The Fearful Void (ZnT/FEAR)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by EarthScorpion, Aug 4, 2012.

  1. EarthScorpion Fell on His Sword

    Transferred to independent existence because of length and development.


    Contents:

    Part 1
    Part 2
    Part 3
    Part 4
    Part 5
    Part 6
    Part 7
    Part 8
    Part 9
    Part 10
    Part 11
    Part 12
    Part 13
    Part 14
    Part 15
    Part 16
    Part 17
    Part 18
    Part 19
    Part 20
    Part 21
    Part 22
    Part 23
    Part 24
  2. EarthScorpion Fell on His Sword

    The Fearful Void - Part 1

    The light rain drizzled down on this soggy spring morning. The grey-painted sky was pale, but the rain did not cease. It was not a proper rainstorm, but merely a melancholy dusting of water which made the lives of the teenagers in their oilskin coats miserable. And on an already tense event, with nerves running high, there was a low level buzz of worried chatter.

    "I hope this doesn't throw the elemental alignment out of balance."

    "Yes, yes, I heard that it's bad luck if you can't see blue sky."

    "Only makes sense, right? The weather's skewed towards water and wind, and... Founder, I'd like a nice warm fire right now. But what if this weather interferes with my summoning?"

    "I don't see a problem." That was Montmorency, a blonde water mage who not only had an invisible shell over her which the water ran off, but had nothing to fear from an elemental imbalance towards water. If one was to ask some of the people in her class, she was a cold wet fish already.

    "Children." The balding teacher in the hooded cloak raised his voice. "The weather has no effect on the efficiency or effectiveness of the summoning ceremony. Trust me on this, I have looked through all the archives, and there is no increased rate of failure related at all to the weather at the time. You will do fine." He paused. "All of you. I believe all of you are ready for this, and will be able to take this important step in your development as mages."

    The one teenager who the others felt this comment was directed more at huddled up deeper into her cloak, and shivered. Her red eyes swept the field, flicking from face to face. Unlike her peers, she was not reassured by the statement that the weather did not affect the rate of summoning successes. For Louise Françoise Le Blanc de La Vallière, the announcement that she could not even blame the weather, a chill seasonal inclemency drifting in off the Great Northern Sea, was not a good sign.

    She was filled with the fear of failure, and it gnawed at her. Within her heart, it grew and grew, as mage-child after mage-child bought forth their chosen companion. Birds and frogs and burning salamanders and even a wind-dragon. Inwardly, she bemoaned the alphabetical order of the surnames which left her last, and tried to suppress a yawn. Her sleep had been even more disrupted for the last week than usual, as the worry about the Spring Summoning Ritual consumed her life.

    Around her feet, as she fretted, the green grass withered and died, a deep red glow only visible right at the edge of vision highlighting each doomed strand of grass. The girl glanced down, and screwed her eyes shut. No. She had to keep calm. Deep breaths. Deep slow breaths. Inhale for seven seconds. Hold for seven seconds. Release. Inhale for seven seconds. Hold for seven seconds. Release. Repeat.

    After a while, she chanced a peak down at the ground around her. No one had noticed, and the glow was gone. That was good. She had to stay calm. Magic user without a wand or chanting was an incredibly rare, potent skill in theory. Louise had never understood that. She longed for the control that other people seemed to have unconsciously. They didn't have to worry about hurting the things around them in uncontrolled explosions. They didn't get the headaches or the bad dreams. They didn't wreck rooms when they got angry, or hurt people when they miscast magic, or kill their beloved pony when they were trying to get even a single spell to work in the stables at home, or kill...

    She gulped down air, and began the breathing exercise again. She could feel the onset of another headache coming, a pulsing pain behind her temples, and she merely prayed to God and Founder and whoever would hear her that this would be a mild one, that she wouldn't be incapacitated by this. Her mother got headaches like this, too, and Cattleya had them even worse, to the extent that she had not even been able to attend the Academy. Some days, when the bullying and loneliness got too bad, she envied her big sister.

    "Louise Françoise Le Blanc de La Vallière." That was Professor Colbert's voice, the teacher calling out over this rain-sodden field. She opened her red eyes again, and shuffled out of the circle of dead grass, ignoring the mutter of voices around her. It was all right, as long as she couldn't hear them. Especially since when she started getting her headaches, the sound of her heartbeat in her ears sounded like voices, and she had learned years ago not to snap at people whispering on the chance that they might not be real.

    She wiped her eyes - it was just the rain, she wasn't crying really - and drew her wand out from under her oilskin cloak. This was it. The circle was prepared, and now all she had to do was cast this spell. This one last spell. This most important spell of her life.

    "P-pentacle of the Five Elements," she began, voice shaking as the pain behind her eyes spiked like it had seldom done before.

    it's coming clear... yes, look at these anomalous ECG and EEG readings
    mummy, please, help. it hurts.
    "... bring before... somewhere... bring before my... m-my," she continued, her words tripping over themselves as a red corona filled her blurry vision, and the whispering flooded her ears.
    i don't want to be here
    what's this? doctor, i... i don't know what this is
    "... somewhere in the universe is a beautiful and powerful familiar!" Louise screamed over the pain. "Bring it to me!"

