The Shadows of Silvered Past
Hoenna tore through her notes. What had she missed? What was keeping her from fully extracting Ergon’s human form? She could care less about the plight of a selfish man cursed by a witch, but if she were able to return him to his human form… what’s to say that she could not then in turn use the same powers to enhance her own? The shardlight within her chest pulsed, causing her to clutch at it longingly. Perfection was merely a breath away, just as the woman trapped in the Tower of Darkness was each time Hoenna brought a sacrifice to her. She pushed away her notes and stood up in frustration, just in time to avoid the incoming attack from the winged creature that crashed into her desk.
She was stunned for only a moment as the creature clamored out of the mass of splinters and shredded paper. It was completely made of stone, obsidian at that. In fact, it seemed to take on the same pattern as the obsidian floor of her lab down below. She snapped out of her inquisitive interlude and quickly drew power from her shardlight and summoned tendrils of darkness from the shadows of the room. They rapidly enveloped the creature, becoming sticky and weblike. Once the creature was fully captured, she snapped her arms together, causing the black webs to tighten and crush the stone monster.
Hoenna’s rage boiled up, she’d seen handywork like this before. She turned back towards the stairs leading to the lab and began to yell,
“Catrina! I will-” her voice got caught in her throat as she saw Ergon at the stairway. He reached down, taking hold of a pewter goblet that had flown off of her desk. She started to question what he was doing here still, but the message became abundantly clear as the goblet transformed in the palm of his hand. Another winged creature, a gargoyle much like Ergon himself, then leapt from his hand bolting towards her with razor sharp metal claws.She let forth a blast of dark lightning on the newly created gargoyle, causing it to explode in a cloud of shrapnel that embedded itself in the walls of the room.
“What’s wrong, Hoenna? You don’t like my creations?” Ergon asked, his eyes glowing with purple shardlight. “I thought you’d appreciate it more than anyone else.”
Hoenna glared at him, “What do you think you are doing?” She demanded.
“I see what you were doing.” He snapped. “My eyes have been opened, you see. Whether you were ever working to return me to my human form or not, you never even bothered to ask me if I even should!”
“What are you talking about?” She asked, clearly confused by his statement.
“You’re not the only one who can commune with the Tower of Darkness! It speaks to me too, I only needed to be shown the way for it all to become clear.” Ergon replied. Hoenna let forth another blast of energy, but Ergon closed his wings and deflected the blast.
“What happened to our deal, Ergon?” Hoenna snipped.
“The deal you were perfectly fine reneging on yourself? How long did you plan to go on torturing me for your own pleasure?” He asked. Hoenna could hear a rumbling from up above, she needed to keep him distracted just a bit longer
“How dare you.” She began. “How dare you accuse me of such deviance. I have paused all of my other research specifically so that I might be able to help you in your plight. What has gotten into you?” She put her hands down, indicating that she had no intention of fighting anymore, at least that’s what she was trying to portray.
“Do not start with me.” He yelled. He then took a deep breath and brushed a few strands of matted hair away from his face. He was in control of the situation, he need not let her get further under his skin. “You agreed to a deal that you knew you were incapable of upholding.”
Hoenna was certainly not expecting that, “I what?” Now she was truly offended.
Ergon stood straight, beginning to take steps towards Hoenna, “Yes, I know very well how it feels to know you’ve reached the limits of your own power. To understand that there is something you simply cannot do.” Behind him emerged large gargoyles of slate and granite, their beaks wet with the blood of Hoenna’s golems. “It is an easy mistake to make, though. So fear not. I won’t kill you.” He stepped forwards again, causing Hoenna to raise her hands in defence again. She began to back away from him, towards the staircase. The rumbling above grew louder and louder still. Just a little bit longer. “I’ll just torture you.” He said. “An eye for an eye. A hand for a hand.”
