People Without Meaning


13th of January
Somewhere in Esterberg: Częstochowa, Silesian Voivodeship, Poland

The only thing she could feel was darkness.

Not see, no — Jessie Rivera's eyes were too tightly blindfolded for even a single ray of light to pierce the veil that encompassed them. She couldn't see it. She could feel it all around her. A choking and freezing cold, trying its best to get into her body, into her mind, into her soul with whatever it had at its disposal, no matter at what cost. She automatically shivered, her brain realizing she was now awake again only a few seconds later.

"Mghgh!" She tried to get out. Even though she quickly noticed her arms and mouth were similarly tied, that didn't exactly stop her from trying to change that with a series of aggressive movements. When even that failed, though, she simply repeated: "Mghhg!"

Much to her surprise, there came a reply. "Hmhm?!" A muffled Magdalaine Cornwell inquired from somewhere close to her, trying her best not to hyperventilate just upon hearing her partner was alive.

"Hyhmhm!" Marie Surratt replied, her boney and dry voice still losing to the material that covered her skull's jaw. There wasn't any fear in the muffled words she attempted to get out, though — just anger. Profound anger.

Nobody chose to offer no insights of his own, as Nobody often did. If his arms weren't bound by rope, he'd cross them. But alas, he had no such luxury. Instead, he just internally sighed, simply waiting with unparalleled patience for how the situation was about to unfold.

He didn't have to wait long.

A snap echoed, and the material covering their eyes suddenly dissipated. The overwhelming lack of light laying the entire structure that now unveiled before them rushed at the four in an instant, forcing them all to blink in a fickle attempt to combat the everpresent darkness. Surprisingly, it only took a few seconds for their sights to adjust; but oh how they wished it took longer.

The room wasn't large, but there was a tingling feeling to it, as if something inside it was too large for the human mind to comprehend, or at least hosted something that was like that. Trying to understand the area's exact details was not only difficult; it actively hurt. To Rivera, it felt like an ocean of something more than darkness tried to crash against the protection of only thing separating it from her — her mind — and get in, in some rough attempt to overtake her with its sheer size and brutal force. She shivered, and, in an instant, it was gone.

Now free of that uneasy sensation, she could actually take a proper look around herself. The hall she previously thought to be mostly empty now consisted of four stone chairs upon which her and her party were seated, slightly elevated off the floor. In front of them laid a series of frighteningly complex ritual circles engraved into the ground, painstaking slashes directly in the rock. A few dimly lit lanterns floated above them, their cold blue flames casting harsh shadows on the enormous pillars in each corner of the room. In the center was an ornate throne in front of a well, upon which the statue of a Fae man sat.

And then, the statue moved.

"It is good to see you finally awake," Ai'sling Fiadh grinned, irony leaking from his nearly-white lips. He descended the stairs in front of him, his long silver hair draping behind his robes. "I have been awaiting you… most patiently."

Cornwell didn't even allow him to take a breath. "Who the fuck do you think you are, huh?! What—"

"SILENCE!" Fiadh thundered, immediately turning his blind irises towards the blonde Director. She shivered. There was a fury to everything in his face but them, acting as a window for someone — no, something — else. He lifted just a finger, and aggressively pressed it against her lips. "The words of a Jailor shall not blaspheme in the House of MAB!"

His last words echoed across the cavern. Mab Mab Mab

She tried to say something — anything — else, but as her voice got stuck in her throat, she immediately realized it was useless. A shock of terror embraced her face and, for a single second, she attempted to scream. Much to the priest's visible satisfaction, no such interruption occurred.

He looked up twitchingly, staring at the well on the other side of the room. Jessie hadn't noticed it before, at least not fully — but now that she kept eyeing it, it… it felt evil. Dark. Out of place. She tried to reach into it, feel its insides, as if something in her subconscious told her that was the source of all of their problems, but the being inside the hole was just too much, even for her reality-bending brain. With a heavy heart, she quickly let go of the connection before it overtook her, and turned her sight once again to the Fae priest in front of her.

"For you see, your task here requires the sanctuary to be nothing but pure of sin," He continued, drawing a rather nasty dagger from his robes, idly running the flat end along Rivera's neck. "What is that saying? Ashes to ashes, dust to dust."

