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Origin Of Double: The One Who Messed Up

By ---double--- - MEMBER - November 16, 2017, 23:25:56



 1. The wheel is spinning...


“Tarant, get ready, it‘s time.”
Sudden shiver took over my body. It was time indeed… But am I ready?
My mind was filling with possible catastrophic scenarios. I shook them away.

Last check.

I checked all my bandages, strips of white cloth covered with inscribed spells, to see if anything is loose. Checked my mask in the mirror. Couldn‘t put it down now. The final ward was up - supposed to protect me from the destructive effects of teleportation.
Mask seemed to be okay, so was the chest plate. All parts of my copper armor were carefully polished to the highest shine. Didn‘t see any typos either, as I checked the edge of the mask, used to read mirrored text. Holding the mechanism I invented in one hand, I stepped in the front of the commission of the oldest Xelor disciples.

A greenhorn-

I was still shaking a little, as I started to whisper the long spell I spent weeks creating, I didn‘t even have to memorize it, It felt like it was burned into my brain for all eternity.The golden wheels started to spin by themselves, as they did hundred of times during my practice.

It was time.

The exam had begun.

I was maybe a little too ambitious with the project I chose, now that I look back at it. I never really doubted my abilities as a time mage. I knew I lack attention, which led me to doublecheck virtually everything I ever did, but I wasn‘t a bad Xelor.
Still chanting, I raised the mechanism. Two wheels on an axis, covered with fine engraving on the outside and powered by even finer clockwork on the inside, my pride and achievement…Clockwork is my specialty.

Well… used to be…

Whisper turned into murmur, then into my normal voice, I was chanting faster and faster and faster and faster! I felt the vibration in my arms, I had to hold the wheel tightly so it won‘t escape me when I finish my spell. Today I‘ll show them I‘m worth.

I‘ll travel to another dimension, and I‘ll come back with a proof.

Yes, I was foolish. I know it now. I should have left the other worlds for gods, shushus and eliatropes… Reality around me blurred and twitched, the axis fixed in the air by two wheels pulled me, but in no direction in particular. It felt like forward, but it could be also up or backwards, I couldn‘t really tell. Never felt something like this before. I never got this far, my spell was one use only and I kept it for the final exam.
I inhaled deeply through my mask, muscles contracting as I tried to keep my grip on the axis. I looked around the hall. I saw other novices waiting for their turn, they were staring at me. Couldn‘t see their expressions, as every and each of them wore a mask like I did, but there was no chatter, everyone was quiet.
The elders were also silent, though I saw one of them taking notes by scribbling with light in the air.
Suddenly, a smell of something burning entered my nostrils.
“Odd” I thought, still chanting, and I didn‘t stop even when a strong pain assaulted my face, chest and knees. Just chanting, like hypnotized, I started to scream those words, as fast as I could, while I felt my face melt and burn under my mask.

Copper mask.

Why did I even chose copper… While great protection while teleporting, this metal started to heat up rapidly as it clashed into the barrier between the words. My mind became hazy, and the chanting turned into screams of pain as I inhaled smoke from my own burning meat.
My fingers let the wheel go and it disappeared from this world in a blinding flash... or so they say, because at that moment I already passed out from pain.
Only later they told to me that Alectrone, the head Xelor of the Temple, was the one who got to me first and tried to rip the mask of, burning his own fingers in the process. He didn‘t hesitate a second and froze it with a Frostbite.

And I was too busy being unconscious.


2. ...and then it stops.

“Stop! You‘ll hurt yourself!” an unknown female screamed at me.
“I just want to know what have you done to me!”
Talking was difficult and I almost couldn‘t recognize my voice. Articulation was hard, I couldn‘t move my lips to form words better.
Somebody grabbed my hands, as I was trying to rip the bandages off my face. It hurt badly, but they were in the way, I couldn‘t see anything through them. On the touch they didn‘t feel like Xelor bandages, they were softer and soaked with something that smelt funny. My eyes felt weird. I couldn‘t really blink under those bandages, but I didn‘t need to. I couldn‘t tell if my eyes were open or closed, which was really odd.
My chest hurt as well, every time I inhaled or exhaled. I couldn‘t decide if I want to go through it or rather stop breathing and choke to death. I chose the second, but my survival instinct couldn‘t handle it and I had to take a deep breath, which caused even more pain.
Someone shoved a needle into my arm without any mercy.
The pain slowly, hesitantly disappeared. I heard screeching noise in the right, so I assumed the woman – whoever it was – sat down beside my bed.

“What happened?” I asked, even though I roughly knew what the answer will be.
“You were badly burned...” noises of pages flipping, she was looking for my name “...Tarant Cogs.”
“Your mask practically melted into your face and so did the rest of your armor into your body. We had a hard time removing it without hurting you even more… In all honesty, I‘m surprised you are still alive.”

