His will pushes deeper in.
In the vast, rotted realm of its spirit, Fiel digs. He sinks, as the blade of his mind cuts a path, and down he goes. Down, and down, and down… slowly spiraling into this dark maze, this diseased jungle.
He cannot rush. It is too tempting to thrash, to cleave the putrid mass, to tear it apart and rip what he covets out. But it is also much too risky. He knows this, because he already tried.
Brutalize the beast, and it lashes back. It writhes like a nest of worms, like a pulsating tangle of living seaweeds. It grips at the sliver like carnivorous vines on a fresh carcass, sucking sustenance from the soul. The taint cages it, nourishes it, and from this they are kept whole. All the runes and wards and magical shackles he can pile on top of it can only immobilize it, but never truly subjugate it.
The piece of soul is the rotting golem’s heart, and the taint protects it with fangs of ice and rot.
And so the beast slumbers, and the necromancer must invade it… delicately.
The corruption washes over his soul as he slowly descends, and it is a horror beyond description. Fiel feels himself die, without ever crossing that threshold. Like rotting, while conscious and aware. He is being digested alive in the cold bowels of an unknowable monster. Seconds stretch into hours, hours into years, years into centuries. Eons of slow, painful, icy, and unending decomposition.
The taint is itself the fragment of something so old, and so much more powerful….
He accepts this feeling. He lets it flow over and through him. It pierces him through but he does not struggle. Pain is always temporary, no matter how stretched in time. And with this resolve, he slowly parts the slimy tendrils.
There is a pinprick of light, and the faint taste of familiarity. Warmth that did not belong there. Something close and intimate.
Fiel pushes. He must not rush. Slowly he advances, and the warmth grows brighter.
The sliver is there, cocooned in a network of dark coiling tendrils, beating and pulsating like arteries, swelling and contracting like lungs, bulging and rolling like intestines. They hug the fragment of his friend greedily.
The stolen heart of this construct of wasted flesh and tainted soul.
The blade of the necromancer’s will prods at one of them. It gently slips between the coils and, with the precision of a surgeon, he quickly cuts one.
There is a beat. The whole structure jerks, the tendrils contract, and for a moment the norn fears he has awakened the monster.
The cocoon shifts as it is swallowed deeper into the corruption. Fiel steels himself, expecting a counterattack from the undead organism… but the mass settles, and the creature remains dazed.
He must try another approach.
He slowly dives in pursuit, wading through the horror of the afflicted golem’s core, letting the trail of warmth guide him through its labyrinth.
When he finds it again, Fiel morphs his resolve into a pair of hands, and tries again.
With his fingers, he gently pushes the tendrils away. He delicately peels them off, setting them aside to coil over themselves.
It seems to work.
He can already feel the nugget of warmth grow nearer, the light of the sliver’s life force grow brighter….
But the more he digs, the more restless the tendrils become. Dislodged, starved, they seek the sustenance they have been deprived of.
They find it in the new pool of life energy that appeared among them. They find it in Fiel.
He can feel them latch onto him in their dizzy slumber. They burrow beneath his skin, push underneath his nails when he manipulates them. They crawl up his arms, drinking up his life like thirsty plants in a desert.
Fiel cannot stop. Not right now. He is so close…
Even as his fingers get numb from the cold. Even as his arms bulge from the worms snaking under his skin.
He can do this. He can rescue his friend’s soul. Restore him. Fix what he had done…
The tendrils tunnel through him, through his mind.
The sliver is nearly free, so nearly free…
They nearly reach his core, and he knows there is no time left.
One last attempt.
Fiel jabs his fingers into the last remaining strands, the thickest ones, the ones more tightly woven around the sliver. He firmly grabs them and pulls.
The creature wakes up with a soundless screech. The tendrils around and inside him lash out like angry snakes, the worms turning into thorns. Its pain becomes Fiel’s pain.
It is very aware of him now, of what he is trying to do. And it is not happy.
The corruption strikes at the fool that so willingly let himself be infested. It thrusts itself deeper into him, stabs every inch of him, pulls him in, opens its jaws wide to swallow him whole.
Fiel has no mouth to scream with, but he can feel himself scream.
The norn hits the cold surface of the golden floor hard.
His soul is back into his body, a body that had been left sitting on the ground while its occupant projected himself into the shackled golem’s spirit for one more foolhardy rescue attempt.
Another failure, this one nearly fatal.
Fiel is panting on the floor. He had managed to escape the shadow of the Boneskinner’s corruption before it consumed his soul… but not without carrying a bit of it within him.
