My body seizes up as Seryana’s presence brushes over me. My magic, the only part of me that isn’t a helpless ruin, instantly lashes back out. Acting on mental reflexes that still feel strange and new, I summon a ring of tainted cards and push them outward, forming a whirling, slicing shield of corrosive power.
Nothing happens. Nothing and no one is here. There’s only the dusty film on my neck and the phantom sensation of clumped strands of wet hair draping over my shoulder. I search the place with my soul’s perception and find only her stench, almost as strong around me as it is in the house.
She’s here. She obviously has to be here in some way. But I’m sure she isn’t attacking from within me, like the infection of my plague, and it doesn’t feel like she’s in the house, so where? More importantly, how? My best guess is that she’s… connected herself to me in some way. I just don’t know what that means. Or what I’m supposed to do about it.
The house still reeks of Seryana in a way that feels far more pronounced than any other trail of corruption I’ve followed, even though my senses are certain that she’s not here. She’s not in the house, and while she’s around me in some strange magical sense, she’s not hiding in my soul or anything like that. And if Seryana is really “always right here,” stalking me everywhere I go, why is she only showing up now? Some connection to this place that remained when she fled last night? Maybe there’s something left in there she doesn’t want me to see or do? Or something she does want?
But whether it’s a hidden weakness or a trap, what comes next will have to tell me something about what she’s doing. That’s the only way I know how to do this, and it’s worked so far. For a certain idea of ‘worked’ where no step forward I take ever seems to bring me closer to my goal, and no matter what Vyuji says I can’t help but keep wondering if I’m moving at all or if my whole life is still just-
No. Stop. Not the time for this. Focus.
The house itself hasn’t changed since last night. It still has those strange shifting curtains, though the pale light leaking through them from inside is harder to see in the daytime. The front door is still slightly open, unmoved from where I slammed it on Seryana’s arm. There’s a thin length of frayed, rotting rope wedged between it and its doorframe, as if my feeble strength was enough to sever her limb and this is all that remains of it. I poke my cane through the crack in the door and pull it all the way open.
Last night, I didn’t look around inside too much. My card’s flat view and weak night vision were enough to see that the place was a horrific mess, littered all over with Seryana’s little hair-knots. Now, with morning light streaming into the short front hall, it looks like practically everything here is ruined. The lights aren’t just off — all the sockets in view hold the stems of smashed lightbulbs, with glass shards strewn across the floor beneath them. I’m not sure where the dim light through the curtains was coming from, then — maybe it’s different upstairs, or maybe, well, they’re eerie Harbinger magic. Maybe they just look like that.
There’s a side table that’s fallen over in my direction, presumably because one of its legs has been ripped off, and in front of it lies the shattered remains of a ceramic lamp, a vase, and a now-withered houseplant that must’ve lived in it once. Not for the first time, I’m glad my Keeper outfit’s boots are so heavy. They were sturdy enough to trudge through fanged nightmare seaweed. They should be okay here. But I’ll still be careful.
<This place was not so good for us, I know,> Seryana’s voice sighs from nowhere. I reach out with my soul’s senses again, searching every corner for my stalker, but find nothing. How is she doing this? Is everything happening from afar, or does she have a way to conceal her presence? Can Harbingers do that?
<But even here, there were softer, kinder times, weren’t there? Memories we traced gently over one another’s souls, even if they were buried beneath those we carved and scratched and branded after a while. I hope it’s those ones you’re here to reflect on. Oh, maybe we can unearth them together! Dig them back up like a treasured album lost beneath the ashes of a burned house! Won’t it be wonderful, to find them there as bright and beautiful as ever?> She finishes with a high, sharp parody of a giggle, and then she’s gone, leaving only a nauseatingly fresh wave of her stink.
The language of magic seems to say a lot with very few words. It’s hard to make a direct comparison when I’m not at all familiar with its sounds or structure, but Seryana said all that in the time it would take me to say a simple sentence in Clarish. Her voice, though… she makes the closest thing to human sounds I’ve heard from a Harbinger, but that only makes it worse. Her speech reminds me of one of my first year classmates’ mom, a loud woman who spoke to anyone younger than her — including most of the teachers — in shrill, drawn-out baby talk.
And I have no idea what she’s saying. I know what it means, yes, but from her first words to me, she’s talked as if we have some deep bond and I can’t imagine why. It’s like she immediately mistook me for someone else, even as I dragged the man she was haunting before me away from her.
