A Million Eye Gaze Prose in Qet | World Anvil

A Million Eye Gaze


This wasn't supposed to happen. In the pitch blackness, Tike searched feverishly for the smoothness of the path that would lead her back the way she had come. Nothing. She cursed under her breath as the palm of her hand was cut on one of the many couleuz crystals covering the ground beneath her. This was supposed to be a quick job. She cursed again, and shut her eyes.   "You can't be serious. That's an insane idea— even for you."
The man nodded his head. "Of course I'm serious, Tike! Come now, when has a job I've given you even been anything less than serious?" The man smiled, his prized golden tooth catching sunlight as it spilled through small holes in the fabric covering his stall. "I also happen to know you're in a bit of a financially unstable spot, no?" He grinned widely. Tike's left eye twitched, it was this very man who demanded exorbitant fees to not report her for thievery— something she had not done, but as a Nouex none of the Coulqepluex who filled the ranks of the guards and the courts would believe her. Her people were looked down upon, seen as nothing but liabilities not blessed with the same luck as the Coulqepluex.
"I'd pay you to never speak of that again, if I had the coin." She growled.
"And that, my profitable friend, is why I know you'll agree to my offer. It's not like a Nouex such as yourself would ever see so much coin in their own hands without thievery, would they?"
Her eye twitched again. She wondered what color his pale-blue skin would turn when bruised. However, she knew better than to resort to violence, as she would likely find herself on the receiving end of a guard's axe. She shut her eyes and took a deep breath. "Fine. This sounds way too easy, but I've clearly no choice."
The man clapped his pudgy hands together and smiled. "Wonderful!" He turned and grabbed a sack from somewhere among the various crates at his feet, placing it on the counter in front of him with both hands resting on its top. "You'll find that there are no guards around the mine's entry at noon— if only for a brief moment. But it's the only moment I've noticed, so you'll need to be quick." He patted the sack twice. "In here are a common miner's clothes— wear these before going in and no one will question why you're in there. You'll find a small pick to extract as much of the crystal as you can— make sure to stuff what you can inside the sack, I don't need to tell you just how profitable they are."
Tike squinted at the man. "And how will I get out? You've never been inside, have you?"
He smiled widely, as if the answer was obvious. "I have an...associate— a former colleague, in fact, who has taken up residence below— he owes me a favor. You'll need to leave this-" he leaned over and picked up a strange wooden necklace, placing it on the table with a thud much too loud for such a small object. It resembled nothing to Tike but a series of orbs and pyramids, without symmetry or order. "visible on your person, so they they can see it— don't worry, they'll know what to do." He lightly pushed the objects on the table towards Tike. "Now, I'd suggest handling this tomorrow, you don't have anything to do anyway, right?" Tike silently glared at the man, and picked up the items. For a brief moment it felt as if the necklace was heavy as a stone— unmoving— but here it was, lightly resting in the palm of her hand. She didn't bother to question it, perhaps her anger had dulled her senses?  
  She wasn't afforded much time to reach the mine itself, as it lay across the great lake Chluetichlon. First, she needed to walk from the city to the lake's shore on foot— as the man had not thought to give her funds with which to purchase transport such as a local teuchacapa litter. She imagined this was on purpose, the man did not hold his enjoyment of her suffering as secret. The ferry would not reach her shore until sometime that evening, leaving her with most of her day to find the funds needed to pay for the service. Or, perhaps— come up with a plan to sneak on board. A small marketplace had sprouted around the ferry's port, with merchants hoping to take advantage of weary travellers to and from the city. Of course, as many of these travellers were merchants themselves, also wishing to sell their wares here— few of these were truly profitable. Those selling food were the ones that managed to stay above their competition, the scents of minty yntxol fruits, corn, cooked peppers, and honey wafted through the air, combating with the cold scents of the lake for dominance. Tike's stomach sounded a low growl, as if to urge her closer to them, but she continued past them. Just one more day. She thought to herself. Then I can eat all I want.   Now, however, was the time to search for fallen coin. She found these places, where people came and went, bumping into one another— dropping various objects— best suited for scrounging. As she knelt over an array of potted plants and began to lightly dig through their topsoil, she could hear people whispering unsavory comments behind her. Embarrassment had seldom had much hold on her, this was her life, and she simply couldn't afford hesitation. She dug for hours, moving from pot to pot, she found naught but discarded yntxol peels, torn strips of cloth, and chipped wood. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. It's okay...I've plenty of time. I can find something! Determined, she quickly rose— hitting her head on the bottom of a crate hung over the edge of a passing cart, sending it crashing to the ground beside her, spilling its contents out onto the ground. The cart stopped, and a short coulqepluex women quickly jumped down to berate her. She smacked the side of Tike's head, right where she had hit the crate. Tike's left eye twitched.   "What were you thinking?!" The woman snapped, spittle flying and hitting her wild black hair as she screamed. "Look at what you've done!" She pointed to the now broken crate, and the pile of salt that had spilled over the ground.