I attempted to sit down, and I had some success with that. I felt a pillow sliding under my back. Probably the lady who spoke to me put it in there. I really wished to see her, I was sure she must have a pretty face. In the Temple all the girls wore masks as well, and it almost seemed like they wanted to scare us by choosing the ugliest ones you can imagine.
I slid my palm over my other hand. They removed all of my enchanted bandages, it would seem, only bandages left were the ones that were supposed to help me.
My back wasn‘t really burned even though it was also covered by a copper plate during the exam. That comforted me at least a little.

“Where I am?” I asked.
“In the hospital of Sisters of Ebosia,” she said.
Ebosia... yes that is a fish. I tried to smile, but my facial muscles didn‘t listen to me.
“Sufokia, is it.”
Pause.
“Yes. Una Bridge.”

I figured she nodded at first, and only after she realized that I couldn‘t see it. I reached as far as I could and grabbed the first thing I could, which was, by sheer luck, the hand of the woman herself. It was covered in soft fur. I pulled her closer.

“Please…” I whispered.
“Tell me how bad it is... It‘s pretty important to me…”

She shook my hand down easily. I wasn‘t the strongest person around to begin with, we Xelors don‘t care too much about physical strength, and my wounds made me even weaker.
I tried to touch my face again, just to be stopped by her firm grasp.

“We don‘t know much yet, we need to wait until you heal. The most powerful Eniripsas of this hospital worked hard to help you, but we are not omnipotent.”
“We? You don‘t seem like an Eniripsa to me.”
“I‘m as good as any of them,” she hissed.
“Enough! You need to rest.”
I was sure it wasn‘t about my rest as much as about her hurt.. pride?
“I‘m sorry!” I shouted with my weak voice as the doors slammed.


3. Reality strikes with full force

I couldn‘t say how much time passed since I awakened in this place.
Could be weeks, maybe months... Without light, I couldn‘t tell day from night, even though I was sure they put me to sleep at night. It wouldn‘t make much sense otherwise, would it...
Alectrone visited me several times, he said I‘m invited to redo the exam as soon as I recover.
I was trying to get ready for it, rebuild the spell at least, since my wheel disappeared in another dimension. I kept telling myself I‘ll work on a new one after I‘m finally allowed to take the bandages off my face.
I encountered several Eniripsas during my time there, and none of them wanted to tell me how severe my injuries are, so I stopped asking. I trusted them. They did a great job fixing my knees after all…
The kneepads I was wearing burned them as badly as my face and chest was burned, but after a long time of spellcasting and rehabilitation, I was able to walk again. Eniripsas have some really strong Words.

The one who I met first was an Ecaflip though, a lonely cat in the house of fairies. She was named Friday Steel, but went by Doctor Steel most of the time, and even after our first, kind of hairy, encounter, we became friends.
She was ambitious, eager to became a great healer without abandoning her true god. Where the Enis whispered their spells, and drawn their marks, she used well aimed licks and card magic to make people feel better, and there were fields she was better in than her peers.

It was her who came to me one day, telling I can put down my bandages.

“Seriously??” I gasped.I anticipated this day, and I feared it even more. I didn‘t know what awaits me, even though I tried to figure out how are my eyes through the bandages. (with little success)
They already allowed me to remove the bottom half, so I can eat more easily, and the burned, half melted jaw and lipless mouth I felt under my fingers took away some of my hopes. I knew whatever happens next, I will never be the same, and I cursed my mistake, one mistake to ruin everything..

“Of course, you dummy,” she said.
My heart sunk.
She placed my hand on the back of my head to encourage me.
“Just go for it.”

I started to slowly unwrap the long soft strip from my head, after the months (or so I thought) that it was there. They explained to me it contains a spell, like the usual bandages of mine, but this one was keeping the wounds clean and the balm fresh, so they didn‘t have to take it off and disturb the healing. It was incredibly thin and long, it took a lot of time to get rid of it all.

I waited impatiently to see the light once again, but it took so long...

Then I realized I took off the last piece, and my face was naked once again. I put the bandages on the sheets. My hands began to shake. Heart pounded fast.
I… had to expect it, and I did, but I didn‘t at the same time. Human is a foolish being. How is that saying, hope dies last? Well mine just died.
I slowly raised hands to my face, sliding through the known territories of the mouth and jaw, through the nose, that was almost like the nose of a skull, and finally stopped on the eyes.

Or what was left of them.

I felt eyelids with no eyelashes, one of them, the right, hanged purposelessly over an empty socket, while the left, deformed but working, slid over the remaining eye and barely closed it every time I blinked. But it didn‘t matter. The eye didn‘t work. I was surrounded by the same darkness as when my face was covered with bandages, yet it was different.

Heavy. Fatal. Permanent.

I slowly realized that Friday is holding my face in a firm grip. I felt slight heat on the right side of it.

