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Literature / Empty Memories and Cold Graves

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Empty Memories and Cold Graves is a supernatural horror story by Scraggle and Lightysnake, and officially the second entry in the crossover between The Never Mythos and The Kindness of Devils, second of the Lonely Dreams Cycle. It can be read here.

When Eliza Cortly and Hardestadt Delac are reunited, a timeless evil fixated upon Hardestadt soon rises to destroy their burgeoning happiness with one another. The two are pushed to the limits, forced to depend and trust one another, as well as confront the darkest shadows from their pasts if they are to survive unbroken.


The work contains examples of the following tropes:

  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: Subverted. Hardestadt is one of the most comforting things to Eliza, but Nyarlathotep's malice and evil while wearing his face only unnerves her all the more. He also takes Eliza's form when corrupting Vicente, and makes it absolutely nightmarish to the poor, broken guy
  • A God Am I: Nyarlathotep revels in it. "The only god here tonight is me."
  • All for Nothing: All of Vicente's heroism amounts to nothing whatsoever. The Consultant effortlessly disables his efforts and hundreds of innocents die.
  • Alwaysa Bigger Fish: We've seen how terrifying the City beasts like the Needler and the Writhe can be....and then arrives Nyarlathotep, who sends near panic throughout the City.
  • And I Must Scream: The Consultant notes the two-hundred innocents it fuses into a living room of flesh are all still alive in the awful state and will be for as long as it's amusing to her.
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  • Asshole Victim: Well, the question of what happened to Stefano de Cortly is finally answered. Given he was an abusive rapist, nobody is going to mourn his torturous, agonized end at the hands of the relentlessly sadistic Nyarlathotep.
  • Badass Boast: Hardestadt delivers one to the Shadows' Consultant: that things will end only one my. "My sword. Your heart."
  • Bad Boss: The Shadows' Consultant reigns over the City of Never as a dictator who set up a cult for the beasts to follow and casually murders one City beast out of irritation at Nyarlathotep's arrival.
  • Bad Samaritan: Nyarlathotep adopts a facade of benevolence by sheltering Vicente from the Consultant, but really he's just hoping to corrupt the Seer for his own ends.
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: Nyarlathotep dives into Eliza's mind at one point to see what he can learn. Eliza manages to divert him enough to keep him from finding out about Grete, knowing no good could ever come of that.
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  • Being Good Sucks: When Vicente asks if Eliza's obstinate behavior towards the likes of Nyarlathotep and the Consultant at the cost of endless misery and everyone close to her dying or suffering is worth it, Eliza can't answer "yes" even for all her optimistic preaching.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Nyarlathotep and the Consultant team up to destroy the burgeoning happiness between Eliza and Hardestadt, trapping Blatna in a terrifying "game" and driving Hardestadt and Eliza to the brink through their torment.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Most of Blatna has been destroyed, countless people are dead, Vicente dies, and Eliza and Hardestadt are both driven to the absolute brink with nearly nothing to show for it after with both the Consultant and Nyarlathotep getting off scot-free sans a few minor irritations. In spite of everything, Eliza and Hardestadt have refused to break, and Eliza eventually makes the slow road to recovery, finally consummating her relationship with Hardestadt properly. The book ends with Eliza, for the first time in centuries, at peace.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: As per usual from the City, the beasts are like nothing human, with the Scrambler being a particularly grotesque example.
  • Blatant Lies: Nyarlathotep tends to tell the truth, but not the whole truth generally speaking. At some points, however, he just lies his ass off to Vicente, such as noting he's clearly above good and evil.
  • Body Horror: The horrific Scrambler is a City-beast that fuses humans, over two-hundred of them, into living scenery for the Consultant's kicks. The Consultant even temporarily traps Hardestadt in a mound of living flesh.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Nyarlathotep's common Kick the Dog moment are referred to as simply petty little habits for him. Similarly, the Consultant says the murder and torture of millions to spite one person are "as everyday motions to me." On a more personal note, the Consultant has no recollection or care of the Black Plague, which it helped Nyarlathotep spread, killing Hardestadt's then-wife Maria.
  • The Bus Came Back:
    • Vicente, the young Seer Eliza taught in 1670, returns, revealed to be—however futilely—fighting off the Shadows' Consultant.
    • The Consultant itself makes its first direct appearance again since The City of Never, centuries before the incident at Onolo.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Hardestadt and Eliza are pretty clearly in love with one another by this point, but cannot admit it to one another or themselves.
