Chapter 1: Flickering Light
My version of the Void is like a wave that engulfs everything it touches. There're a few ripples on its surface that sometimes allow for monsters to escape to the world, but for the most part, it's all-consuming darkness.
Kinda like The Nothing in "The Neverending Story" by Ende.
Black. Purple. Red. White.
I see black when I let the second-skin cover me. I see purple when I look through it. Red when our prey-attacker dies. White are their remains.
Heavy-sweet is the smell of the Void. Metallic is the smell of blood. Burning-meat is the smell of their remains.
We eat the white. It tastes like ash. Second-skin eats more than I. Sometimes we find high-world fruits on the ground. I eat them. It gets none. Mine. The cool-sweet is mine only.
I’ve been here for a long time. More than I lived in the high-world. I remember… Gold and green. Good-green and bright-gold. Not ash-grey like the fallen fruit colours. I favour one memory above all. Peace-wind on my face. I’ve only felt bad-wind down here. The wind before a claw slashes through me. The wind hitting second-skin as we run away-after-near our prey-attacker. Down here, wind means death.
We sense wind now. In front of us, I see white. This isn’t our kill. Something else is crawling around. Void creatures don’t leave kills in the open.
The wind picks up. It’s… cool? It pushes away the heavy-sweet smell of the void.
Second-skin wants to cover my face. Protect me. No. This is… peace-wind? I feel peace-wind..?
The white flickers. Second-skin is fighting me. It wants me to run away. No, no. This is like my dreams, my memories.
We hear something now.
A me! Like me! I spoke like that before! A person is near!
I have to see them. I carefully walk to them.
“...plan, Sivir. Great plan. Wait ‘till the Void swallows them, then snatch the price. Did you think that your precious price would get swallowed too? No, of course not.”
One voice. It’s soft-angry. Like sand.
I get closer. The white isn’t white-white. It has light-red around it. Fire. I’ve seen it only once here before. It was coming from the mouth of a big Void-creature. Many mes in size. It fed us well for a long time.
I walk closer and closer. I can see the fire clearly now. I see hands like mine. One is holding the fire from a stick. The other is fumbling around.
I see a long, bright-gold stick with a light-green rock on one end near their hand.
I’m close now. The white-red fire is warm. The hands are coming in from a cut in the black-purple veil of the Void.
Is this… the exit? To the high-world? Away from the Void-creatures? My second-skin protests at the thought. It bites me but I’m immune to its poison from long ago. It’s my body and I want to go through the Void-wound.
A new memory pops in my head. A big person giving me something. A light-red fruit. It’s sweet. In return, the person wanted something. Exchange. I think people did that on the high-world.
The gold-green stick has rolled away from the person’s hands. I pick it up. Second-skin protests again, covering my palm and forcing my fingers open. Frustrated I bring my hand to my mouth and bite hard. It refuses to let go. I growl and mimic the Void-creatures, biting harder and shaking my head, ripping through my second-skin for a moment. I feel it trembling throughout my body and giving up control of my hand. Good. I pick up the gold-green stick and give it to the hand.
“Aha! Gotcha!” the person says and pulls away.
Second-skin is fighting me. It grips on my legs, my body, on everything in its attempts to hold me still. We haven't fought this hard in a long time. Not since our first time meeting.
I win. Again.
I grip tight on the stick, hoping the person pulling it will drag me along. And they do.
Passed the black veil, through the bright cuts in the Void's skin.
At the south-eastern edge of the Great Sai desert, two titans were clashing in a slow, silent battle. The bright gold and yellow of the sand dunes were in direct contrast to the black and deep purple of the Void that was consuming them. At their current meeting point, a centuries-old ruin was slowly getting consumed by the Void, one half lost to the darkness, the other half-buried in the sand with a lone entrance peaking out towards the sun.
Sivir had spent ten days in and around these ruins. When she had first arrived, it was only hours after a group of scavengers. Normally, she would intimidate them into giving her the treasure or, if she was itching for some action, she would fight them for it. Scavengers were usually easy game. But not this specific group. Somehow, these men had formed an alliance with a dozen Shakkal raiders. The scavengers she could take, even if they were twenty men strong, but the Shakkal? A single Shakkal could be big trouble for her, fighting the dozen of them here would be suicide.
She had cursed and moved around and past the ruins, looking for more entrances or anything that would make the journey half worthwhile.
She saw the Void after she climbed up the dune behind the ruins. An ocean of black nothingness that didn’t even reflect sunlight. Occasional waves of purple appeared on the surface, stretching outwards as if something was fighting to escape the Void. It moved sluggishly but at a steady pace, slow-wave after wave, expanding in every direction.