“Iris isn‘t responding… Can you see the light?”
“No,” I said slowly, holding myself back with all my willpower.
“I cannot see ANYTHING!”

Suddenly I shivered, then...
finally lost it.

I jumped on Friday like an enraged boohemoth, holding her arm, then grabbing her neck.
“I‘m sorry Taran…”
“Did you know?!”
“I didn‘t.. Nobody could. We hoped the eye we managed to save will be working, but couldn‘t tell for sure.”

Paws holding onto my hand, clawing into it. She never used her claws on me, always had them hidden. I let her go and in the same second, I ran towards the window.

And I hung out.

I could hear the people talking, dragoturkey carriages going back and forth on the street, someone laughed, merchants were shouting their “fantastic prices”. Wind was playing with my hair, but my face was numb. All the nerve endings were already gone.
I counted it‘s the fourth floor, probably not enough to end me - and my damned self preservation reflexes would probably send me floating anyway. I started to genuinely hate the fact that I‘m a Xelor.
What‘s the point anyway. I cannot do anything anymore, my specialisation, clockwork mechanisms? You need an accurate eye for that. I could become a battle Xelor, but who would want a blind warrior, not to mention I know practically nothing about fighting.
Everything I was to this point was lost in this one act of reveal.
Before I could do anything, I felt claws on my shoulders and brutal force snatched me from my ponderings.

“You are staying here!” Friday yelled.

Then in a sudden act of affection she licked my face, then again and again... I remember that this was the moment when I broke down and started crying.
And that day was the day when I threw away all of my unfinished research.


4. On the topic of masks

“Just don‘t get lost or robbed or killed, okay?” Friday Steel said, as she took me to the dragoturkey carriage.

It was 4 months and 12 days from my arrival to the Sisters of Ebosia hospital, as I was told, and I felt, more or less, okay. I wanted to do something with my life and I didn‘t want to return to the Temple to feel useless in there. I was also ashamed of my failure, and didn’t want to have to encounter any of my fellow novices, all of which were probably already true disciples of Xelor. And most of all, I didn’t want to be pitied by them.
Friday advised me to go to the Amakna Village, where a friend of her aunt lives, that old Sram was looking for an apprentice, but in which field, that she refused to say. She just giggled and said that I cannot be too picky.

“You are right in that,” I responded and wished I was able to make an angry face to tease her.

The new purpose was set:
Get to the Amakna Village, find Kresh the Sram and help him with whatever he needed the help with.
And so I armed myself with a cane and a support spell from a local feca to heighten my senses (which I memorized and practiced for a long time until I get it right, while said feca encouraged me with „don‘t be silly, you are a Xelor, dammit, do you really think you can make it work?“)
Friday ensured that my bandages were wrapped tightly. I didn‘t plan to take them off until I arrive, because you can never know when you will need to teleport.
My mask was burned and nasty, but still much less nasty than my actual face, so I put it on, after I painted the eyes with black paint. Instead of armor, I used comfortable high boots and a short cape.
The Enis agreed on calling me “The victim of a catastrophic grill party”. I waved to all, and then the carriage moved…

I was so grateful to god Xelor when we finally arrived.

“Amakna Village, sir,” said the driver and I carefully crawled out and clanged the cane on the pavement. No bandits on the way, no accidents too, and the one time the wheel got stuck in the mud, we dealt with it easily.
“Thank you so much!” I said, my voice still weak and muffled. If it could get any better, it probably would already. I guess that‘s just how it will be now…
I slowly turned around, listening to the noises of a new place.

“Well” I thought for myself, “now the hard part.”
A distant conversation. Carriages going around. I ensured with my cane that I‘ll stay on the sidewalk. Woman yelling. A smell of fresh bread.

Bread.

My insides rumbled. I could certainly use something to eat, all of the food I packed was already gone, but I had some kamas. I could also ask the baker about Kresh, they will surely know!
With these thoughts, I slowly moved towards the smell, sliding my hand over the building, cane in the other hand. It didn‘t take long, and noise of the customers added to it. I knew I‘m on the right place.
Just several months ago, I would never consider finding a bakery a great accomplishment, I was all into complicated mechanics and space-time spells, but now I felt so proud, it was almost funny. I couldn‘t stop myself from giggling as I clumsily approached the window while bumping into several people.
“I‘m sorry.. Pardon.. May I? I apologize…”
“Careful with that stick!” someone shouted.
I turned after the voice of baker himself.
“Umm.. Hello?”
„What do you want, friendo?”
“I cannot tell what kinds of pastries you have here, sadly. I‘d like something to eat.” I raised hand with several kamas in it.
The man put a warm package into my hand and took some of the coins.
“May I ask you something?” I said after I bit into the piece of bread. The man continued to serve his customers.
“Yes?” he asked, not paying me much attention.
“I’m looking for Kresh the Sram.”
Pause.
“I’m Kresh - But I didn’t see you here before, who are you and why are you looking for me, ha?”

