Chapter 31 - The Furtive Pygmy
Bright glaring rays of run bore down from the light blue sky. Squinting, I held up a gauntlet to shade my eyes. Walking through the endless night of Anor Londo I’d forgotten the sun even existed and might’ve appreciated it more if it hadn’t been so damn blinding. Releasing Ilyena’s hand I looked back at her from beneath my hood,
“What?” She managed. Blue eyes wide the Ex-Darkmoon appeared utterly shocked from the Warping, “Have you always been able to do that?” She asked in a daze. I answered with a head shake and jerking a thumb at the ruined building where Frampt resided,
“No, Lordvessel.” I grunted. Nodding slowly Ilyena’s eyes followed after my thumb to a roofless, crumbling stone church several yards up a hill of ruined stone walls and arches,
“The Lordvessel?” She exclaimed in wonder, “Is it here?” I nodded, “Is it protected?” She pressed, “Something so vital must be guarded while you are away!” Again I nodded,
“Frampt.” I said bluntly,
“Frampt?” Ilyena cocked an eyebrow, “I’ve never heard of anyone called Frampt in the legends. How could someone so unimportant be tasked to guard something so precious?” The irony in her question made me thank the mask I wore. I wasn’t skilled at hiding emotion,
“Prim-” I stumbled over the word, “Primor-” Struggling I growled in irritation, “Serpent.” I spat. Fortunately Ilyena caught on. Probably too shaken by both Warping and learning the identity of Frampt, she didn’t laugh at my verbal skills. I wondered if she’d get used to seeing all of the so-called “legends” that existed in Lordran?
“A Primordial Serpent?!” She gasped, “They went missing centuries ago!” Might as well be missing for all the help they were, I thought wryly, “Perhaps you could show me?” Her excitement seemed pointless. The stinking, rather disturbing, Kingseeker was hardly what she thought of when speaking of her legends. I’d grown used to the serpent but in the past Orlai’s reaction had not been very… amazed I suppose... to the “legendary” beast at first meeting him.
I decided to humor the knight though. The Four Kings weren’t going anywhere and after being stuck in that room for so long Ilyena needed some coddling. Glancing at the stairwell next to the large dead tree hanging over the Bonfire that ran down the cliff face I beckoned for Ilyena to follow. Walking under the remnants of a stone arch several feet from the Bonfire I stopped, placing a gauntlet on the familiar gray stone. I felt like I hadn’t been back in years.
A hooded figure stepped out from behind the wall next to me.
With no time to draw my greatsword I snarled, throwing a punch into its face. The figure cried out in pain, falling to the grass. A necklace of animal teeth jangled outside the hood obscuring its face as the unknown person threw a hand up and yelled in a halting, uneven voice,
“Peace, I yield, I yield!” I hesitated, looking more closely at the abruptly familiar man,
“Laurentius? You were gone.” I muttered in surprise. Laurentius of the Great Swamp, a reliable pyromancer I always rescued from the clutches of “The Butchers” in the Depths out of habit. Every single cycle I never failed to whisk him away, despite his uselessness to me. Although now after using a variant of the very flame he once offered me to burn Gwyndolin to a crisp, I supposed he wasn’t useless at all. In fact he had given me the means to dispatch the “God” in a euphoric manner.
He wore a light hooded outfit colored natural browns and greens made of rough, somewhat shoddy, cloth. Ignoring his absence from Firelink during my last visit, Orlai and I had more pressing matters at the time, the oddity only now occurred to me,
“W-well, it’s actually rather odd.” Laurentius stammered, looking up at me nervously. Regretting the punch I offered a hand, “See, I was sitting at my usual spot,” He said with a thankful nod, taking my hand, “Then all of the sudden I was running through a terrible darkness of icy fear,” He stood, dusting off and massaging his jaw gingerly, “Then, amazingly, a woman of pure flame rescued me. I think she said something too, but I can’t remember for the life of me.” He smiled expectantly a moment. I motioned for him to continue and the smile faded as Laurentius coughed awkwardly, did he seem disappointed? “Well, after that I found myself here sitting again.” A woman of flame? Laurentius grinned weakly at me, eyes flicking to Ilyena for a moment, “What brought you back, and who’s the girl?” A sharp intake of breath was our only warning.
