Author Topic: Reaction, Reflection, Realization - Domenico Foscari  (Read 1807 times)

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Reaction, Reflection, Realization - Domenico Foscari
« on: September 08, 2018, 10:10:33 PM »

A wise old man once said to me that it is the final end of a life that is the single most defining moment in a lifetime.  I laughed, asking how such a thing could possibly be true.  I argued that each and every day I wake and complete my daily training.  I interact with those around me.  I move and make the world I touch move in turn, and in doing so I am accomplishing much more than the single act of the average man's death could possibly account for.

He looked at me with little more than pity in his eyes, the old man's endless knowledge blotting out my own fledgling mind like the void of the starless night sky looming over a tiny shadow.  It is not the life of the deceased that was being defined, he said.  It was the killer who would be changed in the most significant way, cleaving the story of his life into two great lengths. 

All moments before the slaying, and all moments after.

And in that second life, the slayer was reborn.  He would rise from his grave, born anew in blood and pain.  And in that second birth, the slayer was renewed.  He would open his eyes for the first time, the illusions of the world would begin to fade.  And in that renewal, the slayer would discover the truth that men who only lived one life would never understand.  He would have a power within that they could never take away.

« Last Edit: September 13, 2018, 05:45:00 AM by Legion XXI »

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Re: Reaction, Reflection, Realization - Domenico Foscari
« Reply #1 on: September 13, 2018, 06:30:58 AM »
And so I stood there, at the precipice of a new era.  The Spirit-Seeker had told me that I was beholden to no one.  That I should do as I pleased, for that was the only path I needed to worry about.  Yet I still felt the burden of responsibility on my conscience.  Responsibility to an Order that would not have me.  To those who told me I was not enough.  To a way of life that I was deemed unfit to live.  These are the truths that I have told none, for how could I fill the role that was required of me if they knew?

I meditated long on the answer, but the more I sat and reflected, the more the truth became clear to me.  There was no great question to be asked of myself, for I had decided my course of action long ago.  When I arrived in this land of mists, it was not to find a new path.  It was a continuation of the one I was already on.

It was purpose that drove me to them.

The same purpose that brought me here.

And again the very same that will bring them to me.

- - - - - - - - - - -

I woke from my meditation to see her across the room, knelt by a candle herself.  Ah, if only you knew what I was.  What would you think of me, my companion?  I am sure that in time, I will have the answer to my question.  All things become clear, with enough time.  I only wish that I could bring you with me when I go.  But no.  This step I take alone.  Alone again, on a winding and misty path.  Unable to see what lies ahead, unable to know which direction the path will turn.  A story so familiar, yet so distant in my mind.  These years have taken a great toll on some, but I feel as if my spirit has just awoken from a deep slumber.  Aware of my surroundings for the very first time.

As I ready myself for what comes next, I take pause to remind myself of my own mortality.  One misstep and I will be sent tumbling into the abyss below.  A dancer walking the tightrope, a fledgling bird on the edge of the nest.  In the great cycle of all things, I am but a speck.  This day, this week, this month - nothing of significance before the crashing tide in the ocean of time.

There is perhaps no end to the path that I walk, but if perfection demands eternal service, then a slave forevermore I shall be.

In my service, I will find strength.
In my solitude, I will find wisdom.

I ask no forgiveness for what I now do, the pursuit of enlightenment can no longer be mired in emotion.

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Re: Reaction, Reflection, Realization - Domenico Foscari
« Reply #2 on: September 17, 2018, 01:17:59 PM »
Quote
Reflections on the Tenday's Holy Death:

We walked, he and I, to a place where we were alone.  I told him of a murder that had been committed in the dark, decrepit place that we had set out to.  The further into that place we went, the more I revealed.  A holy murder.  A cultist avenged.  The beginning of a new path.  He listened to my words, attentive and vigilant, looking for any signs of danger.  I felt a tightness within my chest, my focus wavering for a brief moment.  The balance that controls my every action, that guides me and allows composure, threatening to abandon me.  I closed my eyes there, in the dark, hand grasping the handle of my weapon. 

In that moment, time was very still.  I had an eternity to struggle with the action I was about to take.  I felt the quickened beating of my heart.  Tasted the cold, damp air of the cave.  Felt the dirt and stone underfoot.  I visualized what would happen, if my hand extended to touch him.  I saw it over and over in my mind, his blood painting the dirty cave wall.   Oozing out onto the ground, it's crimson tendrils weaving a lazy pattern outwards.  I saw the paleness of his skin as his spirit left his body, and the decay of his flesh and bone over time as he lay undiscovered in a desolate place.  I saw myself through his eyes.  I felt the fear he would feel.  The betrayal that would burn in his heart for the brief moment of life he still had.  The call for vengeance, the distaste for the injustice that was about to be committed.  All of this, I considered.  All of this, I took in.  In that moment, our spirits intersected.  Both of our paths had led us here.  Every choice, every step, every stumble and leap.  And in this place, alone, cut off from the world, we would fight.  A test of cunning and quickness, of strength and of will.  I knew that I would prevail, it could be no other way.  I understood my enemy wholly and I had prepared for every possible outcome.  I was calm.  I was balanced.  I was ready for whatever awaited me.  This man was already dead, long before he ever set foot in this place.  And I had killed him, from the very first time we met.  Fate had brought us here, a trail to be overcome.  A lesson to be mastered.

I spoke the words he needed to hear, to make my betrayal complete.  I felt my mouth move, and the breath leave my lungs.  I know I had spoken to him, but I did not hear my own words.  I heard instead the shifting of his balance, the dirt grinding underfoot as he turned to face me.  I opened my eyes and saw him there, my arm raising to reach out and touch him.  I felt the blast in between us and was already moving on his companion by the time he hit the ground.  My focus was absolute, my task quickly and cleanly fulfilled. 

