Chapter 3: The Child
Pressing the key into the bedroom door keyhole and twisting it, the heavy door opens, its steel bars moving out of the latches.
Pushing the door open, I was thrown down on the floor by the wraith which dashed out right at me, pinning me on the ground. It seemed to recognize me, and it let out one of the biggest and scariest screech yet, directly at my face.
I was stunned at first, but quickly regaining my senses, I grabbed Jack gun and fired point-blank at the wraith, the malevolent spirit let out a pained screech before flying off.
"Sorry, but I can't let you get away!"-I quickly summoned my harp and levitated, chasing after the wraith.
The wraith tries it's best to claw at me in the air, but I dodges and send a few magic notes back to her. We fought in the main hall for a while , before the wraith retreated into the dining hall.
Giving chase, I pulled out Jack's gun again.
"Just let Jack out already!"-I fired another shot, but an amateur like me firing a high caliber revolver means accuracy is not the best.
I need to get close.
Firing another shot, I cornered the wraith with both the gun and my harp, before getting close enough to shoot another shot at point blank.
The wraith yelled out in pain, this time falling onto the dining table, defeated.
"Let Jack go! LET HIM GO!"-I demanded, Jack's revolver shaking in my hand not because I'm afraid, but because of how hard I'm gripping it. My knuckles are probably bleaching white right now.
"Gahhhhhhh! Gahhhhhhhhhh! GAHHHHHHH!"-It sounded like…cries coming from the wraith.
A part of me tremble at the thought that this hideous, malicious and broken spirit is my fault in the making. That I, by mistake, turned a wife, a mother into this. My rage seems to quell, as I spoke again, this time, softer and more understanding.
"I can help you. But you must release my Envoy."-I don't even know if the wraith is capable of such thought or not, but I asked anyway.
The wraith went silent for a moment, before its head snapped to the direction of the bedroom, as if it heard or felt something. With a screech, it dashes off, dodging one of my shot, and phased right through the ceiling, getting away.
"Kya!"-I jerked back, almost falling on my rear, before balancing myself and flew after the wraith.
Heading back out to the main hall on the first floor, I jerked suddenly as the door to the living room on the second floor blasted open.
I looked up to find myself sighing in relief and terrified at the same time.
From the door, Jack and one of the twisted clones came out, and they both threw themselves over the railing and down to the first floor, Jack pinning the twisted demon down to hit the ground instead of himself taking the blunt, before doing a Dragon's Flash with his Tachi to smite the demon into dust splatter.
"Jack!"-I came towards him immediately, helping my exhausted and injured Envoy. He was panting heavily and painfully as he bury the tip of his tachi down on to the floor and gripping the handle for support.
"F…Freya."-He tried to sound okay, but getting closer and seeing how many wounds were on his body terrified me.
"Master…Master!"-I wanted to dive into him, but with that many wounds, he would not appreciate it.-"You defeated them all?"
"It's not the worst scrape I've been through."-With a weak grin Jack replied, obviously trying to act tough so I wouldn't worry, but upon close inspection, his form is just filled with cuts, bruises and slash wounds.
Wasting no more time, I casted a healing spell on him, at least stopping the wounds from further bleeding and hopefully, close some bigger slash wounds in. Jack finding the time to gulp down another HP potion, shaking his head lightly to regain focus.
I couldn't help it anymore and embraced him softly.
"I'm so…so glad…"
"Freya?"-Master asked with a degree of surprise in his tone.
"You are still okay…thank the gods…"-Tears were rolling down my cheeks, but luckily I didn't sob. I really, really felt like I have cried enough today.
"You are a god."-He smirked lightly.
"I'll pray to myself if I have to."-Considering the wraith most likely opened that door at my demand, I suppose I can take some credit-"I was scared…"
"It's okay…"-Jack pet my head softly-"We're fine now. But we're not done yet, right?"
"…Sometimes, it would not hurt to be more considerate towards your own conditions, Master."-I pouted, seeing how he already started thinking about the next move.
