Chapter 38 - To Remember
Birds sang in beautiful tunes, some sharp and quick, others broad and dragging. A soft breeze passed lazily, tickling my cheeks and hair, carrying the gentle scent of flowers in bloom. The shushing of trees rolled over me in a gradual wave, almost lulling me back to sleep. The air was warm, welcoming, filled with peaceful aromas and sensations, assuring me I was safe within the makeshift darkness my closed eyelids imposed. Better not to move, just lie here, wherever here was, and appreciate the sounds of life. Though I was curious. I wondered what could produce these smells, sounds, and sensations I’d never experienced all at once in such beautiful symphony.
My eyes opened.
Trunks of proud oak trees rose above supporting a shaded canopy, green leaves pierced by golden rays of sun. Colorful birds flitted between branches and dived overhead, insects danced on the grass, jumping or flying about in chaotic, blind patterns. The entire forest swayed to and fro, pushed and pulled by gusts of wind. I could see a blue sky between the leaves above, clouds sparsely placed here and there. I lay among the grass, blades pressing against the back of my neck, and watched, listened. No questions or doubts threw themselves at me. No Darkness penetrated the golden rays to assault me relentlessly with lust and desire, not even Duty or Truth called out, demanding attention. I lay on the grass undisturbed by any, not even my own self. Was this peace? How could something so… fulfilling exist? I sat up slowly, body limber and responsive. My hood or mask were gone. I felt refreshed, a sense of… rightness in my chest.
“Good morning.” Chirped a musical voice. Head turning my eyes focused on a
small, smiling, paled skinned girl in a white dress sitting cross-legged, golden eyes glittering, silver hair cut short just above slender shoulders. She looked exactly like a young Priscilla but no tail or horns. The doll perhaps? I blinked, realizing I’d carried the doll with me even after killing Priscilla. Shouldn’t this doll hate me? “I’m glad you’re finally awake, sleepy head.” She giggled, “I thought you’d never wake up.”
“Are you the doll?” I asked, voice strong and clear,
“So you remember now do you?”
“I’m not sure. Are you the doll?”
“Not sure?” She hopped up and sauntered over to me, “Why aren’t you sure?” She looked me up and down, “Is it because you don’t want to remember or aren’t sure what to think?”
“I don’t know.” The girl sucked her teeth in irritation, silver eyebrows knitting together,
“How are you so indecisive?” She scoffed, “Are you sure you’re being honest, to both yourself and me?” Of course. My thoughts were clear, as if viewed on a magical mirror that reflected my mind and so many clashed together in a great war of confusing chaos that no obvious answer presented itself to me. Everything contradicted everything else, no part agreeing with any other. I could not answer her, therefore I could only assume I was unsure. Why did I feel so calm then, as if seeing it all from a distance? I didn’t feel hollow or empty, deprived of humanity and soul. It was a more eased feeling but… not really feeling? I couldn’t describe it, “Hello?” The girl stood on the tips of her toes, face filling my vision, “Anybody home?”
“Where is Priscilla?” I blurted.
“Priscilla?” The girl muttered, taken aback, “We’re talking about you here mister. Are you lying or not?” I shook my head, “So you’re not lying?” I nodded, “Good. I’m the doll, yes.” She grinned and sat down in front of me, “I can tell when people lie you know.” Doll stated proudly, “And I know that you’re not lying.”
“Then why ask?”
“Because,” She smirked, “I wanted to see how honest you are.” I blinked. How honest I am? I can’t recall ever lying or needing to lie. Was there ever a point in lying? It didn’t matter, at least not at the moment, there were more pressing things at hand than considering my own personality,
“Priscilla,” I repeated, “Where is she and why are you here?” I gestured to Doll with a claw, “Shouldn’t you hate me for killing her? I had thought you two were linked, doe she yet live?”
“Hate you?” Doll chirped, “Why would I hate you for killing that abomination?” The forest fell silent, as if holding its breath. What did she say? Abomination? I looked down at the girl, seeing her differently, relaxed peace ebbing from my mind. Dark tendrils licked at me,
“Abomination?” I murmured, “You call her an abomination?” The girl sighed,
“Yes, we are all abominations.” Her eyes flashed, “You are an immortal undead who wields power to surpass gods. You can restore an undead’s humanity, wield the Dark, Link the Flame, how can you be anything else but an abomination?” I hesitated, “Do you think yourself human?”
“I am undead!” I snarled, “I have accepted that!” The girl sat back and cocked her head,
“Truly? Why do you encourage that Darkmoon to be human then? Why do you hold affections for that Orlai woman? Why do you protect the pyromancer?”
“I do not need a reason.” I fired back, “I act on what I want to do. Thinking is pointless, nothing would ever be done.”
“But isn’t a little thought good?” The girl cooed, “Surely you must think, otherwise you’d be nothing more than one of those Hollowed.”
“Of course, but too much thought will only hinder.”
