Before the Testament
EYES SPEAK TRUTH. Unfortunately, my truth was often frightening to the average passerby. With irises made of crimson, my tears were rumored to be rich with the blood of my foes. I had no remorse for my killings—if I had it my way, those who I had slain would be resurrected time and time again, only for me to end them once more. It brought a sense of comfort to me, truly.
That said, I am no monster. With each step I took through this town, I began to see qualities in others that would qualify them as a beast. Far before you’d put my head through the loop of an executioner’s rope, too.
Men who beat their wives, eyes hung low and lips chapped from drinking the tears of their lovers. I would have little remorse for those who bruised the fair skin of their women, and some might say I’d find pleasure in giving them a taste of their own medicine, but somehow I remained collected.
It always got worse, and each time I brought myself to confront these foes, I reminded myself of my origins. I was placed on this earth to help, to do good, and find solace in the idea that my fate was set for me. I do not have to worry about whether or not I was placed here, in this old and rickety town, to eliminate the monsters that close their storm shutters at night. I only have to worry about fitting in.
Fitting in was something that was easier said than done. I have worn hoods, I have dressed in rags, and I have shaved my beard. It never worked. The second somebody saw my eyes was the same second any chance at normality went out the window. I have had children run away, back into the arms of their abusive father, only to call me the monster.
With a fate like mine, I wondered if they were right. There was little time to stress on the issue of my morality, though—I had more pressing matters. Slipping my fingers around the silver door handle, I inhaled deeply. Gingerroot. Mead. Wheat. Possibly barely, if I had to put my finger on it. I was no baker, nor did I have interest in barley porridge. I did have an interest in the innkeeper, though. So, I did what I had set out to do, and pushed the Tavern door open. It was a tiny place, but it was populated with the groups that made my stomach churn.
Pooling at the tips of their fingers was the sickly sweet strands of honey and grease, and at the center of their tables were jugs of mead and beer that emptied at rates faster than the innkeeper could handle.
This tavern was rife with the smell of sex, vomit, and drunkards—in no particular order—and it looked like the poor hag was looking for any excuse to kick the rowdy bunches of soldiers out. I’d call them men, but that would be an insult against my own dignity. With sweat dripping at her brow, I approached the bar and laid down a singular gold coin.
Looking up from the glass she was cleaning, her eyebrows narrowed and her lips tugged into a frown. “A real jokester, are ya? That is not enough to breathe the air of this very inn. Scram!”
I snickered, leaned forward, and shrugged my shoulders dramatically. “Perhaps not. However, I have something more valuable to you.”
“And what is that?” She asked, turning her back to put the cleaned glass on the shelf. It always amused me when they doubted my skills.
I decided to play with her a little. “Tell me, Marisol,” she turned at the call of her name, eyes wide and mouth parted, “what happened with that son of yours?”
“My son?” She gulped. Her face grew pallid, too. “What do you know about Jonah?”
“I know enough. I want you to tell me what you know.”
“He rode off at sunset… couldn’t have been more than a month ago, sir. Who are you?”
She was so formal now. It amused me. Tapping the fingers around the golden coin, I clicked my tongue against the roof of my mouth before bowing sarcastically. “My name is Jayce of Enverville. I’m here to help you.”
“Find your son, of course. Or, were you going to tell me you’d rather he stay lost in Soultakers Alley?”
Marisol cleared her throat. She looked to the soldiers who hollered behind me, beckoning for a new drink before wiping her brow. “Soultakers Alley? How do you—”
I leaned forward and slid the coin to her side of the counter, cutting her sentence off with my own response. “No more of your questions. I only want answers from here on out. Worry about the rest later.”
With a shaky hand, she grabbed hold of a mug and began to fill me a glass. From there, she placed it before me and accepted the singular coin. “Alright, J-Jayce. My son, his name was Jonah, he was recently enlisted to the Royal Arms. I have worries he was involved with… with less than respectable people.”
Drawing the mug to my lips, I nodded as she recounted her son's experience. I found it more than a little difficult, though, as the scoundrels behind me grew louder and more bothersome.
I turned my head to face them, watching one of the soldiers wave his empty glass around and spit on the ground in our direction. He wore the Tubeton coat of arms, but his uniform was plagued with mud and other stains and his clothes hung loosely. There was a tear beneath his armpit, dried blood tracing the gash.
Standing to my feet, I snatched the pitcher full of mead from Marisol’s bar and approached the fellow gladly. He looked perplexed as I refilled his mug, but he did not contest.
“Are you Marisol’s newest toy?” the drunkard hooted.
“I’m no toy, but I can be a real joy,” I joked.
The man grinned, his front two teeth black, as were his gums. “Tell your whore to refill our drinks, I like the look of her a—”
The rest of his sentence was caught in his throat when I slammed the pitcher on his table. His group, which had been laughing up until that point, looked at me with wide eyes and opened mouths. They all looked like idiots.
“I think she is fine where she is. That is the Tubeton coat of arms, correct?”