In that moment, I experienced a great clarity.  I saw myself striding another step forward down a thorn-lined path with no end.  I saw the Spirit-Seeker and her eternal struggle against Fate and its machines.  I saw the Priestess Pain and her willingness to endure the suffering that most would avoid.  We are different from each other, yet outsiders the same.  And it was this path hat we chose.  Not because we had to, but because we wish to.  Because without endless pursuit, without a hopeless struggle, without unending pain, we cannot realize our true potential.  This was the path that would lead us to ruin.  But this was the path that would make us more than mortal.

I left that place, a clear trail for the vigilant to follow.  I would be hunted, perhaps.  Chased and threatened, fought and tested.  There was a way out, of course.  I could have made it all go away.  But it was the fight that I chose.  It is the path that will lead me most directly to my goal.  And this step into a pool of a sinner's blood was only the first along this new road that I have found myself on.  I face whatever lies ahead with a clear mind and a focused spirit.  I am prepared.  I am worthy.

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Re: Reaction, Reflection, Realization - Domenico Foscari
« Reply #3 on: March 21, 2019, 05:21:38 AM »
In my meditations, I dreamed.  It was a thing of intensity, and I could neither escape it, nor fight myself to wake from it.  A moment of clarity and reflection, twisted into a grim and terrifying encounter within my deepest thoughts.

I ran through a shadowed forest, down a path long untraveled.  Darkness had fallen around me and I could hear the sound of pursuers growing close.  The cold night wind rushed past my face and the wounds in my chest stung with each deep breath.  I was faster than the hunters- yet they grew closer.  I struggled to think, to maintain balance and focus, to remain in control of my mind, body, and spirit.  But such things grew difficult, and I could feel the venom of fear creeping into my soul.

I saw a great and dark pursuer, his eyes burned a deep color of red when his gaze fell upon me.  His form was an inky blackness that I could not quite make out, and I could not perceive him fully.  He reached out and the wounds within my chest began to glow a deep crimson color.  And with this glow, there was only silence and pain.  The world fell away from me, and in that moment, I felt only the deep burn of my wounds within my chest.  My feet were compelled to move, yet after only a few steps I was again wracked with pain.  I moved, and moved again, ever seeking to evade the darkness that approaches, yet I could not.  I could feel his eyes upon me no matter where I hid, and when I looked away from him even for a moment, he was no longer there.  The others had fallen away now, and it was only he and I.  Yet with each sound, he approached from a new direction.  I was trapped, encircled, bound to my hiding place.  Each breath I drew became more labored, and I could hear a faint whisper calling me to close my eyes and sleep.  The world grew very still and black.  Only faint trappings of it remained, and I felt myself slipping away from all that I knew.

When he spoke, I heard him within my mind.  He was all around me, an inescapable force that blotted out all else.  There was no sky, no moon, no forest or path.  There was only the pursuer, and his will imposed upon me.  His voice was deep, and boomed loudly from within my skull, shaking my very soul with each word.

"This is your fate, fledgling servant of Death.  To fail, a great and profound disappointment to all that you hoped to be.  To fall short in your leap and be plunged into the abyss.  This darkness is the tomb that you have built for yourself.  Your legacy, an unmarked grave in the great sea of blood that you have spilled."

"Tell me, seeker of things you cannot comprehend - what did you accomplish?  What great understanding was gained?  Others have put faith in you, Slayer, and you have failed them.  You have failed yourself.  You have failed me."

I awoke, cold sweat upon my brow.  My breath came quickly as the reality of the world nearly overpowered my senses.  My mind shifts quickly to the seekers who have come before me.  The gnome of shadow, maker of the knuckle-bone necklace.  The generous rat, scheming of death and endless plans.  The lost caliban, wandering into this blood-soaked land, unaware entirely of what darkness he has stumbled upon.  The reserved inquisitor, searching for answers to questions that he only just formed. 

All of these are before me, and in me, they have placed a measure of trust.  In my most quiet moments, I wonder what I am bringing them in turn.  Is it truly what they seek?  Or am I damning us all, in search of something I do not deserve to possess.  Trifling with power that I cannot hope to comprehend, just like the others.

The path is ever confusing.  It twists and turns, and is oft shrouded in darkness.  I must remind myself that it is not mine to decide if I am worthy.  It is only mine to try, and to try again.  To struggle, until there is naught left to struggle against.  To seek, until nothing else may be found. 

With the Doomguide's words still filling my mind, I know that there is still far to go.  I am only but a few steps along the path without end - and time grows short, for all men must die.

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Re: Reaction, Reflection, Realization - Domenico Foscari
« Reply #4 on: April 15, 2019, 05:12:29 AM »
I walk through darkness
and long for winter distant
but it is not mine


On this eve, I know only chaos.  Lost in a sea of my own thoughts, my meditation brings me little in the way of peace.  My codes, my oaths, my path - it has all been my anchor for so long.  But as I find myself increasingly pulled at all sides, I begin to wonder if I've been a great fool.  I still clutch memories of old allies and value the kindness they have shown to me.  I am wary of ancient enemies and what they have done to my kind.  How can I call myself a servant of only Death, when so many other voices insist on being heard first?  I wonder if the cause I follow has changed because I have attained a greater understanding of my path, or because I have become wary and lost upon it.  It is questions like these that awaken a feeling of unease within my deepest spirit.

I sat with her and we spoke of the past and present both, and in that moment I knew a tranquil peace that has evaded me for some time.  We find ourselves more intertwined than ever, our paths blurring together more with each step.  I feel emotion and worry that it clouds my judgement.  I feel loyalty to one who has not practiced the old arts in which all of my tenants are based.  Is this bond we share strengthening me, or is it slowing my steps upon my path?  My mind tells me that she could not possibly understand my duty to the path I walk, yet my spirit knows that she does.

