Tolein knew long before the Shards began to arrive that things weren’t going as they'd envisioned. One look at the Wards told that much to her. Each Sequence they faded a little more, the soothing nature of their song quieting even below a whisper as the Souls were drained away.
The Curse known as Bliss had come, and had changed tactics again. Undoing everything they’d put together to thwart her advance. Tolein felt flacks of Anger manifest in her before she stomped them down, crushing them back to the nothingness they came from and belonged. It hadn’t been the first time, and with the current trajectory of things, it wasn’t going to be the last.
“Should we remake the tokens and open up the gates? Arnoc asked the picture of centering and neutrality. Even as things fell apart around them, he remained unfazed by any of it. A calm observer to all matters which happened around him.
She glanced at the Wards, saw them diminishing and nodded her head. “Best Gooth forces be rallied before Bliss breaks through.” Arnoc turned even before she was done speaking, racing off to fulfill a Task she wasn’t all that sure would change the outcome. They had planned to trap Bliss within the Sanctum, once she reached far enough inside. The Curse would discover all means to open the gates had been destroyed, and those she converted stuck in their tiers with no means to get out. For only Inquisitors had the patterns memorized to open them. None of whom would fall to Bliss sway, thus forcing Bliss to abandon those she’d just converted.
A plan with a glaring flaw now shown to them, the Curse always had the means to break their defense. She just saw other means to get to them without needing to resort to it. But now with the defenses they’d put in place, it seemed a threshold had been reached and the Curse was done playing.
All of which had been sent to those further up in the realm Above. What they would do with the knowledge she was uncertain. Their belief in the Wards had been shown to be a foolish one, Bliss couldn’t be waited out, or hidden from. She was coming and they would have to face her. Given this new reveal, Talien was knowledgeable enough to know her order would take swift and bold measures.
If they saw it fit, they’d go to the Giver herself, begin to Offer all they knew and try to display the situation as clearly as they could. Opposition would be severe, for it would take time for the tainted to accept the fact they weren’t safe in the Sanctums.
The Wards weren’t going to protect them from this threat, Bliss wasn’t like the Nightmares and their simple minds, she was them. A Curse of such size and spread, that it’s happening had never been recorded, and if events went it's way, never would.
Tolein studied the Atlas her fellows had made, sketching out the layout and defenses of their Sanctum. Flocks had been split up and formed into tight bands. Each positioned to watch the others, and send rapid signals to local groups warning where Bliss appeared. Tolein found that to be the most alarming ability the Curse had, able to form its own constructs out of thin air to attack them. Just appear instant without any long term warning. The only hint she was upon them was the sensation of ears popping as the pressure changed in the air. Then it going lifeless as the Curse somehow consumed the strength of their ancestors.
Same with the Hearts, and that was perhaps the greatest trick in her adrenal. Bliss could just wait till they spent themselves fighting her before fully committing her forces. Which Tolein had seen in visions from the Shards of the past. Ones that made Tolein questions at times is bliss was something else. But in the end, such wonders fell away to facts as she studied the thing actions.
Like all Curses, Bliss sole purpose was to claim vessels for herself. Shape the realm into something she saw fit. A Curse which was succeeding, and would continue to do so till the Giver herself, and perhaps the Elders came down and intervened. Bliss had shown clearly they didn’t have the means to stop her.
If the tainted ever got their hands on the Shards her order held, many won’t even bother fighting. For through Bliss was a Curse, she was one of a kind among them. Her song, how she made one feel while listening to it, the warmth that bloomed in the chest and spread out. It was a very different experience than most would be excepting, making it all the more dangerous.
Without her training Tolein would have fallen to it like the other tainted. Her focused to stay centered, and away from all realms suggesting differently, allowed her to stay herself. That was in truth Blisses one weakness, though it offered wonder, it was by far the easiest feeling to ignore once in a trance. For it didn’t cause harm, nor try to use simple force to place a soul into submission like the others. It waited, trying to pull in its chosen target with a warmth none had felt before.
A warmth the masses would literally run to once they got a taste of it. She seen that in the Shards as well, watched lines of Chanters, even Enforcers succumb when Bliss started singing in full. The best defense was not to listen, to hide behind Warded walls that blocked her song. A defense now taken from them.
