“I don’t understand why the Depth eludes me so,” Lilith speaks into the air, reaching into the soil beneath their feet.
From boots that were nestled in the damp earth, a slender frame and a brown trench coat, adorned with patches of leather to cover ripped and torn portions of the top. Attached to the hip was a sheath hiding a pointed dagger, etched with a small “Z” on both sides of the blade.
“Hey I wouldn’t worry too much about the Depth; what we need to find is someone who can master Liquid. Then maybe we could have some ale!”
A short man with little hair on his head and a graying, bushy beard peaks out from behind the door of a house to the backyard where Lilith is sitting beneath a giant oak tree.
“Ha! Maybe we should land some contracts so we can get some food, let alone worry about a never-ending fountain of ale, Kliver” quips Lilith from underneath a ragged cap. They stand up, a plume of platinum white hair brushing their shoulders.
“All I’m saying is that someone who could pour a copious amount of liquor down my gullet would make me the happiest man on the planet – er, definitely not happier than you’ve made me over the last decade, I may add,” Kliver replies – quickly following up as to skip by a potentially disastrous misstep in phrasing of his partner.
“That isn’t... even... how Liquid works...” Lilith snaps.
“You know what, nevermind – I think we’re both delirious from not leaving this house for the last week. How about we treat ourselves to some roasted meat from the town down the road?”
“Aye! Maybe we’ll come across a mischievous situation that careens into several bone-chilling hijinks,” remarks Kliver – patting the door frame to telegraph his joke.
Kliver heads inside of the house and grabs his belt; a small, handheld axe is barely visible, hanging from the fraying leather around his waist. Lilith takes a few long strides from the backyard and enters the house, the aged wood beneath their feet creaking.
The two head out onto the road, using a nearby river to guide them into the hustle and bustle of a small town a few miles from their home.
“Y’know, if you had learned about Depth a little earlier, we could have just rode into town on a pile of gravel or sand – but nooooo, you had to become a Flame instead,” Kliver says, half joking and half serious.
“And yes, while being a Flame is the most valuable and financially responsible magik, maybe saving my poor, old bones from future journeys could have come into your decision process!”
“SHUT UP! I chose Flame because, remember, all those years ago, you wanted to create some frost on a hill during the summer to cool off, but you got carried away and ended up encasing yourself in an ice block 2 feet thick!” Lilith, responding to the lighthearted banter from Kliver.
“Maybe if YOU had kept your Frost magik at bay things would be different.”
Lilith had been researching and reading about Flame magik now for the better part of a decade, using the practical impact of fire and warmth for odds and ends jobs, enough to pay for their homestead and food, while Kliver had always had a good handle on the Frost, even as a little kid. Whereas Lilith had to study to be able to bring about their magik – Kliver only had to concentrate a little.
However, in the past year, Lilith started showing the ability to shift tiny bits of land and influence growth over their garden – thus sparking an interest in the Depth.
Kliver stops alongside the river and places his hand into the edge of the current, a sliver of ice forming and growing from the point of his fingers
“Okay but isn’t this just the coolest” Kliver snickers, looking directly at Lilith
“Don’t you start with your dated jokes; I’ve heard them all!” Lilith smiles, flicking their head to the left and watching as the ice in Kliver’s hand turns to steam
A rustling in some nearby bushes alerts Lilith as they take a few steps into an adjoining forest patch between their home and the town.
“Do not move another foot” barks a booming voice from behind a tree.
A man steps from behind one of the numerous maples lining the path, wearing nothing but a dark cloak; glistening red droplets of blood staining the ruffles at the bottom.
“I would worry as I do intend to harm you,” he says, as the tree loses its color and immediately shrouds the man in the quickly-wilted leaves which turn to dust as they land on him.
“I am Admora and I will be the end of you” the man snarls, as he lunges at Kliver – the moment he makes contact, Kliver is jolted awake by Lilith’s voice outside in the backyard of their house. Kliver rushes to his feet and runs to the backdoor of their house.