More troubling - if it is indeed a weight around my feet, do I posses the strength to cut myself free?  Would I even want to, if I did?  Knowing that this very bond may cost me everything I seek, I have chosen to maintain it.  Knowing that feelings of security and companionship are lies that we tell ourselves to bring false calm, I still clutch them closely, like a child with a doll.  And now on the precipice of what may be the greatest bloodletting of my brief and fumbling existence, I am consumed with doubt because of it.

And yet, despite this chaos, I feel a strength and security in the bonds that have been forged.  It is undeniable that the allies I have gained are responsible for keeping the rising tide at bay.  Without them, how far along my own path would I have traveled before finding that Death has stolen me?  Solitude makes for quiet meditation, but no sage has existed that did not borrow from the wisdom of others.  Were it not for her, I may still walk among the land of the light, suffering the burden of the unremarkable and unpursued.  Perhaps I do not yet possess the wisdom to make sense of what has been shown to me.  Perhaps in time, that which is obscured will be made clear.

I am either on the eve of a new and profound revelation in my path, or I have become poisoned and now wither from within.  I pray that the choices I have made have no so shortened my existence that I will never see what fruit this tree will bear.  Yet, if it is so, I have made peace with the path I tread.  I understand that all men must die.

As the sages long before me have said, and those who come after me will also tell:  Those who seek Death shall find it.  It remains true always, even for me.  Wisdom is understanding this, and yet finding the strength within to seek it anyways.

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Re: Reaction, Reflection, Realization - Domenico Foscari
« Reply #5 on: February 02, 2020, 06:02:08 AM »
Death is only the beginning.

In this light-filled world so desperately clinging to that which makes them feel safe, it is the truth that most refuse to acknowledge.  But even among those few with blood-soaked hands, many fail to realize the depth of what Death has to teach us.  It is far beyond the single first kill that cleaves one's life in two.  Each challenger faced is an entire life of experience.  A whole world of knowledge unique to their path in life.  Each Death has more to teach us than the style, technique, and tactics of our enemy.  It is something deeper, something much more profound.

A child is born to a father and mother, each with many years of wisdom from the paths they have walked.  They join together in their raising of this child, and for a time, it enjoys the safety of their shelter.  They give it care.  Food, water, shelter.  They defend it from the wolves that stalk the darkness.  In time, the child grows older, stronger.  It learns the lessons of its parents, and begins to take steps along its own path. 

Its path is a winding one, and leads it into victory and hardship.  Pain and pleasure.  Joy and sorrow.  There are days of utmost heights and nights of crushing defeat.  The child endures, for it has no other choice.  Each day that it raises, it takes another step upon the path.  Each challenge it overcomes, it grows stronger and wiser.  The child has experience and wisdom of his own now, in overcoming the adversity upon his path.  And still he grows older.

The child has become a man -- a man in the prime of his life.  His life is precious to him and must be protected, so he takes up the blade.  He knows that he is fragile, so he dons armor of steel.  This man fights for some time, perfecting his arts and continuing along his path.  He learns from each foe he defeats. Every victory he tastes only serves to strengthen his resolve to drive onwards.

One day, the man crosses paths with another warrior.  He fights, and in this fight, he uses all of the wisdom, strength, cunning, and quickness at his disposal.  He knows that failure is Death.  He knows that he does not want to die.  But so too does the enemy know this.  His enemy that is just a reflection of himself -- a warrior who has harnessed the experience of an entire life of challenges. 

One warrior overcomes the other, it matters not which.  And in that victory, if they are wise enough to look, and listen, and learn, they may gaze a fleeting glimpse into their foe's life.  And with that small glimpse, there is the opportunity to learn.  This is what Death represents in battle.  Death is only the end for the one consumed by it.  For the one who bears witness, it is the new beginning.  Like the serpent who has shed his skin, each time you wash blood from your hands, you are born anew.  Wiser and stronger than before.  Filled with the knowledge of every challenge you have overcome.


-----------------------------------------------

It was in this very manner that I caught a fleeting glimpse into the world of shadow.  A whisper in my ear, an intangible figure at the corner of my gaze.  And like trying to shine a light into a shadow, I only caused it to reform deeper and more elusively in another place when I tried to focus upon it.  I had seen this shadow once before, in a memory long past.  But the darkness before me was unlike the gentler one I had known before.

There was something about the figure, laughing as the flesh before it crashed to the ground.  I do not know if I watched it revel in the violence, or the result.  But in that moment the woman's actions were clear to me in a way that had not been before.  Never have the words of my Order resonated more truly in one of my enemy's actions. 

"Those who seek Death shall find it."

For her, I pray that it is a new beginning and not the inevitable end.  For her to stave off final death for a time would perhaps allow me another glimpse into this world that I so poorly understand.  If I am to attain the Perfect Death and all it encompasses, I must venture into the places that none else would dare to tread.

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Re: Reaction, Reflection, Realization - Domenico Foscari
« Reply #6 on: February 25, 2020, 01:27:39 PM »
And when they look from light's high tower,
They see not us who walk in dark.
Awaiting chances to devour,
Extinguishing that guarded spark.

"Why do you do this?" the hunted cried,
A desperate wailing plea.
'Cause your name did Death provide,
Such choices do not fall to me.



At last, I am free of the looming burden that had threatened me for so long.  And yet, in this moment of victory I fear that I have only taken a step closer to defeat.  I am walking a path that I can no longer see and fear that I am losing my way.  And for every spirit who comes before me, seeking guidance, I am a pretender and false prophet.  With my own path so unclear, so obscured in mist and fog, how could I possibly act as guide for another?  The Shadow-walker's words still taunt me as they were intended to.  Am I refusing to shoulder the burden required for me to achieve what I desire?  Is this brief moment of peace truly favorable to my path?

