Chapter 21 - Child of Dark
Sat atop the tallest tower of the castle I looked out over the Painted World of Ariamis, once again clad in my armor of black steel, sword and shield secured on my back. The sea of clouds stretched beyond the horizon on three sides ending in mountains, while the infinite forest of skeletal trees ran along the fourth all beneath a pale sky. In my cruel black gauntlets I held the Peculiar Doll, turning it over as I thought. Shaking my head every few minutes I glanced down at it and then back up at the scenery. So Priscilla had been watching me? I could not complain her doll had saved my life twice, once from an ocean of skulls and now from an eternal cycle of death. It also seemed she knew more of my life than even I, Son of Darkness and all that, but the way she had explained it only confused me more.
Chosen Undead was just a pretense, my true calling the Son of Darkness which I held no knowledge of, the Gods fabricating the Chosen Undead in order to, in a roundabout way, seal my supposed power. Orlai was the Daughter of Flame, one foretold to banish the Dark and bring about the everlasting Flame. She was my nemesis and fate would call us together with the challenge of battle to decide the future of this world. We would answer that challenge with the blood of our respective foe. I exhaled, comprehension spiraling down the preverbal tubes. Was I a God as well, one fallen from divinity maybe? Priscilla had said “we are damned for innocence” But what did that mean? Who had damned us, the Gods or some other party? Why? What had we done, none can be damned yet still called innocent. Confusion ran rampant in my mind from the sudden reception Priscilla gave ,e and the truths she tried to convince me of. None of it made sense. Groaning I fell back against the stone platform I sat upon, clawing my head.
I missed Orlai and her straight-forward attitude, blunt manner of speech, hair of flame, jade eyes of glittering green, and delicate yet strong embrace. I felt in control with her at my side supporting me, a tangible reason to live and protect, she had given me a real purpose I could see and feel. Now gone that fact had been replaced once again by a vague and allegedly grand calling to a fate I did not understand. As Chosen Undead I marched through the lands and lit the Flame to prolong life, yet that was a lie? The only truths I believed were all just fabrications by the gods? I was, in fact, some great being that existed to extinguish the Flame, something I had worked for centuries to prolong? What logic was that? What in the hell would make me destroy something I’d tried to keep living for so long, and why was Priscilla so adamant I never leave this Painted World? Why was she so affectionate yet her minions so hateful? Everything seemed suspicious and two-faced, the Gods, this world and the last, nothing was straight-forward and honest. I missed Orlai. Turning the doll over in my hands I sighed, but what could I do? I was no god, no great beast of legend, no hero, no crossbreed between a dragon and human, no great warrior of the sun or magician of power. I was nothing but an immortal corpse handy in a fight.
You are nothing.
It was true. When had I thought for myself or acted as an individual without the influence of another? All my immortal life I had never made a decision, never stood above the rest with my own opinion and ideals, always playing the part I had been given. Son of Darkness they called me. Bah. I was Chosen Undead, son of none, holder of the Dark Soul and custodian of the Flame, an unintelligent and unfeeling corpse who faithfully followed the unending path of fate mindlessly, without question or thought. Growling to myself I stood, walking down the winding stairs. It was probably best I return to my stead and resume my task, nothing I thought or wanted mattered anyway. Besides, now that Orlai was up with the Gods I supposed there was more of a point to keeping the Flame lit.
