Author Topic: He who walks on the Path - Lucas Hayle  (Read 240 times)

Running With Razors

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He who walks on the Path - Lucas Hayle
« on: January 01, 2021, 09:25:05 AM »

Year 776.
The rise of a new year in Barovia. Yes. Barovia, that’s where I am now.

It was only a month ago that I wandered across the Faerun, in pursuit of knowledge and self-enlightenment. It was night when the Mists creeped around me, like a hawk that circles its prey. But that’s a poor way to describe it. If I have to describe the Mists, it’d be a Chultian carnivorous plant. It lies perfectly still, mimetized with the environment, till its prey wanders too close. It opens its teeth-jagged maws and swallows it whole.
I find myself in the land of foreigners. A world between worlds. I’ve heard many theories on its nature, though one thing is certain: many of the people I’ve met comes from lands I’ve never heard of. Only some of us hail from Toril.

I can hear a handful of people clattering their mugs in happiness as a new year of opportunities steps up. Outlanders. Only Outlanders believe in such things. But hope is in rare supply around these parts. Good for them, I’d wager.
I’m not with them. I am in my room, above the Fair Lady’s, sitting cross-legged onto the bed. A small candle is the only light that shines bright. I am in silence. The murmuring downstairs is inconsequential. For me, this is the day where I realize the first of many important truths.

Lucas Hayle is dead. I am dead.

For my people. For the entire Faerun, I died a month ago. For a month, I longed to find a way out. Through the Mists. I must accept the fact that I may never be able to find it. To ignore this possibility is to bring despair and ultimately, defeat.

I connect to the natural cycle of my breath, feeling the rise and fall of my belly. I exhale slowly. Deeply. Count to four. Inhale. Count to four. Exhale. The cycle gradually steadies, assumes a will of its own as mine drifts away. Negative emotions are a poison. A tumor. A parasite. To harbor them is to let them fester into agony.
Meditation is the basis. My foundation. To meditate is to seek absolute stillness in the midst of a storm of emotions. To observe wandering thoughts as they float aimlessly through my mind. To harness your energy. To rest, while aware of everything that surrounds you.
I’m aware of a select few who’s capable of harnessing the same energies in these lands. They let the success of their achievements addle their discipline, their will eroded by monetary wealth, their wisdom weighted by arrogance and their perception blinded by the lies they tell to themselves. I must be vigilant not to become like them.

I’ve been mentored for the past twenty years of my life. In twenty years, I was carefully raised, instructed and guided into one of the many, tiny walled cloisters found across the Faerun, where time seemed to stand still. I call it Relthwin, the Elven word for refuge. Its real name is the School of the Wayfarers.
It is when I recall the significance of that name that my spirit stirs. It’s warm. Soothing. Powerful. Perpetually in motion, like a calm stream. Any stream, when compelled by nature shifts into a raging river strong enough to smash great rocks.
Its energy is an element of the magic imbued across time and space, always flowing in the mind and body of living creatures. Many monastic traditions call it Ki.
My Ki is the source of my strength, speed and resilience. To seek calmness within is to be in touch with the well of power I’ve struggled to harness over the years, through strict discipline and contemplation.

“I am strong.” I say once, the Elven words flowing naturally through my mouth.
Strength. I reach out to my Ki. Its strength is palpable. Today I harnessed it in battle. Tonight, it needs to be restored.
I am preparing for the greatest battle of my existence. The battle for my survival in this new domain. Where one would seek strength and guidance in weapons or armors, I seek guidance through my teachings.
“Pain and relief. Good or bad. Light and Darkness. As you walk on the Path, there will be times where the obstacles will seem insurmountable. Seek focus. Always be focused.”
My body twitches. My fists tightens, my knuckles turn white. I can feel it.
A stray thought flows towards me. Sometimes, I believe my Ki bears a will of its own and seeks to guide me through the darkest of moments. I am taught not to reject these moments, but to embrace them, for they bring guidance.

The Way of the Open Hand requires decades of practice and devotion to be fully mastered. Today we’re not practicing outside. The thirty of us are gathered in the inner gardens, under the watchful gaze of the Ki-Rin statue that stands tall above all. Thirty young men and women, all thirteen years old, mentored under the tyrant gaze of their masters.
We all move as one. We drive ourselves through a series of punishing unarmed drills. The room stinks of sweat and incense. My movements are fluid. Even at such a young age, I often marvel at the physical control and stamina I’ve developed as I drive myself faster and faster, with even more precision to my form. At times, it resembled a dance. I felt pride. I was good at it. And that, is where I committed the mistake of the week.
I hear his robes rustle. He moves with frightening speed. Something slashes through the air. I see the blur of his staff descending right into my dominant leg. I shoot out a scream. He knows where to hit, to the side of the knee, where the joint barely protects the cluster of nerves. I fall on the floor, desperate to clutch my struck limb and not to cry. Never cry.
“To feel pride in yourself is to stray from your path of perfection. To stop your pursuit of improvement is to let arrogance addle your mettle!”
Master Syerl looks at me with disgust, as if an insect opted to walk on his table while he was having his usual light breakfast. The light of his eyes is fierce and energetic, even for a man who’s about to hit the sixties. He smoothens his long, white beard.
“Yes, Master.” I reply obediently. The Masters are always right. Never complain. Never challenge them when they’re addressing you in the midst of a practice session.
“Do you think that because you’ve deepened your knowledge of the Way, you’re able to fight? To walk on the Path, incurant of what you will find during your journey?!”
“Yes, Master.” Never lie to the Masters. Never.
I am not looking. The pain flares irregularly. It hurts. I crawl up to my knees and keep my chin low, eyes on the floor. To fail that is to invite another blow. I hear him laugh heartily. I don’t have to look at the faces of my brothers and sisters to know that they too, are shocked. I know I am. He never laughs.
“Do you think you can just do something as soon as you get a little bit of power? Even if you could, it’d be just a pitiful display of acrobatics. What if there’s something you can’t defeat with your body, mhm?! Not every obstacle can be traversed with a battle. What then?! It’ll be over!”
I stay silent. Not a word ushered. Not a breath exhaled too loudly. Suddenly, his fist is thrusted towards my chest, into my sternum. He breaks the impact before it touches. What could’ve been a lethal blow is just a light tap. I make the mistake of raising my chin, to look him into the eyes. Confusion. Another mistake.
“But you’re the one who has to decide. It takes a strong will. The will to act.”
“Yes, Master.”
“Three principles. Discipline, wisdom and courage. It all begins with whether or not you’re going to do something. To walk on the Path you need to adhere to these principles. If you’re going to do something, then DO something!”
“Yes, Master.”
“It doesn’t matter where you are, what you are doing, with who you’re doing it with. There will be times where you’ll feel wounded. Trapped. Defeated. You’ll have NOTHING but your will to keep you from falling. When it happens, you will have to get back on your feet. And to keep moving! Do you understand me, Lucas?”
“Yes, Master.”

