Irakkia’s presence fades into the background noise of the Wound, even as its voice lingers in my skull. Where is it going? With the way this place works, can I even trust that it even is going? What could it be doing?
None of that matters if I don’t know what I’m doing. Plan. I need a plan. Yurfaln’s world had an inner sanctum, a section of its heart that showed me everything I needed to know to kill it, but that doesn’t mean this one will. Even if it does, I might not understand it or have a good way to exploit it — my magic was practically custom-made to counter Yurfaln. We were born from the same place, after all.
What do I know so far? Does any of it connect to that poem? A space that doesn’t make sense. How my senses bend and fail around the Harbinger’s visual glitches. That question about my first memory it pushed into my head, a vision of drowning in the abyss until I can only see in the dark and breathe water, the world isn’t the world… something about contradictions? Light and sight feel important to it, but I don’t know what to do with that. I’m not sure if I’m better off in here or outside under that awful sky.
Actually, I still don’t have a good idea of where I am. In Yurfaln’s world, my tarot diagram seemed to form an abstract map, so I look there first. This time, the cards have formed a spiral of messy, overlapping branches, and their faces are marked with sigils written in crawling static rather than pictures — all except one, the skeletal crow of Death dyed in my colors. I can’t tell if it’s meant to be inverted, and I can’t make enough sense of this spread to use it as a guide.
As for the world itself, this section is a maze of narrow tunnels and chambers in seemingly random shapes and sizes. Each room has a few fuzzy TV screens set randomly into the walls to serve as lamps, at least where the shadows cast by my magic haven’t swallowed their light like clouds over the moon. I could try and plot a course through it, but I don’t think I need to. Time should be on my side — I have backup coming, whatever’s taking them so long; Irakkia doesn’t. For now I’ll just stand my ground and spread my own corruption, make my own place of power within the Harbinger’s-
<return with me to the boundlessness behind our
Again Irakkia’s voice slams into me. My legs buckle. I lean against a wall before I collapse entirely. A jagged pipe spearing from its uneven surface, its end hewed to a point, scrapes my arm. I suck in air between my teeth at the pain, but the constant shhhh of static takes on a soft, almost calming note. Nothing changes about the sound itself, but it feels more like listening to a rushing river than grating electrical noise.
There’s something inside the noise, though. Something beyond words or sounds, another flood of dreams that might drown my senses and wash me away if I let it.
<to the place where nothing is certain and nothing is false>
Invasive thoughts race through my mind, too many of them to catch and pin down any single one. It’s all sensations and confusing ideas rather than words or pictures… the crushing weight of the deep sea. Watching the sky and wondering why it looks the way it does. Fleeing the angry sun. Doubting everything and everyone, most of all my own senses.
<WHERE ꁲ꒒꒒ IS AS
WE? WILL IT>
Somewhere among the madness, there’s a faint sense of wonder at something completely new. Maybe it’s… what it might feel like to fly?
But it’s hard to fly when your body works so hard to weigh you down, and beneath it all, I’m still right here. Safe in my own skin, my favorite place to be. My vision is swimming and my limbs aren’t cooperating, so I think it might be falling apart right this moment. Amazing. You’d never let me forget who I am for a second, would you, skin?
After my first bone marrow transplant, one aggressively cheerful nurse told me that my body wasn’t my enemy, it was an important tool that did its best to serve me, and while I recovered I should try to think of things it was doing well to be grateful for. I managed one entry on that list before I gave up: My skin does a good job of keeping my organs inside where they belong. Thank you, skin. Thank you again for keeping me trapped here.
A crack of thunder rises over the rushing noise. Immediately, the Harbinger’s voice answers with a keen wail, cutting through my scattered thoughts like an alarm on a groggy morning. Irakkia’s soul-wracking noise falls back to its normal level, and there it remains. Are the others here? Did it go to size up the new intruders?
Just as I stagger to my feet, harsh, distorted, yet utterly melodically deliberate electric violin music starts to play. It doesn’t stop, warring with the ambient static for control of my ears. There’s another blast of thunder — the low rumbling kind, this time. Shona’s voice follows, magnified into its own explosion of sound: “HEY! EYNA, HEY, WE’RE IN! WHERE ARE YOU?”
“I’m—” My voice comes out as a tired croak rather than a shout. There’s no way they’ll hear me. Instead I reach inside and flare a bit of my magic, the way I did when we first met. My skin prickles at the brief bitter cold, and deep green shadows dance through the tunnels. On the nearest screens, black feathers fall as if from a shredded pillow, then pour out through the glass and flutter to the ground.
