Saturday, July 5, 2014

Always Burning Brightly


Finally, I could set my sword down, could rest my weary bones and know relaxation in this damnable world.  Scant as it was, it was my only reprieve these days and I dare not go a moment without cherishing it, holding it dearly as it deserves.  This bonfire - these bonfires, I should say, as they're scattered about the lands - was simple in appearance, but were vital little structures and I cannot recall just how many times I had silently hoped and prayed to witness one while exiting the throes of one battle and staggering blindly to the next.  Though, to call some of the encounters I had been in a 'battle' would be rather charitable to me, and I'm not sure I deserve such a kindness.

Looking across the flickering flames surrounding the buried sword, I was nearly startled to see the form of another man, but quickly contained myself.  It happened sometimes, seeing these figures that I had been told were 'shadows' of other worlds similar to this one, but it never ceased to raise the hairs on the back of my neck at the very least.  I knew I had fled from the first one, thinking it was yet another opponent set to kill me in this land that was filled with creatures of a similar interest, but returned when I saw him settle before the fire and fade.  Who knew where he was now - his armor was fairly impressive and heavy and I guessed that his survival was not in question, but it was a more existential query than that.  I wondered where he was now, for I had no idea just where I was going myself.

Details had been offered to me piecemeal, little bits here and there from the few 'friendly' faces that I could hope to see, yet it pained me to even call them that.  Too many times had I looked into the eyes of a human while they desperately sought to hold onto their sanity, only to look into those same eyes as they died by my blade because they'd lost it.  Logan, his shy eyes beneath his titular big hat, Rhea, her pure gaze amidst the white garbs that framed her face, and the sad, sad man whose name I never was entrusted with, only knowing him as the debased warrior who mocked me in my initial pursuit in this world.  Their killings, on the back of so many that I had performed, were the ones that stuck with me, that still found a way to disturb me in these quiet moments that were supposed to be peaceful.

'Disturbing' was a good word for yet another of the few that I knew, however.  Not a man or a woman, but rather a.....beast who called himself a Primordial Serpent.  "Kingseeker Frampt", or simply Frampt as I had come to know him.  He stretched on for what I believed to be miles, as I never had the chance to see his tail, only knowing that he poked his disgusting head out of a pit that looked bottomless.

"Chosen Undead," he had said as I wandered into his realm for the first time, "Chosen Undead, who has rung the Bell of Awakening; I wish to elucidate your fate.  Do you seek such enlightenment?"  'Yes,' I had cried, 'Yes, tell me, tell me everything, make me understand just what has transpired, who I am, what I am!'  I was desperate, eager to finally know that which kept me bound to this world that I had no knowledge of, to finally know just what this world actually was.  I would have settled for simply walking away from the encounter knowing anything more than I had that would assist in making things clearer.

Frampt only left me with more questions.

"Very well.  Then I am pleased to share."  Frampt's maw had contorted into something that I instinctively knew was meant to be a smile, but it was very far from.  "Chosen Undead, your fate succeed the Great Lord Gwyn, so that you may link the Fire, cast away the Dark and undo the curse of the Undead."  Who was the Great Lord Gwyn that Frampt was so pleased to mention, yet never describe?  What was the Dark?  And what of the Undead?  He spoke as if I were one of these, though right now in my human form, I felt air in my lungs, I felt blood pump through my veins and, at times, out of them when I suffered a wound and I knew the warmth of fire in all its forms as well as the biting cold which was rare and not something that permeated my form often.  I knew life, yet I was dead in his eyes.  He did not know of my confusion, or did not mind it, as he simply moved on with his speech.

"To this end, you must visit Anor Londo and acquire the Lordvessel."

"Of course," I had said bitterly.  My grip on the sword in my hand tightened and I looked down to its long, darkened blade.  I had retrieved this from a fearsome enemy, a Knight wearing charred-black armor, a being that should have been dead, immolated, yet walked and fought on.  The sword of this Black Knight had been particularly effective and proved to be my saving grace on more than one occasion.  And though I gathered more and more weapons, not a one hoped to match the power that this blade offered.  With it, I could fell enemies in a slice or two and my strikes that rang true more often than not spelled an instantaneous death for those who found themselves gutted by it.  That should have gone without saying, but I had seen creatures lose limbs and not know the difference even a second later, so I had little doubt that 'death' was malleable to them in how it was delivered.

I could kill him with it, surely.  I could end his life with a single swipe, removing his head from his serpentine body.  I could cut a bloody swath through any that stood in my path here in the place known as Firelink Shrine.  I had considered it, even, but never acted on it.  There was no need to, though.  While I did not consider those that remained close or dear to me, I also harbored no ill will towards them....or at least most of them.  I had never liked the look the supposed Cleric, Petrus, had given Rhea while she nor her bodyguards watched and when I told her that she was dead after she'd gone hollow and attacked me, the first look he gave me seemed to be that of unguarded resentment, as if I had yanked away a trophy that was only moments from his own grip.  He feigned it as a sour look of loss that a grieving man would have for the person who brought news of a fallen companion but I knew better in my heart.  It was the only genuine moment that I had seen from the man and it still chilled me to think of it.

A sigh emerged from my cracked lips and I shook my head in slight revulsion.  I hated this part of relaxation, finding that my mind always wandered to the mystery that I lived in.  I was currently living another one of those things that I could not understand, for beneath the grey armor that wrapped about me, I was little more than literal skin and bones.  I was Hollow thanks to a careless mistake that resulted in a painful death and took me to another bonfire in the world.  I always found myself awaking at a bonfire, glancing into the merrily dancing flames with a new coldness radiating from my core.  Even in this form, I was alive, but I was closer to 'Undead' than I cared to be.  Still, I found that sometimes I preferred this form, because dying when you're almost dead anyway hurt a lot less than when you were a human.  And I had died a lot.  I knew the true pain as everyone else did.  I understood their struggles with madness, for sometimes I didn't know if I had lost my own.  For death to be a repeatable act....well, it was not originally meant for beings so fragile of mind as we.

Perhaps that is why I chuckled at the strange idea that I had.  My memories always arose in these situations, so perhaps it was time to make use of it.  In my head, I saw the man who had been a mere shadow across from me, sitting just as I was.  And I saw more, others, sharing this bonfire with me.  We all sat, we all stared into the fire as it burned and offered comfort and we all knew of the others presence.  I could see them, and perhaps they could see me.  Perhaps if I wished it, they could hear me as well.

"Friends," I croaked and coughed, shaking my head.  This form would not do for what I had planned.  So leaning forward, I offered a little of myself to the flames and felt the muscles and definition return to my frame, felt the mass of blonde hair that hung to the sides of my head untangle and regain its volume from the stringy wisps it had been reduced to.  I could moisten my lips again and so I did, looking from the fire to the eyes of the many gathered here in my head.

"Friends, I don't know you and you don't know me, but we share this hell in a sense.  That makes us comrades in arms.  So let me ease your minds a little with a tale.

Let me tell you my story."