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Die besten 3 Beiträge
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”Path of BBQ” von NuclearPlatypus
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"The Breaking of a Warrior"
Haku sat patiently as he watched the skinned rhoa browning over his campfire, slowly turning it at times. Each sizzle and pop of the animal’s skin filled Haku with anticipation, a hearty reward for another faithful day on The Karui Way. As the rhoa crisped, the night grew darker and a storm began churning in the blackened sky. The raindrops brought greater comfort, and Haku felt content. Haku dared a smile, even if he was still in Wraeclast, but the idea was interrupted by the sound of several pairs of footsteps in the wet sand. They approached his camp slowly until they were almost in the light of the fire, then they stopped. The blackness of the night hid their forms, but Haku knew they were there. A flashing bolt of lightning off in the distance displayed their silhouettes, some small, some large, and one gigantic.
“Haku,” said a female voice, “defending the innocents of Lioneye’s Watch doesn’t suit you.” He knew the voice just from it speaking his name. Catarina stepped forward into the light and sat across from him, holding a staff that he had never seen before. Haku stared at that staff for a moment and he almost felt drawn to it. He shook off the idea and grabbed his large hammer that leaned against the stone wall to his side.
“There are no innocents in Wraeclasts, Puppet Master,” Haku said, “but there are those who I feel need my assistance. It is The Karui Way to lend strength where strength is needed.” Catarina laughed softly in a mocking manner. Haku hated her laugh, she would always laugh at his beliefs. “Listen closely, Karui. If you do, this will be much easier on you,” Catarina said, rising from the stone she sat upon, “Forfeit your Gods and accept me as your Master, then we can build Wraeclast anew. I will give you purpose, Haku.”
Haku spat at the ground near her feet and tightened his grip on his hammer. “Karui have no master, you dishonor me for the last time, Pupper Master.” Haku couldn’t remember how many times Catarina came to him after the Ravenous God fell and offered him “purpose”, but this would be the last.
“This could have all been so easy, Karui,” Catarina sighed. “Hillock! To the front.” From the darkness came the gigantic figure that Haku had fought before, except... he had always been rotten, flesh falling off the bone and riddled with arrows and open wounds. Before Haku stood Hillock, reborn.
“What is the meaning of this, Catarina? What have you done?” Haku asked, fearing the unnatural power in Catarina’s hands. She smiled as she backed into the darkness beyond the campfire.
“Hey, I remember you,” said the towering giant, “you bashed me good, again and again. Just lookin’ at you makes me ANGRY!” Hillock’s long strides were unlike the shambling mass of flesh he used to be, but Haku wouldn’t be caught off guard. Hillock swung his large sword diagonally at Haku, allowing for Haku to dodge to the side. Haku swiveled and swung his hammer into Hillock’s ribs. With a sickening crunch, Hillock fell to the ground gasping and crying. “No, no… I was ‘spose to win, no…”, Hillock whimpered, “next chance I get I’m gonna RIP YOUR LIMBS OFF!”
Haku lifted his hammer again and brought it down on Hillock’s back, shattering his spine. Hillock tried crawling towards his sword, but he just flailed helplessly, crying pitifully in the sand. “There won’t be a next chance for you,” Haku said. “Your puppets are still too weak, Puppet Master. Rebirth won’t change that.”
Haku’s words hung silently in the night as the storm rolled in from the shore. “Swarm him,” Catarina said finally, “all of you.” From the darkness came men and women, one wearing a bear pelt and a wide smile, another wearing Brinerot armor, others cloaked in wet, black clothes. They formed a circle around him, but didn’t attack. Haku tried swinging sweeping blows at them to catch their vitals as he did Hillock, but they kept their distance. They would lunge forward then back off, forward and back, forward and back. Haku realized they were pushing him into a corner, and corners meant certain death to one outnumbered. Haku saw a green burst of energy from the darkness and all of those before him backed off slowly. Haku stood confused, but ready.
