Chapter 27 - The Nameless Man
The Nameless Man
"Child," Boomed the one who called himself Nameless. Reaching out a cruel gauntlet of black steel with one finger pointing towards her his voice echoed endlessly, ”Speak it." Ilyena could not move, paralyzed by the gaze of two bright lights that fizzled in the abyss beneath his hood and the dark aura that swirled about them. Piercing through her like javelins, drilling deep into the consciousness she called her own, his eyes knew no bounds. Searing her with white light no lie or illusion could escape being burned away leaving only truth. Ten feet tall the giant man clad in armor of midnight loomed over her, curtains of ripped black cloth draped over his broad shoulders and back blowing in a wind she could not feel. The finger drew closer.
Will wavering and strength breaking she held fast to her master Gwyndolin’s teachings, the ways of Flame.
The Flame was to be linked, a Chosen Undead the spark, else the world would grow dark and fall to never ending shadow. A world without sun consumed by darkness filled misery and death terrified her. Then there was the darksign. It had damned her to this terrible land of the undead, turned her from a knight to a monster cast out by family and stripped of honor. Now the only purpose remaining to her the undying loyalty to Gwyndolin the Dark Sun, a god. This was all that mattered, a desperate attempt to forget the life lost to her.
The god called Nameless, apparently a close cousin to death, touched her forehead with a single claw-like finger, ever so gently, and shattered reality.
A voice, rough but kind, spoke,
In the life you hold in this false world of deception and illusion, remember there are none who know in honest the difference between right or wrong, fact or fantastic, and those who pretend to hold such ascendant and everlasting truths are liars of the worst kind. The only capable soul in deciding truth is easily found, however, yet none believe it or respect it out of fear and insecurity. Few have ever found the giver of truth and it has either brought them great strength or great sadness. Can you guess who knows real truth?
It is you.
The god had gone, replaced instead by a man barely two inches taller wearing armor carried only by the very knights who had followed Gwyn, Lord of Cinder, into the kiln. A simple hood and mask hid his face and a long exotic hilt tinged blue and carved in intricate patterns peeked over his shoulder. Glimmering in its pommel rested the clearest sapphire she had ever seen. Yet for some strange reason she felt a slight uneasiness upon seeing the small gem. Straight-shoulder and proud he stood squared. Beneath his hood and above a black mask eyes colored muddy brown held her still,
In the life you hold in this false world of deception and illusion, the only one who knows in honest the difference between right or wrong, fact or fantastic, is yourself. You hold the key and none other for it is your life to live and your choice to believe whatever lie you wish, whatever history you choose, whatever legend of fantastical stupidity catches your fancy. Allowing yourself to fall in line, giving in to those which others order you are right and wrong, fact or fantastic, will be the end of your true life. Once you bend to another, or many, out of fear or loneliness it will no longer be your life alone, but theirs as well controlling you with their truth to mold you into a shape more to their liking. Yet this may be your truth.
The man reached out a hand, head slightly bowed, and held it suspended in an offering of peace. Instinctively, her hand itched to take his, to grasp the cold steel of the legendary metal burned black by the world’s Flame. She wished to touch one favored by god, his legend grand nay infinite to be granted such a relic.
Though if you never give in, never yield, holding to the truths only you believe, in time these truths will either raise you above the rest or hurl you into the darkness of despair and loneliness. Now Child of Fire, I ask you, what is your truth?
Her hand rose.
Thine shall dare not touch steel forged in god’s flame. Snapped a voice she knew well. Know thine place, decrepit undead.
Skeletal and depraved her hand decayed, skin becoming gray parchment and she froze in shock, mouth agape in a soundless scream of terror. She begged for relief, for what she had lost, pleaded to reverse the curse that had befallen her and give back the life she loved. A gauntlet of burnished brass appeared over the revolting hand that revealed her undead, hiding it from sight beneath solid steel.
I grant thee mine blessing and charge thee duty as Firekeeper, this be the life thee must lead else fade into oblivion.
Sighing in relief from the absence of such horror, having gained a new purpose in life, she began to turn away from the black gauntlet. Heavy and cumbersome she struggled beneath the gauntlet’s mass despite its small size. Metal plating prodding and joints ripping, tattered skin tearing apart beneath its uncaring shell as she tried to move. It pulled her to the ground, arm falling and body straining, unable to lift the great burden it carried. Caught within the brass cage that grew from the gauntlet to cover her body she teetered off-balance until she began to fall, dropping to the floor like a lead weight. Bracing for the crash she squeezed her eyes shut,
“Ilyena.” Eyes firing open she found herself in the gentle cradle of steel burned black, “Ilyena,” His voice was soft but strong, embrace solid but calm, “Ilyena,” Who was Ilyena? Who was she, herself, but an undead? The curse had taken her long ago and her mind with it. This man though who was he? What had brought him to her? So close, so kind, so strong and embrace cold, why was he so cold? Vision fading she began to lose sight of the muddy brown eyes watching over her beneath that black hood,
“Who….” She whispered, “Who are you?”
“I am undead.” He declared, suddenly becoming crystal clear, “We are undead.” The man reached over and lifted up one of her hands. Brass armor gone his gauntlet grasped a frail hand of pale bare skin, her hand. A wave washed over her like the cool ocean surf that she’d enjoyed as a small child in the summer home her family owned. She could hear the sounds, crashing and shushing as ever-present wind plucked her hair, parents smiling, brothers laughing. They called her name,
“Ilyena.” She whispered with them.