I hope they get the message, because they’ll probably need to come to me. Even if I knew the way out of here, I’m not sure how far I’d make it. I wish I’d brought my cane, even knowing that just carrying it around would basically tell those girls my whole life story.
I figure it’ll probably be easier for them to find me outside, if nothing else. Ignoring the sting of the gash on my arm, I push on through the maze, spreading my corruption as I move until I’ve found the rough direction that seems to be out on my spiral tarot diagram. Soon enough, light leaks in through a fork at the end of one distant passage. Nothing is moving in the Harbinger’s ambient aura that I can sense, but all the same I take my time approaching, inching up to the corner and peeking around it with one eye. At the end of that bright tunnel, there’s the Wound’s static sky. Out I go, keeping my eyes on the ground.
I emerge onto a wide platform that slopes unevenly in one direction and then bends around as it declines, forming a spiral ramp around one of the castle’s twisting spires. I’m quite high up, overlooking the colorless sea, and there’s a junk-pile barricade lining the far edges. There’s a hole in the barricade at one point, where a long, steep wall — the first smooth surface I’ve seen here — stretches out and curves up at the bottom, forming a giant slide into the water.
Electronic noise and heavy music are still fighting to bury each other, occasionally interrupted by peals of thunder. Beyond the barricade, all I see is dark water. Irakkia must have dumped me in a far corner of the Wound before it left. How is it doing that? Can it just pick me up and drop me wherever it likes? Reshape the world on a whim? No, that can’t be, can it? There has to be some rule. Why else wouldn’t it just crush me with the walls, or at least seal off the maze if it’s saving me for later?
“HEEEY, EYNAAA, WHERE’D YOU GO? IF YOU CAN HEAR ME, DO THAT AGAAAIN! ACTUALLY, JUST KEEP DOING IT!” Shona’s voice yells out again from somewhere on the other side of the Wound. There’s a strange electronic distortion to her voice, like it’s playing through a giant loudspeaker with a bit of crackling feedback. More thunder quickly follows, a rapid series of bursts like cannon fire.
So I do. Flaring is simple to maintain, and it’s not like I can run out of magic. I just open the floodgate in my mind and let a little more power overflow into the world.
“GOTCHA! COMING, HOLD ON!” Music and thunder quicken their pace in time with each other.
There’s still a Harbinger between us, so I’ll do what I can to make that trip easier. Bracing myself on the rough wall, I start to circle the tower step by unsteady step, taking the path that slopes downward. Down should be closer to them, right?
Sure enough, a few levels below, a tiny bridge connects to… I suppose I could call it the central castle, though that would be giving it enormously too much credit. Rather, it’s a place toward the middle of the mountain of rubble where more thin towers of trash than I can easily count twist together into a single mass, then branch out again at the top, forming something like a giant garbage tree with boughs wide and thick enough to walk through. The bridge itself is just a length of debris inexplicably held together, with no railings, ropes, or visible support of any kind.
When I get there, I search the spiritual miasma all around me once more for any signs of Irakkia. I barely trust my legs to carry me over this thing, so it’d be an ideal time to murder me. Yet catastrophe never strikes — the Harbinger is still somewhere far away, close to the source of the thunder. Nothing I can do for Shona and Mide yet. I just kneel and crawl across the bridge’s thin span, clinging to its sides whenever it teeters under my weight. One flurry of activity from the Harbinger startles me, but it’s still nowhere nearby.
On the other side of the chasm is a long, thin wall set into the mountain like a treacherous road, winding through blocky structures and unbalanced towers. I loop around it, plodding through the winding, uneven paths and climbing over heaps of junk randomly piled in my way, alone save for thunder and irregular bursts of grating music, until the island’s front half comes back into view.
It’s… changed since I was on the lower half of the island, though I still see the dock Irakkia first dropped me on in the distance. There’s a storm covering a small part of the static sky, a whirl of dark thunderclouds spinning around each other impossibly fast. Jagged crimson flashes of lightning arc through the air, and while some strike off into the distance at random, many more strike the ground in a pattern that looks like they’re chasing a moving target.
I guess my magic really is just weird. How am I meant to keep up with that?
