The Natural Prison

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The Protoss ran with such speed that the trees and foliage were nothing but green flashes around her. Imnok weaved through the dense forest with the fabled grace of her people while still maintaining a pace that outran any who dared chase her. She ducked under low branches and hopped over gnarled roots that sprung up without stalling. Pausing in her chase, she jumped straight up 3 meters and landed smoothly on an overhanging branch. With a short turn of the head she scanned her surroundings in microseconds, and then dropped down quickly continued her flight.

Up on a rocky hill, the Artefact began to hum. It was made up of two glowing grey rocks with intricate carvings splayed across the side, one rock entrenched and immovable in the ground and the other floating freely in oval orbits around the base. As the humming increased, the free rock began circling closer to its sister and they both began to dim from their original vibrant glow.

Imnok burst through the tree line and scampered across a field full of tall grass, her eyes focused on the rocky outcrop in the distance. She had never encountered this particular rout, but nonetheless she persisted, on her guard. It seemed to her that the planet must have millions of different geographies, as she encountered a completely different landscape every few kilometres on her never-ending race. Despite the planet’s natural beauty and mysterious eccentricities, Imnok could not think of something she had ever hated more in her life than this natural prison.

Upon its high perch, the Artefact continued to dim. Yet off its dull reflection 5 figures were still recognizable, speeding their way towards it through the vast field. Soon they would arrive, fight, kill and dead or alive only four would remain.

Imnok finally broke free of the tall grass and began sprinting across a small clearing at the base of the natural tower containing the Artefact. The sacred treasure. The divider of a species, once so close. The sole occupier of her thoughts. Her ticket off this thrice-accursed world. But there were others vying for its beauty and she spotted one now, just breaking through the grass to her left. He looked pale and ragged, cradling a broken arm but still he persisted towards the hill. She spun around and pounced on him, claws outstretched, and tore viciously at his chest until purple blood spurted forth and he fell limp. She kept thrashing still after he lay dead and even tried to tear out his nerve cords, though they were useless now as this soulless world had long since severed his connection with the Khala. So she did not let up on the corpse, one who, like the rest and herself, had abandoned her.

But before she could mutilate the body further, another form whizzed past her and she immediately gave up her fallen former-brother in pursuit of this new challenge. The other Protoss, a young female that looked like she hadn’t fared much better than the corpse these last few years, jumped high and gripped the side of the rockface, scrambling upwards to where the ultimate prize lay. Though the young Protoss had had a head start, Imnok’s age and past military experience boosted her far beyond the child. She reached the hill and quickly caught up, grabbing her ankle and dragging her off the cliff, where despite clawing desperately for a handhold, she promptly fell and lay motionless on the ground below.

With another foe felled, Imnok was bursting with cautious hope. Hope that she may finally be the one to leave with the grace and gift of the Artefact, for there may not be many more on this world, certainly none that she knew of. With a few more powerful leaps she had ascended the soaring rock tower and she clambered over the brink with haste.

The last glimmers of light were disappearing across the Artefact’s surface, its once vibrant markings had vanished and now the absolute lack of light was akin to a black hole. The floated piece had come to a standstill above the base and was vibrating intensely as it descended towards its counterpart. A few meters away, a filthy and blood-spattered Protoss was pulling itself over the edge of the cliff the Artefact rested upon and reached out desperately with its long arms towards the blackened object.
Just as Imnok hauled herself onto the plateau, she could see the two grey rocks now compressed into one, thank the stars she had not been too late. She stood up and hobbled over, ignoring gashes on her legs and body from the climb. But before she could reach out, the black rock shifted down slightly into the earth and she spied another Protoss opposite her, partially covered by the Artefact. The Protoss had a hand rested heavily on the rock’s surface and before Imnok could lunge at him, the Artefact vanished, swallowing him up.

Imnok collapsed to the ground and closed her eyes; she wanted to leave so badly. She had heard the screams of her brothers and sisters on Aiur, and then they had been smothered. She needed an Artefact, to take her away, anywhere but here, because although it was one planet out of trillions and one speck amongst the void, Aiur was out there somewhere, and so long as this Artefact took her anywhere but on this planet, there was a chance she might return home.

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