    There was shouting in the background, something from Professor Colbert and the others in her class, but she could not hear them. Would not hear them. In front of her, was the familiar portal, although it was... wrong. Where there should have been a smooth elegant green oval, the world itself bent, as if it was seen through invisible water. The portal itself was a jagged tear, a morbid reddish-black that rippled and crinkled, and the air around it swirled in an anti-cyclone, whipping Louise's clothes around and pelting her with suddenly-warm rain.

    it's all coming. the earth will tear itself apart and the blood of thousands will be shed and the fields will run red and cities will be laid to waste.
    it's their revenge.
    sins of the father.


    Something emerged, a pale hand - small, delicate - and as the rest of its body followed through Louise's eyes rolled back in her head, and she fainted.
    Gig_Complex, Xkalibur, Salty and 15 others like this.
  3. EarthScorpion Fell on His Sword

    The Fearful Void - Part 2

    Professor Colbert's warning went unheard, and his knuckles whitened around his staff at the sight of the unnatural rift. The glow cast the world in blood-splattered light, and the cloaks and capes of his students were blown in the sudden strange circular movements of the air. He was in the best place to see the pale hand emerge, and that was reassuring in the strangeness, because at least some summoning was occurring. Louise de La Vallière had her oddities, yes, the sickness and her problems with controlling her magic, but at least this was a sign of some kind of success. And this morbid glow was a colour he had seen with her various magical mishaps before.

    It was therefore with more equanimity than others might have managed that he watched as the second hand emerged, to be followed by a dark-haired head wearing some sort of mesh-tiara. Through tumbled a small girl-child, perhaps six or seven years of age, dressed in some sort of white gown which was certainly thin and unseasonable for this rain. Strange black strands which did not look like hair came from fleshy growths on her forehead and... no, the man realised, blinking, they were not flesh, they were some kind of thing stuck onto her, which was made more clear when she scrabbled at the skin and tore them off, casting them aside along with the tiara. Where the tiara had sat, there were patches of white skin, where there was no hair.

    It was only at that point that he noticed that Louise had crumpled and fallen. Another one of her fainting spells, he realised; she would be fine once she had been taken to the infirmary. Well, this was a problem with the summoning; she certainly wasn't in a condition to bind her familiar. If it was right for her to do so at all; small girls were not meant to be familiars. And honestly... well, honestly wouldn't be much use anyway.

    "Hello?" he said, stepping forwards. "Little girl... class, please be quiet... little girl, are you all right?"

    Two reddish-orange eyes met his. She was terrified, he could tell that much. Softly, she was whispering something, a repetitive pattern of six or so words, but he could make neither head nor tail of them. The assonance of them, the pattern and beat of them was unfamiliar to him. This was fascinating! He was at least conversant with how all the known languages sounded - all save Elvish - and this sounded neither Tristainian, Gallian, Albionese, Germani, Otmani, Iberian, Romanian nor any of the dialects and variants he had encountered. Perhaps she was from even further afield!

    She couldn't be warm, dressed in just a thin gown in the chill, rainy spring air. Carefully, he removed his outer cloak, making sure not to make any sudden movements. "It's all right," he said, gently, as if he would to a shy horse, holding the garment out in one hand. "Class, please, be quiet!" he added over his shoulder. "This will keep the rain away from you. Rain bad, yes?"

    He looked down again at Louise. She was not having a nosebleed, which indicated that this was a mild one. He knew some of her classmates made jokes about her illness and about her unseen-in-public older sister, jokes about bad blood and inbreeding in the family, but he happened to know that this was not from her father's side. He should probably call the school nurse out, though, he decided - for one, the little girl was bleeding too from where she had torn away the strange things attached to her head - and gripping his staff, he muttered the short magic which would send a flame bird - he shaped his like sparrows - to bring the message to the healer.

    The little girl's eyes went even wider, and she shrieked, pointing her finger at the little bolt of fire which shot out of the staff to fly back towards the castle.

    "No, no, it's all right!" he hastily explained. Founder, what if she thought he had been threatening her? It was fire, after all. Perhaps her people did not do that, or perhaps she was simply too young to understand. Moving forwards, he draped the cloak over her, and reached down to take the little girl's hand and

    heavy fireproof leathers and tinted glass goggles, breath rasps under the hood.
    him and his men are stalking monsters, killers, freaks, like faceless scarecrows
    the hood doesn't stop the smell.
    you killed them. you killed them all.

    fire. fire everywhere. the village burned and the scent of roasting meat filled his nostrils.
    pork.
    how?
    why did you find it easy?
    flesh blackened in the heat, charring. so many times.
    each time the screaming got louder, then went quiet.
    no! get away! don't burn me!
    sobbing.
    cooking meat.
    heat tight against his skin, the skin drawn over his flesh as his sweat evaporated.
    i'll be good.
    don't do that to me too!
    please! please!

    sweating, shaking, skin flushed red and blood trickling in a crimson drizzle from his nostrils, Professor Colbert wrenched away. Unseen in the rain, tears ran from his eyes, blending seamlessly into the downpour. The little girl shrieked, shaking like a leaf as she madly tried to escape from his presence. Her white gown rode up as she scrambled in the mud shrugging off his cloak, streaking her with green and brown.

    "Professor," asked one of the children, advancing on the little girl, "let me. I have younger..."

