which began glowing the same colour of the runes.

A beam fired from the tip of her scythe, striking the woman directly who seemed to be completely obliterated, turning into a cloud of black smoke.

From the black smoke came the sound of a bestial, predatory laughter then a great black pair of bat-like wings that with a single beat dispersed, but not dispel the smoke with enough force to nearly knock Xalia off her feet.

Standing before Xalia was an enormous goat-like creature that gazed upon her with the same hungry eyes the form it took before gazed upon the Soulweaver. It was similar to the Trickster's Xalia had encountered long ago, but it was bigger and its mere presence was almost suffocating.

"What are you?" Xalia asked.

"Just the friendly owner of Arkham's inn & tavern, Pandora, but most people call me Pan."

Pan grinned, showing almost carnivorous teeth.

"But you can call me master."

The black smoke drifted and swirled around the room, taking the shape of various monster.

"I am your new god. Profess your love unto me or be destroyed."

***

Iustitia appeared before the Soulweaver who had not moved from his spot against the wall where he had stumbled, their expression showing fear and concern, trying to mask their guilt and shame.

"Who did this to you?"

The Soulweaver remained silent, staring vacantly at nothing.

"Please answer me," Iustitia pleaded, growing desperate, but still the Soulweaver remained silent.

"Damn it, answer me!" they snapped, picking the Soulweaver up by the collar, his body going limp.

Iustitia saw the Soulweaver's arms. The marks left behind by Atlach-Nacha's fangs were still visible and scabbed over, but there were fresh wounds only just starting to clot over. Claw marks.

Iustitia slowly lowered the Soulweaver who slumped against the wall, still trying to conceal his arms.

"I'm...I'm so sorry."

Iustitia slowly faded away, their pained expression slowly giving way to anger.

His body felt disgusting to him. His heart and soul felt tainted and stained black with sin.

He didn't know what had happened, it occurred so quickly yet at the same time so slowly that he could vividly recall every painful and horrifying moment.

He cried.

***

The smoke monsters swarmed Xalia, the spikes produced by her shield, effortlessly dispersing them, but they would merely circle around and reform in different shapes.

"I had hoped to enjoy a warm meal, but at least I got to enjoy the boy before he becomes another victim of Innsmouth's curse."

In what seemed like a flash, Pan lunged at Xalia, the spikes from the shield piercing the beasts hide, but doing nothing to hinder it as it plunges one of its massive hands through the shield, reaching for Xalia's neck.

As the spikes and shield fade, Pan is flung across the room, Iustitia standing before Xalia, eyes full of fire and one arm outstretched having thrown the alleged god despite it being several times their size.

Pan laughed as it recovered. "How nice of you to show up after the fact. Unable to act when the one you're bound to is in danger? How impotent."

The smoke monsters moved to converge on Iustitia and in a flash of light, forcing Xalia to shield her eyes, vapourized them.

Pan lunged at the two, Xalia stepping forward, a ring of runes circling her head and inflicting multiple deep gashes into Pan with her scythe while Iustitia fired a blast of light into the alleged god.

Pan hunched over and with a great beat of its wings, knocked both of them back and stood up presenting itself as unphased despite the large, burned gashes on its body.

"Mmm, it's a shame one of you is just a spirit. You both put up far more fight than the boy ever did," Pan taunted.

A series of rings like a model of the solar system appeared beneath Pan and a wall of strange, ice-looking matter sprang from the floor and around the monster, disappearing and leaving behind patches of yellow on the monster.

Pan clenched a fist which proceeded to grow several times in size and swung at the two, its arm stretching several times its length. Xalia did not have time to wonder how such a blow didn't kill her instantly.

Xalia used her scythe to steady herself, readying another spell. This needed to end and it needed to end fast.

Energy crackled and lightning started to form in the rings beneath Pan who readied another attack, but before either of them could continue, Pan sensed something amiss from far far away and in a cloud of black smoke, vanished.

Xalia's attack ceased and the rings faded as she collapsed to her knees, her breathing heavy and her body sore. She would need a moment before picking herself back up. Even Iustitia appeared exhausted, their body language showing Pan's words had gotten to them and the brief battle taken a toll on their body.

The monster in the caves of Miskatonic felt easy in comparison to Pan who she believed did not flee out of self-preservation.

Iustitia's head perked up like the ears of an animal that heard something only it could hear, grave concern showing on their face.

"He's gone."

Chapter XX: The Ritual

Baron Valtrith overlooked the ritual ground, his followers bumbling around as they attempted to comply with the commands of the witches. What was the point of keeping these fools? Those who were of the living were as useless as they were lost which made them susceptible to the idea of joining him not even having the excuse of being undead and thus without a mind of their own like his reanimated followers.

Darkness came over the sky above the castle as if a heavy black sheet was pulled over it, the ritual had begun.

The witches had begun chanting and soon his followers as if compelled to do so despite the language they chanted supposedly being alien to them. It was alien to Valtrith, but he somehow understood it like the text in the tome.

Should the ritual succeed, he'd be more than prepared to begin his attack on R'yleh's master and then Lore in its entirety. A devilish grin appeared beneath his mask.

In the center of the ritual grounds, a pitch black yet somehow visible in the darkness substance began to seep from the ground before erupting like a geyser looking as if the ritual forced oil from below the surface. The geyser would soon stop and the oil-looking substance would begin to congregate in one place and take shape as if molded by invisible hands.

Valtrith felt his entire body begin to pulsate like a giant heart followed by a sharp pain running up the entirety of his back.

Kathool. He sought to assimilate Kathool into his own being. Caitiff sought to study Kathool and even in its weakened state threatened to drive the monster to madness. Valtrith was different. He would resist. He could resist. He sought Kathool for his own purposes. He was nothing like Caitiff, he created that monster afterall. He was nothing like that traitor. That failure.

The mass of the oil-looking substance took on the form of Baron Valtrith and would appear before him, stretching its form to move from the ritual grounds to the balcony Valtrith watched from like a spring.

Valtrith stared the oily-looking construct down as though it were another enemy, but it did not falter instead advancing on him in the same manner it appeared before him and began to envelope his body, spreading out to consume the tendrils that his body produced against his will.

Who are you? a voice asked him. It was one he could scarcely recall having not heard it in a great many years.

I am- Valtrith began, cut off by the voice.

What are you?

I am-

Who are you? the voice repeated.

It would continue to ask the questions over and over like a child trying to agitate its parents until like an agitated parent, Valtrith snapped.

I am fire. I am darkness. I am death. I am Baron Jayon Valtrith!

The voice Valtrith would remember as his own from when he was human would cease and the oily substance would be absorbed into his body as would the tendrils it produced. He felt different somehow, it was a subtle difference, but it was there.

