Across the infested plains of Blighttown, beyond the mucky green swamps and past the cracked, decaying, pillars that held up the world, she saw him coming; his gold suit of armor glinting and gleaming off his torch with every cautious step he took. The man and his armor looked ridiculous. Gold had no place in the swamps. The swamps were for dark things, like herself, and Quelana decided that if the fool came within striking distance, she would melt that armor right off his body to teach him a lesson.
As he trudged through the swamp, swatting at the overgrown mosquitos and stepping carefully around a pair of cragspiders that were feasting upon a corpse, she realized that the fool wasn't just intending to come near her, but that she herself seemed to be his goal. The eyeslits of his helmet kept moving towards her, returning to his footing, and then back to her as he drew nearer and nearer.
Quelana's heartbeat quickened. She stood and readied her pyromancy beneath the thick layers of her black cloak, keeping her eyes narrowed on the approaching stranger from within the crack of her hood. The golden fool, now only a dozen feet away, halted his approach and stood ankle-deep in the muck staring at her.
Neither of them spoke for a long while, then the sound of laughter rumbled from within the man's helmet and he pulled the golden thing from his head. Quelana squinted, remaining cautious, as he lowered it to his side and shook the chin-length thin strands of dirty-blonde hair from his face. His eyes landed on her, cold and gray, and his lightly-bearded mouth spread into a wide grin; his teeth white, straight, and clean. "Relax, witch. I don't mean to harm you."
Quelana shifted her weight to her backfoot. If the man was calling her 'witch', that meant he knew who she was, and suddenly she was no longer comfortable in his presence, exposed and alone. "What do you want?" She hissed from within her cloak, hoping to sound intimidating.
The golden man fixed those gray eyes upon her and took a step forward. Quelana lifted her arm, letting the cloak there fall to her wrist, and showed him the flames that wrapped her pale flesh and slender fingers, ready to strike; ready to burn. The man stopped, knelt, and stuck his torch in the muck before removing a shotel from a sheath at his back. He held it before him and turned the long, curved, blade of the weapon in a semi-circle, letting the torch flame play and dance off its steel, reflective, surface. He lifted his gaze back to her and offered another toothy grin. "You can burn me, witch, no denying it. But I would survive the first blow and I would be awfully angry about it. Could you hit me with another before I lunged forward and stuck you with my blade here? Maybe, maybe not. Neither of us really wants to find that out though, do we?" He waited for her to respond. When she didn't, he answered for her. "No, we don't. Snuff the flame, witch. I told you I don't mean to harm you... but I most certainly will however. Should it come to that."
"Answer me," Quelana snapped, feeling more uncomfortable with every passing moment. "What do you want, you fool!?"
"An end," the man told her, his face abruptly darkening. "An end... to all of this. This madness. This... wheel of madness."
"What madness other than your own are you speaking of?"
"We've met before, witch, and I know you know that," the man told her. "Think hard on it. You know me."
Quelana's brow furrowed beneath her hood. "I... you tell lies. Not only a fool, but a liar."
"What's my name?" The man insisted. "You know. Go ahead. Think. The first name that comes to your mind. What is it?"
"Lautrec," she said immediatley.
"Yes. That's it. You are correct. You see?"
Quelana shook her head. "What sorcery is this? What..." She stole a glance over her shoulder, growing increasingly paranoid of an attack. She wished she had been in hiding before the man had come. She had been intending to. If only she'd been quicker.
"I'm alone, witch," Lautrec explained. "Relax and clear your head. You're the only other one I know of who understands what I'm about to tell you. I know this, because I've told you before."
"You make no sense!" Quelana snapped. "It's your attempt to confuse me! To distract me! Where are your companions? Sneaking around in the shadows behind me?"
Lautrec laughed. "Witch, if I wanted you dead, you'd be dead by now. I wouldn't have shown you my approach from three hundred feet away. I would have snuck up on you and planted my blade into your throat. You have an incredible mastery of the flames, that much is true. But for a knight like myself? In your tattered robes and your bare feet? You think I couldn't have gotten the drop on you and disposed of you? I could have. I didn't. I do not want to harm you. I won't say that again. Now listen to me. The chosen one is almost ready to be born into the world, and we don't have much time."
"Chosen one..." Quelana echoed and a veil of confusion lifted from her mind. "You mean... my pupil."
Lautrec grinned. "There we are. Hm, should have opened with that. A reminder for next time if, Gods forbid, there is one. Yes, the chosen one is often a pupil of yours. Yet sometimes they are not. Sometimes they murder you. Sometimes, even, they never meet you at all. You are quite a crafty little hider."
"You speak of the Chosen as if he were many instead of one. Why?"
