Author Topic: The Red Book: Benedikte Zugravescu  (Read 915 times)

Cyberknife

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The Red Book: Benedikte Zugravescu
« on: August 31, 2022, 02:12:42 PM »

In the past..

Chapter 1: Death

Ben had just turned six years old. His grandfather had been taking care of him for that long. It was a bright morning, but it was fairly foggy and quite cold outside. But he knew what he had to do. Every morning, he had to out and milk the old goat who was barely producing enough. Play with the hound, the necessities for a six year old.

He put on his little socks and then his boots. His old tunic. And marched outside. He didn’t want to do it but he would not have warm milk for breakfast if he didn’t. And he could not afford to be lazy. So the little boy slowly walked to the small barn that they had. It was more like a shack and half in the city, half in the woods their little house was. When he walked into the small shack, the goat was not alone. He saw a man lying on the grass. Sleeping. The man was about in his thirties. Bleeding. Dying. He had a fatal gut wound. Even this young Ben could smell it putrifying the air. The goat was bleating, because there was blood on her hay. However, when Ben entered the man would take out a dagger. He had dark hair and dusky features. He was sweating and his breath laborious. Ben identified the man as a Gundarakite. Ben didn’t really know why his people hated them, but all he knew was that they were bad and he was to stay away from him.

The Gundarakite was ready to stab him, a six year old and he held his wound at the same time. Then seeing that Ben was just a child he slunk down on the hay and grunted, “Boy.” He said in Balok. He had a Gundarakite accent. He stank of the stench of blood and battle. “Fetch me some water and I’ll let you live.” Ben was afraid, more than a little afraid. But he kept it in his bladder. That poor little boy got the bucket and fetched water from the well. By the time he got back, the man was much more pale. But he gave the bucket to the man. “I was a boy like you once.” The Gundarakite said in his broken Balok, “I used to have hopes and dreams. Of Freedom.” What the child didn’t understand was that this man was a Gundarakite Rebel. And he was dying.

The man knew he was dying. “I won’t kill you, only because I’m dying and no one ever likes dying alone.” The man said sorrowfully. His eyes were sad, guilt and regret stung in them. Ben felt sorry for him, so he sat down next to him on the hay, at a distance, “You are a good boy.” The Gundarakite told the boy.

What Ben also didn’t know was that this specified Gundarakite was wanted in the Village and he had just taken down a few guards with his group of rebels. They were looking for him and were close. The Village of Barovia guard was searching for him steadfastly.

A man in armor, tall and like a mountain walked over toward the shack. His sword is out. The Gundarakite looked up at him, the guard looked down to the Gundarikite. Despite how the Gundarakite looked or said he grabbed the six year old by the throat and held him at the point of a dagger. But before he had even time for a threat to the boy’s life the guard stabbed the Gundarakite in the neck. Blood pooled out and from his throat, there was a gurgling noise. It bubbled out his mouth and he slumped. Ben had only been nicked by the knife. He ran toward the guard and wrapped his small hands around the man’s legs. The guard picked up the child and took him back into the house.

This was the first time Ben witnessed death. Six years old and quite a young age. After this, his grandfather decided to help him with training with a crossbow. The crossbow was a relatively new contraption and his grandfather was rich enough to where he could afford such a thing. His grandfather was a master at a crossbow from his years in the service of the Count.


The Red Book is written in Balok.

31 August

"I joined the guard yesterday. Everyone has been instructive. I am not sure I have met all of those I am associated with. Or all those that I will work with. There are a few I met before I joined the guard. One of them was a girl named Narcissa. I met her at the warehouse. Though, she didn't want help doing her courier work of which I can only assume that is what she was doing. I ended up following her all the way to the Krezk outpost as we were doing the same sort of work. But it ended up to where she was actually going to the tailor and so was I. Strange. I hope she doesn't think I'm following her.

Another would be an elf named Athailos. I'm not sure how to take him, but he seems friendly enough. Rozalia would be proud that I am meeting so many new people. Rozalia, would be very proud that I am meeting so many new people. I can just see her smile in my mind right now.

When I first joined the guard, I was skeptical and still am. I'm not sure how I feel about it. Serving the boyar lords is an honor. So they say. And I must honor what my grandfather directed me to do. He said this was the way for me, he was sure of it. And it would bring me closer to finding Rozalia. Though, I don't believe him. Not even in death.

My travel from the Village of Barovia to Vallaki was uneventful. The road was busy that day and there were no problems. I really have nothing else to write about. So far, everyone here seems guarded. I cannot explain it, but it makes sense in a way. This is one of the busiest cities I have been to. Likely due to all the outlanders.

