The Void

Tanadal scratched at the tight braids his wife had woven into his beard. The lines ran down from his hair and then parallel to his jaw, until they joined together at his chin in one large braid. Tradition, and his wife, claimed that they would bring him good luck on his voyage. Right now they just made him wish he had shaved. He had paid to bring his own luck on his trip.

That luck stood next to Tanadal’s ship, rubbing his hands together despite the warm gloves Tanadal had bought for him. The man hailed from Canamb, where the heat of the Great Fire Kami and the pull of the Great Earth Kami were both stronger. The man was shorter than Tanadal, and his skin darker, but his muscles and bones were accustomed to his body being heavier than it was here on Thir. He moved with ease and grace, and he knew his way with the sword at his side.

In addition, Tanadal’s hire carried a binding dagger. He hadn’t shown Tanadal what kami he had bound, but the fact that he had any under his command made him worth the hefty fee he had charged.

“Still cold, eh?” Tanadal said, grinning. His hired muscle wore an entire layer of clothes more than Tanadal. It was the one way that Tanadal felt tougher than him, so he wanted to rub it it.

“Your Isle is much cooler than my own,” Jor Lenem said. He ceased rubbing his hands together. His pale golden eyes cut into Tanadal. “I assure you, you would fair no better on Canamb than I do here.”

“I’ve been to Canamb,” Tanadal said. “Every world appreciates goods from Thir. But you’re right, it wasn’t a good place for me. I stayed in my ship.”

At the front of his ship, Tanadal’s two drakes ate greedily from their feeding trough. Their long necks dipped downward, hiding their small heads in the grains. Their weak forearms grasped the edge of the trough desperately. They knew the signs that they were about to take journey. They would need the extra energy.

The drakes had already been hitched up. Their bodies hovered above the ground, using the power of the air kami invested in them at birth to resist the pull of Thir’s Great Earth Kami. It was that same power that would allow the drakes to pull Tanadal, Jor Lenem, and Tanadal’s cargo through the void toward their destination.

“Are we ready to depart?” Jor Lenem asked. “Your cargo is loaded, the drakes are tethered, and we are both here.”

“Yes, yes,” Tanadal said, frowning. The man seemed so impatient. Tanadal ran a small operation, with only the two drakes and the single ship to his name. He wouldn’t have even hired Jor Lenem, but the word amongst the other merchants had been that a sudden surge in hostilities between factions on Eshadol had led to increased rates of piracy. “You may board the ship. We’re only waiting for the drakes to finish eating.”

Jor Lenem climbed the steps into the cabin without further word. Well. Tanadal had heard the people of Canamb could be short, and not just physically, but he hadn’t expected one of them to be quite so rude.

Tanadal adjusted his heavy jacket. The void would be cold, even with the pocket of air provided by the drakes. Someday, he would bind a fire kami, or perhaps pay for an enchanted warming stone that he could keep in the cabin. He was accustomed to the cold, but if he continued to hire others from different Isles, well, he might need it.
He had already spent a great deal on the ship itself, since it was enchanted to provide the comfortable pull like that of an earth kami, allowing him to walk while inside rather than float as they traveled the void. He had scrimped and saved in order to be able to afford his ship, a long, rectangular vessel made from strong Canambi wood. The length of it devoted to cargo dwarfed the small portion reserved for passenger comforts.

The drakes had almost finished. Tanadal approached them. He had been leery of them as a boy, due to their large size, but the creatures weren’t wild or violent. Wild drakes showed little interest in humans, preferring plants and creatures of a much smaller size, and domesticated drakes were actually quite kind. When Tanadal approached and ran his hand down one of their smooth necks, it pushed back against him affectionately. Behind him, its four spearlike wings vibrated, producing a pleasant hum.

Once the drakes finished their meal, Tanadal climbed up to the driver’s seat. He took the reins and steered the drakes toward Thir’s edge. The land stopped there, in a great line, giving in to the black nothingness of the void. Dappling the void, Tanadal could make out the faint pinpricks of light that were all he could see of the other Isles. Or rather, the Great Fire and Light Kami of those Isles. At Orbisan’s center, the light of the One Who is All shone out the brightest, despite the fact that it was more distant than many of the others.

The drakes pulled the ship along, using their air kami to extend their resistance to the pull of Thir’s Great Earth Kami to the vessel. The edges of their wings took on a faint green glow as they moved. As they passed Thir’s edge, the void yawned out below and around them. The drakes brought with them a bubble of air taken from Thir, which they would hold around themselves and their cargo as they traversed the void. Tanadal looked back, wishing that his wife’s traditions allowed her to see him on his journey. That, she said, bore ill omen.

