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Yordeen placed down her vase of spirits, which made a loud clatter as it struck the desk. Luckily the glass was thick so hadn’t shattered nor cracked. Not that Yordeen would have cared, she had a trove full of the life filling concoction. Not the most effective use of her dwindling supplies, but with how times were. It was a necessary reprieve she would indulge in until she couldn’t. Even her Daughters had taken up the habit, to Yordeen displeasure. Made her supplies of the sweet nectar diminish even faster. But such was the price she paid for forcing her children to take up the burden with her in viewing the new wave of Shards. Even though she never got through the mountain of old ones from the previous wave of Flocks. She never would either, no point as the visions held within were too old to matter.

Yordeen slowly moved her head towards one of her Daughters as the child began to whimper as quietly as she could manage. The girl was viewing a Shard, as was everyone around Yordeen. All not assigned crucial tasks were forced to aid her. She was working under Voices now, all of whom were filled with Anger at the very prospect they’d been forced to come and manage a Sanctum below the one they were used to. Not to mention they inherited a mess, the Anointed had left things running on a very thin thread. Yordeen was of the opinion it was more to do with incompetence. Rather than open malice and filling their own Houses with goods not entitled to them. Since said Anointed Houses, even before the Voices came and took almost everything from them, weren’t in the greatest of shape.

The remembrance of the Voices had her vessel shiver some, a small tremor. Which given she was filled with spirits was a display of how much her vessel feared thinking of them. Or perhaps the army of Enforcers that had accompanied the Voices in their swift arrival into the Sanctum. Demanding with Wrathful fervor for the knowledge of what had happened to their Sister.

The visions were still clear in her mind. Chanters with Titles of Guarding failed to inform them of what they wanted. How then the Enforcers endowed with Warded armor lined with Hearts singing with Souls. Went about slaughter all in sight as they made a path towards the Anointed’s chamber. The shock of truth had thinned the Wrath within the Voices when they found it. Found the Anointed were all dead and had been so for some time, along with their sister. They had come to her after, as the Archivist, Yordeen was to know of important events, to remember and store them within the Heart of Remembrance.

Yordeen vessel shivered more because of the memory, as the Wrath began to build back up to an engulfing light that wished to burn all. She didn’t have the answers they sought, none did. Yordeen had informed them the best she could. Displayed what she'd been told and proved from visions. Showed how their Sister barged her way into an Anointed meeting, and after, when a significant length of time had passed and none had come out. A Worried filled Servant peeked within the blessed chamber and found only ash.

Yordeen was of the mind she was only amongst the living still because of her Title. None want it, even with how needed it was, even the Voices knew of this. So instead of killing her, they’d beat her, badly.

But they had been careful with their blows, made sure none could become life threating. A blessing compared to what the Voices and their Enforcers had done to others. How they cleansed large sections of the Tower. Eager to deliver Marks to those they considered responsible for a Voice being lost.

Yordeen took another swing from her bottle, washed the memory down with the warm liquid and tried to focus her mind as much as she could on her endless Task. A new wave of Flocks had been sent out. The Voices had accepted some of Yordeen advice, the Flocks had been filled mostly with Worthy. The cost of which been they’d practically emptied the first and some of the second tier of any with decent blood.

Many Houses had been ruined, or turned into shadows of what they had once been. But the Voices didn’t care, even less for a Sanctum they were forced to command and had cost them a Sister. Their demands were harsh, and not stopping. The second tier was bleeding out Worthy, and once another wave of Flocks was sent. The Houses of that tier would be spent as well. Then the Voices would move their fill intent to the inner tier, then the Towers, if it called for that. If the Flocks failed to reclaim what belonged to the Elders and the Giver that guided all.

For that, Yordeen House had been given an offer. They were to aid Yordeen in her task of viewing the Shards, or suffer the same harsh demands as those below them were experiencing. As the Founder and head Hierarch, it wasn’t hard to tell her House to accept the Voices demands.

Yordeen glared at the mound of Shards in front of her. She may have been spared from her house being drained, but it had been replaced with children slowly becoming cursed, with some already becoming consumed. The visions had gotten them too, the curses within taking root and causing the consumed to try and spread their corruption to others. Yordeen mourned the loss of them, of the waste when they had to be put down. Many were of good Worth, should have provided far more to her House, rather than viewing a few shards before they lost themselves.

