Chapter 10: Tamie part 1

Tamie was the first one to see him enter the hall the orphanage used as a cafeteria. Damian’s group was being as loud as usual, captivated by some heroic retelling of a fight against some Bunker rats while the younger children at her table were too busy arguing with each other.

A boy who was at most fifteen, and held a plate filled with the diner of the day, stood at the door. His clothes were in perfect condition and fit him well. She wondered for a second why he kept his eye closed, but such injuries were common in this region.

Continue reading “Chapter 10: Tamie part 1”

Chapter 9

Cleaned up and wearing my new clothes, I was back on the road. To be more precise, I had left the actual road a few minutes ago for a small path that went up one of the many surrounding rocky hills.

When I glanced back, I could see people and trucks coming back from wherever they had been rushing to earlier.

Continue reading “Chapter 9”

Chapter 8

“There you have it. It’s a bit dusty, but I’m sure you’ll manage. Now I gotta go.”

My new boss had led the way through a hallway with closed rooms and, after fumbling with several keys, opened the squeaking last door.

It was more of a storage room than an actual place anyone would sleep in, and was full of what looked like old miner equipment and machine parts randomly thrown in. It didn’t even have a mattress or something I could sleep on. Beggars shouldn’t be choosers, but I really wasn’t satisfied with this arrangement.

Continue reading “Chapter 8”

Chapter 6

I would have thought I was in the middle of an ocean if it wasn’t for the fact that I had footing; as the pitch black water seemed to stretch forever and I couldn’t see where it ended.

All I could see was a gigantic double door covered with symbols very much similar to those that were on every door of the ruined city.

And in front of it was the armored knight that I had seen dead with a sword through his chest. Except he didn’t have a blade piercing him anymore, nor was he on his knees.

He was standing tall, apparently studying the strange monument.

Fucking hell, I spoke to myself through gritted teeth. I was once again in a completely unknown type of situation, with no information regarding how to navigate to safety.

However I knew being shy wasn’t going to help, so I started moving toward the door. Doing my best to not look in the water.

It was so dark I couldn’t see the submerged part of my body, but the few times I had looked down I had seen ghostly hands reaching up, desperately grasping for something.

Even though I knew they were there, I never came in contact with anything while I slowly walked in the water, and I was thankful for that.

Once they were only a few meters between me and the knight, he glanced back at me.

“Ah, there you are,” he said. His voice was calm, and not at all the kind I would associate with a knight. It was more of a monk’s voice. “The Djin sent word of your arrival, but I didn’t dare hope I would finally be relieved of my burden after so long.”

There was a thunderous clamor, an explosion on the other side of the door and cracks ran through it as pieces fell into the water.

“As you can see,” the knight continued unperturbed, “I was not going to last much longer.”

“Wait,” I said, raising both my hands in what I hoped was calming gesture. “I don’t know what’s going on, but it seems dangerous so please don’t be too rash. You said the Djin told you I was coming?”

“Indeed. He wished to gift you the blade, assuring me you would be able to handle her. Many fools have come here, thinking of seizing this power for themselves. I made them all face their arrogance. Are you not his champion? I have to admit that you do seem a little young, but I trust his judgment.”

There was another explosion, stronger than the first one and causing a shockwave strong enough to almost make me fall.

The cracks on the door became even more pronounced, and there were now streams of black water gushing through them. From the force of the streams, I finally understood that this wasn’t a door at all.

It was a dam holding massive amounts of water and we were right in front of it as it was breaking apart.

“The sword? Her?” Was this man insane? “Never mind that, you need to tell me what I can do so that we can both make it out of here!”

“No need to worry, you ought to be fine and I am already dead,” he said with a dismissive wave of the hand. “Have you seen the city? It used to be the heart of the Shuari kingdom, with people that were so full of life and happiness. Now it is nothing but a mirage that will soon fade. If I had not used my life as a seal, the rest of the world would have probably suffered the same fate… and maybe I shouldn’t have. The gods do not care after all.”

Tentacles as dark as the water slowly emerged from under him, some climbing up his legs like snakes and others wrapping themselves around them. Chills of disgust ran down my spine.

I took a step back.

The knight chuckled then look at me, as unperturbed as ever. I couldn’t see his face under his helm but I sensed that, despite the urgency of the situation, his expression was probably one of complete peace.

“Of course, even if you are somehow gifted enough to be able to contain the flood, you cannot be allowed to wave her around like a vulgar stick. My ancestors would roll in their graves. So I shall give you a nudge in the correct direction. I only ask one thing.”