    "No!" he yelled, voice crow-harsh. "No! No," he repeated, growing softer. "You... you'll scare her. Don't try to tou... to grab her. Just..." he paused for breath. "Leave her be." Straightening his staff, he muttered the 'Detect Magic' cantrip, pointing it at the girl who was curled up rocking backwards and forwards by a tree away the half-circle of mages, away from the fainted form of Louise. What had just happened had been... he had no words.

    The girl. She was magical, certainly, which meant... he looked up at the sky. A vampire? Possible, given it was certainly overcast enough, and she looked pale. But the response of fear, the terror at... at what she had felt in him - yes, he knew in his heart that it had been that - a bloodsucking monster would not have responded like that, surely? Which suggested she was probably a mage, possibly from some foreign country from her strange tongue - which would imply that she also knew strange magics. Even an elf... he had not see her ears under that long, straggly hair.

    He licked his lips and tasted copper, leaning heavily on his staff. Whatever was the case, this was a problem. Perhaps the nurse would do better at persuading her to trust her. Either way, he was certainly not going to touch her again.
    Gig_Complex, Xkalibur, Salty and 12 others like this.
  4. EarthScorpion Fell on His Sword

    The Fearful Void - Part 3

    Louise came around to the sight of a grey clouds and the feeling of damp unpleasantness. She lay there for just a moment, trying to remember exactly why she was there, and then the pain struck again. Throbbing, pulsing, with every heartbeat it grew until the grey skies were painted crimson. And then, just like that, it was gone, replaced by a gut-clenching nausea.

    "'w..." she managed, weakly, rolling onto her side. "'nk I'm g'na be s'k."

    She was, emptying out her breakfast onto the grass. Louise lay there for a few moments, eyes clenched shut, before more memories kicked in, and she peaked out at the world.

    "My familiar!" she groaned, pulling herself up to a sitting position too quickly. Her head still reeled, and the nausea surged again. She choked it down. Blinking, she stared around the field. Her peers were gone, and now there was a collection of figures who included the school nurse, her wand in hand, the headmaster's secretary, and towards the back of the group Professor Colbert. "Did I m-manage?" she asked, blinking. "What happened? I was feeling fine, honest," she lied, "and then I just collapsed. There was the circle and the..." she trailed off. "Professor?" she asked, warily. "What... what happened? How... how bad was it this t-time?"

    The man cleared his voice. "Um," he began. It was not a promising start. "Well." He clenched his hands tighter around his staff. "How are you feeling?" he said.

    "Fine, fine," Louise lied again. She wasn't fine. After one of her fainting spells, she usually hurt for most of the rest of the day, and right now she could taste the bile just waiting. "But my familiar?" Hesitantly, wobbling like a newborn fawn, she tried to pick herself up, and the nurse rushed to help her. Sometimes, she tried to resist it; as it was, she thankfully leaned against the heavily built woman. "Please, Professor?"

    The man took a deep breath. "Behind you. Miss de la Vallieré, how to put this... you appear to have summoned what appears to be a little girl. Between..." his voice shook, "... between the ages of six and seven at a guess. She... ah... she refuses to come near us."

    Heart sinking, leaning heavily on the nurse, Louise turned, and beheld her grand summoning. Beneath a magical curtain against the rain, a small child sat in the mud, dressed in a thin white gown smeared with mud. She was curled up into a ball, arms hugging her knees close to her body, and her long straggly dark hair fell down in front of her eyes like a veil.

    "Professor Colbert recommends that you approach her," the headmaster's secretary said, curiosity in her voice, "as you did summon her after all. However, spells indicate that she is magical, so we do not believe..."

    "... no," Louise said hollowly, "if she's a mage, of course I wouldn't bind her."

    "Quite," the green-haired secretary said. "I'm glad you understand; this could be politically..." she paused for a moment, "... problematic if you bound someone's daughter, and... well." She spread her hands. "Well, you understand."

    Louise swallowed, and nodded. She understood that she was a failure at magic. She understand that once again, she had mucked up, Once again, she'd been unable to do what other people could do properly. Yet another failure. She had even managed to - effectively - kidnap a young girl, rather than get the familiar she'd wanted. Stupid Zero. Stupid useless Zero with zero successes mucking up again.

    The wind around her picked up, and Professor Colbert at the back of the group took another step back.

    Well, even the stupid useless Zero was still going to be a noble, and do her duty. Because duty and honour were all she had left now. She was a failure at magic, a disappointment to her family, and her peers, who laughed at her behind her back and whispered when she wasn't looking at the weird girl who fainted and who got headaches and who was strange were right about her.

    She was next to the little girl, inside the bubble of rainlessness.

    "I'm sorry," she whispered down to her, squatting down beside her. "I really am. I didn't mean to... to take you from your family or whatever."

    Two eyes, yellow-red stared back at her from between a veil of hair. The child softly replied, although Louise could not understand a word.

    "Do you want some food?" she asked. "Food? Eating? Hungry? Om nom nom?" She mimed eating.

    Quick as a flash, the girl lashed out, to latch one scrawny hand around her wrist. Something pulsed behind her temples, and the whispering of her classmates grew louder - wait, they weren't here, were they - but after a moment, the child let go, clambering to her feet, staring impassively at the squatting Louise.

