Chapter 1: Plagued by Nightmares
Asra’s vision flutters and shifts. They are no longer in the comfort of their bed, but in a familiar dark and desolate forest. The ground is cold and hard beneath their feet. The dead and gnarled trees reach towards the night sky with twisted branches. Fog hangs low in the air and there is only deafening silence. The fallen angel holds their arms tightly, their breath beginning to shudder. They hate this place. Every night they are transported here, as they have been ever since they took that wicked blood into their veins. Their dreams have not been theirs for a long time. If they could even be called dreams anymore.
They draw in a slow and deep breath, picking a direction to walk. There was no escape from here. They would only be able to leave when they awoke in the morning, or maybe even the middle of the night. And only on his terms. Asra didn’t look forward to what they would be shown tonight. The ground crunches beneath Asra’s feet as they continue down an open path. Their gaze shifts back and forth, looking for anything that might suddenly move. It wouldn’t be the first time something has come out and attacked them. It would probably be less unnerving if it wasn’t so damn quiet. They hated this silence that seemed to be never ending. Only the sound of their footsteps kept them company.
The thicket starts to get more dense as they travel through. The branches threaten to snag at them as they walk by. Where is he? Where was that bastard? Asra knows he’s skulking around in the dark somewhere, waiting for a chance to torture them yet again. He always makes an appearance in some fashion. Whether directly or by whispers on the wind. Either way, it was a dreaded time for the fallen angel all the same.
It feels like they’ve been walking for hours when they finally find a clearing. They’re covered in small cuts from the dried branches, but they know it’s nothing compared to what they’ll likely face. Asra looks around. Watching, waiting. But the silence still persists. They rub their arm in discomfort. Couldn’t he just get it over with? They wait and they wait and finally they open their mouth to speak.
“Come on, Tenebrous. Where are you?!” they yell out.
Their voice doesn’t even echo. As if the air had snatched the sound from their lips.
“Impatient, aren’t we?”
Asra spins around to the familiar voice. But it isn’t Tenebrous, the demigod whom they shared blood with. It is Asra themself. Or rather, a shadow version of themselves. They sneer at the figure.
“What do you want?” they ask, their tone cold and curt.
Shadow Asra tilts their head to the side with a sickening snap. This Asra was different. It wasn’t simply a reflection, but an image of what they could become should they give in to all their power. Their antlers are overgrown and twisted. Their eyes are empty and shining white. And their body, while similar, is just not quite right. They carry a lantern in their hand and, if one were to listen close, screams could be faintly heard coming from it.
“Now is that any way to talk to yourself?” they reply with a sickening smile. Their voice is distorted. They sound like Asra, but another voice overlaps and repeats simultaneously. It’s off-putting to say the least.
Asra backs away from them, still maintaining eye contact. But the fear in them is evident. Their body quivers and their heartbeat quickens. Shadow Asra smiles even wider, stretching their cheeks beyond what a normal mortal can.
“You wouldn’t have to be so afraid if you just accepted it.”
“Never,” Asra replies.
“Still you fight even though you know you can’t win. Sooner or later you will succumb to the dark.” They give an unsettling giggle, stepping closer to Asra.
“I will never give in. Do you hear me?”
Shadow Asra simply smiles again and then in a flash they are in front of Asra, holding onto their shoulders so tight that their claws are digging into their skin. Black blood trickles from the wounds and the fallen angel screams in pain.
“You put up such a struggle. And for what? Aren’t you tired of being weak and pathetic? Don’t you want power?”
Asra can’t even speak. All they can do is scream and writhe against their shadow’s grasp. Then there is a series of loud cracks and crunches. He’s here. Shadow Asra turns to the sounds with a chuckle and throws Asra to the ground.
“Remember that you deserve all this pain. Remember that this is all your fault.”
Asra lifts their face from the ground to see the hulking form of Tenebrous before them. The form of a deer, but its head is some sort of open human torso with hands hanging down limply. There are piercing yellow eyes coming from the open cavity. The fear in Asra is palpable. Their body feel stiff. Tenebrous reaches out a hand, fingers long and boney. They grab Asra by the neck and lift them from the ground. The fallen angel struggles against his grasp, but it’s no use.
“Weak and worthless mortal.” He speaks in the language of the gods, but Asra can understand him, being part celestial themselves. His voice is deep and guttural. Something that you feel like your ears aren’t meant to hear.
“You dare to take my blood into your veins. You squander my name and my power. You are filth and you do not deserve what has been granted to you. Know that if I did not find some purpose within you, your existence would be but whispers on the wind. You only live because I allow it. You, celestial, who turned your back on your own kind to seek power. It is only that which I find amusing enough to keep you.”
Tenebrous’ gaze does not falter from Asra as they writhe and struggle against his grasp. They can feel it. Their power pulsing in their blood. Reacting to being so close to its source. Asra screams and their eyes turn black as pitch, ichor pooling and dripping down their face. If Tenebrous could smile, he would be doing so now.
“I will see you again soon, little angel.”
And with a quick motion, Tenebrous snaps Asra’s neck. Asra bolts awake, holding their neck and inhaling a deep and desperate breath. They are left panting, sweating, and shaking. They grit their teeth and let out small sobs as they bring their knees to their chest, resting their head against them. Even traveling to the Paperverse has not rid them of that foul creature’s grasp.
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