Tolein refocused on the Atlas, gazed at the toll they’d all placed on themselves to ready Gooth. Only for it to be revealed a pointless endeavor. The thought had her hand reach for empty a Shard. A thought she would share with those of her order up Above.
She opened her mind to the object sent in the information. A truth, there wasn’t anything they could do to stop Bliss, slow her down certainly, but that was all. The best defense Tolein now saw was to head towards the Giver. To be as near to her as possible. That to protect the tainted from the Curse grasp, it was best to abandon Sanctums and have everyone head for Sanctuary.
Outlandish she knew, but there wasn’t anything else that could be done. Fighting the Curse was impossible even if the masses were able to stave off the song it spun. The Metal goliaths it had acquired, constructs of such perfect construction, made fighting mute. Perhaps if they had access to their Hearts a decent fight could be maintained. But with Bliss able to strip them of their ancestor’s strength they no longer had the means to fight.
‘I know it’s foolish my fellows,’ She sent into the Shard showing visions of what was taking place. How the Wards were diminishing around her. ‘But at this point, I see no other means to fight back this Curse. This is the Givers battle and we only aid the Curse by feeding her more vessels.’
Talien disconnected from the shard after she placed within all the new reports they’d received so far. Which wasn’t much, only that the Flock outside was all metal goliaths glowing with perfect Wards and stores of souls ready to aid them. It was revealing, in a way, she once saw the Enforcers foes that couldn’t be challenged. Now they were as useful as she would be in a fight. It was dark times, perhaps the blackness period, as her fellow Orlone had surmised.
The snapping of fingers called a Messenger to her side. “Channel it to Luvoren and offered for the Inquisitor Yorron Dsarn.” She told the Messenger handing him the Shard with a last glance before returning her gaze to the Atlas. The Messenger wasted no time, all knew the importance of the event taking place. One which would raise the Elders ire when word reached them. Losing the Sanctums Below was unfortunate, but considered it was nothing but Lowly who resided within them, it was of little loss.
Gooth however, or any Sanctum in the Givers cradle was a different matter. The losses of some many Worthy wasn’t something that could be quickly replenished. Yet for all that, it would be some time before forces were sent. It had been many Cycles since the Elders or the Sanctums Above had to gear themselves once more for battle. It had been a time of peace, of obedience, all of which was, rather swiftly, fading.
So swiftly, Tolein was near concern that perhaps the Elders wouldn’t take the matter appropriately and think they had the time they didn’t have to act. That they themselves might be caught off guard as Gooth had been.
They had gotten reasonably accurate at guessing the time it took Bliss to reach nearby Sanctums. Tolein and those of her order were in the belief they had over a Tempo maybe more if the new defenses hindered the Curse more than they expected. Instead, Bliss appeared right before them out of nowhere, with a contingent of constructs none of her order had the slightest inkling where Bliss was getting them. Curses weren’t known for being builders, especially ones that rivaled anything her order knew of. Wards that made even those of the Sanctums look novice.
‘Where is she getting such instruments?’ Tolein questioned herself as the chamber slowly fell into darkness. Enough that people began activating Lightstones, and dispersing them about the chambers and halls. Messages had to be sent, and it wouldn’t do to have their runners stumbling about in the dark trying to reach their destinations. Yet Tolein wasn’t sure if there was enough of the Stones to go ahead. The event they were in had never been accounted for. Already they had to scourge through their hordes just to find the ones they were currently using.
A problem all were going to be facing soon, the Wards were the only providers of light to see. None of them had ever considered a Rotation where such light was removed.
‘We didn’t consider a great many things, it would seem.’ Such as the Curse strength to attack the Sanctum, it was obvious now, as the Curse could take the souls from the air for its own personal use. Condense it, and with the amount being used to assault the sanctum, collect it for later use.
A mistake on their part, one which would never be made again. Her brothers would make use of the knowledge she’d sent to them. They would try to take precautions, though what she didn’t know. Souls were everywhere, were the very air they breathed, gave them strength. It wasn’t something they could just be sequestered a way out of Bliss reach.
‘It is not my task to consider,’ she reminded herself, she was to bear witness, collect, like the rest of her order, as much intel they could gather and send off before Bliss came for them. Yet another Sanctum consumed and added to her might. The Elder of Curses it seemed, like the Nightmare, it wasn’t something the Vail could fight on their own.