After a moment in his own fantasies, Fiadh's gaze returned to the captured, hungrily eyeing each one of them in turn. And then, as his unseeing eyes went from one set of irises to another, he noticed something upon Rivera's face — a sense of fear and uncertainty, as if an unspoken question hung upon her lips. And, ignoring Nobody's total lack of reaction and the fact that Surratt was very carefully observing the rope that tied her hands together, he smiled even more widely.

"Oh, so you do not know about your roles?" Ai'sling richly laughed, turning his back to them. His attention was now almost entirely focused on the well. That horrible, deeply, deeply wrong hole that was the home of something even infinitely more terrible lured him in, making the Fae priest unable to see, feel, or even think about anything but its inhabitant. He raised his hands up, his fingers twisted in some sick mixture of shivering anticipation and pleasure.

"In the sacrifice, of course!" He loudly exclaimed, as if there was any need to clarify anything to anyone. His silver hair was now caressed by gentle strokes of green electricity running through them, appearing from seemingly nowhere, as they made their way towards his fingertips. "For you see, the Queen — the utmost ruler, the utmost being, the utmost beauty! — she has big plans for you. Your fear, your panic, your utter desperation, drawn from the moment when you were at your highest certainty of victory, it will all be taken and mixed in the unholy soup that'll brew the Starlight into existence, once again flooding all of reality with her reign!"

The mage's voice thundered through the whole room as the sparks got bigger and bigger, forming a brightly glowing green diadem above his temples. "Yes, you fools, see this — see this and weep!" He continued shouting, an orgasmic shiver going down his spine. "Know that the age of man has come to an end, and—"

And then a small smoking hole punctured his midsection.

Everything stopped at once.

In the end, Ai'sling Fiadh's face couldn't even afford to show shock. He just gasped, blood spilling out of his mouth onto the perfectly clean, white robes. His body swayed forward, then backwards, then fell down the well.

"Jesus Christ I thought he'd never shut up," Marie Surratt sighed, her gun smoking. She was now untied, an oddly shaped ivory knife made out of one of her bones in her other palm.

Rivera blinked twice, and gave her a dumb stare, snapping away from her previous trance. "How?"

Surratt held up her left hand. "Fourth metacarpal bone."


"Exactly. Can't be that important now, can it?"

When no answer came, she realized that her hands weren't the only ones that had been tied up. So, wasting no further time, she did exactly what needed to be done to make that number higher.

"Well," Cornwell stated with relief, stretching her hands and throwing dust off her jeans. "That was… surprisingly disappointing"

Instead of replying, Rivera carefully eyed the well. "I…" she slowly began, never ceasing her watch on the hole in the ground.

"I a…" the red-haired Director tried again, squinting her eyes. The words were there, just at the tip of her tongue, but something kept her from truly manifesting them in reality. A tingling, rooted deep in her brain, as if something was actively scratching the space behind her eyes whenever she tried to extrapolate what was in front of them. So she looked deeper, giving into the so obvious anglerfish, and gazed directly into the well, unable to stop her curiosity.

And then, she felt movement.

"Rivera?" Surratt snapped her thin fingers in front of her, trying to get her out of the trance. "Rivera?!"

She really wanted to listen. To make an effort and look away, to cease the connection she made, but she just couldn't. And so, she didn't. The movement got quicker and quicker until she felt the body that had once belonged to Ai'sling Fiadh shiver and squirm in an indescribable agony and ecstasy at the same time, quietly conforming its form to whatever was down there.

"J-Jessie?" Rivera felt Mag shake her arms violently, trying her best to make her blonde locks block the vision. "Jessie, please, I…" She stepped in the way, and looked her partner in the eyes. "Please. Please, I need you. Please." Her voice wasn't strong, it wasn't even loud; but in that quiet command, when their gazes met and a spark of electricity wandered between them, there was power. Real and unfiltered power. Power that wasn't pure darkness. As opposed to the power of the thing that tried to lure her in.

So she snapped away.

Rivera slowly tumbled away, grabbing her head with her right hand. Letting out a silent growl she looked up, once again seeing the one she… the one she what?, she thought as she tried to decide. She gently smiled, whispering a "thank you," and—

And then, the well exploded.