    "Come on, then," Louise said, trying to sound reassuring despite the wobble in her voice and in her legs as she stood. "This way, I suppose." She glanced over at the Academy staff. "I think she's hungry," she called out.


    ...



    And now the two of them were sitting in the anteroom before the headmaster's office, a tray of leftovers from breakfast fruit before them and - thank the Founder - a pot of the headmaster's tea, made with rare leaves from Cathay, from beyond Rub al Khali. Louise had only been permitted it a few times, and it was wonderful; the little girl didn't seem to like the bitter drink but was already on her third glass of orange juice.

    Louise could just about hear the distant voices from within the office. They would probably be discussing her future as well. After all, she'd summoned a probably-noble girl, albeit one who didn't speak any known languages. That sort of thing wasn't normal, and no one failed the summoning ritual, not like this. Normal failures just mucked up the words and tried again. Once again, she'd found a way to fail that most people couldn't even think of.

    Just wonderful.

    "Do you want some more bread?" she asked the pale-skinned young girl beside her. "Bread." She paused, and mentally slapped herself. A fine job of things she was doing. She knew how to learn languages; she had had tutors. "This," she said, moving so the little girl could see her, "is bread." She pointed at the slices. "Bread."

    There was a meaningless response.

    "Bread?" Louise tried again. "Bread."

    "Braad?"

    Louise smiled at her, and nodded. That seemed to be a universal-enough gesture. "Yes, well done," she said, clapping. "Now, next to it, is apples. That one," she pointed, "is a red apple. This one is a green apple." She picked the two up. "Red apple. Green apple. Red apple. Green apple."

    "Raad appal," the little girl said, flatly, pointing at the red one. "Grain appal." Her mouth twitched, and she stared over at one of the shelves filled with leather-bound books sitting behind the secretary's desk. "Raad?" she asked, pointing at the spines.

    Louise nodded. She was actually mildly impressed. Well, if they were going to kick her out of the school because she was a useless failure, she thought, the black depression sweeping back in, at least she might have some success as a teacher. Now. Perhaps something a bit more difficult. "Louise," Louise tried, pointing at herself. "My name is Louise. Lou-ise. Louise."

    "Loo. Ays?" the dark-haired girl echoed, tilting her head to the side.

    It was probably close enough, Louise accepted. "Yes," she said, nodding her head and smiling. "Louise," she said again, pointing at herself. "And you are?" she asked, twisting her hand so she was pointing at the girl, who flinched away. "No no no," she sighed, raising her hands in frustration at everything. "Louise," she said, pointing at herself. "Your name is?"

    Red-orange eyes crinkled up as the little girl frowned. "Loo-ays?" she said, pointing at herself.

    Louise shook her head. "No," she said, shaking her head. "Louise," she said again, a hint of weariness creeping into her voice. "I am Louise. That is my name. Louise." She pointed down at the table, "Bread. Red apple. Green apple." She pointed at the girl. "What is your name?"

    The little girl stared blankly, winding a strand of hair around one finger. "Al-ma," she said, pointing at herself, after some thought.

    Well... it could be a name, the pink-haired girl considered. "Alma?" she asked, pointing at the girl.

    "Alma," possibly-Alma repeated.

    "Alma?" Louise asked, pointing at herself.

    The girl shook her head, a slow motion. "Loo-ays?" she said, pointing at Louise. "Alma," she added, pointing at herself.

    Louise smiled widely in sheer relief, before slumping down. "Well, that's something," she said mostly to herself, reaching out to take the sma... Alma in a one-armed hug. The girl slipped away, the hints of a smile on her pale face vanishing, shoulder half-raised protectively.

    "Excuse me," the headmaster's secretary said, leaning out of the doorway, "but Headmaster Osmond will see you now. You and the little girl."

    Louise puffed herself up, and slightly regretted it at the dizziness it caused. "Her name is Alma," she told the green-haired woman proudly. "Not 'the little girl'."
  5. EarthScorpion Fell on His Sword

    The Fearful Void - Part 4

    "Well, my dear, you have put us in quite a mess. A pickle, if you will. Not just one pickle, in fact. An entire jar of pickles. And perhaps some nice rolls, and a cold side of luncheon meat, and a measure of wine."

    Louise stared at the headmaster in confusion. "Sir," she said, for lack of anything else to say. The headmaster's secretary leaned over, and whispered something in his ear.

    "Oh, sorry, I've missed lunch because of this," the old man said, a grumpy note in his voice. "I got distracted." He coughed. "Mmm. Yes. Now, yes. We have... through dark and arcane arts, confirmed that the girl you summoned is neither vampire nor transformed dragon nor even an elf..."

    "... she doesn't have pointy ears," Miss Chevreuse, one of the earth mage teachers said gnomishly.

    The headmaster shot her a disgusted look, and continued, "... and that, through our exhaustive and definitive lists confirm that she is, all things considered, in the balance of probabilities, most likely, maybe, possibly a mage."

    "I understand," Louise said. She could not deny that there was something a little hollow in her voice, and she glanced down at Alma, who... was hiding behind her back, face pressed against her mantle. "I think she's shy," the girl said.

    Professor Colbert pursed his lips.

    "Indeed," Headmaster Osmond said, "And for that reason, clearly, it would be a bad idea to bind her as a familiar. As a foreign noble, it is our duty to treat her well, until we can make contact with her people."