But these were curse times. Times where those Above began turning their gazes below. Began questioning the Worth of those that toiled for them. At least that was how it felt, her Sanctum was being drained. And Yordeen was realizing with growing clarity that the Voices were going to empty it till it was a dry and ruined husk.

What did those Above care about those Below? In their eyes no matter how High others claimed to be, Yordeen and those of her flock would always be seen as Lowly. The thought had Anger showing itself, not the first time either. It was rather useful for keeping Fear and Worry away. When the worst of the visions weakened her enough that the two began Chanting loudly in her mind.

‘Kill them’ Anger harshly whispered to her. ‘Butcher them, make it slow, show them who really is the Lowly.’ It sent scenes to her, visions of beaten bodies and begging Voices, her standing over them bearing down earned punishment. Yordeen breathed out, centered herself, and though she found the visions to her liking, she was high enough in Cycles not to be pulled in by it.

The strength and heated warmth Anger was providing dissipated as it noticed her pull away. As did the visions, leaving her colder than before. One of Anger's tools, quick to give, and quick to take, when a Soul wasn’t obedient. Not that she didn’t want to bring about what Anger had shown, quite the opposite. It made her thrilled beyond many other pleasures. But she was knowledgeable enough to know how badly it would fail. Even success would be temporary. If she'd somehow got her hands on them, got passed their Flock of Enforcers. If she’d been able to kill the Voices for their insults against her. Then her reward would have been an even larger force sent from Above. One that would be aiming for her head and her House that would already be spent.

Such was the visions of Anger, so very tantalizing, but also short-lived, quick to be snuffed out by the harsh truths Yordeen was forced to remember. She was Lowly, was one of the Highest of the Low, which meant nothing to those Above. Just another Soul to labor for them, so those of true Worth didn’t have to lower themselves to such meager Tasks. Like looking through Shards full of cursed sights. No, those on High couldn’t be allowed to be marked by such corrupted sights. Their Light had to remain pure, a symbol to all Vail of their superiority to the realm around them.

‘Soulless, Nightmare minded Lowly!’ Yordeen thought to those Above, she could have that at least, was able to curse them without reprisal. Yordeen sighed as Anger left her in full, it patients run out, and with it, Fear and Worry came pestering her anew. ‘Tend to your Task, the Voices will be displeased.’ Worry said to her.

‘You know they’ll have thought up new ways to harm you, more painful ways, but less likely to cause true harm.’ Fear whisper after, got Yordeen hands to shake, she very much didn’t want to experience more of the Voices attention. Nor a re-experience of her claws being pulled out. Or teeth.

So she listened to the wisdom provided her and returned to her Task. She plucked a Shard from the overflowing mound that had consumed most of her desk, and some of the floor. Apparently, she was one of the few Archivists left, most of the others had been consumed after being forced by their local Anointed, then Voices, to see too many visions at once. What news she'd heard, was the Sanctums were having a hard time finding replacements. Or at least ones that lasted a Worthy note of time.

How long before she was the same? Yordeen wonder, the thought filling Fear to new heights as it settled around her, smiling too wide and revealing rows of jagged pointed teeth. ‘Not long’ Yordeen surmised, soon she to would be consumed by lies and curses.

‘Not lies.’ Fear said too her ‘Truths, truths filled with me’ Fear spoke in an affectionate tone, as one of its hands pushed against it. Yordeen turned her gaze from it. But didn’t refute the claim, she should, but found she no longer had the strength. Nor urge to contest what was displayed. Instead, she connected with the Shard in her hand, and quickly dived into the vision to be away from her Fear.

She was in a Mine, the Flock she was with was filled with those of note. People who actually had channels displayed on them. They moved about hesitantly, heads and ears moving about as they carefully lifted their feet hover the tangles of vines that combed the floor. The realm was still, only the low sound of moving brush filled the air. In the calmness around them that was loud enough for all to be on edge. Yordeen watched with bated breath, waiting for a Horde to spring out from nowhere and charge the Flock of Chanters. Instead, time continued to flow by with nothing changing but the slow creeping of the Flock as they moved deeper into the Mine that appeared abandoned.

