I didn’t rush off to meet Nagaetros after his name was revealed to me, for while studying Shaw Haust is a driving passion, I had responsibilities elsewhere. I watch the futures develop with keen interest, and I inquire into fates and possibilities with zealous enthusiasm.
Imagine, if you will, the roots of a great tree. You, and for the present at least, I too, reside at that point where trunk meets soil and from there, the roots begin. They spread out and divide in a seemingly haphazard fashion, but this chaotic nature is illusory. Like water, the roots take the paths of least resistance. They will grow around denser bodies, and towards richer soils, and they will be stunted should they reach stone or void beneath them. You can map a tree’s roots without seeing the soil they pass through, and by all those tiny convolutions in the roots, it’s possible to understand the nature of the stuff it grows through.
I confess that this is a poor analogy, but it describes the process as best I can. It is, after all, a great deal more complex; it’s more akin to comparing similarities in the roots of multiple trees, for the present for me resides at a variety of different points depending upon perspectives and dates. But through my studies, it was evident that the timeline was being played with by other parties. Zel was identifiable to the actions of Shaw; I had contemplated intervening there, but it would have been against my interests. For a perfect collapse, the Flux would need to be pushed firmly; too forcefully, and they would unleash the Great Weapons upon the galaxy, and too weakly and they would never topple at all. For all its danger, the Aberration would play a part in this, for likely the benefits of more than the three evident parties. It was a necessary push.
But the development with Capitol did not directly have Shaw’s handiwork on it, yet from divining the roots of the many trees in the forest of time, I could see it was connected, though not of his hands. I admit my curiosity was caught on this, but Capitol was only strong in numbers; the Ascendancy, if it chose to intervene against them, could remove them without straining themselves. So I let it be, and I did not attempt to save Garren. Perhaps there is a reality where I did, but it is not this one. The Ascendancy needed to be pushed, after all.
But Shaw worried me, for while his aims relied on the Ascendancy, he was not quite aware of how the Ascendancy was relying on him. Both sides felt incredibly in control of the situation, when it was really spiraling quite rapidly into darker places. Whoever was aiding him was yet unknown to me at that point; I confess that had I realized a servant of Myric was aiding my quarry at that point, that I would have likely made my displeasure evident to the Union of Worlds. That discovery for me at least would come later, but for now, my silent hunt continued.
Nagaetros was watching silently from the thick shadows as the small figure walked into the lighted clearing he gave me . The fog-like darkness around my form was churning and shifting, offering glances into another realm, one where nightmares were made real. He couldn't help but laugh. "You have come far, little one. Tell me, have you found what you search for? Because not many seek me out when they have unfinished business."
There was a definable malice to the scene, that much was certain. Dante could have taken some pointers from the place Nagaetros called home. But I did not care all too much about hell given the circumstances. From what I could see, I was already there. Nagaetros’ voice boomed the question out, and somehow it echoed off the foggy barriers.
With a degree of concentration-what I was likely about to go through required that, after all-I met the imposing drake’s eyes. “I have found the next step on that path, yes. But I have not found the ultimate goal.” My voice was almost imperceptible in the chamber on account of my small size and already rather airy tone, but to Nagaeotros, it was as if she was right beside him; that’s the way the thing worked. Nageotros found me very small and insignificant in stature, and remarkably under equipped; I wore no armour, nor bore any obvious weapon on my person, and my form was blurred ever so slightly by the dim light and fog, among other reasons. It gave me an almost ghostly appearance, but ghosts belonged here, if anywhere.
"Then it's a shame you have come." He said, his raspy voice coming from behind my form, almost in a whisper. "Your quarry is not here. " Then, it was over her shoulder slightly louder than before, as though he was right next to her. He was enjoying the feeling of power, and the knowledge that his visitor’s thoughts must be rapidly filling with chaos in this place. "But I am curious. Why do you search for him so that you would risk your life, little one? Is it a vendetta? Is it an order? It must have been something great to make you risk to seek me out." His voice was moving around the room now, and quite frankly I could feel him enjoying it; I didn’t have to smell him to know that much. "Why?" His voice had stopped right in front of me.
