‘Have you already forgotten, Son of ***?’
A warm and serene voice, it whispered from within the dark recesses of his mind. Unknown and incorporeal yet terrifyingly familiar, “Remember why you who sought me out.’ The voice continued, caressing his whole body and forcing his senses into wakefulness.
Opening his eyes, his blurred vision slowly settled upon a vast expanse of nothingness.
Like a fog filled dream, the impenetrable darkness extended endlessly before him with no light or color existing within the impossible realm. As he focused his gaze, his uncertain eyes slowly and eventually fell upon a pale childish body materializing within the emptiness of the void.
He shuddered, realizing the body to be his own as a familiar fear began crawling upon his mind. Without thinking, “Wh-where am I!?” He cried out in panic, vaguely recalling such a desolate and suffocating realm.
Yet there was only silence as the question continued to resound within the depths of his mind.
‘Remember your Oath.’
The unknown voice entered his thoughts again and the darkness surrounding his floating body suddenly came alive. Emerging out of the void in globs of black viscous liquid, they poured themselves onto his motionless husk.
An overwhelming feeling of dread coursed through his senses as he watched what was happening and, “No…” He begged, willing the body before him to struggle, to fight back, to scream and claw itself out of the darkness that was consuming it. “Somebody! Help me!” He shouted again but before his eyes, his detached body remained frozen.
Terrified and confused, “HELP! Someone! Pleas- Hwak?!” His words silenced themselves and in the blink of an eye, he was no longer a simple observer but trapped within the body and staring up into an infinite abyss.
‘You are Beholden.’
The voice continued around him like a virulent haze, emerging from the abyss and entering him through skin and flesh.
“W-who are you?!” He shouted back in his mind and the dark realm warped, becoming an ocean of night beneath his feet while a blood red sky loomed overhead.
“What is this? Where am I?!” The terrified words surged out of his frozen mouth but just like before, no sound came out.
‘You WILL find me.’
Upon the voice’s declaration, his body was instantly pulled into the sea of darkness.
“MMM!!!” He screamed, holding his breath in tow as the endless abyss swallowed him whole.
‘I WILL be-…’
“No! NO!” He cried out in fear as strength returned to him and he willed his body to struggle, to fight for his freedom, “NO! N- ahK!” Something or someone had thrown him against a solid surface.
A sharp pain unexpectedly erupted along his sides, instantly forcing him awake as a foot drove itself into his stomach and expelled the winds out of his lungs.
Visions of the dream had already vanished and no longer was he sinking into a sea of blackened blood, but coughing and squirming on the grounds of a dimly lit hallway.
“You awake now milord?”
A man’s irate voice snickered dryly from above him.
Still gasping for air and confused, all he could do was hold his sides in an attempt to fight back the sharp piercing aches.
“Looked like you were having a nightmare again.”
The man added while he continued writhing on the ground.
“Did you really have to kick him twice?” Another voice. Guttural and heavy, the second man questioned unapologetically from beside the first as if sick and tired of what was going on.
“The little shit kicked me. If you think it’s unwarranted, why don’t you fucking carry him?”
Their voices rang pointlessly in his ears and he painfully edged his eyes upward, barely making out the silhouettes of two large men.
“Whatever. Let’s hurry this up.”
Returning a dismissive reply, the second man reached down and grabbed him, easily throwing him over their shoulder before proceeding to carry his aching body down a dimly lit hall.
With each step, surges of pain assaulted him as the truth of his dire situation slowly returned.
It was not long before they entered into a large dimly lit chamber with dozens of small square cells separated by thick metal bars.
“Look! AHHAHAHA!! The boy is still awake! You lot owe me half of your dinners!” A man’s excited voice exclaimed joyfully upon their entry.
“I did not agree to that bet!” Another retorted from across the room.
“Guards! When are my family coming to get me out?! Guards??”
“The brat just had to be conscious today of all days, huh? Just my luck.”
Two more voices added, following the echoes of the others.
Not paying any attention to the prisoners, the two guards carried him over to a small cell in a corner of the room and threw him inside, aggravating the pain in his body even more.
“Same time tomorrow, boy.” One of the guards stated before locking the cell door.
“Hugk! GU-…!” Clutching his aching chest, he instinctively clenched his teeth and kept his head down in order to not give them any further reasons to stick around and torment him.
“Food!! Guards, give us FOOD!”