Rustling paper bags. Falling coins.

“Friday Steel told me you are looking for an apprentice.”
“Friday, eh?”
I nodded.
“Friday should know I don’t need any blind Xelors around here. What you even can do?”
True, that. Is there anything I can do to help this man?
“I don’t know anything about your craft, but I’m willing to learn!” I shouted through the chatter of customers.
“These hands used to do the best clockwork among my peers,” I added quietly, but the Sram heard it anyway.
“We are doing no clockwork here, just bread and cakes! You know what? Come after the closing hour, let me see if you are worth, you little…”

The last word got lost in the chatter, and after that, the old man gave his full attention to his customers again, ignoring me entirely. Worried that I’d get lost, I stayed nearby, sitting on the ground like a beggar and eating the bread I bought.
It went colder and crickets were chirping for at least half an hour already, when the last customer left and I heard steps nearby, the sound of the folding cloth as Kresh sat beside me.

“Still here, eh?”
“I have nowhere to go.”
“Hrm.”
“I cannot do what I studied anymore. At this point, everything is a win.”
I turned to the approximate direction of his face.
“I’m curious… May I?”
With these words I reached hand to his face.
He laughed drily.
“Sure, if you want to know how I look like. I don’t really mind.
”His strong hand grabbed mine and guided it to his face. I felt wrinkles. Skin.
“Wait. Where is your mask?”
“I don’t wear it.”
“Why?”
I didn’t expect this. A Sram without mask?
“Why do you wear mask? You cannot do what you studied for, huh? Why do you hold onto it so badly?” Kresh asked.
I sighed.
“My face looks really, really bad.”
I stopped, thinking about what he said before.
“Does that mean that you cannot do, um, Sram things anymore?”
“I got old, friendo. What’s your name?”
“T-tarant Cogs.”
He laughed again.
“So fitting.”
Then suddenly, before I could do anything about it, his arm sprung forward and he took my mask off.
“May I?” he asked only afterwards, obviously mocking me.
My first reaction was to bury my face in my hands, but he took them off and I knew he is studying me.
“Not so bad, friendo, not so bad.” he said and patted my back so strongly that I almost did a barrel roll.
“I’ll accept you for now, but first gotta see what those hands of yours can do.”

“Can I have my mask back, please?”


5. The Sram way

Kresh really didn’t expect me to slack or flail around like a loose clock hand. He put me in charge of dough first, making me his personal kneader. (And jokingly said he won’t let me close to fire yet, because I clearly want to kill myself)
Then I learned how to decorate cakes and pastries, which was something I almost gave up on at first, but became better and better as the days went on. He let me eat the spoiled ones, but I never spoiled any on purpose, wasn’t brash enough for that...
It was a big day for me when the old Sram finally let me to use the oven, almost like a little holiday, but something on this way of life was still bugging me.
I couldn’t understand what the former master assassin sees on it. Such a mundane thing…
One day I asked him if he could teach me something about fighting with daggers.
“Why to even bother with that,” he answered.
“I’m curious! Also, I cannot really use my magic now, we Xelors are really dependent on our eyesight and I wish to be able to defend myself..”
“Defend from what? It’s just me, you, this barrack and a ton of bread. Or do you fear the dough will come to choke you to death at night, ha?” he laughed as he patted my head.
I could swear he made me five centimeters shorter just by doing that. His strong statue was a mystery for me, nothing sneaky about this old man who refused to wear his mask and baked bread instead of going around and killing people. Or whatever is it that Srams usually do. I would think he was a Sacrier if I had to guess his class.

“I’ll be straightforward with you then. I spent all my life buried in the books in the Xelor temple. After that, over 4 months on a hospital bed. Now I’m baking with you and while I feel useful for once, it’s not really satisfying, you see?”
“Hmmm.”
“HMMMMMM….”
I could easily hear him scratching the shrubbery on his chin.
“Why not.. We have one problem that needs killing in this village, I could teach you some basics so you can join me on the hunt…
”I almost choked. (all by myself)
“Are you serious??!”
“Deadly.”

So the next countless evenings my biggest task was to learn how to turn invisible.

“Come on, you lazy butt!” Kresh shouted at me in the bakery’s backyard as I was using willy against figurines while getting stuck in the ground from time to time and stabbing them in the back.

For this occasion he actually put his mask on and let me examine it closely. It was a quite delicate, smooth skull with a lot of tiny teeth.
For me, I finally got a new mask, just a few days ago. No copper. Pure steel, smooth and cold, and the mask was half Xelor and half Sram in some grotesque combination. Local blacksmith made it and was very satisfied with the result. Well, I liked it too as far as I could tell by examining it with my fingers...
It was probably the mask, or my weird behavior as I was trying to keep the styles and magic of two classes, or maybe both at once, but the inhabitants of Amakna Village started to call me that crippled double guy.
And I slowly got used to be called Double, especially since Kresh seemed to enjoy the name.

