Chapter 37 - Demon
Laurentius snorted as he woke, rubbing his sore forehead. What a peculiar dream. Those four men he had seen who were they? And the women that followed them reminded him of Firekeepers. Strangest of all though was that Nameless seemed to be among them. Then there was that woman standing with Nameless, Laurentius tried to recall her features but found himself unable to. The timid pyromancer wondered if he had seen something he shouldn’t have, accidentally or intentionally. Shaking his head Laurentius looked up from his comfortable nook in the tree roots next to Firelink Shrine Bonfire. The Darkmoon, or Ex-Darkmoon, Ilyena was admiring a plain broadsword, her own weapon sheathed at her waist. He sat back against the tree trunk and looked up at the sky. What was his role in all of this?
Sure he was a pyromancer, one of the best in fact, and he owed Chosen Unde -er- Nameless a great deal. Laurentius earnestly wished to help him in his quest or duty. No man, woman, or undead ever cared for him as much as Nameless. Usually they screamed and ran, shunned and spat, accused and hunted. Typically people believed a pyromancer was better off dead. Nameless didn’t appear to care though, welcoming Laurentius with open arms. Yet he spoke of legendary gods and heroes, abominations and villains as if they were nothing more than the everyday. That wasn’t entirely fair, Lordran itself a legendary kingdom, but still for Nameless to be so matter-of-fact about such mythical things…. It scared Laurentius. He was a simple undead trying to get by, unable to die from the passing of time but just as vulnerable to a sword as any man. His existence was a humble one, to avoid Hollowing and live peacefully while honing his pyromancy. If he followed Nameless on his path of bravery and myth Laurentius feared he would be swept up by it all either as a heroic sacrifice or another minor death in the great Odyssey Nameless created. People always died so the hero could go on, and in Laurentius’ eyes he was the perfect image of a heroic sacrifice. He could almost imagine himself lying dead on a massive battlefield among countless bodies. Laurentius shook himself, pushing the thought aside and looking back at the knight Ilyena.
She danced about, broadsword flashing in the sunlight as it cut down unseen foes. The knight carried an air of perfect grace and composure, and the broadsword seemed so out of place being wielded with such careful artistry. Watching her fight was like watching a painter craft a masterpiece, mesmerizing. How did she manage to make it look so easy, so fluid and perfect?
“Bored?” Laurentius asked. Her crystal blue eyes met his, obvious disdain and loathing present in her current opinion of him by how her expression twisted. She tried to hide it, badly, but Laurentius had seen too many masks for them to work anymore besides. He always knew when someone hated him,
“I suppose so pyromancer.” She spat, “One would naturally grow anxious while their Lord is out fighting.” Laurentius looked down, mental gears refusing to stop turning,
“Are we really able to help?” He asked aloud more to himself than anyone else,
“Of course we are able to help.” Ilyena snarled slashing the broadsword through the air, “I am his Knight and you are… you.” You are you? What if that wasn’t enough for him? Nameless was Chosen Undead, THE Chosen Undead, a hero. Laurentius was, well, himself. To him that wasn’t much at all and it certainly wasn’t enough to help Nameless or really anyone for that matter. He sighed,
“Right. But aren’t we just slowing him down? We both went down there and it’s like…” He trailed off,
“It’s like we left something there.” Ilyena finished for him. He didn’t answer. Those bodies, all those bodies. Laurentius had never seen so many in one place and the smell, gods the smell. Such horrors existed only in fables and stories told around a fading campfire in the middle of the night. For them to hold a place in reality… Laurentius began wondering if there were worse things than death. Stewing in his own thoughts the pyromancer watched the Bonfire hoping Nameless would get back soon.
Ilyena looked over her shoulder as they left Firelink at the strange undead that called herself Orlai. She wore the same black armor as Nameless, reminiscent of the Silver Knights that once guarded the now empty Anor Londo. She carried a black shield and longsword, shield the same as Nameless’. Her head was bare, skin cracked and brown, every bit the appearance of a Hollowed One, except for those sparkling jade eyes. Those eyes were intelligent, and Ilyena saw more than she wanted in them.
