Our Pyramid

Light is a beacon surrounded by Darkness, perched at the tip of a tall, steep, Black Pyramid that hovers
over a black abyss, shooting infinitely at the empty, black sky above.
The Pyramid is the Mother of Consciousness.
The Mother births her Children.

The young Shadow’s first sensations are pain, confusion, and nausea. They are brought into this world in
a spectacle of suffering, pulling themselves from Zul’s sludge covered obsidian surface, the concept of
their existence fills the vacancy of their minds, like a flood drowning the cupped hands of a child.
The pressure of comprehension forces veins of pain to pulse around the entirety of their mist shrouded being.
Slowly and painfully, each wave of pain that crashes feels as if it’s tearing chunks of their cloudy,
unstable flesh from their body.

They desperately pull themselves out of Mother’s surface with whatever strength they have, as intuition screams that their agony is caused by having Mother wait for their birth.
Then, when they are born, a void in their stomach envelops them; they are born with a hungering desire for more. And with an ignorance which veils their minds they look to their majestic
Mother, Zul.

The beacon of Light which pierces the clouded, empty heavens which lays at the summit of the Pyramid promises a solution to their ailment, the burden of existence into which they are thrown onto, an answer to their purpose. So, they climb, painfully and slowly towards the Beacon of Light which shoots up at an
infinite sky.

Speak with Me

Questions, Suggestions or Whatever you desire


©don. All rights reserved.

Thank You

I pray that you enjoy this story

CHAPTERS

Follow Shadowkind's journey
Select your Chapter and read of the history
of Zul


I

Shadow’s Journal

I do not understand this world.

This world of Black and Pain.

I desire to learn.

This journal is my study.

And my family are my subjects.

II

Mother

Ah.

Ah?

Ah.

This pain.

So much pain.

Please, let me out.

Am I blind? I cannot see.

I need to get out. I cannot stay here any longer.

I'm taking far too long. She is impatient. I'm trying my hardest.

-

In a fountain of sludge spitting from Zul’s surface, two beady white eyes can be seen.

From the fountain a head bursts out, followed by two shoulders.

She wriggles to loosen herself from Zul’s surface.

Finally she frees her arms

And pushes herself

Free from

Zul.

III

Stranger

It is heavy to drag, and I have to pull it by its legs as its left hand has been sharpened to a Claw.

I found this Shadow among the Obsessed, turning into one of them as the Idol’s trap worked its snare.

I was able to prevent it from joining the Mad however, but I had to use force.

Now I am to return her to the Cloud with the others.

To Vud with them.

The Fingers are dead fools.

They will, without a doubt be overjoyed.

But I sacrificed my journey’s purpose for that Shadow.

My patience runs thinner.

I think it will be of use to me however.

Afterall, the Cloud will not be able to use it like I will.

But I was unable to find another suitable

Corpse.

I

As the concept of existence settles within the infant Shadow’s mind, they begin to learn of the reality before them. They first survey the area around them, their beady white eyes seeing the vast expanse of our Mother’s sludge covered surface for the first time. As of their birth, most Shadows know not of our Mother’s shape beyond the angled slope from which they emerge, and the common Shadow knew very little, and was capable of even less. But what I found to be universal amongst our kind, is the acknowledgement of dark: The sky, the Mother, Shadow and the Abyss below. The Pyramid is good, as she breathes Shadows into existence and offers the beacon of Light which guides our young. But the monster below is nothing. An empty, infinite void into which Mother excretes floods of sand, into which the Idols fall into, and into which unfortunate shadows fall for all eternity. All which falls into the void becomes void. Nothing creates nothing. We call this monster Vud. But as long as the Mother is there, preventing Vud from claiming existence, then there will be existence. There will be Shadows. So for the sake of existence, Shadows climb. Some fall down during their climb, their misty bodies torn apart into black shards as its body breaks upon impact with our Pyramid. Some catch themselves safely without injury. Then there are those who fall into Vud’s stomach unscathed, but conscious for the duration of their eternal fall into Vud. And finally, there are also those who bring others down with them, in a desperate attempt to either save themselves, or to have company for the eternal fall. A futile, selfish sin. Shadows who climb near the bottom of the Pyramid discover the Floods of Sand that fall from the bottom of the Mother into Vud. Most Shadows did not try to understand, and simply turned our attention upwards, to stare at the beautiful, guiding light of the beacon.

Time is a concept only owned by Shadows blessed with an existence whose duration has survived the hardships of the climb. The Idols, the Mad and the limitations of our own physical ability restrict our evolution. Furthermore, we knew not of the alternatives to our existence, as most dared not look away from our Pyramid, in fear of being captivated by an Idol and only very few climb downwards. At first, all Shadows choose to climb. Some however, choose to hang still, and it is they who think, who use their conscious minds to a fuller extent, who bring out the potential amongst a sea of wasted Shadows. But these Shadows were found as often as black within a beam of light. And yet, it is they who carved alphabets into Mother, and who gave her the name, Zul and who taught other Shadows speech and literacy. Without them, I would not be carving this journal.

And so, like the rare avalanche of corpses bouldering down our Pyramid’s side which gathered its members exponentially, the Shadows bore the First Tongue. Us Shadows converse as we pass each other, at first with minimal words and basic gestures; though this evolution was objectively small, it is the beauty of the First Tongue which paved a path of progress for Shadows. Yet, despite this newfound ability, Zul still stook out as the most prominent topic of conversation amongst warnings of Mad Shadows and falling Idols. The Mad are among the first things taught to young Shadows by communities and the more experienced of us. The Mad are thought to have been Shadows that have had their conscious minds consumed in one way or another during their climb. A prime example of the Mad are the Obsessed: The Obsessed are the most pitiable beings amongst the Shadows, captured by the Idol’s trap and doomed in their worship of the artificial Gods. The Shadows who climb often see the Obsessed in large groups, facing outwards with their backs turned to Mother as they mumble prayers incoherently and stare at their obsidian Idols with their pale, grey eyes. Whispers among the Shadows tell that those that reach Zul’s light become those fragile Idols, the obsidian statues chained by opaque strings of light to the top of Zul. My personal research cannot confirm this of course, but what is evident is that the longer these Idols exist, the more their chain fades. The more their chain fades, the farther down the Pyramid they float.

