Chapter 19 - My Heart
Magnificent, truly and utterly grand, everything was just too perfect almost as if he walked through a dream devised by his own ingenious mind. The King’s laughter echoed through the great halls of his very own palace of marble and golden sun. All of it, from the largest rampart and gallery to the smallest servant and stone, was his. Earned through blood and glory he had triumphed over all others, worthless wretches unworthy of Astora’s Throne and without him, the King, those called Gods would be headless chickens running about still quarrelling amongst themselves. Not so differently from the mortals they thought themselves above and beyond. The King had brought order with an iron fist, subjugating this pitiful land of so-called Gods he had raised them above all others, holding it together with his sheer willpower and infinite strength. He was the King, God of Gods, King of Kings, Ruler of all and holder of truth, his word law, fist justice, mind an omnipotent consciousness that knew and saw all that would dare to threaten his reign. To him and only him the future lay as an open book, present painted clear as the shining sun, and past a bright reminder of his invincibility.
His daughter had returned to his loving embrace as a weapon prepared for use, yet still retaining some of her will. He would break her, ruin her, shatter the emotions and personality that tugged at her frail and insignificant mind, forging Astra into a steel queen of Flame fit to serve the King, too long had the old Queen been allowed free reign in his palace, his land. She dared challenge him at every turn, publicly questioning his every move and word, she thought herself a worthy opponent to his infinity, his invincibility, his great and unstoppable wrath. The King chuckled darkly, an evil sneer slicing across his beautiful face.
He would break them all.
“My King, your majesty!” The King turned, raising his chiseled chin to look down upon a nameless servant dressed in robes trimmed in shining gold, cloth the color of cream white. The servant fell to its knees, hands clasped together, held forward and above its head, “I bring news!” The King nodded, regarding the servant’s fearful trembling. The staff of his palace feared the King, as they should, yet this shaking was not the usual fear the servants felt in his presence. It seemed darker, more potent. Who would dare inflict a fear greater than his upon his very own servants?
"SPEAK.” The King boomed, servant jolting in terror at the sudden thunderclap,
“I-.” The servant swallowed nervously, “I am t-to report that th-the Chosen Undead i-i-is, um, well, he is u-um-.”
"SPEAK!" The King roared, seizing the servant and holding it aloft to stare into its face with his eyes of glowing white, ”MY TIME IS NOT SO TRIVIAL TO BE WASTED BY ONE SUCH AS YOU!" The servant’s head bobbed,
“Yes, of course your majesty I ju-!” The King began to squeeze, “The Chosen Undead is gone!” It cried desperately, voice suddenly silenced as blood splattered across the King and hall. Thick gore oozed out from between his massive fingers.
So the Dark still thought itself a player in his game, believing it could triumph over the ace he held, his Daughter of Flame, with its own disgusting abomination of evil? Never had light fallen to dark, never had the hero died without the villain perishing as well. Fate demanded the Flame live on and the King become forever immortal as the one true God. But the only existence capable of stalling this destiny had slipped so easily from his grasp after his nearly achieving fate’s call. Deep within the infinite mind of the King, the bastion of divine perfection, ramparts of righteous will, and golden brazier of Flame that held the beauteous fire of his soul lurked a small obsidian black pebble, shimmering dully as it leeched from the light of his soul. Enraged, the King stormed through the halls of his great palace to bring the wrath of fate’s destiny to his foes, ignoring the obsidian black pebble that filled him with fear.
I groaned painfully and curled into a ball as pain, not agonizing but certainly noticeable, stabbed with vicious abandon. A massive hole of melted metal gaped in the-
Hello. Whispered a soft breeze. I looked up at a small girl of ten clutching a Peculiar Doll stood next to a skeletal tree, gazing at me with beauteous eyes of gold that contained wisdom far beyond her years. A small sleeveless white dress the only cloth to protect her from the cold I wondered how she was not shivering violently from the icy winds that swirled. Golden eyes glittering brightly under the sunless sky of pale dark gray, she motioned for me to follow, eyes already drawing me towards her. Hello? Her voice was distant, fading as she slid behind the trees, Hello?
“Wait!” Voice unable to be heard by even my own ears I stood clumsily, barreling towards the girl, “Wait!” She disappeared behind the tree as I reached it and fell to the snow, looking up to find her gone.
Hello. My eyes snapped to a distant figure far, far away past countless trees, only the gold light of wise eyes betraying her presence. Strength returned to my limbs, fog forgotten with the sadness that once chained me I stood shakily, bumbling through the forest haphazardly, struggling to reach those golden eyes. I came upon a sword of blue steel and shield of black, scooping them up as I shambled, returning them to their rightful places. The familiar weight of Artorias’ Greatsword and the Black Knight shield, rather than adding to my burden, urged me forward until I found myself running through the trees feeling as if I was carried by wings. I streaked like lightning between the towards the distant voice of the girl whom called to me like a song bird with its sad tune.