“I don’t understand why the Depth eludes me so,” Lilith says as dirt falls from their hands, looking towards the house only to see Kliver, pale as a ghost and pouring sweat.
“We’re... we’re ok?! What the hell. Who the hell? What the FUCK happened?!” Kliver stammers, making his way over to Lilith in the backyard
“Did you see the man? The man in the forest?” Kliver questions
“What man? Are you still pissed off your feet from that ale? You’re speaking nonsense” Lilith replies, consoling Kliver
“I don’t understand the words you’re saying. We haven’t left the house in a week – however, might you want to go grab some roasted meat fro-” before Lilith could finish their sentence, Kliver interrupts
“HEY HEY! You’ve said that before! You want to get some roasted meat from town! What the hell is happening?” Kliver falls over himself, stumbling and landing on his knees
“Lilith, if we leave this house and walk down the river to town... there’s going to be bloodshed. I saw it with my own eyes. He carried the aura of death upon him like it was a newspaper – he lunged at me and then I ended up back here, with you” Kliver, clearly disheveled, gets to his feet and looks around anxiously, trying to see if the man he saw in the forest is anywhere visible.
“Now now, Kliver, if the man wanted to hurt us we’d already be on the ground” - as Lilith speaks, their voice distorts to a low grumble. Kliver blinks and is back on the ground in the forest, blood pooling on the ground from a nick on his forehead.
“LILITH!” Kliver calls out. “WHERE ARE YOU?!”
A heavy thud rings out above Kliver as he rolls over to his stomach and gets to his feet, readying his hand to his axe
“Come on, you fuck!” Kliver yelps into the forest.
The trees in the immediate area turn gray and the leaves wither on their vines as an eerie hush envelopes the area. Kliver wipes the blood from his brow only to see the droplets stop in the middle of the air, almost like they were in stasis. The red orbs begin to pulsate and quickly become alight – a darkened orange huge tinges the fire as it begins to boil, sizzling as it starts to fall to the ground.
“LILITH!” Kliver, again, screams – his throat straining
There’s a loud squelch, as if someone stepped in a mud puddle, and a quick snap that echoed through the forest. Lilith appears from behind a nearby bush, covered in blood.
“Kliver - I’m... I’m OK. This blood isn’t mine. It must be from that man. He said his name was Admora, I believe,” Lilith spurts out.
The man is nowhere to be seen, however the amount of blood that stains Lilith is far too much to be from Kliver’s wound. From head to toe, Lilith is covered in what is left of Admora.
“It’s... not coming off?!” Lilith screeches as they try to wring out their clothes and wipe off their skin.
The blood darkens Lilith as it sinks into the further layers of their skin.
“Try getting it off in the river – it might be cold, but it’s wet and it should clean you off right quick!” Kliver says, pointing towards the edge of the river.
As Lilith approaches the river, they put their right foot into the current. The blood starts to slip off but rushes back onto their wet skin. Lilith dives into the river and attempts to wipe off the blood but it is stuck – unwilling to budge off their skin.
“Uhh, hey what is that?” Kliver asks, pointing to Lilith’s shoulders
As Lilith looks down into the river, their reflection appears blank. Not invisible, but black. Dark. Like the void. They notice wisps of darkness swirling around their neck and, just as quick as the wisps appeared, Lilith cries out in pain as they feel the skin between their breasts bubble and stretch, leaving behind an eight-inch scar starting at their navel.
“Wh-what the fuck?!” Lilith cries out, taking one more glance into the river. Their typical bright blue eyes begin to shift into a crimson red as tears of blood stream down their face and into the rushing water.
“I told you. I am Admora. And I will be the end of you.” A voice rings out, but only to Lilith. Imperceptible to Kliver.
“You may be interested in the Depth. But... with me... you’ll embrace the Beyond.”
Lilith begins to levitate a foot above the water as darkness wisps from their hands and feet, finally culminating in a bang so loud that the birds in the nearby trees all flutter out. Lilith steps, through air, back onto the edge of the river, shivering – yet also boiling.
“I... I don’t think we should have left the house, Kliver” Lilith faintly says as they fall to the ground.