!2! .null

And here you still stand. Not dying. It is time to earn your place, as a new line of empowered Null. To return home with your grip on the Agony inside you. To pass it on to a generation of Null Crucia, sorcerers of Agony, and find a place within Craven society as equals.

Grand ideas, you think. Or, I’ll perish in the cold. Either way.

Trudge through the snow. Thankfully, it does not fall at present, but lies in thick blankets on the floor to impede your progress instead. It takes everything you have just to move forward, but you do keep moving. You manage to break out a weak smile. The Agony quickly stabs you sharply, straight through the centre of your mind, and a rush of pain starts spilling up from your core, spreading through your torso. You grimace, hiss through your teeth. Drop to one knee, for a moment. Breathe, deeply.  Okay. Message received. The Agony does not like to be forgotten. Even the cold will not keep it out.

But you must.

Eventually, the pain fades back down to a dull flame, bubbling constantly under the surface of your body.

You are better now than when you first fell from the cart. Convulsions and spasms are normal as one’s body tries to adapt to the newfound energy residing within, but yours were particularly vicious. The Crucia that had ridden out with you – pureblood Craven, sent with you to make sure you were left as weak as possible – found it rather amusing. That is, until your errant limbs smacked into them; they were sure to return the blow. By the time the horse’s footsteps had faded, you had carved out a hole in the snow covering the road, battered and bruised by their inflictions and your own.

Maybe that was what helped me, you ponder. Frozen by the cold but keeping the Agony at bay. You can only guess; you were unconscious for hours. The first thing you remember after the ceremony began is waking to the howls of a wolf-pack.

The same pack that’s been hunting you for a day.

They seem to know you are Null. Maybe they have encountered some before; others of your kin, thrown out of Craven lands and left for dead. That is one explanation, at least, for why they have not already killed you. They know, or think they know, how weak and easy this hunt would be. So, they are toying with you. The wolves around the outskirts of Craven lands are well-fed, with exiles and leftovers from hunting parties. You should know, you have spent enough time dropping off the bodies of your master’s victims.

Well. Former master, I suppose.

Keep walking. Dragging your legs, really. Even without actual snowfall, there are still biting winds to keep you frozen and snow drifts to slow your progress. But keep walking. Because you can feel it. Its eyes, from the trees to your right. It is watching you.

One of the wolves has found you.