Still thinking of her..."


Playing: Benedikte Zugravescu

Cyberknife

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Re: The Red Book: Benedikte Zugravescu
« Reply #1 on: September 05, 2022, 09:42:26 AM »

In the past..

Chapter 2: The Swamp

As Ben grew, his list of friends in the Village of Barovia seemed to diminish. Usually, the children he played with were so laughable and loving to him. But one day, that was not so. When he was twelve years old, he was much taller than the other boys at this age. One day, they were playing just on the outskirts of the farm in the afternoon time. Just before lunch.

Another boy decided he wanted to take the play a bit too far. So he dared Ben and his friend Rozalia to go into the swamps. Ben knew that the swamps were dangerous and he was always told to never go there. He was told that they were cursed as they were also crawling with bog men who made it their job to murder people who ventured there. Ben feared the swamp. Ben refused, being the obedient young boy that he was. His ‘friends’ laughed at him and refused to take no as an answer.

Rozalia had been a friend since he was about eight years old. He was protective of her. She was the only girl that would really spend time with a boy like him. They were simply children back then. Rozalia had hair the color of darkened wheat wheat and eyes the color of the Luna on a clear day. But at the time, that was not really what they cared about. He cared about taking care of his grandfather whose health was declining, and his livestock. Unfortunately, at this particular moment, no one would help him with a boy who swung at him, right in the face and knocked him out. Ben’s lip and nose was bleeding.  This was a time where he dind't quite understand betrayal like this. He was so innocent back then, he didn’t think anyone would harm him – but it turns out those closest to him, even children are terrible when their lives are terrible.

When he came to, he found Rozalia trying to shake him awake. “Wake up, Ben, wake up!” She was crying, but his vision was blurry. He could feel the warmth coming down his chin. His jawline. Rozalia cried, because now he was awake, “We’ve got to find our way out of here..” She would tell him in her small Balok. The small boy would slowly get up from where he had been laying. Half in the swamp water so his boots were absolutely soaked. And half of his pants along with it.

His head was pounding. Somehow, the younger boys had brought him here and he assumed Rozalia had followed. Maybe she was trying to look out for her, making sure that nothing happened to him. They left them for dead, however. And that was something to Ben. He felt suddenly betrayed. He felt like he wanted to cry, but he couldn’t. He was in front of a girl and his body refused. He tried to gather himself up. His small tunic was covered in mud. He took Rozalia’s hand and frantically he started to run in the direction he thought was home.

He could hear the distant grunts of the bog men and that is the way he would not go. There was a leech crawling up his leg and he jerked it off of him and threw it in the water. That is when, they both stopped. The entrance to the forest ahead, the area had been cut off by bog men who had heard them running away. Rozalia started to cry more. And Ben, he had no weapon and his little wooden sword was nowhere to be found, obviously. He usually played with that at home. He picked up a rotten stick that in defense and the bog men just snortled their laugher.

The bog men grunted and grinned with a ferocious looking set of sharp rotten teeth in their mouths. They were hungry today it seemed. And one of them licked their lips and took a step forward.

Blooming from that same bog man’s throat, was a crossbow. And the bog man fell instantly. Then another in another bog man’s neck. They started to run around, frantic, manic. Crossbow bolts continued to shoot them dead, until all but one was downed. The other one simply ran off as his grandfather came into the swamp. He had a hardened look on his face. But he saw his grandson and the state of him and simply understood. He understood what had happened almost immediately. He took the girl in his arms then with no questions and his grandson followed.

His grandfather had saved him. And his friend Rozalia. He was even wearing his old armor. When they got to the woods, he spat to the side, as if damning the situation. “Them boys going to be punished.” He would say in his Balok. “But had you had a bit of grit, Ben, this wouldn’t have happened. You got in the situation by letting them have the drop on you.”

“But I trusted them, they were our friends.”

“Boy, no one's your friend in this time and place..” His grandfather said. Rozalia was crying, sobbing really. Tears streamed down her face.  As the boy walked along with his grandfather, the man would push his hair out of the way of his face. That salt and pepper hair was thick on his head, just like black of the boy's hair. When they got back, Rozalia was delivered to her mother. Her mother saw the state of the boy child, Ben. But, she didn't offer to help him. His grandfather would see to that.


The Red Book is in Balok.

