Fatebreaker

Within the Void

11 posts in this topic

It was strange, so very strange, in the land where the gods dwelt. 

A fell wind mournfully wove it's way through the air, as dark clouds painted forlorn landscapes against the horizon. The wind had a subtle chill to it that would slowly work it's way through everything, unnoticed till it gnawed at your bones. It was a lonely wind for a lonely land, and they suited each other well. But the wind was not the strangest part.

The air was wrong here. It was thick, like water as you wade through it. It felt as if it offered resistance to those who passed through it, slowing steps and pushing against progress. At times it seemed to stretch and warp, like a tower in a hurricane. At times you could see glimpses of another world, flashing in the air like light off a falling glass. There would be a moment of perfect clarity, of total comprehension. And then like a glass, it would reach the floor and shatter. The reflections in those shards were of memories, lives, histories that perhaps never were.But the air was not the strangest part.

For among the wind and the air and the reflections of ghosts, were two figures. One a survivor of the temporal genocide, the other it's perpetrator. There, before his great work, was the One-eyed god. 

The Stranger was transfigured, transformed by the power and the will he had channeled to rewrite the world, and warped by a thousand ideas of what he had been. He had grown, body stretching and expanding to huge proportions, taller than any man. His limbs were too long, his fingers had too many joints. His grey lab coat had become a ragged robe, with wide, drooping sleeves and many folds that all seemed to trail off into smoke. The spikes in his body had elongated, with their tips emerging like metallic spines from all over. Along his spine they formed a grisly ridge, and they emerged from his head in a mockery of a crown. His face was gaunt, cheekbones like blades sheathed within the skin, and his grin would give a crocodile nightmares. Across his exposed skin tiny spikes formed symbols and images, eerie tattoos of metal. His thick afro had become a wild mane, the black interspersed with silver, making him look ragged as his robe. And his eyes. His left eyespike had become a lance through his skull, runes and glyphs carved all along it's surface where it jutted out of his skull a good 20 centimetres on each side of his head. And his right eye had become a well of the Void. The dark ocular swirled and oozed, dripping inky black tears that ran down the side of his face and evaporated into smoke. 

They had called him a dark god, the true abomination of the Alleys. And so he had become that which they proclaimed him to be.

He stared into the swirling air and beheld it all, grinning as he passed a hand through an after image, causing it to dissipate into light. He watched the lights for a moment, then turned his gaze outward. His expression seemed distant, like one who looked on something far away, and he spoke. "He suspects nothing. It all fits, it all makes sense." His voice was the stillness of a forest that had been ravaged by fire, it was the deepness of the sea where light can not reach. "Time continues to pass, and he only grows more comfortable. He knows not what he has been given, but he cannot but treasure the joy of restoration. Not only that," He turned to his sole companion and his grin was almost friendly, "but the city is at peace. There is no guild war, there are no abominations roaming the streets, the DA keep their work quiet and everyone is content. We have made the peace your guild sought for so long. But what do I know of peace, I'm only a scientist blinded by ambition. Isn't that right, Sudiov?"

@Voidus

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It was strange, so very strange in the land where the gods dwelt. 

A cool mist, made of whispers of a forgotten world, drifted in solemn tendrils through the too-thick air. And amongst the mist traveled a shadow, hiding amongst the lost memories of the world. It wove amongst them, nigh imperceptible. At first glance it appeared aimless and formless, like practically everything else in this realm-between-realms, but it had a destination. Sudiov, the last bastion against the Stranger’s Madness, the counterweight to his darkness. He was the shadow’s destination. It just hoped it wasn’t in vain.

It had been an instant and an eternity since The Stranger had remade the world. He had wielded nigh incalculable power to reforge the Alleyverse, but The Stranger alone could not sustain it. It had required two others in order to sustain it: Aylitha the Mother of Shadows, and Sudiov. The Mother of Shadows had lent her essence to ensure temporal continuity. Her shadowy offspring were fingers that smoothed the wrinkles and tore out the loose threads. Her role was to clean the world of unsightly blemishes that caused its inhabitants to question their reality. Sudiov’s role was different. He lent his power to continue to feed the grand forgery, acting alongside the Stranger to feed the future of the new world. But more importantly, he was there to oppose The Stranger. Where The Stranger sought to grow the Alleys, Sudiov sought to protect the people. Where The Stranger sought to feed the darkness, Sudiov provided light. Like opposing Shards, they held the world in the tension of their opposition. And thus neither could gain the upper hand. At least, that was how it was supposed to work.

