Arc 1 - Prologue
Ten years ago…
A soft patter of rain pelted my scales. I slowly sloshed out of the waist high marsh, thick with mud and algae. Remnants of dusk sifting through the tops of vine festooned trees began to fade as the sky clotted with a dark overcast. The air was heavy and humid, wafting scents of decaying wood and fungi. Torch bugs and bright yellow shines receded from the coming storm, taking with them their lights that reflected across the waters. I slumped down onto the moss covered floor.
For many minutes I sat in silence, feeling the weight of my chest rising and falling with each winded breath. I tore off a sleeve from my clothes, frayed and worn, fabric brushing against the tender bleeding flesh of a sword wound. I had not stopped running since escaping Archon. For nearly two days I fled, evading trackers and scouting parties through the fetid swamps of Black Marsh. I was able to avoid most of them. Others I could not. I was tired…
…so tired of killing…
As I stretched my palm over the injured arm, my healing spell closed the wound with bands of shimmering light. I let out a long placated sigh, savoring the magic’s warmth. After some minutes the gash was gone. Scratching an itch on my face, I felt the claw-mark scars streaked across my left jaw, still swollen and fresh. I chose not to heal them. They would remain a part of my visage, a reminder. My thoughts slipped away with exhaustion. I wanted to rest.
But my eyes would not close. I could hear footsteps slogging through the damp loamy soil. Slowly I came to my feet, hand resting on the hilt of a sword sheathed upon my belt sash. I turned and saw the figure of a woman standing behind me. An Argonian, same as I. The faint incandescence of the nearly set sun shone on her reptilian features and fawn colored scales.
“I did not expect you to run away like this, Okan-Zeeus,” she said. I clenched my weapon.
“Zollassa,” I hissed. “Are you here to kill me?”
“No,” she said. I looked away. My posture became lax, tail hanging limp.
“Then why do you care?”
“Cold words to speak to a friend.”
“I have no wish for conversation.”
Zollassa moved closer, her gaze meeting mine.
“You would rather run?” she asked.
“There is nothing left for me here,” I spoke plainly, “and I will not lie down and die for the wrongs of dead men.”
“Xhu,” she replied, “I understand.”
A sullen look crossed my face.
“No. I do not think you do.”
“Okan, you did nothing to deserve your sentence. I know this. Deerkaza, Mahei-Ru… they all know it. What you did–”
“Stop it, Zol. I never asked for your pity,” I interrupted, waving her aside. “They’ll kill you if they discover we’ve spoken. You mustn’t stay here.”
I began to walk away. The deluge was spilling with swelled force, splashing in the swamp’s mire.
“Okan-Zeeus,” Zollassa called out to me. “Where do you mean to go?”
“Far away,” I called in return.
“You know they will not stop looking for you.”
“If they wish to waste more lives in pursuit of me, let them,” I vexed. “I will endure.”
“So you will go on killing?”
I stopped walking.
“Only if I must,” I said, turning back, “but I will decide whose blood I spill. It will not be decided for me. Hence forth, this one’s sword is free, and I will wield it for all the good I can bring.”
There was a pause. Zollassa looked thoughtful.
“You seek absolution, then,” she replied, approaching me once more.
“As though I could truly earn such a thing.”
“There’s no need to earn it. Their deaths were not your fault.”
I glared. “How can you say that!? Have we not sullied our hands with the blood of countless souls?”
“Those are not the deaths I speak of.”
She must have learned what had happened. I looked deeply into the eyes of the last friend I had to leave behind.
“You believe I am blameless for their fates, too…?”
“I believe you never would have wanted this.”
“And that is why I no longer live for myself. All that I do from here, I owe to their memory.”
“You owe them nothing. They were happy in life. Why do you choose to carry this guilt?”
“Because I am the only one left who can!!” I roared, before my voice lost its strength, breaking into whimpered cries. “This guilt is mine, Zollassa! You of all should know – ours was meant to be a path of isolation, disconnected from the world. Those who bring death have no place among the living! I sealed their fates the moment their lives entwined with my own.”
“Do not say such things,” Zollassa beseeched. “You never wanted that. You loved them.”
“Of course I did!” I exclaimed, tears hidden by the rain beating upon my face. “But it changes nothing! I should have known better than to hope I could become anything more than what I am – a killer! A taker of lives!”
Zollassa’s expression became stern.
“Then why run?” she asked.
“Because I have not given up my hope… and I never will.”