A Different Kind of Despair
urgency of this situation. I
prayed that Formosa would find the Eyes soon.
    "I took a liking to this girl." My voice was
tinged with an otherworldly snarl. "I caught her wandering the Grey
and decided to have some fun."
    "Fun?" asked the Crone. I feared she saw
through the lie, or the half-truth, whatever Koronos wanted to call
it. "You were to keep an eye on Marvin."
    "That's where I caught onto a bit of a
snag," he confessed. "Formosa found me first. She made it so I
couldn't leave this body, and therefore, I couldn't inform you of
his whereabouts."
    " Formosa ." The name came out as a snarl. The
Crone released me, pacing through the sea of gore. "Formosa," she
said again, this time in a pleasant fashion. "She's a Shaman
Mother. She was so good at her charade that I'd nearly
forgotten…"
    The Crone spun on her padded heel, sneering
in my direction.
    "And she's stronger than you, Koronos? You
ought to be ashamed of yourself."
    Something sinister bubbled from the demon
within me. His pride was wounded, but there was also a sense of
resolution. The Crone was powerful, but not infallible. She
couldn’t see beyond our masquerade so far.
    "No matter. Let's get you out of that pesky
puppet. Playtime is over."
    She moved, and Koronos lunged back. Cold
speculation tore across her malformed face.
    "I rather like this form," said Koronos. I
felt him scrambling for an excuse. It dawned on me that the Crone
meant to free him by tearing my body to pieces. "It has its… uses.
Do me the favor of allowing me to keep it; after all, Marvin is
already here in Nethermountain. Do you really think he can
escape?"
    Something was wrong. The Crone was onto
us.
    "Not with my pets wandering its halls," she
admitted, but then she kicked a skull of one of the Sickly Sisters
towards us. "But then there's this. This is excessive, Koronos,
even for a beast like you."
    "Formosa bid me to unleash chaos, giving
time for the necromancers to escape House Astheneia."
    "Formosa is strong… for a human," the Crone
agreed. "But I never realized she was powerful enough to sway
you."
    "Evidently, she couldn't maintain that
control for long," Koronos continued, finding a solution in all of
this. "I stopped, did I not?"
    "Hmph." She turned. "Walk with me, Koronos.
You might learn something."
    I scrambled after her, walking at nearly
twice my usual speed just to keep up with her long strides.
    We seem to have fooled
her… for now .
    The corridors of House Astheneia were
covered in vines and purple nightshade. No surface was devoid of
foliage, to the point where I began to question whether we were
indoors.
    The deeper we went the darker it became,
until I spotted a green light at the end of this very dim
tunnel.
    We entered a natural cavern, complete with
glowworms and an emerald pool. This was a garden, wild, but well
tended, and so sickly sweet that I felt the human part of me vomit
in the back of my throat. Koronos growled somewhere in my head.
    This was the reason the Crone transformed
those women into devilkin. The air here is too toxic for your kind
to survive. You should be alright for a time, since we're bound
together like this, but know that your ability to keep us fused
won't last nearly as long.
    Cold sweat trickled down the sides of my
face. The Crone led us to a massive flower.
    Unlike the garden around us, this plant
reeked of death -and was curiously pleasant as a result. It was the
largest single flower I'd ever seen, with each of its five spotted
petals twice the size of my hand.
    While I was preoccupied with the plant,
Koronos was more concerned about what was kept inside its
hollow.
    "The Eyes of the Leviathan," he said through
my mouth, to which the Crone grinned, revealing her curved set of
teeth.
    "An infuriating artifact, to be sure," she
responded. "I've spent the last two years siphoning its power, but
remain unable to take its core for myself."
    "Sounds rather uncreative for you,
Mistress."
    "At the heart of the matter, devils
are an

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