From behind, large arms wrapped around him with crushing strength. “I told you I’d CRUSH you!”, Hillock said happily, laughing and swinging Haku around in his arms. “Crush, CRUSH, CRUSH!” Hillock squeezed and Haku felt his torso bending inwards. Pain shot through his body like fire and his consciousness began to drift.
“Stop!”, said Catarina, “he’s not yours to kill.”
“But… but he bashed me, so MANY times,” said Hillock, “I said, I said next chance I get-“ “I said stop, fool. Do you wish to go back into the darkness?”
“No… no, boss, I’m sorry…”, Hillock said, “I hate the dark.” Hillock loosened his grip but held Haku in place. Haku tried to catch his breath, but he could only wheeze and pant as his mouth filled with the taste of blood. Haku couldn’t talk, but he wouldn’t plead either. His entire torsos and arms felt like they were being stabbed with knives made out of fire.
“Gravicius,” Catarina said in a pleased tone, “for your faith and dedication to the Syndicate, I give him to you.” Out of the darkness, Gravicius’ golden masked shined in the fire light. He walked slow, orderly towards Haku. He walked as a man walking towards his final destination, his meaning to live.
Gravicius reached out a hand to touch Haku’s cheek, but Haku trashed in defiance. “Ah, ever the defiant one,” said Gravicius. “Your time has come, heathen. For all the rebellions, deaths of my Templar brothers, and the audacity of your ilk… I will savor this.” Gravicius placed his hands softly on Haku’s throat and smiled at him. “Just so you know, you will see your God. I did.” Gravicius’ grip tightened and Haku trashed harder. The little bit of air he could manage was finally cut off. “Enjoy it while it lasts… because you will come back.” Darkness filled Haku’s mind, an endless void of uncertainty lay before him. It stretched endlessly, yet not at all. Haku had never been afraid of the dark, but this was darkness. Greater in every way, overwhelming and numbing at the same time. He began to feel fear and isolation, but he saw hands coming towards him. Their presence felt tender, yet powerful. “Hinekora”, he said to himself.
From the darkness came a motherly voice, “Haku, my Warrior. What is it you desire?” Hinekora emerged from the darkness, taking the form of Haku’s mother. “I thought you’d want to see her after so long, my Warrior. Tell me, what do you desire?”
“Home.”, said Haku. Hinekora took Haku’s hand and he felt elated, fulfilled in every aspect of his being. She guided him through the darkness. In the far distance, Haku saw a coastline filled with people. Closer and closer they traveled, and closer and closer Ngamakanui became. Haku saw sons swinging on the arms of their fathers, trying to show off their strength to each other. Karui Warriors battling for sport, not blood or power. Women smiling and teaching their children. Home, as Haku dreamed of it. Home, as it was before the Templars came. Home, when it was still home.
“They need a King, Haku… King Haku. Does that suit you, my Warrior?”, said Hinekora. Before Haku could consider an answer, he felt a soft tug on his back, then another. Hinekora turned to look behind them and her face changed into a harrowing sight, her beautiful features changed to those that reminded Haku of Kitava. “No, you can’t.”, screeched Hinekora, “mine, MINE!” She grabbed at Haku with unseen arms, clawing to keep her grasp on him. The tug from behind became a pull and Haku was flying through the darkness again as Ngamakanui shrunk in the distance. He could hear Hinekora screaming for him, pleading in the darkness. “Come back, come back, Haku, my Warrior. Come back!”
Haku woke to the face of Catarina before him, softly saying, “Come back, Haku.”
“Send me back, Catarina,” Haku said, his heart racing from the fear of losing his way home. “She won’t be there waiting for you, Haku.”
“Just send me back!”, Haku yelled at her, feeling wild in his despair.
Gravicius stepped forward again and said, “You don’t see your God when the Lifegiver brings you back, heathen. You’ll see.”
“I’ll do it,” Catarina said. She placed her hand on Haku’s forehead, her eyes lit up with a sickly green hue. Haku felt pulled from his body, and he was in the darkness once more. “Hinekora!”, he called. “Mother, please. Hinekora?” Only darkness surrounded Haku. Haku felt a tug on his arm, then another on his leg. It wasn’t Catarina pulling him back this time. In the darkness, he could feel cold fingers with jagged nails digging at his soul. They were hungry, desperate. They found his face and tried pulling at his mouth, they tried squeezing in between his eyes, forcing their way into his nose and ears. They wanted to consume him. “Catarina, please!” The familiar pulling sensation brought him back to his body. He almost felt safe to be out of the darkness.