Or maybe it doesn’t matter who I am. Maybe she’s just obsessed with the idea of some kind of human connection, imagining her victims in whatever part she wants them to play with no attention paid to who they are. But that still doesn’t explain why she’s babbling about a history that never happened.
Unless she’s trying to replace a single specific person?
Vyuji said a witch without a Harbinger was just a broken person. What happens to a Harbinger if a witch they’ve bonded with dies? Until Aulunla twisted itself into the tortured monster it died as, its witch was a key part of its ideas and plans. Could it have been anything separate from her? The thought of it stumbling around half-dead, latching on to anyone who vaguely reminded it of its one friend… feels almost as pitiful as its final moments were.
But that’s just one thought. This could still be something else I don’t understand yet. Back to searching the place… which might be hard. This house isn’t that big, but there is a second floor, and the kitchen and living room I saw last night are too far in for light from the front door to reach them. The windows are still blocked, and I doubt any of the overhead lights will be in better shape than these ones.
I wish I could see in the dark. That’d be really useful. Actually… maybe I can? It hurt a lot and took a lot of health, but I did plenty of things I shouldn’t have been able to in Aulunla’s Wound. Experimentally, I peer down the hall and channel a tiny sip of life into my eyes.
Nothing changes. Nothing that couldn’t just as easily be my eyes adjusting the normal way, at least. Maybe it happened a bit faster than usual? Thanks for nothing, magic. And fine, I guess special night eyes don’t really fall under the concept of stealing wellness, but I think they should. It’d even fit in with this whole creepy vampire freak story my power apparently wants to tell. Maybe Emergence can help me out there at some point. Unless that’d require another weird detour away from making me immortal, in which case no thank you I’ll figure something else out.
Ugh, what is wrong with me? A Harbinger being all quiet and sneaky does not make this a great time to talk to myself.
Hm. Is this place enough like a Wound to make a tarot diagram of? I’ve never tried in the real world, but I’m still trying to feel out a Harbinger’s shape and origin point here. It should work the same way. Probably.
I will my cards to form a spread. There’s my card, the skeletal crow of Death inverted, with six other cards forming a circle around it so tight that they cover most of it. I can read the glyphs on them now — they’re six identical copies of the Lovers inverted. Depicted here as an embracing couple, their bodies stitched together with twine that runs all the way over and through their skin. In the thin space between them, the thread binding them is tied into a dozen elaborate knots.
Which… doesn’t really tell me anything useful. It just makes my stomach churn a little.
Looking around, there’s nothing new in view from here. If this house has anything to tell me, it’s waiting in the dark. I fold the filthy doormat up, wedge it into the frame, and mostly-close the door over it, just to head off any horror movie scenes where the door slams shut and locks me in. Not that I really expect that to stop a Harbinger if that’s what she wants to do. Once I’m done, I allow my vision a moment to fully adjust to the darkness, then push further inside.
I didn’t look upstairs at all last night, and the stairs are right at the end of the front hall, so I head there first. The steps are predictably covered in dirt and hair, but no worse than the rest of this place. It does look especially dark at the top, though. The eerie green glow of my cards still isn’t enough to illuminate much of anything, but it doesn’t hurt, either. I float my spread just ahead of me until we reach the upper floor, then follow it into a half-open door just across from the stairs. As I push the door open, I can just make out something hanging from the ceiling.
And between one step and the next, where my foot should touch the ground, it just keeps falling, like I’m walking off a cliff, and I start to tumble into the void with it.
My heart stops for an instant, then hammers wildly as if making up for lost time. My free hand lashes out to grab around the doorknob, and with an instinctive flood of life, it clamps onto the metal harder than I’ve ever gripped anything. A twisting shock runs up my arm as I jolt to a stop, suspended over an endless pit of nothing. The things I saw dangling in here are clearer, now — ropes tied into nooses, fixed to nothing, simply floating above.
Something slides around my ankle, coils up tightly, and pulls, like a weight tied to my leg. A sharp, nervous giggle in Seryana’s voice echoes through the expanse.
I lurch backwards, throwing my weight into pulling the door back towards its frame. Then, with the arm still clutching my cane, I reach through the doorframe, plant the cane across the floor, and with another flood of life, push up on it as hard as I can, fighting against the invisible load trying to drag me down. I manage to lift myself just enough to get one of my legs over the ledge, allowing me to squirm through the doorway and back onto solid ground. I stumble to my knees, sweating and gasping for air to replace all the breath I must’ve been holding.