Seen from this height, the courtyard’s layout looks like an anthill that’s been cut down the middle to expose the chambers inside, a massive pile of rubble where nine or ten oddly-shaped rooms have been roughly cleared out. They’re all full of little ruined buildings and connected by thin, twisty valleys or tunnels, some of which fork and loop into mazes. Several huge solid slabs of junk have risen from the heap since I last saw it, making the walls many, many times taller. Two of them are placed to completely wall off two different valleys connecting the chambers. Static snow in random shifting patches crawls along their surfaces. The wall closest to me is long, but not nearly as tall as the others, like it’s not quite finished.
And Irakkia rises from behind that wall, perching on the edge with its dozen limbs spread out like those of a spider making a threat display. Three hands cling to the wall while the whirling veils in the center dart about wildly, leaving behind long-lived afterimages. The rest lash at something on the other side, bending all over and striking from many angles.
I realize what must be happening just before I see it. Mide’s shield comes into view first, tilting to deflect another strike even as she hoists herself over the ledge with one hand. Like I’d seen before, invisible stage lights cast by Shona’s magic highlight her every movement and keep her armor gleaming amidst the gloom. Red sparks flit all along her body, and more burst out from the shield wherever Irakkia’s claws bounce off it. The instant her feet hit the ground, she summons her spear and hurls it at the Harbinger, which bends so far back to avoid it that it nearly flattens itself into the wall. Before it rises, she pulls a short sword from thin air and charges, holding most of her body behind her shield as she moves. That doesn’t keep her from pressing the attack — she’s light on her feet, and fast, handling her weapon as easily as I twitch my fingers. On a good health day.
It’s not enough. Irakkia twists its way through her slicing flurry, alternately warping its shape with impossible flexibility or breaking space itself such that Mide’s blade never quite catches it. In one strike, I watch the sword sink straight into its center, only to come clean out on the other side bent at a strange angle, like a beam of light through a prism. When the Harbinger darts away unharmed, the sword returns to its normal shape. This continues across more clashes than I can count so quickly, and the two appear to be stalemated.
But Irakkia’s movement is pushing it back along the wall. Maybe ten seconds into the fight, Shona peeks over the top of the ledge, then climbs up and scrambles to her feet, standing at a comfortable distance from the Harbinger. Mide is blocking the only clear path between her and the monster. Shona summons her violin, and begins to play. Arcs of red light flicker through the air around her.
As Shona’s music starts up again, the Harbinger breaks away from Mide and scuttles backward to the wall’s far edge. At the other end of the wall, right behind Shona, something else is going on. The world is warping. A hole starts to tear itself open, bright and flickering like film grain, just like the way Irakkia first emerged inside. An ambush? Can I warn them? No, flaring doesn’t tell them anything, so…
The tear shivers, then folds back inward and disappears. It’s just… gone. Nothing came of it.
Irakkia’s head snaps around, making two rapid circles before it comes to a stop, facing me. Not just facing… those eyes are glaring directly up at me. Suddenly, my sight zooms in on it. I tear my eyes away, and I know I’m not paralyzed when I feel my head moving, but what I’m seeing doesn’t actually change. No matter where I turn, my gaze is still arrested by the Harbinger’s own.
Clashing patches of sky-static crawl over my eyes, expanding until there’s nothing left but a dizzying visual maze… before a pair of jagged red bolts cuts through the center, splitting the scene like a crack in a mirror. A crimson flash fills my view, followed instantly by sharp thunder, and when it fades I’m looking down at the Wound again.
Back on the wall, Irakkia lies in a crumpled, tangled mess, twitching in time with the red sparks jumping along its body. Bits of debris in a ring around it have been scorched black. From the look of it, Shona’s struck our first real blow. She’s still absorbed in her performance, and as the song gets louder and angrier, the clouds above roll forward to gather over her. The lightning twines together through them, forming a thin circle like a giant halo made from the strands in a plasma lamp.
Mide simply stands guard over the Harbinger, preparing to strike at the first sign of movement. The crackling halo above is already sparking almost excitedly. It probably doesn’t matter if Mide ever lands a hit — she only needs to protect Shona long enough for the Screaming Hymn to work her magic.
These girls really do know what they’re doing, then. What do they need me for?
But before the storm can strike again, Irakkia drowns out Shona’s music with a wordless scream. Its voice is a radio shoved into my ear. A plume of static that makes me nauseous to look at bursts out from its body like a smoke bomb. When it fades, so has Irakkia. I freeze, searching the Wound for it, but it’s gone from my soul-sight too.
