- The martyrs go hand in hand into the arena; they are crucified alone.
- Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception (1954). p. 12.
Finally, the mob’s hatred had stopped and his penitence ended. Conflicted in a doomed monologue, Avalan Den struggled to break free of the Mark. As he cried for the Almighty’s forgiveness, Den attempted to clear his mind of reason, which gave its power to mithril.
Ending their requiem, the Fiery Maidens stood and giggled while descending the carriage. Barking, the gnollards silently slumbered, fogtrapped by the Fiery Priests who whispered the words. In front of this escort, the sealord Zephyr and a man dressed in black and blue robes awaited, before the Cathedral of Alesia. The first Avalan had previously met and he reviled him as a taint spread in Emperor Arius’ name. The second who stood with an evidenced confidence didn’t inspire trust but his imperial decorations implied he ranked as commander in the Legion. How many are coming to see me dead, the so-called Assassin of Kings? Do they have any idea of their stupidity?
Soon-after the carriage had cleared, a pair of fiery knights ascended the hellish cage, casting the Dragonglass aside and seizing Avalan’s arm.
Slightly awakened, Den grinned, able to consciously move a finger. Failing to resist, and therefore restrained further, Den was dragged down when horseshit spattered his face.
Losing grasp on the mirage of his world, Avalan Den remembered the dark ages of his upbringing. For his growth had been harsh and painful, he embraced suffering as a teacher of these things that made his life. Cowardly, but willingly, Den lost his heart in the maze of his memory.
Brought back into Ashtown, City of Fenris were rested her ivory horn of winters, Avalan Den recalled when he had ducked the jab. Tensing his arm, he had struck an uppercut to Thorgis. Eloquent, Thorgis had smiled and showed how he became the Wolf’s Bane. Back in this lyric past, Den had known of Thorgis’ domination of a wolf’s pack at the age of eight. Hammering from an lower angle, Thorgis’s elbow had flew below his chin, rising our hero Avalan Den’s younger body into a brief fall to dirt.
Sensing the eyes of Logan’s eyes, his skilled friend, Avalan had seized the muddy dirt and had ignored the falling bloody waterfall descending on his eyes, painfully rising. Remembering Dantena van Torquaz’s Ravenclaw and accursing Brian Greyfallow, Den succeeded in smiling when he remembered why his passion for warfare had awakened him. Kicking up, his younger self had charged the legendary thane and had attempted to tackle him.
Still smiling, Thorgis had let the younger Den foolishly waste his stamina during this painful exchange. Roaring, the gathered thralls and maidens had either laughed at Thorgis’ evidenced cruelty or Den’ surprising ferocity. Thrown back, Den had gathered his forearms as a wooden club and had shattered facing the furious jab. Dazzled, Den had last seen the wolfe’s bane uppercut, failing to anticipate the trapped faint of a hook punch.
Haunted still, Den remembered how being knocked out after he had been using Ravenclaw style had ignited his thirst for battling. Black and white? Getting rid of the fear of defeat early on in his life had enabled him to train diligently later on. In a way, Den had turned the doomed humiliation into hard work and diligent humility. These two attributes forged his core character who had been praised across his career by masters and comrades alike.
In Avalan Den’s case, his ascension fro, blacksmith’s apprentice to being the greatest and most revered hero of the third age never occurred. What is chronicled here is how he, a highborne from a clannic tribe of Aeirnians, emerged as a temporary folk hero in this twisted and unjust commonwealth of kingdoms. His downfall had occured before he could reach supreme fame, and therefore his accomplishments were completely overshadowed by his false reputation as Kingslayer. Most didn’t believe in his actual existence, but Den knew better. The Kingslayer was one of the deadliest fighters in the world, probably the last who could rival an army like in the stories. Pa had once served in Thorgrim’s Imperial Guard and was, unfortunately, one of the fallen of the Slaying of Kings. Fate had cast a twisted and mediocre irony by framing Avalan for his father’s murder. His father had been the great soldier who inspired Avalan into jousting and actually become a performer for carnivals. Refusing to become a mere knife for kings, Den had reluctantly agreed into becoming a career hero for firstly it paid well, and secondly he had talent for actual battling. As good as he was, Den was aware of his flaws as a swordsman. Being accused of taking down a hundred kingsguards and their kings, of putting the invincibility of the Imperial Guard to the test and slaying an emperor in the Throne Room was simply insane. I wish I could even dream of achieving such prowess, but I see no more dreams in the clouds. Reality has changed me so.