But, I can't exactly protest, as we both heard the lullaby voice again, this time, along with something…strange. Like a baby that was having trouble breathing.
Jack's sword arm tightens around the tachi's handle as he struggled a bit to get up, against my minor protesting looks. He asked for his gun back, which I returned right away, better that weapon be with an expert than an amateur like me.
The bedroom door is now open, and strangely enough, we can see…light from inside. A fireplace.
"…"-Jack finished reloading his gun as we headed up, his steps slightly slower and rigid from the pain.
Taking in a cold breath, we walked past the door and ready ourselves.
There, in front of a baby cradle, the wraith hovered, gently rocking the cradle, a soft and eerily lullaby emitting from her.
Jack raised his revolver, but I stopped him midway, shaking my head.
The wraith turned towards us, it's hollowed out eye sockets staring at us, but it remained there.
"May I see the child?"-I asked, knots forming in my throat.
The wraith seemed angry as it screeched at us, but once again, it deformed into some sort of…twisted cry. Anguished.
"It was my lack of diligence that had brought about this tragedy into your household. For that, I, Freya, the Goddess of Beauty and Fertility, begs for your forgiveness."-I bowed deeply at the wraith, feeling my conscience weighing heavily as if my neck was attached to an anvil with a chain hanging down as I lowered my head.
"I am sorry for your loss…But you must leave the child to us. You need to pass on. It's already too late for your husband…but for you there's still chance."-Jack spoke as well.
Asking a mother to abandon her child…
"It's time both of you rest."-He finished.
The wraith made the slightest tilt of its head, almost as if agreeing.
"We'll take care of your baby's rest. Please…Leave it to us."-I pleaded to the wraith.
After a few seconds, the lullaby changed tone. It turned sad and in the lyrics, sounds of weeping rang out.
The cradle shifted lightly, as I can see a deformed baby's hand reaching out of it.
"Madness and Pain. Anger and Love. Put your emotions to rest, spirit of long gone mortal. Find peace, down in the stream of the dead."-Jack spoke out his rites, and the wraith slowly dissolved into black smoke before dissipating entirely, the lullaby gone with it.
With that finished, the only thing left, was to give this baby who never got the chance to be alive it's rest.
Approaching the cradle, I peered in and found myself skipping a heartbeat, my breath choked as I leaned back in shock and fear.
There, in the cradle, what would best be described as a partially decayed fetus laid, it's eyes large and black as it stares at me, letting out small growls as it fidgets in the cradle; it's flesh not fully formed and was veiny red, making my blood run cold, it's mouth very wide and it's tongue reach its bellybutton where the placenta was still there, an undead creature of my nightmares.
"What do you need me to do?"-Jack voice snapped me out of my fears. I have to do this.
"I'm okay. Just…I have to…prepare myself."-I gulped, taking a few deep breaths.
Then, I stepped forward again, reaching the cradle…
…And slowly reached down and picked the baby up.
"Yes…I…I need to calm him down."
"You are going to hold it? It can lunge and bite your neck in!"
"It's okay…I just…I just have to be slow."-I cradled the twisted and deformed baby, fully feeling the rotting stench right under me, but I braved through.
Here we go then.
Taking a deep breath, resisting the urge to cough from the stench, I sang a lullaby of my own.
This lullaby isn't filled with sadness and fear like the one the wraith sang. I sang a calm, serene tune, with a caring, loving voice and caress.
I looked at Jack, who was very tense about all this. I couldn't blame him.
The baby in my arm slowly calmed down, and I gestured Jack over closer.
With cautious steps, he came to my side.
"I need you to prepare a grave. Doesn't have to be deep. Just a small grave."-I whispered softly.
"Yeah, I'll do that. Front yard? I don't like digging one in the back yard where all the…"-He replied with a whisper as well.
"Yes, that would be the best option, thank you."-I nodded my thanks, a bit concerned that Jack would be doing some manual labor with those injuries.
As Jack went downstairs and out, I slowly followed in a much slower pace, singing a lullaby whenever I felt the baby was getting agitated to calm him down.