I felt the eyes of a power far greater than I have ever known fall upon me, peering into the spirit.  Something so vast and wise, so powerful and unyielding that it was beyond my fledgling comprehension.  Like a burst of brilliant, colorful light to a creature who had lived its entire live in the darkness of a cave.  Is this what I have been searching for?  And if so, what is required to be deemed worthy to touch this power?  To drink only a drop from the cup of wisdom, and understand what I have seen?  I have innumerable questions, and yet not even a whisper of an answer.

My eyes are open, my ears are listening.  I understand my purpose, and it is that purpose that drives me onward even as my boots walk slowly through the viscous muck of doubt.  If I am truly to become the reflection that I seek, then I must take this guidance that has been provided to me.  I must again cast off what is comfortable, what has become so routine.   What is safe.  I must cut myself free from the tethers around my legs, and swim far into the infinite deep of the waters that await me.  Out of sight of the shore, lest I be tempted to remember which way it was, and turn back toward the familiar and mundane.


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Re: Reaction, Reflection, Realization - Domenico Foscari
« Reply #7 on: March 05, 2020, 04:37:33 AM »
"What path do you call your own?"
"Death"


"You are only soft like all mortals, you cannot help yourself."


"Child.  Your name, your Order-- Everything will lose meaning when you have achieved what I have."


"I have stored this for a long time."

"And what is the price for such a thing?"

"Blood."


"Death must be studied. 
It comes not only for mortals, but upon gods and the almighty. 
Mortals will not be your only subjects."


"This is the beginning.
 And the end is only eternal."


"Tell me of your friends." 
"Could you watch them die?"



The words hung in his ears like a damning accusation.  A black and vile venom that burned with a truth he had tried to deny so many times.  The weight of guilt descended upon him.  He thought of Rhea, the guide to the path that he now walked.  The order and stability that she represented in a place that had none.  He thought of Sevdeliza and the safety of the shadow that she flitted so easily in and out of.  Of her thoughtful silence and wise insight to the obstacles that had sought to claim him so long ago.  He thought of Creseida and the songs that she weaved to soothe the spirits of the dead.  The life within her starkly contrasting the death that surrounded her path.

What was to become of these?  He'd known the answer all along.  The being's red eyes stared into him, into the soul.  He knew that he could not hide from it -- even for a moment.  It knew who he really was.  The conflict in his spirit.  It had been him once before, in a time long passed.  But unlike the other spirits of death, there was a tranquility about this one.  A purpose and wisdom.  A resolve and duty.  This is what he had been so long searching for, and so he listened as the words poured into his ears.  He listened as he snuffed out the light that was most familiar to him, offering a reflection of himself to the silence of the grave.  He listened as he plunged his hands into the depths before him, paying the price for the wisdom he sought.  And he listened as the cold and mist embraced him, diverging his path from that which he'd found.  There were only echoes now, but still, he listened.  The voice of his distorted mentor offering guidance.

In the silence, chaos, and confusion that followed, one thing was certain.  He had gazed upon what all those who came before him had not.  He had traversed the path without end.

He had found the Perfect Death.
« Last Edit: March 05, 2020, 04:43:28 AM by Legion XXI »

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Re: Reaction, Reflection, Realization - Domenico Foscari
« Reply #8 on: April 21, 2020, 09:56:30 PM »
The bitter cold of the harsh mountain wind stung his skin.  A savage, ceaseless assault that caused him to shiver uncontrollably.  How long had he been kneeling here in meditation?  Hours?  Days?  His hunger threatened to overwhelm him.  His exhaustion demanded that he find rest.  But no promise of rest or temptation of respite was able to extinguish the rage that burned within him.  Though his body was beaten, battered, and freezing, his spirit burned brighter than ever before.  A raging flame, consuming every waking thought.

He recalled laying upon the harsh stone floor of the distant cave.  He recalled the overwhelming force that had beaten him to within inches of his life.  How merciless she was, taking joy in his defeat.  How she looked down upon him, as if he was a pathetic creature unworthy of her presence.  Harsh blow followed harsh blow, until the world faded away and he was unable to even writhe in agony.

He recalled the Dancer and her Shadow, and how they laughed at him in unison.  They swayed around him in a perfectly symmetrical dance like wolves circling a prey, their voices haunting his ears with jests and jabs. 

"Do you know how we knew it was an illusion, Domenico?  Because it bent you.  It changed your nature.  Tell me, does perfection come from things, or does it come from within?"

He reached to strike at them in a fit of rage, but the chains that bound him stopped the blow from landing.  They laughed harder.  He fought against the steel restraining him to no avail.  The duo laughed yet harder.  Soon they were joined by more--  the Wizard and the Nobles.  They all set their disapproving gazes upon him, trading out looks of distaste and disdain between themselves as if to find they one they enjoyed most.  A cadre of adventurers joined them, weapons drawn on him like he was some kind of trophy beast to be slain.  And all the while, they continued to laugh.

Laughed at his plight.  At each of his failures.  At all of the pain and suffering he had endured.  At how he had been misled in his search for the path. 

Finally, they were joined by a tall, elongated figure.  Its red eyes pierced into his soul.  Its hideous, spiked face twisted into a wicked, wolfish grin of pure malice.  The figure stood among the others, joining in on the parade of taunts and jeers with its low, rumbling voice.