Each of his limbs had at least one of the long tentacles firmly wrapped around it.

“If possible, do what I did not. Reach out to her and try to make her know peace.”

That’s when the door exploded in a thousand pieces, and as I braced myself to receive the torrent of water I saw him being yanked underneath.

I waited for the shock, expecting to be torn apart like a rag doll by the churning wave… but nothing happened.

Half-surprised, half-curious, I opened my eyes to find myself fully underwater but still able to breathe. The water surging out of the door had had no effects on me.

Strangely, I wasn’t worried anymore. Being underwater felt familiar though I couldn’t quite place the feeling. I could even see my surroundings, though they were empty. The knight was gone.

The door was gone, but its frame remained and gargantuan tentacles were coming out of the other side.

It’s that sight of horror that made me realize what was so familiar about this situation and why I wasn’t losing my mind over it.

It reminded me of what I had seen at the bottom of the abyss of souls, but it was nothing close, not even comparable.

A normal person would have lost their sanity inside these waters, but something in my soul was already fundamentally broken by something far worse. Which is why I was unaffected.

And the nameless djin knew, which is why he sent me here.

I walked toward the door armed with new confidence. Because on the other side was where she was, waiting for me. I was sure of it.

At first, nothing happened. But as I got closer the tentacles started going back inside, as if startled by my presence. By the time I reached the vestiges of the door and crossed the threshold, they were too far for me to see.

The other side was different from what I had expected. It was a wide grassland tinted in a spectral blue by the waters, with trees, herbs, and flowers undulating with the currents.

In the middle of it, there she was, dancing.

A chunk of starry night sky, stolen from the heavens then molded vaguely in a female form.

She stopped her gracious spinning when she noticed me. She paused for a moment, measuring me. Then she held out her hand and tilted her head. Inviting. I took it with both of mine.

In her emerald eyes was a question, and my answer was, with no hesitation, yes. Gods yes.

Because she offered what the monster I really was yearned for.

“…D? Can you hear me, Ed?”

I was snapped back to reality by Kirby’s calls and the warm afternoon sun inundating the ruined room I was in.

My fingers were wrapped around the wooden hilt of the sword, my face too close to the helm of the dead knight for comfort. Unlike what I remembered, his own hands were on both sides of his body.

I was drenched in sweat, and my eyes were sore. Had I been crying? My vision was blurry enough to make me wiped it with a shaking hand.

It felt like I just woken up from a particularly insidious nightmare.

Testing the resistance, I lightly pulled the sword toward me, and it followed the motion without making a sound. Taking my time, I slowly pulled it all out as to not desecrate the knights remains. Then I examined it.

The curved blade was now uniformly dark, which I didn’t even know was possible. But besides that fact, the sword didn’t look extraordinary. It had a wooden hilt with only one symbol I didn’t recognize engraved on it.

You have bound the living weapon “Ikun Omi”.

You have unlocked the class “Blade Priest of the Deep”.

Through history, only the most outstanding worshipers would receive the honor of becoming blade priests, to serve the Old gods and be able to wield their powers in their names.
It is truly a shame that the abomination that is the Deep could soil this holy title and bestow it to its pawns.

Blade Priest of the Deep claimed the following attributes: Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Agility.
+4 points to claimed attributes per level.

You have learned the skill “Sunken dance”.

You have received +250 glory.

Certain entities have taken interest in you.

Ikun Omi has been moved to your inventory.

The sword instantaneously disappeared from my hands with a deluge of notifications.

“Ed? Ed, can you-”

“Yes, Kirby,” I basically whispered. My mouth felt dry. “I can hear you. What is it?”

Learning that I apparently had an inventory the least of my concerns.

In the last moments of the dream, something had definitely happened, something that felt bad and beyond my control.

But I did not want to think about it, because if I did, it would mean having to confront things I had built my whole identity around.

So like any other nightmare, I decided to push it to the back of my mind in the hope that I would quickly forget about it.

I just wanted to get out of here.

“ I have only five minutes of presence left under current parameters before dismissal.”

“Alright then. Let’s go.”

I glanced outside with caution but there was fortunately no shadows.

My stamina bar was back to full so I broke into a sprint and followed my drone’s instruction.

The sun was much lower in the sky, which implied I had been out for several hours. I ran, wondering if there even was a reason for me to run anymore.

The streets and alleys I went by were spotless.

