You have been taken by the Mists

Author Topic: Red Mist Remedy - Victor Kaverin  (Read 809 times)

Haeresis

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Red Mist Remedy - Victor Kaverin
« on: November 10, 2019, 05:23:17 PM »



(Click Image for Portrait)

***

Victor was hardly the type of man that looked like he could inspire others, let alone himself. He had a face that was going to age badly, and dark hair that both, got in the way, and served to conceal the gnarly scars around his eyepatch. His facial hair was kept short in a perpetually bedraggled state. Frankly, it was doubtful that he was any good at exposing his best qualities; if he had any.

More often than not he dressed practically, clad in dark colors and the green of Ezra, which, paired with the pendant of Her shield that he wore around his neck, and the prayer beads he kept around his person, painted a devout picture that some said didn't fit him at all.

There were old regrets and drink to be found in the creases of the Templar's guilty features, and it gave him the air of a man who'd been tried and had accepted his sentence with his last shred of dignity. A man who was certain of his fate, and ready for the curtain call of the final act.

***


« Last Edit: December 03, 2019, 02:09:47 PM by Haeresis »

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Haeresis

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Dead Girl
« Reply #1 on: November 10, 2019, 05:28:43 PM »
"It's not me I'm worried about. It's your daughter. You know something's off when your enemy shows itself during the happiest days of your life."

"She is perfectly safe. We all are, as long as we do not leave the camp."

Victor had remembered those words, and in the moment he had believed them. The memory was hammering in his head as he beheld the ravaged body of the young bride. The deep bruises around her throat were a string of amethysts; the savaged flesh which unwrapped her bones resembled a sanguine dress ruffled by hours of dancing. Her glassy eyes were frozen in the moment of death, blind with the helplessness of a child who, in the last moments of her life, could only wonder one thing: 'Why?'

The wailing of the tribe kept him up at night. There was nothing worse than a mother’s grief in a father’s ears. It awoke all kinds of skeletons in the depths of the soul and discomforts long since buried that made pulling the trigger harder on the heart. A budding Seer and her Raunie mother hadn’t seen what his gut had been churning to say. It wasn’t right. It might have said more about him than anyone else. He couldn’t blame her for dismissing his warning, after all. If someone had said such things about his Camelia, he would have punched them in the teeth and perished the thought.

“We are not like you, giorgios. We do not walk around with blood on our hands. We are not murderers.”

The Seer had told him the night before that he would have his future revealed on the next day, and she had been right. In the scattered entrails of the young Vistana, Victor saw for himself what fortune had in store for a father who abandoned his child. In the liquefied bowels of the accursed murderer, he saw what fortune had in mind for men with blood on their hands.
« Last Edit: November 21, 2019, 03:24:29 AM by Haeresis »

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An Eastern Wind on the Devil's Graveyard
« Reply #2 on: November 20, 2019, 02:26:19 AM »
Victor found himself in the Devil's Graveyard. It was a place that he'd visited many times before in his dreams and would likely encounter again. It hadn't changed much since the last time either. It still greeted him with its barren desert, and the occasional withered plant sticking out of the ashen sands here and there. He loathed the place, but with the scorching heat looming over him from the sunless sky, and the wisps of mists seemingly emerging from the sand to slowly converge in his direction, he knew he could do nothing but shut up and let it happen.

Thankfully there was a road stretching forth into other corners of his mind, for the Devil's Graveyard was a place he'd found at the crossroads of strada de viață and drumul morții. The roads of this desert always had a tendency of taking him places he didn't want to be, meeting with past regrets that came in the shape of old friends. He often claimed that he wasn't one to dwell on the past, but now that he was dragging his feet along the road ahead and listening to the sizzling evaporation of sweat that dropped from his forehead and onto the ground, he had to admit that in his waking hours he tended to do the opposite. The man could hardly stop thinking about his past. It was a bit embarrassing, really. Not intentional either. Such things crept on the edge of his consciousness as outsiders looking for a way in. Must have been why he'd been brought to this place again, he figured.