Something inside Domenico gave way.  He pulled harder against the steel restraints that bound him, the metal digging into his skin.  Every muscle in his body was pushed to its limit.  Trickles of blood snaked their way down his arms as his restraints cut into him, a contest of enraged flesh verses unfeeling steel.  He opened his mouth and let forth a guttural, savage scream.  He forced the air from his lungs, pouring forth all of the emotion, rage, and sorrow that he'd so long suppressed.  In that moment, he was more beast than man.  In that moment, the only desire that filled his mind was to taste the blood of those who had taunted and tortured him so.

The sharp metallic crack of the chains giving way and breaking filled his ears, and he was suddenly jarred from his meditations.  Sweat covered his body despite the cold mountaintop air.  He noticed that the snow around him had been melted down to the stone beneath.  In a perfect, neat circle around him was the unmistakable black scorching of flame upon stone.  Wisps of smoke still lazily drifted their way upwards and out of sight, the scars upon the grey rocks fresh indeed.

He stood and set his gaze upon the city nestled far below.  He would quench his hunger and thirst.  He would see to it that his body found rest.  But the rage?  The rage would remain, burning deep below the surface.  It was a part of him now, a scar forever etched into his soul.  The flames of that passion would fuel him in the journey to come.  It would serve as his new guide.  With it, he would take the final steps toward seizing what he had so long desired.  And when that day came, a great and terrible woe would visit any who would still dare to mock him with even a single breath.

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Re: Reaction, Reflection, Realization - Domenico Foscari
« Reply #9 on: September 18, 2020, 01:56:08 PM »
It had been a while since he'd felt it -- those last few moments before springing into action.  Like a coiled serpent, waiting for his prey to draw one step closer before striking, he waited.  His fangs slowly extending as his unblinking eyes tracked every minor movement.  He was ready.  His spirit was burning, excited, and alive.  The man's name still droned softly in his ears, over and over like a twisted obsession from which he could not escape.  Giles Hawkins.  Giles Hawkins.  Giles Hawkins.


"You've drawn the gaze of something both ancient and powerful.  And in doing this, you've left them wondering what to do with you."

"Who are you?"

"I am their answer."

In those last dying moments of peace, he considered his target.  Giles Hawkins.  The beads of sweat upon his brow, a by-product of the damp warmth of the cave he'd secured himself in.  Giles Hawkins. The slight change in his tone born from carefully concealed excitement.  Who are you, really? The man knew he'd become prey, but he wasn't going to go so easily.  No, he'd seen his share of death and savagery.  He'd faced the terrors of the night willingly.  The man before him was a seasoned warrior, and in his chest burned the firey spirit of a true hero.  To him there was far more riding on this contest of flesh and steel than his own life and he was not willing to relent so quickly.  I can see you, hero.  A serpent just like me.  Perhaps this will be more entertaining than I thought.  The muscles in the man's arm tensed as if in slow motion, each second taking an eternity to crawl by.

So he'd chosen to make the first move after all.  Wise of him not to stand on ceremony.  There was much at stake, after all, and honorable combat is a concept meant only to comfort the survivors left behind.  This was not a duel, it was war.  And these moments were the opening volley of arrows in what would doubtlessly become a bloody battle for both sides.  Until our paths cross again, warrior.  This moment is one I'll look upon fondly for a long time to come.

The man's hand finally clenched the vial of swirling black liquid hanging from his belt.  Domenico moved from his place at the table, initially a half-beat behind his prey, but quickly making up ground.  By the time the vial broke against the floor, the man's fate was all but sealed.  Moving like a bolt of lighting surging across the night sky, Domenico plunged into the darkness and the dance began.  The man's shortblade cut through the darkness as well, it was clear he wasn't intending to hide and hope for the best.  Unfortunately for him, he was dealing with a prepared hunter.  A true professional and practiced killer without an ounce of mercy left within his heart.  His tactics weren't flawed-- in fact, they would have bested most.  But in the pursuit of Death, one must consider every possibility.  When your prey is human, no path to safety can remain unlocked, no preparation left undone.  Domenico's armor was flawless, his weapons honed to near perfection.  This moment was exactly what he'd been waiting for.  The closer Giles Hawkins drew to death, the more alive his attacker became.  The great balance of their dance shifting suddenly like the wind of a fierce storm.

He flowed around the firey hero's strike like a ghost and delivered a practiced, lethal blow to his heart.  With that, the life was snuffed out of him and he crumpled to the floor.  Domenico released the rest of the breath he'd been holding in his chest, his shoulders falling a few inches as his frame relaxed.  As quickly as it had began, the contest was over.  Yet as silence fell upon the dark cave like an oppressive and encompassing blanket, his mind still echoed with the reverberations of what had just occurred.

He paid his ceremonial respects to the fallen and left that place only a few moments later, fading into the shadows like smoke upon the wind.  The only sign of his passage were drops of blood and splintered wood.  The previous inhabitant of the cave gone without explanation or warning.  Only questions remaining for those who would seek him.

Come and see the portrait I have painted for you, my troublesome little shadow.  Gaze upon this artwork I have wrought and see how perfect it has become.
 Fate has intertwined our threads, but I will be agonized by that no longer.  A new era begins tonight.  I await your inevitable response, patient and ready as Death itself.

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Re: Reaction, Reflection, Realization - Domenico Foscari
« Reply #10 on: October 14, 2020, 06:20:36 AM »
And to the one
who sits the throne
You never find
yourself alone
---
Spare not the rod
or spoil the child
First cast them out
into the wild
---
Should they return
their head held high
Their newfound strength
won't be denied
---
And if they die
may their soul sleep
This world is harsh
to cull the weak



Though I stand now on the precipice of a rare victory, I can think only of defeat.  This meddlesome Laughing Shadow, this Dark Spider who waits within her webs is a figure that I cannot free myself from.  There is no order to her madness.  There is no reason to her words.  She is lost within a world that exists only within her mind and yet I find myself beholden to it time and time again.  Allies, enemies -- it matters not.  They all speak her words.  They're captured by them.  Encouraged and despaired in turn.  They repeat them to me in an endless symphony of Gods and Ascensions and Apotheosis.  They call me Master Fear, The Pale Serpent.  I am painted in the image that she wishes them to see of me, and nothing more.  She is a master of her art, perhaps as much as I am mine, and that is what drives me to truly despise her.  How could one so lost be so sure of her place?  How could something so tangled make so much sense?  Fate has sought to fell me, and she is fate's great weapon.  The sharp knife, pressing into my chest just enough to draw blood.  Just enough to set me free, so that I may fall to my death.