Ilyena’s eyes opened to a marble ceiling painted pale orange by the flickering astral flame of the Bonfire that quietly burned next to her,
“You are awake.” Head turning, Ilyena’s gaze met with a man sat against the wall adorned in the armor worn only by the knights burned to ash by the world’s Flame, face covered by a black hood and cloth mask. Eyes muddy but somehow sharp he watched her intently, almost warily,
“Nameless.” She murmured. His eyes flashed, head leaning to one side thoughtfully as he studied her. Ilyena could remember this man clearly, as well as the memories of her family she had believed forgotten. It was painful to recall what she had lost but they were much more preferable to the single memory that seemed to last an eternity, standing in this room. Others had come and gone once or twice in her watch over the Bonfire but never the same undead, except for this man. She had seen him several times, quite recently in fact, and even with a woman once. He had called her Orlai, ignoring Ilyena. The woman’s hair had been fiery red and carried an air of great importance and power. Ilyena had felt herself drawn to the woman, by fate or desire Ilyena did not know but duty held her in place. A duty charged to her by Gwyndolin the Dark Sun.
Ilyena had been ordered to guide the undead on the path of flame and protect the gates of Anor Londo from the guilty and unworthy, as well as instilling judgment upon those who sinned. This man had sinned. Looking up the stairwell leading above to Anor Londo she knew night had fallen on the city where the sun never set, this man to blame. Putting the dream aside, possibly some witchcraft meant to turn her, she would have to kill him. Grunting stiffly Ilyena sat up and growled as a curtain of brown hair fell across her face. It was only until she realized it was hers that she sat still in stunned amazement.
The man reached over and lifted up one of her hands. Brass armor gone his gauntlet grasped a frail hand of pale bare skin, her hand.
Chest tight she yanked off a gauntlet and her breath caught. Like it had never gone her hand was lit by the Bonfire for all to see. Body shaking, she ran the hand through her hair. Silky soft, as if just washed, she combed the brown strands. Next she touched the smooth skin of a human face, her human face. Ilyena realized she was smiling, certain now that she was human once again. Unable to contain herself she let out a cry of joy throwing the armor off to let her body bathe in the light of astral flames, perfect and beautiful. Laughing she put a hand to her chest over the heart that she knew beat. Ilyena waited to hear its drums and feel its pulsing life.
Ilyena blinked in confusion, slowly looking down at the body the darksign had taken so long ago. She jumped slightly as a brown blanket was draped over shoulders. Looking up into a pair of sad, muddy eyes Ilyena saw the man called Nameless, the one who had given her humanity back,
“Why am I dead?” She asked numbly. Wincing, Nameless shook his head slowly,
“The dead are not living.” He answered sadly, “And the living will soon be dead.” Ilyena blinked again, unable to feel anything aside from her cold flesh and faint warmth of the Bonfire,
“Then why am I human?” Nameless smiled behind his cloth, holding her close,
“Even undead can be human.” Going limp, her head thudded dully on his chest plate. She felt nothing, not even confusion. It was as if all the air had been let out of her, leaving nothing but a deflated husk wondering what had transpired to lose what filled it. She did not care, Gwyndolin had lied. While Ilyena was not entirely human Nameless had returned it to normal on the surface at least and given back as much as reason would allow.
She pressed into his arms, an emotion or feeling perhaps restored in the return of her memories wishing for his comforting touch. Exhaling, Ilyena closed her eyes, sinking to her knees she pulled Nameless down and unconsciously slipped into the world of dreams.
The Darkmoon reached past my head easily, only a few inches shorter than I, arms wrapping around to pull me down. Shifting quickly I slunk out of her embrace as she lay back down on the marble, wrapped in the blanket, and remained there motionless. Blinking several times I realized she’d fallen asleep. Sitting cross-legged I stared at her and the mess she’d left completely perplexed.
First she had tried to kill me. Then I used the humanity and she danced around like a madwoman stripping. Then she’d stood in front of me nude, I deciding to cover her with a blanket when I discovered the Darkmoon had thought I cured her. Upon informing her of simple truth she had hugged me very intimately, much to my discomfort, and tried to fall asleep still hugging me. I shook with a violent chill, imagining if I had not escaped at the last moment.
I missed Orlai. Growling ferociously I spun, slamming a fist into the wall it cracked, marble giving in to the rage behind my fist. Desires writhed beyond control, wailing for the gem I had lost. Black smoke seeped from beneath my armor, voices hissing, fury swelling, I struggled to focus upon the truth. Neither Dark nor Light the answer but something in between, mindless murder would solve nothing.
Fiery crown blazing in the wind, jade eyes glinting mischievously, thin lips curving up in a confident grin, high cheekbones and tall nose scrawled over lengthwise by a long scar. The ancient mind pressed harder, smoke growing larger, mind shuddering and body quaking my claws dug into the wall,
Take what you are owed,
Teeth grinding, eyes squeezing shut I fought back,
Take what you deserve,
I wheezed through clenched teeth, skull breaking open,
BE WHAT YOU KNOW YOU ARE!
I craned my head back, eyes wide and fixed upon the wall,
KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KI-
Head butting the wall with all my might I smashed the voices and minds that strove to claim me, stumbling back in a daze. Falling flat and knocking the breath from my lungs I gasped for air twitching on the white and green tiled floor. Curling into a ball I pushed away everything, focusing on nothing, letting all pass beyond oblivion, dragging down barriers between myself and the world. Sobbing and hiccupping I held my head, ignoring the cold blood oozing from a split in on my brow secluding myself beyond the reach of any, a place long lost to time and forever forgotten by any but I. Seconds crawled past, each an eternity upon eternities. I opened my eyes.
Pushing myself up and grabbing the ivory talisman I healed the wound on my head, blood burning away. Standing smoothly I marched up the stairs and out onto the large square at the top.
Thinking was dangerous. Thoughtless and mechanical I marched towards the lift with one single name fixed solidly in mind, Gwyndolin.