"Well, you—" Tike stopped herself, this wasn't an argument she would win. "...sorry." The woman pinched the bridge of her nose.
"I don't have time for this." She stopped for a moment, thinking. "I'm sure I could still sell it as long as the dirt isn't visible from the top..." She chuckled lightly to herself, and clapped her hands together. "You. You are obliged to clean up your own mess, but as a Nouex I know you won't do so properly unless I motivate you to work faster with a little coin." She smiled widely, Tike wondered how many teeth she'd need to replace with gold after she kicked them in— but in a crowded area, one with numerous armed Coulqepluex guards no less, she could do no such thing. Instead, she quietly listened— attempting to stop her eye from twitching as she did so. "So, should you clean this— again, your mess— up in a timely manner, I shall pay you a few Llian." Llian. Small, copper coins from Zilopnou— they weren't worth as much as Rektouzk's— where they currently stood— own golden Coulhuel. However, they were something, and potentially just enough to earn Tike passage. She quietly propped up the crate with its broken end facing upwards and began to scoop up salt with her hands and pour it back in.   This proved to be quite slow, not only due to the size of her hands, but also due to much of the salt falling through her fingers before she could hover over the crate. Not to mention, she could feel the disapproving gaze of the woman above her as she worked. After a short moment of thought, Tike began to collect the salt in the lap of her robe, though it had long been stained with dirt. She winced as she did so, knowing that someone would be consuming this salt— she tried her best to push the thought from her head as she worked. In the end, this took about half an hour to complete. She had begun to collect smaller collections of the salt that had fallen between rocks, when the woman stopped her with a tap of the shoulder.   "That will be quite enough, it should weigh about the same if we just..." She stopped for a moment to pick up a few stones, lightly brushing them off before dropping them into the crate. She then produced a small shovel from the back of the cart and mixed clean salt over what had been on the ground. "There we are." Tike felt the urge to scream, but bit her tongue, the taste of iron soon reaching her. The woman reached into a sack on the front of the cart, and carefully counted coins as she pulled them out, dropping them into Tike's hands shortly after. "There's fifty, now please, run along." She made a quick motion with her hand, shooing Tike away. Tike glared at her before walking away, spitting on the ground as she did so. The woman laughed.  
  Thankfully the fifty Llian were just enough to pay for the ferry. Tike tried her best to find a comfortable spot, but as the entire area for passengers was a single open air deck without seating— save of course for the tiny roofed section in the very back, saved for the wealthy. She settled for simply sitting against the railing along the ship's edge. She held the end of the wooden necklace up to her face and turned it lightly between her fingers, investigating it. The shapes appeared to move as she looked at it, the spheres undulating as the pyramids rose and fell. She blinked— and then looked again. Nothing out of the ordinary. Whether it was simply the rocking of the boat, or her lack of sleep that caused the illusion, she did not know. She decided it would be best to take this time to rest, as she wouldn't easily be able to while underground. The steady drumbeats and yells of the rowers below deck made it difficult, nevertheless, she eventually managed to fall asleep.   In her dreams she found herself under the watchful gaze of something great and terrible. What, exactly, she could not tell— only that she must escape its sight. Great pyramids of obsidian shrunk and stretched in the distance, as if they were pushed and pulled by hands of immense size. She ran through fields of dull pink grass, splashing through pale red spheres which laid scattered throughout the fields like hidden traps which seemed to tug at her very soul with every touch. No matter how fast or how far she ran, she could feel the thing's gaze locked on her, and it seemed to pierce steadily through the back of her neck in searing pain. She continued to run tirelessly, until she reached the shore of a dark blue lake— so dark it appeared almost black. She knew this lake. Chluetichlon, it was worshiped by the Coulqepluex, and was what ultimately separated them from the Nouex. The Nouex were those who had not been baptized within Chluetichlon's freezing waters at birth, they did not receive the lake's blessing as a result. Yet they lived much longer than the Coulqepluex who looked down upon them so. They felt more— happiness, anger, sadness, the entire gamut of emotion was stronger for them. And yet they were marked, by not being marked the same as the Coulqepluex had been.   