I’m not really sure where this idea came from. Yet, given how death exists (in some way) in every genre of fiction it was something I can build on. Twisting and shaping it to something both strange and plot building. Without diminishing the power that death could wield in a fantasy environment.
Raising the visor of my battle damaged helmet, I attempted to wipe the blood away from on a battlefield that had fallen mostly silent. Only the caw of crows and the ramblings and moans of those who death has yet to take were the only thing heard. Keeping a tight grip on my sword I began to step away. Prepared to be merciful to the fallen, ally and enemy alike.
Stopping completely when I heard a strange almost inhuman groan from behind me. Turning around I raised my sword. Only to see the fallen general of the Tisthan forces, had begun to raise. Bloodied arrows still through what remained of his eyes.
Trying to hide my fear, I asked “You are dead, I watched you fall. What in god’s name are you,” raising my sword to defend myself if needed. Still struggling to understand what I was seeing.
The general’s corpse chuckled before responding “What or who I am is not your concern mortal,” as his flesh began to change. Becoming rapidly darker as it tightened around his bones. “All you truly need to know,” being cut off as a sword with a body of fire decapitated him.
Sensing I was going to be killed by the blade’s unknown wielder, I struggled to pull a dented, muddied shield from the ground below me. Hoping I would manage to die with honor, as my ancestors have. Raising the shield I readied myself to die. Glancing over my shield I saw the wielder of the strange flaming sword. A tall warrior clad in ebony plate armor. Yet somehow the flame the sword possessed was within its body. The strange blade sheathed at the left side of his waist. Cautiously lowering my shield, I watched this strange warrior. Trying to understand any of what was happening. This shouldn’t be happening, it went against everything the Kuorkizin.
Rapidly reciting a quick prayer softly, I began to step backward. Keeping my gaze focused on the strange warrior, as I attempted to flee. Ignoring the screams of the wounded as I passed over them. This place was no longer a battlefield but, a place of damnation. I may have killed today in defense of my homeland, but I felt no desire to be damned.
Managing to reach the outskirts of this unholy battlefield, I turned myself. Breaking into a run, trying to escape all of this like a coward. Believing it was better to be branded a coward, then to die in a fight against a warrior of unholy origin. There was no honor in that.
Being stopped by a forceful tap of something hard, as I ran around a tree. Grunting, I looked up to see what had hit me. Only to see the same strange warrior from the battle-field. Holding a bloodied iron halberd where my chest would have been if I hadn’t stopped. How he managed to get ahead of me was beyond me.
I shouted “I don’t know what you are, but I beg you to leave me alone. Please,” trying to get up. “My family will not ransom me, there is no reason to follow me,” managing to get to my feet. Looking past this strange warrior, at the area behind him. Remembering an old monastery of the Iquarthi monks was nearby. Hoping they knew a way to stop this thing from following me.
This strange knight barely reacted to me getting on my feet. Moving the halberd out of my way, keeping its gaze on me. Without hesitation, I broke into a run. Ignoring the pain in my chest, and legs. Keeping a slight gaze over my shoulder as I ran. Only to see him standing there still, watching me.
Following the dirt road, I attempted to flee once more. Keeping a close eye on the nearby forest in the process. The monastery was protected by the forest that surrounded it, according to my mother. I never knew what she meant by that.
Starting to alter my direction some, I ran towards the forest. Feeling the dirt give way to stone, before quickly being replaced by dirt once more. Continuing to push my body, as I saw the twisting spires on the horizon. The setting sun casting its light on it from behind.
With relief, I slowed down. Noticing the monks inside had begun placing candles in the spires’ peaks. Creating the illusion of a circular ring around the sun. The monastery appeared to change much since my childhood visit. A wall of trees of various shapes, sizes and types formed a defensive wall around the structure. Two watchtowers rested above the treeline. Watching for pilgrims try to get through the only iron gate into the monastery. A lone torch rested in the middle of the gate. Watching silently for pilgrims arriving at this late hour.
As the sun fell away, I reached the gate. Finding it locked, as I attempted to pull it open. In frustration I pounded on the gate, considering trying to force my way in. Yet, that would only add more blasphemy to my arrival. Assuming they would listen to the strange tale I would tell them, at this late hour.
A monk shouted from somewhere nearby, “Stop that infernal pounding soldier it’s late,” as t torch began to make its way into view from the left side of the door. Revealing a hooded monk in brown robes. Keeping their face hidden, the monk asked “The time of darkness begins, and a weary soldier pounds on the door. What blasphemous actions could you have done that couldn’t have waited until morning?”
I responded “It is not so much what I was done, what I have seen lowmen monk of the Iquarthi. A dead man rising. Along with an ebony armored warrior with a sword of flame, who seems to be following me.”
The hooded monk said “I see,” reaching out and unlocking the door with a pale hand. “Enter soldier and be quick about it. An unlocked front door sends silent messages,” taking a few steps to the left. “The Ultimus of the Iquarthi will want to speak with you if what you told me is true.”
