The shores of Kinigi are far more beautiful than I could ever imagine. A rose pink sky with scattered silver clouds above me, blue-green grass ahead of me and glowing water lapping at my side. I lie in the shallow water. The sand is soft, like sleeping on a silk blanket. I could stay here forever. For a moment, all my pain and suffering fades away.
But something drives me onto my feet. It’s a light humming sound. Something that makes me aware that I am not alone. Being upright, I fail to see what is causing the sound, before being knocked to my feet again.
Of course, it’s a Veth. One of the feral defenders of Kinigi and the Cycle.
Worse, I am a being intruding on its territory, rather than swimming down the river like everyone else.
The Veth has me pinned on the ground, my snout stuck in the dirt. I try and pick myself up, but the Veth is having none of it. The light humming degrades into a low growl, as its weight pressed down on me and its jaws edged closer to my neck.
Suddenly, it lessens its grip on me, pulling me up by the shoulder. It lifts me up and spins me around. A long, clawed finger reaches around my neck and tugs at a chain. I didn’t know I was wearing a chain, but the Veth seems transfixed by it. After a moment of examination, it lets me go.
“You are to become one of us!” it exclaims, wagging its tail. It seems glad that it doesn’t have to tear me to pieces. “Come. Come now. She will see you first.”
The Veth spins around and follows the river… south, I assume? There is no visible sun to be able to tell, but it is the direction opposite to that the river is flowing in. It beckons me to follow. I decide to comply, not wanting to swallow dirt again.
We don’t walk far. Ahead of us is a large, green, domed building, looking as if it was made of plants and leaves. There are far more Veth here, but none of them seem particularly interested in me. A door in the side of the building opens up out of nowhere, and the Veth nuzzles me, telling me to head inside. I do as I am told, and as soon as I enter, the door snaps shut, leaving me alone in the dark.
Or so I think.
The voice is shrill, piercing through my very being.
“You are here! You are here early. You are here early? Hm…”
The shadows melt away, sliding across the floor and converging in one spot. From this spot, the shadows grow up into something hideous. A horned, sauric being, with wings and claws dripping with blood. I am too scared to speak.
“Hm. You are not destined to be here yet…”
It reaches down to me, claws aiming at my chest. I am too scared to move. But rather than harm me, like the Veth, it reaches for the chain around my neck, pulling it closer to its face for a better look. As she does so, a black and gold medallion begins to form on the chain, covered in intricate patterns. With a flick of its claws, the medallion snaps in two, one half still on the chain, another in its hand.
“I’m going to have to send you back, little one. Your soul is coursing with energy I do not want here.”
I still can’t speak. I am completely frozen as its claws twist around my body. What does it mean, energy in my body? As if it read my mind, it answers me.
“You have been cursed. But a trip back to the world of the living will enable you to cure yourself. Plus, you have so much more potential life to live. It would be a shame to take you away so soon.”
The creature grabs me and pulls me outside, tearing a hole through the organic walls. Before I can put up any sort of fight, the creature throws me into the river, holding my head underneath the glowing, soul-filled water, pushing me against the current.
All I can do is panic. I try flailing, but its grip is too tight. I try holding my breath but I quickly run out. Water floods my lungs, but I realise I am not drowning. I don’t know what’s going on. What is happening? Make it stop! Maybe I want to be dead! Please!
I scream, jerking upwards. I’m lying on a cold, hard stone floor. I am covered in a black, inky liquid, with no idea where I am. My breath is sharp and I shiver in the frigid air. Everything is confusing. I have so many thoughts, so many questions. But there is one thing I know for certain.
I am not in Kinigi any more.