These Idols emerge from the Pyramid’s beacon in alien shapes which mimic that which does not exist, made of obsidian as black as the Pyramid Mother itself and layered with cracks which spread across the surface like veins. They command the souls of Shadows unfortunate or stupid enough to cast their eyes upon them for too long. To those caught by the idols, to those called the Obsessed, the shape of the idols twists and contorts into beings beyond comprehension, grotesque beauty that shatters the frail mind, that burns whatever crumbs of sanity there is to only make space for the very idea of itself amongst the now broken conscience of the Shadow. Stories tell of them witnessing colours other than the black and light we’ve known all our existence filling their eyes to the point of bursting. Such burning, swirling pleasure throughout the entirety of their being, as if the Beacon’s very light eviscerated their bodies into nothingness. The Shadow is seduced, addicted to the torment, addicted to the sight of the Idol, addicted to their existence as an Obsessed. As the Idols float closer to the abyss however, their madness only sickens. They want to protect the pleasure and pain; with all sense of self gone and only preservation of the Idol in mind, they launch themselves at their idol at a speed at which upon impact, they shatter into black sludge. The sludge then solidifies into obsidian shards, which joins their Idol’s obsidian skin. The Idol floats away from Vud, safe from the monster for only some time more.

The cycle repeats, ending only when no Shadows look its way and it falls into Vud, never corrupting another being again with its power dead, faded away with its stolen light. But an exception to the cycle exists. Sometimes, between the layers of obsidian skin, between the cracks, pale light from their old chains bleed. The Obsessed launch and swarm the Bleeding Idol, spreading their mist shrouded bodies over it, enveloping and digesting them, in hopes to become accursed Idols themselves, but the light they consume only destroys them. And so, the Obsessed suffer for one last time and shatter into a thousand pieces in unison with the Idol they once worshipped. Their obsidian shards can sometimes be seen falling from the sky above. The Obsidian Rain. The Shadows of the surface look up and admire the shimmering, holy light of the beacon that reflects off of the rain of shattered bodies, experiencing a miniscule fraction of the pleasure the Idols grant the Obsessed: the Idol’s final spectacle. With the blood of light and body of Shadow, the Idols are doomed beings, caught in a savage cycle of failure as their fates are intertwined with us fragile, weak Shadows. Dependent on pathetic beings, the majesty of their power is limited by their nature. However the fates of Idols were decided the moment they were born. Perhaps even before. And yet, I would consider myself ambitious in this description, as the only sources I have are short conversations with those who have escaped the Idol’s trap and my own experience with Idols.

The other Mad are Violent Shadows, and are a mystery in origin. However, I predict they are a punishment from Mother for the crime of ceasing our climb. The Violent Shadows’ limbs disobey their joints, and they look with their heads instead of their eyes; when they search for their next victim, their gaze switches rapidly, looking as if they’re constantly breaking their necks when they sporadically look around. They are incapable of speech. They are incapable of reason. They only kill whatever Shadow is unfortunate enough to catch its attention. When they choose their prey, they launch themselves from behind and yank the Shadow backwards, tearing their grip from the Mother’s surface and sending them both hurdling to Vud’s gaping mouth. Most of the Violent Shadows, or ‘Violence’ sacrifice both themselves and another Shadow to Vud, but the more dangerous of the Violence are those with a grasp of intelligence. The more intelligent ones first hang for a time, sharpening their favourite limb into an obsidian blade. Then, they massacre. Sometimes small chunks of Obsidian Rain from their victims can be seen falling from above, but more often than small chunks, this Rain is composed of entire sections of torsos and limbs.

Because of the Mad Shadows and Idols, both of whom Shadows are naturally ill equipped to deal with, traversing Zul’s surface is a most dangerous task. Simple victims of the world, we Shadows either exist or succumb to destruction. Then we question, what does it mean to exist? What differentiates us from the broken, still bodies of shattered Shadows? What differentiates us from the Mad? Afterall, the Mad no longer think, and they sacrifice their bodies for futile causes: they bring other Shadows to destruction or to elongate the lifespan of the cruel Idols. The Mad might as well be moving corpses. So that is our definition of life-

If your mind is intact, you are alive.

The Mad are dead.

Some have given up on reaching Zul’s Light, gouging shallow perches into the side of the pyramid with clenched fists bleeding black as they blunt into rough stumps, and they sweat a satisfying stench once they complete the task before resting, content with their work. Those who sit on their perches spend their idle time staring outwards from the Pyramid, towards the empty black that envelopes their world; the surrounding arms of Vud. They often witness the Obsidian Idols, joining the ranks of that Idol’s Obsessed. Others have their ledges invaded by a Violent Shadow and are torn apart in a miniature spectacle of Obsidian Rain. Those who have existed the longest within their little perches have learned to be wary of other Shadows and to exist in fear of the Idols; seeing the tragedy of the Obsessed during the event of a Bleeding Idol is so deeply scarring, it inspires the imagination to paint pictures of disturbing Gods, those which cruelly and sadistically play with Shadows using string made from fading light stolen from Zul. Those that come to the realisation that their imagination’s imitation of the Idol’s euphoric nightmare pales to the Obsessed' reality consider the alternative possibilities of their existence. They can climb. They can fall. They can be destroyed. They can go Mad. Or, they can hide.

And so, some of us dug into our Mother, far from the Vud and far from the Idols. These efforts did not go unnoticed by the rest of Shadow Kind. Curiosity is a peculiar thing for a Shadow. It often leads them to their death, and more often than not, Shadows keep conversations and interactions between each other to a minimum. They had no need to talk but to learn of dangers ahead to better conserve themselves for the duration of their climb. But it was our curiosity that dragged others towards these perches of Shadows. And so, with the eventual passing of time, more and more Shadows began to gather. They share the first time sitting and lying down with each other; before the ledges they knew only to climb and hang. These small gatherings of Shadow now share with each other stories of horror and beauty regarding each of their journeys in climbing Zul, expanding their vocabulary as they invent new words to express new ideas and explore new theories regarding their existence and what more there is to their dangerous world. However, there are many Shadows who would rather climb than to sit idly, and so they leave the ledge with a farewell before continuing their climb. These Shadows were those who spread word throughout Zul of these ledges, attracting attention from Shadows all across Zul’s surface, inspiring more Shadows to dig into Zul’s flesh and encouraging those who feared death to flee to these communities. Shadows carved larger scars upon Mother Zul at every side. We would learn later, that this was a primordial sin, but for now, the word of a glorious alternative to our existence was known throughout the Pyramid’s surface. This alternative is all too tempting for many Shadows, and to those who already live on their ledges, they wish to share the experience of what it means to stand, to sit, to lie down, to converse instead of the constant strain of climbing. They want other Shadows to recognize that to be stationary could prolong their existence far longer than the now seemingly void promise of Zul’s light. Prolonged life was never a priority; instinct only ever guided Shadows towards Zul’s beacon. But life had now taken over our mission to climb. The desire to live spread like disease.