His lips were dry from the heat and his shabby clothes were damp from profuse sweating. He could feel the grains of salt that collected in the creases of his face once the water steamed away. The thirst was nauseating, and he wondered if he might turn into one of those ugly shrubs that were naught but greying wood and shriveled leaves. Just as he was thinking that, he saw the mists thin far ahead. They teased him with a shape closely resembling some sort of building. The closer he moved, the more recognizable the place became, and by the time he was only a few yards away from the construction, he realized where the Devil's Graveyard had taken him. The bar was two stories high and the missing tiles on the roof gave it the air of an old man with a receding hairline. The porch was composed of crooked planks and one of the front windows was broken. The place was just how he remembered it, warts and all. Victor looked up to the sign atop which read 'The Blue Agave' as he pushed the bat-wing doors open and stepped inside the dim-lit bar. There was barely anyone inside. Just a few tables scattered around with some chairs left to collect dust. The counter was manned by a man with too much hair on his upper lip for him to come across as anything but sleazy.

"Oh don't drag in all that sand, I just mopped the floor," the bartender complained while shaking his head, yet his hands were already reaching for a bottle and a short glass.

"Don't start, Teodor. None of this is even real." Victor sat at the counter and glanced into the wall-mounted mirror to notice both of his eyes were intact. Nice mug, he thought to himself.

"Yeah, yeah. What are you doing here anyhow?"

"No idea, but reckon if I sit here long enough, I'll find out."

"Lucky day for you then, I've a new batch of my homebrew."

"Oh?" Victor rubbed the left side of his face, idly remembering what it was like to have it that way. Before he knew it, the eager bartender poured a drink and pushed it his way. It was a little foamy, a dark yellow that made him think it at least hadn't been diluted with water. As he was about to drink a sip before the snickering bartender, he heard a familiar voice nearby. "Don't drink that."

"What?"

"It's piss."

"Sure looks like it."

"Tastes like it too. Everybody knows Teodor's homebrew is just piss."

The bartender jumped in, offended by the insinuation, "It ain't piss. Just an acquired taste, yeah?"

Victor turned to see the woman who had just joined them. She looked young, with a necklace of violet gems around her throat. Her sanguine dress granted her a regal air and she used the full force of it to stare the bartender down, who threw up his hands in defeat and poured Victor a glass of whiskey. The dreamer watched them fondly. He'd never spoken much to Teodor but he'd always remember the Blue Agave as the place his old self died. The place where everything changed. In the real world, the bar was a rickety old place outside Curriculo and it usually was full of shady characters and bloodshot drifters. The girl nodded approvingly when a proper drink was served and she snapped her fingers at Teodor to remind him she needed serving too. She then received a glass of liquor as well that she left untouched regardless.

"You look better than last time, Simza," Victor offered her way after the bartender had gone further down the counter to clean some dirty glasses away from them.

"It's a thing with memories, they usually are either embellished or vilified. But that is not why you are here."

"No? Why then?"

"To meet someone. He's coming."

The Invidian didn't like the sound of that one bit. As though on cue, he raised his glass in the hopes of finding some strength at the bottom of it to prepare him for whatever was about to occur. Yet something odd happened. He paused to think on this action that had never required thought before.

"What, you don't like your whiskey?" Teodor butted in from afar.

"Shouldn't be drinking, it's forbidden for this phase of my training."

"Yeah well some say intent to sin is sin committed. Too late to turn back now, isn't it?"

Victor groaned and felt Simza put a hand on his shoulder, "He's got a point. You might as well go all in."

He shrugged off the phantom touch and pushed away the glass, a little peeved that these conjurations were encouraging him, "Go noose yourselves. I don't need this right now."

"Shh, something's coming. You hear that?" Teodor looked up and around searchingly, and Simza glanced toward the entrance, "It's him."

Outside, Victor saw the dust rising to ride the wind. It whistled a shrill note that made the walls of the bar feel paper thin; the heat of the place soothed by the cold of an eastern wind. All three of them watched the entrance and surely enough, a shape emerged from the mists and sands outside. They recognized him instantly by the mummy wrappings that covered his entire body beneath rotten clothes. Upon the linen of his face was a sort of death mask painted in an amalgam of colors. The whites of his pictured eyes sober and piercing. Even the sky had cleared for his arrival and a rainbow shone down upon the porch to cast colorful lights upon the man who stood there with recurve bow in hand, and a quiver at his hip that housed two golden arrows the size of bolts made for siege weapons. The Golden Archer had entered the Blue Agave; Xyprenekh the Eastern Wind. For a long moment, no one said anything and no one moved a muscle, until Xyprenekh broke the tense silence by casually removing his anachronistic wide-brimmed hat, "Wow. You're all chatty."