Already countless people were offering to the Giver, calling for aid, or sending what they know and thought. The Giver would listen, for they were chosen, were those allowed in the cradle of her care. She would act, send down the salvation they begged for. Though whether it would come before Gooth was lost was a very low possibility. The Curse had appeared too quick, taken them all by surprise and would, for time being, reap the due from that move of hers.
The sound a movement had Tolein glancing to her side, allowing her to notice Arnoc had returned. He nodded, symbolled the sign that the task she sent him on was complete. “How was it out there?” She asked, eyes pulling from him for a Breath to look at the dimming Wards.
“Chaos, the untrained have no means to keep themselves centered with such a sight shown to them.” He replied, voice neutral and free from the Curses influence. A showing of his resolve and Worth in such precarious times. It was a shame he would be lost with the rest of them this Rotation. Taken before his time when his clear-minded nature would be needed most.
“Are they causing trouble, hampering what defenses we have”? Tolein inquired.
Shaking his head lightly, “No, the opposite, House are emptying themselves providing more forces and material to Gooth survival. The defenders gladly take them, but we both know how little that matters. They could provide all the Hearts in Thaellis and still fail to hold that Curse back.” He looked at the Atlas like she had been studying the lay of thing, how it would all unfold. “The Curses are causing many untrained to act sporadic, and rushing about. It seems the local Curses are just as troubled with Bliss arrive as we are.”
Such was the way of things with Curses, though at times they worked together. They commonly fought each in competitive matches to claim vessels. But none of them could face off against the highest of their kind. This Bliss who made the tainted fall to her feet in submission with the mere singing of a song. No other Curse had ever been recorded with such strength and ability. If there had been Tolein suspected her order would have been much larger than what it was now.
“Plus,” Arnoc added as he leaned against the Atlas table. “Most of what could be considered hampering is being caused by the lack of light. There's only so many Lightstones to go around which has large swaths of Gooth falling into a blinding dark.”
“I already sent word of that unforeseen problem to be Channeled to those of our order in Luvoren.” Tolein informed her partner, her order, at least in the areas they controlled, would take steps to avoid the problem she’d stumbled into.
“You should also send that the Sanctums need an escape route so the Worthiest can flee when the defenses show signs of failing.” Arnoc spoke after silence reigned around them, both in their own thoughts. “These places,” he spoke motioning with his hand at the stone around them. “They're quite the trap for use when they fail, aren’t they?”
“I’ll send another Shard” Tolein spoke meeting his eye, for a Breath she saw something within, even the slightest crease of skin under his eyes. It looked like the shaping of Mirth, technically not a Curse real notice, but still it was outside of center. “You find this situation funny?” She asked in a low voice.
A youngling of their order would’ve refused feeling anything, saw it a mark being placed on them. But Arnoc was seasoned, and they’d been together for a long time. He was unmoved by the question, save for shrugging his shoulders. “Isn’t it Tolein?” he half asked her, swiveling his head to look at the realm around them.
“It is to me,” he confessed. “Our safe grounds, our places of enteral refuge, have been changed in quick order to places of Death. And we, with the untrained in their blind belief the Wards would never fail them. Didn’t consider crafting a way to escape when things began to collapse.”
Tolein looked at him calmly, all of what he said was true. They had been fools for not at least of thinking of safeguards for the low possibility the Sanctums could be breached. But doing so, admitting their defenses weren’t impregnable as the Wards suggested, would be adding many to the working of Curses. The tainted wouldn’t be able to coop with that heavy truth, would turn or not behave and be productive Souls to help continue their kind.
Most of all it was a slight of the highest order. For the Wards had been shown to their finest craftsman’s, a gift from the Giver when they offered for salvation and she revealed herself to them. Arnoc would know this too, yet seemed uncaring about it.
“This matter is beyond us Arnoc and our order, but now after this reveal, we can send word to our Highers. Perhaps they can petition this change to the Elders and Giver.”
Tolein had lowered her eyes as she spoke, but the sound of scoff had them flick back up. She could already see the sparks that would become Anger being snuffed out. Plus what looked like irritation mark Arnoc face. Though it was gone in less than a Breath after she looked at him. Yet even with the return of neutrality she could sense the differing opinion he held.