“Boss! Please! I need something to alleviate my boredom!”
“That bastard Patrig attacked me first! I’m innocent here!”
“Shut up! Shut UP! SHUT UP!!”
The usual pleas and shouts continued loudly around him as the guards made a final check around the room and as usual, he too, continued to cower silently on the floor of his own cell while waiting for the guards to leave.
Wrapping his swollen arms around his equally bruised legs, he painfully curled himself into a ball on the floor and lowered his head into his arms. *Sniff* The true nightmare of reality had returned to him and he painfully drew back his tears in an attempt to strengthen himself.
Though the memories of what transpired that day when he lost everything was still fresh on his mind, the world had neither stopped nor waited for him to grieve.
“*Sniff* Ugnnn-!” He quickly gritted his teeth, biting back the tears and pain that was shooting throughout his body.
He could neither recall nor did he know what took place after clutching onto his chest that horrible day, but thirty-four days have passed since he first awoke to being a traitorous prisoner.
Thirty-four days, since his old life of woeful ignorance died and this new life began.
Lowering his head further into his knees, he drew his legs tighter around himself as his tears trickled out.
As the only survivor that day, he had been subjected to relentless days of interrogation for answers that he did not have. Answers, pertaining to the whereabouts of the mages who had vanished while massacring his household, along with everyone who had been inside the manor at the time.
That haze of memory had left him even before he woke, and no matter what, he could not explain how he came out alive.
Yet, being the sole survivor of the AnDargus house, he apparently still had his uses. The last of a fallen and traitorous house, made to stand witness as countless others who allegedly aligned themselves with his father are slaughtered and hanged, all in the name of their traitorous house and to take responsibility for it.
Even now with his eyes open, he could still see the hundreds of bodies swinging joyously together upon crooked gallows as if conversing and playing with one another. Once friends of the family and kind folks who had praised the generosity of his kin, their rotting corpses now beckon him closer as their hollowed eyes continue to observe and condemn his very existence.
‘Enough! PLEASE!’ He begged inwardly, wishing for the apparitions to disappear and leave him alone but as usual, they refused and continued swinging within the depths of his thoughts. “I’m sorry!” He cried out as more pain rushed through his throbbing body, forcing him to burst into tears once more. “It wasn’t me! It really wasn’t me…”
“Hey! Guards! The boy is at it again!” A deep croaky voice shouted angrily from the cell beside his.
“Let him be. Least the kid’s sorry about whatever landed him in here. Can’t say the same about you lot.” Another of the other prisoners replied.
“What’ve we got to be sorry for? I thought all of us in here are innocent?” Someone else quipped and a storm of laughter erupted through the cells.
“It wasn’t me… please…” Digging his fingers into his legs, he continued begging and whimpering as their hateful eyes continued to glare down at him.
‘Momma…’ He voiced within the depths of his mind, recalling her words that day. ‘I’m not strong. I’m scared and I can’t do this alone… please momma…’ Failing to hold back his tears, he continued to claw at his legs.
‘Be strong, sweet one.’
Her tender words softly reverberated in his head as if replying to his pleas.
“I can’t.” He sobbed back as his dirty and broken nails pierced skin, sending even more discomfort through his legs. “It hurts. Please… someone hel-”
Before he could finish his words, a sharp pain cleaved itself into the side of his head and the room suddenly shook.
“What was that?!”
“What just happened?!”
Voices filled with surprise overtook the room’s chattering but were quickly quelled.
Having exasperated the suffering within him further, “Ughk!” His tears swelled outward as he weakly pressed both of his hands onto the ground in an effort to brace himself. Already sobbing at his own pitiful state, a stinging pain shot through his arms and chest as he failed to push himself up.
It was just like that day.
Powerless, he had been unable to even pull himself toward his mother or father. Especially terrified of what was happening at the time, he had only been able to watch as they both perished before his very eyes.
‘Please! Please spare us!’
The cries of a stable hand who had escaped the slaughter that day, only to be rounded up and hanged with his whole family.
‘No! Why are you doing this?! Somebody help me!! Someone!!’
The wails of a young woman as she was dragged away into a farmhouse for the amusement of the soldiers occupying AnDarg.
‘Young master! Please do something! I beg you!’
The futile pleas of an elder who could do naught but watch as the emperor’s men slaughtered his village.
His father was right.