“Do you submit, Haku? Or do you with to go back into the darkness?”, Catarina said.
“Yes, yes. I… I submit.”, Haku said. Gravicius and Catarina was right. Hinekora wasn’t waiting for him. Haku wondered if he had been rejected by Hinekora, but it wasn’t his fault. He’d done everything right, the Karui Way. But the darkness… the hunger and anger, the cold hands that grasped every inch of him. He didn’t want to live through that horror again. “Good,” Catarina said, “come then, puppet. We have work to do.”
Hillock finally let go of Haku, letting him fall to the ground. “I hate the dark, too.”, Hillock said in a low voice, as if telling a secret. “We can be friends now.” Hillock and the others followed Catarina back into the darkness, leaving Haku alone. After a few moments Haku stood, but he couldn’t convince himself to stand tall. He felt broken and abandoned, like a Karui in shackles.
11. bis 20. Platz
An End To Hunger
I am Karui, not by birth but by chain. Look at this mark on my side- I have been branded as a slave. Look at my crooked knuckles, bent by honest labour. Look to at my brow, which wore a diadem and a warrior’s helm. I have crossed all these borders from highest to lowest, and when the bloody season came, I fought with Kitava. I bear witness to you, Exile, should you read this history.
I was born Denarus Avarius, a lesser cousin of the most recent High Templar, raised to be one more sword of the eternal inquisition. When I announced to my family that I would henceforth be Acacia Avarius and prepare instead for the nunnery, I lost my family name and my blade. And so one lives as one can, as a mere citizen of Oriath. I cared for the horses in a stable serving one of the wealthier houses; when family would come to visit they would stare past me and make demands of me as if we were raised on different milk. It hurt to not curse their names but this was the understanding we had: I would not attempt to reclaim my name and station, and they would not have me exiled. It was a year that I that I served before one of the horses fell ill and perished; of course I was suspected of bewitching it and levied a terrible fine. And of course when I tried to make off with my master’s finest jewels to pay it off I was caught. And when one is a thief, one is made a slave.
I have been named Karui many times, on different authorities. The first was when I was jailed. The Templars do not declare a difference, officially, between different types of slaves. When one loses one’s freedom - which can happen with such suddenness that it might shock my fine noble readers - one is branded. The brand on my back declares that to the satisfaction of the Templars I am Karui. I have never been to Ngamakanui, nor have my ancestors. I did not speak the tongue. I was not schooled in the rites that show the honour you have earned. We had one thing that united us: we were in chains, and that was enough. In the dungeons, we shared our food in common. When I felt strong I smuggled crusts of mouldy bread under my tunic for those the jailors denied food. When I was weak, my comrades offered me the least brackish water from the troughs. When the guards invented some transgression so that they might have a sport of punishment, I stood silently with my brothers and sisters of the way. I would not break and incriminate another, and they would not name me. This holy solidarity, sisterhood with my people, was the second time that I became Karui, and the one that is true. That is when I received my warrior’s name, which I will keep secret as is right. Utula once said to me: “We did not share blood before, but now our blood is mixed in the gutters.” He was right. Regardless of anything else to come, he was right. And so when he and a few of the others spoke of an old god, I was ready to listen to my brothers and sisters.
