Nagiros's Proposal

rating: +110+x

by Nagiros


It's so bright, isn't it?

The snake and the Devil, one and the same, rested their head in the night-chill of the desert. They weren't tired — hardly so — but their face bled ichor from anti-ophid shrapnel, and an essophysical suture begged to rejoin skin. Clarity willed it so.


The overheating cartridge of a mounted Ophiophagy rifle dropped to the sand a hundred meters from their nose; an automatized soldier, half a scales-width and partly sunk in the earth from the bulk of its body and augments, chambered another round and aimed for their blood-blind eye.


The soldier declined. Clarity winced as Tier-II anti-sin ammunition ripped through their scale coat, and focused on rebuilding it. There was something familiar about this.

"Final revenant of Upsilon-1, I order you, cease." Clarity braced themself against the globe and pulled their head upwards, towering over it by several kilometers in the night sky. The soldier again declined, another cartridge deposited beside it — its footing was beginning to solidify as the sand cooked and fumed under the heat of spent components. It didn't intend to take another step.

Clarity blinked, and grinned wryly. "You're a third-generation, modeled after a soul-bearing Task Force member active around the turn of the millennium. My Pages recorded the name of your template in my Library — aren't you curious who you were imaged after?"

The soldier shook its head and took aim at their other eye.


The concussive blast shredded the side of their face, snakemeat sloughing to the desert floor in a torrent of red rain. The wound repaired itself as it formed, and another cartridge joined the molten sand.

"If there's no bargaining left with the last of Upsilon-1 —"

The ophiophager nodded.

"— then I ask of you —"

It jammed a final round into the mounted gun.

"Cease to move."

In a corner of the deadened Library, a Docent discovered a mystery.

Warped space,

And the shatters of a mounted Ophiophagy rifle on the dusty floorboards,

Leaking righteous coolent.

Clarity sighed as the Way untwisted and the desert air unblurred. Upsilon-1 had been the primary force dispatched to sever their head, and with their demurral the planet was left nearly empty — just them, Death, the small-fry remnant forces hacking at their tail, and that other viper.

Thanks for the assistance, friend.

Clarity's eyes narrowed as the tattered space righted itself, revealing the writhing semi-solid mass peaking its smile from the sandy floor.


You got my summons, right?

"You broadcasted it on every layer — I'm not the only one to have caught it, surely." Clarity's eyes shifted carefully to the dunes around them, noting the telltale blue illumination rising from beneath the grains. Death's conceptual mass may have disbanded the High Cemetery and re-infested this side of the planet — if that were the case, their means of escape would be largely cut off.

Death's smile widened, a wicked grin visible in the mote of subterranean light.

Who gives a shit? One's been trying to burn me out with Upsilon-1 for three years at this point. I'm BIG now, friend. I can CRUSH things and shape my body into the most beautiful ruins you've ever seen. I wish you'd been around to see when I was the Cemetery — fucking INCREDIBLE work on my part.

Clarity felt their healed eyes narrow. They needed to get Death off their side of the planet — if the other one reared its head, the infested ground would be too unstable to defend themself. Their mobility hinged on gripping the planet with their wrapped tail to lunge like a cobra, a plan contingent on their occupied hemisphere being pure stone and earth, not a solution of sand and vengeful infoform.

Listen, Lucy, you know what I said in my summons. I stand by it.

"I am handling myself exceptionally well. I would like to kill One with my own fangs."

Come ON, man. I knew him too. Shit, I knew him longer than you did — can't I get in a good scratch or two on my own?

"I have no need for allies. Leave."

You sure about that? Seems like you've got four vacancies on the sides of your —

A primal hiss rose from the back of Clarity's throat.

Oh SHIT. I'm sorry man, there's no need to — wait how the fuck are you doing that. What.

Their eyes blinked as the sound subsided, rolling back into the depths of their stomach.

Oh. Oh that's not you, is it?

Clarity's head tilted to the side, unsure what game Death intended to play.

Look up at the stars, dumbass.

VL.UNI/[one-time relay]
Sensor Agent [3.1 x 1089] / Upper Stratosphere

[Disappearance. View of star-body α-Peg ("Markab") from terrestrial surface obstructed.]

[Demurral. Sensor Agent [3.1 x 1089] resigns from post.]


They say all the old doctors became ghosts and wanderers, their souls imbued with a love of watching and transcribing. The military men became revenants, and the scientists became the eyes of a new order.

Sensor agents in operation: 6.0 x 2109

Handshake with COUNCIL-Entity acknowledged. Your service has been cherished.

