Monday, June 17, 2013

The Fall of the Arisen

"Master, please don't!"

I heard the voice, but I couldn't place an identity to it.  Regardless, I paid it no heed.  My hand was already gripping tightly the hilt of my new sword and yanking it from its sheathe, perhaps a little faster than I meant.  I missed the heft of my old broadsword, I admit, but what this new blade lacked in density, it more than made up for it in sharpness and speed, impressing even me with the ease that it felled our recent foes.  For that alone, there was no chance that I would not turn this opportunity down, this chance to test my new weapon on an old foe.  Perhaps it was misplaced anger, but since that night that neither I nor my companions spoke of, I found that I could not control my rage when presented with an Ogre.  Seeing one now in the bright light of day, of the wide open space that this cliff-side offered us, it was my chance to slay yet another of them, if only to sate my own irrational distaste.

My feet were running long before I intended to and my blade was already thrust outward - I found myself standing next to my quarry with sword hilt-deep within its thigh before I knew what was happening, allowing me only a moment to pull back as it lurched in surprise and anger.  It wheeled on us in a hurry, growling and announcing its displeasure, but I simply didn't pay attention - I was much more focused on my sword as it re-entered the flesh of the beast again and again.  A frown drew across my face as I realized that it rent flesh from muscle and bone on this creature just as well as my broadsword did, or at least the improvements seemed minimal at best here.  Though this was not, of course, its most sensitive area to strike.  Only then, after realizing that much did I look up, did the voices of my partners start ringing in my ears loudly once more.  Only then did I feel a tinge of regret for my decision.

"They hold the advantage!  We must flee!"

'They' was the operative word, indeed.  I know not how, nor where a second Ogre appeared, but there it was before my eyes, real as the sky was yet blue.  My resolve weakened for but a moment before I gripped harder, set my jaw and grinned a grim smile.

I laughed.  I'm not sure why, really, given the context.

"Bring them all on!  We'll slay the lot of them if we must!"  My boast was near-hollow as I truly worried for our chances with the second Ogre, but as leader, I had to put up a strong front, I suppose.  Or perhaps I simply had to talk myself into it, into the realization that two of them were no match for us, seasoned as we were now.  Though the situation had changed, my desires had not, which I swiftly expressed through another slash at the ankle of the Ogre I fought before my feet left the ground and my hands sought purchase of its flesh.  As I had time and time before, I climbed my way up the creature as I heard the clashing and the clatter of my teammates fighting as well, feeling relieved that they were yet by my side even though my attentions had not been on them for some time.  My hand reeled back and I stabbed forth just as I heard Zero grunt with a similar attack below.  Our coordination sent him back in step, but my assault did not halt until I fell the strength leave my left arm and I toppled to the ground below, shaking my weary appendage to breath life back into it.

It was....a strange battle, to say the least.  I'm not sure how, but we had seemed to communicate a team effort between the four of us, with Zero and I taking one Ogre and Yoko and Aya taking the other on for a time.  After a series of particularly rough hits, I saw Yoko collapse to the ground and rushed to her side once more, finding myself able to bring color back to her cheeks and even life back to her bones.  It had something to do with the connection between Arisen and Pawns, I was sure, but that was where my assumptions ended, unable to surmise anything else about the phenomenon as it occurred.  We both had to roll away as one of the Ogres charged forth and I found myself then teamed with Aya and Zero teamed with Yoko for a time.  Our combat experience seemed to be paying off, as our efforts spoke of a trained unit and not of a mob which surprised me to no end.

I was the one to break rank first, however, as I saw Zero grabbed up in the large hand of the beast she fought, who then began to run off to do nothing I cared to think of.  I gave chase and counted myself and Zero lucky as it stopped and stood straight to gaze over its 'prize' in my companion held firmly in hand.  We were lucky, because it presented an opportunity that I capitalized on, leaping onto its back and climbing around to slash down with the express purpose of separating arm from body.  I failed in my task, unfortunately, but Zero found air in her lungs and ground beneath her once more with energy to spare in battle.  She let out a loud shout as her sword, my old sword, lurched back and struck forward, sinking in deeply to the bone of its knee, causing it to stagger back and even fall to the ground.  I moved swiftly as it fell and found myself level with the top of its head as it was dazed from the fall.  It was simple.

Much as Zero had, I found myself bringing my sword back for a strong thrust forward, sinking my blade deep into the skull, into the brain of our conquest, killing it utterly and completely in one decisive blow.  It had been showing wear, but I shuddered to think of the idea that such a blow would not have been deadly otherwise.  There was no time to rest, however, as the second Ogre was in a frenzy and I turned just in time to see Aya knocked through the air as if she weighed nothing, toppling to the ground with a thud and rolling before finally coming to an all-too-still stop.  While I still did not understand the link I had with these beings, I was thankful that a mere touch awoke them from what would be a deathly slumber otherwise as not only Aya, but Yoko again lay in crumpled heaps on the ground in the wake of the frenzied creature they fought.

I knew it was time to end this, and that simple thought surged through my mind, propelling my tired body forward towards the back of the beast that yet roared and fit, perhaps at the death of its companion or perhaps at its own wounds.  When my blade sank into its back, into its flesh, my thoughts went away as I cared not for its being, its reasoning, but only of its death. 