These perches eventually grew into gaping orifices sized enough to fit a hundred Shadows: miniscule in comparison to the vast, seemingly infinite expanse of the Pyramid’s surface, but all so significant for Shadows. It was rare for Shadows to come across another of their kind in the climb. It would not be an uncommon thought, that the population of Shadows are small, but consider the pure size of the Pyramid Mother Zul. Millions, if not billions of Shadows are alive, climbing up her sides. And so, these communities were truly something to behold, with hundreds to thousands of Shadows gathering together. The flaying mist emitted from the Shadows bodies culminating to make a united fog which hangs over these gatherings. And so, the large gathering of Shadows were dubbed ‘Clouds’. I myself, am a part of my very own, foolish cloud. Anyhow, these Clouds were peppered across the entire surface of the Pyramid, each consistently growing larger and larger in number, forming larger and larger Clouds. Amongst the Clouds, we Shadows began to develop our first dialects derived from the First Tongue, languages unique to specific areas of Shadows. However, we must not forget that Clouds were birthed from carving Mother’s flesh out. So came Zul’s response. It is only assumed this was Zul’s punishment, afterall what other explanation could there be? There were only Idols, Zul, Vud, Shadows, the Mad and the Light. The Idols and Shadow desire to live, the Vud consumes all which falls into it, but the Mad and Zul were the two things we Shadow’s could not understand. The Shadows of the Clouds would come to question the existence of the Mad and Zul as well. I myself am the only member of my Cloud who does so as of now. But for most Clouds, Zul’s punishment was far too swift.

First birthed soon after the first Clouds, masses of thousands to millions of Mad Shadows appeared. They would stampede across Mother’s skin, propelling their bodies forward with each step detaching and reattaching their feet to and from the Pyramid as if they were one of the same, while the upper half of their body limply flails behind as if it was a broken, flapping like a dark flag as they ran.

And terror ensued as the Clouds were erased.

The Clouds greet new Shadows in a ritual that is universal to all societies. The new member of the Cloud is shown how to sit, stand and lie down for the first time, then is led into the centre of the Cloud where the rest of the Shadow’s reside, converse and rest.

The Mad Swarms take them. In an almost instantaneous, brutal wave, the calm, slow and often still home of the Clouds are consumed by the Mad Swarm. The Shadows scream and screech and claw in hopes of escaping but it is futile. The Mad Shadows of the Swarm fuse the upper half of their limp torsos to the Shadows of the Cloud, eventually forming one, giant mass of bodies. Then, the hundreds of legs below the mass of bodies positions the merged clump over the dugout surface of Zul, before lowering itself into the gaping hole, filling Mother’s wound with the fused amalgamation of corpses. With each exterminated Cloud, another one of Mother’s wounds are filled and covered, like a scab. But it was already too late for the Mad to heal Zul. We Shadows have all learned of something more to our existence. However trivial it may seem, the privilege to stand, to sit, to lie down, to do anything else but climb is enough to drive determination into our being, and this determination increased by tenfold now that this new, precious way of life became threatened. Quicker than the Mad Swarms consumed our societies, we Shadows grew. For a seemingly infinite amount of time, it was as if a war was constantly fought. A battle where Shadows would form Clouds and settle to enjoy an experience never thought possible, while the Swarms continuously moved to end this existence. These Shadows knew their efforts would result in consistent massacre without fail, always doomed to end in their destruction and their bodies rejoining Zul, but they did not care. This will end. I have made a discovery which will change everything.

I had discovered a mechanic of our existence which can change everything. It was always known that whenever a Shadow was heavily damaged, the area that received the damage would solidify to Obsidian shards. Those who caught glimpses of Idols being saved by their Obsessed could see the bodies shattering upon impact, turning into these Obsidian shards which then joined the Idol. And most, if not all Shadows have witnessed Obsidian Rain. However, the key factor to our evolution was the ability to mould ourselves and others through mutilation. So, I’ve formed a plan. For the survival of our kind and the evolution of our species, after I gather enough like-minded beings, enough Cut Shadows and enough corpses, I will detach from my Cloud with this group and dig deeper and deeper into Zul. And to assure our safety from the Swarms, I will mutilate the corpses I’ve gathered to create a wall of obsidian, separating us from the outside.

Safe from the Mad Swarms, from the Idol’s, from other Shadows, we would have achieved the grand feat of safety. But this safety is not yet realistic. Afterall, the higher status members of my Cloud disagree with my methods and have actively participated in sabotaging my plans. I wonder how much information a foreign reader would recognize in this journal regarding everything, especially the Clouds. For any Shadow with half a mind, most concepts would be familiar. But it wouldn’t hurt to revise the structure of Clouds a bit more. Afterall, I will be forming my own Cloud from only the most worthy Shadows of my current one. Within our societies, there are those with intact fingers, those with bludgeoned stubs for hands, and those who sharpened their limbs in a fashion similar to the Violent Shadows. The Fingers are those who dictated the course of action of their corresponding Cloud and are, in a sense, the leaders. But their role was far more complex than that. It is they who documented history, who expanded language further and led the expansion and development of the Clouds. I myself am technically a Finger of this Cloud, but they refuse to give me the title because they are all incessant fools who’d rather meet destruction than-

I’ll stop myself there. I’ve already faced threats of exile for my outbursts and actions. They’ve already attempted to mute me, leaving me with a small scar of black shards along my throat permanently impairing my voice. That is why my literate abilities are to this depth; they cannot mute what they cannot hear. And I don’t intend on sharing this journal. Anyways, I've gotten off track and will now continue. The key differences between the classes of Shadows are this: The Fingers were Shadows who kept their fingers intact; they write with sharpened finger tips, bear greater intelligence as well as an aptitude to leadership. The Bludge were those who’ve blunted their arms digging out the holes Clouds reside in, and often lack intelligence and skills necessary to lead a Cloud. The Cut were those who sharpened their limbs as per the command of Fingers, and were often former Bludges. This led to the development of a social hierarchy, with the Fingers at the top of said hierarchy and the Bludge at the bottom, then the Cut, who sharpened their limbs in the middle. The Cut knew they did not have the aptitude for leadership nor intelligence needed to be among the Fingers, so they followed the command to drag their limbs across the floor to create a fine edge from their arms and legs in order to fulfill the duty of defence. The Clouds are complex things, but are doomed to fail and collapse, and though we Shadows build our societies faster than they are destroyed, what comes next after we’ve covered the entire Pyramid? We’re pests, and we have angered our Mother who is already executing us. I tremble at the thought of what comes after the Mad Swarms. The Fingers of our Cloud desire to grow our society until the Mad Swarms consume us or we grow to the point where there is no surface for them to emerge from. I disagree. Until now I’ve stockpiled a large number of corpses, and have been teaching newcomer Shadows of my plans and ideas to leave. I do not intend on dying yet, and there are too many questions in my mind that Zul has yet to answer.

They call me blasphemous, but I’d say she’s the Sinner.

Mother, you are cruel.

Mother, I see your torture.

Mother…

We are coming for you.