The bartender blurted out a yellow laugh and hurriedly poured a drink for the mummy who took a seat at the bar. Simza, Victor, and him side by side from left to right.

"Took you long enough," Simza remarked to the mummy over Victor's shoulder.

"Got delayed on the road that led to Kaverin's garbage marriage. Nasty place, that."

"Right?" She puffed out a weary breath.

Victor cringed and looked between the two dead souls sitting on either side of him. He never liked folk talking about him as though he wasn't there, "Alright, that's unnecessary. What the hell do you want? Here to take back your Golden Arrow?"

"Hold your horse, Vic. First off, keep the arrow. You completed the trials fair and square - It'll remind you of the Abyss. Second, that's why I'm here. To tell you what it all means."

Sighing, Victor let go of his frustration, "Ah yeah, always wanted to dream of an old bag of bones to teach me a lesson," he paused and turned to face the mummy, "The Abyss, you mean the chasm of the Third Trial?"

By the time any of them had blinked, the bar area of the Blue Agave had been transported into a dark cavern. The counter, the drinks, and the four fools gathered around were now on the edge of a cliff beneath which were bottomless shadowy depths. It was the chasm that Victor and others had found in the tomb of the Neureni horse archer in Barovia. Further away from the edge stood a circular platform upon which five statues held a silent vigil. Xyprenekh stood up after finishing his drink of Teodor's homebrew - which indeed was warm piss - picked up his bow and stepped right off the edge of the cliff. Somehow, he did not fall, nor did he ever look down. He appeared to be floating above the void and, unperturbed by it, turned around to face the bar. "No way to cross the Abyss but by walking on the bridge; a bridge no one can see but he who overcomes fear and has faith, yeah?"

The mummy's gravelly voice resonated in the hollow acoustics of the tomb, and the rest watched him pensively. Victor stood up and approached the edge to look down into the black depths, "I did sort of toss my holy symbol first to test the waters. I would never have known there was an invisible bridge there if the symbol hadn't landed exactly on it. Isn't that basically cheating?"

"And what were the odds of that landing 'exactly' on the slim bridge? Faith doesn't have to be pretty, mate. Who in their right mind would see a chasm and simply walk off the edge hoping their God would give them wings? Only idiots. Idiots and heretics."

"Amen!" Proclaimed Teodor.

Simza shook her head at the outburst but otherwise maintained her silence. Xyprenekh carried on, "Point is, the unknown has all kinds of dark things in it. The Abyss is always around the corner, waiting to catch folks off-guard with its temptations and its Legionnaires, but you'll pull through if you just remember one thing."

"What's that?"

"Your soul's in the right hands. You are already saved, brother. You have been, from the moment you accepted Her into your heart."

Those words rung true. If the ancient mummy had fired them with his bow, Teodor likely would have applauded the bullseye. All of this was just extra, wasn't it? He'd already sojourned on the fringe of aliveness; on the cusp of the ever after. And he'd found faith that had allowed him to fly over the Abyss without looking down, without doubting his footing. The path he wished to walk would be difficult, but not impossible, as long he did not rely on himself but instead surrendered to Her. Least that's what the nuns would have told him if he'd stayed in Karina. There was only blackness now, he vaguely realized, the chasm and the bar and those fools were all gone. It took Victor's mind some time to slowly drift upwards to a state of consciousness, as though an air bubble that sought to reach the surface of a lake. In that increasingly shallow space between sleep and awareness, he heard a whisper of Xyprenekh's voice one last time:

"He who dwells in the dark shall be damned, forever beyond the reach of Her guidance. And those with the light shall never be harmed. The Mists shall facilitate their work, with sword and burning shield... Know thy Fate, Initiate. You already know how it ends."

Yeah, and all that remained was staying the course.