Tanadal withdrew his binding dagger from its sheath at his side. The crystal blade, with its faceted sides, resembled a stiletto. Within it, a green-brown light shifted and dance as it moved, almost like oil. The dagger had belonged to Tanadal’s father, who had bought it as a matter of pride. He had never bothered to use it to bind a kami. Tanadal had needed at least one in order to do his job. Not having to purchase a dagger had been a financial relief.

He pointed the dagger at the seat next to him. The oily light poured forth from its tip in the form of a small creature. Phlu, Tanadal’s earth kami, looked like a snake that had stolen a tortoise’s legs and shell. His faint glow became the only light around, other than the drake’s wings. He looked up at Tanadal with watery eyes. “Free?” he asked.

“We are going to Ezan, Phlu,” Tanadal said. “I need you to guide us there.” He took a handful of small pebbles from his pocket to toss at Phlu’s feet.

“Not free,” Phlu said. His neck twisted downward so that he could nudge the pebbles with his nose. They rose in the air to form an arrow, which pointed slightly to the right of Tanadal’s current heading. Tanadal adjusted accordingly.

Phlu looked at him again. His eyes, wide and more like a human’s than a snake’s, portrayed much more emotion than Tanadal would have thought possible before he had bound the kami. “When done, free?” Phlu asked.

“No, Phlu,” Tanadal said, fighting back the pang of guilt. “I need your help to do my business.”

In response, Phlu curled up on the bench, wrapping his long neck and tail around his shell. Tanadal told himself he had no reason to feel guilty. Binding a kami and making use of their talents was the best way to make them stronger. With stronger kami, all of Orbisan became a better place. When he had first bound Phlu, the little fellow hadn’t been capable of speech. He certainly hadn’t been able to form the concepts necessary for the question “When we’re done with this, can I be free?”

They moved swiftly through the void — far faster than was possible in the sphere of influence of one of the Isles — but the journey would still take the better part of a day. Isles further from Thir could take days or even weeks to reach, though of course, Tanadal could charge them higher rates for the inconvenience.

Even with their speed, a journey through the void quickly became monotonous. With no landmarks, the blackness made it difficult to tell whether they were moving at all. “Phlu, call to me if I need to make an adjustment to the course. Or if you see anything unusual, okay?”

“Phlu do,” the kami said.

Tanadal turned around in his seat and slipped, leg-first, through the small door that led into the cabin from the driver’s seat. Jor Lenem sat cross-legged on a cushion, palms on his knees, with his eyes closed in meditation. He had unzipped his outer jacket. Next to him was a sealing dagger with a hilt wrapped in black cloth. A pathetic fire kami hovered in front of Jor Lenem, one with so little power its only form was that of a flickering flame. It gave off just enough heat to bring the cabin to a bearable temperature, and enough light for Tanadal to see.

“I see you have settled in,” Tanadal said, taking a seat across the cabin from Jor Lenem.

“I have made many journeys of this kind,” Jor Lenem said, maintaining his pose. “I still find them monotonous.”

Tanadal scratched at his beard. Jor Lenem’s smooth face made him jealous. “If you dislike this profession so much, why continue with it?”

“A man must do something with his time and skills,” Jor Lenem said. He opened one eye. “Besides, I don’t dislike my profession. I like being able to put my blade to use.”

“Ah,” Tanadal said. His eyes darted to the curved sheath tied to Jor Lenem’s waste. Tanadal knew something about self-defense, as his wife had insisted he learn before becoming a traveling merchant. However, he had seen Jor Lenem practicing with his blade. The man looked dangerous.

Tanadal decided to change the subject. He opened a drawer set into the cabin wall and pulled out a bag of mushroom jerky. “Would you like something to snack on?” he asked.

“Perhaps later,” Jor Lenem said. “I ate before we departed.”

“Okay,” Tanadal said. He gave up. The man was simply too hard to talk to.

They sat in silence. Tanadal’s jaw worked on the chewy mushrooms. In the relative warmth caused by Jor Lenem’s fire kami, Tanadal found himself becoming drowsy. The heat felt like a comfortable, heavy blanket.

His eyes fluttered open to the sound of Phlu’s voice. “Others coming,” Phlu said. His small head poked into the cabin from the bench. “Other ship. Coming now.”

