Chres' back stiffened at Karina's touch. He turned to look at her hand.
The Karina he had seen thus far was a dutiful woman who wouldn't hesitate to kill someone she believed a danger to her mission's success. But of late he had begun to realize there was more to this woman's character than her sense of duty. There was compassion as well. A sense of loyalty to her comrades.
He turned his gaze to her. Chres wasn't quite sure yet what to make of this new side of Karina. There was a part of Chres that wanted to reject her kindness. To turn her words around and tell her that this kindness was misplaced.
Instead, Chres relented, deciding it better to not reinforce the woman's concerns. He looked her in the eyes and gave a hard, tired, uncertain, yet kind smile.
With a nod, he turned his eyes forward and stepped into the tunnel's darkness.
The tunnel went on for some time. Long enough that Chres began to wonder whether there was even an end. The only sign of a potential end being the ever growing smell of rot and death.
At long last, the pactmakers reached and opening into a room that appeared to have at one point been an expensive cellar. Barrels of wine lined the walls. Some still intact. Others, broken to bits.
Towards the back of the room, on the left, there appeared to be a stairwell leading upwards. However, that stairwell was no longer reachable. The wooden flooring before it appearing to have disintegrated away. And it wasn't just the flooring that appeared to have disintegrated, but earth beneath flooring as well.
Indeed, in the back of the room was a giant domed shaped hole. And at its center, a pile of corpses. Corpses being fed upon by a monstrosity.
Chres breathed in as he took in the Sight of what could be none other than the Seed of Insight. On the surface, it appear similar to human skeleton, except its bones were black and wood like, similar to the skin of a Sightless. But at the same time, it was all wrong.
The Seed's lower body appeared to be embedded deep into the earth, with only its deformed and enlarged hip bones emerging from the soil. From there, the spine was elongated. Far longer than it should be. With its back curved backwards unnaturally in a parabolic shape.
From the shoulder blades, the arms hung downwards and dug back into the earth. Its neck, curved back 180 degrees further, ending in an enlarged skull. Something appeared to beat from within the skull... could it be, a heart???
Chres blinked and shook his head. His gaze shifting to what appeared to have once been the Seed's rib cage. Its ribs curved outwards instead of inwards. Looking almost like a flower in bloom. flayed skins seemed to stretch out between the ribs like webbed feet. At times it even seemed to fuse into and out of the bone. At the center of this... ribcage flower... were human organs fused together in a mishmash of grotesqueness.
The intestines flayed about in a messy disarray, twisting in and out of bone and at times fusing with it. The Intestines seemed to act similar to blood veins. at places they were translucent revealing the greenish-yellow ooze being pumped through the Seed's system.
But all of this was not the end of the monstrosity. At the center of the seed, from where the heart should have been, three thick tendrils sprouted outward. Embedded at the base of each these tendrils were more hearts, which beat to the rhythm of the heart in the Seed's Skull.
The tendrils themselves appeared to be made of braided bones and sinew, which split off multiple times forming several individual free moving tendrils. Collectively, they moved about, picking at the pile of corpses before them. When the Seed found a corpse it liked, it would pick it up and pull it back towards the center of the seed. Towards what appeared to be a bloated, mutated stomach.
The corpses would sink into this stomach on contact, disappearing beneath the surface and only serving to expand the stomach further. Chres could only surmise that the Seed was consuming these corpses. Merging them into its very being.
Chres wanted to vomit. Fortunately, though, he managed to keep his stomach intact."Is it not incredible-"
Started the dry sound voice of a Sightless, "-what a bit of Insight will do to a person?"
Sightless Nieffar appeared from behind the Seed, his hands clasped in front of him."Although, this one received far more than a small dose of Insight. Indeed, we had been dosing him with high amounts of Insight for weeks before he turned Sightless."
Nieffar said, placing a hand fondly atop the Seed's skull."He was doomed to take this form from the start. You see, one does not remain Sightless for long after receiving frequent high doses of Insight like he did. Indeed, shortly after scratching out his own eyes, he could not help but give into his new found addiction. The moment he turned Sightless, The once great O'Kal, Lord of Shimmer Town, took the final plunge into the depths of Insight. And so it consumed him. Reducing him to the mindless Seed of Insight you see before you."
Lord O'Kal?!?! The Seed of Insight was Lord O’Kal?! The Lord of Shimmer Town?!"Senses..."
Chres breathed out. The implications of it all hitting him at once.
Lord O'Kal had reportedly locked himself inside his manor ever since the Distortion occurred. Not accepting audiences even before the Day of Madness.
Senses! The Seed used to be a person! That meant, the Sightless could turn people into these monstrosities?! No... Chres shook his head. Nieffar had specifically stated that it was after someone became Sightless, that they then could turn into these monstrosities...
Chres re-examined the cellar before him. Senses... they were in Lord O'Kal's manor! In the Lord's very own cellar!“Such a tragic end for Lord O'Kal. More depressing yet, we no longer need him.”
His hand traced down the skull and along the Seed's twisted spine. There was a look of yearning on the Sightless' face. ”My work here has built me a connection to this town just as strong as any connection that the of Lord O’Kal had to this land. This town was promised to me. Given to me. I molded it. Shaped it into a place where the Clan could call home. I planted its seed. Tended to it even! This town… It belongs to me.”
Nieffar’s wood-like skin began to warp and crack. Tendrils, not unlike the seed’s, emerging from within. Ever since that day back at the clock tower, that day when the pactmakers nearly overwhelmed him, the Insight’s call had changed.
Nearly taking the plunge into the darkest depths of Insight had changed everything for him. The amount of Insight granted to a Sightless no longer able to sate him.
He had gotten a taste of the Insight’s full knowledge. A knowledge only Vetius was known to be able to wield. Everyone else who tried, the power consumed them. Turning them into Seeds like the one before him.
Things would be different this time though. Nieffar knew it in his bones. He could wield this knowledge! Wield it just as well… NO!... Better than Vetius! He had trained for a century as Sightless! Had long since learned to be one with the Insight. It would not take him like it had with this pathetic lord! He could use it! Use the Insight's full power and turn the tides of battle in the Clan's favor! He would fix it! He would fix everything!
And so Nieffar took the plunge. His mind falling into the Insight’s depths. He could see things! Yes! So many things! The past! The present! The future! The past! The present! The future! The past! The present! The future!
Nieffar’s body grew and warped. The cracks along his skin growing. His flesh beginning to peel away. Chres’ heart began to race at the gruesome sight. He held his breath and took a step back. His eyes widening further every second."This power is mine! It belongs to me!"
Nieffar roared as his body warped and legs dug into the earth. "I can control it! I can control anything!"
Nieffar bit into the Seed. His jaw seeming the fuse into it. The world pulsed with a blinding darkness that ate at the light of the crystal Jade candles."I-I... CAN CONTROL... WE C-C-CAN CONTROL..."
At last the darkness gave way. The dim light from the candle filling the room yet again. The seed had transformed; splitting off into two Seeds, both merged together at the hip."W-WE... CAN C-CONTROL... ALL..."
The Seeds roared in unison. "W-W-WE... SEE... ALL..."
The Seed's tendrils sprung to life. Shooting out at the pactmakers and the soldiers behind them.