  • Character Development: Fourteen years of regularly seeing each other seems to have opened up Eliza beyond her usual discomfort of being touched, though Hardestadt still notes she seems to be better some days than others.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Nyarlathotep calmly tells Stefano his options are dying quickly and dying slowly depending on cooperation...then quickly corrects himself and says quicker might be a better phrase as he's still going to torture him beyond mortal comprehension first regardless of how he answers. Mostly because Stefano mangled his name without permission.
  • Combat by Champion: The Consultant sits upon a throne like a Roman Emperor, forcing Hardestadt to face its champion one on one: the Hyena. All while its pack, the Hounds, form a ring around them to watch.
  • The Corrupter: Nyarlathotep utterly twists Vicente into a special little toy, turning him against Eliza.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Nyarlathotep and the Consultant prep for just about any contingency in Blatna, with Nyarlathotep even preventing Eliza from slipping into mind-space to warn anyone. By using the Defiler itself as a trap.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Stefano de Cortly suffers perhaps the single most awful death in either series so far. Stefano is turned into Nyarlathotep's personal torture toy for a century, handed over to Y'golonac regularly to be violated and torn apart by Nyarlathotep in every way imaginable. Stefano only meets his end at chapter five, where Nyarlathotep has him eaten alive from the inside-out by Eihort's spawn (casually noting he passed Stefano along a "few-hundred" times before this in preparation).
  • Cuteness Proximity: Eliza meeting Hardestadt's baby daughter is marked by her practically melting over the little girl and cuddling her constantly.
  • Deal with the Devil: Nyarlathotep offers this to Eliza several times, promising her status and safety should she accept his offers to 'break and be made anew' as one of his devotees.
  • Declaration of Protection: Hardestadt makes one to the people of Blatna, prompting Nyarlathotep to snark "what would possess you to make promises you can't keep?"
  • Defiant to the End: Vicente goes down mocking Nyarlathotep, laughing triumphantly in the shocked Outer God's face.
  • Defiled Forever: Strongly analyzed when Eliza and Hardestadt finally go to bed together. Eliza stops things because she's overly reminded of the Marital Rape License Stefano exercised on her in the past, causing her to blame herself for it—but she and Hardestadt take the slow road to letting that sink in so Eliza gets get over what Stefano did to her in the arms of someone who genuinely cares for her.
  • Die Laughing: Vicente destroys himself laughing at getting the jump on Nyarlathotep in his last action.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?:
    • The Shadows' Consultant is established to have a history with Nyarlathotep, who is older, smarter, and unimaginably stronger, playfully letting Eliza know that he could undo the Consultant any time he wanted to. In spite of this, when they finally meet on-page, when Nyarlathotep has cowed every single other being of the City, the Consultant doesn't talk to him with fear, respect or even caution—she speaks to him with pure scorn.
    • Vicente does similar to Nyarlathotep when Vicente finally defies himself, and in fact does his best to punch him out in his suicide attack. Nyarlathotep recovers instantly, but his "trophy" is destroyed in the process.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Nyarlathotep, everyone. Stop him from moving where he wants to? You die horribly. Talk when he's trying to think? He'll drive you irreparably insane. Use his name without permission, or even worse, say it dismissively and incorrectly? You will suffer like nobody has ever suffered before.
  • Domestic Abuse: When Eliza finally informs Stefano she's leaving him, his response is to not take her remotely seriously and slap her in the face.
  • The Dreaded:
    • The Shadows' Consultant is the bane of all Seers, but even its reputation pales to the terror of Nyarlathotep, who utterly cows every beast in the city of Never when it arrives.
    • The ancient Seers are revealed to have been terrified of Y'golonac the Defiler, purging all reference to its name to escape it. Eliza's lessons make certain to include to never, ever, ever respond to its calls through the Remeditary.
  • Easily Forgiven: Nyarlathotep tries to invoke this, telling Eliza his condition for sparing the Cortly lands? She just has to forgive Stefano, who raped and abused her during their marriage. Eliza frantically says she does, only for Nyarlathotep to icily tell her she has to ''mean'' it. She isn't able to do so.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Nyarlathotep has nicknamed the Consultant real identity the fallen Goddess, the Daydreamer Lucia, defined by their beautiful colors and radiance as his 'rainbow.' The Consultant seems to return "worm" as hers, clearly in tire with Nyarlathotep's theatricality.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Subverted. Nyarlathotep loathes aristocrats who hold themselves over others and has nothing but contempt for the abusive rapist Stefano de Cortly, making disparaging remarks about what a tragedy it is that Eliza was forced to endure him...but this is only because he considers humans equally pathetic, enjoys hurting those who are arrogant and his interest with Eliza extends only so far as her 'entertainment value' to him rather than any moral qualms, beyond a sense of theatrics and aesthetic.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Played with. Nyarlathotep happily says he knows of goodness enough to exploit it, but he clearly doesn't quite understand how some can have unselfish motivations. By the story's end he is perplexed how Vicente, Eliza and Hardestadt could resist him.