Before any of them could react, a thing that maybe had once looked humanoid crawled out of the crater left in its place, its abnormally large eyes rippling with power. As a bright green diadem formed above its head, the thing locked its sight on the four before it. Seeing their reactions, their frantic preparations of whatever weapons they had at their disposal, it just smiled. And soon after, it turned that smile into a shriek of pure, unfiltered fury.


"What the hell is that?!" Cornwell shouted, pointing her trembling finger at the forming demon in front of them. The thing that used to be Fiadh was no longer beautiful, nor was it graceful. Its fingers were now twisted and broken, pointing in every direction in a spiraling manner. Between them, green sparks and flames ran, connecting to the ethereal wings and crown it wore on its back and head respectively. It no longer needed legs to walk, but if it did, it would find itself to be sorely disappointed at their miserable and mangled state.

But the worst part of the thing was its face.

There were eyes, but they did not see. Dark voids darted around in the sockets. There were ears, but they did not hear. Viscera dripped down the sides of its head. And There was a mouth, but it did not speak. It hungered.

"The Queen," Nobody slowly hissed, readying his crossbow in an instant. The irrilite bolt that previously laid inside his quiver quickly slotted into his weapon, its runes rippling with energy.

The rest didn't need any more words; just the mere mention of Mab was enough to send their whole nervous systems into overdrive. Rivera snapped with reality bending, her whole body trembling with the power she awoke in just a second. Surratt threw away her provisionary knife and took out a large sword, her skull reflecting off its engraved blade as its scabbard fell to the floor. Cornwell pulled out her gun. Better than nothing, she supposed.

The thing before them didn't even react. It didn't even move. It simply laughed with a sickening and spiraling feminine voice that definitely didn't belong to the priest, the crown above it getting bigger by the second. And then it lunged forward, its wings aggressively rippling through the air, aiming at nothing but the four mortals that dared to question its claim to rule the world.

Nobody's attack was the first to reach it. Though the arrow was fast — faster than most people's sight could register — it was nothing for the unholy demigod. With a turn of the head, the being heated the irrilite past its boiling point, disappearing into thin air. But at the moment it dared to look away, Cornwell took her chance; sending a barrage of bullets at its face, she emptied one magazine, sending another right up her USP pistol. The demon hissed as one of the projectiles grazed its burning scalp.

It didn't hiss for long. Another bolt and another wave of razor-sharp bullets came its way, the corpse-puppet fluttered erratically upward. And, even though it didn't hit the ceiling above, it stopped halfway through its frantic attempt. It felt the grasp of Rivera's reality-bending force it upwards, just barely resisting its pull. The being screeched again, the soundwave making Cornwell back off and hold her attack off for just a second, and used its own magic on Jessie. If it wasn't for Surratt kicking the Director, the falling pillar would've gotten her for more than sure.

The two Foundation doctors might've been out of order for a few seconds, but Marie sure as hell wasn't. She locked eyes with Rivera, making sure she needed no further help, and she aimed her sword at the Mab-infected priest. She rushed forward, exchanging a quick look with Nobody. They didn't need words to understand what the plan was. As she made the final leap forward, the Hunter shot once more, this time aiming so that the creature needed to duck downwards to not get obliterated out of existence. So it did.

Maybe if it wasn't so arrogant, it would have noticed the upcoming attack; but, in its cockishness, it could only move ever so slightly upwards before the glowing steel of the Bone Queen.

It pierced the pale flesh of the creature, cutting its right foot off clean. Surratt swore, trying once more to attack as Nobody switched the bolts in his crossbow to flame-ridden ones, but it was already too late. The thing was now furious. Beyond furious.

Before, it allowed these rancid mortals some allowance, seeing them as simply mere distractions before Mab's perfect soul could fully nest itself within its body and awaken its full power. Nothing but bugs, just whisper on the wind before the hurricane of the Fae Queen's true might that was about to come. But now, it saw that that had been a mistake. It didn't accept it as one, of course; Mab, even in such small parts, was too proud to ever see it as an oversight on her part. But the rage mixed with the pain got even to her repressed, royal brain.

And so, it gave in to the animalistic urges, and screamed.

