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Aside

Taboo – Prologue

Author’s Notes:

Hi everyone! Well… this story has been plaguing my mind for days so I decided to write it out and ask for your comments on this. Please review! I would really appreciate it!^_^

I don’t own Ragnarok Online but this plot is mine. If ever there was already a story with the same plot, I assure everyone that I never knew of its existence.

By the way, italicized words [mystic] are thoughts and the bold italicized words [mystic] are flashbacks.^_^

TABOO

Bondage

Alegria’s sohee. Credit to the artist.

I was kneeling on the forest floor, sobbing. My hands were covering my face, hiding it for I was so ashamed of what I had just done. I had killed a human… for the first time in my entire life. I never knew I was capable of doing it. I never knew I would become like them, like those of our kind who would slay humans.

It was never my intention to kill him. It was his fault, really. He invaded our territory and then tried to kill me. It was just an instinct. I had to preserve myself didn’t I?

I knew it was the zeny he wanted, the bounty that he would receive if he presented evidence that he killed a creature like me. Humans were hateful creatures. They would slaughter us monsters for rewards offered by their government. Others would execute us to strengthen themselves for battling with monsters further build up their prowess. Some would hunt creatures just for the fun of it. But in spite of all this, never had I hated them nor had I had the desire to slay any of them. In fact, I strongly opposed the killing of humans and encouraged others not to do so, too.

I bit my lip to stop myself from releasing another sob. Lowering my hands, I looked upon them. They were so red… so bloody.

“You would’ve killed a human sooner or later. You cannot stop humans from hurting us. It will always happen. And thus, it will always happen that we would kill some of them. We have to defend ourselves from their attacks or we will be the ones killed.”

I recognized her voice; it was my friend’s voice. I looked up to see her standing there, her eyes filled with sympathy. It always irritated me when someone catches me in my darkest moments. It made me feel as though I was the weakest creature in Rune Midgard.

Pulling myself together, I pulled my stiletto from the man’s eye and then stood up. Turning my back on my friend, I walked towards the pond and washed my hands and stiletto clean of the bloody mess.

“You should understand, it is part of nature’s plan,” she whispered softly as I was cleaning myself.

“It should never be that way, Shurie, and you know it,” I whispered brokenly as I looked at my reflection in the water.

An arrow sliced through the air and then I heard Shurie’s scream of pain. I jerked my head to see what happened to Shurie. An arrow was protruding from her forehead; blood was rushing down her face tainting her alabaster skin. I watched her, horrified and frozen in place, as two arrows, that was fired in succession, hit her in the neck.

“Kiesha… run…” She raised her hands, reaching for me, as she fell.

Something snapped within me as I watched Shurie — my best friend. I became uncontrollable, just like a wild animal. I turned towards the direction from whence the arrows came from. Gripping my stiletto firmly, I ran towards that direction with only murder in mind.

A man stepped out of the shadows. He was wearing a Magician’s Hat, a phantom of opera, gray trousers and a dirty white shirt. He was a hunter, I could tell, for he was carrying a bow and bag of arrows on his back. The hunter raised his bow and took aim. I did not stop. I just ran towards him, too enraged to think about anything aside from killing him. It did not register on me that he was about to shoot me and that I should dodge or something. As I neared him, I raised my stiletto, ready to strike him with full force.

A smirk appeared on his lips as he released an arrow. It hit me in the stomach and I fell on my knees. The pain was intense; my head was reeling from it. I shook my head to clear my mind. I clutched my stomach and then pulled the arrow sticking out of it. My vision blurred and I felt faint.

Confusion struck me. I never knew an arrow shot could make you feel dizzy and sick. I thought it was all pain and blood. Through my hazy vision, I examined the tip of the arrow. Finally, it dawned on me. The arrow was laden with poison; there was a pink fluid on its tip.

I felt myself weakening as though my life force was being drained from my body.

Is this the end for me?

The hunter walked towards me. My mind screamed for me to run but I couldn’t. I was too weak to move, couldn’t even raise my hand.

“You’re a pretty one,” he said.

A smile was painted on his lips. It wasn’t a smirk nor was it a sneer. It was just a smile, a melting smile.

I found myself staring at him. Conflicting emotions paraded through me as he took something out of his pocket — a silver knife of chastity. I stared at it and found myself hypnotized by its beauty. It was so beautiful. Intricate designs were carved on the hilt of the knife and the cutting edge glistened like diamonds.

“I would let you have this,” the huntsman began, “on one condition.”

My blood turned cold. I knew what that condition was… it was to become his slave. A number of my friends have given their services to humans in exchange for this item. It has always puzzled me why they would agree to become human slaves. Why would they prefer it over freedom? Oh sure, humans could offer them protection but they would have to do whatever their masters bid them to do. It was a ludicrous exchange. Services for an item?… sheesh!

But now, as I gazed at the silver knife, I couldn’t help but want it. Maybe it had hypnotizing powers that made a sohee want it. Or maybe taming items were made to be like that.

It’s not really the item itself, Kiesha… It is something else… You will know when the time comes…

 

The voice of my mother penetrated my muddled thoughts.

“What say you…?” the hunter asked.

I don’t know why I did but I accepted his offer. I was now bound to him. There was no turning back.

He gave me the knife and then he stood up.

“Come, my sohee.”

I tried to stand up and was able to. The man, my master, offered his hand. I reached out and walked towards him. Suddenly, I felt dizzy and my head started to pound. I fell head on but my master caught me just in time. Darkness began to envelope me and I passed out.

TO BE CONTINUED…

ANGUISH – VIII – And so they met..