“Is there any spell I could memorize?”
“Nah, invisibility, that’s just gut feeling.”
“But I’m not really a Sram.”
“Then why are you learning all this? Do you think Srams grow on trees?”

My head was already spinning from all those wily I did today. The old Sram poked my shoulder.

“Here.” he snuck a little statue in my palm, “Take this. You need to believe the way of our god is the best way. What did Xelor do for you? He never cares about his disciples, that I know.”
I slid finger over the tiny form of the six-armed god, pondering…
“But what is the way of Sram?”
“To hide in the darkness. And to kill. Darkness is your friend now, who needs eyesight when at night, everybody’s swimming in the darkness… Double.”
I never experienced this side of Kresh, until now.
“I cannot even know if I’m in the dark or not,” I murmured, for what I got a slap on the back, so rather, I focused on the statuette.
Sram way hmm.. I tucked the statuette under my short cape and grabbed the daggers again, preparing for another wily and stab. I felt slight heat where the statue was.
“Sram give me power,” I whispered almost soundlessly as I melted into my own shadow once again to appear behind the dummy, kicking it, as I did a hundred of times before.

Let’s do this!

Suddenly I felt cold, odd, unfeeling.

“You did it, friendo!” Kresh shouted at me from behind.
“W-wait what?” I asked and the feeling disappeared in an instant.
“You became invisible,” he laughed.
“Probably not so cool when you cannot see it, but I saw.
”Then I noticed something odd. I could feel Kresh is close to me, like some sixth sense, was it the heat? Or the life? I sensed a small form somewhere nearby, fast, sneaky. I heard the sound of tiny legs tapping on the ground, and I threw a knife in it’s direction. An ear-tearing rat squeak disturbed the night.
I explained it to Kresh.
“Is this… is it what all Srams can do?”
“It is. We are drawn to the life force of all things. I don’t think you can really use that force like a Sram could, but I dare to say you are ready. Tomorrow we hunt.
”And he laughed.
I’m sure you can understand I had trouble sleeping that night. I was hugging my dagger while having erratic dreams about murderous dough that flooded the village and I had to destroy it with fire, but the fire itself was consuming me as well...
Next day, after we finished in the bakery, he put his mask on and I followed his form with my newly found sense, holding the statuette of god Sram in one hand, and a dagger in the other, so hyped that I didn’t even care about the way we were going, and I tripped a few times too. Kresh thought it was pretty funny, laughing silently as he slid through the night in a cat-like fashion, weird for his huge body.

“Who are we hunting?” I asked.
“Bloodthirsty, aren’t you,” he answered, stopping for a moment.
“Not who, but what.”
“A boohemoth got into this place somehow. They are supposed to stay in the Snowbound Snowbound Village, but one of them got here and it’s threatening the whole neighborhood.”
Suddenly, he stopped. Me too. I was trying to find out what’s wrong, but the only two I was sensing was Kresh and myself.
I heard some odd noises, not so far away.
And then… something jumped on me before I could even react, strong, feral and cold.
My senses failed me, this creature had nothing in common with the lifeforms I knew. A boowolf of ice.
Lying on my back, I felt two rows of sharp teeth going straight for my throat, I couldn’t do anything, didn’t even know where to stab it with the dagger. It all happened in a second.
I panicked, let the dagger slid from my fingers and casted a huge line of fire instead, a flaming time rift, something I still remembered from the Temple. It burned me a little too, as line of fire usually does, and the smell of a burning flesh entered my nostrils.The beast howled and fell on me, covering my mask and clothes in half-boiled blood oozing from the hole in it’s head.

“I’m too old for this” I heard from above, as the Sram pulled the huge animal covering me.
“And I’m completely useless,” I added.
I used the rest of my strength to help and push the Boohemoth away and passed out.


6. The traveling Eliotrope

After this incident I didn’t return to the fight training again, still discouraged from what happened. Instead of using what I learned from Kresh, I jumped to my old habits, and even though he kept repeating that I killed the beast and that is what matters, I felt so… hopeless.
I returned to the work in the bakery without any joy, days flew one past the other, and I felt trapped in this place by my own condition.The sram sense never left me, as if it was mocking me. I became stuck between two.
It was only few days after this that a young boy visited our bakery. Or at least his voice seemed to belong to a young boy, because his form was really strange. It appeared to be in several places at once but nowhere in particular, and I had to ignore my senses and just hold his order in the front of me for him to come and get it.
Kresh was in the back finishing a batch of sweet bread with raisins.
The boy visibly hesitated.

