To Open a Chest
The pressure in Beren’s hands were apparent as he griped the shovel, levied to the weight of the dirt. With each toss of the earth into the ditch below, proved a possible concept of burying ones own body. The deceased dead below him made no struggle nor gave repose to his charity. In fact, the only sentiment was Ragnar leaning against his staff watching with a blank expression. The mid-day sun in his face shown his brilliant blue eyes with a rather distinct hue, while the wind picking up swayed his new attire of what appeared to be a dark leather outfit. Beren paid the man no heed as he neared the end of his burial service to his fallen villagers. Each shovel full of dirt sprayed over, signifying a possible redemption and revenge he will enact for each soul set loose upon the blood-stained altar behind him. His body did not fatigue as it normally would have while mortal, nor was there a straining painful pressure as blisters were forming upon his hands. Truly the only disheartening feat was that his tendons and muscle fibers twitched sporadically ever so often accumulating to the weight of the shovel. As if they were not meant for such humanly motions.
“So this is where you died?”
Beren simply grunted in response not to keen on how to take the stranger Ragnar. He felt unsure of his motives and even more unsettled by his refusal to explain his decaying scar across his face. Looking at the corner of his eye he took note of the odd facemask clinging close from the ridge of his nose down to his neck.
“The staff and that leather outfit. You some sort of traveling monk from Alistair?” Beren asked dodging a rather obvious question, uncertain of Ragnar’s motives for establishing small talk.
“I trained under a few well-known fighters from around the world and assembled their training into my own style.” Ragnar stated as he rolled the length of his staff around his hand before catching it with ease smirking the best he could through his face mask. “In hand to hand combat there are few who can best me. In terms of magical prowess however, I am not inherently powerful just knowledgeable and adaptable.” He stated as his hands erupted with blue energy before fading away as it appeared.
Beren was becoming used to such awe-inspiring shows of magic and otherworldly feats. Yet it still felt uncanny to him despite his situation and mortal mind set. Looking at the ditch he knew he was close to finishing as only a few limbs and faces poking out of the dirt could be spotted. His eyes caught the attention of a dead young child’s stare lingering at him. Almost as if his cold brown eyes were pleading to live again. Gritting his jaw shut he looked the other way as he intentionally threw more dirt in that general direction. His anger and anguish slowly enveloping his mind unable to find peace regardless of his faithful actions.
“Must be difficult.” Ragnar stated as he walked up leaning his staff across the altar his arms crossed in curiosity. “This path you are on.” He began looking up to Beren who continued his assault on the dirt with his shovel. “Will lead to only more bloodshed and grief.”
The words stung Beren in the chest. The stranger out of no where had no intent of what transpired here nor the horrific scenes he witnessed just to get this far. A hollow forged shell with a vengeful spirit possessing it onwards, bound only by necromancy. Stopping for a moment he stabbed the shovel into the dirt and looked at Ragnar from the corner of his eye with a rather sour look.
“What happened here Beren, I only heard of rumors, seems the citizens of Wemar are scared of their emperor and his cult of the scorn.” Ragnar stated as he averted his eyes down to the mass grave now mostly covered by fresh dirt. The only remnants of a few legs and arms sticking out as if growing a fleshy crop. Grunting Beren lifted his shovel and began digging and moving the dirt the heat of the sun showing proof of his bodies no need for sweat.
“The Scorn have always been here.” Beren began unsure where to commence. In fact, his whole life he never questioned his countries motives nor its horrific slow decline into madness. “You heard the stories I am sure. A powerful country whose red hands reaches across the oceans and has conquered most of the known world. Their intentions were to unite mankind against an impending threat or, so they say.” Beren stated trying to keep his mind occupied with his mundane manual labor.
“And of this Scorn who are they?” Ragnar asked as he rubbed his facemask sounding rather curious for a change. Beren simply ignored him for a few moments as he continued his shoveling in persistence.
