The Harvester of Shattered Shades leaned against a pillar of onyx, idly playing on her bone flute. White funerary robes were draped about the girl, barely older than a teen, with her ivory-pale skin and hair, and an untutored observer would have thought her a tragic innocent, a lost soul within the darkness. The sound of her bittersweet melody drifted through the empty halls, buried deep within Juggernautâ€™s base.
The Harvester was bored. Her value to the Mask of Winters lay primarily within her ability to unite â€“ or break apart â€“ groups and people. When it came to combat, she was significantly less skilled; she doubted that any mortal could stand alone against her, but she was not a fair match even for a skilled Dragon-Blood, and the Mask had not seen fit to include her in his war plans once the battle was underway, not wishing to lose her to an unfortunately lucky attack.
The result, with most of Juggernautâ€™s inhabitants at war, was that Harvester was relegated to surveillance duty, wandering the deep halls and ensuring that no one tried anything to steal the Maskâ€™s treasures. It was, of course, a ridiculous task, designed solely to keep her busy. If someone DID have the power to break through the incredible wards down here, Harvester doubted she could do a thing. With a sour expression, she stopped playing and studied her flute, then sighed and tucked it into the hem of her dress. The music was less comforting than she had hoped.
As she walked past the deep hallways near the Font of Oblivion, the heart of Juggernaut in which the Mask often communed, there was a sudden shudder, and the floors buckled. Harvester leapt backwards to avoid falling, only to find that the entire structure was shuddering equally. A moment later, it stopped. The young woman frowned, looking around. That had never happened before â€“ something was wrong.
It was a few moments later that she noticed the seals around the Font were gone.
Curiousity warred with prudence, and won. Harvester had only been allowed into the Font once â€“ within it, a deep pit to Oblivion yawned, and the Whispers of the Neverborn were powerful. The Font was also where the Mask stored the Monstrance of Celestial Portion â€“ the dark soul prisons through which he dominated his servants. Because of that, he was rightly leery of allowing any Abyssal access to the devices that might free or destroy them, and had kept the Font tightly sealed.
Creeping forwards, Harvester drew her Charms around her like a shroud, dampening her footsteps and muting the light to draw shadows to her. As she approached the entrance to the Font, she looked over the scene, and her eyes widened.
The Font was much as she had remembered; a tall-domed chamber forged entirely of soulsteel and Labyrinth-hewn rock, with a deep, bottomless well in the exact centre. Arrayed around it were the eight Monstrances that the Mask controlled, each the same distance from the next and the pit alike. But there were three people standing in the chamber, and it took Harvesterâ€™s breath away to see them.
Mnemon suppressed a shudder, running one hand over the Monstrance in front of her. â€œIntriguing. They function much as you suspected, Sorrow.â€ She glanced around the room. â€œI presume you can tell which is yours.â€
Sorrow nodded. â€œThe pull is quite strong, yes.â€
â€œAnd you can destroy it without destroying yourself?â€
â€œWith some care, yes.â€ Sorrow watched Mnemon cautiously. â€œIt is not a quick task, but I have some command over entropic essence. It will take a few minutes.â€
â€œGet to work, then. It is why you came, after all. My part of the deal.â€ Sorrow nodded, and all but ran to one of the Monstrances. A fierce grin stole over his expression as he sized it up, then began running hands across its surface. Bones splintered and flesh peeled at their passing, as the Monstrance began to gradually release its grip on his Essence.
Jacint raised an eyebrow. â€œAll this, to free a slave? I am impressed.â€
â€œNot entirely.â€ Mnemon stepped over to another Monstrance, running a hand over it cautiously. Then, thoughtfully, she walked to a third, stopping before it. Harvester realized with a start that the Dragon-Blood was standing before her Monstrance.
Clearly, she had seen enough. The Mask had to be warned that Mnemon and Sorrow had betrayed him. If Sorrow finished destroying his Monstrance, Mnemon would have a powerful Abyssal ally, and the Mask would lose a servant. Silently, she turned to leave.
Resonance lanced through her, dark Essence tying itself to her soul. The displeasure of her master rocked her to the bones, and she gasped in surprise, spinning back, all pretense of stealth lost. The only way that such displeasure could be registered was by violating the will of the Neverborn, which she had not done â€“ or if the Mask chose to show displeasureâ€¦
Mnemon smiled grimly, one hand reaching out to touch Harvesterâ€™s Monstrance. â€œSorrow, we have company.â€
Sorrow turned from his task, one eyebrow raised. â€œAh. Good morning, Harvester. Rather a surprise to see you here.â€ He took a step forwards.
â€œWhat are you doing?â€ Harvesterâ€™s face contorted. â€œWhen the Mask learnsâ€¦â€
â€œThe Mask is dead. Didnâ€™t you feel it?â€ Mnemon smiled grimly. â€œIf he was not, how could I have attuned so easily to your Monstrance?â€ As the little colour in Harvesterâ€™s face drained away, she nodded with a cruel smile. â€œOnly the Deathlords can create Monstrances. But once created, anyone may use them.â€ Her voice grew colder. â€œYou will swear your allegiance to me, my loyal servant, or I will throw this device into the Void and consign your soul to Oblivion.â€
â€œNoâ€¦â€ Harvester stood transfixed. It was impossible. Unimaginable. But as Sorrow walked forwards, almost sauntering, she knew in her heart that it was true. For a frantic moment, she considered trying to fight. Mnemon saw the thought forming, and smiled again. Raising an eyebrow, she pointed her hand towards the cage again, and Essence began to gather in it.
Harvester raised both hands quickly. â€œI will!â€ She bowed her head, forcing out the words. â€œIâ€¦ I swear it. I will serve you loyally for as long as I live.â€
As Sorrows leaned it, putting a hand on her shoulder, he smiled. â€œAnd I sanctify your oath. Donâ€™t look so sad, hon. Canâ€™t be worse than the last boss, eh?â€
Jacint, who had been watching the exchange silently, now looked at Mnemon. â€œAnd next?â€
â€œBring it all.â€ Mnemonâ€™s smile grew broader. â€œThe libraries, the armories. And especially these Monstrances. Then we will depart. Mokrelus is launching ambushes across Creation today, to strike at the Deathlords. And wherever he succeeds, we will follow. And I will take everything of theirs for my own.â€
She ran her hand across the Monstrance one last time. â€œYou will have your honour guard, Mother. But I will have an army.â€