Spoiler: The Tomb of Xyprenekh • show
« Last Edit: December 08, 2019, 09:15:14 AM by Haeresis »

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The Day Everything Changed
« Reply #3 on: November 24, 2019, 10:59:29 AM »
The Blue Agave was a dump, for lack of a better word. Two stories high, it was squeezed on its flanks by equally rotten buildings that must had been long abandoned due to the stray bullets that shattered windows along the street and the corpses that turned up in its vicinity whose parts were quickly stripped by starving wild dogs to whom human kindness was an unknown concept. Its name apparently came from a plant used in the making of a type of liquor that was once served there some years ago and that nobody these days could recall with any accuracy. Not that the usual suspects were picky about their drinks. As long as it took the edge off and wasn’t diluted, they were generally content with Teodor’s service; a service that baffled anyone with a modicum of civility. Indeed, Teodor absolutely hated strangers. When a new face waltzed into the bar, he tried to ignore them for as long as they were willing to wait until they expressed their frustration, to which he would respond with insincere and abundant apologies along with a free drink of his famous homebrew. One could say it was a bit of a rite of passage, and a much needed entertainment for rough patrons who came in all shades of thuggish and hot-blooded and were liable to antagonize each other if they sat bored and drunk for long enough.

Tonight was one of those nights when all conversations fell quiet. It was as if the bar held its breath when a young man in a long duster and a hood stepped into the bar with the confident air of a roguish personage who knew how to sling the shiny pistol at his hip. The kid had the kind of swagger that the corpulent bartender with an ugly moustache could only dream of, and it made him sick to his stomach; his mouth watering with poisonous foam. The bartender stopped wiping whiskey and peanut shells from the counter when the newcomer approached, watching him with disdain. Tonight was a one of those nights when he wouldn’t play dumb, so that this kid would get the message that he wasn’t welcome.

“Gimme a whiskey, barkeep.” The kid held the hem of his hood as though tipping his hat then sat on a three-legged stool.

“Five marks,” Teodor fired back and resumed wiping the counter, insuring detritus was sent in the newcomer’s direction.

“Bullshit.”

“Close, but nope.”

The young man grimaced but, remembering the discouraging scowls in the quiet crowd that he’d noticed when looking over his shoulders, decided to pull out a few coins to pay for the overpriced drink. Teodor scooped up the coins and put them away before retrieving a brown bottle and a four inch glass that he only filled to about a quarter of the way.

“You’re a real piece of work, you know that? For five Drymarks I better hope you’re filling the damn glass.” The Kid pressed with rising anger until the bartender filled the glass to the top. From behind him, the stranger heard the creaking of wooden chairs as heavy-set men, each uglier and hairier than the next, leaned in to watch what would happen next. He lifted the glass and drank a sip that made him nauseous, but he forced the rest of the drink down his throat without spilling a single drop.

“Feels good, doesn't it? Stings in all the right ways.” Teodor’s eyes shone with malicious delight.

“Best drink I ever had,” lied the Kid out of spite.

The crowd roared with laughter and a burly man with a bald head approached the bar to put his arm around the young man’s shoulders. He liked him already. “He drank it, the mad lad! Come on, kid, I’ll introduce you to my guys and we’ll have a grand ol’ time.”

Teodor couldn’t help it, he was crying from laughter. All the irrational hate he’d harbored for the Kid who couldn’t have been more than fifteen years of age had simply evaporated, and he was glad to pour him a real whiskey to take on his way to meet new friends at a corner table by the broken window. Another victim of his heavenly homebrew! Teodor wasted no time congratulating himself privately, even going so far as to literally pat himself on the shoulder. Other patrons gradually returned to the hubbub of jovial conversation with revitalized spirits as the collective laughter died down, and soon enough they’d forgotten all about the young man who’d passed the test.

From the privy emerged a man with sagging features and bloodshot eyes. He’d spent the last ten minutes partly unconscious in a corner and he frantically rubbed his nose to get the stink out. A group of three men at a table snapped their fingers to catch his attention, beckoning him to join them, “You missed it, Kaverin! Some lad came in and drank Teo’s homebrew. The /look/ on his /face/!”