Sivir retreated and hid close to the ruins, waiting for the Void to reach them. With luck, the scavengers wouldn’t leave before its arrival. And they didn’t. When she saw the Shakkal bursting out of the ruins like wasps from a kicked nest, she moved in.
And now she had ripped her price from the clutches of the Void, its rich stones and metal shining with promises of fortune and gold. Only she had dragged more than the sceptre from the depths of the Void.
A woman was lying in front of her, her hands gripping on the sceptre with extreme force, even bending the metal slightly inwards.
Long brown hair covered her face and a weird purple mass was all around her body. It hardened around her limbs like an exoskeleton and softened around her torso. Two long, vaguely rhombus-shaped cones sprouted from the woman's shoulders. They were as big as her body and see-through at the top, with only a transparent membrane covering a thick purple liquid inside them.
That was all Sivir managed to see in the second it took the Void-woman to get her senses back. Then a ripple ran through the Void-woman and she disappeared from her eyes.
Sand and dust flew in the air as Sivir jumped backwards, pulling her crossblade from her back.
Bright-green eyes, light-brown skin, yellow-white fabric around her chest and waist. Gold-black sharp circle on hand. Lowered centre of gravity, eyes searching all around. The human-woman is scared.
So am I. So is second-skin.
That’s why it cloaked us. That’s why I let it.
I leap to the corner furthest from the Void-black. I see the human from the back and side now. I can see her muscles tight, her skin stretching to contain them. She starts circling around, looking at every corner in the room.
I can hear her breathing. Short, controlled breaths. No sharp-breaths, no panic-fog in her head.
Not scared. Ready. Ready to fight, ready to kill. Hunter, not prey.
I shake my head but the thought keeps repeating. Human, human. The first living human I’ve seen since I was half my size.
We can’t fight. We must not fight.
I want to speak. To her. Do I remember how?
I search back into my memories, looking for the last words I said to a human. As I’m about to speak, I force second-skin to stop cloaking us and to retreat from my face.
Sivir turned her back to the Void, searching every wall and every corner for the Void-woman. On the corner above the door, the light trembled and she appeared seemingly from thin air. The purple mass was retreating down her neck as she appeared, revealing her face.
She had warm brown eyes and eyebrows almost as rich as Sivir’s. A small round nose above a small mouth with thick lips. Two purple slashes were at each of her cheeks, with two more pointing upwards on her forehead.
The purple mass retreated in between the Void-woman’s breasts, stopping just at the edge of her sternum.
Her appearance stole a second from Sivir’s reaction as she was too flustered to act immediately. Then, just before the crossblade left Sivir’s fingers, the Void-woman spoke.
A dry, raspy sound, as she hadn’t used words in more than a decade.
Sivir will get a more detailed description later. For now, Kai'Sa is more interested in making a friend than how hot that potential friend might be.
Also, question. Should I write the Kai'Sa part in italics? Or do you think the separating line is enough?Decision has been made, thanks.
The dark-gold human stands still. She stopped when I spoke. I need to talk more, convince her not to fight. Words. I need to remember more words to say. Think!
The sounds and images from before the Void are faded. I remember… Soft-warm rocks, cool-blue water, brown-wood walls. One wall opens in the middle and a big human appears. His mouth moves and I have forgotten his voice. But I remember the word-name.
“Kai-sa,” I speak to the dark-gold woman below me.
I think it’s my human-name. From before the Void.
I try to lower myself down to the floor. It’s a struggle. Second-skin is panicked. It wants to run back into the Void. It pushes and struggles against all my commands.
But I’m the dominant one and I make the choice. We are staying on the high-world.
Sivir contemplated her situation. The Void-woman looked friendly, at least as friendly a Void creature could ever be. She wasn’t attacking, but all her movements had a certain stiffness. As if she was ready to jump Sivir any second now. She gripped her crossblade tighter.
The Void-woman had asked for help and given Sivir her name. So far, Sivir never had encountered a Void creature that used deception, but she wouldn’t put it past them. The Void-woman's expression was strained, as if she was trying to hold something back. Nevertheless, she knew that she probably wouldn't stand a chance fighting this one. Sivir’s fighting style was mostly focused on keeping her opponents in range and avoiding them with her, usually, superior speed. This Void-woman had leapt past her in the blink of an eye.
The human isn’t answering, isn’t moving. I need more words. Think, remember…
Before the Void. I had a pack-swarm. A family? Family. How did I talk then? How-
As I focus on trying to remember, my grip on second-skin withers and it takes advantage, pushing me away and taking control of my body.
I yell in defiance and fight back.