At first, the sound was bearable, but it took just a few seconds for it to turn into a primal howl full of nothing but mad power. It made all of them cover their ears in an instant, unable to withstand something of such magnitude. But even that wasn't enough. The four exchanged a quick glance and immediately knew what they had to do. Finding a viable exit out of the room with so many eyes looking was just a formality.

So they ran.

Focusing on nothing but the pure will to survive, they ran, before the demon's true voice made it to their ears again. Quicker, quicker, and quicker, into some corridor that led to god-knows-where, before it was too late. Surratt left first, quickly followed by Rivera, who glanced at Cornwell behind her, a little worry in her eye. They didn't try to look back, didn't even try to attack the Queen with whatever final attack they had up their sleeve before they exited the room in search of a better bastion to defend themselves upon. For them, it was just about survival. Surratt wanted nothing but for peaceful business in her city, Rivera's thoughts circulated around the will to save the world and the one she almost certainly loved, and Cornwell just wanted for the unbearable pain that flooded her ears to stop.

But for Nobody, it was not about survival. It was about the hunt.

As he crossed eyes with the thing that dared to enter his world, he felt sudden anger build up inside him. He stood his ground, reaching for his crossbow, and put another bolt in, aiming directly into the creature's forehead. He felt as a primal rage washed over him, making him see the Fae for not what it was, but… for a man with slightly longer dark hair, his grin drilling into his scorched face.

Face. Nobody had a face again. He touched it, unable to see through the illusion, and felt the irreal flesh beneath his hand. Nob— No. Not Nobody. Damien. Damien threw his hair to the side and loaded his gun and aimed once more, this time sure his bolt would kill that piece of shit that dared make him such a fool before the entire world he'd gathered down to take his Jailors down so many years ago. He—

"What the fuck do you think you're doing?!" Surratt grabbed his arm, rapidly pulling Nobody back towards herself. She punched him in the ribs, following with a quick slap to his now-bare skull.

"I… I don't—" Trying to explain it was no use. Words would do it no justice. Nobody simply shook his head and corrected his wide hat, giving Surratt a nod. "Guarding your backs."

If Surratt had lips, she would have pursed them. The gangster only tightened her grip, forcing him to follow her footsteps forward. He complied.

The corridors they leaped through were labyrinthine, stretching in every direction as their unbearable stench of decay got worse and worse. There might've been some symbolism to choosing the very bottom of Esterberg's sewer system, full of nothing but death and outcasts, for the headquarters of a genocidal cult, but it didn't matter now. What did matter, though, was the road forward. And the fact that if they didn't follow it, the raging demigod behind them and a few humanoid shadows they couldn't quite identify would rip their guts out.

"Watch out!" Surratt yelped out as she rapidly stopped in her tracks.

A chunk of wall flew towards the pair, Nobody barely managed to duck out of the way, quickly turning around. He wasted no time and gave no chance for the Mab construct to surprise them. He just readied his crossbow, without even looking around, and aimed it at where the entity would inevitably emerge. He squinted and put his bony finger on the trigger. Marie followed shortly after, putting her sword up in the air.

But the other two weren't as focused. Needing at least a second to calm their breath (having lungs made all this running rather difficult), Rivera and Cornwell glanced around where they emerged.

The room was gigantic. Rough, black stone laid the whole construction, a few questionable waterfalls dripped down the chamber, ending in foul-smelling puddles of unidentifiable liquid that littered the room. The walls were covered in a myriad of balconies, stairs, corridors, stretching up into the air so high that light died before it reached the ceiling.

And then, the darkness within those corridors moved. Turning into shadows of figures, they soon revealed themselves to be Fae, dressed in black clothing and bearing various weapons that had only one, frankly obvious, target at the end of their scopes. But they didn't fire yet. No, they couldn't, not before the Queen arrived. Anticipation filled their barely-visible eyes as their fingers tightened on their tools of death, and their smiles widened.

"Mar—" Jessie tried to say, tapping Surratt on her shoulder, but it was already too late. Before the gangster could turn back and see what they had seen, an indeterminate shape bombed into the room, forcing all pressure out of it. As it made its presence even more widely known by snapping its fingers, the demon's power surged through the place, lighting up all of the previously empty lanterns hanging on its walls with a burning, green light. Then, it just grinned.

