Spoiler: Trigger warning just in caseShow
Lys lies in an exhausted heap on the floor of the room she shares with Thirty-seven and some others at the lodge, trying to find her breath again after her long swim.
Her eyes are fixed on the mask, Seventeen, laying on the bed across from her, exactly where she left it several days prior. It was almost like it was waiting for her.
You fight so hard, dear little beast...and for what? What we have is not so easily escaped.
“Sssssilence, bad voice!”
No need for that now, my precious host, I simply worry for your well being.
She makes a harsh bitter fluting sound. “Cannot wear if dead, yes?”
Cold laughter joins hers in her mind. Is that not how we found each other to begin with, sweetling?
Lys did indeed recall that time, so long ago it felt like nearly a year now, since the siren had found her pretty in the wreckage of the merchant ship’s hull, laying not a foot away from the half-dead sailor Lys had made into her meal.
The voice that had whispered in the back of her mind was as sweet and soothing as honey, strange and alluring; much like the song that rang in her throat. It whispered away, coaxing her curious fingers into picking up. She remembers how she cooed in delight as she looked over her new pretty, wanting to go and find big brother, feeling the odd compulsion to put it on, to show him how lovely her new face looked…
She shakes her head to clear it of those memories, of the horror and helplessness as she felt its claws dig into her mind the moment it touched her face, as it forced her away from the ship, from her brother, and far out to sea, of the losing battle of wills. She had never dealt with such an attack before, had no defenses against it. She remembers the waiting, the patience, the moment when the force relented and she reclaimed what was left of her mind. By then, though, she had arrived here, in Templehelm, where it wanted to be.
The scales that cover her body finally fade and the cold air of the mountains on her bare skin makes her shiver.
You are cold, little one.
Lys hums low in her throat and wraps her arms around herself, her teeth chattering a little. “Sssstrange...not right…”
If only you had a way of knowing…one that could understand the way your body operates and help you...
“Be ssssilent!” she hisses at the voice as she finally staggers to her feet, looking for a dress to wear.
What have you done while we were apart? Seventeen asks teasingly as Lys rifles through one of the boxes, her shaking hands making a mess.
Lys pauses and thinks over the events of the last day, a small smile playing on her lips before she remembers with what she is speaking with and frowns, going back to her search.
Ah, what was that?
Lys hisses at Seventeen, ignoring it as she pulls out some fluffy peach colored thing she thinks might be a dress, before dropping it and gasping in pain at the sharp tug on the back of her mind.
While I find your resistance amusing, sweetling, my patience wears thin.
She walks over to the bed and glares down at the thrice-damned mask. “Do not want-” Seventeen is quick to cut her off. Do you not grow tired of this, sweetling? Is it not pointless for you to keep fighting the inevitable? A strange sensation comes over her, like a hand petting her hair. It is not my intent to harm you…
She huffs and turns away, arms crossed over her chest, shoulders hunched.
I admit, I have taken some things too far, sweetling, but please understand that I only do it out of unthinking worry for you. Please... please understand. The sensation builds in its intensity, becoming more akin to a caress, and she finds her back relaxing a little as the exhaustion she feels to her bones makes itself known. You have fought me so hard, and for what? It is a disadvantage to us both...let me in, sweetling.
Lys stiffens again and steps back over to the box, picking up the peach gown and fretting with it. “No.”
Wouldn’t it be lovely though...to no longer have to fight...to remember what happens with your little knights?
She remains silent as she pulls the gown over her head to test the fit, cooing softly as she looks it over, trying to ignore the part of her mind that agrees with the mask. The part that feels a pang of guilt every time how Drastan looks away and seems disappointed, or how Thirty-seven looks confused...or how Zoran gets that sad look in his eyes when she asks ignorantly what happened when she cannot remember hours and days.
Don’t you look lovely…
Lys glances at Seventeen and scowls, hating the feeling of a gentle tug pulling her back to it.
I’m certain he’d approve…
“What does it know?” she grumbles as she snatches up the mask and holds it in her hand, not wanting to put it on again, but feeling the time tick away, like sand slipping through an hourglass. She hears cold laughter in her ears and trills in annoyance.
Am I truly so terrible, sweetling?
Lys feels the petting sensation again, a feeling she normally likes, but Seventeen makes the act feel so...condescending. She hums low in her throat, body ridged.
What have I done that’s so awful? Aside from a bit of pain...I’ve been rather kind.
She chirps and tosses the mask down on the bed before flopping down next to it, covering her head with a pillow, hating how the sensation moves to caress her back.
Now, now, little one...will you not answer?
