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Nocturna league (episode.., p.4
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       Nocturna League (Episode 3: The Sunken Breath), p.4

           Kell Inkston
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  Chapter 3: The Cathedral Dream and the Hideous Intruder

  Grancis does not so much open her eyes as she simply becomes aware of her surroundings. The dream is dark, but in the way one wrapped in a warm blanket on a cold night would feel; spanning out into the distance, the silhouetted movements of great, indescribable creatures can be seen. She’s on the side of a blacker-than-pitch, flowing ravine— and in it she can see a blond girl prancing down a path of lanterns. It’s Colette, though looking like she did as a kid. Grancis sighs and takes one final moment to push aside her desires to nurture Colette; she must strike down with absolute impunity. Her thoughts turn to what she should appear as and how she should torment her. What would hurt her most? Grancis can feel herself change just as she mulls through the possibilities in her mind.

  Colette dreams of a pathway of lanterns, leading up to a shining light on the top of a hill. Without a thought as to why, she decides to climb the hill— after all, nothing that bright could be evil. Certainly not; rather, there’s the most hypnotic, most beautiful chiming sound one could imagine. Colette was never a fan of most instruments, but these bells are something she could get used to. She bravely trots up the path, the silent, sacred lanterns guiding her way as they shine a deep, aquatic blue color. She finally reaches the top and sees the source of the light. It is the doorway into a great marble hall— carved deep and full with symbols of the water. Colette runs her hand through the grooves of a great tentacled beast in a moment of fascination, and then a cloaked figure approaches from the inside of the glowing hall.

  “Ahh, come in,” the cloaked figure says, gesturing inside. Colette squints to see the face of the greeter, but it is shrouded by what seems to be a physical darkness, defying any source of light. She enters with the figure and it continues. “We’ve been waiting for you for quite some time, you know.” The two go down the pure white corridors, the melodies of the sunken bells reverberating throughout every inch of the structure.

  “What is this place?” Colette asks as they turn down a right hallway.

  “Your destiny,” the figure says, leading her through a door into a low-light room, as if a show were about to begin. Right behind them, a hideous creature dashes out from a hall, myriad tentacles grasping and slithering to reach them. Colette’s eyes widen in horror just as the figure snaps its fingers, closing the doors behind them.

  “Wh-what was that?!” Colette asks, the doors locking and disappearing into the scenery of the dark countryside.

  “Just an interloper that wishes you to avoid your destiny. We should be safe in here.” The figure leads Colette up a hill. Though it’s dark, she can tell it’s a hill by seeing light wrap around the shape. The hike is shockingly easy for the incline, and a moment later they reach the summit. “Tell me, Colette.” The figure is silent a moment. “What do you want more than anything else?”

  Colette frowns. “Power— so much power that evil cannot exist.” She turns to the horizon and sees another strange, large silhouette, like a house.

  The figure nods as the invisible doors are being smashed in below by the assailant that the figure blocked off. “What are you willing to give up for this power?” The figure asks, looking back to the doors with a cautious gaze.

  Colette does not even need to blink. “Everything. I’d give up absolutely everything.”

  “Your life?”

  “I’d need that to be strong.”

  “Ahh,” the figure nods. “Your friends?”

  Colette looks aside a moment. “The only person I can trust is myself, I think… No, Gran, too. Together we’ll bring peace to our home.”

  The figure turns its head to the side in the other direction. “Well, leave that behind.”

  Colette squints an eye. “What do you mean?”

  “I offer you absolute power, but you must allow all to die for your sake.”

  She shakes her head. “N-no. Giving that up is giving up my humanity.”

  The figure grins; great white teeth shine from under the hood. “That is as The Captain did— you must as well. Let me help you.” The figure raises its hand and lights up the area.

  Illuminated by the theatrical lights, Colette’s old home is as it always was. Colette’s eyes widen at the sight. “Just like… Just like before.” She says. Colette immediately hears humming behind her. It’s a young Colette, her fishing rod laid against her shoulder like a rifle, and a young Grancis, carrying a bucket of caught fish. Colette marvels at the two, and a wave of realization washes over her. “No…” Colette turns around to the house just as a wide, tall shadow looms over the horizon. “Stop!” Colette shouts at her younger self, but she’s ignored by the aberrations. The young Colette and Grancis stop at the apex of the hill, watching a horrific figure loom over the home just as Colette’s mother comes out to greet them. In a single, magic word uttered by the dark figure, there is a great flash; the house bursts into flame— her mother killed in the same instant.

  Colette drops to her knees. “The overlord… He’s here.”

  The figure, listening to the door behind them slowly give way, nods. “And the only way you can defeat him is if you kill everyone you love! You cannot surpass those who do not love by loving others— that is what keeps you down! You must build a stairway of corpses to take the crown of the sky,” the figure says in a half-hearted tone.

  Colette stares at the flames of her old house, and she slowly begins to nod in agreement. “You’re… you’re right.”

  The figure jolts. “Wh-what?!”

  “I have to destroy everything that’s dear to me. I have to take away what I hold dear— that will make me stronger than him.” Colette’s gaze is wide, clear, and horrified by the realization, but she speaks as though she believes nothing else.

  “Wa… wait! Please! That’s not ri-” the figure is suddenly interrupted as the doors it used to block the assailant are smashed through— revealing the horrific eldritch beast before them.

  Colette does not move as the figure descends into a panic. “P-please, Colette! Whatever you do, just don’t listen to what it has to say!” The figure says this just as it feels something strange, like an otherworldly, extra-dimensional hand applying pressure, like a needle being pushed into her. In the last, confused moment, the figure feels cool water poured over it. Grancis opens her eyes, a glass of water drizzled onto her forehead. She sits up with alert speed, and before her, sees an unconscious Sampsaing— and directly in front of her, The Captain, an empty glass in his hand.

  “Miss Vereyrty, I have some questions for you,” he says, his voice like scraping gravel.

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