So much so that Yordeen sped up time to quicken the vision. The slow walk of the Flock became an odd moving fast march. Yordeen readied for the moment where Nightmares revealed themselves, ready to stop time and study what new changes had taken place. Instead, the Flock continued forward undeterred. Then Yordeen, as she studied her surroundings, noticed the Nightmares had left their marks everywhere. The tunnels formed from the workings of Lowly, and Wordane, were now marred with the rounded grooves and edges of the Carvers chisel marks. Plus, to Yordeen confusion, imprints as if the Nightmares had been eating the stone around them. All along the path they walked this patterned remained. The entire Mine appeared almost half eaten by the time the Flock scoured the length of it. As they searched the Flock found newly formed chambers, yet the places were empty of Nightmare offspring. The Mine before them would have made for a decent Hive. Instead, they found it to be truly abandoned, not a single Nightmare was to be found.

Even sped up Yordeen watched those that made up the Flock become relieved. They realized they didn’t have to fight for the Mine, that their Task was already done for them. Though the Nightmares had removed much, the ores were left untouched, even new deposits had been found in the Nightmare formed tunnels.

She returned time to its normal pace. Those around her were cheerful, though not enough to lower their guard. But the flock was full of smiles now. Yordeen wished she could join in the moment of relief. She couldn’t however, since Worry began whispering in her mind again.

‘Where did they go? Why did they abandon a place they fought so hard to claim? Why did it look like the Mine was half chewed on?’ Worry wrapped itself around her, and in diffident times, Yordeen would have pushed it away. Had placed herself in trance Offering to the Giver. But she didn’t have the strength for that now, or perhaps the care. There was much to be done, and the Task before her would only bring Worry and Fear back. No matter how many times she casted them away. So she disconnected from the Shard, grabbed another, and pondered on the questions Worry presented.

All three weren’t pleasant things to consider. Where? In the past Yordeen would have assumed the Nightmares were heading for a Settlement to consume, or try to. But those were all gone. There were the Flocks those the Nightmares could be heading out to hunt. But if that was the case, then the Flock she'd just witnessed would have been attacked before they found the Mine empty.

It was a rare thing for Yordeen to wish that those in her spot and Above, had better-paid attention to the realm Below. Had set up a more elaborate monitoring system to view events that took place under them. Now because they hadn’t, she was effectively blind. The majority of wisdom they gained about that state of the realm Below had come from the Settlements. With those gone their only eyes were the Flocks. And oh how narrow sighted those eyes were.

Yordeen breathed out slowly when she had to accept she hadn’t the slightest clue on where the Nightmares had gone, not even a guess. She didn’t even have guesses for the other two questions Worry had laid before her. It was outside the Nightmare normal behavior, they had no reason to leave the Mines, even if there was a great prize near. Not all of them would leave, the smallest of the Nightmares would have remained, would have covered the Mine in layers of their eggs. Instead, the Mine was bare of such corruption.

Yordeen placed the Shard with the others she considered she would review for later observation. For right now, she needed more insight into what was happening. So Yordeen almost eager in a way, closed her eyes and plunged into another Shard. The crackling of the Givers Wrath was there to welcome her presence into the scene of a one-sided slaughter. Yordeen felt her real ears go limp as she watched the fight unfolding before her. Ancients, a Horde of Ancients, and they were the biggest she’d ever seen, made all the others in the past look like early offspring. Chanter’s around her were unleashing Wrath at the threat before them, the light of it letting Yordeen see everything crystal clear. Enough that she paused time, forced herself to take in the scene. A scene her vessel so desperately wanted to turn from.

It was hard to except so many Ancients in one place, even harder to accept the scale of them. Worse was each and everyone was covered in, she was hesitate to consider, but Wards. Crude to the skills of the Crafters that blessed the walls around her with sacred strength. But she could not deny the similarity, nor the fact that the Givers Wrath wasn’t able to shatter the Ancients. Though frozen in time, their paused movements displayed a strong stride, the swarm of Ancients weren't avoiding the Chants. Not that they could, but the Nightmares weren’t even making the attempt.

Yordeen took the moment to notice her surroundings, saw that the Flock she was with wasn’t in a Mine. The overgrowth of foliage was a full display of that. Yordeen hadn’t seen plant life so overripe, so in the way before. Returning her sight to the Ancients, she willed the vision to continue forward.