I had never known real friendship between men, brotherhood developed over time in hardships shared, except for Solaire but he was special. At that moment Laurentius and I took part in a precious moment I will never forget no matter how many millenniums pass.
“Girl?” Ilyena hissed like a sword drawn from its sheath. Laurentius and I both winced in perfect unison as an unseen blade of imaginary creation pressed against our throats, “I, sir,” Ilyena stated hotly, “Am a knight in service to Nameless, Knight of Ash and bearer of Truth.” Was she coming up with these names on the fly? “I am no mere girl,” She spat, “And I will not tolerate such an insult to my honor, sir.”
“Of course,” Laurentius quickly assured. Hands raised defensively he took a wary step back, “Just a slip of the tongue miss, no need to be hostile.” Ilyena eyed Laurentius like a hawk as he tried to shrink into his hood every bit the impression of a mouse,
“I accept,” She said after a long moment, head dipping in a slight bow those sharp blue eyes never left his, “I pray we understand one-another.” There was a dangerous undertone in those words,
“Perfectly.” Laurentius squeaked. Swallowing, the pyromancer coughed into his hand and cleared his throat pointedly avoiding Ilyena’s eyes, “Why are you two here again?” He asked weakly. Ilyena looked to me deliberately, one eyebrow still cocked. Was it just me or was she asking to…,
“We,” I coughed, focusing on Laurentius, “Are seeing Frampt.” Laurentius, confused now, looked between us,
“The Serpent? Why?”
“Her.” I nodded to Ilyena,
“You want to meet the Serpent?” Laurentius asked in a surprised tone to Ilyena, “What could you want from that-” He cut off suddenly, head jerking back to me, “What?” He squawked, face white. Ilyena clicked her tongue impatiently,
“Because it is my wish.” She snapped, “I desire to meet one of the legendary Primordial Serpents.”
“You,” Laurentius began, again turning to Ilyena, “Want to meet that-” He stopped, once more jerking back to me with a fearful look to squawk, “What?”
A single pure laugh burst from me,
“I missed you Laurentius.” I blinked. Had I? I must have, to say something so easily. And had I just laughed? I couldn’t remember the last time I laughed. Embers glowed in my chest as Laurentius’ face lit up like a Bonfire while Ilyena stared, dumbstruck,
“You did?!” He chirped, “That’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me….” Trembling, the pyromancer seemed ready to explode into confetti, “What happened to you? For the longest time it was only a nod or a shake of the head with the occasional few words in between but now this.” Laurentius beamed at Ilyena, “Did you do this ma’am?” Ilyena, trying to follow the conversation, shook her head absently,
“No, I only pledged myself recently to Nameless.” She muttered eyeing me,
“Nameless?” Laurentius turned to me, “Is that your name now? Finally got tired of Chosen Undead eh?” He took my shrug as a yes, “Well I like it! Mysterious, daring, dangerous!” He chuckled awkwardly, “A pleasure Nameless!” Holding out a hand Laurentius grinned. I stared at him from beneath my hood, face hidden by the black cloth. Had he always been like this? I’d hardly ever given him the time of day, seeing as he was a pyromancer with little to offer other than pyromancies and the occasional awkward smile. It’s not that I didn’t like him, in fact I found his awkward cheer and forced manner of speech somewhat endearing. I just had little use for pyromancies, only deciding to acquire them after my completion of nearly every other skill. Except magic. I hated magic.
Now warmth kindled in my chest from his endearing demeanor. It occurred to me that, maybe, Orlai wasn’t the only one in this world worth saving.
“Laurentius,” My voice grated. Clapping a gauntlet of black steel on his shoulder I looked deep into ocher colored eyes beneath a ragged hood pulled far over a bright, human face. Not one speck of darkness tainted those eyes, and neither did blinding light. Soft passion and a brave heart pulsed strongly, a man in the presence of one he considered dear, I saw a human who had mistakenly become undead. A newfound affinity for the odd pyromancer tickled me. How strange it was for me to become so attached to one I, in all honesty, hardly knew. Stranger still was what I said next, “Want to come?” I asked.
Laurentius froze in shock.
