The Obscured Requiem - Chapter 30
My eyes open and I’m surprised to see that my arm that was split in twain was bandaged and my other arm that had been lost to the chain was stitched back onto my shoulder. What surprised me more than anything was that in my hand was a small portion of Cran, and he was desperately giving me an infusion of essence. I was saved, but Cran was just a pile of woodchips, how could he be here?
“How am I still alive?” I whisper remembering the fall and basically losing both of my arms.
“Gareth asked the guards that sided with you where they captured you. He didn’t know why I wasn’t with you, and went to find me,” says Cran who was more a strange wand or talisman in my hand than a staff now, “He ran with all his might and found me in the splinters of my reforming body. He told me what was going on and rushed me back to you. By the time we reached you, you were already at the bottom of the pit. Luckily, we arrived at the pit only seconds after we heard the explosion. If I hadn’t gotten to you when I did, we may have very well lost you.”
“Why didn’t you leave me for dead?” I ask wondering what sort of hope that Gareth was able to muster to take a chance on someone that should be dead.
Cran shakes in my hand, “Gareth never lost faith that you were alive. He told me that he knew you had the strength to claw your way out of the maw of Martog and waits for your return. He tossed me into the pit, to help you escape. Good thing he did, as you were fading fast. I gave you all the essence I had, and with our souls working together we just barely stopped the bleeding and were able stabilize you.”
“I was so close to being a goner,” I say shaking my head while also trying to get up, but my arms are like dead weights at my sides, and I collapse backward, “how long have I been out?”
“A few hours,” says Cran floating to my chest and applying pressure to keep me from trying to get back up again, “Your body is still healing. Even when your arm was severed by your father it took near a whole night to heal up completely, and with what you went through the injuries your arms and legs sustained are probably going to put extreme strain on what essence you can produce extending your healing time to a few days.”
“So, I’m quadriplegic until I can fully heal. Well, that’s better than being dead,” I say staring at the fading light of the hole’s mouth above us, “Cran, thank you for saving me.”
“Just rest and get better, and I’ll try to do the same. There are so many people waiting for us to return,” says Cran and a vapor emits from his leaves that gently wafts me to sleep.
When I awake from Cran’s peaceful slumber, I can move my legs again, and the arm that had been severed by the chain has some movement again. The arm that was split in half, was still dead weight, but regaining some modicum of mobility. The amount I’ve healed amazes me. I just can’t believe that I was able to bounce back at all from what I had endured.
Cran had made and covered me with several blankets as it was really cold down in the pit, so I kicked off the blankets and begin to wander around my prison. The bodies of the guards were strewn about the pit, and I found Gehenna’s corpse which I kicked as I pass him. I see Cran now fully healed in his tree form, a bioluminescent fruit hanging from the hole his two main branches form. Underneath him is someone that I didn’t want to see here.
I clutch my mother to my chest with my one good arm under Cran’s light. It’s over, but the cost has been great. I’ve lost all my family to Gehenna’s plots, and if I hadn’t stayed to save Uzuri, maybe my mother and father would be alive right now. All these men surrounding Gehenna, would have had a chance to live as well. So much life was thrown away because of Gehenna’s hatred and leadership. My mother, my father, Gehenna, and all these guards whose names I’ll probably never know are dead because of me and Gehenna. I cannot blame myself entirely for what has transpired, as if Gehenna didn’t fight against me, maybe the plan my friends and I came up with could have led to a bloodless peace.
Tears fall from my eyes as I wonder what could have been. Uzuri would have been returned to the teratolion. Gehenna would have been turned over to those he wronged; though, I do wonder if those that currently lie lifeless with him would have defended him if the teratolion came searching for him. Gareth would most likely rise to be chief if not after our plan, but within some time in his future. I would be summoned to fulfill my debt to Argentum, and I would ask the chief of the teratolion to permit Uzuri to come with me. Together we would fulfill my debt joyfully as we wander a world truly without walls. My mother and father would probably be accepted into the village under Gareth’s leadership, and the Sororitas Daemonica would spend the rest of their days amongst their friends and new families. The village would eventually come to accept the new peace and the evils of the past, and maybe come to ally themselves with their neighbors in the mountains. What could have been, is now an illusory image and my heart yearns for the vision in my mind.
