Bugbear in the Playground
Re: Heroes of the Fall
Part 3: The Deciever
Behind the suspiciously thin wall of false stone, a maelstrom of colors and sights stood before Roselia. There was a narrow path, resembling a ribbon thrown onto the floor more than any true road, crossing over a void filled with nothing but vibrant, yet sinister, colors.
Feeling a hint of hesitation holding her back, Rose tested the road ahead of her. Finding it to be about as solid as one would expect an illusion to be, she stepped out in earnest. It was only a few steps before the road crumbled under her feet.
Terror gripped Roselia as she found herself in freefall. And yet, she was simply in a void. She wasn't really falling. There wasn't even air passing by her. There was no air here at all! Yet, she could breathe. Strange. Soon, she gave up on flailing around: It wasn't going to get her anywhere. Still, she could see a glimmer of light on the horizon; Maybe that was the next location? At any rate, it had to be better than the darkness of the void. Still, it seemed impossible for her to move here. Flailing did nothing, as there was no air here to push against.
Her mind shifted back to one of her old lessons with Tezzerin. On physics. Roselia always paid attention to Tezzerin's lessons: her relentless curiosity wouldn't let her do otherwise. And now, one of these lessons was about to save her from eternal entrapment in this intolerable void. Taking the heaviest item in her inventory that she wasn't likely to need, Rose threw her hairbrush in the opposite direction of that glimmer of light, and was propelled, if slowly towards it. Illusion or no, the laws of physics tend to be rather reliable.
She drifted for minutes, hours, and perhaps even days, eventually reaching what appeared to be a moon-sized sphere of stone and iron. It felt just as wrong as the cave before it, but that didn't really matter. Roselia looked around once again and saw before her a door. A standing door. There was nothing connected to it but a doorframe and the ground below it, simply a door. A door that had a hairline crack in it.
Repeating her previous reaction to such a fissure, Roselia thrust her knife into it, only to hear a piercing shriek as the piece of metal, so far from the power that had initially made it reality, began to turn a bright red color and drip liquid metal even as Roselia clutched her scorched left hand.
Within seconds, the door burst open to reveal the true face of a nightmare. It was a creature legendary even by the standards of its ilk, and few Beasts of Chaos were more fearsome than this monster.
The beast, now that it could be seen, was even more terrible and grand than she had believed based on the tales of it heard within the White City. This miniscule fraction of its true form extended almost eighty meters into the sky, every inch of it covered in foot-wide plates of chiseled golden chitin. Between the plates, a soft red glow emerged, the overall effect producing a creature that seemed to be made of fire and wrapped in brass. Circular sections of chitin were pushed outward and upward to accommodate each of its thousands of (visible; the beast has over a billion in total) legs, each about four inches in diameter and over six feet in length with five separate joints, each individual digit ending in wicked-looking barbed claws not dissimilar to the head of an arrow. The Malcanthorix' head was slightly wider than the rest of its form, perhaps being as large as a typical African Elephant. Its jaw had a distinctly serpentine shape, two thousand fangs lining the interior of beast's maw. Blades rimmed the outside of the creature's orifices, and a pair of razor-sharp horns extended backward across the beast's skull and around the sides of its head in a spiral. Indeed, the Malcanthorix looked like the very visage of death itself, somewhere between a Ram, a Snake, a Centipede, and a host of ineffable, yet more dreadful things. But most terrible of all were its eyes. The creature's eyes were completely blackened, with only a small pinprick of bright yellow adorning its pupil. That yellow light from its eyes seemed to come in force outwards, like a laser, and one felt pierced by its gaze. But that was not the worst feature of them: As one continued to look at them, runes and symbols, dreams and nighmares, and the very dichotomy of life and death seemed to flash across them, and they seemed to stare deep into one's soul, searching for something with the unspoken knowledge that such a beast would not hesitate to take what it desired.
And yet, it spoke. A forked tongue escaped from its mouth, flickering as it did so.
"I ssshould have expected thisss. Godlingsss like you never ssstay where you belong. You are impertinent for attempting to essskape tvisssse in one day. You are ussseful asss a power sssource, but you are alssso trouble. Go back to your sssleep, and all will be forgiven. Try to essskape again, and your sssleep will be far more permanent. For now, ressst..."
"Wait, let's be reasonab-"
The yellow eyes flashed to full brightness once again, and Roselia collapsed to the floor.