“Less than a minute before dismissal,” said Kirby’s bored voice.

“W-wait, what the-” I stuttered. “It hasn’t been five minutes yet!”

“I said five minutes under current parameters. I am no longer stationary and thus consume more mana,” he -I had decided this tin can was a ‘he’- said like it was the most obvious thing in the world.

Which it probably was.

“Then quickly tel-”

But before I could finish my request, the silver drone turned snow white and was blown into dust by the wind. I couldn’t help but let out a few curses.

Then again, I was aware of the general direction we were going in, so I figured I would be fine as long as I didn’t end up in dead ends.

And I was right.

There didn’t seem to be any more danger so I joined a particularly wide paved street and simply walked it down to the city’s exit.

The shadows- or should I call them tentacles?- were all back where they belonged. In the black blade of a banal-looking sword.

The inner city was in better shape than the piles of rubble of the outskirts. But I paid it little attention, amazed by the view.

I was on the edge of a plateau that was towering a desertic valley, and for the first time, even if it was from a distance, I could see signs of human activity.

The valley had several settlements sprinkled along the bed of a river that used to snake around until it reached far away mountains but had long since dried up. Vegetation was scarce, but I could see trails of smoke coming from the villages, and people traveling from one to the next.

I had made it out and would soon rejoin society. It couldn’t be that hard to find a way to make a living here, could it?

The region seems pretty dry, but maybe it can’t possibly be too hard to find someone willing to give me some water… I thought to myself as I went down a set of cracked and broken stone stairs leading to the valley that had surely been an impressive sight in the distant past.

I hardly kept myself from whistling with satisfaction with anticipation as to what the future held. Many dangers? Sure. But I was young and -almost- with no responsibilities.

But the most important thing right now-

You have cleared the instant dungeon The Sunken City.
+1000 glory.

For clearing a historical dungeon, you have earned the title “Dungeon delver”.
+10 glory.

For clearing a dungeon by yourself, you have earned the title “Lone wolf”.
+25 glory.

For clearing the first dungeon you have ever entered, by yourself, you have earned the title “Worthy delver”.
+500 Glory.

You have been awarded participation to the next Assembling of the young talents.
Rank: 1

I blinked, frozen by the sudden wave of notifications. Then I nervously laughed as I dismissed them all.

As I was about to say, the most important thing right now is to find food and water.

Technically, I hadn’t eaten anything my whole life!

 

 

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Chapter 5

Was there any chance that this could be a natural phenomenon? Maybe, but I didn’t want to bet on it. The sooner I would be gone, the better. And seeing how Kirby had started his descent, all my wishes would soon come true.

Then I noticed the shadows creeping down the path I took to my current position.

Nope.

Continue reading “Chapter 5”

Chapter 3

Moving in the perfect darkness wasn’t easy, particularly because of the strange texture of the ground. It was reminiscent of snow, but offering less resistance and dry.

“You are close enough,” the voice said, coming from a much lower position than my own. “ You could fall and I would prefer not to burn you.”

The voice was powerful, enough for me to feel the vibrations in my body when words were spoken. However, there was something better about hearing it with my ears, instead of directly in my head. I felt more in control, less violated.

Continue reading “Chapter 3”

Chapter 2

Incorporeal, but somehow aware. That’s how it felt when the darkness left, only to be replaced by something else. A plane of quasi-existence that I am unable to fully describe with mere words.

I could feel others around me, specks of light forming beautiful streams that stretched forever in both directions.

Even though they never touched, all the streams went the same way, moved by a quiet determination, pulled by a strange hopefulness that resided just over there, beyond the horizon.

I could feel it too, and was content with obediently moving forward. And for a while, I did.

I eventually realized that it was getting increasingly harder. Others would silently move past me while I struggled, confused as to why I felt so heavy. Lamenting, “why me?”

I came to a halt, exhausted and unable to continue anymore.

That’s when I started being pulled down.

I knew something terrible was happening, so I panicked. No one reacted as I was dragged down, out of the stream. Out of the feeling of joy. Out of hope.

There came a point when I was under all the different streams, but the descent didn’t stop. I could now perceive much farther in the distance and noticed that I wasn’t the only one heading down.

All around me were dots of conscious light, wrenched from their infinite destiny.

I moved my awareness downward and found nothing, so I kept pushing, trying to sense what was even beneath the nothingness.

It got cold, cold enough for a man’s blood to stop in his veins. But that did not worry me, as I had been frozen cold before. So I kept pushing my awareness lower.

