To leave the city of lies, one must become the terrifying thing in the shadows.
"Do you even remember your name, girl?" the mage asked, eyeing the feral women in front of him. She was inspecting his walls, eyeing each item that hung there.
Girl? She scoffed inwardly at the word. She had not been a "girl" in nearly two long centuries. She studiously looked past him, as if he was not even there and inspected the shelves lining the room's walls; making note of the item's strewn about them, both mundane and arcane alike. She also marked her most likely methods of escape. Not that she feared this bearded old fool, but there were other things that lurked within this city. Things that any sane man should fear and she had not lived this long without being constantly prepared. She glanced at the singular, iron-bound door that led into the room. It was well guarded and warded no doubt, but from the outside to prevent thieves and the like from gaining entry. Not for keeping them trapped within. The singular large window on the far side of the room was the obvious choice for an escape, yet it was the narrow, arrow-slit like windows set near three times the height of a man above the floor, that interested her most. For while seeming inaccessible from the floor, the mage's cluttered shelving that lay below them was as good as any ladder to someone of her skills, and her weight would be next to no burden upon them at all. If things went poorly, she'd be up them and out before the mages guards could do more than open the door. She smiled to herself, at the thought; her internal reveries dying almost as quickly as it had come as she spied something shift within the shadows of the room. She could not afford to be distracted, or stay outside the Labyrinth too long. Either would prove fatal.
Davros thought her to be feral, but feral was not the word to really describe her. Feral in her instinct and will to survive perhaps but there was still a cunning human intelligence in those bright emerald eyes. An intelligence that had been honed and shaped until its sole purpose was to simply survive here in Carcosa. The City of Mists. The City of Masks... The City of Lies.
It was a task that many an outsider had failed to do.
Regardless, she wanted something today and she never came without something in equal value or more so in trade. The mage wondered to himself what trinket she had dug up from the labyrinth today? His apprentices were still fussing over the last thing she brought almost forty years ago and all were determined to exposes its secrets. Whatever it was she wanted, she had chosen to brave the danger to herself and leave her only shelter to make her way here. It must be something that she wanted very badly?
The woman plucked something off one of the many shelves in his room, came back and set it on the desk before him. His eye twitched at this. She'd selected a pair of golden bracers. They looked fairly boring at first glance, but when the shifting candle light hit them a certain way, the living runes under the metals surface shifted and danced around in their unending dance. Those were his most prized item, which he still didn't fully understand. He'd spent the better part of the last twenty years trying to unlock their secrets only to meet with failure every time. He turned his narrowed gaze back to her. 'Cleaver little bitch.' He thought grimly to himself.
"You can't treat this place like a merchants stall girl;" he said curtly, "You can't have those."
They dusky skinned woman snorted at him, a sly smile on her face as she pulled out a cube from her bag. His eyes widened at it, or rather, at the runes that were engraved on it. As her fingers moved over the surface of the cube, the runes shimmered and changed. She continued to move them until the runes matched up with a new set, forming new patterns, new words, new secrets to be unlocked.
"That's worth nothing." he said too quickly, waving a dismissive hand at her. She snorted again and walked over to the window in his study. Throwing the shutters open wide, she pulled her arm back and made as if to hurl the item down onto the streets below.
"No!" he shouted, reaching a hand out to her and standing halfway out of his seat. Staying her arm in mid-throw, she turned to face him her eyes sparkling with triumph. He shoved the bracers on his desk towards her. "Take them, bitch." he snapped, mentally cursing himself for falling into her game. "They are worth nothing unless you know how to bind them to you. I've spent years researching it and still have yet to discover how."
