The black shapes in the distance now began to take form and move, advancing closer and closer. The nearer they drew, the more their features came into view, slowly taking shape as if the darkness was being wiped away from each feature, piece by piece. They were familiar, yet entirely foreign. The piercing gaze of his father, the warm smile of his mother, and the shining blonde hair of his sister…. Yet their features were not as he remembered… They were the same yet… twisted, misshapen, their eyes crazed… The trio continued to advance, hunger blazing in their eyes as they picked up speed. Viktor knew exactly what they wanted… what they planned… He knew he should move, that he should run. And yet he stood there paralyzed, feet unmoving, the fear stilling his entire body. All the training, all the preparation, every measure he had taken to eradicate the fear within him and suddenly he was useless. A disgrace. A failure.
Feet moved on their own, slowly stepping backwards. The tip of his worn leather boot slipped on the edge of a metal rail that was slicked in something wet. Suddenly his feet were no longer underneath him and Viktor felt himself falling backwards onto the hard floor beneath, metal track slamming into the back of his spine with a sharp pain. Wincing, he lifted his back up off of the ground, blinking the blackness from his eyes. No one was there…. They were gone. Were they ever really there…? Rubbing at his eyes with his dirt-crusted fingers, Viktor attempted to readjust to the lack of light. Pushing himself back up to his feet, the grounder pulled the sword back into his hand once more. He had to focus. He couldn’t just fall apart only moments after separating from Rhys. Viktor would not allow himself to dishonor all of the effort the man had put into his training. He would not be a failure again.
Yet that’s all he seemed to do though, wasn’t it? Fail? His nontu had always said as much. And he was right after all… he had failed to protect his mother and sister, and they had been taken away and killed. He had failed to kill his father when he became a Reaper. And he had failed in avenging his family by destroying all of the Reapers and Mount Weather. Even with all of those years of training with one goal in mind, Viktor still couldn’t even take them down. Not too long ago, he had been foolish enough to think differently. Without telling Rhys, without telling Lincoln, he had gone into the tunnels alone. A suicide mission, many would say, but he didn’t care. What did it matter if he lived or died? There was nothing for Viktor to live forso that was all he did… He just lived. He lived hard, and fast, and recklessly. He was too much of a coward to take his own life, but perhaps if he was lucky someone would take it for him. Maybe that was the true reason he had ventured into the Reapers’ tunnels several weeks ago, under the guise of revenge. If he put purpose to his actions, they didn’t sound as pathetic. It was stupid, he knew it at the time and he knew it now. But something within him had snapped that day, and before he knew it, Viktor had found himself at the cave’s entrance. He had run in blindly and loudly, with intentions of taking down as many damn Reapers as he could. He’d killed two of them before more began to descend on him. Although he continued to fight, a large wooden block to the head had knocked some sense into him. Viktor had barely gotten out alive that night…. And he was quite worse for wear after.
This day was different, or at least that’s what he was telling himself. They had a plan. It had sounded like a good one at first, but now that he was alone in the tunnels, Viktor was starting to doubt its effectiveness…. Yet Rhys had faith in him. If they separated, they could take out more Reapers. The tunnels took off in different directions and merged back together a ways down, coming together into a giant opening where they would regroup. Ridding the tunnels of Reapers not only meant safety for their village, but for Viktor, it meant one step closer to Mount Weather… One step closer to destroying everyone inside. Everyone who took his family from him.
The thought alone sent a surge of fury throughout his body, adrenaline pressing him on through the pain. The blonde man picked up his speed as he made his way down the tunnels, still keeping light on his feet. He would not fail this time. He would take each and every one of them down. Keeping to the walls, allowing their dark shadows to cloak him, Viktor stepped at silent yet brisk pace as he neared the voices. They were around the corner, voices now loud enough to discern words. Not that they used much words…. It wasn’t common for the Reapers to speak with much beyond grunts and other primal noises… But occasionally they would throw in some recognizable Trigedasleng, such as now as they repeated the words “…frag emo op” Kill them… They were aware they were here…. Possibly spotted Rhys, possibly worse. Although Vik didn’t think, of the two of them, Rhys would be the one to fall. The man knew the Reapers and the sobwe better than any, he could survive. Still… maybe if he could thin the heard, Vik could increase those odds of survival….
Slowly and quietly bending down, the grounder grabbed a lose rock in his hand and tossed it into the opposite side of the tunnel, away from the Reapers. As expected, shouts of confusion were heard and Viktor pressed himself flat up against the hard stone wall behind him. Footsteps were heard echoing down the tunnels on the other side of the corner, indicating some had continued on in their hunt, yet the collection of nearing voices told him the group had split, as desired. A set of three appeared before him, unaware of his presence. Once sure none others had followed, he let out a yell before pushing himself off of the wall, sword outstretched, thirsting for blood.
Killing a reaper was no simple task. They did not fight like a battle-hardened warrior; they were erratic and fought with nothing but thirst and hunger. There were no tricks, no techniques, no strategy… just simple desire to kill. Ironically, this made them even less predictable. Reapers had no desire to preserve their own lives, which made them formidable in that fact alone. Minutes passed before Viktor was standing over the lifeless bodies at his feet; breath heavy, face splattered with blood, his sword dripping from the battle. A grin spread across his lips as he wiped the red liquid off of his weapon on the fabric of the Reaper beneath him. There was no time to partake in victory, however. This was merely three amongst an army. And several had headed off in the other direction, likely after Rhys. Turning on his heels, Viktor took off in that direction.
However, he didn’t even get two steps around the corner when he nearly collided into two figures with a shout of surprise. Immediately he drew his sword, ready to slice the throat of the Reapers before him, but a second look told him to put the weapon down. “Reis…” he commented as he exhaled, realizing that under all of that blood was the man he knew well. “Glad to see you haven’t died..” he said with a grin to his friend, sheathing his sword momentarily on his back. “And you’re picking up strays…?” he asked, blue eyes glancing at the blood-covered young girl next to him. Where on earth did he find a young girl, alive in the Reaper tunnels…? And what was she wearing…? The clothing was unlike Viktor had ever seen.
His eyes fixated on the blood splattered across her odd blue attire. Despite the dirt and blood that covered her entire body, her frame was slight and pale… suddenly his body stiffened. Was the girl from Mount Weather? Why would Rhys have her with him? Viktor’s suddenly hardened eyes finally met the girl’s. Their surroundings were dark, dimming all of her features, but all it took was one look in the girl’s sky-blue eyes and suddenly his throat tightened. No… it was impossible… His sister was dead… yet this girl had the same wide, curious eyes and soft blonde hair… Was he still dreaming? Was he lying unconscious on the bottom of the tunnels, his visions still haunting him? Despite his doubts, Viktor still found himself speak her name. “….Taleia?” his voice was hoarse, an unexpected sideffect from the tightness in his throat. Something was not right… This was impossible.