He held out his clawed hand, the blades turning into tendrils then returning to normal. Holding his hand flat, a doll sized Serenity would materialize then be consumed. He was in control, but there had to have been something more, something that would have to be tested in the future.

***

The witches huddled amongst themselves as the cultists began to disperse.

"What did we just do?" the shortest of the three witches asked.

"I don't know," the tallest and presumably their leader said. "Whatever we did though, it's finished and this tome is now ours."

"Assuming Valtrith doesn't try to kill us first," the middle of the three said.

Baron Valtrith entered the courtyard that served as the ritual grounds, approaching the trio. Whatever happened certainly did change him, but it was hard to tell how beyond him no longer showing the same traits of being unable to control what made up his body as before. There was something more sinister about him.

"Thank you for your cooperation. You're free to go," Valtrith said, his tone far more casual than it had ever been. A collective chill ran through the bodies of the witches.

"Y...you're welcome, Baron Valtrith," the shortest of the three said.

Without another word, Valtrith turned to return to the castle interior. He thought of Pan and using them to dispose of the witches and retrieve the tome. He absolutely could not allow them to live as long as they possessed it.

Neither of them spoke again until Valtrith was out of sight and presumably earshot.

"Did we do the right thing?" the shortest of the three asked.

"We have never done the right thing," the tallest of the three began. "This was just more deplorable than anything we had done before."

< Message edited by NagisaXIkari -- 4/7/2019 6:59:44 >
DF  Post #: 2
4/7/2019 8:15:21   
NagisaXIkari
Member

Interlude II: As You Wish

His face streaked with tears, mind clouded with shame, heart heavy with pain, the Soulweaver fled through the streets of Arkham, towards the asylum.

The asylum was where he would find salvation, the answer to his questions, and the means to heal his wounds. Or so he believed. Something compelled him to believe this was true, but he was unsure who or what it was.

Standing in the courtyard between the Soulweaver and the entrance into Arkham Asylum was a giant of a man with grey hair and beard adorned in black leather with a number of straps and chains that seemed to serve no purpose scattered about his form. On each hip he had a weapon, a sword decorated with a silver symbol resembling a bat sheathed on the right and a firearm of sorts on the left. He reached for neither at the sight of the Soulweaver. The broken man would have never been a threat to the one guarding the asylum.

The Soulweaver had never seen someone in attire such as his and he had never seen a firearm, but the man's most striking feature was how old he appeared to be. Even his silver right hand seemed trivial compared to his age. To the Soulweaver, he looked as if he was old enough to have witnessed the creation of Lore and the birth of its gods. How this one man could guard such a massive structure was beyond his comprehension.

"State your purpose, young man," the guard said, his voice booming like thunder.

"I..." the Soulweaver began, panting and trying to catch his breath. "I need to enter the asylum. Please."

The guard did not question the Soulweaver. Saying "As you wish," he opened the door and allowed the Soulweaver to pass.

A chill ran through the Soulweaver's body as he entered the asylum, the door closing behind him.

Within the halls of this great structure would be the answers to his questions and remedy to his pain.

Or so he believed.

Chapter XXI: A Serious House on Serious Lore

The front hall of the asylum functioned both as a sort of lobby and cellblock lit by dim and dying candles and oil lamps. Statues of jackal-headed and symbols of beetle-looking creatures the Soulweaver had never seen before decorated the walls and some of the cell doors. The cells that had doors at least.

Some cells were just bars with various runes etched into them while others looked more like panes of glass with similar runes drawn on them. The type of cell seemed to determine who or what was kept inside.

He passed numerous cells, mostly empty, but some held prisoners that seemed strange even when compared to the quasi-amphibious creatures from Innsmouth. In one cell he passed was a vaguely humanoid-like creature with the wings and facial structure of an insect. Its mandibles clicked as it jittered something illegible and flew at the cell door, the runes etched in the bars glowing a blue-green, repelling the strange creature with a hiss.

In another cell was an amorphous blob of a creature, yellow eyes covering the majority of its body that simply stared at nothing and everything, rune covered glass keeping it contained.

He glimpsed into an open cell that resembled one that must have been used to contain more human prisoners, etched into the floors and walls was an elaborate series of runes that meant nothing to the Soulweaver. He didn't look closely at the walls and floors to the see the dried and faded blood dotting the arcane imagery.

In another empty cell was a discarded suit of armour that almost blended in with the darkness of the windowless cell, the lights in the hallway too weak to reach.

You shouldn't be here, Iustitia said.

Something is calling. Something that could maybe...just maybe make the pain go away.

I'm sorry. I should've been there. I should've protected you.

But you didn't. You let that happen with your absence. It's all your fault.

Iustitia went silent. The Soulweaver was right.

The Soulweaver pushed open a heavy set of iron doors bearing symbols of the beetle-looking creature which opened up to a courtyard. Overlooking the courtyard was a great, dark tower. If Arkham Asylum looked over the town of Arkham, the tower looked over everything beyond it.

Aside from the tower, the courtyard led to other parts of the asylum, but it was the tower that seemed to be where the pull of whatever called to him was coming from.

Along the battlements of the surrounding walls, the Soulweaver could see the outlines of winged vaguely humanoid creatures that seemed to server no other purpose than to watch him.

The courtyard appeared as if it were a playground at one point in time, slides, swing sets, and seesaws in various states of disrepair were scattered about. These were devices he was unfamiliar with. At the center of the courtyard was a bronze statue of a winged human wielding a lance triumphing over a serpentine dragon. A weapon of reason besting a savage beast. It too meant nothing to the Soulweaver.

The Soulweaver let out an exhausted and defeated sigh. From the very beginning and even before then, he had been surrounded by things he did not understand.

What...what did I do to deserve this?

Iustitia did not answer.

The Soulweaver continued on to a door straight ahead of where he came in from, the sound of running water clearly audible despite the apparent thickness of the doors.

Gripping the handles of the doors, he found them wet to the touch and difficult to hold on to, but still he pushed the door open revealing a hallway that defied reason. A shrine dedicated to madness and the sea. Macabre symbols and depictions of the sea's wrath as it wiped out cities and empires, ancient beings summoned and worshipped by people long forgotten by time who would be consumed by the thing they summoned or their own madness were carved into the halls stone walls, water seeping into and soaking his shoes and feet.

You need to turn back, Iustitia warned. Whatever you think will come of this will not come to pass.

The Soulweaver pressed on coming to a fork divided by a glass cylinder containing a pair of otherworldly fish swimming in unison, forming the symbol of Pisces, a model of the sunken city that defied all geometric laws.

The name R'lyeh entered the Soulweaver's mind. It was a name he never heard nor could he say it aloud, but he could pronounce it in his mind in a manner that came across as natural to him.

