Chapter 42 - Father
An orchestra of cricket strings, quiet wind, and percussive croaks echoed in the inky night possessing the forest. Fireflies gave light to quick blinks of greenish-yellow light as they drifted aimlessly about. I sat against the trunk of a large oak, Doll asleep against me. Curled in my lap, head against my stomach and tail wrapped around one of my legs, she mumbled unintelligibly about whatever it was she dreamt. Myself, arms crossed and watchful, I kept a keen eye on the forest. Earlier I had slacked and allowed ancient walls to open at my own expense, quickly punished for such foolish actions. I listened, but only with one ear, the other pushing aside all but the hostility I expected. In that respect, all was quiet.
I had not taken the shortcut to the coliseum, worried that passing so close to the Marvellous Chester might tempt disaster, and besides I enjoyed the company of another, wishing to feel it again. A detour or two wouldn’t hurt. Plus with the Doll nothing tried to kill me and the flourishing interactions with the locals were fascinating. Several golden flowers were woven into Doll’s hair where a bramble man have left them, Doll and he speaking back and forth for a time. I could not understand the people here so Doll did the talking while I played dumb, refreshing to simply observe for once. At first I was terrified of course but grew accustomed and trusting to Doll as she socialized more and more. She was apparently quite the celebrity for reasons I was ignorant of. Whenever I asked Doll about their treatment of her she simply would respond, “They like me.” I left it at that.
Doll’s tail tightened around my leg and she tensed, moaning. Tears leaked out from beneath her closed lids. I stroked her head gently,
“I am here,” I cooed, “peace.” Doll paused, head turning slightly, “Peace.” She relaxed, huddling closer, and started… humming? It felt like she was shaking or resonating? I couldn’t describe it but she seemed pleased. Shrugging I settled back against the tree trunk and looked to the sky. The moon peered back through the leaves, glowing brightly without the sun to shine and dominate the sky. Brilliant and waxing the moon stood watch in place of the absent sun. Incandescent in its own right the moon possessed an exotic beauty, able to be witnessed directly without being forced to look away in pain. I preferred neither the moon or sun particularly, both with their pros and cons, but appreciated the moon a tad more due to how rarely I saw it. Usually It was hidden by clouds or absent entirely, lost somewhere in the night sky searching for the world it watched over. To see it now brought comfort to me and I sighed with satisfaction. Perhaps life would be peaceful with Doll? I winced at such a thought. Whenever I became content things went wrong. Now was the time to be on edge.
I reached back to draw Artorias’ Greatsword and Doll squeaked, rolling over from the disturbance. I carefully opened my pack and reached into the bottomless box for my broadsword instead. Frowning when I didn’t instantly find the weapon I rummaged for several seconds without success. Growling in irritation I checked my pack, unsurprised when it wasn’t there either. I thudded my head against the tree trunk several times, berating myself.
I’d given it to Ilyena, she demanding insurance for my return. I hadn’t expected to need the broadsword, little more than a reminder of times past, but its average size and flexibility were priceless in situations like this. Of all the rotten luck. Grumbling, I pulled out a long sword enchanted with lightning. A tolerable replacement I placed the blade on the ground, claw on its handle, and looked back up to the shadowed forest,
“Excellent night for sleeping under the stars isn’t it?” Chuckled a hooded man standing several meters away. I snatched the sword up and pointed it at him hooking an arm around Doll protectively taking care not to disturb her,
“Halt.” I snarled and nodded to Doll, “I don’t want to wake this child but take another step and it will be your last.” The man chuckled again,
“No need to worry friend, your Doll is fast asleep.” In the depths of his hood I saw his eyes flash, “I dare say she might have snapped awake in any other situation. Her trust in you is commendable. I assure you she will not wake, lest she leave the haven of your embrace.” I narrowed my eyes suspiciously,
“Begone.” I spat.
