Something Dark and Hollow, Chapter 3

The Rift


Samir Kalla — AKA Zephyr — has good eyes, so he has no problem seeing through the eye of the storm that he created.

(Picture this:)

(A wall of storm clouds swirling on all sides all the way up. A swirling mass of tentacles — AKA, the Hollow — in dead center. The rest of the Circle, armored and in various states of combat. Zephyr clad in green, high in the sky, lofty in his storm, surveying the battlefield.)

(It isn’t going well.)

His spellbreaker is in its dagger form. He draws it out and dives towards the conflict.

To the far left, Vulcan is throwing a volley of fireballs at the beast. A tentacle stretches around, unexpectedly fast as it wraps around his waist. It pulls him upwards and flings him into the air. Vulcan lets out a string of curses as he flies skyward, his armor a streak of red through the gray storm. Zephyr banks right and catches him with one hand. With the other, he hurls the dagger forward. It spins in the air before burying itself hilt deep into the monster, which lets out a wail.

“Nice shot!” shouts Vulcan over the storm. They’re pretty high up now. “And thanks for the catch!”

“My pleasure,” says Zephyr. If this were another life, and he was still Samir and Vulcan was still Aedan, he probably would have dropped him now, if he had even caught him at all. But here, in the Rift, at the entrance of a nest, Zephyr decided that they were different people, and he would at least try to get along. Plus, Aedan might be annoying as hell, but Vulcan came with benefits. “While I have you up here, you wanna do the thing?” shouted Zephyr. He was already drawing on Vulcan while he asked, reaching with his will towards the sky.

“I would love to do the thing!” Zephyr could feel Vulcan giving in, allowing his energy to mix with Zephyr’s. Zephyr took the resulting mixture and yanked on the sky. He pulled the two energies together, stretching them until they met and mixed on their own.

Sufficiently charged, he nods to Vulcan and drops him. Halfway down, the boy in the red armor becomes a flaming comet, speeding towards the monster with lethal speed. As the comet reaches the monster and lands in an explosion, Zephyr looks for somewhere to send this energy.

He finds Bellona, a flash of silver dancing around the monster. Blades are materializing all around her, hanging in the air for only a moment before they fly into the hollow’s side. She wields her spellbreaker in the form of a sword, slashing at tentacles wherever she can reach.

Zephyr sends a roll of thunder down the swirling storm, and the moment Bellona looks up, she understands. This all would be easier if Maris — AKA Thetis — were here to establish the mind web, but he managed to convey the message all the same.

Bellona jumps back. A huge sword materializes above her, solidifying from the Mist, and hurls itself into the monster’s side. Several tentacles reel to retaliate, but she pins them down with smaller swords. His target found, Zephyr shapes the energy into his deadliest weapon, and aims it straight at the lightning rod Bellona provided. An arc of lightning races towards the giant sword, striking the hilt and funneling straight into the Hollow. Then another, then another. Vulcan gave him more than he probably needed, but he melds all of the excess into lightning as well, sending it all into the mass of tentacles, which writhe and twitch with electricity until they all collapse and lie still.

The monster is already dissolving as Zephyr lands. He flicks his wrist; his spellbreaker comes flying hilt first from the evaporating blackness back into his hand. He watches for a moment before speaking.

“Well. That went better than last time.” The storm has churned to a halt. His green armor begins to roll off of him.

“Speak for yourself,” says Vulcan, stretching. His red armor is dissipating as well, fading off of him into a scarlet vapor. Without it, he looks like a very tired Aedan Cross. “I didn’t get hurled into the sky last time.”

“You got hurled into the sky?” asks Bellona. She is already in her street clothes, looking like she just came from school. Looking like Argenta Torres.

“Yeah. I think it bruised me.”

“At least it wasn’t claws this time.” Samir touches his jaw.

“Anything is better than the claws. Where’s the entrance?”

Samir summons a wind. It cuts through between them and the dark cloud of ex-hollow parts to reveal a large hole in the ground. The trio leans over the edge.

“That looks like fun,” says Argenta flatly. Her voice echoes into the empty darkness.

“We’ve cleared worse,” says Aedan, always the fearless leader. He opens his palm and a small, orange flame flickers to life. It floats over his finger tips and into the dark, making a ring of light as it travels downward. “Zephyr, if you would?”