You, who were not raised a templar, how much do you know of the worship of Innocence? It is corrupt, completely; I see no evidence it was ever otherwise. For those who lack power, it is a constant degradation, a punishment, a terror. The slightest error in practice or liturgy is punishable with the lash, if one is lucky; with a more personal assault by your betters if you aren’t. If you are one of the high, one’s practice consists mostly of extracting those punishments, the more cruelly the better. There is a hierarchy of viciousness, manifest in which men ascend. Who can doubt that this is the cruelty Innocence desires? The priests talk of the horrors of the vaal who sacrificed men, women, and children to their old gods, but they do the same every day. The Templars are simply not so merciful to let the sacrifices die. In the dungeons, we were free of Innocence at least. We had for years carved our scrimshaw prayers into the bones thrown to us in our food; hymns to Hinekora and Tukohama begging for a virtuous death etched into pig trotters. A cruel facsimile of whale bone but better to keep the practice, the old ones said. The Templars would find our etchings and drag a man to the stocks, and when he returned a week later we would bathe and honour him. To go to one’s punishment at the hands of the templar and return - is that not like going to the realm of Hinekora and returning? Returning weakened - is that not tithing one’s own body to the hunger? We had a choice - accept those terms, or accept those of the Oriathans. We would always choose resistance, into death and beyond.
The hunger, of course, was always there. Have you been imprisoned? Have you seen the dungeons? The hunger is everywhere. It is what kills and what drives men mad. How could we overlook it’s power? And so we carved songs to Kitava as well. Some of the old ones sucked their teeth in disapproval but when the Templars beat us for our prayers they held the line as the rest of us did. Kitava offered something the other gods didn’t. Kitava suffered alongside us. There are gods that call to the free, and gods that call to the chained. He knew what we endured, for he endured the same. He knew the cruelty of the world from his own siblings. Soon Kitava was the only god we called to and the only one who answered. What changed for us? The Exile, of course. You slew everything, indiscriminately. You were no hero, cutting down the good and the evil alike. You slew the jailor and the slave, the hungry and the full. You were the storm, the tidal wave, the volcano; and in your wake we were free. Not because you cared to free us, but because you bent the bars in your passage. Think of this. The whole nation of Oriath. A city entirely built on the bones of slaves, maintained by the blood of slaves, funded by the stolen wealth of slaves. A nation whose rapacity outstripped Kitava’s by far. But leave the slightest crack and the foundation crumbles, the city’s bones yearning to fight. How many of us had they warped into war-things, nearly but not completely mindless? How many of our children had they taken to serve as their soldiers, certain that their uniforms were stronger than their blood? They thought we were broken but our hunger was strength, not weakness. When we rose our judgment was harsh. Why should it not have been? All of them knew of us chained beneath them, and they stamped on our fingers when we reached out. Could any of them not hear our wailing as they supped on figs and wine? Every citizen of Oriath was guilty; and we are kind and merciful so their punishment was death. Hinekora welcomed many unworthy souls those days, and I earned my warrior’s tattoos. Do you, Exile, think our deeds wrong? You too cut a swathe through Oriath. We saw that you did not spare the fleeing citizens, we saw that you did not care for the wounded. Do you judge us for our terror, which lasted but days, when the terror of Oriath had lasted for centuries? When you whip, chain, and starve a dog, why would it not bite? When you do the same to men and gods, why would they not seek revenge?
Our god of hunger, rose into flesh, and it was glorious. The god fed rich and full, and we drank the sweet wine of vines and veins, and for a moment it seemed like there would be an honest reckoning, a real time of cleansing and then perhaps a time of peace. Then once more you came and struck down Kitava, the lord of Hunger burst like an overripe boil. Why? Did you care for the Oriathans? That nation of slavers and colonizers, rapists and thieves? Did you lament for the wails of their soldiers when we dragged them to our god’s trough? I have with these two eyes seen you kill hundreds of those same soldiers in seconds. The mountain pass into Hinekora’s realm is packed thick with travellers whose acquaintance you have made. Some think that you are the hand of Oriath returned, a soldier of the slavers’ way, but I do not think so. I think that you are something else. I think that you were here like the storm, like the volcano. A devoted god of the blade, untouched by emotion, restraint, desire. Purely a momentum to kill, to continue killing, forever; to hone yourself to an ever harder edge. Your devotion to murder is far greater than our devotion to Hunger ever was, and the sacrifices you have extracted far dearer. Perhaps that does name you then as the hand and soul of the colonizer; the essence of pure detachment of from consequence. I am not the one to say; I do not keep the company of evil gods such as yourself.