The moment I stagger back to my feet, a single shapeless arm wraps around my waist. Something thin and twisting and smelling of waste and mildew embraces me from behind, full-body. I twist to look over my shoulder, where starting from the arm, scrawled, scratchy dark lines like the ones that obscure Seryana’s face trace a humanoid outline. Where they pass, the Harbinger’s gaunt form, cloak of matted hair, and faceless white void come into being.
<What were you DOING there? You can’t scare me like that! I can’t bear to think of what could’ve happened to you! In a world without you, without us, there wouldn’t be anything!>
That stupid voice is really getting to me.
I pull a single card from my orbit, twirl it around myself, and will it to dissolve in motion, creating a spinning plume of infectious emerald mist. My fog clings to me, seeps into me, filling my limbs with a familiar cold numbness, but it somehow manages to feel like ice on a wound at times like these.
<—What… is this? Why? It hurts! Why? It hurts it hurts it hurts it HURTS!> Seryana whimpers. The last remaining bit of black scrawl, the veil around her faceless head, stretches out. It grows into a twitching cloud of jagged, scratchy lines drawn over reality, then slowly pulls itself back together.
<Is this… oh. Oh my! Is this what you needed from me? What you needed to do to me? Why you hated me so much before? It is, isn’t it? I see, I see!> She speaks with two sharp, strained voices, one shrieking and one laughing until it hurts at the same time. It sounds like she’s trying and failing, horribly, to work them into some kind of harmony, to create the sound people would make if it was normal to scream your throat raw when you were happy.
<If that’s what you need, if that’s the only way to bring us closer, then please, do it! Break me more! I’ll accept all that you are. All that you inflict upon me. Always. Every memory, every sensation we share… they’re all precious, irreplaceable treasures!> The blackness around her forms itself into a simple, shaky doodle of a smile, but only holds the shape for a second before it dissolves back into chaos. The rest of her soon follows, melting back into a formless mess of scribbles and frayed ropes. Then only the rope remains, scattered all along the floor.
“That’s how we’re doing this? Fine. Fine,” I hiss. “It wasn’t even that good a trap.”
I keep searching the house, now using my cane like a blind person’s walking stick to poke the floor before every step, and Seryana follows me all the while. She creeps ever closer to me, babbling nonsense about our cherished memories and fateful reunions all the while. Eventually, she shows herself a little too clearly, holds still for a little too long, and I use another card to shroud her in sickness. Then she recoils, wailing and giggling and thanking me for the attention. This cycle repeats three more times before I’m done searching the house. She’s treating me like a cat who can’t decide if water is exciting or terrifying, edging a little further back toward not-so-wary interest with every minute since she last soaked her paw.
As for what I find, starting from the rest of the upstairs… there’s a bathtub full of dark, murky water, with ropes and electrical wires that don’t appear to be attached to anything trailing out from the five or six random appliances someone’s thrown into it. A bedroom where the air is inexplicably too thick to breathe. A bottle of black pills on the dining room table labeled, in a single swirling Harbinger-sigil: <I MISS YOU MORE EVERY SINGLE DAY.> The house is full of ways to die, but the pit-room was the most precarious. None of these things are enough to hurt you if you just ignore them.
Is her plan… what, to be so obnoxious to the people she tethers herself to that they want to die?
I put the pills down and choke back an absurd burst of helpless laughter.
Seryana scribbles herself into being, standing well within my personal space. <Oh, oh, have you thought of something nice? Or are you happy we’ve learned so much about each other? All the pain and terror will be worth it if it makes you smile like that more often!>
Nothing about this is funny. It’s really, really not. I’ve seen what she does to people, and I have no reason to think the man I saved was her first victim. It’s just… unless this is part of some deeper trap so bizarre that I can’t even imagine what it would be, that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen.
“Your story’s, hahh… it’s probably pretty terrible too, huh?” I wheeze.
She tilts her head, uncomprehending. This would be so much easier if I could talk back to Harbingers. Get them talking the way so many of them seem eager to do, steer their ramblings toward what I need to know.
But I can’t. So instead, I launch three more cards at her, burying them in her hair, and detonate them as one.
And while she chokes on my shroud of corruption, delighted as ever, I make my way to the front door — still wedged open — and leave.
This isn’t working. There’s not enough of Seryana here to really hurt her. It’s difficult to actually tell how much my infection is really taking hold, but even with how promising her first reaction was, she doesn’t seem that bothered yet. Thinking of how Yurfaln rebuilt its Wound to include my infection, she might even be getting something out of this.