“Then too much action will do what then?” The girl smiled smugly, “You run blindly, come what may, following the feelings and emotions you know so little about.” I tensed, “We both know you are only afraid. You are terrified to think, to ponder, to wonder, to consider, otherwise it will drive you insane.” She stood, golden eyes glaring down at me, “You know that something is confined within your consciousness, begging to burst out into the world. You fear that, should you let yourself think, this twisted self you have become will be destroyed by whatever the something is you keep sealed within the depths of your mind.” Voices whispered, “And you know it is not entirely good, or entirely evil. The strength to fell great beasts of myth, the iron will that keeps Lordran living through you, neither of these are your own originally. You borrow them from another that has always been hidden in your shadow. You know this, and choose to look away.” The forest was motionless and silent, watching, waiting, “We,” The girl raised her arms, “are here to recall that self you have tried to forget, for so long.” Despite the quite I heard only the chaos of my mind. What was right and wrong? Lies and truth? What greater sense could I make from the teaspoon I held? What path could I hope to take in this darkness I blindly walked through, not even knowing if I walked a path at all. This was why I did not think. I knew nothing of fact. My world and life full of lies, what reason was there to bother finding something to understand? So far the only things real enough to me where what I saw and felt. I had thought these things centered around Orlai, for they only came to exist upon her arrival, but now I wondered if that was just a convenience, a coincidence? Perhaps there was more? No there certainly was more, the question I should be asking is how I could find it. How could I see beyond this self I inhabited, how could I step back into the past and find what I lost?
“Who am I?” I asked the forest. That was what I wanted. What brought me to Lordran in the first place, turned me into an undead, conscripted me into servitude, where did it all begin?
“You are a god and abomination.” The girl whispered in awe, “You are our creator and destroyer, you are everything and nothing, you are the Chosen Undead!” Her words passed unheard by me, pointless ranting. Another beckoned through the trees, though I could not see or hear them. A string, able to be broken by the smallest of touches, tugged from deep within my chest, stubbornly trying to pull me away despite its frailty. I resisted easily, far stronger than its pitiful attempts to move me. I wondered where it was this “string” wanted to take me? Bored of this Doll, girl, or whatever she was I stood and walked to the edge of the clearing. The girl gasped, jumping to her feet mid-ramble and grabbed me, “Stop! Where are you going my lord you must stay! Your destiny, you need to fulfill your destiny!” I ignored her, striding out of the clearing and into the trees as she screamed in protest, vainly struggling to hold me back. The trees grew dense, leaves thickening, blotting out the sun casting ever darker shadows over myself and the girl, her cries becoming distant. I walked through complete darkness.
“I am surprised.” Echoed a deep voice from within the dark. The voice sounded familiar, dangerous. I halted, looking up, “You have come farther than I believed, my son.” Something manifested nearby, unseen but certainly felt. The Darkness shivered and swirled, as if coming to life after a long hibernation,
“Who are you now?” I asked bluntly, “Another obscure and previously unknown servant of the gods or some other greater power here to pull me along towards a fate I have neither chosen or wanted?” The Dark chuckled, air trembling,
“Consider me your father.” A pause, “I am here to usher you towards a ‘fate’ of sorts yes. What that fate is, however, you must discover yourself.” A wind blew gently at my back, “Such a discovery will not be made if you stand here for all eternity. There are things that must be done, others that need you my son, searching for you, yearning for you.” I frowned, not understanding,
“Do you mean the gods and their servants?” Booming laughter, boisterous and truly jovial, shattered any foreboding or suspicion I might have previously had, echoing in the dark,
“No, foolish boy! They would be quite hurt to hear such harsh words from their savior.” A faint light up ahead, “Now move along son, there is far less time than you might think.”
Suddenly I found myself in a high-ceiling cave, air heavy and damp. Blinking several times I looked around in confusion. What? What sort of sick infatuation with disorientation did gods or god-like beings have when dealing with their lessers? I shook my head, it didn’t matter. Where was I? That mattered. Obviously a cave, but a cave where? Behind me the cave ended in a solid wall of stone, only way to go up into the cave. Marching steadily for a minute or so I spotted light ahead and exited the cave mouth. Bright and blinding the light brought tears to my eyes and I raised a gauntlet against it. After growing accustomed to the light a minute or so later I found myself in a large, watery, arena-like clearing. I stood at the edge of a large circle in an inch or so of water, branches and leaves drifting on the glassy surface. Looking behind me I abruptly realized I’d walked through a fog door.
An earth-shattering crash threw droplets of water into the air and nearly broke my footing. A massive beast pulled straight from legend landed in the arena’s center: an albino lion with two great pairs of angelic wings, long curving barbed horns, and a horrifying armored stinger for a tail. Its hide glistened beautifully under the sun and glittering drops that hovered mid-air, thrown skyward from its heavy landing. Toned muscles flexed beneath the monsters beautiful hide as it roared ferociously, hardly pausing before charging. Drawing Artorias’ greatsword and the Black Knight shield I stood firm, regaining my footing. The beast’s’ jaw disengaged, huge fangs pearly white.
I side-stepped, keeping my shield between those fangs and I, glancing off the shield in a shower of sparks. The force of the collision throwing me several feet back. I rolled to my feet through the shallow water when a single bolt of lightning flashed over my head, another grazing my side, three others pummeling my raised shield. I pressed through the electric pain, forcing my twitching and trembling limbs to comply. The beast leapt into the air, wings spread.