“Pirates?” Tanadal asked dumbly. A piece of half-chewed mushroom fell out of his mouth. In all his treks across the void he had never seen another ship come close enough to worry about.

“Don’t know,” Phlu said. “Others coming.”

Tanadal struggled to his feet. By the time he got there, Jor Lenem had stood, pulled his fire kami back into his binding dagger, sheathed it, and approached the cabin door. “Take the reins,” he said. “I’m going up top to look.”

Jor Lenem opened the cabin door. He swung outward, grasping the ladder that scaled the ship’s side. He ascended quickly out of Tanadal’s sight, leaving the door gaping to the void. Tanadal approached the door, shaking with fear. Perhaps another merchant vessel had simply charted an intersecting course. Tanadal took his short sword from the wall. He attached it to his belt. Grasping the handle next to the door, he leaned outward. He could see nothing, of course, in the darkness.

Tanadal shut the door. He used the ladder set into the cabin wall to push himself out of the small door that lead to the driver’s seat. Phlu scuttled to the side as he worked his way out. “Where is it, Phlu?”

Phlu’s pebbles shifted, pointing off in the same direction Tanadal had just searched. Tanadal frowned. It could be hard to see things in the void that didn’t have their own source of light. Tandal stood on the bench to look out over the top of the ship.

Jor Lenem stood on the flat expanse, faint hints of light from the drake’s wings making him just visible. He held his binding dagger in his hand. As Tanadal watched, golden light dripped from the dagger’s tip. It twisted in the air, forming into a petite kami. Tanadal squinted. The kami gave off little light. Though Tanadal was only a few feet away, he couldn’t quite make out its form. It looked, perhaps, like a little arrowhead with wings that swept backward.

Jor Lenem gestured, and like an arrow, the kami shot out into the void. Moments passed, during which Tanadal wondered just how many kami Jor Lenem had bound in his dagger. He hadn’t thought to look to see just how full it was.

A burst of light blossomed in the darkness, forming a large sphere. Tanadal marveled at the amount of light the tiny kami was putting out before he remembered to be terrified at what it had illuminated. A sleek ship, smaller than Tanadal’s, built of black wood and pulled by a single drake, speared toward them through the void. On its deck, men reacted to the light, casting up their arms or covering their faces with their hands at the unexpected brightness. Until the bubbles of air created by their drakes intersected, Tanadal couldn’t hear them, but he could clearly see their intent.

All of them held weapons.

Tanadal sat down. His beard hadn’t brought him luck. He told Redalla it wouldn’t. She just insisted, every journey, that he let her braid it. He wish she’d let him hold her and kiss her goodbye before he boarded his ship. He took the reins and steered his drakes to the left as sharply as they could turn.

“Wrong way,” Phlu said. “Not Ezan way.”

“Shut up,” Tanadal said. He stabbed the binding dagger through Phlu’s shell, violently recalling him. He left the dagger stuck in the wood of the bench. If the pirates caught him, he could die. He would die. He would never see Redalla or his daughters again. Yet the thing that kept coming to the forefront of his mind wasn’t that, it was a powerful fear of losing his shipment, and his ship, and his drakes. How would ever recover financially, if he somehow survived?

Jor Lenem appeared above him. He crouched down. “They will catch us,” he said. “Their drake is faster and has much less to pull. There are only eight of them. I had Evi count them.”

“Evi?” Tanadal asked.

“My light kami.” Jor Lenem glanced back over his shoulder. “Be ready with your sword. They will board us soon. I will try to take as many as I can, but with eight it may be a challenge.” Jor Lenem winked.

“Okay,” Tanadal said. He thought he might vomit. He had not become a trader to be brave. He had never thought of himself as such. The void terrified some, sure, but not him. He had just never thought he would see real pirates, or one of the Outsiders, or anything like that. It just seemed so impossible.

“Do you have any other kami?” Jor Lenem asked. Tanadal shook his head. “Okay. Stay here. Be careful. I will protect you.”

Shaking with fear, Tanadal tied the reins and stood. He peeked over the edge of the ship’s roof. Jor Lenem stood in the middle, feet steady, sword drawn and held in his right hand. His left hand held his binding dagger. Strange. The weapons were expensive and too fragile for real combat. He couldn’t intend to use it to fight, could he?

The pirate ship’s air bubble intersected theirs. “Be ready,” a man shouted. He sounded like a regular human, like someone Tanadal might hear at the docks, not like someone who might murder Tanadal and take all of his produce.