The crackling noise and screams mixed with the Chanting of Worthy. That and the cursed screeching of the Ancients marching towards them. Those in the Front began to push back against their fellow Chanters, tried to flee back away from the Ancients. Those further in the line followed suit, soon the whole Flock was retreating, slowly, while still spending themselves sending down the Givers Wrath. None of it was doing any good, all the Chants did was force the Ancients to expend more of their strength to push against the Chants that was trying to burn them.

A Twisted Chant played in the air, one Yordeen had heard before, she was ready for what was to come. Those in the Flock, however, were caught completely off guard. Ranks were sundered when Chanters failed to Chant Barriers in place to defend themselves. Stone turned to smoke as it dissolved from the Flock right. Chanters feel apart once the Chant struck them. Another blast of the twisted song came from the other direction, consuming more ranks of Chanters that had gone into a full panic.

“Barriers you cursed lot, Barriers!” The Taskmaster screamed, his voice filled with Fear. Those not touched by the Ancients attack did as commanded, Barriers weaved into being. Slowly it spread its way down away from the Swarm as it sheltered more of the Flock that was adding their Souls to the Construct. Those in the front, the lucky few that had been out of the path of the Ancients assault, found themselves isolated. They hammered they fists against the Barriers, but none would let them in. Another blast of the corrupted air went forth, claiming the remaining that weren’t sheltered within the Barriers protection. A protection that was thinning, even as more of the Flock poured themselves into it.

“Retreat, Retreat for the Givers sake don’t spend yourselves” the Taskmaster raved, the Maker of the vision took the Taskmaster words fully. He turned from the morbid scene and ran as fast as one could through the lines of Chanters, pushing his way through when forced. The Molder did this for some time, and only turned back to look when a loud chorus of noise gained his interest. Yordeen saw more Ancients had arrived, had made their entrance by attacking from above, smashing their large forms into the construct. Armored fists, larger than boulders, hammered against the weakened Barriers. It held for a few blows but then the construct collapse and the Ancients fell upon the lines of Chanters.

The Molder turned after that, seeing his fellow Chanters being mauled to death as a sigh from the Giver to run at a full sprint. The Vision faded to black after, leaving Yordeen struggling with what the vision had provided her. Many scenes that will haunt her dreams, more tinted truths that made her and her vessel feel the chill that the Nightmare was bringing into the realm.

Yordeen didn’t stop her vessel when it grabbed the flask and took a large swig of spirits to chase off the worst of the cold. She did, however, stop when the swig changed to a full-on chugging of the liquid. She forcefully placed the bottle down, and placed the Shard with the others to be analyzed later. The Swarm had reached unprecedented heights. Heights that had never been seen in the Heat of Remembrance. She would know, as she had searched through the worst it had to Offer on Nightmares. None of it displayed Swarms of the scale they were dealing with now. Swarms that could Chant, swarm with Wards. The thought made her vessel weak. The corrupted truth chilled her.  It was a truth that she couldn’t share lightly. Many would sentence her on the spot as being consumed, and being led by lies.

Her Fear swelled from the vision, Worry as well, but not near the same degree. Yordeen did her best to center herself, forced herself into a trance as she Offered to the Giver, asking for a reprieve from the turmoil she had once called for.

The Giver remained silent, but at the very least the trance helped push Fear back, let her have a moment of diluted clarity. The Swarm was growing, but how? She didn’t know. She could understand their growth spurt after they began to consume one Settlement after the other. But it had been Arcs now since the last had fallen. The Nightmares growth should have plateaued, though their numbers would still continue to rise, their size, however, should have remained the same. Yet instead she was faced with Nightmares many times what they should be. Gazed upon Swarms made of Ancients rather than their children.

Fear crept closer to her again, placed one of its misshaped hands on her shoulder. A mockery of face whispered in her ear. ‘Perhaps it is the end? Perhaps the Nightmare is done playing with its food?’ Her vessel shivered as the words dug into her, she should have pushed Fear aside, placed it back where it belonged, under her heel. Instead, she listened, for she needed answers. She wasn’t under Anointed anymore, who cared little for her Wisdom or the events taking place Below them. The Voices had come, were now watching everything closely, and demanding a return to normalcy that the Lowly had failed to maintain. They would want to know, would punish her again. If she didn’t even try to Offer vague answers to why things were happening in the way she was seeing them.