  • Evil Is Petty:
    • The Shadows' Consultant makes the same game out of Vicente that it did to Aisling and Eliza centuries earlier, massacring every single town Vicente ever tries to settle down in and killing everyone except Vicente purely to torment him with his failure, over and over and over. Why? "Because you were hers."
    • Nyarlathotep decides to massacre everyone in the Cortly lands and make Conte Stefano de Cortly suffer endlessly simply because he's annoyed at his name being poorly used by the Conte.
  • Evil Laugh:
    • Nyarlathotep gives an epic one when he sees Hardestadt and Eliza together, one that reverberates across all existence to bring nightmares to millions.
    • The Hyena, one of the City Beasts, tends to cackle as it hunts, with the sound reverberating in a victim's head to paralyze it further.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Everyone in the de Valer lands and Cortly mansion are taken by Nyarlathotep to suffer eternally. Stefano himself is given to Y'golonac the Defiler for a few hours just for annoying Nyarlathotep, one of the singular most horrific fates in existence...and Nyarlathotep specified quite clearly to leave him alone for further torment.
  • Faux Affably Evil: The consultant and Nyarlathotep put on airs of genteel refinement to mask what horrific sadists they both are.
  • For the Evulz: Nyarlathotep freely admits any broader justification for what he's going to do to Stefano doesn't really matter. "This is happening to you for three reasons: because I want to. Because I enjoy it. And because I can."
  • Forced to Watch: The Consultant brutalizes Eliza at the end, torturing, beating and mutilating herself to physical death. Its only request for Hardestadt in Nyarlathotep's grasp? "Make him watch."
  • Foregone Conclusion: As the Consultant is still alive in 2001, and Nyarlathotep inevitably returns in 2017, Hardestadt and Eliza will not destroy them here.
  • From Bad to Worse: The only thing worse than the Consultant? Is Nyarlathotep. The only thing worse than that? The two of them working together.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Nyarlathotep gives a brutal one to Eliza, harshly deconstructing all her good intentions and kindness as a front for selfishness and a desire to be unique, mocking her as not truly caring about any who suffer and die as long as she gets to be the 'tragic heroine.'
  • Healing Factor: The Hyena, one of the City beasts is able to even regrow lost limbs.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Vicente gives his own life to unleash a mental burst of Hardestadt and Eliza's mental energy, annihilating himself to free all of Nyarlathotep's trapped souls from the Cortly lands and cheat both the Consultant and Nyarlathotep out of their weapon.
  • Heroic Suicide: Vicente wearily says "let me sleep" when Eliza tries to reason him against his Heroic Sacrifice. It quickly becomes clear Vicente's simply lost the will to live entirely from the century of misery he's endured.
  • Heroic Willpower:
    • Vicente tries to show this, refusing to knuckle under to the horrific Consultant. Sadly, it does him little good. This eventually ends up discussed by Eliza and Vicente once Vicente returns to his senses, where Vicente points out Eliza's willpower and the detrimental effect it's had to her health, admitting he's physically incapable of keeping up Eliza's willpower.
    • Hardestadt and Eliza both showcase this fantastically. Both keep their strength and wits against even Nyarlathotep and the Consultant. Eliza is even capable of resisting both the Defiler's attempt at 'seducing' her, and then Nyarlathotep attempting to steal information on Grete from her mind.
  • Hidden Disdain Reveal: Upon Nyarlathotep's prodding how Eliza never bothered to find out what happened to Stefano, Eliza blurts out she didn't care, prompting her to finally break down and confess she despised him and wished him dead, before mournfully admitting she doesn't care what Nyarlathotep did to him.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Hits both the Consultant and Nyarlathotep beautifully; the one to ultimately destroy their twisted "game" is Vicente, whom the Consultant drove over the Despair Event Horizon by slaughtering everyone he ever got closed to and Nyarlathotep corrupted further to use him against Eliza.
  • I Lied: Nyarlathotep cheerily averts this, telling Stefano de Cortly up front that he's going to be tortured beyond all comprehension regardless of how he assists. He even remarks hearing someone scream "you lied" is fun for a while, but "it gets old the billionth or so time you hear it."
  • It Amused Me: Pretty much the reason for Nyarlathotep's interest in Eliza. She's one of the few Seers he finds interesting enough to view as a fun hobby. That coupled with her close relationship to Hardestadt means tormenting her will be highly entertaining for him.
