Soul of Lords
Vanetia's Thoughts 2
Fear… Unrelenting, unwavering, unquestionable fear.
Fear strikes my heart… It is an unfamiliar feeling. I hear Drakka and Fitzgerald speak. They ask for my opinion.. Of what? I do not know. Up or down? Are you joking? Remain up here, with a dragon?! Or go downstairs where the dragon cannot reach us. The choice is simple!
My senses has never been as sharp as they where in the coming moments. I barely felt the passage of time. I barely noticed that we moved at all. I kept as close to Drakka as I could, while keeping my eyes and ears for anything dangerous.
I hear steps. For a moment my fear takes my heart… I foolishly believe that the steps could be the dragon. However, I quickly realize that it is from hollows marching. I take a sigh of relief. I try to make my fear not show… But they know, I know it… Pathetic is it not? Paladins do not feel fear. We are protected by Gwynn… We do not feel fear. I believed this to be true, but now… I do not know.
I do not know where we are headed. I know where we are ultimately trying to reach, however, the current movements and dashes are a blur to me. I keep my sense fixed on other things. We go up… Up?! Who thought this was a good idea?! The dragon is still out there!
I hear a battle in the distance. Again, fear grips my heart… But I realize that it is not the dragon. We reach a good vantage point. Hollows fighting one an other. I have heard of this… But not to this scale.
Fitzgerald speaks. He relays the plan. He is very tactical. I take aim… I am to move first, I am to finish of the sorcerer. Fitzgerald and Drakka are to dash down, into the fray.
I take a deep breath, and let the arrow go. It strikes true. The sorcerer is down. Drakka and Fitzgerald dart down. I follow, albeit slowly. I see a pair of crossbowmen in a high up tower. They prepare themselves. I take a shot at one of them, I barely grace the helmet. Before I can move, I am surrounded. Walls behind me, hollows infront of me, cornered.
Niklaus always said: Never use the bow close-quarters, it is too dangerous. I felt I had no other option, I had to risk it. I shoot, it attacks. It missed, I hit. I take out those who would corner me. I start moving. However, the captain with an odd looking spear. A spear with a hook. He hits me… It is deep, it hurts something immense. I am on the floor… How did I end up here?! I must have blacked out for a split-second. Apparently, that can happen when you loose a lot of blood very quickly. I shake it off, and I get up. I shoot… It barely dents him! Is this it? I cannot tell. The pain in my leg is too great, and my fear of the dragon clouds my mind. Can I beat him? I do not have to find out. All of a sudden, an arrow hits the captain. He goes down. In the distance, I see Fitzgerald, with his bow drawn. He had fired the arrow. I freeze up, I look admiringly at him, though I doubt he can see me from here. And before I have a time to say anything, Drakka, who had disappeared into the tower earlier, explodes out of it, slams into me. That hurt too. She picks me up, and we run to safety. At first I was surprised, then I recall that she asked me about that at some point. I had told her it was fine.
Myself and Drakka take to healing my leg. It hurts. We heal the wound, but the leg still feels stiff. It does not hamper my movement, but I realize that I am limping. Drakka asks me if I will be okay. I tell her not to worry. Did… Did I just lie? Or was I merely trying to convince myself as well? Not worry? There is a dragon out there, and my leg is hurt! Walking normally might look cumbersome, but is not. However… Running?! I do not know that I could run from a dragon normally, but now… Is this where I die? No, I must press on. We cannot fail.
We enter some odd building, because Drakka saw a mark that we believe might be a shop, of sorts. Inside is a man… More hollow then man, but still a man. I check him, he is not yet evil… He not yet hollow. We question him, try to learn what we can. The flask we found seemed useful to the shopkeeper. However, we decide not to trade with him. He tells his… pet bucket… Julia, that he is very disappointed. He tells us he will have our things soon enough. He says we are already dead. I cannot argue back. I feel it too… This place… It might just be able to curse even a paladin. I do not want to think about it… Am I… Has Vealkas’ Doom taken hold, already?