And as it started to prepare the final spell between its fingers, all of the Triumviraté members nested within the walls fired their weapons at once, sending a rain of iron, irrilite, wood, and rock down at the nearly defenseless four at the bottom of the shaft.

It took Rivera less than a second to put up the purple bubble of protection around her allies. But even that wasn't quick enough.

As Mag cried out in sharp pain, grabbing her neck, the circle closed. Rivera's sights immediately turned to her, ignoring the unstoppable wave of projectiles and spells currently bouncing up against the only thing separating the four of them from certain death. She grabbed the hand that covered the other woman's wound, and as their eyes met, she concentrated all of her ontokinetisis on that awful, awful cut.

"Are you fucking insane?!" Surratt suddenly shouted out over the blasts and cuts as the bubble began to slowly fade. She was no longer holding the sword; instead, her hands tightly gripped around the triggers of two modified guns. "Are you trying to get us all killed?!"

But Rivera didn't reply; instead, she closed her eyes, and stood up again, gently putting Cornwell on the ground. This time, there wasn't anything but determination inside her purple irises. Where once sat fear and uncertainty, now pure fury ran, electricity rippling around her fingertips. Jessie's eyelid twitched, her face twisting in nothing but anger, and she entered a battle stance.

Nobody smiled almost unnoticeably, and readied another bolt into his crossbow. Surratt nodded, and pulled back the hammer of her own weapons. And Rivera just stood there, her whole body tense as it'd never been. They all stood in a circle around the recovering Cornwell, a small purple circle protecting her from further cuts.

And then, the bubble went down.

As a barrage of the Queen's fury and her loyal cultists surrounded everything the three considered reality, for just a single moment, Rivera could swear that time had stopped. She felt every bullet, every arrow, every EVE particle in the shivering air as she tried her best to reflect the most out of them. With every muscle of her body and soul, she put one gram of the remaining power after another, making sure that nothing in her sight could reach any of her allies.

Surratt wasn't that lucky. As one projectile after another penetrated her bones and ribs, she spat out one curse for every pull of her demonic trigger towards those faerie assholes. One by one, they fell down the shaft like flies, only making her finger twitch harder and more frequently. Even empty magazines didn't stop her; the remaining drops of a demon's soul that had once lived inside those arms made sure the ammunition was still inside the weapon even after the bullets have ran out.

But Nobody didn't focus on the ongoing slaughter around him. He simply pulled back the irrilite string of his crossbow, aimed at the head of the demon, and shouted out into the raging room: "Mab!"

The voice rippled and echoed throughout the entire area, coming back to him a few times before dying out. Suddenly, everything went quiet as the few remaining Triumviraté members upwards hid behind their covers. Inexplicable wind ran through the corridors and into the room, making Nobody's coat pull back. The Queen-construct, furious beyond human comprehension, met his gaze.

And then it laughed.

With a horrible smile entering its mockery of lips, it continued its ridiculing scoff. And then, it opened its mouth.

"Pathetic," it began, filling the room with a silent hiss. "I razed mountains into desert wastes, I broke the minds of kings, I rode the back of the five-eyed star, I stole the light from the blanket of the Cosmos as I chained the mortal world into obedience. And yet, you have the delusion to face me. You. Are. Nothing."

"No. I'm not nothing." He shot up, correcting his hat. His expression wasn't dull anymore. There was a certain snark, a light that previously wasn't there, within his deep and dark eye sockets. "I'm not nobody. My name is Damien Nowak. Your name is Mab. And I do not fear you."

For just a split part of a second, nobody said anything. And then, Rivera realized what he just said, and her eyes shot wide.

"YOU'RE WHAT?" She immediately lost her focus on the previous task, turning her eyes towards the bony body of Nobody. But he didn't reply. Instead, the being that had once been Damien Nowak squeezed the trigger.

The bolt exploded into a thousand pieces as it penetrated the creature's corpus. So it did the only thing a being as animalistic, as primal despite its intellect could do. It screamed once more.

This time, the terrible screech didn't target Mab's enemies. They were already too used to its power to be as vulnerable as she wanted them to. Instead, it ran through the room, entirely killing the wind of Nobody's words from before, and reached the ceiling so high up the three could barely see it. And the ceiling answered, citing the sole response it could think of: falling apart.