With a slight amount of disappointment, the drake did not sense his visitor tense noticeably at his words; only a madwoman would not do so given the risks of the place and the entity she was dealing with. This thought, of course, made me want to smile a little, but I refused. That would have been rather unbecoming.
"You mistake me, No-Hope," I said, fluently shifting into the Drake's language in order to utter his name with that much more forcefullness. "I do not come here at this time to find him." He saw my forr spoke it straight in front of him, yet with a posture that revealed I had no real expectations that I was looking at him. "I know his name, and the places he has been. My purpose is understanding him. I do not come to find now, but to comprehend." I didn't bother to display an image of her pursuit to the creature, wherever it was in that dark abyss. I knew it knew, quite intimately in fact.
"Knowledge?! You sought me out to understand?!" His laughter filled the room, the sound coming from everywhere in a series of trilling echoes, while he remained gloating in the darkness. He was getting quite a rush from this diversion. Nagaetros' soulshard began to glow a feint red, revealing his presence in the darkness; though I unfortunately could not appreciate the sight, as my point of view was not from my own eyes. But it was the same massive black and red crystal as before in the crater, only now it floated high in the air, attached to an unseen body. "I do not recieve many visitors who seek me out for knowledge or to simply understand. go on then, ask. let me help you 'comprehend'". Nagaetros stepped into the light, revealing his true form to the bald woman.
Yet even as he towered above her, muscles rippling in the dark with evil intents, the woman stood motionless at his feet, looking up with the most unamused look of disinterest she could possibly foster. Quite frankly, I wasn’t amused; admittedly, my mind was duly impressed by the display, and she remembered the mosaic, and the devastation that had surrounded King Helios' palace following the Naga's defeat. Nagaetros was a truly fearsome creature, and even a Heraldic Guard would have taken steps back had they been armed; heaven knows what they would have done if unarmed. Yet as she seemed to diminish from Naga's rising point of view, and as she became fainter and fainter in that swirling fog by his feet, the visitor didn't seem to waver in spirit in the least.
I, on the other hand, was thinking about puffer fish. Naga's change of appearance certainly had a degree of relevance to those spiny little creatures, though she did admit that it wasn't likely it was on account of him feeling threatened. At the same time, I did have to admit with some disappointment that this wasn't going as she hoped.
"You must really not think very much of me to try that as your first trick." The woman said blandly in a soft tone,and Naga realized quite abruptly that her voice seemed to be quite near his ear, while she remained quite small at his feat. "I would have hoped we could have kept our dignity in this." There was a momentary flurry of nervousness in my mind as I wondered if he’d question the sounds, but he was enjoying this too much.
Nagaetros looked down on the bald woman at his feet, a wicked grin adorned his face as his lips adjusted to avoid his large knifelike fangs. a chuckle slipped past his teeth. "You stand before me as you are, is it so wrong I choose to appear as I am? Little one? I am, after all, capable of many forms, any form I like in fact, but I grow tired of disguises and conforming to ideals." Black fog poured from his mouth as he spoke, his golden eyes fixed on the bald woman as he laughed once more. Quite frankly, I resisted an urge to laugh along with him, and it was unsettling. I was smiling at that he still saw me at his feet, but I wasn’t sure if I was laughing with him. Some more powerful beings tend to bleed over their emotions when you cohabitate their minds; it’s a temporary thing, and not of concern to an experienced practitioner such as myself. But it was unsettling, anyway, the thought of sharing emotions with such a vile creature as Lord Nagaetros.
The bald woman’s eyes narrowed slightly as she peered up at Nagaetros. I wanted to say that she had spent a particular amount of time in the halls of records, and that she had become moderately familiar, to put it humbly, with Lord Nagaetros and his tendencies. This form was his greatest, and it was a thing that came with only violence, or stress. Being under six feet in height, I doubted it was the latter.
"You placed a weakness in Shaw. I come to learn it." It was a remarkably blunt statement; no cushion or wordplay involved.
Naga imagined with glee the sudden sense of dread that overcame the bald woman as she suddenly shot into the air, becoming suspended at eye level with him. Quite frankly, I felt a little glee myself, and rejected it with some disgusts. “So, you did come here for more reasons than to just 'comprehend'. You wish to know what I’ve done with Shaw."
