Success requires sacrifice, something true in all walks of life.

Sometimes, however, the word 'sacrifice' may prove to be more literal than expected, and with consequences to match.

OOO

"Leave this place, creature. You've no business with me or my companion." Sasha stepped forward to meet the hulking beast, who regarded her in silence for some time before opening its mouth to reply.

"If that only were true, Oracle." With a gravelly, deep voice that seemed to echo off of its own stone skin, it stared at Sasha with a deep aura of loathing.

"We've made no pact, no deals that remain unpaid. You have no claim to this place, with no toll to collect. What else could you want?" Sasha demanded, apparently irritable at his presence.

"Ye speak truly. There is no account to settle between ye and myself. Today, my purposes here are different." He mused, brushing his chin with his massive fingers. "I come here to make an offer."

"Not interested." She responded coldly, before I even had time to think on his offer, her hand still in a gesture for me to keep my distance.

"Not to ye, Oracle. There is nothing of value to offer ye." He shrugged, and pointed at me instead. "I speak to your companion."

"M-Me?" I stammered, taking a step backwards.

"Yes. I have something ye will want dearly…and ye have something that I want." He explained, with Sasha giving me a look of warning.

"What do you think I want?" I asked, knowing well enough not to trust the troll-like creature standing before us.

"Ye want the truth." He glanced at Sasha, her face turning white as a ghost at the mention, a gleeful chuckle escaping his stone mouth. Ignoring the troll, I looked at Sasha in a mixture of confusion and suspicion, only to be met with an angry expression.

"I will say this once, monster. Leave this place and take your schemes elsewhere, or this jungle will be your tomb." Stepping in front of me, Sasha's blade appeared in her hand, and she held it out menacingly. "We aren't interested in what you have to offer."

However, as she uttered the words, I couldn't help the sense of conflict inside me. Ever since my journey into Somnus had started, something had felt wrong. Others had reacted to my presence in strange fashions, like Whisper and Raeve. Sasha herself had been uneager to pursue the subject. Though I trusted her enough to hold up her end of the deal when her so-called ritual was complete, I could no longer ignore the stabbing feeling that something was wrong, that I wasn't aware of something important.

"No." I spoke up, shocking Sasha as she turned to look at me.

"Olivia, this isn't the time—"

"No, Sasha, this is the time. I've helped you this far…but I can't take it anymore. I know you're hiding something from me. I can feel it every time I go deeper into this insane place." I interrupted her, my voice raising as I stepped forward. Taken aback by my sudden outburst, Sasha backed away, her normally confident expression falling into one of self-doubt and guilt.

"So ye wish to speak on a deal?" The troll asked, obviously savoring the conflict between us as he leaned forwards to look closer at me.

"What will I pay for this? You said I had something you wanted."

"Olivia!" Sasha tried to interject, reaching out as I moved away from her reach, ignoring her.

"It is not a typical deal, truth be told. There is someone who deeply wishes to speak with ye, and has requested that I find ye to bring to them."

"Who?" I asked, and he shrugged.

"I cannot tell ye unless you agree."

"…" I hesitated, the heat of the moment finally beginning to die down as I finally looked back at Sasha, who stared at me with pleading, desperate eyes.

"Don't do this." She shook her head, reaching out. "There are some truths you can't walk away from, Olivia."

Unable to meet her gaze any longer, I turned back to the troll and reluctantly nodded.

"I agree. Tell me what you know, and I'll meet your friends." However, as I spoke the words, he merely laughed.

"I know nothing, girl. It is they who wish to speak to you...and so they shall." Before I could utter another word, he let out a guttural roar, reaching out with one stone hand and grabbing me, the other opening his sack as he threw me into it.

"OLIVIA!" Sasha screamed, and before I went into the blackness of the troll's bag, I saw her lunge forward, casting a flare of purple magic against the troll as the bag sealed itself, locking me into the abyss.