I kinda want to write one story at least for every character. This one counts as the Anthony story though Paul makes a special guest appearance.
And in other news, some dumb person forgot a flash drive and didn't email an extra copy of their chapter stories, so I'm stuck writing oneshots until I get back to the computer with the files on it for the chapter stories. It's not necessarily bad, it just wasn't the smartest thing to do on my part.
Anthony was once a man.
He could run faster than any other messenger, perhaps even faster than Pheidippides himself, the original runner from Marathon to Athens. Even with corrosive acid coursing through his thinning veins as he sprinted the countrysides of the Holy Roman Empire with his long legs, Anthony felt the wind healthily soothe his heated skin. Making a beeline to where Charlemagne was holding council in Amiens, Anthony passed through countless woods and forests, as unnamed and untamed as the scattered villages about the wilderness were.
Some had called him ridiculously loyal, but Anthony knew that they only said that because loyalty had been lost in Europe for ages. Those that had accused him of being loyal simply had not held an audience before Charlemagne before. Charlemagne was the King to lead all of Europe to greater days—out of these dark ages and into the sunlight of a new day, a rebirth, if you will.
Anthony held the curse meant for Charlemagne and fought to warn him of such treachery against his noble name. Charlemagne's wretched, dried corpse in front of Anthony's rotting eyes caused him to die in utter despair, the image of both of their deaths etched and burned forever in Anthony's soul.
The creatures residing in the false monks laughed at him, mocked him with their unholy shrieks, and left him there to rot with his double-edged blade—for what use did they have of a double-edged blade? They knew he would use it again when the need called for it. The acid in his flesh spread, keeping him in a state of insane limbo. As the years passed and select parts of himself rotted away or passed into the bellies of rats, Anthony started to lose his fire for life and revenge. As the old church expanded into a grand, terrible cathedral, as the evil magick festering in the caulk of the stone blossomed into a thorn bush of mankind's end, as blackness seeped into the moldy wood with the summoning of the Black Guardian from the deepest underworld universes, Anthony had come to long for death. Not this kind of death; he wanted only the true death where his soul ascended, severing from his mortal, hurting body. He wanted a true death where he could sleep and forever forget the cruel world that had cursed him and his King so.
But the Ancient and its creatures would not let him leave. They twisted a perfectly cut ruby into his eye socket, kicking it in soundly so it would not leave its new resting place. Anthony still felt the pain carving into his skull and his lumpy flesh and he gnashed his brown teeth in distaste, pleading for mercy. Again the creatures laughed at him and left. Again Anthony was left to lie on the cold stone floor, feeling dark magick pull him away from any reality he had once known. A hollowed, twisted husk that used to be human, now filled with black and yellow acid rather than blood, now full of the murderous, insane thoughts of the Ancients rather than the humane, docile thoughts of a man. How Anthony wished to disappear.
Then a human man entered. He was not a creature like the others, and Anthony knew it instantly. Why was this human man here? To mock him! To mock him! The rage and ravenous hunger for revenge returned, and Anthony gurgled and growled as he brought his rickety corpse underneath his feet, utilizing unholy strength to grasp the double-edged blade. Anger and hatred filled his rotten, beaten chest and he shambled toward the human man. Somewhere his corroded mind latched onto the vision of this human man stealing Charlemagne's life, and the hatred in Anthony grew.
The human man was competent against Anthony's tainted energy, and as crossbow bolts stuck in what was left of Anthony's flesh, he was confronted with new magick that he had never felt before. What was this? The presence of a different Ancient, with black bolts of violet and magenta that called forth a wall of magick to protect the human man. The moment Anthony touched the wall he felt a poison that likened to the ferocity of a monstrous feline claw at his soul and he roared in displeasure as it bit and gnawed at him. Now more than ever he had to destroy this man, but he remained behind his simple veil, cowardly waiting for the poison to do its work.
With one last swing of the double-edged blade, Anthony struck the magick field. It gave way, but not without a tiger-esque roar that sent swift fire to Anthony's limbs and he collapsed. Finally. Death as he was meant to have so many centuries ago.
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He rose to his broken feet again, and limped towards the human man. Had he the ability to cry, he would be sobbing. Yes, this human man, with the garb of a foreign monk, this human man who was so similar to him, Anthony could feel the energies rise off of this man who had so little defense against the Darkness that was bleeding from Anthony's horrific form. But Anthony had to fight, he could not choose for himself. He swung the sword drunkenly, stumbling toward the man until the man pointed his last crossbow bolt at Anthony's peeling forehead and released the trigger.
Anthony screamed, and for the first time in centuries it sounded human.
The sword fell from his flaking fingers and Anthony collapsed on the floor, curling into a piteous fetal position. The human man, truly the holiest one Anthony had ever had the grace to see, dropped to his knees and immediately began murmuring a prayer in Latin. All at once Anthony felt the Darkness began to release him, and his soul began to wrench free of the rib-like cage as his spirit reached for the man's words. Such beautiful words in such a beautiful language! How long had he only heard the ghastly tongues and screeches of these creatures, how much had he forgotten of his human language? Far too much. Please, let this man be his escape, whatever god there was left that still cared about him!
Miraculously Anthony was still breathing as the man finished his prayer. Wheezing and rasping, he watched, detached, as the man reached forward towards Anthony's forehead. Feeling a surge of forgotten nobility and shame, Anthony took in one last, deep breath, and as the man's soft, holy fingers gently touched the rotting carcass of Anthony's forehead he released the breath. With the breath went his last memories, the last mission he carried out until its ultimate failure. His rickety ribcage collapsed as the human man was trapped in a fitful series of visions. The man opened his eyes in shock, instantly understanding Anthony's plight. Closing his eyes in sorrow, the man kissed his fingers and pressed the blessed fingers to Anthony's head.
Breaking free of the Ancient's grasp, Anthony soared. Though he was still chained to the damned Hall of the Tome of Eternal Darkness, he was now and forever forgiven for his immortality, nobility, and humanity.