The purple mass around the Void-woman rippled and swirled before clutching back onto her body. It climbed and covered her head, leaving only her long hair peeking out of the purple.
The woman screamed from inside the purple mask, her voice mixing and turning into a beastly roar that shook the ancient room.
Sivir threw her crossblade at the door head and bolted towards it. The crossblade spun and hissed as it flew and hit the wall, far left of where the Void-woman was. Sivir wasn’t aiming to kill, only to distract. And that had worked.
Instead of charging immediately at her, the beast had leapt towards the right wall, far away from both the crossblade and the door. It screamed again mid-jump, went limp and crashed on the wall like a ragdoll.
Sivir grabbed her crossblade just before it touched the ground and kept running through the door and to the surface. She heard the creature behind her scream in pain, causing another small tremor inside the ruins. Sivir didn’t bother to look back and kept running for her life, clutching the sceptre on hand, her crossblade on the other.
I have control of my hands. I clutch on the second-skin on my head and try to rip it off.
It shoots the explosive-arrows from our back. The force of the explosions throws us to the wall. I get distracted by the impact and lose control once more.
I yell in defiance again, with so much force that I feel something inside my throat getting ripped. With that cry, I retreat into the more primal parts of my mind. Let beast fight monster.
Second-skin retreats from my face, finally defeated, and I regain full control.
Where’s the dark-gold human? How long did we fight?
I look around the room. The dark-purple Void is very close, almost touching me. I have to get away from it. I run through the door and along old gold passageways. Far ahead, I smell the air. Not the wet-static of the Void, nor the dry-light of the room behind me. It is warm-heavy. And moving. Like the air before the Void.
I’m getting out to the high-world!
Don't get used to this frantic update speed, it's probably not gonna last.
Her small backpack pulled her down, shrinking her feet into the sand. The spectre’s lower point shone in the midday sun, poking slightly out of the bag, her price in plain sight for every wandering raider to challenge for it.
Sivir wanted to run. Not only to secure her price, but also out of fear of the Void monster she had left behind at the ruins.
Running would only waste energy though. Even ignoring the strain she would put on her body by running in a desert in the middle of the day, she had nowhere to run to. The closest village was four days away and all there was in between was the vast desert. Running simply to outrun the Void-woman would be pointless. So, Sivir walked.
Walking at least helped her keep some reserve of energy.
Her thoughts travelled back to the Void-woman and her expression before she went feral. Just before the purple mass climbed up to her face, the Void-woman’s expression had turned into terror.
Sivir began to feel bad for her. She had asked for help and given a name before she went mad. Kai’Sa. That was the name.
The bright white-gold hurts my eyes. I whimper at the light and fall back. I pull second-skin over my face, this time remaining in control.
The light is muted by a purple veil and it hurts less as I walk out. I take a careful step out of the old rocks. I sink a bit on the ground and many small grains of yellow-gold cover a part of my foot. Even with second-skin between me and the moving ground, it feels warm. Inviting.
I take another step, then another and many more.
I jump and roll. And cry and laugh.
Then I realize it and stop in my tracks.
This world that I wanted to return to is alien to me. I don’t know where I am, where to find food, water, shelter to sleep… In the Void, I had a simple way to survive. Eat the weak beasts and avoid the strong ones. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do here…
Sivir absentmindedly spun her crossblade on her finger as she walked. She was trying to think if there was any gold to be made in trying to capture or kill this Kai’Sa.
Killing her quickly became a non-option. Void creatures dissolved into a white goo when they were killed. When the Void first appeared, that goo might have been worth quite a bit, but now all the scientists and alchemists had grown bored of it. It was of no use to them as it had no reaction to anything they did to it, plus it turned into plain old fire ash within two weeks, regardless of how well they stored it.
Capturing her on the other hand... Well, it was extremely dangerous. Sivir had tailed a team of self-proclaimed Void hunters once, curious to see how they operated. They were a newly formed team of twenty men and they quickly found out why the only “Void-hunters” were all newbies. She shivered at the memory of their screams and the sight of red sand they left behind.
No, Void-creatures were not to be underestimated, even this apparent human-Void hybrid. So attempting to capture her was also out of the question.
But this Kai’Sa was friendly, at least initially. She had asked for help, maybe Sivir could- No. She was done with that. She was done playing nice with people. Deceiving and untrustworthy snakes, all of them. Even those without actual snake tails.
Second-skin is up to my nose, enhancing my sense of smell. Among the warm-heavy, sometimes warm-wet smells, I spot something else.
A cool-sweet scent.
I run towards the smell as fast as I can. It’s been too long since I-
The dark-gold human is ahead of me. I see her... and smell her. The cool-sweet is coming from her.