All I know now is that the head of Kitava is in the town square, chained. The children are throwing rotten fruit at his regal brow, as they did to us when we wore chains. Who claimed the god’s skull? Who flensed his skin and debrided the flesh? I do not think you, Exile, took the time to inflict this insult. It is the way of Oriath to fetter and jeer at their enemies. And Oriath has won. Those with the sight say that cruel Innocence did not die, but resides in the square with his dark brother. Those ancient monsters are as distant from the war now as they were when they compelled it. Their indifference is matched only by your own. We battled through the streets, and there was heroism and cowardice aplenty, bodies piled and survivors bearing scars and lost limbs; you merely killed, untouched. No mark lingers on you. We do not know what you are, Exile, but some of the young ones have taken to carving prayers to you on templar bones. We, older and wiser, suck our teeth and do the best we can: pray that you pass us by. Pray that your baleful eye, and your ministering angels Sin and Innocence, and all those cruel Oriathan survivors, never turn their gaze on us. In that way we do not wear chains now but as long as Oriath stands we are still imprisoned; in that way, you and your pet gods are still our jailors. In that way we are sure that there will be another awakening. An empire’s power is in its cruelty, the strength of its chains; in time they will always break, and we will be ready again.
Darüber hinaus platzierte Beiträge
Mires of Time
Like a skittering beetle, I was bellowing on the vast shores of nowhere with half of my face buried in sand. Its warmth was more suited to my comfort than the cold breeze of that endless shore. It chased droplets of salty water down my temples and played with my damp hair. After the recent events one could only find relief in a situation such as this.
I knew, that I could remain still and lay at this very place, until death would release me from the pain, I felt throughout my body and mind alike.
Instead, I carefully opened my eyes, freeing myself from the comfort of sleep. Recollections of the previous night still haunted my head, as I lifted my stiff neck to look around. Through the deafening silence of my loneliness, the panicked screams of my crew and hopelessness of their prayers still echoed in my ears.
From the young age of ten, ever since I was a young boy and boarded my father´s ship for the first time, I was in love with the sea. I strive not to remember those days, as the youthful ignorance of my prospects quickly dissipated in the cruel reality, that the life at the sea has cast upon me. Sleepless nights, drunk passengers and scurvy-ridden mates are parts of no child´s dream, lest they were never children at all.
I remember, it was at an able age of eighteen, when I was assigned control over the ship. My old man has come down with the flu and on his last day a terrible madness has began to plague his mind. He spoke of haunting echoes, that whispered auguries through a voice he could not recognize and before his last breath, he called me to his deathbed, to speak of them to me and me only.
Being young and foolish, I made very little effort to memorize these prophecies, but one warning has etched itself into my mind and has since followed me on my journeys.
"Remember the wheel of time and how it marches ´round."
I never forgot those words he spoke on his last bed. As I walked the city docks that night, they would haunt me for reasons unknown to me at the time. Maybe a mere last memory of my father, the words followed me through the streets of Theopolis, through the waves of the Golden Sea and around the world. In Trarthus I could not escape them, Pondium could not protect me, yet somehow, in the haste of my thirtieth years, they became lost in the ceaseless fervour of a sailor´s profession.
I knew I had to look forward now, not backwards. But the only thing I could see, was but an endless shore, that seamlessly converged with the still ocean waters somewhere along the horizon. The vast sands glistened on their smooth, clay-like surface in dull, grey hues. Recalling the shore´s unusual warmth, which I previously attributed to the persistent afternoon sun, I found out, that the Sun was nowhere to be found.
The wetness of the sand suggested a recent ebb of the nearby sea, but the stillness of the waters deemed the idea facetious to me. The blue ocean stood still, as far as I could turn my head. I had yet to see a single wave or wrinkle of the surface, as the dark waters remained smooth and calm. I began to believe that on a whim of a wish, I could walk the solid waters back home, wherever that "home" was.
A strange feeling has befallen me at that very moment. It took me a while to recognize it, for I haven´t felt as such in the longest time. For no sound of waves crashing at the shore, no songs of seagulls gaily preying for the fish splashing in the water nor the sound of cold wind humming in my ears could sway away that feeling of emptiness now.
