Author Topic: A White Stag  (Read 1192 times)

Blissey

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A White Stag
« on: February 19, 2020, 01:09:17 PM »


*

Memories trickle like sand within an hour glass.

Globules of smaller rocks upon rocks fall until they fade away out of view, out of memory.

In the moment, you remember it. You remember it's feeling between your fingers. How the colors within would not be seen if you were standing so very far away.

And yet, they are there in one tiny speck. A glittering specimen of how something so small can contain so much.

Then, it falls away; mingling with the memories that clatter upon one another.

Their radiance fizzles into the background, into the mounds of memories clinging against one another.

You want to see them all. You want to see how they shine and bedazzle, you want to marvel at their brilliance. At the feelings they invoke.

Horror, joy, fear, contentment, pain.

The sand runs thin as they fall piece by piece through the narrow slit of the hourglass. Until that final memory, the last fleck of sand vanishes amidst everything else.

A hand - young, slender fingers - turns the hourglass. The sand falls again.

And there he sat, blue gemmed eyes watching each particle fall - memorizing each shape, each feeling, each nourishing memory.

A white stag lost in the dissonance of an hourglass.

*

Blissey

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Re: A White Stag
« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2020, 10:07:50 PM »

*

The gentility of the air that day was unmistakable, how the smell of the morning grass filled his nostrils, dirt smudged his knees and hands. Spring time had arrived, no doubt, though the haze of a beloved memory skewed the finer details to his disdain. Recalling upon a memory that fills you with dread were so easy, and yet, to find and sift through the sand of the hourglass to find that one memory you have always cherished, it still somehow slips from you. The futility of the search can be rewarded, it always can because he remembered that morning. He remembered it's purity, and more importantly, he remembered her. Recollections of a gentle shape; hair a pristine blonde, how the sun seemingly only shone on her, the features of her face blurred by the decaying of his memory.

"Look, mon chéri, the lilies are coming in..."

Delicate hands guided his chubby palm to the pale white petals.

"They say the white lily flowers mean they're pure, untouched by the world, like you... My little white stag."

Those words meant little to him then, and yet now, he needn't wonder why she said what she said. The words were for him. The memory ended always there, never any further. It came to him randomly at any time of the day, never when he needed it. The ones that followed always brought whatever repireve he found himself within the day to a halt, and when they came, the pencil in his grasp always paused on it's next trace. The parchment painted itself now; a dark hallway, dimly lit candles fluttered by the hand of the wind from an open window. Sounds of laboured screams, then, a much smaller, infantile wail entering life, and rending death upon another - silencing the room. Broad footfalls rushing, weaving side to side and then... Silence. He watched the closed door from the staircase, eyes peeling around the banister.

It opened. The smell of blood, death... A new life traded with another. The midwife's face was drenched with both sweat and tears that silently fell. A taller man accepted the infant in her arms.

"... I'm sorry, monsieur Lavigne... Marie... There were complications, there was too much blood. But Ezra blessed her with a beautiful baby boy, here... Monsieur. Your boy."

He stood up from the stairs, watching, quietly. Blue gemmed eyes filled with worry, then tears which stained his chalky white cheeks. His father lacked an expression, motionless he stood with the infant pawing delicately at the bloodied linens which covered him. The boy that weeped silently by the stairs now held him, the newborn thrusted upon him as his father stormed across the darkened hallways. It is always hardest to forget the things that hurt us so, and unfairly, hardest to remember the things we love. A mother he could barely remember, yet the memories he did recollect were ones that filled his life with light. A purity unmatched by even the depths of the despair he felt with the infant in his arms. It was his duty to remember what was good, and what can be good. How we can forge a life from the ashes of our past, we can feel all the injustice in the world thrust upon us and all it takes is for one to never stand or bow to it's harm.

That night, the forest along the baie were blanketed by snow. Silent winds caressed the leafless trees with gently falling snowflakes. Just out of the cusp of the forest, as he stared out into the clouded night sky, came heavy patterings of hooves. Tall, proud and incandescent white fur, flourishing broad branches of antlers. A white stag. Alone, with only the company of an empty forest. How even in the harshest winter, with food lacking and warmth missing - it lingered by the bay, watching, waiting and peering curiously at Quinnton. Then smaller patterings of hooves crunched under the snow, a family of does and deer. Young and old. All white furred.

As the moon shone through the misty clouds above, garnishing it's light upon the pale beings below, the calm of the memory simmered. Then, he was left with longing, and now, left only with the idea that purity lives on - not only in him, but in others. Hidden away under the layers of forest and snow that blanketed Sabel Bay and the distant City of Lights. 


*

Blissey

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Re: A White Stag
« Reply #2 on: March 15, 2020, 06:12:31 AM »

*

Black and blue, beaten and sworn,
I find solace in a place so forlorn,
A chapel, built on faith,
I run from those I should hate.

Remon, hold me,
Tell me I am okay, that my burdens are lifted through faith,
Tell me I am strong, that I am gifted, loved and not lost,
Tell me I am brave, that pain and strife only exhaust,
I wished he were you, so I may bid them adieu,
Begin again, be someone new,
Rend my skin of it's black and blue hue.

Yet I come again, older and much wiser,
I ask you to hold me,
You seize me, claw me and pin me,
The composer of my pain,
And though I wished, I prayed and I cried,
I was but prey, seven years you hunted,
Haunted, words you whispered as you defiled me:

"Hush, my child, Ezra has found you wanting."

In the moon's twilight, my skin shines,
Black, blue and white,
You stole from me all that I had left to give,
I lied in the streets, damp rain poured,
I felt the cold's kiss, till I could take it no more,
I stood across the world, the sea before me,
The waves roared, beckoning, calling,
Sweet release, come, come.

Yet was there release in proving that I was nothing?
Was there contentment in believing that all I am is disgusting?

I am who I am, and I will be what I can be,
For the world would be lesser,
And I must make it greater,
Walk with me, friends,
Hear my hooves and see my antlers,
Call and I shall arrive,
Stand, share my light,
Bask in the glow of the morning,
All-bright in day or night,
For I am the White Stag, dawning in the City of Lights.

*

Blissey

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Re: A White Stag
« Reply #3 on: March 23, 2020, 11:11:20 AM »

*

On many a day, he awoke to the falling of dust which trickled across his chalky cheeks. The stomping of feet, boots or hands in the room above. Harmless games siblings play, he thought. On many a day, the thin, raggedy blankets he clung close to his frail form barely held the night's chill at bay. My family is poor and cannot afford luxuries and goods for comfort, he thought. On many a day, Père would beat him black and blue - a word muttered, were it defiance or not, he wasn't allowed words. I am deserving of this, he thought. On many a day, the one-sided locked remained so - they had forgotten to let him out like a dog. At most times, were his eyes not painting a brighter picture upon the grey stained walls of his shoebox did he find his attention drawn to the equally raggedy, torn and hampered book. Her Third Revelation. She will cry for me, he thought.

The lock clicked, rusted metal grinding against rotted wood.

"Get up." Croaked Père, his frame but a shadow under the dimly lit doorway of his shoebox.

With what energy he had sufficed from the now maggot-ridden croissant he had savored under his pillow, he ventured forth. The damming halls of the house that held his screams, and the screams of others. Yet it was like entering another world, how the house was kept so clean and fresh. Walls draped with the most fashionable wallpaper, the smell of freshly baked bread and a hint of ink and parchment from Père's study. A world of color, occupied by the most grey of individuals. Somehow, the dirtiest of those who dwelled there within its confines breathed the most life. Like a ghost, faint and weighing but a feather, he found himself at the bottom of the stairs. The centrifuge of his home, the dining room. Around the table, boring faces sneered at the ghostly boy. The food smelled delicious, beef bourguignon. Room for five around the table, for a family of six.

"Now," Père leaned down, his bloodshot eyes paling the color of anything that once existed in his soul, "Be a good boy and fetch me more parchment."

"I don't have money." The feint voice supplied a reply.

"Find some, ghost."

Quinnton could never quite recount in words the way in which Père looked upon him. Those eyes, they cared for naught. His frame only widening and taunting the small child that was of his own blood. Tall and proud, ready to smother the flame of hope or happiness within him but not for the others. Rarely did he enact the same cruelty and mercilessness he held for the ghostly boy to his siblings.

Had I done something? What was the error? Please, Père, let me fix it.

It was always with his ring hand, a firm slap around the head sent him on his way towards the door. It hurt him more, more so than it usually did. The bruising made it so. At days, the ghostly boy had stopped wishing for Père to stop beating him, but instead to beat him not on the same bruises. If he was deserving of such, then prayers for beatings elsewhere felt more ample and honest.

On winter days, the streets of the Marchand were dull and colorless. Vagrant sailors, either carrying the bounties of their freshly caught fish or ones clutching loosely a bottle of ale, drinking their sorrows away littered the harbors there. It was a long trek for a boy across the city, but one the ghostly boy was well acquainted with the walk. These were his reprieves, each day he would pray again and again to be let out and to wander and fetch whatever Père wanted him to get. Yet even the streets were rife with the displeasure for his existence. Eyes caught his attention, even from his tiny frame he peered upwards only to faces that seemed to frown and contort at the sight of him. In the warmer days, the ghostly boy still clung close to himself. Feebly clinging to his pale skin and tattered linens, somedays hoping that he would simply swallow himself whole should he cling hard enough, to engulf himself and simply... Vanish.

"Back for more parchment, oui, dear boy?" The hawkish, almost owl-like face leered over the cluttered desk, the faintest of smiles flourishing his lips.

Monsieur Gelabert DePolonte. The owner and proprietor of DePolonte's Garden of Literature. Nowadays in the Quartier Savant, the once-thriving bookstore is a reminder of one of the city's more chaotic times. Rumors of Gelabert's head piked onto one of the local cafe's fences alluded Quinnton every now and then in the future, another pained memory he neatly stowed away in his suitcase, between the legal papers.

"Oui," The wistful whisper escaped chapped lips, "Père gave me no solars, monsieur."

