A fire crackles at the bottom of the ravine, a pile of black shards the thing that fuels the swinging blue-tipped flames. Orange-yellow light dances on the stone walls, and a single stocky shadow rises in its glow, obscuring the rope ladder behind. Kyro sits with his legs crossed, absent eyes staring at a longsword that lays before him. The double-sided blade glistens in the flickering light, and along the divot reaching down the middle of the blade, Rajin glyphs are finely engraved.

Kyro glides a hand over the glyphs. His shoulders are broad, and muscles bulge under his black, skin-tight leotard. Long black hair sprouts from his scalp, tied in a loose bun by an elastic band. His face and hands are the only things visible, and they reveal dark blue skin and an angular, soot-stained face.

Kyro sighs, the flames reflecting in his black pupils. He has been here on Kalar for a month now, far too long a trip for a collector. He should have returned to Raj by now, but he has no Rage Stones to take with him, nor partner to accompany him.

Rage stones only grow on Kalar, an outland planet passed off by most as a barren wasteland of lava. This is mostly true, and no one knows it better than Kyro. Not many Collectors survive for as long as he has.

”Blast it! Mavyl, you… ” Kyros jaw flexes, frustration gnawing at his mind like a termite. Why? He had seemed happy, so why? Kyros eyes begin to water, and he grimaces. What will he say to Yoru?

The blue man rubs his eyebrows, reaching into the large bag beside him. He rummages in the bag for something that has taken hold of him for his entire adult life. His fingers tap a shaving, and Kyro pulls it from the bag. He inspects the tiny red crystal in the light of the fire. The circular, flat piece glows with a crimson light. A black smoke swirls inside the crystal, a mysterious substance. The Rajin women have studied these crystals for years, yet they still have no idea what exactly is in them. Blood? Souls of the damned? It doesn matter. They do their job, and they do it well.

This tiny piece is the last one, and Kyro considers waiting to ingest it. Though the image of Mavyl reminds him of the burrowing frustration, those yellow eyes staring back at him. A hand outstretched, begging for help. Kyro crushes the shaving, cupping his palm to his mouth. The crumbs litter the back of his throat, and he covers his mouth to keep the itch from becoming a cough.

Kyro raises a pear-shaped water container to his mouth and several gulps later, he lowers the container. A blue hand wipes his mouth, and Kyro takes a long breath through his narrow nostrils. The flames in the campfire move slower in his vision, and he feels every tiny movement surrounding him as if they are inside him. Lava flows on the surface, ash falls soft through the ravine, and the hot wind caresses the black rock. Kyro closes his eyes tight, listening closely to the whispers of the land.

He suddenly jumps from his sitting position and spins to stare at the rope ladder behind him. In the dancing shadow, the ladder sways slightly. Kyro cranes his neck up, using his enhanced vision to peer into the darkness. The sway increases further up the rope, and the wooden rungs clack against the wall of the ravine. Something is coming, ”…Has it already found me? ” Kyro whispers, veins bulging beneath the sleeves of his black leotard, ”Come on, then. ”

Kyro suddenly steps back, tracking a black rock as it plummets past his head and shatters against the floor of the ravine. The large man stares at the shards that litter the ground for a moment, and his pointed ears perk up. He hears something, cloaked behind the darkness surrounding him. A muffled scream. Flesh ripping. A whistle of wind, warning of something falling.

The blue man pushes himself off the floor, sliding through the air towards the campfire. His bare feet skid across the stone floor, and Kyro scoops up the longsword from beside the campfire. He stares up into the darkness, half-squatting in a battle stance, grip tight on his sword. The whistle increases in volume, but the muffled scream no longer crowds his senses.

A body falls from the darkness and slams against the ravine floor, the quick and gut-wrenching impact sending vibrations through the ground. Kyro stares at the grey, mangled body with unblinking eyes. He waits for movement, for the hint of an adversary. It never comes.

Kyro inches towards the body, his jaw clenching as long limbs and a pool of blood are revealed under the dancing light. A parasite. Others of his race call them different things; mimics, skin-snatchers, and other names that he cares not to remember. Kyro would rather call it what it is, a parasite. There is probably some sad Rajin soul under that stretched layer of skin, at least they are released from their torment now. But… Why would it follow him here? Parasites are hunters, but they never leave their nesting place unless prey enter their territory.

”Wha… ” Kyro takes a step back, his heightened senses warning of an insurmountable danger.

The wind above stills.

The dancing flames shrink.

