Chapter 1: Your Wings Will Burn
Long ago, in the earliest days of this kingdom's history, a great and terrible mistake was made. A foul serpent, masterful in the art of deception, tempted an innocent people to delve deep into the Abyss. There, they found the Father of the Abyss, Manus, an ancient and tortured soul. His waking cries awakened the dormant Humanity within the townspeople, bringing to the surface their deeply held Greed, their boundless Hatred, their insurmountable Fear, and the terrible aching Loneliness inherent to all Humanity, and these awful passions caused the once-innocent people of Oolacile to descend into Beasthood. In his pain and madness, Manus lashed out, casting down the village and causing the Abyss to erupt and spread further into the waking world.
The gods of Anor Londo feared the Dark, feared the Dark Soul within every man, how its potential exceeded even their own, yet with terrible cost. Thus, Lord Gwyn sent his most faithful Knight, Artorias the Wolf, to bring an end to the Father of the Abyss, and destroy the town of Oolacile lest its curse spread. The great Knight failed, however; not even he could withstand the fathomless corruption of the Abyss. Left as but a hollow husk of his former self, the fallen Knight was left to mindlessly slaughter his way across the countryside until brought low by a champion out of time and space.
The nameless champion, left forgotten by the records of history, did succeed in slaying Manus and halting the spread of the Abyss, yet the Dark Soul can never truly be destroyed so long as Humanity lives on. The Soul of Manus was sundered, torn apart by its own overflowing Humanity, and left to float formlessly in the Abyss for time uncountable. After the rise and fall of countless kingdoms, and the beginning and end of countless ages, the fragments of the Soul of Manus once more took form, given purpose and shape by Dark desires. Want, Rage, Sorrow, and Loneliness: each became flesh, each sought power to fulfill their desires. They bonded to Sovereigns, plotting to use their ensorcelled lovers' thrones to usher in a new age of Darkness.
In another kingdom, across strange currents of time, in a land bereft of Flame yet void of the curse its absence brings, a young warrior constantly stood upon the precipice of losing herself to her own Humanity. Oh, the Dark roiled within her, a true Child of Manus. Such boundless Obsession; such violence and wickedness! The greatest Knights of her era fell victim to her cunning, paving her way to greatness. From the lowest of scoundrels she rose to become the scourge of the very heavens. A Plague! they called her. This young Sovereign, once innocent, willfully stained her own soul irredeemably black in her pursuit of impossible goals. Necessity. That was her reason. Obsession.
The Heavens visited the kingdom she called home, beings beyond the ken of Humanity, beyond the scope of even the immortal Dragons from the First Age. Skulking about in the eddies of space, in the void between voids, these incomprehensible Entities plotted the destruction of her species. It was through no malice, but by a cold logic unthinkable to any sane mind: the destruction of countless worlds could save countless more. Their purpose unknown and uncommunicated, Humanity eventually uncovered the threat to their existence, and the young Sovereign was at the forefront of the conflict. Obsessed with victory at any cost, she cast aside her own Soul, tiny and frail though it was, in her pursuit of strength. Gifted with power beyond all reckoning, she did slay the Entity, in a war spanning billions of worlds, costing trillions more lives.
On the eve of her victory, her mind in tatters, decaying without the light of a nurturing Soul, she was slain by those who secretly brought her to power, their weapon's purpose complete. And yet, in her final act, she had lit a Fire: a Dark imitation of the First Flame, by forcefully linking the flickers of Humanity across countless worlds. Such a Flame was never meant to be, and it sundered reality in the wake of its birth. Two flickering Souls touched in the Dark light of that flame, alike in their purpose: One, the Obsession of Manus, the will to cling to life at any cost; the other, the Soul of the young, fallen Sovereign, tenacious and undeniable. Like calls to Like in the Abyss, and the two shards were merged in the heat of the Flame, becoming whole before being cast from the Abyss once more.
This is the story of a tragic figure, a frail woman who had been broken many times before, yet always forged herself anew. She sought adversity, and became strong for it. A True Sovereign!
A soft, pale form took shape before the Bonfire, dancing between the flames before solidifying. A young woman came into focus, tall and slender, her features peaceful in the absence of a waking mind. She was naked, born anew from the Flame, and curled as a babe within the embers.
"How curious. A little Moth, drawn to the Flame? Oh, how your wings will burn, Little Moth. But I will comfort you. It is my purpose, to all who would have me.