As I spend less hours at rest, I spend more in meditation.  I have promised my people that I would guide them.  As with those before me at the inception of my Order, I will pass on my arts to the broken, the beaten, and the damned.  From the ashes of what were once men, I will raise a new form.  Something greater.  In one hand, I will offer all of life's pleasures.  I give them strength, prosperity, wisdom, security.  I reward their victories, and guide them away from defeat.  I bestow gifts of favor upon them, so like the God the legends have named me as.

But in the other hand, there must always rest a balance.  For each breath of life one man is offered, another must surrender.  For one to rise, another must fall.  And more, the proportions are not always so simple.  I am the hand of Death, and to brush so closely to such a thing may very well cost a hundred lives for every one saved.  The forging of perfection is not so unlike the forging of a fine adamantine blade.  For a sea of fallen stars, a single set of armor may be forged.  You, my Pilgrims, are fallen stars.  Each of you crashing down from the radiant skies above to find yourselves here, in the savage wastes.  And I am your smith, battering and bashing you.  Heating and shaping you.  I will draw the best from among you, and cast out what fails to make itself worthy.

For success and failure are but a choice.  And each man and woman here is free.  Perhaps if they saw the world as I do, they would more readily surrender that freedom.  Perhaps if they knew how high the mountain truly reached, they would realize that the power of choice is often a curse.  There is a great wisdom in knowing when to kneel.  And I shall grant them the gift of this wisdom so that they may grow to offer it themselves one day.

I will make you strong, my Pilgrims.  Stronger than you would have ever made yourselves.

This I swear.

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Re: Reaction, Reflection, Realization - Domenico Foscari
« Reply #11 on: October 22, 2020, 11:40:44 AM »
"This world will grow until it is complete."

"Until we have made gods that can drive out the madness."



She sat there, perched upon the ridge.  He felt her gaze peering down at him like a carrion bird sizing up a dying man.  He lowered his eyes to the pale visage of the corpse at his side and recalled the words that were written in its honor.

"It was not your time." 

But how could he know?  How could he be so bold to even guess?  Death was not a choice, but a duty.  An answering of a call and an impartial arbiter by which all were judged.  It pursued all equally -- without distinction between rich and poor, good and bad.  It showed no mercy but held no hate.  It was final but took nothing before its time.  For life to grow it must also fade.  The cycle continues.  The great circular serpent eats his own tail.

This was his purpose.  A simple beginning leading to a perfect end.  However, the path had twisted and turned.  Somewhere along the way he'd gotten lost.  No longer was his spirit pure.  No more could he say that his answer to the call was absolute.  He'd made a choice long ago.  He took a life that wasn't his to take.  Out of anger -- a lust for revenge.  He'd committed a great wrong that had led him down a path that only delved further into the dark.  And now what was left of the promise he once spoke?  What was left of the man who had plunged into the arts of Death in search of something never before found?

They called him Death.  They called him Fear.

Perhaps the scholar was right, for he was afraid.  Afraid that he would ascend the throne after all and this world would have to suffer an unjust god.  Afraid that despite all the power he would command, he would still lack the strength to do what was right.  He'd poisoned himself.  He'd grown too close to those who shared his path.  And when Death called their names he hesitated to answer.

Yet they still looked to him as if he was something more.  As if he wasn't just a liar wearing a mask.  As if he was worthy of a title he would never have given himself.  They asked him 'show us your path, o' servant of Death' and he took them by the hand.  But he was not sure where he was leading them.

He was not sure where he was going himself.  Perhaps he had failed, as the scholar said.  Or perhaps he was at the edge of the revelation that would give him the strength to do what must be done.

He only hoped that if he failed, one would climb over his remains to seize the prize.  If even one could find perfection, it will have all been worth the struggle.


He considered the spinning gift that the dancer had given him.  And in that swirling mess of color and chaos, he saw a broken world.





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Re: Reaction, Reflection, Realization - Domenico Foscari
« Reply #12 on: October 29, 2020, 07:59:48 AM »



The game he played had quickly grown from a contest of rivals, to an all-consuming void that threatened to drag them all down into the nothing that awaited.  Maybe this was the end.  Or just a new beginning.  Maybe it didn't matter.

Was this fiend the response of an ailing world, struggling to make itself whole?  Had their failure to ascend to godhood shifted the winds of fate to find another?  And if so, could the hourglass yet be turned again to buy more time?

Each question had only the silent laughter of a shadow in response.  He was sick-- afflicted with a festering uncertainty that ate away at his very soul.  He'd found victory time and time again, but he emerged from each success tarnished with another speck of decay.  Bleeding from a thousand cuts, he was beginning to grow tired.  It has been so long since he faced such a great and terrifying foe, and the rush of his triumph had carried him this far.  But as his enemy died, reformed, and died again only to emerge stronger with each passing-- he began to wonder if he had won the opening jump only to fall and have his opponent pass him a step before the finish.  The loss of the Trickster was a deep and utter guilt that threatened to consume his meditations.  A lingering black that slowly blotted out the sky and stars, lending to a depthless void that refused to end.  Balance was fleeting, elusive, and distant.  The weight of recent memory, driving his knees toward the ground like a massive stone upon his back.  He wanted to rest.  He wanted to recover.  But duty demanded that he persist with all the might and focus that remained.  If she could-- then he must.  For what else could he do?  His arts were Death, and nothing more.  There was but one thing he had to offer now -- an End.  And end to the madness.  A stop to the chaos.  A close to the book.  His soul longed for rest.  Perhaps this is where he would finally find it, in victory or defeat.