    "Yes," Louise said.

    "In time," Headmaster Osmond said, "well, I've already talked to the staff, and they will assign a maid to you, to help with the care and look after the child when you are in lessons. But that will take some time, and Professor Colbert has kindly offered to vet the help so that, don't you know, they're suitable to look after a possibly-noble little girl and so on and so forth, so for today, you should look after her. Keep her entertained and whatnot. Shouldn't be too hard, right? I do believe you're a youngest sister, so just act like one of your big sisters did to you, right? Show her the wonders of the school, you know, the library, the gardens, that sort of thing."

    "How am I meant to look after a little girl?" was the question Louise wanted to ask. She was sixteen, and... well, most children who went near her hadn't liked her, when she had been seven herself. And the advice was less than useful.

    Well, that wasn't quite true, she had to admit to herself. Alma seemed to love the gardens. Even in the rain-sodden landscape, she was apparently happy to lie on the grass, and just... do things. That was the only way Louise could describe it. Within not too long, the little girl had acquired even more mud-stains.

    When she discovered the swing that someone had hung in one of the kitchen gardens, it took Louise almost an hour to move her on from there.

    Perhaps it wouldn't be so bad. At least she was easy to entertain, it seemed.


    ...



    They ate away from the other students in the main hall; the teachers felt it was best to not expose the new arrival to a mess of inquisitive and hungry teenagers all at once. Both Louise and Alma were ravenous, and after gorging on partridge, the older girl decided that it was probably best to head in a bedwards direction. She was tired herself, and she was fairly sure that small children needed more sleep.

    Her room really was not set up to have another staying there, Louise realised very quickly. She had been preparing for a familiar, and so there was fresh straw and fresh hay - the latter in case the beast had been a herbivore. None of that was right for a little girl.

    "I think you'll have to sleep in my bed," she told the little girl. She smiled, feeling weary and hoping that it did not show. "I hope you don't snore."

    The blank face stared back at her, and Louise pursed her lips, looking around the room. It was bare compared to the rooms of her peers, and she had been very careful to move everything she could move away from her bed, to make a safe zone for when her nightmares spilled over into the real world and magic shook the furniture. There were no wall-hangings, no free-standing things, and last year she had the school get an earth mage to make dimples in the stone floor which served to stop the bed sliding.

    "I honestly don't know what to say to you about this, Alma," she said, with a shrug. "You don't understand me, and I don't think I can pantomime the gestures to you or anything. Strange things might happen in the night, and... um, I'll try to stop them as best I can, but..." she spread her hands wide.

    The little girl looked around. In her soft, yet slightly guttural voice, she said something back, making gestures with her hands. She clutched her head, and made whooshing noises.

    "I don't understand," was all Louise could manage in response. Her eyes widened. "Oh," she said, quickly. "Um. Do you need the chamberpot? The chamberpot?" Looking around, she recovered it from its place - it wasn't safe for her to keep it under the bed. "Do you need this?"

    The little girl stared back at her, and reaching out, took her hand. Louise's eyebrow twitched, and a headache grew, right behind her left eyeball - with her free hand, she pushed the back of her hand against her screwed-shut eye, teeth clenched. The pain stopped, as the girl let go, clutching her own head, her motions of pain and discomfort exactly the same Louise was showing. She whispered something in her strange language, a look of confusion in those yellow-red eyes.

    "What... was that?" Louise managed. "That... the headache."

    A mutter of explanation, in which the phrase "loo-ays" appeared three times.

    "I'm going to have to think about this," Louise said to herself, slumping down on her bed. Pausing, she sat back up, and went over to a chest in the far corner. Flicking open the catches, she frowned. She had meant to get more ice today, hadn't she, because she'd been busy yesterday and... oh well. She recovered two of the waterskins from the ice-melt, and bought them over.

    "I don't know if you get headaches like I do normally," she explained, "but the cold makes them feel better." She rested the cold against her forehead, and sighed. "Like that, see?"

    The girl took the other one, and copied the gesture, with a faint squeak at the chill. Suspiciously, she glared at the water-sack, before putting it against her eye.

    "Look," Louise said, after a while, sizing up the mud and grass-smeared gown-smock Alma was wearing, "... you can wear one of my spare nightgowns tonight. We can see about getting you some proper clothes tomorrow, because that thing is dirty." Thankfully, she began to shed her uniform. Wouldn't this be embarrassing if this had been a boy she had summoned? Although those red-yellow eyes - noble eyes, commoners didn't look like that - were rather disconcerting, and the pink-haired girl didn't feel up to the pantomime of explaining 'can you please not look at me when I get changed' to a little girl possibly too young to know what she should be doing. Certainly, Alma shed her clothes easily enough when Louise managed, through demonstration and presentation of a second nightgown, to convey that she should get changed too.

    She was not wearing anything under that incredibly thin gown, and so it was that Louise could see the markings. Fingernail scratches along her arms and wrists, close to the skin and scabbed over. Bruising on her shoulders; clear prints from large, adult hands grabbing her. The same on her ankles. Little... bites, they had to be... on veins. And she was on the thin side of things - not quite malnourished, but not exactly healthy either - with not enough of the baby fat which Louise had possessed at the same age.