My mother will never speak with her sister again or wander the streets where she played as a child. My father will never sing his love to her again on this mortal plain or enjoy a life where he isn’t spurned by all those around him. Maybe he could have eventually lived to escape the memories of his past, as joyful memories of peace and friendship replaced his regrets, but I failed him. My mother and father will never go hunting together, or enjoy a meal together here on Nuren again, but maybe there will be some respite and peace for their souls wherever a soul travels once it is free from the prison of flesh.
A branch from Cran lowers and the leather band my mother gave me fell upon my mother’s chest. It must have fallen off when my arm was torn off, and I noticed that Uzuri’s engagement band is also missing. My mother wanted me to wear this, so that she could walk with me wherever I go. She died trying to save me using every ounce of her being. She didn’t resent me in the end. My father embraced me having broken him of his berserker trance. He thanked me for reasoning with a beast. He trained me and sacrificed his pride and sorrow so that I could be strong enough to stand against the village, for Uzuri’s and the village’s sake. My parents gave so much for me to have the chance to try and save Uzuri and become my own person. They gave their lives so that I could live and become all I could. They let me make my own decisions and trusted me. Now my mother lies in a grave with her defiler, and my father’s corpse is a macabre display of Gehenna’s wrath.
I won’t let my mother’s corpse stay here; she deserves to be buried by the man she loved. Every moment that she is down here tears at my soul, and for her to be so close to Gehenna makes me furious. I do my best to gather the corpses of the guards and Gehenna and stack them in a pile as far away from my mother as possible. Anything just to get him away from her.
After I had piled the corpses, I sat down near Cran and my mother, and felt my body grow weak. I’m still recovering, and I had pushed myself a little too much in doing something that didn’t need to be done. I take a few deep breaths, and my body gives out rather than falling into restful slumber. Nightmares torment my rest, as Gehenna wanders my night terrors. Gehenna’s bloating corpse tears into my mother’s corpse and his guards feast upon my father’s body. Uzuri was tied to a stake, and the firewood blazing below her are the corpses of my friends.
I awoke in a cold sweat, noticing that my other arm was now mobile. I unwrap the bandages and look at the quickly healing scar that ran up my elbow to my fingers. My soul rests easy in my chest, and my spells were now recharged. I walk over to the pile of corpses and try not to look them in their rotting faces. I couldn’t bring myself to look at Gehenna after my dream, and I release a torrent of plasma orbs into the pile, and the smell of burning and rotting flesh fills the pit. I don’t really mind the scent, as at least now the Gehenna in my dreams will not torment my reality. He will never hurt anyone else, and my friends are beyond his grasp now.
Cran floats over to me, and I grasp him in my newly healed hand. Walking over to my mother, I kneel beside her, and do what I can to secure her to myself, and then launch myself into the air. Cran slows our descent and guides us to small cliffs that I use to kick off of to increase our altitude. Together Cran and I work together, and we escape Martog’s maw. I look below me and see the teeth like stones around the pit and Cran guides my mother and I to a soft landing.
Looking upon the statue of the goddess, I feel my ire grow again within me. If it wasn’t for Gehenna’s and the high matriarch’s faith in her and Martog, none of this would have happened. I would have grown up with friends in the village. Uzuri, may have been born to her living mother in a loving family away from all this zealotry. I hate this place, and without my noticing, a spell had activated. Blood from my arm had crept into my pocket and a bomb engorged itself and grew with my blood and essence. I want to toss the explosive at the goddess and send her into the pit with her most ‘righteous’ followers. However, my father made that statue and this place for the village, and I find a bit of irony that those of the village will continue to worship the work of his hands. He and my mother will live on in their goddess and will be the true gods of Unadeam.
I carry my mother and walk toward the place my father died. Though I should go to the village and let my friends know that I am alive, this cannot wait. I must reunite my mother and father. At least in death they can be together in peace. I find myself springing off trees, as I cannot have my parents be separated for another moment.
I arrive at where my father was killed, and I see that I wasn’t the first to arrive here, nor am I alone. My uncle stands in reverence before a fresh grave. The marker of this grave was simple but told me it was truly my father’s final resting place, as my father’s sword was stabbed into the top of it. A sword in a stone, an oddly appropriate memorial for my father.
