Chapter 33: Prince and the 6000 bandits
Bloodbeard sat on an empty wine barrel, using a whetstone to sharpen his battle-axes under the flickering orange glow of the burning torches. The putrid smell of stagnated water and mold within the room, the rusty smell of dried blood on his battle-axes and the sourness of men’s sweat filled the bandit lord’s nose and he welcomed them. He poured water over the sharpened bit of his battle-axes and brought the twin axes up high, judging their sharpness. The weapons flared, reflecting the orange glow of torches on Bloodbeard’s eyes and he unconsciously squinted. He nodded his head, completely satisfied with the result of his work. Only then, he turned his sight on the two fools who stood at the end of the room, shaking, looking like they are about to piss themselves. Bloodbeard’s bodyguards snickered at the sight, some played with their weapons to intimidate the two fools.
He has made them waited long enough. “Talk,” Bloodbeard demanded. His voice shook the room.
The two fools’ face turned pallid white. Croaky, the older one pointed his finger at the Greyscale magic caster they capture, lying listlessly on the floor. “It’s nothing master. It is not a signal fire. This fool here, he made a funeral pyre for that caravan we encountered yesterday.”
“Yes, that is true, I swear,”Gared, the young fool nodded his head.
“That’s great. Well done,” Bloodbeard nodded his head, scratching his beardy chin, pretending as if he was satisfied with their answer. Bloodbeard waited for the fools breathed a sigh of relief and butted his weapons against the wet and moldy floor.
“Then answer me, why didn’t you report to me immediately? Why did you return via the back entrance? Did you intend to betray us?” Bloodbeard twisted the handle of his battle-axes, grinding them against the ground, making a gnashing sound.
The two fools shook.
“No, I…I,” Croaky stuttered, shaking his head, struggling to form words with his chattering teeth for an eternity.
The younger fool, Gared managed to snap out of it earlier, pointing his finger at his friend, “It was Croaky’s idea. He thinks that this Grayscale is a rare find. He told me to hid it from you and head west after this to sell it.” He sold out his friend.
The older fool stared at his friend, bewildered by the betrayal. His chattering teeth somehow managed to stop chattering, “He’s lying. Master Bloodbeard, please don’t believe him.”
Bloodbeard was amused by the strange choice of wording that Gared used, “It?” he asked.
“He’s a half elf,” Gared spilled.
Bloodbeard could see the hatred and regret in the eyes of Croaky. The fool was biting his lower lip, trying to restrain himself from drawing his knife to kill the traitorous friend of his.
A small gasp spread through the rom in unison, all eyes focused on the back of the bounded Grayscale magic caster. Bloodbeard has never seen an elf. The elves, they are a reclusive bunch, hiding within the ever-misty land of Murkwood. They completely cut all sort of contact with man and dwarf after the dead of Emperor Craxus. Only a few of them became wanderer, travelling around the Northern realm as merchants or adventurers. They are indeed a rare sight. Half elf is even more of a rare sight.
Bloodbeard pointed his finger at the Grayscale magic caster, “Show me its face,” demanded.
Two of his bodyguards immediately got into the job, approaching the bounded creature with all the curiosity in the world in their eyes.
Something strange happened. The creature suddenly stood up, the ropes that were bounding its limbs became unbound. The creature caught Bloodbeard by surprise; and everyone else in the room, they were no less surprise. Gared gasped. Bloodbeard instinctively stood up and gripped his weapons firmly, eyes locking on the creature.
The creature nonchalantly cracked its neck and stretched its limbs, did not pay any attention the drawn weapons in the hands of Bloodbeard’s bodyguards. It yawned nosily, rubbing the reddened rope marks on its wrists without a care, cracking its knuckles, continuing to stretch its stiff shoulders and arms still.
“Thank you, I was expecting that it would take much longer for me to have a chance to introduce myself. The floor is kind of wet and smelly, it’s very uncomfortable. However, I really hate to interrupt people in the middle of their business. Are you sure you are done with your business?”
The creature nonchalantly spoke in Nord, the Great Emperor’s tongue, with a strange accent. Its voice was neither deep nor shallow, just the right pitch. The creature’s face was still hidden behind the shadow of its hooded robe, making it’s very difficult for Bloodbeard to determine its gender. Its tone indicated that it was a male, though Bloodbeard could be wrong.