    It drew a sharp intake breath from Louise, as she stared too. Unconsciously, her fingers drifted to her own wrists, hugging the skin underneath. Those were self-inflicted marks, she knew for a fact. For lack of anything else to do, the pink-haired girl massaged her own temples with two fingers while she thought.

    She blinked, and stood again, rummaging through her chest of draws for the medicinal box she was permitted to have. Louise opened the top section with the whispered pass-code, and recovered a jar of greenish-yellow cutsbalm. "It's medicine," she explained, voice soft and low, "alchemy, with infused water magic. Please, I can help." She swallowed. "I... I don't know what's happened to you before," she said, "but... those look painful. Alma. Please." She advanced, unscrewing the cap. "I know how much scratches like that can hurt, and bruises and..." she swallowed hard, as the little girl hunched up again. She'd seen the girl do it before, and now she had context.

    This small girl was scared of being hit or grabbed. From the bruises on her shoulders, it looked like whoever did it was... and another piece clicked into place in Louise's head. When Cattleya went into convulsions, when people had to hold her down... the bruises on the shoulders and legs which that left looked like that. Someone had held her down, forcefully.

    The pink-haired girl slumped down heavily. "I'm going to have to write home to Mother," she said, simply. "I... I can't deal with this. I... I was just meant to get a familiar today. Some animal I could have follow me. Not... not this. Not a little girl. Not one who... who gives me headaches and who gets headaches from me. Not one who doesn't speak any Tristainian."

    Alma stared blankly back at her, still cringing, whispering something inaudible.

    "I... I don't know if you're just sick from something, or if someone has beaten you and things," Louise continued, "but... ah." Carefully, she put the cutsbalm down on the floor before the girl, and took a step back. "You rub in onto things that hurt," she explained, miming scooping some up and putting it on her own shoulder. "It makes things not hurt. Feel better."

    A bit more prompting and encouragement was enough to get Alma to at least try the cutsbalm, and the little girl squeaked at the chill feeling of the balm sinking into the bruises on her shoulders.

    "Wrists too," Louise prompted, gesturing. "It stops scars, and also infections. Even if you put it on scabs, it makes things heal properly. It's wonderful, because it also makes things not hurt."

    A musketfire barrage of words in Alma's language, and a hesitant, wobbly smile from the girl. "Grain," the girl tried after a moment's thought, pointing at her still-bare shoulder. "Grain-raad," she said, with a shake of her head. Indeed, the bruise colour was fading already, the inflammation already gone.

    "Yes," Louise managed, her voice choking slightly. After a moment's pause, she coughed. "And we can now try to put your nightgown on properly. Well, my nightgown. Nightgown," she said, pointing at the clothing. "Put on the nightgown."

    "Puton nitegaan?"

    "Yes, yes!" Louise mimed. "And then we can go to sleep." She closed her eyes. "Sleep," she said, breathing, resting her head on her hands. "Sleep?"

    The nightgown was as she had guessed, far far too large for the little girl, but at least the now-fading bruises and cuts were no longer visible. The pink-haired girl suppressed a slight giggle at the serious-faced little girl with the neck of the garment reaching down to her breastbone and arms that were not so much arms as legs, and climbed up onto her bed.

    "At least we're both small, so there's space in the bed for both of us," Louise explained, shaking her head at her own silliness. "I may well go crazy with only you to talk to like this, so I might as well get you able to talk back," she informed Alma. "Bed. This is a bed. This bed is where you sleep. Sleep in the bed."

    "Sleep baad?"

    Louise shuffled under the sheets as the small child clambered up in her too-large nightgown. "I hope not," she said, mind distracted. "I hope I sleep well tonight."
  6. EarthScorpion Fell on His Sword

    The Fearful Void - Part 5

    The sun was a bright white, beating down on the long grass. Despite the brightness, though, mists whirled and twirled around Louise as she waded through the summer's growth, whipping against her knees. She was quite aware that she was asleep and dreaming.

    This was not an unusual thing. When other people talked idly about how dreams were things that flashed in front of their eyes, half-baked memories fast forgotten upon waking, this daughter of the de la Vallierés was fast-bound by them. Within her sleep lay worlds within scenes of memory, and oft-times - when the headaches grew intolerable and red bled into her world - they would intrude upon waking as well, like fever-dreams.

    At least these grassy fields, leading up a gentle incline to a tree-tipped hilltop, were pleasant. There were much worse things in her dreams sometimes.

    At the top of the hill, there was a single tree, bare of all leaves. And hanging from the tree was a rope swing. Sitting on the swing, legs dangling, was a little girl in a red dress. Her feet were stained red, and she clung onto the ropes with whitened knuckles.

    "Alma?" Louise managed, frowning.

    "Louise," the little girl said, unblinking.

    The pink-haired girl shrugged. "Well, I suppose today has been... unusual. I suppose it's natural I'd dream of..." she trailed off. "This is really you, isn't it?" she said. She could feel it, in the way her breath caught and in the whispers in the back of her head.

    "This is me," Alma said, in her soft voice.

    Louise tilted her head. "Not exactly," she said, sounding out the feeling in her head. "It's not exactly you."

    The little girl said nothing.