“The Elders will be slow, and the Houses below them. What Shards sent, proving our case, will be ignored or claimed to be aimed at turning those Worthy. In the end, the matter, like so many others will be shuffled way till it’s forgotten, or not important enough for their attention anymore.” Arnoc spoke.
Her partner paused, focused on his thoughts, and return himself to center. “The Giver might try if enough offered to her, but it wouldn’t be widespread, nor quick. No, Tolein this change won’t come it’s too revealing for the untrained to accept. The only time they’d consider it, is if they found themselves in the someplace we are now. But by then it will be too late, like everything else in regards to the masses.”
“We will still try,” Tolein offered. For it was the only thing they could do. His words were filled with truth, like most things he spoke, even when he moved from center. It would take time for the tainted to be pressed into acting with the accordance of the times. And they would complain and threaten all the way being lead to safe decisions. But the alternative was to give none at all, to leave the untrained to their own choices. And wouldn’t that be the greatest folly of all?
“Aren’t you tired of it?” Arnoc asked her, he continued speaking when she gave him a questioning look. “The untrained, always leading them by the hand, fixing their mistakes. Making sure they don’t get themselves killed or Consumed.” He paused looking at the Wards that were dying around them. “I am Tolein, it's getting us nowhere, and Cycle by Cycle we're a little less than before.”
“Are you one of them Arnoc?” Tolein questioned, “Pushing for us to take a more active role in the events deciding the Sanctums?”
“Not at first,” he said low, his eyes gazing at the floor. “But the Cycles wear on me, and arguments I once ignored have become more agreeable. This,” gesturing with a hand, “isn’t working Tolein, even with the Givers protection. In truth that might be making matters worse going by Orlone tales of his time Below.”
Tolein was forced to loosen her jaw, it was blessed they were having this conversation in chambers they owned. The tainted were very sensitive to anything slandering the Giver, and this conversation would get many aimed daggers at their backs.
“They're so weak,” Arnoc continued, uncaring of the topic. "Consumed so easily, can’t even look at the slightest Curse without flinching back. And that’s in the Givers cradle, take that from them. Well, we’ve already seen what happens.”
Tolein knew what he meant without saying it, a Voice, once in the Giver presence had almost fallen. Word of that would never be allowed to spread, her order would make certain of it. The shock of the truth would have many tainted sleeping unwell, their shaken beliefs luring in Curses to prey on them.
He looked back up at her, his eyes cold. “If the untrained were like us, made to stand on their own, able to remain centered. This whole event we're in now wouldn’t be happening Tolein. Bliss is feasting on the untrained, because of how weak they are, unable to put up the slightest defenses against its advances.” Her partner took a deep breath, and seemed to deflate as he exhaled. Looking weary as he said: “Isn’t it the most perfect display, showing us clearly how weak we as a whole are. Bliss is carving through us with such ease we might as well be lying on the floor waiting for her to take us.”
“We would be so few if all were required to take up our training,” Tolein spoke to him softly. An understatement of the fact more than half died in the training process. Starting with fresh Newborn reaped the most success, but that still didn’t mean the losses weren’t great.
“But those who remained would be strong,” Arnoc countered. “We would be mostly free from the influence of Curses, be able to spend our time appropriately in finding ways to fight back the Nightmare. Rather than running around putting down Consumed, or getting the untrained to act correctly to matters.”
“A Nightmare we would be even more susceptible to.” Tolein reminded him. “The masses serve a purpose, help keep the Wards charged and fill Hearts. Fight the battles so worthy are able to best use their time in finding ways to preserves us.”
Arnoc gave her a skeptic look, the latter was more propaganda for the Lowly but it did hold some truth. Her order tried to make things better, tried to find a means to survive. Unfortunately, they were failing like the rest of Vail, the only difference was they were aware of it.
Their conservation would have carried on longer, but such talk was moved aside as the Wards around them flashed, then blinked out. She and the rest of her order in the chamber stood still, it was a quick transition. They needed time to adjust to the utter darkness that surrounded them. ‘This must be what it’s like in the Soulless tunnels,’ she thought as she gazed into darkness her eyes couldn’t pierce. The very sight had her vessel trying to form the elements of Fear.
“Hear me,” echoed a chorus of voices. “For I deliver a message from the Maker, your great savior who comes to bring deliverance from the cruelties of this realm.” Tolein felt her jaw clench again, the voice was that of Bliss, which she could hear clearly even though she was in the inner tier. With the Wards gone there was nothing blocking the waves of sound. The revelations had a shiver running down her vessel.