“Best drink I ever had!” mimicked another who was choking on a breath of smoke from a fat cigar.

Kaverin pained to focus on them but he smiled and laughed along while blindly searching for his seat. Finally settling down between two of the three men, he reached out for a bottle of whiskey, “Shit, mates, think I passed out in the privy. We celebrated way too bloody much.”

“Come now, we haven’t had a take this big since the early days. Before Andrei joined the crew. Live a little before hell swallows us whole.”

The man who’d answered his remark was the leader of their group, an older man ten or twenty years their senior who was colloquially referred to as Barbu, probably on account of his patriarchal beard. Kaverin barely paid attention when the man’s heavy hand slapped his back repeatedly. All he felt was the churning of his stomach suddenly returning. He washed down the bile with a sip of whiskey and inclined his head, “Yeah, yeah, you’re right.”

The other two men were Andrei Cocea and Iulian Kurdin. They were mid-range criminals just like him and all four of them made a merry band of greedy ne’er do wells who chased whatever easy coin they could get their hands on. Conning foreigners, robbing merchants along the high roads in the middle of nowhere, mugging lone women hurriedly heading home just for a little bit of spending money or even gambling with money that wasn’t theirs; no coin purse was too light or heavy to take. Their latest bounty had been a shipment of very old wine from a prestigious maker that they intended to sell to a Borcan buyer who had been willing to compensate them rather generously. It had taken months for the bandits to plan the whole thing, but once the deed was done and they’d received the reward, they allowed themselves to take one collective sigh of relief and thank whatever Gods they’d heard of for protecting them from any wrinkles and bumps along the way.

Stopping at the Blue Agave outside Curriculo for a night to remember before returning to Karina was their way of letting loose for once.

Iulian, who was chewing on his expensive cigar, slapped Victor lightly across the face a few times to try and wake him up, “Hey, Vic, you don’t look so good. Maybe we ought to let him get some rest, Barbu. He’s looking pale.”

Barbu stroked his beard and grunted his mild disappointment, “Yeah, yeah, g’on back to the inn, Kaverin. We’ll be there later after a few more rounds. Right, boys?”

Victor had barely registered any of it but was glad to be dismissed. Hurriedly pushing himself up, he mumbled some apology while the men squeezed his shoulders and patted his head in a brotherly fashion. He checked his belongings on the way to the exit, mostly feeling his belt for the two pistols he kept there to make sure he hadn’t lost them in the black out he’d had in the privy. The doors swung shut behind him and he climbed down the porch to breathe in the cool air of the summer evening. The quiet out here was much more bearable, and didn’t threaten to turn his stomach inside out with every breath. Plus, being presented with an empty street in the dead of night was refreshing. Of course, the only problem now was that he wasn’t certain which way was the inn, given his head was still spinning a little. All that was about to change.

As he was pondering his new problem, he heard the bar doors creak, followed by hasty footsteps that rushed up behind him. Before he could turn around, Victor felt the business end of cold metal clash with the side of his head and he collapsed in the mud with a cry of pain that was utterly drowned by the noise inside the bar.

“Gotcha, whoreson,” growled a youthful voice Victor didn’t recognize. He was too busy trying to get his bearings to care, which the assailant seemed to notice. A kick in the ribs cleared Victor’s mind and he struggled to climb to his feet. He could sense the stranger circling him and keeping his distance just in case.

“Who the hell are you?” Sobriety surged in the bandit’s awareness along with a much needed rush of adrenaline. The ill feelings subsided to make space for the survival instincts that had kept him alive thus far. It slowly came together. The man who’d attacked him looked rather young – just a kid really – wearing some dark duster and a hood that concealed half of his boyish features. In his hand was a loaded pistol, yet that wasn’t what made Victor worry. It was the steadiness of his hand under pressure that rung alarm bells in his mind.

“Yeah, I didn’t think you’d recognize me. Not after all these years.” The young man’s voice was filled with such hate; the kind that men fed themselves to keep going when they had nothing else, the kind that could move mountains and turn walls into doors. When Victor didn’t say anything, the Kid carried on, “And I didn’t think you’d be such a sorry piece of shit. I mean look at yourself; you stink like a pig and can barely stand. Not at all how I'd imagine this would play out.”