"No," I answered curtly, my almost bored voice in strange contradiction to the terrified expression Naga could see on my form’s face. It was about time the impish little one showed some degree of fear, I could feel him think, yet her disposition made her seem somewhat unconcerned towards the manner in which she levitated only so many inches from rows of canine teeth close to her size; let alone the height she could be dropped from. He considered letting her go a few dozen feet, just to see if it would at least change her tone of voice. It was beginning to give him a headache.
"No-Hope," the bald woman said slowly, "talk... or act. The choice is only yours."
Nagaetros growled in obvious irritation but still kept a smile, his teeth still bared. "You are in no position to ask questions and yet you still ask, even though the odds of you being able to use the information are as likely as your odds of surviving this encounter. What is your game here?" the blades on his tails burst from the shadows behind him and stop just in front of her eyes.
"I am in no position to ask questions, yes," I conceded, my tone even yet while the body seemed to stiffen in abject horror. The woman must surely have been maddenend by the experience, Naga thought brusquely, but he couldn't convince himself of it. Perhaps the bald woman was in denial? His frustration bled over, and I did my best to restrain it.
"But believe it or not, you're not in the best position to threaten. Now, I'm a very patient soul, No-Hope." I said with a slightly more cutting edge to my tone, "but my game is giving you a chance. You don't seem inclined to take it." The headache, Naga feared, was getting worse.
I was admittedly growing impatient, and more importantly I was running out of time. If he didn't give up the bullying act soon enough, I’d have to start over again, and it'd be downright frustrating for me. Naga was smart, if the records indicated anything; one didn't become lord of anything by luck alone. Yet thus far, he was simply throwing muscle around, and was as yet oblivious to the true nature of the situation. That blissful ignorance could only last so long.
Naga tilted his head in confusion, fighting the urge to end this now. His smile slightly fading only to come right back again in some form realization. "So, that's how this is...very clever, little one! Fine, you shall get what you want." He reached out a grabbed my form from the air, his fist encompassing my whole body except my head, leaving a portion of my chest exposed. "What once was bone is now flesh, his strength lies in his servitude." He placed a long, razor sharp, black claw against the bald woman's sternum. A brilliant blue light began shinning from behind his teeth, the sound of millions crying out in pain accompanyiing it. With a great and terrible roar, naga drives his nail through the bald woman's chest, imagining with glee the last thing she sees is the beautiful yet horrible blue light shining upon her.
It was a decidedly undramatic way for a life to end, admittedly; being run through by an overglorified finger nail was, to a certain degree at least, a rather bland method of execution. But it was effective, and once the sounds of cracking bone and the brief screaming my form made as that happened faded out, the bald woman's body went limp in his hand, and the blood poured out of her like wine out of a broken bottle. Naga had skewered the strange girl all the way through, and as he removed his finger nail from her corpse and oggled the body, he grunted with satisfaction. She must have been mad, he thought, as he looked into her startled eyes and wondered if there was any fleeting life left behind them. They were focusless now, and he grinned at them in the hopes that their last sight was his smirk. The smile faded with the sudden onset of boredom, and the reminder that he still had an oncoming headache was rather unpalatable.
I must confess, it is rather traumatic to watch yourself be skewered. Watching through the Naga’s eyes, I got to watch it just as he imagined it would go; flesh and clothes and bone and sinew tearing and all that was within spilling out in a visceral rush made me shudder. But watching it proved something to me about Lord Nagaetros, and thus likely about the creature he had aided. He had no respect for life. None at all. I had attempted to talk reasonably with him, but I was suspicious enough not to risk my own life in that process. That reasonability had passed now.
But then he heard a soft gasping sound, and he turned back to the corpse he had been about to gasp. The rib cage was torn open, and the tattered lungs hung like shredded sails out of it; form those sails came intestines, like ropes, and her head hung limply down as if she was examining the cavity in her chest. Yet he heard it still; a soft moaning gasp.
"...I am now..." my body’s voice whispered, gasping at insignificant amounts of air as Naga looked on with a peculiar degree of curiosity, "...in a position..."
Then the pain hit him.
TO BE CONTINUED