Author’s Note: Well, Crew, we’ve reached the conclusion of Volume 4. What a volume Cuba was! Now, we’ll see about Volume 5 on Wednesday! Cheers!
1. Anthony (Our Abducted Boyfriend!)
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Anthony sat on the ground, soft earth somehow receding into hard, sapphire stone that flecked like black granite; the sky hazed, darkening with a somber mist that swirled in gentle patterns as he waited, but Nora shivered, ears pulling back while studying the changing phenomena.
“Can’t you feel it?” the girl whispered, hugging her shoulders as Anthony followed her gaze to a sky; deep ruby rocks fractured to float into the heavens, radiant white plants birthing out of the rising boulders. “Everything’s fleeing…”
“Heh… All I sense in this place is uneasiness and confusion—” he cut himself off as the world’s colors saturated before fading.
A humming rumble quivered in his breast; clarity in the rhythm of madness drifted into his being as he glanced at Jaenona, resting peacefully—she was helping him peel back the layers of this ever-changing reality.
The ominous feeling of something Jaenona respected took place in Anthony, and a thin, neon-green halo flared into existence to announce the presence of a humanoid monstrosity that filled the horizon.
A skeletal ribcage bled through space, flaring tentacles weaving in the still firmament, flowing down to take the place of legs; its thin arms were as long as its body, two insect-like wings draping down its back like a cloak.
Skin somehow a shade between gray bark and tissue, Anthony couldn’t help but fixate on its disturbingly long hands and nails before watching the emerald light at its core brighten for a single thin eye of the same color to illuminate its hollow head.
“Do you see that?” Nora mumbled, unable to step back as a crescent moon grew from the eldritch entity’s neck. “It… doesn’t feel threatening, but…”
“No, I get it,” Anthony returned, trying to calm his thumping heart; it was overwhelming. “Are you here for Jaenona?”
He jumped as a soft hum came to his right, and a handsome man with shoulder-length black hair was now kneeling beside the little eldritch girl—an illusion the unimaginable entity had created—and his semi-impassioned face showed a slight degree of judgment.
“What a state you have assumed, Sister…”
Anthony cleared his throat, trying to pull his eyes away from the titanic being to focus on the man. “You’re… related to her?”
“Oh! Hehe, you’re her brother, huh?” Nora asked, trying to put on a forced smile and not shake. “Coming to see if—if she’s okay?”
His tone was as chilling as his presence. “We were born from the Sinking Deep as one, yet… she has been scarred and disfigured beyond recognition. Hmm…”
Not knowing what to say in return, they watched him reach out to slide his gloved fingers across her face, tightening the sleeping girl’s expression, and a resonance rippled through Anthony’s core.
“I will do what I can to bring her back to the point of renewal… In her current state, Jaenona will suffer significantly in shedding… what you might call scar tissue.”
“That’s nice…” Nora mumbled, hiding her trembling hands behind her back. “You must have been worried about her.”
“I believed her extinguished,” he replied, reaching down to lift her in his arms, and Anthony experienced the cold ice of this entity’s disturbing touch flowing into him as this strange entity touched their sister. “Follow me.”
Not having any other option, they looked at each other and did as instructed; there was a purpose for them here, and as much as Anthony wanted to reject this and return, he did find himself concerned by what Rachel’s grandfather had said.
Madness from the forces they were caught between or not, he needed answers, and he instinctively knew it could only come from this Outsider.
* * *
Minutes passed—then again, perhaps it was decades—the scenery grew, decayed, receded, and emerged. What Anthony guessed was Jaenona’s twin escorted them through the twisting madness of a place beyond concept or shape, and Nora confirmed what she saw was entirely different than his own senses.
They walked in a world of dreams and nightmares brought shape, but he was anything but in control.
Creatures of colossal scale and terror flowed around them, and given any circumstance of this being on earth, Anthony would have considered all life meaningless before their presence, yet it had a different sensation within this sphere.
Humanity wasn’t a thing in Magthera—it was only the ebb and flow—an ecosystem utterly foreign to him, and after what seemed a short time, Anthony cleared his throat, looking down at his alabaster and obsidian spear.
“Can you… tell me more about Jaenona and yourself?”