Two men stood at the edge of the pirate ship. They wore armor. They didn’t look like pirates. In fact, Tanadal thought their clothes resembled military uniforms. Perhaps they had stolen them.
The man at the reins brought the craft level with Tanadal’s ship. Mere feet separated them. The men prepared to leap. Their legs tensed. Just as they threw themselves forward, Evi’s light winked out. The leaping men screamed. Tanadal heard twin thumps as they hit the roof of the ship.

“Idiots!” came that same shouting voice. “I told you to wait until we were closer.”

The faint light of Evi reentering Jor Lenem’s blade flickered near the edge of the ship. A man screamed, a sound which faded and quickly cut off. A second scream told the same story: two men, knocked off the ship and into the airless void. Tanadal shuddered.

A new light bloomed toward the edge of the ship, a dark, violent red unlike any fire kami Tanadal had ever seen. It spread outward, lancing through the air like the roots of a plant, or perhaps like… veins? Something dark covered the roots shortly after they formed, leaving only an angry red glow at the center of the new figure. It stood in front of Jor Lenem, between him and the pirates. It looked like a skeleton made of rough-carved metal. The red light came from the center of its chest.

“What is that?” One of the pirates shouted. Tanadal wanted to know, too. It looked like no kami he had ever heard of.

“Two down!” Jor Lenem called. “Easier than I thought, too! That means there are only six of you left.”

“How do you know that?” one of the pirates growled. There, in the back. A man with long hair bound in a braid. He was the one who seemed to be in command.

Only three of them stood on deck now. That left one at the reins, and two more unseen. “Did you not think to wonder why Evi flickered eight times?” Jor Lenem asked. He kept his voice calm and stern, no different from when he had spoken to Tanadal earlier. “Advance, Tek’retan.”

The metal skeleton stepped forward. It held its hands out, sharp, clawlike fingers ready to grasp and rend. The red light issuing from its torso made it look as though the ships were already bathed in blood.

“Tek’retan is a kami of war from Eshadol,” Jor Lenem explained. He moved to the edge of Tanadal’s ship as the kami stepped onto the pirates’. “Given your uniforms, I suspect you might have heard stories about them. His very existence is driven by combat.”

A war kami? They didn’t exist, as far as Tanadal knew. They were a myth, or at least so rare that people never saw them. Even if they did exist, they were said to be impossible to bind. To do so would take incredible strength. Just looking at the thing, Tanadal couldn’t imagine incapacitating it well enough to pierce it with a binding dagger.

“Get it away,” one of the men said. He held his mace in front of him defensively. He did not look ready to use it.

“Destroy him, Tek’retan,” Jor Lenem commanded.
The kami took three long steps forward. It reached out with one of its vicious claws. The man swung his mace at it. Tek’retan caught the weapon with ease. It lashed out with its other hand, cutting through the man’s clothes and into his flesh. To his credit, the man did not scream. He growled, wrenching his mace free from Tek’retan’s grip. He gripped it in two hands and brought it up over his head to slam downward.
Tek’retan sidestepped the telegraphed blow easily. Both of his claws dove forward. They sank into the man’s flesh up to the wrists. He withdrew them as easily as though he was pulling them from water. The man fell, still and silent.

“What in the void,” the leader said. He and his remaining man on deck had paled. “We’ll go, okay? Just let us go. We won’t bother you.”

“No,” Jor Lenem said.

Tek’retan turned on them. His claws lashed out at the nearest pirate, a man with a sword and shield. The man cried out. He brought his shield up to block the blows, dropping his sword to the deck in desperation. “Help me, Gan! Help me.” Each blow left five long rends in the wood of the shield. Tek’retan continued to strike it, though it seemed to Tanadal he could easily break the pirate’s guard.

Gan, the leader, stepped around his man, spear at the ready. He readied it, aiming its blade for the kami’s chest.

Something slammed into the pirate ship. Tanadal heard the wood crunch and give way. The deck bucked, sending the pirates flying up. Tek’retan knelt swiftly, spearing his claws into the wood to get a grip. Jor Lenem stumbled back toward the center of Tanadal’s deck, barely keeping his balance.

The pirates slammed back into the ground. They groaned. Their drake bleated. Tanadal’s chirped in response.

“Help!” came a call from the front of the ship. The man at the reins held them still, though he had been thrown from his seat. He drifted off to the side, just out of reach of the ship itself, dragged by the drake but still just within the air bubble. “Help me!”