"There, there…"-I gently calmed the twisted baby, almost getting used to holding him as I walked down the stairs slowly. When it is calm, despite being one of the most hideous and gut-wrenching creature you'll ever have the displeasure of meeting, it behaves almost like a real baby would.
Continued to sing as I head out through the kitchen backdoor, I stopped just before heading outside. I had no idea how the baby would react to daylight. Jack is probably already digging somewhere on the front yard, so I lost a bit of safety there.
Still, I calmed the deformed fetus again as I took a brave step outside.
While the baby did get a bit agitated, it did not behave violently, and I managed to calm it with a small smile and a soft pat on the back.
"It's okay…It's okay…It's almost over…"-I reassured, walking past the body of the faceless creature, now headless. The shovel was missing, and it wasn't hard to figure out who took it as I circled out to the front yard.
Just like when I first came through the metal gate, I heard the sound of digging. However, this time, the digging sound wasn't ominous, it was calm and even a bit emotional.
I saw Jack, digging out a spot under a rather large tree, the tree providing quite a shade for that section of the ground. It was the best spot in the front yard for this, I mentally thanked Jack as I kept slowly moving forward.
The twisted and half decomposed baby in my arm let out a small growl and gurgle as I got close to Jack, maybe a little agitated by the sound of digging.
"It's almost done, dear…It's almost over…"-I calmed it again, still unable to shake the guilt as I looked at what had become of this seed of life, and what madness did it caused to the occupants of this home.-"I am so sorry, child…I am so sorry you never got to live a full life…"
"…I'm almost ready."-Jack spoke softly at us, his tone understanding.
With a nod, I looked down at the baby as tears formed in my eyes.
"You have a father that was willing to go against time and fate to bring you life. A mother that refuses to give up that spark even after her own flames was extinguished. Your family loved you very much, dear…"-Tears were rolling down my cheek and dropping on the baby.-"I'm sorry that I didn't give you the chance to see it…to live it."
The deformed baby seemed to rest still while I was crying, almost…calm and at peace.
Finally, I heard Jack planting the shovel into the ground next to the grave and looked up to see him approach me.
"Freya. We're ready. I'll place a cloth over the hole now."-He gently had a hand on my shoulder, his voice…his voice. Calm and reassuring. I wouldn't be calm enough to know what to do here if he wasn't here with me.
"Yes…Thank you Master…I'm sorry you had to do all this while injured…"
"I'm fine, Freya. I…I just hope you are as well."
"I will be Master. Let us start."
"…Jack. I will sing a short melody. While I'm doing that, can you…think of a name for the child?"
Names are powerful seals, better than any magic seals you could place on somebody. It is a sign, almost a proof of sentient existence.
"…Okay."-He nodded, placing a table cloth over the small hole before standing up again, having his arms rested at the front with one hand holding the other's wrist, standing solemnly.
Nodding, I checked the baby in my arms again, making sure he was calm before humming a magic tune.
This song is often used for out-of-body experiences, I can tell Jack was feeling a little lightheaded as he sways his body more, usually the Envoy would stood still and tall as a rock.
The deformed, half decomposing baby in my arms also began to relax.
The song went on for several minutes as I sang and hum, and slowly, the baby in my careful cradle hold began to become more and more still, as if it's sleeping.
After I stopped singing, I gestured Jack to come near again.
Jack has his wariness, but he places a hand on the baby's forehead like a priest would, and spoke.
"I hereby name you…Ydra."
The fetus suddenly open its eyes again, letting out a surprised gurgle sound as it became unrest, but with a simple line…
"Rest, Ydra."-I spoke simply, and the baby immediately went limp, letting out a final breath before it went still and closes its huge eyes.
We both felt something finally let go in the atmosphere, wind gently blew past us.
I began lowering the child down into the hole, and with a last caress on the forehead, I closed the cloth around it's body. I watched as Jack began to fill the hole with dirt again, slowly, until I can't see the cloth anymore, and until he made a simple looking mound, patting the dirt in with the shovel, then placed a makeshift tombstone there using a rock in the garden.