Bearer of a terrible fate,
Seek the fields of battle, where you are destined and forever called to,
Seek greater hardship, for your trials give rise to sorely needed strength,
Lest you succumb to the Abyss within you.
I will remain by your side, 'til this frail hope shatters..."
A new Prophecy thus spoken, the Emerald Herald detached her cloak and wrapped it around the newborn woman, and allowed her eyes to fall shut, before standing vigil over the sleeping Child. Peace would be enjoyed while it lasted.
Eyes blearily opened, and for a time, it went unnoticed that they were my eyes. Another moment was spent understanding the concept of me, of being. Things that are, can have eyes, I reasoned. So I can have eyes, because I am. But how am I? Before the being that was me was another being, who was not me. This was not something I could readily understand, but I thought on it. Thinking was another thing things that are can do, was it not? I can be, yet so can others, I reasoned. I am not all that there is. For reasons beyond me, this was a great comfort. Oh, how lonely it would be to be all there is. The concept of Loneliness was one I readily understood.
"My, a new Soul, are you? Such a thing has not been since the First Flame was lit. No... No, I think not. You are but fractured pieces of more than a single soul, and have lost much of yourself. Perhaps I can offer comfort to the wounds of your Soul."
The other being could communicate, could speak. It came to reason I, too, could speak.
"He-... Hello." The word came to me through a distant fog. The... woman smiled down at me, and it was a warm and beautiful thing.
"Greetings, Little Moth. Not entirely lost, are you? But what a marvelous Soul you must have, to survive a Sundering. What a mystery you are!" Her voice was soothing. It danced in my head, smoothly moving from one sound to another. Deep within me, I felt flickers of warmth, and some pain I hadn't noticed was slowly eased from my core. A great feeling of relief washed over me, and I let loose a small gasp. "Are you feeling better? A Soul is a frail and fragile thing; you must take greater care of your own, lest I be unable to heal it once more. Tell me: do you remember your name?"
I cast my gaze down, feeling some greater alertness to my mind. Concepts became clear to me; a sense of restoration of what once was. Blinking slowly, I looked across my own form. I was wrapped in a rich, green cloak, and comfortably warm with both it and the heat of the flame before me. The flame was a small thing, carefully rimmed with stones, and had a spiralling metal poker rising from it. I looked into the flames, willing it to give me answers. Who am I?
Like a lance driven through my core, images began to fill me: frightful, terrible images. Gouged eyes packed full of maggots; the body of a man cast open, inverted, and still living; the death of a child by my hand; terrible, constant pain beyond what my mind could handle and the laughing of a madwoman; scenes of death and betrayal repeated endlessly; and through it all, the buzzing- the thrum of an army at my back, the beat of countless- no, I knew the amount- I always knew how many- trillions of wings and legs and pincers and stingers, all turned to my purpose; I- "NO!" I broke down, refusing the images. "I- That can't be me! Such misery and pain!" Words came easier, and I used them to show my disgust at that person.
"And yet it is, Little Moth." There was rebuke in her voice, but also sympathy. "No innocent soul would be so terribly broken as yours. And yet, you're still here. Rise beyond your pity, young one. You've strength yet to face yourself." I was shaking horribly, my bones rattling within me. I felt the truth in the woman's words, though. Denial cannot spare me pain. The Flame had shown me truth. I am a wretched being. But... No. That is not all that there is. I will not allow pain to define me. Who am I? I once more demanded of the fire.
New images took hold of me. An outfit of silk taking shape, the process of months of labor; the beating of feet on pavement, day after day; a feral smile on the lips of a blonde woman, my sister-in-arms; standing on the rooftops of a flooded city, watching it recover through my efforts. "That is who I am," I whispered. The woman before me tilted her head in interest. "I think... I'm a fighter. Terrible things happened to me, and I didn't let them stop me. I can't stop now, either, can I?" My companion smiled beatifically once more.
"With such tenacity, I can feel only pity for whatever foes stood in your way. Very well, young fighter, that is who you are. But what is your name?" She pressed once more.
"Taylor. My name... is Taylor."
A little something I've had my mind on for a long while now! I wanted to take a small creative break from Crucible, and now seemed like a good time to start this side project. I won't be focusing on this story until the completion of Crucible, but once I do finish that story, I'll either return to this, or like... I dunno, throw Vista into Dragon's Dogma. Shit, that's actually not a bad idea...