‘Keep looking’ Fear said in a haunted tone. “Keep looking, the truth lays within the Shards, many hold the answers you seek. But will you be able to look upon them?” Fear asked, and Yordeen could feel the emotion trying to look and seep deeper into her. She pushed back, and shoved it away. Fear let out a shriek from the force as it stumbled away from her. Anger showed itself as she fed it, annoyed with Fear being so brazen. The two fought with each other, and while that happened Yordeen gazed at the Shards. She knew they held answers, that was the point of them, still, Fear wisdom rang true. Would she be able to look upon it without losing herself? Without the masses turning on her the moment she tried sharing her thoughts.

‘Does it matter?’ Yordeen considered, the Nightmare was still growing, was a threat a Flock of Chanters couldn’t deal with, true most were still Lowly, far from the pinnacle the Vail were. But that didn’t matter, a collection of Chants from all of them would bring down even a High if unprepared. They shouldn’t be having trouble squashing the Swarms. Instead, they were the ones being turned into a mash. Crushed by Ancients now able to brush off the Givers Wrath with seamless effort. How were they to secure the tunnels to the Sanctums with Swarms of such terror roaming the realm Below? It didn’t matter if they reclaimed the Mines. Not if the lines leading back could be assaulted at any time. Yordeen could already see the end that led to. The Voices wouldn’t let that outcome remain. They would empty hers and the other Sanctums, spend them dry to remove the threat.

Her Thoughts had her Fear winning over Anger as it began to feed once more. Anger dispersed, but even triumphant Fear stay away this time. Though she could feel it glaring at her. Yordeen ignored it, a simple thing when she was faced with events as cursed as the ones before her.

Yordeen breathed in a few times, centered once more, then plucked another Shard from the mound that kept being added to. She sank into the object, determined to find the answers she sought.  Death was near, and if the Nightmare that refused to disperse remained, then her end would reach her eventually.

 

For Rounds she searched, Servants came and went, caring for her needs. Daughter continued to scream or cry around her as slowly more of her upper circle fell further to being consumed. Still, Yordeen searched, and found many things. Fear had its arms wrapped around her now, and she didn’t have the strength to push it away. It watched with her, studying the many scenes, many of which added to its being.

Each encounter with the Swarms led to the same slaughter. Hosts of Ancients at the lead, walking their way through the barrage of Chants sent to render them to ash. Instead, they own Wards, twisted and filled with wicked lies, sustained them. Allowed them to push through and get in range of Chanters that weren’t equipped for such a fight. Chanters, scores of them were butchered, and only rarely did her people get lucky enough to kill an Ancient. Focusing all they had on one or two.

Still, it meant nothing with a Swarm of them. Especially when the Nightmares stopped with their games, stopped trying to close in on the Vail to kill them. There were times, when only Ancients able to sing their own Chants moved against the Flock. Together they formed a Chorus, one that forced the Flocks to spend themselves in a pointless attempt to defend. In the end, they failed, the Barriers dissolved away and the Flock with it.

For the Flocks that missed the Swarms which roamed about randomly. They reached there appointed Mines, found them deserted, each and every one. The tunnels covered in maw marks, and many new chambers had been eaten out. Yet as before the ores that her people prized were left. Plus all the Mines had also been left unmarked by the infestation of eggs.

All they would have to do was send a Host of Lowly with supplies to start mining again and production would return in a short passing of time. Though pointless with Swarms still roaming about and the Flocks powerless to stop. Swarms that were growing still. Yordeen had wanted to entertain the idea that the Nightmares kept growing because they were feeding off the remains of the Flocks. Of the Hundreds of corpses that were left behind. But that wasn’t how it was, the Ancients rendered most to a pulp, the rest to ash as Chants disintegrated them. There wasn’t enough left of a Flock to be nourishment to continue the growth she was seeing.

There was something else, she knew, she found.

It hadn't come from the mound of Shards before her. But from a Servant that hurriedly came to her side, carrying a small chest in hand. Accompanied with a Task that she was to view the vision within. So she did, even though such request meant the Shard before her was more cursed filled than all others.