It felt wrong, Bloodbeard thought, watching the elven creature acting nonchalantly in front of the gleam of steel that Bloodbeard’s bodyguards was pointing at it. It was as if it did not consider them as threats. The creature was too casual and unguarded, that it was dreadful. A few of Bloodbeard’s bodyguards seemed to realize that as well, readying their weapons for the worst situation to happen.
“How about removing your hood so we could see your face?” Bloodbeard asked the creature. His tone was deep and intimidating. His fingers still tightly choked on the handle of his battleaxes. He wanted to see if that casualness of the elven creature was a mask.
The creature was indifferent to the intimidating voice of Bloodbeard. It casually made another big yawn, “Excuse me,” making a polite gesture like those pretentious nobles that Bloodbeard hated, though, Bloodbeard could not say that he felt the same about this creature.
The elven creature unconcernedly removed its hood as Bloodbeard demanded, revealing a flowing luster of black of shoulder length. It’s hard to appreciate the praiseful elven beauty on that muddy face that stained black with mud and sooth. Though, Bloodbeard could see all the angles that shaped the creature’s face. Rubbing that layer of dirt off, the creature would probably be as fair as the songs that the bards sang.
Elves possess gold or silver hair and pointy ears. The creature stood in front of Bloodbeard, however, has neither of those. Its ears are rounded and its hair is dark like a starless night sky.
Bloodbeard could see why those two fools were blinded to their greed, trying to hide the existence of this elven creature from him. This creature is probably a half elf as they have said, a rare union between a dark elf and man to be precise. That dark hair is the undeniable evidence of the creature’s heritage. Only the dark elf has that kind of hair as far as Bloodbeard knew.
Then, suddenly, Bloodbeard remembered of that strange owl he saw in his dream. The half-elf’s appearance suddenly reminded Bloodbeard of that black feathered owl.
“Those things are my belonging, these gentlemen have kindly brought them here for me. Can I have them back?”
While Bloodbeard was still stunned by the appearance of the creature, it casually pointed its forefinger at the backpack that Bloodbeard confiscated from those two fools, lying on the ground. Even its casualness and unnerving attitude was the same as the owl in his dream.
Bloodbeard’s bodyguards turned at him, waiting for the confirmation. However, before Bloodbeard was able to reply, “Thank you,” the half-elf revealed its white teeth, a hearty smile curved on its lips. The half-elf casually pushed away the brandished swords of Bloodbeard’s bodyguards and walked toward his backpack.
The half-elf’s casualness reached the level of bizarre, making Bloodbeard unsure of what to act. It was the most self-serving and casual creature that Bloodbeard has ever seen. And the situation that it displayed its casualness and self-serving attitude only made it became even more bizarre. Bloodbeard and his men outnumbered it fourteen to one. They had their weapons and the creature had none. It’s bizarre beyond words.
It was either an ignorant retard or…
In the midst of that overwhelming bizarreness, One-eye managed to gather himself, striking his pig iron blade against the floor, making a snappy loud noise. He stepped in between the half-elf and its luggage. He pointed the rusty blade at the creature’s neck with one hand and hid its luggage behind his back with the other.
“Stay where you are, Master Bloodbeard has not given you his answer,” One-eye hissed.
It wasn’t that One-eye has managed to gather himself before Bloodbeard and his bodyguards, the bastard was inert to the bizarreness that the half-elf exuded. The thickness of the bastard’s skull and his inability to read mood proved useful for once.
Bloodbeard finally came to himself, seizing the chance that One-eye gave him, “You…”
However, the half-elf nonchalantly cut in. His voice drowned out Bloodbeard’s voice. “I’m okay with sharing my stuffs to people. I’m also perfectly okay when these two gentlemen made a mistake and damaged my magic cane.” A strangely hypnotic smile appeared on the creature’s lips as it spoke. It was a smile that everyone could stare at for an entire day. It was a smile that people would pay gold to see.
“However,” all of the sudden, the casualness in the half-elf’s voice disappeared.
The room became cold. A shiver ran down Bloodbeard’s spine. He instinctively choked the life out of his weapons, readying to strike down the half-elf at any moment. This creature felt wrong, very wrong to Bloodbeard. The strange smile on its face was the worst of all. It felt wrong, incredibly wrong. Bloodbeard wanted to strike the creature down, yet, something within him prevented him from doing that.
The casualness suddenly returned to the half-elf’s voce. “That blanket you sir are touching with your dirty hand. It is a different story. My wife makes it for me. I don’t appreciate you touching it.” The creature politely said. The half-elf casually used his left hand to touch the rusty edge of One-eye’s sword as if it was not a weapon and pointed at the luggage One-eye was holding behind his back.