Shona yells something I can’t make out and unsummons her violin. Slowly, almost reluctantly, the storm above her fades from view. The two exchange a few more words I can’t hear before Mide turns and points me out.
“THERE YOU AAARE! GRRREAT! SIT TIGHT, JUST A BIT LONGERRR!” Shona shouts from across the distance, that same distortion carrying behind her voice, which, from how I feel her aura in the air, I guess is some sort of use of her power. She waves to me, then crouches, turns, and hops off the wall, clinging to the ledge for a moment before she starts to shimmy down. Her hands and feet simply cling to the flat surface until she moves them, and Mide follows the same way. There’s one question answered — I was wondering how they got up there at all, unless the other side was completely different. They quickly touch down in the junkyard, dart through another chamber, and climb up its sides to skip into the next one, ignoring Irakkia’s elaborate maze completely. The Harbinger must have been trying to cut them off when it raised those new walls.
The others have just started to scale the castle-mountain when the Wound’s pale glow blinks on and off wildly, then goes dark. I yelp and gather death-mist into a cloak around myself, expecting the worst, but… still no Harbinger. Why is this happening? What’s it doing now? The world isn’t completely darkened, though — something behind me casts its own flickering light.
“FUCK! OKAY! SAME PLAN!” Shona yells. This time it’s just her regular voice with no added distortion. I guess she really is just that loud.
I slowly turn back toward the castle, paying more attention to the Harbinger’s miasma than my body’s senses. My gaze settles on a single gnarled tower and climbs upward until it reaches a swirling orb of blindingly bright static crowning its peak. One of the lighthouse lanterns. I slam my eyes shut just as I spot it. When the ghostly lights swimming like sunspots in my retinas fade from view, everything goes dark. It remains dark when I try to look out again.
Water pressure crashes down on me. Wait — no it doesn’t. It’s a phantom sensation, another echo pushed onto me from somewhere else, it has to be, but the weight feels no less real for it.
<there is a SKY behind the
SKY we have SEEN it before we will SEE it again>
Above, something in the lantern room at the top of the spire is chanting, droning the same string of alien words over and over. I can’t translate them, but I see them so clearly that they swallow my sight. A vision of a clear blue sky bending and folding itself into a kaleidoscope of many-colored stars like none I’ve ever seen in our nights.
Irakkia adds its voice to the choir, but there’s something different about it. It’s still a voice poorly constructed from untuned radios, speaking a language I can only maybe-translate through some magical instinct, so it feels stupid to try and read too much into its tone. Even so, it sounds like it’s choking on its words as it speaks.
Like it’s sobbing.
<what if we
SAW but we saw nothing?>
<WHAT IF THERE Iᔕ NOTHING>
The starry night in my eyes tears itself open, exposing an endless field of… nothing. Not darkness, not a white void, nothing, like my field of view shrunk until there was nothing left and now all I can see is what the space behind my head doesn’t look like.
The ground beneath me sharply tilts. Its sudden shift throws me off my feet, knocking me over with an impact like a club to my ribs. It feels for a moment like my clumsy drop into Yurfaln’s world, but I barely have time to register the dull, heavy ache spreading through my side before I start tumbling down the slope.
<and we spread our wings and take flight but we only FALL and we FALL and we FALL and we FALL…>
Within seconds, I’ve lost any idea of up or down or anything. I don’t even feel like I’m falling or moving at all, just spinning and spinning forever. Pain shakes me free from that impossible not-vision, but all I see is the trash-heap ground. It surrounds me on all sides, replacing even the sky. The surface seems to be repeating itself, but with every spin it shifts slightly, like the picture in a flip book. All I feel is the spinning of my head and the dizzy sickness in my gut and most of all the tiny scraps of broken metal that start to peek out from the junk between rotations, digging into me from all sides. It’s the jagged gash on my arm over and over and over again. I’m being ground up in a blender, and I’m certain I’ll be ripped apart scrape by shallow scrape…
…until it suddenly stops, and I crash into the spiky surface one last time. A blast of red light briefly fills the dark. There’s a high-pitched hiss in Irakkia’s voice before I feel it drawing away in my soul-sense. My magic hasn’t gone anywhere, but my failing strength feels almost entirely lost, leaking out through the tiny biting gashes all over my body. It’s all I can do to crawl away from the rough ground.