But the world was tearing slowly, oh so slowly. And therein lied the shadow’s plan. If it could show Sudiov the tears, then perhaps he could pull on the right thread to cause it all to unravel before either The Stranger or Aylitha could mend it. Before it tore itself apart far more violently.

The Stanger’s Shade flew amongst the voices of a time that never was and hoped that Sudiov would listen. It had been pulling at strings and putting them in the hands of clever people, but Sudiov was the biggest risk. Not only was he powerful, but he could alert The Stranger to his presence and their combined power could rob the Shade of existence in a heartbeat. Sudiov was likely to be the most distrusting of the Shade’s intentions as well. Why would the cognitive shadow of the man who remade the world want to undo his greatest work? The Shade only hoped Sudiov would give it long enough to find out.

At last it came to where the survivor of temporal genocide dwelt, staring at a prison he had helped create. “Hello, Sudiov.”

@Voidus

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Sudiov waited in the endless stillness and quiet. The quiet made contemplation easier, the stillness made it possible to see farther than before. But even that sense of stillness could not stop how chafing this false peace was. Theoretically perfect, two opposing forces which could keep the world in balance without proxies needing to play an endless battle on the surface of the Alleycity. No more wars between guilds, scorching of cities and instantaneous desolations. Now the Stranger and Sudiov manipulated a thousand strings of power and fate in a perfectly coordinated discord which miraculously merged into a harmony that was the world.

But how that balance irritated him, how vexing that he had no choice but to play into the hands of one of his most ardent rivals. Even at the cost of removing Voidus from the field, Sudiov wondered if it was worth it.

"Hello Sudiov." A voice said, a stray strand that blended into the weave. A strand that should not be.

"A miscalculation? On his part and on mine." Sudiov commented, eyes sparkling with a bright light that was somehow also a darkness deeper than shadow. "But a problem nonetheless. False peace is better than war."

He prepared to gather the power needed to sever this thread, though he watched carefully for the Strangers actions before he actually pulled any in. There was too much of a risk when wielding power like this alone, even a small imbalance could lead to chaos. Should he alert the Stranger so that they could cut this off together?

"Speak your business shadow." He said instead, eyes burning with distaste. "You would not be here without reason and at least an attempt to explain why we should allow you to continue."

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The Stranger's Shade watched as Sudiov prepared to strike, knowing that this was the knife's edge. Sudiov couldn't act without immediately giving the Stranger leeway to act in turn, and who knew what he'd use that leeway for. The Shade had to be subtle, but still make Sudiov want to know more. And most importantly, Sudiov had to see why things couldn't continue this way. 

Sudiov wanted this new world, false though it may be. The Shade knew that the concept of it was indeed brilliant. There hadn't been a single world threatening cataclysm or guild war to take hundreds of lives. With the biggest players removed from the field, acting only to ensure nothing could challenge the greater status quo, people had indeed flourished. It was a beautiful dream, but people were beginning to wake up.

The Shade stood silently for a moment, staring at the man before it. The Shade nodded it's head respectfully, "I would give you, oh golden reflection, understanding. You are not the man you mirror, and yet you're more of him than either of you realize. From one portrait to another, you have my sympathy." It grinned , but the expression was ironic, rather than mocking. It stared into the distance where it could feel the man it had been created from, though he was hardly a man anymore. "I know not why the universe cursed us with morality, but you and I both have been unfortunate enough to have the capacity to care about people. Something our progenitors have lost, or rather, believe they have lost. We care what happens to the people who live in the world they made. And thus have I come to tell you,"

"that they are all in grave danger."

It gestured at a glimpse of the world visible like a piece of falling glass in the air. Faint laughter could be heard from a long way off, and glimpses of children playing could bee seen. The Shade continued, "Every sentient creature, in the Alleys and out will perish, because your new world is coming apart at the seams. And the three of you can't mend it fast enough. More and more people are experiencing dissonance, falling into flashes of their past lives. Spouses who were separated in the Forgery, mother's remembering children that are no longer theirs. More and more flaws, blemishes that Aylitha tries to clean up. Changing the memories of some, removing those she can't 'fix'. How many minds must be reset, how many people have to go missing? The very world is starting to feel it, and it can't handle the strain. The Forgery must be reversed, before it comes undone."