She walked over and gently set the cube before him and took her prize; slipping the bracers on and clasping them onto her forearms. He watched as she bit into the edges of both thumbs and wrote a rune he'd never seen before over the clasps of each bracer. A humming filled the room as the bracers glowed faintly, the runes floating under the metals surface swirling so quickly that they nearly blurred to the naked eye. The clasps fused together until it was nothing but smooth metal all along her forearm; elbow to wrist. Davros stared at her in near disbelief. He wouldn't be getting those back anytime soon. Not while she still breathed at any rate. He narrowed his eyes at her. She'd played him for a fool today. He wouldn't let her do it again in the future.
"You never answered my question." he said as she made her way out of his study. "Your name? Do you even remember it?"
She paused at the door, one hand on its frame and a small frown on her face. Looking back at him, she simply said, "Labyrinth Walker." She stood there a moment longer, eyes flicking this way and that as her mind worked. Then she nodding to herself, walked out the door and was gone.
The mage sighed and picked up the cube, turning it slowly in his palms as he studied the object. He was so focused that he didn't notice the dancing shadows in the room, shadows that seemed more animated than they should be should be. He wondered in passing why she had been so keen on the bracers?
He remember when she'd first come here, another adventurer that had come to seek the secrets of the city, only to become trapped it its web. She had been a fine specimen then, a lush and curvaceous dusky skinned woman that left even the most disciplined men drooling in her wake. He remembered her lovely heart shaped face and eyes more tempting than any sirens call. She'd been here for... countless turns. Long enough to be considered part of the city now, long enough to be spoken of in hushed tones by the inhabitants of this dark and twisted place.
The Labyrinth Walker was just her title. Not her name. He still remembered it having heard it before the city closed its doors and trapped her inside all that time ago. The name didn't matter to him. He was interested in keeping her alive though for future opportunities to use her as a tool. The advantage of helping the Labyrinth Walker was that she brought things from deep within the Labyrinth under the city. Next time she came, he would ask for more roots of the Mandragora tree. The last stock she'd given him would run out in a few years and there were just so many more experiments that he wished to conduct on that vile and cursed root. He figured how to move the runes on the cube around and all thoughts of who brought it vanished as he mind set to this new puzzle before him.
One did not simply walk down the streets of Carcosa. That was a task for morons and fools, or those that sought some creative and brutal form of death. Those under the command of the Unspoken One and bore his mark were privileged to walk down the streets without fear, at the cost of their sanity and souls. She often pitied those ones. Once they had also been men, or something similar looking, who had also stumbled into this place with the hope and fame and glory. Even after taking their own lives to escape the horrors of this place, they were still enslaved. No one was safe once the King had decided to keep something. The thought made her shudder. This life was not ideal by far, but she was alive. She was still free in her own way.
The Labyrinth Walker would never really be free. Not here. Not while the King sought to destroy her. No, her means of getting around the damned city was to skulk and creep about the rooftops and alleys like a shadow, her feet never making a sound as they hit the ground and the tattered leathers of her clothing only whispering softly in movement. Her will to survive, her tenacious hold over her own sanity were what the King in Yellow sought to destroy. The longer she defied him, the harder he tried to break her.
She was carefully making her way back to the Labyrinth, her eyes wary and body tense. Things were quiet tonight, and while most times that was good, she never felt safe when she was out and about. Not when she knew his eyes were on her.
She frowned and looked over at the man who'd spoken. He was well over 6'5, wild platinum hair barely held back in its top knot, a wide tigerish grin, and enough rippling muscle on his frame that he could have been a lion in human form. His burning blue eyes sought out her glowing emerald ones with a lustful intent and desire. He opened his arms to her and stepped closer. "Kitten..." He murmured huskily, coming closer still to her.
It happened without thought. Her arm moving on its own and her dagger sank deep into his jugular, cutting though it and spraying a river of blood over her. There was a look of shock and surprise on his face, his eyes rolling back into his head. Using her other dagger, she sank it deep into his chest, dragging it down to his stomach, cutting open his insides enough for his guts to start to spill out. He gurgled and collapsed to the ground, blood pooling around his massive frame and her feet. The woman watched for several moments as the red blood turning green just as the man's figure shifted from human to something else entirely. She snorted at the monster and give it a swift kick to the side, although not sure why she felt so irritated with the form it chose.