For a brief instant I reveled in the exotic winged lion’s beauty, gazing up in awe. Grossly incandescent, sun at its back, my foe appeared dazzling surrounded by droplets of water suspended mid-air. If given the choice I would have frozen time at that moment, if only to see such perfection only a second or two longer. Alas, such perfection can only last an instant.
I threw myself aside milliseconds before the lion landed in a blast of water that fell about in a short, torrential downpour. Pushing myself up I swung wildly at the lion but it hopped away before my blade could find purchase, firing a hail of lightning bolts. Unable to react in time the bolts pierced my armor and lanced through me, water enhancing their lethality. This monster was proving to be a challenge.
It leapt this way and that, quickly circling me. Suddenly it lunged and I ducked under a claw, drifting around the lion’s side and slashing with my greatsword. The beast roared painfully, an explosion of electric energy enveloping me. My body seized, muscles spasming. Sensing an opportunity the lion spun, whipping its armored tail around and smacking me tumbling across the arena. Fortunately it hadn’t used the stinger in the strike.
So used to defeating the sames foes every day that here, now, faced with something I’d never seen before, I was at a complete loss. Such an enemy filled me with anxiety, nervousness, what was this beast capable of? What could it do that I knew nothing of? What tricks would I unknowingly walk into? Would I even survive this encounter with my current equipment and skills? A strange thrill worked it’s way into my chest, pulsing rapidly as I fought for survival. The thrill was much stronger than anything I’d ever felt previously battling those I’d already defeated time and time again. This was new.
A deadly smile possessed my lips.
This was not new at all.
Once, long ago, I fought this blindly, this desperately. Once, long ago, I knew nothing of Lordran and its dangers, dying again and again thanks to my ignorance and foolishness. Now, after so long, I felt the same sensations I had before such unimaginable time passed since then. This was a piece of what I had forgotten. I could remember. Fragment or no I could remember! I could remember!
I screamed with glee dueling the lion, darting this way and that light on my feet, struggling to follow its moves. I fought with caution but without fear. If an opportunity appeared I took it, sometimes to my advantage and sometimes not. My estus flask became a familiarity, the burning sun and all-consuming life it gave urging me on enhancing the euphoria already vivifying me from death ever-present. I would miss chances and stumble into others, mistakes common-place. Swig after swig I took of the estus flask I chided myself for choices and cheered upon successful gambles. This was what battle should be! Survival was meant to be pitting oneself against unknown odds, not the endless drudgery of Lordran!
The beast and I battled ferociously, neither side familiar with the other, only the battle and death of the opposition our similarity. I cannot recall what happened or how long it lasted, fight lasting seconds or minutes, perhaps only a single instant, or mayhap hours. Regardless, the result is all that matters.
Tail gone, remaining stump gushing blood, bleeding cuts and gashes covering its body, and one of its wings missing. the lion charged with a roar of challenge, white eyes fixed on me. Estus flask empty, body heavy and broken, a scream tore from my lips as I heaved Artorias’ Greatsword upwards. The blade flashed, stained crimson, and drove towards the underside of the lion’s chin as its jaws opened to crush my skull.
Time stood still.
I didn’t know if I would kill the lion without dying myself but, to be honest, at that single moment I couldn’t have cared less. What I had discovered during the battle was far more precious than victory, though I suppose that was an added bonus.
The blue steel blade of Artorias’ Greatsword slammed home, cutting through the soft muscle beneath the lion’s chin and protruding out the top of its lustrous white mane. Warm blood poured out, swathing my outstretched arm. Exhaling its final breath, air hot and moist on my face, the beast collapsed, vanishing in a sudden cloud of ash. I stood for several seconds unable to breath, covered in blood and sweat, before falling to my knees into the shallow water, gasping. Before my entry the water surface had been perfectly level and crystal clear, now brown and red from our trampling and bloodshed. More blood tainted the water, washing off of my equipment. I looked down at my reflection as the water leveled.
A man with dark brown tired eyes stared up at me, pale face caked with mud and dirt, short black hair a wet mess, black engraved armor dented and dirty. He appeared exhausted while I, on the other hand, felt ecstatic. What new place was this that I had never seen before? Pushing myself up I cast a quick healing miracle before looking around, spotting a shadowy stone doorway set into the wall of the arena, tree roots hanging from the ceiling inside. Attaching the Black Knight shield to my back and resting Artorias’ Greatsword on my shoulder I marched through the doorway, grinning as I imagined fresh new adventures ahead of me.
What about Lordran? What about the undead, the gods, everyone? Was I just going to leave them behind? I had no idea where I was or how I got here but I knew others needed me elsewhere. I couldn’t just abandon them. My grip tightened on the greatsword. I wasn’t able to go back, only forward. I looked back at the dead-end cave I’d originally come from, doubting I would be able to dig down in order to find first strange clearing with the girl. Turning away from the arena I growled in frustration, stomping through the tunnel.
I hoped the way forward brought me back.