A low wind swam through the air between them, softly sighing as it went. The Stranger's Shade looked at the man in front of him, marveling at just how deep those golden eyes were. It hoped they still had a man behind them.

@Voidus

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Sudiov followed the shadow's gesture towards glimpses of the world and frowned. True enough, the number of incidents had been increasing exponentially, enough that there was now some collateral effects as well from those that could not be remedied fast enought. But still...

"We knew there would be problems." He said. "Gluing back the pieces of a fractured world into a different shape was bound to create some gaps. But they are still in hand."

For now.

How much longer though? Even with all the assistance they could provide, Aylitha could not be in all places at all times. Not unless they wanted to alert the entire world to this most grand of conspiracies. That would only cause reality to fracture even faster.

"Fragmentary cognitive dissonance can be dealt with until we remedy the underlying cause." He said, filling his voice with surety. "There must simply have been some flaw that was overlooked, we can remedy it. Reforge it."

His voice grew increasingly desperate at that, eyes wandering to glimpses of those below, children in a street, a couple enjoying a quiet dinner. They could preserve this peace. They had to.

But he couldn't meet the Shade's eyes.

@Fatebreaker

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The Shade nodded at the god's words. "Yes yes, I remember the plan. I was there for it's inception. I helped carve the runes that made your paradise possible. I know what you intended, and what it cost." It did not look into the too-bright eyes, but it felt the person behind them was still there. That was good, that meant the there was still a chance. But first it had to reach that man. "The Stranger got his world without nuisance, and you got your world without mass slaughter of the innocent. Some would say you got the better end of the bargain, for it cost him much more to create it than it cost you to help sustain it. But I know that's not entirely true."

"You gave up your new found life. You friends, your guild, everyone who's ever known you and given you an identity other than that which Voidus gave you. You gave up autonomy to once again be half of a whole."

The air hummed with power, and the Shade knew that he was dancing on a razor thin line above a bottomless chasm. Careful, oh so careful now.

The Shade met Sudiov's eyes then, one silver and one void, staring into hollow suns. "If I were to ask you if it were worth it, you'd say yes. We both know you would. And you'd do it over again if you had the choice, because that's the kind of man you are." Mist curled around them, filling the air with silver-grey shadows. "But it was not a single moment of sacrifice, was it? You did not die in a blaze of glory, did not meet a heroic death with head held high. You endure." The Shade gestured at the realm around them, encompassing all with a wave of his hand. "You have not died a hero's death, you have committed yourself to a life of servitude. Of slavery to the life you helped tell. And you have an eternity to miss all those who helped to make you human. The conversation, the laughter, the song, all traded for a life trapped in a false heaven with a false god."

It grinned, it's expression both mocking and pitying. "And all for a plan made by a mad man, yearning for a better world. But the reality is that the plan is failing. And it is failing for one simple reason. But you will need to be shown, rather than told. And so I have come to show you something." It drifted slightly away and traced a finger through the air, opening up a window to the physical realm. Through it, they could see a hospital.

The Shade turned to Sudiov and gestured for him so look. "The hospital has become a nexus of the fractured, and thus a nexus of the fractures in your world. Look at what's happening now, look who's there..."

@Voidus

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"You gave up your new found life. You friends, your guild, everyone who's ever known you and given you an identity other than that which Voidus gave you. You gave up autonomy to once again be half of a whole." Sudiov hesitated at that, looking up to meet the shades eyes and surprised by the empathy that dwelt there.

But even if correct, that sacrifice is undoubtedly worth it.

"If I were to ask you if it were worth it, you'd say yes. We both know you would. And you'd do it over again if you had the choice, because that's the kind of man you are." The shade continued, as though reading Sudiovs thoughts though that would of course be impossible. "But it was not a single moment of sacrifice, was it? You did not die in a blaze of glory, did not meet a heroic death with head held high. You endure." 

It had concerned Sudiov as well, how long could this be maintained? Certainly he was still stable now, but this entire endeavour would be meaningless unless it could be maintained indefinitely. Permanently apart from the world, permanently opposing the Stranger.

"The hospital has become a nexus of the fractured, and thus a nexus of the fractures in your world. Look at what's happening now, look who's there..." The shade explained, opening a window nearby.

Sudiov wanted to dismiss the window, to ignore this explanation entirely and retreat back into solitude. Let the Stranger deal with this apparition unopposed so that he would not need to risk being mislead by whatever its plan was. But the hospital...
It had become a problem, too many who remembered fragments gathered in one place. Aylitha's reach could not extend to them all quickly and unobtrusively enough to prevent minor damage to the Forging. Compounding the problem, Voidus visited frequently, and while the Forgery stabilized around him he also posed one of the biggest problems of all if any of the fractures spread to him.