Her eyes narrowed into thin slits as she dropped to a crouch. Suddenly, a shrilling laughter echoed around her. Frowning she turned her head from side to side trying to find the source.
"Excellent, quite excellent," a voice echoed. The sound of the voice made her ears ring and eyes water. Not really a voice, but the sound of thousands of men dying, screeching and something else that made her stomach churn combing together form words. "You are doing very well today, very well indeed. No hesitation anymore."
She snarled and bent over the creature, her daggers cutting away the tough flesh and ripping out several of the tender organs inside. She put them in the bag at her side and fled.
"Are you running already? we haven't even started." The voice taunted.
She ignored HIM and ran as fast as she could; ducking, turning and sprinting back to the only place she could hide from his eyes.
"I won't let you!" the voice hissed. Several beasts appeared in her path, intent on stopping her. They roared and charged at her. She slowed only long enough to pick up a stray rock from the ground and hurled it with all her might at the lead creature; a monstrous cat like thing with two heads. Her aim was true and the rock struck the things left head between the eyes and killed that head outright. The right head, suddenly confused, started to shuffle the body into a circle and causing the other creatures behind it to stumble and fall over it. She didn't hesitate, leaping over them and continuing to sprint to the entrance of the Labyrinth.
"You can't hide in there forever! When you come out next time, it will be the last time! After her! Flush her out of there!"
The screeching voice behind sent shivers down her spine and weakened her knees to the point where she feared she might collapse. She pushed on, running down the twisting and confusing halls of the Labyrinth. She skirted to a stop before a door, one of many here in these halls. She did not hesitate; biting into her thumb and quickly went up to the door and wrote a rune on the lower right corner of it.
"Thou that are with me always, spark of my life and without I am no more. I beg passage and haven in your halls. A piece of my life and soul are given to you in tribute." she said quickly, her voice croaking from its lack of use. The seconds seem to pass by like years and the scraping of claws and monstrous voices behind her drew closer. With a sigh, a circular portion of the door slid back and rolled away, leaving her an opening just big enough for her small frame to crawl though. She did so quickly, the door rolling closed behind her.
There was a dull thud and clawing on the other side to the door. She heard an earth growl from the walls behind her and then the screaming of the beasts on the other side as the Labyrinth turned against those that disrespected its halls. She shuddered and hugged her shaking knees.
That had been close. She wondered how long she could hide in here before this place turned against her, tired of her creeping around like some unwanted rat. Pushing the thought aside, she stood on shaking legs and carefully made her way deeper into what could be her home. She has only been gone a short time, but she could tell that the halls had shifted since she was last here. This place had always been shifting and changing. Like something alive. With all the magic flowing about in the air, she was willing to believe this place was alive.
She took a moment before turning the corner to look back at the first door of the labyrinth. Beyond it everything was silent. The King would send more intelligent grunts after her, ones that knew the phrase for the door and could pass by it. She placed her hand on the wall and let her mind go blank, her will melting into the surface of the hall.
It had shifted right after she left all those hours ago. Normally it would be content with its new shape, but the rage it felt from being disrespect so was very strong and it had a mind to completely shift everything again. She pulled her hand away with a frown. It was best not to be in the hall when everything moved. Worse than walls crushing those that were in it, the shifting tended to disturb the Labyrinths other inhabitants, ones that were not on good terms with her. Sighing, she started to trot down the hall, her feet sounding like cat feet on the stone floor. Even with changes done already, she was able to easy pick the right path back to her burrow. Countless years of trial and error making her an expert at finding the small hints that would lead her the right way.
The Labyrinth had seen fit to move her home deeper into its depths, leaving her feeling a little irritated. There was only so close to the center she liked to be and this was pushing her nerves. Not only that, but the entrance to her home was now in the ceiling. At least today the hallway was smaller so she had a chance to jumping up to catch the frame. Giving the command word, the door to her home slide open, reveling nothing but darkness on the other side. She jumped, pulled herself up and crawled inside her burrow and the stone door slid closed behind her with grating hissing sound.