The ceiling and stairs collapsed as a titanic golem plowed into the room, taking Hoenna into its immense hands and pulling her to its chest. It turned its back towards Ergon just in time for the gargoyles to tear deep into its flesh. Smaller golems leapt through the hole in the ceiling, clinging to the backs of the gargoyles and pummeling the creatures with their fleshy and bony appendages. They screeched in pain as the golems cracked and fractured their stone skin, releasing the titan before attempting to tear the golems from each other. Ergon backed away, retreating down the stairs to create more followers of his own, and to beseech his newest ally for assistance.
“Vengeance, help your brothers, I am fine.” Hoenna commanded softly. Her children were always there for her when she needed them most. Vengeance released its mother, then clamored back to its feet. As it turned, an eruption of blood painted the room as the gargoyles pulled a golem in opposite directions, tearing Hoenna’s child in half with a sickening series of snaps. Tears welled in Hoenna’s eyes at the wanton disregard for the life she’d created. “Vengeance!” She yelled.
The titanic golem reached out to grab both of the gargoyles, its hands engulfing their torsos entirely. It roared with rage and crushed them to dust in its hands before smashing their mutilated remains into the floor. Hoenna stood and dusted herself off as more of her children began to pile into the room. She walked over to the golem that had been torn apart, it’s body still struggling with fading life. She knelt down and embraced it, shushing it to sleep, “Shh, it’s ok. It’s ok my child. It’s naptime now.” It’s mouth flapped open and closed like it was trying to say something before it stopped moving altogether. Hoenna’s sorrow turned once more to cool, collected rage.
“I believe there is a pest infestation that I need to tend to.” She said softly, before standing and making her way down the stairs back towards her laboratory. When Hoenna reached the bottom of the stairs, she looked across the room to find a figure that she was altogether too familiar with.
“How is it that I knew you were somehow involved in all of this, dear sister?” Hoenna asked bitterly. Ergon stood on the other side of the room, near the wall of darkness surrounded by a small army of gargoyles that watched her every move.
Catrina laughed from the corner, “Don’t you know? I will always be there to save those who you attempt to corrupt and torture.”
Hoenna rolled her eyes, “Oh please, as if you were capable of saving anything besides yourself.”
Ergon stepped into the conversation, “Your sister showed me the truth, Hoenna. There is power in my body, a heart of darkness gifted to me by the Witch Queen.” He raised his hand, causing the gargoyles to rise into the air, the sound of their beating wings deafening the room.
Hoenna shook her head in disbelief as golems poured down the stairs one after the other. “I cannot believe that you fell for Catrina’s deception, she’s so forthcoming about it. You must be a greater fool than I originally took you for.” Vengeance squeezed through the stairway, breaking portions of the wall off as it struggled through the tight corridor. It entered the room with a roar. Ergon remained stalwart, his flock ready to strike.
Hoenna sighed, “I tried to help you, Ergon. I swear that I did.”
“I don’t believe you.” Ergon said, and with a flick of his wrist the battle had begun.
The room filled with the cacophony of stone and flesh entangling with each other. The screeches of gargoyles rang out, only to be drowned by the groans and roars of the golems. Vengeance blocked the path between Ergon and Hoenna, leading the cursed gargoyle to fight with the titan as Catrina and her sister exchanged blows of dark shardlight across the room. Hoenna knew that even with her reinforcements that there was no way she’d win this battle two on one, and running away would just delay the inevitable and allow Ergon to acquire more power. She needed to act quickly if she was going to survive the night.
“I was surprised to find out that you had survived the explosion at the Argent Tower.” Catrina called out over the noise of the battle. “Surprised, but still disappointed. I suppose it just means I have a chance to kill you again.” She hardly seemed phased by the destruction being wrought around her, rather she seemed to thrive on the chaos of it all.
“I personally was surprised to find out you were too lazy to do your own dirty work, dear sister. Sending this poor, confused beast to kill me.” Hoenna snapped back. Catrina always seduced others into doing her work for her. “Or is it that you’re too weak?” She punctuated the rhetorical question by slinging an orb of chromatic energy across the room. Catrina pulled a wall of shadow from the ground, enveloping the orb and causing it to disappear. The shadow dispersed as a bolt of lightning tore through the wall and slammed directly into Hoenna’s chest. Nope, Hoenna thought to herself, she is definitely still powerful.