Suddenly, this real and grimdark presence that was the world came back when the mob had gathered around him, fists roaring. So it begins, every ending has a beginning. His beating would last a handful of minutes which considering the vast numbers gathered could be fatal. However, Den has one of the conditioned. He knew how to focus his attention in his limbs before the strikes’ impact. A mere triviality… After decades training with Wizards, Avalan wouldn’t even have bruises, a pale satisfaction. Still, the Mark haunted his forehead and breaking free of its burden wouldn’t come easy, especially while being tangled in such manner. It was either the unjust suffering inflicted by ignorant inferiors or the eventuality of free will. Liberty of mind can wait… Ignorance can be an asset. By deeming Faith above Reason, Den managed to ignore fully the pain. It lasted only a couple of minutes, his chaotic breathing obeying a strict set of rules. Each hit strengthen his resolve and his Faith turned his determination into reality. Training his mind in the way of the magicians had allowed Den to skillfully balance his perception and senses, essentially transmuting his desires and goals into what is perceived as reality. His body could take it most of the time. After fighting in multiple Gatherings and serving in the Thyrian civil war, these angry beggars wouldn’t break him.
It ended well enough, as they cried of frustration. Yes, wrath is consuming you. It makes your punches weaker than an archivist’s…
The Fiery Priests were abominations, obese and corrupted men who had carved their teeth as if they were monsters, who had been inflicting torments so well that the Empire under Qaralys had made them clergy material. Practically, they resorted to vile sorcery to alter their flesh in order to seem demonic or orcish. A Fiery Priest’ skill was measured in how disgusting or horrific he had shaped his appearance. Closing the gates of the Cathedral, they stood close.
“You handle your martyrdom quite well,’ the most heinous of these monks said.
Out of all of them he could actually be an orc. Unlike his companions his hood was brownish instead of the Fiery red and his back remained exposed. His column was… painfully emerging out of his back and blue veins covered his large arms. His face had nothing human, suggesting he had consumed one potion too many. His skin was the one of the plagued and his appearance merged a troll with a goblin, his very skin reeking more than the sewers of Peythralm. Den deduced this man’s ability outmatched his own in alteration, acknowledging the inhumane effort put in the priest’s desired disgrace. A monster had been hiding within you long before you became this, Den assumed.
“I respect that’, the man oddly tried to make the conversation going. ‘We have completed the first step of your journey, let me release your creative mind.”
Grabbing his Amulet, the priest muttered words of magic and Avalan could think again. Hopefully, he knew better than talk. Training under his masters had taught him how to listen, history lectures could be very long and punishments for the foolish were numerous, long and harsh. Den could barely imagine what they would make him endure…
“My name is Philip Lancaster, but Phil will do for you my good ser‘ the orc said. ‘For you and I share a rare intimacy. In a way by Twilight I will know you better than your own lady mother I believe. Her maiden name was Lydia Stormfyldd until she wed your lord father, the late lord Logan Den. I have been told she was still alive.
– She is.’ Den nodded.‘I see you are well informed.
– Oh yeesss,’ Phil agreed. ‘Is she attending your execution my good ser?
– I believe she isn’t,’ Den replied, his tone fainting lassitude.
‘- A pity. If you feel the need to converse I would much gladly oblige.
– Thank you, ser Lancaster,’ Den palely muttered. ‘Are you always so kind to your victims?”
Phil laughed as they advanced in the silence of the church. Red sunlight entered the building, shining an infernal clarity upon the doomed walkers. It had been emptied by the Fiery Order to host Avalan, and the praying souls had been cast away by God’s representatives in this world.
“Victims? But weren’t they heinous and vicious assassins declared heretic by the canonical law? Truthfully, I ONLY cruelly offer the crossing between the Two Worlds to my… esteemed passengers.”
- It still doesn’t explain your ability for monologues…
– I am one of your greatest admirers and your work has inspired me into becoming the man I am today, Assassin of Kings. I don’t mean it as an insult, for you were my muse in times of darkness”.
Den measured the orc’s folly as he was a madman who dwelled in acceptance of his own chaotic impulses. These men who hid under the disguise of the law to practice their evils were among the most dangerous. Philip Lancaster is one to reckon with. Looking at him walk with this air of fiendish majesty reminded Avalan that as a Fiery Priest who had been appointed to execute him, the so-called Regicide, he held considerable power in his order of magic, the Fourth Kyai Order: the Redcloaks.
Could he be trusted?
Phil turned his orcish face, making Den realize how emotionless he seemed with this claws that replaced his human teeth.
Of course not.
Somehow, Den, who had been branded a man of honor by friends and foes alike, realized that proving his innocence was pointless. Compromising and manipulating him might be considered.