"Ah," He shuffled papers away, dotting a quill back into its inkwell. He leered ever closer, the smile only growing, "You needn't worry, dear boy. I'll put it on his tab for now."

The Garden the ghostly boy stood within was nothing but sprawling shelves of books, amassing colors and tints which only hinted at what dreamscapes they painted within their parchment. It was quiet, as a bookstore should be for all but the cracking of a hearth that stood nooked in the center of the maze of bookshelves. Some days he would ask if he could read here, Gelabert merely said that such a boy in his store would send customers astray, but, he could read in the storeroom. It was damp, cobwebs littered the corners there but some semblance of warmth sippled in through the cracks along the wall. It was enough, more than enough at times.

With rolls of parchment slackly bound together with a red ribbon, something else was held over the counter to the ghostly boy. A book with a bright red leather cover, donning proud antlers attached to a knightly helmet - pawed at feebly with grubby hands.

"Ah, ah," The book reared back for only a moment, "This is a gift, from me to you, dear boy. It is an old folk-tale of a knight, he felled the evils of the Legion in the night. A hero. But he was no ordinary one, of course. He was not handsome, behind that helmet he wore was a face marred by the woes of the world. I think you might like it, I can see a reader in those blue eyes of yours, hm? But if I give you this book, you must promise you will read it. Oui?"

"I promise, monsieur." 


*
« Last Edit: March 23, 2020, 11:16:44 AM by Blissey »

Blissey

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Re: A White Stag
« Reply #4 on: April 06, 2020, 03:34:08 AM »

*

In the days where the sun shone at it's highest point, the heat beamed down upon the City of Lights. It's denizens dawdled under the shades of cool air, exchanging words upon the day's warmth. The ghostly boy found his reprieve then, thrust out of the house for more errands delegated to him and only him; but today was the day he would venture out of the city, as was ritual for him on those hot summer days. A boy teetering on adolescence, fourteen winters he survived his torment, and in each passing year he found little in ways to cling to what hope remained. This year, Sable Bay was his hope. Like a siren song, the waves crashed indelicately and with rhythm along the shore, the distant sing-song of birds chirping melodiously in the brush not far from the bay itself, the distant roar of some boisterous Noble gathering showered with flowing booze and sweets.

What always captivated the ghostly boy was how far the horizon reached, how it shimmered under the sun, how he wondered what could be beyond that wall of mist that blocked his view. Was there someone else watching from the other side, wondering the same thing? He'd hoped that, no matter how bittersweet the thought became, the very idea of no longer being alone brought some iota of peace. The hours he spent toiling there were drawn and marked into his tattered brown journal, he carved sketches of the waves and their form, the wildlife that called this bay their home - even himself, camouflaged amongst the white sand. An inconspicuous figure, unnoticed and invisible. How he wanted to be.

A quiet chirp of speech drew his gaze away from the cascading waves. A girl stood not far from where he sat in the sand, bare feet twisting and kneading the sand between her toes. Long, bright-orange hair tied into frazzled pigtails, two bright emerald green eyes and a face littered with freckles.

"Wes thu hal, stranger! What ye' be doin' out 'ere by yer' lonesome, hm? Joyin' the waves?"

Strange. Her first question was not about his hair, nor his eyes or his skin. It wasn't about how he carried himself, or his manners, the way he talked or lack thereof. The ghostly boy feigned a response.

"Well, ye' nay be mindin' my company would ye'?" He chirped cheerily, skipping along the sand with a bounce to her step. "So hot in the city today! The winds just right 'ere today. Told my Ma' n' Pa' that it'd be jus' right to 'ave a picnic here, but they be busy doin' their stitchin' work. Guess ye' and I are bein' the smart ones today, hm? Nice cool winds do wonders for ye', ya' ken?"

She babbled and prattled. At first, it irked him. This was his quiet place, how dare she invade it? Ruin it? Make it loud and unruly. As she went on, and on each summer day they found each other there, they grew a strange fondness for one another. Not once, however, did the ghostly boy mutter a word. As her words grew longer, and the topics she covered grew wide and varied, a smile both honest and true had emerged on his lips.

"Aye, cannae wait to tell ye' about the squirrel I found outside me house!"

"Did ye' hear the one about ol' Meredith's boutique? Aye, I'm sure ye' have, but I'll spin tha' yarn for ye' anyway."
"My mam made me the prettiest dress the otha' day!"
"There be this great place fer' chocolate..."
"Ye' ever tried..."
"I like to think tha'..."
"Ye' ken? It be calm n' quiet..."
"I nay..."
"What ye'..."

"Who are ye'?"

Who was he? No, the question weren't so simple. He knew who he was then, but who could he be tomorrow? More importantly, who did he want to be? Nobody had ever asked him that, nobody had ever probed at his future with care or curiosity.

"I'm Quinnton." A whisper under the wind.

He never learned her name there, on that beach, but he knew who she was. The girl with the freckles, bright and full of life. She wasn't rich, she didn't live a life full of luxuries and somehow, each passing day was somehow more valuable to her than solars. Everything was a marvel to be taken in and appreciated. Had she lived the life Quinnton did, would she still believe in that value? Would she still see the world in such a bright light? He hoped so, for if she could do it - so could he.

It was when summer began drawing to a close, when the winds blew briskly and bitterly over the bay. Today was the day he would talk, he would use his words and tell her of his life and what value he saw in it now. He would tell her about how pretty the sun shone today, or how the light bounced off the waves just right. How he smiled for the first time in a long time because of her.

He waited there, at their spot. He wanted to say so much, the words finally came to him and only wanted to leave his lips. There was so much to say, to tell, so much new feeling and warmth. The day grew dimmer, colder, darker. He watched the shore recede and grow, over and over. When the sun slowly slipped under the horizon, that smile slipped away too, joining the sun and remaining there - locked away. On the roads home, he heard the rattling of caravans and loaded boxes, the huffing of horses rattling their straps and chains.

It took off on the road, towards the Misty forest pass. Freckles, green eyes, pigtails. She bounced along on the back of the caravan. Their eyes met there at each end of the road. With one hand raised, she waved to the ghostly boy across the ways.

"Dun' forget ta' smile, Quinnton! Thanks for bein' my friend!" She called out to him, the Mists folded around the caravan, her voice carrying for one last time until it vanished with her. Gone.


I'll smile for you, I promise.


*

Blissey

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Re: A White Stag
« Reply #5 on: April 08, 2020, 11:15:10 AM »

*

Remon Dubois. A name that tolled bells of utter terror and agony when rung, when that damned name was uttered by nobody but him, by Quinnton. Had fate disclosed his plans to him sooner, had the boy had even the slightest inkling of what was to come and how the name would torture him he may have been spared. But fate is a mistress that gives and takes; our fate is sealed and what is preordained will always occur. He relieved that memory every time his head rested to sleep, haunting him like a spirit that would never cease.

Scorn him now, detest him. A false idol! A pretense! Spare yourself!

Ste. Mere des Larmes, a church torn by age yet raised and held up by the strong arms of faith. A refuge from home. As quiet as it were, and as lonely as it could be - it was safe. Yet refuge was found in the texts there, too. In its words, how She would cry for him, how his sorrows were Her own. Dreams took him to a place where she held him in her embrace. That is where he met Remon, a priest of Her Third Revelation. Lithe, and nearing an age where his body would soon fail him, Remon, however, was a pious man. Faith was who he was, and who he will always be. He was the only man who looked upon Quinnton with pity, a man who tended to his maladies and bruises with remedies of both words and ointments. Was he the man that could be who his Father could not? Maybe. He felt his love and Her love through him.

When his bruises had been tended to, wrapped up in bandages that seemed to fit familiarly across Quinnton's skin, they sat watching the rain trickle through the ceiling of the chapel. It was quiet, not a soul about at the twilight hours of the night.

"You used to cry when I attended to your bruises. Why do you shed no more tears, dear boy?"

"I'm not allowed to cry anymore, Father."

"Do not think yourself weak for shedding tears, dear boy. Tears mean we are growing, and we grow through pain. There is no better teacher."

"It makes me angry."

"What does, dear boy?"

"That I have to learn faster than everyone else, that I have to hurt more than everyone else to learn. It's unfair!"

Remon gently stroked the silken white hair of the ghostly boy, words but a whisper in delicate inflections.

"We are fickle creatures, it's true. We toss and turn in our beds, pleading that the next day dare not come over the horizon. We spend so much of our lives biding our time, waiting for the next painful memory to strike us like a punch, that we fail to see the small ink drops of good that bless our lives. The people, the feelings, are rare but we should be thankful for them. We should also be thankful that we are not without pain, or loss, or anger - how would we be whole without them, dear boy?"

Spiteful snake! Slithering hands that touch me and feel me! Abuse me! Lie to me and trick me! Run!

Quinnton's head tilted downward, watching the dirt mingle between his shoes. A hand crept along his thigh, something cold and harrowing ran down his spine.

"We can be whole once we accept that we are beings built out of faults, out of desire and a lust for something more than they already have. We are blind to it, most of the time, but we are freed when we realize that we would not be whole without them..."

He went stiff. Something about his words, his tone, how they slithered from his tongue and into his ear - assaulting his mind. What lesson was he to learn here, from him?

"But we cannot indulge our desires, we can heed them, oui. We can know that they are there and exist, but to act on them... That is what makes us weak. Would you be that man, Quinnton? Would you let every action be governed by desire? Are you weak?"

Remon's hot, dry breath raked Quinnton's ear. He couldn't move. It was no spell, no magical incantation that rendered his movement inert; it was fear. It locked his joints and froze them in ice that dare not melt.

I'm not weak. No words croaked out of his mouth, only a dry rasp of sickly hot breath that reeked of fear.

"You are such a beautiful creature, Quinnton. They do not see your worth, your value. They do not see your soul. But I do. I will show you what you are worth to me, Quinnton. Together, we can explore our desire, our love for one another. Ezra demands it. She demands that we see what makes us whole."