“He brings an offer, one all of you tried to stubbornly hide from. But we all see now the futility of that.” Tolein even though she couldn’t see her, could literally feel the smug smile ladened in the words.
“The Maker, born from His endless Kindness, as decided to let you all decide whether to join Him. To be saved from the doom heading up from the Depths. For the Nightmare comes, stronger than ever before, have fed upon the Souls of our people. It’s only a matter of time before they come to devour you, and only the Maker can offer shelter from such Cursed times.
Tolein felt her ears pressing against her back, for the words were cutting ones. Made worse as they'd been spoken before by Orlone. He believed the Precursor was in fact just a Nightmare feeding upon the river of flowing souls.
‘Giver protect us, hold back the growing dark, keep away the Nightmare we have not the strength to fight ourselves.’ Others would be offering similar thoughts, and the Giver would hear them more for it. Many voices speaking the same words gained her attention more than any other. She needed to hear them, for if the Curse was right, like Orlone believed, then they truly were going to need salvation.
“Yes, the Nightmare comes, more terrible than ever before, though most of you deny it, it matters not. Your denials won’t make the Nightmare go away, just as it won’t make me vanish either. The Maker understands this, knows of your folly and misgivings, of the wrongness that lies in each and every one of you. A wrong He’s charged me in cleansing, the greatest gift He can bestow to all of you. Free forever from the Curses that haunt you, that make your existences so, unpleasant.” Tolein readied herself, cleansing her mind of all thoughts that would push her from center, and waited for the wave of Bliss.
“So all of you have a clear understanding of what’s being offered, of what you might deny. I bless you with a small sampling of the Makers Kindness.” The Curse spoke, one Tolein was ready for, or thought she had been. It was blessed she was already leaning against the Atlas. For the wave was so thick with the mixing of Souls it felt like a material object had collided with her.
It entered her, filling her vessel with a warmth that centered in her chest. A warmth that made existence so much more, worthy. Feelings foreign, that of the Curse entered her mind. It made her want to hold Arnoc, tell him how much he was to her. Share a life with him, protect and grow together.
The warmth was spreading trying to enter her mind in full, trying to get at her. Tolein fought to remain centered, to push out the feigning feelings and return to her calm self. But her vessel was in utter revolt of that idea, it felt something wonderful, and it wanted more, and a growing part of her wanted did as well.
A weak part, which she snuffed out while holding to the core of her. She fought back control of her vessel even as it revolted. Bringing her attention back to the realm, others were doing the same. Though the ordeal left many spent, they stayed themselves. Had fought back the Curse, even as its song carried through the stone.
Though a Breath later it felt like she was physical struck again as another, stronger wave hit. The warmth intensified and this time there was now keeping it contained, the warmth speared into her mind. Flooding her thoughts with urges to help, to protect all, to soothe and care, to laugh. One that escaped her lips as the warmth in her chest kept growing.
Then it was gone, the song ended, and Tolein found her vessel collapsing to the floor as all her strength vanished with it. Worse of all she fell to the realm of Pain, the cold she was experience with the loss of the warmth so great it left her suffering. While she struggled to right herself into a sitting position her vessel shivers uncontrollably. Already it was on the verge of revolt again, to begin calling out for the warmth to return.
She pressed down the urge and reclaimed control. Then quickly went to work undoing the damage the Curse had done. The cold slowed her, but she wouldn’t be stopped, not succumb to such temptations.
“Was that not the most wondrous experience to be had in all your lives?” The Curse called out, a speck of warmth was mixed into the words, and Tolein vessel reacted to it noticeably. “A small dose directly from the Maker, the Kindness and warmth He carries in Him, the urge to shelter those under His protection.”
“You could have this forever,” Bliss added, “Accept His offer and receive this boon, one of many that will come to follow.”
“Curse of Curses,” Tolein muttered, as she and others around her struggled to rise. Arnoc was the first to do so and aided her. Both of them returned to leaning against the Atlas. For that was all they could do for the moment, as everyone’s vessels were shivering, similar to quaking stone. And given the cold she was still experiencing it would continue for some time.
“Gooth is finished,” Arnoc softly spoke to her, while not so subtly pocketing a Heart of Conviction.