II

And so, she frees herself from Zul’s surface after enduring the hardship of her birth, exhausting her body as she pushes the last of her two legs from Zul’s sludge. She was careful to cling onto Zul’s sides to stop herself from falling as she loosened her last foot from the black surface. And now, with her back facing the surrounding abyss and her front facing the Pyramid, she rests. She hangs onto Zul’s side for a moment. She feels the cold sludge of Zul, ever present on its surface run down her unstable, shadow body. Her body of shadow who’s flesh moves and dances as if it was part of the mist which flays around her. Instinct should lead her as to what to do next. She continues to wait, clinging onto Zul’s side with that mist flaying more intensely around her as thoughts race through her head, her beady white eyes darting around as she struggles to put together what her next course of action should be. There is a vacancy in her mind, a sense of incomplete maturity. Where is her instinct? What should she do now? What is there to do? I feel cold. What do I do? These thoughts cause the mist around her body to continue to flay more and more violently. Until she looks up. She lets out a slight noise.

“Ah”

There, the beacon of light which pierces the heavens above at the peak of the Pyramid. The light dances beautifully as it reflects off of her beady white eyes and the opaque sludge that surrounds her. She’s captivated. Surely the light must be good. Amongst the cold black sludge and the pain she just experienced mere moments ago, this light which gives such pleasant pleasure when looked upon must be good. Yes, light is good. I just need to go towards the light. Staring towards the light with newfound motivation, she climbs. Slowly at first, but soon picking up speed; dextrous control over her limbs took some time to master, as well as coordination and balance, but soon after beginning her climb she became more and more efficient. She was talented, but she tired easily and had to rest frequently, hanging stationary and giving her flesh time to stabilize as well as allowing her mist to calm before continuing her climb. She came to learn that this cold, unpleasant sludge is what fuels her body; whenever she hangs still to rest, some of the sludge adds to her flesh, calming the mist around her and feeding her strength. Exhaustion from climbing for long periods of time was dangerous as it quite literally, wore her body thin. But it will be worth it, she promises herself. Soon, she will be with the light. She hangs still once again and looks up to the beacon above her. It is definitely worth it.

Suddenly, a legless torso lands to her right from above, splashing sludge upon impact with Zul’s surface before sliding down and settling still next to her legs. Overwhelmed with shock and fear, she freezes her movement and stays dead still. She looks at the corpse. Half of its face is missing, with the hole where its eyes should be, filled with obsidian shards. It has no right arm. Its left arm rests by her right side intact. It has no mist around its body and there are black shards protruding from where the bottom half of the body should be. Curiosity and fear. She didn’t know there were other beings. She never really thought if there were more beings like her. But the brief reflection quickly dissipated as she saw something climbing downwards from above. Another being it looks like, but this one was different. Its left arm had a straight edge, and was made completely of the same glossy obsidian of the corpse’s injuries, and its head was moving sporadically, darting in all directions to look around rather than using its grey eyes. Its limbs moved in a rushed manner and its joints seemed to ignore the hinges that her own limbs obeyed. It’s some distance away from her; the body lay between her and it. Is it escaping from what did this to the other being? She looks down at the corpse once again. This remnant looked like her, despite the extensive damage. She doesn’t want that to happen to her. She imagines it must be similar to the pain of birth. She shivers. Right now her mist has settled, and so she is well hidden amongst the Pyramid’s sludge, hidden from whatever danger there may be. But that other, sporadic being could still be in danger. Why should she care? She doesn’t want destruction for herself, so surely it must not be a desired thing amongst beings. Amongst beings? There are other beings that look like her, and here she has two pieces of evidence for that. She does not want to be alone, and here she has an opportunity to unite with another of her own.

“Ah!” She screeches. She’s never really used her voice properly, so this little call was softer than what she would’ve liked. The sporadic being with the obsidian blade-arm turned towards her anyways. She felt satisfied that her call worked, her mist dancing slightly as she watched the being make its way towards her. But something felt wrong. She looked around her once again. There was no visible sign of the danger which created the corpse. She should feel calm, she reasoned with herself. Afterall she found another being, one she could try to communicate with and possibly learn from. That would be the best course of action. But this thing didn’t feel right. It's getting closer. Now, she feels more and more panicked, and she does not know why. She begins to inch away slowly from the rapidly approaching Shadow. But she already caught its attention. From a small distance away, it leaped at her, plunging downwards with its left arm-blade, intending to impale her to Zul. She dodges down, with the blade’s tip shattering above her head upon impact with the Pyramid’s obsidian surface beneath the sludge. She grabbed the corpse which now lay next to her right hand by its left wrist and swung it at the attacking Shadow. The attacker was positioned looking downwards at her on all fours, and cut through the corpse with the edge of its blade arm, severing it at its shoulder at a sharp angle, causing a small burst of black crystal mist to sputter everywhere from the corpse, obscuring its vision. It launched itself through the mist headfirst anyways, intending to destroy the Shadow behind it. But it was met with the obsidian spear of the corpses arm, with what was meant to be its victim thrusting it into its skull between its grey eyes. Its momentum carried it forward, causing the arm-spear of the corpse to penetrate deeper into and through its head, tearing the weapon from the defending Shadow’s grip. It let out a continuous, wailing scream as it continued to fall, the corpse’s arm stuck in its head, thrashing its arms and legs around everywhere violently, causing it to bounce off of Zul’s surface and maintaining its momentum as it fell faster and faster. She watched it fall, terrorised and filled with fear, shivering with adrenaline and panic. She continued watching it, not trusting that she defeated it despite seeing its body being broken further as it violently bounced off of Zul’s surface repeatedly, until it eventually fell off the Pyramid’s surface into the infinite darkness below. And she could still hear it scream even then. That thing survived being stabbed in the head and having its body broken by the fall, and still had the energy to scream for so long. That thing was nothing like her. She looked towards the now completely dismembered torso of the corpse. That was one of her kind.

She spent a large amount of time stationary before continuing her climb. The conflict with that violent Shadow took a lot of energy, both mentally and physically; her right arm was almost torn off after that beast ripped the weapon from her grasp, taking vast amounts of her flesh away with it and leaving mere strands left. Resting stationary allowed her to recover her strength, joining her body with the cold sludge which runs down the Pyramid’s surface, healing her, calming her. This world around her, upon which she rests and climbs is there for her. She can hide in its cold embrace, feed on it to heal herself and climb it to reach the light. At least, despite the hostility of her experience with the beast and the pain of birth, reality isn’t too cruel. In this down time, she also recovered mentally, processing all that she has experienced into information she can use. The broken being was one of her own, perhaps one of many. There has to be more of them, but that thought is for later. What’s important now are the crystal shards which protruded from the corpse. She didn’t notice it at the time, but instinct guided her in using the crystal shards formed from injuries in defeating the violent being. It appears that, at the very least when bodies are inanimate, injuries sustained turn into obsidian shards. But, she thought long and hard as to what extent of injury renders a being inanimate, such as that corpse. She stabbed the attacking beast through its head and watched its body break as it fell down the steep slope of Mother’s sides, and it still was capable of movement. Meanwhile the corpse was rendered inanimate by mere dismemberment. The only logical conclusion is that they are completely different beings. Predator and prey. She shivers. She thought she was prey, but she killed the predator. What is she? Instinct cannot answer that question. She files it away for later, what’s important now is not finding out what she is, but rather what she can do in case something dangerous happens again. Next time, she might not be lucky enough to have a corpse to use as a weapon. She regrets losing the arm-spear. How could she possibly protect herself the next encounter? An Idea. She looks at her left arm and bears her teeth.

