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Syncopy

With great power ... comes devastating revenge

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Although entirely unsure how, Skar navigated its way through Arkadia Prime to the source of its arrival. The church wasn’t much to look at in its rundown state, but it possessed all the signs of once being a location of note. Dust covered stained glass windows and tilting columns leaned into vaulted ceilings, a network of spider webs stretching throughout the expanse. A pile of shattered debris sat atop an altar, alchemic sigils etched into its surface flower softly at Skar’s arrival. 

 

“Here.” Skar said gesturing to the shattered altar. “I do not why, I do not know how, but this is the gateway that brought me to this world.” Dropping to the earth unceremoniously, Skar rapped its foot against the ground. “There is a passageway beneath us, but this language,” Skar pointed to the altar “It is foreign to me.”

 

Folding arms across its bare chest, Skar nodded its ivory head and sighed. “I cannot tip open a way into the passage below without risking the collapse of the surrounding structure. Its dilapidated state seems purposeful in this sense.” 

 

Glancing over its shoulder at the youth, Skar arched a silver brow. “Can you read the text?” 

 

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Their journey wasn't long at all, however when they arrived, Oni's thoughts would question, now beyond the sanity of his travel companion, but the memory and stability as well. The building was in a part of the city that looked to be overshadowed by the money and power that had come to the city. Like any, the poor and the needy were forgotten by the masses of haves and have-mores and those without the tools, means, or privilege to succeed were left to survive. This entire area looked to be abandoned, and the scratches and etches, graffiti and run-down nature of everything around them left little to the imagination of what might have happened here -- or what still did and remained.

One's lips instinctively curled, like a dog's might -- when the ominous sense of danger preluded to an unforeseen event. His eyes darted around as they entered the church, feeling the prying eyes of vermin staring in their invasive direction, before scurrying beneath board and beam. Flutter from the rafters caused the youth to flinch, half-expecting something to be in them and watching. In this instant, Oni felt his eyes move to the ceiling and his cerebrum pulsed -- painfully, but a wave of crimson washed over the world around him. It raced along the floors, up the walls, and traced every linear surface within the edifice they stood inside of and highlighted dozens of rats and pigeons in the uppers. He exhaled a sigh of relief and the hiccup of power disseminated and the living things pulsed softly in a heartbeat of scarlet, pinging locations throughout the building.

The youth shook a mane of hair from his face and approached the alter, curiously running his fingers upon it and feeling the arcane whispers of power echoing. His eyes narrowed with a puzzled look and he nodded, "I am fresh to this world, but blood is eternal." He had absorbed plenty of blood on the way here, and now with a grace of his hand across a bit of broken glass, the blood dribbled and spiraled in a helix around his palm, circling and slithering around before impacting into the stone and melding through the ruins. A few drops is all that came out, before his flesh sealed itself once more, but the pact was made and the whispers of darkness ebbed.

There was nothing fancy that would have made any sort of noise or special show, except the nature of the liquid's reaction. By the last rune filled, the symbols pulsed a faint crimson, and a latch unseated itself beneath them and the entire column lifted into the air, pushing the alter higher than ever before. As it arose, the section toward the pulpit arose, and then another, until they groaned and stopped abruptly, revealing a staircase. Onesimus looked to Skar.

"The text read: Enter the Darkness. Welcome the Hollow one. ... I think. The emphasis sounded more like the Hollow One ... being somebody? Maybe Hollow one - like we are hollow? A riddle, perhaps? What .. exactly are you ...? What is this place...?" 

Onesimus glanced around the room once more curiously.

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Skar watched passionless as the pulpit rose to reveal a staircase. One’s words, however, struck Skar with far more force than it was prepared to experience. Eyelids widened only to narrow once more. “It is where I was...” a slender hand rose, dismissing the thought. “Not where I was born...but where I was brought forth...where I died?”

 

The runes upon Skar’s flesh pulsated and the slight figure gripped its crown, shutting its eyes tightly as a wave of pain washed over it. “I was revered once...before the Calamity fell.”Skar spoke, but its mind was no longer within the church, instead focusing eons away. “I stopped it...killed it...devoured it...but it left so much of me spread out. It killed me...”

 

Arms dropped to its side, as Skar glanced over its shoulder at One. “I have no right to ask it of you, but I intend to seek answers.” Returning its gaze to the passageway, Skar made its way towards the stairs. 

 

Starting as a narrow passage, the staircase began to widen as it spiraled downwards before ultimately ending at a lone doorway. The doors hung from their hinges, evidently something or someone seeing fit to kick them in. Skar removed them from its presence with a wave of its hand and continued into the depths. The flickering of alchemic lamps earned a raised brow. Another long wide passage, this time with a series of heavy plate glass windows fogged over and cracked. The sparse light made it difficult to make out the shapes behind the glass, but Skar did not require sight to perceive them. 

