Aradia Megido had been digging for hours. Or at least, that's sure what it felt like! Her lusus had long ago gotten tired of watching her power through metre after metre of dirt and had made the trek back to their hive, and if Aradia was honest with herself, she probably should have gone too. The tunnel she was in was getting lighter - the sun was coming up. Thankfully, she would be protected from most of the danger; she'd had to dig so far that there were plenty of dark, cool areas that would keep her safe as she rested.
She yawned. Resting...that did sound like a great idea. She'd been digging for most of the night, and her whole body ached. But she was so close! The taste of Discovery was heady in Aradia's mouth, and she knew that she wasn't actually going to take a quick nap, no matter how nice the idea felt. She had to press on!
This was the place she'd been led to, after all, so that meant there had to be something here. So she continued digging, ignoring her protesting body.
All of a sudden, her shovel hit something hard, and she peered down into the hole she was making. It looked like...a handle? Aradia shrugged, and cleared the dirt away so she could take a closer look. Eventually, she was able to examine it more closely, and discovered that it was indeed a handle! Not only that, but it was a whole trapdoor. Over the course of the night, she'd found other parts of a ruined hive, but those had all been plain old boring foundations and tables and stuff. A trapdoor! That was much more interesting!
She fetched her torch from where her sylladex had ejected it earlier, and, after a while, managed to pry the trapdoor open. It was pitch black inside, but a quick scan with the torch showed her it was just a short drop to a dirt floor. She sat on the edge of the trapdoor and pushed herself off, landing neatly and quietly in what turned out to be a small dirt room with a tunnel leading off in one direction.
Aradia brushed down her skirt and grinned. This was more like it! Mysterious tunnels were exactly what she'd signed up for. There was bound to be some sort of exciting treasure room just a little ahead, and she'd get some great loot.
Unfortunately, the only thing that Aradia found as she strolled along was a crossroads. And then another crossroads. The dirt tunnels were more like a dirt labyrinth, and although she was marking where she came from and which tunnel she was exploring next at each intersection, it made her a little nervous. What if she got turned around and confused and lost? That would suck!
As Aradia walked, the voices in her head called out a quick warning just as something creaked over her head. She leaped forward, ducking and rolling and landing in an untidy heap. She looked back and groaned. One of the wooden supports in the tunnel had given way and rocks had tumbled down, covering the whole tunnel. A cave-in. Great. Well, she wouldn't be getting out that way.
Aradia scrambled to her feet and continued on. Around the next bend, there was a huge stone door. She pushed it open and shivered as a blast of cold air rushed past her from the darkness ahead. She shone her torch through the doorway, but it still just looked dark. And as much as she craved adventure and danger, something inside her quailed at the thought of going through. Too bad, she told herself sternly. That's where we're going!
She slowly snuck through the door, keeping one hand on the cold stone wall beside her, then jumped as the door slammed shut. Cold terror clogged her throat for a long moment as she stood frozen, but she refused to give up. Aradia took one step forward, and then another, and then she was slowly but surely making her way through.
Aradia crept further and further into the dark tunnel. While she was used to darkness, there was something about this tunnel that made her skin crawl. Usually her torch would illuminate the darkness, but this morning it felt like it was barely keeping the shadows at bay. Instead of being able to stride confidently through tunnels and tombs, feeling like an invulnerable explorer, she was reduced to a slow creep, trying to be as silent as possible. Every time her foot caught a loose pebble, she cringed, the soft sound incredibly loud in this oppressive, silent darkness.
All of a sudden, she realised why it was so especially silent. Her voices, the voices of the dead that she usually managed to tune out to a companionable susurrus...they were gone. They weren't making a single sound. She could still feel their presence, but they were as noiseless as she was, like they were holding their breath.
The quiet terror Aradia was experiencing increased tenfold. If even the voices didn't want to wake whatever resided here...she shuddered violently, but kept sneaking along. Aradia knew that if she stopped even once, she would be too scared to keep moving. And thanks to the cave-in earlier, she wouldn't be able to go back the way she came, either. No, she had to keep moving forward.
Eventually, she came to another crossroads. This one had several tunnels branching off it, one of which was sealed by a giant stone door. Her fingers shaking just a little, Aradia strode over to the door and examined the lock. It was incredibly old, and crumbled at her touch. She pushed the door open hesitantly. Inside was a small, stone room, with a little stone altar in the middle, and a stone sarcophagus up against the far wall.