  • It Can Think: The Hyena isn't just a predator. It shows a grasp of pack tactics and misdirection, playing Hardestadt to go after the people he's trying to protect.
  • Karma Houdini: The Foregone Conclusion is in play, but neither the Consultant or Nyarlathotep receive anything but bruises to their ego at the end of all things. Nyarlathotep has at least been cheated out of one of his trophies and the Consultant was almost killed, but both of them end the story mutually planning to rebound for even worse...
  • Kick the Dog: Nyarlathotep and the Consultant continually one-up themselves. In the first chapter alone, Nyarlathotep drives several servants of the Cortly lands to madness and death simply because they were there, and the Consultant is established to have made a side hobby of massacring entire towns purely to spite one of Eliza's disciples.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Nyarlathotep tosses Stefano to Y'golonac for a few hours purely in annoyance with his blubbering. Stefano being the rapist Hate Sink he is, nobody is mourning overmuch.
  • Lack of Empathy: Stefano's utter callousness, revealed in Eliza's flashbacks, is absolutely appalling, with his indifference to her horrible emotional distress when she returns from having met Eliphas Coyte, to days after when he demonstrates zero care for anything save her appearance.
  • The Last Straw: Stefano's cruelty and indifference to Eliza's plight are what finally make her cease her denials over how she cannot stay in her marriage for any longer.
  • I Have a Family: A woman tries this on Nyarlathotep, who being a sadist makes her go home a strangle him before drowning herself.
  • I Just Want to Be Special: Nyarlathotep mocks that Eliza's goodness and care for others, even all she's suffered, is just so she can be special, trying to force her to accept that herself.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: It's probably not a coincidence that the scene of Nyarlathotep giving Stefano de Cortly to Y'golonac (AKA the self-proclaimed "rapist of billions") happens right after Eliza's near panic attack during her and Hardestadt's failed first time thanks to what Stefano did to her.
  • Let's Wait a While: After their failed attempt at a first time, Eliza tells Hardestadt she truly does want to sleep with him, but needs a while to be comfortable, which he's fine with. He clearly tells her that he'll wait a hundred years if he has to.
  • Mama Bear: Eliza may not be Grete's biological mother, but she dearly loves the girl. Her first instinct when Nyarlathotep probes her mind is to use every trick, pushing herself to the absolute limit, to block him from finding out about Grete, swearing he won't let the Crawling Chaos hurt her little wolf.
  • Marital Rape License: During Eliza's marriage to Stefano, he abused their relationship to force himself on her when he wanted. Needless to say, this has taken a serious toll on Eliza, especially in matters of personal intimacy.
  • Mercy Kill: Hardestadt gives this to the Scrambler to free it from the Consultant's awful control.
  • Murder-Suicide: Nyarlathotep forces a women to strangle her son and then drown herself.
  • Nerves of Steel: The Consultant's entire system is at threat of collapse just from Nyarlathotep's presence within the City of Never, and he's clearly capable of kill'ing it and every City Beast with a minimum of effort. Its response is still "what is it this time, worm?"
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: The Consultant gives a sadistic one to Eliza in the end; after Vicente dies and the Consultant is nearly killed by Eliza, the Consultant takes out its rage by slowly and brutally hacking apart Eliza until her Resurrective Immortality is forced to kick in all as Hardestadt is Forced to Watch.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: The calm, genteel, pacifistic Eliza Cortly who seems to hold no lasting ill will to anyone starts furiously condemning and hating her ex-husband Stefano for what she did to her in her inner monologue, showing just how deep she's been scarred by the experience.
  • Parental Substitute: Graves drives home how much a mother to Grete Eliza really was. She knew her since Grete was a baby and frequently visits to care for her.
  • Psychic-Assisted Suicide: Nyarlathotep forces a women to strangle her son and then drown herself.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Of all the twisted monsters and sadists Hardestadt has fought, he saves a special loathing for Eliza's late husband, for obvious reasons. Likewise, Y'golonac the Defiler is seen as one of the most vile monstrosities in the entire canon and tries to take Eliza as one of its own.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Nyarlathotep is the red oni, animated and theatrical, brimming with emotion and grandiloquent and mouthy. The Consultant is the Blue Oni, cold and methodical, while never emoting.
  • Sadist: The Consultant is in fine form as ever, torturing Vicente hideously simply to spite Eliza. And Nyarlathotep savors the pain and madness of beings he considers beneath him, best exemplified when he tells a begging aristocrat "I don't want money, human. I want your pain!"
