A Tale of What-Might-Have-Been
[Notes: Cordir often challenged her followers to various quests. In one, she asked them to write of how their life would have been different, had they not joined the Chosen of Fate. She followed the same exercise, looking at what would have happened had she joined the Kindred Vampyric, instead of being taken by Molo into the Black Conclave.]
First, it is the bats you hear... their chittering soft in the darkness. Then the pain comes to you... Your entirely body aches with it, in protest of what has been done... You know your heart should be racing, but you can barely feel it within your breast. Sitting up, you see Him, standing, waiting for you to rise. An immediate bowing of your head.
"Lord Khore..." You wet your lips, and swallow hard, suddenly unsure.
:: Welcome, Cordir, to the Kindred Vampyric..... ::
Voices speak in your mind; Mystil, your sister, Cirth, your friend, and others, many others you do not recognize. Welcomes are given, but still you shiver. The aura sweeps around you, forcing you to look down. The crimson glow so easily seen still comes as a shock... Retreating into the formality you know so well, you bow deeply before the Vampire Lord. "I thank you for your patronage of me, sir..."
A swift gesture of one pale hand silences you. "Cordir. I chose you. That much is true. But it was as much obeying fate as a conscious choice. Your place was, and is here. It was simply a matter of the proper time in which it would occur."
You blink, almost annoyed at the idea that your life is so neatly spun out, for others to view. But, in reviewing your indignation, see it for what it is; simply a mask to hide the fear you feel at the step you have taken.
"They are still there, Cordir. Your Oath to me, the blood I've given you and taken from you... these things do not change who and what you are, or your allegiance to those Three."
Surprise flashes through you; how did he ....?
"We are bound, Child. More so now than ever before. The bond we share is through blood AND spirit; the one you had with Thaygar was simply faith. It will be disconcerting - expect that. We Kindred are bound close..."
Another shiver wracks you.
"What's wrong?" You ask. " I can't stop shaking...."
:: Kindred. Teach our new sister of Thirst and the Hunt..... ::
Suddenly in the darkness, there are bodies around you, pulling you to your feet, giving silent greeting. They sweep you out of the Cave, and outside to the Courtyard. The moon is a brilliant torch above, illuminating the marble corridors. Cirth takes your hand, an island of calm amidst the clamoring thoughts around you.
**Sister. Hunt with me.**
Moving more swiftly than you thought possible, he leads you through dark forests, into deepest woods. With a graceful leap, he brings down a deer and Drinks. You shudder. He nods in understanding, and takes a small golden chalice from one of his pouches, and fills it, handing it to you. You hold it cupped in your hand, gazing down into the dark fluid that your body aches for. With a grimace, you drain the cup....
The night passes in an exultant blur - Saphyre shows you how to move, quickly and smoothly, so that you don't hurt yourself with your augmented speed. Little things, like eating with a fork and knowing at what moment to sidestep a weapon. Nicholai is kind enough to take you to the side, and show you that magic, at least, is still the same, no matter if your heart beats or not.
Finally, exhausted, you climb up the stairs to the sanctuary of the Cave, to hide from the growing dawn...
And so pass your nights, one after the other. Sometimes you see Keller, brooding outside Tel's temple, just a few quick steps away down the cold marble halls. Sometimes you find Jahiliya's tracks, accompanied by another... but feel it wrong to intrude.... Sometimes you simply listen for a sound that does not come - a sound within. But it is a heart largely empty…
It is the child that is your undoing. A gutter child, begging in the common square of Midgaard. His eyes are dark grey, and his hair is that familiar golden-brown. He says he doesn't know who his father is, but he has a burn mark on his upper arm like a clawed hand grasped him, and you know who this must be. The ache grows. This one could have been yours.... You grow careless - you would spend every hour with the lad, teaching him, simply spending time with him, uncaring of who sees. Until.... It's the boy's shrill scream that gives you a moment's warning... then the sheer and overwhelming pain takes you, as you feel your soul rifted. You have time for only one quick gesture, one phrase, and throw the boy through the Portal to safety before the blades and spells fly, sending you swiftly into oblivion. . .
You come to in the Cave, Khore kneeling beside you. You lick your moist lips, where he has given you blood once more to Heal and restore you.
"My Lord...? I don't understand," you stammer…Though you do, even if you will not admit it to yourself.
"We stand together, we of the Kin, yet you refused to even let us stand by you in friendship these last months, much less in battle today.... I am disappointed...."
"Forgive me, Lord... You gave me another life... I'm not so certain that it was the right choice on my part any more..."
He takes your hand, and raises you up. His grasp continues to pull your arm, until it is outstretched, pointing at the cave ceiling high above. Your eyes follow, and you see the crimson lights that dot the cave ceiling like stars...
They call to you. Oblivion - sweet and complete. The Kindred Lord takes you in his arms, and leaps, wings lifting you effortlessly aloft, to land on a narrow ledge, far, far above the cave floor. Setting you down, he strides the length of the ledge, leaving you alone. You can still hear his breathing, and know yourself not alone.
"What are they, Lord?"
"The Remnant. What remains of a lost people... all those who have died before the Maelstrom."
"They call me." Images of a battle far in the past echo through you with a sweet ache; their memories.
"They call all those who do not hear the call of life."
You quirk an eyebrow. "But, my lord... need I remind you that we are dead?"
With a graceful, powerful, and sudden movement, he stands beside you. "If you truly believe that, bard...."
Quietly: "no. But I wish it sometimes....."
Your eyes lock for a time. There is communication of a sort; even you do not know exactly what he reads there, but after a time, he nods. "Go."
Closing your eyes, you stretch out your arms wide, as if embracing a lover.
You allow yourself to slowly fall off the high stone cliff, and into a Portal to where the sky roars with a fury like _this_ and the armies below rush to stave off a doom they cannot, like _that_ as sharp and clear before you as in the memories.... Joining those who fight below, you battle not to protect their homeland, but only to meet your own Fate, here, in battle to this thing, the only thing that can truly destroy you forever...... Lightning bolts shoot from your fingers into the Maelstrom. Finally, its winds catch you up, and pull you inexorably higher, crushing you in their grasp. "Weaver, let it end now!" You cry, and give yourself up to it, finally finding the end you have sought…