Chapter 13 - The Peculiar Doll
I lay there, Orlai in my arms, listening to her slow breath and feeling her chest rise and fall against my own replaying the battle in my head. I was almost glad I’d been taken out so early on else I would not have witnessed the bravery and courage she possessed. Pride swelled within me when I saw Orlai stand, eyes burning with determination, and single-handedly challenge the Demon. She had nearly died of course but such was the way of Lordran when battling the odds. I recalled the panic that gripped me both times she fell to the Demon’s spear and magic, the madness that nearly took me. Every agonizing scream that she gave voice to, every wound and injury the Demon inflicted, I could feel the pain tenfold within my own lifeless heart. I could not protect her, she had to fulfill that duty herself. I had lied. I knew the floor would fall and that the Stray Demon lurked below. I had planned to deal a crippling blow to the Demon allowing her to finish it, instead the plan backfired but still produced solid results. It tore me asunder to so willingly throw her into the fray, if I lost her I would mindlessly follow. No, none of that mattered, Orlai still lived, results were all that mattered. Do not think, act.
I sat up, gathering my equipment, threw Orlai over my shoulder and waded through the bones to a ladder on the wall. Climbing the ladder, careful not to hurt Orlai, I set her on the stone floor above and pulled myself up. Collecting her again, this time carrying her in my arms, I jumped down into the passage that ran along the room of the Stray Demon. Several undead in torn rags joined me in the hallway, beating at their heads and clawing the wall with worn fingers reduced to bone. They ignored me, ranting and mumbling in their own worlds, and I returned the attitude. Walking to the dark cell at the end of the hall I knelt, setting Orlai down gently, and reached down to pick up the small doll that lay in the lap of a rotting corpse.
The doll was difficult to see clearly in the dingy cell. Colored ancient gray, all of its paint and detail scuffed off from wear and tear, a featureless face stared blankly up at her. Well-kept hair stopped at the doll’s shoulders, neatly combed bangs trimmed just above the forehead. It wore a one-piece sleeveless dress, cloth frayed in some places but still holding strong despite its apparent age. The craftsman had paid special attention to the limbs, each hand possessing five fully mobile fingers, two arms and legs all long and thin and easily manipulated, feet simple triangles. Even I found myself in awe of the small doll, its perseverance a small wonder, unable to imagine the treatment it had received and yet still remained fully intact and functional. I turned the doll over in my black gauntlets carefully,
There once was an abomination who had
no place in this world. She clutched this
doll tightly, and eventually was drawn into
a cold and lonely painted world.
I remembered the words vividly but could not recall who had told them to me. What story did this small doll hold within its wooden figure, what adventures had it experienced against its will, I wondered studying the Peculiar Doll. It did not answer me, sitting limply in the gentle grip of my gauntlets of black steel. Placing the doll in my bottomless box I reached back down to pick up Orlai.
Purely on instinct I bent over backwards, the great sword of a Black Knight whistling overhead and slamming into the cell wall. I tensed, muscles flexing, kicking off the ground I slammed a shoulder into the Knight knocking it back and out of the cell. I drew Artorias’ Greatsword as I advanced, deftly dodging another swipe, and cleanly sliced off its sword arm with a two-handed upwards swing, white ash flooding out from the wound. Stepping fluidly around its shield I brought the great sword around, crouched, and cut the Black Knight’s legs out from under it. Stepping forward I heaved Artorias’ Greatsword overhead and down, cleaving the Knight in two. I sheathed the blue-steel weapon and turned back to the cell, picking Orlai and the doll off the stone. I was so focused on the Peculiar Doll I had neglected to notice the heavy footsteps of the knight and scolded myself for allowing myself to be so distracted.