Quote
Fate is not cruel, or bitter, or vengeful.  I've been wrong to pity myself for the twists in my path.  No-- Fate, like Death, simply is.  It is the wind and rain.  The mountains in my path.  Too long has it taken me, but I see it now so clearly.  Fate drives the world onward, taking no time to consider the individual mortal standing in the way.  And it is on this path that I have found myself.  A stone being ground under the great wheel of Fate.  A Pale Serpent, consuming his tail to grow another inch.

Long have I resented that my path had no guide.  That it was so obscured and unknowable.  That the terrain so steep, or the footing so poor.  I have found lamentations every step along the way, great challenges that were unfair and uneven.  But as I have taught those who come after me, and as I learned from those before-- It is mine to face it all.  I feel shame that it has taken me so long to heed my own words, but now I stand faced with the greatest foe I have ever known and it has all become quite clear.  I am not the image of Death that so many have claimed me to be.  I am not the faithful servant of an End that comes for all.  No, I betrayed the man I once was the moment that my path became imperfect for the first time.

Now I am something new.  Still a Pilgrim struggling ever onward.  Still the Pale Serpent, the hand of Death.  But this Death is new, something unseen in the world I knew.  A remedy for a broken world, struggling to heal itself.  A balance to the wobbling top, threatening to tip and spill to the side.  The Laughing Shadow was right - I have deviated from my path.  But in my deviation, I have created something new.  And in that new thing, I have found my true place.  I will ascend to a height never before seen.  I will challenge Death for his pale throne, and when he is cast down I will take his place.  And that Death will be mine, as my eyes see fit.  No longer will my hand be guided by others, but instead it will answer to me.  No longer will the meek determine the fate of the bold.  No longer will those like the Trickster perish while so many weaker souls greedily draw breath for their mundane musings. 

I will fulfil what I set out to find.  I will honor every promise I have made to see this through.

I will kill the dog.  Not because I fear, but because I have faith in what must be done.

I will kill the dog.  Not because I revel in his doom, but because I am steadfast and balanced in my purpose.

I will kill the dog.  Because his time here has drawn to a close.  I will commit his soul to the great cycle to be reborn as something new.  The hourglass turns.

And I will try to steal you from his clutches, for I cannot accept that this is your end.  I understand now that I knew this all along.  I understand that it was never a choice beyond my grasp.  I will remake Death in my own image, and I will decide the flow of fate.  I will be the guide that so long I have sought.

To the Laughing Shadow: I would ask you to honor me with one last dance.  The dog has called us mad for our actions against him.  And we say to him now in this twilight of the world, let there be madness.  This is our nature, as two entangled spirits covered in the same blood.  Flowing and twirling until the world's stage goes dark.  I regret only that I did not wholly appreciate the first two Acts when I had the chance.



« Last Edit: October 31, 2020, 11:16:07 AM by Legion XXI »

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Re: Reaction, Reflection, Realization - Domenico Foscari
« Reply #13 on: October 31, 2020, 11:15:41 AM »

And when the last bell sounded
Our foe looked on confounded
By chance we had astounded
Those faithful to our way

But legend is not truthful
A trick to fool the youthful
Reality is brutal
Harsh lessons do convey

Another may yet hear
And think he's not to fear
For luck will guide him clear
And then he will be flayed

So heed the sage's warning
Lest you end up in mourning
For caution you were scorning
While fateful games you played



He saw Fear in the eyes of Mighty Daljin.  Or maybe, rather, it was his own reflected.  A single card, a dart thrown at the board of fate -- or perhaps not, for even those with a sure hand and keen eye can place a dart just where it is meant to land.  This was something else.  This was something that sparked an unyielding terror that refused to stall or subside.  The flip of a coin.  A faithful plunge into depthless black water.

This was a game of pure chance, for all else had failed.  All roads had been bent and twisted to this point against his will and he was left with a choice that caused his hands to tremble.  The End had finally come.  Did he deserve this?  Fate would decide.  Fate, and nothing else.  For all the time he'd spent defying it, he'd come shuffling back to kneel before the throne.

But it seemed that Fate had a sense of humor, or perhaps just cared not for the defiance of mortal men.  Blood poured forth from the wailing creature.  The Shadow howled in laughter, for the chaos they'd been thrown into was a soothing song to her.  They'd found their moment of victory. Their moment of victory had found them.

The wound upon the heart of this world healed a single drop of blood.  The Shadow howled with laughter and found order within the madness.  The Serpent's fangs retracted, giving way to a wide and selfish grin.  The Trickster was stirred from her brief slumber against her blessing, each breath as stolen as the cards that set her upon the path.

As they parted ways, he stood aside form the others.  His eyes lifted upward, searching the patterns within the rain that wept from the sky above.  The world shed tears of joy?  Or fear of what's to come?  Had they healed this world, or twisted the blade?  No mortal could know, but one thing was certain. 

He'd sought to change his fate,
And that is what he'd done. 
Just as he'd told the Shadow,
This choice begins with one. 
One he'd found and more would come.
One thread is pulled, all comes undone.

His hand lifted and clutched the last two chains hanging around his neck, pulling them apart to set himself free.  As they slipped from his hand and were pulled out of his sight, he knew that the choice he'd made had been the right one.  He'd found a glimpse of Perfection in that moment. 