 

“Dolls...” Skar said, uncertain how it knew the term. Writhing figures slammed and clawed at the glass, their shapes only humanoid in the barest sense. “Empty canisters...” it said as the light finally held long enough to reveal the broken stasis chambers and the monstrosities slowly dying in abject agony. “I can feel them...” Skar said, shocked. “They’re crying out to me, One. They’re begging me to end their pain...” 

 

A hesitant hand rose and touched a spiderweb crack on the closest viewing window. “They don’t know why they suffer...”

 

Nails dig along the window adding to the spiderwebs tendrils until it shattered and fell apart. As Skar’s have returned to its side so too did the suffering creatures return to the dust of the earth. 

 

An accusatory gaze from Skar settled on a digit over the next doorway at the end of the hall. “What is that?” He asked One nodding at the crossed hammer and chisel etched into the stonework.

 

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Onesimus merely listened and followed, with his own sense of curiosity intact.

Being in this place and watching Skar take a form of something more than he was hours ago, was proof enough for him that they were on to something devastatingly unimaginable. The depths and lengths at which someone had gone to mask this ... thing's past was akin to his own past, which resonated still with him in the moment, but the difference would be timing. Skar's had been made possible, due to centralized locality of this reality -- where as Onesimus hadn't seen this world before, or at least what it was in this present day. Manipulated landscapes, remodeled physical topography, different masters for different times; it piqued the question in the back of his mind: has the land changed, because new Raven's exist and therefore it is so, or is this a new reality all together?

Down the stairs and into a long holding chambered area they traveled. The dolls -- as skar had called them -- were just as the shells of the Ravens. Had this place been trying to recreate a past they'd stumbled across? An eternal existence? A laboratory of madness?

His barefeet traipsed across the overgrown cobble, watching and listening to Skar speak and then ease the dolls pain. A noble gesture that offered a meager kindness to something that did not truly live -- showing kindness to a rock, Oni thought. The bloodline of the Raven's was one forged in the neutrality of nobility, for all except he. It times of peaked crisis or excitement, like the blood pressure of humans -- Oni morphed into something else entirely. A beast of rage and bare essential reason, with all the reserved strength of a normal Brand member, amplified and turned up to ten.

He peered to the sigil that had been marked and a lithe and raised to the back of his neck. "I... I'm not sure."

He lied. This place felt like they had been working and studying eternal life, this place stank of his past, and the sigil -- were they studying ... him? Something he'd forgotten all about suddenly hit him like a wave of nostalgia and pain, and he put a hand out to the wall, to prop himself up while the memories assaulted his mind, and unclouded more of the fog of war from his mental landscape. 

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Skar was too perceptive not to notice the change. The primal rhythm of Onesimus’ heartbeat unsettled by a brief staccato as blood rushes faster through the youth’s chambers. Despite being something akin to eternal, Skar proved itself not privy to the intricacies of human nature or societal mores. Beyond this, why would  Onesimus, Skar’s only compatriot mislead or deceive it? The thought could not form long enough to find purchase in the eldritch beings mind. A change was noticed, however, and a response to Skar’s compatriot was necessary. Turning it’s midnight gaze to Onesimus, Skar stepped towards the youth, its eyes alight with a forgotten gleam of eons past.

 

“Is this what humanity has become?” Skar’s voice wavered, the glyphs upon its flesh pulsing deeply. “Is this what I endured torment eternal for?”

 

A hint of accusation drifted Onesimus’ way, for whether the youth wished to acknowledge it or not, he had the stench of the mortal realm upon him. Before Skar could utter another syllable the sound of turning gears and grinding stone filled the atmosphere and the doors beneath the hammer and chisel etching slowly swung open.  

 

An impossibly tall, lanky figure stoooed to move through the doorway, its neck extending high above its torso where a feminine visage stared out passionless. Monstrously long limbs moved, its slender fingers dangling mere inches from the floor. Through sheer size it barred the pairs entry. 

 

Skar’s eyes widened in a look of both recognition and surprise.“ Whatever minor annoyance oozed out of Skar at the plight of the dolls, transformed and seethed a miasma of boundless rage that forced the figure’s massive form to stutter step back into the corner before lowering itself to the floor in supplication. Its movements though very much alive possessed a rigid mechanical quality and at the apex of the carapace surrounding its crown was, once again, the stone and chisel etching. Seeing that the beast submitted itself before them, Skar continued forward, its lithe form moving soundlessly. 

 

“This...I will find the source of this marking...and its bearers shall pay with their lives.”

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