Walking down the stony hall through the insane undead I stepped out into a roofless passage, cloudy sky drifting above, another Black Knight standing at the opposite end. Setting down Orlai I pulled my Dragon Slayer Greatbow from the bottomless box and knocked an arrow, firing. The Knight collapsed, helmet obliterated into metal shards and ash as the arrow punched through, body dissipating in a cloud of ash. I replaced the Greatbow, again collecting Orlai, and marched down the passage where I saw a knight wearing silver armor and an ornate blue and yellow tunic through the metal bars of a cell window. His shining helmet turned to me as he walked out of view. Again I propped Orlai against the wall, drawing my sword and shield. The knight came around the corner swinging a Claymore. I parried with the black shield burying Artorias’ Greatsword in the knight’s chest and kicking him off its blade in a spray of blood. He fell heavily, body limp.
Again I returned to Orlai, and again my arms lifted her limp body to rest against my chest. I carried her up a flight of steps and out onto a balcony at the front of the Asylum that looked out over the cliff of ruined arches, and then back inside. I looked down into the large room Orlai and I had fallen from to battle the Stray Demon and jumped down, grunting from the heavy landing thanks to Orlai’s extra weight. I walked around the hole and into the courtyard of the Asylum where a single bonfire sat, massive astral flames twixt around the black blade poking up from the ash pile.
I sat down, grasped the flames, and we reappeared in Firelink Shrine.
I lay Orlai next to the Bonfire, placing a bedroll beneath her head and wafting a cloak over her. Her breathing was steady, body warm with life and appeared perfectly fine, expression calm as she slept. I rested on my laurels next to Orlai, arms propped up on my knees and hanging over my shins I stared at her face. A long scar was now scrawled beneath her eyes and across her nose.
Once she had looked soft and frail, a princess in need of a knight at her side. Now her face was hard, fluffy cheeks instead flattening to showcase high cheekbones and a pointed chin, cherry lips, no longer pouting, replaced by a thin mouth that lay open, ever so slightly, exposing a white line of teeth. Her short hair of flame swayed in the light wind around her pointed ears like a smoldering crown of fire. The Princess I had found in that forest was no more, now a ferocious and angelic Amazon with a bite far greater than her bark standing in her stead. I’d have to give her new equipment, old armor ruined and broken, she’d earned it.
I reached down into the bottomless box, picking out the Peculiar Doll. I held it in the light of the sun but saw nothing I had not already. It was old, probably older than I, well-made and sturdy, but after a moment I felt something else. A deep sadness slowly worked its way through my fingers, crawling up my arm and settling in my chest. The sadness not my own I assumed its origin was from the doll,
“Are you alright?” I asked it. The doll did not respond, faceless head looking up at me. I removed my mask and held the Peculiar Doll to my chest, cradling it with an arm, “You are safe. Be at peace.” The sadness wavered and I smiled softly, “Peace.” I cooed soothingly. The emotion melted away from me, Peculiar Doll lying in my arms snugly. I checked Orlai, still sleeping, and raised my gaze to the sky placing my free hand protectively over the doll.
How ironic this is, the Son of Darkness protecting the Daughter of Fire. Kill her, and bring a new age upon us.
I growled darkly at the skies, looking past the clouds and beyond to the eyes I knew that watched me. Whatever was going on was none of my business, who was I to challenge gods? I took the Peculiar Doll, opening my bottomless box, but something made me hesitate from putting the doll inside. I held the doll up to my eyes, watching it a moment. I shrugged but instead placed it securely in my pack rather than the box, closing the latch. I felt no approval or thankfulness, but assumed it was the best I could do. Orlai groaned, turning over in her sleep and throwing a hand out that landed on my black boot. I tucked the hand back under the cloak and kissed her forehead. I watched over the sleeping Orlai, pulling my hood up and wrapping the cloth around my face.
The Princess lived, flesh hot and full of life, while the undead and I were nothing more than the dead walking. She did not belong here. It would be best to free her, perhaps Priscilla would be able return her to the reality she spoke of? Orlai was a living human being, not an undead, and did not deserve being cursed to Lordran. I had a duty to fulfill however, one that I would never be free of. Princess Orlai had said, however, that this was a “false world” but how could that be possible? What point was there in creating something so massive and grand as Lordran yet having it be nothing more than a lie?
I shook my head, forcing my thoughts to halt. There was no point in thinking too much, such things led to madness. Crossing my arms I leaned against the tree and watched over my precious Princess, waiting for her to awaken.