The Ninth Night

Tonight, I write to you from a room with an escape.

A door has appeared.

And I have been too scared to open it.

All my trials, all these tasks completed, and I can’t even open a door. The thought of what lives beyond in this strange world; so unlike my own, so advanced and full of mystery. It fills me with a powerful anxiety, it leaves me crippled in my seat, and all I can think to do is tell you how I came to be here on this night. The last night I spend here.

Veek kicked me awake. His clawed feet tore at my clothing and nearly punctured my skin. “Reks we have to move.” He told me. I stood up sore, rubbing my side with one hand and the gunk from my tired eyes with the other. “Is it the Varm?” I asked huskily. He sniffed at the air. “Yes, but they are not targeting us. They mean to beat us to Sovereign City.”

“I have a plan…” I told him. “…I’ve noticed The Varm do not use weapons, we can use this to our advantage.”

“Weapons are for Hûms. We exist as we are, we thrive on our limitations, and become stronger, smarter at overcoming adversities. It has been the conerstone of our evolution.”

I shook my head and looked away before saying: “Our journey is one to end the traditions of our forefathers, we have to be willing to adopt new ways of thinking if we are to be a part of forging the new sphere.” Veek snorted and debated internally before nodding with closed eyes.

“You are right Reks, but we must run, tell me your plan on the way.” I nodded a single nod, and we took off into the trees, leaping over fallen giant flora, darting around thorny bushes, and cutting our way through thick vines weaved in our path. Veeks pace quickened when we came to a small clearing with a thin treeline in the distance. I feared he smelt a dire reason to hasten, so I ran with all my strength. We broke through to the otherside of the trees simultaneously. To my amazment.

Czarina’s brightly coloured dress was the first thing I could see, as she sat, contrasted against the dark blue sandstone walls of Sovereign City. We skidded to a halt when we noticed The Varm waiting at each side of us.

“You kept us waiting Varmint. We grew bored, and felt like playing with your Hûms. We wanted to play with the female first, but the male one wouldn’t let us. He proved to be more fun instead.” It was then that I noticed Mikado’s bruised and bloodied face resting on Czarina’s lap. From Mikado’s widows peak to the collar of his neck ran a track of claw marks, still weaping with blood onto Czarina’s dress.

“MIKADO!” I called. His head flinched and Czarina stroked his hair to calm him. He raised his trembling hand, his two smallest fingers were missing and when he raised it too far, he dropped it immediately to hold his ribs.

Czarina looked at me, she didn’t need to say anything. I knew she wanted it to be over; all of it, this moment, this day, this whole struggle. Her face, her energy was exhausted, she had nothing left to fight with. She yelled at me: “It didn’t work Reks. The gate wouldn’t let us through.”

Veek snarled, his anger swelled with each drip of drool that dropped to the ground. “Your senseless violence is not what The Varm stand for Beta.” Beta Khan threw his arm to his side “You don’t lord The Varm any longer Varmint. If you stand for the old Varm ways, you would call me Odious Khan, and kneel in fealty…” Odious paused. I looked to Veek, he was unflinching. I looked back to Odious. “…No?…” He smiled. “…I’ve been waiting to finish you off Varmint. And when I’m done, I’m coming for YOU; Hûm.” He pointed straight at me without looking, then he slowly turned his grinning gaze to meet my fearfull stare.

While Odious still stared me down, Veek dashed forward into the fray. The Varm that stood either side of us, converged behind him, once again closing the two foes in a circle and leaving me free. I rushed over to Czarina and Mikado to check them out. “I’m alright… I’m alright.” Mikado grumbled woozily. “You’re not alright, you dumb, brave, idiot.” Czarina said, still stroking his hair. He looked at me and winked a twitching wink “She’s over-reacting…” He said, coughing up a chunk of bloody matter at my feet. “Lay still man, we’ll get you out of here soon, get you some help.” I said, trying to reassure him.