There was nothing to remain, after I would close my eyes.
It took some time, but I managed to holster myself up on my feet, my body still shaken from the wreck. I squinted against the grim view of the grey beach.
My eyes slowly began to adjust to the thin fog, that coated the world as far as I could see. I carefully turned my head to the other side of the shore, observing all that could be observed. Much to my dismay, I have been met with the very same sight. Endless sands, ashen with mist, seamlessly come together with the ocean just as grey, leading nowhere.
To me, it seemed, as if I stood at the very edge of the world. Nothing but wasteland spread before my eyes, coated in grey muck, into which my feet sank, as I stood in one place for too long.
It was unlike any shore I have ever seen. I began to wonder, if the clouds above me were the same as those, that cast their shadows over Wraeclast. But one diligent look made me question, if they were clouds at all.
Like milk in a jug, the grey mass of the skies stirred right above me, as I stood there contemplating the emptiness of my surroundings.
The only thing I knew, was, that standing still wasn´t going to bring me closer to wherever I should be. Thus, I began my journey along the boundless shore, hoping to maybe find a harbour or at least some shelter.
As I wandered, I began to recollect the events of the past days. I could still remember faint flashes of some distant memories. Nothing but wild seas, smell of cheap alcohol and laughter of my crew came to me for the longest of times. None of us could ever expect that our nautical follies would come to such a violent end; that night the waves threshed our vessel against the wild currents and dragged the pieces into the dank depths below. I could only hope, I was not the only one, to find the salvation of land.
I counted maybe half a day, when my legs couldn´t bear the burden of my body and almost gave in. Sitting down to rest, I noticed that the terrain has become less level and that a small hill now divided the shore from the inland. I contemplated resting, but my curiosity got the worst of me and I turned my course away from the shore and up that hill.
The fog dissipated to reveal a new and terrible land, that now lay before me. Though I have travelled countless leagues and continents, never have I seen a land so cold and daunting.
Before me spread a world of mountains and endless deserts. Black rocks stuck from the ground in crawling shapes spread across the wrinkled dunes of ashen sands. Mountains of mud piled up in the distance, as curious white plants covered the plains around them. Their pale leaves blew lifelessly in the wind, as if the terrible sands drained them of all the vigour they might have once had.
But the strangest thing of all were the peculiar symbols, that covered the bare patches of ground and crawled among the slopes of the hills. Pondering the nature of the place, I stood almost fascinated with what I believed to have been the canvas of gods themselves.
Painted with otherworldly spirals and wild edged shapes, the likes of which I have never seen before, the landscape lay decorated, as if prepared for a grand festival. The picturesque curves of the horizon played along with the spirals, that twisted the ground between the dying flora.
Unlike the nature around them, I did not believe them to be ancient. Surely, wild winds would sweep away any reminder of a civilization, that lays their legacy into sand.
I walked towards the mountains, hoping to find the great painters that breathed life into that bare world around me. I walked maybe hours and maybe days. I could not tell, for the sun was nowhere to be seen; I began to doubt, if the sun ever even shone on this profane land.
But the sands twisted, the ground turned and soon, I had to watch my step to avoid a fall or a sprained joint. I knew, that this journey began to take its toll on my mind, and I could not let it take away from my body too.
As unforgiving as the land seemed to be, I was sure of one thing: this was no Wraeclast.
As I scaled one of the mounds, I felt my feet burn and my chest begin to ache. Last night may have not taken away from my body, but the time surely has. He, who mans a boat for living, pays the price of aching joints and cracked skin and I was no different from my fellow sailors. So, with exhaustion fogging my mind, I have decided to rest a while, once I reached the top of the hill. I only hoped that the view might provide me with further directions.
The last steps I made to reach the ridge of the mound, sent cramps throughout my whole body. I was tired of wandering and the idea of rest had by then become a vision of sleep. I fell to my knees and before my weight buried my face into the sand, I held myself up with my hands stretched far downward.