He could feel it gnaw at his soul, seep into his flesh… he knew that if he allowed it to carry on, he would be lost as well.
Luckily for him, this was not his first rodeo of this type.
His body convulses. He scrapes himself bloody from threshing over the gold tiles. His back arches and slams back down against the floor in rapid succession, as if something was trying to burst out of him, as if he was an unhinged puppet dancing in the hands of a sadistic child. His eyes are rolled back into their orbits, and foam and blood gather at the corner of his mouth.
Suddenly the norn rolls onto his hands and knees, and violently retches.
Fiel soils the pure golden surface with wave after wave of bile. He vomits until there is nothing left for him to spit out, then he vomits some more.
He chokes. His throat bulges. He pushes it out through the tears, spit and pain.
The condensed corruption slithers out of his mouth like a thick, writhing slug. It crashes between his wet hands with a heavy, slimy slap, and the necromancer can finally breathe again.
The worm squirms. It hisses and struggles. It bares the sharp tiny fangs of a leech at him. Dark putrid steam wafts off of it, and it smells of hundred rotting corpses. Fiel can still taste the vile thing on his tongue.
He scrambles up to his feet and screams. Out of rage. Out of fear. Out of disgust.
He brings his boot down hard onto the coiling angry thing, and it pops like an ink-filled balloon. Its decaying gore covers his foot, but then quickly evaporates in dark stringy wisps of smoke, until nothing but Fiel, and what used to be inside of Fiel, remained.
‘That was dangerous’. The thought crosses his mind as he is left bent over, panting and spitting, clutching his shaky knees for support.
Yes, dangerous. And stupid. He knew this was a stupid idea. But he had to try. He had to.
He turns to the golem. The thing was still there, slightly trembling under the layers and layers of sealing spells. The bloody thing was decked with them, like a fucking Wintersday tree. But it just keeps on whittling them down. Still.
Fiel looked at it and was overtaken with frustration, and hate.
Waffles used to be one of his greatest accomplishments. His favored golem. His prodigal son, in the necromantic sense. He made it, nurtured it, mended it, improved it over the years. Then he used it to save his friend, by turning it into the surrogate shell for his captive soul shard, and its corrupting captor.
It was for a good cause. And he would do it again, if he had to.
The entity mocked him with its mere existence.
It took something he cherished and turned it into the simulacrum of the thing that nearly killed the man he loved most. And, to make matters worse, it kept a part of that man in it. making it sacred. Forcing him to preserve it, despite all the hate and disgust he had for it.
A monument to his failure, and his shame.
What if you destroyed it.
What if Fiel destroyed it?
Surely, it wouldn’t affect the captain much. The man was still around. Alive and well through the sundering… despite the nightmares. And the bloodlust.
Surely… he would stay alive if he just… destroyed it.
Besides. The thing was dangerous. It nearly escaped on a couple occasions. It nearly possessed him only moments prior. And, it reacted violently in the presence of Cap.
No. The creature was a threat. To himself. To his friend. To the whole guild.
It had to go.
Fiel feels the weight of Demonblight in his hand. He didn’t realize he’d summoned it, but he might as well have.
The anger was swelling in his heart. This thing… this fucking thing!!
The blade flared in his grip, its crimson blade calling for blood.
He steps forward. He is no longer feeling weak. He is too angry for that. Too tired, of trying to fix things.
What’s the point? What’s the fucking point??
He failed. He keeps on failing. Over, and over, and over.
No more. He’s done. He’s giving up.
The blade is raised over his head. One blow, and he would cleave this fucking monster in two. He doesn’t care anymore. Fuck it. Fuck everything.
With one mighty cry, the spell is broken.
Fiel falters. The greatsword almost slips from his grasp.
Startled, his head swivels, and he meets the cyan gaze of the raven. There is clarity in the glowing pool of her unwavering eye. It leaves him dazed for a moment. It sucks out the anger and the noise, and for a spell only confusion and emptiness remained.
Then he slowly regains his identity, his will. He remembers who he is, and what he almost did.
The sword clatters to the ground, its fire extinguished. The norn clutches his head in his hands and yells.
He can’t even tell which are his own thoughts anymore.
“GET OUT OF MY HEAD! GET OUT GET OUT GETOUTGETOUT!!!”
Fiel shouts until his voice breaks. He keeps shouting even when it hurts, even when only raspy air comes out of his lungs. He pulls at his hair and scratches at his face. And finally, he collapses.
He crumples to the floor, sobbing.
From beneath its chains the chimera silently watches, its eyeless glare mocking.