Nope, bad idea. Afterall, there was no assurance that when dismembered it would even form the obsidian shards she needs for the arm-spear. Her right arm, though sustaining lots of damage didn’t crystalize. Also, her arms were important for climbing the pyramid freely; she learned in her climb that in order to climb safely, three points of contact were necessary. It was having the free arm that helped her in defeating the attacker before, as she dodged down using three limbs and used that free arm to swing the corpse at the Shadow. The regret in losing the weapon is building up again, but she pushes aside the emotions to continue thinking. She can’t sacrifice her limb for a weapon, but there might be another threat again which could end her climb forever, and she’s unwilling to sacrifice her limb for only a chance of being, ironically, armed. She resents the thought of being defenceless. All she wants is to climb to the light. But another gamble came to mind. She looked at her fingers. Perhaps, she could risk something far more little for greater gain. A little experiment. She opens her mouth and bears her obsidian teeth. Her mist stiffens around her as she braces for pain. Then she drags her left hand’s fingers between the sharp edges of her teeth, grating off dark flesh from her fingers and solidifying their ends into sharp edged claws. Immediately after doing this she clings onto the sludge tightly with her right hand as she lets her left arm dangle. Disgusted by her actions and gagging in pain again, she spits out her flesh and grasps onto Mother’s side even tighter. Why did she do that? It hurts so much. It wasn’t like the nauseating pain of birth at all. This pain was sharp and hot, as if the emotion of fear itself was formed into a jagged edge, embodied into a blade which then carved into her hand. It was necessary, she tells herself, but that does nothing to numb the pain she felt at that moment. She looks at her left hand. Or rather, left Claw. The edges of the ends of her fingers were sharp obsidian blades, but the rest of it was still soft Shadow flesh. She flexed her fingers. She could move it fine without trouble, and still had minute control over its movements. She grasped the pyramid with the claw. It could hold onto the sludge fine, but if too much force is applied the claw cuts through the sludge instead of holding onto it; when she climbs, her smooth hands would grasp onto sludge, not at the topmost layer, but deep inside. The sludge which runs down the Pyramid is thick and only a little viscous, but below is a firm layer of even stiffer sludge, a type of skin which stretches across the entire obsidian surface, with its elasticity acting as a sort of grip when Shadows pull on it to climb. The sludge of the Pyramid is in a gradient from surface to skin, getting thicker and stiffer the closer it is to the surface. The sludge, from the obsidian surface to the outermost layer, is around half a hand deep, but when angled, is enough to partially submerge a body. The depth of the sludge also varies at times, but not enough for it to pose too much trouble. What’s important though, is that if she is careful in her climb as to not cut through the sludge instead of climb with her claw, then she still has both hands and in addition, a new weapon. She considered doing the same to her right hand for a moment, but that would be too much trouble to climb with. And too much pain. Satisfied with her progress and fully recovered both mentally and physically, she continues her climb upwards.

Sometimes, she feels the Pyramid shake. At first, she considered the Pyramid to be her Mother as she was birthed from its surface, but now it seemed to be more of an environment than anything. It still created her though, but that fact doesn’t matter to her now. She has no need to care about the circumstances of her birth. To her, all that matters is what she does after birth. All that’s important now is to reach the light. Even so, she’s been climbing for such a long while and yet it feels as if no progress has been made. She looks down. She can no longer see the bottom edge of Zul, just a vast plane of black as far as her beady eyes can see. She doesn't know how to measure time numerically, but if she measures it by periods between two events, from her birth to her first kill, it has been around a hundred long, empty periods. There has been no more danger thus far, only odd shakes every now and then and the occasional Obsidian Rain, which at first alarmed her as the shards reminded her of her encounter with the violent Shadow, but were soon dismissed as a part of the world as no evident threat followed. It was as if the Pyramid had its own weather: Obsidian Rain, Surface Tremors and Calm. She does not know what causes the tremors, and her imagination sadistically mocked her fear with pictures of beasts hundreds of times larger than the one she defeated. She would not be able to continue the climb if she encountered something like that. But scaring herself was pointless, and so she continued her climb. That was before she saw something in the distance.

Outlines of hundreds of figures, all kneeling and staring outwards, bodies facing away from the Pyramid as their arms reach out and grasp empty air. She can hear all of their voices from a distance, but cannot make out their tones as to whether they were joyful, fearful or whatever they were. She cannot see them in detail yet though, and for now they were just silhouettes in the beacon’s light who sat a decent distance away. They did not, however, fit the image of the beast, as these beings were stationary, calm and as far as she could see, did not pay any attention to anything at all unlike the predatory, searching gaze of the beast. She decided that she would climb towards these beings. Afterall, she reminded herself, she did not want to be alone. And she could hear the group calling in a symphony of noise.