It was silent again as the drunkard looked down at his sleeve, tracing the fading symbols. A spoon that had fallen to the ground rattled for another few seconds before it grew still. Tubeton was a good-for-nothing militaristic power from a nearby kingdom, one that was currently attempting to overtake the smaller Neverthelm kingdom. They were big bullies, essentially. This town had nothing but farmland, and did just fine with its local leadership and small militia.
Eventually, the man found an answer.
“Indeed, but you wouldn’t know the pride of wearing this coat of arms.”
I laughed, crossing my arms over my chest, and took a look at his friends. They all smelled, their hair as greasy as the food on their plate, and had sunken eyes. He had seen more respectable soldiers in dirtier towns, and by a longshot, too.
“Nothing about you sings pride to me. What’s your name, soldier?”
The soldier snarled, clenching his fists as he stood to his feet. Even at his tallest, he stood just below my collar bone. I couldn’t hold that against the fellow, though—I was a tall man from the start. “What’s it to you, traveler? I can tell you’re not from this town.”
“I mean this as kindly as possible,” I said and took one more look at his companions, “but I would never touch this town with a ten-foot pole. Unfortunately, I don’t have much of a choice.”
“Then you can get lost, you red-eyed freak!” The shorter man snarled.
The soldier swung his cup into the air, clearly hoping for his group to cheer out in support of his threat. A poorly conveyed threat, that is, but one he had expected me to be moved by.
I wondered if I should start shaking, hug my elbows and beg for forgiveness. Apologize for stealing the drunken soldiers’ grimy, stinky air.
I clenched my fists, a snort escaping my lips when his men did not cheer for him. All of them stared at me with wide eyes, their lips parted and in disbelief of what they had seen. This made me wonder just how many times somebody had come to this group in an effort to shut them up. Clearly, the answer was not enough.
I questioned whether it was worth my time. Whether I should unravel my rage on this man and relieve some stress by pummelling him into the empty table to his right, or if I should let him be. After brushing some dirt off my pants, I backed away and lifted my hands up in defeat.
I don’t know what caused me to snap. It could have been the obnoxious snort from that greasy man, or more likely, the roar of laughter that followed his one, painstakingly stupid remark:
“And tell the whore her son is better off dead.”
|— Jayce Wolfenshine —|
Thionius — God of Immortality
Strengths and Boosts:
Immune to Pain, Strength & Agility +10, Mana +20
Charisma -10, Sanity -10
Armor + Inventory:
Armor [None], tunic and pants, steel dagger
The air was still for what felt like eons—particles of dust floating past my face, eventually settling to the ground. Light bled through the window to my left, men on horses passing idly by to get on with their day. By the time I had collected my thoughts, it had already began.
I had grabbed the man by his throat, lifting him up into the air and watching as he squirmed to be let free. He was a heavyset man, sure, but I was far stronger than I looked when I got into this mindset. It was primal, but it was also otherworldly.
I felt like I was being controlled, and that was one of the things I hated when I was under the alignment of Thionius. He had yet to let me down, and each time he aided my hand in battle, I came out as the victor. That said, I felt insane.
The man was urging me to let him go, understandably, but I held onto his scrawny neck and stared with eyes so void of emotions they were better off described as pits of rage. This man, with tears falling from his eyes, was supposed to be a soldier. He was supposed to protect the crown of Tubeton. While it may be a small Kingdom, it deserved better protection than this runt.
Something crashed onto my head, shattering onto the floor in a loud clatter. It wasn’t enough to push me over, but it was enough to distract me. The soldier fell to his knees when my grasp lightened, his face red and chest heaving. I drew my fingers back to eyelevel after touching the side of my head, watching droplets of blood trail the side of my index finger before stopping at my palm. Everything around me grew fuzzier as any sanity I had left became irrelevant.
A little snap here, a little stab there… They’ll be nothing but mortal figments of the past!
I grinned at the voice as it echoed through my headspace. Thionius had such a warm voice for somebody that was so insane—I often wondered if he was the reasoning behind my night terrors as a child. When I grew old enough to understand the power of my Gods, I felt an attachment to Thionius. He was a counter balance to my normal way of thinking—I still just wished I had more self control when he aided me in moments like this.
When I turned my head, I saw one of the fellow soldiers holding a half broken glass plate, his brow furrowed and lip curved into a frown. Just as he was about to swing again, I ducked and moved to his other side.
“Nothing more than a demonic bastard!” The man hollered, throwing the tray at me and missing by a longshot. Apparently, mead was not good for aiming. He didn’t skip a beat as he grabbed a steak knife that laid on the table, gripping at it with his slippery little fingers. His hand shook, something I had not expected considering he was a soldier. Surely, he had faced a worse battle outside this dusty old Kingdom.
As he took a few strides toward me, I laughed. So did Thionius, but that was easy enough to ignore. Thionius was awfully annoying when he got in this mode—cocky, loud and generally just messed with the only bit of sanity I had left.