Suddenly, all eyes in the room fell on the bundle of white silk that spilt out of the luggage.
One-eye was distracted for a moment, just a moment, he put more strength into his sword arm and positioned it at the neck of the half- elf again.
“Stay back,” One-eye shouted.
“I will not ask again,” the smile disappeared from the half-elf. It was completely unbothered by the sword pointing at its throat. The half- elf looked directly at Bloodbeard with its sharpened dark eyes for the first time. They are eyes that penetrated a person’s soul.
“Sto…” Bloodbeard shouted, trying to, but the situation unfolded too fast. One-eye, the bloody fool, he could not read the mood. His inability to read the mood allowed him to do something unthinkable. He swung his blade at the half-elf’s shoulder. The fool drew first blood, trying to, and missed completely.
The half-elf disappeared and reappeared behind One-eye, a strange looking blade in his hand. That strange looking blade dug into One-eye’s shoulder.
It grabbed One-eye by the back of his head and wrestled him to his knees in all but a blink of an eye. “Ashtorá, stay where you are,” the half-elf’s voice boomed and drowned out One-eye’s painful groan.
That single sentence froze Bloodbeard completely, preventing from sweeping his battleaxes to come to One-eye’s rescue.
“Yes, young man, I’m talking to you.” The half-elf gazed at Bloodbeard with its sharpened penetrating eyes before sweeping through the room and petrified the rest of Bloodbeard’s bodyguards. The painful gasp of One-eye was completely lost in the reprimanded voice of the half-elf. “Don’t tell me that you have forgotten your name?”
Confusion spread through the room. The men looked back and forth at each other in confusion. Then they looked at Bloodbeard, staring, asking for order.
Nobody inside the room knew that name, nobody but Bloodbeard himself.
Ashtorá, that was such a distant sounding word. Ashtorá, how? How does this half-elf know that name? Ashtorá, why? Why does this half-elf know that name?
The battleaxes in his hand seemed to be completely shaken by the mention of that name. Bloodbeard stared at the half-elf and baffled.
“Good, young man, you stay right there and watch. Do something stupid and I will spank your asses in front of your subordinates. I don’t care if you had a pride to uphold or not. I will do it and trust me, I only give my warning once,” The half-elf casually said, looking at Bloodbeard, completely unfazed by the brandished weapons of the men pointed at him in all directions.
Those reprimanded words somehow struck a nostalgia note within Bloodbeard. They confused him. There was no hostility on the dirt stained face of the half-elf, or anger, or wariness. That was the strangest of a look that Bloodbeard has ever seen in a while.
“Sheathe your weapons,” Bloodbeard shouted, resting his battleaxes on his two shoulders, eyeing the half-elf with wary eyes. His men viewed him with confusion. Therefore, he had to repeat his order, “Sheathe your weapons.”
They obeyed, gingerly, looking back and forth between Bloodbeard , One-eye and the strange half-elf. Their hand still cautiously grabbed the handle of their weapons though, refusing to let go. Bloodbeard did not expect that they would completely listen to his word due to the bizarreness of this situation.
“Stranger, now, it’s time for you to let go of my man,” Bloodbeard defiantly looked into the strange half-elf and demanded.
“Ashtorá, did you just call me stranger?” the half-elf revealed a sign of dissatisfaction on his face. His brows rose and he squinted his eyes, staring at Bloodbeard.
“I don’t know who you are. And stop calling me by that name. I don’t know how you come to know that name but I have discarded that name a long time ago,” Bloodbeard warned, gritting his teeth to show his hostility toward the half-elf.
Still, the half-elf was unfazed. A sad deprecating smile appeared on his lips, lingering for a moment before disappearing like an illusion. “I don’t blame you for not recognizing me after all these years. However, the matter of your name is a different story. Young man, I will call you Ashtorá whenever and wherever I like it.” The half-elf calmly said. His voice was like that of an adult reprimanding a child.
The half-elf’s attitude irked Bloodbeard to tighten the grip on his battleaxes. He suddenly swung them at the half-elf. The entire room shook as the pair buried deep within the stony wall. Bits of debris flew and clattered on the floor.
The half-elf did not even blink once. It did not bother to dodge. Its expression was stern, unbending. Of course, Bloodbeard tried not to hit it with his battleaxes. He swung it to test its reaction. The dark eyes that peered into Bloodbeard’s soul at the moment was exactly that of the black feathered owl he saw in his dream.