"My time in the guard has been fruitful,

But I have still yet to find her. I have still yet to hear from her. This does not frustrate though. Nor does it concern me. It has been the same for twelve years. Most things that I want to say to others faces, I can't. That is why this book really exists. I can learn to keep my mouth shut. And write this as is as I see fit. There are no judgements nor not strange looks from anyone. But yes, it is true, I have lost you. You are gone. Did you run away or did you simply die. Memories of you always haunt my dreams. Dreams that haunt me in the crypts of the Village. Dreams that haunt me in the creeping cold in the back of my mind. Thinking this way really does bring out the worst in me. You bring out the worst in me just by you being gone. What sort of man would have I have been had you been with me. Would we have children? A small abode? This is all is just better left unsaid.

I have experienced betrayal a few times in my life, but now, there is another. A guard that trained me. It turns out that everyone is not what they seem to be. Everyone is not a good person. Nor are they truthful. I remember speaking to the guard in jail. He was reminiscing about the past. About what he did wrong and what he could have done right. If it had been me, I would never have joined the guard because I would have already been dead. I would have walked straight to the Village Guard had I committed said crime and told them that I needed punishment. I am so sure that he is going to die. I cannot get too attached. I don't want to get too attached.

As I sit in this very room, he rots in a cell. And soon, his body will rot in some shallow grave. Everyone deserves what they get. Even cowards run. But he never seemed like much of a coward to me.

On to another subject. I have noticed that the women her wear low cut clothing. My Grandfather always told me about women who wore clothing like this. Showing their collar bones and their upper legs. He told me that those women were easy, they were loose. Not good people and to stay away from them for the love of the Guardian. But me, being the curious person I am, I wanted to test myself last night.

I could feel my cheeks burning the more I looked at her, and so I did not. The conversation went fine. Sometimes she looked at me, lingering with her eyes and I told her I wasn't interested by just looking away. Some men may have taken the opportunity to turn this conversation into something more..personal. But I didn't. Ever since my confession, I have felt much stronger in this regard in my heart and in my soul. I am thankful to the Curate Valentina for taking my confession and giving me advise regarding it.

Now that I am a Private, I have a little more responsibilities than a recruit. There are some days I will be alone in the outskirts with only one other private. I must focus and pay attention to what is around me. Or suffer the consequences of death..

My grandfather would be proud. I am proud..

Ben"


« Last Edit: September 05, 2022, 09:45:31 AM by Cyberknife »
Playing: Benedikte Zugravescu

Cyberknife

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Re: The Red Book: Benedikte Zugravescu
« Reply #2 on: September 07, 2022, 07:24:16 PM »

In the past...

Chapter 3: The Bear

Seventeen years old was an important year for the young Barovian man. He had come of age and was getting on with his crossbow training. He had now become a very avid hunter and was taught the ways of the forest, via his grandfather. He didn’t have a proper education, unlike others of the higher merchanting families, but he had practical knowledge. Such as how to build a campfire in the woods when you didn’t have flint and tinder. Or how to hunt your own food when you're starving. Practical knowledge, survival knowledge.

While Rozalia, his best friend growing up, was learning how to embroider and stitch. How to cook and clean. Ben knew that Rozalia would be an attractive young girl when she grew up, he always had. And the fact he had known her near all her life did help a lot. In some ways, he was like a brother to her, protecting her and being with her when she was sick. Defending her when she needed it. To him, he saw her as someone who needed to be protected. His other half. And today, he was going to ask her father for her hand in marriage. He hadn’t told Rozalia this but it had always been a distant plan. Maybe him and Rozalia were just made for each other. He could protect her and with the skills he had, he could provide for her.

That day, he bathed. It had been weeks. The winter had been harsh but spring was in the air. Ben had grown tall and handsome. He made sure to wash all the grime off his face and his hair. And he got his best tunic. Once finished with this process he made his way over.

There was the aspect of the dowry. The dowry was held by his hand at this very moment. The old goat bleated. The goat whose milk he had grown up on. How ironic.

He knocked at the door of her father’s house and her father opened the door. Her father had worked with his father on the guard some time ago. But long since gone. The families knew each other very well. But, the father saw the goat upon the door. Ben thought this was a reasonable gift for a bride, though to be young and in love, oftentimes people don’t really think very well. Rozalia’s father looked slightly insulted.

“I have a better idea..you go and you skin me a grizzly bear and I’ll let you marry Rozalia in three years..” A grizzly bear? Really? Ben didn’t really understand this at all. He really didn’t. So what Rozalia’s father gave Ben was the impossible task. An impossible task that could possibly get him killed. At first Ben thought he could be jesting, but no, he wasn’t. He had seen that serious face before. So he left, with his impossible task, plus time.