VL.UNI/[one-time relay]
Sensor Agent [1.2 x 1582] / Upper Stratosphere

[Disappearance. View of star-body γ-Cyg ("Sadr") from terrestrial surface obstructed.]

[Demurral. Sensor Agent [1.2 x 1582] resigns from post.]


They say the Council never made anything new, just recycled the feats of man from the old world. Who was I, two centuries before? Whence does my soul harken?

Sensor agents in operation: 6.7 x 849

Handshake with COUNCIL-Entity acknowledged. Your service has been cherished.

VL.UNI/[one-time relay]
Sensor Agent [9.3 x 1949] / Upper Stratosphere

[Disappearance. View of star-body β-Cru ("Mimosa") from terrestrial surface obstructed.]

[Demurral. Sensor Agent [9.3 x 1949] resigns from post.]


Enough. No more of this confusion, this miasmic terror. The present is clearer than it's ever been. Our master tears through space, blocking the stars, blotting out old lights. We are its wake, trailing in the stardust of its tail — a mourning call for the old world.

Sensor agents in operation: 9.0 x 187

Handshake with COUNCIL-Entity acknowledged. Your service has been cherished.

VL.UNI/[one-time relay]
Sensor Agent [6.0 x 2109] / Upper Stratosphere

[Disappearance. View of star-body α ("Sol/Sun") from terrestrial surface obstructed.]

[Demurral. Sensor Agent [6.0 x 2109] resigns from post.]


We return home, the grasping strength of the Foundation's oldest hands.

Peace be unto the eater of dystopias, the killer of the highest powers, the masked snake. Peace unto Terra Mortes. Peace unto us. Peace to all.

Sensor agents in operation: 0

This old fire is enough. Incarna, we come for you.

Clarity watched in the darkness as the maw of their brother pierced Site-001, wreathed and tangled in its burning twin. There was a screaming kind of stillness as its jaw unhinged, lunged, and swallowed something whole.

"He had a child." Their tail curled tighter in its grip on the planet.

They both did. Made her in a lab about a year before I was released, kept her embryonic until the Old Man died and his powers were up for grabs. I tried to warn you.

"I… didn't realize." Clarity's double-layered eyes watched the flame spread from the ruins of Site-001.

Yeah. If you had, you probably would have stopped it, somehow.

"I would have tried. I think."


Neither spoke. They kept eyes on the dirge.

I think we die here, Lucy.

Clarity didn't respond, so Death kept talking.

There was a, uh, time a while ago, two centuries back, when I was scared I was gonna die. A man found me, and I survived through him — we became one and the same, old friends, two-century stalwarts.

The sand and rubble shifted under the librarian, coalescing into something half-physical. They felt a tugging in the air, and then stillness, and the Merchant raised its head to meet their gaze.

I don't think you know quite why you're here anymore, Lucy. But I do. I was with your old partner until the moment of his death, and thereafter. I know what it means to avenge him.

They shifted their eyes, watching. A three-year fire outstretched itself to them: an invitation of multiplicity.

Let my hands guide you — no, let me be your hands.

They felt each other, the rawness of two nerves passing thoughts across the gap. A coarse laugh echoed in the night-chill of the desert as two concepts intertwined.

We can't argue over who gets to kill him if we're both the same bitch, right?

It was common knowledge to the Foundation that cross-tier travel orients itself logarithmically. The energy required, and the resources expended, to touch a higher tier are tenfold the last.

Animus rose from the shatters of Site-001, a specter of liquid and aether. Its body shimmered on the doorstep between Tier-IV and Tier-V, god above gods. Over its head sang a crown of fangs, its daughter, INCARNATUM of everything that was.

The Foundation only reached Tier V. That's 100 steps for us to match its power.

The serpent rose from the surface of the world, blue light plucking itself into centipedal claws beneath. Limbs!, it thought. Legs! Crashing joy filled its brain and being as it howled, scoring deep trenches into Terra Mortes. A sphere of thaumic power emerged from its heart, pulled into orbit around its head, a gift from an old world.

ETHAN. We'll finish this soon.

Incarna's eyes opened, locked to the orbital sphere.


A crater formed at Site-001, DEEPWELLs breached and exclusion zones annihilated. The planet filled with Incarna's scream as it bounded on all fours towards its prize, sizzling puddles left where its hands touched earth.


Incarna pulled parallel to the tail of the snake, wrapped round the circumference of Terra Mortes. It ripped one of its claws upwards, next to the scales. Even now it could see the threads surrounding the Betrayer, leading back to the thing above its head.