Samir sighs. He makes a swirling motion with his hand, and a gentle whirlwind picks the three teenagers up. Carefully, he guides the three until they are hovering over the hole. They look down. The flame is a small orb of light in the inky blackness. “Excelsior, or whatever,” he mutters as they descend.


“I’ll admit it. I failed,” begins Aedan. The three are sitting around his ball of flame. Samir lowered them into a cave, it seems, and now they are resting.

(Well, Samir is resting. He was the one who had to carry all three of them, which he found odd, considering that Argenta was the one with telekinesis.)

“I could not divine April’s location on the surface and I still can’t do it now.”

“Then why are we down here, then?” asks Samir.

“Because we have two nights after this one, and we need you to find her.”

“Wait. Me? Why me?”

“Since divination isn’t working, we’re going to have to use more…unconventional methods.”

Samir frowns. He feels like he made an agreement he wasn’t aware of. “Explain.”

Argenta sighs but remains silent. She’s on Aedan’s side, Samir knows that. (He hates the fact that there are sides now, even in things as stupid and small as this, but whatever.)

“I was thinking that maybe you and I could work a little magic. Metaphorically speaking, of course.”

Samir stares.

“You know. If Vulcan and Zephyr can make a lightning bolt, we could find a kidnapped girl. Get it?”

(Samir gets it, but he feels like being difficult.) “No.”

Argenta sighs louder. Aedan turns to her. “RJ, please.” She shuffles a bit and falls silent. “Sam, come on. Divination and empathy. With a dash of voyance, on your part. We can find her.”

“And if we don’t?”

“We will.”

“If we mess up we get exposed.”

“That’s why RJ’s here.”

Argenta adds in, “I’m the loaded gun.”

“See? It’s fine.”

“But empathy, Aedan. In the Rift. Near a fucking nest. It’s not fine. We have a telepath. Where’s Maris?” (Maris, Samir knows, is on Sam’s side. He thinks that a mind-reader not backing you says a lot about a person.)

Aedan exchange a look. Subtle, they probably think. But Samir has good eyes. He catches it. “Maris…isn’t exactly on board. At the moment. But you’re enough.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“You know what he meant, Sam.”

Samir feels it, then. Argenta’s wave of annoyance. The thing about being an empath is that every emotion becomes a possible feedback loop. Zephyr might be the storm bringer, but Samir could stir up some stormy weather of his own. And since it’s two against one, he might as well.

“Sam?”

“Yeah, fine. Whatever.”

Argenta looks at Samir strangely as he and Aedan join hands. Samir feels his power unwinding, slowly, his own energy uncoiling to intertwine with Aedan’s. He feels a spark of energy as their energies connect, melding together in one mass.

(The feeling of melding with one of the others was always exhilarating. Almost addictive, if it weren’t for the fact that most of the people Samir mashed it up with were people he most certainly didn’t want in his head. Prime example: Aedan freaking Cross. Aedan’s gift is in the spiritual domain, meaning he could really mess with your insides if he got to close. The concern is kind of hypocritical coming from Samir, who was in the Mental domain as an empath, since he had messed with more people’s heads, usually in large quantities. Crowd control and whatnot. But Aedan? Aedan could pull anything from anyone. Divination was a scary, unpredictable gift for anyone involved. Samir could almost feel the tendrils of Aedan’s gift feeling around the surface of his spirit, poking around. He is probably imagining it. He’s going to have a long shower tonight.)

The line that separated what was Samir and what was Aedan is quickly dissipating. Samir scrambles to hold himself together, to resist being pulled into Aedan’s identity. He would ride the storm, not sit in its eye.

The power meld that was the collective consciousness of Samir and Aedan hovered into the air and slowly expanded. It spread across the Rift like spilled water, steadily gaining in range and size. The false mountains and forests and caverns. The castles and strongholds. The empty cities. All of them were slowly being brought in.

And here, with his power both stretched like a rubber band and relaxed like a blanket, Samir begins to search. He wonders what he should be looking for, exactly. They are on the outer rim of the nest, he knows. He can feel the bounded field, a black island in his sea. Their sea. Aedan is there, too. Can’t forget that, can’t be careless. He can see Argenta, a silver dot just inside.

This is pointless. We can’t see anything.