“Hahaha…”

The chortle caught my attention, pulling me out of my murderous thoughts. Who could it be? Surprisingly, I no longer felt scared of meeting someone or something though I know they would be dangerous and fatal. My lips formed into a smile at the thought. I had grown numb now as everything had crashed down on me a few minutes ago.

“What do you want?” I called out with conviction in my voice.

The figure of a disguise appeared at the doorway. I could tell it was the same disguise as the one who visited earlier — Ferias.

“Imare is not here,” I said watching the swollen-lipped monster as he drifted into the room still wearing that annoying sneer.

“What a stupid thing. You know perfectly well it is YOU I have come for,” Ferias drawled out.

My eyes narrowed in response. Did he come to torture me? To make me feel the pain as Imare had done? Well… he’ll be in for a big surprise for I’ll never let him… he’ll never be able to —

I let out a scream as I felt something grip my feet, an intense pain coming along with it. Nails were being driven hard into my head. I was not able to anticipate the attack. I did not even see it.

The pain continued as I thrashed to be let go… but it was in vain. The grip tightened and Ferias’ sinister laugh penetrated my pain-muddled mind. He wasn’t going to let go… his laugh told me so. I’d die like this… screaming my lungs out until my last breath.

My voice become hoarse and the scream turned into a groan meant to plead for a release from pain. I twisted and kicked. My efforts were useless. I did not come in contact with anything.

I felt my thrashing becoming weaker. Life and force was draining out of me as the swollen-lipped creature continued his hold.

“It’s nice, isn’t it?” I heard him say mockingly. “Death and helplessness…”

You bastard… I’ll kill… you… for this…

I felt my chest tighten. My breathing became ragged. I was losing ability to breath.

“You’ll thank me soon enough,” he told me in a mockingly assuring way. “Being dead is the best thing in the world.”

I took a struggling breath… but it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough! As the seconds passed by, I felt the darkness beginning to consume me again.

Moments later, I found myself upside down. I could feel a cool breeze against my skin. My hazy mind concluded on thing… I was outside the window of the tower upon which I had lived. “Such a nice night, ain’t it?”

He laughed when I did not reply. I was too weak to think… much more to reply.

“…to break bones,” he continued suggestively.

No… Don’t drop me!

Panic gripped me. The fall would instantly kill me.

“Do you want to drop, little Arthel?”

No…

I did not want to drop. I did not want to die. Not yet… ‘Twas too soon.

Ferias laughed again. Then his voice, filled with a sense of incredible pleasure and enjoyment, he ordered, “Beg.”

Beg?… I won’t…

I did not want to plead, especially to someone as bigoted as him…never to he likes of him. He was evil as all living in this village were evil creatures… and I hate them with all my being. I wanted to kill them, destroy them, and make them suffer. I would never beg. I will never —

I felt the grip loosen and I heard myself beseech, “No.”

He laughed in response. “Say it again.”

“NO!” I pleaded weakly.

My mind screamed curses at me for saying that word. But I had no choice… I did not want to die yet… Not yet when I had to repay Imare for everything… not when I’ve got to avenge myself to him. Not now…

Ferias let go of his grip. I screamed. I felt myself plunging head on into the ground below. Terror gripped my being as I fell…. helpless… And then I struck the ground hard.

Everything went dark.

oooOOOooo

Misha… Snap out of it

.

I drifted in an out of the haze for what felt like an eternity. A dull throb in my head, the bitter taste of the muddy river water, the coldness of the ground I was lying on along with the foul stench of death in the air made sick to the stomach. Bile threatened to get out and I swallowed hard, forcing it down. I lay there, drifting in and out of consciousness, as the minutes ticked by until the strength and stability recuperated back into my body.

The world finally stopping its kaleidoscope, I pushed myself up, slowly… painfully… with gasping breaths and with effort. My mind and body was still screaming to go back into unconsciousness… but my will would not allow it. With hazy vision, I gazed at my environment. The feeling the dizziness again swept over me. I wretched and fell on all fours.

Water gushed out from my mouth as I continually vomited, spasms rattling my body as it tried to clear the fluid from my lungs and stomach.

“Ugggh…”

With difficulty, I tried to stand up, pushing against the ground and swallowing to prevent the bile from rising up again. I staggered forward, my knees wobbly and weak. It was no good, I felt sick. Cold and sick. I was going to pass out again, I knew it. This wasn’t good… I should find my way back to camp —-

“AAaaaahhh!”

A scream pierced through the chilly air. A sound of something hitting the ground hard followed next, something I realized later on to be sickening crunch that signaled broken bones My heart slammed hard into its ribcage, pulling me from my muddled state and making me gasp in fear. That was no ordinary scream. There was real terror in it.

Alert and wary, my eyes scanned the surroundings. The houses were made of dark, rotten wood and had a gloomy air about them. Tall, broken, and dimly light street lights illuminated some of the cobbled streets and, at the same time, casting eerie shadows that one would think had some creature hiding in them.

My sight settled back on the murky river. Images of corpses floating in it entered my mind and I shuddered. There was no way back. Forward was my last option. Trapped, that I felt like.

Throwing caution into the winds and pushing all thoughts of fear into the back of my mind, I ambled slowly through the streets, never thinking of what lay ahead or to where I was going. Wherever my feet lead me, I did not care. I just wandered.

Moments later, I caught sight of a tower. Faint flickering light came from the window high-above. Hope blossomed in my heart. Maybe someone in this godforsaken place could help her. I rushed towards it, getting away from this town or whatever you may call it foremost in my mind.

The smell of blood invaded my noise without warning and I stopped. Instinctively, my arms went around my stomach as I staggered to what looked like a corpse. The body, supine, was sprawled in a very odd way like it was dropped from a high altitude.  The limbs were stretched out in odd angles. Blood, fresh and crimson, seeped from underneath the body, most from the body’s head.  It was boy, a very young one, just a little older than I was. Disgusted, I backed away, my hands covering my mouth to prevent me from throwing up.

