Chapter 20 - Upside Down
“Excuse me?” With a cry of shock I jumped from the Bonfire, melancholy emotion gone, spinning to face a small undead dressed in what looked to be a tattered… suit. I blinked several times, looking him up and down. I had walked for several minutes to rest at the Bonfire before inevitably challenging the castle to speak to Priscilla, who lived within, and ask her to send me back to Lordran to once again resume my only remaining purpose of Linking the Flame. Now I stood next to the Bonfire face-to-face with an undead sporting a small monocle, dusty bowler hat, and tattered suit of black and white. Arms clasped behind its back and chin held high the undead… butler asked in a high-pitched voice, “Would you be the Chosen Undead?” I could only nod, “Excellent,” He turned on his heel, “Follow me please.” Marching up the path the butler waved a gloved hand, signaling me to follow.
I stood there staring. I could not recall much of the Painted World of Ariamis, strange crow demi-humans, amorphous blobs carrying large shields and wielding long javelins, some lodged in their backs to throw, and other undead afflicted by disgusting and cancerous growth that spewed toxic liquid when pierced. Never had I found a mildly dusty butler dressed in a tattered suit. If I had to question my sanity this was the time. After encountering a mortal woman, falling in love with her only to discover she was a Goddess, dropping through time and space to appear here to endlessly die by a faulty bridge, and then be rescued by the inanimate Peculiar Doll. How I knew the doll rescued me I could not explain but I felt as if I owed it something, one would argue that would only add to the list. In fact everything was insane, I already mindless. It could be possible my brain was attempting to lighten my mood after the shock of losing Orlai by experiencing a hallucination before tackling the imposing castle. I leaned against a nearby tree, head aching,
“Sir? Mistress Priscilla is waiting.” There was no doubt, the pressure had cracked my skull, I was gone. I marveled at the amount of time the process had taken to finally break me. Was I so firmly fixed on reality that I’d managed to stave off insanity for so long, or too stupid to realize I’d already lost my mind until now when the fact was shoved in my face? The entire world had turned upside down and at the thought I grabbed the tree in case gravity agreed with my statement. I had never known I was insane but did the rules change now that I did? Would men begin running around yelling “Praise the Sun!” and colors flash across my vision in psychedelic patterns of flowers while busty women dressed in white feathered dresses danced in lines? Music rang in my ears, a bouncy and light-hearted tune. I almost joined the women dancing when, in a flash of white, a hand hit my cheek knocking me to the ground.
“Sir, are you quite done? I do not enjoy keeping the Mistress waiting.” Regaining my sanity I shook my head of the ridiculous thoughts that plagued me. Standing carefully, ready to grab for something solid on the off-chance gravity did swap I stared at the butler who’d slapped me, “Sir?” He seemed so real, “Sir,” His hand began to rise. Glaring a warning at him I nodded, gesturing for him to walk. Cocking a patchy eyebrow upon his rotting face, the butler marched quickly up the path, one hand behind his back,
“Your name?” I grunted roughly,
“You may call me Reeves.” He chirped without breaking step. I reached over my head to pull the black hood over but instead found only air. To my frustration I discovered both the hood and mask had been utterly incinerated. Damn. How did my face look then? I didn’t want to know. Reeves lead me up to the base of the castle, nodding to several undead armed with broken short swords gazing dumbly at me with glowing red eyes. Instinctively grasping the handle of my great sword I glared back at them, “Sir, do not cause trouble with the guards.” Reeves snapped without turning to me. The large doors to the courtyard of the castle opened before him and he walked through. I hesitated, looking back at the “guards” as they watched me,
“How can I trust you?” I growled stopping just outside the gate, “This is not normal.” Reeves spun, eyes aflame with rage,
“Do you think I do not think that as well, Chosen Undead?” Reeves snarled, “I would rather watch the guard tear you limb from limb than allow you to speak with the Mistress!” He sighed, “Yet it is her wish and none of us have the hearts to deny our Mistress of any desire she gives voice to.” His fists clenched, “I cannot understand why one as kind and loving as our Mistress would care for an evil wretch such as you.”
“Mutual feeling.” I hissed and Reeves cracked a lipless grin, undead armed with broken straight swords appearing from doors and stairs, surrounding me as I slipped the ivory talisman from a loop on my belt,
“Kill him.” He spat.