I simply watched, my mind was blank during the entire process. Finally, I kneeled down on the ground, clasped my hands together and prayed.
"Rest in Peace, Ydra. You are released from this torment now..."
Finally, Jack joined me at my side and solemnly stood, offering me silent comfort.
"…Thank you Master. I…I couldn't have got through this without you."-I got back on my feet and turned to him.
"So would I."-Jack did not turn to see me as he spoke.-"But it's done now. They are all put to rest. You can relax now. Don't blame yourself."
"…It's rather hard to do, Jack…"
"Eidolons have emotions too, like humans. We are all capable of mistakes. I find it hard to put you responsible for the fate of people you never met."-Jack turned to me, his voice calm and caring as ever.
"I don't know…perhaps…with my blessing, things might have been different."
"Without me, some people would still be alive. There are endless possibilities to how this all went down. All we can do…is keep going."
With a nod, I leaned in on him, forgetting his wounds for a moment, as he pulls me close and had his arm at my hip.
And as the sun began to set, our struggle is finally over.
Mirabelle quests are very often misleading, indeed...
Finally, with the quest being done, we left the mansion, and are about to return to Mirabelle for our reward, which would definitely be inadequate to the amount of work that Master and I spent, still, a job well done, and Jack did not hold back on looting. He came away from the mansion with some miraculously untouched wine in the cellar, which I refuse to ever go down again, treasured books and researches that he'll hand over to Victoria and the Church, at a price and after reading it himself of course. But most importantly, Jack got his hand on the former owner's sabre, a well-made, powerful enchanted sword, the fact that it remained there for years without a speck of rust and loss in durability is a testament to its power. It seems like a sword that would be treasured down from generations, and Jack doesn't seem interested in selling it either.
The thought of seeing him with that sword on his belt for personal defense as he walks around in civilian clothes and not in his Dark Master Assassin Robe certainly entertained my mind. He'd look quite the charming noble like that.
"Master…what about the husband? Did you kill him?"-I asked as we were waiting for Mirabelle to open the portal.
"Him?"-Jack turned to me, realizing he hasn't filled me in-"He already expired in the living room. But he created those twisted shadow clones to attempt to continue his work, and he failed in that regard too. The only thing those clones mirror him is in his use of the sword."
"I see…So it's already over for him…"
"Depends on the definition of over, but yes, he's in most conventional way, gone."
"What about the servant outside? Who could have made such a thing? Surely the owner of this house…"
"There are summoning techniques for undead servants like that. If he was researching into forbidden arts well past Envoy Necromancy, it fits the description."
"Mn."-I agreed, again, Master's assumptions are often well thought out.
At that, Mirabelle finally got the portal open and ready for us.
"Alright. Let's get out of here. I need to rinse this smell off of me."
"Me too…"-Even if it was an emotional thing and I didn't regret it, I did hold on to a half decomposed baby.
"It's getting near winter…"-Jack murmured on about preparing to winter back in our home in Demarech.
I giggled lightly as I walked past him.
"Come on Master. Let's head back. Merilee is waiting back home, and I did promise a good meal today."
"Does it go well with wine?"
"For Aura's sake Master! You sure you want to drink those bottles?"
"I mean…I did find some centipedes crawling along the bottles…but it's still sealed and I sipped a test. It's fine."-Jack reassured, but I was prepared for his stomach to later disagree tonight.
"Your definition of fine is often grueling to me, Master."-I huffed lightly, puffing my cheeks.
"Don't worry."-Jack walked past me, patting my head in the process-"As long as you and Merilee are ok…"-He didn't really finish that sentence, as he heads through the portal first.-"Let's go Freya. Back home."
"…"-I let out a sigh, heat getting to my cheeks as I timidly tries to hide my blush.-"That's not how you should live, Master…"-I whispered as I followed him through the portal, before the last ray of sun light disappear down into the treeline.