Chapter Sixteen: Against the Wordless Devourer
A sphinx is of course a being with the body of a cat, the wings of a bird and the chest and head of a humanoid. Which cat, which bird and which humanoid varies. It is also a powerful spirit, one attracted by libraries or places with a heavy weight of history. It is said that they come into being from ruin, words, and a strong desire to not lose knowledge and naturally enough a lot of magic. Lesser spirits with a connection to words or knowledge can often find themselves ending up as a sphinx if they gain more power.
Among those versed in the knowledge of such things, it is classed as a Higher spirit of Voice.
Most people of Kigan and Awarth know sphinxes as terrifying or unnerving beings that are fond of posing difficult wordgames and puzzles, then eating the unfortunate that cannot answer correctly. In truth, sphinxes are far more terrifying than that. Among the learned, sphinxes are known and feared more as devourers of words, than of people.
The weakest of sphinxes might only be able to nibble the existence of a person’s name, or a text’s title, but the most powerful ones can not only devour but spit up new words, and thus meddle with the knowledge of lesser beings, making a strong wizard think they a peasant and granting a swineherd the knowledge of several lifetimes. These sphinxes have many normally unseen mouths with which they devour and speak forth words.
A sphinx grows in size with how much knowledge they have protected, in other words how much they have devoured.
As for what a kyrou-sphinx is? Well…
Before Ivak, Claroosa and Fatho was one such spirit. It towered above them, it was at least several Claroosa tall and wide, standing as it was amid the grey pumpkin patch that seemed to dominate the castlegrounds. The castle in question loomed behind the kyrou-sphinx, all obsidian and arching spires twisting like the horns of some animal or another, indeed the towers spiralled in on themselves most unnervingly. It was however a bit tacky.
The kyrou-sphinx’s cat body was green with brown stripes, and rather than lithe it was extremely heavyset, though perhaps a bit starved looking. Its wings were a muddy brown, and in a state of some disarray. Its skin was deathly pale, and upon its head was what at first seemed like a black mask of a goat, or a ram. However it was no mere mask, but some strange chitinous covering that melded into the flesh of the kyrou-sphinx’s humanoid parts. Notably the mask had no eye-holes.
“What. Is that?” Fatho hissed
“I-i don’t know, It looks like a sphinx but something is… wrong with it” Claroosa said.
Ivak was trembling, face ashen.
“Of course the Sorcerer of Spaces would be more powerful, ahaha, yes” he babbled.
“Compose yourself milord!” Claroosa ordered.
He straightened his shirt and vest.
“Well that, my friends, is a sphinx defeated, and defeated utterly, a kyrou-sphinx. It is the state to which a sphinx is reduced to after it betrays its nature utterly or is so completely outdone in mastery of words. A sphinx that becomes one has failed in protecting knowledge, and thus is forced for a time to protect something else, if not bested by a person, then anything else.”
The kyrou-sphinx had not budged an inch.
“So then, it isn’t that dangerous?” Fatho asked hopefully, delusionally even.
Ivak and Claroosa did not even deem to give that a reply.
“So, we need a plan to get through that to the castle” Claroosa said.
Ivak stroked his beard. He scratched his head, he examined a grey pumpkin at his feet. Finally he spoke.
“Ok, I don’t have anything but this terrible plan. You two distract the kyrou-sphinx while I paint and trap it, it can’t just simply be defeated, it’ll just reform as long as what it protects exists.”
“Yes, that is a terrible plan, I vote we try something else” Fatho said.
“I agree with Mr. Gubbluk” Claroosa said.
“Ah well, I guess there isn’t anything for it, we’ll have to fight… wait you agree with me?”
“Yes Mr. Gubbluk. Milord, have you forgotten, you cannot trap beings with full will or higher thought?”
“She agreed with me” Fatho muttered disbelievingly.
“As it turns out, while a sphinx is kyrou, they are stripped of both will and thought, until such a time that they have served their time, it isn’t so bad for the sphinx really, as their mind experiences none of their time as kyrou-sphinx, like waking up from a dream unremembered one author put it, a sphinx herself”
“Ok, so you can actually capture the thing, maybe. Still a bad plan” Fatho hedged.