Ben was not the type of young man when he had something he needed to do, or something that was unfair to go to his Grandfather and yap about things. Ben knew from years of being in the forests and from years of tracking them where the bears were. They often went into hibernation in the winter time and he knew that that was his best bet to kill one, when it was sleeping. But was it the most honorable way? Probably not. So that very next day when he was finished with all of his tasks and chores he stowed himself away into the deep forests near the Village of Barovia. The forests got deep, and dark.

Ben knew the trails, and he knew what they liked to eat in the springtime. Berries, fresh from the bush. There was a nuzzling and rustling, but it was a deer chewing on the berries.

Then he heard it. As he crouched there, in the brushes he heard the noises of a bear. He had thought of his options. Grizzly bears were hard to kill. And there would be no friendly venture about this. In fact, Ben had never killed a bear before. He didn’t want to kill a bear and had no wish to kill a bear. But that is what his hopeful father in law wanted. Then he saw it, nuzzling the berries. A big fat what looked to be a male grizzly bear. Eating berries. Minding its own business and not harming anyone. Should he do this for a girl, the love of his life? He had to try or run away.

Ben crawled through bushes and mud on his belly, briars pulled on his clothes as he tried to be silent. But unfortunately, a bear can smell quite well. And the wind changed…

The bear’s snout moved up to sniff the wind. Its large wet nose took in Ben’s sweaty stench and it looked right at him with its brown eyes. He heard it, he saw it. That was when the bear moved on all fours and walked toward him, lumbering. And then it stood up on its two hind legs. Only then do you know how big a bear really is. It was huge. Six hundred pounds of pure muscle and teeth and claws. It roared and a spittle flew out of its mouth. Its big yellowed teeth are half encrusted in berries. The male bear rushed him. Ben on the other hand saw the bear becoming aggressive. And the only thing he could do was run.

The bear was on him though, before he knew it. It had stopped him like a stone wall and knocked him down. It was baring it’s viscous teeth at him and the only thing that was keeping the bear from mawing his face was Ben’s two hands. Holding back the roar and ear piercing snout inches form his face. He was a seventeen year old young Barovian boy with nothing on him but a dagger and crossbow.

It slobbered on his face, threatening to kill him at this very second. The claws were digging into his jerkin. It suddenly swimped at his face and he turned suddenly. Though, one of the bear's claws sliced down his jawline like it was warm butter. Suddenly – three crossbow bolts pierced the bears back. And then a spear centered into the bear's neck. It was Rozalia’s father with the spear. And his grandfather was there as well. It seemed they had followed him into the woods. The pain in his face though, his blood ran free. He felt the warmth. The bear moved now. With a spear in its neck near its brain. Blood ran out of its mouth and onto the men's neck. It turned a moment and tried to swipe at Rozalia’s father and then it fell.

This is the second time he was saved. His grandfather gave a murderous glare at Rozalia’s father, “What were you thinking?! He could have been killed…! My only grandson could have died today…” He lay there, bleeding. He got up, feeling a bit faint.

Ben got up, and looked at Rozalia’s father who had a look of guilt in his eyes, “He’s a peasants son and he will always be a peasants son.” Spat Rozalia’s father.

“You’re wrong there friend. He’ll always be better than you.” His grandfather cackled.

“Here’s  your bear…” He said to Rozalia’s father, spitting blood to the side as an offhanded insult. And the Seventeen year old went home so his grandfather could nurse his facial wound.

Present

Ben punched the dummy that was held together by hay and cloth material as well as wood. He was sweating profusely. Stinking up the place too. He kept punching and punching until his hands were bloody and raw. He didn't care, not at all. Sweat beaded up on his brow and ran the length of his neck. Thre was anger, anguish in his eyes. Upset. At one point, he even yelled at the dummy, calling it a liar. By the end of his tantrum he was simply, in pain. He thought of his friend. A flash of color, red and the sound of crushing bones and wood. It flurried together as the image of a face, a face he had always known was on a chopping block.

Ben had often wondered these days why they had not borrowed his halberd. Or why not even a sword. There were plenty of them here. Why had he not at least been given a chance. He knew though, a life for a life. But he could not help but see...the blood on the club. It was stained and dripping in his dreams. In his restless nightmare sit was dripping. The body lay limp now, on the block in his minds eye, dead. "If you survive you can pay her back.." How he remembered. But no, he wouldn't be paying her back. It would be Ben that paid her back. But he was no champion. Bitter bile riled up in his throat and he felt like he might vomit. His strong arm punched one last time the dummy's head and he growled like an animal. He was sure he was drawing attention from the other privates and recruits. But, he did hope they would understand how long and terrible his day had been. How his thighs had hurt and other articles after riding a horse all day. They would all understand. He knew it.