He looked through the window, watching as swarms of shadows took patients one by one, chaos broke out as the building shook. A shining figure, new since the forging spoke to a nurse and was taken by writhing darkness. Patients fled there room, others lay trapped within restraints. Doctors and patients exited, some calmly and others distinctly less so. One of the patients, with a spiritweb so cracked it would be a miracle if the false memories held for even a week after being replaced, was speaking with a pair...

"What is this." Sudiov hissed, one eye flaring bright with golden light. He whirled on the shade, his fingers tangled in the insubstantive material that he was composed of and dragged him closer. "What are these holes in the pattern? These should not be here. What. Have. You. Done?"

As he spat the last word he leaned in until only an inch or two separated him from the shade, eye glowing brighter and brighter, ready to unleash a force that would annihilate it from existence. Ready to Voidmake if that was what was needed, which it very well might be. The forgery had been elaborate and had the power of two gods to maintain it. New arrivals to the Alleyverse posed a minimal enough strain that they could be managed even if thousands more arrived. But this? These were not supposed to be here. Could not be here. For Sudiov with his constant connection to the false world and viewing them from the Spiritual realm they looked like nothing so much as two gaps, spaces where the world should be but was not. But physically?

What fresh nightmare has he released into the city?
@Fatebreaker

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"What. Have. You. Done?"

The air vibrated between them, growing thick with power and tension. The mist began to circle them, like a slow whirlpool that floated above the ground. Sudiov's fingers dug into the Shade, which caused it both surprise and worry. It had known Sudiov was powerful, but to witness it firsthand was a terrible thing indeed. The fingers were white hot, like metal fresh from the forge. The Shade felt pain, a rare thing indeed, as it was pulled helplessly towards the glowing god.

The Shade held up it's hands in a placating gesture, "have done nothing, it is he who has done this." It did not point, for there could only be one person who it was referring to. The Shade could feel the wrath of Sudiov, the fear that something had gone wrong, that he had been tricked. The eye glowed brighter and brighter, until it was painful to look at. It had had to press on, before all was lost. "But he himself knows not that they are here, nor that he caused them. And finding out about their existence would shake him even worse than it has you. For one simple reason."

It waved a hand a a film appeared to stretch over the window. When Sudiov looked through, he could see purely in the physical. And there were two young people in a room with several othes. The blank spots, the white noise, they looked simply like two people in their late twenties. The girl was striking, with long dark hair and a beautiful smile. She held herself with confidence, yet had an air of approachability about her. But what stood out was the other.

The young man had black curly hair, warm brown skin, and a ready grin. The Shade was silent for a moment as he let Sudiov process the image, then said, "You must proceed very carefully, Light-that-casts-Shadows. If you make one wrong move, the entire alleyverse could implode, and we don't know what state it will revert too. So I ask you only one thing." It's voice was calm and measured. As it gestured once more to the window, it said in a low voice, "Watch the boy, his coming and going. Do not interfere, just observe and learn. And above all else,"

The Shade looked deep into Sudiovs eyes till it burned. Then it grinned. "Don't tell me I was here."

Then it vanished, in a swirl of shadow, leaving Sudiov holding naught but air, the mirror still floating beside him. Somewhere in the distance, a madman roared.

@Voidus

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Sudiov grimaced as the Shade vanished, it was almost as irritating as the Stranger himself and twice as slippery. But it had made a request to him, something the Stranger had only ever done once before, and it had seemed genuined.

Fine. He thought, settling back and casting his gaze over the world. I can watch this boy along with the others. Those that need to be watched are few enough that one more is no real strain.

He was already keeping an eye on many of the central figures in the city and those most dangerous to the Forgery. The Acolyte had met the Daughter again, that had been a dangerous pairing but as soon as he discovered how best to stabilize these echoes of memories then they would pose no more danger. For now he watched over both to ensure that neither was in any serious danger.

Voidus of course he watched most carefully of all, he was bound more tightly to this Forgery than any other and so far had not shown any of the signs that others had shown of regaining memories. But Sudiov could never be too careful, there was no telling what Voidus was truly thinking as he sat in his false freedom inside a gilded cage. Sudiov still would have greatly preferred to destroy Voidus entirely but this was perhaps the best compromise that could be made.