Beyond the cold, it got hot. Hot enough to scorch a man’s scream in his lungs. But that did not worry me, as I had been burning hot before. So I kept pushing my awareness lower.

The hope of the streams could not reach beyond the heat, so I shuddered. But I had lived most of my life without hope, so I figured I would be able to manage.

So I pushed my awareness lower down the abyss, to what should be its deepest part… And my mind reeled, threatening to break as I looked away.

But it didn’t matter because I had dared to gaze at it. Because even though I couldn’t comprehend what I had seen, I knew what it meant for me.

I was ready to do everything to avoid the fate that awaited me.

Once I made that realization, I was whisked away.

Everything was blurred, as my awareness was severely crippled, no longer able to wander wherever I wished. I felt constricted, limited. Less. It wasn’t until I realized that I needed to breathe that I understood that I was back in a body made of flesh. But younger, much younger than I had been when I died.

“Stand, mortal.”

The voice was low and seemed strange to someone like me who was only familiar with human tongues. I could only compare it to the sound of the wind, howling through an uncaring mountain. Uncaring, because it had been there for eons, and would still be there for eons to come.

I did as the voice ordered me to, still trembling from the ungodly terror I had just experienced. I was in a vast stone hall illuminated with rudimentary torches.

There was no one else around and no exit either. But I knew I wasn’t alone.

“State your name,” the voice demanded.

“My name is Edward Lee,” I said.

There was a pause, during which I heard whispers and hushed voices.

“Edward Lee. You have been brought before us to fulfill an old request. A request for a mortal who meets a particular set of criteria. If you are willing, you will be reincarnated in a world much different than the one you left.”

There was another pause, which was apparently meant for me to think.

“What does that request entail?” I asked.

“Things beyond your understanding and things you are not allowed to know,” the voice said. “But I can see that you fear for your freedom, and you can rest assured that there is no need for such concern. If you were to accept, you would be as free as a mortal can be.”

That last comment caused chuckles in the invisible audience.

“What if I refuse?”

“Then you would simply be excused and your soul would resume its journey to its final resting place.”

“I’ll do it!” I blurted out, almost biting my tongue. “I mean… I accept the request.”

Everything sounded better than going back to that dreadful descent.

And they knew it. Whoever these disembodied voices belonged to, they knew they had me in the palm of their hand.

“Very well,” said the voice, unsurprised.

For crossing from one world to another, you have received the title “Transmigrant”.

+200 glory

You have gained the human racial trait “Technopath”.

Words appeared in the corner of my vision and disappeared once I read them. But before I could try to guess at their meaning, the voice spoke again.

“We now ask to the court; is one of the members willing to offer the mortal Edward Lee their patronage?”

Utter silence, for the first time. Then another mocking chuckle.

“Very well,” the ageless voice repeated, “Edward Lee, it is almost time for you to leave for the world of the living… but you cannot. Not yet. For the Scale is left unbalanced and no one can truly escape their karma.”

There were tremors and I spun around to face an altar at a spot where nothing existed a moment ago. On top of the altar was a bow decorated with carvings that seemed alive.

“Use it,” said the voice.

I did as told, and an arrow made of solid light appeared in my other hand. It seemed oddly familiar, but I couldn’t remember ever seeing something similar.

I looked up and there was no ceiling, only a beautiful starry night sky. So I nocked the arrow, pulled the string as hard as I could and released it. The arrow flew straight up, and so fast it seemed it would never stop.

Half unconscious of what I was doing, I kept firing arrows into the sky until they no longer kept appearing in my hand. Then I put the bow back on the altar, unable to understand what had just happened.

I felt different, lighter. As if some part of me was missing.

Though I couldn’t understand them, the whispers around me had turned into what sounded like intense arguments.

“Now that you have passed judgment upon yourself, it is time,” said the ageless voice. “Edward Lee, the court-”

“Hold,” said someone else.

A heavy silence followed.

“Edward Lee, I would like to be your patron,” said the newcomer. “If you don’t mind, of course.”

There was a rumbling noise as cracks appeared on the stone in front of me. Pieces of the blocks that formed the wall flew past me, as if some invisible sledgehammer took it down, revealing a pitch black room.

To go past the rubble and enter that darkness was far from an appealing idea, but even if I couldn’t tell what a patron was, I could sense it was fairly important.

I took a step and heard gasps.