This woman did know Nameless. The way she watched his back caused Ilyena to feel a stab of jealousy and how she carried herself reminded Ilyena of Nameless, both giving off similar auras. Ilyena could see, plain as day, this woman and Nameless had a connection on a very intimate level, at least this Orlai seemed to think so. Yet if they were so obviously acquainted why was Nameless acting as if he’d never met this Orlai? Ilyena admittedly felt something off about him as she and Laurentius followed him inside the church and past the large trap door Frampt once inhabited. He hadn’t asked anything about the broadsword he gave her as a promise for his return. In fact he hadn’t spoken a single word or any form of greeting. Wouldn’t he have smiled and welcomed them? Wouldn’t he have apologized for leaving and informed them of their next task? He seemed so cold and aloof now. Ilyena stepped a little faster, catching up to Nameless,
“Sir, is everything alright?” She asked as they climbed a set of stairs out of the church. He ignored her, greatsword sheathed on his back and shield at his side, marching briskly to the top of the stairs. Ilyena stood at the stop of the stairs, looking out over a large cemetery that ran along the cliffside, “Sir?” She repeated, louder this time. He walked down another set of stairs into the cemetery as if Ilyena wasn’t even there. Ilyena pressed a hand against her chest subconsciously, as if to cover a wound. What had happened to her savior, her Truth? Her jaw tightened, “Nameless please, wait!” She called drawing the broadsword and jogged in front of him, blocking the way. Nameless stopped and she held up the broadsword, “Do you see this?” She pressed, “You gave me this before you left to give back when you returned.” Hood hiding his eyes, head tilted forward, he said nothing. Ilyena stepped closer, “Nameless?” One of his claw-like gauntlets reached up. Hope bloomed in Ilyena and she offered the broadsword’s handle, but the claw rose past the weapon and over his shoulder...
And smoothly drew Artorias’ Greatsword.
Orlai was stupefied, watching Chosen go without so much as a word. Was this a different dimension? A different Chosen? He looked exactly the same as he always had, armor, hood, sword and shield, everything besides those rancid eyes. Was this a test, a trick? Had she not yet escaped from the gods, this them trying to turn her away using him in some sort of illusion or magic? What had they done to him? What twisted evil had they subjected him to?! He loved her, she knew this! She knew he was hers, Chosen had no one else! He belonged to Orlai what could have - Orlai blinked. The woman with the blue eyes. She had done something to him, something with him, that damned bitch! Orlai grit her teeth, jealous rage overflowing. She would take her Chosen back, she hadn’t come so far or suffered so much to simply give in. Chosen had fallen in love with Orlai once already and she would force him to remember it. Flames swelled, enveloping her.
Firelink Shrine began to burn.
Laurentius coughed blood. Saving a life hurt.
He was sprawled on top of Ilyena, her blue crystal eyes wide with shock, and excruciating pain ripped his back open. Skeletons had attacked from nowhere, jumping Ilyena from behind and Laurentius had saved her with a tackle but not without consequence. He didn’t know why he’d jumped between the woman who hated him and the skeleton, though saving a life seemed a pretty good reason. Ilyena looked at at him, sapphires reflecting the sun beautifully,
“Pyromancer…” She murmured in a daze, “What are you doing?” Laurentius cracked a painful grin,
“Being a hero?” The edges of his vision began to darken. Laurentius fell forward into Ilyena’s arms and she pulled him up, gently cradling his head,
“You fool.” She hissed, “You’re going to die.” Laurentius managed a single laugh,
“Better me than you right?” Ilyena tensed. Wrapping her arms around him, careful not to touch his wound, she embraced the dying pyromancer
“You fool,” her voice trembled, “Why would you do this after I….”
“Because,” Laurentius coughed, “It’s the right thing to do.” He looked up into Ilyena’s watering sapphires, “We’re heroes after all.”
“Heroes?” Ilyena and Laurentius turned. Nameless stood over them, crushed remains of the skeletons behind him. His eyes were a chilling abyssal black, “You are heroes?” He asked again. Laurentius smiled weakly,
“Well, no, it’s just something to make me feel better.”
“Stop talking,” Ilyena chided the pyromancer, reaching into her pack for what Laurentius assumed was medical supplies, “You’ll make it worse.” He shrugged indifferently,
“You are a hero though Nameless.” Laurentius continued, “You are someone who saves people and lives.” A wave of pain made him shiver, “I can only die when I save people.” Nameless knelt down, head tilted curiously to one side,
“I am a hero?” He repeated emotionlessly. Laurentius nodded jerkily,
“My hero.” He whispered. Nameless blinked,
“But I will not save you.” He stated, “There is no reason. I am not a hero.” They both stared at him. The man in black stood and turned, walking deeper into the cemetery,
“YOU ARE A HERO!” Laurentius screamed desperately , “AND I DON’T KNOW WHAT HAPPENED DOWN THERE,” the pyromancer struggled to his feet, Ilyena too stunned to react, “BUT YOU AREN’T MY HERO! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH HIM?!” Nameless stopped several feet away. Slowly, deliberately, the man in black faced Ilyena and Laurentius, and removed his mask. Both undead froze.
A Demon smiled at them, eyes each a swirling abyss, skin lifeless white, teeth razor sharp, lips curled back in a disgusting sneer. Black smoke leaked from its armor, eyes, and mouth, Artorias’ Greatsword turning a cursed black. The Demon swelled in size becoming a gigantic phantom of abyssal smoke and hooded billowing robes, Artorias’ Greatsword warping into a cruel scythe. Wide-eyed and awestruck Ilyena’s voice spoke without consent,
“Who are you?” Words bursting forth as if ripped forcibly from her throat. The god-like terror peered down at the knight, something within its hood watching her with a slimy, disgusting gaze,
“Nameless are we who hunt the Ascendant.” Boomed that which knew itself as Fate.