<Darling? Where are you going? We’ve only just started digging!> Seryana’s voice complains. I expected as much. She might have more power over that house than she does over any random place, but she’s obviously not trapped there.
I duck under the police barricade along the sidewalk, ignoring her. “You should probably go,” I call to the man on guard. “This is a bad place. Leave up the barriers, come back when you have someone to cleanse it.”
He doesn’t need any more convincing. I start back toward the hospital.
<I don’t understand. Why are you acting like this? What did I do wrong?>
If Seryana’s so happy when I’m trying to kill her, maybe I can buy some time to think if I just… disengage.
<Why? We were doing so well and I don’t understand and I can’t make it right if you won’t explain anything!>
I just keep walking, not offering her so much as a “leave me alone.”
<I’ll be there for you as soon as you’re ready to share more of yourself with me. I’ll be there in your heart, filling the cold, gnawing absence in it as thoughts of you fill mine. I’ll always be there,> she whines, then falls… mostly quiet.
That isn’t to say she leaves me alone. She just… changes her approach. Her stench still follows me everywhere. She’s ever at my side, a noxious invisible presence breathing into my ear, murmuring wordlessly or humming warbling, unpleasant little tunes. Worse, while she doesn’t appear again, she remains solid enough to touch me, which she does. At every opportunity. Her coarse, twisting hands touch my shoulder, trailing down to brush along my back. Her hands wrap around my waist or legs and pull from behind, like that formless weight in the pit room.
A few blocks from the hospital, rough fingers trace along my stomach, squirming and wiggling like… is she trying to tickle me? Is that what that is? It feels like trying to scratch an itch with sandpaper. It’s nauseating. I hate it. It takes every bit of my willpower not to just flood the daytime city sidewalk with death and hope it sticks this time. That, and the knowledge that it wouldn’t help at all.
So, doing my entirely inadequate best to tune Seryana’s advances out, I end my transformation and head back up to the seventh floor.
“Oh, good… good afternoon, Liadain,” the front desk nurse greets me. She speaks softly, but her face is scrunched up in disgust. “Are you… okay? Did you, um, step in anything? Or get… sprayed by some animal?”
<Who’s this? You don’t need to pay her any mind. We don’t need anyone but each other,> Seryana babbles into my ear as I stare silently ahead.
…Right. Urgh. I already knew normal people can smell her. Why am I even here? Is this horrifically dangerous for everyone else?
Well, it’s not like I have any other options. I can’t exactly spend the night in a park and kick off some panicked search for me when I don’t turn up. Besides, judging by my nightmares, it seems like she was already here last night. She’s not here to infest this place, she’s following me.
I just need to keep her attention for now. Even if that’s the very last thing I want to do.
“Um, sorry, yes, I think that was it,” I tell the nurse. “I’m fine, though. l’ll go… clean it up. Take a shower.” Without giving her another chance to respond, I rush to my room, flip the Do Not Disturb tab out, and shut myself in.
I call room service and order a big meal to cover for the breakfast I rushed through. Grilled salmon and brown rice — honestly, much as I resent this place for all the time I’ve spent trapped here, the food has always been pretty good. I can’t force myself to slow down enough to appreciate it on a day like this, though. I actually shovel this meal down faster, mostly because if Seryana touches my food, I don’t think I could eat anything ever again.
Once that’s done, I spend the rest of the day alone… well. Not nearly alone enough. She continues the routine from our walk home, whispering random nonsense and touching me just often enough that I can’t predict when the next invasion will come. She moves my things, too, randomly misplacing my pens and knocking over my cane.
During the brief stretches where I can get anything done, I add a tentative section on Seryana to my journal. Most of it is just thoughts on what to do about her. One idea in particular stands out. It may be very stupid, but that seems to be the way of it with Harbingers frustratingly often.
She clearly has a way of channeling herself through her victims. Some trick that lets her act on, through, or around people while her heart nests safely somewhere else. I’m not even certain she was there when I first found her.
So if she can blink in and out of being whenever she wants, and she’s doing something in here while I sleep… maybe I can set my own trap.
Later, as twilight passes by and leaves me in here with my very uninvited guest instead of taking my usual patrol walk, I think I really should take that shower. I’ve had my most exhausting, disgusting day in quite a while. It starts well enough — we have our own bathrooms here, and on most days when I don’t have anything urgent to do, I like to sit down under the faucet and just inhale the steam for a while. It helps me breathe a little easier by the time I’m done.