My uncle, seeing me and my mother, waves his hand and dirt shoots from the ground making a fresh grave and a tree carves itself into a casket. My uncle doesn’t look at me, or really acknowledge my presence outside of his previous gestures. He appears locked in deep thought and continues to stare with an intense focus upon my father’s gravestone. I lie my mother’s body in the casket my uncle made for her and it seals itself. I watch as the casket floats away from me, and drifts into the hole made for it. The dirt of the hole slowly moves and almost drizzles like rain into my mother’s grave. The way the dirt moved almost made it seem like thousands of mourners taking turns to drop a handful of dirt into the grave.
The stone marking my father’s grave grew in size to mark both his and my mother’s grave. I hear a scratching noise and see that the stone appears to be etching itself with words and patterns. When the etching finished the marker was covered in images of three deer prancing through a forest, and the words ‘together again’ graced the top of the stone in intricate calligraphy.
I feel something drop from my wrists, and notice that my grandfather’s gloves had completely disintegrated. The dust of the gloves drifts off in the breeze, and despite my uncle being at my side I feel absolutely alone. Those that had raised me and mentored me are now returning to the dust of Nuren, they may grace the tapestries of time, but I still want them to be with me.
“Your father was a great man. I regret so much, that our relationship was permanently damaged,” says my uncle kneeling at my father’s grave, “I’ve done many things that I regret. I was young and misguided, and unfortunately that led me to many decisions and experiments that played with life as a god does. I sit at the cusp of another tragedy, knowing that it was my brother who swayed me to rethink all I thought to be true.”
“I’m guessing you are here to collect me,” I say kneeling at my parents’ grave with my uncle. I’m surprised by his caring eulogy for my father and know that my uncle must have loved my father even if my father despised Argentum. However, what surprise and feelings I have welling in me are quickly replaced with tired numbness. I just want to know why he is here.
My uncle nods at me and says, “Well yes, and to tell you that you are dead.”
“I’m right here, Uncle, how am I dead?” I say trying to make a joke, but the fatigue of months of training and the last few days of barely avoiding death and healing in a pit with the corpses of my enemies and family make my voice a monotone whisper.
“A great dialectic battle for the future of this world is about to begin,” says my uncle getting off his knees in order to recline into a more relaxed position, “My people sit primed to make a decision that will change the world forever. Before I met you, the decision seemed all but made, but fate often provides a counterargument and a choice. Soon I won’t be able to restrain the souls of my people, that they so willingly gave me as to prepare them a new world, and you have heard their screams.”
“I don’t see how this answers my question,” I say confused as to what my uncle is saying.
“If you could start over. Go back to square one, destroy the history of the world, and all difference to essentially create a world without needless conflict would you do it?” says my Uncle looking at my father’s grave, “I thought that this idea and question was the path to utopia, and a true paradise on Nuren. My people have permitted me to safeguard their souls, letting me wipe their minds to fill their consciousness with only benevolence for millennia. However, the time is soon at hand where I won’t be able to restrain them, and my attempts to sway humanity to destroy themselves have all resulted in failure.”
“Again, how does this relate to me being dead?” I ask, getting frustrated with my uncle’s drawn-out explanation.
“Humanity despite suffering from many vicious and awful flaws, still struggle against all the odds stacked against them. They not only survive, but progress and thrive. Creatures that I thought were void of virtue that were so easily swayed to commit atrocities, slowly like wine aged and developed to my eyes,” says my uncle and I feel myself growing more and more tired of his soliloquy, “I can no longer make the decision that will decide the fate of humanity. Thus, I have chosen two champions to explore the world of man and try to influence it for better, or drive humanity to what I thought was an assured self-destruction. Eventually both my champions will help decide the fate of humanity, and my people will choose the world Nuren will become. You are humanity’s champion Skath, and my daughter is the champion of utopia.”
“Please tell me why I’m dead. All you’ve done is give me some detail about what is going to occur next with my life debt, which honestly, I want to abandon now,” I say standing up and I begin to walk away.
“You weren’t listening then,” says my uncle grabbing my heel, “If you do not comply with your life debt, all mankind will perish. This will include those in that village you tried to defend, and your precious lover. If you stay here, I can guarantee a few years of peace until the winged tide will purge you and everything you love and cherish from Nuren.”