Her eyes fell upon the scene, and she wished she had gone blind, wished she could have turned her gaze. But Fear held her tight, forced her to watch as a Flock stumbled into a chamber. A chamber filled with the glow from a channel of Souls surging further down into the depths Below. She stared in horror like the rest of the Flock. As they looked upon a chamber filled with Ancients and other things, things that made them look like Newborn.

 At the center, maws open wide Yordeen found her answer. Saw with painfully clarity, creatures, the Precursors of the Nightmare drinking in the Souls of her people.

‘No’ Yordeen said in her mind, as she tried pulling away from the sight.

‘Yes!’ Fear screamed triumphant as it grew large and powerful.

‘No!’ Yordeen screamed back, and fought the hold Fear had on her. Worry began singing to her of all the things that could come to pass. She heard only a fraction, as she fought back Fear.

“Stop,” it said to her, struggling to hold her in place, “Stop! Listen to me” its grip grew tighter, and only encourage Yordeen to fight even more.

“I can take it all away.” Fear spoke in a rushed manner “free you from this burden, let me in, let me guide the vessel.” Yordeen screamed, this time not only in her mind, but the realm, as well, as her body began to convulse and twitch. Yordeen kept struggling, kept calling to the Giver for salvation, calling to her trance, and when that failed, when aid was denied her. Then she called to another, feed it with all the Hate that she could muster. Anger swelled into existence, letting loose a howl as it focused on Fear, and tackled it.

Fear let her loose after Anger began ripping large chunks from it. Allowed her to turn from the sight of the Shard that stilled laid in her hand, even as her body shivered violently.

It was too late, the sight was burned into her mind, even as she did everything to push it away. It stayed, forcing her to see it, witness the truth she should have never searched for.

The Nightmare had come in full, no longer was it sated with the flesh of their vessels. No, the final feast had come, and it was their souls this time that would be claimed. Yordeen tried reaching for the bottle of spirits, begging for the warmth it provided as she felt the core of her turning cold. Her hand failed to find the strength to hold it with all the shivering that took place. Worse her erratic movements caused the vase to fall off her table and smash into pieces on the floor.

“No, No!” Yordeen howled into the expanse of the chamber, as she stumbled into a standing position. She began to cry, wailed as the fight between Fear and Anger took up more of her mind. She called out again, begged for the Giver to provide Peace.

Yet none came, her pleas met deaf ears. Anger swelled from it, as Yordeen came to understand she had been abandoned. Perhaps all of them had, an Offering to the Nightmare that was going to sallow them whole.

Yordeen screamed in pain as the two fought in her, her thoughts spinning, twisting to two forms, two of which brought nothing but more anguish. She tried to Chant, to push the pain back, but her vessel was too far gone, the truth, the chill of it was consuming her, and there was nothing she could do. The toil of Cycles of her Task had come to weigh upon her weary existence. Yordeen fell to her knees weeping when the shivering reached a point not even Panic could keep her standing. She rose her head to the ceiling crying out towards those Above, the thought of them filled Anger more. It howled in triumph as it began beating Fear back, began claiming her. Began to steady her, push back the chill with a heat that burned.

Yordeen hissed out a breath, Anger seeping from it, and she heard the clattering of metal. Yordeen lowered her gaze, notice the crowd of people watching her. Like a spectacle, they observed as she was slowly consumed, not one offering her aid against a truth that will claim them all, whether they acknowledge it or not. It was a truth that would not leave once seen, even now freed from the Shard, one eye still watched the scene repeat, watched the Souls of her people become food for another.

Yordeen glared at those before her, at those who would abandon her. For mixed within the crowd of Servants and Daughters, stood Enforcers. Clad in their blessed armor, cover in Wards that sheltered them.

Where was hers? Where was her protection after Cycles of thankless effect? Where was her reward for taking on a Task none wanted? The questions only added to Rage that formed and helped Anger, which in turn also strengthen it. And her, her vessel wasn’t shivering anymore, but it burned. Her channels glowed bright, and brighter still when hands were pointed at her. The Enforcers ready to deal with a consumed.