Actually, where is he now? Sudiov wondered, looking for Voidus. Blasted Shade distracting me, he was heading for the hospital...

But Voidus was not in the city. Instead when Sudiov's gaze finally found him he had wandered deep into the Alleys along with one of his former denizens. He had not, it seemed, regained all of his memories, but this proximity to his former life could not possibly be easy on the already strained fabric of reality.

We must remove him immediately. Sudiov thought, grabbing for the void and hoping to use this chance to destroy his rival before he realized that he would, of course, be countered by the Stranger before he could do so. Who's  to say this isn't simply some part of their plan after all?

But then he saw what Voidus was doing in that moment and all caution was thrown to the wind. Because Voidus was Alleytravelling, he grabbed for an Alley at random it seemed but there was one Alley that Voidus was more connected to than any other, more even than the original Alley. The Alley that held his former power, the Alley that had given birth to Sudiov during Voidus' seventeen year absence. The Alley that held the Well of Voids.

He cannot be allowed to find it. 

Sudiov grabbed at the void, trying to pull all of its quiet and terrible power to obliterate Voidus, the denizen, even the Alley they stood in. But he saw, by reflex the Stranger moved to counter him and realised that even if he could win that contest, by the time he did so it would be too late.

Something subtler then.

He separated a thin strand from the rest and slipped it past the Strangers grip. A fragment of the void so tenuous that it would barely even be worthy of consideration. Far too small to destroy any matter at all, let alone Voidus. But it was enough to disrupt that connection, just for the moment of travel, enough that they would arrive closeby, in one of the other forbidden Alleys where all manner of secrets were kept, but at the very least not at the well.

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The Stranger gazed upon the New Worldspike, linchpin of the forgery, and all he saw were flaws. He saw errors in the runes, places that could've been improved, oversights he made in his haste. He had been prideful, thinking his skill was sufficient, his eye for detail unmatched. But there had been things he had missed, permutations he had not foreseen. How galling, to have an eternity to contemplate his failings. What a bitter cup he had placed before himself. He grinned, though there was no humor in that crocodilian expression. He looked at his elongated hand, boney fingers with too many joints, intricate lines of spikes weaving strange patterns. There were many things he had not foreseen. And foremost was the pain. 

It had been uncountable years since the Stranger had lost something. Misplaced? Often, but truly losing something was not what he did. It had been even longer since he had cared about someone, felt fondness in his butchered heart for the life of another. And he had not lost someone he cared about since the night he had chosen to forget. He had banished that pain, cauterized his heart against it. Or so he had thought,

But losing his only friend hurt. It was a loneliness that ached in his bones, a weight heavier than the crown of spikes that jutted from his skull. Never again would they sharpen the iron of their minds against each other’s wit, never again would they share a drink as they discussed their work. No, now the Stranger would be locked in eternal struggle with a lesser version of the last friend he would ever have, constantly reminded of the Price he had paid.

But it was worth it, for he had accomplished two things. He had done the impossible in remaking the world, and he had given his friend the greatest gift he could want. Gone was the crushing weight of obligation from Voidus' shoulders, the noose of apathy undone. He had been given his daughter back, and a life without care, to learn and experiment to his heart's content. Truly, thought the One-eyed God, he could have given him nothing greater.

He turned his attention back to the Spike. The cracks were spreading, weakening the whole. An oversight in the creation. Even now he could see Aylitha's children moving where she sent them, following the scent of dissonance. But they were an imperfect solution, hasty repairs oft done shoddily. He needed to fix this, as he had known since the first day. And so he had been working on something. An upgrade, an update, call it what you would, it would be the answer to his dilemma. Once it was in place, he wouldn’t even need the Mother of Shadows and her children. Perhaps he could repurpose her investiture, use the realmatic power to shape the world in a new way. In allowing her essence to be woven into the Grand Forgery, Aylitha had given the One-eyed God access to everything. He hadn’t told her that of course, or she never would have agreed. But it was in the fine print. It always paid to read disclaimers.

He looked back, towards where Sudiov sat, tending to the world like an addled, elderly man. He hadn’t told any of them. And now the fool played a benevolent protector of the insects while the Stranger worked subtle magics deep in the corners of the world. Indeed, he rarely looked at people, for they reminded him of the friend he had lost and his purgatorial existence with that friend’s inverse. No, not lost, he corrected himself, set free. The friend he had set free, from. He had to remember that. But it was better not to think on it at all. Besides, now was not the time for self pity. Let the Shade mind the world, the Stranger had Science to do.