And a dead girl sitting on the altar.
She was long, long dead, that was for sure. What little hair she had left was stringy and matted, and her dress was torn, leaving one small, shrivelled breast bare; her horns were dull and broken. And she was looking at Aradia.
-- dialoglog --
ARADIA: d0nt be frightened 0f me im just an expl0rer! my name is aradia whats y0urs?
???: I am Called the Revenant. Or at Least, I am Now that I am Dead.
REVENANT: Nice to Meet you, Aradia.
ARADIA: likewise miss revenant! is this y0ur t0mb?
REVENANT: Yes. I am stuck here in this Realm, unable to Move on. I don't even get to Haunt other Trolls, because I'm Bound To this Stupid Tomb.
ARADIA: 0h n0 that sucks! why are you stuck in this world?
REVENANT: My Skull was Stolen long Ago, and I Can't be at Peace without It.
ARADIA: 0h i see
ARADIA: hey maybe i can help! im pretty g00d at finding things
REVENANT: I don't need you to Find it - I already Know where it is. I just can't Get to It.
ARADIA: 0h! well i can definitely g0 get it f0r y0u
REVENANT: Oh, would You? I'd really Appreciate it! There is Bound to be Plenty of Treasure with my Skull, feel Free to Take any of it as a Reward for your Help.
ARADIA: thanks! s0 wh0 t00k y0ur skull? why w0uld they take it?
REVENANT: Long ago, when I was Alive, I had a Kismesis. She and I Were Rivals like Those from History, we were Black as Pitch and Destructive as anything. Unfortunately, one Day...
REVENANT: She killed Me. It was an Accident, but It was still Her fault. She buried me Here, deep below her own Hive, and Spent all her Time down here, Grieving and Regretful.
ARADIA: h0w r0mantic!
REVENANT: Yes. Her Matesprit didn't Agree, however. She Stole my Skull and convinced my Kismesis it was a Grave Robber, that my Tomb was not Secure. So they Locked it up, and my Kismesis came down here Less and Less. And then the Ships came, and Took them to the Skies, and since Then I have been Alone down Here.
ARADIA: 0h h0w h0rrible f0r y0u! ill g0 fetch y0ur skull right now to help y0u be at peace
REVENANT: Thank you, Aradia. If You exit my Tomb and take the Tunnel to your Right, that should Lead you Straight There. The Skull is Probably in her Basement.
The dead girl grinned surprisingly toothily at Aradia, and Aradia couldn't help but grin back. Exploring was fun, but helping spirits move on was super fun too! And hey, she might even get some treasure out of this!
-- dialoglog --
ARADIA: ill be right back!
Aradia spun on her heel, and all but skipped back out to the stone crossroads. As she exited the room, the door slammed shut behind her, but it didn't bother her this time. Now she knew it was just a dead girl haunting her own tomb, the place didn't seem too scary anymore.
She turned right and headed down the stone tunnel, whistling a chipper tune. She was going to get that skull and help her new ghosty friend, and then she'd track down whatever it was she was actually supposed to have found down here.
After hours of walking down tunnels that all looked the same, Aradia finally found a stone door leading into the ruins of a majestic hive. She strolled through the ruined rooms, until she finally found a door that opened to a dark set of stairs leading downwards.
Aradia trooped down the stairs, and into the dark cellar. She shone her torch around and felt herself droop - there was absolutely no treasure to be had, just dust and more dust, and...hang on, there was a dark shape in the corner. She strode over, pointing her torch in its direction, until she could make it out.
The skull was there. It was actually there! Relief sped through Aradia's body, and she felt a little light-headed as she stared at the gem-encrusted skull lying on the shrine, exactly where the Revenant had said it would be. Aradia had to hand it to her; for a ghost girl trapped in a tomb, she sure knew what she was talking about!
Aradia strolled over to the shrine, then paused. On the shrine, next to the skull, was a little painting. She took a closer look, and frowned. It was a young troll girl, with distinctive horns that she'd seen only a night ago - it was the Revenant. What was her kismesis' matesprit doing with a painting of her? That didn't seem to make sense at all. Aradia picked up the painting and dropped it into her sylladex, promising herself to ask the Revenant to clear it all up when she got back to her. She picked up the skull, but kept it in her hand so that the spirits couldn't be cheeky and keep it from her later.