“A cult I guess. They infiltrated the capital and have violated the government, poisoned the emperor’s ear, and molested the armies into vile deeds.” Beren stated as he stopped, pointing to the mass grave before him, now almost fully covered hiding the evidence of there ever being a massacre. “Vile deeds such as sacrificing their own citizens to some accursed god.”
Ragnar raised an eyebrow as if hearing this for the first time. “I come from Alistair where my kin are keeping the scorn masses at bay. But this is the first time I am aware of political corruption. Coming into enemy territory I expected worse, but this seems off. The citizens outside of political and military grounds seem downtrodden and robbed of everything.” Ragnar began as he tapped his crossed arms. “When the scorn ransacked the great magi city, it seems all resistance ended that day. Even the reclusive race of Fae has not been seen since then.”
Beren heaved a few more shovel full of dirt into the ditch before throwing the shovel on the ground. His heavy sigh apparent, almost rhythmic with the wind that blew through his ragged attire.
“Not to sound brash Ragnar, but unless you have news of where I can find a preacher and a mage, I am not one for small talk about the politics of my homeland.” Beren exclaimed feeling rather irritated suddenly as he sat down and crossed his non-human legs in front of him, in hopes of reminiscing over his mortal life and the villagers.
“I met a mage recently in my travels, not too many now a days. Most seems to have escaped to Alistair and found refuge with the Karozinian tribes in the desert.” Ragnar began as he walked back to the altar picking up his staff. Beren felt uneasy as he felt Ragnar stand behind him unsure of his intention’s innocent or not. “He looked like a half human half fae. Blue hair and a slim build, along with a book dangling from a chain around his waist.”
Beren’s eyes widened as he realized those were the exact descriptions of the same mage that presided over the horrific sermon. A sense of fear and dread fell over his persona as a shiver encompassed his spine and down into his extremities. His talon like toes aching in a peculiar fashion as they twitched uncomfortably. His eyes narrowed as he jumped forward and spun around quickly as he narrowly missed a glowing blue hand near his head.
“My, my you are a quick one. Perhaps the animalistic parts in you can truly sense danger.” Ragnar stated as he brought his staff up shaking his hand as if it was drenched in water.
“What are you trying to do!” Beren growled as he remained in his four-point stance appearing inhuman in all regards. A ravaged abomination appearing as though it was protecting its own grave.
“Covon I think was his name, he gave me a tip that a powerful lich lived in these woods. Even offered me a few spells in exchange for obtaining said lich’s tome or grimoire.” Ragnar began as he rested his staff into the ground leaning on it, not phased by the inhuman posture Beren was showing. “He sent me here where I followed a wagon trail into the forest.” He added smirking the best he could through his facemask despite the lack of flesh.
Beren felt rage boil up inside of him as he slowly stood up and gripped his hands. His feet standing above the grave he buried, decaying bodies but feet below him. “Why not just steal it when we first met at the goblin camp?” Beren asked his jaw clenching and eyes narrowing.
“You see I needed to be assured a lich did exist. In fact, it was just a pygmy with a very powerful gift from some death cult accompanied by a vile creature I presumed a legend.” Ragnar stated as his cool eyes watched Beren as if calculating a plan.
“You mean Riken, he is just a raised elk abomination.” Beren stated unsure what Ragnar was stating, his confusion creating a sense of paranoia.
“No, no, no.” Ragnar began wagging a finger and closing his eyes. “He is a wendigo that was tamed and camouflaged to appear as an abomination. A creature of legend that were the vile and rabid brethren to the Fae. They were supposedly the cannibals to that happy family and would feast on their fellow Fae becoming horrific in the process.” Ragnar ended as he opened his eyes his lips tight in a rather serious tone. “If I am to be certain to the prophecy, your little Vex will be the reason why Alistair will fall, and the Scorn will reign. More reason to detain you and steal her work before she completes it. For the sake of my home and all of humanity.”