“Hey! Hey, are you alright?” Shona’s voice asks. Through still-spinning vision, I can just see her in front of me, offering her hand.
In answer, I just turn my head and retch. Bile burns in my mouth.
“Uh, yeah. Sorry,” she mutters. “We came fast as we could when we heard…” Heard what? Me, I guess. My throat hurts as much as everything else.
I just sit there as my head slowly, slowly stops spinning. When I think I can see again, I look back over my shoulder. The slope I was falling from runs sharply down from my former perch above, but at the end, it’s stopped being a slope at all — spiraled around itself and formed a not-quite-complete circle, which Irakkia was somehow rolling in place like a pipe, and me inside along with it, apparently?
Beyond that, we’re on a wide, roughly-even stretch of ground. It slants uphill in one direction, where it connects to the winding wall that serves as a mountain road, but tall junk-heap hills surround us on every other side. A few thin bits of wire follow me around in the corner of my eye, until I notice that they’re tangled up with my hair and pluck them out. The sting of a few strands being torn away with them barely registers.
“Okay, I think we’re clear for now,” Mide adds. She winces when she sees me, quickly looking away to keep watch on the Wound. “It ran off when we got here. What’s next?”
“We’ve got everyone now, right?” Shona says, looking down at me uncertainly. I take Shona’s hand and let her pull me upright. She nods, satisfied, even as I prop myself up on the relatively smooth side of the little looping tunnel I’d been knocked around in. I’ve never wanted my cane more. It’s painful to move, even to breathe. I’ll have to make sure I’m breathing normally anyway — there are complications you can prevent that way. At least I already know how to live while everything hurts.
“So let’s go kill it! It doesn’t seem to like fighting us all at once,” she continues.
…I may still have to handle the planning. I hope I can do that, because it’s all I might be up to — it’s hard enough to keep my head working, and I still don’t know what anything Irakkia’s saying means.
But when I think about it, there is something strange about the way it’s acting. If it just wanted to split us up and eat us one at a time, it should’ve hunted me down while I was stumbling through the maze. Maybe it wanted to figure out what I could do before it struck, but it had plenty of time to probe. It had me at its mercy again a moment ago, but it left me spinning long enough for help to arrive. Why?
Is killing us actually its goal?
As far as I know, it’s actually rare for a Harbinger to just devour people whole or suck out their souls and leave an empty husk behind. They destroy their victims creatively, with their own uniquely horrid curses. What if that’s the important part of what they do? How a Harbinger hurts people might matter more than how many it hurts or even how much they’re hurt. Yurfaln had its wasting sickness, Irakkia has… the sky, the lighthouses, whatever those dream-scraps it vomits onto our souls are meant to do. Messing with our heads. Maybe it doesn’t want to kill us as much as it wants us so lost in our own thoughts, or its, that we can’t imagine ever having been anywhere else.
I haven’t exactly cracked its puzzle and found its weakness, but I’m… getting used to its approach. I can handle it, at least mentally. I hope they can too.
But none of this tells us how to win, just how to survive. “Has it… showed you anything? Said anything to you?” I ask. They’ve been through the Wound too. Maybe they have more of the pieces.
“Said? What are you talking about? It’s a Harbinger!” Mide yells over the background noise.
“Not in words, exactly, in… nevermind.” That’s a no. Is it strange to hear words from Harbingers? Not important right now. “Okay, I, before it dropped me here… I think there’s something going on with those towers up top, the lighthouses. They’re part of it, or it uses them for something. Maybe we could do something if we got there, but…”
“Oh yeah?” Shona asks. “Sure, let’s find out! Cover me!” She grins and puts her bow to her violin, playing the first notes of a new melody. It’s equally painful, but even with my limited knowledge of music, I can tell that it’s not unskilled random noise — she’s playing well, just in some death metal style I’d never willingly listen to. Mide stands right by her side, shield at the ready.
Shona’s magic gathers in her storm clouds as she plays, spreading out through Irakkia’s miasma like a flare in the fog. Her music rises in speed and intensity in time with her gathering strength. To my soul-sense, her power feels like an unsettling tremor, a series of tiny shocks that runs through my brain and briefly short-circuit my thoughts. Soon I’m so steeped in it that it’s hard to sense anything else.
But I see the Screaming Hymn’s soul clearly, and I see now that it isn’t just anger in her music. That’s definitely still there, but there’s a strangely bright note running through it. Shona is… it feels like she’s not just venting her rage on the Harbinger, she’s pouring her soul into her art, and she’s glad for the chance to do it. It’s both things at the same time, impossible to untangle one from the other.