She was now next to the large group of beings, with them being at her left and herself being at their right, and could see them in detail. There must’ve been over a hundred Shadows here, and at first she was overjoyed with this discovery, but in climbing amongst these beings the feeling that something was off leaked in again. None of them paid any attention to her, they didn’t have a mist around their bodies, and their eyes. Their eyes were grey. They weren’t of any threat as far as she could tell, but they didn’t look to be of any help either. She looked at one of the beings. This one was looking outwards from the Pyramid just like the rest, with its mouth hanging open revealing its obsidian teeth, and releasing a continuous, deep, monotone moan which played its part within the symphony of noise which emanated from the praying group. Stupid. All these beings here are stupid. What are they doing? What could possibly be worth more than the light? Why are they not climbing? Is it not dangerous to remain stationary? She kicked the being at its legs, causing it to slip and fall slightly. It caught itself rather quickly though, never breaking its line of sight with the emptiness at which it stared at, before climbing back to its original position to continue its prayer and moan. Frustrated with her inability to understand, she lashes out at it, slicing her claw at its head. The claw gouged downwards and tore out the left side of its face as well as its jaw, interrupting its moan, turning it into a short, guttural scream. Then it fell silent. None of the beings react. Their symphony continues, one voice quieter. The body maintained its position the entire time, only stiffening when it was attacked, not even defending itself or showing any sign of resistance. Seconds after however, it fell forwards limply, its body turning into sludge and joining the flow of the Pyramid. Disgusted, she backs away in a miniature scuttle. She looks at her claw, only to see more sludge. She does not understand. What are these beings? Why did it turn to sludge and not obsidian? She thinks back to the first corpse. That didn’t turn to sludge, but this one did? Are these another variation of beings? She’s afraid. So deathly afraid. She thought she was beginning to understand the world she lived in, but just how much did she not know? She doesn’t know anything. She felt small. She looked at the beacon, the sides of the Pyramid, down below and at the group of praying beings. She felt so, so small. But something else caught her sight. She looked outwards from the Pyramid, together with the Obsessed. And there it was. At first, it looked like a large obsidian figure which resembled nothing, with an odd number of heads, unnaturally placed legs and arms and anatomy which didn’t make sense. But the more she stared at it, the more sense it made. Suddenly, an overwhelming amount of light burst forth from the Idol. She looked around. The praying beings were no longer the moaning idiots she thought they were. Instead, their eyes were white gemstones and their symphony was now a proper song, a song to which everyone’s mists danced to. She looked around. The infinite black skies were now a magnificent clear blue, the Pyramid now marble, and the Idol, no longer a confusing thing, but now oh so beautiful. It was a kind looking being hundreds of times larger than her, with a head resembling a sack of skin ten times larger than its own body. It had no eyes or ears, but a magnificent mouth running down the entire vertical axis of its pulsating head, with thousands of obsidian teeth lining its thick, pink gums. Long slanted holes which could pass for gills lined the sides of the inflated sac-head, which opened and closed with each breath it took, each hole outlined by tensing and relaxing masses of muscle. Its body looked like that of a baby, but from where there should be two little legs protrudes hundreds of long, anorexic tentacular legs which hang flaccid in the empty space, fluttering in non existent wind while the hundreds of knees clack noisily as they knock against each other. Its belly had four eyes, each filled with bright pink blood and crying tears of dark crimson, each eye conveying separate emotions: sadness, anger, shock and fear. Its chubby arms were grasping towards her, as if asking for something more. She looked at it more. She could see seven wings, asymmetrically scattered across its back, but spread out causing it to slowly glide. But she could see that it was falling. She looked down. A monster. This magnificent being which turned everything into light, which showed her new colours and such pleasure was at risk of falling into the stomach of the infinite abyss below. It was something not even this glorious being could turn to light. And it was in danger of being consumed by it. It’s wings were enough to keep it gliding slowly, but not enough to keep it away from the void. She could see the Idol reaching out to her with its little arms again. No, she could feel it reaching out to her. It's whispering to her. It's begging her. For what? What could she possibly do to help something that is so much more than her? Something that is so much more powerful and magnificent and beautiful? Then, she realized. She looks at the other Shadows who are singing prayers to save it. She could join them. She begins to kneel, and she opens her mouth to begin the song.

A hand covers her mouth and her eyes, twisting her away from the Obsidian Idol and plunging her face into the sludge of the Pyramid. She screams and gurgles in the sludge. The child, she must save the child. She flails her limbs about, in an attempt to free herself from whatever is holding her down.

“Be still”
A deep, raspy voice whispers.

“I am helping you.”

She doesn’t understand. But she must protect the child. She places both hands beneath her and pushes away, bumping the being holding her down off of her back and she turns to look at the majestic being. But instead, her eyes meet the same, strange, Obsidian Idol as before. She looks around. The singing Shadows are back to mumbling idiots, and the sky and Pyramid have turned back to black. The monster below is constant. Wait. Where is the being that held her down? That averted her gaze from the child? She looks around before turning her sight back towards the Obsidian Idol again, its shape moulding to create that beautiful creature from before once more, with light brimming her eyes again. Ah. There it is.

Then, she feels a sharp pain as something hits the back of her head, hard, and the world around her tips over as she falls limply, losing consciousness. He drags her unconscious body away by her legs, careful to not look at the Obsidian Idol, careful not to disturb the Obsessed, careful to retrace his steps back home. Back home, with the others.

III

She awakes. She doesn’t open her eyes, but rather takes the moment to try and understand what has happened and where she is. She is being dragged up the Pyramid by something through the sludge by her legs, with the rest of her body dragging a snail-trail path behind. She doesn’t know how long she’s been unconscious. Actually, she’s never experienced unconsciousness before, apart from the void before her birth of course. But having experienced being awake, this unconsciousness, it was an odd, strangely empty feeling. It is an almost terrifying thing, as if a chunk of her existence has flashed past her without her knowing. But she refocuses on the now. She feels her body, spreading her consciousness throughout, feeling every point of contact, every limb to the edges of her mist. Right now, she keeps herself relaxed, the same as when she was out. Whatever is dragging her hasn’t destroyed her when she was limp, so it is best to keep her body that way for now. The mist often acts with a mind of its own, reflecting a Shadow’s emotions, but she is able to make it simulate its unconscious state rather accurately. But soon, she will retaliate and use her claw to fight back. This thing attacked her first, knocking her out and trying to hold her down before, so it would make sense to fight back. Afterall in her experience, nothing good has come bearing violence. First, she needs to see what this creature that’s dragging her is. It’s grip on her ankles isn't hurting, but it’s firm. She opens her eyes slowly, eyelids peeling back to reveal her pearly white eyes. Only to be met by the white stone eyes of the Shadow dragging her. She panics, now kicking her legs in a struggle to free herself from his hands, eventually landing a clean blow to his sternum. He loses his grip, falling backwards into the sludge, winded and annoyed. She, after kicking, began to roll backwards in the sludge, beginning a tumble down the Pyramid which was out of her control. A tumble down the Pyramid. She remembers the beast she had defeated and its painful, destructive fall down the Pyramid which shattered its body. She would not survive that. She begins to pick up speed, the sludge failing to slow her fall.
Until the Captor Shadow leaped down the Pyramid in a controlled drop before kicking her in the ribs from her right, causing her to be the winded one this time, and redirecting her fall to the side, where she manages to catch herself by grabbing onto the sludge after tumbling for a moment. She gulps in breaths as she recovers from the kick. Then, his raspy, jagged voice speaks.

“What is your name?”

She looks at him.

“I want to help you.”

His voice is painful to listen to. It was as if she dragged her Claw across an obsidian surface, the screeching noise diluted by sludge but maintaining its volume with added bass. She tilts her head at him as she picks herself up from the sludge, still slightly pained. She’s confused, and she doesn’t understand a word he’s saying.

“I am Shadow, like you.”

She just stares at him. He isn’t attacking her again, and he kicked her out of her tumble down. But was it because this being intended to save her or is its intention to kill her with its own hands?

“My name is Niente, I come from a Cloud just up from here. Follow me and I will help you”

The being is still making strange noises at her. Is it trying to communicate?

Niente, realising that this attempt to have conversation is falling flat resorts to more primitive forms of communication.

“Me” He points at himself with his left hand.

“You” He points at her.