“Why didnt it work Reks?” Czarina asked me. I couldn’t lie to her, not after what she’s been through, and I especially couldn’t lie to Mikado. “The seventh Diamond Gate is a fake. We found it at the centre of the Night Mist.” I said. “The centre of the? What? What’s at the centre?” She queried. “There’s a fifty metre woman with the gate on her back. The mist manifests because she was forbidden to stop walking, by the laws of the last King. I think she’s lost her thoughts though. She’s definitely gone blind.”

At this part of my re-telling Veek and Odious had entered combat, after circling each other, taunting and drooling their unacted moves into the sand. This wasnt a battle of movement, the moves were being played in each of their heads. Each attack parried exactly as the attacker would act. Each parry quelled before it can yield a resulting blow.

“I know how you move Varmint; old, tired, crippled. I will not let you escape me this time.” Veek grinned his jagged teeth, before saying: “I will have you at my heel, just as I had your father.” They circled, and I caught a glimpse of Odious’s eyebrow fade to grey. Veek reacted, immediately slashing at the greyed brow, knocking Odious into a torpor.

I turned back to my friends. There was a fledgling of a Maru tree to my side. I ripped it from the ground and wrenched it of its water reserves into Mikado’s mouth, and on his face. I tried to wipe the blood gently from his ruined face with a scrap of my shirt, but every touch coerced a grimace of pain to his face. Czarina took the rag from my hand, and the instant it touch him, Mikado’s face exuded serenity. She brought peace to his chaos, just as he brings chaos to her peace.

Something caught my eye. Veek and Odious locked hands in a test of pure strength; pushing against each other. Neither one yielding. Veek dropped his knee, allowing Odious’ weight to fold over him as he propelled his oponent behind him. Veek stood to anticipate his foe’s retalliation, but was too slow. Odious had landed on his strong leg and pounced at Veek. The two tumbled over, cinched in one anothers grasp.

For two rotations they rolled out fo the circle of Varm. Veek flew from Odious’s grip and landed: skidding to a stop, as Odious rolled to his feet and charged with great speed to Veek’s front. He lept to Knee him Veek in the jaw, Veek stepped to the side, and fluidly he revealed my dagger to Odious and stabbed him; to his utter disbelief, in his his thigh. Veek ripped the Diamond blade up Odious’ leg as he propelled forward; splaying his leg muscle in two.

Odious tumbled on his vanquished leg. He tried vehemently to stand, greying his hair with every roar of pain, and stare at his foe. Veek stepped slowly towards him. Odious scuttled backward, snarling and cursing Veek’s name gutterally. “How dare you sully our ways with the weapon of a Hûm. You! After berating me only moments ago. Hypocrite! Deceiver!” Veek came to his enemy and thrust the Diamond Blade into his chest. Before his heart stopped he spoke the word: “Khan.” Calmly into Odious’ ear.

He turned to The Varm massing behind him, blood droplets joined the drool on the floor and spoke: “The Varm have been chained to their old ways, we have dwindled in our defiance to assimilate. What I once thought to make us stronger has left us hiding in the shadow of the forest. Instead, we should have been wielding the light of knowledge and carving our names into time. Together with this Hûm, we can never be forgotten in the dark.”

I think the Varm that had followed Varmint devoutly were the first to kneel. The former followers of Odious were a bit more relluctant, but without the persuasive tongue of their leader, fear overtook them instead of courage. Within seconds, all were kneeling, and all were placing their hand on their reinstated Khan. Their hands greyed within his presence. I think it was them showing a tremendous fear to fight back.

From the ritualistic circle came flying my dagger, landing in the ground at my feet; Odious’ blood slid down and blended with the dirt. “I have to go now. Czarina, Mikado, I will be back” I told my friends, as I stood and walked past my dagger to meet with Veek. I almost picked it up, but I had the feeling it served its purpose already. That I no longer needed it on my journey. I asked Veek to have his Varm take care of my friends while we were in Sovereign City. Instantly he snarled an order to a few of the Varm; they dashed over to Czarina and Mikado to aid them.