He questioned in resignation as the obvious truth from all those days ago continued to linger in his mind.
Had he the strength to oppose those who would slaughter his people, would things have changed?
Had he been strong enough to fight with his mother and father instead of sniveling on the ground like a useless child, would they still be alive?
The questions pierced through him like hot blades as regret and shame at having squandered his father’s efforts filled his mind.
“Kuh!” He tried pushing himself up again, only to fall flat back onto the floor as wounds old and new flared up in waves of agony. Unable to even raise himself up from his own misery, “W-why? Why am I so weak!?!” The words painstakingly clawed themselves out of his mouth as if to admonished himself for his incompetence.
A voice, one completely unlike his own thoughts answered him. Unknown and unnerving, it quieted and drowned out all the noises around him.
“!?” Taken aback, a cold chill suddenly swept through his body as an indescribable fear descended upon the sunlit room. The atmosphere had completely changed. There was no more bickering from those around him and within his own cell, he could sense the presence of another. Of something else entirely.
Without moving a muscle, he slowly stilled his aching body. “W-who are you?”
‘…Power… Strength…’ The unknown voice answered, its words repeating itself in his head like droplets of water as an unnatural darkness began enveloping everything around his proximity, leaving nothing but himself and his own thoughts.
And as if to prove itself, strength began flowing into his body.
The pain and agony he had been enduring thus far was subsiding with each breath and with surprised caution, he was able to slowly push himself up.
It was like a dream.
Looking around, all the other prisoners had vanished and he was the only one left within the darkening cell chamber. His body too, was growing healthier and stronger and it felt like he could anything.
“Who are you?! What do you want?!” He cried out apprehensively at the unknown presence and for an instant, the world froze as everything became dead silent.
‘… I Am… You…’
The shadows that had covered the room slowly began peeling themselves off the walls, corners, and crevices of the chamber. Swelling together into a thick pool of blood-red liquid, they swept along the ground, melding through the iron bars to rise up before him.
Observing it closely, the pool of liquid slowly shifted and transformed into a featureless silhouette of himself.
‘I Am… Power… Let Me… In…’ It commanded, stretching its dark fluid-like arm out toward him but never touching him. Almost as if it couldn’t. As if something was preventing it from doing it.
His pain and fears completely forgotten, he slowly edged his right hand forward to touch it.
The words spun in his mind and he lusted for them.
Though he could not tell what the entity was, the thing that he wanted was right there before him and all he had to do, was reach out and take it.
A buzzing exploded around him before he could do so and just like before, his cell shook, destabilizing him and causing him to stumble against the wall.
Another buzzing, followed by another voice speaking from within the depths of his mind. Fleeting and glowing within his mind’s eyes, the voice felt like rays of light raining warmly around him, prompting him to instinctively shrink away from the dark entity standing before him.
‘Begone, Caelfarion Whore of Elthe’ Myulnis…’
The new voice spoke again, pulsing furiously within his head as the very space between him and the dark entity began fracturing into cracks of light.
‘So you have come… **** ****.’
Completely different from before, the dark entity’s voice responded with what could only be annoyance. ‘Here to save your Master yet again?’ It questioned as it fell apart and hastily retreated back into to the darkness of the cell chamber.
‘You Will Not Touch Him…’
The protective voice pulsed, sending streaks of light out from within the small rifts into the cell.
Followed by a larger burst of light, brightly illuminating the area around him.
And, “Uhk!? uuhAAAAA!” He screamed as the light echoed throughout his body, burning it from the inside out.
‘Hahahaha! Was that all?!’
The earnest and sincere voice that was offering him power moments ago was no more. In its place, an echo of vicious contempt.
Recoiling upon himself while enduring the burning from within, he begged for the pain to end, but it would not.
The fracture pulsed, its voice within his mind again as if addressing him directly.
‘You Must Wake.’
It vibrated, shaking the small cell and sending more streaks of light everywhere as the burning within his body intensified.
‘Such futility. He is already MINE. As was before, and will BE.’
The burning within himself immediately vanished upon those words.
Turning in confusion to the direction of the dire proclamation, the room suddenly crumbled around him, revealing an endless void of darkness.
His body immediately froze and his eyes stood agape at what he was witnessing.
‘This place…’ It was just like his nightmare earlier. Like the forgotten nightmare upon that day of loss and slaughter.
