A gale salted by sea spray peppered the eastern crags of Stormsong valley in a fine scent of brine and fish guts fermented in the beating sun. Off shore a tempest raged far in the distance, its ominous cloud cover far, but the fury of its winds guided cloudless rain to the shore.
“Oooh~ Sedra come, come! This way, I think I see more of them ♫” The Paramour hopped from landing to landing, her hooves gripping on the water carved ledges naturally as if she were born among them even in a sundress of azure and a blue that made the sky envious. It were only natural, one could suppose. How different were this alien world’s mountains from the seaside cliffs of ancient Argus so many millennia ago? She had lured Vasedra out here on the notion that they were going to continue her lessons and instead turned into a meals picnic and a treasure hunt.
Stoically following behind the closer of two tempests, her companion tromped along with all of the animation of an iceberg, cold and quiet and unsmiling. As usual, her "teacher" had promised a lesson and delivered only chaos. The eredar looked down at the handful of purple-silver worms in her fist, each trying to find its way past her ghost iron plate with hungry, apparently-featureless nubbin mouths.
She could feel their desire like her own, their wish to chew through her flesh and take it for theirs. But Raeisley, no matter how many times she warned her, wanted a collection, danced along the water with all the glee of a child on Daerick’s Blooming Day, hunting crystal nibs poking up from the river Aileslaat on once-grand Argus. Except Sedra was pretty sure these particular treasures were something more like doom incarnate.
She sighed as she hopped up on another ledge, chasing the enthusiastic Paramour and burying her worries.
"Raeis, my hands are getting full," she intoned, keeping the plaintive note from her voice and leaning down to snag another worm and shove it into her palm with the rest. "Wait up so that I can put these in your jar."
"Fine ♪ Fine~♥" in half prance the other woman posed, holding her leap like a ballerina precarious and at risk for a gale to send her tumbling into the sea, but she in her madness or supreme confidence was unafraid of the possibility. Nevertheless she stepped back, waiting on a small landing.
“We could push our food out and carry them in the basket. - aah~♥” She gasped, ducking out of view for half a heartbeat before rising once more up with a ‘giant’ variant of the worms.
"Look at the size of kit! It huuueeg wurm!" She shook the creature in her excitement bouncing in place as it squirms in her grasp. It was the size of a large hamster or a small dog brilliant in its silvery color in the sunlight.
The taller of the pair snorted, closing the gap between them left by Raeisley’s capering and taking the jar half-full of wriggling worms from her companion’s other hand to deposit more with their kin.
"Oh, glorious," she intoned dryly. "The doomsday worms can get large."
Brushing her free hand off, Sedra added, “You already sacrificed our picnic’s soup for this jar to keep them in. Maybe we could eat the rest before you continue your collecting? I’m hungry.”
At the Paramour’s melodramatically shocked look, she wrinkled her nose and grumbled. “Yes. For once, I’m actually hungry. I told you it happens every few days. Now can you put that abomination back where you got it? Our jar isn’t big enough, and if you try to carry it in your cleavage, I’m relatively sure it’ll eat your heart by day’s end.”
“Fiiiiinne.” Raeisley huffed. Looking seaward, she jumped in place, floating down to sit on the ledge at her current stand. "I suppose this is close enough, and we’ve discovered a far better topic of study in the form of… " Her eyes went wide in reverence, holding the creature up in front of her over the ledge. "Wurm. - Did you find your trip to learn from the cultist of the tide informative? "
The void knight settled beside her with much more mundane motions, reaching for the basket. “No. Maybe… I tried to practice the words, the ones you’ve taught me. They used… Is it the same with an accent of Kul’Tiras or is it a slightly different language?”
"Yes and no and yes. It is all the same and never a duplication. Nothing then? Not even some literature we could read in bed?" She smirked, creeping out of her WURM-induced stupor.
“A totem of carved tentacles from the things of the deep sea.” Sedra said, rummaging out some bread and meat. “A cultist used a phrase to trigger it to spawn shadow appendages, summon pieces of… something. I brought it back with me. That and some items of clothing marked with symbols I don’t recognize. They made some of their acolytes wear them under their robes.”
She paused just long enough to say one last thing before she shoved some food in her mouth. "They felt meaningful to me."
“Good, then you’re learning something or at least felt it. Tell me why they are meaningful.” Raeisley placed the wurm on her lap stroking its slimy skin. The creature seemed to pacify under the stroke of her gloved nails.
The void knight considered that while she chewed, her black gaze thoughtful. She’d pulled her cowl down earlier in their secluded walk, and the glamor no longer made her look like her old self.
“They… pull. Away from the ordered things and toward the mad ones, as if… as if aligning the human cultist more with the unstructured dark than with the predictable rhythms of their own intrinsic biology.” The eredar made a face and looked over at Raeisley, backpedaling out of her own uncertainty. “Perhaps. I don’t really know why they drew me.”
Raeisley smirked. Closing her eyes, she nodded, listening to the woman. "No doubt. Go on, even if it is simply a guess - a blind fire bolt in the dark."
"They were changing themselves," Vasedra said, looking back at her food and showing great restraint to talk first. "Giving their human nature away to the mad power."
The Paramour chortled, shrugging as she wiggled her finger near the supposed mouth of the worm. "Same power you wish to control, no? Quite harsh to call it as part of the mad ♪ and are you any different with your inking skin and ruined eyes?"
She got no response until her companion had managed to eat more and washed it down with some water from her canteen.
“I haven’t claimed to be different, have I? Except… they seek to be changed. My goal is to keep myself through the power.”