Was this love? It surely had to be, he thought. But it felt wrong, Quinnton felt more alone than he ever had. But it was real, his hand was there, touching him. He couldn't help the tears, they came naturally. Was this the lesson Remon wanted him to learn? How love only worked with pain? How can anyone love like this? It's real, he thought to himself over and over again. His thoughts audible, drowning out the sounds of his muted screams. He didn't remember the walk home, he didn't remember falling asleep that night or even reaching his bed. The floor was his home tonight, and that was where he wept - letting his tears stain the rotted wooden floorboards.

Ezra demands this.

Ezra demands this.

Ezra demands this.

Ezra demands this.

Ezra demands this.


*
« Last Edit: April 08, 2020, 11:21:51 AM by Blissey »

Blissey

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Re: A White Stag
« Reply #6 on: April 12, 2020, 06:55:27 AM »

*

Dark nights crept in tow with strange, elusive figures in the streets. Shadowed hands snatched and tore at souls that wandered there, lost in the City of Lights at it's darkest hours. Fear of these nights, however, was not a choice for the ghostly boy. When the bright red door of home remained shut, locks bolted, the hinges sewn to the doorway. It was no matter, like any old dog that was locked out in the street - barred from its kennel, he wandered with instinct. Corner streets were safe, like the one behind the tailor shop. Disposed of linens, raggedy and stained. If he piled enough of them together, he made a pillow. If he layered enough upon himself, they made a blanket. Warmth for the night till the sun cracked over the city once more, and the shadowed figures screeched and reeled back into their hovels, their caves and their dark recesses from whence they came.

An infantile wail bounced along the cobbled streets and faded bright paints of the walls in the Marchand. At first, it made Quinnton's heart beat no faster or slower - sounds of terror, or pain, or murder were as usual and commonplace as the busy riff-raff of Nobles were to the day's ambiance. But it continued. Feral voices cooed and yearned after the screams. Quinnton threw his linens to one side, he crept with deft footsteps across into the open street.

Huddled figures leered over something smaller, something distorted and wrong. He crept closer, and closer until their figures no longer feigned the dark cover of the streets.

"Lost, are we?" Cracked like glass, and scratchy like a fork upon a ceramic plate, the voices called out to what seemed to be a child.

"Alone? You wanna play wit' us?" They were sinister voices, they harbored no sympathy or love, no care or joy.

Hands clutched along the boy's face, shielding the marred and distorted features. He was a frail creature, flesh clung weakly to his bones and along with the sickly green skin warts and oozes poured out haphazardly. A Caliban.

One struck him first, a palmed hand clean across his cheek - he dropped to the floor, the sound of frail bones colliding with a hard surface. Then a burled fist, a boot. Fists struck and plowed into the frail Caliban boy until his form was but a curled mass upon the ground. He saw blood, the scarlet red dampness which soaked and intermixed with the lurid yellow ooze from his warts and gashes which tore upon with each crashing fist.

"Stop!" Quinnton's voice bellowed uncontrollably. Silence fell, their fists ceased and their wild eyes met his ghostly figure across the open streets.

His heart fluttered then, a pace which felt unnerving. This was fear, again. He bit hard into the inside of his cheek. I am not weak.

"Walk away, boy."

"No."

Shivers, not from cold, but from the certainty that he would bleed tonight. He had felt the pain of a strike before, he knew what it was like to look up and only see burled fists and hands strike you endlessly. He believed himself ready to take this beating for the small boy he did not know.

And so they did strike him. A blow to his cheek sent him spiraling into the ground. Another, then another. Seering white noise deafened him with each strike. The taste of sour iron in his mouth, choking and sputtering on his pleading words and blood which escaped his chapped lips. Quinnton felt bones nearing their limit, muscles ached and cried aloud. New bruises, not from Pére, this was new but it hurt all the same. The anger was not so different.

Quinnton was left a sprawling mess upon the cobbled ground, and much like the Caliban boy, he curled into his mass feebly - crying silently as the pain settled into something far more severe and weighty. They returned to the boy and resumed. It felt like hours had passed, how long they had struck and beat the boy till his wails were dry croaks of breath, gargled under thick scarlet liquid which soon pooled around him like a wet puddle. Footsteps faded, and faded, till the only sound was the wind which funneled through the Marchand streets.

With what strength was left, and with what energy had come and gone in the spur of fists in a feeble attempt to escape or fight, he rose to his feet - wobbly and unbalanced. The frail form which laid splayed out in a pool of it's own fluids, both fecal and blood wheezed and pained sharp breaths - fighting each breath. Quinnton dropped to his knees at his side, the frail Caliban boy brought upon his lap. Closer now, underneath the torn flesh, bruises and sickly warts were two green eyes. He breathed the same dry, fearful breath that he had with Remon. Helplessness was all the Caliban boy felt here and now.

"You're gonna be okay. You're alright. I'm here, don't cry." Quinnton gasped the words in a whisper, his pale white hand - stained with the blood of his own and the boy's wrapped tenderly around his own hand, holding him there like a child in a Father's arms.

Cornered, like an animal he was beaten and pushed into death's door. Quinnton saw what little light and life remained in those green eyes there, how they would fade knowing the last thing he felt was only pain and fear. Tears fell with sound now, harsh gulps of air as he wept then. He cried for him, he carried his sorrows for him now. That was his burden because he didn't do enough, he thought.

Though amidst the tears, amidst the anguish and the certainty that the form he held there on his lap and in his hand would fade into the darkness, a warmth brewed in his palm. A light. Incandescent and divine. Quinnton's eyes shut, his mind trailed over the life the boy could have had. A life worth living, as any should have. A life of joy, of fulfillment, where he didn't have to worry about the woes of the world that would come crashing in on him like a fist. He felt it then, he felt it's warmth and the light moving through his palm like a transference of energy. The wounds that poured and oozed the sickly yellow taint and scarlet blood sealed and formed over new skin.

When his eyes had opened, when he had seen the miracle performed by no other than himself, he knew then he had done what no other thought he could. Save a life.

Yet the child still wheezed, it groaned and pained, pawing feebly at Quinnton's hand. He was dying. Not from the wounds, but from the ache of his heart. The agony and pain had tolled on him so much so that it was far too much. As the tears fell upon his bloodied linens, staining and intermixing with the blood, he knew then that whatever he could have done, however much he could have fought or healed or shouted - it wouldn't have been enough. Fate was preordained and like the cruel mistress it was, the light began to simmer in those green eyes.

"Look..." Quinnton lifted the child's chin up to the sky, where stars shone and twinkled distantly. "... The stars. Look at how many there are. It's beautiful, isn't it?"

Wistful eyes of both Quinnton and the boy stared longingly into the sky above. Awe and hope were the last he could give, and so he did. A lesson learned from a dear friend long gone.

When his eyes had returned to the boy, to his frail form and his green eyes - they were vacant. His soul had departed into the sky then, where he stared. There was a finality to it, to death - no matter how brutal or peaceful, it was a painful sight. How it tore and raked at the heart like a sword no sharper than one dulled by rust and age. It left a mark, an infection - a longing and a desire to have done more, to have been there or to say something that would breathe life into them again. An action done, a word spoken. But it wasn't enough, it never truly was. When Death came and embraced the boy, carrying him into the stars, he was left only with the lifeless form cradled in his arms.


I will cry for you, I promise.


*
« Last Edit: July 12, 2020, 04:51:55 AM by Blissey »

Blissey

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Re: A White Stag
« Reply #7 on: April 13, 2020, 10:42:12 AM »

*

With tall walls at his sides, towering gates shifting and yearning open, he took a moment to reflect on the lights that shimmered in the city. He thought it no less than a curtain upon a stage, drawn open when the performers were ready - pampered by makeup and fine silken dresses, floundering and strutting like peacocks. But when the curtains shut, when the lights dimmed over the stage and the crowd busied themselves with idle murmurings - attention drawn from the curtains, denying the question: What was behind them? A Caliban boy was behind them. Dead on the street in a pool of his own fluids, coddled in the arms of a figure no less distorted than the Caliban.

"It's late at night, boy. Where are you going?" The Gendarme stationed by the gates inquired.

"Anywhere but here."


-

A winter passed, and the road had felt no heavier than the very path he tread outside the city. Mordentshire was quaint. A small, humble town with busied workmen and villagers passing through the streets idling themselves with merry drinks and unsavory banter. It contrasted strangely with the rolling green countrysides which sprawled across it's distant waking lands. It was colder here, maybe because he was now truly alone. There was no slight chance he would receive a meal now from his family, no generous charity willing to foster him for a night, or an old friend to give him his weekly book to read. Quinnton was a man now. Alone in a world which only saw the paleness of his skin, his ghostly presence.

"Done daydreaming, Quinnton?" The housemaid flicked his ear, hissing like a cat.

"Sorry, ma'am."

The pay was meager, but enough - the orphanage was a dirtied barn, reused as a refuge for the young souls that lost too much too quickly. He attended to the floors, scrubbing and washing. Clothing needed to be cleaned, pots and pans and cutlery too.

"Tullery wants you to stop off at the graveyard, tend to those dusty graves for a bit. Aye? Can you do that? He'll pay you."

"Of course, ma'am."

"Good. Finish up with those floors, and off with ya'. Don't leave 'im waiting, he's a grumpy ol' sook."

The path that cut right through the city was the one he took, the sun distantly setting over the rolling hills of Mordent - vibrant pinks and oranges soon to be blocked out by the coming of pale grey clouds with darkened centers. The beaten road diverged into a lonesome one. Not a soul tread there but him at this hour, the folk in Mordentshire feared the graveyard. Tales of ghosts and spirits of relatives long passed haunting those that arrived and lingered till they left like a creeping sickness.

For all the villagers said it was, a sight of harrowing fear, it was no less than a graveyard you would expect. Muted colors and darkened fences that hugged weakly around the perimeter, bent and worn by rain. Long forgotten tombstones of lovers, friends, family - a rose left to wither at their precipice. Tullery was nowhere to be found, but this wasn't the first time Quinnton was tasked with cleaning and tending to the graveyard. The midnight hours came sooner than expected, his arms that pushed and shoved piling heaps of cobwebs and dust into a bucket to be disposed of tired quickly. He lit what candles and lanterns sprawled sparsely across the graveyard, somehow, making it seem all but darker under the moon.