"Because I've learned the truth, witch. That this 'Chosen' one who comes stomping through our world, slaying beasts, ringing bells, filling vessels... if they were truly chosen to be the 'one' who ends it all, then they've failed. Time and time again. They have failed us. Or perhaps... we have failed them."
"How do you know this?"
"Because we are still here," Lautrec explained. He lifted his hands and took a look around the swamps. "Think about it, witch. You have a much, much, higher survival rate than I do during these cycles. The Chosen One is birthed into this world, completes all his or her tasks, sets off deep underground with old Frampt, and then slays Gwyn. Then they either light the flame or they do not. Either way - here we are. We live on. The world... it resets itself and a new chosen comes. You know this, witch. You and I have lived through this cycle for a long, long, time."
Quelana put a hand to her head and stared into the mucky waters near her feet. "This... can not be."
"And yet it is," Lautrec said with a sigh.
"How could you know things such as these?" Quelana demanded. "You are but a mortal man, yet you speak as if you're a God."
"It's taken me a very long time to peer into the abyss and see something more than the abyss itself," Lautrec explained, and Quelana noted he had take another step towards her as he did so. She wanted to burn him, but now... now she also needed to know what he had to say. "I believe it started with an inkling of familiarity on my part. A sentence spoken, perhaps. A movement. An action. A gust of wind that caught my attention. I can't be sure. Somehow, though, and at some point I realized that I've lived this life before. The further I thought on it, and more apparent it became. I haven't just lived it once or twice. I've lied it tens of thousands of times. Perhaps millions. Perhaps... perhaps forever."
Quelana began to see the face of her pupil. She had, for so long, thought of the pupil as one, but the face began to change and distort until there were many faces... too many to see clearly. She knew, then, that the fool was telling the truth. "The Chosen One... you are right. There are many."
"Too many, if you ask me," Lautrec said with a bitter grimace. "When I first realized our eternal imprisonment of time, I believed that the Chosens were trapped here in our world, and this was their punishment. But now I see it a different way. We are the prisoners, witch. You and I and every other inhabitant of this cursed realm. They aren't locked in our world, we're locked in theirs. And, quite frankly, I'm tired of it."
"Cycles... you spoke of cycles."
"Yes. The cycle begins when a chosen comes alive. It ends when they face old Gwyn. Then a new chosen comes. Sometimes they seem... fresh. Like they've never done it all before. But many of them... many of them return! They return with new knowledge and impeccable skills. They slay the monsters of this world with ease, rushing to the finish line, and to what end? Why, to do it all again!" The golden knight had grown increasingly angry as he spoke, and now his face was red and flustered, and his teeth were barred and clenched. "Do you know how many times they've killed me, witch?"
"You deserved to die. You're a bad man," Quelana told him. She was remembering more and more as he spoke, and now she had remember something terrible. "A wicked man! You kill poor Anastacia of Astora! The woman has no tongue, and yet you slay her! Again and again! You murderer!" The flames kissing her fingers grew and pulsed as her anger rose.
Lautrec rolled his eyes. "It always come back to that, doesn't it? Poor, tongueless, Anastacia. My business is my own, witch. You know nothing of it. Do not judge me as if you do. And you think the Chosen Ones are slaying me with some sort of sense of justice about them? Ha! Maybe a handful, but do you know the true reason why I've been slaughtered tens of thousands of times?" He stuck his free hand out and pulled the gauntlet from it. On his finger was a gold ring. "For a trinket." He laughed a bitter laugh. "A ring that aids them on their journey. That's why I die. If I'm wicked for taking the life of a mute firekeeper a few times, what does that make the Chosen? They've killed millions, and they show no signs of slowing down."
"Enough of this you fool!" Quelana hissed. "Why are you here and telling me all this? If this cycle is as endless as you say, there's nothing either you nor I can do about it!"
"Ah, that's where you're wrong, witch! You see, the Chosen One-this Chosen One, at least-is heading to Gwyn right now as we speak. I hid from him. Stayed cloaked in shadow until he passed. Freed myself from my prison. Trekked across Lordran. Slayed many a foe. Took that infernal wooden wheel down here into Blighttown, and now I intend to fetch you and make one last journey before Gwyn breaths his final breath. A journey away from Lordran and to the place where all of this begins. The Undead Asylum. You and I are going to be there when the new Chosen is born. Then we're going to find a way to break this cycle and put an end to this madness. Forever."
Quelana stood thinking on all of this new information. Only one question remained worth asking. "Why me?"
"I am the greatest knight in Lordran," Lautrec said without a hint of humility in his voice. "But even the greatest knight can not hope to accomplish such a monumental task as disrupting the very nature of the world alone. You are Quelana, offspring of the Great Witch Izalith, Daughter of Chaos, and Mother of Pyromancy. If I have you at my side, I need no other."