Then she sighed, thinking of the long journey ahead of her, and headed back up the stairs towards the tomb.
After a long day spent traversing the underground tunnels, Aradia finally found her way back to the Revenant's tomb. She could feel it was approaching night, and she was craving a nice long nap, but she wanted to get back and help the dead troll girl as soon as possible. As soon as her soul was at rest, Aradia could sleep.
Aradia put a weary hand on the cold stone of the door and slowly pushed it open. The Revenant was sitting on the altar, legs crossed; her head shot up at Aradia's entrance. She fixed Aradia with an intense stare and the beginnings of a smile.
-- dialoglog --
REVENANT: Ahh, You have returned. Do you have the Skull?
ARADIA: it was right where y0u said itd be right at the b0tt0m 0f the ruined hive
REVENANT: Excellent. Give it here, Aradia.
ARADIA: sure! i h0pe this skull will bring y0ur spirit peace
ARADIA: i just wanted t0 ask 0ne thing th0ugh
ARADIA: yeah i mean y0ur skull was there and everything but it was 0n what l00ked like
ARADIA: i guess
ARADIA: a shrine?
ARADIA: it had a picture 0f you there and everything and i d0nt understand why y0ur kismesis' matesprit w0uld have s0mething like that
ARADIA: d0 y0u kn0w why?
ARADIA: 0kay l00k c0uld y0u please st0p making that creepy n0ise and
REVENANT: AhhhHHHaa ha
ARADIA: 0h crap
Aradia took an almost involuntary step backwards as before her very eyes, the Revenant and the skull began to glow. The Revenant's ravaged body slowly fleshed out and became whole, her torn dress reverting to the way it had looked in the painting. Her hair got longer and thicker, her skin darkened until it was a healthy gray, and her horns and claws grew until they were wickedly sharp.
The girl threw her head back and laughed maniacally, and the skull in her hands slowly rose up until it was hovering in mid-air.
This was bad. This was so amazingly bad Aradia didn't even have words to describe how bad it was. Regular spirits didn't act like this when you helped them pass into the Beyond. Aradia had never seen anything act like this, but she was absolutely certain it didn't mean anything good.
The Revenant lifted her head so she could look at Aradia.
-- dialoglog --
REVENANT: Thank you, Aradia.
REVENANT: I have been Bound to this Tomb for a very, very long Time, and without my Skull, I was Powerless. But Now...Now I can Regain my Powers.
REVENANT: My dear sweet Kismesis thought She could Shackle me if she removed my Skull, but I knew Someone would come help me Eventually
ARADIA: 0h n000
REVENANT: Oh Yesss. Thanks to You, I'm back to my Old Self, and I can Return to my Duties. My Lord Death will Finally accept me as His Handmaid if I Slaughter the Young Trolls out on the Surface, I just Know It!
Aradia could only watch helplessly as the Revenant carefully plucked the skull out of the air, and held it to her face. When she took her hands away, the skull had sunk into her head and only the front was visible. When she spoke, it was with a slow, grinding tone, as though the skull itself was talking.
-- dialoglog --
REVENANT: Now, Aradia, get out of My way.
REVENANT: I have Much to Do, but I will Be merciful and Spare You.
Aradia's hands were clenched so hard she could feel her nails breaking the tough skin on her palms.
-- dialoglog --
ARADIA: surely y0u d0nt really expect me t0 just let y0u g0
REVENANT: I wasn't Aware you had another Choice.
REVENANT: Surely you don't Really think you can Fight me...and Win?
ARADIA: i guess were ab0ut t0 find out
Aradia's whip slipped seamlessly from her specibus and into her slick hands. She was tired and bruised all over from the past day and night of exploration and digging. She hadn't slept in nights. Her hands were bleeding and sweaty and her knuckles were white around the handle of her whip, and there was pretty much no way she could go up against this nightmare of a spectre, but she had no choice.
Well, that wasn't exactly true. She had a choice. It was just that she would rather fling herself into Vriska's lusus' lair than let this monster kill Sollux and Tavros and all the other trolls she knew.