All around her shadows pushed in on her, the darkness wrapping around her tightly and crushing the breath from her lungs. Quickly fishing around in the bag at her side, she took out one of the still warm organs and threw it to one corner of the room. All the shadows quickly left and swarmed in on the meat. She let out a breath and pressed her back to the wall, the room now oddly lit with all the living shadows feasting away. It should leave them content for several days.
More shadows started to drip their way into the room from some of the other cracks and crevices that the room gave, oozing forward and gathering near her feet till it was a blob the size of a small dog. The blob shuddered, shifted and then moved away to join the other shadows in the corner of the room, leaving behind the cube she had give the mage. Only now it was covered in blood and gore.
She picked it up and turned it over in her hands. It wasn't her fault that mages were a stupid lot when it came to anything that looked mystical or archaic. Nor was it her fault that House Talosian never really seemed to notice all the strange deaths that happened to several of their chef mages. They always chalked it up to house wars or the fickle nature of the Nameless One. One of these decades they would finally figure it out, if they ever took those noses out their books and actually paid attention to things.
The arrangement worked well for her and those she shared this small room with. Saying it was a room was being generous. It was really a trap and the people that fell into it were devoured by the shadows. Her deal with these creatures was simple. If she fed them then she got to stay safe in their home. Or better yet, like today, she got something really worthwhile. She lightly tapped the bracers with her finger, the metal ringing like a tuning fork and glowing faintly for several moments. Made by something that treaded on the boarder of life and death, in and out of the Void, they were not just bracers, they were keys. With these, she had a chance of getting back. Of going...
Where was it again that she wanted to go?
She frowned. The original purpose for acquiring the bracers seemed to have slipped her mind like a half forgotten dream. Only vaguely could she recall anything and even then it was as fleeting images, smells, sounds but nothing beyond that.
She was too tired right now to try and remember things. Later she would have more time since she didn't need to leave again anytime soon. Pulling her knees up to her chest, she rested her head on them, and fell into a half slumber. She vaguely felt the shadows prodding at her bag and finally managing to free the other organ she had intended to eat herself. It didn't really matter.
There was plenty of demon flesh around to consume.
She couched in her hiding spot, emerald eyes near glowing in the dim light of the room, wearily watching the entrace in front of her for any unwelcomed guests. The place was abandoned, the house in ruin and windows shattered. There were several houses like this, but most kept in good condition. She silently cursed herself and the shadows for consuming what was supposed to be her meal. She'd come to the closest building to the labyrinth in hopes of finding some easy prey, perhaps minions that the King had sent after her. There was no such luck as the city was oddly quiet again. Nothing stirred; the houses of the city had closed their windows and shut their doors.
That darkness shifted around her. The city was moving to some new place to gather food for those that survived in it. Her stomach growled. It'd been weeks since her last good meal, since some creature of the city had fallen into one of her traps. She had feasted well that night, but was careful to save enough of it to nibble on in the days after. Now that food was gone and the only meal she had managed to take home had been eaten by the shadows. The demon meat tasted terrible but it was the only thing left to hunt now. The last pitiful group of men that been stupid enough to walk into what they supposed an empty city and claim it as their own had not lasted long. She'd been lucky and caught two for herself, but the rest were taken by the city and by the thing deep in its heart.
She heard a sound, movement by the entrance way. The woman's hackles rose, her eyes narrowing to thin slits as she focused on her enemy. It was not alone, three smaller ones slithered in the larger ones wake, the nasty smell of them reaching her and making her stomach churn. They were serious in hunting her this time. Baring her teeth in a silent snarl, she readied herself. If the four of them meant to take her, she would bring two down with her.