We exit. And Fitzgerald comes up with the plan to kill the man, and take his things. I cannot believe my ears. I know we are desperate, I know we might need it. However, we are not monsters are we?! Drakka appeared to agree with me. However, she seems distraught by my answer. Again, she calls me a killer… It is not like I am a killer because I want to be. Gwynn chose me… Not just my capability… But he chose me! As long as that remains true, I will never look back, I will never question my actions! I tell her… Gwynn’s judgement shines through me, he shows me who is evil, and who is not. He shows me… Drakka does not understand. She tells me that Gwynn has no right. I am shocked. Who, if not Gwynn, would have the right?!
Drakka keeps trying to push her opinion on me. I am not affected, I follow Gwynn, nothing else. We start moving again, Drakka is clearly not content, however. I want her to understand, she does not have to agree, I just want her to understand… To understand what… No, never mind. I cannot think of this now, we have more important things to deal with!
We stop by a bridge. This time a large bridge. There is no way around, at least no fast way. We argue for a time about what to do. I am scared. The dragon might be around. We finally decide to cross it. Fitzgerald first, me second, and Drakka last. Drakka wanted to carry me over. However, Fitzgerald spoke up against it, saying that Drakka needed to be able to avoid it, if necessary. I agreed with this assessment. I draw my bow, keep an arrow in my hand, and I start moving over the bridge, behind Fitzgerald.
Something appears. Not a dragon. I am relieved. However, I realize that my relief is premature. It looks like a giant black knight, of sorts. I ready my bow… Are we truly to fight on this bridge… In the open?!
The time Vanetia’s heart froze
Whether we wanted to or not, a fight on the bridge is what we got. Bolts clunk down behind Fitzgerald. He appears to ignore them. I cannot blame him… Before him stands a corrupted Silver Knights… The paladins of old, the envy and end goal of all those who are blessed by Gwynn… Here one stands, blackened, turned… For a moment I forget my fears, I forget my hesitations… I will free you brother. I see his terrible blade bit into Fitzgerald and Drakka… Are they still alive? I see them move, good enough… I let Gwynn shine through, only with His help can set the knight free.
My arrows explode in brilliant sunlight. He kneels… Part of me would want to think that the soul suffers less now that he is enveloped in Gwynns light… I would like to think that he kneels out of gratitude. However, I know far too well that pain is what forced him down. It is first now that I notice that Fitzgerald is glowing. He has an odd rune on his back… Did Drakka do that? Her ways are strange, but it seems to push back the darkness emanating from the Corrupted Silver Knight. The knight spins with his terrible blade. We are caught in the wake of it. Painful… To my very core… This blade is corrupted, it is darkness itself… It pains both physically, as it is a huge as blade that just sliced my chest. But also because something that ones was so pure, now strikes those who wish to purify the world… I cannot help but to pity the soul within the armor.
Fitzgerald responds in kind. His anger is immense… Though, strangely his action does not make me frightful. I have been on the receiving end of Fitzgerald’s anger, but it seems that he provokes less fear in me now. I am glad… I no longer see Fitzgerald as a loose cannon. And the knights’ soul is free. It is released from the armor in a localized inferno. Fitzgerald takes his blade. I can feel the evil slowly leaving the blade… We can use it.
We hurry to the next tower. We catch our breath, heal our wounds. The ache will not leave. Myself and Fitzgerald are made of metal, but Drakka has no armor… That she has lasted this long is a true testament to her skill… However, the scar imprinted on her stomach from the Silver Knight will not leave her. As we speak of the knight, a soul rushes past us. He walks towards the bridge… He is… Transparent. I do not understand, but perhaps later we will. He disappears as quickly as he joined us.
We move past the next bridge, this one was safe. Drakka catches up with me, and says she see someone up on the balcony of the next tower… I see nothing, absolutely nothing… Can my eyesight be truly that bad? Even so, we sneak up to him. Well… When I say we, I mean that me and Fitzgerald move slowly way behind Drakka, who is doing the actual sneaking.
He introduced himself as friend, however. Even after Drakka’s… Brutal greeting, shall we say. I do not approve of it, however, it is necessary in our current situation.
While I go up and greet him as is a proper way of greeting a friend, Fitzgerald is a true soldier, as always. He asks the questions that are required, and we learn much.