Yordeen chuckled darkly but did not cry, no the tears had burned away as she rose. “You will all die.” she said in a harsh tone. Her gaze fixed onto the Enforcers, they were not fazed by her words. Secured in their belief that the armor around them would keep them safe. But it wouldn’t, none of it will, the Wards will fail, Yordeen realized. The Nightmare infused with the Souls of the departed, would sunder the walls around her people. The Nightmare was coming, and there be no holding it back this time.

“There will be no salvation.” She mumbled to the crowd.

“What did you see?” One of the Enforcers asked, its voice filled with the sound of Disgust.

Yordeen stared at him, seeing the reason why they were there. It was all a setup, the Shard likely already had consumed others, she only the last in a line that would continue to grow. The thought it had her breathing go haggard, her hands flexing as Anger finished with Fear, and turned its gaze.

‘Surrender to me’ Anger said stomping slowly towards her, feeding her strength as it neared. “And together we will burn this realm, cleanse it of all the others. And you will be my highest servant, will sit second to me as we rule over a realm renewed.” It finished, placing firm hands on her shoulders. In a different time, it would have been a task for a Newborn to brush Anger aside. But now, Yordeen couldn’t see any reason to fight it, her fate was already marked.

“If you want to know so badly.” Yordeen said as Anger dug deep into her “You’ll have to look within for yourself.” Then she was gone as Anger to over, thrust her back from her place, and she became a spectator in her own vessel as it had once been.

Anger hands flew up, flames emerging from them which sweep over the crowd. The chamber filled with screams of the burning, of her children and Servants. But the Enforcers stood there taking the attack, unfazed as the Wards around them glowed brightly. Anger only howled at them, spitting curses as it poured more of her soul into the Chant.

“What did you see!” the Enforce screamed at her as he walked towards her taken vessel. Anger hissed at it, even more as the Enforcer grabbed hold and forced Anger's hands down. The Chant lasted for a Breath longer before ceasing as Anger was only causing harm to itself. Yordeen saw with the flame gone, that only the Enforcers remained. The rest had been rendered to ash.

“Tell me!” the Enforcer continued to scream at her, his grip enough that it broke Anger's arms. It hissed, even more, opening its mouth wide. Flames poured from it covered the Enforcer face. His hand moved, grabbing Anger jaw and forced its head to point elsewhere. The Enforcer snarled and slammed Anger's head into her desk. Not that it did anything.

“Speak you pathetic thing, tell me!” The Enforced bellowed at it.

“The ember of your end, little will.” Anger hissed out one last time before Yordeen watched the Enforcer raise his hand and bring it smashing down shattering the desk and Anger's head to pieces. Then dark claimed her, and Peace.

 ---------------------------

Suenor knew by the Enforcers strides that they had failed. They were slower in their movements, reluctant to prostrate themselves to her and her Sisters.

Still, she asked, “How went your Task Enforcers?” They lowered their heads further to her, the final testament to a Task incomplete.

“As well as the last” The one in front of the Host proclaimed. “The Archivist even marked as the greatest of them, succumbed in less than a Sequence.”

Suenor lips thinned, she had expected more of a fight from the longest-serving Archivist, but then, they had spread her thin. The lesser curses must have done more harm than the Archivist had been revealing.

“Were you able to gain any insight from the Turned before it was put down?” She asked and Offered to the Giver that something be provided.

“The ember of your end.” The Enforcer voiced “That was all I was able to force from the consumed one.”

She did not let a frown form, that was beneath her. Centered, one must always remain, always vigilant to stave off the curses and its many shapes.

“Insightful” Her sister Inlim commented, though her voice was neutral, it was not enough. Suenor was almost certain she heard a trace of frustration in her words. The Enforcer shifted, would if he could, lowered himself even more.

“True” Suenor spoke, “We now have a vague image of what lays within, something ill, fatal if not dealt with.” If only they knew what. How easy it would be to find out, to just peek into the Shard. But though she was trained, and had been blest once to be within the Givers person. She was too hesitant to risk blemishing her Soul with a vision that consumes them so quickly. Even if she could hold it off, a mark would certainly remain.

“You may leave Enforcers, return the Shard back to its holding, we’ll call once another has been picked to looking within it.” They rose, eyes lowered to floor more than usual, even without punishment they knew to carry their failings.

