21: Those Who Whisper Death

A figure swathed in the breath of dreams strides into the mouth of a hallowed graveyard. If you listen long enough, over the scream of spirits heralding her entrance, you can hear her as she mumbles the word, "Deeper," in a calm mantra.

She exhales a sulphuric aroma through the skull of a faun, one of its curled horns broken. The twine which once affixed the mask to her head has long since unfurled; now the bone rests against her face as close as her skin. The discoloration of her body stretches in long, black tendrils across her face. It has colored both of her eyes an ashen white.

The Fallen hums as she walks.

Even this deep into Gehen, she can still sense the sky above her. Even closer, the ocean's roar still hums in her veins. Here, her soul stretches in a reverie both zealous and sleepy. Discontent, she is looking for something. An itch in the back of her mind. The journey has been long. But there is another satiation. Somewhere ...

"Deeper," she mumbles.

Her transformation has almost finished. Months before, while she was still traveling upwards, wounds sprouted on her back and an infection spread. Every morning, her body resembled the Lost more than the identity she fought for.

Until one day she reached the apex of her ascent—the cure. After the fire purged her body of its infection, she looked onward, naked and shivering. But the only path forward was a steep decline, thus her journey began again in every opposite way.

With no sense in turning backwards, she now walks through the door of a sepulcher. Just beyond it, she is ushered into more graveyards bordered by forests blooming with death and a midnight sun glowing beneath pale soil. This is Gehen, the very realm she resisted. Here, the air is not frosted but winter itself and the winds sing a lullaby that never ends. The Fallen breathes in calm sighs; the hilt of her blades colder than ever before.

Sleeping phantoms share the air, their hibernating souls illuminating the terrain with floating lanterns. Their memories diffuse in whispers—a thick, vaporous smoke. The Fallen savors their smell as the wind sifts over her bare shoulders, and though her appearance is becoming more nightmarish by the moment, the Fallen feels that this is not a defeat. Indeed, not even a concession.

Only a change.

Into that long midnight, ever further. The Lost surround the Fallen, watching with eyes as still as stones in a rushing river. She greets them with the wand and sword she once used to rend their fragile spirits, and is thusly beckoned deeper into the maws of another eternity. A darkness that countless have persisted in, but so few understand. And if you listen long enough, over the din of the damned wailing louder, you can hear her as she mumbles the word: