Vure hovered over the surface of Hollow, silently following a Holite that ran around on the surface. Their eyes were transfixed as they followed the mortal from day to day; behind the edge of their mask, the curl of a smile could be seen.
“What are you doing?” Sylum said, floating behind Vure.
The smile disappeared from Vure, their posture changing to a more formal stance.
“You know Anodyne told you not to interfere with Hollow.” Sylum continued. “He doesn’t like anyone touching the planet; you should know that.”
Vure rolled their eyes as they reactively let loose a small sigh.
“I am not interfering; I am watching.” Vure responded.
Sylum looked over Vure’s shoulder at the Holite and how she ran on the surface of the planet as a monstrous nightmare hunted for her. Sylum smirked and turned to Vure.
“Strange, I didn’t think of you as someone who enjoyed the blood sports of Hollow. You got a secret dark side Vure?”
Vure turned to Sylum, the black eyes on their mask swirling where once they were just paint. Then with a crackling voice, Vure replied.
“More than you know.”
With a shake of their head, the paint returned to its static state, and Vure’s voice returned to normal.
“But that does not matter; I am not watching this in the hopes that she dies. I am watching because she reminds me of an old life I used to know.”
“Oh, who?” Sylum asked with genuine curiosity.
“Well, this one has not slept in a couple days, works a lot, even by a Holite’s standard, and they are driven to achieve a seemingly impossible goal. Can you think of anyone?”
Sylum laughed gently under his breath and looked at Vure. Sylum took a relaxing stance and shared a side eye with Vure.
“I can think of one… How long do you think this one will last?”
The edges of Vure’s mouth began to curl again as they, too, took a relaxing position.
“I don’t know; like anyone one Hollow, any day could be your last; even the Potion man couldn’t out-crazy everything.”
Sylum looked over at Vure with one eyebrow raised. “The Potion man is dead?”
“Super dead.” Vure replied as their attention returned to the mortal on the ground.
“What the fuck? That guy was pretty much a demi-god. You need to explain what happened there; I can’t be bothered doing a time skip to find it. Tukon is a pain in the ass to deal with.”
Vure groaned and rolled over to face Sylum. “Fine.”
As Vure started to tell the story of the Potion man, they took their eyes off the mortal as they descended into a small cavernous opening in the rock. Sliding down a narrow, steep incline, they descended into the planet. The gargantuan claw of the nightmare behind her attempted to follow, but its bulging muscles were too large to follow. The woman lay down on the cold, damp rocks and stared upwards, watching the nightmare claw at the air. She took a moment to catch her breath, letting the moisture from the moss under her back cool her.
“Come on, you stupid, fat, overgrown cat. Come get me.” She cried out with a chuckle as she slowly stood.
Dusting herself off, she stretched, feeling safe from the still-present nightmare cat that was attempting to break into the tunnel. Grabbing the stump end of her right arm, she plucked the dirt from the textured end. Her arm ended halfway down her forearm, and the scarring on the end was slightly red and itchy. Her scars covered the small amount of skin she was showing, from her face to the balls of her feet. Saluting the wild claw, she smiled contently before strolling away.
“Aint no monster cunning enough to take Edena out.” She gloated to herself. “You won’t stop me; nothing will.” Edena yelled as she spat at the claw, then turning back into the tunnel she started to run.
“Wait, where did she go?” Sylum asked as he interrupted Vure.
Vure stopped talking and turned back to Hollow.
“Aww, they ran off.” Vure watched the large feline nightmare prowl around the hole in the ground, scratching at the hard stone of the hole. “I guess down the hole we go.”
Vure and Sylum made their way down to the planet’s surface; bypassing the feline nightmare, they wandered down into the cave.
“So let me guess this straight. Someone managed to kill the Potion man in his own nightclub? That place was rigged with so many defenses too. Who managed to storm it?” Sylum asked as they followed Edena.
Edena turned around as she could hear whispers in the wind; facing behind, she stared into the darkness where Vure and Sylum stood. Her eyes narrowed as she shifted side to side, trying to make out the source of the whispers.
“It is so weird when they try to look at us when we are invisible.” Vure stated as they moved from Edena’s eyeline. “Why is it we can turn completely invisible, but when we talk, the wind carries our voice like a whisper?”
Sylum shrugged as they both waited for Edena to move on.
“I don’t care about that; what group invaded the Potion Man? You would have to be insane as a mortal to assault that guy.”
“It wasn’t a group; it was an individual.”
“Oh damn, please don’t tell me it was that asshole vindicator.”
Vure fell silent, looking to Sylum with an agreeing nod.
Edena turned away from their whispers and moved further down into the tunnel.
“I fucking hate these tunnels.” Edena said as she started to jog down the tunnel. Listening to the shrill calls of the nightmare at the entrance of the tunnel. “But better than that.”
