part II (analgesia)
i. The Gosdragon's Nest
Default awakens in FM's nest; a lair made from traffic poles and tangled wires, and skinless trees instead of branches, perched on a ledge on a high cliff. It's filled with human corpses – many dismembered like disassembled mannequins, others whole, and still others reduced only to offal. Among the objects mixed in with all this carnage, there are things that Default recognizes from his apartment with Adrian.
The nest overlooks a craggy landscape, no plants, no colors, a burnt-out city in the distance and dark clouds hanging beneath a sky that almost looks like a flat
ceiling. "A post-apocalypse for a world that never began."
From a distance, a shape that seems almost like a giant bird soars above, then drifts closer; it's the gosdragon FM, who settles into the nest with a clanking groan of metal at the landing. Default cowers as the gosdragon begins to feed on the body parts all around him. FM turns to face the psychic, who curls up into a ball, terrified. FM, however, displays complete indifference to the psychic, and doesn't hurt him.
FM leaves the nest, taking a treacherous path down the cliff side. Default follows from a distance, compelled to keep up with the gosdragon. The land around them is unforgiving; shards, mountains, black palisades and cliffs, seas of fog and hissing shadows.
ii. The Wirewoods
The city surrenders to the bomb-razed fields which, in turn, give way to the Wirewoods. This thin and barren excuse for a forest stretches out over small hills which turn to mountains; the dim light makes no beams between the thin and crooked trees that mingle with the fatter gnarls, all leaves stunted and black when occurring, skies dark with a shadow that still hangs from the city east-southeast. The wire-poles appear to either sprout upwards from or be driven down like lances into the earth. The path here is almost a road, some bits of pavement still evident beneath the dirt-upon-dirt, and on some of the posts, road signs in either asemic or unknown languages.
FM, at first, moves at a pace just slow enough for Default to keep up. As the day drags on, he slows somewhat, though he remains defensive towards Default in both posture and gesture.
At the end of the day, FM takes rest near a road junction marked by dozens of signs; a shrine and a raised, flat platforms (just large enough for a beast like FM), surrounded by small trees, objects tied to the branches.
Sounds of animals rattle through the forest. Fearful, Default approaches the gosdragon, who at first bristles, but then settles into proximity. Default remains by FM's side through the night, sleeping under the gosdragon's protection.
The next day, the two continue their slow travel, now side-by-side. They see a light flickering in the distance through the mist; FM's ears perk up, though Default is the one who finds himself moving toward it, almost leading the gosdragon.
Upon approaching, the light is found to be the corpse of the gosdragon Firefly strung up into the trees and wires-poles, his glow still flickering through the carnage. Default is shaken, clinging close to FM's side, but FM only moves on.ㆩ
ㆩ Unsympathetic to his sentimentality.
iii. The Chasm
The Wirewoods straggle and thin out to black earth and rocks, and the two travel for many hours, the sands of the desert illuminating the horizon and growing closer with each step.
That sundown, they reach the chasm, a narrow knife-wound that splits the earth and separates the edges of the Wirewoods from the desert. The two fall asleep at the edge, overlooking the dunes that they must cross. There does not seem to be an end to the expanse.
iv. The Desert
The next morning, Default and FM awake and look out upon the desert. Though his wing is still wounded, FM allows Default to ride his back as he bounds across the chasm.
Now, they've reached this sandy wasteland, flat and with cracked earth and only occasional hills and rocky outcroppings. The gosdragon shakes Default off, and the psychic follows as travel once more. The blowing sand makes visibility difficult, and when Default stumbles and falls, FM continues without him. Though it takes Default only a moment to gather his strength and move forward, FM has already disappeared into the billowing sands.
Wandering alone, Default sees a shape in the mist — believing the silhouette to be FM, he follows it. As the winds thin out, however, he sees that it is the silkworm Fallon, who leads Default with a knowing slyness.
Default continues to follow out of both fear and familiarity. The sands grow darker in color, and Default sees the shape of a radio-tower; the site of Fallon's nest. Hanging in the air more heavily than any sand, however, is the feeling of dread and ill-ease.
Through the dust-storm, a snarl rings out, and FM lunges from the sandy clouds to visibility once more. Fallon cowers, and Default runs to FM's side, the gosdragon carrying him onto his back and taking him through the now heavy winds (the sand feeling more like grit-stings in Default's eyes). Default turns around to see in their wake; Fallon follows at a walking speed, and before long, the outline of his mangy neck and metal wings lost behind the sands.
v. The Settlement
Flat desert becomes craggy again, and this time, grassy as well. It's a long expanse with no bushes, trees, or any life at all leading to the white of snow in the distance. The pair press on, the day not rising, but rather lingering at the horizon until settling again, and by night, they are fully within the snows. They reach a settlement, entering it for shelter. The settlement, nestled tight between the mountains but with a thick glass ceiling, could have been a military base, although it's been very, very, very long since abandoned.
The two sleep there; the next morning, as he explores the interior spaces of the base, Default falls through a rickety floor and into a large pit. He has found himself in the nest of an elder gosdragon, Emer Zenti, who emerges and looms over Default, his jaws wide and his stomach growling. From behind, though, FM lunges, and the two gosdragons fight. FM kills𖼼 Emer Zenti and feeds upon his body with ravenous hunger.
𖼼 "Killing this elder was never about the prestige; FM doesn't care about the crown or any of that, if such a thing can even be said to exist amongst these squabblers and remnants. The true rival lurks just nigh in blood; the savage sister to the north."
Default touches FM during this, and FM turns, the bloodlust having made him savage; Default falls back against the wall, and makes his way out of the lair. When FM leaves the cavern, there is no longer any blood along his lips, and Default takes little time in losing his hesitance.
What little there had been of day recedes to night once more. Default now lays on FM's back, and looks up at glacier sheets. The ice looks grey by moonlight, but the sky is something deep dark (nearing velvet) with the generous scatterings of stars, seen through openings in the slabs and rocks, these chambers deliberate. One final tunnel leads inward, onward, through a mountain, the outside world unseen for its duration.
vi. Mother of Pearl
Emerging through this long passageway, they find themselves in a much different area; blue skies, a lack of vegetation, white sands stretching to an underturquoise half-grey waves of white-cap.
The two walk along the coast, through the occasional warped, isolated village, until they reach the northwest peninsula. The sky is cloudy again, with sunlight only in the distance. The cliffside is rocky, no plant life aside from a few scattered, nearly leafless trees, or the tufts of just-dead grass that blow in the wind. The land is painted in brown and gold and grey; warm colors despite the inhospitable surroundings and the sea, churning and wine-blue. At the edge of a cliff, a lighthouse's beam circles from ocean, back to coast.
The pulse of the scene quickens,𖼬 when from behind a bold'rous outcropping, she emerges; Spurious/Victorious, the confrontation between the two silkworms inevitable.
𖼬 In ways felt (tensewarm from within), secrets kept down by the waters' grasping heaves.
Another savage fight; Spurious/Victorious outclasses FM in skill and voracity, and he sustains great wounds, overcoming her only with his bulk and desperation. She screams out𖼔 as FM's claws and teeth break through her skin and muscle; he tears out her heart and devours it, and Default sees the wild and frightening side once more. Those fangs are dripping with blood; the salt and copper ferments the air.
𖼔 Her voice quite nearly human in this moment. It's familiar...
FM is badly injured. His own blood grows thick between the rocks, his fur matted, adornments torn. He staggers forward, emotions inscrutable. Default appears detached; he stares at the lighthouse, which grows brighter every revolution, and brighter until he's caught in the blinding beam, that then stops as it passes over him. His vision turns white-