Beren mouth was left agape from this sudden change of events. Not only did Ragnar know the mage but was somehow convinced Vex will aid the scorn in conquering the world. He felt a sense of dread fall over him as he remembers feeling Riken not noticing anything strange up until his transformation. Shaking his head, he knew he would have to question Vex on the matter once this venture was complete.
“So, you plan to defeat me and steal Vex’s work while she’s asleep?” Beren asked as he gripped his fists tighter vying for an upcoming physical conflict.
“You catch on quick spirit. I would leave you be on your path of revenge, but it is not within me to see you suffer. So, I will have to end you, so you may pass on into the afterlife. As for Vex I wont harm her as long as she gives her work up with no fight.” Ragnar explained as he pulled out his staff and rolled it around in front of him before resting it across his shoulders with one arm outstretched. “I already won.”
Beren cocked his head unsure of his rather blunt quote but readied himself as his raged boiled up within him. His talon feet digging into the dirt ready to spring forward. His tendons and muscles twitching from the sheer anticipation, as if an animalistic vigor was resting inside of him. Feeling a survival instinct, he knew he could overpower Ragnar easily, it was his magic and allegedly perfect hand to hand combat that made him falter. Eyeing his opponent, he knew he could let out a wail in his new body to incapacitate him. Yet at the same time he risked his lungs getting destroyed, a likely vital component to the vessel he was possessing.
“Fine I will start.” Ragnar stated as he lifted his scarf to fully cover his face as he spun his staff around into a horizontal position and erupted a blue sphere from the end of it. The blue projectile though the size of a small fruit collided into Beren’s chest knocking all the air out of him and sending him down to his knee to recuperate. Attempting to stand his animal instinct almost made him roll away as a leaping Ragnar with glowing blue hands struck the dirt from where Beren kneeled.
Coughing and standing up Beren sucked in as much air as he could and leaped toward Ragnar with a heavy closed fist. His effort to hit Ragnar was diminished mid leap however as the man simply bounded to the side with his staff. Upon landing simultaneously, Ragnar lunged with an open hand fingers straight and coated in a glowing blue. Fearing the worst Beren begged his muscles to work as they twitched uncomfortably as they turned his leap into a low roll forward narrowing missing Ragnar’s hand. Gaining slight distance he jumped up and leveled his stance as he brought his hands up as a typical brawler at an inn would have. A perfect combination of animalistic fervor and a drunken inns man.
Through some unknown force Ragnar turned his head toward Beren and advanced on him once more this time leaving his staff in the ground. Both his hands glowing blue in their awkward outstretched positions. His speed was remarkable as he brought both his bone plated arms upward to block the incoming attack. It hit him as near perfect timing, yet unlike his typical feeling of pressure he felt pain. It was not excruciating but stung to the point of numbness. His arms felt cold and sluggish from the impact of Ragnar force, but he knew better to let the man continue his assault. Letting a low wail settle in his throat he blew out a force as he lowered his arms in the process. Ragnar having never seen the display of power took the blunt of the force of his voice as his facemask blew off sending him backwards a few feet.
“Interesting.” Ragnar stated as he stood up, his lower potion of his decayed face unmoving, the water globe of water in his throat imitating human speech. “Not only was I unable to stun your limbs but you have the power to expel spirit energy through your mouth.” He began as he stood up and grabbed his staff spinning it before pointing it Beren. “If this were any other circumstance, I would declare you may be a formidable opponent.” He stated as he opened a leather flask around his waist and moved water out of it like a snake, leading it towards the end of staff. It flowed in a rather unnatural way as if the water was being molested and provoked. Yet it complied and folded into a form at the end of his staff resembling a blade.
