A Little Piece of Home

Nightmares and Daydreams, 1

Blessing of Hollow

There is fire and death all around.

Screams echo through the palace as you run, for the first time in your life, away from battle. There is a strange sensation building in your stomach, faintly nauseous and cramping; you wonder what it is. Did the traitors poison the food? Surely it wouldn’t affect you, even if it did.

The hallways echo with screams and death cries, filling your ears and nostrils with the palpable stench of death. You should be used to that smell.

You aren’t.

You shoot past the nursery, see the little orange-and-blue furred Chillikin weeping and raging over the bloody bodies of their young charges, smothered or run through as they slept. There’s no time to grieve, though – only time to escape from the palace and make it down to the safe room in the center of the city, where the city itself will keep you safe. You’d hated Tlaloc for building this place at first, but the strangely shifting walls of Carcosa have become faintly comforting of late.

Words plaster themselves against the walls, directing you downward and out. The Yellow Palace is so helpful in that way, not like the rest of the city; it liked to mislead visitors, pushing them this way and that until they got so lost they’d break down weeping at the sight of another intersection. Even you found yourself pausing at well-known streets, wondering if they lead to the same place as they had last time you’d visited. Now, you have no choice but to follow the directions, though you can tell from the faint tracery of Essence in the walls that the Heart Room lies somewhere ahead.

Footsteps sound ahead of you – you duck into an alcove, folding your arms and legs up to remain invisible, and hold your breath as a squad of assassins run past you, bloodied from battle. How had they managed to get inside? Tlaloc used to boast that his city was impassable to those who wished him or his Circle harm – you suppose there must have been a loophole in there somewhere to allow the attackers in. The dozen you’d fought off had been well-trained and utterly silent – unnerving, to say the least. You stay hidden, though, and dart out as the assassins disappear around the curve of the hallway.

You skid to a halt a few hundred yards later as a portal yawns open beside you. The Essence flows are right – this is the path to the Heart Room. You dive in, feeling the warm embrace of the manse as it carries you down to the bowels of the city and deposits you in a small room, pulsing with power. A figure stands there with its back to you, immediately recognizable.

Hixkaryana, spirit of Carcosa, turns to face you, his mask weeping tears that are words. At his feet lies the body of his master, Tlaloc, his yellow robes stained with the ink of Hixkaryana’s tears, spelling out words. Master, you see, and Love.

Sorrow.

Regret.

Betrayal.

That feeling in your stomach is back as you watch Hixkaryana weep. You realize with a start that it is fear.

The portal closes behind you. You are trapped.

There is someone else here.

She moves faster than you can see, which is no mean feat. Red hair, green eyes; the faint smell of the flower that was her name. A stylish gown stained with blood and ink. “You,” you whisper. “You killed him.”

“No,” she says, at your back, her lips against your ear. “He signed his own death warrant years ago. All of your kind did, the day my sisters were lost to your vainglory.” The blade is thin, but sharp, and it slides effortlessly into your spine before you can even blink.

Gracious Dismissal holds you while you die, and over it all is the soft, pitiful sound of a demon weeping away his name.

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