A low moan broke the unnerving silence.

My eyes widened, my gaze locked at the body, waiting for it to move or be still. I moved further back, my body poised to run.  An arm twitched and I screamed.

“He… He… lp–,” groaned the boy in anguish.

“Almighty Odin…,” I whispered, fear-stricken and rooted in place. The boy was alive.

“…—me.” His frail body arched and he screamed.

I was torn. I wanted to run away as fast and as far as I could. But as an acolyte, I had the duty to heal those who were in need of it. Running away would me a mark of cowardice… not to mention abandonment of duty.

I looked up. He must’ve dropped from the lighted room above and that meant he was shattered to the bone from the height of his fall. It was even a wonder he was still alive. From such a huge damage, I did not know if my capability was enough to heal him fully or even to make a difference in his wounds and his pain.

The body groaned and flinched once again.

No use thinking about it. I have to try.

I moved near him, grimacing from the sight and stench of blood as I knelt before him. Seeking focus, I closed my eyes and entered into a chant. My hands moved in an all too well-practiced gestures. Finishing the spell, I opened my eyes and directed it towards him.

His body writhed the moment the healing spell hit him. An ear-splitting scream escaped his bloody lips. Scandalized, I paused. It was a most unusual reaction. He shouldn’t be screaming in pain like that. I was healing him, wasn’t I?

Anxiously, I bit my lip, and tried again. Again, he screamed, but I went on, not allowing myself to be perturbed until I was no longer able to cast any spell. His body healed, not completely, but significantly. He was still unconscious however… but gladly, he would survive. I heaved a sigh of relief.

ANGUISH – VII – Memories

Imare is my father?

 

I laughed like a crazed lunatic, the events of the past hours finally making its impact. Sliding to the floor, I clutched my stomach as my hysterical laughter continued and a memory long buried and forgotten chose that time to make its presence felt, awakening the terror and hatred of long ago…

 

I could hear the whiplash made by the chain as it came towards me. A split second later the pain burst through my system, consuming me and paralyzing my mind. I let out a blood-curling scream of agony. The pain was unbelievably intense that I felt my soul had separated from my body. I was begging silently for myself to be killed. Death was a more humane thing than this excruciating experience.

Imare laughed viciously. He was clearly enjoying this… really enjoying this… just like the twisted and malevolent spirit that he was.

I groaned. The chain had hit the upper area of the left eye orbit. It had smashed into my skull, denting the eye orbit and rendering me half-blind. The blood rushed out from the wound like a waterfall, smearing my cheek and clothes in its essence.

“You bastard!” I sputtered, the blood entering my mouth.

The simple act of speaking sent fresh waves of pain through my nervous system making me moan again.

Imare chuckled sinisterly. “You look much better. But alas… we must remove the debris…”

He went towards the closet, pulled out a box, spilt its contents and rummaged through them. He picked up something silver and then drifted back towards me. Through my hazy one-eyed vision, I recognized what he was holding to be a spoon.

Terror as I had never known before caught the breath in my throat. There was a smile of anticipation on his face that could only mean something evil.

“This will make you feel better…,” he said in what was supposedly a comforting tone. Was it not for the eager grin on his sewn lips, I would have believed he was trying to do something good for a change.

With a sudden premonition entering my mind, I moved my head back, squeezing my hanging arms together to protect the wounds and all the while gritting my teeth as the pain needled my nervous system. Imare just laughed at this and laughed harder when I frantically tried to squeeze my hands out of their prison.

With the delighted expression of someone who was going to dig into his favorite food, Imare came closer, his gleaming red eyes growing brighter as he stabbed the place were he had hit me and began to spoon the eyeball out of the socket.

I screamed endlessly, twisting my head to get him off and struggling to get free as he continued to scrape out what felt like everything inside my head and sockets; but all I could do was scream and pray that he would stop or more importantly, the darkness would come and pull me into the folds of its painless embrace. But neither of the two came. The torturous episode continued into the night as he unleashed the entirety of his wickedness.

oooOOOooo

 

I had lain on the floor of my chamber for weeks to come as I waited for my half-dead body to repair itself or to succumb to death all the while drifting in and out of consciousness. The months went by and I had healed, the memories of that night disappearing along with the wounds and scars of my body.

 

The insane hilarity that erupted died out leaving me with a vacuum inside. Then a long-buried emotion came… along with the memories. The loathing I had felt came back, scorching and burning hot. The need to hurt somebody threatened to consume my mentality. I had to hurt somebody… no… not just somebody… Imare. I wanted to make him feel the same excruciating pain his torture had brought.

 

I felt an evil grin begin to form as several scenes of torture came to me into mind, its hidden sadism growing rapidly and eventually filling my mind. I was excited by the idea of repaying him in the same, if not worse, fashion. The anticipation made my grin grow wider…

 

And then it slipped suddenly. A sudden thought occurred to me, rendering everything I had envisioned completely useless. How in the world will I be able to make a dead being feel the same intense pain he had rendered me? How?

 

I closed my eyes in defeat. Will my life be like this forever? Will I never see the light of day again?

 

Yes, Arthel you are my son.

The line from the note flashed unexpectedly through my mind. It was a lie, I told myself. A lie made to delude me. A lie I would never accept. I’ll repay him for everything he had done… I will… I will find a way.

 

oooOOOooo

 

The gathering was to take place in a village away from the city. As I entered the clearing, the largeness and importance of the gathering made their presence felt.

 

Drifting towards no apparent direction, I observed the creatures around me. They were gathered in circles of their own cliques, disguises huddled with disguises, neighbors with neighbors. And it could also be seen in their expressions that they were not happy about the gathering at all. I suppose they had more… important things to do rather than attend this assembly.

