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The Cage
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Short Story • 3 Minute Read

The Cage

By Odin Austin Shafer

Lore

Darkness.

The breath I cannot take plagues me.

It is an emptiness in my lungs and throat. As if I had stopped mid-breath, and then held my lungs cruelly waiting. My mouth open, throat hollow, unable to pull in air. My chest, the horrible tension on my thorax.

My limbs and muscles refuse to move. I cannot breath. I am choking. The pressure builds. The stillness spreads to my chest and limbs. I want to scream, to tear at my face, to wail—but I am trapped. I cannot move. I cannot move.

Darkness.

I must remember. I must remem—

The battle. I lost control. It was foolish. The mortals formed in ranks against me. I crashed into them. Drank from them. The temptation was too great. As I reaped, I reforged their flesh into a better approximation of my true shape. Desperately, I consumed more and more, hoping for the briefest echo of what I once was. Instead, like a fire, I burned too quickly, destroying even my host’s form.

Darkness.

It was raining when we fought. What if the mud and filth cover me? What if I’m hidden for thousands of years? Trapped in this prison. The horror of that idea feeds my panic. The battle is ending. I can feel it. I must will my form upright. I must… I must...

I have no arms or legs. The darkness binds me, like a cocoon.

No. I will myself upright. But I can’t know if it is working. I cannot know anything but the darkness.

Please. Let some mortal find me. Please. I beg the darkness endlessly, but the humiliation of my plea is answered only with silence.

But then

I feel a mortal nearby. I have no eyes, no ears, but I can feel his approach. He is fleeing from adversaries. He must try to defend himself. He must grasp me.

Can he see me? He could run past me. I would be left here.

I feel his hand grip this form and… and his consciousness opens to me!

I burrow into him, pulling him down. I am like a drowning man thrown into the sea by a shipwreck, dragging myself to the surface by clawing past my fellows.

“What’s happening?!” the mortal screams. But he is silenced by the darkness—the endless darkness I have just escaped. And I have eyes.

I can see the falling rain. The muck. The blood of this slaughtering field. In front of me stand two weary knights with spears. I cut them apart, and drink in their forms, recrafting this body to my needs.

They are weak. I must move quickly. I must find a better wielder. A better host. Around me are only the dead and dying. I hear their souls retreating from this world.

The fighting has not ended. It’s moved inside the city walls. I force my new shape—limping, crawling—toward the sounds of battle. Toward a better host.

I roar. But not in triumph. Never in triumph.

I will drink from that city, but I will achieve only a grotesque mockery of my former glory. I was shaped by the stars, and the purity of my aspect. I was light and reason given shape. I defended this world in the greatest battles ever known. Now, blood and ichor drips from this stolen flesh as it decays. The muscles and bones struggle, tear, and protest the abomination I have become.

I take a breath.

No, Aatrox,” I say, my voice wet and echoing off the dead that surround me. “We will go onward... and onward… and onward…

Until the final oblivion comes.

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