The entity turned its head, crimson-slitted irises as unnerving as they had been at the start. “You could not grasp her nature had you eternity in this Existence… as you are, that is… Jaenona has been significantly affected by this bond, and now it is I who does not understand my sister.
“As to my identity, I am Skra’ner Ysgthelra She’agrht, Chain of the Beyond.”
Nora opened her mouth and then closed it, pondering how best to phrase her thoughts. “Uh… Cool, eh, can I call you Skra’ner?”
“Whatever you desire.”
“Mmh. Okay. Ysgthelra sounds better. So… Wasn’t her most precious desire to return here, right? She must have really loved it… her home—a place she belonged.”
Anthony looked back on their conversations, seeing the titanic entity’s true body to their far left as the sweeping white fog pulled away to reveal Ysgthelra’s shimmering emerald eye. “She talked about a Crimson Tide… The Red Sea and its corruption.”
Silence ensued as they continued to walk, and without an answer, he stopped and turned to give Jaenona to Anthony, his touch receding. “You are a spark in an existence of flames… Innocence and ill-begotten trust… the Dark Sun rattles his chains; a design long tainted.”
“Okay?” Nora mumbled, looking to him for answers, not like he had any.
Taking the small child, he frowned while looking at her resting expression; Anthony hadn’t noticed it at first, but there was a purity now with the girl that didn’t reflect how he’d felt until now. “She’s healed?”
Instead of responding, the disguised entity directed them to his titanic visage, materializing through a sea of shimmering lights; Ysgthelra’s long fingers slowly raked the sky, black lightning and pink rays ricocheting off unseen objects to cause fissures to split everything around them.
“The way is open… Though it is the last I will see of my sister, she has made her choice, and you, yours.”
Eyes widening as a sheen of glass split between them, he saw his reflection through it. “You can’t mean…”
“Anthony… Why do you look like that?” Nora whispered.
The entity’s voice echoed in their minds, a sharp wind rushing around them with the scent of the sea, yet snow fell around them. “No longer the Legend of Diarmuid Ua Duibhne… You now sing with the Sinking Deep, Eldritch of Dre’jna Jaenona Le’thrga… The Whisper of Oblivion…”
Dressed in a black and white that both had the appearance of metal, leather, and cloth, his features had somewhat changed to show a radiant sun, his green irises now a flaming orange, and his base hair black were inflamed with copper to auburn highlights.
A curious harmony came from seeing his new human features awed him, yet at the same time, he felt that he should be alarmed and terrified with what it hid; behind him was Anthony’s true form—a colossal eldritch entity of Magthera—he stood in the background, and similar to Jaenona’s twin, Anthony had his own halo of flames that cast a bone-chilling scene.
A peace unlike anything he’d heard resonated throughout the Existence he occupied, and in his infant state, he couldn’t hope to grasp it; The Herald’s words hummed in his ear, bringing clarity: “Are you strong enough to transcend the summoned guise? Alas, what is courage to The Sinking Deep?”
His purpose was to protect the things he cared most for, and subconsciously, that desire had drawn him onto this path; Anthony had traveled a blind road to find the way forward. He was no less himself than when The Oscillation had changed him; in the reverse, the Sinking Deep had remodeled his Seed, and this was the Herald’s meaning in his decision to save Jaenona.
No longer did he feel the uncomfortable allure of this holy Existence, and it was liberating to feed into the madness. The unity and melody of the choirs were sublime, and with the Seed as his medium, Jaenona and he could coexist.
She was him, and he was her; the eldritch woman would help him with all that she was as she had promised. To become the man he sought to be, Jaenona had given him all that was hers—to the point of infusing her very existence into the Seed—and committing to it without a second thought to feel this aberrant divinity of her home one last time.
* * *
Peace came over Anthony, vision drifting to his armored, flexing fingers; a question bubbled out of his throat, almost curious as to its proposal. “Nora… Do you wish to save your sister?”
“What? What about Fiona—is she in danger?!”
“Hmm-hmm… It may sound insane, but we all are… All of our Existence. Nothing is as it seems.”
Ysgthelra faded into The Dream, melding to the choir around them, and the glass that showed what Anthony would become, was, and had been, shattered to reveal an abyss of endless darkness—the Song of the Deep.