Through his peripheral, the Soulweaver saw something moving and gave chase down the left path, the smell of sea water invading his nostrils and the world around him turning to glass as he appeared to enter an aquarium of sorts illuminated by strange glowing rocks while the smell of sea water grew stronger and stronger until his eyes began to sting.

He recognized the quasi-amphibious creatures of Innsmouth and stepped back, a feeling of horror coming over him.

The woman knew of those things. She knew where I'm from and what my fate could very well be.

The Soulweaver tried to process everything that had occured for however many days since leaving Innsmouth and then what happened at Pandora's, disgust taking over his body.

Continuing through the hallway, the Soulweaver came to a halt at a pane of glass, a vision of himself on the other side. The other him was deathly pale as if terminally ill even in comparison to the Soulweaver himself. The face of the other Soulweaver contorted into an enraged snarl as various appendages from aquatic lifeforms burst from its body and broke through the glass.

The Soulweaver flailed around and panicked, trying to fight the monster off. Once more Iustitia was nowhere to be found.

The Soulweaver found himself on his hands and knees, the floor wet with water and the other him nowhere in sight with nothing to show of its existence except for the water and broken glass while blue-green beetles wandered aimlessly around his hands and in the glass.

His body shaking and breathing heavy, the Soulweaver picked up a large shard of glass, his mind trying to rationalize what was to come as he drove the glass through his palm, the pain sending a shock through his body, but the environment remained the same.

The Soulweaver wept as he pleaded for someone or something to make the pain go away.

Iustitia appeared and embraced the Soulweaver.

"I'm so sorry. Let...let me take your pain away."

Chapter XXII: Lord of the Great Abyss

Xalia entered the courtyard, the gates wide open presumably opened by the Soulweaver and approached the asylum with caution at the sight of the one guarding it.

Scanning the courtyard, she saw the outlines of winged humanoid creatures dotting the battlements of the walls surrounding the asylum and the roof of the structure. There were no signs to indicate the Soulweaver came into contact with them, but given what happened would he even have been able to fight them off or would he have been carried away to parts unknown?

"Come forward, child," the man called his voice like thunder.

She complied, trying her best to steel herself in anticipation the man proved to be hostile.

He looked as old as a man who should've died when the first sentient lifeforms had ceased to be, but his voice could bend steel and shatter glass. No matter how much of a front she put up, he would just knock it down.

"You come for the young Soulweaver, correct?" the man asked his voice becoming more gentle, but still contained a great amount of power that Xalia couldn't help but flinch.

"Y-y-yes," she stammered, feeling her body tremble with her voice.

"Do not be afraid, child. I have no desire to harm you or the Soulweaver."

"You....you know he's here?"

"Indeed," the old man said with a nod. "There's a heavy burden on him that he feels could be lifted within these walls. But what's in these walls may also break him."

"Why didn't you stop him?"

"It is not for me to meddle in the affairs of mortals. My duty is to ensure the monsters within this asylum do not escape."

"Mortals? Who are you?"

"I am Nodens the Hunter," the man began. "I have spent many years hunting beasts throughout this world and others, but as time went on, no monster has had the strength or cunning to prove formidable and now I merely guard the asylum to keep what primordial beasts dwell within contained," he concluded with hint of sadness in his voice.

Now only one remains. And the hunt for them is not for sport.

Xalia was unsure about the man, but she was certain he wasn't human and considering what she has seen since leaving Amityvale, she found no reason to doubt anything he said.

"Are you a....are you a god?"

Nodens nodded.

"Indeed. I was worshipped by many at one point. Men would pray to me for a successful hunt by burning the remains of their previous quarry. But like myself, their arrogance grew too much and they sought to hunt the most dangerous game. Humans. A sentiment I did not share."

Even a god can fall, Xalia though, feeling sorry for the old man.

"Is there anything I can do?"

"There is nothing you can do for me, child," Nodens said, shaking his head. "But you can help the young Soulweaver."

Nodens opened the doors to the asylum, letting Xalia through.

"Keep your heart and mind strong, child. Both for your sake and the young Soulweaver," Nodens said closing the door behind Xalia.

Chapter: XXIII: Madness

Xalia passed through the cellblock, the imprisoned creatures staring at her the entire time. She saw the same sights as the Soulweaver as well as others he did not take note of. In one cell appeared to be a swarm of beetles the size of apples, buzzing around and throwing themselves to their death at the rune covered glass that keeps them contained.

These creatures were unfamiliar to her. She thought the could be the last of their kind and here they were contained in a prison that didn't appear to house anyone but them. It was quite saddening, but what could she do for them?

He train of thought was broken by the indescribable sound of a monster slamming against the bars of its cell. It was quite large with the body of a bird, wings of a bat, and head of a horse. A strange chimera of a creature that did not stop attacking the bars of its cell until she was no longer in the room.

Xalia entered the courtyard, seeing the the swings, slides, and see-saws in their varying states of disrepair, feeling a sad nostalgia come over her. She thought of the Soulweaver and wondered what he thought of these things.

The monsters on the battlements that observed the Soulweaver observed her as she moved to the door beyond the statue of the winged humanoid slaying the dragon, something drawing her to that particular door. She did not notice them. Their master did not order them to do anything about her like he had not ordered them to do anything about the Soulweaver.

Xalia reached opened the door a crack the smell of putrefaction hitting her like a wave .It was strong enough to elicit a gag from her and bring her to her knees and force a burning sensation up her throat and splattered on the floor.

Xalia remembered the monsters from the woods at the start of her journey and the smell of rot they carried. Were more of those things waiting for her beyond the doors or was it something worse?

How did he come through here? she thought, still coughing up pieces of partially digested food.

"He didn't," the voice of a young girl said from behind the door.

Xalia stood up, wiping her mouth and opened the door to see a young girl with black hair in a green dress. Memories rushed through her mind as she came to realize that the girl is her. Or was her at a different point in time.

"Where is he?"

"I can't tell you that, silly," the young Xalia said with a laugh. "It'll ruin the surprise. You like surprises after all, right?"

Liked surprises. As a child, Xalia was quite fond of surprises, but as she got older and....she didn't want to think about it.

The young Xalia touched a hand to Xalia's proclaiming her to be it before running off down the hallway.

"Come on, or you'll be late!"

Xalia shakily followed after her young self, stumbling every now and again then came the scream of the young Xalia.

Xalia stood petrified in fear at the sight of her young self pinned by a giant spider. The image blurred, Xalia vision returning to normal at the sight of the spider slain, her younger self standing behind someone slightly taller than her, their own features obscured. She had been terrified of spiders ever since that day, but she met someone she not only considered a hero, but also her friend that day.