The dark and viscous liquid that he thought had dispersed, were already coiled around him and pouring along his body like a second skin.
‘Come…’ The darkness beckoned sweetly and for an instant, he felt a compulsion to comply with its words.
An exhausted desire to just let himself go. To forsake everything and join his parents and brother in the eternal dream.
‘SILENCE, Unclean One!’
Piercing through his mind like a knife, the rifts before him pulsed angrily, rebuking the darkness. “We Have Not Waited All This Time. Countless Millenia, Only For You To Rob Us Of Our Master Yet Again!”
From the pulsating splinter, another torrent of light exploded outward and scorched his body, eradicating the encroaching darkness around him.
And for the span of a single breath, a sense of warmth and familiarity filled his body.
Within its warmth, there was an immeasurable sense of patience and loyalty along with such a fierce desire to be whole, that his body trembled as it swept by.
Though like a warm breeze that is calm and comfortable, it hid an anger hotter than that of any flames he had ever felt before.
‘Such delicate attempts… was that your best?’
The darkness taunted, its viscuous tendrils swiftly swirling around him again, enveloping his body once more as the light dimmed.
‘I too, have been waiting.’
From the darkness, thousands of other tendrils shot forth at the glowing fractures, suffusing through them and obstructing their light.
The fractures pulsed weakly once more before slowly closing up as the darkness completely blocked them out. Before long, there was nothing but darkness once again.
‘It is time, Son of ***.’
The seductive voice whispered from within their depths.
Feeling the warmth in his body dissipating and witnessing the final glow of the rifts dimming in his mind, he powerlessly relinquished his senses and closed his eyes, allowing a different tranquility to overtake his body.
‘Yes…’ Words filled with triumphant glee surged into and throughout his mind. ‘Remember who you are. Remember why you sought me.’
An intense rush of mana stormed into his mind, strengthening his body while at the same time, eroding away his senses.
‘HAHAHAHAHA!! More! Give me MORE!!’
Distant echoes of his own degenerative laughter from a lifetime ago.
‘What have I…’
A vision of sin, witnessed and recorded by thousands of hollow and empty eyes.
‘Submit to me… for there is only US.’ Prodding at his mind, the darkness continued to overwhelm him. ‘We, are destined. We… are ONE.’ It spoke passionately while lodging itself into the vulnerable cracks of his memories and mind.
‘I am… sorry…’
The final words of a man who had lost everything in his pursuit of power and vengeance. Filled with nothing but hate and regret, they reverberated through him like the very blood in his veins.
“… is that so?”
Lips parting, his words thundered throughout the hopeless realm, instantly silencing the nonsense that was trying to lull him into oblivion.
‘No…’ Unlike the ecstatic laughter that was filled with elated hunger only moments ago, the voice shifted into one rife with surprise.
“I had believed the nightmare from all those years ago to be just that… a nightmare.” By his will, his frozen arm rose up and grasped at the layer of darkness that had wrapped itself around his face. “A simple memory of my imprisonment, a price for my selfish and shameless self to be walking about again after everything I’ve done… But it looks like I was wrong.”
‘We are already one! How?!’ The voice screamed indignantly upon his words.
Like removing a loose mask, he calmly tore the layer of dark liquid off and cast it into the empty void. “To think there was still a shard of you hiding within me all these years… all this time…”
‘No! You are MINE!’
The voice lashed back in anger.
“I am yours no more.” By his will, hundreds of tiny fractures just like the ones earlier ruptured throughout the empty void. From them, power surged back into his body as the dreamlike realm shook in opposition to his determination. “Depriving me of my memories and feeding me illusions again… how dare you.”
‘No! Your oath!’ The void screamed, its disembodied voice grating and hoarse. ‘You are-’
“I AM BEHOLDEN TO NO ONE!” He snarled and the endless night burst into light, burning away the layer of darkness that was still covering his body.
“But you… you need not worry, for I still remember EVERYTHING.”
Stepping upon the sea of nothingness, by his will, the unending abyss began falling apart around him.
“As per the sacred oaths dictated by fate, I will certainly honor our pact. And when I do, I will END you once and for all.” More cracks rippled throughout the unending realm, shredding apart the crumbling darkness and covering him in a sphere of light. “Mark my words, Lovik, for that is my new oath to you.”
Closing his eyes upon the trembling and crumbling dream, he willed himself to wake.