She hated this lake. It was said to be bottomless, and reach down to the heart of the universe itself. All she could imagine was how horrible it would be to fall in, left afloat in an endless watery abyss. It exuded coldness, and swallowed whole the bodies of the dead Coulqepluex, what if their bodies continued to sink, even now? How many aeons might her own corpse take to reach the heart should she drown? She had few options, however, and the searing pain in her neck felt stronger than before. The lake, it seemed, whispered to her.   "Nra'g n'shol ri milogrash." "Take the plunge." It said. Tike remained on the shore. "Tryon Yigak!" "Join me!" It insisted. Tike took a step back. "Graekti lokgn!" "Now!" It demanded. Tike ran the opposite direction— fearing the lake more then the piercing gaze. As she turned she was met with a fearsome visage. Strips of flesh, like flayed skin, twisted around one another to form a great knot floating in the air above her. Great crystals of various colors, shapes, and sizes pierced through the skin randomly, carefully arranged to avoid the center of the knot's mass under which there seemed to be something hidden from her. Yet she knew what lay behind the knot. The thing's eye, despite being behind many layers of flesh, suddenly burned through Tike's very being. She tried to cover herself with her arms, but they crumbled to olive-colored dust. She screamed as the searing heat overtook her, and she too crumbled to dust.   She awoke to find herself being kicked by an older man.   "Hey, you're screaming real loud. I don't think anybody appreciates it." She didn't respond, worriedly searching for her arms, finding them still there, and breathing a sigh of relief. The back of her neck, however, felt hot to the touch. She winced after lightly touching it with her hand. The man gave her a weird look, and made a show out of stepping away. She thought about standing up, but realizing that she'd have to stare into the horrid lake below, she decided to stay where she was and wait out the rest of the journey. Thankfully she didn't need to wait long, as the ferry shortly arrived at the opposite shore.  
  Her trek to the mine itself was uneventful. Once she found herself alone on the road, she stopped for a moment to change into the miners' clothing. The outfit consisted of a simple burlap tunic, and a string to tie it at the waist. It wasn't very comfortable, and Tike was glad for it only being temporary. She folded her own clothes and started to stuff them into the sack before stopping herself. If she kept them, she'd be able to carry less of the crystals. She looked around for a moment, eventually deciding to hide the robes in a tree stump. Finally, she marked the stump with the pick, dragging it to write the Qetlec symbol for "home." It's only a day. She thought. I'll be back soon. With that done, she placed the pick in the sack and continued towards the mine.   She arrived as the sun rose to its apex, beaming with pride, caring not as it seared everything below. The mine's entrance itself was unassuming, if one did not know what it exported, they would assume it to be sitting over nothing other than a common iron deposit. How that man had received his information she really didn't want to know— she just hoped it was reliable. Workers passed by her without so much as a second glace, pulling covered carts over the exposed stone beneath them, filled with gold or couleuz to be brought to a nearby city, refined, and sent throughout the world. Most, unsurprisingly to Tike, were Nouex like her, toiling away for what was, she imagined, a meager pay.   Much to her chagrin, actually five entrances into the mines below. She cursed under her breath. If I can pull this off, I'm taking some for myself and never going back. A better thought quickly followed this. Why not all of it? She smiled lightly, and filled with newfound determination, picked an entrance at random. She could see guards speaking to one another nearby, and hurried her step. Only a brief moment... She did not wish to find out exactly how brief this moment was, and ran into the tunnel before her. She wrested a torch free from a sconce along the wall and began to make her descent.   The tunnel spiraled downwards at a slight slope, to allow for ease of transporting carts to and from the depths. She continued downwards for what felt like hours, without any signs of an end. She felt like a capsized ship spiraling a whirlpool. Eventually, the spiraling tunnel's walls disappeared to reveal the vast expanse below. The cavern was covered in a suffocating ocean of darkness, with islands of light poking through every now and again. From these islands, she determined that the cavern must have been larger than the great lake itself— a thought that made her feel unimaginably minuscule. She stopped staring and made her way down the slope for a while longer, before finally reaching the cavern's floor. She pulled another torch from the wall before stepping outwards, assuming she'd need more time than previously thought.   She planned to find an unlit pathway, assuming that the farther from others she was, the smaller chance she had of being caught. She passed a number of tired looking miners along her way, some giving her strange glances for holding not one— but two torches in the same hand. Ultimately, none said anything, and Tike couldn't help but wonder which was the associate from which she was to receive aid. The cool, stuffy air and eerie quiet— only cut by the occasional sounds of metal hitting rock in the distance— made her feel uneasy. She wandered for around half an hour before finally finding a branch off the main path which lead to an area without light. She glanced over her shoulder before making her turn. Not that she could do so without being seen— she did this more out of paranoia than anything else.   