‘He must have truly thought he, or one of us was on the verge of turning for it to be primed.’ Tolein stomped down on the flash of Anger that emerged, that Arnoc thought her so Lowly as to be consumed so quickly and utterly. “You’re meaning Arnoc?” she said still putting her mind back together.
Instead of a reply, she heard Bliss begin to speak to the Sanctum as a whole once more. “Come forth those who wish to accept the offer handed down by one who cares for all. Come forth and be in His Light forever, free from the Curses that hound you.”
Arnoc pointed a finger ahead, “that, Tolein is my meaning.” He said, his voice mixed with the clattering of teeth. “The untrained won't hesitant, most have likely already turned, and this but show to influence those still themselves.”
Tolein didn’t bother asking how few that would be. For it was likely only her order and perhaps if they were lucky some of the more stubborn Anointed. Even the Enforcers, those prized for the protection of the Worthy wouldn’t have fared well against Bliss.
They’d been trained to face Curses of a sort which caused harm, not one that made people feel, warm. If she had been able Tolein would have stored the experience she’d gone through into a Shard and had it sent to her order higher up. But the Wards were off, and through her skill in crafting was limited, she knew enough to understand the two were tied together.
They were cut off now, what knowledge they acquired would be lost, and yet she pushed herself from the Atlas and took shaky steps towards the gate. She heard Arnoc huff behind her and follow suit. After the two of them were soon followed by others slowly making their way through the half lit halls of their hidden estate. With the Wards gone, she picked up on the noise being made. Thousands of paws marching joined with shouts, and calls. Even pleas for another wave of the song, for the cold they felt to be removed. And that was just coming from the inner tier, by people supposable Worthy. The second and outer would be no difference except in the level of noise the Vail would be making. None were Lowly in the term of Below, but there were people higher than others. And with the highest calling out, it was a certainly the lower ones would be to.
An assumption confirmed when they heard Bliss speak again, with its ever thickly infused voice of pure Joy. “Of course children, I and the Maker won’t leave you in the dark, or the cold you’ve now come to notice. He will bath you in His warmth forever, free you from that emptiness in your hearts.”
Tolein braced herself, leaning heavily against the wall. “Here sweet children have another experience of His wonder.” It spoke and like she had anticipated another wave hit. Tolein gasp as the cold clinging to her vanished, removed from the intense warmth. One that never felt suffocating, never too hot and uncomfortable.
It didn’t work its way into her as fast as before. She was ready for it this time, knew what to expect, yet for all that it was still working its way in. Bliss trying to consume her in a caring manner. A cruelty the other Curses didn’t play in. Though they acted, trying to convey themselves as benevolent, it was always easy to see through.
But as the warmth coursed through her, and existence began to fill more worthwhile than ever before. Tingled with a wonder, and belief that all would be well. Tolein knew Bliss was beyond what other Curses would ever be. For even though she was being consumed by Bliss, it felt like a grand acceptable outcome. The greatest trick, and one she pushed against. She was faring better, wasn’t off guard anymore so slowly her mind centered, her thoughts focused.
Tolein slowly pushed herself from the wall, stood straight and forced her vessel to obey even as it wanted nothing more than to curl up next to someone and sleep. She instead pushed, taking slow steps heading for the gates which lead out into the Sanctum. A glance behind her showed she wasn’t the only one to learn from her last fight against the Curse. The members of her order followed in her steps, each holding back the effort to take their minds.
She nearly fell over when the Chant came to an end and the warmth left, inflicting her with a new and sharper cast of freezing cold. The shivering started again, far greater than before, and regardless of her sending her vessel still curled arms around itself. A pathetic attempt to warm itself as she carried on down the passage. For a Sequence things were quiet, the masses she once heard above mute. Then a Breath later marching began, no shouts this time, or pleas, just the steps of paws against stone. It was uniform, precise and most of all efficient, it told Tolein what she already knew. The masses had been Consumed, and from the experience she'd endured, had willingly given themselves.
The sound continued even after they reached their intended destination and were forced to break the gate open. The sound of crumbling stone echoed loudly in the dark tunnel. Above the marching stopped, at least directly overhead. There was renewed movement once echoes of another gate was forced open by them.
“There tracking us,” Arnoc spoke, his voice pleasingly neutral though filled with fatigue. “Bliss seems to be quite the glutton, all these vessels she’s claimed, yet it still seems un-content.”