The constant heat gives way to a bone-chilling, inescapable cold as black smoke crawls up the creatures body, its tendrils thick and waving like disheveled hair. It moves slowly, creeping up the lanky limbs, over the bony torse, and finally, it envelops the head of the parasite. Kyro retreats with another step, his heart pounding through his chest. Even the Massors have not given Kyro this feeling. This unshakable fear.

Even with his enhanced hearing and eyesight, Kyro nearly misses the black smoke folding in on itself, draining into a body that lays beneath where the parasite once was. It crawls into the skin of a pale man, quickly disappearing as if it was never there. The flames of the campfire return to their playful prance, and the wind caresses the land again.

Kyro stands stupefied for a moment, refusing to take his eyes off the man that lays before him. He feels that if he does, then the man would disappear from existence. Every living being, Rajin, Utherian, Tanzide, and every other race all have a connection to Vas, the physical realm. Even animals and creatures of the night have this same connection, and while the ability to tap into that connection is rare, Kyro is one of the lucky few that can. He should be able to sense the Vas energy in the mans body. He senses nothing.

Kyros grey, wide eyes scan the mans body. Hes stark naked, and his pale skin glistens in the flittering flames behind Kyro. It seems as if the mans body is free of fat, and only thin muscles stretch over his bones. Nearly his entire skeleton, ribs and all, are visible under the pale skin. Starvation.

Looking at the mans face, which is mostly covered by disheveled, long black hair that scatters around him like a pool of oil, Kyro catches a glimpse of a sharp jawline, thin lips, and an angular nose. Whether the features are natural or caused by the obvious lack of nutrients, Kyro doesn know, but he bets on the latter. Lastly, something that he has trouble believing is there. The mans right arm has been ripped off, his shoulder reduced to a dark cavity.

Though the injury is not what pulls such a reaction from the Rajin man.

Kyro inches forward, boots crunching the shards of that fallen rock. He is still not sure if he should be close to the man, but he has never been one to control his urges. Kyro kneels beside the mans body, peering into the dark cavity. Its black, vacant of any muscle. Though as he studies the injury, Kyro catches a glimpse of white among the darkness. Bone. He chuckles, ”…At least theres that, ” the whisper bounces between the walls of the ravine, an attempt to make sense of the unthinkable.

Kyro then does something that even he knows is ignorant. He raises a calloused finger and pokes at the cavity, feeling the bone inside. Its cold. Deathly cold. Kyros finger suddenly numbs, and he pulls it away with a gasp. That black substance spills from the mans shoulder like a beggar on the street, reaching for the meal ripped from its grasp so suddenly. The hair-like tendrils only reach so far before falling to the ravine floor, slithering back to their home inside the ripped shoulder.

Kyro holds his finger tight in his other hand, needles poking at it as the feeling in the appendage slowly returns. He releases the finger after a moment to find that the blue has turned to a dark purple. The Rajin man rises to his feet with brows furrowed, taking a last glance at the shoulder cavity, standing witness as the skin around the injury bulges, rising and lowering in something similar to the rhythm of a heartbeat. One reaching its end.

The loose skin that once hung from the wound rises, folding inward as it begins to grow towards the center. Kyros grey eyes dart to the mans face, and black eyes stare back, ”Who are you? ” Cage asks, his voice calm.

Kyro pauses, his light blue lips pursed as he looks between the healing shoulder and black eyes. The man speak Trellian, at least, ”Who are you? ” Kyro returns his own question.

Cage leans up with a sigh, his eyes never leaving the grey staring back, ”I asked first, ” he retorts.

Kyro scoffs, rolling his eyes. He flips his sword to reverse grip and stabs the tip into the black stone all in one swift motion.

Cage raises a brow, glancing at the sword. It has to be at least six feet from pommel to tip, and the blue man, hes easily nine feet himself, ”The names Cage… I think, ” he responds.

”You think? ” Kyro raises a thick brow, resting his hands on the pommel of the sword, ”I take it you don have the best memory? ”

”Oh, no… I have a pretty good memory, but… ” Cage holds his tongue. Even if he were to say it, would the man believe that hes been alive for a thousand years? Well, alive may not be the best way to put it, ”…Eh, it doesn matter. ”

Kyro stares at Cage in silence for a moment, mulling over whether to push further on the subject. He looks up, listening to the wind above, ”You don seem to miss your arm much, ” Kyro notes, his eyes drifting back to Cages sorry appearance.

Cage hums, brows scrunched as he looks down at his right arm. In the yellow, flickering light shed upon him, he sees what Kyro speaks of. His arm is gone, yet there is no pain. For a split second, his eyes widen with panic. Though the anxiety disappears as quick as it came, and a nervous chuckle squeezes past Cages lips, ”Its a good thing Im a lefty. ”

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