Hands tore through the darkness, stealing into his skin. Cyan screamed but it was a piteous sound, more like a whisper in winter winds. Far more profoundly rang the voices in his head, blaming him, hating him. Cyan continued to struggle, somehow understanding that to fall into the madness was to fail his loved ones once again.
The retainer crashed to the floor, blades clanging to either sides of him. For a moment, Cyan shut his eyes and just breathed. Hed not experienced anything like that before. Ignoring his swords for the moment, Cyan placed a hand on his knee and pushed up to his feet. The sight that greeted him was almost as disorienting as the ride itself.
As if distorted by water, a blue corridor wavered before his eyes. In his limited understanding of the metaphysical, Cyan simply couldnt wrap his mind around it. His boot slipped slowly across the floor in testing, fearing that it might collapse. At least magicite was predictable. This was not.
Nor were the hands that grasped at the retainers heels. Cyan let out a yelp as he crashed down to his knees again. Bone-white hands sought to draw him under the insubstantial floor. Giving a second cry, this time of fury, the retainer jerked his feet but could not break free. Nor could he escape the voices in his head.
Cyan, why did you leave us?
Why didnt you protect us?
You have disgraced yourself and your family!
On and on the voices burned a path of pain in his head. His hands flew up to his ears but, of course, that did him little good. When the retainer had departed Doma to assault the Imperial camp his mind had shut down to everything but his rage. The rage had consumed all logic, leaving him with only deadly purpose.
With Murasame and Tempest at work on his heels, the bone-hands fell away. More reached up for the retainer. Cyan didnt think of where he was headed, only that he must evade their freezing touch. He hurried through the nearly-identical sapphire hallways. One of them must lead out. Remaining trapped in here would drive the retainer mad.
If he wasnt already, that is.
After the heat of the moment, sorrow sunk in. The weight of their deaths had been like a behemoth sitting on him. It crushed the life from Cyan. With the aid of his Returner companions the retainer had found new life, new meaning. The attack on the Floating Continent gave him hope that the world might be spared more tragedies like Doma.
After running down some questionable steps, the retainer halted for breath. Out of doors that materialized from nothingness emerged comrades of old, his soldier brethren. At first, Cyan smiled widely, relieved. That smile twisted into a grimace as he took sight of them fully. Their skin hung from their bones, where flesh they had. Many merely walked as skeletons, yet their faces were distinctive, recognizable even. In their eyes glowed no warm fellowshipthey marched toward him, faces pale with hatred.
The world had not been spared. As if times the horror of Doma tenfold, the land rotted and the sea boiled. Hope had flown away like a bird from the broken parapets of his castle. When his friends had found him again, the retainer had been overjoyed to see them. Cyan had rather theyd not seen his poems and flowers, though.
Sir Darrin? Sir Aleron? Sir Bernard? All there of the named soldiers swung swords at the retainer. Unprepared, Cyan sloppily blocked the first two with his blades and dodged the third. Others of his contingent closed on him, their weapons reflecting the bizarre light of the corridor. Again and again Cyan parried, heartsick at the idea of fighting his own comrades.
Hath you at last started to reconsider my proposal?
As mindless automatons they attacked, no hint of any other emotion in their wasted faces. A blade slipped under the retainers arm as he countered a slash at his side. It sliced his leg and would have cut right through had Cyan not deflected it with Murasame. Another spear drove at him and the retainer did a series of hops, leaps and ducks to avoid being impaled.
Normally, hed have been able to defeat them. But his heart was not in the fight. Cyan tried to reason with them, but either they heard not or cared not for they gave outward sign of either. In desperation, the retainer called out to the strange voice. Only then did he receive reprieve from the blind hatred.
Cyan, this is penance for failing to save Doma.
Cyan parried a sideways thrust. Cease this, if you can!
Follow me and you can escape this pain.
Speak your name, wraith!?
Come. Down the hallway.
The fight with his former companions was not likely to cease any time soon. Even though he knew they were already slain, still Cyan couldnt force himself to go on the offense to save his skin. And he would be saving his skin for they had no compulsion to spare his life. It was a stalemate, though not a permanent one. Sooner or later hed tire and then
If only there was some way out
A door appeared to his left. Cyan thought that a bit too convenient.
Very well! Disgusted at himself and hating the accusations from the voices, the retainer relented. After completing a sweeping slash that pushed his opponents back, the retainer leapt over the nearest Doman and rushed toward the door. He was not a man who often ducked out a fight but he made allowances for this time all things considered.
With the soldiers approaching still Cyan didnt immediately pass through the gateway. It looked unstable. Despite carrying a magicite, the retainer had no love of the mystical. Who knew it this wasnt a trap? As he stood there considering, the voice came in his head again.
How much would you give to see your loved ones again?
The words spilled from his lips before the retainer could even form rational thought. Anything, everything. The very breath from my body.
Good. Then you have no problems going through that door.
Cyan nodded, his mind made up. Indeed this portal could take him to any number of places. The retainer glanced over a shoulder to see the ruined faces of his old friends ever nearer. But how was where he was now any better? As long as he didnt even up back at the Phantom Train, why would he care?
Cyan whispered the Ode to Doma in his head and stepped pass the threshold.
All That Glitters Is Cold 2 Fanfic Competition
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