Rounding a corner, the granite and stone had given way to blue-green water and mud, the hallway becoming a swamp with the jackal-headed statues and beetle emblems still very present.

The younger version of herself had aged, Xalia recognizing it as the time she had travelled to Amityvale.

"It was at that swamp you had first encountered a werewolf. When you had to take the life of someone you trusted because they became a monster," Xalia's adolescent self said. "You didn't like surprises much after that."

Xalia tried to recall the name of the the person that had turned into a monster, but all she could picture was a blur of dark colors, but she could remember the sounds as if it was only the day before. Pleading and begging turned to bestial growling while the last shreds of someone's humanity was lost. Then the sound of silver piercing flesh, pained growls and whimpering before silence.

Tears ran down Xalia's cheeks as she remembered the night at the lake and the first time she ever took someone's life. The life of someone who years earlier had saved her own. The life of a hero.

"Come along, don't be late."

The adolescent Xalia took off through the swamp with Xalia in pursuit, rounding another corner and finding herself among the stars, the other Xalia aging to the age she was when she became an Ascendant. It didn't seem that long ago to her, but looking at herself as she was then, it felt like decades had passed since then.

"What was the point of becoming an Ascendant? Was it to find meaning? Was it to find happiness? Did you want a life of meaning or a life of happiness?"

"Can't I have both?"

The young adult Xalia gave a small smile that could not conceal their sadness.

"Can't be done. Those are two very different paths. If you want to be truly happy you have to live absolutely in the present and give no thought to what's happened before or after."

It was too late for that.

"But if you want a life of meaning," young adult Xalia began. "You are condemned to wallow in the past and obsess over the future."

Xalia looked away from her past self, unable to enjoy the spectacular view that was the death of a star. It had been the highlight of her training as an Ascendant.

Xalia pursued herself through the cosmos, the scene transitioning to the Soulweaver's room at Pandora's, her present day self staring at the word ASYLUM written on the wall.

"Do you know what the scariest thing is? To not know your place in this world. To not know why you're here. That's...that's just an awful feeling."

"My place is...my place is with the Soulweaver," Xalia said unsure if what she was saying was true.

"And why is that? So you can tell yourself you're not alone? Iustitia would leave you to die if not for the Soulweaver and whatever keeps him tied to you."

"We said we'd protect each other."

"Is that so? Like how you protected him from that?" the other Xalia pointed towards the window of the room.

Through the window, Xalia could see the scene between Pan in its human form and the Soulweaver and what Pan did to him. She saw the death of innocence and the tainting of what was pure.

"Can you really say you'll protect him when you did nothing to stop that? Can you say you'll protect him when you can't even protect yourself?"

Xalia stared at her feet, trying to think of something to say, but could only think of what her other self was saying.

What was the point of this journey? She had nothing to go on except for a strange star pattern. The Soulweaver had no involvement except for traveling with Xalia. Would any of this had happened if Xalia never got him involved? Was it all her fault?

"Don't be late."

Chapter XXIV: Conversing With God

Pan flew off from the castle, Valtrith watching as it disappeared over the horizon. A look of disgust on both of their faces.

Pan resented the Baron for daring to order them around and even exploiting its nature as a forest god to do so. A section of Oaklore forest was burned and salted, so it would never grow back. They'd have to submit in order to keep that from happening again.

Valtrith resented the forest god for its weakness. A divine being that was a slave to its own primal desires and so easily manipulated into submission. If he didn't consider Pan so weak, he'd have assimilated it into its body.

***

The witches fled through the swamp that surrounded the castle, whatever monsters that tried to impede them were destroyed swiftly.

A dark shape flew over head before dropping down in front of them.

The black goat Pan eyed the witches hungrily. Their attire left little to the imagination, but Pan didn't use its imagination to think about what was under its prey's clothing. It used its imagination to decide what it would do to its prey. And with three morsels before it, Pan's imagination was working double.

The eldest of the three stepped forward. "State your business monster!"

Pan licked its lips. Seeing the frightened expression on the youngest of the coven elicited a monstrous grin.

"Tying up loose end," the black goat began as the swamp darkened. "And looking for dinner!"

In his castle, a smile appeared under Valtrith's mask as he heard a trio of screams coming from the swamp.

***

A painful sensation ran through Valtrith's body. Something inside him was acting on its own accord. The unfamiliar presence that had been lying dormant was starting to stir.

Who are you? Valtrith demanded.

You're after something I want. And I'm going to take it.

The colour yellow flashed across Valtrith's vision.

"Who are you?"

I am the one who in time will take this body as my own.

"You don't know who you're talking to."

I know enough. And I know you won't be able to resist. I look forward to breaking you.

The voice went dormant with another flash of yellow.

Samael did something and would answer for it, but they haven't been around the castle for a couple days.

Valtrith would dispatch various creatures to find Samael and if that didn't work, there was always Pan.

Chapter XXV: The Dark Tower

What she saw would never leave her mind for as long as she lived. She could have let go of anything, even her experience at the swamp near Amityvale, but this was something she would take to her grave and possibly the afterlife.

The images of the room at the inn faded and Xalia made her way down the hall, still sick from what she had endured prior to witnessing what Pan had done to the Soulweaver.

She recognized the images and statues scattered throughout the asylum. The beetle was a symbol of rebirth and the jackal-headed figure was being that represented judgment. At one point, these symbols may have been fitting for Arkham Asylum, but after witnessing the imprisoned creatures, she wondered how long had this place stopped being one of healing.

She pushed open a door, an enormous winding staircase greeting her and a sense of urgency taking over.

"Don't be late," the different renditions of herself had said.

From the exterior, the tower didn't seem nearly as tall as the amount of stairs would have her believe as they seemingly went into the clouds and the cosmos beyond.

After what felt like an eternity, Xalia had come to another door, but opening it did not take her into the clouds or the cosmos beyond, but the bottom of the ocean.

Beyond the faint illumination of the strange glowing seaweed surrounding her, Xalia couldn't tell anything about her surroundings. The door she entered had vanished leaving her without a way out.

She had no connection to the ocean, having never seen the ocean in the first place, making its appearance all the more baffling. Among the seaweed, she could feel the presence of others. The light was not strong enough to show who or what was watching in the distance, but she could see pale yellow dots scattered about, the eyes of whatever was watching her.

She pressed through the seaweed into the unknown that lie ahead, the yellow eyes following her movement, but not seeming to come any closer, some actually moved to create more distance between her and whatever strange thing the eyes belonged to.

A sharp pain shot through her head which she clutched, groaning in agony.

You cannot save him, a voice she had only heard once before said. It was deep and guttural, but somewhat muffled as if whatever spoke to her was submerged in water.

Blood dripped from her nose and floated up towards the surface as the pain intensified, the yellow-eyed beings watching.