The bodyguards took Bloodbeard’s reaction as a signal, brandishing their weapons.
“Stop, sheathe your weapons,” Bloodbeard ordered and they confusedly retracted their weapons.
The half-elf was not something that Bloodbeard and these bodyguards of his could take on. These ignorable fools could not even comprehend just how dangerous this half-elf is to begin with. The half-elf just did something that even the Supreme Priest of the Great Temple could not, using magic without praying to any god or goddess and completely without a magic medium. It happened in just a blink of an eye but Bloodbeard can tell that it was magic.
The physics of the half-elf does not suggest that it was a fighter. If they were to fist fight, Bloodbeard had the confidence that he would win. However, the way the half-elf casted its strange magic revealed to Bloodbeard the reason why it had such confidence and fearlessness. It knew that it was the stronger one.
For the first time in years, Bloodbeard did not feel like fighting.
“Let go of my man. Then we will have a proper talk,” Bloodbeard sighed as he spoke to the half-elf.
One-eye squirmed from the pain and relief, but the half-elf yanked his hair backward, did not allow the poor bastard to move a muscle. “There are three things I want to address. First, I promise that I will spare this one’s life.”
It politely said that while still having a firm grip on One-eye’s hair. That strange smile reappeared on its face.
“Second, none of you gentlemen here are in any position to demand anything from me, especially you Ashtorá. Fight me, call the rest of your men to gang up on me if you wanted. I promise that I will kill anyone pointing his sword at me. And you, Ashtorá, don’t worry. I won’t hurt you. I will strip your pants and spank your asses in front of your men.”
The half-elf nonchalantly spoke as if it was a matter of fact. It did not feel like a threat because the way it said that. Yet, the casualness in its voice, the strange smile on its lips, and the coldness in its dark eyes implied a different story.
It was that moment, Bloodbeard understood that the very moment the half-elf made an example of One-eye, carrying out his promise to the detail, it has already won the battle. Even though, Bloodbeard was the only one who could understand the power and the danger of the half-elf posed.
“Third, I will release this man after I have concluded the lessons I have today for all of you.” The half-elf declared.
“Remember one thing: The second rate illusionists cast the illusion on the audiences. The first rate illusionist spellbound the audiences and himself within the illusions he conjures.”
Those were the words of that old illusionist, my mentor. They are principles that I have followed for my entire life.
I am glad that I have mistaken the meaning of my sister’s words “You have magical touch,” taking those words literally and training myself to be a magician. That was the most moronic reason that I have ever herd for anyone to pursue the path of magic. Yet, that was how I was introduced to the world of magic and illusion.
In one way or another, I was benefited just by being a magician. Those sleights of hand came in especially handy for wowing people or wooing girls at the bars. Moreover, I knew how to command a stage when I was standing on one. FY and the rest of the guys thought that I was a natural, that I was made for the stage, but no, I learned to stand and command the stage from the best of the best. Of course, I am better than they are at that.
It does not matter what kind of stages that are prepared for me or when it happen or how I find myself standing on a stage or where it is. If the stage is ready and there is just a single audience on the seat, I will make that stage mine.
Just like now.
“Did I not tell you to touch it?” I asked my captive in the friendliest manner while putting more strength into my arms. My right hand jerked the bundle of the unfortunate bandit’s greasy, long and unkempt hair backward, putting him into an even more submissive position. He slumped on his thighs, his knees no longer had any strength within them. Yet, my right foot still planted firmly on his knee pit, just to make sure that he would not stand up or moving around or doing something stupid. I know that he will not but I have to be sure about that.
My left hand cruelly twisted the handle of Enfermé slightly, just slightly, enough for the man to feel like his entire life is at the mercy of my hand.
He apologized. His voice was pathetically husky, completely broken and high-pitched like that of a dying animal. He made me doubt that I have stabbed him in a vital spot, but no, I didn’t. Enfermé did not touch his artery. I felt like throwing up from the sight of blood. I hate blood.
“The lesson is: every man has a line that nobody should cross. You crossed that line. I warned you and you chose to ignore it. Thus, I stabbed you. It’s not that hard to understand, isn’t it?”
The bandit groaned in pain, begging for his life as blood streamed out gashing wound on his shoulder where Enfermé dug hilt deep. He dared not to resist.