“Reeves!” Reeves and the other undead jumped in surprise, all turning to the tall form of Priscilla whom stood twice, plus some change, my own height and carried a large black scythe. She wore a multi-layer dress of white fur, color slowly darkening past her waist, edges of the dress trimmed white, dragging across the snow to part in an open curtain just below her knees to expose bare feet and slim pale legs. A tail of white fur reached out from beneath a fold in her dress at the back of her waist. Long silky white hair framed her perfect face, a crest of two large ivory horns protruded above wise golden eyes upon her brow and forehead, lips curving down in a frown beneath her soft nose and a necklace of white scales circling her throat, “How dare you!” Priscilla’s quiet voice cut through the gathered undead, myself included, like a hot knife through butter. It seemed so strange to hear her angry, difficult to fathom the soft-spoken and innocent Priscilla capable of showing such anger, “Chosen,” She loomed over me scythe in hand, “Are you alright?” I was amazed by the worry that creased her face and shimmered in those golden eyes, wondering how one as distant and foreign to me as Priscilla could show such emotion towards I. Putting a sizeable frail hand to my cheek she shook her head, “How awful, you look terrible.” Grabbing my hand Priscilla hauled me, stumbling, across the courtyard. On my back I could feel the burning eyes of the undead we were leaving behind.
Dazed by the sudden turn of events I allowed myself to be taken so easily, the two of us walking past several large undead in steel armor toting massive great shields and swords until she sat me in the center of a sizeable circular arena forty or fifty feet across from any side. Before I could protest she’d silently removed my damaged armor, sword, shield, and tossed me into cloths of white with innate dexterity and skill, as if she’d done it every day. Placing my Black Knight armor outside she politely asked one of the guards to take it to the Crows for repairs. Turning back to me with a bright smile that almost lifted the dark emotions that hung over me she bowed her head,
“Greetings, Chosen Undead.” Priscilla giggled quietly, “I have missed your presence.” I blinked,
“Missed me?” I was beginning to lose track of what exactly had transpired to bring me into such a surreal situation,
“Of course,” Priscilla glided over, sitting cross-legged before me and lying her scythe on the ground, “Visiting once every so often and carrying my doll through your travels.” She sighed fondly, “Imagine my surprise when I found my doll in your possession once again after having left it untouched after so long.” I frowned,
“You remember me?” Priscilla nodded,
“Perfectly,” She said with a smile, “You are the exclusive traveler to this Painted World of Ariamis.”
“How?” A mischievous smile crossed her lips,
“How would I remember you?” I nodded, “Why would those outside the ring be influenced by its will?” I didn’t know otherwise, no reason to question,
“Why bring me here?” I coughed, throat starting to ache. Priscilla did not respond, studying me with contagious warmth in her golden eyes, lips partially open, head cocked to the side. We sat in silence for several minutes as she stared at me. I did not say anything, wondering if there was some meaning to her silence. As time passed I spoke up,
“Priscilla?” She gave a surprised start,
“Why am I here?” I strained. Priscilla hesitated, eyes sliding past my own,
“To liberate you from their games,” She spat, expression pained, “I cannot stand how the Gods and their daughter have used you so.” Her eyes narrowed, eyes meeting mine, “I will not watch as they have you hurt so gravely.” Moving closer Priscilla again touched my cheek, soft hand warm with life, “We are damned for innocence, why not serve together?” I looked up at her ignoring the soft silky skin of her hand and kindness in her eyes, focusing on her words. This felt wrong,
“’Innocence?” I coughed. Priscilla nodded,
“Can you recall my doll’s words to you?” I cocked my head in confusion, “The small girl.” Priscilla laughed lightly, “The one who has been with you all this time and grown quite fond of you.” I shook my head,
I sat atop a snowy hill overlooking a land of white and grey, long rolling hills bare of trees and covered in the frozen dust of rain, an icy wind cutting through my armor, sky obscured by cloud cover and falling snow. A small girl stood next to me. Golden eyes that held deep wisdom far beyond her years fixed upon me and a short pair of ivory horns grew from her brow. The wind plucked at strands of her long white hair that hung to her waist over a serpent’s furry tail of white. She clutched a small doll in her arms, the same doll I had retrieved from the Undead Asylum,
“Hello,” The girl whispered, golden eyes shifting to meet mine, “Who are you?”
“Chosen Undead is the only name I can offer you.” I felt a slight surprise at my sudden fluency with the art of speech that had for so long confounded me, as well as the clear tone of my own voice, “Who are you?” My voice sounded alien, as if it was not my own,
“One feared by the gods.” She answered quietly, looking out at the snow, “An abomination.”
“Priscilla?” I asked,
“No,” She shook her head slowly, “I am not Priscilla. I am a spirit, an emotion, a will, an illusion, a false existence made manifest by another.” The girl turned to me, “Much like you and your own purpose.” I frowned behind a black cloth in the dark shadow of my hood,
“What do you mean?” The girl smiled sadly,
“So you do not yet know?” She shook her head, “Of course, ignorance is the curse you have been burdened with.” The girl stepped in front of me, sitting down between my legs. I realized how small she was even when sitting I was still taller and could easily fit her inside the chest piece of my armor, “Yet it is not my place to enlighten you,” She continued, “I am only to ensure that you are not taken so easily.”
