Chapter 14 - Daughter of the Flame
White clouds drifted beneath her, warm breeze swirling through her jet black hair. The child floated through a bright blue sky looking down at the world far below from a shimmering palace of golden sunlight. A grand mountain range stretched beneath her host to a shining city of white and gold, green forests and roads packed with the smiling faces of humanity. It was massive the distance from one wall to another several miles and each building stood over ten stories tall large spires of gold atop them. At the city’s center a great palace reached high into the sky its boundless authority dominating as its gold encrusted marble arches, spires, and walls showcased limitless wealth. Here the greatest minds performed feats of magic and philosophy that knew no bounds and the most legendary heroes and heroines honed their skill.
Beneath a ring of stone walls and towns connected to the city above surrounded the mountain. Within the walls lay another city with taverns aplenty and music never ceasing that welcomed travelers from near and far; a cluster of culture and merriment. Adventurers traveled to these stalwart laughing walls that guarded the marble ramparts above in search of the glory that had come to countless men and women before them.
Brave and bright the people strode through the streets of the city and towns proudly singing the praises of the land of prosperity and strength, the land of Lordran.
The child wished to join them.
Astra wish to join them.
She flew down through the clouds, spinning and laughing as she went imagining the adventures and fun that awaited her, the people she’d meet and things she’d see, but the closer she drew the darker the world became. The people no longer smiled, travelers had stopped coming to the cursed land long ago, philosophy and magic had proven too much for the simple minds of man, unleashing terrible monsters. The cities beneath fell into ruin, shining city of white and gold had long since closed its great gates and expunged its cursed residents.
Disgusting rot plagued the lower villages and towns becoming stinking and blighted places of illness and filth, residents horrible mutants that feasted upon flesh while villages above became deserted ghost towns. Soulless men stalked the streets killing any they found and those that did not flee eventually went mad with raging bloodlust. Monsters and demons ran rampant but never once did the shining city of white send aid.
It was empty, as it had always been.
Astra watched as hope was swallowed up hungrily by the overwhelming nightmarish horrors. She cowered, unable to understand why so much happiness and life turned to such rampant strife and death with an alarming swiftness.
Daughter of the Flame, boomed the commanding tone of a woman, you forget yourself. Hands wrapped about her, pulling her back to the clouds. The child gladly allowed them to spirit her away from the hell below. Suddenly, the farther she drew back the brighter and happier the world became. Once again the city of white and gold shone with fields of green, roads packed with the smiling faces of humanity, sat snugly within the mountains above a ring of stone walls and towns that connected to the city above playing host to the travelers wishing to enter the city above. Heroes once again filled the land, bravest and brightest humanity could offer striding through the streets proudly singing the praises of the land of prosperity and strength, the land of Lordran. The child cried out and struggled against the hands, begging to join the people, Daughter of the Flame, you must show restraint. Return to your stead. The child had grown tired of looking on from above. She wanted to join those she had watched over for so long, why was it she had to sit in a golden cage? What made her happiness so irrelevant when compared to theirs? You forget yourself.
Astra struggled against the hands that clawed at her, dragging her back to the heavens, and she screamed down at those that lived and loved while she was held above in the cage of the sun and clouds. She cursed humanity and burned to free herself from the sky to slaughter those that dared use her. The heavens denied her screams, pressing her back into the cage,
Daughter of the Flame, Astra tore at the bars of her cell and roared in anguish, you forget yourself. She spat at the figures clad in robes of milky white that spoke to her, vowing to break from their grip to take what was hers from the world of humanity.
It was not fair.
She fell onto a bed of clouds and golden sunlight yearning for the grit of adventure and glory of battle. She wailed, thunderstorms hurling her tears to the world below in heavy sheets carried by the blowing gales of her voice, sorrow and spite overwhelming her with their dark touch. She yearned for the darkness, it was her salvation from the light that held her captive for so long. As if in answer the bright cell dimmed with shadow, a voice filling her with a boundless terror that echoed infinitely within her mind as it spoke,
Find the Chosen Undead. Free him from the false world he inherits, Child of Fire.
The cage shattered and the child fell through the clouds to the land of Lordran, watching as darkness fell and death became rampant.