“Listen kid, you got the wrong guy,” was Victor’s lame reply. He wasn’t quite sure what it was all about, but he was about ready to get the hell out of there before things turned ugly. It was a wonder they hadn’t yet.

“Gods be my witness, I know who you are. Ten years ago you and your friends stopped by a farm south-east of Valetta. You remember that?”

The bandit rubbed his eyes to focus. A night out turning into a bloody tribunal – and that wasn’t the worst part. He could feel a memory on the edge of his consciousness, a memory that he didn’t want to revisit. It was an ugly image that was painted red and made his trigger finger twitch. “Will you shoot me if I say I don’t?”

The Kid didn’t say anything, but he did lift his pistol and cock the hammer. If the street hadn’t been so dark, Victor might even have been able to see the bullet with his name on it that was primed on the other side.

“A farm… Yeah that might ring a bell.”


***

A bell…

The distant ringing of church bells matched the cadence of horses as they came to a hasty stop in the yard of some plot of land upon which were golden crops and the kind of farmhouse that Victor had dreamed of buying one day, once he’d raised enough coin so his belle Marilena could finally stop her nocturnal habits, marry him, and found a family, like he’d promised her. Maybe have two or three brats. She’d never really believed him, considering such sweet talks to be the anxious ramblings of a fluttering heart. Right now he had more pressing matters to attend to, anyhow.

“Damn it, Victor. Help me get him down already!” Barbu was struggling with trying to help the third rider, Iulian, off the saddle of his horse. The man was bleeding profusely from somewhere below the ribs and an abundance of blood was already staining Barbu’s hands and sleeves. The sight of it all struck Victor in the gut and he leapt off his steed to lend his assistance. Kicking and screaming, the wounded man was carried onward by his brothers. With all the noise they’d made, they weren’t surprised when a man who was getting ready for bed emerged from the house.

“What’s going on here?!”

“What does it look like? Our friend was shot and I don’t know if he’ll make it.” Barbu was quick to take the conversational reins and he shoved past the farmer with Victor to pull their fallen comrade up the stairs and into a dim-lit room. They were welcomed by a rustic environment. Looked like any other peasant home, really, Victor thought fleetingly. There was a wooden table in the center and barely any room to move around. Clearing the table, the bleeding Iulian was posed atop it and Barbu wasted no time examining his wound.

It was then that the farmer came in after them, “I want you out of my house!”

“Shut up and heat up a pot of water. Bring a lot of towels!” Throwing orders around was the Barbu’s specialty, and folks tended to do as he said regardless if they had to or not, yet the farmer didn’t obey immediately. He was about to throw obscenities when his wife rushed down a flight of narrow stairs.

“Sebastian, do as they say.” She sounded firm yet frightened, likely due to the small shape that was clinging to her. Victor saw the boy’s big eyes watching them, the light reflected off the tears in them. He must have no older than five and scared out of his mind from all the screaming and blood.

When Sebastian returned with water and towels as Barbu asked, his wife stood beside the outlaw and examined the wound. They were lucky to know what she was doing, given Barbu’s plan to mend Iulian’s would have been to pull out the bullet with a pair of pliers and cauterize the hole with a cigar. “You’ll kill him with that – it’s worse than it looks.”

Barbu reluctantly stepped away from his comrade to let the woman work and drew his pistol to press it against his leg non-threateningly, “If he dies, so do you.”

“Hey!” Before Sebastian could give Barbu a piece of his mind, the large man whipped him in the teeth with his pistol, sending him crashing down on crates that held fruits and vegetables. The woman tensed up in the midst of her operation but bit down on her terror and turned her tears into the labored sweat that soon began to pearl down her forehead. Great, now the boy was crying.

“Was that really necessary, Barbu? They’re trying to help us.”

“Only because they’re terrified. If we weren’t armed they’d have chased us away with pitchforks and sold us out already,” snarled Barbu in return before spitting on the floor and approaching a window to keep an eye on the darkening horizon. They had little time before the men at their heels would find them. Victor bent down to assess Sebastian's state who appeared to be alive and well, if only a bit dazed by violence. He tried to ignore the utter contempt the good farmer had for them, “Get up man, and for your sake keep your mouth shut.”