The diagram appeared in his mind’s eye, a schematic of the new worldspike he had forged. The problem was the people. Their bonds, their Connections to one another, were stronger than he had anticipated. That was the source of the cracks. And so he would do what any good scientist would do when their experiment had yielded unsatisfactory results. He would alter the parameters and run it again. And this time he would sever every errant connection and stray memory. After all he thought to himself, all great deeds require Sacrifice. But this time it won’t be my friend or me who makes it. It will be all those who took the gift we gave them and spat in our faces. Those who lived on a world of his making, those who called us selfish and greedy, without knowing what we’ve given up to get here. Now they shall know the bittersweet pain of sacrifice. He stopped, and his grin was glistening spikes in a storm-drenched alley. Or rather, they won’t. I will give them a great gift and not one of them will thank me. How rude of them. How in character. But I am used to thankless work. Alas, if only I could show him. but he will never know, and that is the greatest of kindnesses. So let me now be kind...

He stretched out his long fingers and pulled at subtle threads of investiture, with the slightest touch. It was paramount Sudiov not know what he was doing, or he would surely do his best t hinder the work out of some pig-headed self righteousness. So it was necessary not to begin making the changes all at once, but to prepare them to all be enacted simultaneously. It was tiresome not to have a lab within which he could work, but such were the restrictions of godhood it would seem. But if there was one thing the Stranger excelled at, more than either Voidus or his copy, it was preparation. And so the Stranger prepared, like a spider spinning a gossamer web.

And all the while, he grinned.
 

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It was quiet within the Void. Peaceful almost. Neither the Stranger nor Aylitha making any suspicious moves to intervene or turn the chaos of the city to their advantage. Neither appeared in fact to be anything but even the most rudimentary of oppositions to Sudiovs own efforts. It was the closest to a ceasefire that the three of them had reached since the Stranger begun his experiment with the world.

It was deeply suspicious.

Sudiov knew not how either of the others could hide their activities from him, but rather than pick apart that mystery or try to discover what they were up to he decided to assume the worst of them both. Likely the Stranger would have no qualms about exterminating Sudiov after pulling what power he could. And who knew what Aylitha had decided to do but it was unlikely to be in his best interests.

This meant that Sudiov would need to pursue his own interests as well, less hidden than the others. If they wished to take issue with how he spent his time he would welcome the chance to pull them from their own works. For now however, he would spread his awareness through the city. He needed to know what was happening, to observe as many as possible to try to see the flow of possibility. As he went he repaired the cracks in reality with a touch of power, but they were growing both in number and in size. Far too many spots in the city beginning to crack and come apart.

A pair of women who he wished had not reunited with each other strode through the city and the world shuddered and split apart in their passing. Another group discussed in the quiet of an office and reality rent asunder at their words. There was only one place in the city that Sudiov knew he could find quiet. One of the key focal points of the Forgery and effectively a moving linchpin for the entire thing. The man who had once been a god, and his most hated enemy. Voidus would be an oasis of calm in the city.

A piercing pain ripped the shining god apart before letting him reform a moment later. A lance of agony pierced through him at the proximity as something important shattered to pieces. In an instant he pulled himself back, looked down at the city from above in abject fear. Had it failed? Had the cracks overwhelmed the Forgery already? It was ahead of all of his possible projections but surely this could only be an entire section of the city pulling free from the altered history.

But the city was unchanged. The cracks spread with renewed vigour and more and more were appearing but they were still a long way from consuming the work that had been begun. So what else could this be? Sudiov checked and rechecked all of the loose threads, all the gaps, all the individuals he had marked as cause for concern, but other than a slight increase in the deterioration of their Forgeries nothing had changed.

It was not until he had given up and returned to his earlier task of observation that Sudiov realised what had happened. When he saw what had only hours ago been a tired but mild mannered Professor was now leaning over a bloody body with a Hemalurgic spike in hand. A man who should have no knowledge of Hemalurgy had just precisely pierced a bindpoint in some unfortunate barista's heart with a pin of brass and was now looking at it with academic curiosity and unbridled glee.

Voidus' memories had begun to return, and his powers would follow soon after. Things were coming to a head far faster than Sudiov had anticipated, and there was now no more time for subtle manoeuvring or clever plays. The time had come when he would simply need to choose a side.

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