 

Having noticed some smell hovering over my nose, I sniffed to find out what it was. I almost gagged when my olfaction recognized it. A malevolent and rotten stench that was emanating from these dead creatures filled the air. It was intense and nauseating even for me. If I was still a live one, the odor alone would have made me unconscious.

 

“What’s the purpose of this gathering?” asked a Lude, angrily.

 

The statement caught my attention so I stopped, intending to eavesdrop on the group’s conversation. I stiffened my ears to sharpen my hearing and I masked my expression as to pretend not to be eavesdropping on them. What they will be talking about would be interesting. Bits and pieces of the reason for this gathering that had circulated as rumors were all I knew. I could pick up a thing or two from them…

 

“That I do not know. The reason better be good! A poring’s life had been saved by this assembly call. That creature had entered my vicinity but I left it alone just because I had to come to this gathering,” came the annoyed reply of a Lori Ruri.

 

“I heard somewhere that there will be a feast,” commented a Gibbet.

 

“Feast…? I really hope it is a good one or else I’m going to become really… violent,” retorted a Disguise with a snicker.

 

“What’ll it be? Poring bonanza again?” came the sarcasm-laden question of the Lori Ruri.

 

The disguise and Quve laughed heartily at that.

 

“Porings?! I don’t like ‘em. They don’t scream when you torture them!” remarked the Quve.

 

“Yeah… They just squeal in that annoying way of theirs…,” said the tree-like monster.

 

“Poooriiinggg!!!” mimicked the Quve.

 

“Well at least we get to have something. It’s been awfully quiet for months. Porings would be a good break from all these monotony,” retorted one hylozoist.

 

“Yeah and — ”

 

My curiosity satisfied, I moved away from the group and went to a quieter side to think about what I have heard.

 

So there will be a feast, eh? What could that possibly mean? And was my information accurate enough to guide Arthel out of this hellhole?

Arthel… I wonder if he had followed my instructions. By this time, he would have been out of this place… that is if he followed my advice.

 

I sighed. He should get out of here now when everything is as what I have predicted… The arrival of the great ones would tilt everything.

ANGUISH – VI – Whispers

“Misha…”

 

I heard a voice whisper my name. The call echoed hollowly in my mind. Where is it coming from? I could not tell where…

 

“Misha…”

 

The voice… It was becoming louder yet still so distant. Like when someone is calling you when you’re submerged in the water.

Was the person coming nearer? Will she help me?

 

I tried to open my eyes; it wouldn’t budge. I tried again then gasped agonizingly. All I could see was darkness. Fear began to seep into my chest.

 

Where… am I?!

 

A miserable burden was weighing down on my shoulders. My throat was constricting painfully and my chest, too. I was slowly becoming aware of my inability to breathe.

 

“Misha…”

 

I turned my head in the dark…

 

Where are you?

There was no one…

Please…

 

I lifted my hands, gesturing for help…

Help me…

My lungs were losing air and I was feeling dizzy. I had to breathe… I just had to…

 

The feminine voice called out to me again. Her voice… a goddess’ voice… It sounded so familiar.  A voice I’ve heard somewhere before…

 

It was then that I saw her… the one that I have been looking for ever since I understood the meaning of the word death. She was coming towards me, reaching to me with the same gentleness I remembered so long ago…

 

Liza… Liza… You came… You finally realized who I am…

 

I could feel the hot tears falling down my cheek, mingling with the coolness on my skin. The sorrow came again… The anguish that I had buried that time long ago… when everything I held dear was stripped from me in a snap of a finger…

 

She held out her hand to me… “Come, Misha.”

 

I moved to clasp her hand. It was a moment I have been dreaming of for so long a time. Finally, it came true.

 

But as I was supposed to be touching skin, I felt nothing. I could not make contact. I stared stupidly at her hand and then tried to touch her again… but I could not… She wasn’t tangible. She wasn’t real…!

 

The water rushed into my mouth, filling my lungs. The water was drowning me, cutting of my air supply. It flooded my body and senses. Instinctively, I pushed myself up to take a deep breath. My feet came in contact with a rock and I hoisted myself above water. Dizzily, I looked around for the land and then trudged weakly towards it, trying desperately not to be swept back into the water by the strong current. Landing on all fours, I coughed the water out while taking deep gulps of much needed air.

 

My head felt like it was being pounded by a hammer. I tried to stand up and managed to do so. But when I tried to take a step, I fell down again. There was not much energy left in my body. I felt so weak… My body and mind felt raped…

 

And so I lay there on the river bank of an unknown place and letting the dreams consume me as I waited for my mind and body to recover enough strength for me to think and be able to move…

Looks like I won’t be going anywhere anytime soon…

 

oooOOOooo

 

In my unconsciousness, I was dreaming. Mingled with the dreams were thoughts… thoughts and questions about my being and the forsaken life I was bound to.

 

I was like very fragile china that would break if pressure was applied. One touch and I come back to my usual companion in the sixteen years that I was ‘alive’… back into the darkness of the mental abyss. It really is a wonder that what should have been lifeless a long time ago still moves and feels pain like a normal body. That I was still alive after going through countless mental and physical raping by the philanthropist of death is indeed a marvel. Maybe I should be feeling good that my body was able to withstand the repeated calling of the Lord of Death, but I did not feel blessed… I felt damned…

 

“We’re going to a trip to a very fascinating place, Arthel. Wouldn’t that be great?”

The woman smiled at me with tenderness in her violet eyes. She is so beautiful and so poignantly… familiar. I could feel my heart crying. She was someone important… I should recognize her, but I can’t… Who is she?