“If the kid doesn’t shut up…” Barbu’s voice held that tone of self-restraint that only betrayed how little patience he had left. Victor knew it well and it always made him nervous.

“You’re making it worse.”

“Just getting started, Vic.”

Sebastian circled the table where the unconscious outlaw was being cut into by his wife so he could reach his son and pull him into his arms, “Shh, Emilian. We’ll be just fine, won’t we, Adela?” He turned to eyeball his wife pleadingly, though she was elbow-deep in blood. It didn’t matter what she was going to say anyway. The only reason the boy had stopped crying was because his father kept him quiet with a hand over his mouth.

“Of- of course we will. As long as we do what these men say.”

“As long as you save my boy’s life.” Barbu corrected and waved his pistol around, letting the barrel trail over the three shapes in the corner that disgusted him with their dirty clothes and their farm stink, and the way they cowered like maggots. It made him sick to see people so weak, they were begging for a world of hurt acting like that. Watching them squirm when he aimed in their general direction gave him a rare kind of satisfaction that he was beginning to take a liking to.

“I think he’s alright… His rib is broken but he’s stable.” Adela showed the outlaws the pan in which various bullet fragments sloshed around in dark blood after the bandages she’d applied were secured around Iulian’s abdomen. He hadn’t regained consciousness quite yet but he’d have to in order to ride a horse, and Victor didn’t look forward to dodging patrols in the night with a man screaming his lungs out and fainting regularly from sheer pain. At least Barbu appeared to be calming down, but the boy’s snotty sobbing was still irking him.

“Woman, you’re helping me get Iulian on the saddle. Vic, grab his shit.”

Victor hesitated then quickly sprung into motion, recovering torn clothes and a bag that belonged to Iulian. They had to wipe any trace of their arrival, so he tossed the bloody pan of lead fragments into a bucket of water and bolted for the door just as Adela was helping the wounded man walk to the saddle. Seemed like he’d been jostled awake by being moved around. It was then that Barbu’s hand stopped Victor dead in his tracks in the doorway, his voice lowering to a conspiratorial murmur, “Take care of that shit-stain, I’ve got the girl.”

“Are you insane? We’re leaving, it’ll be like we were never here,” Victor argued with a rare pang of rebellion before the man who was like a father to him. The man who’d taught him their way.

“The farms around here aren’t as isolated as they seem. We’ve already got enough riders on our tail, and all that bloody screaming didn’t help us stay discreet, now did it?” The large hand slammed in Victor’s chest again to drive the point home amidst rapid-fire Balok, “Make it quick, and don’t look them in the eye. They can’t sell us out if they’re dead.”

They can’t sell us out if they’re dead.

Is that what they did now? Murder out of convenience?

“Vic?”

“Since when are we killers? We steal gold and silver for our families, we don’t kill innocents over it.”

“Since it's necessary. If you don’t do it I’ll kill them all, including the kid.”

He didn’t have time to argue, Victor opened his mouth but nothing came forth. The bearded outlaw was already leaving the farmhouse and striding in the direction of the restless horses who could smell blood on the wind, and the woman who was waiting for him to uplift Iulian on a saddle. Victor shook his head to focus, the pounding of his heart threatening to burst out of his throat. He pained to swallow. When he turned around he found Sebastian and the kid standing utterly motionless and silent. Tears were streaming down his face. The man had heard everything.

“Put the kid down,” he managed to say, a hand resting on the pistol at his side while he attempted to mentally exit the building and let his body do the rest. He was just following orders, there was no time to think on the field – shoot first, ask questions later. Regret later. Drink later. It would all be washed away eventually; everyone forgets after all, right?

Sebastian lowered the boy slowly without sudden movement.

BANG!

There was a scream from outside, it sounded vaguely like a howling she-wolf. The woman, maybe? It fell quiet soon after, save for the anxious clatter of hooves. Victor tried not to think too much about it. It all felt so surreal, as though he was leagues away from himself watching the Devil pluck at his strings. Even the boy was silent, blood and gore covering him from head to toe. The only thing that remained of him were those eyes the size of the moon. Victor made the mistake of looking into them, watching them dim in a second that seemingly would never end. The light faded as dying embers, innocence washed away by the river of blood that took everyone Victor knew, sooner or later. Yet what tore him apart wasn’t the flesh and blood of the father lying at his feet, it was the soul of the son that he had erased from existence with the pull of a trigger.