I’ve just closed my eyes and started to settle in when I realize what a mistake this was. When a sickly wet plop sounds out, and my eyes shoot open to find a great shed clump of someone else’s thick, grimy hair on the shower floor.
Seryana sighs happily, her voice coming from right behind my ear.
No. No no no no I can’t anymore. I rake my nails along my right arm hard enough to draw blood, but no blood comes out. Only icy emerald mist, pouring out and out directly from my body until it fills the shower stall, turning the water painfully cold, and starts to spill out into the rest of the room. I wrench my eyes shut as Seryana giggles in agony, then slowly melts away, no doubt overjoyed that she’s finally gotten something out of me. By the time I dare to look again, all that remains is a film of wet dust where her hairball once was.
…At least… if I’m desperately searching for anything at all worthwhile to come of this, which it seems like I am for some reason, at least it’ll keep her focused on me. At least I only have to worry for my own safety.
Once I’ve… not exactly recovered from that repulsive trespass, but gotten over it enough to keep moving, and finished the rest of my bedtime preparations, I summon a single corrupted card. That’s harder to do without transforming — there’s a resistance that isn’t normally there, a thick barrier between simply imagining something and the act of forcing it into reality that goes away when I unleash my magic fully. Thick, but permeable. I’ve done it before, back when I was first experimenting with Irakkia’s power, and it’s gotten a little easier since.
I set Pearl on the desk across the room, just in case. It doesn’t look very comfy there, so I get an extra sheet from the linen closet and make her a nest… but no, that’s not good enough either. Will this be a safe enough spot if something goes wrong? Or, thinking of it now, what if I spring the trap and my infection leaks out through the cracks under the door? Or through the walls? I don’t think it can do that, but I’m not certain.
A moment later, as I’m pacing nervously around the room, the nest rustles. A thin, invisible finger strokes the fur on Pearl’s back the wrong way. I race to the desk, snatch her up, and swaddle her fully in thin sheets.
“If you touch her again I will fucking kill—” I start to growl, but trail off when I realize that I have no idea what to say. There’s no threat that works. Kill her? I’m already doing my best, and I haven’t figured out how to make it stick yet. Kill myself, and remove her anchor? It seems very much like that’s what she wants.
“Vyuji!” I yell.
My Messenger materializes in her favorite spot on the windowsill, and Seryana’s presence melts out of being. Not actually retreating or severing her connection to me, I’m sure — it’s the same way she’s faded into the background for short stretches before. She’s probably just startled by this other magical intruder.
“Liadain. How is your hunt going?” Vyuji asks.
I wail wordlessly in answer.
Vyuji nods sagely. “I see. Is there any way I can advise or assist you with… mmh.” She pauses, looking around and crinkling her nostrils. “With that?”
“I hope so! The Harbinger’s… she’s really really really gross and horrible, and she has some connection to me she’s using to do things without being here. And without letting me follow her back to wherever she really is.”
“Ah. That’s what I was smelling.”
“Yes. That’s the one. She’s been making this whole day miserable, but I think she did something here last night, while I was sleeping. In my dreams. So I’m trying to catch her that way, or at least hurt her in a way that counts.” I hold up the tainted card between my fingers. “I’m not sure if I can use this in my sleep, but it’s the best idea I have so far.”
“It could work. What do you need from me?”
“Um…” My eyes flick across the room, and I realize that I just summoned an agent of the Goddess to protect my stuffed animal. “When I use these cards, they make horrible death-clouds. They spread. I can steer them, but that might be hard while I’m sleeping, and I don’t want to… mess anything up. Hurt anyone but the Harbinger. So I was wondering if you could make one of those barriers you made when we first met, but just around me and my bed?”
Vyuji gives no sign that she picked up my original worry. Not that I was exactly lying about any of that. She just thinks for a moment, then nods once. “I could, but if you want to catch the Harbinger in an act she performed overnight, a ward may be counterproductive.”
“…Right. Good point,” I mumble.
“However, I could keep watch and alert you under certain conditions — say, if the Harbinger manifests physically, if she attempts anything elsewhere in the hospital, if any power you use spreads beyond this room, or if it feels like your soul is seriously endangered. It may be difficult to wake you in that last case, but that is your risk to take. This would, however, require me to ‘sit right in here and watch you sleep,’ which you asked me not to do when we met. Not literally, physically in here, and not watching with human senses, but you understand my meaning.”