The man introduces himself as Solaire. A very nice man. Though, he speaks of the Age of Fire ending. I cannot believe it, however, I feel something stir within me… Perhaps I have thought along the same lines? It is heresy to speak of, but I cannot deny what is happening. The world might remain, however her people are dwindling.
He gives me a chalk, or stone… something anyway. Apparently, I can use it to communicate with the world he is from… Wait what? Dimensions, worlds, space, time… He says he rung the bell, and asks if we heard it. We had not. He says he wrong a different bell… Not the one bellow, but the same bell, in a different world… I will not, an ache started in my brain. I thought it best not to overthink it. If we are meant to, we will find out more later on. He says he will bask in what little light is left in the day, and returns to his original position. He gradually fades as we leave him. A tear runs down my cheek. I hide it from the others… It saddens me… We meet such a nice man, in a place of Hell such as this. And we will probably never see him again.
We overlook the next part of the bridge, it has a few hollows on it. Nothing too dangerous, we should be able to go through them rather quickly. And so we do, we launch into full attack, as is customary. Fitzgerald charges in, Drakka leaps, and I fire my arrows… Then things became warm… Far too warm. I think I scream, I cannot tell… A darkness shrouds me, a fear I have never felt before… Gwynn protects me… However, when I see that scaly lizard like face, even Gwynn cannot protect me… The dragon had swooped down and breathed its terrible flame at us… I did not feel it all, my body was numb… My brain was numb. I did not know what to do… Fitzgerald scream… I cannot hear what he said, however for some reason my legs start moving towards him. My eyes water. I cannot feel legs, however my tell me they are moving. I hear something that sounds like Drakka… I cannot tell.
The dragon swoops down right infront of me. My instinct is to turn and run… But again, I hear Fitzgerald. In a fit of sanity, I dart past the dragon. Somehow avoiding its massive claws and teeth… Somehow, I did it… I got to Fitzgerald… Somehow I survived… As I get to… Under the bridge? I do not know… I cannot see the dragon, at least… I fall to my knees, tears are running down my cheeks… It is not only fear… Is that shame? All my life have I heard of the honor of being a paladin… Paladins are synonymous with Dragon Slayer… And I here I stand, petrified at the sight of one… Do I deserve what I have? I do not know, I feel Gwynn’s light within me still… But I cannot move, I cannot… I think it gets warm again, I cannot tell… Suddenly I hear Fitzgerald, again I cannot hear what he says… But I know, I have to move… Before I can, I am picked up… I think I black out… The hallway, the dragon, and Drakka… Carrying me?… Flashes before my eyes… Times moves slower, and quicker, then usual. I do not know how, but someone we get to a room safe from the dragon… My tears will not stop… As my senses clear, I look at Fitzgerald, I think he scolding me, I cannot hear… Drakka speaks, I believe, I honestly cannot tell… I tell them I am sorry, I tell them… I do not know, words come out, but I have no control over them.
What was that? I am a paladin! What was that miserable excuse for a panic attack?! That is not how a paladin should behave in combat… Paladins feel no fear… Paladins feel no fear… The greatest lie ever told… A lie told to the public, so as to put their faith in paladins… So they can feel safe when the paladin is with them… However, even Gwynn cannot protect you from your own heart.
We move again. We head through the sewers, my senses fully rejoins me… I am still shaking, but I am here again. We do not make it Andrei, the friend of Solaire, a blacksmith. We take refuge in a house, down its celler.
It is pitch black. Fizgerald starts scolding me. I put us all in danger, I know that. Some paladin I am, huh? I feel something running down my cheek, is it dripping from—I am still crying… We start washing our clothes and our selves. Drakka calls forth Gwynns light… I do not believe I have ever been so glad to see it.