Orlai gasped sitting bolt upright, heart hammering loudly, body shaking violently, and hot sweat soaking her clothes,
“Princess?” She turned to the man in black, his hood and mask down. He put a cool hand to her cheek and his soft brown eyes calmed her heart. Orlai swallowed, shaking her head,
“Bad dream.” She panted, trembling she held a hand to her chest, “Bad dream.” That was all it was, a bad dream, nodding to herself, a bad dream. His chilled body of black steel pressed against her, enveloping Orlai in an embrace of cold steel that doused her burning flesh in ice and steadied her shaking body,
“I am here.” His voice rumbled deeply, “Peace.” She nuzzled the frigid metal of his chest, snuggling closer to him, “Peace.” Orlai slid beneath the glassy surface of a calm lake of ice water, drifting within its deathly quiet depths of serenity, blaze in her heart and firestorm in her mind calmed by his breath of ice and body of glacial steel. Orlai’s breath slowed, growing less ragged, and her body cooled. The man in black began to pull away, but Orlai quickly grabbed him,
“No,” She whispered, “Don’t you dare.” Without complaint black steel enclosed around her once again, Orlai trying to crawl deeper and deeper into the bastion it offered. She hid within the impervious metal from the world outside and the nightmares that revealed themselves to her. She was safe with him, safe within his walls, his arms. The Chosen Undead would keep them away, he would protect her, he….
Orlai opened her eyes. A pair of deep brown eyes beneath black bushy eyebrows upon a face only a god could have looked down at her, the sun’s rays framing the face in a dazzling halo of sunlight that made the two eyes of brown glitter and shine,
“Hello.” The god said. Orlai squinted, holding up a hand to block out the sun, and looked up at Chosen, his hood and mask off, “Good morning,” He continued, “You had nightmares.” She was in his arms, “You also almost died against the Demon. Twice.” With a groan Orlai grabbed his shoulder, pulling herself upright. She sat in his lap resting her forehead against the cold flesh of his neck,
“I feel like shit.” She growled, “What happened?” She draped her arms behind his back, shifting to rest her chin on his shoulder and leaning her head against his cheek, eyelids sliding shut. His arms enveloped her,
“Nightmares.” He repeated, voice reverberating throughout her body, “You almost died. Twice.” Orlai chuckled weakly,
“Yeah,” She grunted, “It feels like it.” She stroked his hair, “Did we do what we needed to?”
“Yes.” Orlai felt him nod and one of his arms left her back, she heard him searching his pack, “Here,” She cracked an eye open, his cruel gauntlet of black holding a small doll behind his back so she could see,
“Huh.” She didn’t have the strength to tease him, “So that’s what we needed?” She asked, closing her eye,
“Good, I can’t do that again.” Orlai felt him tense through his armor,
“You will have to.”
“I know, shut up and let me pretend I won’t for right now at least.” He didn’t respond and she busied herself with his hair, hands blindly exploring the entirety of his head, “How are you?”
“Good, what are we up to?”
“Resting?” She scoffed, “This is cuddling.” Coughing a laugh Orlai nuzzled against him, “Cuddling is when you show someone you love them.” Her fingers played with his ears, “I just realized,” She giggled, “You’re ears are round, mine are pointed. I wonder why?”
“I am proud of you.” Her hands froze,
“You are a brave knight, Princess Orlai, and should be proud of your courage and skill. If you are not, I will be proud for you and remind you when you fall.” He pulled her head from his shoulder and looked into her eyes, “I will always stand by your side and you will continue to grow until one day you stand as my equal, or my better.” His eyes were fixed to hers, “You are strong.” He touched his forehead to hers, eyes closing, “You are strong.” Orlai smiled,
“Ok.” He removed her arms from his shoulders and gently pushed her to the ground setting a bedroll beneath her head and gave her a cloak,
“Rest.” He ordered, “I will watch.”
“What? You’re just gonna leave a girl like me alone?” He glared,
“Rest.” She sucked her teeth, rolling over,
“Alright fine, damn.”
Orlai drifted off to sleep. I looked down at the doll still in my hand and felt no emotions from it. I placed the doll my lap, figuring it didn’t need to be jammed in my pack while I waited for Orlai to regain her strength. Priscilla and the Painted World she lived in weren’t going anywhere, Orlai could rest as long as needed.
Was it a mistake to lie to her?