“Go up this” He points up the Pyramid.

“Okay?” He grasps the Pyramid again.

She hangs still for a moment, thinking. Her mist flickers.

“Go-” She chokes on her words for a moment. She isn’t used to using her voice yet.

“Goavis?” She imitates.

She wasn’t sure it meant anything, but she was content with her attempt.

“Are you trying to say-” He clears his throat. The lining of obsidian shards on his throat renders speech difficult. He much prefers to write.

“Go. Up. This?”

She remains still, but her mist dances happily as he repeats back to her what she said.

“Go Avis!” She barks back, with an obsidian smile.

Niente grins slightly.

“Go Avis?” He said, his grin spreading wider.

“Okay. ‘Avis’ it is” He states, with his grin stretching even further than it has in a while

“Let’s go, Avis.”

He began climbing upwards towards his Cloud again, this time with Avis conscious and following closely behind.

It wasn’t long until they saw the Cloud from a distance, and it was already noticeable from far away by its distinctive clutter of voices and large black mist which protruded from the Cloud’s hole. A grand contrast to the monotonous noise from the moaning idiots earlier. To Avis, it only looked like a small fountain of black mist, but to Niente it was a clear indication of society. Upon nearing the Cloud, two Shadows jumped from the mist, landing on the Pyramid’s surface and surfing down it, each Shadow with a hand dragging behind in the sludge and the other hand an obsidian blade. Avis noticed this and felt her anxiety spike. The memory of the Violent Shadow triggered a self defence response, as she began to lower herself in the sludge to hide. Niente just nudged her with his foot to get her attention. She looked at him and noticed that he wasn’t afraid at all. Could he have never met a violent beast before like she has? But after getting her attention, he pointed at his white stone eyes, at her white pearly eyes, then the eyes of the approaching Shadows.
Their eyes were white as well. The Violent Shadow’s eyes were grey.
These approaching Shadows were safe.
“Where are you from?” Called out the left guard as he approached their position. This one has a large upper body, and a head almost indistinguishable from its neck, with a large lower torso to match. Its mist is thick and short, almost hugging his body like a second skin, and it also bore a heavy, deep voice as well. Avis questioned herself if she was the only one of her kind with the soft spoken, higher pitched voice. “Wait” called the right Guard, as he slid next to his partner. This one’s voice was also different from hers, but similar as it lacked the bass of the other guard. He was of a skinnier stature, but still looked as if he was built to fight. Neither of their voices were similar to Niente’s.
“It’s just the mute. Looks like he brought back another Shadow, alive this time”

Niente averted his eyes from the guards. Avis noticed.
The guards waved them to continue the climb up to the Cloud with their blade arms. The larger guard slid below them and the skinnier one led the way. Avis followed, climbing behind Niente, cautious but excited. Never has she imagined that she would find so many Shadows that were like her, especially in such a small amount of time. But there’s still this feeling of tension radiating from Niente she couldn't understand. She dismisses it for now. Afterall, she has found more Shadows and must revel in this joy. The guard below giggles at the obvious display of happiness, evident by her inflated, large dancing mist. The rest of the climb was silent and uneventful, apart from the more and more evident lack of sludge as they continued their climb.
That was, until they reached the entrance.

They entered the black mist, with the surface of the Pyramid now completely clear with only an extremely thin layer of sludge hugging the Pyramid’s surface. Avis saw the skinny guard arrive at a ledge, then suddenly disappear over it as he climbed. Niente continued climbing, unfazed, before a hand reached out from over this ledge which he then grabbed. This hand then pulled Niente up and over the ledge as well. Avis scuttled backwards a bit, with that familiar fear building up again. Is the Pyramid eating Shadows? The large guard, noticing this fear nonchalantly grabbed Avis and threw her over his shoulder before she could decide to run away, and launched himself over the ledge, with Avis screeching and pounding at his back, kicking her legs behind as she didn’t want to be eaten by the Pyramid. Her entire world was suddenly tilted horizontally. She continued screaming, now nauseated and confused, until the Guard threw her on the ground, cutting off her tantrum as she landed on the ground with a thud, taking the air out of her again. She lies on the ground for a moment as she regains her breath for the hundredth time. She’s getting tired of being winded. But then she noticed.
She’s not falling.
She’s not rolling down the Pyramid.
She isn’t hanging off its side.
What is this?
She gets up on all fours and looks around.
She could see Niente squatting a small distance in front of her with a small number of Shadows behind him, all armed with obsidian weapons. Some had both legs turned into spears, others with an entire forearm for a blade, maintaining their hand with most having their hands and forearms merged to make a double edged blade. The strangest part was that they all were on two feet, standing straight up. Then she realized.
She was on flat ground.
She was inside the Pyramid.
Niente reached out with his hand.
She took it.
Niente began rising from his squatted position.
Avis began rising with him, at first staggering, but quickly learning to balance on two feet.
Then, they were both standing, hand in hand.
Slowly, Niente began to walk, with Avis taking her first baby steps.
The crowd of Cut dispersed, merging back into the Cloud’s mist, with Niente and Avis disappearing into the mist as well, as they walked deeper. Deeper into Zul.

The mist surrounding the outside of the Cloud is very dense in its outer layers, but thins as you enter the Cloud. It’s easy to get lost in this Outer Wall, but with an experienced Shadow by your side, such as a Cut on guard or a Shadow of that Cloud, you can be easily guided through it to the society hidden in its depths. The Mist which hangs over the Cloud is also not an issue for Shadows, as all it takes is a few seconds for the eyes to adjust to the denser atmosphere, but only to see a small distance in front of you when you’re in the Outer Walls. This density acts as protection against the threats outside such as the Violence or the Idols, but it only exists for Clouds of high populations, hence the smaller Clouds suffering from the Violence and Idols still. This Cloud’s mist was intensely dense from the edge of the Wall to over a hundred paces deep. Niente was still walking Avis deep into the Cloud, his hand still tightly holding Avis’ hand. She can tell he’s stressed, and honestly she was also feeling the pressure. She could not see them, but she could still feel the presence of all those Shadows with bladed limbs from before surrounding them as they walked. It was as if it was an armed escort or a sharp cage. She’s confused, and still clueless. She realises now more than ever before how clueless she is as to the world of the Pyramid. But at least-
She looks at Niente who still leads her forwards.
At least she isn’t alone.

Finally, after a thousand paces, the Wall has thinned to an almost clear transparency, still thick relative to the outside of the Cloud, but it almost looks like there’s nothing as their eyes have adjusted to the denser parts of the Wall. From the thick mist, emerged Niente and Avis together with the cohort of Cut. It was difficult to breathe within the wall, so upon emerging from the densest parts, Avis thankfully began taking in big breaths of the less dense air, while Niente quickly adjusted his breathing to fit the inside of the Cloud. But then, they paid attention to what lay before them.