“I’m merely teasing, love. Though your new form is straight ugly.” The Paramour held the wom up looking at its face. Her tongue slowly peeked from her lips giving the small-large creature a raspberry. “You, them and this worm are all driven by the same thing.” She paused, her lip twisted and brow furrowed while she taps the worm’s head.
“This is odd, I’ve never felt this type of aberration before.”
Ignoring the purist’s opinion on her stygian eyes, scrolling black tattoos and metal-filigree-banded horns, the eredar paused her lunch, setting the half-eaten piece of bread on her purple-black armored thigh. She joined Raeisley in staring at the worm.
“It’s got something void in it, doesn’t it? I can feel its hunger like it’s my own, though not the what or why of it.”
"Hunger is a universal desire, Desire" Raeis offered the puppy worm to Vasedra. The creature immediately began to waggle and spasm, breaking from its sedated lull.
“But something is different with these ones, it’s… alien when I recall how it felt to hold one of the nightmare-bred worms. This one’s hunger is empty. Instinct without desire.”
The void knight took the large worm and held it uncomfortably as it squirmed and writhed in her grip, trying to curl back on her hand.
"Empty…" she murmured thoughtfully, turning it over. Her dark eyes fell to the jar of its smaller kin sitting on the rock by her hip, and she lifted that collection of smaller worms as well. "Empty…"
Suddenly, she glanced up with a little frown. "How many times do I have to ask you not to call me by that name?"
"Till you learn how to stop me." Raeis smirked, leaning over to scratch the flailing worm’s tail.
“I can’t right tell without a proper lab but you are correct to suspect something is quite ominous about these darlings.”
On a whim, Vasedra set the big worm down beside her and upended the jar over it, watching the smaller worms tumble over it and each other as they settled. Her brows were furrowed as she flicked the ones that settled near her leg away.
"How? What do they mean, Raeisley?" The eredar glanced up at her teacher with a frown. "And what do we d-"
Suddenly, the sky was split with a thunder that went beyond sound, and the void knight doubled over, clutching her chest as the rocks around them shook and skittered with debris knocked loose. The first crack was followed in short order by a second, mere sound, and a fissure split the shelf of stone on which they sat, snapping it from root to tip between the two women. Gasping, Sedra grabbed for Raeisley’s wrist.
The Paramour didn’t move. Stunned and breathless, she toppled over stiff with Vasedra down the collapsing outcrook’s edge towards the white foam tides below. She gasped twirling and coiling her tendrils into a rapid spell of slow fall, initially yanked and nearly pulling her arm from her socket before casting it upon the falling knight also. Her eyes wide she trembled, taking Sedra’s arm in her free hand.
“Did you feel that!?” Raeisley’s cheeks became flush with dark purple, the iris of her eyes wide with questionable lucidness or sanity. She attempted to crawl onto Vasedra and straddle, uncaring of their descent towards the rocks below waiting to break their bodies with aid of the coastal tides.
"You had to of felt it! By the Light and its shadows you have to had felt it!" Raeis moaned, her tendrils coiling up pulling on her cheeks as her head arched back, trembling over what force had just shaken through the dream.
Grimacing, her heart hammering from the sudden plunge and just as sudden reprieve, Sedra grated out, “Of course I felt it. It’s the third time I’ve felt it.”
She squirmed under the other woman’s clinging, shoving at her in an attempt to get them back to a comfortable distance. “It’s getting… worse. Closer? More dire. And no one knows what it is.”
Below them, the cliffside rubble falling at its natural pace had settled, and from its cracks and crags, their collection of worms and more wriggled back to the surface.
Raeisley frowned and winced. Hissing a soft whisper that was lost among the closing waves, she grabbed Vasedra’s wrists pulling her towards her, trying to coax her into some sort of motion - a dance or a squirm. “Not the noise, that was merely the catalyst - Vasedra, the moment after… Did you feel it? In a single grain of sand - that moment, it’s the lesson of it all ~♫”
She twirled herself, dancing among the cliff sprays while keeping an anchor on Sedra lest she flee in the moment of revelry. "I need my bell now; we have to ring back!"
The Paramour stared to the sky, her voice trailing between excitement and a possessed seduction.
Her student shook her head, her confused look saying as much as her words. “I don’t know what you mean. Why are you celebrating?”
“We are being challenged, Vasedra ♪ It would be disrespectful for us not to reply in kind” She mewed still staring at the open sky, mesmerized, her hand squeezing Vasedra’s gauntlet.
As their hooves settled into the surf, water lapping up to their hocks while they caught their step against the debris of the shattered cliff they’d been sitting on, Sedra’s brow wrinkled.
"Challenged by wh-… What the fel?!"
The black-eyed eredar forgot her question when she noticed the growing mass of worms circling them, ever more wriggling up from the crevices in the fallen cliff, burbling out into writhing piles of silver-purple sparkles and ooze. Big, little, medium - in the first second, the forms squirmed like wild, colorful maggots, rolling and tumbling over each other. But then, as they watched, their dozens of tiny bodies started a process that was easy to see and hard to follow, many wriggles smoothing into something less frantic and less numerous.
The void knight yanked away from her companion and reached for one of the twin swords at her waist, the creatures ringing them resolving into only a handful of larger horrors, shimmering silver-blue things of reaching tendrils and hungry maws, each one slightly different from the others.
With a pleased squeak, the Paramour threw her arms around Sedra’s neck from behind, and the pair of them stumbled, the tumbled cliffside ringing with the taller eredar’s annoyed shout of, “Raeisley! Will you please let go so that I can prevent us from being eaten?!”