The claw came down, gliding through scales and flesh and blood like fingers through a stream. The Betrayer howled 10,000 kilometers away, too slow to evade.


Incarna's caustis gripped the threads shielding the Betrayer's temporality, and tore. The Deepest Horror ensured their presence in this timeline, and soon it would no longer. The beast grinned, trailing its clawtips through the stream, up the scales, up the body — eyes locked on the head.


The ring of fangs above its head began to glow. So close now.


Two kilometers from the head, and it shifted. So, so much farther than Clarity could hope to punch up to.


Bloodstained claw reaching, reaching, so close to the end.

And Clarity fades.

Shadow overwhelmed Clarity's vision at the point of impact. Down they crumbled, their fractures slipping between the gaps of old memories and reservoir dreams.



until —

Their claws tapped on the cold metal floor of a containment chamber beneath Area-03. Sterile bulbs illuminated the figure of Ethan Horowitz in the center.

"Clarity." His voice hissed from too many smiling lips. "I see you've regained your limbs."

Their body scattered into the farthest corner of the thousand-meter chamber, then re-aggregated in front of him.

"And you've grown too many." They paused. "Is this what they did to you, when you left the Library?"

"No." Toxic muscle pulled entropic arm over entropic arm as he leaned down toward them. "This is what I did to me: a willful merger with an Intrinsic, stemmed from my own ideology and organization. You have survived this long battle on the belief that your brother corrupted me — put him aside. He was never the foremost aggravator in my descension."

"And yet, I've been killed by him."

Too much skin stretched into smiles before their eyes. "You are not in my domain just yet. You are inside your mind, now a dual-fronting system with the Black Marchant, whose memories of Ethan Horowitz pooled and metastasized into a ghost which haunts its psyche. I am an accidental thoughtform semblanced after the man it knew for eight decades. I am not your Ethan."

They shuddered. Ethan's faces softened.

"Clarity. Find my eyes."

They raised their head to gaze up at the titan, finding a set on its forearm which most resembled his. "Ethan?"

He knelt down, and their eyes followed. "There was never an Ethan for you to avenge. Your Ethan, the one of the Library, died the quiet death of organizational security and containment procedures a century ago. I am not even a ghost of someone you know — just that of a man changed by the life his timeline handed him."

Their form disintegrated before him.

"Clarity, I am so sorry. I know this is hurts."

The headspace was fading breaking wasting away as they were pulled out out out by the cosmic grip of a Tier-CCLVMDCCXIII admonishment.

"Just please —"

lights and terror in earthless space

"Save yourself. He loved you too."

Clarity went outside.

A claw trapped in time, grasping for the thaumic work above their head.

A blue-light hand, reaching upwards and pushing it aside.

Incarna's eyes, asking them "Why?", in that flash. It looked so mournful, they realized. The lips of the snake moved.

"Shut up."

Ethan's gift pulsed softly behind their head. Incarna's eyes still asked the same question as its body fell to the surface of the planet it owned. Clarity knelt, watching it waste.

"You worked, and you worked, and you worked so hard to create something so horrible, and you made me live it. You made me watch it end, and you expect me to be scared of you still."

Eyes widening, form fading into nothingness.

"Don't you dare assume that you're worse than what you've made me feel."

A glimpse of One remained, a star drowned out by the sun.

"That you somehow outmatch what my love for Ethan was."

Rage abates, and fear passes on.

"No more."



And so it came to be that the world was one creature, composed of multiples: manifestations of ideatic evil:

and nothing more.

There are ways of fixing this.

"I know."

There are methods of resurrecting worlds and reanimating dead men.

"I know."

Would you like to pursue them? Would you like to rebuild?

"I don't know."

Would you like me to?

"Do what you will. Walk the conceptspace. I'll be within you."


Are you okay?

"I'll be within you. You won't hear my voice again unless you need to. Start your search in the ruins of the Library."


Goodbye, Clarity.

There was a place in their mind, this fusion Intrinsic, where every clock in the Library broke. Memories pooled to a time when a man hoisted a thaumic work before the eyes of a limbless shapechanger, and they both smiled. It was warm, and infinite. There was no terror there — and there never had been.

Clarity did not live in that place. They lived in the fabricated vision of striding across a grassy Earth, limbs intact, no soul in sight — enough freedom to drown a million worries.

Above their head, they heard the uncertain voice of God.

Goodbye, Clarity.

Clarity nodded, and felt alone.


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