“I’m sorry my friend” I said in an almost Kresh-like fashion.
“I cannot see you. You will have to come to me and take it.”
“What happened?” he asked, surprised.

Several coins appeared in my hand, I counted them with my thumb -a move that I did so many time before- and then let go of the package he was already pulling from my hand.

“It was an accident. Long story.”
I wasn’t in the best mood to talk about that, but he wouldn’t let go so easily.
“Please tell me anyway.”

I sighed. It seemed that it would be the best to just tell him the shortest version so he leaves me alone, and so I did.
He was quiet.For some time.Then finally spoke.

“When did this happen?” he asked and that threw me off.
“...it must be around 6 months now,” I said, hesitating.
“Damn.”
“Wait, what?”
“While you were traveling, I was traveling too, and the resultant energy was the thing that made it go wrong.”
He paused.
“I’m sorry… Will you ever forgive me?”
“Wait wait wait, slow down. Traveling how? I know the copper was the reason it all went wrong, I didn’t even take off..”

I sat down behind the counter, trying to figure it out, when I heard an odd noise and then smelled a smell too familiar for my liking.When he spoke again, I could hear it in his voice that he’s in pain.

“I’m Dingane the Eliatrope, and I’m the one who messed you up. You are blind... ”he stopped, breathing heavily, “...because of what I did.”

Suddenly the door opened and Kresh entered as I could guess by his huge life-form. According to the noise he did afterwards, he almost dropped his breads after seeing the Eliatrope kid.

“I’ll return,” Dingane said, and his ever-present silhouette disappeared.
“What the heck. Did I just saw a kid with molten metal in his eyes that disappeared through the portal as soon as I came?”
I scratched my head.
“I know he was here. Not sure about the molten metal though.”

That thought made me uneasy. I hoped I’ll meet him again and force him to explain it.
Well, he appeared in my room few days after.

“What do you think you are doing?” I shouted, surprised.
“Can I help you in any way?”
“I don’t think so,” I frowned.
“What was that thing with molten metal, for the sake of Xelor and Sram?”
“I’m… punishing myself for what I did. I regenerate fast, cannot really do any harm to myself, just the pain..”
I leaned closer.
“Please, stop it. I don’t want anyone to suffer because of me.”
“Then I will find a way how to help.”
I shrugged, as he left once again.

Such a weirdo, I thought.
I didn’t see Dingane for several days and I almost hoped I never will, when he appeared again and took my hand, sliding something into my palm.
“W-what is this?”
I already noticed what it was though, and he saw that I did.
“You know count Harebrough right?” he asked.
“I do indeed.”
“He was looking for a dofus, so I took a rock, put a bit of wakfu on it and told him it was a dofus and I asked for a spare of his mechanic eyes. And now i can’t go to Frigost again or he will kill me.”
Was he serious? He sounded dead serious as he said that, and the eye I was holding in my hand, with it’s complexity and shape, could come from only one place… Or it was a falsificate.
“I… thank you Dingane,”
I said, unsure of what to do.
“You helped me now, can you please stop hurting yourself?” I added.
But he was gone before I could finish.

I asked Kresh to have two free days, so I can investigate the eye I got in my hand.
“I see it’s pretty important for you, friendo, so be it,” he said, and I closed myself it my room, totally submerged in my research.
It appeared that the eye is a very complex mechanism that can be connected to the optic nerve itself, and this fact was so tempting and fascinating at the same time.
“I need to get Doctor Steel, she’ll know exactly what to do,” I thought, but then I realized that even if I was able to call her immediately, she would never be able to come in two, well, it was just one day left now…
I knew I could just ask for some free time when she would be already here, but the temptation to overcome myself and do something crazy was so strong!
I was holding the eye in my hands, and my head was swarming with ideas. They scared me, those ideas, especially one of them. If I had to realize it…

Screw it.

Nothing to lose, I can only gain from this.
I stuffed myself with painkillers and added some local anesthetics, then poured a bottle of spiritus into my one lasting eye and screamed with pain. I heard steps in the front of my room, but I locked myself in. Kresh knocked on the door loudly.
“Are you okay in there?!” he shouted.
“I am! Just experimenting,” I shouted back, and then stabbed a thin knife into my eyeball.

I did a good job with numbing myself, because after the burning pain from the alcohol I poured in for desinfection, I didn’t feel anything anymore.
I was slowly becoming more comfortable with what I was doing, and I managed to remove my eyeball from the socket after blundering blindly for some time, but then, in some sort of delayed self-defense mechanism, my hands started shaking and I cut the nerve, my hands bloody from this insane operation in which I was the doctor and patient at the same time, and my mind was getting hazy. My ears started to ring and my hands became cold and hardly functional.
I grabbed the mechanical eye and I felt it’s metallic probe move by itself as my blood drenched hands touched it, to twist like a tapeworm looking for a host, and it started to emit barely noticeable vibrations…

Or were that just my hands that were shaking so badly?