And after he was done, there would be no hot bath waiting for him. No girl, no woman anywhere in sight. He just sauntered quietly into the barracks and got down on his bottom cot. Collapsing. Sweating and collapsing. How could he have done or said things differently. Things were supposed to be..different. It wasn't supposed to be this way. Then in his mind, he said, 'An eye for an eye, blood for blood, a life for a life. This is law. This is justice. And this is truth.'

Ben saw clearly that night. He would not forget but he saw more clearly. Two things he knew were going to happen to him, he was going to drown in his own blood or he was going to learn to swim in it.
Playing: Benedikte Zugravescu

Cyberknife

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Re: The Red Book: Benedikte Zugravescu
« Reply #3 on: September 12, 2022, 04:34:41 PM »

In the past...

Chapter 4: Loss

The Spring Fair is as it was every year. Dances and lots of food. Everyone is getting together and mingling after the harsh Barovian winter. The wine, the tsuika. The food. The Spring fair was identified with barrels and baskets of wildflowers, decorating over a small section that the Village had it every year. Most people actually looked forward to it. Some never attended. But usually the poorer folk would, free food and free drinks. Bleating sheep in their pens and some cattle awaiting their prize at the fair. Children playing ball. The sun was not so hot either. A misty sun held above. And there Ben sat, with his love, Rozalia. He sat on the bench with her, some food in his lap on a wooden plate and there was Rozalia. A daisy in her wheat hair.

This is how Ben remembers her. Flowers in her hair, the sun kissed cheeks and those beautiful blue eyes. Her lips were sweet like honeyed wine. She knew from the moment he had met her those years ago that they would be married. And he had tormented himself, working for her father. There was so much he had done to get to where he was right now. There was no going back.

So after the Spring Fair he would be married to her. A week after to be exact. All the preparations were made. The families, both of them, were not exactly rich but they were not that poor either. Rozalia came from a well to do family anyway.

Ben reached for her with his lips, right on her cheek and gave her a kiss. It was a quick kiss, “I’ll be right back.” And with that, he would get up and place his now empty plate on top of a barrel where maids were washing. He had walked along to look for a beautiful bouquet of flowers to give to her when he noticed a man on the edge of the fair. He was watching Rozalia. The man was not really part of the fair it looked like. He was not really enjoying the festivities. He was just watching. Ben quickly moved on from him, perhaps it was just his imagination or he was some kind of distant traveler. Though he had noticed the man had sharp Vistani features of dark skin and darker hair. That angular feature that most Vistani have.

He put it from his mind and snagged some wildflowers from their ropes. Upon walking back, he took a closer look at the man. He had some sort of a red and black insignia with wolves on it. Warily Ben didn’t think much of it, but just passed. When he looked over to Rozalia she was still sitting there. And the wind blowing in her hair. He brought her lavender and bluebells. She took them lovingly as he sat once more with her, “My love.” She said in her Barovian tongue, “When we are married I want you to everyday bring me these flowers everyday.” She inhaled the scent and it probably brought her back to those younger days between them.

“And now, I’ll be right back.” She smiled at him and, likewise, gave him a kiss on the cheek. Ben looked at the dancing, at the kids. Then his grandfather sat down where she had been and that man grinned at him.

“It’s nice to have a wife, I promise you that. When your grandmother was alive I’d shower her with apples. She loved them. When I could get them I would at least.” He grinned at Ben. “Don’t mess this up Ben, she loves you and you love her. So be with her. Love is important and so is family. You’re young so you shouldn’t waste much time.” The old man said. He curled his fingers around a chicken leg and took a bite. They talked for a bit.

Ben realized he had not seen Rozalia in quite a while, at least twenty to thirty minutes, “By the way, where is she?” His grandfather slowly rose and so did Ben. Then turned and started to search for her. But neither she, nor the strange man at the outskirts of the fair could be found. They searched well into the night. Her own parents searched too. So intently that they took hounds into the woods and up the mountains. In the swamps. She was nowhere to be found. As if she simply didn’t exist at all. No wisp of her. No trace whatsoever. Gone. But, so was the mysterious man wearing red and black.

That night, Ben went home and packed up his things. Intent on searching for her. Not anyone, his grandfather or Ezra herself could stop him. It was as if it called in his very blood to search. As unfruitful as it would be, he had to try…



Presently..

