Chapter 35 - Fate
Orlai spun around and drew her sword. A corpse leaned against a blank wall. Blinking in surprise she squinted suspiciously, hadn’t it been a door? She had just heard it slam. Stepping up to the mossy gray stone she ran a hand up and down the wall but found nothing,
“I don’t have time for tricks!” She shouted turning away from the wall and instead of the hall found a closed door. She suddenly stood in a small cell, an opening above letting pale light in. Teeth grinding Orlai stepped over another corpse and threw the door open to the same dingy hallway she’d seen just before leaving the closet in the palace. Other cell doors were set within either side of the hall at intervals of five feet or so. It seemed familiar. Moving through the doorway she stepped on something that cracked loudly. Looking down Orlai’s silver boot rested firmly on a small wooden doll. Cocking an eyebrow she leaned down and retrieved the small thing. Colored ancient gray, all of its paint and detail scuffed off from wear and tear, a featureless face stared blankly up at her. Well-kept hair stopped at the doll’s shoulders, neatly combed bangs trimmed just above the forehead. It wore a one-piece sleeveless dress, cloth frayed in some places but still holding strong despite its apparent age. The craftsman had paid special attention to the limbs, each hand possessing five fully mobile fingers, two arms and legs all long and thin and easily manipulated. The feet were simple triangles. Doll somehow undamaged from her boot Orlai turned it over carefully as she examined it, “What are you doing in a place like this?” She wondered aloud. The little wooden doll plucked faintly at the strings of her heart, “Do I know you?” It reminded her of something, or someone?
“Is this Astra I have found?” Orlai jumped back, sword whipping up she pointed it at a figure in dirty brown robes. Head low, face hidden by a deep hood, the figure bowed in greeting,
“Who the hell’re you,” Orlai spat, “And how do you know-” She paused, Astra’s memory sparking, “Sunam?” The figure cocked his head and chuckled,
“Then you are not Astra but another?” He asked, “Odd.” His voice sounded like dry sandpaper dragged over rough wood. He stepped closer and Orlai jabbed the air meaningfully with her sword stopping him,
“You stay right there.” She warned, “Astra may have trusted you but I sure as shit don’t. Where am I? Are you Sunam? Did you bring me here?”
“I am Sunam and no I did not bring you here.” He replied calmly, “This is a safe place, that is all you need to know. It would be polite to give your own name.” Orlai scowled,
“To hell with that. If you didn’t bring me here then tell me who did.”
“Are you not a knight?” Sunam countered, “Are you not a warrior of honor? Give me your name. Is something so trivial so difficult?”
“Screw you,” She fired, “Who sent me here? Answer or die.” She gestured with the sword and he barked a laughed,
“Die? You are a fool.” Orlai’s anger sparked,
“I will kill you.” She growled, “Answer my questions.”
“Why not answer my own first?”
“I don’t have all day!” She yelled taking a step closer, “Talk!” Sunam waved an arm,
“Sadly, though I have always enjoyed conversations with you Astra, time is not a luxury either of us have.” Lightning lanced through Orali from the small wooden doll. She dropped her sword, instinctively clutching her hand with the doll sucking air through clenched teeth. She shook her hand violently but the doll would not fall. She seized it, trying to pull the doll off but to no avail.
Colors and lights darted across her vision. A great white shining city empty of people high upon a mountain that became dead catacombs deep below the earth filled with walking corpses. A single flame burned in a furious maelstrom that filled the world with vibrant life and bright light. Thousands of years and hundreds of thousands of faces burned away as the dark encroached upon the dying flame, its bearer withering beneath the infinite passing of time as it weathered him until only ashes and a single cinder remained; Chosen Undead.
Find the Chosen Undead, whispered the rickety voice of an old man, Stop the Darkness from consuming our lands. A dark figure entered her view cradling a small candle flame in cruelly shaped black claws. Soft light from the candle lit a hollow face its dead black eyes piercing through Orlai. The figure vanished replaced by a decaying corpse that went up in a burst of flame, ashes wafting through the air, falling gently upon dunes of ash around her. Trees and flowers sprouted along with towering cities, laughing people, and vibrant forests; a lush land.
Find The Chosen Undead.
