The Brothers Forged
Deriaz moved through the house slowly. A few days had passed since Ragyr had explained everything, yet Deriaz still found himself troubled by what he has heard. In his hand was a sheet of paper and a writing stick. They both slipped out of his hands, and fell to the floor in the main room. He didn’t stop to pick them up, and instead he moved down the hallway, entering into one of the back rooms.
He moved to the center of it, and stared out the window on the far wall. The sun was beginning to set, giving the room an eerie red glow. He glanced down at the wooden floor. A few cracks were in the center of one of the boards. Hesitantly, Deriaz lifted his foot, and brought it down hard on the floorboard. The board shook across the span of the room, causing the shades on the window to crash down and block the sunlight. It was a lazy trick, but one Deriaz had done a few times.
Without the sunlight, a normal room would have become dark, but this back one kept the strange glow to it. Only this time, the room had different colors than just red. Among the hues that were in the room, a green, a blue, and a white glow had joined the red. Deriaz lifted his gaze to the walls, where the source of the glowing occurred.
The walls were lined with swords, maces, great crossbows, shields, and various other means of attack and defense. Some blades were sheathed in flame, a few maces were coated in acid. Two crossbows had a glow of lightning to them, and a quiver of bolts gave off a slight crackling sound, as if thunder surrounded them. There were enough weapons to fill the walls to the point where the wall itself was almost covered. Even the door behind him had a few swords and maces hanging from them.
Ragyr’s voice came floating back into his head. “. . .You’ve always had some purpose in mind. . . You’ve always been a puppet. . .” He stared at one of the swords, almost in a trance as the fire danced across the black adamantine. “. . . You never had your own choice. . .”
Deriaz raised one of his hands, and stared at it for a moment. Ragyr’s voice came back again, but it was accompanied by a second voice. “. . . A weapon. . .” It took him a moment to figure out who was the second voice, but it became obvious as the two words echoed in his mind. Serpent.
As he realized it, his memory raced back to the second time Serpent had tried to take over. It began to replay what Serpent had said, yet not all the words were understandable. Deriaz tried to shut the memory off, but it forced its way to the forefront. He staggered back slightly, as if he had taken a strike to the head.
A wave of emotion came over him, taking the form of confusion, and he thought for a moment someone was trying to enchant him. He spun around, looking for an assailant, but no one was in the house but him. The room continued to spin, even after he had stopped, and he felt the floor rush up to meet him. A few of the swords and other weaponry clattered to the ground as the room shook slightly from his weight. He heard Ragyr’s voice one more time before he blacked out. “. . . A parasite. A mistake. . .
“. . . An unforeseen bug in the experiment. . .”
* * *
Deriaz had never dreamt before, so when his vision came back, he wondered where he was. There was nothing around him: No swords, no weaponry, no house, no Cerulean Hills. He was floating—Or he thought he was—On what looked to be a square slab of stone. He stood up carefully, only to have his vision assaulted by a white flash. Serpent’s voice came rushing at him, though it sounded like it was his own voice as well. “Look at what you’ve done. Tsk. . .”
When the blinding light faded, there were people surrounding him in a half circle. He had been moved to the edge of the stone slab. He didn’t recognize most of the figures around him, but a few triggered in his mind. There were two Kundarak nobles staring coldly to his right. A small Halfling in a tattered robe stared at him with two dead eyes. Most of the other figures’ faces were featureless. Directly before him stood a bladed blue figure with red eyes. It took a moment to register who it was before he realized it was himself. “The lines are blurring, aren’t they?”
A red flash blinded him, and a rush of pain covered Deriaz’s body. When the light faded, he noticed that the blue figure before him looked normal with orange eyes. He looked down at himself, and noticed that his body had become bladed. Before he could react, an invisible force pushed him back. An orange flash assaulted his vision this time, and another rush of pain. The next thing he knew, he was back to normal, and weightless—And falling headfirst into nothing.
