A Marksman's Tale

One: Life After Death

Level One Vagrant

By Aaerdan

TWIN streaks of light, hurtling through the sky,

Twirling, spinning, not knowing why.

He awakens with a cry. He feels a presence stir beside him, a hand touching him gently but firmly on the shoulder.

"Rest, young exile," an ageless voice tells him. "Rest."

In the darkness he can see nothing. Either that, or he is blind.

Dunael Aaerdan settles back onto the bed. He shifts his body to a cooler part of the mattress. But sleep does not come easily. So many questions.

"Old one," he begins, allowing for the presence to take offence or correct him if the address is unwarranted. When there is no response, he continues: "I cannot sleep. I hear things … see things!"

"You see lights, do you not?"

"Yes. Two streaks, mostly, among others," Dunael says. He estimates that enough time should have passed for him to grow accustomed to the lack of light. He sees nothing, still. He asks: "Am I blind?"

The Old One chuckles. "No, you are not. This is a magical darkness, which devours all light."

"Why are we in this darkness? Unless-" again the youth pauses, "-you do not wish me to see you."

This time the Old One laughs. "Perceptive, are we not? Yes, for your sake and mine, my identity must remain a secret."

"But I know you are male," Dunael points out.

"Oh?" a female voice replies, equally ageless. "I can alter my voice if I so choose. Just that the more acceptable stereotype is that of a wise old man."

The youth had no answer to that.

After a moment of silence, the presence asks, in a male voice once more: "If you do not wish to sleep, then I shall not force you. What do you remember of yourself, of what has transpired of late?"

Dunael sits up and adjusts the pillows accordingly. "I remember waking up in the wilderness. Wondering about … who I am. And what I am doing with a wooden sword in hand."

"Continue."

"Then I heard a voice … in my head," Dunael says.

That would be me, the Voice admits. Hello again.

"Yes, that would be you!" the youth exclaims. Then, to the Old One: "Do you hear it? Or is it really just in my head?"

He hears the Old One breathe in deep.

"Old One?"

"I must take my leave soon. But before I go, I must know what transpired prior to your submission to the Pukepuke," the Old One says finally.

He knows something but he won’t tell, the Voice states.

"I … the Voice told me that he can hear another Voice, somewhere nearby. I didn’t know what to do, so I thought, ‘Why not meet up with someone who may be able to help?’ and went in the direction pointed out by the Voice," Dunael recounts.

"So Darkflame sensed another Aevo?"

"What?"

What? the Voice says in unison.

"Your … Voice … has a name. Darkflame. Darkflame and others like it are Aevo," the Old One explains. Then: "Time is running out, young one."

"I went through a field of creatures … strange, odd-looking creatures," Dunael continues. "Some chased me, but I managed to outrun them. But one of them was bigger than the rest, and more aggressive. I couldn’t shake it off."

That’s the Pukepuke, the Voice – Darkflame – offers.

"And then?" the Old One presses.

"It attacked me. I could barely hit it, but I could not run. Then … I heard someone call out. I didn’t realise I was the one being called. I was too distracted. I think the creature broke the shield I picked up from somewhere. I couldn't hold the shield properly anyway-"

Too heavy for you. You were not ready to use it yet, Darkflame says. You lack both the strength and experience for bearing shields effectively.

"-and I was sent flying. Then I got cut. Many times, I think. And I couldn’t stand anymore."

"You mentioned … someone."

"Yeah. There was this lady, she came running, shouting something. I think she killed the creature. Then she came to my side and said something about healing. Then I saw her face. Oh my-"

"What?"

Dunael remembers her face. A familiar face. A face from the past, a past he cannot recall.

"I recognise her … I know her name," he says. "I know her name," he repeats.

"What is her name?" the Old One demands, urgency evident in his voice.

"Lena. Her name is Lena."

Dunael senses the presence vanish. "Old One?"

There is no response.

Then, after what seems to be a long time, Darkflame speaks.

He bids you farewell … and urges you to rest. The enchantment diminishes at dawn. The magic that maintains the darkness

"He can hear you, then?"

I would say so, yes.

Dunael lies back on the bed.

He also said one other thing.

"What did he say?"

He said, "Get stronger."

The youth grins.


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