I nodded as I passed through the iron gate. Taking quick notice of a couple small groups of armed soldiers keeping watch on the wall of trees. Were guards necessary at a monastery, in times of war? Shouldn’t they be on the march to battle like I was?
The lowmen locked the door before catching up to me. Remaining silent as we approached the temple’s entryway. Ancient wooden doors etched with various religious symbols were the only way inside.
Climbing up the stone stairs, I let the lowmen enter first. In silence, he led me to the same room I visited when I was a child. The room hadn’t changed much, outside of some fresh torches.
The lowmen said “You will wait here, soldier. Pray if you wish, while I go wake the Ultimus. They will judge what you say, and what you don’t soldier,” bowing his head some before leaving the room.
With slow steps, I approached the simple idol in the center of the room. Leading my muddied shield against it before removing my sheathed sword from my waist. Kneeling in front of it carefully, placing the sheathed blade on the flat of my palms. Closing my eyes, I whispered “By the wisdom of the warrior goddess Ziroa, I beg for forgiveness. I only killed to defend my homeland. Before coming face to face against a warrior like no other. Grant me your strength and courage, if he finds me again,” opening my eyes after I finished.
Leaning my sword, against my shield. Remaining kneeling to assure the Ultimus that I meant them no harm. Unsure if they would enter with guards, or not. Keeping my gaze on the idol, believing it would give me answers.
Approaching footsteps echoed some as they entered the room. The lowmen said “Rise soldier, I have brought three Ultimuses to hear your tale,” pausing some as I stood up. Turning around I waited for the hooded white robbed Ultimates and the lowmen to get closer. “The three Ultimuses I have gathered for your audience are; Ultimus Brosau who is on my left, Ultimus Gorsal is on my right, and Ultimus Clore is the one behind me,” introducing them as they sat in the nearest wooden pew. “You may now begin your tale soldier.”
I nodded before retelling what happened on the battlefield. Being as detailed as I could, without creating a dishonorable version of myself. Telling them how the strange warrior managed to catch up and find me without me noticing. Striking me down, before I escaped. Running here on sore muscles, and tired feet hoping they would have a way to stop this thing.
Ultimus Clore spoke first, “That is an interesting but blasphemous tale soldier,” his voice barely a whisper. “Lowmen escort this heretic to the dungeon. We will break this heretic of the lies spewed from his mouth, and seen by his eyes,” as two guards from outside rushed in. Knocked arrows drawn back and ready to fire. “These two will help you escort him.”
I saw how deadly an arrow could be. Doubting I could get to my shield before they could fire. I willingly surrendered myself to them. Leaving my sword and shield where they lay, as I was escorted from the room. Furious and confused by the decision of the Ultimuses.
The lowmen led me down a set of dirty, worn cold stone stairs, lit only by flickering torches. Individual windowless cells of stone and iron rested alongside the wall opposite of the stairs. I couldn’t tell if the cells were occupied, despite the rancid aroma that filled the air.
They shoved me into the cell farthest from the stairs. Leaving me in a dimly lit dungeon we arrived in. My cell was cramped for what little it was occupied by. A spread out bundle of hay, a wooden bucket, and myself. Looking at the floor I wondered why the Ultimus concluded, I was a heretic. Given my current situation, I had plenty of time to think about it.
The torch went out as an unnatural chill filled the air. Yet, the darkness saw short-lived as something appeared in front my cell, glowing orange, and white. The light slowly shaping itself into something resembling a woman. Almost angelic looking but, I had doubts it was. The figure appeared to be creating ebony armor from within itself, causing the light to falter. Strange symbols I didn’t recognize let the thing’s inner light shine through. Two matching scimitars rested at the things waist. However, the blades were different colors. One possessed a body of orange fire, while the other was a deep blue. Backing away from the cell door, I waited for this ghostly figure to come towards me. Unable to retreat from it.
The glowing being asked “This was an unexpected outcome Lieutenant Arnec. Yet, that is not what brings me here. I’m here to offer you a chance to escape destiny’s grip. What you saw today on the battlefield was something that was written out of your kind’s holy book over time. Which unfortunately, this has allowed them to influence your world from the Deshu Vault. When you saw the general begin to change, is how the Gorsiula enter this world. They are harbingers of death, that feed on the carnage, chaos, and death, your kind creates naturally. Had one of my Deathless not stopped it, you wouldn’t have made it this far. You showed unexpected courage despite certain death.If there is any hope to stop the Gorsiula from returning, I will need to bolster the ranks of my Deathless. Will you rise to the challenge of becoming a Deathless, Lt. Arnec?”
I looked at this strange spectre, weighing my choices. If I choose to stay, torture and a life of forced exile would be entire life. Never seeing my family, or my betrothed ever again. All of which sounded worse, than becoming a Deathless. Even though I knew little about what that entailed, I saw the power they had.It seemed the latter choice at least gained me something, instead of loosing everything.
“It would be my honor, strange specter,” I answered.
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