"It's okay to accept your failures and move on," Xalia's adolescent self said.

Xalia did not hear herself and even if she had, she refused to let go of her mistakes. They needed to be amended, not discarded.

Xalia's legs gave out as the pain turned into a heavy throbbing as if her head was being used as a bass drum. She tried to stand, but her legs refused as if her body was being pinned down by an enormous weight or perhaps the pressure she put on herself to rescue the Soulweaver.

Xalia began to crawl, feeling her body sink into the sand.

Just like him, you will try to hold me back, the voice said. But in the end, both of you will fail. You know it in your soul. You're nothing but an empty shell, a hollow trap.

Xalia screamed until her voice became muffled by the sand her body sank into.

The time is approaching.

***

"What are you doing?" Iustitia asked, their voice a mixture of confusion and concern?

The two looked at the shard of glass large enough to be a Rogue's dagger sticking through the Soulweaver's hand, dripping with blood.

"It's...it's the only thing that makes sense," the Soulweaver said. "Did you see the monster?"

Iustitia shook their head.

"I saw you shatter the aquarium then harm yourself further."

The monster may have been an illusion, but the aquarium was very real, the two fish that swam in it, lie motionless on the floor, the beetle's working on stripping the flesh from their bones.

"I'm sorry I wasn't there for you."

The Soulweaver grit his teeth as he clutched the glass shard and pulled it from his hand, more blood dripping from his hand.

The two attempted to dress the Soulweaver's wound as best as they could with no healing magic or medical supplies. The Soulweaver could cleanse any infection he got, but the wound itself would have to heal on its own.

"What is R'lyeh?" the Soulweaver asked.

"A dead city that lies beneath waves. Where did you hear that name?"

"The name came to me not too long ago. And...."

His mind wandered as he thought back to his former life in Innsmouth. Before he learned to be a Soulweaver and even after. He had heard it before from the townspeople.

"Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Kathool R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn," the Soulweaver said, the words coming naturally to him as if he had known them all his life.

A look of fear came across Iustitia's face. They had heard those words before during their time among the living and even after meeting the Soulweaver.

"Ia! Ia! Ia!" something down the hall chanted back, the words echoing off the glass walls where pale yellow eyes watched from beyond.

"What's happening to me?" the Soulweaver asked, panic in his voice.

"Nothing we can't overcome," Iustitia assured the Soulweaver, trying their best to sound convincing.

Iustitia took the Soulweaver's hand and guided him down the hall, ignoring the eyes that watched them while the chanting continued.

***

Even when not visible, Iustitia had always watched over the Soulweaver during the early days of their bond which had been a new experience for both of them, Iustitia having spent a long time alone both in life and in death while the Soulweaver had been alone ever since his parents walked into the black water of the lake Innsmouth was built on the shore of until the Paladin came into Innsmouth.

At first Iustitia did not appear before the Soulweaver at first, trying to come to terms with their new life, but while the boy slept, Iustitia watched over him, assuring him they were there. The young Soulweaver always seemed to sleep more soundly during those times.

***

The hallway changed before their eyes, the glass of the aquarium disappearing, flooding the hallway while strange glowing seaweed sprouted up from the stone floors, offering a faint light.

Iustitia's hold on the Soulweaver's hand tightened then loosened when it became apparent it was hurting him. The Soulweaver broke free of Iustitia's hold and looked around when he heard a woman's laughter. A familiar laughter that belonged to his mother.

"Come to me, my son," the voice said from beyond the seaweed where the light did not reach.

Her tone was similar to that of the monster that claimed to be his mother that appeared in his dream days before. Part of him wanted to believe it was his mother. The part that remained the scared little boy living alone in a dying town that was buried close to the surface. The other part of him, the part that knew his mother was no more, having given herself to the lake fought for dominance with the frightened child. And was losing.

"Come join me and we can be together as one," the voice called out.

"Ignore it," Iustitia begged.

"Come become one body and soul."

The Soulweaver began to stray, but faltered and remained in place, his legs twitching as he fought to go into the darkness join what was calling to him, but to also resist it, Iustitia urging him to fight it.

Obey, came a voice from deep in his mind, a voice he hadn't heard since Innsmouth.

Resist, Iustitia pleaded.

The two voices went back and forth inside the Soulweaver's mind, either not hearing or ignoring his pleas for them to be quiet, his fragile mind continuing to be chipped away.

"SHUT UP!" the Soulweaver shouted, raising his voice for the first time in his life.

The world around him went silent, his breathing heavy as his body shook and he began to cry.

"What's happening to me?" the Soulweaver asked.

"You are hearing His call," a voice he hadn't heard in a long time said.

It was a voice Iustitia had known all too well. The voice of a young white haired boy, forced to grow up long before his time.

"What is this place?" the Soulweaver asked, looking up at himself as he was so long ago.

"I think the asylum is a head," the boy began. "We're inside a huge head that dreams us all into being. Perhaps it's your head. Arkham is a looking glass....and we are you," the boy concluded, pointing at the Soulweaver.

Chapter XXVI: The Ocean Between Us

In their respective mentalscapes, Xalia and the Soulweaver both heard the bellow of a great and ancient being so fierce and primal it threatened their sanity if not their very beings as well.

Both had different interpretations of what the sound meant and what their changing environment meant. Xalia's environment changed to the plateau from her dream, the cry of the great beast coming from below the black waters of the ocean the plateau looked over.

The Soulweaver's environment grew darker, but still beneath the water, something looming over him and even with Iustitia by his side, he feared he would become unhinged. The bellow of the beast sounded to him like something was calling him. A call that deep down he knew would be coming.

From the black waters, Xalia looked out upon, a whirlpool began to form, the sunken city of R'lyeh beginning to rise from the dark depths of the ocean. The same city would slowly fade into view for the Soulweaver, fear gripping him and something in the back of his mind, bending and threatening to break.

The structure of the city defied all geometric laws, parts of it while visible to them existed in other dimensions. To Xalia, it almost seemed like it was made of the same matter as the strange slabs on the plateau, but somehow even stranger. Spiraling towers that seemed to simultaneously ascend and descend forever made her nauseous just by looking at them. She tried to keep her balance as the world began spinning.

As the city came into view, so did images of destruction flashing through their minds. The ocean devouring the land and only those most loyal to the city's awakened god would be spared with a quick death while all other would perish.

I am the sun before you, see me rise, the voice of the Master of R'lyeh said. I burn still when you close your eyes. I am the soul that never dies when flesh is weak.

From the alien city came various shapes of the ghastly horrors that lurked within its halls as well at the call of an ancient evil thought that to have been put to rest so long ago.

The Soulweaver stepped towards the city, Iustitia grabbing him trying to stop him.