I was not prepared for how swiftly, nor how strangely, my desire would be met.

The beast lowered itself to all fours which brought vivid flashbacks to my mind of that night in the mines, but I did not get a chance to relive them as it charged forth towards the cliff-face that our battle had precariously took place near the precipice of.  My eyes widened in....surprise, fright, I don't know what, as we drew nearer and nearer.  My sword slashed viciously at the back, the spine of the beast I could not seem to let go of, trying merely to steer it off to the side or stop it altogether.  I knew what was coming, yet perhaps I didn't truly understand it, but then again, what happened was something that is perhaps simply not understandable in the first place.

I'm not sure what is supposed to flash through one's mind when they understand that death is not but a minute away.  For when there was no longer earth beneath the feet, the paws of the Ogre I rode, that is what I realized in an instant.

I was going to die.

I, the Arisen, the supposed hero of the land could see only water below myself and the creature.  Water that we were falling towards at an alarming speed.  Water that I knew held a creature, the 'Brine', would be the cause of my death all the same as it was the death of thousands of others who braved the seas, the oceans of the lands, perhaps foolishly in knowing such a beast existed.  I had seen the beast's handiwork up close when I kicked a goblin off of my sword, launching him into the sea only to witness as a pillar of blood erupted from the depths not a moment later.  It was....terrifying.  Because of this damned creature, that was to be my fate as well.

I suppose it would have been grander if my last visions of this world were of the expansive vista I could overlook from the sky that I was falling through, but my battlelust saw fit to ensure the thing I saw before my death was the demise of my foe.  I'm not sure if the repeated stabs I managed actually finished the Ogre off, but it was a way to vent the frustration I felt in the final moments of my life, in the final moments before our freefall came to a stop.  Though it came to a stop with a lot less of a splash than I anticipated and more of a bone-crushing impact that was thankfully cushioned by the newly-dead Ogre I found myself laying atop.  I stood, frantically looking around to let loose a cackle that surely sounded mad.  We had managed to land on a narrow bank of the massive, deep river that was no more than a foot away from my feet where they stood.  I hurried onto the land as the Ogre was drawn in and disappeared before my very eyes and did not look back as I ran along the narrow earth for I saw a shore and I was going to get to it.  My breath hitched and as my feet stepped in the solid sands of land that offered security from the depths, I allowed myself a reprieve, bending at the waist, hands to my knees as I wanted to laugh, to cry, to retch all at the same time.

I was alive.

I rode on the back of an Ogre as we fell through the air - a distance that I could only squint to see the top of now, it was that far - and managed to survive.  A chuckle escaped my lips after a gasp of breath that was as soothing as the hand that touched my shoulder just then.  I turned to look, expecting the face of Zero, but found that it was Yoko instead and as I straightened and turned fully, I saw only her.  There was a grimness to her eyes that made my question moot, but it had to be asked.  It had to be breathed, to exist, to be communicated that we both knew why it was stated.

"Where's Zero?  And Aya?"

When she said nothing purely because she did not have to say anything, anguish crippled my form and my face dropped into my hands.  Flashes of things I had seen but not registered finally seared into my brain now.  I had looked up during my descent and had seen my three companions similarly falling, though I could not, even now, assume to know why.  Nor how Yoko had survived it as had I.  The Mage spoke now, but I didn't hear it, at least not until her voice was firm, attempting to stem my despair.

"Sir...fallen pawns can be recovered at a Riftstone."

My eyes shot up to hers which seemed to hold confusion in my emotions, but in truth it was my turn then to be confused.  She spoke as if it was nothing, as if their lives were nothing.  I didn't believe her, simply, but I remembered all the times I breathed life into these beings simply by picking them up off of the ground and my doubt wavered.  I allowed myself to hope as we left the beach we had stumbled upon and headed straight for Gran Soren, to the Guild where many Pawns had congregated, had come together for the arrival of the Arisen.  To the Guild that was built around a Riftstone that I had every intention of getting to and nothing was going to stop me.  We made record time, I'm sure and as I saw the odd rock, I almost couldn't approach it.  No, I almost dared not to, fearing the worst.  Still, I drew near to the Riftstone and placed my hand upon it, causing a bright light to shine not only from the stone, but to my left.

I turned to see a form I knew all too well emerge from the light.  With something of a meek wave and a smile, Zero had appeared before my eyes once more, alive as could be.  The rush of emotions surged through me anew and I could not help myself.

I struck her.

She seemed genuinely confused as she straightened from the punch across her face I'd delivered, but that expression melted into one of understanding under my withering gaze.

"Of all the stupid things you could do...", I began, but could not muster the effort to complete the thought.  Nor did I have to as she looked down, understanding the level of disappointment I held in her lack of worth for her own life.  My hand pressed to the Riftstone again and moments later Aya reappeared as well, though I spared her the attack, merely expressing the same amount of disappointment to her in a steeled glare.  All three of the women I had surrounded myself with, entrusted my life with and protected in our travels were back together again.  Our party was complete once more, just that easily.

Yet I made it obvious as I left that I wanted nothing at all to do with them for the time being.

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