Beren’s eyes widened at the change of events as he growled and leapt forward with a raised fist hoping to get the first blow in. He was successful but only met his fist with the block of the tough wood of his staff. It flexed slightly during the motion but through unknown combative means, Ragnar used the momentum of Beren’s attack to twist his staff and himself around to appear behind Beren. His animalistic instinct kicked in to move out of the way but he was too slow having still going through with the motion of his punch. Instead he felt four fingers at the base of his neck and then a series of punches upon his upper back. Staggering forward his breathing became raspy and eye sight hazy from the counter attack. Struggling to keep his arms up he felt them grow heavy and sluggish along with a rather stiff neck. Before he could ponder on this dilemma, he bounded backward in time to see Ragnar roll forward and swing at his lower legs. An obvious attempt at toppling him down.
“Most would be writhing in pain unable to move from my technique.” Ragnar stated as he advanced once more jabbing toward Beren with the sharp watery end of his staff. “But you are not human so that is expected.” Ragnar stated his deep malevolent stare and clenched fleshless jaw giving further proof of his rather undead appearance. Unable to move out of the way, Beren held his arms up as he did all he could to stave off the assault receiving gashes along his bone plated armor. The water blade was making precise cuts and he felt himself growing weary and tired. A sensation he had not felt since he possessed his new vessel. His eyes flared as he inhaled air once more to attempt another wail bringing his arms down to shout. Yet at the same time and almost expected Ragnar jabbed his hand into Beren’s throat and threw his shoulder into his chest as Beren fell backward into the dirt. Spinning his staff around his back Ragnar brought it back up as he quickly stabbed the fleshless gap between his tendons and bones of his legs.
“I told you I already won.” Ragnar stated his wide blue eyes and raspy breathing from within his throat giving a clear indication of lack of humanity. Beren struggled as Ragnar approached and with an open palm struck Beren in the chest sending his head back into the dirt as his body became stunned. The weight of the impact imbedding his body a few inches into the dirt. As if the earth was welcoming him back to the cycle of life.
“This ends here now vengeful spirit. I am going to bury you here, and within time you will learn to let go and move on.” Ragnar stated as he punched Beren in the chest once more this time his hand colliding and breaking his sternum and ribs. Beren felt no pain in the process just the sensation of pressure as he was barely able to take in a breath. The sensation of suffocation did not occur to him yet his mortal instincts could not help but to panic. Beren’s eyes widened as he witnessed Ragnar kneel and move the sharp watery blade from his staff onto his hand. Looking at his face Beren was unable to tell what emotion was transpiring across his demeanor. Just an emotionless wide eyed undead with no lower face or throat. He watched as time itself slowed down as the sharp watery object imbedded into his chest and a grunt from Ragnar as he used both hands to open up his chest exposing his innards. The bones crunched, and the ribs opened wide to show nothing but a large pair of lungs and a glowing white and green core between them.
“Such beauty from a necromancer to create life once more. Binding a poor spirit to an abomination of a human.” Ragnar stated his unmoving jaw opening slightly as if preparing for a meal. Beren grumbled as he felt exposed and helpless his chest fully open unable to feel anything except coldness. His lungs barely inflating and deflating within the open chest cavity in its last moments. Beren watched on helpless and paralyzed as Ragnar opened his mouth fully exposing his full set of teeth and the fleshy area in the back of his throat.
“This is the only way. I am sorry.” Ragnar stated with his wide-open mouth, the water globe in his throat rotating and moving in response. Beren eyes grew wide not with anger this time but utter fear. He was going to die once more and be unable to protect Vex. Let alone enact any revenge upon those who would do his persona harm. Time slowed as Ragnar lowered his open jaw into Beren’s open chest. His inflating and deflating lungs rubbing against his bony face as the ghost glow core attached to his spine tingled. It was a pleasant feeling yet ended into a sensation of shock as Ragnar bit down and ripped the core out of Beren’s body; the strands of tissue pulling out as Ragnar raised upward, the ghost glow core in his bony mouth. The world around Beren began to feel soft and dim. There was no longer any pressure nor sensation of hatred or loathing. Just the sensation of passing on as if dying for the second time. The last thing Beren witnessed before he closed his eyes forever was Ragnar devouring and swallowing the core. Before grabbing the shovel nearby, moving dirt onto his dying body.