  • Sadistic Choice: Nyarlathotep's entire game to Hardestadt and Eliza: things can end when they break before him...and if they do? He'll just destroy a random, insignificant little planet in the Teraverse, forcing them to choose between innocent lives and the agonies he puts them through.
  • Safe, Sane, and Consensual: Discussed impressively. Hardestadt makes it clear to Eliza when they sleep together if she wants to stop, just say 'Moonlight' and it ends on the spot. She ends up using it in a stroke of anxiety during the act.
  • Safe Word: Hardestadt makes it clear to Eliza if she says 'Moonlight,' their activities end. He's good to his word when she uses it.
  • Savage Wolves: The Hounds of the City are a pack of savage, wolf-like beings that run in packs.
  • Security Cling: After they attempt to be intimate and Eliza's anxiety stops the encounter, Hardestadt offers to take the floor, but Eliza refuses, simply hugging him and asking him to stay by her and hold her in turn, even if they won't be sleeping together.
  • Sequel Hook: With Hardestadt now on Lucia's radar and Eliza still having refused to break before her, Lucia's final scene in the story is mulling over all the new ways she has to break them and do what Nyarlathotep never did.
  • Serial Rapist: It's strongly implied Eliza was not the only 'forceful' encounter in Stefano's history. But then there's The Defiler, the twisted Y'golonac who makes this its mission in life.
  • Sex Equals Love: Played with. By the end of the story, it's quite obvious how Hardestadt and Eliza feel about one another when they consummate their relationship properly. However, it's more a culmination of the years they've taken to build up their trust, care and love for another, and a reflection of those feelings.
  • Sex for Solace: Hardestadt offers this to Eliza: a night of comfort for both of them as friends. After some hesitation, she decides to accept. Unfortunately, while she starts enjoying it, she's reminded of her awful husband and has a near panic attack during the act needing to stop.
  • Scarily Competent Tracker: Nyarlathotep only struggles catching someone because he wants a challenge. He shows himself as exceptional at gleaning information and hunting someone down, even picking up Eliza's trail without much difficulty. Eliza is one of the single most elusive people in the entire world, for reference.
  • Ship Tease: Hardestadt and Eliza have been in regular contact since Grete was born, with Eliza frequently finding them. The two have deepened their friendship, with Eliza slowly overcoming her issues with physical contact, and the two tend to go on what amount to dates while practically raising his child together.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Eliza refuses to allow Nyarlathotep's speeches to break her, denouncing him as a monster and while she may be flawed in the end, she refuses to yield to his evil.
  • Sleep Cute: At the story's end, Eliza awakens beside Hardestadt, now her lover, with him sleeping peacefully and happily by her.
  • Spot the Imposter: When Eliza is reliving her wedding day thanks to the Defiler, she notices just a bit is off about 'Stefano,' making her realize something is hideously wrong, saving her from the hunger of Y'golonac.
  • Suddenly Voiced: The Consultant suddenly begins speaking at the climax, not with leeches but with her own voice.
  • Too Many Mouths: Eliza sees her former husband Stefano in a vision when she tries to escape into the Remeditary...only to realize what's truly there, when mouths in his palms open- a telltale sign of the Defiler.
  • Trauma Conga Line: The entire story is a brutal pile on of trauma for both Hardestadt and Eliza. After all they've been through already, Nyarlathotep and the Consultant put them through the absolute ringer, climaxing as Nyarlathotep endeavors to completely crush Eliza's idealism and goodness.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Nyarlathotep continues his usual habit of colorful swearing. "Oh, shoggoths."
  • Unwitting Pawn: Vicente is played like a fiddle like Nyarlathotep to turn him against Eliza.
  • Villain Respect: Nyarlathotep genuinely seems to respect Eliza's conviction. Unfortunately, Nyarlathotep liking you is not exactly a good thing. It upgrades you to 'toy,' and he is clearly plotting something horrific for her and Hardestadt. Played up even more when they meet in chapter 2. Nyarlathotep gleefully toys with her and even has her use his name.
  • You Have Failed Me: Draynak ever-so-lightly threatens Lucia with this when it sees she's more openly disregarding her ultimate mission in favor of her own self-gratification:
    If your words are sincere, then you have nothing to fear. Go to Burma. Seize my host. And we shall try the ritual once more. But if you find yourself wandering to pastimes once again... your end will be ignominious. More agonizing than any Seer you have ever tortured before. And it shall be entirely your fault, spurred by the attention of beings you so foolishly play with. And when you call for my help in your last breath... I will not answer. Am I understood?
  • Your Soul Is Mine: The victims of Nyarlathotep are imprisoned eternally, and physical death is not enough to save them. Their souls belong to the Outer God, to torture endlessly.

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