I did not dare to look at the red liquid that darkened the man’s tunic and my left hand. I could stand things that are violent in nature but not gory things. The hot and slightly sticky liquid that is currently staining my hand makes me felt nauseous. Blood always reminded me of my worst memories. There is nothing I want to do in this moment than find myself an empty bucket to throw up. Yet, there are audiences seating on the special seat, watching. Therefore, I must perform.
It’s only now that my heart started to beat randomly into a chaotic mess. There was no rhythm or proper beat. It was as if my heart was having a riot, taking part in seven different rock concerts at the same time without giving a fuck about me. Shit, I thought I was dead for sure. I egged that bastard Bloodbeard a step too far. I did not even see his battleaxes coming. How the fuck he could swing something so large with that kind of speed? That’s not even physically possible.
I breathed quietly, trying to calm myself down. Pokerface, poker face, I told myself inwardly. Shit, that was scary.
“That’s great,” I let out a well-crafted innocent smile on my lips, engaging in eye contact with my audiences. “See? It’s not that difficult to understand a man’s word, is it? You just have to pay attention and listen carefully. See? Everyone can do that if they try.”
My voice is neither child-like or that of a grown man, just the perfect tone and pitch to strike the creepiness into my audiences.
Then I narrowed my sight on one bandit in particular, the weakest looking of the bunch, the one that still had his arrow nocked in his bow, “That gentleman over there, yes, you, the one with a bandanna on his head. If you think your arrow is faster than my dagger, you are welcome to try it. I promise that I will only cut your two hands and nothing more,” I edged him with the most brightly lit of a smile on my lips. The kid, that youngest bandit in the room rigorously shook his head and dropped his bow and arrow.
In battles, you either take out the leader of a pack first, that, or the weakest link of the pack. After that, the morale of the entire pack will plummet. That applies in real life situations, ROC and war.
And, I have dealt with both the strongest and the weakest one of this pack.
The clanking noise of the arrowhead hitting the floor instantly has an immediate effect on every bandit inside the room. And my smile only made it worse for them. It rendered the weapons in their hands useless.
People with a dominating physic like Merleon or Bloodbeard have it easy to intimidate people. They only need to approach their targets and give them a dead glare. It’s human nature to be intimidated by things that are physically bigger and stronger than them. Me? I only have my smile, my well-crafted smile to be precise and my polite language and voice.
People often say that a smile of a psychopath is broken. They probably have never seen a real psychopath or a real demon in their entire life. Or perhaps, they need bigger glasses. Or they are simply blinded and pretend that they can see. Or perhaps, I don’t know… people just don’t look at that in the way I see it.
The smile of a psychopath or a demon is neither broken nor ugly nor disgusting. It is always the most innocent, charming and beautiful of a smile. It is well-crafted and artificial, a product, a complete product.
A smile like that is the easiest way for a person to be creepy to both male and female audiences after that person has established himself as someone dangerous. A bright smile like that is universally viewed as something genuinely good by all cultures and civilizations, the very opposite of evil and dangers. That’s why, when a person who has established himself as dangerous makes that smile, it confuses people’s senses of what dangerous and what is not, creeping them out whether they are conscious of that or not.
And when a person is being creeped out, that person will be very confused on whether or not he/she should fight or flee or do nothing. His/her fight or flight instinct would be tested in that moment.
Human psychology is weird.
After that, the line between being creeped out and fear is all but a hairbreadth.
“How cute!” I snickered quietly, just enough to make my shoulders shaking a little bit. My eyes never left Bloodbeard, still judging his train of thought and anticipating for his reaction.
He held his twin halberds firmly in his large hands. Those are the biggest halberd that I have ever seen. Are they classified as halberds or two-handed battleaxes? Well, whatever, that’s the kind of topic for weapon nerds like Merleon to worry about. It’s none of my business.
The bandit lord observed me with watchful eyes, confused but still had an edge within them, full of questions. However, if I ever deemed myself as a clear enemy of his, he would strike regardless. His body language implied that to me.
I tried to dig up all the once useless information and data related to Bloodbeard that Misery has drilled inside my head. Who could possibly anticipate that those useless trivia could come in handy one day? Shit, had I known that this would happen, I would have invested more effort in learning the lore of ROC.
While sorting out my thought, I could listen to the two audible sounds in the room, confusion and fear.
I could hear the shake and shiver in their short breath. “That is fear boys,” I internally whispered to them while smiling “Listen to it, smell it, feel it.” Of course, they could not hear that inner psychotic voice inside my head.