She remains silent, not knowing how to answer, her mind too full of the last few days to properly think; meeting Red one, getting summoned by Zoran, rushing back to Anivia to help Drastan fight some crazy skeleton king, tending everyone’s injuries and getting Zoran home...the kiss she and Zoran shared...that memory burns warmly in her mind and she feels her cheeks flushing again, finding the sensation odd; she’s always been too cold to blush before.
Lys regrets dwelling on the memory as cold laughter fills her ears, she can almost feel the talons grasp the memories and run through them.
So...this is what you were doing? How precious.
She snarls and buries her head in the pillow, the laughter ringing loudly in her ears, the sensation of a hand running over her body more intense.
Oh, and little one will not remember when she dons me next, will she?
She hisses and twists to glare at the mask lying near her on the bed...had it fallen that close? “Sssilence, will not...let have…”
And what harm could it be in letting me in? Letting the other you remember?
She flounders, not sure how to answer, “Be-because is bad...bad…-”
Bad what? I have almost no power, sweetling, I only succeeded before because I caught you off guard. You’re much too strong-willed for me to overcome...I only want to help you...adapt. Let’s ease the pain between us, this ‘curse’ you call it, it won’t hurt anymore…
She makes an odd churring noise as she sits up and stares at the mask. “No, is bad,” she snaps, a dark chuckle ringing in her ears.
Oh, am I?
Lys feels the exhaustion in her suddenly pierce her core. All the running around she’s done over the last few days takes its toll, and her body gives up. She falls on the pillows, dark whispers echoing in her ears as sleep claims her.
She awakens hours later from nightmares of grasping shadows, of warm kisses, and warped images of an altar and a whole mask, gasping and trembling, paralyzed and unable to think.
She relaxes almost immediately at the feeling of fingers running through her hair, gentle and kind. She’s purring at the touch before her eyes open and she realizes no one is there…
There there, sweetling, everything’s okay now…
She sits up, scrambling away from the mask, pressing herself into the corner, watching the mask cautiously. Her eyes are wide, disgust twists her stomach at her own reaction. Vague memory touches from her dream echo in the sensation’s wake, oily shadows coiling and stroking against her…! She squeezes her legs together as another shiver of revulsion crawls down her spine. Laughter echoes in her mind.
Now, now, no need for that.
“What...what do!?” she demands, body trembling.
You give me far too much credit, dearest, I cannot influence dreams, simply share them with you, it lies smoothly, the shaken siren unaware and willing to believe it, willing it to be true.
Of course, sweetling, I have no reason to lie to you.
She nods in reluctant agreement and hums softly, slowly relaxing her posture; Seventeen has not lied to her. Her body unfurls under the soothing cadence of its voice.
It was only a bad dream, think nothing of it.
She nods again, her eyes glazed and unfocused, it has been helpful...has is not?
It is time, little one.
She stares blankly at the mask, blinking. “Do not want to…”
Do not want to forget? Afraid you’ll hurt your friends once again? Hurt him?
She cringes and looks down at her hands, clenching them into fists. “...no,” she whispers and hears a sigh in her mind.
Do you think I don’t know your feelings, sweetling? She hurts every time she can’t remember, wouldn’t you like to ease her pain? Ease your own?
Her head tilts up, golden eyes shining in the torchlight. “Will not...will not...is not strong enough to...to take over...yes?”
Of course not, sweetling. I have next to no power over you, any control would be given willingly, as it’s always been.
The soothing petting sensation feels...wrong somehow, like the caress of an eel before it electrocutes you. She shudders in revulsion, feeling sick to her stomach as she considers the mask's offer.
It is to your advantage. The bond between us will only harm you until you accept it. Is it truly a bad thing?
She thinks it through carefully, before shaking her head. “Is...is lying…?” she whispers, feeling unsure and alone.
Am I? Or are you finding the truth hard to accept?
She keens and covers her face, wanting to hide, but helpless to the call in the back of her mind. “Is...is not…why?”
Don’t fight anymore, sweetling, I only wish to help you.
She lifts her head and stares hard at the mask, her thoughts a conflicted mess of yes and no, belief and distrust, the song that once calmed her drowned out by dark shadows and flashing embers. “Am...tired...do not want to fight anymore.”
I feel the same. Please, sweetling, let me in?
She picks up the mask, nodding slowly. “Y-yes...would be...best...is not...hurting...am...am strong enough…”
Of course, you are so strong, little one. You could easily force me out if you wanted.
She nods again lifting the mask to her face. “Yes…” she whispers as she presses it back into place.
A small thought echoes through her as she climbs the steps to the main room a while later. The echo wonders if the stranger from a few nights ago was right; it wonders if maybe she is a fool.