"Resist it. Fight it."

The Soulweaver pressed on, dragging Iustitia along the way, but rather than entering the city, the two passed through a veil of sorts, appearing on the plateau with Xalia.

"Stop him!" Iustitia ordered.

Xalia grabbed on to the Soulweaver, attempting to pull him away from the edge of the plateau and the dark ocean below. The Soulweaver screamed and thrashed about, demanding to be let go, the feeling in the back of his mind getting worse. He would break.

"I said I'd protect you," Xalia said. "And you said you'd protect me."

Images of what Pan did to him flashed through their minds. Empty promises made at a time that felt like an eternity ago. They couldn't even protect themselves let alone each other.

"I said I'd take your pain away," Iustitia pleaded.

Do not let them interfere, the Master of R'lyeh said. Kill them and assume your place. It is your birthright.

"No....I won't....I won't harm them."

You cannot resist. You will submit. To be dominated by me is not as bad for you as being dominated by someone of your own species.

Their words confused, frightened and angered the Soulweaver. The images of destruction and the countless lives lost saddened him. The combination of the emotions and the bending feeling in the back of his mind grew worse and like a dam threatening to burst, memories both old and new began to flood his mind.

He witnessed the pain he had gone through as a child, forced to grow up after witnessing his parents walk off into the black waters of the lake near Innsmouth. He felt the loneliness that he dwelled in for months. The pain of feeling like he had been rejected by the only parental figure he had after his Soulweaving instructor left Innsmouth, unable to take him from such a nightmarish place.

The pain caused by the confusion of the events that transpired before meeting Xalia and being forced out of his birthplace. As if it were still happening, he could see the pain, guilt, and shame brought on by Pandora violating him and now the words and visions brought on by the Great Old One.

Xalia and Iustitia's hold on the Soulweaver began to falter as whatever possessed him continued to try and get him to the dead city below until like a steel beam finally bent beyond it could handle, something in the back of his mind snapped and his eyes went blank and his body limp.

I look forward to breaking the rest of you.

Chapter XXVII: Id

The plateau faded out of their view transforming into what appeared to have been the living quarters of someone. None of it mattered to Xalia or Iustitia as they looked at the Soulweaver who laid motionless on the floor, his eyes wide open and vacant, staring at everything and nothing.

Guilt overcame the two. Neither of them were able to keep their word to the Soulweaver.

***

In a world of darkness, water, and madness, something glided through the waters on ancient grace, incapable of understanding and processing anything beyond its most base desires.

Gliding through the sunken ruins of a city it had never known nor would care even if it were told, it scanned the ruins with eyes that had never seen sunlight, it hunts. Reaching out with a great claw that wouldn't look out of place on a colossal crustacean and rips away at the aquatic foliage that has taken over the sunken city. Tendrils and tentacles feel and lash about at nothing.

There was prey to be had, there was always prey.

It caught sight of its prey, a lesser vaguely humanoid creature evolved just enough to survive in its environment. Consumed by more than just mere hunger, the creature moved with almost supernatural speed towards its prey that retained enough features to show it was once a woman. Within seconds, it was on its prey.

In Kathool's world, morality as humans understood it was nonexistent. Only the need to feed, spawn, and kill were universal.

The tentacles restrained the creature while the tendrils acted out on his lust. The creature's prey screamed out to the uncaring world until the great claw silenced it and tore it apart. Death made no difference.

Surrounded by a red mist, the creature was unfulfilled in many ways. The neverending hunt continued.

This is your birthright, the voice of Kathool said in the empty mind of the creature.

The voice was as familiar to the creature as it was to every other lifeform that lied beneath the dark waters, but none paid any heed to it. Its words were meaningless, only the hunt and the fulfillment even if only temporary mattered.

A large shadow loomed over the creature. It was similar to the creature, but different in some ways, the biggest was its ability to discern between hunger and lust. When to take advantage of its preys lust to inflict harm and when to give in to sate its own savage desires and when to rip and tear.

The two clashed, the larger creature knowing this was the time to give in.

"My sweet sweet boy," the large creature said in a female voice. "You've finally come home to mother."

Blood called to blood, but the blood of the two creatures sang to one another.

Chapter XXVIII: Ego

The two carried the catatonic Soulweaver down the stairs of the tower, their steps echoing off the grey, featureless walls disrupting the silence between them.

This should be the end, Xalia thought. This is...this is too much for any of us. Maybe we'd be better off just staying here in this asylum. Maybe we're here because we belong here.

***

Shame, guilt, and disgust came over the Soulweaver as he watched the unholy union between the two aquatic horrors, staring into the dark waters of Innsmouth's strange lake. It was a scene that he could best describe as worse than what Pandora did to him, his blood running cold at the thought of that night that seemed so long ago yet also remained fresh in mind.

"Is this what happens if I submit? I turn into some kind of monster and-" the Soulweaver cut himself off.

The scene distorted and shifted until he was no longer staring into the lake's black water, but standing elsewhere in town, two people standing before him. A man, and a woman. The man's features were obscured and distorted as if a thick layer of fog was covering him, while the woman was tall and slender with long hair that seemed to be the same colour as the moon appeared, both were much taller than him.

"You'll join us one day, won't you?" the woman asked, her voice being the same one he had heard so many times before, crouched in front of the Soulweaver her piercing blue eyes making contact with his own. He recognized her as his mother.

He was a child again on the day his parents would walk into the black waters of the lake for reasons that even as an adult, he'd never understand.

"Why do you have to go?" he asked in a voice that was no longer his, tears streaming down his face.

"We're going to make a better world for you, sweetie."

He backed away from her as she leaned forward, kissing his forehead.

"Don't forget, you're my one and only," she said before standing up and walking into the black waters of the lake, the man following in silence.

Mother is God in the eyes of a child, the voice of Kathool said.

The Soulweaver clapped his hands over his ears, trying to shut out the voice of the Great Old One. He had to be strong, he had to resist.

I've been with you from the start.

Chapter XXIX: Superego

The two entered the main hallway and cellblock, the asylum's doors visible under the dim lighting.

"Do...do you think we belong here?" Xalia asked.

"No," Iustitia said, their tone lacking conviction. "We just need to go."

***

The Soulweaver saw his young self watching the black waters of Innsmouth's lake as he had done for months until the day a man in leather and steel with the emblem that the young boy would later learn is that of the Paladin Order entered the town.

"Excuse me, but may I ask what you're doing?" the man asked, glancing cautiously at their surroundings.

"Waiting," the boy who would soon be a Soulweaver said, his tone flat.

"Waiting for what?"

"For mother to come back."

The man looked out to the waters, seeing nothing but darkness.

"Has she gone for a swim?" the man asked, staring intently at the black waters, finding them unnerving.