I have casted this illusion on every person inside this room, myself included. If I wanted to convince them that I was something dangerous, something alien to them, someone insane, I should convince myself first, that I was such a person.
My heart found its usual beat again, what luck. I could never convince these people that I am psychotic demon while I am scared, could I?
I found myself wanting to laugh at the sheer ridiculousness of the situation. Sixteen men in the room, all fighters and killers, yet, they are afraid of a person like me, unable to move, unable to act, and allow the stage to be mine. That’s hilarious, I inwardly told myself, feeding off to my psychopathic persona.
Oops, I did not mean to spread my lips like that. It was a mistake. I got caught in my character a little too much. I have scared these bastards enough. I don’t want to push them over the edge. I don’t know what they would do once that happen. Human is no difference than beast when they succumb to fear.
Clariciel, did you think these bastards are enough to kill me? What a joke! Those spiders of Iliva and that snake or those wolves were more of a threat.
Send a dragon or something I cannot negotiate next time, something that is immune to my mind games or a real demon, something that is better than I am at this game.
If you are watching this, remember that I fear no foe who speaks, Clariciel.
I laughed inwardly at the absurdity of the situation and fueled my inner demon persona and ego.
There is too much tension in this room. I don’t like it. Any more tension and I will lose the control over my audiences. I wanted to push these bastards to walk the thin line between being creeped out and fear itself, not completely falling into the depth of fear. The psychotic smile I let slipped a moment ago was the reason, a mistake, it even had Bloodbeard on the edge. I shall rectify that.
I then released my firm grip on the hair of the bandit who I had subdued. I made a gesture, gently patting the head of the bandit, “Stay still. Be a good boy and I will heal you. If you are a good boy, I won’t let you die. That, I promise,” I told him, using a different variance of a smile, a genuine one, heartfelt and warm, like a father talking to his son.
The bandit promised me that he would be a good boy, trembling, sobbing. He thanked me. His eyes are red and tearful. He clung to my kindness to stay alive. However, it was just an illusion. The fool was completely trapped deep within the illusion I conjured. He should not thank me. After all, I am the person who drove Enfermé into his shoulder in the first place. He’s better not develop a Stockholm syndrome toward me after this. That would make me truly sick in the stomach.
“Good boy,” I nodded my head and gently combed the bandit’s messy hair with my hand as if I was his caring father.
Just a simple gesture of kindness, acting as if I understand his pain and suffering, I have managed to return the status quo of the entire room back to where I wanted it to be. Even though I am clearly their enemy, yet, these people are unable to determine if I was really their enemy and acted accordingly.
This is too easy, well, apart from the blood, everything has gone exactly the way I intended.
“Human psychology is weird. We are full of holes that are waiting to be exploited.” I was suddenly reminded of the catch phrase of the most insane woman I have ever dated. There was nothing easy about her. She is a difficult woman, more so than my beloved older sister is. She made it very difficult to be around her, to love her or live with or without her. A psychologist she is, yet, she’s only making people around her crazier than they are. My older sister was merely poisonous. This woman, on the other hand, was venomous.
Finally, I have outlined all the necessary knowledge I had on Bloodbeard and readied to confront him.
“Good, now let’s proceed to the next lesson,” I put the usual well-crafted smile on my lips again while narrowing my sight on Bloodbeard.
I rubbed the head of my captive, “Hey, boy, what’s your name?”
“One-eye, sir,” he sobbed and replied obediently.
“Pressurize your wound,” I told him.
“Huh?” the stupid bastard showed me a blank look as if he had no idea what was I talking about.
I sighed and let go of Enfermé , walking to the front of the bandit. Then I squatted down to his eye level, grabbed his hand and put it on the wound. “Hold your wound. I’m getting the blade out. You want your wound to be treated, don’t you?”
The poor bastard vigorously nodded his head as he sobbed, clutching his wound and applying pressure. I assumed position, trying not to let the blood spewed on my body. If that happened for real, I don’t have the confidence that I can retain my poker face. Without warning, I yanked Enfermé out of One-eye’s shoulder.
He hissed sharply, doubling from the pain, hitting his head against the floor. His blood streamed down on the floor. God damn it, it was unnecessary. I did not want to see that.
I held my hand toward One-eye’s back and casted my primary skill, “A strange choice.” A golden orb of light escaped my palm, entered One-eye’s back and bounced back to me immediately. The golden light danced and enveloped our body. It felt warm and uplifting like I was being touched by something purely good and holy.