 

 

Did I do something horribly bad in my past life for me to deserve such repeated exploitation? Did I kill anybody? Was I someone who worshipped the evil and its dark arts and that had wielded it to cause great harm to the world? Do I deserve this? Almighty Odin… Why…? Why was I condemned to this pit of hell that was known a town and to the horrors that it brings to life? Why did it have to be me…?

 

“This would be a great adventure, Arthel.”

She looks like a younger version of the woman earlier… Who is she? Why is she in my dreams?

Is there hope for me…? Will I be able to escape this world and live in normality…? Will I be able to live a day wherein I wouldn’t worry whether it would be my last? Will I be able to watch the dusk come without having to fearfully anticipate the arrival of the dark haze?

 

My existence was damned from the start. I know I wasn’t meant to live and I know I do not want to go on like this. The limits and capacities of my being are yet to be seen and I know it would never bring any good. For death would be a much better state of existence than this immortality that had yet to be put to the ultimate test… And death is supposed to be the worst thing in this world…

 

Blinding light met my eyes when I opened them. I turned to the side to prevent the light from directly hitting my eyes. Desolation was bearing down on me. I felt as though tomorrow would never bring anything good for me.

 

I noticed a very peculiar feeling. There seemed to be something that was enveloping my skin. I raised my right hand to my eyes and scrutinizes. It was paler than usual and it looked brittle [crunchy! lolz]. I tried to close it. The movement didn’t go smoothly as it normally would.

“What happened to me?” I asked softly.

 

I could feel fear creeping into my chest. There was something wrong with my body. The creature with the sneering face had done something ghastly to me. I could feel the change all over my body.

Imare… Imare would know…

 

I sat up and scanned the room. Imare was no where in sight. Puzzled, I got off the bed and searched the room for the possessed toy. No sign of him. I looked out the window, still no sign of Imare. I moved towards the door, intending to see if Imare was outside, and then I stopped. I was consumed in hesitation. What if Imare kills me if he finds out I’ve been out. I looked back at the desk where Imare was earlier. The parchments were still lying cluttered on top of the desk.

 

“Imare had never left any of his writings here,” I muttered, feeling puzzled by this unusual behavior.

 

I walked over to the desk. Maybe Imare left a note about his whereabouts. As soon as the thought came, I laughed. Imare had never told me about his whereabouts. He said it wouldn’t matter if I know or not since I am not allowed out.

 

The parchments were arranged in a neat stack as opposed to what I had thought earlier. I picked up the parchment on top and began to read. The ink on it was still fresh. It read:

 

 

Arthel… You are in grave danger. You must leave the city immediately. Follow my instructions carefully.. It’s the only thing that could save you.

 

As you read, I am now in a gathering called upon by the great masters. A fake angel that had wandered into our realm had mentioned that there are humans amidst their dungeons. It had been a while since humans had come. The ones that wondered here into our midst were lost adventures of the dungeon below. Now it seems that they are destined for this town. An expedition, like what we, my son, were involved sixteen years ago.

 

Yes Arthel, you are my son. I would have liked to tell you all about our past personally but the circumstances would not permit it. Good thing I had written about it. Before you go, pass by my dwelling and bring all that you could — books, weapons, armors, potions, and maps — but especially the book of your past, more appropriately, our past. They would be a big help to you.

 

Why had I written them? Contrary to what you may think, I intended to help you get out of this town. I had prepared those things for them to aid you on your journey in Rune Midgard. I just didn’t plan it to happen so soon…

 

Moving on, read the next scroll for the instruction.

 

Take care now… I would have liked to accompany you but it seems it would not happen…

 

Imare

ANGUISH – V – Onset

My blood turned cold when I heard the familiar drawl that could only be Ferias’. This puts Arthel in danger. Ferias enjoyed killing humans as much as he liked himself, which is very much. He rarely, never is the more correct term, allows any opportunity of making humans suffer. I doubt he will spare Arthel from his conquests even if I tried to reason with him. Ferias never listens to anybody. My efforts would be futile against his hardheadedness.

“Ferias…,” I whispered scathingly.

His leer widened. His smiles always irritated me. There was always malice in them though sometimes it could not be seen. I did not believe a single word of the reason he gave for his visit. He followed me from earlier. That scum of earth!

[i]“Imare,” I heard a voice called out.

I froze in my tracks and turned towards the source of the statement. Ferias, an annoying acquaintance, drifted over and smirked questioningly at me.

“You seem to be in a hurry.”

I chose not to answer for replying would only get you a bad bout of taunts and nasty remarks from this irksome creature.

“The get-together is that way, Imare.”

He sneered as he indicated the direction away from town.

“Or is your scholarly brain finally failing you?” he added maliciously when I remained silent.

“I know where the gathering will take place, Ferias,” I replied disdainfully.

“Oh…” Ferias gave an unconvincing look of surprise. “So what business do you have in town?”

“It is of no concern to you!”

His malevolent eyes narrowed and then gazed at me quizzically.

Not waiting for another of his remarks, I turned from him and fled towards town, all the while feeling his malicious gaze on my back.[/i]

I watched him warily as he hovered in front of me and then began his usual taunting remarks. Usually, I wouldn’t be affected by them but this time the situation was different. He was talking about Arthel and about killing him. Murderous rage erupted within me as I listened to his derision and it was all I could do to refrain myself from hurting him very badly. And then… he moved towards Arthel.

The anger became barely controllable as I watched him touch Arthel. It would be fatal for the child. He was not going to survive it despite his immunity to the dark mist.

I felt a fiery sensation somewhere in my chest and then came forth a blinding light. The room was basked in it. Next thing I knew, Ferias was gone and the room was in darkness. I felt weak and I could still feel the recesses of the fiery sensation that had erupted in my chest.