    The older girl made her way to the top of the hill, coming closer to the swing. "Look," she said, sticking her hands in the pockets of her nightgown, "I'm sorry," she apologised. "I... just wanted a familiar. Something to show I wasn't a failure as a mage. Something I could use to show I'm not a failure. Just... just one bit of magic that worked properly. And instead I accidentally summoned you from wherever you're from." She was next to the swing by now, and crouched down, so her red eyes were on a level with the girl's red-yellow ones. "So, I'm sorry. We're... we'll try to find a way to get you home." She paused. Was that right? Would the little girl want that? With those bruises and those cuts? The next words only confirmed things.

    "I'm not." The little girl swallowed, a quick, compulsive motion. "Don't make me go back. I don't want to."

    Louise glanced down at those red-stained feet, which now she was closer, she could see were dripping crimson droplets down to soak into the earth. "But..." she began, unsure of what else to say.

    "Don't make me go back. I don't want to be in that place again. It hurts. They do things to me." She shivered, and all around her, the world bent and warped, the grassy fields melting away to leave an all-encompassing grey wall and barren earth. The tree itself remained, but there were other things down here; a metal wire frame on wheels, a black loop the size of a man's torso. "You let me go outside," she said in a hollow voice. "There's grass in your place. There's no grass here."

    Louise looked around wildly. "What... what did you do?"

    "I try to pretend that it's like the place we went for that picnic," Alma said, ignoring Louise. "Back before Mummy... died." She turned her gaze on Louise. "I want her back," she said, softly. "Give her back."

    "I can't," Louise said, gently. "I'm..." she slumped down, further, "... I'm just a failure," she whispered. "I can't even do a basic spell properly, can't even get a proper familiar, and even the most powerful mages can't bring people back from the dead. Not properly."

    "You're nice to me," Alma said, tilting her head slightly. "Even though you hate yourself." She reached down, and put her hand on Louise's head. "Please don't hate yourself. It feels bad. I'll be your familiar if you don't make me go back to that place. Please. I don't want to go back."

    Louise puffed herself up, outrage swelling in her chest. "Do you think I'd do that?" she managed through the anger, red flickers forming around her. "Even if I really, really want a familiar... I'm a noble! We... we can't be bought like that! I wouldn't send you back to..." she gestured around, at the blank stone and bare earth, "... a place like this even if you refused to be my familiar! That... that would be an outrage and affront to my honour! And even if I can't do magic properly, I... I still have it..." she said, deflating. "Even if it's all I have. I won't give it up."

    Alma stared back at her, eyes wide. "Thank you," she said, eventually.

    "Don't mention it," Louise snapped, and paused. "Wait, no. Don't mention it," she said again, more gently.

    A small pale hand took hers. "You're the nicest person I've ever known," Alma whispered. "Apart from Mama."

    "That's not a good thing," the older girl said, heart sinking. "I'm not a nice person."

    "You are," Alma said, peaking from under her fringe. "You get angry at yourself, and hate yourself, not other people. You haven't hated or been scared of me yet at all. And you let me go outside, and don't poke me with needles or make me watch screens or put me in the machines or make me try to move things or put animals near me when I'm angry or anything. You don't hurt me at all."

    Louise worked her mouth. "I can't be the only person who hasn't done... any of that stuff," she protested. "I... what about your father, for example."

    The little girl flinched at that word, shoulder hunching up in instinctive defence. "He's the worst," she whispered, voice hollow. Above her, the skies began to glow, light from above bleeding to red and casting the entire area in a crimson glow as thick storm clouds gathered. She cried out inarticulately, shivering in terror, and clinging tighter onto Louise's hand.

    "Alma? Alma! What's going on?" Louise asked, looking around wildly. The ground under her bare feet was damp, blood welling up from the soil and filling her nose with its metallic scent. It was warm between her toes.

    "He's here, he's here, he's here," the girl whispered to herself over and over again, trying to hide herself behind Louise despite the unseen nature of the threat.

    The older girl drew her wand, and gritted her teeth, trying as hard as she could to wake up. It seldom worked, but it was just successful enough that she always tried.

    "We can't hide from him," Alma said, staring up at Louise with desperate eyes. "He always finds me. I can't get away. He's going to take me back and..." she began to sob, as the walls began to bleed.

    Louise glanced around madly, looking for any means of escape, or even an enemy she could target. There was nothing, and as she looked, the sun began to flicker, the red light it was casting down flickering like a guttering candle. What could she do? What could she do?

    There was one thing she could do.

    She screwed her eyes shut, and cast her thoughts back. Outside her, she heard Alma gasp through the sobs, but she continued to concentrate, immersing herself in the past.

    There was the sound of a bed thumping against a wall, and the whispering grew louder. Alma clinging to her, Louise opened her eyes to stare down at her older sister - so like herself and her mother in appearance - convulsing on the bed, the gag between her teeth stopping her from biting off her tongue.

    The window smashed, and a spike of pain painted itself across her cheek, the memory of a cut.

    The whispering grew louder.

    The fresh plaster on the walls crumbled in sudden entropic fury, collapsing off old and stinking.

    The whispering grew louder.

    Eyes welling with tears Louise screwed them shut, trying to close off the sight, but she could see the dark red glow through her eyelids, and hear her sister shriek through the gag.