Nora studied him with a slight frown. “You know, honestly—yeah, heh, all of this is pretty insane—but, uh, I haven’t had this… this feeling in my chest for all of my life, and—I don’t know, it feels right. So… Fiona is in danger?”
Anthony shifted Jaenona in his arms as she stirred, waking up after the restoration her twin had done that had helped to unify them, manipulating the Seed itself in ways unknown to Gods and Deities alike.
“We won’t remember all of this, Nora… We can’t; it will be a dream we cannot deny, yet changes will be made to our Seeds that could be done nowhere else. Hmm-hmm. What do you think Rachel will think of how I look now?”
She grinned, giving him a thumbs up. “Eh, heh, I don’t know about the whole titanic eldritch look I saw in that mirror, but personally, I think you’re hotter now than you were before, so… I think she’ll faint!”
“Really? Haha! Well, I can hope for that to be a positive reaction and not horror.”
“Well… Eh, if you’re some over 100-meter tall creature… probably the latter. Hehe.”
Jaenona’s big, galaxy-like irises opened, and a half-smile lifted the corner of her lips as he set her on her feet; for a five-year-old, her way of speaking would undoubtedly cause people to take a second look. “It seems things have moved in a rather intensified direction, Anthony. I have received direction from The Herald.”
Nora breathed in before hissing out a stream of air. “What’s the deal? Am I gonna become something like Anthony because, eh… heh-heh, I’m not looking forward to being undateable.”
“Ouch! Tell me how you really feel. Haha!”
“Well—I mean, I’d have second thoughts about my boyfriend if I looked in a mirror and saw he was actually some eldritch thing.”
“Not even seen as human anymore, huh?” Anthony teased, giving her a lifted eyebrow.
“Too harsh? Mmh, probably, but I mean, you got a sweet bodysuit! Eh, if that is what it is?”
They smiled at Jaenona as the girl giggled, small body quivering at the action. “I do find this style of banter amusing in ways I would have not in my previous incarnation. As to your concerns, you will not appear as the form you take in Magthera, yet when you do channel the totality of that which you are, mmh, as is said… the veil lifts.”
She turned to the thoughtful Slime. “Nora, are you prepared to meet the Mecroaf… Sagdrag’misdra, Bringer of the Mist?”
“Mmmh… I suppose it’s why we’ve come. Right? There are a lot of Mecroaf—different ones?”
“I neither know of one nor many… all is one… one is none…”
“Right…” An impish smile bloomed on Nora’s cheeks as she nudged Anthony. “Oh, what do you think your kids would look like now, huh? Hehehe!”
“Ugh… Questions for another time, and not something I’d like to bring up to Rachel at the moment… or until I have to, to be honest.”
“Hmm-hmm. Understandable, but I’m just saying! So, do we just jump in, Jaenona?”
Jaenona stepped to the edge of the abyss, cascading light still throwing fissures across the landscape to fall into the emptiness; she turned around, smiled with her hands behind her back, and leaned back. “We listen and invite—into the mist we are carried…”
Looking at each other, they chuckled and fell after the little eldritch girl, consciousness blinking in and out as they entered the void. Mist engulfed them—they were surrounded, inside, around, and through an endless expanse—unlike anything he’d ever dreamed possible.
* * *
Blinded by a fog that was less mist and more a veil of indescribable energies that permeated every aspect of space, mind, and spirit, Anthony floated, Jaenona holding his hand, and for once, they were totally equal—a wave of serenity that both were of so small to whatever brushed against their united being.
A heavenly cadence of falling snow touched him like his mother when he was young, a time he’d long buried in his infancy that was pulled back to grace his skin. “Anthony, Jaenona… I have volunteered to bring you to a state of awakening… Into the madness, you descend.”
Ten thousand eyes opened inside to give Anthony sight to see a flash of events, more than experience—a written reality within their very soul—and truth was laid bare; voices filled the void, choirs singing the lullaby of chaos.
A war unlike any, a decay spreading throughout eternities—Fate and Destiny above all—an innocent girl seeking answers, brought to the edge of an endless abyss to fall into the void. Lost and without hope, she journeyed into the depths of madness to be lulled to the Hollowed Sun, crossed through the Rift of Ethereal Gift in the Song’s Blindness to meet The Chained… The Black Star.