The electric weight in the air lifts, and I cover my ears, hoping to dim the coming noise. Mide does not. Finally, in the exact instant Shona plays the last notes of her song, four bolts of lightning lash out from the sky, wind together into a great spiral drill, and crash into the closest lighthouse. The thunder is louder than ever, snubbing my feeble try at blocking it out, and this time it’s joined by an avalanche of broken stone and falling trash. The tower topples, smashed at its base in a flash of impossible force. The ground beneath us rumbles violently as the lighthouse’s upper half falls over onto the mountain’s side. Its wreckage knocks several pieces of castle loose before it all goes crashing into the sea.
And the brilliant static lantern falls with it. The Wound bends and tears around the point where the orb meets the sea, flickering like jagged interference on a TV screen. The distortion spikes toward the mountain, covering a wide stretch of it in a wave of blurring haze.
The lantern doesn’t sink, but dissolves, spreading out over the water’s surface until there’s nothing left of it. When it’s gone, the interference dies down, but doesn’t quite vanish. Scattered around the now-darkened side of the castle, chunks of debris and even a few still-standing buildings are slowly being replaced by patches of grainy visual noise, which scatter in a nonexistent breeze once they’ve swallowed the material entirely. Bits of static start to blanket the dark side of the mountain like snow.
We stare out at the destruction in stunned silence, until… Shona breaks into a fit of delighted belly laughter. “Wow, I just, I… good call, Eyna!” she forces out between bursts of helpless cackling. “Who knew it was gonna be so fucking EASY? How ‘bout that! Hey! Harbinger! What’ve you got to say about that? Anything? The set’s just getting started, so COME ON OUT! JOIN THE SHOW!” With that, she raises her bow and begins another loud, heavy song.
I think she might be having fun.
It’s terrifying. Mide may even agree, by her shaky smile and lowered gaze. Yes, we’re winning, but… when I first felt the flow of my magic, I remember wondering if I could get lost in it, wash myself away in the flood. I didn’t know just what that would mean. Maybe I do now.
But only a few seconds into the performance, a new sound howls through the Wound, the endless unsteady wail of a broken storm siren pitching constantly higher and lower. Just ahead, a bright thin shape like a white shadow comes into view, darting along the dark ground in a wide zigzag pattern for barely a second before Irakkia springs out of it, tightly wound around itself.
Three of its limbs strike out at Shona as it uncoils. Mide is just quick enough to push her out of the way, cutting the song short. Claws meant for Shona lash right into Mide’s chestplate with enough force to bowl her over, launching her flat onto her back. It swiftly goes for the kill, but when its glass beak meets Mide’s hastily-raised shield, it leaves her and throws itself at Shona, who’s now wielding her electrified bow as a desperate defensive weapon.
The brawl quickly becomes too fast and chaotic for me to follow. I can’t actually fight, not the way these girls can. My legs are still barely holding me up. What do I do here? I still feel the seeds I’ve planted in the Wound, but they’re distant, buried somewhere inside the mountain-castle — no, actually, when I look at my spread they’ve somehow moved even farther away, to the far end of one arm of the spiral. I could start again, but my magic is so slow next to anything happening here, and I don’t even know if other Keepers are immune just because I don’t want to infect them. Without some way to make my curse really hurt, to corrupt Irakkia or turn its world against itself, I’m—
My breath flees my lungs in a hiss. Blood seeps down my back, hot and wet and sticky. Something sharp pierces my chest, stopping just short of skewering me. There’s a strange delay before a sudden burning heat screams out from it. The burning gives way to raw, cold agony, and then I stop feeling anything at all, leaving just a vague awareness of muffled sounds and motion. A blurred golden figure that must be Mide rushes into view, standing over me.
…All my dumb ideas and theories and it turns out killing us will still do in a pinch. What a stupid thought to die on.
How am I even still thinking? Still conscious?
No, no, of course I am. I can’t… I’m not going to die. I won’t. Whatever’s happened to the useless shell that carries me around didn’t happen to me. The real me is still here. My soul is strong where my body is weak — stronger, even, flush with Yurfaln’s stolen power, and I will never die.
Shimmering green wisps of my mist snake out from my broken body, latch their lamprey grips onto Mide’s essence, and start to drink.