“Why me? Why should I be the champion of mankind? If anything, both options of humanity being destroyed or permitted to live seem just fine to me. If all of humanity was destroyed, after what Gehenna revealed to me, maybe a more benevolent people should take over this world. Though, I don’t…” I say and my words fall away as I realize what I just said. I wished death upon all of humanity, and I would have never wished that before. What have I become? After all my training, and all I went through, what have I become? Also, all those I have just saved are in danger if I don’t comply with my life debt and do what my uncle asks of me. Am I really that jaded and tired to make such dire comments.
“You can commune with souls and essence like my daughter, and you know of the evil and good of humanity, whereas she only knows the evil. All you have experienced here in this wretched valley has served as a microcosm of what I desire of you. This was a portion of my training, and you have demonstrated yourself worthy. Consider this, who better to fight for and decide the fate of humanity than one that can walk in their shadows?” says my uncle releasing his grasp on my heel.
I stay put as I don’t know what to do. I have already failed so many people, why would my uncle see me worthy to govern the future of not only his people, but all of humanity as well? Though, can I just abandon humanity? I did everything in my power to protect Uzuri and a village that scorned me, can I turn my back on them now after all I’ve done? Now not only a village but a whole world is being placed in my hands, and I feel conflicted, especially as I do not really want to fight for all the peoples of this world, as I’ve already failed.
I have lost so much fighting for others, that I cannot muster the desire to protect anyone else but just those I love and care for. However, they are numbered amidst the multitudes of mankind! Which means that in fighting for man I’ll be saving them as well. The desire of my heart is to stay with those I love, but I feel the weight of my responsibility to protect them by fulfilling the terms of my life debt that may save them from what my uncle indicates is an assured damnation. Could I abandon mankind and enjoy a moment of happiness knowing that I walk toward an assured doom with all those I care for? Can I at least have a little happiness in my journey? Despite my new feelings, maybe one desire if fulfilled could overwhelm my new apathy toward my fellow man.
“Can Uzuri come with me?” I ask knowing if she is at my side what feelings I have now toward all mankind will be replaced by my love for her and this love will motivate me to become man’s champion. Though a certain curiosity also overcomes me as I desire another boon of my uncle, “can I also say goodbye to my friends? The answer to these two questions may determine whether I serve as your champion or not.”
“I’ll tell you now that I have broken with my position of neutrality to help you catch up with your competitor. My daughter while you were training and even before that has been setting up plans and schemes to bring the world of man low, and I have done what I can to organize a way to save potentially thousands of lives. However, to do that I can tell you now that I can only grant one of your two requests,” says my uncle studying me from the ground, “if you could save thousands of lives and thwart a deadly scheme of my daughter by letting Uzuri become a queen, of potentially not just the western mountain hall, but the eastern one as well, would you permit yourself to stay dead in her eyes? I’m not asking for you to actually die, but to act as if you had plummeted to your death during your fight with Gehenna and his guards.”
“The future isn’t set in stone but is made!” I weakly retort not wanting to lose anyone else than who I already have. Though I find some relief to my frustration now that my uncle has clarified what he meant by my supposedly being dead, and I cannot accept my uncle’s plan. I’m alive and my uncle wishes for me to fake my death so that Uzuri will go on to claim her destiny. I was told that this was fated to occur by my father, that I wouldn’t be able to walk with her once her fate was reclaimed, but I still wish to fight destiny and fate. I want to be with her, and I don’t think I could bring myself to cause her emotional pain by pretending to die! Even if my uncle is right and somehow faking my death saves thousands, I still want her to be by my side. I fought so hard to free her, had my feelings reciprocated, accepted her proposal to marry her, and now my uncle wants me to die and give up all the happiness I have left in this world after what joy I did have was buried six feet below where we currently mourn.
I do not desire what my uncle does. I want her to be with me, and maybe that is worth some sacrifice. I feel my heart lurch within me hearing the words I have recited in my thoughts, and I feel torn by my desires and my responsibility to what I swore to become, the morals I had tried to maintain, and what I had spent so long training and fighting for. Can I truly sacrifice thousands of people like Gehenna did? I fought so hard to save the lives of a couple hundred people who scorned me when I learned that my own desires would doom them to hell. Can I truly go back on the morals that I have striven to uphold? Can I abandon thousands of people, and maybe even the whole world, for a moment’s happiness? Would a moment’s happiness be worth the assured destruction of those I love and myself?