To most, the vacant and quiet ambiance would unsettle and disturb, but to Quinnton - it was all but peaceful. A time spent wandering between tombstones, sarcophagi and rotted statues of Ezirite figures mounted on graves. A name for each, date and perhaps even a story to tell. Epitaphs told one so much, yet so little about a person. Who their lives affected, and how with so few words to retell the story with. Some grew to ages of old, some young - barely seeing a third winter. Death seemingly had it's grasp upon all that entered life's domain. Their memories only passed down and remembered by the thoughts and words of those that once knew them; soon to be lost when death claimed them all.

A lonesome grave sat on a new row of dirt - undisturbed by decaying roses or dust and cobwebs.

'Rupert Bennett - 757 to 765 BC'

No epitaph, no story - just a name. He died young, only eight winters old. Yet the name felt somehow burned into Quinnton's mind. He ran his pale fingertips across the etching along the tombstone, who were you?

"I knew you'd come."

A hallowed voice, distant yet near whispered close by. It sounded young, delicate and deeply familiar to Quinnton. The voice beckoned no fear, or frightful jolt in the ghostly boy. He turned then, seeing only the pale silhouette of a boy shimmering in a translucent figure. Short-cut hair, full cheeks, and lips - but no discernable color. Simply a pale figment of what once was.

"You're Rupert, right?"

"I was. Then a fever got me. I died sleeping in my bed."

"I'm sorry," Quinnton's voice wained there, but his eyes fluttered, "How did you know I'd come?"

"I dunno. A little voice told me to watch out for the pale boy in the graveyard."

"... What happened to your parents?"

"I dunno either, the matron told me my father didn't want me anymore. She said there was no more space in the orphanage in Port, so I got taken to Mordentshire. Nobody wanted me, but that's okay. I'm dead now. It doesn't much matter."

There was some semblance of peace in his words, he had found it, yet still lingered vacantly.

"Maybe... Maybe. The matron tells me that ghosts only haunt their graves if they're wandering aimlessly, trying to do or say one final thing before they depart."

"The little voice said that I'd give you peace. She said I'd make you smile, and cry. She said to tell you, 'remember the boy in your arms'."

Quinnton's lips twisted into a deep frown, "The Caliban? Or..."

It hit him then, much like the fists that clobbered him and made him bleed - like a bullet would when it found it's mark. Quinnton remembered dark hallways, screams, then a deafening silence. Tears falling then and suddenly now. Rupert Lavingé. His mother died in childbirth, and his father couldn't bear the pain. He had to put that hatred somewhere, that seething anger - perhaps it split then, one half to Rupert and one half to Quinnton. For so long, the memory had haunted him. For so long he had wondered what had become of the child that mother traded her life for, birthing him into the world. Here he was, standing there as ghostly, if not more so, than Quinnton himself.

"Little brother?" Quinnton's voice cracked like splintering wood, knees had buckled him into the dirt ground he stood upon.

An innocent smile, full of heart and purposeful joy - it renewed him there, the ghost of Rupert. He glowed brighter, shimmering like a bright star.

"It's nice to meet you, big brother."

"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. I should have looked, I should have searched for you - brought you home." Chalky, dirt-stained cheeks washed with tears that flowed unevenly and fervently.

"Don't worry, big brother. The little voice said that she was waiting for me when I go back. She said she'd give me a big hug, kiss me on my cheeks and read me a bedtime story. So, don't be sad, okay? Maybe someday you can read to me too, and we can play outside and have fun together!"

"I'd like that, Rupert. I'd like that very much."

At least Quinnton had something to look forward to now, a hope that dawned on him like the rising sun at dawn. He had a brother, one that loved him and wanted him. But that would have to wait, it would wait till Quinnton drew his last and final breath. For now, he wanted to live for Rupert. He wanted to make sure every breath counted for something more than what their lives gave them, he made sure of it.

"I have to go now, big brother. She's calling me back, the little voice."

Rupert's ghostly hand reached out with an open palm, a tender smile glowed with impermanence. And there, hovering just open bland air occupied by Rupert's translucent palm, Quinnton's palm laid there too. He felt himself smiling there, one which grew and changed the course of his tears that streamed across his face.

"Live for us, big brother. We'll be waiting for you. She's waiting for you."

Rupert's hand faded through Quinnton's palm, and as Quinnton stared forward, the bright glowing light that glimmered around Rupert's form followed with his footsteps - deeper into the graveyard, muting his brightness with each step taken. A single gust of wind blew then, the skittering of leaves and swaying of leafless branches cast Quinnton's attention away for but one moment. When his eyes returned to where Rupert once stood, only the fleeting feeling of evanescence remained.

I'll live for you, I promise.


*
« Last Edit: April 13, 2020, 01:00:17 PM by Blissey »

Blissey

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Re: A White Stag
« Reply #8 on: June 08, 2020, 08:28:30 AM »

*
"How does that feel, Quinnton?"

"Does it feel good? Oui... I know it does."

"Be quiet. Stop crying. Don't be weak, it's good. It's love."

"Yes, Quinnton. Yes. Ezra demands this."

"Y-... YES! SHE DEMANDS THIS!"

Wake up.

WAKE UP!

Damming silence blurred his senses, white noise grinding into his ears. Searing white, blinding. A crack, splintered wood bounced off the trees. Leaves shifting, splitting, crunching under encroaching steps.

In the stillness of the forest that night, with the fire no longer keeping the darkness at bay - it surrounded him. Though the trees that swayed with the night's cold chill drew shadows under the moonlight, the shadows they drew were eloquent, moving naturally and seamlessly. But as his eyes affixed on the trees, the leaves, the darkened landscape before him - distant shadows advanced, shoulders hunched, fists burled and eyes wide, searching.

If he moved, they would see him. If he breathed, they would hear him. But his skin, his hair, it shone like a beacon as the beams from the moonlight shifted and dispersed through the canopy of trees above.

Frozen, fear's hands clutched him like his own hands which clenched so deeply into the thin woolen shawl that blanketed him for the night. The shadows, their eyes, they scanned and surveyed the forest. Then, they paused. Eyes like daggers that pierced twilight's veil like needles sank into his skin. White hairs went on end as they whispered.

"I see you."

Stillness took hold of the forest. Utter damming silence as if all the animals, the life there watched on - silent observers. There before Quinnton, two shapes, human-like stood near. Rusted shanks glinted the moonlight as they rolled in their palms. He could smell them, a thick odor of iron and feces. Each intake of harsh, fear-filled breath drank in that smell - his alabaster skin paling then.

Get up.

Run.


His mind screamed, the voice within his brain pleaded - but the joints that kept him there, against the tree - they locked in place.


"You look delicious."

"Gut him."

"Not yet. Fear makes the meat leaner."

"I want him. I want to kill."

"Not yet! No, no... Not yet. Watch him. Look at his eyes. What a magnificent creature."

"I can't... I need-... I need-..."


"LET ME FEED!"

Have you ever seen bloodlust? Have you ever seen the look in a man's eyes when all he wanted was to feel his blade sink into the flesh of an innocent? How his eyes shrank? The pupils whittled into needles?

That was when his mind screamed, though the sound of it - the ringing in his ears as it moved from mind to mouth, came out bitterly, like a fork upon ceramics. Harsh croaking air and then a rush of blood to one's legs, the desire to live. To survive.

In a flash, they moved - charging like animals through the midnight woodlands. He felt the rush of air floating past him, crashing steps slashed through the branches and leaves. It was his body that had compelled him to move, it had compelled him to run. He felt his teeth grind against the flesh of his mouth with each bouncing step, they pierced and drew blood. Sickly iron taste filled his mouth. They were coming and blood had already been drawn. They could smell him like hounds.

There were no thoughts anymore, just deafened screams in his mind. Each time he drew his mouth open to shout aloud, to scream, to plead - his weakness shown through, the fear. Between sharpened breaths came croaked screams, rattling his dried throat.

They grew close, the forest grew narrower. He could feel them drawing nearer, their smell, the lust for his flesh.


"I WANT TO SEE WHAT YOU LOOK LIKE INSIDE!"

The chill, not from the night's air, nor from the cold wind or biting fear that sank into his flesh like the maw of a beast, but the words. The image they sparked. He screamed, he screamed so loud that the forest awoke for but a moment - the birds that perched above and watched the rushing figures flash by fluttered in their nests, the mice in their holes scurried awake and soon, found their slumber again.

As the forest grew darker, the canopy above growing thicker and thicker, the light which guided him began to fade with each nearing step. He was moving deeper into the forest, closer to his death. The air went still, his foot hooked under a branch. He felt his body float in the air for a but moment, till pain arrived to renew him. Quinnton rolled into the ground, amongst the leaves - his body rushed to heave him to his feet, to run, to escape.

That was when he felt it. Something blunted forced into his back, once, then twice. Then nothing. It felt wet, like water which trickled down his skin with an unnatural thickness.


"Turn him."

Callused hands yanked him over. He scrambled, grasping though they held him. Hungry eyes stared down at him, their maws dribbling with saliva. Animals, nothing more, nothing less. They yanked his the linens covering his stomach away, all he could do now was watch, wait, as they truly intended to see what was within him. To see the organs that churned with fear.

They licked their lips, shanks pressed into his skin - drawing that scarlet liquid.


"It's going to be over very soon."

"Just know, you're letting two men live tonight. We'll think of you and your pretty little face when we eat you."


His eyes rolled back, shut. Take me, he thought. Just do it. He had heard it, though not felt it - a blade which pierced into flesh, cleaving through leather and linens. A dry croak, the rattle of death which seized a man. Grunts echoed around him, shifting metal clashing and cutting through the air, then through flesh. The crashing of bodies into dried leaves, the last breaths a man would take before his pupils grew wide and accepted the last light around him into his cornea.