He was right. The Path ahead of me is long. No one will ever see where it leads. One step at a time. One obstacle at a time. These lands are like a stairwell. I will climb them one step at a time. I will move through one obstacle at a time.
I decide to move.
« Last Edit: January 09, 2021, 02:23:41 PM by Running With Razors »

Running With Razors

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Re: He who walks on the Path - Lucas Hayle
« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2021, 02:12:40 PM »

“Violence is a tool. It does not control you. You control it. As warriors you will exercise the full monopoly of your most powerful weapons: your body, your mind, your soul. Be disciplined and focused.”

These lands are cursed.
To be a wanderer is to be the subject of an endless trials of violence, blood, and death. I had hoped the people of Barovia were united to stand against the Darkness that feeds on their misery. I was wrong.
I brush my fingers on my thigh. The cut is not deep, the dagger hasn’t reached the artery. I kick the weapon aside as I survey somberly the results of my act of violence. I am surrounded by bodies, scattered across the verdant hill like pieces of a jigsaw in a box. Bodies of bandits.
Some of their limbs are twisted unnaturally. Others have their chests caved in, as if a mallet repeatedly hit them till ribs and the sternum collapsed, their expressions wide-eyed and lifeless.
I wrap a firm strap of leather above the wound, to lessen the blood loss.
“Slow”, I say, chastising myself. Yes, that’s right. Slow. Inadequate. Weak. Pathetic. Words that relentlessly echoes in my mind, over and over, with each motion and blow delivered and sustained in combat. Master Syerl always disassembled our techniques and criticized it, turned the most insignificant of flaws into a colossal failure, and where there wasn’t a flaw, ensured that the student never became overconfident in his abilities, or else it started to addle his mettle.

Violence is a horrible reality, shunned by evolved civilizations, heavily monopolized, controlled, enforced by strict rules. And most of all, feared.
Out here? It’s a daily occurrence. Every day, lurking out in the open or behind shadowy veils, I know there are fangs, claws or knives that seeks my demise. Each day, I am driven to use violence and weave, twirl, block and counter-attack. I mostly succeed. I leave bodies behind, of men, beasts and fiends. And with them, blood. My blood.
You can’t inflict pain without taking some in return. That’s not my mantra, it’s just something I’ve come to observe, through my own eyes.

Peace is not a lie. It is simply a quality not found here. To be a pacifist is to relegate oneself to the deepest pits of Hell, as the playthings of depraved beasts, deaf to words of honey and promises of salvation.
I take a deep breath. I count to four, and then exhale.
I think to those few adventurers who’ve been here for much longer than I have. The Veterans who stay in the Mist Camp, among their peers. The elite’. Each renowned, powerful and geared to be the equivalent of an entire army. Even in the Faerun, tales of adventurers that have defeated great beats and evils are not unheard of.
Of course, few of them bother with the Freshly Misted, like me. I do wonder if there’s at least one of them that hasn’t been changed or twisted by the Darkness.

I near one of the bodies, put my good knee on the ground, and roll it over. The bandit must’ve been around my age, twenty-four or twenty-five years old. I remember how he died. It only took me three strikes: a palm-strike to the nose that shattered the cartilage and watered his eyes. With his vision obfuscated, I followed with another palm-strike to his collar bone, sufficient to put him off-balance. The third jab went low, towards his throat, which collapsed the windpipe.
I don’t share good words for him. He wanted me dead, and I killed him. Best I can do is to close his eyelids.
To be a bandit in these lands is to be two things: you’re either a desperate soul driven to survive by any means necessary, or be a bad seed that fuels his dark needs by plundering from the weak and the defenseless.
It’s an endless war. It’s you against the Darkness, both that which conquers all once the Sun falls and the one that claims the hearts of men and beasts. This war is a disease.
Be disciplined and focused. I recall that mantra. To be a warrior is to also show bravery against overwhelming odds, to keep your feet solid while fear would buckle lesser men.

I let go of the body, and turn my gaze to the end of the road. I will hold onto a sliver of hope, however, for as long as I can. Hope that some measure of happiness and comfort can be found in something, or someone. After all, happiness can still be found, even in the darkest of times.

« Last Edit: January 09, 2021, 02:23:52 PM by Running With Razors »