She prowled across the burning sun. Or was it ice? Her paws stung like an unattended campfire, but every so often they dripped red autumn with the warmth of a summer’s day. Definitely a sun, Void Star decided, fur rippling in the cool breeze.
It was a noisy sun, though. She frowned. One long ear twitched as the crackling flames of pitched battle roared near and far. Little stars jumped up and winked out with strangled cries. Void Star cautiously straightened her blindfold and stepped past broken bodies into another puddle of sunshine, but she stayed true to her course and followed Lixil through the snow.
Lixil moved with a fluid grace, casually snuffing out the lights of any who barred her way with a twist of her bone-white daggers. She moved with purpose through the arena, hunting, and wherever there were remnants of Frostheart sparkling in the snow, Lixil would pause and cradle the scattered sapphires like a children.
Void Star also hunted. She stalked Lixil’s cold star through the constellation of lights that flickered behind her blindfold. The whispers had told her to, and she was so very tired of trying to block them out.
Forswear the sworn to challenge the storm—Syha’h ftaghu ehye wgah’noth gof’nn ehye ph’lw’nafh—Moons like eyes that glitter with naked malice—Let us in. Let US in. Let us IN!
She put her paws over her ears and hid from the whispers, diving deep through her memories. They floated around her like gibbous moons, partially formed and fragile. Void Star was afraid to clutch these memories too close, lest they prove as insubstantial as she felt, yet their brilliant glow still kept her captivated.
She watched herself play, only a few seasons old, through the sunny meadows of her ancestral home; felt the warm, approving hands of her teachers on her shoulders as they told her she had a gift. She bathed in the stardust-filled embrace of Sister Midnight and held true things in her paws, tasted the future on her tongue, and marveled. But most of all, she remembered the man in yellow, his tattered cloak and promises of starlight.
She remembered the book, how it squirmed in her hands, and the deep, unshakable sense that something was terribly wrong. She remembered the feel of his hands on her fur, pushing harder and harder as she fought to escape the burning words that wormed in through her eyes and into her brain. The pain was intense—Void Star winced at its pale reflection—but even worse was feeling the words crawling around between her ears like insects—burrowing, feasting, infesting. She could feel them gripping her mind even now, fat and lazy like engorged ticks.
But though the words were always with her now, she’d shaken the whispers, and all was quiet for one sweet moment. Void Star stepped out of her memories to the edge of an icy cliff and faced down her quarry. Lixil was still gathering the fractured remnants of the once-great gem, her pouches near to bursting, and she didn’t look up even as Void Star’s paws crunched through the freshly-powdered snow. So far, nothing had been foolish enough to get in her way.
R’luhor gotha tharanak shugg stell’bsna ebunma ehye y’hah grah’n—Mind the Heart. Mind the HEART. Heart and MIND!
Frigid wind tugged the edges of Void Star’s blindfold, and for a moment she looked out at the flickering lights that winked in the arena below. Inky-black portals popped in and out of existence in the distance, and the tiny stars ebbed and flowed in their wake. Lights fled when the portals dropped through the world like stones, only to surge back as soon as the ripples subsided. There was still a tournament to win, after all.
Lixil moved, crouching to pick up a particularly large sapphire fragment at the edge of the whistling cliff. Snow and wind blasted Void Star’s face, but she no longer needed her eyes to see. She watched for her moment and leapt.
With a cry, Lixil turned to face her attacker, but it was too late. Boots scrabbled for purchase on the slick stone in vain, and Void Star watched as Lixil tumbled backwards, arms flailing, off the craggy edge.
At that moment, a sound like breaking glass shook the trees, and a massive black portal rent the air. It hummed like a thousand angry bees as it swallowed both Lixil and the curses which streamed from her lips whole. Then, with a static pop, it vanished.
Silence, Void Star thought, smiling through the sudden tears soaking her blindfold, it’s so very beautiful.
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