Ergon was struggling to deal with Vengeance, despite the golem’s significant wounds. Its monstrous size meant that even a glancing blow felt like being hit with an anchor. Ergon kicked off of its chest, narrowly avoiding one such glancing blow. He didn’t need to defeat the titan, he just needed to get past it. Vengeance reared back with both fists in the air, preparing to bring them both down on Ergon’s head. The gargoyle found his moment though, billowing his wings to pull him backwards and dodge the attack. He leapt off the ground and latched onto the golem’s head, tearing into its eyes with vicious fury.
Vengeance grasped at the gargoyle, but he had already dismounted the golem and tumbled behind it. With the golem now blinded, Ergon disengaged and began to make his way around the room towards Hoenna. He’d have a clear advantage while she was distracted by Catrina. Hoenna had actually already had just about enough of her sister, however.
“Enough!” Hoenna yelled, a dark shockwave erupting outwards from her. Her eyes fell pitch black as she allowed the dark of the void to consume her once again. Catrina flung another bolt of lightning towards her, but Hoenna caught it in her hand and redirected it to slam directly into Ergon’s chest, catapulting him back across the room.
“My, my, where did this power come from?” Catrina called out cheerfully. Hoenna did not answer, rather she directed all of her energy towards the golem that was nearest her. An amalgamation of dozens of children called Avarice. The golem roared in pain as it was torn down and rebuilt. Flesh and blood melted away as bones connected and reformed. Energy lashed out from Avarice and evaporated several gargoyles that tried to move past and continue their assault.
In a matter of moments, Avarice had been completed and totally rebuilt. Gone was the fleshy and gluttonous form it had taken before. Now what stood there was a work of concentrated, muscular perfection. The shadow of the Tower of Darkness faded from her eyes, causing her to collapse to her knees. Still, she managed to say, weakly,
“Avarice… no, Liyu, finish her.”
The golem roared, bringing a stop to the combat and stunning Catrina and Ergon. It tore through the gargoyles that stood before it, racing towards Catrina. Snapping out of her daze, Catrina conjured a ball of black fire and blasted Liyu in the chest. The golem collapsed in a pile of flesh and gore, seared ever so nicely. Catrina started to laugh, but was cut off as a nearby golem began to convulse and reform into the monster that previously charged at her. Liyu snapped its head towards Catrina, ravenous hunger in its eyes.
One after another Catrina fought off Liyu’s unending and unforgiving assault. The golem stole body after body of its nearby brothers, attempting to claw its way closer and closer to its target. Catrina began to sweat as it drew nearer and nearer, the gargoyles far away from her and entrenched deeply in battle with the other golems. She was beginning to feel fear. Fear! For the first time in her life she knew what fear felt like as it crawled across her skin like roaches. Her stomach curdled and just as Liyu began to come within arms reach, she cried out in terror.
The gargoyles immediately stopped what they were doing and flew en masse to pile onto Liyu. Even the gargoyles that were defending Ergon abandoned him and returned to their one true master, Catrina.
“What, no! Help me!” Ergon cried out, but his pleas fell on deaf ears as the gargoyles abandoned the one who had summoned them. He clawed at the ground, but no gargoyles clamored out of the stone as they had before. He’d been duped!
The swarm of gargoyles latched onto Liyu, pulling him to the ground just as he was about to wrest Catrina’s throat from her body. The golem clawed at the ground, tearing deep into the stonework, reaching desperately for his prey, but to no avail. Catrina realized that the danger had passed and that she was safe once again. With Ergon being beset upon by golems and Hoenna’s energy spent, she began to cackle once more.
“Oh, Hoenna, always so close to being great, but just far enough away that it doesn’t even matter.” She began to strut towards her weakened sister, making sure to stamp her foot down hard on Liyu’s face as the golem still clawed voraciously at her. “You blew your trump card, but now you could barely hold a candle, let alone hold one to my own power.” Her eyes of shardlight began to glisten once again. “But why should I have all the fun? After all, Ergon was so kind as to provide me with such loving pets with the powers I gave to him.” The golems that were harassing Ergon pulled away to get between Hoenna and Catrina.