With great effort, I drifted slowly to the desk. Ferias’ call changes everything. Impassively, I stared at the piece of parchment I had been writing on. Its contents were already useless. I have to get Arthel out of here fast and without their knowing…

I pulled a fresh piece of parchment, got hold of the Pecopeco feather quill, and then started to write. The thoughts were slow in coming at first but when the outline of the plan was sketched clearly, my scribbling picked up pace.

[i]This is the only thing that will be able to save Arthel… Nothing else would…[/i]

oooOOOooo

Exhausted… I was exhausted beyond mobility. I could no longer move a single muscle. If I take another step I know I would die. I had to rest! I don’t care if my pride would take a very hard beating for showing such weakness and I don’t care if that no good of a hunter would taunt me later, I just have to REST!

[i]This is crap! Why am I even here, huh?[/i]

Adventure… That magnetic pull the unknown have on me. That was what had driven me to sign up to this expedition.

I glanced weakly at my companions. I could see that they were tired, too, but their exhaustion was light compared to mine. I sighed heavily.

“Do we even have a way out?” I muttered under my breath.

What had started out as a party of fifteen was now reduced to five people. Monsters so deadly attacked us stealthily and in the most unexpected times that we were never able to save the ones who were targeted.

I flopped down on the ground and exclaimed rather angrily, “I give up! This is useless… We had been walking in circles and still we can’t find any way back to camp. We’re lost and there is nothing we can do about it. I just want to die…”

To my surprise, my other four companions flopped down on the soft grass, too.

Reisha moaned ecstatically as she stretched her legs. “I’ve wanted to do this hours ago…”

I laughed tiredly at her statement. A pretty blonde with long straight hair that swayed to her every movement, Reisha was a very seductive dancer. Though at first glance you will mistake her for a helpless damsel, she was rather feisty and could be deadly when she wanted to.

“One minute, that’s all the rest you can get.”

I looked over at Lanther. He pulled a thin cigar from his pocket and lighted it as he leaned back on a tree.

Green eyes, devastating good looks and a body that would make women drool; he was a man that could capture the hearts of maidens. If not for his arrogance, I would be smitten with him too. Well, I had been smitten with him when we first met. My attraction to him just sort of dropped when his arrogance began to show.

“Hey baby… Want me to massage you sexy legs?”

I bit my lip to keep myself from laughing. Reisha rolled her eyes in disgust as Raizen murmured suggestive statements near her ear.

Raizen, a notorious flirt, was the type of guy that wouldn’t last five minutes without hitting on a girl. Almost all the girls he had met were subjected to his incessant flirting. It wasn’t that he lacked looks that he had to use his flirting powers just to get women’s attention. In fact, Raizen was better-looking and more gorgeously-made than Lanther. I guess he just like to make a sport out of flirting and of breaking hearts. And maybe he just liked to test the full capacity of his charms.

“How about me? I wouldn’t mind a foot massage,” Yushin, a hunter, stated with a grin.

Raizen glared daggers at him.

Yushin was a very annoying person, in my point of view that is. He teased everyone for their weaknesses and was the type of person that said the wrong statement for a situation. But he was a very skilled hunter. He had saved the party from monsters in many a number of times.

“Yushin, mind your own business,” Reisha snapped.

“Oho… so you do like me,” Raizen said with a self-satisfied grin.

“Shut up Raizen before I get irritated with you.”

There it goes again. Those biting remarks, and tone, that could and would make any person feel like a total idiot. An impatient command or a stinging remark was all that you will ever hear from Lanther. Never had he uttered even just a simple compliment nor had his face showed any emotion aside from blankness, impatience, and annoyance.

Reisha’s gaze and mine met. She raised an eyebrow as though implying “What‘s with him?” and then shook her head, telling me silently that she couldn’t believe that someone could be so arrogant and so annoying as him. I just shrugged and lay down on the grass to enjoy the rest of the minute-long break.

ANGUISH – IV – UNFORESEEN

I jumped off the bed. My first impulse was to run…

[i]I HAD to run![/i]

“Tut tut. Do you really think you could —

Imare suddenly appeared in front of me.

— run…?” he asked maliciously.

Instead of fear, I felt rage… wild undiluted murderous rage. I’ve had enough of being controlled like a puppet on a string. Frustrating… it has always been frustrating. He just had to point a finger at me and I cower in fright, so afraid of fatality.

Imare’s eyes dimmed back to its original black. He tipped his head slightly and hovered unmoving. Though it was a hard thing to do, I could tell he was doing some thinking. I did not wait for him to come back to his senses. This was my one and only chance. I had to move… and fast!

Throwing wary glances at the motionless bunny, I side-stepped cautiously towards my backpack and picked it up. I ran towards the door, wrenched it open, and then took a last glance at Imare —

— Or more appropriately, at where he had been floating a while ago.

He was no longer there at the spot. With my breathing picking up pace, I scanned the room and found it empty. Where could he be? Puzzled, I took two steps towards the window and then stopped. My mind was telling me to run but my body refused to obey. I glanced at the table standing by the window and caught sight of a dusty black book.

[i]Royaume ès Mystère[/i]. The book told of the places under the rule of King Tristan III. It was ancient but would be quite handy when I leave this damned village.

“No… [i]IF[/i] I could escape that is…”

Cautiously, I walked towards the desk and picked up the book.

[i]Still no sign of Imare.[/i]

I felt something behind. I whirled abruptly and saw Imare in front of me.

“You shouldn’t leave the tower… Tis too dangerous,” he muttered distractedly.

“If you chose another time to leave, I would have helped you…,” Imare continued, lowering his head.  “Do not… I ask of you not to leave the tower.”