Veek and myself walked up to the final Diamond Gate. I was in a daze, I couldn’t even fully absorb the magnificence of Sovereign city. Its uncountable tall spires, poking into the clouds. The courtyards of stone and red crystal looked as though they had been laid there only moments before we arrived. Each wall was straight and neat, built by master craftsmen.

Now that I’m pondering on it, they resemble the works of the buildings I can see from this tiny room in which I spend my dreams in. At the time I should have noticed how little the city had aged, by all accounts, it should have dilapidated, but I didnt notice. I was in awe. I made it.

Thinking back, I’m sure it wasnt a noise, nor a touch, or an instinct. I just looked back, and I could see Mikado standing; leaning on Czarina’s shoulder, holding his ribs. He looked like he wanted to say something, and then his arm pointed behind me and his face was wrecked with horror.

I stepped closer to them once.

My spine went numb, my eyes heavy, arms weak.

I felt a cold breeze on my stomach, and looked down.

The realisation struck me, and so did the pain.

I saw a hand, but not my hand, I inhaled sharply, and clearly a voice hissed into my ear.

“No King of mine!” The voice said, and with it came the hot stink of breath I had come to recognise. “V…Veek?” I struggled to blurt. “Deception is a skill that YOU taught me, Hûm.”

His free hand pressed hard against my back, I watched the claw shrink through my stomach and the second it left my back, I fell to the ground. Pain reverberated within me; it was so intense I couldnt tell if I was shivering or not, but I knew I was cold. Blurrily, all I could see was Mikado bashing on the Diamond Gate’s threshold, and Czarina trying to stop him, trying to convince him to go another way.

Thinking on it now I deduce she was trying to get him to go with her and find the Night Mist, or maybe she was just trying to flee the impending reign of Varmint Khan.

I blinked long and heavy, and between the comfortable, dark embrace of my inner eyelids and the consuming brightness of day, I watched my friends run away in flashes, from the Diamond Gate into the forest. When I could see them no more I returned my eyes to the peacful confines of my eyelid enclosure. My darkened solitude was beautiful, my brain felt supernaturally active.

I can barely explain it. I felt like my mind was spiraling through the stars at speeds my body would surely perish from. The spinning stars rapidly accelerated as I flew, blurring into a constant stream of white light. And then the opposite happened, it looked like black and blue stars were coming at me, spiralling and speeding into another blur, but of blackness. It stayed black for a while. A long while. Longer than I could count, longer than I felt I would ever live.

And then there was a soft red glow, all around me, with it came; an at first quiet: Thump thump… Thump thump… It grew louder until it was reverberating within my consciousness. I squirmed, and for a second I hadn’t realised that I had squirmed, I had bodily motion, I felt.

I felt my body, my heart beat, my lungs expand. The soft red glow was the light on the other side of my eyelids, and a feeling rose within my chest.

I opened my eyes.

THE ROOM!

Fuzzily, but clear enough to tell. It was the room, and as it came into full clarity so too did the understanding of what had happened. Somehow, I transitioned from the Sphere, to this world. This strange land, I have come to know only through this machine, this window of knowledge.

I tried to stand, but my legs were weak under my heavy body. My eyes grew strong as I stared at my hands to gain focus. As soon as I was able to see I looked down to my stomach.

No wound!

But how? I was sure Veek had tore a hole in my gut. I was dying on the grounds of Sovereign City, and now I’m here. Nothing about this made sense, and at the height of my confused pondering I felt something odd. As if someone was watching me. I turned to the corner of the room, but nothing was there. I watched for a moment longer, and then I heard it… Thump thump, thump thump.

With the noise, came the visualisation of a door, and once I could see it, I couldn’t unsee it. It was there, finally! An exit.

I will return with answers, I promise I will. I have to go…

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