Ben looked out the window of the Broken Bel and he watched the rain fall down. He thought of his past, and he thought of what he lost. Now, there was even more at stake than before. This city seems to be sucking his soul, but he would take the claim and enjoyed every moment of it. Not the screaming in the night or the blood he had to endure when he saw death -- nor the pain when taking down a foe. It was almost as if that feeling of running a long time, and cramping in the gut, that means he was trying hard. That feeling, the feeling of working hard and earning his keep. The happiness and color that came to their faces when he solved their problems. That is what he took joy in.

The thought of being happy had been long since forgotten. The thought that he didn't deserve anything other than pain was not fading. He wanted to suffer because he could not find her. He wanted to punish himself through purposeful hardship because he was pathetic and had lost traces of her. No matter in how many archives in this municipality he looks in, he knew that he would never find her.

Ben leaned on the dress and his hand pressed against the window as he looked out at the darkened street. His hair curling around his ears and his jawline. He didn't have the luxury of anything but a conduit in which he solved people's problems here. He would fight for them and likely die for them. This was his life. This was his fate because he had chosen it. A grim look spread across his face. Though, there was a small chance, very small that he might end up happy and successful. Only time would tell. Only his Guardian had control of his fate and he would let Her lead him. Through his faults and stumbling into the dark misty night.

When he saw that dead, lifeless, organless woman he had lost everything in him. He lost it, in front of all those outsiders. But they didn't disregard him, they accepted and understood why he lost his dinner. They got it. They didn't turn their backs on him for him not having enough guts in him to face it. But the woman had been dead for at least a day. And it smelled so bad. If he could not face that, if he could not figure this out then how could he continue with his further trials? This was only the beginning. He had endurance. He had faced worse than this, the worst thing one could possibly face. And he would go on.
Playing: Benedikte Zugravescu

Cyberknife

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Re: The Red Book: Benedikte Zugravescu
« Reply #4 on: September 18, 2022, 11:09:24 PM »
In the past...

Chapter 5: Hollow

There was nothing to motivate him anymore. Sometimes he would get up but other times he wouldn’t. He would just stare at the wall. The ceiling. It seemed to go on like this for a year full of sleepless nights. A year of hopelessness. A year of people walking by him as he was going to the market and staring, people saying they were sorry. His friends, old and ancient relatives that empathized with him. The wedding that never happened, they said. But that’s all that they could do, they could only empathize.

The nights were the worst. It felt like a dagger going through his chest as he rolled over and over the different things that could have happened. Self doubt. He wouldn’t let it go, it held him for so long and so deeply that he was making her face from the very wood of the ceiling if he looked at this ceiling board in a certain light. As time passed, days turned into weeks. Weeks turning into months. Months turning into years. The seasons changed and he did not.

In the cold winter light his grandfather came into the room and sat at the foot of his bed. The fire on the hearth was near a cinder. It was cold in the room and the snow was falling outside. He could almost hear it, it was so quiet. But Ben’s eyes flickered over to his grandpa. The older man would look down at his grandson with that same bitter pity in his eyes, “Son, I know you are lost right now, but you cannot let this hold you. You are wasting your life here being bitter.” The old man let out a sigh, “When I was hurt in my life, or fell, I always got up on my own two feet and faced it. You need to go and search for her.” The old veteran just flat out told him, “Search for her, you will feel better for it.”

Ben just stared at his grandfather for a moment. It started as a slow burn in his chest. And then, it made him whole. There was a new purpose in his life now. Hell bent on finding his lost love. Hell bent and murderous for whoever did this to her. But in time, this blood would quelch. Quelching into a deep set and ingrained anger.



Presently..

Earlier in the evening, he had washed himself. Bathed every single inch of his body in warm water in the Citadel barracks. Blood, mud and other things came off of him from the day. Pain and pleasure all mingled in the water below him. He would sneer in a bit of disgust. He was disgusted in himself for many reasons, many things. Blood still came from his black hair and it dripped down into the pool like oil. He had glanced down in between his shoulder and pectoral and he saw that deep scratch, that deep knife cut that the ‘would-be assassin’ had made on him. It was long and vicious and didn’t seem to want to heal. He wasn’t resting it though.

Despite getting out of the bath, he still felt filthy. And yet, he remembered how tired he was. How cozy it was to just lay down in the warm bed. How utterly satisfied he was at the end of the day. He had found another person, who had the same experiences in life than he had. They had loved and lost that love too. She held herself with open arms, her heart on her sleeve, but something deeper inside. And she lay there.

He thought of this as he looked up at the ceiling of the bunk. Having slept just like an utter baby in his crib tonight. Some bruises still idly on his wet face. It was at that time that he decided to get up and out of his bed.