    "Cattleya, it's going to be... Louise, how did you get in here?" a voice - loud, adult - boomed from above her. "Get out of here! Get out!"

    And now the two of them were in the Secret Garden in the de la Vallieré estates, and Louise was on her knees sobbing, deep heaving bursts of tears that wracked her body.

    "It hurts..." Alma whispered, wrapping her arms around Louise's head. "Don't think about that."

    "... I... I..." Louise sucked down air. "... if I think ab... about it when I'm dreaming, I... I always end... end up there. It... it can break... break worse dreams. But it... C-C-Cattleya..." she burst into fresh waves of tears, clinging to the little girl. "I was f-f-five, and..."

    Morning could not come too soon.
  7. Lucaris is Socially Unacceptable

    Thank you for this. Now it won't be sullied by all the drama going on in the other thread.
    Lilithium and Master Basher like this.
  8. I'll be honest, I have only the vaguest knowledge of the FEAR games, but I am highly interested in where this is going and am looking forward to finding out.
    Winged One likes this.
  9. Jonen C F.M.D.G.

    You know, I honestly don't really know what to say about this fic.

    I mean, you're not supposed to get warm and fuzzy feelings while being scared witless!
    Winged One, Windydays, Roadie and 2 others like this.
  10. Master Basher Damn You Wildbow!

    So true, and it was getting long enough to warrent it's own thread anyway.

    Speaking of which, I'm not gonna chant "BAD END!" over and over like some people back at that thread, but imagining you doing a 'Fix Fic' with Alma and Louise would most likely end on a happy note of sorts... But it's not going to be all sunshine and daisies (though it'd include a whole lot of hugs.) Personally, I find the snips/story an interesting read so far, as Alma treatment goes... At least she isn't outright hating Louise and actually is happy to be near her, which could be a good thing.

    Now here's hoping that she ends up getting the proper care to become/remain stable again, and is safe from "Project Origin" coming back to haunt her...
    Lilithium likes this.
  11. Arkhe Whoops... Ahahah

    I'm really liking this -especially with how you added some additional strange going-ons with Louise herself.
    I'd like to provide concrit, but unfortunately my knowledge of Fear only extends towards the first game (being a fan of The Ring/Ringu) and the other being that it's kinda 7am right now and I haven't slept yet.
    I'm definitely going to watch out for more of this!
  12. Lilithium Argh, why are some people so cute?

    Ahhh~! This is making me go 'dokidokidoki' and hhhhnnnnnggggg, with some 'fuwafuwafuwa~' and then finally

    MOE MOE~~~ KYUN!

    Madokami, I haven't done that in a while!
  13. What scares me is the possibility Gandalfr Alma. I have no idea how that would work though.

    But back to the fic. I like it, and it seems like they'll start drawing strength from each other. That's really really sweet.
  14. HecateGW No longer rampant and practicing techno-sorcery.

    I never truly expected that Alma of all people could be so, so, CUTE!:)
  15. Jonen C F.M.D.G.

    So, elevated cardiovascular stress leading to a heart attack and mental exhaustion before a spontaneous high pressure/explosive brain hemorrhage?

    I'd suggest switching to a low fat diet and avoiding strenuous activity.
    PhoenixFTW, Nuts!, Dio212 and 7 others like this.
  16. Xicree Read or Die... Yomiko is love. Read the Madness.

    "She was a very disturbed child. Terrible, debilitating nightmares. Hallucinations. Hysteria. She never had a chance at a normal life."
    Is it just me, or did anyone else ever notice that in everyone of Scorps fics there is always SOMEONE who fits this description in his sig?
    Winged One, Sucal, Starfield and 5 others like this.
  17. Undead-Spaceman Skeleton Supreme

    I don't recall seeing one in AGSITV but you're right on all other counts.
  18. Xicree Read or Die... Yomiko is love. Read the Madness.

    Louise herself is in the process of BECOMING it. So yeah... all of em. lol.
  19. Jonen C F.M.D.G.

    Yeah, mostly it holds true in his F.E.A.R. crossovers because - surprise surprise - that's what it's referring to.

    You have to bend it a lot to get it to match, say, Three Thousand Four Hundred And Eighteen.
  20. EarthScorpion Fell on His Sword

    Really? But she's adorable!



    Look at how her moe can reduce grown women to their knees.
  21. Undead-Spaceman Skeleton Supreme

    Kneel before moe!

    Really? I could have sworn I originally saw that quote in AEE. So does that mean ES has been secretly advertising The Fearful Void this whole time?
    Lilithium likes this.
  22. Jonen C F.M.D.G.

    Dude! AEE is one of his F.E.A.R. crossovers!
    Lilithium likes this.
  23. Ars Poetica Judaic-Buddhist... WITH FLAMING SWORD AND SHIELD~!

    ...And, just like that, any hope I had for shit not hitting the fan disappeared in the blink of an eye.
    Lilithium likes this.
  24. Undead-Spaceman Skeleton Supreme

    Oh, well now I just feel plain stupid, sorry about that.
  25. Blackraptor Just some guy

    Is this Alma pre-FEAR games or after 1 or 2 or 3? If she's anywhere near after the first then bad things are going to happen very soon. If she's pre-game Alma, then bad things will still happen..but at least Louise might be able to keep her calm enough to minimize the damage.
    Lilithium likes this.

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