The undead glared at me as I walked through the castle, they muttering “Child of Dark” and such amongst themselves. Ignoring them I eventually entered the large coliseum where Priscilla stood, once again twice my height looking out over the ocean of clouds at the mountains in the distance. At my appearance she turned with a bright smile,
“I see you have made peace with yourself Chosen Undead. I did not realize you were so shy to love.” I turned my head, awkwardly avoiding her gaze as she giggled quietly, “I have arranged a room to be set for you and recruited several servants to attend any needs that might arise.” I shook my head,
“No.” I sighed, embarrassment fading, “I will leave.” Priscilla stared at me blankly,
“What?” She asked as I stepped towards the plank. Priscilla quickly stopped me grabbing my hand from behind, “Why do you wish to leave? Do you dislike this world and its people?” Her grip tightened, “Do you perhaps not care for a Crossbreed as I?” She asked nervously. I turned and answered bluntly,
“I am Chosen Undead. I exist to light the Flame, nothing more.” Priscilla recoiled,
“What logic is that?” She gasped, “Why throw away happiness to march through sadness? Why do you follow the path the Gods pave for you so faithfully? Why allow yourself to be damned so easily?!” Her voice grew louder and louder until she was practically shouting. I looked calmly into those wise golden eyes, my own empty of emotion. No logical answer came to mind. I only knew through some strong emotion that this was not where I belonged,
“Goodbye Priscilla.” And with that I extracted myself from her hand. Back to Priscilla I marched towards the plank though doubt pricked me. I hesitated, black gauntlet almost back reaching for Priscilla’s fragile hand of soft warmth. Why did I want to leave? Priscilla would be an excellent replacement for Orlai and the people of the Painted World were forced to obey me unquestioningly thanks to the love of Priscilla. I could lounge here for eternity and never be lonely or miserable again. No more death, unending cycle, gods, nothing but Priscilla and I together forever. But Priscilla did not have hair of orange flame, eyes of bright jade green, odd pointed ears, tongue that spat fire a dragon would envy, strength and stubbornness that never grew weary, kindness hidden by gruff arrogance, the ability to create strange concoctions from the plants by just adding water and elbow grease. Priscilla did not have a fiery temper or boundless will, inexhaustible determination that shrugged off any failure with a scowl and a grunt, a scarred body of seductive steel, voice of angels, a heart filled to the brim with life and humanity, a soul burning brighter than any god. Most of all, Priscilla had not made me realize I possessed something more shocking than all of the events that lead to this very moment. I had a heart—silent but still a heart—and I knew, if it could, it would beat for Orlai and none other. Eyes fastened on the plank and the abyss it stretched over I marched. I would not be leaving this soulless world to bend to the will of gods and perform a menial task I had mindlessly done for centuries. I would find the one I cared for. This was a beginning.
“So be it.” Priscilla hissed. The sound of a blade whistling through the air bit at my ears. I rolled, something passing just above, and turned to find myself alone, “Die.” Priscilla’s icy voice echoed from nowhere and everywhere off the large stone arches of the coliseum. Pure instinct bent me backwards, a massive invisible swing cutting through the air to ricochet off the snowy stones of the arena in a puff of ashen snow and sparks. Rolling past the invisible Priscilla I drew Artorias’ Greatsword with two hands, looking down at the footsteps that appeared on the snowy floor. I opened my mouth, words cut off by another slice. It made no sense, why was she trying to kill me, why try to keep me here, why try to seduce me? I jumped back, putting distance between the footsteps and I. The only feasible answer was the Gods, they were controlling Priscilla. Rage flared in my chest, why involve her in this pointless struggle having already banished her to this Painted World ensuring Priscilla would not usurp their power. Yet that was still not enough? She had to serve their arrogant designs as well?! Grip tightening on Artorias’ Greatsword my teeth ground together, fury rearing its ugly head.
Why would those outside the circle be influenced by its will?
“Priscilla!” I yelped, looking past the footsteps at the plank over the abyss, “The Gods control you! Why do this?!” I stepped to the side, aiming to run past and leap into the abyss, and juked away from another invisible slice. Edging back from the footsteps I halted, one of my steel boots teetering on an edge. With a quick glance over my shoulder I realized I’d been pushed to the end of the coliseum by my abstinence from fighting Priscilla, “You die.” Priscilla’s detached voice hissed. I ducked beneath the unseen swing. Wind whining again I sensed a follow up directed at my back. My body reacted instantaneously and without thought, remorse, or hindsight, brought my sword up in a wide arch, slicing through flesh in a vicious arch. Frozen in place I suddenly realized I’d done.
Priscilla reappeared in a large splash of blood, dress stained red a mortal wound ripped open her pale skin and dress from hip to shoulder. Scythe poised just shy of carving me open Priscilla gasped, tears streaming down pale cheeks. The scythe clattered to the stone from her frail shaking hands. Fixing two enraged golden eyes upon me Priscilla scowled,
“Monster.” She hissed accusingly, “You are cursed, Dark One.” Priscilla reached for me, a black vortex appearing in her palm and face warped by hate. Two quick swings of my great sword cleanly removed the hand and head of ivory horns, Priscilla vanishing in a sudden gust of ash an instant later leaving a small hovering orb of light, the only evidence of her existence prior. I looked down at that orb as cold wind plucked at my hair and bit my cheeks. I dropped to my knees.