“I don’t understand.” The girl nodded,
“Yes, but you will in time.” The wind blew more heavily, “Time runs short,” She said quickly, “You must persevere, Son of Darkness, listen to none but your own heart.” She hesitated, golden eyes sliding away to stare off into the blizzard, “I should not be saying this, the words not mine to voice, but please,” Her eyes refocused on me, “Protect my sister.” A heavy weight of exhaustion pushed upon my shoulders, pulling me down into the cold embrace of the snow. I slumped to the ground struggling to fight the exhaustion, and looked up at the girl,
“Who are you?” I hissed desperately, darkness closing in upon my consciousness. The girl touched my cheek with a hand, small doll held firmly against her chest with the other,
“I’m sorry,” She answered, “and remember I will always be by your side.” I collapsed as her words fell upon deaf ears.
“What is it you remember, Chosen Undead?” I put a hand to my head,
“The girl.” Priscilla nodded,
“The soul of the doll, almost like a sister to me now after gaining many of the traits of my younger self,” She sighed sadly, “It is a weak, frail soul, one that has had the fortune to come under your protection.” I began to make sense of the girl’s words,
“Son of Darkness?” I asked. Priscilla pulled me close, hugging me tightly in the warmth of her fur. I sat frozen in her arms,
“You are no Son of Darkness, Chosen Undead. You are an innocent man caught within the throngs of a cruel prophecy given form by the arrogant Gods of the sun.” Warm lips touched my forehead and I resisted the urge to wince, “Fate has cursed you with circumstance as I, an abomination birthed in the mortal world, a half-breed between man and dragon cast out by mankind and the gods both. We two are one and the same, hated by powers that be due to events beyond our control.” I did not understand, what did she mean “cursed by circumstance” and “powers that be,”
“I am a false existence?” Priscilla’s jaw clenched,
“The Gods would have you believe you are false, your true existence much greater and more potent than they would dare admit. Regardless, you exist here and now, nothing can change that I hold you in mine arms Chosen Undead.”
“What do you-” I coughed several times. Priscilla suddenly releasing me to gaze into my eyes,
“Are you ill?” She asked urgently, eyes sharp with concern,
“No, what do you mean?” I grunted, throat getting raw. After a moment of studying me suspiciously Priscilla began combing a hand through my short black hair. Hadn’t the Angel’s flames consumed my hood and mask? How was my hair still present? I needed a mirror.
“What do you not understand?” She asked playing with my hair. Slightly uncomfortable I cleared my throat,
“‘Son of Darkness?’” Priscilla pursed her lips and I found myself again enveloped in her embrace, face pressed between her breasts,
“It does not matter, now you are here with me.” I pushed at her, pulling my face out of the fur to look up at her,
“But, Orlai.” I watched as her kind expression, faster than a lightning strike, became a thundercloud,
“She does not deserve or return your affections, Chosen Undead. The Gods are to blame for your involvement to one as arrogant and foolish as her, one not of Lordran and its people, unable to comprehend what we have suffered.” I frowned quizzically up at Priscilla, “They used you, Chosen Undead.” I winced, looking away. The truth in her words bit at the remains of my heart, a Goddess having no reason to associate with the humble existence of the Chosen Undead, but I cared for her because of the Gods? That seemed too far-fetched to be true but… it had been odd how infatuated I suddenly was with Orlai. Though I would not know the difference between love and manufactured attraction. Was she the same, the Gods influencing her feelings as well? Why… why would the Gods put us together? What point was there in pairing us only to take her away? I felt tears welling in my eyes, how could they be so cruel, what had I done wrong? Suddenly hands seized my cheeks and Priscilla pressed hot lips against my own.
Eyes wide with shock I stared at the closed eyelids of Priscilla, crest of ivory horns upon her brow and forehead bumping against my own. She had somehow shrunk to my own size without me realizing, furry arms wrapping around my head tightly keeping me close. I felt as if I was cuddling with a furry beast, kissing a beautiful woman with delicate cherry lips that tasted of Estus. Guilt scratched as Orlai’s furious voice screamed angrily just beyond my hearing. Releasing her grip after a moment Priscilla pulled my head down to rest on her breast,
“I will not allow you to feel such sadness again.” Priscilla whispered, “I will protect you from the Flame and its minions.” Stunned I lay against her waiting to fall up and into the sky, convinced the world was going to turn upside down.
Author’s Note: I apologize for Priscilla’s speech and how it’s not canon to her character in DS, I got a headache when I tried writing her “wherefore art thou” manner of speech and gave up after ten minutes of “how the fuck do I write her dialogue?”