And before them lay thousands of Shadows. This was beyond Avis’ imagination, it was an almost heavenly looking place. Shadows of all heights, builds and statures with voices of so many varying pitches, depths and tones. Conversations now became clear to Niente as the Shadows within told stories, ideas and discussed philosophy. Along the side walls of the Cloud were holes into which some Shadows carved into little makeshift homes, which were typically small as Shadows often lived in solitude, but some expanding into larger homes with other Shadows they considered friends and more. In the very, very back of the Cloud was a large protruding structure: the Hall. Meanwhile, other Shadows who aren't in their rooms spend their leisure time in small dug out holes in the ground which act as improvised lounges, with a table in the centre topped by sludge from which Shadows ate. These little lounge holes were scattered around the floors of the Cloud, which now clearly looked to be a large semicircular dug out hole, with an uneven jagged circumference due to the rooms carved out. To the right, was also a semi-large protrusion with more dense mist around it, which acted as the barracks to the Cut of this Cloud. Overall, here lay society. But to Niente, this wasn’t home.
The large guard from earlier now spoke.
“I’ll take Niente to the Hall. Skin, you take this one to Light for education.”
Skin, the smaller guard from earlier nodded in agreement.
“Sure, just make sure Niente doesn’t run off again, alright Carn?” He turned to Avis and grabbed her by the arm, walking off and pulling her behind him.
Avis, surprised at the sudden contact, retaliated, kicking at the back of his knee, causing him to crumple down on himself and let out a small cry. He quickly recovered and turned to face Avis, tense and aggravated.
“To Vud with this dumb-” He began to raise his hand to hit Avis.
But Niente was faster, dashing away from Carn, whom he was following calmly just a second ago, and using the sharpened tips of his fingers, he stabbed into Skin’s wrist. Then, with his left hand grabbing Skin’s hip, he used his own hip as a pivot, throwing Skin over his hip to the ground in a spectacular fashion. Immediately Niente went on top of him, pinning down his left Blade arm with his knee and pushing his fingers deeper within Skin’s wrist into the floor of the Pyramid. Then, he let out a bellowing, scratching yell that resounded across the entirety of the Cloud, with his jaw so open it looked as if he was threatening to rip off Skin's face. A silence followed. But was quickly cut off, as this display of skill and strength ended with Carn kicking at Niente’s head, knocking him out. Skin shuffled back from underneath Niente, quietly whimpering as he cradled his injured hand within his armpit, with the blade he failed to use hanging by his side. Avis, now sensing danger, launched herself at Carn’s back with a yell, only to be caught midair by her ankle by another Cut from behind, causing her to land flat on the ground, knocking her out as well. “Well then” said Carn. He looks around at Avis, Niente and Skin.
“This was messy,” He said.
He looks at Skin. “Especially you” he spat, with obvious disappointment in his words.
“Take the new one to the Fingers, but throw Niente into the Hole for later. The Fingers have probably already had enough of Niente and will deal with it later.”
Carn began walking to the Hall with Skin scuttling closely behind. One of the Cut with large, broad shoulders but a thin body carefully picked up Avis, while two hunched Cut grabbed Niente by his legs and started dragging him away, in the opposite direction from where Carn was going.

Some time later

All of the Cut and Bludge were in two lines facing each other. They were all nervous, and the onlookers of average Shadows were large in number. “Shadows!” Bellowed Carn, emerging from the Barracks from the right side of the Cloud’s hole. He had to duck and bend his shoulders inwards to exit the room due to his larger than average body. “Shadows, Cut and Bludge!” He repeated. “Now, it is time for the Cut to prove their worth once more, and for the Bludges to take the place of the unworthy, and join our militia’s glorious ranks!” Surrounding Shadows roar in excitement as they anticipate the battle ahead. They want to see violence. “But first!” carn waves at the crowd to calm down, his gigantic cleaver of an arm all-powerful in taming the eager crowd. “I must guarantee a most entertaining show, therefore I ask that Skin...” he turns to the lined up Shadows. “May Skin come here before me?”
Nervously, a Cut steps forward from the file of his brethren. “I’m here, Carn.” The crowd remains silent.
“Come closer, Skin” said Carn, calmly. Skin is terrified but he obeys. He whispers desperately to Carn.
“Look, about what happened before with Niente and Avis, I just lost my temper and...” Carn grabs Skin by his head with one hand and lifts him up. “Carn, please! I’m not weak, I can protect the Cloud just as well as any other Cut, please! You know how slippery Nie-”
With his blade arm Carn cuts Skin in half, dismembering his upper torso from his lower torso.
Sludge from his guts splattered next to his legs, before the dangling innards solidified into Obsidian.
“Don’t mention Niente’s name.” Carn says under his breath. He looks around at the spectators. He raises his arms, Skin’s remains still in hand “We can only protect this Cloud if our Cut are just as strong, brave and unrelenting as the Violence that threatens us!” He throws the corpse behind him, with it landing in between the line of Cut and the line of Bludges. “Now then, prove your worth!”
The crowd roars as the Cut and Bludge rush at each other from their positions in their line; each Cut and each Bludge were given a partner whom they had to kill. If the Bludge kills the Cut, he takes his place and sharpens his blunted limb into a blade. If the Cut wins, then their honor is protected until the next ceremony. This ceremony was particularly glorious, as the number of Cut and Bludges were in the hundreds, and thousands of Shadow spectators have gathered to spectate this gory battle which takes place at the centre of the Cloud. Carn doesn’t participate as his prowess is questioned by none, and as his power is recognized to be higher than all of the Shadows within the Cloud. From the Hall, the Fingers watch the battle. “May I ask where Light is?” asked Credo. He was a slim yet tall shadow, who’s arms resembled long branches with fingers who’s almost unnatural length mirrored his stature. His voice was airy and fragile, as if a wisp of wind would’ve muted him. “You know it’s never enjoyed the Cut Cull, it's a gentle creature.” Replied a voice, so full of something its words seemed filtered. “You didn’t answer my question, Crudo. Where is Light?” asked Credo again, growing more impatient. Crudo finishes stuffing his mouth with sludge as he reclines on a carved out chair, his obese Shadow body moulding to fit his seat. “Light is with Avis, the newcomer, teaching it common knowledge and speech. Apparently this young Avis has the potential to be the fourth Finger.” He says, unimpressed. Credo scoffs at this.
“A fourth? Three is plenty. Too many more of us and this whole Cloud will fall ap-” A large mass of black enveloped Credo’s head through the window before consuming him whole and pouring into the rest of the Hall. Shocked and suddenly very afraid, Crudo runs around the Hall searching for an escape. The black mass continues to fill the Hall until he’s cornered into a wall, where he blunts his sharpened fingers attempting to dig his way away from the black mass, futile as he only delayed his consumption as he joined the black mass of the Mad Shadows.