Arkay was beginning to feel that maybe all of this was a trap. Not a trap for the Decay-Lords he had just saved, but a trap to get him. Or at the very least, a trap to get all of them, with Arkay being the grand prize.
He wasn’t really sure what had happened, but everything had stopped suddenly disintegrating as he touched it. The Corruption had adapted to him. Or it was just using an Arkay-resistant material to restrain him. Either way, Arkay was tied up and hanging upside down, mere metres away from completing his task of saving all his Decay-Lord friends.
“Hold on, little one. We will get out of this…” Vikalos had been repeating that phrase a lot. He was trying to remain calm but his fears were beginning to show.
Arkay didn’t answer. He couldn’t answer. He was too scared to. This wasn’t part of the plan. Why did he have to trip up, right at the end? Or maybe… maybe this was what the Corruption wanted…
“Ahhh yesss, the dead one pretendsss…”
Arkay’s eyes widened. Something was talking to him, whispering in his ear. No, whispering in his mind. Vikalos hadn’t heard those words. Clearly not. He hadn’t reacted. Not yet anyway.
“Pretendsss that you aaare sssafe… All preeetty liesss. You belong heeeere, little Corruption…”
“I’m not!” Arkay shouted, kicking his legs and flailing about, trying to free himself. He had realised the truth. They wanted him. Every other Decay-Lord they could grab was just icing on the cake. “I’m NOT! I’M NOT!”
“Yesss, you aaare, liiittle one… Paaart of usss at leassst. They will hollld you baaack. Lie to you. Contaaain you. Hollld you. Imprissson you… But with usss, you could be freeeee…”
Vikalos stared at Arkay, trying to work out what was wrong. It occurred to him that maybe the Corruption was talking, but he couldn’t hear it.
“No! I don’t wanna! I am free!”
“Oh realllly? Locked awaaaay… in a little roooom? All on your lonessssome…”
“Arkay!” Vikalos shouted. “Do not listen to their false words! Those words are as corrupted as everything else around here!”
Worryingly, Arkay didn’t seem to respond to Vikalos’s pleas. He was screaming out, flailing like a small, trapped animal.
“You could be ssso much moooooore, Arkidetelos… You could have sssoooooo much pooooower…”
Inky tendrils dripped down from the ceiling, inching closer towards Arkay. These appendages though were silver, not black. They wrapped themselves around Arkay’s body, tearing at his armour, unaffected by his antifthoric abilities.
“NOOOO! GO AWAAAY! LET ME GO!” Arkay continued to scream, before suddenly falling silent. A tendril had wrapped itself around Arkay’s throat, silencing him. He swore Vikalos was shouting at him, telling him to stay strong and to not give in, but he couldn’t hear anything over the hideous voice in his head.
“Nooo? Then… how aboooout we… compromissse? You join usss, we ssspare your dead onessss?”
The little decayling squirmed as silver tentacles ripped off plates of armour, exposing raw, black skin underneath. Arkay tried to free himself, but the more he struggled, the tighter the tendrils became, slithering and snaking across his body.
“Will you become one of usss?”
“Then we shall foooorce you…”
A new tendril grew up from the floor beneath the dangling beings, this one glowing purple. It approached Arkay’s head, hovering millimetres in front of him.
Suddenly, Arkay pushed himself forward, chomping down on the tendril. Unlike the silver ones, this purple tentacle immediately started bubbling and hissing, dissolving in Arkay’s mouth. He spat out the horrid remains, kicking and screaming once more.
“I WON’T EVER BE ONE OF YOU! I REFUSE, YOU FUCKING HORRIBLE SCUMFUCKS!”
The tendrils all recoiled, loosening their grip slightly. That was all Arkay needed to wriggle free and begin tearing into the Corruption. Before long, Arkay was lost in his own righteous fury, clawing at the horrible mass, ripping chunks off with his teeth and claws.
“What are you doooing?”
The voices all blended into horrendous drivel at the back of Arkay’s mind. He continued clawing his way through the Corruption, until something hit him.
The Decayling crashed through the glass panel, tumbling down and coming to a halt halfway down the main corridor of Shimmer’s Plight.
“You got Vikalos and the kid?” someone shouted.
“We got them!”
“Then punch it! Get us out of here!”
Everything seemed to lurch forward as the Deathven Vessel burst into life, passing through the dying Corruption and flying off into the endless void that was the space between universes.
With a shudder, Arkay rolled over, covering his exposed body parts and missing armour plating, before passing out, letting darkness fall over him.