Orlai staggered, gasping in shock as she was thrown back into reality,
“Bastard!” She managed and snatched her sword off the ground. Moving forward her legs gave out folding beneath her. Orlai sucked her teeth in annoyance,
“Even a god cannot challenge fate, Child.” Sunam rumbled. Orlai snarled ferociously and forced her body to obey. Protesting loudly her muscles wailed, bones resonating with electric agony crying out for relief she would not offer. Shoving the pain aside Orlai forced herself to stand. Sunam hesitated as she got to her feet, “Stubborn girl.” He grunted.
White clouds drifted beneath her, warm breeze swirling through her jet black hair. The child floated through a bright blue sky looking down at the world far below from a shimmering palace of golden sunlight. A grand mountain range stretched beneath her host to a shining city of white and gold, green forests and roads packed with the smiling faces of humanity. It was massive the distance from one wall to another several miles and each building stood over ten stories tall large spires of gold atop them. At the city’s center a great palace reached high into the sky its boundless authority dominating as its gold encrusted marble arches, spires, and walls showcased limitless wealth. Here the greatest minds performed feats of magic and philosophy that knew no bounds and the most legendary heroes and heroines honed their skill.
Beneath a ring of stone walls and towns connected to the city above surrounded the mountain. Within the walls lay another city with taverns aplenty and music never ceasing that welcomed travelers from near and far; a cluster of culture and merriment. Adventurers traveled to these stalwart laughing walls that guarded the marble ramparts above in search of the glory that had come to countless men and women before them.
Brave and bright the people strode through the streets of the city and towns proudly singing the praises of the land of prosperity and strength, the land of Lordran.
The child wished to join them.
Astra wish to join them.
Orlai bit her lip struggling to fight the visions. A drop of blood dribbled down her chin but it was nothing compared to her temples seeming to split in two, searing heat boiled her veins and flesh,
“What is this?!” She snarled. Legs buckling again she fell to her knees. Roaring furiously Orlai battled against her own body,
“Fate.” Sunam coughed and reached out an arm shrouded by his dirty brown robes, skeletal hand exposed. Orlai swiped her sword shredding his sleeve but ricocheting off his bone as if she’d struck steel. Her eyes widened as Sunam drew closer,
“Don’t touch me!” Orlai screamed and overhanded the sword but to her shock and horror it burst into glittering shards, “No!” She fell onto her back. Frantic, she threw her shield. It bounced off his side and skidded across the stone floor. Numb legs digging valleys in the thin layer of dust covering the floor as she frantically crawled away Orlai cried out in terror, “No!”
A harrowing blizzard wailed, wind battering Orlai as she stumbled through deep snow drifts. She tried to call out but the storm stole her voice drowning it out with its own sorrowful wails. Abruptly all fell silent, blizzard clearing. Land of white and grey, long rolling hills bare of trees and covered in frozen dust an icy breeze cut through her armor, sky obscured by cloud cover and falling snow. Orlai looked up. A small girl stood atop the hill above watching. Golden eyes that held deep wisdom far beyond her years fixed upon Orlai and a small pair of ivory horns grew from her eyebrows. 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 very same doll Orlai held in her gauntlet. Orlai knew this child,
“Priscilla?” Whirling winds and snow swallowed them.
Orlai screamed, body aflame and doll still glued to her hand,
“Do not fight.” Sunam scolded, “Give in to fate and the omnipotent gods who predict it. Know your place Child.”
“Screw you!” Orlai kicked, Sunam staggering and hood falling back. A bare skull, eye sockets hollow and dark save for red glowing irises, stared blankly at her. Orlai froze,
“Behold Child,” Sunam mocked jaw clicking, “I am death.” An imaginary blade pierced her chest.
Orlai could hardly believe she’d agreed to do this. The first swordsman planted his feet sheltering behind a ruined shield and thrust his sword at her midsection. She swung with all her might, batting the sword aside and shouldered into the shield, knocking the undead back. She stumbled, eyes still fixed on her foe, and haphazardly whipped her sword through the air slicing his chest open in a burst of red. With a triumphant shout momentum carried her off-balance and crashing into the ground. Rolling to her knees as the lifeless body of her foe fell her courage surged. She could do this, she could win! Orlai scrambled to her feet and deflected the next swordsman’s sword with her own. A disembodied torso of another hollowed undead flew over the head of the one she was currently fighting. A greatsword of blue steel slicked with crimson flashed in the sunlight as it sliced through the air and any that dare oppose it. She had trained with the man in black for this very moment,
Keep your stance solid yet dynamic, the small of your body turned to the enemy, don’t give them a target.