“WHAT?!” Ilyena blasted, “This foolish pyromancer?!” She seized my head, yanking me down the knight snarled into my ear, “Sir I must advise otherwise.” Ilyena warned in a quiet tone while glaring at the man, “Pyromancers were never trustworthy in Carim and this one is hardly a knight or possesses any sort of honor.” Laurentius did not seem to hear her, either from poor hearing or being completely lost in his own world, “If I were you Nameless, I would refrain from taking on any who would only slow us down or endanger our, but most importantly your, well-being.” She bared her teeth at Laurentius threateningly, a hand on Estoc, “He does not look a hero, besides.”
“What?” Laurentius whispered, returning to the present, “What did you say?”
“Join us.” I repeated, “I like you.” Ilyena gasped in disbelief and Laurentius’ lower lip trembled. Clapping a fist to his chest with shoulders squared the pyromancer stood a bit taller,
“If you should have me Nameless,” He answered clearly, “Then I will!” Was it loyalty or foolishness that drove him to so easily accept without even asking our destination? Or was it something else?
“Chosen Undead,” The great serpent croaked, “I am glad to see you well.” Bulbous orange eyes wary Frampt watched us enter and Ilyena’s shining eyes gobbled the serpent up while Laurentius politely held his nose. I crossed my arms, nodding in greeting, “What brings you to me?” It asked,
“I asked to meet you, Kingseeker.” Ilyena declared before I could speak. Stepping forward and dropping to one knee, a hand on Estoc, she bowed her head before the Kingseeker. Laurentius looked at me, as if questioning he do the same, and I shook my head,
“Lady Darkling,” Frampt sneered with disgust, “If you are here then you have abandoned your post. What cause could a Firekeeper have for leaving their sacred duty?” Ilyena tensed. Face down. I could not see her expression though I doubted she had expected this, “Chosen Undead, you have brought her here? This has never happened before, explain to me your reasoning and motivations!” Frampt snapped, large eyes locked on me with blatant suspicion. I knew to speak carefully.
Frampt, mouthpiece of the gods, was the last one I should admit my intentions to, the act akin to a declaration of war. If I told him the truth or asked for council he would, without a doubt, betray me as a threat to prolonging the Age of Fire. The wisest course of action would be to excuse myself, tell the serpent I would return with the two remaining Great Souls, and diffuse the situation. Nothing would be changed, the risk of discovery lowered, I would be able to continue without fear of an abnormal level of intervention by any outside forces thanks to the illusion of normalcy. No one would know of my new enlightenment.
“Frampt,” Regarding the Kingseeker with a level stare I faced off with the messenger of the gods and said, “Gwynevere is gone.” To hell with illusions and lies they only brewed deceit and hate. Under no circumstance would a lie, no matter how small, serve a purpose other than to manipulate and control. If people and gods did not lie there would be no loss of knowledge or growing ignorance. All would know one-another’s place. Conflict and disagreement would take place in full view of others and be settled without dispute. No more illusions. No more politics. No more power struggles. Everything wrong with the world began from a lie. I knew there were gaps in my reasoning, discrepancies, loop-holes, but in a world of liars, cowards, and crooks, the only solution was to start over. There was no way to truly fix what the gods had done, only destroy. Though was I right for the task? I could be wrong,
“You…” Kingseeker Frampt gaped, “What? How can this be?” Utterly flabbergasted Frampt shook his head back and forth, long beard-like lengths of flesh swaying, “How did this come about Chosen Undead?” He demanded, “What sort of thing would be so evil?” Without fear I met Frampt’s eyes.
Perhaps there were no real truths? Every man and woman each different. Whether or not they believed was a matter of their own perspective using what they’d learned in life or wanted from it. A truth, then, was nothing more than a desire, things humanity wanted, craved, needed. Truth was Humanity. Lips twisting into a terrible sneer behind my mask of black cloth I found reason. Besides, if all I did was think about my predicament nothing would happen. Action decided the future, not thought.
“I, Kingseeker,” Spoke a single undead man clad in black steel touched by the world’s flame, “Would be so evil.”
Always two clear sides.
Good and Evil.
Light and Dark.
Fire and Shadow.
Truth and Lies.
Humanity and its Truth, the Gods and their Lies.
Yet, without fail, there was always an unnamed third:
The Furtive Pygmy.
To most there were two paths on the crossroad I had come to. Two starting points, two ending points; two choices, two outcomes; While I knew there was always a third, if not more, I stepped off into the abyssal black of the unknown walking a path none ever had before. I would never find what humans called glory or recognition for such an unprecedented act. I would never go down into the annals of history aside from vague misplaced hints, a wispy phantom impossible to ever see.
