A Living Will, Part 21: The Darkness Waits Below

With a distinct crunch, I crushed the skull of the ghoul with my gloved hand. Its body fell to the ground twitching, before beginning to dissolve into a fine black mist. The gore on my glove similarly evaporated, leaving my hands clean. I smiled happily to myself, although it was just in my mind.

Pulling a notepad out of my coat, I began to add the current location to my rough map. Behind me, several gunshots rang out, but I completely ignored them, as well as the disturbing hiss of more ghouls dissolving. As far as I could tell from my map, taking the left path from this junction would lead us back toward the entrance, while turning right would lead us further in. Naturally, I turned toward the right hand passage, and started moving forward.

-This way.-

“H, hey. Can we… can we take a break?” spoke a breathless voice behind me. I turned around to look at Irene Bellvaunt, who was currently leaning against the rough tunnel wall and panting slightly. Continue reading

A Living Will, Part 20: Immediate Barriers

I had to admit, the grounds were lovely. I don’t believe that I have a human aesthetic sense, but the trees were actually quite lovely, and the gardens were at least neatly laid out. However, the smoking ruins of a large mansion somewhat detracted from the natural serenity.

I stood looking at the former Bellvaunt estate for a while. Next to me, Irene was also staring at the ruined mansion, her face the very picture of shocked disbelief. On our walk from her refuge to the estate, she had been pestering me with questions about martial arts, all of which I ignored. Undaunted, the young woman had nearly tripped over her own feet trying to work out what I had done earlier, until I had to order her to calm down. Nevertheless, her good mood had continued right up until the walled compound of the Bellvaunt residence; once confronted with the admittedly imposing doors, she became much more solemn.

By that time, I had already realized something was wrong. I cannot see, naturally, and my other senses are not the best, but I had realized that there was no sign of life on the other side of the wall. Any life. No humans, no animals, no plants, nothing. There was obviously some sort of barrier surrounding the estate, but it didn’t have the feel of magic, either. It was… subtle. Continue reading

A Living Will, Part 19: A Deal is Struck

-What are you writing?- I asked the young woman.

Irene Bellvaunt jumped a bit, and quickly twisted her head to glare at me. She had been sitting at a table in her kitchen, scribbling away in a small book, when I entered. Apparently, she hadn’t heard me come in. I chose to be impressed with her resilience — I often encountered humans who simply ran away when I suddenly appeared behind them. Not that I blamed them, of course.

“It’s nothing,” she muttered angrily. “I’m just writing in my journal.”

-Is that so,- I said, pretending to be disinterested. Well, given my lack of an actual voice, I always sound disinterested, so it wasn’t too hard to pretend. I was actually a bit intrigued about what she might be writing, but sadly, her handwriting was too atrocious to quickly interpret.

Or the written language had shifted again. That happened sometimes. The printed pages that Metria had provided me were legible, though, so she probably was just a terrible writer. Continue reading

A Living Will, Part 18: World Power

“Boss…” said Stanley, an uncomfortable look on his face.

“It’s all right,” I said soothingly. “That’s a story from a long time ago. In any case, just like Carmida, Atarain is no longer worshipped anywhere, under any name. Zedda was… thorough.”

Stanley still looked uncomfortable. He opened his mouth a couple times, but no words came out.

Suddenly, the phone on my desk rang. Stanley and I both jumped slightly at this unexpected interruption, but I quickly recovered and picked up the receiver. “Hello, this is Cymphica Atri, Metria speaking.” Continue reading

A Living Will, Part 17: Fangs of the Grace

“Boss?”

I awoke– No, I hadn’t slept, of course. I became aware of Stanley, standing in front of me. I had been sitting at my desk since Zedda had left, worrying. The pain in my shoulder, which I had thought I would bear for the rest of my existence, was gone; and I wasn’t sure if it was a good thing or not. I couldn’t tell if Zedda had intended it, or if was an unforeseen side effect of his punishment. I couldn’t think of a reason why he would need me free of pain; but I didn’t dare think that it was an accident.