We undress… You kind of have to in order to wash your clothes. I-it is not that I have never naked with other people before, just that.. I… I have never been… Very… *sigh*… Comfortable with it. As elven we are told we are the perfection of beauty… Drakka comments on my hear… Is it not normal that hair is like—Ugh… Her hair looks… Quaint…
Drakka starts repairing her clothes… She does it with magic! I ask her to help with mine as well… I made sure to clean it slightly before.. The pants where not… Presentable…
Drakka takes the first watch, while she heals our clothes. It is cold, I know that in times like these, it is better to share body heat… I am embarrassed, however… If we must, we must. Strangely… I feel no fear lying next to Fitzgerald. I was afraid that after what had just happened, and how I feel about Fitzgerald, that my night would be… Unpleasant… But it was not… I am reminded of my childhood… After a nightmare I would crawl up next to Niklaus… In my younger years he would comfort me, and then drop me off in my bed again… But I after I had gained his respect, he would embrace me, and all my fears would go away… That is what i felt… Sometime during the night it changed… I felt a silk touch, it reminded my Elizabeth stroking my hair… I miss my siblings…
I awaken, next to Drakka. For a split second I see Eliza’s face… Then my senses catch up to me… I tough her face, but she awakes immediately. We get dressed, and go outside. We do our morning rituals… I pray, Drakka praycersises? Or something. And Fitzgerald tries out his new blade. He is good with swords, reminds me Nik… Perhaps he could teach a me a thing or two, when this is all over… If it will ever be over.
We head towards the Parish, and we find out way to the blacksmith Andrei. We do not have much interms of trade, but he is kind and forgiving, for being in a place like this. Drakka buys some daggers of sorts. And I trade my sword that I got from the order… The sword I was knighted with… It holds little value to me, even so. Lucas’ sword holds much more… I ask him to repair it. With my old sword, and the chance to study the Silver Knight sword, we get away with much. I hold on to my sword for now, and we will return after we have rung the bell, for Lucas’ sword, as well as the Silver Knight’s sword.
We set off to ring the bell, but oddities ensues.
Without the light of Gwynn shall I stand… In flames?
As we entered the parish we found ourselves in a battlefield that was on-going, a battle between Balder and Berenike. We could later piece together that perhaps the balder knights attacked the Berenike knights, and the Flamekeeper they where guarding, and that as they hollowed the fighting continued. Which ever the case, our clumsy entrance drew their attention.
The Balder knights where very quick on their feet, and dexterous to boot. They where as elusive as the wind itself, I barely hit any of them. I saw Fitzgerald loosing his sword to them. He was able to retrieve it, after a bit of work. However, it was still an eye opener, that was the danger level of what we faced. Hollows who has retained their former skills and abilities, fearful indeed. We kept our heads, though, and managed to dispatch them, while the Berenike knights seemed content to remain as they where, throwing javelins. I heard tales of the walking fortresses that is the Berenike knights, and that they where. I could not find an opening to fit an arrow through. It seemed utterly impossible. However, through sheer skill, luck, and a few fancy actions we did manage to bring them down. It was time consuming, though.
The last of them was beheaded by Fitzgerald. Brutal, but it should serve to keep him from coming back in any dangerous way. Because of this Fitzgerald was able to spot a necklace they where wearing. Drakka recognized it as a magical artifact used by the orcs for defensive purposes. Drakka suggested that Fitzgerald wear it, he seemed a wee bit reluctant, but agreed. The necklace turned his already strong orc features darker still. The other guard had one also, it was given to me, as Drakka already appeared to have an artifact bound to that slot. I could not sense much difference, though Drakka looked at me a bit funny. Drakka, for her part, was able to get a circlet from the Flamekeeper. It seemed wrong to take from the dead. But, if it helps us in this quest, I am certain the Flamekeeper would approve.
The circlet looked very good on Drakka, she seemed slightly shy and put off by it, however. Drakka mentioned that she had seen a shadow of a man on the upper level, so we went to investigate. We found no shadow, but we did find the Flamekeepers study. Fitzgerald and Drakka quickly went through the rooms, a smaller library and a study, to see if they could find something of use. I tried to find a book that would not simply fall apart, and started reading it while waiting for the other two. It did not take long, as they merely found anything that was not destroyed, and brought it. The speed meant I barely had time to read the introduction… Which is hardly relevant, of course.
Further into the parish we found a man who was bound by chains. He was Carim, and he told of his attempt to ring the bell, which resulted in being killed, and chained. Dreadful story to be sure. We freed him, and he left. He mentioned the gargoyle, which we already knew of it, but he was unable to say if there was more then the one, as he was killed before he could ascertain the truth.