I was no hero.
I was something far worse.
Artorias’ greatsword slid from its sheath as I walked towards Ilyena, Frampt and mine’s eyes holding steady,
“We’re leaving.” I ordered, putting a hand on her shoulder. She did not move, “Kingseeker.” I said chin held high regarding the beast. Frampt’s eyes narrowed,
“You sorry fool...” He hissed after a moment, “You could not be the chosen one.” Pulling Ilyena up I pushed her at Laurentius, the man squeaking as she collided with him. He squeezed his eyes shut, remaining still, but Ilyena did not protest. Silent and limp in his arms, “Enough… I shall slumber, until I am awakened again.” Frampt began to descend. Stepping up to the edge I snarled,
“Coward!” Snorting at me as he went, Primordial Serpent Kingseeker Frampt sank into the darkness of the large trap door. I stood over the hole, Artorias’ Greatsword in hand. A painful yip and loud thud brought me to turn around.
Laurentius, sat on his rear, glared at Ilyena with a hurt look while Ilyena herself faced away from me towards the door,
“I have sinned.” She whispered, “Betrayed the gods.” Storming over to Ilyena I seized her arm, spinning the knight around ready to scream when the words died in my throat. Tears streamed down her cheeks, mucus oozing from her nose, crystal sapphires tinged red, “I am no better than him.” She hiccuped. I didn’t need her confirmation to know she was talking about Laurentius, “A coward, a traitor, I am worthless scum.” Falling forward her forehead thudded against my chestplate, “They used me, hurt me, treated me like nothing more than a pawn and yet I… I!” Head whipping back, Ilyena screamed her fury and confusion to the heavens, “DAMMIT!”
I remained silent warning Laurentius to do the same with a sharp glance, the man still on his ass looking like a lost puppy. It was possible he was much wiser than he let on but despite such a dark thought I still trusted him. Maybe it was because he made me smile?
Sighing heavily Ilyena spun on her heel and plopped roughly onto the stump of a broken column, “Nameless?” She wheezed. I eased down to the stone floor in front of her and crossed my legs. I urged her to continue with a hand, “Was it this hard to remember what it is to be human? Did it hurt this much?” Ilyena groaned. Sniffing she wiped her nose with an arm, snot streaking the leather armor, “What was it like to be… to be undead then… then suddenly remember what you lost?” The blue crystals begged for salvation, to make everything stop.
I was not a motivational speaker or a very positive thinker but I would try my damndest, summoning what little charisma and bravery I had,
“You cry.” I coughed. Reaching up I pulled the black hood and cloth back, exposing my face I smiled, “You hurt. You remember.”
“Will it stop? Will I forget?” Ilyena hiccuped, sapphire eyes meeting my own,
“No,” I growled, head shaking, “Always remember things lost, it is life.” Sitting forward I put a gauntlet over my chest, “A silent heart does not mean a silent life.” I motioned to her breast, “You live yet are called undead.” She stopped sobbing, instead hiccuping at odd intervals. Thrilled, I began to gather momentum, “We live, Ilyena, because we are undead.” Taking her hands I got to my knees, pressing her frozen palms against my icy cheeks, “We are so-called lifeless. Why do we live then? Cold as death what reason is there that we feel emotion, pain, sadness, love?” She sniffed at me, hiccups and tears past, “We are not human, we are undead. We are still the same, but different.” I struggled to convey my thoughts to her, staring into Ilyena’s sapphire eyes for a time lost to me. They were so pretty,
“Wow.” Heads turning, Ilyena and I looked to Laurentius, “That was beautiful.” He whispered. If my heart beat I’d be blushing. I had changed much more than I’d ever believed, maybe I was a hero? Not once had I been one of good luck or a bringer of good fortune, unless I feed them false hope? I did not know,
“Pyromancer,” Ilyena murmured, “I cannot believe what I am saying, but I agree with you completely.” Blinking several times, I looked back and forth between them when like twin suns rising at dawn two blinding smiles lit the faces of Laurentius and Ilyena. Their warmth even thawed my own winter somewhat,
“So!” Laurentius exclaimed, standing to dust himself off, “Seeing as I am now part of this group I’d say it’s about time you lot inform me of this destination of ours!” Hands set firmly on his hips Laurentius looked up at the clouds confidently, “A fine day to be adventuring! Where to then?” Chuckling, I joined him in standing,
“New Londo.” I answered, offering a hand to Ilyena. She accepted it with a grunt, clearing her throat with a loud gurgle and spitting,
“New Londo?” Laurentius’ confidence faltered,
“Of course,” Ilyena cut in with a grin, “Scared?”