Death is but a path to Life. 
The End is only the Beginning. 
Life is but a path to Death. 
This is the web we've all been spinning.

He'd take his place when the time was right.  He'd find what he was searching for.  And when he did, he'd use it to forge his domain anew.

He would write the new book of Death.  Let the other gods of this world play their games, the competition keeps them strong.  He'd welcome them upon the stage they all were forced to share.

After all -- the dance they'd done had been so perfect.  How could such a thing be only enjoyed one time?

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Re: Reaction, Reflection, Realization - Domenico Foscari
« Reply #14 on: November 30, 2020, 09:30:18 PM »
He knelt in the grass, utterly still and relaxed without -- but a maelstrom of hate, fury, fear, and chaos within.  Sweat began to bead on the meditating man's skin despite the cool of the night air.  Behind his closed eyes played reflections of the past.

A vengeful pursuit in a dark cave.  Two men in a garda uniform.  A whispered proclamation and the deafening blast of the death-filled explosion that followed.  There was a woman, too.  A rat.  A guide.  An usurper of Fate, who set him on the path that he now walks.  She was dead now, cut short and hardly a soul to know where her remains rest. 

His fists tightened at the memory, the creak of carefully maintained leather inaudible against the thoughts that played within his mind.

"Path of tenacity, He joins the play,
Ascending the mountain of those Hes slain..."


New images filled his mind.  This time, two identical shapes.  One of light, one of shadow.  Both small and wielding two wickedly curved blades.  Both figures howled in an endless, manic laughter that he could find no peace from.  He watched a mirror image of himself reach out and attempt to strike one of them.  The other struck him in the back as the figure he focused on bled away to nothingness.  The process repeated over and over.  The laughter growing louder.  The mirror image's form growing weaker.  Fatigue finally overcame him and he dropped to a knee.  The figures stopped laughing, and offered him a hand in unison.  But still a wide, wicked smile remained on their faces.

The muscles in his whole body had begun to tense and his breath switched from a deep, relaxed passage to a short, troubled hiss.

Assassin, peerless, Hell hunt you today,
Ascending the mountain of those Hes slain...


Again his meditations shifted.  He stood face to face with a dog-like fiend at the center of a magic circle.  There was a flash of fire and a hateful shout from the fiend, and they joined in combat.  The man emerged bloodied, scarred, and scorched, but victorious over the bloody form of the fiend -- only to find himself standing in a hallway, before the same fiend who was very much alive.  They fought again, and again he was victorious.  The spirit of a woman watched on mournfully from the background, peering at him with an accusing gaze.  He reached out for her, to find himself suddenly in the darkness of the Drain.  The two shadows from before were at his side, but this time their laughter was muted as if coming from a place far away.  The fiend appeared again, and again they all fought.  When it drew to an end, only the man stood alive in the ashes of the chaos that had ensued.  Yet he felt only fatigue.  There was no victory.  The world around him shifted at last to a lush green field.  An array of people stood in a grand circle around him.  The fiend again before his face.  The Laughing Shadow howled again, filling his ears with her song.  The man flipped a coin and saw not what it landed on.  The fiend knelt and his spirit paled.  The mournful spirit from before was restored to life.  But still, he felt only fatigue.

The air around the meditating man had grown warm and sweat now trickled down his skin.  His breath was short.  His body was tensed.  A restless chaos threatened to draw him from his thoughts.

Roses thrown, He catches the mauve bouquet,
Ascending the mountain of those Hes slain...


A final series of images passed before his mind's eye.  A human woman.  Pale, beautiful, and peaceful.  A chance meeting in a crypt, under the watchful gaze of Death.  Where others had stepped aside to make way for his passing, she stood her ground and peered up at him.  She reached out a hand, and her lips moved to speak kind words.  But he could not hear them.  For all that filled his ears was the harsh, indistinct shouting of a great battle contained within stone walls.  The rapid beating of his heart.  The crackling of a funeral pyre.  He stood at the end of a long, dark hall and he watched a shadowy man with a sweeping tail draw a knife and loom over her.  He turned away before the final strike could me made, and the world faded from around him until he was surrounded by nothing but an utterly empty void.  The ground gave way beneath his feet, and he fell into the inky blackness.  He fell, and fell, and fell.  This existence without form, his new prison.  No single light to herald the end of his fall.  No indicator for when the descent may finally come to a close.  He closed his eyes and surrendered to it.  For it was madness -- and the shadow had been right all along.  This is who he was.  This darkness, his prison.  His throne.  His tomb.

Shadow and Death are His mantles to display,
Ascending the mountain of those Hes slain...


He stirred from his meditations on all fours in a battered, exhausted position.  His muscles were tensed.  His breath was quick and shallow.  His spirit bled.  His body ached.  There was a deep, insatiable hunger in his gut that demanded to be satisfied.  He could hear nothing, see nothing, know nothing but Red.  He drew in a breath and then forced it from his lungs in a long, guttural shout to the empty darkness of the night.  His voice tore through the silence like a knife -- a feral mix of anguish and rage that persisted until there was not a single bit of breath left within him.  He drew in breath again and once more forced it out in a twisted, mournful call.  A third and final time, he called out.  And a third time, there was none to hear or answer.

Suddenly his gaze lifted to the horizon, fiercely predatory and wholly hateful.  From this moment of utter defeat he lifted himself upright, finding new strength within the suffering that he had come to know.  From this baptism of loss, something new had been born.  Something ashen and soot-stained from the fires that had brought it forth.  There was not love, nor mercy.  Not hesitation or regret left within him.  It was a cold and icy darkness that provided perfect balance to the fires of hate within him.

He had become like Death at last.  The Gravesinger had sacrificed all to guide him to his prize.