“Help us!” Gan said angrily.

Tanadal inched forward, feeling a strong compulsion to help the man despite his intents. He was just a man, just another human. The fear on his face, the tears in his eyes, the white-knuckled grip of his hands on the reins: they all spoke to his humanity. Tanadal couldn’t just let him fall into the void.

The sound of wood shattering came to Tanadal’s ears. He saw it fly out from the other side of the pirate ship, spiraling into the void. The man screamed, his eyes widening so far it seemed they might pop out of his head. “HELP ME. Oh, Great Kami, oh please. Oh, let the One Who is All take me and protect me.” His eyes had latched onto something Tanadal couldn’t see, something on the other side of the pirate ship, where the impact had occured.

It soon came into view. Tanadal backed up swiftly to the edge of the bench, all thoughts of surviving the day forgotten. He might as well jump off.

An Outsider. An Outsider had found them in the void.

The creature gripped the side of the ship with fingers made of solid light. Its arms stopped at the wrist, as though it had once had hands, but had discarded them out of lack of a need. Instead, imitations in the form of glowing ribbons extended from them. They scorched the wood where they touched. The fingers of its other hand extended outward with a faint hum, becoming a glowing blade. It piercing the hanging man’s chest. He fell away into the darkness.

“Outsider!” Gan screamed. “Let the One forgive us. It’s an Outsider.”

The Outsider looked like it had been human, once. Its pale skin covered wiry muscles, though its stomach was concave and emaciated. From its back extended wings of that same burning white light as its fingers. It flapped them, once, and came up to the deck of the pirate ship. They dissipated, leaving the scene in the relative darkness of Tek’retan’s glow.

It looked down on the pirates, turning its head to take in Tek’retan and Jor Lenem. It had no obvious way of perceiving them. In place of a face it had a blank mask of silver, with a protrusion extending out of the sides near the tip to form a circle that wrapped around behind its head.

It advanced. Even Jor Lenem looked afraid, though he drew his sword. He backed away toward the far edge of Tanadal’s ship. The Outsider brought its blade forth. There was no resistance, no climax, hardly any violence to the motion at all as it bisected the pirate with the shield.
It turned to Gan. He brought his spear up to block its blow. No matter. The blade cut right through it and into his body.
Tek’retan lunged toward the Outsider. “No!” Jor Lenem shouted, brandishing his sealing dagger.

Tek’retan paid him no heed. His claws raked forth, drawing furrows through the Outsider’s flesh. It did not bleed. It did not respond. It turned its blade on the kami. One swipe left Tek’retan without an arm. With his remaining arm, Tek’retan lashed out. His claws sliced through the end of the Outsider’s arm, sending the nub flying. The sword disappeared.
“Shit,” Tanadal swore. He wouldn’t have thought anything could harm the Outsiders.

Tek’retan swept low, bringing a sharp foot toward the Outsider’s legs, which ended in glowing digits like those of its hands. The Outsider raised its leg and brought it down again with eerie speed. Its toes of light wrapped around Tek’retan’s extended leg, pinning him. A sword formed from its other hand.

“No!” Jor Lenem barked. He ran forward, sword at the ready. The Outsider’s mask turned to face him. It drove its blade down anyway, right through Tek’retan’s chest, impaling him. It drew the blade casually upward, still facing Jor Lenem, as though taunting him. The kami at its feet fell apart into nothingness.

“NO,” Jor Lenem bellowed. “Do you know how hard I had to fight to bind him?”

Jor Lenem descended on the Outsider with a flurry of blows. The creature actually backed up under the pressure. It brought its long blade toward him. Jor Lenem sidestepped, letting it sweep past him. He slammed his sword into its side. It brought up its knee, catching him in the chest. He flew back, landing on Tanadal’s ship in a roll. Somehow he kept his grip on his blade.

The pirate ship began to drift away, with no pilot to direct its drake. The Outsider’s wings flared up from nothingness. With one flap, it closed the distance that had begun to yawn between the two ships.

Jor Lenem was ready for it as its wings dissolved. His blade sliced into its leg, causing it to buckle. The creature whipped its sword out horizontally. Jor Lenem thrust himself back. The tip of the blade sliced through Jor Lenem’s thick clothing. Blood sprayed out, staining the fabric.