And then there had been the dream, sent to me by Lord Baera. As always, I couldn’t remember the details. But, I knew I had been scolded for calling out Zedda, and warned that it would be dangerous for me. But I knew that my Lord would be upset when I chose to send Irene to him. It was a calculated risk; I knew that Zedda might decide to destroy me, but he might also turn his powers against the forces that were already trying to destroy me. Whatever they were. Continue reading

A Living Will, Part 16: Unlife Phantasmal

It is said that the dead have no need for sleep, and this is true. In the centuries since my death, I have not slept; my consciousness forms an unbroken line from that day on the altar. An endless, wearying, eternal now. It is not surprising to me that so many of my brethren chose to fade away, rather than suffer the endlessness of existence.

It is true, even in the lesser undead. Vampires, for instance: even though they appear somnambulistic during the day, a portion of their consciousness is always aware. They are paralyzed, but awake; it must be a true torment.

So I do not, and cannot, sleep. And yet, sometimes, quite rarely, I dream. Continue reading

A Living Will, Part 15: Irene’s Diary (3)

You know, I read a lot of books in The Project. They were all supposed to be textbooks for my training, but the people guarding me were really, really lazy, and I ended up with a bunch of fiction books as well. They were pretty stupid books, but I had fun reading them. One of them was a detective novel, where a rogue investigator had to find out who killed someone’s rich uncle. As I recall, he thought it was the butler at first, but then it looked like it was the elder brother, but then a surprise twist that was really, really obvious happened, and it was actually the butler again. Well, everyone died, though, except for the detective. It was really a stupid book. Continue reading

A Living Will, Part 14: Irene’s Diary (2)

Mother and Father had taken me to meet Miss Metria before. I remembered her, slightly, as a pretty woman who had something wrong with her eyes. Twenty years later, she still looks exactly the same. Only, I can tell what’s wrong with her eyes now. They’re dead.

It was a little off-putting at first, meeting her again. For one thing, she’s a lot prettier than me, even though she’s an undead. I’m actually not sure what kind of undead she is. I almost asked her if she was a vampire. From what I’ve read, vampires are either extremely beautiful, or extremely ugly. But they are also supposed to have especially pointed teeth, and Miss Metria’s teeth look normal. Well, beautifully white and even, so kinda better than normal. I’m pretty sure my teeth don’t look that nice. Damn it.

I’ve only read one book about undead, actually, and it was mostly focused on how to kill them. As far as I could tell, most strategies amount to hitting them with whatever holy magics you have on hand, calling on every god you know to slow them down, and then hitting them with everything you’ve got. The book was a little out of date, according to my shooting instructor. They make bullets now that can kill most undead really easily. I’m carrying a bunch of them right now, in fact. I might need them. Continue reading

A Living Will, Part 13: Irene’s Diary (1)

I didn’t realize it before, but I’m afraid of death.

Sorry, that’s a really heavy way to start a diary, isn’t it? But I had to write it down. I want to face it cleanly. I’m not sure who I expect to read this. Maybe I just need to tell myself, so I won’t be surprised later. I don’t know.

So yeah. I’m afraid of death.

This came as a surprise to me. My “educators” took great pains in teaching me to be brave. Forcing me to ignore fear, more like. I think my favorite was the snake pit. The poison wouldn’t instantly kill me, after all. Actually, compared to my family, the snakes were pretty decent. I only got bitten twice, after all. Continue reading

A Living Will, Part 12: Not A Man To Cross

Behind me, the door of the office clicked shut. Captain Jack Cross, who had been staring at a “screen” and poking away at a button-covered board in front of him, looked up at the faint noise. His eyes widened as he saw me standing in the doorway, still holding my glass of water. I sensed his fear, which was quickly replaced by a strong anger. “Mr. Zagadactulus.”

-I understand you wished to ask me some questions, Captain.-

“Where is Robert?” he asked calmly. Really, his control over his emotions was quite good; I doubt many people would have noticed the undercurrent of rage in his voice. I wouldn’t have, if I wasn’t using my little trick.

-I don’t know a ‘Robert’ in this era.-

A look of impatience crossed Cross’ face — or possibly just his mind. It was hard for me to tell the difference. “Robert Brown. The officer who was with me when we ‘collected’ you. As I’m sure you could guess.”

-I do not bother to guess. The man you refer to, along with his companions, were excessively hostile. In order to expedite my own investigation, it was necessary to delay them.- Continue reading