Looking at the ground I began to notice much more life than I previously believed this land could be housing. I saw small leaves, as if those of shamrock, slithering on the ground. Their colour was the same dull grey as the sand, which made it clear to me, why I couldn´t notice them before.
When I ran my hand along a small patch of the strange crawlers, their leaves crumbled as they touched my skin. I lifted my hand towards my eyes, and it looked as if I buried them in the sand instead. I stood up and, on the ground lay a silhouette of my legs painted with dead sand amidst the small field of grey plants.
Everything around me was dying and I was almost sure that I was next. I needed to leave this place at that very moment. Only the matter of “where to” still entertained my mind.
But as my head grew heavy with the idea of escape, so did my legs and I collapsed back onto the floral pillow. Granted, it crumbled into dust once again and I was left with a bed of sand below me. Bed was most fitting, for my consciousness began to drift away and I started to close my eyes, catching a glimpse the alien skies.
I stretched on the grey ground, turned to my side and used my left arm as a pillow. For the second time today, I felt the warmth of the ground. It was almost unthinkable, how much comfort one could find in a place so inhospitable. For that moment, I understood the plants.
Sleep came to cover my mind in a lazy blink of an eye. The unnatural calm of the winds peacefully rocked me to sleep. Wild colours of undistinguishable hues began to obscure my vision and before they converged into black nothingness, a figure of a man on the horizon has caught the last bit of my dwindling attention. He was walking towards the tallest mountain of those that hemmed the boundless horizons.
My slipping mind did not understand the gravity of the situation, and when I closed my eyes, the man remained before them. From the following I remember not what was a dream and what my mortal body had really gone through. I only remember, that I ran towards the man through a dark plane of what I believed to be the unconscious world of my dreams.
I watched him drifting away further into the darkness. Though he walked slowly, his legs carried him much faster than mine. At once, he disappeared, and I was jerked awake on the muddy ground once again.
But I did not lay, where I laid my head the night before. I began to doubt the fictional nature of my dream. My legs hurt, but I managed to stand up to my feet, desperate for answers.
The land was not a land of diversity. I recognized the wretched mountain before me almost immediately. Without a doubt, I stood before the mountain that the man walked towards the night before.
There was no beauty to appreciate about it. Black rocks stretched high towards the skies, overblown by sand. The mountain towered above me with the authority of a king, yet I was not daunted. To me, it was but another mound of dirt that protruded from this unholy land. It was only a walked path upwards, that intrigued me.
If the strange man walked it before me, he might still remain somewhere along the path. I was not sure why I wanted to meet him, but I believed him to have answers, as to why I found myself dragged out of my reality into this muddy purgatory.
Wouldn´t it have been enough, to let me sink with the ship? I was the captain after all...
The thought of my mates lying dead on the seafloor made me shudder. I could shed a tear or two for them, but after finding myself in this wretched wasteland, I at once wished to be a bloated corpse being eaten away at by the bottom feeders.
Grey dust rose with each of my steps and the path up the mountain became steeper every time I looked towards the top. As I made my way along the black rocks and dying shrubs, I became quite sure, that I would not be walking this same way down.
When finally, I reached the end of the path, I was faced with a small dusty plateau overlooking the boundless sands.
There, atop the peak was a strange device. A large circular frame, adorned by the very same symbols that wrinkled the sands around me, stood below the grey skies with star-like protrusions in a round formation that reminded me of a compass rose. It perched on top of a stony pedestal and five steps led up to it.
Fear took hold of my body, but I still made the foolish decision to approach the monument.
As I was standing ten paces away and the device towered tall above me, a strange whirring had caught my attention. At first, it was no louder than a fly on the other side of the room, but as if with malicious intent, the sound began to force itself deeper into my ears.
Within seconds, it had turned into a loud buzzing and not long after, it rose to the volume of a ship´s horn. But I did not notice, for I was mesmerized by the scenery, that came to reveal itself within the circular frame.
Wild curves weaved the fabric of a fantastic scenery amongst the stars and moons. The whole vista stood before me, unravelling and revealing the strangest corners of cosmos to me. The curious, decorated frame stood as the last reminder of my limited understanding of an otherwise boundless picture of eternal beauty.