“Yes!” He yelped, “Aren’t you?!” Ilyena twitched, glancing at me before puffing out her chest,
“Never, I am a knight in service to Nameless, he himself without fear! How could I hope to-”
“I am afraid.” I interrupted. Ilyena halted. She and Laurentius turned to me slowly, looked at one-another a moment, and then started walking towards the New Londo lift. Following after I replaced the hood and mask.
I wasn’t lying, though I might have been afraid for reasons that differed from my two companions. I did not fear death since I was death itself, literally. I held a much greater fear of losing my two new followers, as well as questioning my right to try and essentially end the world among other things. Granted these thoughts didn’t last long, but they were potent enough to manifest as fear.
I stopped in front of the Firekeeper just below the bonfire, Laurentius and Ilyena still walking. Dress brown and crumbling the woman sat, legs folded elegantly to one side beneath her skirt, hands clasped in her lap, golden hair tied off in a bun at the nape of her neck. Head hanging in what appeared to be defeat, ignoring me as I watched her through the rusty bars that separated us, she sat without so much as a twitch. I opened my mouth to speak,
“Nameless?” Head jerking up I met Ilyena’s eyes, “Is something wrong?” She asked, lump forming in my throat I looked back at the silent Firekeeper,
“I…” Forgotten importance, even restored memories hidden away in the depths of my mind without answer, tugged at me. I remembered much more now than before but this woman was still unknown on the whole. The bell had been rung, yet she lived. Why did she live? Strange, that the most recent memories of this newest cycle were so hard to find,
“Nameless?” Concerned, Ilyena put a hand on my shoulder, “Speak.” She did not look at the Firekeeper, that had to mean something. I pointed at the caged woman. Ilyena’s eyes slid over the bars unseeing,
“The cage? It’s empty.” That clinched it,
“No.” I growled and stood. Ilyena frowned, squinting between the bars as if she was missing something. The woman was an illusion, yet the Bonfire was lit. Was she hidden from others but not me? Was the illusion only specific to me or was this the real Firekeeper I saw but not others.
“Oh, she’s gone?” Ilyena and I looked at an equally perplexed Laurentius, “But if she’s gone why’s the Bonfire still burning? I’d never thought to check otherwise.” He thought out loud. Growling in frustration I ground my teeth, the gods were pulling strings again. Looking skyward I glared past the blue haze at a world I hungered for. The gods were getting sloppy.
If I could see her but not the others it was far more likely that I was meant to be tricked and not them. What was the point in hiding a Firekeeper from undead who cared only for the Bonfire she kept lit? The Bonfire was still lit so there was no point to miss the Firekeeper.
Anastacia, her name. They’d taken her for a reason, something vital, but Laurentius had not noticed the change so I couldn’t ask him when or how it happened. I wracked my brain, what could it have been? She’d called herself filthy, revolting, her tongue removed for speaking the name of a god, or more, in vain. A rebel. I slammed a fist against the cliff.
How could I have missed that?! She probably knew more than she should and I ever would. If I could find her and properly question her now that I’d stepped off the beaten path Anastacia might prove to be invaluable. Though where had she been taken? What loophole could I hope to find in the perfect web that had been crafted for my incarceration? Who else would stand with me against the gods?
Child of the Dark.
Spinning on my heel I strode briskly to the lift that lead down to New Londo, Ilyena and Laurentius hurrying after. Darkstalker Kaathe would have much to answer for. What if the other Firekeepers were involved? In fact, what if the other Chosen Undead I’d summoned to assist in battles past, or their phantoms I’d sometimes see, were also involved? Ilyena had memories of them when I had reversed her hollowing which meant I might not be the only one in the cycle.
What if the gods had thousands of Chosen?
What if I was the first to discover their hubris?
I was naive to think I was the key to everything, and stupid to believe the solution so easy as to kill gods. Things were getting out of hand.