I hunched over the table, unable to stay upright anymore. I felt something pull the optic nerve I freed from under the nonfunctional eyeball, and then strong electric impulse shook my head and I passed out once again…

I woke up in my own bed, maskless, exactly how I passed out during my attempt.
“Stupid, stupid, stupid,” I hissed on myself in my mind, “What did you think will happen? You are not a professional, you are just an one cocky person who think they know everything the best. And now you lost your only chance because of it.”
Except…I felt something pulling on my left eye. I tried to blink, but it seemed I damaged my eyelid when I was doing that amateur chirurgy on my own face. The feeling of pull persisted though, and soon I realized there is one more sensation. Something I didn’t feel for months. I raised hand to my left eye socket to figure out what’s happening, and I stumbled upon a metal wire that was sinking into it. I followed the other side of the wire, and very soon I found a familiar shape.

It was the eye of Count Harebourgh.


7. Time’s up

Later that day Kresh came into the room with some tea and pastries.
“You, always causing trouble for yourself. I would almost think you have a death wish or something.”
He sounded angry, or rather, annoyed, but worried at the same time.
“Maybe I do,” I said bitterly.
“Look at me Kresh. Just look, because I cannot do it by myself.”
“Do I look happy? Do I look like someone who enjoys the life? I had future, damnit! And everything is screwed now, and I’m left with baking bread in this god damned bakery.”

I hated what happened to me and I hated my destroyed body, I hated the fact I wasn’t able to speak properly and the fact I couldn’t see, I hated the pains in chest I had every goddamn day and in some sense, right now, I hated Kresh too.

“If ya don’t like it here, you should just leave.”
“Maybe..”I sighed. He always spoke the truth, even if it wasn’t comfortable for anyone involved.“But no idea where I’d go.”
“Anywhere else but here.”
He put the cup of tea to my mouth and forced me to drink. It was a messy process as usual. I had to wipe my mouth with a towel after I finished, but I felt a little better.
I twisted the mechanical eye for the last time before giving up on it, and my head exploded with light.
“Oh crap.. Oooooh crap. It’s… working..”
Tiredness fell from me all at once.
“W-wowzers”
It was too intense. Blurry shapes, nothing concrete, just the color fields and the light…. so much light.
“What is working?” asked the big blurry stain that was actually Kresh, unsure what to think about my sudden mood swing.
I held the eye against him like some kind of probe.
“The Harebourgh’s eye… The thing that that Eliatrope oddball left here.”
I was trying to tune it so my newly found vision would be less blurry, but only thing I managed was to make it blurrier, so I rather stopped before I could spoil it entirely.
“Kresh, please” I rasped, “where is my mask?”
I was afraid that keeping it open like this could damage the connection that had established.

But...

How?

The Harebourgh eye was probably partially automated to assist with the connection. And after I hunched over the table, it did everything that was necessary…Thank Xelor and Sram, it was probably the true eye of Harebourgh.

“I need it to fixate this eye so it won’t stop working for me.”
“I see that’s the only thing that matters for you, so be it.”

He seemed… disappointed?
The old Sram gave me the mask, and then his huge blurry body left the room without a word and I was alone, with heavy ideas and doubts about practically everything.

I woke up early, even earlier than Kresh usually did to prepare the bakery for the next day.
I was a little dizzy from the lack of sleep as I sat on my bed and turned the eye on.
I slept with the mask this night, as I would every next night of every day that will come. I couldn't afford to damage the eye, and it was impossible to unplug it without doing so.I could see the rough silhouettes of the furniture in the room and the light coming from the window, the colors of things I thought I’ll never see again. It was freeing, but frustrating at the same time. What I saw was flat with no depth, as I could expect from having just one eye, and it was almost like an abstract painting in a fog. I tried to force the eye to focus, but with a little success.The eye was either damaged, or it didn’t connect well (which would be entirely my fault) ot it simply wasn’t compatible with me.
I stood up, and my surroundings shook. It made me almost nauseous. Half of a year without any visual input, I should expect that. Somewhere above me, I sensed a big lifeform, it got more accurate when I turned the eye off for a moment. Yes, it was Kresh, still asleep.I sighed.

“There is no place for me here anymore,” I said quietly, just for myself. I wasn’t happy here, and I brought Kresh nothing but problems.
He himself told me that I should rather go away...
I dressed up into the clothes I came here in. Only now I saw colors of the clothing, light gray short cape that reached only to my waist, darker gray boots with flashy white laces. Gray waistcoat. Everything gray…
A little symbolic.
Under the clothing I put the Sram overall, as usually decorated with a skeleton. I used it before, and it was enchanted in a similar manner as my Xelor bandages. Teleporting with this would bring me insufferable headache, but I wasn’t in the state to wrap the bandages around me and be sure there is no spot left out. I still wrapped some around my legs, just to be sure.
My eye fell on two wodent themed hats I won in a contest.
Now I saw that one is dark blue with white details, and the other is creamy white with brown. Extremely rare, they said.
I frowned. The hats reminded me of my own duality, as they sat there stacked one on the other.
I reached and grabbed both, feeling the soft fabric under my fingers. I felt the seam, and followed it with my fingertip. It split the hat in two mirrored halves.