She flicked her whip out at the Revenant, scoring a glancing blow on the skull, and carving a tiny chip out of it.
-- dialoglog --
ARADIA: hey revenant
ARADIA: y0ur skull is tacky
The Revenant roared at Aradia with rage, probably more because of the neglible damage she'd taken than because of Aradia's attempt at witty trash talk, but it didn't matter. The fight was on.
A bolt of energy was fired at Aradia, and she only just managed to sidestep it. She flung her whip out but the Revenant dodged it easily, firing another energy bolt at Aradia that she was not quite fast enough to evade. It hit her on the shoulder and tossed her back into the stone wall behind her. Aradia groaned as she slid down the wall, and when she felt the back of her head as she staggered to her feet, her hand came away sticky with blood.
Another bolt of energy came her way, but this time she managed to dodge it. She flicked her whip out, catching the Revenant on the shoulder and opening up a gash that didn't bleed. The Revenant stumbled backwards, however, and screamed with rage at Aradia.
-- dialoglog --
ARADIA: s0 y0u can be hurt?
ARADIA: g00d to kn0w
REVENANT: You will be the First Sacrifice to my Lord If I have to Kill you with my Bare Fucking Hands!
The fight raged on for a long while, with the Revenant and Aradia trading blows and dodges, each trying to stay out of the other's long reach but close enough to attack.
Finally, Aradia was almost out of energy. The Revenant, as powerful as she was, was also tiring; the last bolt she'd sent Aradia's way had barely scorched her eyebrows. They were both leaning against the stone walls, one on either side of the altar, trying to catch their breath.
This is it, Aradia realised, this is the perfect time for an attack. And I know exactly what to do.
She flung her whip forward one final time, and as it cracked through the air, she knew in her bones it was going to work. It sped through the air towards the skull and the tip slipped in through one eye hole and out the other several times, wrapping itself securely around the space between the eyes.
Aradia grasped her whip firmly as the Revenant slowly, too slowly, realised what Aradia was doing, and yanked hard as the Revenant lifted her hands towards her face. She was too late, however, as the skull was pulled free of the Revenant's head with a final hard yank. It made a sound like someone pulling their foot out of a mud puddle, and was flung towards Aradia, who caught it in her free hand.
For a long, revolting moment, the Revenant's face was just an empty black pit emitting a high, loud wail. She reached out blindly and flew towards Aradia, wailing getting louder and louder. Aradia hurled the skull at the stone wall with the very last of her strength, and just as the tips of the Revenant's long claws found Aradia's face, the skull shattered into a million tiny fragments.
The Revenant's sightless head turned in the direction of the ruined skull, and screamed so loudly that Aradia had to clap her hands over her ears. She began to glow, getting brighter and louder until Aradia had to close her eyes.
There was a sound like an enormous thunderclap, and the room shook. Aradia tumbled to the floor and opened her eyes. The Revenant was gone.
Aradia slowly picked herself up off the stone floor, wincing at every new ache. She stowed her whip securely in her specibus, and staggered over to the shattered skull. The gemstones had come loose and were lying on the floor in the pile of skull pieces, as was the jewelled strand that had been wrapped around the skull. Aradia collected the gems and tossed them into her sylladex to examine later, then carefully picked up the gem-encrusted headband and tied it around her head, avoiding her horns. Her voices weren't saying it was dangerous, and she damn well deserved a reward after a fight like that! What had Vriska been thinking?
And as though called by the thought, her Ouija modus suddenly activated, dropping her husktop into her hands. It was beeping loudly.
-- arachnidsGrip [AG] began trolling apocalypseArisen[AA] --
aG: Nice one, Megido!
aG: It took you a while to 8eat her, 8ut you eventually managed!
aA: what the crap vriska
aA: theres n0 way she was 0n my level!
aA: sending me t0 fight an enemy that str0ng is just sick
aG: Sick???????? You 8eat her, didn't you? I knew you were strong enough!
aA: well im glad 0ne of us did!
aG: Oh shut up Aradia, you were fine. Not to mention you got to play around with your stupid little ghost rescue fetish!
aA: whatever vriska
aA: when its my turn t0 be y0ur cl0uder im g0ing to make you regret this thats f0r sure
aG: Is that a promise? :::;D
-- apocalypseArisen[AA] blocked arachnidsGrip [AG] --