Rift: Hunger

Down. Moving slowly, smooth stone on her hands and knees, she crept through the darkness without a mage light to guide her. There was no need for light in this place. Dark. Close. The air didn’t move here. Her tiny body fit easily within the space. For most others, the tight squeeze through the tunnel could bring forth the terror of collapse or entrapment, the panic of being buried alive.

It would be wrong to call this place a treasure-trove. It was a vault for secrets too precious to reveal, too frightening to forget.

“It is locked away,” he said, “But it would be better if it were lost forever.”  She understood his meaning when he reminded her of her hunger.

The tunnel around her eased into a room. She stood warily in a claustrophobic space hewn from living rock, lit by a faint phosphorescent glow. The only object here was a safe; the only impediment was the familiar rune-lock that sealed it. With a twist of her fingers, the magical morpheme opened at her command and the vault was hers. To the mage’s eyes, the contents of the safebox glimmered with an un-light that hinted of mysteries begging to be revealed.

The chorus of her souls sounded soft in her mind.  “Respect respect, these things are not for you, guard your eyes, child, leave them for your betters, do not touch, do not peer, do not see, do not disturb, only what was offered, what was given, what is yours, what is lost…”

She wanted only one thing from within that vault. A small crystal had been set aside, slightly apart from the other objects. It flickered with a faint light of its own. It was hers, and the rest was not. Delicately, she plucked the crystal from its place. She closed the lid with a decisive clang of metal on metal. She dutifully remade the rune-lock, adding a tiny filigree of fire to mark her acceptance of the gift.

She cupped the crystal in one hand, cradling it close to her chest. She could hear the faint, embittered whispers of the woman’s faded soul within. Her fingers caressed the facets, pulling, picking, prying at the sorcery that bound it, opening it just a crack. She moved her hands close to her face, shushed the vestigial soul within, her voice as gentle as a new mother speaking to her babe.

The soul within had certainly once known tenderness, even love, no matter who she had been, or what circumstance had brought her to this prison. She would not deny her now, in this final act of kindness.

“Peace… Shhhh…” She whispered, “No more suffering, no more strife.” Coils of darkness spread from her fingers, weaving a spider’s web of shining purple strands that pulled, beckoning, coaxing the woman’s soul from the prison she hated. “Leave it behind, come to me,” she whispered, “Find stillness here, find peace.” She lowered the crystal, her right hand poised above it, fingers spread, weaving threads of magic in the air. The shred of spirit rushed for freedom with a faint sigh.

Gossamer strands of death ensnared the wisp of soul as it rose; the sigh shredded. The soul’s form pulled apart, torn into bits of shining light. The mage’s hands drew back, pulling the substance of the soul into herself. The purple light of her spell lit the walls of the chamber with eerie light, revealing the hidden wards and sigils within. She smiled gently, her will too strong to break, the soul too weak to resist. She drew it in, consuming and transforming it until it ceased to be what it was, and became a part of her. Her eyes flared blue in the dark.

She dropped the empty crystal to the stone floor and crushed it beneath her heel.

About S. Kay Nash

S. Kay Nash is a writer, editor, and bibliophile. She lives in Texas with a mad scientist and a peaceful contingent of dogs and cats.
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