It comes into awareness of the intruder in measured steps. Slithering along the silken threads of consciousness with as unobtrusive a touch as it can manage.
Foolish. Nothing ever truly fades from It’s perception, each and every corner of the realms and mindscapes that culminate in the being that is Thomas Sanders has its place in It’s web. And It is a careful, dedicated keeper. Maintaining each thread, testing their strength in equal measure. The serpent has no hope of going unnoticed.
A singular, far-reaching limb contracts, bringing its piercing fore down a mere whim from the serpent’s more beastly head. “Deceit.”
The lesser head strikes on instinct, baring fangs and lashing out to inject its poison into It’s limb, but it never gets the chance. It knows the denizens of the Dark and their natures even better than they know themselves, and a second great limb knocks the head off-course. The serpent tumbles through the black void and It shifts. Resettling its great form to give the side its full focus. One limb resettles at a more forgiving distance from the yellow snake while the second retracts, settling far and away where others cannot see it.
“Wasss that really necessary?” The serpent’s form shifts and grows until it coalesces in its human shape. The greater head forming half of Thomas Sanders’ face while the other keeps its reptilian origins.
It hisses in disgust. Such a glaring weakness to wear so proudly as Deceit does. No matter how clever, how discerning and silver-tongued. To any who care to take a second look, the side’s true nature is glaring for any to see. “Did you really think you could approach unnoticed?”
Deceit glares, serpentine tongue darting through the cracked and dislocated break in the lesser half of his jaw. Unable to perceive It’s true location, the narrowed eyes roam the dark without focus. “All in good fun, my old friend. I meant no harm.”
A lie. And not a very good one. It lifts its limb and brings it down hard enough to shake the foundations beneath them. Beyond, the web shudders and Thomas Sanders looks over his shoulder. It does not end the fit until Deceit lifts from the mock bow he has delivered. The shaking hands It notices brings it satisfaction. “Why are you here?”
In a rare show of deference, the snake removes the strange hat from his head and dips into a modest bow. “To make a request.”
A shiver of intrigue, and It’s many limbs begin to strum the threads around them. Absorbing every inch of data it can process for what situation would call for Deceit to make this supplication.
“We need your help.”
“We?” There could only be one Deceit is referring to, and with an impatient sweep of another limb It pulls the Duke from whatever inglorious pit of disgrace he is reveling in and deposits the discarded half of creativity into the space on Deceit’s left. The lesser half has poorer sight, and the two will be unable to communicate if the Duke can only send silent messages to the serpent-half.
The final side of the Dark struggles to his feet, the ever-manic glint to Thomas Sanders’ eyes spoiling with a note of fear. A roiling, slime-covered tentacle flops to the ground as the Duke loses partial control of his form. Setting aside revulsion for the moment, It settles two great limbs on either of the pair’s shoulders, reminding them of in whose presence it is they sit. Both shiver.
With a twitch, Deceit is pushed forward. For as untrustworthy as the serpent is, the octopus is so rarely focused or coherent. It will parcel the truth from the many lies instead. “Speak.”
“Well,” the snake begins. “Obviously we don’t need your help. Remus and I are fully capable of performing the duty of serenading our dear Thomas to the side of the Dark while you whittle away your time… eh- wherever here is.” The snake sniffs and makes a dismissive gesture the void around them.
“You suggest I am not fulfilling my purpose!” a third limb brandishes itself beneath Deceit’s chin, and behind him, the Duke sprouts a second tentacle out of fear. Jaundiced scales spread across Deceit’s human half.
“Of course not!” The side flinches as It hisses. “Merely that, with the three Light sides taking such active, vocal roles in Thomas’ conscience, we two,” a gesture to the Duke who nods with vigorous enthusiasm, ink dripping from his fingers. “Can only accomplish so much.”
An… interesting sentiment. It withdraws its third limb and pushes Deceit back to a more respectful distance. Then considers. As all-encompassing its influence… it destabilizes the thread leading to the realm of Logic. Beyond, Thomas Sanders second-guesses the answer to a question he has studied for many hours before.
The study-guide could have had a misprint, after all.
Nothing is beyond It’s reach, and yet… Logic reassures Thomas not a moment later and the Dark recedes. Is their power, impotent?
“What do you suggest?”
“Well, an actual body might be nice,” says the Duke, who renders down into his cephalopod form to escape the vicious lashing of It’s great limb. The moldy-green octopus slips away into the inky void and It allows the retreat. The limb follows, and the octopus will know better than to think It is not watching.
“As delicate as that was put, our lovely Remus has a point.” Deceit raises both hands as he garners the brunt of It’s attention. “You are more powerful than either of us. Perish the thought of what you could do if you took the fight to the Light directly.”
“A form is limited. It comes with… vulnerabilities.” The very inkling sends It shivering, limbs dancing along the web with unease. “Why should I risk it?”
“You mean you don’t care if your influence on Thomas is minimal?” Deceit gasps in mock horror. “I suppose we don’t all care about doing what’s best for him.”
Deceit is… right, oddly enough. It works the dilemma over fast enough to make Logic proud and comes to an uncomfortable realization. With great reluctance, it recalls its limbs. Leaving their imperceptible influence as eight great arms retract and sink in the pale, fleshy plane of Thomas’ back. The spider dislodges itself from its carefully crafted web and descends to the foundation of the void, now taking on the soft texture of carpeting. He shivers as his once great form shrinks and conforms to the shape of Thomas Sanders, reserving only the dark shadows under eyes that have never shown themselves to light.
He is to some degree shocked and disconcerted to find his new body to be smaller, frailer than Deceit. The serpent does not miss the detail and smirks, serpent jaw cracking in a silent, unnaturally wide, laugh. The spider hisses and one purple limb sprouts from the back of the hoodie clothing his human form to strike the lesser Dark side across the face.
“Careful, Deceit. Despite appearances, never forget what I am.”
The serpent groans, glaring through amber eyes, but nods. “Wait, you’re not actually going are you?”
A half-hearted shrug and he starts towards the newly formed stairs that will lead to the neutral space of Thomas’ mind. “Why not? You had a good idea, I’m taking advantage.”
“What about the Light sides?”
The spider considers. True, as his own aspect Creativity and almost certainly Logic will never let him get close enough to influence Thomas directly. He glances to the serpent who is eyeing him curiously. A tired grin creeps its way on Thomas Sanders’ face. “You’re not the only fount of untruth, Deceit.”
Something more neutral will serve his design. Something Dark, but not abyssal.
“Then what name shall I know you by?” Deceit asks.
The spider spins the first thread of a new web. “How about… Anxiety.”