“After having found a pair as interesting as this?” Had his voice broke a second there? The man leaned against a tree, “Most certainly not! My curiosity has peaked!” He boomed with a laugh. Fighting the urge to cut him down I remained silent, concentrating entirely on this man and our surroundings; he might not be alone. The symphony of the forest played overtop the swelling tension, “Well this atmosphere is certainly regrettable.” The man harrumphed after a time, “Will you not even humor me?” I glared. “I had hoped for a better reception but, alas, time is short.” He gave a slight bow, pulled his robes closer about him, and hurried through the trees with a wave, “Sweet dreams.” My eyes tracked him as he left, ears sharp when the trees hid him, only calming somewhat once his presence faded entirely. The music of the forest eased back into clarity.
I sat back, long sword still in hand, and checked Doll; still asleep to my relief. Stroking her silver hair I wondered, who had the hooded man been? His voice felt familiar but I hadn’t gotten a good look at him under the hood and robes. It didn’t matter now though, he had gone and left us unharmed. I glanced off to where he had gone and settled back against the tree slowly. What a strange man.
Doll stumbled, wailing winds battering her. Clad in little more than the thin cloth of her small white dress the little girl shivered violently, fighting through the thick snow and harsh weather. She had no idea where she was going, only that this blizzard couldn’t stop her. If she gave in now much more than her life would be lost.
Doll cried out as a large shape threw itself at her and was swallowed by a loose drift of snow picked up by the wind. The cold bit at her bare skin ferociously, snow pelting her, ripping and tearing at what little warmth remained in her body. Buried in seconds, wailing winds far off muffled by the snow, she could only hear her hammering heart beat slow and slower. No!
Scrambling, Doll gasped as she broke the surface of the snow. Glaring through the whirlwind of white the little girl bit her numb lip and pushed free of the snow. At war with the elements she searched for hours, refusing to yield. How she knew she needed to search wasn’t important, only that she did. She wasn’t going to stand by and watch anymore.
A bittersweet miracle, the passionate emotion transferred by Priscilla had granted Doll some form of sentient awareness despite being a wooden figurine. For so long Doll had spent her existence as an item, inanimate and unable to act upon the pain she felt witnessing the world. Carried away from her precious Priscilla on journeys long forgotten Doll watched as innocents died to pays for the sins of the guilty, all things good in the world fading away replaced by frightful Dark and diseased minds. Yet amongst all of it remained one beacon of hope, one individual of such stout faith and will even gods could not control him.
The Chosen Undead.
Yes, this was who she searched for in the blizzard, Chosen Undead, she remembered now! His possession of Doll had once been commonplace long ago, using her to enter the Painted World time and time again for reasons she was ignorant. He carried Doll upon harrowing journeys, showing her the horrifying world of Lordran he tended to. Though he fell time and time again always would Chosen Undead rise from his own ashes to defeat Gwyn, Lord of Cinder. Battling gods and demons alike he Linked the Flame without hesitation or fear in the endless cycle.
Then, one day, he suddenly stopped coming. Perhaps he was lost, missing, or worse? The Doll began to fret. Had he finally given up hope? Had he given up on retrieving Doll, she not technically important to Linking the Flame? For years she lay in the Undead Asylum alone and drawing ever closer to insanity. Suddenly, out of the blue, he returned with a woman born of true flame. Orlai he called her, his eyes blinded by something akin to love. He was different, treating Doll like nothing more than a means to an end. So many times he had sought Doll out and found her, only for him to now return after so long and still appear lost? It was Doll’s turn to find him.
The wind blew stronger, tossing Doll to and fro. She shoved through the snow despite her diminutive size and weak form. She would not abandon him like so many others, like Orlai. Doll had witnessed Orlai’s betrayal, the woman an actual goddess who tossed him aside for the Angel that came to ferry her above. Nothing like the kind hearted and ostracized Priscilla.
Doll loved both Chosen and Priscilla dearly, each crucial to her creation, parents in Doll’s eyes. They had never cared for one-another like husband and wife but Doll considered Priscilla and Chosen mother and father regardless. Both had a hand in her birth, each providing a piece of themselves over the millennia of cycles as Doll traded between their hands, but now mother was dead.