“Yes, it is a bad plan, but…” Claroosa began.
“It is the plan we have, I’m confident in my ability to keep it back while milord paints it, especially with your aid Fatho” She finished.
Ivak was prepared in moments and Claroosa and Fatho advanced on the kyrou-sphinx. Claroosa loosened her clothes for the fight and Fatho took out his dark red sling.
“Maybe its died standing up, that’d be nice” Fatho commented to Claroosa.
The kyrou-sphinx leapt into action, a jarring lack of sound for the motion with which it surged as it leapt at Claroosa and Fatho.
Fatho swore as he dived out of the way. Claroosa however, just shifted her feet into place and took the kyrou-sphinx head on. Grey pumpkins and gravelly earth churned upwards as the spirit smashed into her, but she moved with the spirit, grabbing it by the head, and flipping it over her own head, slamming it into the ground.
Ivak had already begun furiously painting it at this stage.
The kyrou-sphinx quickly righted itself, only to be greeted with crackling bolts from Fatho’s sling. Whatever he was putting in the sling, it did a good job of keeping the spirit from regaining its footing. His aim was good, hitting whatever limb its balance was most dependant on.
The spirit silently spun around to face Fatho, shielding its body as well as it could with its wings. It began a rushing charge against him, but jerked back, Claroosa had grabbed a hold of its tail. She reeled it in. Fatho pulled away the spirit’s footing once more and with a grunt Claroosa threw it against the castle. It did not even make a sound as it crashed against the ribbed walls of the obsidian castle.
This time the spirit tried to fly up into the air, to dive at the intruders from above, but a few well placed shots and Fatho soon put a stop to that, sending the kyrou-sphinx plummeting into the ground.
It did not however hit the ground. A tear opened up before it, and then in the next moment it was before Fatho, who wailed as it swiped at him. Claroosa however, was not to be outdone, she twirled around to the side of the spirit and gave it a mighty punch, sending it flying.
Again, the spirit bit through space and came at them again. Claroosa however simply tossed it away.
It came again, and again Claroosa repelled it. It came in a torrent, reappearing and vanishing as soon as Claroosa had smote the spirit back, Fatho even with his trained eyes was having trouble keeping track.
Ivak let out a cry of triumph. His crest flared out behind him, The line, the mess of interlocking circles and the frayed ends glowed turquoise. His eye shone bright.
The Kyrou-sphinx stopped in place, its form warped and melted towards the painting. It turned its sightless gaze towards Ivak. Then it ate space.
It was then before Ivak, about to crash into him.
Claroosa screamed, and leapt from the ground, speeding towards them both. She was not fast enough. Ivak would die. There was not a thing she could do.
Fatho however, was not idle. He let fly a crackling bolt that burned the air, it thundered into the head of the kyrou-sphinx, knocking it aside from Ivak, who in fright had stopped his crest’s power.
In this time Fatho bought, Claroosa caught up with the spirit and laid into with the fury of a berserker mother, punch after punch. The spirit however slipped away, eating through space to reappear attacking Ivak. Fatho again knocked it off course, and he and Claroosa began defending Ivak who the spirit was now completely focused on.
“Milord! Capture it!” Claroosa cried.
Ivak who had frozen in place, regained his senses at the sound of Claroosa’s voice. He flared his crest’s power once again, drawing the spirit into the painting. It would not however be drawn in, as soon as it was in danger of too much of it falling in, it would simply bite its way through space and away from the pull of Ivak’s crest and painting.
“Its no good! I need it to stay still!” Ivak said.
Claroosa looked to Ivak, and looked at the kyrou-sphinx. Its body was dented and cracked, but was noiselessly popping back into shape and closing over.
“Ok then. Fatho, cover me”
She slipped the top half of her clothes off apart from a binding around her chest, revealing a scarred and lithely muscled body.
“What am I?” She began a chant.