His body hurt, battered and bruised all over. But he walked over to his small writing desk and sat down. And opened a book by candle light. He heard other men snoring and coughing behind him but despite that, he had a very clear mind. Very clear indeed.


“18 September,

Sometimes I don't want to admit that I am doing something wrong, or something bad. Sometimes I wonder why my heart is always broken. It is no longer fear that I am feeling, but the sense when you are falling down into a bottomless sea. All of that weight on you, how could I ever crawl back up? If I have sunken so far from the surface, how can I break through and grasp air? Maybe I'm speaking in riddles now. But I feel always broken and in remorse. I smile at most that greet me with simple respect but inside they don't really know the chains that I hide.

But I let *her* see it. It was a mistake. She now knows the darkest part of my heart. My weakness. Will she use it against me, or can I actually trust her? I remember the smell of her hair and the scent of her skin. It is such a sin to think of such things as this. It happened so quickly and swiftly, and it swept me up and away. Even when I am down or busy, I look at her and I get distracted or in a better mood. Uplifting me. This won't be for long though; these things are never for that long.

I am..simply a broken man. Embers of the past often ignite..like they did that night a few days ago. And then they are quelled. Subsided.

The Ben everyone knows likes to be talked to. He likes everyone. But the Ben, that I know doesn't like people. He likes animals and enjoys his walks in the forest. He enjoys every bit of bark on the trees. He can identify the trees by scent, color and feel. The birds in the trees are friends, land on his shoulders. They are the only friends he's had for so, so long. The Ben that I know, no one would like. So, he is hidden from sight. Maybe one day they will know this one. They stare at me and condemn me for being a guard. They point at me and spit at me. Vomit at me. I can still smell the bile in my nose. What have I done to them? I protect. And I serve. I worship and I eat and I hurt. I bleed just like any man.

I can't even remember where this all started, but I don't really want it to end. I wouldn't change a thing about this day."

A self made poem has been inserted into the bottom.

Blue Skies,
Rainy days,
Mud on my boots,
Lovely plays.

Hair so dark,
Through my fingers she slips away,
Candlelit promises,
She sashays.

Knife to my throat,
He says, "Benedike, don't!"
Memories of her,
Candlelit promises.
Playing: Benedikte Zugravescu

Cyberknife

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Re: The Red Book: Benedikte Zugravescu
« Reply #5 on: January 04, 2023, 09:15:48 AM »
In the past...

Chapter 6: Ghosts

“Ben, you may not understand me right now, but one day you will. You are going to have to face ghosts. And it will tear your soul apart. But Our Guardian in the Mists will be your guiding light. That is what you have that others don’t. That is what will hold you together and make you firm. Be their guiding light in dark times.” His grandfather's voice, those words always echoed at him. Even in the shadows of his despair.



Presently..

The night haunted him like a bad dream. This life of his had become a bad dream, a nightmare on its dark horse, riding hard to consume soul and flesh. Even in the comfortable bed of the Broken Bell, he could not sleep. Next to the one he loves, he could not sleep. The new scars that he had gotten today and the new mental trauma. It wasn’t too  much though, he could probably take more, right? He remained under the covers and looked up at the ceiling. And in that moment, he had decided he could not sleep. He would never be able to sleep. He threw the covers, quietly over and tucked in his beloved. And then he would put on his armor. It was nothing just to slip it on. He didn’t even brush his hair as he did this. The past and the present were colliding. His grandfather had told him how hard this job was. He had been prepared, why had he not seen it? He remembered their faces – each Barovian face that he threw down just yesterday. There were many. Many died that day to his bolt.

Once he had secured his belt, lastly, he would make his way out and into the early morning light, much too early for anyone to be up. Even much too early to tend to a farm. He swiftly moved through the street to the Citadel.

He moved inside until he reached his bed chambers in the officers quarters. The single hand mirror in his hand and a bowl of water in the other. He put the bowl of water on a dresser and balanced the mirror. Then he looked at himself. The new scar that ran down his cheek. It was from a pitchfork, he thinks. From a brethren willing to skewer him. It hurt deep inside somewhere. But they were disturbing the peace. They would have killed people. He moved a hand over the new scar. The Toret had healed it, but the scar remained maybe as a reminder. And with that, he took out his knife and started to cut his long black hair off. The chunks of long wavy hair came off in clumps and with each one he would put it in the water, until the water itself was just black. Now that his hair was out from framing his eyes, he saw himself. He looked tired, but there was always that fire in his eyes.