His words echoed in her ears as she bumbled and fumbled struggling to get around the swordsman’s shield. Suddenly he advanced, shield smashing into her and throwing her to the ground. She rolled back to her feet, looking up to just barely swat his blade away. He was already swinging his shield. She braced, feet planted firmly. Stars flashing she gasped as a blade pierced her stomach lifting her several inches into the air for a brief instant. She keeled over, knees bruising on the hard stone. A feint? What had happened? The red glowing eyes of the swordsman glared down at her as she fell to her knees staring at the blade wedged in her stomach. Blood and bodily fluids pouring from the wound and she was frozen with shock. The head of the swordsman landed on the ground to her left and its body collapsed releasing the hilt of the sword still lodged in her. The man in black crouched down and she looked up at him unable to speak. His soulless eyes looked over her, the pity in them evident,
“It hurts,” She whimpered, “It hurts,” Tears streamed down her cheeks as she weakly grasped the blade, crying out as it moved within her body. She withdrew her hands and clenched them into fists. She didn’t want to die. It hurt. Her stomach hurt. She didn’t want to die. Her vision flickered, color beginning to fade from the world.
“NOT AGAIN!” Orlai wailed. Fire burst from her filling the hall. Sunam paid no heed, stepping through the flames as his robes were incinerated until nothing but a skeleton of bleached bone advanced. The flames did not touch him. Silver armor scorched charcoal black, flesh burning and blood bubbled cooking in the armor, Orlai was consumed by the fires of her soul. Overwhelmed she slipped into darkness.
Skin paper white and decorated with scars, lips pale of color but perfectly sculpted in thin delicate curves, high cheekbones framing his closed eyes with their excellent ridges accented by long thick eyelashes any woman would envy, chin curving gently in a gradual “U” as if crafted by a master sculptor, cheeks sloped delicately in soft grades and neck reminiscent of a thick unbreakable pillar of marble, Orlai could not help staring. This man was beautiful.
She resurfaced, Sunam’s fingers closed around her head in an unbreakable grip fingertips piercing her scalp,
“Stop...” She grumbled weakly, “Bastard...” Vision muddled, eyes stinging, doll magma, body melting, bathed in the very fire of her soul, Orlai held firm. Sunam’s Eyeless sockets looked down at her through the blazing fires, red irises mimicking those of candle flame. Swallowed by the abyss in his sockets and everlasting evil in his iries Orlai was helpless to resist.
“Yes, you do well.” It assured teeth clacking and joints creaking as its jaw opened and closed, “Not much longer now.” Her suffering intensified but she fought on.
“Do you remember?”
Orlai stood upon cotton clouds in the blue sky. To her right a short girl with long black hair dressed in flame, eyes black, skin snow white. To her right a massive woman dressed in white fur a crest of horns on her forehead and tail poking out from a furry dress of white. She held a massive scythe in hand. The two nodded to Orlai. Others materialized behind them that she could not fully see as if they were phantoms.
“Do you remember?” Orlai turned. A bulky man stood before her, red and yellow sun emblazon proudly upon his chest. He wore a bucket-like helmet decorated by a single red feather and simple baggy white clothes trimmed in leaf green. His voice was an earthquake, “Do you remember?” He repeated, “Do you know who it is you are?” The sun suddenly broke through the clouds at his back blinding her. He stretched his arms to the heavens in a”V” and stood upon the tips of his toes, “Do you praise the sun?!” He boomed. She threw up a hand squinting against his brilliance. The Chosen’s words echoed at the back of her mind,
Great warriors praise the sun.
“Sunbro?” She murmured.
“Good,” The skeleton leered overhead, fingers stroking her chin, “You are nearly done.” Orlai whimpered in response. Tears oozed from her eyes evaporating instantly. Why was this happening? What could she do? Who was she, what was she, nothing made sense. She’d put on a brave face, stayed strong and fierce, unfazed and fearless, never admitting defeat. Gods, heroes, villains, good, evil, the fate of the world? None existed she fear. This lie vanished in the face of her own self-doubt.
She was just a girl lost in Lordran.
“Who are you?” The woman looked down at a man dressed in strange raggedy robes,
“I don’t know.” She answered, “Who are you?” The man frowned,
“Laurentius, what do you mean you don’t know?” She shook her head and smiled,
“Why are you here? Are you lost?” She asked. He shrugged, blushing slightly,
“I dunno, just sort of ended up here you know? I was looking for something.” Scratching his head the man lit a flame in his hand, eyes shimmering dangerously in its light, “Power I think. Power to make them pay.” The flame disgusted the woman, a tainted and revolting thing that needed to be stamped out yet she could feel a heart beating beneath. Hidden within the taint a small heart of pure fire pulsed true,
“You are lost.” The woman said, “So lost you cannot call forth the flames in your heart.”
