Her chambers were dark. Same as they always were, same as they’d been for as long as she could remember. Silence surrounded her, not even the sound of crickets nor the howl of jackals to break the monotony.
That would end soon enough.
She arranged the candles as her sire had shown her so long ago, adding one for each circuit Habir-eth had made around Solus Prime. They crowded the altar now and spilled onto the floor. When she’d begun, there had been only six.
Sometimes she thought she could remember the ritual from her earliest days, her sire and dam teaching her the ritual before they taught her to speak. But that was impossible. Even her kind couldn’t remember that far back.
She did remember the later times, though. Her sire and dam beside her, the rest of her clan stretching into the darkness as far as the eye could see.
“Hold the thought in your mind,” her dam would remind her. “Tell no one what it is, but hold it firm as you end the candles’ light.”
In this way her kind had created the world, or so the elders said. In this way, as well, the world had seen to their destruction.
She never understood why they let her live, the ones who killed her clan. Perhaps it was because she was so young. Perhaps it was because her sire had begged.
Perhaps it was because she’d agreed to go.
That had been a long time ago, though, and she’d long since tired of solitude. Hers was a social clan. They could not bear to be alone.
She wouldn’t be alone much longer.
Already she could see them, like ghosts in the darkness, stretching as far as her eyes could see. Not her clansmen, of course. Even her magic wasn’t strong enough for that. But if the ones who had banished her here were determined to keep her from her clan, they could take their place instead.
With a wave of her hand, the candles flared to life. She held the picture of them in her mind, the people who had sent her here. She imagined them in this place, wanted them here, every man, woman and child. She pictured every fold of their clothing. Every strand of their hair. Every flash of terror in their eyes.
With a single breath, the candlelight was gone.
All around her, the ghosts grew stronger, clothed more and more with each passing second in the sounds of confusion, the smell of fear, the solidity of life. Soon enough, she wouldn’t be able to see the walls through them anymore. Soon enough, they would be here.
With a smile she closed her eyes, stepped back from the altar, and waited for the screams to begin.