It was really “A strange choice” like Jimmy Holland has said in his show. A skill that grants the ability to heal and completely dispel all negative statuses in the world of ROC is the least suitable for someone of my personality.
One-eye slowly stood up and removed his hands from his wound. “The wound is gone. I feel no pain? The pain is gone.” His eyes teared up again. He knelt before me, kowtowing and worshipping as if I was a savior of his or perhaps a saint or a merciful god. The poor bastard even kissed my smelly travel shoes as he thanked me.
I was the one who made that wound in the first place…
I could not help but sigh exasperatedly, “All of you, out of this room,” then gazed at Bloodbeard, “This is a private lesson between me and Ashtorá.”
The bandits hesitantly looked at Bloodbeard, waiting for his confirmation.
“Out,” I shouted loudly and they instinctively scuttled away like cockroaches, did not even wait for Bloodbeard to give his order. “One-eye, prepare a room for me. I don’t care how small. Get it ready by the time I finish talking with your leader.”
One-eye bowed to me and ran out of the room, leaving only Bloodbeard and me inside the room with the flickering torches.
“You fucking fail as a leader when you allowed me to tell your man to go away like that,” I broke the silence, dropping my polite tone completely.
My voice was that of repressed anger, shaking lightly, giving a vulnerable illusion of a man who was fighting really hard to hold back his overwhelmed emotions.
Bloodbeard was completely caught off guard by the switching tone of mine. He stared at me and asked, “Who are you?”
“Ashtorá, that’s the name of the elven hero king of Murkwood who managed to stop the army of Craxus the Conqueror from destroying his land for over twenty years. The two of them met on the battlefield and fought many times but all of their battles ended up as draws. Later, Craxus the Conqueror admired his courage and strength, he accepted Murkwood as an independent vassal of his Empire. He became a heroic figure for all people who have their kingdom lost to the might of Craxus even until this very day. I named you after that elven king. Is there any reason for you to hate it and instead call yourself with this fucking stupid name? Bloodbeard, really? What the fuck is Bloodbeard? What kind of fool would call himself Bloodbeard?”
I shouted at the bandit lord with the same emotional voice. I looked at him in the eyes and dared him to talk back to me.
Bloodbeard only became more confused, staring at me, “Who are you?” he repeated.
I do not blame him for being like this. After all, my performance today deserved an Oscar nomination. I am a well-trained liar since the day I was bullied in elementary. I am a well-trained performer. I did not go to the circus just to learn magic tricks. I went there to learn how to perform. I am an actor. I don’t need to go to an acting school to learn how to act. Living in the same house with my insane sister taught me all that I have ever needed to know about acting. If I could not act, I might as well already be dead a long time ago.
“I’m…” I was feeding off on my ego and almost said, “I’m your father,” to Bloodbeard in Darth Vader’s voice by mistake. Fuck, that was close. That was really close. No amount of bullshit could get me out of that disastrous situation. I originally did not intend to assume the role of his father to trick him. In fact, the words “father,” “alchemist,” and “potion” served as triggered words for Bloodbeard.
Unlike Iliva who I knew nothing about her history, I knew Bloodbeard’s biography very well. Other than the extra bit of trivia and speculations about him that I was supposed to learn from reading comic and lore of ROC, I could say that I remember everything about Bloodbeard from the time I played his single mode campaign.
Bloodbeard is one of the three unique warlords of the Empire of White Winter. At the beginning of his campaign, he commanded a large force of bandits to invade the kingdom of Zard from the North, striking terror through the land by besieging the city of Madukat. However, it was a guise, a clever tactic invented by the sharpest mind of all the tacticians living in the Empire of White Winter at that time to annex the entire kingdom of Zard into the Empire’s territory.
Bloodbeard was supposed to provide the legitimate cause for the Judgment Army of the Empire to cross the border and occupied Madukat. That Judgment Army would be hailed as the liberator of Madukat and not invader. After that, they executed one of the five warlords of Zard, the Northern Warden of Golden Triangle Region, the guy who players famously dubbed as the Teddy Bear of Zard. The Empire would blame him for failing his duty and all of the shits that have ever happened on the land and people would cheer them for that.
With Madukat completely under their control, the Empire has secured a clear invasion path to Zard from the north. They would not have to worry about their supply line being cut or intercepted. In a meanwhile, Bloodbeard and his army would act as a decoy, invading further into the heart of Zard, going east and spreading the terrors across the kingdom.