“What?” Laurentius raised an eyebrow. The woman reached through the chaos in his heart and grasped his flame,
“I free you.” She whispered and gently cupped his cheeks with her hands. Bringing him close she embraced the man called Laurentius and summoned the World’s Flame.
Orlai squeezed her eyes shut. Just let it end, nothing mattered anymore there was no reason to even bother. Why wouldn’t these visions stop? She didn’t care, why did she ever in the first place? What point was there in trying when it only brought sadness and suffering? What logic was there in subjugating herself to this? What did she fight for that was so precious?
Orlai watched as the man in black fought gigantic wraiths of silver, swords burning with flames of virulent purple that swallowed the man as he desperately defended against their onslaught. After ever strike she saw his body quake, bending so close to breaking time and time again. She could not move or speak, unable to shout or assist. Struggling against chains she could not see Orlai yearned to fight back, to protect him. She refused to be nothing more than a damsel, a gem, something to be protected. She would stand at his side and support him, help him. He fell to his knee, sword of purple flame crashing down upon him mercilessly. She knew he could not take another.
“NO!” Orlai burst from her chains and struck the wraith.
In a flash she reached through the flame, gauntlet burned black, and closed cruel unforgiving talons around Sunam’s throat,
“Get,” She snarled, “Off.” Hurling Sunam across the hall he crashed against the wall, bones fracturing,
“You dare!” Sunam screeched, “Yield to me scum!” Orlai, with a newfound strength, lept up and tackled him. Seizing Sunam’s spine just under his chin she bared her teeth at him. Struggling against the agony coming from the doll glued in her left hand Orlai rallied her willpower and took hold,
“You will stop.” She demanded as the fires burned her. Slamming him against the wall she pressed, “Sunam!” She roared. The skeleton’s permanent grin answered her,
“Wake up,” It creaked, “Duty calls.”
“Fuck you.” Orlai sneered and slammed her forehead against Sunam’s skull.
“The gods and world are dying, so few true descendents of the blood remain while the living fall into oblivion. Astora is dead, only those gathered here and I remain.” Orlai could not see the speaker, all was white, “This war of Gods has destroyed everything. Firstborn’s betrayal is proof: we must seal them all, only Light and Dark may remain.” The voice was deep,
“But what of him?” A different voice but equally deep,
“He will be our guard, our catalyst.” Answered the first, “He is immortal after-all, frozen in time, undying yet already dead, the perfect choice.”
“Yes but how will we control him?” Asked the second, “How will we control the very thing that brought all of this about?”
“Memories my Lord,” Said a third, “Memories and you. If he is frozen in time then so must the seal, the world.”
“But is that not the same as the end?” Asked a fourth, “A world where time never moves forward, always repeating, how can such a thing be considered living?”
“You would have us let it end then?” The first boomed, “Though the chances of salvation are nigh impossible you would rather oblivion?” Silence answered, “It is decided, begin the ritual.”
The doll went cold, falling from her hand down the stone floor. Orlai’s flames vanished.
“After so many,” Sunam murmured, “I am beaten.” His skull cracked, dust trickling out from inside, “Princess of Gods,” He said softly. Body turning to ash and falling through her fingers, “Know this: Nothing is ever as it seems.” He collapsed in a puff of ash. Orlai stared dumbly at the smattering of ashes in the palm of her gauntlet. Duty crashed down upon her shoulders, shoving her to her knees.
Chosen Undead, the man in black, keeps the world alive with the limitless vitality of his warped Dark Soul. Without end he ventures through the false world known as Lordran keeping reality itself intact. Dying and being reborn again and again endlessly he solemnly performs his duty without question. He is meant to be mindless, void of personality or cognitive thought other than Linking the Flame; A puppet. Those who inhabit this world are undead, humans afflicted with his same abilities. Should they perish these undead return after the next Linking of the Flame unlike the Chosen who is utterly immortal and always revives thanks to the power of Bonfires. By killing gods and taking their souls, or those considered to be gods, does the Chosen Undead constantly strengthen his soul into proper tinder meant to Link the Flame, process becoming more and more difficult. After each cycle he becomes more powerful, true self growing clearer, more dangerous. Once Chosen Undead held morals, emotions, thoughts, wishes, aspirations, questions, a human soul; He lived. Now his past self slowly regains dominance. This is inevitable.
