My heart beats, and with every thump, my vision swims from the pressure, not from exertion, but fury. Fury with myself for not taking things seriously, livid with this thing for not even caring, for the fact that it’s just doing what, for it, are mindless chores, and more than a little angry with myself for losing it like this. Kaythe isn’t dead, just not alive either. He’ll be back, but right now, I couldn’t care less. I let my emotions take control, and I think I ran right through an ooze, blowing most of my Energy just to move fast and break a flimsy barrier with overwhelming force. My legs are a cataclysm of fire and raging agony, with my nerve endings being seared raw by the corrosive slime.
All because I can’t fucking control myself. A deep mist radiates off my sword, rapidly spreading throughout the room, but it doesn’t stop the wights from continuing to try and riddle me with arrows. I dash forward, preparing to irrevocably destroy the one who wronged me, and manage to dodge the next volley from the four Wights that flank the special one, but my target’s final arrow slams hard into my chest, denting the plate covering my heart.
It should have served as a wake up call, that I might not have been able to heal that in time if I hadn’t had armor, or if it had shot my head. I’m too lost in the moment to register anything other than the feral pleasure I get from shattering its armor with my first strike, destroying its upper body in the process. It crumples to the floor, but my fury is far from spent, and I quickly wheel on the two archers on my left.
Lightning fast slashes take them down with ease, with their bows entirely unable to stand against my sword, and their armor, decrepit and soft if it exists at all. I turn, eyes alight, ready to take on the two remaining, and my head lurches slightly. Arrows… they shot at me… one missed, while the other…
I touch my throat. The other hit. The undead care little, methodically reloading and preparing to fire again. I’m not bleeding, but several important things have been hit: my carotid is ruptured, blood being badly held in and restricted by the shaft, esophagus torn, making my breathing limited and bloody. My body tries to move, but the sudden critical damage, combined with my still dissolving skin keeps me from doing anything. I can’t dodge, but I manage to time my collapse to make the skeletons miss.
My head jars from the impact, adjusting the arrow and letting a little more blood out with each pulse. I scrape together what Energy I have left and get to fixing it, desperately trying to hold my sword aloft for some protection behind the massive blade. I feel an arrow hit the sword deflecting it around me, but another arrow hits me in the leg. My health creeps down from half to a quarter under the effects of ever more arrows, and ever more bleeding. I manage to seal the bleeding in my carotid, but I can’t will myself to move my legs when the tinies bump sends waves of unspeakable agony radiating from them. I make a snap decision to throw my sword, which hits the first Wight hilt first in the rib cage and knocks it over. The one behind it stumbles slightly, but continues methodically loading.
Now devoid of a weapon to shield myself with, and confident that my stick will do nothing, I frantically try to remove my metal plated armor, and get it off my torso and in front of my body just in time to work as an improvised shield for the next shot. Lightning strikes ring out in the confined space, and I finally realize Lauren has been yelling for me non-stop since I ran off. They storm into the room, with Cerberus immediately smashing the downed Wight into powder, and Lauren snapping the bowstring of the second and rapidly stabbing it several times in the chest, eliciting a small array of explosions.
Lauren doesn’t even spend the time to check if it’s dead, instead running to me with a mix of worry and vicious anger on her face, which only increases when she actually registers my wounds. “Amadeus…” The name escapes her lips as a whisper, following a pained gasp.
“Stop.” Her voice loses all intonation. “Tell me which ones to remove in what order, without speaking. Just point.”
I close my mouth and instinctively try to nod, only to be painfully reminded why I shouldn’t move my neck. I want to groan, but even that would be painful, so I mostly take short breaths and point to the arrow in my neck. Her eyes widen slightly, and she looks me in the eye, as if confirming. I don’t waver, and she nods grimly. I mass all the green Energy I’m not using to stop bleeding elsewhere and prepare to work as fast as I can. She gently places her hand around the wound, surprising me with the sensitive nature of her touch, then rips the arrow back out, causing a fair amount more damage in the process. I clap my hand over the wound to try and staunch it even as I make more effective blocks with my Energy. The arterial pressure I’m trying to hold back is immense, and even with the help of green Energy, I still lose a lot of blood through my fingers.
I desperately regrow tissue, even as the pressure tries to rip through and widen the gap more. I quickly realize that I have to work in stages, fortifying my progress at each stop in order to prevent having to start over.
Way back when, they used to solve the problem of barbed arrows by hammering the arrow through to the other side. In this case, I think that might have killed me, so it wasn’t an option, but I can see why they did it.
My head swims, keeping me from using River’s Source and just burying myself in the work, and my Health bar almost doesn’t exist by the time I get the wound sealed. I had maybe 30 seconds… which is better than some past situations, but this… this was-
“That was IDIOTIC. What the fuck is wrong with you!? You knew there was a trap and you think now because you’re strong and shit that you could just force your way through? Where’s the tactician that got us through the hell it took to get here? Where’s your fucking brain?!”
“You let your emotions guide you.”
“You stood against a legion of my own, while your companions were under constant threat of annihilation. You showed no such weakness then.”
I look down, frowning at the mass of arrows sticking out of my body, and my pockmarked, nonfunctional legs. “I had a skill that let me avoid it. I think, somewhere along the line, I came to rely on it to ground me, so when we were taken by surprise…”
“You allowed yourself to fall into a trap.” Cerberus finishes for me, clearly unimpressed.
“I think I would have won, to be fair.”
Cerberus snorts. “Yes, that is true. But, you are far stronger than these pathetic creatures, and they have reduced you to this. Does that not sting your pride?”
“... You’re quite a hypocrite, you know?”
His eyes flash, but he doesn’t respond audibly. I cough slightly, burning with shame, and point to the next arrow for Lauren to remove. Attacking him because he’s guilty of the same thing doesn’t make him any less right about my idiocy. I go to such lengths to resist the system when using my sword and letting it anywhere near making decisions for me, that I forget how much it abstracts away when I do use it. A battle trance, or total focus, is unbelievably useful, but… I can’t rely on them to keep me grounded. Or else, next time, I’ll probably die.
Wordlessly I continue patching myself up, avoiding Lauren’s piercing gaze while she assists.
She sits down next to me, gaze suddenly softening, and leans against me slightly. My body reacts slightly negatively to the touch, expecting more pain, but the irritation quickly fades. She leans her head against mine, and whispers in my ear: “If you leave me here alone, I’ll never forgive you.” I look at her, frowning with questioning eyes, but she doesn’t say more. Does she really feel so alone? Even now?
… Who am I to talk. We’re all alone. Some people are just more honest about it.