Father had been forced to end mother’s life. Trapped in a cage never intended for him, the Painted World, father once again met mother, who had rescued him from a never ending cycle of death. But unknown to father, mother was controlled by gods hoping to influence him using mother and her forbidden body most men hungered after like ravenous beasts. The gods thought to force mother and father together, if only to give them time to plan, to scheme. While Doll was happy to see the unlikely two together again father, mind still clouded by the woman Orlai, rejected mother. Mother would have allowed father to leave without protest, normally never wanting to be one with father, but the gods infused her with intense love and jealousy. Mother, using violence to keep father contained, died on his blade.
In the coming days Doll watched as Father fell apart in both mind and body. His own morals and codes crumbled to dust, tearing him asunder with contradictions and uncertainty. Others called him “hero” and forced their dreams upon him, until he became the very horror the gods proclaimed him to be. Father killed Gwynevere in his desperation to slate the gods, opening the door to his own madness, and Gwyndolin soon after. Then, eyes black and soul growing ever darker, he swore to kill the gods and Flame.
Hair whipping about, tail nearly falling off from the cold, body numb and unfeeling, Doll screamed her hatred of it all to the wind. She stumbled and collapsed into the snow. It was cold, so cold. Tears of ice dripped from her eyes falling with muted dings on metal. The small girl clung to consciousness desperately, Darkness not far beyond. Why did everyone have to fight? Why did the gods torture father so, why did mother have to die, and why did father willingly play host to such evil in his heart? Voices hissed and mocked Doll as she lay sinking into the snow,
Girl born of wood, false daughter of abomination and undead, know you are born of True Dark. Doll shook her head, frantic to shut the voices out, Let go of the Humanity you fervently believe to be yours, fingers tugged at her mind, surrender yourself to us. Black arms broke from the snow at her sides, reaching out to embrace her in frozen metal. Exhausted and limp Doll could do nothing to fight them, only able to cry and moan pitifully as she waited to be pulled under. Yet still, here, at the edge of oblivion, Doll did not yield. If this was how it ended so be it but she would not go quietly. Her fist rose, a titanic effort as it was weighted by both exhaustion and agony giving it all the more strength to fall. Releasing her feeble hold on the fist heavier than mountains Doll’s small, frail, fist dropped to the snow with blinding velocity and unbelievable noise.
It plopped to the snow without a single sound.
Doll exhaled, warmth well and truly gone, willpower utterly shattered, and let death take her. The black arms did not pull her beneath the snow.
With the care of a mother carrying her child the black arms of cold steel gently enveloped Doll and lifted the small girl up. The wind bent around the girl, body of the black arms sheltering her, and her heart beat more steadily. Despite their icy temperature the arms and body did not sap Doll’s warmth but guarded against the harsh, hateful weather beyond.
“I am here.” Doll looked up at a smiling man; snowy skin, mess of short black hair fluttering in the wind, white teeth slightly crooked in some places, eyes muddy brown, brows furry bushes of black. The man’s eyes shimmered in wonder and love, as if he had been the one saved, “Peace.” His voice mimicked an earthquake. Expression kind and passionate, screeching wind barely a whimper, awful whispers scattered to the far corners of the world, he held her close. The blizzard vanished into the quiet night, frozen wind a loving breeze, snow turned to dewy green grass, “Peace.” He murmured again framed by a full moon. Doll’s tears became flowing and liquid, joy flooding her with ecstatic life,
“Father.” The word burst from her lips like a proclamation of victory. Centuries forced to stand by a hopeless and grieving bystander, here, now, her existence meant something. Father set her down to the grass and moist dirt eyes locked with her own. Pride pushed out Doll’s chest and straightened her shoulders; lips cracked to showcase fangs, unnaturally golden eyes shining bright, tail twitching in excitement, ivory horns displayed for all to see.
She had found Truth.
Her heart pulsed with life.
Out of sight and far from mind a single man smiled sadly. The Doll and Chosen Undead had finally been brought together. Relishing in his victory the lonely man turned away, shrugging deeper into his robes, and rubbed the medal clasped firmly in his hand.
“Best of luck brother.” He whispered fading between the trees.
“Father.” I blinked and looked down at Doll. A small, confident, smirk occupied her sleeping face at the moment. Apparently contagious, I myself beginning to smile, Doll nuzzled my chest and hummed happily. Turning my attention away from the sleeping child I kept watch under the soft light of the moon gently rubbing her head.