The rocks started to reach the floor before Rivera could even blink.

With the sound of raging thunder, they split the room into two as a barrage of stones exploded from everywhere at once. Rivera's fading power held them well enough as to form two pockets of moderate size where she and Mag sat and where Nobody and Surratt stood. And, after an infinitely long while, the avalanche stopped.

They were safe, moderately speaking, but they now had a much more severe problem — they were buried underneath two hundred tons of pure rock and cobblestone. And, worst of all, the demon was still out there, the devil inside it making sure it remained unharmed.

Rivera fell down to the ground, panting with death-like exhaustion. It was a long day. A very, very long day. Probably the longest her life has ever held. From the encounter with the demigod in Esterberg's dungeon prison through making her way in a rally of mad anartists to now this, it was tough to stay with a smile on her face. It was all too much. Even for her.

Tears of fear, anger, and tiredness ran down her cheeks as she held the unconscious Cornwell in her arms. She knew she couldn't hear her. But that didn't stop her from whispering next to her ear, making some frantic attempts at getting her out of that awful state.

"Mag. Mag," she gently shook her shoulders, her dirty hair meeting the other's blonde locks. "Mag. Please, wake up. Please, please, please, wake up."

But no answer came.

She let out a silent sob. "Please. Please. Please, wake up. Please. I have so much to tell you. I… I need to…" She swallowed hard, and turned her sight away, unable to see someone she cared so much for in such a state. "Please. Mag, I… I l—"

She didn't finish the sentence. She just couldn't find it in herself.

On the other side of the stone wall, Marie Surratt threw one curse after another as she tried to shovel the rocks around them in a desperate attempt to make out an escape route. She looked at the unmoving Nobody, anger in her eyes, and a pebble at him.

He didn't react.

"It won't work, you know," he said, his voice changed from the previously rough expression of a ceaseless hunter to a broken down, tired man. "You can't get past hundreds of tons of rock."

"When the hell did you get so down-to-earth? Get to work, or—"

But he wasn't listening anymore. He just prepared his weapon for the final time this evening, aiming it exactly where Mab was going to breach their defenses in a few moments.

"We're going to die here. So make the most of it instead of digging."

And so, there they all were. Buried under stone, regrets, and fear, the four sat in silence, anticipating something they thought to be certain doom. They all had illusions, telling them they would maybe somehow survive this, that if they get lucky enough, they might even kill the Queen there and then, but they know they weren't true. They were all beyond tired, and, more importantly, what lurked out there was beyond ever being tired. The only thing that mattered to it was to kill the only barriers between itself and ruling the entirety of the world once more. So they sat, accepting their role as prey.

And then, the walls exploded.

To the company of a glorious fanfare of young shouts and angry steps, every single rock that had previously made reality into a grave just disappeared, the ground of the room now laid in colorful runes. Rivera blinked twice, half-convinced she was hallucinating, and looked for any source of this change.

"There he fucking is!" The Willis brothers spat out, pointing their fingers at the confused Mab-construct. The crowd of AWCY? anartists that followed them didn't care the creature he told them was the Critic definitely wasn't the man they were looking for, but they didn't care. They ran at it, adolescent fury in their hands, all the same.

"Marie!" Adam Angevin shouted, running towards the gangster, the two brothers by his side. "Are you fine?"

"Adam?" She replied, slowly standing up. "How in the…?"

He tapped his head gently, and smiled. "Sometimes, being an oracle has its upsides. But only sometimes."

Marie didn't say anything, instead immediately making her way towards Rivera. The two exchanged looks, and Surratt helped her get up.

"How did you get here? Who even are you? How… How, I…" The red-haired Director panted out, holding the unmoving body of her partner in her hands with the last remaining bits of her strength,

"I got a babysitter." Adam just spat out, dumbly turning his eyes towards the reanimated corpse of Ai'sling Fiadh. The thing that inhabited it was furious beyond all words, trying its best to move away from the raging crowd of anartists, nothing but confusion and contempt visible on its face.

"But that doesn't matter," he continued, his lanky hands gingerly tapping Rivera on her back. "The only thing that does matter now is that thing." He pointed at the creature. "And the fact we're taking it the fuck down."

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