With a kiss to my wife and resting my spear against my shoulder, I joined my fellows as we left the village. The morning was new, dawn stretching through the thick forests of Tokogol as the six of us made our way to the watch point by a worn dirt path. We were travelling light, as our vigil would only last until the next moon before another band of spearmen took our place. Tokogol shared borders with Noxus, and its increasing belligerence of late had stirred the house lords to ensure that all of their spears were honed.
Our journey was short and uneventful, a soldier's dream. The better part of a half day's march brought us within sight of the outpost, and we pointed as the signal fire was lit, welcoming us with a column of thin, white smoke. The mood among my comrades was light, the easy talk of bonded brothers and neighbors. Though our duty was to watch the frontier in search of any sign of it, war in Tokogol was a distant thought.
When we arrived, we found the gates to the stockade open and unbarred, yet not broken or forced. An odd feeling crept over us, like a chill dancing up our spines. I could see it in the others, just as surely as I felt it in myself.
We formed a tiny shield wall, two ranks of three men, and entered the stockade expecting to find slaughter—ruin and destruction, with signs of Noxus for all to see.
But we found none of this.
What we discovered was the picture of an outpost no different than any other. The fires had crackled down to embers beneath cooking pots that were still full. Clothes hung drying, and the lanterns were still on their poles from the night before. We looked at each other in alarm, in confusion. It was as if our comrades had simply disappeared.
“What could have happened here?” whispered Bel. Our wall straightened and broke as we searched the outpost for any sign of life.
“Could they have been captured?” asked Ulryk.
I approached a wall of the stockade. A stripe of the timber was burnt blacker than pitch. I reached toward it, and the barest touch of my fingertips sent it crumbling, revealing a crater of smooth wood underneath. The others found similar marks across the camp, though none of us could fathom how they had been made.
A cry sent us all back into a warrior's crouch. “Come quick!”
It was Afron. We ran to him, finding him standing over a body.
“It's Halryn,” he said, looking to us. “The tanner's boy.”
The young man was pale, lying fetal on the ground. We saw no sign of battle on him, no blood or wounds.
I drew my knife. Sinking to my haunches, I brought the blade beneath Halryn's nose. The day was cold, and shallow puffs of breath clouded the steel in a slow, stilted rhythm.
“He yet lives,” I said, reaching for his shoulder. We leapt away as soon as I'd rolled him onto his back.
Halryn's eyes were open, yet there was nothing there. From what we could tell, he was conscious, but his right eye simply stared up at the sky, empty of light.
That was not what we had recoiled from.
“By the gods,” Ulryk breathed. Afron spat to avert evil, and we joined him.
Where Halryn's left eye had been, only a dark pit remained. I had seen enough battle in my time to know the telltales of a spear or blade, but no weapon I knew could have made such a wound. It was too clean, too precise for battle's disordered frenzy. No pain marked the boy's face from the horrific injury.
“What could have done this to him?” Bel demanded. “Some beast? A plague?”
We shrank back from the body at the thought. “No,” Caer frowned, his hand straying to the satchel of herbs and poultices at his waist. “No sign of festering. This wasn't disease.”
“Find the others,” ordered Bel. “Now.”
One by one, we found them. These were men we knew, men of our village who sold fish and hammered steel. All bore the same wound to their left eye, all reduced to the same catatonic state. They appeared almost serene, and all the more horrifying for it.
Afron looked to Bel. “What do we do?”
“We must give warning,” said Ulryk.
“Of what?” asked Caer. “We have no idea what is happening here.”
They argued. Voices clashed and overlapped. Above it all, I noted the smell of smoke in the air.
The others stopped, looking back at me. I swallowed.
“If they are all in this state,” I pointed back to the signal fire behind us, “then who lit the beac—”
Ulryk was in the air before we knew what was happening. A blinding flash stole my sight, but I glimpsed a huge, darkened shape against it. Oaths, prayers and curses filled the air from my comrades' lips. They were silenced by a crack like a bullwhip, followed by an overwhelming, fizzing shriek.
When I could see clearly again, I was on the ground.
I looked down to see my legs splayed, broken. Other warriors, my brothers and friends, lay staring up at the sky above.
I heard only one other voice, and turned. I could only watch as Afron, a youth of barely sixteen, struggled beneath the monster. Bathed in harsh violet light, he writhed as one of its appendages sank into his skull through his eye. His screams stopped as he became a mere husk, like all the others.
Then the monster turned its baleful gaze in my direction.
In an instant, it was looming over me. I looked up into that single, swollen eye, and sensed a hunger beyond imagining. A hunger not of flesh, but something far deeper. My soul teetered on the edge of this abyss, its merciless hunger pulling…
I am Hennis Kydarn, a warrior and a spear of Tokogol. I refused to give it the satisfaction of my cries, even as its tentacle knifed down through my eye. There was no pain—
—as I work. The analysis can inflict physical pain, should I desire it, but that is not critical here. I have learned much of pain, and its uses.
This one's information is precious, as all knowledge is. A settlement, interactions, castes. A particular female of the species, and offspring… This one resists my analysis of those, but it is a simple thing to overcome.
With nothing more to consume, I travel here, to disseminate what I have collected.
The rift beneath me is a conduit for information to be passed into the true realm. The creatures that inhabit this world have designated our domain as the Void. Such curious poetry these entities weave—a curiosity that illustrates how far my task is from completion.
A universe of knowledge surrounds me, of great power and distant lands, and I shall collect it all. I offer this information, now, and all of the rest to come.