Silence.

Quinnton's body gave in to the bleeding, letting consciousness drift away. Before that, however, he'd heard a whisper. Coarse, like sandpaper yet it's volume carried just above the wind that blew through the thick forest pass.

"My name is Reynold Haywood-... Stay with me, son-...."


*
« Last Edit: June 08, 2020, 12:35:45 PM by Blissey »

Blissey

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Re: A White Stag
« Reply #9 on: June 13, 2020, 11:48:19 AM »

*

"... You're going to be okay..."

Let me go.

"... Keep your eyes open. Stay with me, son..."

Just let me see Her.

"... Damn... Damn!"

I want to go home.

As Quinnton drifted in and out, flashes of an autumnal forest pass faded in and out of view. Then something far more distant, something that radiated a great white glow. A figure that rose from the dried leaves, it's footfalls barely gracing the floral ground.

The figure drew nearer; slender fingers reached out - a face yet without one, he felt a smile, warm eyes that took upon the sorrows he felt there. A motherly caress, one that drew the very breath from his lungs and renewed him then and there - heaving a great relief from his shoulders.

The figure's lips pressed close to his ear, notes of love sang to his heart.

"My brave boy... You are so strong, you are so loved. You feel so much pain now, I can feel it too - each time you weep, each time you scream, I can feel it too, my sweet boy. Don't be afraid to go, don't be afraid of it."

Does it hurt?

"Quicker than falling asleep, my little white stag."

And will I see you?

"I am always there with you, Quinnton. I lay beside your heart every night and every day. I perch upon your shoulder when you walk, run, see the world. But I can never embrace you, I can never lay that sweet kiss upon your brow and sing you to sleep. But I can if you choose to go, to come to me."

But...

"But...?"

Is it right to give up?


-

Quinnton stood in that tunnel of light for what felt like an eternity, but not once did he take a single step closer. Even with all the forces in the world pushing him forward, soft words urging him on with their gentle caress, his feet planted firmly into that hallowed ground.

Then, the forces ceased. The words the figure so delicately whispered fizzled out into the back of his skull, vanishing. That tunnel he stared so wistfully into began to whittle away, the walls around it cascading and cracking like dried autumn leaves - their remnants fluttering inwards into the tunnel's apex. The opportunity had come and gone, but Quinnton knew it would not be his last. He knew one day he would take that step forward into Her embrace, but would the world be lesser for it?

Tenuous shadows loomed around him now, tall figures which reached into the sky, stopping at what seemed to be just before the clouds. Colour materialized; verdant greens, crystal skies with plumed clouds rose above him. The gentle sing-song of the forest, the swaying of branches above, the rich orange leaves which gracefully drifted to the ground around him. As sound, sight, smell returned to him all at once the not so distant crackling of a fire warmed him.

"Welcome back to the land of the living, so to speak."

A gruff voice, like sandpaper. He remembered now. Haywood.

Quinnton's eyes drew across the great canopy above down to where the leaves fell; a crackling campfire, a chestnut horse which chomped into the contents of a bucket, then, a man. A figure of seemingly average height, though the width of this man was perhaps a testament to his strength. His grizzly, half-dried hair swayed with the wind and his one green eye bereft of a gentle gaze. In his clutches, a wooden pipe that puffed and fumed with the smoke he inhaled, exhaled then repeatedly chuffed.

"How long have I been out?"

"Days."

An eternity, more like. Quinnton grasped vacantly across his back till he felt the soft linens, bandages, and even the plumy flora of herbs which stuck to his wounds. He felt like a sack of stones, limp and pinned to the fur bedroll which clung around him.

"Ain't been the first time I've seen the work o' the two men that stabbed you. Ain't seen anyone but ye' live to tell the tale."

"... Where are they?"

"Don't worry about it."

Haywood's chapped maw clicked as clouds of smoke sifted between his lips, his hand had consciously tapped the brutishly large Zweihänder which nestled comfortably beside him within a dark leather scabbard, winking then at Quinnton with his one and only eye.

"My turn for questions," He spat a globule of darkened saliva into the fire, "What in Ezra's bloody name are you doin' out here? By yourself? In Richeumlot of all bloody places?"

"Traveling."

"Traveling?!" Haywood burst out into mirthfully rapturous laughter, which simmered unusually quickly, "Feckin' Dementiluese. You're all bloody idiots. You could have died, y'know?" He jabbed his dirtied thumb Quinnton's way, aggressively, "... Feckin'-travelin'-stupid-bloody-excuse..."

"I'll get out of your hair, monsieur, I don't want to impose any longer."

"Oi! Move n' you'll open those bloody wounds, son. You're safe, jus' relax, hawh?"

It'd felt so long since Quinnton had felt the stability he'd felt in Mordentshire, he was eager simply just to go. To keep moving, to search for something he felt like he was missing then. Soon, the distant sun which cast rays over a frosted mountain range dimmed to soft orange hues which graced the tranquil forest pass they dwelled within. Food was shared, wounds were tended, questions, however, arose.

"Where to next, son? Ye' got a list or summin'?"

"I... I'm not sure, really."

"Why not? Ye' on the run or summin'? A criminal?"

"Non! Ezra, no... Just traveling, monsieur, I swear it."

Haywood's posture straightened, the one eye which locked its focus onto Quinnton narrowed then - words pursed behind those chapped lips throughout a long and pensive silence.

"I ain't gonna pry into your life, son. I don't give a damn about what happened to ya', or where you're goin', or what you intend to do. But... I know all too well what it's like to deny yer' wanderlust."

The pipe in his grubby hands was tapped repeatedly against his knee, the blackened, dried leaves trickled out - a practiced motion as his eye never once left Quinnton. There was something doleful on Haywood's face then, the one eye glazed over - flashings of something, or someone juxtaposed beside the ghostly figure curled under the fur blankets before him.

"Am' headin' to Verbek. It'll be a long journey, the road ain't safe. Truth be told, son, I'm lookin' for a helpin' hand. So, I'll give you a choice; you come along for the journey, to see the world as you'd want... To travel, or we can part our ways once ye' feel able to walk. That'd be that. Hm?"

That'd be that.

*

Blissey

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Re: A White Stag
« Reply #10 on: June 29, 2020, 06:04:44 AM »

*

"Long road ahead. Ye' ready?"

"Ready."

Tumbling roads lay ahead. Winding steep passages through slumbering woodlands, memories in passing sown into the bark of each tree, and falling autumn leaves. Winter crept up close like a hungry predator, and with each day that passed along those slowly degrading cobbled roads, slowly melding into the dirt and then into forgotten paths, the first flakes of snow fell upon their shoulders. You notice it with age, how each passing day seems to move a little bit quicker. The lessons stick, however. They leave an imprint, like a searing iron pressed into the crevices of your brain, warping the folds and skewing the lines that you once used to connect so easily.

There was structure now, a routine. At first, Quinnton watched fervently each morning Haywood would rise at the earliest hints of dawn. He would always sit for a moment, taking in the air, his eyes lingering elsewhere along the encampment. With a long, exhausted grunt he rose to his feet, peeling away from the forces that yearned for him to remain stuck to the ground. Quinnton questioned his resolve; was it forced? But the question fizzled as quickly as it came in his mind. Of course it was. He thought it was much like the days in which he struggled to remove himself from under the linen wraps of his shoebox, to find a purpose in the day - to continue. Even behind that one raggedy green eye of Haywood's, hidden under the darkened layers of his eyebags lew discipline.

Soon, Quinnton became familiar with the cold silver of his worn and used Zweihander, passed on to him by Haywood with each lesson.

"All ye' may see is metal, sharpened-... Nay, brittle. But ye' know what I see, boy? I see an extension of yerself. Forget that hogwash bullshyte about swordplay bein' a dance, when yer' heavin' this blade through bone and flesh, it nay be pretty. It never be elegant. Nay forget that the blade be a part of yerself, be it ye' use it to defend or kill, an extension of yer' soul. Nay forget that, aye?"

The philosophy of a warrior, while burdened and perhaps even unkind, was as real and honest as it could get. Quinnton struggled at first, not by the training or the very use of the Zweihander, but understanding what it meant to hold and understand such a weapon. To realize that what you wield can be judge, jury and executioner. You are not separated from the actions of what your blade does, but you have a choice as to how you use it. There is responsibility in holding such power, to know when and how you may use it, to know when it is right to tear a soul from this world.

"Back when tha' Hawks first came, we nay were taught what it be like to kill a man. What one man can do ta' another. Nay even the Sargeants, or Commanders, or Captains knew how ye' could teach such a thin', I nay know how I could ever teach ye' such a thing. Some lessons ye' best learn by yerself. But when ye' kill a man, when ye' watch his eyes ligh' up for that las' bloody time... Ye' remember the responsibility, aye? Ye' always have a choice, Quinn, to kill someone. Mebe' ye' realize tha' too late, but tha' always be the lesson. Ye' can never perfect tha' art of killin', some thins' best left imperfect."

"Do you regret killing someone? Even if they did something horrible?"

"Every time, boy. Every damn time."

-
Biting winds cut across the open, stark white plains they trotted along upon Haywood's horse. The trees had long since vanished, forming only vague images behind them along the foggy horizon. Life seemed to cease here along the bank of a great wall of mist which towered above them, it's unseen heights melding into the darkened clouds above. Beyond that great shimmering wall of mist lay Verbrek. Quinnton felt Haywood's one green eye linger over his shoulder, watching, almost waiting.

"What is it, Haywood?"

"Believe in Ezra, boy?"

"... Not anymore."

"Ye'd best start believing."

With a crack of the rope that guided Haywood's horse, they grew nearer and nearer to the shimmering mists. Were it the cold, or the sinking feeling in Quinnton's heart, the air grew thin as their forms were slowly consumed by the encroaching mists. Where guiding forces had yearned for him to remain put, the same forces urged him now to rise and wander through those mists that day. With the months that had passed before them on those winding roads, with the Zweihander rested on his back, with the discipline behind his pale blue eyes, Quinnton felt it for once. He felt ready.