They were almost onto her when it happened. A sudden shift and the sensation of something shifting ... and then light! Not the murky sickening twilight that often veiled the city, but actual light. The creatures let out a screech and retreated from the room, crawling back into the shadows, to wait and lurk for the dreaded light to fade away. The woman blinked at the light for several seconds before finally getting to her feet. Placing her back against the wall, she frowned. The city did not feel right. There was some odd feeling of... irritation? Annoyance? The frown deepened. Did the city not wish to be here? She shuddered at the thought of the city bending to another's will and who the holder of that will was. The curiosity of where she was peeked and she crept her way out of the building to look up.
Blue sky and the lush country side with mountains met her gaze. Her body began to tremble as some forgotten memories threaten to rise up and destroy her calm. She knew this place. She knew these skies and those hills. Many skies she had seen, but only one so blue.
The thought was quickly gone as she heard the city groan around her. Her ears picked up the sound of the entrance to the city opening and her heart leapt to her throat.
'Run.' her brain suddenly kicked in. 'Run out. Now!'
Her feet flew down the street, sprinting as fast as she could towards of the entrance. She felt the lingering presence of something pulling at her, trying to slow her pace. She clinked her braces together, the sound making what was grabbing at her screech and release her. She couldn't remember ever running so fast. She ran till she saw the entrance leading from the city came to view and she saw a small cluster of people outside of it. Her body protested as she continued her frantic pace, but she did not slow. She did not stop until she was finally on the other side of the walls of Carcosa. The doors to the city slammed shut behind her, snarling a bit of her hair. Terrible screeching and roaring erupted behind her, the city finally free of the will of whoever it was the kept it there. She watched as mist gathered up around the city, shrouding it and when it dissipated, the city was also gone. Nothing left to show that it had even been there.
Standing in disbelieve, she stared at the empty space before her. Thoughts of those behind her were forgotten until a hand clapped down on her shoulder. She hissed, her dagger in hand and in the chest of the man before she could so much as blink. Ripping it out, she cut his throat open as well, red blood covering her.
"Stay away from her." A female voice ordered. The group quickly stepped back from the feral woman. She looked down at the dead man at her feet and watched and watched and watched. He did not change. His blood stayed as red as it had been when first spilled. Before her brain had a moment to fully comprehend this, she was struck by something. Not an object or a fist, but by some kind of magic. It tore though her body and she screamed at the agony it caused. She felt herself fall to the ground, the world darkening around her as she started to pass out. There was a brief moment as she saw a small form run up to her prone body on the ground, arms reached out and a voice calling out to her.
It puzzled her briefly as her eyes slid shut. She had not heard that word in a long time. Sleep came and took her, leaving her to wonder about such things later.
There was no slow gradual phase to waking. Her eyes simply snapped open and she sat up on the soft bed she'd been placed on. She was in a room, fit with the furnishings that noblemen supplied in their homes, along with the additional set of iron chains and cuffs strong enough to keep a bear neatly bound to her wrists and ankles. Her heart leapt to her throat at being bound and trapped so. She tested her restraints, but found them un-giving. Her panic grew more so as she realized that her daggers were also gone. Bound, trapped and defenseless. Part of her mind wanted to screamed like the terrorized animal that she'd become here, but the years of forced silence would not permit more than a pant left her lips.
She forced her feelings aside, breathed slowly through her nose, and took stock of herself. Blinking, she realized she was clean. Actually clean. Her skin no longer stained and caked with the combination of dried blood, gunk and grime. The wild mess that had been her hair had been washed and trimmed so it fell just to her shoulder blades. The long tendrils of hair that use to whip about her calves gone. Running her fingers though it, she found that they did not tangle once, the silken strands sliding through her fingers like cool water. Her confusion started to shift to irritation and irritation to anger. Snarling and growling like a changed animal, she attempted everything she could do to get free, only resulting in making a lot of noise. Part of her was screaming silently to not draw attention, to keep silence and hide, but the other part of was tired of this. Tired of these games. Tired of being toyed with. She didn't want to do die, but she so tired of this torment anymore.
