Disclaimer: Soul Nomad and the World Eaters is the property of Nippon Ichi Software.
The language and suggestive themes are only at Teen level, but the Mature rating is in place because of violence and disturbing content, including in the first chapter.
Author's Note: This is my normal style of AU. It takes places in the same world as the game, but I've changed a key plot point and shown one way the story might pan out. Most of the game's important characters either appear or are mentioned.
"If you want me to murder Vigilance, why won't you tell me anything about him?"
"You're not going to murder Vi-"
"You said I would."
"Being with you always reminds me how - simplistically - mortals view the world."
"But you said-"
"I should have never said anything. Dear, Vigilance is already dead."
Revya had never seen anyone hold a baby before. The young father cradled his two hour's old son's head, so small it fit comfortably against his right palm. His left arm rested under his son's spine. The father had wiped the long splash of blood against his pants leg, cleaning off his hand before he touched the baby again, after he'd dropped the knife.
Revya's attention swung irresolutely between the father and the crowd that had surrounded the mother, trying to comfort her. Her sobbing had stopped. Revya couldn't see her anymore.
"What's the matter?"
Revya jumped and turned to face the girl next to her, Alanah, the twelve year old daughter of the family she was staying with.
"What's the matter?" Revya repeated, her eyebrows rising, aghast and incredulous. She gestured to the hut, where the father was now walking away, still carrying his bleeding burden. "He just-"
Alanah shuffled her feet in the dust, her chin rumpling as she pushed her lower lip out. "Yeah, but - hey. What else was he going to do? At least he didn't club the baby. That takes so long, and-" Her eyes darkened a moment. "Well, they still have two other kids."
Revya crossed her arms, as if to protect herself, disturbed by what she'd seen and the calmness of Alanah's tone. "I've never seen anyone killed before. Let alone a baby."
Alanah's gray eyes widened. "You said you were from far away but - where?"
Revya pressed her lips together and shook her head.
Alanah looked up at her. "Well, let's go back to getting those nettles for Mama."
Revya glanced back at the crowd. When they'd heard that the couple was due to have their new baby, everyone had gathered; Revya was surprised at how fast the news traveled, as none of the huts of this community were close together. After a moment, she shook herself and followed Alanah up the mountainside.
"That really doesn't happen where you come from?" Alanah said after they'd been gathering for a quarter hour. Though she'd only been with Alanah's family for less than a day, Revya was already quite familiar with Alanah's wheedling. "How do you keep the World Eaters away?"
Revya paused before dropping a nettle into her basket. "I get it."
She looked squarely at Alanah. "That's why everyone lives so far apart. So you're not in a town."
"What's a town?"
"So you don't draw the World Eaters' attention. And you...make sure families don't get too large, because..." Revya thought hard for a moment, remembering what she'd studied. Seeing the reasoning behind it didn't lessen her horror. "Because I guess you'd need a town if you had to feed a lot of people."
Alanah cocked her head. "Um, duh." She stared at Revya a moment. "So, how do you keep them away? Without killing people."
Revya focused on her hands, pulling nettles. "There aren't any World Eaters where I come from."
Alanah raised her eyebrows. "Really? Wow." There was unmistakable skepticism in her voice. "So...what's it like there? Does it rain milk or something?"
Revya looked down the barren mountainside. "Well, there's a lot of water. Streams, I mean. And, um, flowers."
"Flowers?" Alanah repeated dubiously. Then she sniffed and stood. "Look, you don't have to lie to me just because I'm a kid."
"Then you're stupid." She grabbed Revya's basket and started down the mountainside. "Mama said the flowers all disappeared years and years ago."
Having hardly slept that night, Revya left early the next morning. Even after the walk back with Alanah, the coolness from her parents, and a night of tossing and turning on their hut floor, Revya still hadn't banished the image of that baby from her mind. The first baby she'd ever seen and...the way his father had held the knife over his soft throat. Revya had seen the red gush of blood before, but only from animals. The baby hadn't cried out. Was that normal?
They routinely killed each other here. Why hadn't she been told that?
Revya left without waiting to tell the family goodbye.
Though she didn't think Alanah had been lying to her, Revya couldn't help scanning her surroundings for any sign of green. Broken-edged rocks studded the terrain, probably having tumbled down from the mountains. The ground itself was dry, dusty above a layer of hard bedrock that punished Revya's legs. Well away from the mountains, she stopped in her trek, revolving. A dingy overcast sky stretched overhead, met on every horizon by badlands. Plants? A few. Small thorn bushes, mostly. Revya knelt, rubbing her forefinger in the dirt. It had a faint ashy smell. Volcanism?
Coldness skittered across her half-exposed back. She tensed, but she took a deep breath, trying to make her movements smooth, as though she wasn't aware she was being watched. She rubbed her palm into the dust, brought her hand up as if to examine it. Was it another human watching her or an animal? How could she know? She'd never been watched by another human before.
She felt the heat before she saw the blast of light shooting towards her back. She wrenched her body around, falling to her elbow, feeling a slap of heat as the laser passed just over her shoulder. Lifting herself into a crouch, Revya ran a few steps, pulling free her sword, watching as another laser collided with the weapon, its black blade absorbing the light, warming it. Revya danced back a step, casting around. The laser had come from her left, but -
Another beam of light shot from nowhere, entirely out of the air. Revya dodged and ran towards its source, drawing her sword back to swing. She didn't really know what she was doing, she just knew she had to do something violent.