I was baffled by his behavior. One moment he was teasing and provoking, next he would be wicked, and then he would be pacifying and gentle.

[i]Darn mood swings…[/i]

“Dangerous? But the only dangerous things around here are the dark mist and you.”

Imare stared at me, his stitched brows meeting at the center in puzzlement. “Haven’t you ever wondered if there were more like me?”

Come to think of it, I had. But then I would tell myself, “If there were more like Imare, I would have met them already.” Besides, it was consoling to think that there were no more lunatic bunnies running round the village that could threaten you with their touch.

I did not answer his question and decided to sit on the chair. Imare was in his pacified mood. I just hope his serene disposition lasts long enough until the end of his visit.

I settled myself comfortably on the wooden chair and gazed quizzically at Imare.

“You will not be able to survive with them running amok…,” he hissed.

“I can handle it,” I replied confidently.

Imare flew towards me, bended over and said angrily. “You fool… Even I, a deceased, cower in the presence of these beings. Unlike me, they do not care about you.”

For one second, he touched my shoulder with his right paw. Unbelievable pain surged through my nervous system. I thought I had died.

“What you felt when I touched you would be ten times more painful if not fatal when you come I contact with the great ones’ skins. And they would not be merciful as I am with you!”

I gazed at Imare silently. Beings more deadly than Imare exists? Having more of Imare is bad… but to have beings more powerful than him would be terrifying. A leaden weight dropped on my stomach. My chances of survival, more of escape, looked to be non-existent. I was beginning to see myself becoming like Imare.

[i]Maybe I would choose a stuffed bunny, too. I just hope the supplies won’t run out…[/i]

The heavy wooden door creaked open, interrupting my thoughts. Imare straightened and watched the door apprehensively.

A deafening crash reverberated throughout the room. The door was slammed hard on its frame and was opened again but with no apparent doer. An evil chuckle came from somewhere near the door.

“So you have been here all along…”

The statement drifted through the open door of the chamber.

An expression of horror replaced the uneasiness on Imare’s face. This was a first. I had never seen Imare display any emotion except malevolence and rage.

Weakly, I watched as the door of my room closed again. A moment later, a white figure appeared in front of Imare.

oooOOOooo

The bonfire crackled merrily, matching the merrymaking of the members of my expedition. Sitting around the campfire, they were singing and goofing around like they did not have a care in the world. Hidden from their sight under the shadow of a big tree, I observed them with envy. The burden of responsibility did not weigh on their shoulders. All they had to do was follow the leader, which is me, and try to survive in this monster-infested wilderness.

I sighed heavily. My thoughts turned to my missing charge. She was a part of my party but got separated when we met a monster that faintly resembled a yoyo but was much bigger and hairier. I had hoped that she somehow met one of the expedition’s parties but as the parties came back to camp, the hope that I was carrying was slowly being stamped to nothingness.

We had looked for Misha in the camp thinking that maybe she had gone back before everyone else but the search resulted in vain. She was not there nor does any sign of her presence. I had a mind to go back to where we got separated and was about to was it not for  Haziel’s interference.

[i]“Find her tomorrow. It is too dangerous to wander at night.”[/i]

I heeded her advice. It was logical after all. If this dungeon was perilous during daytime, what more during the night? But the fact still remained that Misha was now wondering this treacherous forest on her own. Inexperienced neophyte that she was, she will not be able to defend herself well enough.

There was one last party that has not returned, however. I just hope that Misha was with them.

oooOOOooo

I flinched when I saw the creature. What was supposed to be lips were swollen to a point that it covered half its face. A red scarf was tied around its neck. The monster had an unusual claw-like hand that was largely disproportionate to the rest of its white body. A chain was dangling from the other side of its body.

The creature was wearing a leer not unlike the one worn by Imare but it was more annoying in this creature’s face for his eyes were slanted maliciously, too. I doubt its expression would change much even without the smirk.

Imare’s expression became guarded as he stared back at the newcomer. There was something bad about this creature’s presence I could tell. Imare was not one to be horrified just by a statement. Well, I think he wasn’t.

“Ferias…,” Imare whispered with spite.

Ferias’ leer widened with this statement. He glanced at me and, if it was possible, his sneer grew wider. He seems to be enjoying Imare’s rage and seems to be one who liked to irk Imare a lot.

“Why did you come?”

“Ohhh… I dunno,” Ferias replied in a voice that irritated me. “I was just wandering around town and I then heard a crash when I passed by this tower… Naturally, I got curious. I hate to run away from excitement, after all.”

Imare glared at Ferias. “Leave…,” he said venomously.

Ferias chuckled. “How long have you been keeping this a secret?”

Dropping all expression, he looked over at me and studied me quizzically. Then he smiled maliciously at me.

“Imagine…,” he continued, looking back to Imare, “keeping a live one and not telling your friends about it. How selfish of you, Imare. You wanted to enjoy the kill by yourself…”

Ferias drifted towards the bed.

“Do not touch him, Ferias,” Imare said ferociously.

As Ferias neared, the horror that I was trying to control broke loose but I did not run away. Instead, I was frozen on the bed… stock-still and helpless. Ferias raised his claw-like hand and slowly moved it towards my forehead. As it touched my skin, I almost blacked out due to the pain. I was near to drifting back to the familiar dark abyss of unconsciousness.

“Stop!”

I heard Imare shout the words and I felt the hand being jerked back from my head. But the pain was still there… I felt like I was being burned and at the same time pins and needles were being stuck to my skin. I could no longer stand it… so I gave in and allowed myself to be consumed by the darkness…

ANGUISH – III – Misfortune

I woke up to find myself in my chamber. The joints in my shoulder were aching, as though strained for a long time. I had a mind to rub my shoulders but to my surprise, my hands were bound with manacles. I was dangling a foot from the dusty floor of the bedroom. I looked up to my manacled hands for a while, studying them, and then tried to twist them free. The shackles was gripping my wrist tightly… so tight that it would be impossible to slide free. I stopped struggling with the shackles when I heard a sinister laugh fill the room.