Giant rocks flew through fields of stardust right before my eyes. In disbelief, I watched the stars above my head grow larger, until they burst into the most awesome pictures painted with the wildest of colours, the likes of which I had never seen before. I remained silent, as the whole picture crumbled into a small pebble and a new star began to shine in the same glory as its fathers once did. I watched the cycle countless times and each time, I remained mesmerized by the newfound beauty.
All around me a thousand worlds roared in unison of pain, as they crumbled to dust, only to be rebuilt into something even more beautiful every time. Wild voices whispering auguries of ominous ends tried to get hold of my ears, but the vast scenery had got full hold of my attention.
I stood amazed, as strands of light and clouds of otherworldly motes twisted and whirled into pictures no man had ever hoped to see. Mountains that could tower over gods themselves, grew from the ground right before me. Brooks of strange waters crawled through the forests of alien trees and lulled my mind to sleep with their bubbling symphonies. With each picture, the universe took me on a journey through a world, I never before had the chance to know. Only after a while, the beauty of the alien nature began to vanish, and the fantastic pictures began to crumble into one.
To my terror, I no longer stood before the portal of all cosmic beauty, but I found myself standing in a room too dreadfully familiar. Only gazing at the ramshackle hospital floor made my guts clench. I did not know how or why I found myself standing by my father´s deathbed at that moment.
"Remember the wheel of time and how it marches ´round."
The terrible words came back to me and gave sense to everything. I began to mutter to myself over and over that damned phrase and as I did, I watched my dying father turn his blind eyes towards me. It seemed, as if he could hear me, but I refused to believe it. Yet, never hoping to see my father again, I reached out to him. As I touched his wrinkled face, it began to cave in and before I could even sob, the vision reduced him to a pile of ashes on the hospital bed.
Some strange wind carried me out through the window, and I hovered over Theopolis, a place I once proudly called home, now just a memory amongst many.
I drifted up through the clouds, until the homes blended into stone snakes crawling across the land. Eventually, even the city disappeared under the large scale of the world, I was now looking over.
I watched Oriath from afar. I watched it diminish and crumble. Shores of Wraeclast peeled apart their land as it was carried away by the wild currents of the unknown. I saw Pondium swept away by the waters of time and disappear into the abyss. The whole scenery unfolded before me and desperate voices now chanted sick litanies of a fate soon to be my own.
The world turned to dust right before my eyes and dripped into itself as a new one took its place, only to fall apart all the same. It reminded me of watching the sand in my father´s hourglass when I was a kid, only to turn it upside down and watch as the sand fell again. But now, that sand was all I ever knew and held dear. And it was falling right then.
At that very moment I knew, that once all the sand descends from the upper half, the hourglass of cosmos turns around and the wretched cycle begins anew. A new world eager to be born, only to spend its time trickling away, will reign ignorant to the dust below. Through its whole existence its slow death shall nourish the patiently waiting new-born, until it is ready, to take the place on the crumbling throne.
The image disappeared, as I felt my existence slipping through the waist of the hourglass and falling along with the other specs of sand. I watched the skies up above move away from me, as I fell to the ground.
With wonder, I noticed the scenery around me. It was the very same one, as that at the top of the mountain I left mere moments ago.
The Blue King sat before me on his throne of dust before the portal. His face was the face of my dying father and that of my mother. It was the face of my first lover and the face of my worst enemy. It was the faces of my mates and also the faces of all my teachers. Looking straight into my eyes, their faces twisted with fear. With them I stood alone on time´s last frontier.
I saw my past right there, buried beneath the mires of time that dripped from his squalid crown. The very same mud that my feet were now sinking into, was the very one, that sloshed over my dearest histories, erasing their beauty and desperation alike.
That dust made of memories of the past began to consume me like some demonic quicksand; but the moment I looked at my feet, all my fears have gone away. It was right there, on the top of that terrible mountain, that I too, grain by grain, became a memory.
am 13.02.2020, 18:00:01
Grinding Gear Games