*

Blissey

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Re: A White Stag
« Reply #11 on: July 02, 2020, 05:02:22 AM »

*

"Why Verbek, Haywood?"

"Cuz', it's my home. Lika' moth to a flame, we always be drawn back to it, hm? We be born there, and we die there. Tha' how it be."

"I suppose so."

"Bah, you want the truth, is it boy? Verbek ain't a pretty place. I left me mam there long ago for sum' silly reason. Keen to see that she be doin' alright, hm?"

"What's wrong with Verbek?"

"I remember when I was a wee boy, out in the woods wit' my mates... Ya' feel summin' watchin' ye' there, like a predator or summin'... Always watchin'. I got home tha' day by meself, my mates never seen again. All I remember were them two big red eyes... Watchin'... Hungry..."


-

Cold sweat dragged along his chalky cheeks that night, yet it was winter, how could he be sweating so profusely? The only source of light which bore down on his alabaster complexion was the paling moon above, half-sheathed by encircling storm clouds. Dark masses drifted across a star-less sky. Perhaps it was unease? Somewhere new? An unfamiliarity? Yet there was nothing that could quite resemble Verbek. It's colors were muted, not by the twilight veil of the night, but by it's sheer quiet. That deafening silence which made your skin crease and shiver. The tiniest sounds become amplified, that rang in the ears at volumes far higher than expected. A twig snapping, the crunching of leaves, Haywood's breathing, and even his own sharp, haggard breaths. Something in the air had silenced Haywood's previously long tangent about a broad he once knew in Mordent. A particularly cheery man, even in dour climates was silenced somehow. Quinnton felt the wide frame which he clutched onto on the back of Haywood's chestnut horse tense and stiffen, he heard the tightening of the leather rope which guided the horse. It's creasing leather tenuously straining against Haywood's calluses. Quinnton doubted that even one of Haywood's fantastical stories could remedy the all-encompassing discomfort that surrounded the woodland path they rode along.

They came to a halt at a clearing, where the base of a steep hill laid. Without a word, Haywood dismounted, followed in suit by Quinnton. The leading rope was hastily tied around a branch, snapping it off rather indelicately. Their eyes met then, wide and swallowed by distress. Seeing the pure fear in Haywood's eyes unnerved Quinnton, it made the hairs on the back of his neck rise to a stand. A man that was so meticulous and careful, his movements measured and practiced seemingly thrown off by nothing but deafening silence. Much like when an animal spots a threat, they bulk up, making themselves appear larger than they were, Haywood's shoulders rose and his frame widened. For a moment, Quinnton believed that Haywood's eyes drifted over something behind him. Pale blue eyes shot around only see the same dark, misty forest path they had ridden down.

"Why are we leaving the horse here?" Between harsh, dry gulps of saliva, Quinnton murmured below the wind.

"Cuz', boy."

"Because what?"

No answer. Haywood's boots dredged into the mud at the base of the hill, beginning the ascent. He was holding secrets, half-truths, and nothing less. With trepidation, Quinnton followed like a wary but obedient dog, right on Haywood's heel. The abandoned horse watched, shifting with growing agitation.  Snorting sharply and huffing from its nostrils, it shook its head and whinnied as they ascended. Quinnton's eyes struggled to maintain his focus both on the horse, and on the steep rise of the hill. Even in the open pass they stood in now, and with limitless directions the horse could break away into, it seemed as if it wanted nothing more than to recede into itself, to shatter like a mirror and float away in the wind - carried off elsewhere. As the ascent grew higher, the whinnies and pleas of the panicked horse diminished until it was but a vacant sound beneath the gentle flow of the wind. The darkened image of the horse grew dimmer and dimmer as he rose higher and higher along the hill, and its base was where Quinnton collided with the back of Haywood, wholly distracted. Though the bulwark of a man did not budge, his eyes affixed on something ahead. Quinnton's pale blue eyes shifted then from the base of the hill to the bank ahead, rubbing his knuckles against his eyelids attempting to adjust his eyes to the damming darkness.

A darkened village lew within the bank, nestled comfortably in the nook of the hill. It was a polar reflection of what it once was, or could have been. Quinnton expected a warm radiance to shimmer out from the many vacant village house windows, yet there was only more shadows that occupied those spaces. A smoldering mirror of the past, lost to the horrors of this forsaken domain. Quinnton was lost in the quiet but foreboding spectacle ahead. The silence was somehow more jarring than it was at the base of the hill. He snapped to attention, he remembered the horse, it's whinnies and it's pleas. Down that darkened hill he saw nothing but an empty forest pass, he squinted, those pale blue eyes narrowing down the hill.

He saw only a splatter of scarlet red and the dangling leading rope hanging from a branch.

"Knew it." Haywood croaked, watching over Quinnton's shoulder.

Quinnton threw him a questioning look, his eyes irked with anger-fueled confusion.

"Will you tell me what's going on? W-What happened to the horse, Haywood?"

"Eaten. Gobbled up. Mawed. It be summin's dinner now."

"Something... Ate it?"

"Summin' big, aye... Prowlin' about. It prolly was waitin' for us, boy. Ye' see? Coulda' smelt us before we even came thru' the bloody mists."

Haywood was beginning to sound unlike himself, the one eye widening like a madman's would, preaching about an unseen and false terror. But it was real, even if Quinnton hadn't seen it. He felt it in his bones, how they ached and yearned to leave. The sweat became profuse, glistening his skin under the moonlight.

"Please, Haywood, tell me why we're here. You said you'd be honest with me, you'd tell me the truth."

"Am' here to kill the bloody thin's that killed everythin' I know! All I 'old dear, Quinny boy, gone. Eaten, inside summin's belly n' shit out like it was nothin'! I just needed someone stupid enough to 'elp me do the deed."

The harsh realization made Quinnton's heart sink into his stomach, then to his feet, and even into the ground would the soft mud allow it.

"You're-... You're using me? All that time... All that training... I thought you were my friend, Haywood. I thought I could trust you!"

"I made you into a bloody killin' machine, Quinny boy. When ye' see those red eyes comin' at ye', snarlin' n' yappin', howlin', dun' run. You fight! You kill!" Haywood's hands latched onto Quinnton's, shaking them fervently. Their sweaty, clammed palms feeding into one another's fears.

"What makes you think I'm going to fight for you, Haywood?"

"Where ye' gonna run, Quinny boy? Out ther'? Into the wilderness? Nay... Nay, boy. Ye' ain't that dumb."

The monster that stood before him seemed no different now from the one that lay in waiting within the forest.

And like a moth to a flame, Quinnton was lured so deeply into the trap that his only choice was to press on into the abyss. To press on into that damming darkness ahead. A trove of lost memories passed them by in each village house. Hay that had once been a crisp, golden yellow fizzled into a muted blackened brown. Rotted boards of wood stank of decay, scattering remnants of a once lived in village were thrown around the muddy roads in a hurry. Flashes of a once-thriving village were thrown into disarray by the ensuing, dark terror that had previously claimed Haywood's horse. Crows had perched atop the houses, fluttering silently in pursuit of the pair, watching, waiting.

They had arrived at their final destination; a house located at the end of the road, as equally worn down and rotted as the rest were. A cold gust of wind swooped through the husk of a village, the crows fluttering midflight as they perched above. The rickety wooden flap which acted as a door swayed haphazardly in the doorway, shoved open with a burled fist from Haywood. The interior looked to be once a cozy home, one could almost hear faint laughter, followed by harrowing screams out of it's cobwebbed corners. Decomposing food was sprawled across the set table, a thin layer of dust blanketing it. What had once taken the occupants of this village was nothing but a distant memory now. One that Haywood had vicariously lived within for decades, tormented by it's unspeaking and wordless prose.

From Haywood's belt, a lantern was planted onto the table harshly. A plume of dust rising up, then falling gently to where it once lay. The bright orange illumination radiated from the lantern was almost blinding at first, caking the darkened annals of the home in a light it had not see in years. Insects veered away, skittering back into their hovels, behind furniture. The rasp of steel leaving its scabbard did not aid Quinnton's already shaken composure, he followed in suit, merely obeying blindly at this point. Their Zweihanders glinted steel shimmered under the dim orange light. What they were waiting for was nearby, watching. They knew this as the crows grew restless, they fluttered about, unsure as to whether to perch nearby or seek seating elsewhere. They were eager to watch the bloodletting, their black eyes glinting seemingly with glee.

"Come on, ye' bastard! 'Am here! Fight meh! Fight meh, you bloody thin'!" Haywood smashed his fist into the supporting beam of the house, rattling it's already brittle structure.

Quinnton jolted with each sound of flesh hitting wood, the sound of crows swooping perching, their silent gazes, the sweeping wind picking up, the gentle trickle of rain which turned soon into a downpour - muting everything, but not his fear. His fear became louder than words, it turned into ringing in his ears. He felt every sensation all at once, he felt each drop of sweat trickle down his brow, slithering across his body only to intermingle with the slowly pooling mass of water which seeped through the floorboards, rendering the dirt a sloppy, ichor of mud.

It was coming. The thing. The eater, the predator, with jowls caked in blood and viscera.

Haywood went deathly silent, his one eye searching frantically around. He had heard something Quinnton hadn't until it became apparent to him. Heavy thumping rolled around the outside of the hut deftly, splashing into the muddy ground. Between the thin boards, even in the dark of the night, the dim orange light cast off of something large, something with black bristled fur.

He couldn't stop shaking, the metal of his Zweihander clicking against his leathers, holding it close for dear life. Quinnton's eyes trailed over seek some sort of relief from Haywood, seeing only a long, relishing yet twisted smile on Haywood's face. Blood was in his eye this night.

A crack sent their eyes to the door. A massive hand peeling open the rickety frame, its claws drenched in thick red liquid. Two venomous red eyes peeled out from the encroaching darkness outside, rising out through the doorway. Before them, in the claustrophobic confines of Haywood's childhood home stood the hulking mass of fur, snarling red-stained teeth bare for all to see. A beast like no other, a beast which shared Haywood's animosity, their desire to kill. The only difference was between Haywood and the hulking creature was that it was born to kill. Born to feast on fearful flesh, born to rend its claws through screaming men.

