Monday, October 03, 2005

Eterna's Reminiscences


I was only ten. My name then was Veritas. And on that fateful night came a stranger, one who would irrevocably shatter the cornerstones of my life, my home and my soul.

Storm clouds were hanging over the village, when he came. That night, the least brave among the children would cower when a lightning streak across the morose sky, and scream in terror when the trailing thunder roared passed them. It was a vile stormy night, a fact not lost upon our sodden selves.

Dismissing the frequent lightning strikes that crackled and echoed about our mountainous home, two pairs of curious eyes were peering at the group of men standing off against a lone figure. And both frowned when they saw the weapons – the men of the village were armed, and seemed uneasy as the stranger conversed with the village elders. Veritus glanced at me, and I gave a shrug to my twin’s unspoken question – although it was not common for our isolated village to have any visitors but all travelers who did stumbled into our humble village are welcomed, particularly for their tales from the outside world.

But tonight, even our stout blacksmith, Aurthos was nervous. It was so unnatural, so eerie, so UNBORING, I grinned at the prospect. And as if sensing my excitement, Veritus nodded and whispered eagerly, “Just like in the stories, this is how adventures always begin!”

“A courtier maybe, I wonder what they are talking about.” I whispered back as I crept closer. Graceful as a mountain lion, my brother followed behind. We were burning with curiosity, why would the stranger come to such a isolated place? But now, we know, to our eternal sorrows... MY eternal sorrow… Veritus…


“I have shown mercy, yet you still foolishly dismissed me as a charlatan! You will LIVE to regret your decision!” The strangely robed stranger crackled with maniacal laughter as he emphasized on the word, LIVE. “Oh yes, you will.”

"Ha! Crawl back to the hole you came from, we tire from your rambling. We are honest common folks, and will not stand to let a foul wizard to build his tower here, even if he is a charlatan!" My ever impatient father replied hotly. The village elders beside him winced at father’s blunt words.

“I AM NOT A CHARLATAN!” The stranger screeched angrily and threw himself at father, who promptly fisted his fragile assailant. The stranger lay stunned on the muddy ground for several moments before recovering sufficiently to glare hatefully at father. “You dare to lay your hand on the great necromancer, Vadizamar Blightbringer! I will remember this! Mark my words and you will pay for this indignity!”


Necromancer, we wondered what is a necromancer when we first heard the word. Some sort of wizard, we guessed – the worst sort, we found out to our dismay. But it was too late.


The other men were uneasy at the crazed youth’s proclamation; it is never wise to offend a wizard. The elders hastily tried to smoothen the ruffled feathers of the stranger, but before they could do anything, the bone pale youth whipped out an ancient looking parchment and started pronouncing a series of harsh unintelligible words. The scroll burnt with unnatural glow with each incantation and then with a flare of black crackling energy, it crumbled into ashes which were carried away by a sudden gush of wind.

“Ha, pantry tricks of a charlatan! I do not fear your feeble tricks. Leave this village now, or I will throw you out, a pathetic excuse of a man!” Father always has little patience with people who he thought are not doing an honest work.

Upon hearing my father’s loud bellow, the rest of the council who had scrambled for safety previously, timidly peered from their hiding places. And when they saw that father was still alive and well, they grinned with embarrassment and glared angrily at the stranger. Strangely, the youth smiled despite of father’s harsh words, and silently left the village, into the storm.

“Maybe we should at least offer him shelter; no man should be left outside in a storm like this.” Kindly Thomus commented. “Aya mayhap, you are right. But I am not going after him in the storm like that. He is an arrogant fool and I have no love for the likes of him.” Father replied. The other men shrugged and prepared to return to their homes. Hence with a resigned sigh, the rotund baker hurried after the departing figure.


I was just about to sneak back home, when Veritus tugged at my sleeve. I gave him a puzzled look, before realization dawned. Before long, a couple of curious teenagers were trailing behind the gentle baker. The wizard was indeed a merciful man.


“Vadizamar… This is a horrible weather … to be out in the open …” Thomus gasped in between breathes as he strove to catch up with the rapidly disappearing youth. “Why don’t you come and share a mug of hot tea as we wait out this weather?”

The pale stranger ignored Thomus’s offered but slowed sufficiently for the breathless man to catch up. “Com’on, Vidalius is just a bad mood ever since his wife’s death couple of months back. I hope you don’t mind.”

Mother, I sighed and glanced at an equally morose Veritus.

“You are a different from the rest. For this, I will give you mercy. Come, I want to show you something.” The youth, Vadizamar put his arm around Thomus and led him towards a nearby cave.


We crept silently behind the men, the burning curiosity of youth searing our innocent minds. “Do you think that Vadizamar is rewarding uncle Thomus? I wonder what sort of treasure he has.” I whispered to my brother. “He doesn’t look rich though.” Veritus remarked.