Light inundated the room, and all around me several doors appeared on the previously naked stone wall. Proper doors of various designs, ornamented with gems and embellished with golden flourishes. Through some of them filtered sunlight and the sound of chirping birds.

I raised a questioning brow at the empty room. A new voice spoke, feminine and charming.

“Rejoice, mortal,” it said. “It appears your karma isn’t as bad as one would think. “In their great mercifulness, several members of the court have decided to offer you their support.”

The voice made a pause, as if expecting me to show a visible sign of my gratefulness. I just waited for it to actually finish speaking.

“However,” the alluring voice continued, “ their support requires you to step away from that ghastly hole. A foul beast is locked inside, and it is surely only looking to take advantage of you. Refuse its offer and start your new life with the support of one of our esteemed members.”

I almost let out a sneer, but managed to keep it inside. Earlier I was hesitating to enter the gaping hole in the wall, but now I wanted to do it just to spite these bastards who were mocking and ignoring me a moment ago.

I didn’t know if I could trust their words but they clearly didn’t want me to get this particular patronage.

If I had been younger, I might have outright ignored the proposition. But I wasn’t a child anymore.

“I am thankful for the offer,” I said without sarcasm. “However there is something I would like to clarify. You said ’support’. Would I be correct to assume that this ’support’ isn’t actually patronage?”

There was only silence to answer me.

“Thought so,” I said as I walked through the opening and into the darkness.

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Chapter 1

Warning: Brimstone Fantasy contains strong language and graphic scenes.
As a first draft, this version may also contain typos/mistakes that readers are welcome to report in the comments.


 

I had wondered how I would die many times before, through the course of a life lived under the sign of violence. But never had I thought I would meet my demise in such a fitting way.

And I had no doubts that this was the end of the road for me, alright. Too many wounds to vital organs, but just enough to leave me conscious for a small moment.

Around me laid thugs, groaning as they were bleeding to death. They were the members of a small, but cruel, gang that had been terrorizing the little town I had made my nest in. In their last moments, they were probably surprised and confused that the old man that had approached them had turned out to be so dangerous. But I couldn’t blame them. They couldn’t know that from my early teenage years until a few years ago, I had been dealing in sanctioned murder.

Well, ’sanctioned’ depending on who you asked.

My “career” started in a forgotten African nation, with me as a child soldier under the banner of “The Populist Liberation Army,” following the orders of an unhinged monster and ended several decades later as a respected member of the regular army, serving a whole other breed of monsters. One that would drink fine wine and wear shining shoes.

I left, not because I was disgusted with being nothing more than a weapon, not because of my body breaking down, but because I had found someone that made me believe that the rest of my life could be worth something. Which was quite ironic, considering I was dying for his future.

A young brat, that I had taken under my wing and decided to raise as my own. He was almost feral when I first found him, and now, standing over me with a face full of tears, he had become someone I was proud to call “son”.

He was trying to tell me something, but I couldn’t hear what he was saying. Still, I feigned understanding since I knew it mattered more to him than me.

I was dying. Whether I had heard his words or not wouldn’t matter. What mattered was for him to not live the rest of his life feeling like he didn’t get to tell me what he wanted to. So I held his face in my hand and did my best to smile as the numbness was overtaking me.

In the corner of my eye I could see his wife holding their daughter with one arm and crying to a phone she held in her free hand. She was a brave girl, and I was glad he had found her. They would be alright.

With the last of my strength, I looked into my son’s eyes and focused all of my willpower into talking without slurring.

“Listen well, son… This is for the best. I couldn’t let them hurt you and your family. I know their type better than I want to admit. It would have only gotten worse. And I couldn’t let that happen.”

A coughing fit took me, squandering all of my efforts to appear strong and remain dignified in my last moments. When I finally regained my voice it was weak and shaking, and I knew he could see me as what I truly was: an old weathered old man at death’s doors.

“I lived a long and tiring life, during times I’m glad you can’t possibly imagine,” I continued. “I have seen many things and if there’s one goddam lesson I’ve learned it’s that what you kids have is something worth dying for ten times over… I am just glad I could be part of your family for a little while at least.”

Over the red and blue light show of an ambulance arriving too late, he spoke, and though I still couldn’t hear him, I could read his lips say: “Our family”.

The smile I gave him was a genuine one, “Stay outta trouble son, and live a happy life. One you won’t… regret.”

I died surrounded by my loved ones, which is pretty damn better than a lot of people get. I like to think I crossed to the other side with that smile still on my face.

Able to rest, at last.

… Or so I thought.

 

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