The crows will be feasting tonight, they knew it as fangs and blades collided in a mesh of flesh, fury, and blood.

Silhouettes danced under the dim orange glow of the lantern. Unblinking black eyes of crows peered and closely studied the collision of bodies, the howling yell of both beast and man as viscera splattered into the muddy ground, imbuing its sickly brown color in an even thicker red. Zweihanders cut and tore, they ripped and sliced - painting the walls anew. Shrieks and yells of panic rattled the home, calls of pure terror, regret. A man yelling out for his mother before silenced in a gargle of choked blood.

Two silhouettes stood now, face to face.

He set his jaw, feet stamping into the mud, arming his Zweihander. The crows chirped, they cheered, revering the bloodletting. Their squawks resonating out into the night sky like a triumphant battle call.

I am not weak.

Blade and claw were set in motion with a blur. Clashing, gnawing, slicing, piercing.

The hulking silhouette lunged, caught into the length of a Zweihander, plunged into its gut. A howl cascaded out into the valley of Verbek, silencing the crows.

The pale-skinned man stood blankly, drenched head to toe in someone or something's blood. The beast had slammed into the table, crashing into the lantern, setting itself ablaze. In pure terror, the pure sheer desire to survive - it scrambled, wounded, slithering in the mud as it's blackened fur curled and whittled in the bright embers of the fire. The beast's eyes locked on Quinnton, it's jowls moving as if to curse him. To beseech him then and there. But no longer did it seek to kill, for its killer stared it down in that hut as the crows watched on, silent and in waiting to feast.

The beast's eyes lit one last time before the fire consumed it's corpse, turning it's bare black flesh charred and maimed. The burning embers crawled up and along the decaying wooden walls, thick smoke filling the room.

Against the beam that supported the structure, Haywood sprawled against it. Never had Quinnton seen a sight such as this, a man holding the very organs which had kept him alive, scarlet hues streaming from punctures in his flesh.

"K-... It-... It killed meh-... Good, Quinn. Damn..." His thick, scraggly voice gargled past the mess of blood that sippled out of his lips.

The blade in Quinnton's hand clattered into the blood-soaked ground as shifted hurriedly through the wreckage of wood and flesh. He held his hands over wounds oozing blood, desperately, his eyes streaming tears which drifted over the mud and thick red ichor which caked his face.

"You're gonna be okay, Haywood. You're okay. It's nothing-... Just a few scratches. I-It's f-fixable."

"Ye' st-... Stupid boy..." Haywood bloodied hands clasped Quinnton's face, drawing their faces close together, "Tha'-... Was just one of 'em..."

The night was still young, and as the flames slowly devoured the home, creating a bright burning precipice in the midnight hours, howls resonated around Verbek. A bright, full-moon shown high above the sky between the cracks of the thick rain clouds.

Even the crows fled, shooting into the night sky. Their symphony of caws displaying their horror.

Quinnton scooped up his Zweihander, planting his feet into the mud. Terror pulled his face down into a ghastly expression

"Ezra preserve me."


*
« Last Edit: August 10, 2020, 08:28:11 AM by Blissey »

Blissey

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Re: A White Stag
« Reply #12 on: August 08, 2020, 07:36:58 AM »

*

Invariably, fear never changes. It invokes the same cold sweat that dribbles down your spine. The same chill that ripples through your bones, shaking you and the blade you hold. You feel the needles press into the folds of your brain, your hairs standing on end, your eyes narrowing, brow furrowing, teeth clenching, and adrenaline pumping. What a cruel joke, he thought to himself, what a cruel, cruel joke to be ruled by our own minds. As the smoke billowed out from the windows of the once deteriorated hut, he cast one vacant look to the harrowing sight that was Haywood. There was no saying now that one might think he could be sleeping, not at all. He stared into the blazing embers that traversed up the wall, the orange shades reflecting and brightening off of the crimson red liquid that seeped from his open wounds. There was a look in his eyes, even in death, and it was fulfillment. A look one might have were they to pen their first letter, or where one might feel proud or admirable for an achievement. This was all he lived for, and he knew it. He accepted it. He let it guide him till this very moment, and even as the beast tore him apart, he was able to watch from aside letting another man do his work for him. To fell the beast that felled him. Quinnton felt his knees buckle at the sight of him, at the thought of who he was that entire time. The facade, the curtains that he kept drawn and shut, how he was used for nothing more than revenge. He felt the bile rise through his throat, the sickly acidic taste reaching his tongue and then out into the blood splattered mud.

Emptied, alone, and with the sound of encroaching paws dampening the wet grass and mud beyond the village, Quinnton stared upon the sum of his training. The sum of all his lessons, and teachings. Did he mean them? Were those words all for naught? But the cruel joke lingered, it forced him onto his feet, to grab his blade, his supplies off of Haywood's haggard, gored body, letting him slump into the mud.

"Was it worth it?"

He felt the words slip through his teeth without a thought to them, a question that would linger in the back of his mind for as long as he would live. But the cruel joke lingered again, the fear. They were coming. They could smell the blood. As he pushed through the shattered frame of the wooden door, it's hinges giving way as it slammed into the mudded ground below, the billowing smoke rushed out with him. The fire had begun to spread, it's great orange glow a beacon now across the expanse of the derelict village. He couldn't go back the way he'd come, back to Richemulot. There was no more horse now, it's usefulness now rested in the belly of a black-mawed beast who's corpse lay burnt to a crisp within the hut. So, he ran. He let his tired legs carry him. He veered past the town hall, it's once-great tower, afforded by skillful craftsmanship was clinging on by the few threads of wood that hung desperately to the nails that held it there. Through an alley, past overturned wagons and smashed barrels, he found an opening. An incline up a steep hill once more, it's horizon vanishing near the moon that shone fully. He followed the light, he would let the same moon that made the beasts feral guide him to a haven, a reprieve.

He felt the blood in his legs pumping, the muscles aching, yearning for a pause. Yet, masses clotted up out of the corners of his eyes, masses that moved and shifted beneath the veil of the night. They moved on all fours, their howls reverberating off of the green hills to which they all ascended. He pleaded, and the tears came with each bouncing step, he pleaded to Her. To save him. To come down with heavenly wings and embrace him, to take him away from this foul place. But this was a Godless land, it reeked of death. Man was only prey here, in Verbek, he was only another meal to be enjoyed. The thrill was in the chase, of course.  Of that smell of fear rising through the air like a thick musk, a raw stench that clawed at the senses and crawled down the throat. They could outrun him, surely they could. Yet they slowed, they wanted Quinnton to tire himself. They wanted him to drop to his knees,  to plead before they tore out his throat, rent his flesh within their teeth, to rip him apart limb by limb until he was nothing more than a red stain mingling with dew upon the grass.

The horizon, it was there, he could touch it. As one foot carried him to it, there was nothing more for him to step upon but hollow air. Below him, below the beacon of the full moon, the gentle rush of a distant river nestled between a deep valley. The paws had ceased their incessant chasing. He turned on his heels to face them, to face the fear. Sixteen full, feral red eyes glinted under the light. Their rising and falling forms shifting with each sunken breath, their blackened paws and claws drenched in mud. The thick musk of canines drenched the air, the foul stench of hunger dribbling down their jowls in viscous globules of saliva.

The blade rattled in Quinnton's hand, the tall, shimmering silver Zweihander. They inched closer, unanimous in their thought, their desire for his pale flesh. He inched backward, the tumbling of loose bits of dirt falling away under his boot and into the deep valley.

"When ye' see those red eyes comin' at ye', snarlin' n' yappin', howlin', dun' run. You fight! You kill!"

If there was anything that was true in Haywood's words, it was the strength he taught Quinnton. The will to fight, to endure in a battle you know is lost. To be the judge, jury and executioner of your own demise. He set his feet, his boots inching into the soft dirt. The blade was set forward, armed and ready despite the cruel joke that pushed him towards the river below, to certain death. The beasts snorted out hot gasps of air, amusement perhaps. One stepped closer, the largest out of the eight. It had seen it's fair share of violence. Thick scars lashed it's open flesh, carving out ravines within it's fur. The skin upon it's jowl was missing, bearing the sharp yellow coloured fangs.

The crack of sticks marked the lunge forward. It's blacked claws reaching out to seize him.

The air cracked, too, with it's lunge as the Zweihander found it's mark, cleaving through the beasts chest. Quinnton yelled out in horror as crimson viscera splattered across his pale face.

The others howled with him, jeering in their gutteral feral tones.

It came again, faster. It plucked him from the ground, seizing him, hurling him into the soft dirt.

The Zweihander had fallen with him, however. It was in his hands.

The beast's jowls lunged down to bite, to seize his throat. It was met with cold silver, clamped between it's churning teeth.

The blackened maw clenched against the metal, yet Quinnton pushed forward. His face strained, the red of his skin matching the blood that rested there, too. As the cold silver clipped through the beast's maw, reaching the edges of it's mouth, it's eyes had widened.

With one harsh pull, the blade was yanked to the right, and only in a brief moment did Quinnton see the beast recoil back into the dirt. He scrambled then, inched closer to the ledge. The towering beast feigned Quinnton's gaze, it's back turned fully. Yet as it's eyes shifted, meeting his, he saw the hanging jaw of the beast. The final threads that held it there was but bone and muscle.

The jeering ceased. He had harmed the alpha. He had removed it's ability for it's only purpose, to feast. The other beasts looked as if they were unsure for a moment, until one had lunged, clearing the flesh from the alpha's throat entirely. It's towering figure gargled and seized before falling into the dirt, dust and flakes of mud shot out from underneath it's form. Now, they converged as a group. Their slobbering jowls widening with glee.

