First entry! I might have missed the theme entirely but I got carried away… sorry. I hope it is enjoyable either way.

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Defeat

The voices… they were always there. Growing stronger in his mind for each passing moon. He gently squeezed the bundle resting in his arms. The orb was still there, cool to the touch even through the cloth. His leg twitched. An involuntary spasm in response to a distant sound. Was there someone there or was it all in his head? He peered out under the thick flap of blanket covering him and pressed his body flat into the moss. If he lay still no one would find him. Nothing happened.
“Just the wind…” he exhaled after holding his breath. But it was never just the wind. Deep in his mind Thorn knew they had found him.

Something huffed in his neck. A soundless laugh from a restless soul.
“That’s it…” It whispered. “Sink into the dirt where you belong.” With every broken word it spoke the spirit grew more agitated. Frustrated with its own effort to remain calm. The light from the hearthstone was like a burning star to its eyes. Their star. No. Their heart, that this elf had stolen from them.
Thorn curled up, pulling his knees to his chest and covered his head with his arms. He felt the anger building around him. Soon the screams would come. Then the pain. Then… then what? Death? What death would that be? Their torment would remain even if his body perished. Forever, or until he did as they demanded.
There was no scream this time, only a silent lash of rage followed by another. Again and again the fists and claws of the spirit pounded into his back and shredded at his arms. No blood, no thorn clothes. The wounds were not physical but they hurt just as much. How much longer until they could hurt him? He dared a look at the the orb that had slipped its covers and now lay glittering in the sun. Beautiful and white. Pure, perfect and powerful. But oh so cursed. The spirit let out a heart wrenching cry as Thorn shot to his feet and scoped the hearthstone back into his arms making a run for it.

He came to a stop by a river, his muscles and lungs burning. He crouched and sank his hands into the water. One summer ago he had been a revered scholar, sharp in mind and strong of body. His reflection in the water told him he had become frail, and his demeanour skittish. His green eyes were empty save for the fear gleaming in them. His deep brown hair a thick tangled mess. He shook the vision from his mind and washed it away with the cool river water. With both hands embedded in his hair trying to smooth it out he nearly fell flat on his back in shock. He had waited too long. The spirit was back. It stood over him, its fingers flexed as claws after having struck at the elf’s throat. They looked at each other motionless. Thorn not sure what had happened, and the spirit equally confused about what it had accomplished. A streak of red coloured Thorn’s robes at the collar and a dull ace started to throb in a thin line across his throat. It was blood… real blood. A real wound. He felt all heat drain from him as sheer terror took hold of all his senses.
The spirit smiled. It seemingly shivered with excitement. Finally. Such fear. This he could work with, this his brothers could feed on. And the blood. Yes. Vengeance, death, it all could be brought down on this wretched thief now. Like a wolf the spirit pounced at Thorn who still sat frozen, his mind flooded by thousands of thoughts at once. He realised the full danger he was in. And most of all, he realised that he had become what he so arrogantly had thought himself above. A cursed soul. A heart thief. He had thought himself worthy to possess such a powerful artefact. The price for such a thing was ones mind and soul, and it was no different for him.
Countless voices screamed at him from beyond the veil, demanding justice and peace. They wanted their light back, their heart. Without it they were in darkness. And they would drag him into the void for what he had done.
Thorn let out a groan. He could not hear his own agonised screams for all the damned. They were many tearing at him now. Shredding his robes and drawing blood with each furious blow. He grew dizzy and tired as his energy drained out of him. Not being able to sustain themselves the spirits withdrew. Biding their time for a next assault.
There was blood everywhere, the wounds no deeper then an inch but in numbers beyond what Thorn could bother to count. He could not stand. Instead he crawled.
“Alright…” he sobbed. His every move trembled as he dragged himself back to the river bank where he had left the hearthstone.
“I’ll bring it back to you… all the power in this world is not worth your wrath.”

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Other participants: Anastasia V. Pergakis , S Frankie Blooding and Veronica R. Calisto