Sure we can. Look.

Right. Voyance. Divination. But where?

There.

But what are we looking for? Anger? Sadness.

Loneliness. So very lonely.

Pale skin and dark eyes, dark flowing hair.

A dress, maybe?

The blanket spreads, wrapping the island, probing it.

There. Right there. A girl, standing in a window in a tower. A spire. The tallest spire in all the land.

And then an inky blackness. Tendrils wrapped round her waist.

Closer.

A crown. A queen in a gown. Queen of this false night. Pale, dark queen.

Closer. What is that? Inky blackness? No, a boy. Dark hair, blue eyes. Glasses?

Under his skin. Nothing. Empty.

Hollow.

Closer.

Too close. Get out.

Get out.

Get out.

…Patrick?


“Hey, Sammy.”

“Where am I? Where is this?”

There’s Patrick. Right there. So close he can touch him, so close he can smell him. Like the ocean. Pat always wanted to go to California. Learn how to surf. Touch the sand.

“Cali?”

“Nah. I miss you, Sammy.”

“I miss you, too.”

Stupid. Don’t say that. Who is this? What is this? Let’s see.

Blond hair tan tall broad shouldered blue eyes rough skin easy smile big hands silver ring white band Patrick. Pat it’s Pat. Oh, God. Pat.

What is this?

Dead?

“Only on the inside.”

“Geez, Sammy. That’s dark, even for you. How’s the circle?”

“Not much of one now that you’re gone.”

“How are you?”

“Not much now that you’re gone.”

Smile laugh, “You give me too much credit, Sam.”

“I give you everything.”

“Yeah.”

Tilt head, “What happened?”

“To us?”

“Yeah.”

“Everything. Maris is gone. Spencer doesn’t talk to anyone anymore. Maris won’t talk to me. Won’t save April. Can’t. But who cares. I still have Argenta, at least. Holly is still bitchy. I can’t do this. I can’t lead the team like this. Everyone is leaving and it’s slipping away. It’s kinda hard sometime, you know? Of course you do. Why did you let me do this, Pat?”

“Because I believe in you, Aedan.”

“Bullshit. You don’t believe in anyone. You aren’t even here. Are you?”

Wait. What? Aedan?

Angry.

“You left us all behind.”

“Where are you going? Aedan? Sammy?”

“We’re leaving.” No, wait. “We’re getting out of here.”

Too close.

Pat reaches. One hug. Miss. Grabs for the wrist but there’s nothing there to grab. Falling —


Samir opens his eyes. He feels like a slammed door. “What the hell?”

Aedan is very still, not looking at anyone.

Argenta is looking at the two of them. “Well, did you find her?”

Aedan says, “Yes.”

Samir says, “What the hell just happened. What the hell just happened?”

“We’ll talk later.”

“We’ll talk right fucking now.”

Aedan stands up. Samir shoots up. There is a scarlet haze all around him.

“Samir, calm down. I’ll explain.”

“Oh? Really? You mean that? Please. Please explain. I can’t wait to hear this.”

“Later. Not. Now.”

“Why not? Why not now? Might as well. Can’t save April anyways, right?”

Argenta blinks. “Wait, what?”

Aedan pinches the bridge of his nose. “We don’t have time for this. We need to go.”

“Why? What’s the rush? Can’t save her anyways, right?”

“That’s not what I — ”

“That’s what it sounded like to me.”

“Sam — ”

“Don’t do that. Don’t try to brush this away for some later team meeting that isn’t going to happen. Or whatever this is now. We aren’t a team anymore, right? Poor fearless leader with the weight of the whole fucking world — ”

“WILL YOU SHUT UP FOR ONE SECOND?” The fire rises into a pillar of blue. Argenta jumps back. Samir can feel the scorching heat. The scarlet haze is now surrounding Aedan, too. It’s become a fog. It’s thick.

There’s silence. Trembling, tense silence. Aedan is heaving.

“I will explain. I will explain later. Right now I just — ” he takes a breath. “We know where she is now. Let’s just go.” He turns to look down the cavern, into the dark. On the other side, they both know there is a castle with a girl in it and a hollow boy. There are two nights left until the full moon. They really don’t have time. They’re cutting it close already. She could die tomorrow. She could die tonight.

“Let’s just go.”