As if the press of hairy wererat flesh and their flashing blades is not enough, the deep gnomes can also apparently use magic. Jenova dodges an orb of magic flame but has no time to celebrate before the next spell strikes her directly in the face. Her field of vision goes blank as the spell steals her sight, and it is all she can do not to panic. The effect is only temporary, she thinks. She swallows a lump of fear and shakes herself. I need to get to a corner. Amaya will protect me.
She moves by feel to the north and breathes a sigh of relief when she feels the wall on the side of the stairs and the cover it represents. It is a short-lived feeling of comfort as a wererat shortsword impales her moments later. What? Oh, no! she thinks, gritting her teeth and drawing on her magic to try to stop the bleeding. Fortunately, these creatures aren’t quick or disciplined enough to take advantage of her spellcasting to stab her again. Unfortunately, the protection she assumed is not manifesting. Based on her pain, her magic will not be able to outpace the iron blade tearing into her vitals for much longer. She-
Jenova blinked, but the darkness did not change. She was still in pain, but it felt more like a distant ache. She considered calling out, but as soon as she thought it, she didn’t think she could speak in this place – if place was the right word. Or maybe she could speak, but it wouldn’t be right?
Either way she wasn’t sure, but she could still think. And she found that she felt rather more contemplative than usual. She felt weightless, moreso than was typical when the oracle curse took effect after she used the magic of the cosmic mystery.
It’s funny, she thought, Or rather, strange. I’ve been blessed with these powers – and I do consider them a blessing. Most days. But I’ve never really understood them, and I have no idea where they are from. Or why I have them. Is there some grand plan for me? A cosmic destiny? Am I a cog in some greater being’s machinations?
Jenova paused, half expecting an answer. After a pregnant pause, she uttered a mental sigh. Foolish, she thought.
She blinked again and something ChAnGed. She felt a viBraTiOn in the not-space, and it made her uneasy. Then she saw a diM gLow in the diStaNce and felt as though each of those concepts was infused with the thrumming. The light should have been a relief after the nothing she’d been experiencing for … how long had she been floating in the void? She watched/felt the glow for an interminable moment, trying to determine if it was moving.
Hello? she thought.
The GloW didn’t so much come toward her as abruptly rEsoLve before her. She could see that it was not a single source, but rather thReE pOinTs of iLLUmiNatiOn. They reminded her rather of eyes, if the third one were arranged in the forehead of some strange creature. She thought she felt an uncanny presence behind the “eyes,” at least. She endured the maddening gaze, determined not to show it any weakness.
WHaT. The quaking thought was not her own, though she couldn’t be sure whether the three-eyed entity was the source.
Who are you? What is this place? Jenova thought.
FaMiLiaR. She got the sense that the mind behind the thought was trying to remember something.
A familiar? Canter, is that you? she thought, daring to hope.
The entity was quiet for a long moment, either ignoring her question or still trying to recall whatever it was pondering. When it broke the silence, the notion DeSCeNDeNT came with the sense that she had been judged or categorized. Immediately after came a dual thought threaded with a feeling of budding irritation: IMPoSSiBLe/iMPRoBaBLe.
I’m sorry, I don’t understand, she thought.
iRReLeVaNT? She began to get the sense that it was thinking to itself rather than engaging in a dialog. RePoRT? Another long pause, before she got the sense that it had made a decision: iNTeRRoGaTe.
Jenova’s fear grew more pointed, so she engaged in something she often did when she was nervous on stage. And apparently, thinking about a song she liked was the mental equivalent of humming it in this no-place. Her mind-tune created dissonance with the syncopated vibration she had come to associate with the three-eyed entity. The “eyes” shimmered, becoming indistinct in response to this unforeseen counter-rhythm.
Her mind flashed with a kaleidoscope of sensations and bizarre thoughts, some of which she had words for, and others she did not. When the chaos of her mindscape gave way to order, her vision coalesced into something she believed to be a memory. It was her memory. No, that wasn’t right. She was inside the mind of whatever was remembering, but it was easier to consider the memory her own. At least for now.
Jenova felt as though She stood in the sky above the center of a hurricane like the Eye of Abendego. She got the sense that She had wrought such a horrific marvel, releasing a calamity from the sky to the ruin of a number of primitive minds. She felt pride for having so thoroughly blinded those who might see the danger She posed.
The pride did not last long – a contradictory thought suggested this action was a failsafe rather than a requirement. The thought was invested with derision, that She should condescend to make this effort at all was nearly laughable.
The seers spent so much time considering the stars that they forgot about the dark between.
Still, the godfall had provided an opportunity, and She was not about to let Her hubris be Her downfall a second time. She looked up from the maelstrom and cast Her gaze northeast to the place Her efforts had prepared oh so long ago.
ReLeaSe!!! The mindshout snapped Jenova back to her own consciousness and she looked around wildly. The entity’s three “eyes” narrowed, blazing orange before discorporating back into the void, leaving her alone once more. Shaken, but alone.
“nova,” came the quietest call from some distant part of the not-space. She thought to move toward it and it was so.
“C’mon, Nova,” the call came a little louder, though different voices seemed to be calling her. She thought to move faster and felt that she did.
“Nova, please,” came a third call, clear as though spoken right beside her.
She opens her eyes.