A smile slowly spread across the Soulweaver's lips, watching the happiest moment of his life unfold before his eyes. It was a moment he would cherish forever.

The Soulweaver considered the man he would learn is a Paladin more of a father than his actual father whom he didn't particularly care for. His father always believed that he was too coddled and soft to ever be initiated into....the words escaped him. It was an order of sorts, but he couldn't recall the name.

It didn't matter, his father always took his mother away from him while the Paladin presumably because he had never met the at the time apprentice Soulweaver's parents showed no ill will towards him in any way.

The Soulweaver watched events unfold, his eyes tearing up as he relived the day the Paladin would explain that he was also a Soulweaver and just how he could be both, but he himself could not recall the explanation.

The happy tears the Soulweaver had begun to shed turned to ones of sadness when it came to the day the Paladin left Innsmouth. He thought he'd never stop crying after that day.

"You will meet new people that you will want to protect," the Paladin said. "And you're not alone as long as you have your SoulAlly."

Iustitia had yet to appear before the Soulweaver at that point, but the dream he had in Miskatonic assured him that Iustitia had always been there with him even though they never appeared before him until then. The Soulweaver had also thought of Xalia. He indeed wanted to protect her and sustained many injuries during their journey to make sure of that.

The Soulweaver wiped his eyes, the scene transitioning to an earlier time when the Paladin was teaching him the art of soulweaving as well as what the Paladin Order was about.

"Sometimes evil isn't limited to the forces of darkness," the man said during one his teachings about the Paladin Order. "Evil has no alignment to the elements. Evil is someone or something that intentionally harms or threatens others."

Iustitia had said something similar after they had left Miskatonic. Who was Iustitia before becoming an Elemental Spirit the Soulweaver thought? The Soulweaver also thought of Kathool who had done nothing but hurt him and Xalia.

"I will protect you, Xalia," he said.

Chapter XXX: Arkham Horror

The two knocked on the door, Nodens opening it and letting them out. It would be the first and only time someone had left the asylum since they began their watch over it. Neither spoke to the asylum's guard nor did they speak to the two as they left the asylum grounds. It was not their place to mettle in the affairs of mortals.

The streets were deserted with even the town's battlements being empty as if everyone in town vanished.

Iustitia shuddered. Incapable of feeling cold, something truly sinister must be afoot.

Xalia looked back at the asylum, the moonlight reflecting off a pair of windows at the top of the tower as if the asylum was not only overlooking the town below it, but looking back at her.

***

The Soulweaver found himself back in the main hall of the asylum. His blood ran cold at the sight of it. He looked back to the entrance seeing only a blank wall, forcing him to go forward.

The asylum was different than before. The cells remained the same, but the inhabitants were different. Instead of strange monsters, the cells are inhabited by different versions of himself. Behind the rune-covered glass, a creature that is more aquatic chimera than human stood, its piercing blue eyes being the only indicator that it was once him lashed at the Soulweaver with tendrils and tentacles, recoiling and letting out a pained hiss when the runes glow and the tips of its tendrils and tentacles burn, but do nothing to discourage the savage beast which continues its attack despite the pain being inflicted upon it.

The Soulweaver hastily moves on from the creature's cell, gazing into the next where he sees his child self behind bars, face streaked with tears.

"Why do you have to go?" the young boy asks.

I'm seeing what I've already seen, but why? None of it makes a difference. Am I supposed to choose which version of myself I want to be?

"I don't belong here," the Soulweaver said to his younger self. "And neither do you."

He continued down the hall, the door at the end leading to the courtyard growing more distant the further he walked.

Behind another sheet of rune-covered glass was another version of himself. Older than the one behind bars, but younger than he is now. The age he was when he met the Paladin.

The two stared at one another without saying a word. A feeling of melancholic nostalgia coming over the Soulweaver as he gazed upon the version of himself that had been happy.

"This isn't the me I want to be. Shackled by an idealized past."

The next cell was radically different than the others. No rune-covered glass or rune-engraved bars, but a mirror.

"This is me as I am now. This isn't the me I want to be. Broken and helpless. Wanting to protect others, but unable to. Unable to protect myself."

Pandora appeared in the mirror, licking her lips, the Soulweaver stumbling back, his heart pounding in his chest and breathing heavy.

"No. No, no, no!"

***

Outside the town of Arkham, the banners originally showing the Rose symbol were defaced. Either shredded and torn or scrawled over with the misshapen T-looking symbol. Something had come through Arkham, but who or what neither of them knew. Neither of them particularly cared at the moment, but they knew they couldn't stay in or around Arkham and going back the way they came wasn't an option.

Arkham would always be a bitter memory to them. Even Iustitia who would outlast both of them would never forget the town or the asylum that watched over it like a great, dark god.

Xalia looked into the vacant eyes of the Soulweaver. He saw everything and nothing at the same time and part of Xalia felt envious of him and his current state free of the horrors of the waking world she resided in. Shame and guilt came over her for feeling jealous of someone who was rendered catatonic by the horrors and trauma he experienced.

It made sense to her to want to escape the horror. She wasn't even sure what she was even doing. It started with a vision, a dream, and a voice.

"What was that plateau we saw?" Xalia asked.

"I don't know. But the being Kathool is involved and it wants him." Iustitia said, looking at the Soulweaver as they spoke of him. "Somehow he's involved in whatever it or its followers are doing."

Xalia felt a shock run through her body as the realization of her quest came to her followed by a feeling of dread and uncertainty.

Could she really prevent the rise of a god? Atlach-Nacha was a god of sorts which she and the Soulweaver had albeit temporarily slain, but if the events of the asylum was anything to go on, Kathool was something else entirely.

Xalia thought long and hard about the path that lay before her as the world around her grew darker the further they went into the stretch of Doomwood no one dared to travel.

< Message edited by NagisaXIkari -- 4/18/2019 5:17:44 >
DF  Post #: 3
4/18/2019 7:43:04   
NagisaXIkari
Member

Interlude III: Welcome Home

Samael entered the town of Dunwich, Furorem lagging behind, part of its host body that should've been devoured somehow still remaining.

"No..." came a voice from the monster's host body.

Samael was impressed with how durable the human spirit is. A species so young and fragile and yet capable of such impressive feats.

"Come along, let's go visit your old home," Samael said taking the decrepit hand of the monster as he had done when it was just the host body and began to lead it towards a house.

Samael had watched the town rapidly die over the last two years, the things that made it something of an oasis in the darkest corner of Doomwood had withdrawn from the world, the remaining townspeople attempted to preserve themselves via ending their isolation. They tried trading with other towns going as far as Miskatonic, but the woods worked against them and eventually the townspeople tried to leave, their bodies lost forever in the darkest reaches of Doomwood.