“Um, yes, that’s fine. Only until this is over, though.”
“Of course. Is there anything else I can do?” she asks. “With the usual stipulations regarding my inability to directly face a Harbinger.”
There’s still… oh, I don’t have any better ideas, so you know what? I did summon an agent of the Goddess to protect my stuffed animal. I have that power. “I see your point about guarding me or the whole room, but… could you just protect Pearl? Her and those blankets?” I point over at the nest on my desk. “The Harbinger’s touched my stuff, and… I don’t want her to.”
Vyuji looks across the room, tilts her head, then… smiles, warm and wide. It’s another one of those rare faces on her that looks like it might actually be expressing something. “Oh, you children are so cute,” she says.
“Pearl is cute,” I insist. “Can you do it?”
“Certainly.” Vyuji sings a low, short burst of whalesong, wrapping Pearl and her makeshift bed in a thin halo of light, colored like the moon on the sea at night. “If that’s all, I suppose I’ll wish you good luck rather than goodnight.”
“I think that’s everything. Um, thank you again,” I say.
Vyuji inclines her head slightly and vanishes.
I move Pearl’s still-glowing nest to the top shelf of my clothes closet. “Sorry,” I whisper. It’s probably not necessary. Axolotls like dark, tight spaces. It still feels… lonely, though. The last time I slept without her was while I was recovering from my second transplant. But she’ll be safe there, so that’s what matters. And if my plan goes anything like I want it to, that’ll hardly be the most uncomfortable thing about tonight.
Finally, I climb into bed, squeezing a card filled with my corrosive power to my chest under the covers.
I don’t often have dreams coherent enough to remember. Or if I do, I forget them after waking enough to get out of bed anyway. Most of the time, I just wake with a few disjointed images and abstract, usually-unpleasant lingering emotions and impressions swimming around in my head.
So when I find myself looking up into a desolate abyss of grey fog, pinned to a cold surface by hands of coarse twine interlacing their fingers with mine, it’s strange that it feels so horribly familiar.
<I knew I’d find you here. I knew you’d be thinking of me. Sometimes… things go wrong, I know. We push each other away, or we draw close and find parts of ourselves grating against one another until our skin is bloody and raw.> Seryana trills. Her voice is like glass shards scraping against each other in my head. The outline of her shape looms over me, drawn over the dreamscape in a living storm of harsh black lines.
<But here in our dreams, in our truest hearts, there are no barriers between us. We can understand every flaw, every misstep, every way in which we accidentally rip each other to shreds, and in understanding, we can forgive! We will be one, forever and always!>
Shards of half-recalled memory stab into my mind, scars and echoes of what happens next. Of being strangled from the inside, drowning in the stink of rotten refuse all the while.
This time, though, I’m just aware enough of what’s happening to remember what I’m doing here. This time, I’m prepared. I call to my magic — it isn’t in some other place, with this shroud of endless fog between us. It’s always there, inseparably wound up with every part of my being. It’s me, and it shouldn’t take anything more than my desire to spring my trap.
But nothing happens.
It’s not just that my power doesn’t answer — nothing happens. The world pauses. The shifting of scratchy black marks over Seryana’s spectral echo is the only motion anywhere. After a moment, she pulls herself free from the stillness, jumping up and pulling frantically away from me. Her eyeless gaze swivels in all directions, like a cornered animal searching for any way out at all, only the trap she’s caught in is this whole world.
<Who’s… how… what, what what what what whatwhatwhatwhatwhat do you think you’re doing? This place exists for my dearest and I! For our sake alone! You have no right to->
There’s an intangible shifting, not of movement or weight but of attention. Of invisible eyes prickling on my back, a gaze I only just became aware of, turning away for the briefest moment. Seryana raises her head and shrieks, wailing out some unnameable emotion in a glass-on-glass cacophony—
And then she vanishes, utterly without ceremony. Stench and all. Her voice cuts off as if she was never even here. It’s hard to even think of what she was saying, like it was all just something that happened in a distant, fuzzy memory.
<what a noisy child,> a whisper-faint voice speaks, though speaking feels like far too strong a word for this sound. It’s too light for reality, spoken so softly that nothing should be able to hear it, but carried into my soul on a breeze like the chill wind between the stars. <this is not her sphere. she will not return here, nor to you — for this night, at least.>
<so let us sweep her delusions away and look upon what should be here.>