“...chopped her tail off, the b-”
Sivir’s angry mumbling was cut off as she felt something pass by her left side. Before her brain could even process the information, Kai’Sa appeared in front of her, kicking a great cloud of sand in the air as she stopped.
Her eyes were glittering with joy and she had a huge smile on her face.
How did Sivir kept fresh fruit from rotting in the desert heat you ask? I had no chance to mention it in the chapter, but here's an explanation.
Some Pitover scientist managed to make a membrane that keeps everything inside it cool. Think of it as cellophane but much thicker and also magical. There.
Chapter 5: Blushes
I bite on the white-red flesh. The skin is soft and it feels like it has many little hairs on it. The juice is sweet and cool. I feel it running on my cheeks and down my throat. After the first two bites, I eat slower, enjoying the fruit.
The dark-gold woman is standing in front of me with a curious look. I remember humans looked more like her and less like me, so it must be how I look. I don’t think second-skin’s presence helps either. It makes me look scary. I don't want to be scary, I want to be nice.
I was nice to the woman and she gave me a fruit just now!
Sivir didn’t know what to think anymore. Only an hour ago, Kai’Sa had gone berserk, almost levelling the ruins. And now she was peaceful as a butterfly. With fleshy wings that shoot missiles. But peaceful.
Sivir sighed and sat down, using the lower part of her bag to keep the sand’s heat away from her.
Kai’Sa just looked at her at first, not realizing that she was calling her name. Then she perked up.
“Me!” She answered, excited to talk.
“You. What are you?” Sivir asked.
Kai’Sa looked down, thinking and sucking on the now naked peach seed.
What am I? Human? Void-creature?
No. Second-skin is a Void-creature. I’m human.
I go to answer, then think again.
Is she asking what I am? Or what we are? She sees us together, not apart. So she doesn’t know that we are two. I’ll tell her.
I point at my head.
“Human,” then, I grab some of second-skin from my arm in my fingers. “Void...creature.”
I lift my arm to my head and touch both my arm and head.
“We are two. One human. One Void-creature.”
A Voidling in control of a human? That was a first for Sivir although it didn’t surprise her too much. She knew of the Darkin weapons and this seemed like a similar situation. In Kai’Sa’s case, she appeared to be more in control of her parasite than the Darkin hosts.
Sivir relaxed a bit more.
“How did you end up with the... Void-creature?”
Kai’Sa didn’t answer immediately, as she had discovered a piece of fruit flesh she had missed. She then licked her lips and answered.
“I fell in the Void long ago when I was very small. Second-skin was dying near. It tried to eat me and we fought. I won.” Kai’Sa frowned, trying to remember the words she was looking for. “I helped it move and it helped me hunt for food. We shared our prey,” she finished with a smile, proud of herself for speaking so much.
A genuine smile. Sivir couldn’t remember the last time someone gave her a genuine smile.
The dark-gold woman with the sweet fruits is looking over my shoulder and staying silent. I don’t like silence. Silence means two things. One is that you lost your prey. The other is that you are the prey.
“Who are you?” I ask to make noise, but also because I’m curious.
“Hmm? Oh. I’m Sivir,” she looks back at me. I like that. I want to keep talking.
“Sivir... Sivir...” I like how my lips go forward and then back as I say it. And how my tongue has to move up and back at the end. “Nice name. Sivir… Sivir...”
I keep murmuring her name for a bit, using the nice sound to fill the silence. Then I notice her face.
Her cheeks have gained a warmer colour and she is making small movements as if she is not sitting right.
Sivir would really love a cold shower.
The gentle, almost tender way Kai’Sa said her name had made her all flustered. She hated that. The last time she had let anyone get close she was left with a literal dagger in her back. No way she was going to let herself fall into this pit again. She clenched her jaw and focused her gaze at the sand around her feet.
Missing the change in Kai’Sa’s expression.
Sivir looks… mad? First, she looked happy? Then confused, then mad? I don’t know…
I look at her more closely.
Dark boots that reach her knees. A gold-black cloth hangs from her waist and falls freely at the front and back, leaving only her upper legs exposed to the sun. A thin white shirt follows the lines of her well defined body. Black cloth covers her chest and shoulders, down to her elbows. She is using her arms to lean backwards, her palms submerged in the sand.
Bright green eyes and hair dark as night. Thick black eyebrows point at a long nose that looks straight forward. Big dry lips I want-
Wait, what is this?!
My heart beats faster, my breaths grow shorter and faster as if I’m fighting. My face is warming up..?
What is going on?
I turn to Sivir to ask and look away quickly again. Is she doing this? How? Why?