Jor Lenem growled. As the creature swung again, he arched backward. If Tanadal had tried his move, he would have landed on his head. Jor Lenem bent backward, his knees coming to a seemingly impossible angle. He swept his blade above him, severing the Outsider’s second arm at its elbow. The limb flew off of the side of the ship.

“YES,” Jor Lenem exclaimed. He laughed, raucously, his face full of joy. “You challenged the wrong warrior, asshole!”

“I hired the right protection,” Tanadal muttered.

The creature’s wings flared up once more. Jor Lenem lunged forth. The Outsider tried to block with its now-useless arms, but Jor Lenem’s blade slipped past them. It plunged into the Outsider’s chest below its ribs. With a grunt, Jor Lenem looked it in the eye. He forced the blade further upward.

“Yeah,” Jor Lenem said. The Outsider’s arms scrabbled wildly at the blade. With each passing second, they slowed. “YEAH.” He released his sword, arms pumping the air. “Who says nobody can kill an Outsider alone? Ha! Not me!” He pointed at Tanadal. “Not you! You better pay me double!”

Tanadal nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, okay.”

The Outsider’s body fell to the wood of the ship’s surface. It looked like nothing, now, just a pale, naked human body with no hands or feet, wearing a silver mask. Its wounds did not bleed. Its twitching slowed, then ceased.

Jor Lenem stood over it, hands on his hips, breathing hard. “I can’t believe I did that.”

“Neither can I,” Tanadal said honestly.

“The Warrior,” Jor Lenem said. “That’s what they call this one.” He yanked his sword from the Outsider’s flesh.

“We have to get rid of the mask,” Tanadal said.

“I’ve never seen one up close before, have you?” Jor Lenem asked.

“No,” Tanadal said. “I’ve only read about them. We have to get rid of the mask.”

Jor Lenem ignored him. He knelt down over the creature. “They’re pretty creepy. Damn. I can’t believe this thing killed Tek’retan.”

Tanadal climbed onto the ship’s deck. “Jor Lenem,” he said warningly. “Get away from it, or get rid of the mask. Don’t stay near it like that.”

“Look at that mask,” Jor Lenem said. He acted as though he couldn’t hear Tanadal. He reached toward it. “It’s beautiful.”

“Don’t!” Tanadal said. He stepped forward, feeling sick. “I’ll do it. Get away. Let me cut it off.”

Jor Lenem grabbed the mask.

“Dammit,” Tanadal swore. He drew his blade. He didn’t want to have to use it. He didn’t stand a chance against Jor Lenem. Still, if he could just cut the mask away from the Outsider’s face, and get it away from Jor Lenem… “Jor, we have to get rid of the mask! I’m not playing around here.”

The mask came away easily in Jor Lenem’s hand. The man stood. Streamers of skin trailed behind the mask. The Outsider had no face behind it, only raw, pulpy flesh. Jor’s golden eyes stared at the mask intensely.

Tanadal leveled his blade. “Jor Lenem, of Canamb! Please hear me! Throw that mask into the void! Throw it away!” If they could lose it in the void, the Giver would have to locate it again, at least. That would buy the mask’s next victim some time.

But no. Jor Lenem brought the mask up to his face. There, a brief hesitation; a moment where Tanadal thought, maybe, maybe Jor Lenem will resist. He did not. He pressed the mask to his face. Steam and the smell of blood and flesh flew into the air as the mask sealed itself to Jor Lenem’s visage, erasing him.

The body that had once belonged to Jor Lenem convulsed. He leaned forward, muscles clenching, hands working. Gripping. Tanadal began to hyperventilate. Now. He had to do something now, before the Warrior came back fully. Before Jor Lenem became the Outsider.

With a scream, Tanadal charged forward. He dropped his sword. He hit Jor Lenem’s body hard, checking him with his shoulder. Tanadal grunted. He barely managed to reign in his momentum. Most of it transferred to the new Outsider. What had once been Jor Lenem sailed out into the void, convulsing all the while.

Something rolled down Tanadal’s back. He jumped, heart still racing. He looked down. There, at his feet, was one of Jor Lenem’s hands. He kicked it away, fighting the urge to vomit. While he still had the adrenaline flowing through him, he pushed the previous Warrior’s body off the side of his ship. It was shockingly light.

He ran to the bench to take the reins. He summoned Phlu once again. The rest of the journey would stretch on for ages. Nobody would believe what had happened. What if the Warrior found him again? What if another Outsider found him?

Tanadal leaned over the side of the bench. This time, he did vomit.

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