Child of Flame was to fix that. She would destroy and replace him. His undying and forever growing soul wore away at the seal in his mind that kept him obedient. Even his own iron will tried to break the gods’ command. Only one possessing great mental and physical strength could ever hope to become Chosen Undead. Controlling such an individual indefinitely was impossible however for how could even gods hope to command one so powerful he could substitute the World’s Flame, constantly giving life to a forever dying world? This greater cycle Child of Flame now began, of killing the Chosen, had already repeated itself innumerable times, he having replaced the Chosen Undead before him a fact. Once he had been a Child of Flame but no more. The evil in Lordran and his Dark Soul has finally broken through driving him mad. He searches for answers, reasons, facts, reality, “truth,” fighting against evil that seeks to bring the end whispering terrible dark words. He questions what he has stood for, for so long.
He does not have the right to question, for he is undead, but regardless his twisted existence is at an end.
Orlai’s eyes opened to the ceiling.
There is a Prophecy, written upon the great gates of Astora the Bright to the land of Gods atop the stairway to heaven, words spoken by Astora himself before his honorable sacrifice to rise above all forever burning gloriously in the sky high.
Clawing at her skull Orlai snatched the doll and sword stumbling blindly to the end of the hall, punching the wall as she walked. She hadn’t escaped but been lead,
“Dammit.” She muttered. Her exit from the palace was planned her efforts wasted. When would she finally succeed with nothing but her own strength? When would she be able to stand alone without any support?.
Immortal and invincible, the Child of Flame, Ruler of Gods, is born.
Great and true, banishing the Dark with a great blaze of courageous glory, the Child of Flame gives voice to hymns of victory, battling against the Dark to head the Sunlight Knights, grossly incandescent warriors of Flame. Just and bright, the Child of Flame stands above all Gods, beasts, and men, lighting the torch of truth the Child of Flame gives cause to the lost and grants divine obliteration to deplorable minions of Dark. Carried by wings of flame, planting the Bonfires of life, the Child of Flame and its Sunlight Knights, in victory, will roar,
The Dark, it is no more!
She ignored the voices picking her way through the ruins of whatever building she had stumbled into. Orlai could feel the man’s presence as she marched. The voices continued.
Immortal and invincible, the Child of Dark, Lord of the Abyss, is reborn.
Humble and confused, the Child of Dark cries tears of black plague, each tainting the world with obsidian poison as those beneath the banner of Flame hunt for the furtive Child of Dark. Forgotten and unseen, it crawls through the depths of the Abyss, heart silent, soul black, traveling aimlessly through time and space pursued by the hungry Flame it waits for the light of its hunters to wane and sputter. Hidden beneath a cloak of shadow and despair the Child of Dark sits patiently for those thought to be born of Flame as the Light’s Bane,
The Dark shall rise once again.
She stood at the precipice outside the Undead Asylum looking out over snow-capped mountains. Her nostrils flared as she breathed the sharp, cold air. Asylum at her back, wind blowing furiously, she sighed. Her body ached from abuse, mind shuddering beneath the new weight it carried. Each step was deliberate and forced, breathing difficult as if she was being suffocated, was this what he suffered, what he endured? How could he stand it? How could he fight it? What willpower and strength did he possess? Only now did she understand what it meant to know, to understand. Carrying the world on his back the Chosen Undead had, for so incomprehensibly long, carried out his Duty. Did it weigh as heavily upon him or had he simply grown used to it? For how long had he gone on like this?
Wings beat the air.
Orlai knew for certain who she was that was not the issue. She had no name except the title Child of Fire much like the Chosen Undead. Without a single shred of doubt she was the Child of Fire fated to kill Chosen Undead, Child of Dark. So why did she reject this? Why did she hesitate from her duty? Why did she not damn him? What kept reminding her she loved him? Orlai denied her status as Child of Fire.
A raven dived from above seizing her in its talons.
Lives tied by unbreakable strings of fate the Children of Fire and Dark shall only realize true power as one, the frozen clock of time resuming its once forgotten journey to a new day.
Orlai gripped her wooden doll. She grumbled nonsensically trying not to focus on the fact that the only thing between her and the ground was the raven’s claws. Despite her commitment doubt swirled. Her teeth grated.
“Do not think,” She chanted, “Act.”