My uncle leans forward and places his head on his hands acknowledging and pondering my words as he says, “I know that the future isn’t assured, but if you could set signs and make the beginnings of a desired path to be tread to make it easier and more apparent for others to select choices to create a possible future, the odds for predicting and carving a future before it exists becomes a possibility. I have known that you would be successful for a long time in your endeavors to save the teratolion princess, and now that Uzuri is free I have placed events into motion that will most likely save thousands of lives through her new royal life she will inherit. However, according to my judgement you must be dead to Uzuri, as if you were to still live, I feel she would make decisions that would prompt her to go down another path. Though the future isn’t set in stone, sometimes it is worth taking a gamble on futures with the best outcomes.”
“So, I must die, for the chance others will live,” I say frozen in place.
My uncle nods to me and gets up to place his hands on my shoulders, “if my plans fail, I will do everything in my power to return you to her side again. However, I need to know, will you engage with the charade of your death, knowing that though Uzuri will be in pain for a short time, her path would lead to the salvation of thousands of human and teratolion lives?”
Tears fall from my eyes, and I want to make the selfish decision. I really want to make the selfish decision and say that I’ve sacrificed enough and should have a little personal happiness. However, how could I look into Uzuri’s eyes knowing that our love is built on the burial mound of thousands. The guilt and shame festering within me I decide to ask a few questions before making my decision, “Will she be able to live in a world without walls? Will she find love again? Will she not be alone? Will she find happiness?”
“Yes,” says my uncle wiping the tears from my eyes, “and hopefully so will you. We are cursed to live long lives, which means one day you will have to say goodbye to all those you love now. It always hurts, but love can be found again, and we will carry the love we supposedly lost in our hearts forever. Your parents may be buried here, but their love is still within you, and so will Uzuri’s love be with you and your love will be with her. Just because you cannot be physically together the essence of their love will be in your soul as a guiding hand.”
“Then yes, I’ll die for her. If thousands could possibly live if I am to fake my death, I will remain dead to Uzuri,” I say leaning forward into my uncle’s shoulder. My oath is long dead after all I’ve done, but I cannot bring needless blood upon my head. If there is a chance for lives to be saved, even if I don’t know the exact intricate methods of their salvation, maybe it’s worth a little more personal sacrifice. My parents lay buried here, and the pain I feel knowing their loss will be pain I’m removing from this world compounded thousands of times over by accepting my own death. I can sacrifice my happiness so that others may be happy and not suffer as I do now. I love Uzuri, but I cannot bring myself to sacrifice others so that I can be happy. If she will find happiness and love in a future without me, and thousands of lives will be saved, then I accept my death.
‘With or without me’ she will see a world a without walls, forge a destiny of peace, and find love and her own happiness. I hoped to be by her side, but for a long time I was warned of our impending separation. I guess I truly have to make good on the thought that her true happiness even if I’m not a part of it, is still a goal of mine. I will step aside so that she may play a role in the potential peace and happiness of not just herself but many others. Though I cannot fully accept this fate of mine, it will be best to bring about a better world for everyone.
“Does this also mean that you will fulfill your life debt? Will you travel the world doing what you can to learn of man, helping them as a celandil, guiding them to greater heights to thwart my daughter’s schemes? Will you after all your travels come to me and my people to commune with their souls and attempt to convince them that humanity is worth saving? Will you become humanity’s champion?” asks my uncle wrapping his arms around me, “I’m sorry that I have to put you up to this, especially with your parents’ deaths being so recent, but time is of the essence.”
“I will become your champion,” I say, and I hear the screams of my uncle’s essence come upon me. Agony rips through my body. What felt like growing pains amplified hundreds of times snaked through my muscles and flesh. I wanted to scream, but the voice escaping my throat was not my own. I felt myself collapse into my uncle’s arms, and with a beat of his wings we flew up into the air. My body still shuddering in pain as I lose track of the world, we quickly descend, and my uncle gently places me on the ground next to the roaring waters of my old haunt.
“What did you do to me,” says a voice that isn’t my own, but spoke what I thought and ordered my body to think and speak.
“Skath is dead, now Aeramen lives,” says my uncle. I push myself to my knees and look into the waters in front of me. My eyes were now violet in coloration, and almost every feature of my face was different. The only feature upon my face that was the same as it was before was the long scar that inscribed the wind blade spell that my father had ‘taught’ me. My skin was a different color, I was a bit taller, and my hair was no longer dark like my mother’s but brunette. Even my musculature appeared different. I was no longer me.