Things were a certain kind of quiet.
There was no sun, but instead a gentle, warm ambient light and continuous gentle breeze. This micro-Realm was a hundred metre radius sphere, centred on a grassy, flowery meadow and surrounded by an illusion of a blue sky, with gently shifting clouds casting the occasional dappled shade.
Alice’s body sat still while something happened between her ears, within her mind.
In dreamlike metaphor, she hung far away in emptiness as she watched two forces clash – a thing of words and caustic light and furious desperation, and a thing of darkness and sucking hunger and grim inevitability. They splashed across each other, shifting and changing like a kaleidescope but never mixing, black and white moving like immiscible liquids, churning and twisting in fruitless combat.
“Do not fear.”
She looked ‘up’, to where the thin red tendrils wrapped around her arm like the roots of a plant, stretching up and into infinity.
“Without your power, your control to fight over, they will settle. I can sieve the Wyrm from your mind and return this to equilibrium.”
She looked ‘down’ again. Unlike before, the struggle, like a pool of swirling zebra-striped liquid below her, was settling down and separating out, a small dark point and massive glowing shape orbiting each other, a thin stream of material connecting the two, the essence of the Wyrm draining into the darkness in a long spiralling tail.
Behind her, something moved. She looked back, and saw the same craggy red planet, riven by cracks and speckled with mile-high crystal mountains, right up behind her, so close she could almost touch it. A terrible force, red beyond all reason, reached out past her, distorting everything with its sheer unassailable power. Hatred In Crimson plucked the fiercely glowing star from the sky, away from the accretion disk of that infinitesimal hungry point and cast it to one side, where it receded and disappeared into the nothingness that surrounded them.
Further below, the flaring disk of stellar detritus span, their glow the only reason she could see the single hungry point amidst them.
“Could we scry her, before heading in?” Red asked, pacing back and forth. “The Moment of Peace isn’t very big, and I’m not sure we’d want to fight her there.”
“You sure we could do that without her noticing, at this point? I can barely get any information out of the future besides a general feeling that a plan is bad-ish or good-ish.”
“Well, is scrying good or bad, then?”
“Dangit. Any better ideas?”
“I mean,” the Walker interjected, “I could take her from the Moment to wherever she needs to be, so we could prepare a place. This is…” he looked around at the destroyed inner buildings of the Tower before continuing- “a bit too public.”
“Yeah,” said Aidra, “we’ve probably caused enough property damage for the time being. I mean, I could always go for a bit of light arson, but-”
He was interrupted by the crackling whoosh of displaced air as a door unfolded from nowhere, uncrumpling and popping into place before slamming open. Gyran emerged, took one look around at the general devastation, and looked back at the three of them with a weary kind of acceptance.
“Well-” Red said, adopting the manner of a chastised schoolboy. “It’s a long sto-”
“Bookwyrm likely released by someone to look for Alice reacted oddly to the you-know-spooky-brain-what. I called Walker, and he hitched her a lift to the Moment of Peace. Short story if you describe it well, Red.”
She nodded. “Good job, Walker. Meet you at the Moment, things are dire, but likely contained. Red, Aidra, with me,” she said, holding the door wider for them before closing it behind them.
With a creaking series of strange noises, the door folded up like crumpling paper and disappeared.
Alice’s body, sitting in the grass, stopped in her aimless cloudwatching for a few seconds, and let out a piercing scream, her eyes flashing white and clouds of pale steam coiling from her mouth, forming frantically-twitching glyphs as it dissipated into the air. The cloud of smoky words dissipated, and the thing that now lurked behind her eye was less Wyrm, and all the more wicked for it.
The air moved, a door appeared and a hated enemy stepped through to face her.
She grinned a smile of ebon teeth. ᴡᴇ ᴛᴏʟᴅ ʏᴏᴜ ᴡᴇ ᴡᴏᴜʟᴅ ʀᴇᴛᴜʀɴ.
“Ah.” The hated enemy turned to the traitor who stood behind her, watching with some trepidation. “The Wyrm has left – Hatred in Crimson has succeeded.”
“So it’s just…”
ɪᴛ ɪs ᴊᴜsᴛ ᴜs, ɴᴏᴡ. ɴᴏᴛʜɪɴɢ ʟᴇғᴛ, ɴᴇɪᴛʜᴇʀ ᴍᴇᴅᴅʟɪɴɢ ᴡᴏʀᴍ ᴏʀ ʟɪᴛᴛʟᴇ ɢɪʀʟ.
The traitor’s face twisted in pathetic rage. “You liar.”
ᴅᴏ ᴡᴇ ʟɪᴇ? ᴡᴇ ᴀʀᴇ ᴅɪᴠɪɴᴇ, ᴄʜɪʟᴅ. ᴡᴇ ᴄᴀɴɴᴏᴛ ʟɪᴇ.
“Oh, that’s just categorically untrue,” said the hated enemy, with disgusting nonchalance.
The creature that looked like Alice stood up slowly. ᴀʀᴇ ᴡᴇ ɴᴏᴛ ᴠᴇɪʟᴇᴅ ɪɴ ғʟᴇsʜ? ᴅᴏ ᴡᴇ ɴᴏᴛ ʜᴜɴɢᴇʀ ғᴏʀ ᴡᴏʀʟᴅs? ᴡᴇ ᴀʀᴇ ᴛʜᴀᴛ ᴡᴇ ᴀʀᴇ. ᴅᴏ ɴᴏᴛ ғᴏʀɢᴇᴛ ᴛʜᴀᴛ.
“Oh,” said a new voice, an unfamiliar and squirming voice, “you’re Yahweh. Or Popeye, either works.”
The thing that emerged from the hated enemy’s demesne was not known to a thing that wasn’t Alice, and thus had no known name.
She ignored it and turned to the hated enemy. ʏᴏᴜ ᴛʜᴏᴜɢʜᴛ ʏᴏᴜ ᴋɪʟʟᴇᴅ ᴜs?
“I did not.”
ʏᴏᴜ ᴛʜᴏᴜɢʜᴛ ᴡᴇ ᴡᴇʀᴇ ɢᴏɴᴇ ғᴏʀᴇᴠᴇʀ?
ᴡᴇ ᴀʀᴇ ᴛʜᴇ ᴇɴᴅ!
ᴡᴇ ᴀʀᴇ ᴏʙʟɪᴠɪᴏɴ!
ᴡᴇ ᴀʀᴇ ʟᴏʀᴅ ʙʟᴀᴄᴋ!
“Debatable, incorrect and partially correct, in that order.” The hated enemy sighed. “If you were really what you claim, would you not have torn this space asunder and be midway through destroying everything for parsecs around?”
The thing that looked like Alice lunged, teeth blazing, but she was slow, diminished, weaker than a greater self that once existed.
The hated enemy moved, grasped the traitor by the mind and yanked the Red afore it, into the path of Alice’s flesh.
A tiny spark of energy flickered between the tips of Red’s fingers and Alice’s forehead, and she collapsed like a puppet with severed strings.