He had remembered the Torets words. His purpose here was etched into his very heart. He was a guardian as She was. And he would guard these people until one day he would take his last breath. Would he see Her when he died? Would She truly forgive him as the Toret stated for the murder of his people. Or would he rot in forever damnation with the legions that he sought to destroy? He raked his hand down the side of his scruff. He didn’t look like himself. He looked like a shell of himself, of who he was yesterday. Remembering the neck snaps made him close his eyes and he ran a hand down his face, only to blink up into the mirror.

The only good thing in this world right now, was Narcissa and the Guardian in the Mists he was trying so hard to be like. Did he take leave? No, certainly not. He was an officer and he had duties. He could not leave Blair by himself, not in these times.


“4 January,

Who is this man that stares in the mirror at me? I don’t recognize him. He is a stranger in a world that does not forgive. And it will never be forgotten. The blood stains on my armor, the scars on my face and my body, I’ll remember each of them. I don’t want to admit it, but I’ve been thinking of finding where Roxana is, and writing to her. But I cannot. I want to help her as I have heard some horrible things that are going on with her in Port. Horrible and terrible things. Perhaps I could sway her soul one last time back to the light? Perhaps just this once, I could try and write to her, to prove to her that she can still come back to the light. There was a time that I liked her. But why would I do that when I have a perfectly wonderful woman right next to me which is Narcissa? The answer is simple, to save her soul. Like the Toret has said, we should save as many souls as possible. What in the world could she be doing over there?

I should stop thinking about others and think of myself. And the suffering of my own soul. My men suffered from a vampire in the night. Mistakes were made and now we must be made to suffer for it. I just hope that Narcissa does not know the same fate. I will have to tell her to move locations. She won’t like that.

I have not written about Narcissa. But I am to marry her soon. I will settle down and then we will be happy. Perhaps one day we will have children. Perhaps one of us will die. The future is uncertain but my choice is clear. And she will join me on the altar in the Ezrite Church. Our paths will become one and we will both be better for it."



Playing: Benedikte Zugravescu

Cyberknife

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Re: The Red Book: Benedikte Zugravescu
« Reply #6 on: August 19, 2023, 09:52:13 PM »

Chapter 7: Betrayal

‘“Your job is to die.” At least that is how Benedikte remembered it when he was laying in bed that night, in the warm room. He was..conflicted. For the first time since joining the guard a year ago. Nearly a year ago exactly. His job is to die. To be a piece of meat. That is how his men are to be? The ones that he trains. The young people that join? He laid awake in that bed next to his woman. The same woman he could not promise he’d be there tomorrow. Yet here he was. While she was sleeping, he would be unable to sleep. His mind is just reeling from moments not long ago.

There was so much guilt in his heart that he felt the need to write it on a piece of paper, that would later be burned in flames. But it did something to him to have his words on paper. His will was no longer steel, but a shriveled concept of what it was not.


‘I am training them to be nothing, but a meat shield so they can be cut down. Perhaps I already knew this fact but I didn’t really put two and two together.

When I joined the guard, I wanted to protect. I wanted to keep people safe and for the most part I have done that. I have tried to be merciful when I can. And uphold the peace. But lately, it feels like there is no peace anywhere to be had. So now with it confirmed, that I, along with all my men are just ‘meat’ to be walked upon, I don’t know how I feel. Perhaps betrayed. Am I losing sight of what I was when I began? I have been through so much, it is a wonder I am still alive. But everyday I live as if I could die. Tomorrow is never a promise.

I drank wine and I ate an expensive sturgeon. And when I came home, I wretched. How could I eat His food, His wine…and then realize that he was using my men as if they are nothing but a stone wall. To be rolled over. The things I saw that man do tonight…I cannot unsee it. I am a failure, no matter what I’ve done. No matter the good I’ve done there will always be bad.

But if I quit and retire, then I am leaving my men to their own devices. To not be protected. Because if I am not there. Am I truly that merciful though? When I can be. How can I eat such an expensive meal when my men are being rolled out to die, lay down before the Gundarakite Rebels and the Black Army and then say ‘I am not a failure, I did my job, I’m a success because I died for my Count. I don’t think even my Grandfather foresaw that. He would never send me off to die.

Long ago, when I was still a private and had hope, I had hoped that one day when I met with the Count or with a servant of the Count, they would be commending me for a job well done. Not…this. Am I hopeful anymore of humanity? Of my lords? I don’t know anymore. The lives of children are forfeited, and innocence is forgotten. What was once, is now no more.

My heart is broken. And nothing is fine.’

Playing: Benedikte Zugravescu