We pressed on, to a ladder… I should really get better at climbing. Ladders are not as bad as naked wall, mind you! As we reached the top, the stony I had received from Solaire started giving off a reaction, and Drakka found his name on the floor. She kneeled down, and prayed, I believe. He appeared in a flash of light, as a spirit of light, or something similar. With that, we knew we were in for it. The next few moments seemed to take a life time to formulate within my mind. Gwynn’s light is fading, I can tell. The light that once guarded me, is fading. We are on our own. But still, we have to press on. I know that, so why does it take so much force to simply take a step? Why does my senses tell me that I should flee? I cast these thoughts to the side, and prepare. I cast Gwynns protective light on Fitzgerald. He will be on the front lines, if I can relieve only a little bit of pain, that would be good. And with what ever I have left of Gwynns light, I should be able to keep myself alive. Should.
We step forward, and it is not long before a gigantic gargoyle statue starts to break itself free. It smashes down right infront of us! It wield a humongous pole arm, or axe. With its immense size, and the size of the weapon, I sense he could even hit myself and Drakka, who are situated a bit behind Fitzgerald and Solaire. I feel something odd… As if… Gwynn fails to protect me? As if it attempts to strike at my very nerves. I stand firm, however. I will not loose my head this time… Or so I think to myself, at least.
A melee ensues. I can barely follow what happens, as Fitzgerald and Solaire go in for the strike. I often try to extrapolate whether or not the enemy does indeed fill the criteria before I Smite, but this time I did not care whether it was or not, it had to work… We needed that power, was all I could think about. I was able to shoot off a few brilliantly glowing arrows, and they gave me hope… Gwynns light still shines through me! His presence may be weak, but his light will remain!
The beast takes a deep breath, and breaths its hellish flame at us. I stand guard, but for a split second I remember… I shielded Fitzgerald, I saved my healing for to be used during the battle… Can I take this? I.. I must. I must stand firm.. I… Cannot sense Gwynn. Everything went black. This is it… Without Gwynn, we… I cannot stand. I feel what was left of Gwynns grace leave me, in my last moments of consciousness as I open my eyes I see myself let go of my bow… It falls, and its brilliant light fades. I remember my brothers words: «Never do let go of that bow, Vanetia… It’ll keep you alive!», I try to summon up the strength to grasp it, but it seems so far away… My visions darkens further… This is it. As my reality is about to force me to give up, I feel it… I feel Gwynns light. It shoots through me like a surge of adrenaline. My eyes start to clear, and I see… Drakka! She stands over me… I can see her mouth move, as if she is screaming my name… But I cannot hear. I start reaching for my bow. As I grab it, I feel Gwynn’s light returning… But something is different. Not so much in the power itself, but something. My head cannot stop pounding. Gwynn did not save, Drakka did. That much is clear. If Drakka can move without Gwynn, then so should I also be able to, no? The world around me continues in slowmotion. I stand, Drakka infront of me, and Fitzgerald with Solaire charging the beast a bit away to our left. I see Fitzgerald take a hit, I remember the light of Gwynn I put over him. Before the damage has the time to split my mind from reality again, I cancel it, and put my hand on my wounds, they begin to close, ever so slightly. I can do this, Gwynn’s light is still there, I can still use it… What? I can use it… I see… Gwynn may not be with us, but his light remains within us, that is what I understood, that is what is different. Not the power itself, but my view of it.
A second wind has come over me, and I launch my attack at the beast and it explodes into brilliant light. Somehow, I feel redeemed… There is still a smaller one that hatched–poor expression but it sort of fits–out of one of the other smaller gargoyles. I try to shoot it, but I miss. My vision is still blurry from before, it also does not help that my hands are eyes are drenched in blood.
The gargoyle sets itself up to do a fly-by, presumable to bathe us in fire… I prepare for the heat. But it does not fire, it flies straight for Drakka, picks her up and throws her off the roof. Solaire and Fitzgerald follow, and as does I. As I land, I take aim one last time, I do not finish it, however with my Smite I weaken it enough, so that Solaires and Fitzgerald’s hit takes it down.
I… I was dead… Am I… Am I going to be okay? I was dead, but Drakka saved me… I should not have lived, but I did. Thank you, Drakka.