Look at his swing, Jayce! He has the stance of a toddler. He’d have Genux rolling in his grave!
I sighed, everything around me blurring in and out of focus. The only thing I could keep my eye on was that knife, and as I maneuvered around this tavern I questioned whether I was stepping over stools, running into fellow soldiers, or if none of the things I was feeling were real at all. It was disorienting to say the least, but all I had to have was faith in Thionius. He had gotten me out of worse.
My foot caught onto something—or, someone—and I tripped just long enough for one of the men to grab me by the arms and hold me back. The soldier that wielded his steak knife with such insecurity finally got a jab at me, and when the blade went into my stomach, I didn’t even wince. As annoying as being so out of touch with reality was, I found myself thankful that I did not feel pain in this state. All I had to do was get out of this man's grip, and take the knife out.
So, that’s what I did. I first elbowed the man that held my arms behind my back, twisting his arm until he was in my control and took the knife out. Holding it to his neck, I sliced it and let him fall. Pity.
Now, it was time for the man who originally attacked me. I wasn’t sure where the soldier was, the one that caused this mess in the first place, but I’d get to him as soon as I put these other poor saps out of their misery.
Or, I preferred to think of it as Thionius putting it out of their misery. It was only fitting, considering I only had my thoughts and none of these actions were truly mine.
Another one of the soldiers backed away from me as I approached him, falling back and slamming into the wall.
As I kneeled down and placed this flimsy blade to his neck, I had a flash of reality return to me. For a second, things weren’t so blurry anymore. For a second, everything felt genuine to me again. For a second, I was the one in control.
That wasn’t Thionius’s way of doing things.
This fragment of reality was enough to make me drop my blade, and as I scrambled to pick it up time froze. I looked around with what limited movement I had and saw the tavern slowly fade away. Each breath I took grew steadier, and the blurring sense of reality was but a distant dream. I felt like myself again, only I could hardly move.
“This is how you use your powers, Jayce?” A melodic voice chimed. It came from my left, and when I tried to turn to face it, I became still. Movement was no longer an option.
“Always somebody in control,” I muttered through clenched teeth. “Who are you?”
“No need for introductions, for I won’t be here long.”
The voice grew closer, every syllable ringing into the air like a bird singing its song. I had no other means to describe this voice besides comparing it to a warm Spring evening, with the wind just active enough to keep you chilled.
She continued. “I came to witness you, first hand. I am displeased, but should not be so quick to judge. It would also be out of my nature to not offer a helping hand."
“Helping hand? I do not need your help.”
The woman chuckled. “Your God of Immortality was about to let you die, Jayce. With that sword nearly through your head.”
“Sword, indeed. That soldier that called the innkeeper a whore was about to slice it right through your thick skull. The irony! I couldn’t let you lose like that, though. Consider this your time to plan.”
A hand rested on my shoulder, the skirt of her dress peaking just far enough for me to see with my peripheral vision. She smelled like lavender and vanilla, it was calming.
“I understand you are looking for the boy that got lost in Soulkeepers Alley. I have a man who can help you, but he is in the next town over. If I were you, I would clean up this mess you made and make your way to Reekerskeep. Until then, Jayce.”
And with that, time returned but Thionius did not. As I blinked, I rolled to my side and watched the angry soldier that started this all slice right into the man who was pressed against the wall.
This surprised him, and as he held his hands over his mouth to stifle a gasp, I slid my foot underneath his leg to trip him. Without another thought, I grabbed my dagger out of its holster and stabbed him in the chest. It was a quick death, one that Thionius would be displeased by, but he was no longer here to make that call.
I’d have to worry about where he went at another time.
Standing, I looked around me. There were men unconscious on the ground, their faces bruised and beaten, but I had no recollection of taking all these men on at once. There was even a curtain lit aflame from a fallen lantern. The wound in my arm was becoming anything but numb, but I disregarded it for now. I would address it when it became unbearable.
I returned to the counter, grabbing hold of my mead and took a swig. The innkeeper sat on the floor, shaking and sobbing for me to leave. I grabbed the bag of coin off of my belt and placed it down for her, finishing off my drink before backing away.
|— Jayce Wolfenshine —|
Strengths and Boosts:
Charisma +5, Sanity +10, Clumsiness +3
Sympathy +10, Depression +5, Confusion +5
Armor + Inventory
Armor [None], Blood soaked pants, steel dagger
“Sorry about the trouble, Marisol. I’ll get your tables fixed. And your curtain’s replaced. And—well, everything.”
Without another word, I opened the tavern door and made my way out of the city. I needed to find my horse and get the hell out of this town. I had so many thoughts running through my head, but none of them mattered.
I had three priorities. The first would get in touch with my contact about this missing boy and update him on the mayhem, the second would be to figure out who that woman was at Reekerskeep, and third would be how she got rid of Thionius’ presence.
Clutching at the wound in my arm, I found my way to my horse that was tied to a fence just outside the kingdom walls and untied his lead. There really was no rest for the wicked.
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