Priscilla was dead.
Cradling the candle of flame that was her soul in my black gauntlets I held it to my chest, mesmerized by the flickering light of its pale astral fire. Many times I had killed Quelana’s sister, Chaos witch Quelaag, leaving the weak albino Quelana forever alone in life, no longer accompanied by her precious sister. Repeating this blunder countless times as the two were caught within the cycle with me I slaughtered Quelaag until it held little effect upon my mind as it was a key step of the cycle. In fact I could ignore Quelana if I chose knowing that once I gave myself to the Flame it would all begin anew, Quelana and Quelaag together once again. That repeating sin was now thrown back into my face, that I heartlessly ripped them apart after being rejoined time and time again without thought or remorse for their plight.
Why would those outside the circle be influenced by its will?
Priscilla had welcomed me with open arms, pulling every stubborn heart string I had in such a short time. To meet another that knew of the endless circle and my actions that kept it afloat, even assuring the brittle will of mine that I was not meant to carry out such a hellish task. I was, in fact, a great and terrible being that threatened the Gods. Priscilla had not called me Chosen Undead out of duty, but because it was the only name I knew. Priscilla could remember my visits, watched my travels, knew the horrors I’d seen and the pains I’d endured offering affection and consolation, enlightening me to the fate the Gods strove to keep hidden. Now dead at my hands and the plotting of the Gods Priscilla was gone forever, never to be restored as she was one outside the cruel, unending ring. This fact weighed upon me like a mountain. Had she told me my true existence as the only way to spite the Gods for their treatment of her and the undead? Had she known they would force her to kill me which was why she had given such information as warning or recompense for the actions not her own? Or was everything a lie? Was all of this intentional?
I stood, removing two strips of black cloth from my bottomless box. Expression dark I wrapped one of the cloths around my face in a mask, tucking the other under the neck of my armor and pulling it over my head to create a mask and hood of black that hide my face and shrouded my eyes in shadow. “Son of Darkness” they called me, one foretold to extinguish the Flame and end the reign of the arrogant Gods that treated their lessers as puppets in a circus play. Lie or no I would not extinguish the Flame and end this world I had for so long protected. I would liberate it from the tainted deities of filth and false light called Gods carrying the mantle of the Child of Dark to bring Orlai and I together once again. Without their evil we would mold Lordran into a land where the people, not divine beings of pompous stupidity, made their own fates. The heavens would rain crimson and I would enact a revenge the likes of which none had seen using any means necessary. Abyssal rage roaring I swore that I would not rest until every single god lay dead to the judgment they had evaded too long, corpses ground to dust beneath my grievous boots of unforgiving black steel. Chosen Undead no longer, the Child of Darkness called to my Dark Soul and I answered with a vengeance centuries in the making.
I am Child of Dark.
The Child of Dark turned, hood and cloth of black hiding his face in shadow, sheathing the great sword of blue steel pulled straight from legend to walk calmly off the plank, falling into the abyss. The Queen sucked her teeth in irritation as she watched the Child, Priscilla had failed. After the King had sealed the Child away in a section of the Painted World of Ariamis the Queen had spirited her chance at victory away to be controlled by what she thought would be an easy romance between the Child and Priscilla. The two abominations seemed perfect for each other. The Queen had placed what she thought was a safe gamble that they would be a match made in heaven. Instead Priscilla was dead and the Child of Dark returned to Lordran carrying her soul free as can be. This was without a doubt a terrible blunder. It had been difficult enough to send a single Royal Guard to the mortal plane without rousing suspicion among the other gods to retrieve Astra, doing it once again to repair the Queen’s mistake so soon after was impossible.
The image on the hand mirror warped, vanishing as the abyss cast out her prying eyes. Setting the mirror down the Queen began combing her silky black hair, looking out over the city hungrily. The King would fall, one way or another, she rising to take his place. He did not know a single thing about rulership with his brutish ways, politics meant to be gentle and seductive not brutal and terrifying. His arrogance had brought this kingdom of gods to its knees, blood running in rivers, and if not stopped the City of Gods would become as barren and lifeless as the mortal world they ruled. Unfortunately her best chance at that had just fallen from her grasp.
The Queen growled to herself, she would need to gain Astra’s trust. But to do that she’d need to get to Astra first, who was hidden within the confines of the King’s own palace. Fingers tapping on the sill of the window the Queen plotted.