With a situation like that, the king of Zard, the Eastern Warden and the Western Warden raised their army and head north, trying to rout Bloodbeard’s army and liberating Madukat from the Empire. And they would manage to do just that, capturing Bloodbeard, having him executed and taking back Madukat from the Empire’s hand. They did that and spectacularly fell for the ploy of the Empire, losing the Western Region, the capital city, the Southern Region and the Eastern region to the real army of the Empire invading from the Western Region. After that, Zard was annexed into the Empire’s land.
Bloodbeard was just a sacrificial pawn on the chessboard. That was his ending in the canon history. However, players could change that ending while playing Bloodbeard’s campaign. They could make difference choices that Bloodbeard has never thought of. They could command Bloodbeard to betray the Empire by becoming a vassal to the king of Zard instead. They could command Bloodbeard to return to White Winter and revolt against the Empire, being a real thorn in the asses of the Empire. They could do many things, including leading Bloodbeard to become the supreme warlord by uniting all three connecting continents of Escana under his rule.
Oops, I made him waited for a little bit too long. The bandit lord was looking at me, still waiting for me to finish my sentence.
“I was there, the day Eri gave birth to you. You are this small,” I cut the silence with a sad smile that full of nostalgia. I made myself looking like a man who was trapped in the past, the same kind of person that Bloodbeard was. Eri was his mother, the only person Bloodbeard has truly loved.
Throughout his campaign if player took liberty of the path of history, Bloodbeard was proposed with many political marriages from various factions as his army grew. However, the option of accepting those political marriages was always grayed out, impossible to choose. That happened because of one of Bloodbeard’s negative perks, mother complex. That perk prevented him from ever marry with another woman for the entire campaign.
Those ROC related comics that Misery collected shed more light on this particular perk of Bloodbeard. In those comics, he was showed to have many women in his harem, all of whom looking identical to his mother in one way or another.
At the time when Misery told me that information, I was like, “I wish I could unhear that. Why must I listen to that kind of information?” Now, that useless knowledge became a weapon of mine.
I was supposed to act like a man who was lost in nostalgia, completely trapped in the past. My acting would not feel complete with tears. I forced myself to remember the day when Mrs. Hạ Đông was lost to me. I forced myself to remember the day I lost my midnight sun. And voila, my eyes felt like they were rubbed with a fistful of chili powder as the result. Yup, perfect acting, ten out of ten.
Bloodbeard still gazed at me with confused looking eyes. He had no idea that I was only acting. He was not of the same breed as me and my sister and my most psychotic girlfriends. He was not a demon nor a beast nor a black sheep.
He’s just a normal man who trying his hardest to survive through trouble times. That was the reoccurring theme throughout the length of his campaign. Again and again, Bloodbeard would be shown as being no more than a normal man. His complete biography feels like a case study of human nature, that man could become beast and become as evil as he could be to survive.
At the same time, Bloodbeard would show glimpses of what he could have been, a good man, a person who was capable of empathy and acted on kindness. That was one of the reason Bloodbeard was one of Misery’s favorite warlords. That’s why there is no way for a person like him to win against me or betray me or see through my character. That’s why I could already see the ending of this meeting between me and him. I declared at thus within my head. I would love if Bloodbeard proved to me that I was wrong though.
“I’m your uncle, Ashtorá. Eri is my adopt sister,” I told Bloodbeard with my tears drenched cheeks. That’s the role I wanted to assume. That’s the bullshit I originally intended to sell to him the very moment I knew that I was captured by his henchmen. How hard could it be? I asked myself.
- place to place
- Duke pika
I am just an unspectacular author among many. I’m just an unspectacular Vietnamese man, whose commandment over his motherland writing is so piss poor that he has to write his book in English. Sometimes, I pretend that I am not such a sad and unspectacular creature. But, because I am such an unspectacular being, rather than introducing myself and bores everyone to death, please allow me to entertain you with a story instead.
A teacher and a dear friend of mine kept telling me this sentence like a broken radio for the last seven or eight years, "Every story, no matter how strange, deserve a fair chance to be told."
Eight years, it took me that long to find the courage to sit down and wrote "The King of Desires" for real. I'm fine with writing all manner of terrible fanfictions and short stories, and spreading the horror that is my terrible writing all over the webs. But "The King of Desires" could not come out in the same manner. I have made drafts and gathered materials for "The King of Desires" for almost a decade. Yet, I was unable to share "The King of Desires" with everyone as readily as my other terrible creations. There is always something very different and personal about this piece.