“That’s rather unkind of you to say,” voices said loudly up ahead. The gate blocking their sight was pushed open revealing a group of Consumed. “The Maker demands this of me, He wants, desires for all of you to be saved from the Nightmares coming. As do I, that doesn’t mean I’m a glutton, just dedicated to my Task.” It was unsettling to see all of the Consume speak together perfectly.
Tolein pushed the feeling aside and centered herself for the event to come. She would have preferred to see the lay of Gooth before their departure, but that seemed to be denied her. Even before she began to raise her hand to point at them, and cast a Chant to disperse the group blocking her. Barriers went up, instantly, their Chants flawless.
“You would fight me?” The thing asked perplex, “Fight the warmth the Maker bathed you in, reject it?”
“Always” Arnoc spoke behind her, but slowly made his way to her side. “No matter the experience, a Curse is a Curse, you can’t trick us. We refused to be Consumed.”
“Consumed?” the thing said with multiple voices, “The context you use does not fit me. I do not force you into submission, I’m not a Curse. I become you, you become me, together we become more than we were ever before. All benefit,” it added, it’s many eyes gazing piercingly at them.
“Such flowered words you use, yet not a moment ago you had a whole Sanctum submit to you. Drowned in a wave of warmth.” Tolein spoke reading her mind for the Chants to come, she was worthy, her channels thick and woven deep in her vessel. Even if the Curse pulled the souls from the environment and Hearts they held. She could hold her own for a little while.
“They didn’t submit, that accepted what was offered.” The thing known as Bliss said quickly. “You yourselves are proof of such. If I was indeed here to force your obedience then all of you would be gone.”
“That’s quite the denial you indulge herself in Curse.” Arnoc said while he placed a hand in his pocket. The one Tolein recalled held the Heart of Conviction. “But if we are to play along with this lie, then why are you here? We refused your offer, rejected you entirely.
The Consumed in front of them frowned, “You are odd things, wrong in a different way, maybe a worse way, cold, so very cold within. An empties you cling to with absurd desire.” The Curse mumbled to itself, staring them up and down. “A Wrong that can’t be allowed to exist, the Maker demands the realm be remade to His desire. And you lot do not fit within it.”
They sang, one that was joined by those above, and perhaps the whole Sanctum, for Tolein and her group were hit by a wave of warmth. Her vessel flinched for a Breath but only that, before straightening again.
Her hands shot up and she called on her Cycles of training. The Givers wrath flowed from her claws and instantly danced across the distance between. It stroke the barriers with enough force to shack the surrounding stone. Yet the barriers head, even as others joined her. The hall in front of them began to fall apart, but only that. The Consumed were unaffected by the weight pressed against hem.
Their display, though worthless in removing their foes, did get the Curse to stop singing. It stared at them bewildered, “why?” It asked as they continued their assault. “You felt His warmth, felt the wonder that is the existence I offer, why?”
“Why do you fight it?” It continued to press, “Why do you hold on to that wrong view, that cold empty feeling that offers nothing by a meaningless existence?”
They gave the Curse no reply, for they’ve dealt with its kind countless times. A Curse would never accept something outside its alignment. No matter how long a debate was had, its view would never change.
“Please,” the Curse said, sounding horribly sincere. “Accept what I offer, it’s the worthiest of things. If you don’t, if you refuse to be cleansed and remain your Wrong selves. Then I’ll have no choice but to fix you in a different manner.”
“Then let me help you with that choice,” Arnoc spoke. Throwing the Heart he cradled in his hand. It pulsed three times giving it the needed time to reach the barriers before it erupted and shattered the realm around them.
'Giver Save us!'
'Giver protect us, keep the Curse back, save us!'
'Giver please, the Wards fail, strength them, please keep the Curse back, please save us!'
'Save us Giver, the song, the song, it pulls, save me!'
'Giver provide me the strength to face this Curse, Please let me save them, please save us!'
'Giver it's coming, the Wards fail, please deliver us, save us!'
'Please Giver the Curse has come for Gooth, save us!'
A tide of offers, a tide of pleading desires and demands, then as quickly as the wall of want came, they vanished. The void it left was large and apparent. The Givers eyes turned, two things she saw that threated those who offered. An offering clear and weighted, ‘Save us’
“I will provide.”