It was Quelana's turn to laugh. "Your mistake, you golden fool, is that you believe I would ever agree to aiding such a despicable, monstrous, and conceited man as yourself. Away with you. This 'cycle' you're so intent on ending doesn't bother me. I've grown quite fond of it, in truth. Now leave me."
Lautrec stared at her for a moment. A grin crept up his face. "Your mistake, witch, is that you assumed I was asking for your help. And, of course, that you believed me when I said I'd come alone."
A second man leaped from the shadows at her side before Quelana could ignite her pyromancy. His weight crashed into her and sent them both down to the ground. She winced in pain and cried out, trying to twist free of the man's grasp. Flames sparked from her fingertips, but if she sent them any further, she risked catching her own robes on fire. The second man was giggling as he wrestled her arms to her sides and began wrapping her wrists up in a length of rope. "I got her, Lautrec! I got her! Hee-hee! Fire bitch! Got her!"
"Bravo, Patches," Lautrec said dryly, stepping nearer to them. "You overpowered a frail women. And from behind at that. Now bind her quickly before she melts the flesh off your bones."
The bald man giggled. "She can't do that!"
"She can. She will. Work quickly, idiot," Lautrec demanded.
The man's smile faded and he looked down upon Quelana. "You want to burn Patches you fire bitch? Hm?" He giggled. "Got you good, didn't I."
"Argh!" Quelana roared through clenched teeth, trying to wrestle free of his grip. It was no use. She felt her wrists lock together before her as he tightened and cinched the rope. Then he rolled her to her side and wrapped her arms to her body, running the rope around and around until she was bound from her shoulders to her forearms.
"Hee-hee," Patches giggled. "Got her wrapped up tight, Lautrec. She won't burn nothing now."
"Good for you. Bind her feet," Lautrec instructed, setting his shotel back into its sheath now that she was secured. "Hurry. If Gwyn dies before we've left Lordran... all of this was for naught."
"Her feet? How she gonna walk with her feet bound up?" Patches asked, scratching at his bald head.
"She's not, you idiot. You're going to carry her."
"Me? Carry!?" Patches snapped. "That's no fair! I don't want to!"
Lautrec knelt beside the man and fixed those cold, grey, eyes of his on him. "Really? Tell me more about the things you don't want to do, Patches. Go on... tell me of you complaints."
"I... I..." the man was clearly afraid of the golden knight. He swallowed, scratched at his head, and avoided eye contact with Lautrec. "Well, alright then. I'll carry her. Just don't see why is all..."
"Because we're in her domain down her. She could break loose, make a run for it, and we'd have to waste valuable time looking for her. Time that we do not have. So bind her and get her up. If you complain again... well, you know how I am when I get angry."
"Y-yes, Lautrec," Patches stuttered.
Lautrec nodded, stood, and plucked the torch from the ground. He faced the swamps and tucked the golden helm back over his head.
"Let go of me you fool!" Quelana demanded, pulling at her binds. "Release me and I'll only burn him," she said, peering through her cloak at Lautrec.
"Quiet, fire bitch," Patches warned, rolling her onto her back and moving to her legs. "Ooo, barefooted fire bitch? Can't afford no boots, fire bitch? Hee-hee! Tickle tickle!" His fingers tickled at the soles of her feet.
Quelana lifted her foot straight up and felt the heel slam the man's jaw. Patches wailed and fell back to his butt. She flipped to her side, got her knees beneath her, and prepared to rush off into the swamps.
She made it two steps before Lautrec grabbed her by the cloak and pulled her back. "No!" Quelana cried out as the mans arms wrapped around her and pulled her into his body. The cold steel of his armor was hard and sharp as it pressed against her cloak. "Let go! You have no right to do this to me!"
Lautrec stared at her. He reached up and pulled the hood back away from her face. Quelana hated having her hood down. She felt exposed, naked. She grimaced as the cool air of the swamp swept her cheeks, brushed through her hair, danced across her lips. She tried turning away from the golden knight, but he held her still, craning his neck to stare at her. "Well... the rumors are true. You are quite beautiful, witch." He stared a moment longer, Quelana squirming uncomfortably in his arms as his gray eyes flicked across every feature of her face. "Quite beautiful indeed."
Patches returned, muttering curses under his breath, and bound her ankles and knees right there on the spot as Lautrec held her. Then the golden knight released her, and the bald man took hold of her, giggling again as he scooped her up over his shoulder.
"Now let us make haste," Lautrec said, stepping into the swamp, his torch held before him. "We have a world to change."
Quelana's thin frame bounced off the bony shoulder of the man who carried her; her limbs and body bound and useless as she lifted her head and took one last, longing, gaze at her little spot in Blighttown. A spot she now feared she'd never see again.