As her sword swung down, a broad, gray being materialized in front of her. Revya had only time to see that it was vaguely humanoid, like the metal monsters she knew were made in Drazil, before her blade cut into its iron shoulder, grinding. Long, gleaming arms lunged towards her, and without thinking, she hacked one off, then the other. She bit her lower lip. It hadn't argued or made excuses. It was all but making her kill it. With a concerted thrust from her back and shoulders, she drove her sword into its middle, haloing the blade with crackling purple lightning, racing up the blade and right into Revya's hands. She cried out, dropping the weapon, barely aware of her enemy evaporating like mist.
Revya slapped her hand against her leg, but the feeling hadn't been gone for more than a moment. She picked up the black sword, the metal hilt warm. Was that an attack she shouldn't have been able to live through?
After she'd been traveling for the better part of the day, eating as she walked (her bread and dried fruit seemed far too sweet for this world), she finally saw a change in her surroundings. Far away, obscured both by distance and the low smog of dust over the land, she saw flashing veils of light, twisting pillars of wind. Revya stopped a moment, considering.
You didn't really tell me what to do. Well, you told me, often enough, but you didn't tell me how to do it. Or what I'd see when the time came. Or...anything I need to know right now.
It was something different, whatever it was. A fight. Perhaps weather. In any case, she needed to find something other than dust and rock to give her clues. She set out at a jog.
As she came closer, she heard shouts, clangs, and the whirling light and wind resolved itself into human shapes. A fight then. She slowed down, wanting to assess the situation rather than throw herself into a conflict.
A tall man stood closest to her, his back to her, his long black robes snapping as he gathered energy into his raised staff. Beyond him, four warriors circled each other, several in battered plate mail. Studying their stances and positions, Revya saw that three of them had ganged up on the fourth, a tall, wiry man with an obscured face. He had a...Revya squinted. His hands were empty. His sword, red and almost as broad as himself, floated behind him.
"Crush them, winds born from beyond heaven." The magician's voice was faint over the surrounding winds, a loud crash as one of the knights attempted to attack; still floating, the red sword swept forward and parried the lunge. The wind was picking up, slamming against Revya. She crouched to a genuflect, keeping herself close to the ground as the wind buffeted her. "Seize them, winds born of darkness."
Wind blasted across her. Revya threw herself to the ground, digging her fingers into the dust, certain the wind was about to pick her up. She thought she heard cries - it was impossible to tell over the loud roars of the gales. The moment she felt the winds slacken, she jumped up -
- and rolled to the side, feeling a flare of fire-heat and the ground shake as it split open. As she struggled back to her feet, one hand was already reaching for the sword on her back -
- which scraped out of her scabbard as she dove for the ground again, a lightning bolt arching over her. "I don't want to fight you!" she shouted. Then she realized she'd shouted in entirely the wrong language. She shifted to the language of Prodesto. "Please! I don't want to fight you!"
"So they always say," a young man's voice said from not far off. A different voice, also male but deeper, hmphed, offering no other commentary. "But what were you saying at first? I didn't quite...hear."
Revya had never lied before. She'd never had to. She took her time in rolling to her knees, glancing at the bodies of the knights. Neither of her assailants had stepped closer to her, though she could now see both of their faces - after a fashion. The magician wore a black dragonish mask, leaving only his chin and mouth showing, long blond hair beating the wind behind him. He had antlers, and maybe later she'd think that was funny. The other man, dressed in grimy red, was patched over with filthy bandages, most of his face hidden. Carefully, she returned her sword to the sheath on her back, not comfortable with the way the movement left her chest and side momentarily vulnerable. Even after all that, the best she could say was, "I was scared." She knew it had come too late.
The tall magician - a Dracon, that's what he must be - turned away. "Get out of my sight."
Revya climbed to her feet, then realized the other man was still watching her. She wished she could read his expression. She also wished she hadn't sheathed her sword. She cleared her throat. "Well, thanks." Not entirely sure what she was thanking them for, but all right.
"Who are you?" the bandaged man asked, his voice oddly ragged.
Revya drummed her fingers against her thigh. "Just on a journey, that's all."
The ragged edge intensified. "Whose is that sword?"
Revya glanced over her shoulder at the hilt of the black sword. "Um -" She glanced back at the strange man, afraid he was going to attack her. "It was given to me."
He didn't step towards her, but Revya had the unwelcome feeling that the distance between them was disappearing. "Who did it?"
"Do you know where it's from?" Revya countered. "I don't."
The bandaged man didn't answer, but he didn't look away.
Revya took a step to her left. "I need to keep going."
The Dracon glanced at her, then the other. When he spoke, his voice had a deliberate boredom. "Do you want the sword, Lord Gestahl?" Again, there was no answer. Finally, the Dracon let his attention rest on Revya. "Who are you?"
Though it was probably a misconception, his voice seemed less threatening than Gestahl's. Revya made a quick decision. "I'm looking for the Master of Death."
Revya thought she saw the Dracon's lip curl. "Then you're going in the right direction." For a moment, she braced, thinking he was about to attack, but he only said, "Continue south. You'll find Orviska."
Orviska. Was that a person? "What is-" The Dracon was already moving off. Gestahl also turned, though the movement seemed more reluctant. Seeing that she couldn't hold their attention long, Revya switched tact. "Who are you?"
"I am Dio of the Evil Eye," came the answer. "Now begone."
And faster than she thought was possible, they had disappeared into the dust.