She waited a Sequence after the door had been closed before turning her attention to Inlim “You-“

“A moment’s lapse, Sister” Inlim spoke over her. “This Task with the Shard and the Sanctum itself tests me.”

“It’s testing us all,” another Sister voiced, her tone perfectly even.

Suenor gave Inlim a weak smile “We are here for each other, as the Elders and those Above them have wisely decided. Don’t let curses try to trick you into thinking you can’t ask for aid.”

Her Sister closed her eyes in a quick trance before turning them towards her. “It was a small lapse Suenor, nothing more.”

Suenor inclined her head “Very well, then let us return to the Task before us. With the longest-serving Archivist lost, we must consider the alternative.” A stillness hanged in the air. “A debate between us to see who will look within.” 

That, Suenor thought would be a test, to stave off the greatest dark and come out unchanged. Suenor knew she wasn’t ready, not any of them. Normally the curses would be locked away, but with the Mines lost and Nightmare from what she learned, growing. The sight that laid within the Shard couldn’t be ignored. Not when it could reveal the Nightmares intent.

“There is still some Archivist left, we could send it to another of our Sisters and have them try their hands with gaining its secrets.” One of the Voices displayed, others were inclined to it. As was Suenor, but wasn’t that a failing on them all. Fear, even now as she looked over her thoughts, she could see it influencing her.

“Do not let Fear guide you Sisters, as it has already.” Suenor spoke as clarity returned to her. “We should have done this from the beginning, the Lowly failed to maintain the Sanctums and their roles. They will continue to fail with this Shard as well. It falls on those Above to deal with these troubling matters.”

Silence fell over them, before Sisters bowed their heads towards her, eyes closed in trance, calling to the Giver for clarity. Something that had become difficult with them so distant from her. She had always known the realm Below a Soulless forsake place. But only now knew the depths of it. A Place devoid of her presence, of the Giver that watched and provide for her Chosen. ‘This is our true test’ Suenor thought to herself, to remain aligned with the Giver even when she was too far from reach.

“Shall begin then?” Inlim asked “This deliberation of Worth?”

“Yes,” Suenor said, “Then we shall see what lays within that Shard.”

 -------------------------------

Nyth huffed as he hovered a load of Souls behind him, the volume of which would provide him the Worth needed to be safe for a good while. If it was his, sadly to his pain it was not. No, all belong to the great and Worthy House he sheltered under. One that was trying very hard to get him and those of his station killed.

‘My Worth should have me lounging with Maidens, instead, I’m out in Wardless tunnels mining from a River.’ He thought bitterly, enough that it took form, began pestering him at it hobbled about on his shoulder. He would have pushed it away, but Worry beat him to it, as it to hang about his shoulders.

 ‘You should move faster, what if the Taskmaster gets angry at you again?” Worry voiced to him for the hundredth time. Not that he didn’t take the advice and quicken his pace, it just didn’t seem to matter. The Taskmaster was filled with Anger, at least from Nyth view of things. The man's eyes burned with Rage and was quick to deal out punishment, whether it was deserved or not.

‘At least I’m not the only one suffering’ he thought, trying to cheer himself up at the prospect of a shared burden. It didn’t, and Nyth was about to sigh again before It caught in his throat as the realm began to quake. He and countless others let out shrieks of Panic as stone began to fall, and their walk paths began to crack or break entirely.

A chorus of noise had Nyth looking behind him, back towards the River of Souls. Then he really screamed, his Chant broke and the container holding the Souls within crashed to the ground.

His Fear formed at his side, swelling to the largest it’s ever been, and grabbed him roughly on the shoulder. “Run!” it yelled at him, but Nyth found his vessel wouldn’t move, his eyes transfixed on the sight before him. As something beyond his purview opened a maw larger than buildings and began swallowing the Souls flowing down.  Walls all around them crumbled revealing more Nightmares that were beyond that. Ancients, large and imposing, glowing with channels.

Fear pressed against him “Let me in, I can get us away.” It said, but Nyth didn’t get the chance to responded before his attention was pulled elsewhere. Namely to the pain of his chest bursting open as a beak pierced through it. Fear howled and disappeared as Nyth choked on his own blood and the realm went black.

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Freethorm

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