He looked up, or what he thought was up, and saw another stone slab coming up to meet him. He braced himself for the impact, but stopped two feet above rock. More figures began to form, and he recognized each of them this time: Jaggie, Liyra, Zoltando, Sho, Uxor, Varro, Ragyr, Lirondill, Kikyo, Sprue, Juryrig. . . Almost the whole of the Fellowship was before him, along with a few faces from the Crimson Nexus like Turen, and from Blue Line like Epox or Stompy. “Look at them. Your ‘friends’, right?”
Another red flash accompanied with pain, and he found himself bladed again. His joints were beginning to seep oil as well. The figures began to grin in an evil way, and an orange flash came to him again. “Or are they just using the puppet?”
He became normal again, but he found he couldn’t move easily from where he was suspended. He was encased in a block of water. He tried to get away in fear, but the water froze around him. Cracks slowly began to form around it, and it shattered loudly around him. He tumbled downward, but the stone slab opened up below him, allowing him to fall farther. “Can’t stop now, y’know. . .” There was a cackle, but it stopped after a moment.
He fell like this for a few moments, before another red flash came. The pain erupted around him, stronger than before. The falling sensation came to a halt, and he was suspended in midair. He glanced down at himself, and saw himself in the bladed form again. Black strings were connected to various joints though. Deriaz followed the strings upward, only to be met by the figure of Serpent holding the strings. Deriaz blinked, and the face changed to match Varro’s face. The figure’s face continued to change, cycling through almost everyone he knew. A soft chanting came to his senses, which grew louder over time. They were chanting the word ‘puppet’. Deriaz couldn’t help but feel he agreed with them, and almost felt like joining in.
An orange flash came to his vision. . .
* * *
“Just a puppet. . .”
* * *
. . . And he growled in pain as it poured over the right side of his body, only to have his vision focus again on the room he passed out in. To be more precise, his vision was focused on the floor.
He shook his head, trying to shake away the immense pain coming from his torso. He propped himself up with his left arm, and glanced down at the floor. His torso was dripping oil, and he blinked in surprise. Another wave of pain racked him, and he rolled onto his back. He raised his hands up to his face, trying to make sure that at least that was alright. . . But paused when only his left hand came into view. He turned his head slowly, trying not to trigger any more pain, and his eyes went wide at the sight of his arm lying a foot away. The livewood around his shoulder, and the shoulder area of the arm was slowly beginning to rot from being severed.
Deriaz cursed under his breath. He knew it wasn’t his fault and that. . . Whatever he had just gone through had triggered it. That fact didn’t stop the waves of pain he was feeling, and the oil that he was still losing.
“Need an artificer. . .” he groaned. He leaned over, and grabbed the severed arm carefully, as if it was delicate and would break. He stood up slowly, and wavered slightly in the wave of pain made another course over him. His eyes glanced down at the pool of oil, and the weaponry that had clattered to the ground when he fell. ‘Can’t worry about them now. . .’ he thought, and shuffled slowly back into the hallway. There was a slight oil trail behind him, but he didn’t care for once. Every joint on him was ‘bleeding’ oil, and the pain was growing stronger with every moment.
Deriaz paused for a moment, staring at the paper he had dropped earlier. On it was a list of events. The first on the list was clearly ‘Arrival at Stormreach’, though it was written in large and horridly bad handwriting. Another curse passed through Deriaz’s mouth as he stared at it. “What, is this another planned thing? That I’m going to fall apart after a year?” He knelt down, and placed the arm on the ground. Awkwardly, he scribbled out everything he had wrote, and wrote slowly in the corner the words, ‘Sorry for the mess.’
Deriaz moved to the door, and pushed it open with his weight. He stopped outside the door, and stared at the view of Stormreach. It was a long walk, and his left leg felt ready to fall off, but he had no choice.
Slowly, he began to drag his feet towards the city.