Edena’s eyes strained as she got deeper into the tunnel, but she eventually saw the soft flickering of light that only a fire could produce. Peeking her head around the cave wall, she spied a small group of imps sitting around a fire.
“Oh, thank fuck, just Imps.” Edena said as she calmly walked around the cave wall; she raised her full arm and called out to them. “Make room, shrimps; I am tired.”
The imps all side-eyed one another and whispered hastily to one another in their language. Before they could conclude, Edena kicked one to the side so she could take her spot by the fire. The imp screamed at her before talking to his comrades.
“Stop that moon speak, or I might become a troubled guest.”
The imps fell silent as they watched Edena take the cooked bat off the fire and start to eat it. Spitting out bits of fur and bone.
“Never liked these bats; they always tasted like bad feet to me.”
“Then don’t eat it.” One of the imps snarled.
Edena nodded, tossing the remaining meat straight onto the fire, burning it into a crisp. One imp tried to grab it from the fire but was repelled by the intensity of the flame. Its aggressive snarls fell to a whimper as its stomach growled.
“Nasty one-armed woman.” An imp cried, drawing the attention of all the other imps.
They all looked over Edena, spotting every cut, bruise, and just how exhausted she was. They started to grin, and each grabbed a sharpened stick in hand.
“Maybe you can be our next meal.”
“Do you think she loses here?” Sylum asked Vure.
“Do you even want to know how the Potion Man died?” Vure replied while Edena and the imps were locked in a heated argument.
“I do, but this is more relevant. She is happening; the Potion Man has already happened.”
Vure looked to Edena as her hand slowly slid into a large pocket in her pants.
“Na, I think she is too smart, even for a group of imps. These ones look a little under-educated anyway.” Vure added to prove their point.
“But four imps with sticks have killed quite a few Holites before. It is not a matter of intelligence; they are fast and get ya in the important parts.”
Vure turned to Sylum as Edena was attacked; pulling a rusted piece of metal out of her pocket, she defended herself.
“But for them to hit the important parts, you have to know where they are. Which means an undereducated group might never actually hit anything vital.”
Sylum thought on it for a moment and shook his head.
“But if you stab something enough, you will eventually hit something that does not want to be hit.”
Vure and Sylum looked at one another for a brief moment before turning back to Edena. She was sitting next to the fire with several wooden sticks sticking out of her back, but rotating above the fire was an imp with a chunk of rusted metal wedged in its throat. Methodically Edena took the wooden spikes from her body, a small stream of blood following each one. Rotating the skewed imp, she slowly cooked its flesh until it popped and crackled with the fats within; she took it off the fire and began to eat her meal before turning in for the night. She dowsed the fire, then crawled into a corner of the cave and surrounded herself with rocks, and hid her body from sight with a dark grey blanket that matched the stones around her.
“Okay, she is asleep. More about the Potion man. How exactly did Sephrium manage to kill him?”
Sylum said impatiently, eagerly awaiting a response.
“Well, it turned out that at some point, the last Phial came across a sacred relic that the Vindicators had been searching for, something they thought had disappeared during the Dream god purge. Turns out it was simply buried under all the carnage that happened.”
“So the Potion man expanded underground and came across this artifact?” Sylum interrupted.
“But how did the Vindicators find out about it?”
“Well, the Potion man made it a centerpiece to one of his rooms. It was talked about enough, and eventually, the information was sold to the Vindicators.”
“What was the artifact? Because from memory, those crazy zealots are always looking for some abstract item from Hollow’s history.”
Vure was about to respond when they spied spider-like legs emerging from one of the tunnels leading from Edena’s cave. Five long, dark, hard legs tapped their way through the dark of the tunnel. It poked and prodded with each foot point until it found one of the imp’s corpses. The nightmares body was low to the ground; it looked like flesh wound tight around a large ball. At the bottom of the body was a gyrating maw of teeth that grew seemingly at random to sizes that varied as much as their placement. All five of its long legs attached at the front of the nightmare, and at the back of the creature was another set of five shorter legs.
The nightmare positioned its mouth over the corpse of the imp and lowered its body to start grinding up the corpse. Bones shredded like paper under the creature’s powerful jaw.
Vure cringed at the sight while Sylum just stared as if it was entertainment to watch.
Edena awoke to the sounds of snapping body parts and remained perfectly still as she lay in the darkness beneath her heavy gray blanket. Her breathing increased for a moment before she calmed herself from her hiding point.
Vure watched as Anodyne moved through the cave, his form invisible to Edena and the nightmare. He used a guiding hand and ushered the nightmares legs across to Edena; as they made a purchase with her soft form, it was not long until the screams of Edena echoed through the cave. Joined by the laughter of Anodyne.
“I am sorry, Anodyne.” Vure whispered.
“What was that?” Sylum asked reactively.
“Nothing; how about we get on with this story?” Vure asked as a single silver glint rolled from their chin.