Stop. I halted, back straight, chin high, eyes front like a squire on his first day of boot camp. The voice was low, dark, pricking me with anxious fear, Chosen Undead, where is it to which you run? An ancient mind of black tugged at the strings of my limbs, What is it you believe to be? I, a wooden puppet, knelt to the will that bent my own, You are a False Existence, Chosen Undead, one unable to challenge God and only kneel in its presence. I did not move or speak, mind blank. The forest disappeared and I stood upon a massive worktable in a large workshop of toys and tools. The motionless wooden bodies of those I once knew from a land named Lordran sat upon wooden shelves and hung from the ceiling by unseen strings.
Andre the puppet, face carved in a cheery smile, hammering away at a sword never done, eyes hollow of emotion despite the laughter that adorned his face. Rhea the puppet knelt before a statue in prayer, soulless and broken self hidden, shrouded by the milky robe of her faith. Laurentius the puppet, lost and forever alone he seeks those that would offer kinship to a forsaken pyromancer. Others in various poses with various props were placed about the workshop, all crafted with sharp efficiency and detail, each different yet together whole.
Dancing by my hand, speaking by my will, existing by my fancy, they are Nothing. The puppets nodded their heads, bound to the unbreakable strings of fate, You are Nothing.
He is a man. Declared the girl with golden eyes. The workshop vanished.
I sat at the edge of a long cliff. Back against a cold boulder I looked out at a castle partially hidden by small bramble of snow-covered trees upon an island floating atop a sea of billowing clouds, all shrouded by the dark light of a gray moonless night. As wounded and battered as I had been before I exhaled, feeling myself return. Thought and memory filled the empty shell of dead flesh with sentient personality and emotion. Pain stabbed at my chest, and I looked down at the hole blasted in my chest. How was I alive? I shook my head, it didn’t matter. Thought was not something that would offer much to me at the moment. I needed to act, to do, to move. Standing something fell from my lap to the snow. Looking down I found, to my surprise, the Peculiar Doll. Gently picking up the small doll I cocked my head,
“What happened?” I asked the doll, for some reason expecting it to answer. The featureless face of the doll looked up at me blankly, “Neither do I.” I coughed and cradled the doll protectively, watching the castle and picking out dark figures walking the walls. What had taken me here, to the Painted World of Ariamis? After the Angel killed me and then Orlai, turned Goddess, killed the angel I should have reappeared at the Bonfire in Firelink Shrine, the last place I rested. Instead here I was.
Head shaking in disbelief I closed my eyes, the furious Goddess of Flame roaring back at me from the behind my eyelids. Orlai was a god then, a divine being of Flame and true Light, one who ruled over the world of man to guide its mortal residents through the Dark with the torch of light. I raised my gaze to the godless sky, laughing at the irony. I had feared she would die, leaving me alone in the world to face my terrors and doubts alone without the bright light her life gave to my soul. Instead she left me not in death but in ascension as a Goddess. Without any goodbye or heroic sacrifice I had died, no flair or drama, a corpse unceremoniously stuck through the gut by a flaming stick to be tossed heedlessly to the stone while Orlai rose to the heavens on wings of Flame, leaving the lifeless corpse that thought itself needed below.A bitter taste worked its way into my mouth and I spat over the cliff, a wry smile twixt my lips at the comedy of events leading up to this moment. So it was over then, to think she would be the one to discard me after all my worries, fears, and doubts. Working to build her into one I would calmly walk astride without fear of her weakness, all nothing more than smoke in the wind now. As a Goddess she was invincible, omnipotent, Orlai no longer needed an immortal corpse of ash and cold flesh such as myself. I felt no anger, no spite, how could I? I was a corpse, undead and damned to the eternal ring, deserving of nothing but hollow immortality and the duty of the Chosen Undead. What could I offer her but death? What happiness would remaining with my somber ass give her?
I had one saving grace that kept me living and moving, however, that Orlai had escaped Lordran. I had managed to make good upon that promise but it did little to ease my sorrow, only enough to prevent myself from fruitlessly jumping off the cliff behind me. With a sad sigh I touched the doll to my head, reappearing at the base of the ruined castle, a rickety suspension bridge swaying dangerously behind me. I dragged my leaden body up the winding path through the snow-covered bramble. To think that I, an immortal corpse of ash whom felt no hunger and needed no sleep, a lifeless being that only existed to light the Flame in everlasting duty, an ancient consciousness that had learned through centuries of death and despair that all things ended in tears, to think… to think that I… that I….
I clutched at my chest nursing something I had not known or dared to possess, now broken to never be repaired. My Heart.