As she walked she thought of what she might do with the couleuz after escaping. Eat. A full day's worth of meals! Was her first thought, allowing a satisfied smile to grow across her lips. Leave Rektouzk, and start elsewhere. Was her second, followed by another that brought a wide grin to her face. Bankrupt that lousy merchant, blackmail him the same as he did to me... She lost herself in these thoughts as she continued, as the dull stone beneath her, smoothed by the many sandals of miners that passed over its surface throughout the years, gave way to rough purple-tinted stone. Her first torch had dimmed to the point of uselessness, and so she cast the smoldering stick to the side.   As she looked up again, a sparkling glint caught the light of her remaining torch. She hurried towards it, stopping just before the sea of brilliant dark purple crystals now before her. It was beautiful, thousands of golden flecks shimmered in the dancing torchlight as it pierced crystal after crystal. Some said that couleuz was a window to the cosmos, and now she could understand why. Despite being miles underneath the surface looking at the ground, she felt as if she was staring up into the night sky. The image almost made her dizzy, Tike had to kneel down to regain her sense of balance. She stared for a few quiet moments, knowing she would likely never see such a sight again in her life— and that she was about to deface it.   The couleuz was surprisingly easy to harvest, taking only a light tap at the base of each crystal with the pick to free it from the ground. Tike wished to take her time with this, to hold up each crystal to the light and inspect them— but she knew her time was unfortunately short. She kept an eye on the torch in her hand as she continued about freeing the crystals, gaining a rhythm after some time. Hit, grab, sack, torch. Hit, grab, sack, torch. Hit, grab, sack, torch. She repeated to herself, until she had filled the sack with glittering crystals so tightly it almost couldn't close. As she tied the sack shut she noticed something odd about it— the sack seemed to undulate slowly. Just the flicking torch light. She thought to herself— until the undulation began to quicken. She quickly glanced at the torch, and back to the sack. The speeds of their movement were completely different.   A searing pain began to pierce the back of her neck. Her stomach dropped, and her necklace began to rise into the air— she was too afraid to touch it. It moved as it had before— the orbs undulated and the pyramids rose and fell— except it grew larger now. It pulled slowly but surely closer to the sack, eventually snapping free of Tike's neck as it continued. She fell back and crawled away from the sight— remembering vividly the dream from before and not wishing to die— her torch clattering to the ground in the process. A strange hissing noise began to emanate from the necklace as it enveloped the sack, its movement getting faster and faster before, finally— both disappeared. A sudden breeze blew from where both had been, blowing out the torch and chilling her skin.   She sat there silently for a moment, the only sound she could hear was that of her own startled breathing. She wondered if she was even awake, if this was realty— surely it couldn't be? This wasn't supposed to happen. In the pitch blackness, Tike searched feverishly for the smoothness of the path that would lead her back the way she had come. Nothing. She cursed under her breath as the palm of her hand was cut on one of the many couleuz crystals covering the ground beneath her. This was supposed to be a quick job. She cursed again, and shut her eyes. She tried to calm her breathing, to relax and steady herself so that she could think of a way out of this. Calmer, she opened her eyes again.   And found herself floating among a field of stars. Or was it just couleuz? No, it couldn't be. It surrounded her in every direction, twinkling stars blinking every which way she turned. Yet— she couldn't possibly be among them as she found herself now. Was she going insane? Had a single failure caused her mind to snap like a mere twig? She refused to believe so. Her breathing became more and more erratic as her mind raced through the possibilities. The stars around her seemed to spiral mockingly, like a sickening kaleidoscope. She tried to shut her eyes but found herself without the energy to do so.   Then she felt a familiar, horrid gaze set itself upon her. And another. Then another— and more until she felt as if millions of eyes were piercing through her. She feared moving, as if the slightest motion would set off a chain of reactions leading to her horrible death. She simply stayed still, staring ahead at the millions of things made of various collections of flayed skin and crystal as they, too, spiraled around her. Or was she spiraling, herself? Regardless, she was forced to watch the things as they surely watched her.   And there she remained, spiraling slowly through the stars. Meeting millions of gazes with her own.


Author's Notes

Feedback is very much welcome! Whether on the content, or the formatting! Please, point out typos if you spot any!

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Oct 14, 2020 23:54

Well... These things in the end can't be good news for Tike.

Oct 15, 2020 05:40 by Grace Gittel Lewis

Definitely not. Also thanks for the reminder that I need to edit this story! I retconned the whole Coulqepluex/Nouex racism to be classism a while back alongside a few other things.

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