Samael opened the door to a house, the faint moonlight creeping into the windows barely illuminating the dust covered furniture and at the center of the main room, illuminated as if by a dim spotlight, lie the decayed remains of someone who was once held near and dear to the heart of Furorem's host body, torn and decaying clothing being the only thing to indicate it was once a woman.

"Abi...gail," the voice of Furorem's host body said, his voice cracked and hoarse.

"I'll leave you two to do some catching up, but don't take too long. There'll be others coming and I need you to stop them," Samael said as he walked out the door.

Chapter XXXI: Dingir

Samael appeared before Pan in a patch of forest somewhere in Greenguard the Black Goat would reside in when not answering to Valtrith.

The Black Goat shrank back at the sight of Samael. On the surface, Samael was a normal human, but the man gave off an immensely powerful aura. Not only was he not human, he was not of this world.

"Don't be afraid, I'm not here to harm you. Instead I'm here to request your services. And I believe you just might be more than happy to oblige," Samael said flashing their menacing and unnatural grin.

"State your request."

"There are forces at work in Darkovia and I seek to hinder them if only for a moment, but having other matters to attend to, I can't do it myself and that's where you come in. Find the aquatic creatures roaming Darkovia and direct them to Valtrith's castle."

"And why should I do this?" Pan asked, a feeling of regret in the back of their mind as if questioning the man was dangerous.

"Because these forces oppose Valtrith. Neither group are currently aware of it though. And anything that puts a damper on his day is good for you, isn't it?"

Pan flashed its own menacing grin and with a spread of its wings, took flight.

***

There was still a ways to go, but even if they didn't make it to the Plateau before the stars aligned, Kathool would awaken. They could feel their dark god growing stronger with each passing moment and whether R'yleh's lord awoke by their own hand or that of the cosmos, it made no difference.

Their numbers grew more after passing Arkham. The broken inhabitants of the town cursed by the influence of the asylum were more than willing to join their ranks if it meant the promise of some sort of order or even just freedom from the building that watched over the town. They were uninitiated unlike those from Innsmouth, but they were more than suitable sacrifices.

Of the three that went to Innsmouth to retrieve the Deep Ones, the one that retained enough of its humanity to form coherent thoughts was troubled by the appearance of the spiders. Atlach-Nacha had no reason to oppose them which could very well be why their kin attacked, but perhaps it was something more they thought. Someone influenced them to attack.

A great being flew overhead and swooped down, grabbing two of the former Arkham residents and climbed above the clouds where they would then be dropped into the dark woods below.

The army halted their march, readying themselves for the creature to make another pass, but instead it just hovered above them allowing them all to gaze deep upon its form.

"Identify yourself, monster!" the cultist capable of forming coherent thoughts demanded of the Black Goat.

"Servant of Baron Jaysun Valtrith and I cannot allow you to continue," Pan said sickened by the idea of identifying itself as a servant of the petulant golem.

Clouds of black smoke began to materialize in the trees surrounding the army of Deep Ones and former Arkham residents that took the shape of various monsters that lashed out and pulled its prey into the woods where it would never be seen again.

Pan took flight deep into the forest, the army pursuing, the smoke monsters gradually grabbing less and less of their ranks.

The one leading the army felt something was amiss as if the Black Goat was luring them somewhere, but for what reason they were unsure. Their numbers ceased to twindle despite having the ability to completely decimate their ranks. Could it have been a trap?

The Black Goat would eventually vanish leaving the army standing outside the walls of Castle Valtrith.

"It was a distraction," the cultist capable of forming coherent thoughts said aloud.

Monsters standing watch outside the castle set upon the army, but were largely ineffective. The cultist capable of forming coherent thoughts laughed. Whoever this Baron Jaysun Valtrith was, they were no threat.

Chapter XXXII: Battle Drums

Valtrith sensed Pan's presence on the castle grounds, wondering why that thing would come without being called then came the sounds of battle from within the castle. Was this Pan's doing or something else, Valtrith wondered as he left the castle's library, closing the eldritch tome retrieved from the coven, its words becoming more and more clear ever since the ritual.

What he saw in the halls was something he despised the most. Weakness.

His followers and various monsters torn asunder by strange chimerical lifeforms that resembled spare parts of various aquatic creatures haphazardly strung together. Among these monsters were what appeared to be mere humans until their bodies rapidly and violently transformed, turning into the rejects of the sea.

Overcome with rage, a multitude of tendrils emerged from Valtrith's body and plunged deep into the first of the monsters to be within their grasp, rapidly draining the life from the monster leaving only a dried husk that held its shape for only a moment before turning to dust.

Death came swiftly to those that got in Valtrith's path, his rage knowing no discrimination. Drained and slashed, and torn apart was the fate that befell all that were in his path be they the mysterious intruders or his own followers barely clinging to life.

In what seemed to be mere moments, they invaders were gone, leaving behind only the corpses that reeked of decaying ocean despite being freshly slain.

Why they fled was as much of a mystery as why they attacked, but Valtrith trumped it up to his own power for why they fled, but not why they attacked. They resembled nothing that could have been born of Darkovia, so where did they come from?

"This is quite the mess," Samael said nonchalantly seeming to appear from thin air. "What do you think this means?"

"I think it means neither you nor the degenerate nature spirit are to be trusted," Valtrith growled, his voice dripping with venom.

"A wise assessment, Valtrith. I'm going to believe you came to that conclusion and not someone else."

Samael taunted Valtrith with a grin that suggested they knew more than they were letting on. An expression that only angered Valtrith further, the lion part of his cloak growling.

You idiot, you don't even know who you're talking to and yet you dare threaten them, said the voice that began to emerge following the ritual.

"Who are you?" Valtrith demanded unsure if he was addressing the one that had been identifying itself as Samael, the voice inside, or both.

"Samael, but I'll let you in a bit of a secret. That is only one name I've gone by over millennia. The one inside you could tell you more if they're willing."

"What was the purpose of the ritual?"

"Oh, I'm not going to tell you that. You'll find out soon enough," Samael said appearing to fade out of existence.

Valtrith returned to the library, his rage still peaked. Upon opening the doors, he bore witness to Caitiff flipping through the eldritch tome and like in the hall, lashed out with a flurry of dark tendrils that hit nothing. Caitiff was gone having never been in the library.

What compelled you to create something with the name "Despicable?" Something whose mere presence angered you? the voice asked. Do you know what vampires refer to caitiff as? Trash. Your only creation and it's trash.

"Be quiet."

The voice laughed mockingly at him.

In due time, you'll cease to hear my voice. When I take over.

< Message edited by NagisaXIkari -- 4/20/2019 8:57:17 >
DF  Post #: 4
Page:   [1]
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