Saturday, 20 June 2015

The Story of Vlad: Chapter VI, Familiar Faces

Chapter I, The Assault
Chapter II, He who resists
Chapter III, Rotten to the core
Chapter IV, The Resurrection
Chapter V, The Return to New Avalon

Jesus fuck. I finished it. It's only been three years since I last wrote a word about Vlad.

Amid the mist, a figure formed against the grey canvas at a slow pace. Its features became more accurate, its outline sharper as it moved closer, eventually contouring an image of a hooded woman. Her dark brown gown was wrapped loosely around her, hiding a curvy figure. Her face was partially covered by a scarf, yet leaving her green eyes, thick, dark eyebrows and a part of her forehead exposed to the humid air.

Despite the years and the shattering, the place was still tormented by the plague of undeath, holding the restless souls as prisoners in the cursed ghost town. The woman peered around as she walked as if looking for something, yet knowing where she would find it. The look in her eyes became more focused as she walked up to a small house. It lay in ruins: the chimney had collapsed through the roof, flames had coloured most of the wooden parts black years ago. She walked around it, dragging her hand along its scorched walls, until she suddenly stopped on the southeastern side of the little house. Next to the wall rested a mound; the final reminder of the nightmare, a waygate to the past. The woman crouched and peered at it. The unkempt barrow grew weed, which was an unusual sight in the long deserted township. While it showed no signs of tending, it emanated something comforting. The woman's face softened and her eyes got damp, finally allowing a teardrop to descend along her cheek.

A dried bough cracked under the pressure of a heavy boot. It startled the woman and caused her to cast a rapid gaze over her shoulder. A dark figure approached her slowly and calmly, stopping a few feet away from her. She pulled down the scarf that covered her mouth, stood up tardily and turned towards the figure that seemingly awaited her response to its presence. As the black saronite plate gave away his former alignment with ease, she spoke coldly, but with caution.
- I'm not sure how your kind has the backbone to step on these grounds anymore. I think it would be wise of you to turn around and walk away.
The figure gave the woman an echoing, nearly instant reply.
- Hello, Birgitta.
Her face was pale, her eyes wide open as she stared straight at the masculine figure. She followed him with her shocked gaze as he walked to her side. His sorrowful eyes descended upon the barrow - the barrow that so faithfully contained the remains of what was once the dearest thing to him. And as it succumbed to the chill of the grave, a part of him was buried as well.
- I thought... I... thought... you died, Birgitta stuttered.
- I did die, he murmured between his rotting teeth, granting Birgitta a grim glare. The woman swallowed, quickly realising the clumsiness of her remark. - Just if the light-forsaken bastards had left it there.
- They reanimated you into a monster... Where you behind th--, Birgitta took an abrupt breath, as if she had forgotten to breathe. - Did you kill Isa?!
Vladan narrowed his eyes visibly, still looking at the grave. He grabbed onto the hilt of his runeblade and pierced the ground with it, which caused Birgitta to gasp and take a step back in fear. Vladan turned towards her, still holding on to the tip of the hilt.
- How dare you even consider that?
- Since you still have your life, it must've cost that of others!
The words seemed to strike Vladan somehow. He pulled the sword out of the soil and peered at the glowing blade, turning the edge towards himself and away again.
- I should have ended it myself long ago, but I was afraid. Too cowardly to take my own life! he yelled and seemed increasingly riled for a moment. - I fear what awaits me, Birgitta, as foolish as I am to believe those holy rollers when they speak of the purgatory.
Birgitta remained silent, merely examining him, the expression on her face becoming less judgmental by the second.
- I must be in a dream, she whispered in disbelief.
- This, Vladan began, - This is as real as it gets. I've run away from it long enough. My life cost that of many, and most of all, that of my wife and my daughter. I'm ready for what comes.
As teardrops slowly descended along Birgitta's cheeks, a feeling he thought long forgotten awakened somewhere deep inside. A faint glimmer of clemency. Compassion.
- Vladan..., Birgitta's voice turned into a fragile shade of what it was just a moment ago, as if she had suddenly become scared of him. She slowly turned towards him, her mahogany hair covering most of her face. - I'm sorry.

- Birgitta? a yell reached the two from a distance.
- I'll be right there, honey! she replied fast, shamelessly disguising her voice chirpier.
Although she seemed doubtful for a short moment, Birgitta hastily scrabbled inside the neckline of her gown. She pulled out a small locket that appearead golden. It was attached to a tarnished necklace of different material, perhaps copper. She handed - no - threw it over to Vladan, expressing slight disgust at the thought of touching him.
Vladan, taken by surprise, caught the locket and gently embraced it against his palm. Upon raising his eyes from his hand, Birgitta had left. She walked hastily towards a horse carriage in the mist ahead. Vladan lowered his leer back to the small locket in his hand. Secured by the tiniest of locks, it snapped open with ease, revealing a daguerreotype of a girl no older than 15 years of age.

Her hair was dark brown, her eyebrows strong and her gaze steadfast. Her face carried familiar features, very familiar indeed. His eyes. Her nose. Definitely her bone structure, apart from the girl's jaw. His jaw.
- It couldn't be..., Vladan whispered.
Distant echos reached Vladan, who remained silent and frozen still at the grave.
- Is everything okay? Was that someone you knew?
- Just a familiar face from the past, that's all.

Find your way, my brave darklands' son
Wizards, kings, elves and trolls
Thank you, angels
I am now reborn
(Rhapsody of Fire - Son of Pain)

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