“But, why?” Ergon asked, attempting to catch his breath as the golems relented in their assault. Catrina cast a wicked glare at Ergon,
“But why?” She mocked, “Why did I give you those powers? Because it was fun!” She exclaimed gleefully. “Did you think you really had it within you all this time? No, I merely used you to get at my sister. And just look at the wonderful job you’ve done my little man.” She began speaking to him as if he were a child. “Now, however,” she said, curling her hair around her finger, “it’s time we bid farewell to our dearest Hoenna.”
Catrina walked back towards Liyu and knelt beside it. A beam of purple energy shot from her eyes, piercing through Liyu’s skull. The golem fell limp, and the gargoyles released it. Hoenna’s most perfect creation lay motionless for only a moment before clamoring up to its feet once more. It’s eyes now the same chilling color as Catrina’s, Liyu began to walk towards his creator. The gargoyles fell in step behind him, each of them beginning to chirp with the delight their master was feeling. Hoenna, despite the dire nature of her current predicament, cracked a wry grin as the creatures approached her.
“Finally!” Hoenna said weakly. “I cannot believe how much you talk.” She pressed her hands to the ground in front of her, lighting up the transmutation circle that she’d been experimenting on Ergon with. “I thought you’d never stop!” She yelled, channeling the last of her shardlight into the ground.
“What are you doi- no!” Catrina exclaimed, but it was already too late. All of the bodies over the circle, whether they be gargoyle, golem, or otherwise, began to distort and become misshapen. Some merged with each other, while others grew additional limbs and heads. Dark energies screamed across the room in the form of eldritch lightning as the transfiguration ran its course. Hoenna had no idea what would come out the other side, whether it would be a golem, dozens of mutated gargoyles, or something… unknown. That last thought is what both thrilled and terrified her most.
Suddenly the mass of bodies exploded in a flash of darkness that overtook the room, dousing all torches and sources of light. The three of them were left in utter darkness and silence for what felt like an eternity. Ergon reached out but found nothing around him, not even the wall that he had been resting against. That was when he felt a tug at the back of his mind. A warm tendril wrapped about his heart, causing a feeling both familiar and alien. A feeling like that of a mother’s calming embrace wrapped in the overbearing reality of impending doom.
Run. It said to him in a distorted voice. Take her and run.
He tried to call out to the voice, but his own voice carried no weight against the darkness that surrounded him now. A moment later, reality returned in a brief flash. Ergon could see the ruined laboratory for no more than a glimpse. Gone were the bodies at the center of the room, in fact… gone was the center of the room. A huge crater sat where the amalgamation of bodies once stood, a huge crater wherein a tear in reality had emerged. Through the tear Ergon could see eternity and yet nothing. It was pure void, infinite and infinitesimal. A flash of light again allowed Ergon to see the blackness begin to emerge from the tear and pour into the room.
He cast a glance to where Hoenna had been sitting and saw her now collapsed and unconscious, Catrina stood marveling across the room. Take her and run. The voice hadn’t specified which of them he was to go with. Take her and run. Did he save Hoenna or Catrina? Run. He didn’t know what to do. Which of them would betray him next? Run! With the next flash of light he leapt from his rut and flew to Hoenna, taking the woman into his arms. The darkness began to coalesce into a humanoid form, but Ergon did not wait around to see what the end result would be. He opened his wings and took off towards the stairs, just in time for the light to fade once more. A dessicated voice echoed through the laboratory, ringing in Ergon’s ears long after he’d escaped the building with Hoenna,
I am the herald of Silver, the envoy of demise.
Repent not, all that remains is eternity,
In nothingness forever shall you lie.
Ergon closed his eyes and flew as fast as he could, but even as light returned to the world, never would he forget the screams. The screams of complete and utter terror as Catrina was torn apart piece by piece by the Shade of the Silver King.