With that came another part of her mind. One that had been dormant for a very long time. Nearly forgotten like everything else. It pushed her primal and instinctive nature to the side and made her calm down. At the moment she was a live, not in imminent danger, and cleaned up. It meant that where ever she was by whoever had her wanted to keep her alive. Alive was good.
Memories started to return to her slowly as she surveyed the room. Of the city being rooted and her escape from it. Her heart hammered in her chest as the realization of that even truly hit her. Was she actually free? Frowning, she looked at her restraints. Free of the city, but not free in the actual sense. Clenching her fists, she turned and sat cross legged with her back to the wall. She needed to think, and since she wasn't going anywhere anytime soon, this was as good a time as any.
'Chained in a very nice room that isn't decorated. It's warm too...' she mused over the last thought, looking back down at her body and noticing the faint sheen of sweat on her skin. 'I'll need something to drink soon.' She thought with pursed lips. The heat was ticking something in the back of her brain. She'd forgotten it in all these years. Blue skies and a place warm enough to always leaving her sweating. She knew this place. Knew it well, but the name was slipping her. She felt as if she was trying to recall a half forgotten dream she had just had.
Nearby was a window and beyond it she could hear the sounds of birds and people faintly talking. Standing, she found that the chains were long enough to allow her to reach the window. Moving closer to it, she peered out. Sand, the rough heat of the sun and the brownish landscape of the desert city met her gaze.
'Defiantly not Carcosa.' she mused, walking away from the window, the light chinks and scraping sounds of her restraints echoing her movements. There was a nostalgia about the place though. She turned about the room for several moments, eyeing its walls and furnishings. It was very Spartan in its decoration. As if the person it belonged to didn't see the need in pointless decor or trinkets. On a dressing cabinet rested a few items that she went to inspect. A broken collar, a broken sword and what looked like a small collection of small finger bones. She eyed the bones and picked up each and eyed them, each with a named carved into it. She turned the one with Ashren carved into for several moments and set it back on the cabinet. The sword itself looked as if it was broken on purpose, the letters 'Task' engraved neatly into the metal was cut off at the breaking point.
'Tasklion.' she thought, filling in the rest of the word. She snorted, the word bringing a slight irritation to her mind. She wondered what had happen to that city after Arwyne died.
It snapped together inside her head suddenly. She looked around the room once more and finally realized that it was her room. The room given to her when she would stay with her mother any time she visited Khemi.
'None of it looks different. I've been gone for so long but nothing has changed.'
She looked back to the items on the table. There was no age on those either. Perhaps a lack of dusting, but none of the wear and tear that happen with time. 'How long was I gone for...' she marveled to herself. Her head adding up the number of turns of the city. 'There's no way that any of this would still be standing.'
Her thoughts were interrupted as the door to her room opened and a servant walked in with a tray of food. Upon seeing that she was standing, she jumped and nearly dropped the tray. Eyes wide with fear, the servant backed away from her and made for the door carefully.
"Table." she said.
The servant stopped and blinked at her. "E-excuse me?"
"Put it on the table." she said once again. "Tell your mistress I am awake and that I am waiting for her." Her voice crocked again and she inwardly frowned. She was going to have to get use to talking again. The servant quickly did as told and hurried out to the room. Walking over to the table, she eyed the contents and smiled. It was not the fine collect of meats, cheese and soup, but the still bloodied organs of something the she was fairly sure was human. No one the servant was so unnerved even before coming into the room. Sitting at the table, she wolfed down her food, not even really bothering to chew it.
'Do you even remember your name?' The words from the mage of the Talosian house came back to her as she finished her food.
"Yes." she said to the empty room. "My name is Leveta. I am the Labyrinth Walker of Carcosa." There was only silence to meet her proclamation. Nodding to herself, she continued to eat her food, waiting for her mother to arrive.