He felt then as if he was at the world's edge, with death only waiting him below. Yet, the further he looked on ahead, he saw the very same edge. The dulled sides of two blades. One would be quick, he would feel the pain of his body colliding with the water and then... Nothing but release. The other, however, would be cruel and slow. He would have to endure the slow torture of his limbs being torn apart, he would have to feel the blood oozing from his open throat. The pain of his entrails being torn through his body and into their mouths.

Yet, as they lunged at him, together, the choice was already made.

His foot met nothing as he recoiled, the force of the world and his pack sending him spiraling into the river below.

Blood red eyes watched from above, fading quicker and quicker into the distance.

There was a calm in falling, however brief it was. The weightlessness, the rush of the air against your skin, the pausing of your heart and mind as they attempted to process the feeling.

But that pause, the task of unpacking what it was, gave that peace. The feeling of not feeling at all.

A new cruel joke, he thought, was how brief it was. How quickly that cold, hard crash followed as he met the frigid water below.


*
« Last Edit: August 10, 2020, 09:43:57 AM by Blissey »

Blissey

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A White Stag: Finale
« Reply #13 on: December 07, 2020, 01:29:37 PM »

*

As quickly as he fell into that ravine, meeting the frigid water below, did he rise from the cot in which he restlessly slept. Sleep had not met Quinnton so readily nowadays, especially in the years that had passed since his travels across the Core. Yet, even in the stark grey room he'd inhabited for the moment, the fearful dreams no longer clutched him as tight as they once did. More than ever did he try to meet his mornings with a dutiful smile, with prayers that left his heart warm in hopes of lending that warmth to others. These were the only things he could do in his last days walking the mortal realm. Thoughts that lingered in the back of his mind, things he should have said, things he could have done. Regrets that plagued him and made each step heavier than it should be. His mind drifted to Ailbhe. He had wondered where this world had taken her now. More importantly, he had dreamt of a life where he had walked away from his duties. Life in peace with her at his side sat upon a mound in the rolling hills of Mordent. But in the path of his mind, he halted, regarding those selfish, regretful thoughts with disdain. All he could do now was to remember her smile, and know that it would be enough to give him hope. In the path that he walked now, his role became clearer each day. Were it to be the duty of every man to face their final hours with sheer, infallible bravery, then this world would be all the better for it. Yet like any man that stared into the misty halls that would soon claim them, fear seized him.

Is there any sure way to prepare for one's death? Under hood and cloak, his childhood refuge of Sabel Bay harbored his thoughts. The presence of a friend, Sapphire, the receiver of his questions. To his relief, she was none the wiser to their true meaning.

"Sapphire, if you knew you were going to die, how would you spend your last days?"

"With my loved ones of course. I'd let them know how much they meant to me, and that I loved them."

"... And if they're all gone?"

"Then you won't need to tell them. They already know, wherever they are."

That familiar smell of salt drifted into his nostrils, carried by the night's chilled air. The quiet of the beach claimed their conversation, letting its somber feeling fade with each receding wave.

"I never got over how quiet this place can be, Quinnton. Even with the waves, it's so... Peaceful."

"That is what makes it so great. It's the one place I can truly think, and know my thoughts are mine and mine alone."

Despite the impermanence that lingered on his alabaster face, Sapphire still greeted him with that unknowing, warm smile. It was enough. The company of a dear friend and her words. They were enough to ease the pain of his dread, enough to silence the harrowing thoughts and regret that kept sleep at bay.

In the days that had passed since sleep did indeed come easier. It was an uneasy peace. Before the stained glass window of Our Guardian, he let his prayers reach those he knew would need them. He clutched his pendant, the sister to one that he had given to his dear friend, Owen. He recalled the pain in his eyes in their final meeting. The hurt that he had dealt to a man that was all but true to him. How Quinnton had wished that his words had not left Owen feeling more lonely than he ever was. He felt his will faltering, the tears came, forced back in a hard gulp. He would see him again, though, that much was sure. Quinnton had hoped that the pendant he had given him would remind him of the light that rested inside him.

Voices called for him to join in the ritual of Mist Walking. The final assault on the Citadel of the Guiding Hand would begin shortly. In the ever-encroaching mist that encircled them, Quinnton had steeled his gaze ahead. In the face of death, and the insurmountable odds that lew past the mist burrowed within the crevices of the Citadel, he knew what awaited him, but not what was beyond the pain of taking your final breath.


*

He held what was to be his end. The Orb. His body ached, his throat was hoarse. Second Chance dripped with a bright scarlet sheen. The once white armor that shone as a beacon was drenched in blood that was both his own, and was not. As he felt his essence trickling through his fingertips, penetrating the spherical frame of the Orb, his breathing slowed. The dust that gently drifted from the ceiling above paused in their descent. All that watched held their words, and the air within their lungs. Quinnton felt his eyes drift to the woman beside him, as the bright white spark of their combined essences filled the orb - blinding the hating expression of Sulvan Orion. For all the warmth that was left within him, and for all the prayers he could muster, he would ensure that this was not Sylvie's end. Her life was not bound to Quinnton's fate. There was much left for her to do, a life yet to live to the fullest, a husband she could keep loving.

In a thundering clap, the Orb's compounded energy was released into a silken white beam of divine energy. Its end crashed into the Fiend, Sulvan Orion. It arced, bent, and snapped at his figure - rending the life from him instantaneously. In the midst of the chaos, and the blinding light that felled a once-powerful evil, peace had arrived without pretense. Even with his body sore, and ready to give in. Even with all the air in his lungs drained into his final cry - the light consumed him.


"Does it hurt?"

"Quicker than falling asleep, my little white stag."

*

He had returned to that once familiar tunnel of light. Cascading cylindrical walls of light shimmer into an end that seemed infinite. Yet near the end, a figure's silhouette beckoned him. Slender, and feminine. His eyes drew him away from the tunnel's end, to the crowd that amassed around his cold corpse. He could hear their words, garbled under the hazy dim hum of the realm he was in now. They stared back at his ghostly form, one that stood upon the precipice of the tunnel of light. Reassurance followed the smile that drew along his lips in seeing Sylvie alive and all others too. He felt a slender hand grasp his, tugging him along the shallow pathway within the tunnel. Her hand, it's grip, the feeling of Her presence. It felt real, it had felt like something he had known so very long ago. With each heavy step he took, the light near the end of the infinitely cascading tunnel brightened until all that was left was blinding light.

Time had begun to feel irrelevant to Quinnton within the light in which he walked. The hand that clutched his held on tight, until it loosened - slipping away. He trailed after it, searching for it once more in the blinding white light. In the hurry of his chase, the light began to dissipate. Thin veils of mist warped around him like blankets, peeled away with each step and swipe of the hand. A mist-shrouded road painted itself past the veils of mist, and soon his boots met the cold mud of the twisting path ahead. Beside the twisting road, sheathed under the thick plumes of mist that vacantly drifted across the path they were on, a hunched figure called out.

"Oh Quinnton, my son. You have arrived! Help me, I am lost here."

Sharp fear cut through his once tranquil feelings. Pale skin, finely pressed green garments, piercing eyes. Remon Dubois stood within the folds of mist, calling out to Quinnton eagerly.

"Remon?" Quinnton returned between harsh gulps of air.

"Oui. It is me, Quinnton. I have been lost in the Mists for so long. Yet, I believe... You have grown up so quickly."

"... And have you?" Words came parted and torn from his lips, dazed by the seemingly real nightmare that stood before him. A feeble old man, one that had been the root of all his terrors in life.

"I do not know, the Mists are unpredictable and... My prayers are ineffective here. Perhaps the road ahead will bring us closer to a return, non?"

There were no words sufficient enough to respond. No words could escape the cold fear that strangled his throat. Side-by-side, towering over the once nightmarish man that plagued his childhood, he strode down the misty walkway. Much like the tunnel he once remembered, a feminine visage - much like the one that beckoned him forth stood at its end. Waiting, watching.

Her scrutinizing eye judged the pair that walked in tow.

"Is it truly?" Remon cried out, his pleased, snake-like voice sent chills down Quinnton's spine, "Our Blessed Guardian? Holy Ezra, please save us! We are trapped in this unholy place!"

"Remon..." Words returned, garbled, and afraid. He reached out, his gauntlet rattled with each tremble, "... Stop." Though his words fell on deaf ears.

The veils of mist that floated around them began to swirl, they conjured spectral shapes that hissed in guttural whispers. Their forms drifted around Remon, and in one movement - embraced him. The flesh upon his face began to slowly peel away. His screams came out as breathless cries. All that was left was but a pool of red ichor, gently flowing through the mud. Desperation washed over Quinnton, the desire to intervene, to spare, and provide mercy where it should be applied. Yet there was little mercy for a man as wicked as Remon. A man that had severed his ties to what he once cherished, a man that robbed him of his innocence, a man that turned his trust in Ezra into bitter hatred for life. But Quinnton was different now, and the man he was those many years ago has all but faded. What remained was but the guilt that struck his face, watching what remained of Remon Dubios return to whence he came; the dirt.

In the dim silence, the figure spoke. Her features softening, easing into something melancholic.

"His faith was not true."

The pool of blood trickled closer to his feet, the faint reflection of the tall Paladin shone through. Peace without pretense returned. Quinnton had conceded to what was to be his fate, falling to his knees.

"Make it quick then," His eyes found the reflection, unable to meet the gaze of the figure before him, "If this is the fate left for me... Just so long as all is well back home, just so long as everyone is safe... I accept it."

The soft splashing of steps into liquid announced her approach. Her presence, while otherworldly, was motherly. Quinnton had steeled his trembling, his eyes had all but shut, accepting the fate left for him. In his heart, he had accepted it. In his mind, he had told himself that he had done all he could and that what he had done was enough for all that he cared for.

Slender, familiar hands reached out to hold him close.

"You are safe now, Quinnton, my son... My little white stag."

In that moment, he had understood why peace came without pretense. The figure that greeted him so eagerly near death. The voice that returned each of his prayers with reassurance. When his eyes had drifted up, catching her kind face, her crystalline blue eyes, her silken blonde hair, the fear had vanished - left in the wake of his peace.

"Mama?"

*

The End.