And before long, we saw the duo disappearing into a cave. Careful of the treacherous trail, we crept towards the entrance of the cave only to hear the harsh command of the wizard, and the hopeless cry of a dying man. At least his soul was safe. The wizard was indeed a merciful man.


“Kill him!” The youth barked harshly at a figure at the back of the cave. And before Thomus could react, the baker was held in an inhumanly strong grip. The figure bared his fangs and bended towards the hapless baker’s neck. “No!” Vadizamar commanded the monster. “Just kill him cleanly.”

The creature snared in anger, but the pale necromancer was firm. “This is my mercy to you. You will not suffer as your fellow villagers will.” And with a loud crack, the inhuman creature broke poor Thomus’s neck.


We bit our lips, desperately holding back our gasp and fled silently, with tears in our eyes, and fear within our innocent hearts. This is not an adventure. No, indeed. This is murder, but we remained silent; a sin for which we paid soon enough. I have not forgiven myself, and what about you? My brother, are you still wandering this land? I will not rest until I know you are free. My brother, I miss you so. Veritus.


The storm eventually diminished and come to pass, but alas, not so our fears. Still, we had remained as silent as our sins. No one knew what really happened, and when they found the broken body of poor Thomus, they thought he had slipped and fallen in the heavy rain. They mourned his death, for he was a gentle and well liked man, and non gave his mishap further thoughts. Veritus wanted to tell them that the strange man had murdered poor Thomus! But I was a coward; I crutched at him and begged him not to. I do not understand my fears, not then, and not now. A demon in my heart, it consumes me.

Thomus’s funeral was a simple ceremony; everyone came and paid their respect when the plague first struck. Old Muro, our wisest of the elders suddenly collapsed, he was feverish and his wrinkled form scorching hot. We hurriedly carried him to Rickma, our village priest. But it was too late. The ancient elder gasped in agony as hot viscose blood started oozing out from his orifices. He twisted in pain for many moments before a sudden torrent of blood gushed from his lips and took his pain away, for now.

There was nothing Rickma could do, the plague came without warning but it had departed just as swiftly it had claimed the victims. In two short days, more than a quarter of the village had perished from the plague, and one of them was my twin. He wept tears of blood, I couldn’t forget. Veritus, my brother, my twin, my soul. He died in great agony. And I couldn’t remember what happened after that.


It was not over. It was only the beginning of a cruel revenge for a wounded pride of young pale wizard. We suspected nothing, I said nothing, and we, I grew to regret and paid with blood and souls.


I was still in a daze when it came again. More villagers succumbed to the unnatural plague, this time they died in their sleep, pale and peaceful, but utterly devoid of blood. They were sucked dry by the plague. We mourned they death, but thought that it was but the aftermath of a plague. And I kept silent about suspicion still. The demon in my heart held me close, and painfully. Yet another thread of atonement that I willfully gave up. A mistake, one that I sworn never to repeat again! Too late!


I never really recovered from Veritus’s death, but Rickma was patient and kindly. Often I would seek refugee in his simple shrine when father was drunk again – Veritus’s death so soon after mother’s had taken its toil on the formerly cheerful man. I wept often, but soon I wept no more. That night a boy lost his innocence, and that moonless night, the village learnt its follies. That night, father wept no more, and I fear no more.

They came for us. Our dead came to bring us home. No… NO! Not home, no. I will bring us home, this I promise!


I was in the shrine of Olith, the god of earth and water, it was the few place where fear and pain were kept at bay. Then THEY came. A moonless night, our silent homes, before screams of fear and then anguish overcame us all. We should have burnt our dead, but it was not the way of Olith, alas.

There was a great splintering sound of wood before a pale maggot infested hand burst forth from the earthen mounds. Splintering woods echoed through the night as our dead rose from their restless slumber - a dark ancient evil demanding their awakening from their eternal sleep. And alas, like poorly controlled puppets, our restless dead straggled into the village.

Emma’s first scream burnt deeply into my soul, I could feel the anguish, the longing and the sorrow in the short mournful cry. The first of the zombies had entered the village. The portly washerwoman wept as she saw her husband, even an ignorant peasant like us, recognizes the suffering of the living dead. She died in her beloved’s arms, torn apart by the mindless dead. Her screams ended abruptly. I envied her; it was a release… sort of… for she grieves no longer.


I could recognize, and would forever remember the screams that night. I was young and innocent, I did not understand, and fear overcame me when the undead broke into the shrine. Rickma dragged me behind him, shielding me from the horrifying sight of our deceased friends. The elderly priest hurriedly thrust his holy symbol at the undead as he chanted loudly, calling upon his god, Olith. A burst of holy light erupted from the plain symbol and embraced the invaders of this sacred place. Several of the zombies shrieked in unholy agony before gasping in relief as their spirits were released from their mortal shells. The zombies collapsed and crumbled into fine ashes as the holy fire finally consumed the animating magic which binds their soul to eternal unrest. I was in awe of the powers of the faithful.