A sinister laugh echoed eerily through the dark room making the hairs on my nape to stand up. I stopped struggling with the shackles and tried to locate the source of the sound. The cackle came again, this time nearer. The laugh hinted of malice and malevolence. The situation was bad, I could tell. And it would turn worse…

“Do you know that I have been waiting for something like this to happen?”

I looked up and stared into a pair of shining orbs. In the dimness of the room, I recognized them to be the eyes of the stuffed toy. Imare was no longer the Imare I’ve known. He has now become the twisted and evil spirit which characterized the beings of the village. The usually blank black eyes were now glowing bright red. There was wickedness and anticipation lurking beneath its glassy surface. The bunny was holding a chain which looked like it had been wrenched from a flail. The monster that Imare had become gripped the chain tightly and then started to rotate it with its stuffed right paw.

Fear and horror began to grow somewhere in my chest as I watched the stuffed toy. The horrid feelings then raced through my nervous system, causing my body to shake uncontrollably.

The evil toy drifted closer, its sewn mouth arching into an evil grin. The chain rotated faster and faster, gaining momentum with every completion of a revolution. If it was ever swung at something, it would be destroyed quickly. And I had the horrifying premonition that the something would be me…

“STOP THIS!”

The possessed puppet grinned wider. It was clearly drawing pleasure from my fear.

“Oh how I would love to hear your scream of pain…”

This is not Imare… He would never hurt me… He wouldn’t —

The statements of denial resounded in my head. I did not want to believe that Imare would be capable of hurting me. Imare… the being I closely regarded as my father… the one who took care of me in the ten years since my birth. Betrayal… It would be too painful.

At that moment, Imare redirected the chain from its rotation to me. Reflexively, I closed my eyes and tensed for the blow…

 

 

oooOOOooo

 

 

CRASH!

 

Startled, I looked towards the source of the deafening sound.  Imare was no longer at the desk. He was hovering in front of an old cabinet where I kept my clothes and some memorabilia. On the floor was a rusty old anvil and what looked like —

 

A painful sensation erupted in my chest.

 

— The chain.

 

Slowly, I shifted my gaze to the hovering figure of Imare. He was looking at the chain, his eyes blank. The minutes went by; Imare did not budge. His gaze was fixed on the chain.

 

Suddenly, he lifted his stuffed head… then looked directly into my eyes. The blazing crimson of long ago was there again… like it was that unforgettable night.

 

“Care to do it again?” he whispered, a wicked grin forming on his face.

 

 

oooOOOooo

 

 

“Hey, have you seen where Misha went?”

 

Haziel gave me a fleeting look and then went back to studying her reflection on the body-length mirror. She flipped her long black hair, picked up a stellar pin, and then attached it to her hair. The priestess smiled haughtily at her reflection, apparently satisfied with her appearance.

 

“What did you say, Renz?”

 

The priestess turned to me with a sweet smile on her lips. She was indeed a beauty. The rumor about her extraordinary beauty did not even justify her loveliness. She had long and wavy black hair that cascaded up to her waist. It framed her heart-shaped face in an enchanting fashion and complemented her ivory skin.

 

“Where is Misha?”

 

“Oh… Her,” she said distastefully

 

She turned her back on me and busied herself with her things, not even bothering to answer my query.

 

“She seems to be lost. Aren’t you concerned?” I asked again.

 

“No… She’ll come around. Don’t worry,” she replied indifferently.

 

 

oooOOOooo

 

 

I’m lost! I am so lost!

 

The realization that I had gone astray kept recurring in my panicked consciousness. I was on the verge of madness. Were it not for the pleasant scenery around me I would have lost my sanity.

 

How? How did I get lost? How did I get separated from the party?! How? Why?!

 

My alarmed mind shouted the questions hysterically. Panic gripped my wits. Fear was numbing my brain. I could not think. My mentality was disoriented to the point of nothingness. It could not conjure up a plan or even just to THINK.

 

THINK! THINK! THINK! You have to get yourself out of this dungeon! One attack from a monster and you are dead! Dead!

 

In hopes of finding something that could help me in my predicament, I looked around my surroundings, my eyes darting here and there. Nothing registered. My wits were in too much of disarray.

 

I caught sight of something that looked like a human. Relief replaced my earlier fear. At last, I will be able to get help. Feeling rather confident, I walked up to the woman.

 

“Excuse me,” I said timidly, “could you please he — ”

 

At that moment, the ‘woman’ turned and looked directly into my eyes. She had leaf-green hair knotted atop her head, black eyes that were blank, and her lips were chafed and pale. She was unclothed and bloody; and seems to be attached to an unusual plant that curled its long leaves and roots around her.

 

My breath was caught in my throat. I was shocked by ‘her’ appearance. The creature was not human, it was a monster. I swallowed hard. I had to get away a.s.a.p. The monster could attack me any second now. The only reason I was not yet being shred into pieces was that I caught it by surprise.

 

I stepped backwards slowly. I did not want to make any sudden movement that could make it feel threatened. Then I found myself on the edge of a drop-off.

 

“This is bad…,” I whispered.

 

The monster lurched forward. Reflexively, I took another step backwards. My foot came in contact with thin air. A moment later, I was falling into the dark void. Darkness surrounded me and my heart cried out desperately for help. A plea that could not be heard… much more acted upon.

 

“Liza…,” I whispered sadly, a moment before I was consumed in the darkness.