He ran. Like a coward.

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Haeresis

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Inferno
« Reply #4 on: January 04, 2020, 07:55:32 PM »
The Templar stood before the rolling hill, surrounded by every one of Ezra's revelations. Each book drew a line from one to the next, completing the star with his body as the fifth spearhead. Five pale sacred candles stood upon each tome, with the final one before his feet. The circle was completed by arcane runes, abjurative in nature, meant to channel extra-planar energies into one vessel. Into one body. Into one Church. His motives were less than pure. There was a sense of duty, certainly, but it was more base and simple than that. As he prepared for the confrontation, he doubted himself as others doubted him.

"It's a stupid plan. You will most certainly die."
"Are you adamant this is how you wish to proceed, Templar? It could very well mean your death."
"You can't be serious. Where is your Church? Are you all they're sending?"

The flesh of the Templar had been covered in tattoos; prayers of battle, of supplication, of purgation. They were the mortar between the bricks of faith that held the cage together. A cage, immaterial, for a destructive force of boundless hunger. The face, the hands, and the feet of the vessel had been washed. He had been anointed by the holy water of Her Anchorites. Candles, books, water, what meaning did any of it have? There was no way this was going to work. Powerless, and desperate, with no plan but to go all in as his gambler's instincts advised him to do so often. Shooting himself in the foot was his specialty.

"You cannot expect me to buy into a plan that hinges on faith."
"You're right. It is a shit plan, but it's all I've got."

Until a single voice spoke up, amidst the ramblers, the skeptics, the cynics and the hopeless, "No. This shall work."

He remembered The Golden Archer who charged above the battlefield. He never missed his target, and his feet never touched the ground, because his eyes were on his Gods in the horizon of the sky. Not on the ground beneath his feet. Looking down, was going down. The Templar felt himself on the edge of the chasm once again; the darkness below beckoning him to fall. Remember the Eastern Wind. He felt Inferno washing down upon him, and the rising of his hands. A whip of iron tongues in one, and Her shield in the other. He remembered the Inquisitorial prayer, the incantations that left little room for interpretation. Exorcism was the matter of wrath; the refusal to accept or compromise. There would only be destruction, for the Templar could not stomach the thought that such a creature could be allowed to exist.

"Let Not My Flesh Fail Me
Give My Soul Your Wrath
Let Your Holy Fire Infuse My Blood
And My Bones Shall Strike In Thy Name."


He remembered drawing the fire into him. Surrendering to its embrace. The fear of death, the rage, the faith that few had in him. His bones charred from within and the flames struggled. They burned through every part of him, sucking the life from his body. The Embers cried, and flailed, and choked on the hollow of his soul. The Templar had to believe that She would not abandon him - It was a declaration of love, to position oneself on the edge of a cliff and beg on one's knees for salvation. It was madness.

"If thou asked one of the Second, they would say thou are already redeemed. Thou are already saved."
"Yet why- Why don't I feel Her salvation?"
"Their words are hollow and blindly optimistic. And deep down, thou know that too."

Pneuma. The breath of life was the first to go up in smoke. Next came the tears, the rain, and the sweat. And the blood soon after, as every strike of the whip cut across his back and scattered red on the grass, taming the enemy that clawed from within. The cage held by the skin of its teeth. In that moment he came face to face with the spirit of his opponent. It was wildfire, pure hunger, nothing to redeem or pity. Its sole purpose was to consume until there was nothing but ash. He came face to face with the eater of souls. It burned until he could no longer feel, until he was blinded by agony. Yet the cage held steadfast in the internal conflict, suffocating the parasite until the banishment ripped through the fabric of reality, and reclaimed the outsider that had plagued the world of the living.

"If you felt it, would you try so hard to atone?"

Baptized twice. Once in water, once in flame.
« Last Edit: January 04, 2020, 08:43:12 PM by Haeresis »

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