More zombies poured into the shrine, and still holding them at bay with his holy symbol, Rickma grabbed me with his free hand and led me to a secret door. "Quickly child, hide in there, Olith will protect you!"

Fear-stricken, I numbly followed the elderly priest's command. And from the peephole in the secret cellar, I helplessly look as Rickma turned back towards the tormented undead. Chanting fiercely once again, Rickma destroyed more of the undead as he dispelled the magic that chained the restless souls to this mortal realm.

Just as the last of the zombies collapsed, father and a few of the young men stumbled into the shrine. "Rickma! The deads are rising!! The village is surrounded!!" And before anyone could react, a tiny form glided beside young Peritus. The hapless youth had his beating heart torn out before Rickma could present his holy symbol.

The survivors scattered and eyed the newcomer fearfully, their weapons held tightly to their pounding heart. "In the name of Olith, I banish you!" Rickma thrust his holy symbol at the lone figure. But the small undead only growl as father cried in anguish as he recognized the gory vampire. He wore the face of my beloved twin! I wept; I knew in my heart, unlike the mindless zombies, my brother was aware of his fate, his curse. I wanted to rush out and embrace my brother, but the fear was too great. I was a coward.


Veritus turned his glaze towards father and spoke in an unholy voice that was not his own. "Ahhhh... you are the one who mocked me! Now you pay with the soul of your son!" He took a step towards father, oh, poor weeping father.

A holy beam seared onto Veritus as Rickma completed his incantation with a prayer to Olith. The vampire snarled and turned towards the elderly priest instead. Presenting his symbol of faith, Rickma chanted rapidly as Veritus straggled towards the burning symbol. The priest’s eyes widen in fear when the child vampire grasped his symbol and tore the scorching holy symbol from Rickma’s trembling hands. “Olith save me!” was Rickma’s dying cry as cold Veritus ripped the priest into halves. My twin cried in triumph as the blood of the faithful soaked his unholy self.

Father screamed in anger and sorrow and threw himself at his unliving son. I wept uncontrollably as my twin toyed with our father before ripping his head off and sated his unholy thirst.

I wept at my fear, my cowardice at my father’s despair, my brother’s sins.


As if sensing my presence, Veritus suddenly stared towards my hiding place, his crimson eyes boring deep into the core of my soul. I was too numbed, too tired to feel anything, but a great sorrow gripped me tightly, closely when I saw Veritus baring his fangs and screamed a silent mourning cry... a drop of crimson tear falling from his deaden eyes...

He knows…


I glanced at poor Rickma’s glazed eyes, he was like a grandfather to me, his calm steadfast faith comforts me, but now his eyes seemed to tell me something else. Had Olith really failed him? Failed us? Why did Olith not protect us, why didn’t he shield his faithful? Oh Rickma, I have learnt that gods aren’t omnipotent after all. The very existence of evil had proven this, had it not?

I knew not what had changed, but everything felt so different now. A grim determination latched on me, a dark burning desire filled my soul. I hid no more. With an ancient dagger in hand, I walked into the moonless night, towards the crazed laughter…


From his hidden alcove, the thing that was Veritus smiled and whispered silently. “All is well master.”


I do not understand my demon; I never could, not then, not now, and perhaps never. I knew not when my fears transformed into a dark clouded bloodlust. I could only observe my frail ten years old form marched grimly towards a senseless vengeance?

Across the village square, was the pale youth, the arrogant necromancer who brought this blight upon us. I glared at his raving form with unspoken hatred, and stormed towards him. No one, nothing noticed my approach. Not the wandering dead, not the tall slender figure beside the vile necromancer, his back was turned away. Perhaps Olith was with me, I thought to myself. And when I was but a few pace away from the raving necromancer, I raised my blade, its blade glimmering even in such moonless night. But still, no one noticed or cared; I plunged the ancient dagger into the murderer of my home. The metallic taste of his blood was heavenly; I plunged the glowing dagger again, the ecstasy of his lifeblood driving me on. I was lost to the bloodcraze I never knew I had. I knew I had a tainted soul – it was touched by the devil.

I rose and saw my beloved twin beside me; he smiled approvingly at my bloodstained form. But it was the eyes of the one who stood behind him, which caught my attention. He stood with an unnatural grace, and his eyes were steely gray but hypnotically so. He approached me, and I could hear my blood gushing past my ears, my heart pounding with awe – he is an angel, I was sure of it. I smiled when he gave me his kiss.

“No master!” Someone whined. “You promised me!”

The angel gave the speaker a great shove before turning his attention back to me. I could hear the splintering woods as the speaker was sent crashed onto something in a distance, before darkness claimed me.


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