The words tumble over each other, each accusation rolling over the previous, and they rise to a cacophony of chaos. He listens closely, embeds the names deep within his mind. They are what he is, they are apt and accurate, every one of them, and he will remember.
He stands there, and knows that he is its fear, is its defiance, is its fury. He smiles at the shadow, a voice in the wind. It hisses in his ears. He taunts, beautiful and ecstatic and reckless, and it snarls at him, an ugly sound. He dances from its grasp, and it roars in anger.
Surely that is not all you have, he says (his voice is deeper and at a pitch he needs to accustom himself to, but that is a small matter), and there is not a moment of disappointment. Father of the Corrupt, Mother of Decay. Dweller of the Black, it wails, and he laughs.
Give it back to me, it screams. He almost claps hands over his ears; he thinks he feels them reeling from the crescendo. But he shakes his head, and a laugh bursts forth from his throat once more. It is mine, he says, and there is a glittering darkness in his eyes. Wretched, it howls, and he does not deny it.
Come get me. He raises his arms high, spreads them wide, and beckons forward. His laughs ring clear; its advance is thwarted as it reaches the entrance of the cave. Oh, but you cannot, he mocks. Screeches run into the sky, and the light shudders.
Return it, return it, it chants, and he shakes his head. A bargain struck hard and true, and it is mine. There is not a pause, and it returns - trickery, trickery! He grins, answers - who be it you seek to sell this claim to; me, or yourself?
You wanted power above all, he says. You wanted freedom and none to answer to. He leans closer, and his nose just stops before the intangible line that separates him from it. He feels the air shift, and imagines that it is clawing for him. His smile widens; teeth show. Freedom just means you have nothing left to lose, He quips, and there is a note of jeering song in his words. I've held my end of our little arrangement. There is a cry, and he thinks it reeks of desperation and knowledge of its own foolishness.
What is my name? He whispers, and chuckles at the ensuing intelligible sound it makes, because this verifies his truth - it hangs on his every utterance, and the words are a tightening noose around its neck. You are nothing, it spits, intended venom feeble in its voice.
I am the smoke in the wind, I am the Soul-Stealer. I am the Dark Traveler, I am the False Tempest. I am the nothing of everything.
You are the everything of nothing, it whimpers, and he hears it fading. He takes the hat from his head, admires it. It was his before, but he has no use of it now. He tosses it aside, prepares to slide an old life from new skin. Thank you for this, he says. He taps the body's chest, and thinks that he must really begin to think of it as his own body.
I am you, now, he continues, and there is a there is a sharp keening. You cannot die, he adds, and takes delight from the emanating despair. And I won't give it back.
What is my name?
There is a pause -- he uses the moment to glance down, purses his lips, decides that he indeed requires new clothes -- and then it murmurs - My name was Stoa.
My name is Stoa.