Eons of events flashed by, Anthony unable to keep up in even this state, timeless, yet the spark had been laid by these unhallowed entities, and Existence shattered within this sweet girl’s hands, awakening forces she could not comprehend—the Red Sea was unleashed.
Anthony blinked, awakening eyes closing to find the ceiling he’d seen what seemed ages ago, and pushing himself up, he found a waking little white-haired girl beside him—it hadn’t been simply a dream.
The last thing he remembered seeing was Nora, and it was firmly fixed in his muddled mind; radiant long snow-white hair, braided and adorned in symbols of power that represented her dominion, yet her figure was utterly black, devoid of all.
Thumping could be heard down the hall before the Korean sliding door to his room was thrown open, Nora’s cheetah eyes falling on him. “Anthony! Anthony, I—I… Put a shirt on!” she growled—literally, like a cat—and turned her back to lean against the door. “Geez—people will get the wrong idea if they see you…”
“Nora?” Jessy called out, running after her. “Why’d you—just run away squealing like… Eh… Eh?! Anthony—why do you have—there’s a little girl!”
“It’s okay, Jess!” Nora jumped in, trying to block her sight as Jaenona giggled and Anthony groaned, leaning over to grab his discarded shirt. “It’s not what it looks like!”
“I—that you have to say that is…”
“Ugrm… What are you guys yelling about?” Mason yawned, his large bear-like frame stretching out as he pushed himself up. “Some people like… Hmm… Hmm…” He blinked, dull vision drifting between Anthony, Jaenona, and the two girls’ bright red faces. “I’m still dreaming, aren’t I? Humph… Weird.”
Anthony’s chest shook with silent laughter as he pulled the blanket back over his head, and in a strange, pulse-like way, he could feel the spiritual presence of Rachel’s grandfather as he walked down the stairs to meet them.
“Mmgh… I see I was not the only one to have had… horrific nightmares. Were these some form of attack, Anthony? Would you mind…”
“G-Gramps!” Jessy called out. “Anthony has a little girl in his room? Did—you didn’t kidnap her—did you kidnap—Gramps, your head?!”
Sinking into the seat as Jaenona walked over to take Jessy’s confused hand, the little eldritch girl smiled up at her. “Hello, my name is Jaenona, and I am bonded with Anthony. I hope we can get along. Jessy, is it?”
“Jaenona…” Anthony groaned, rubbing his head and trying to clear his fragmented mind; the path he’d been on was insane yet written into the fiber of his bones. “People will get the wrong idea if you say it like that… Why don’t you all come in so we can talk about this… We have a lot to talk about.”
“O-Okay?” Jessy stammered, allowing Jaenona to draw her into the room with Nora, eyes still spinning with her own experience. “Not a kidnapper?”
“Not a kidnapper; she’s actually an Eldritch Entity—believe it or not.”
“Mhmm…” Mason mumbled, his grandfather hovering in the doorway as he studied the situation. “I… really don’t know if this is just a dream, but… I thought the same about The Oscillation. Crap, well… lay it on us, Anthony.”
Anthony’s eyes narrowed while seeing the fingernail damage done to Philip’s head, self-inflicted and still wet with the blood dyeing his gray hair, yet he was totally focused on him for answers—he had a lot of explaining to do.
Preparing for a long day attempting to figure everything out, Anthony suddenly realized something, summoning his black and white spear to see the unusual designs he’d had on his eldrich form. Naturally, the others eyed him cautiously at the action, and after a second, he sighed, releasing it.
My Abilities, Stats… I have a new State, I suppose… They’ve all changed.
Jaenona’s soft, cheery voice whispered into his mind as the snow-white-haired girl turned to smile at him. “I can help you, Anthony… Your previous Legend Quests are still active, giving us a place to expand and grow.”
Hehe. Wow… So much has changed. I wonder what Rachel will think—eh-heh, what she might surprise me with herself!
The eldritch creature gave him a secretive look and giggle, turning to give Nora and Jessy her attention as the cheetah girl happily introduced her to the nervous teen.
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