And I took a pair of scissors.

And I cut the hat in half, then the second one, I wasn’t even sure why. I had this odd apocalyptic feeling of an incoming end, I would be able to destroy the whole room if I had enough time.
Looking at the room in the front of me, as my limited sight was useless in this, I clumsily sew the two halves of two different hats together and put them on my own head.
Time to go.
I stopped in the kitchen to leave a note on the table, even though I couldn’t ensure it’s readable, but I knew the Sram will understand.
I took my white cane - I still needed it, despite of my own frustration - and a small bag full of coins, my only personal possession, and I left the bakery to never return.


8. Granite, fire and blood

I decided I trust myself enough to buy a mount instead of using a carriage again. I had no idea where I’m going anyway, and my own mount would let me move more freely, even though I would have to rely on it’s instincts more than my impaired vision.
I picked a drheller that looked like it was there for all eternity, calm animal with thick, long, greenish black fur, and payed half of the kamas I owned for it.

“Good pick, sir,” the merchant said and handed me the reins.

Didn’t take long and I left the Amakna Village, not even sure where I was going.
Running through the golden fields of Amakna, I finally felt free, and I knew this is the life I wished for.
I didn’t want to be closed somewhere, I wanted to discover more!
I genuinely enjoyed the view, even though I saw only rough shapes, and I was glad that the drheller knew where to go. I suspected it’s vision was as bad as mine, but it’s sense of touch and smell was far more superior.
I believe I crossed the whole nation of Amakna in my travels.
I stopped on several places and met a lot of nice people, but nothing interested me in those peaceful farmers, not enough for me to stay anywhere.
I boarded a boat with my drheller companion, and headed to Brakmar, the nation of mines.

Somewhere near Gobball Boulevard, when I was resting and eating dried meat with a piece of bread, Dingane appeared again. I was hidden from the curious passersby in a dark corner behind a trash can, because I had to partially take off my mask to be able to eat. I ate clumsily, trying to keep the food in my mouth using one hand and chewing slowly, when I saw a flash of an opening portal.
I hid my face under the mask again, so he won’t see my burned mouth, and packed the rest of the food back into the bag, still startled.

“W-what are you doing here?” I asked.

First time I saw something of him, well, something else than the distorted form I was sensing every time he appeared nearby.

“Just.. checking on you. How is the eye?”
“It doesn’t work too well, but better than nothing. I can see shapes, colors and light, but the detail is pretty bad.”

I decided to be as straightforward as possible.

“Hmm…” he started.

Then I realized that something was off.
I reached and grabbed Dingane’s face without asking, I ceased to use such formalities after all that time I spent with Kresh, and slid my finger all over it. I stumbled upon a stone that was shoved into Dingane’s own eye socket, bleeding constantly as the eye tried to regenerate, but the rock was preventing it.

“Damnit, Dingane, why are you doing this??”
“Because you are still blind.”
“I got better- and thanks to you.”
“You are forgetting that it was me who caused it in the first place.”
“I don’t want to see you suffer.”

Even though this guy appeared to be delusional in his conviction that he caused my accident, knowing that he spends his free time pouring molten copper into his eyes and sticking stones into them made me quite uncomfortable.

“I don’t want to see you suffer either, yet you still are,” he opposed.
“I’m quite fine,” I said, and to illustrate it I stood up, leaning against my cane, and made an unidentifiable hand gesture.

Dingane sighed.

“Can you help me then?” he asked.
With?”
“To remove the stone.”

Finally.

“Are we going to do it here?”
“Yes. I just need you to pull it off, it’s hard for me because it’s my own eye.”

I could relate, the same thing happened to me during my self-imposed operation.I took my glove off, grabbed the stone and pulled. Pained scream filled the corner I was originally hiding in.
As fast as possible, i finished the procedure, and I was holding the stone in one hand and Dingane’s head in the other, when I heard steps and a sharp voice saying-

“Leave him alone!”

A silhouette appeared in my field of vision, and from what happened next it had to be the an officier of Gobball Boulevard’s Police.
Dingane jumped into a portal as soon as the man spoke, but I couldn’t disappear so easily as him, and before I could do anything, I was grabbed by the man, it was an Iop with flaming orange hair, and that moment I realized I cannot teleport away. He stabilized me, so I ceased to resist and let him take me away.

Next few days I spent in the Brakmar Garrison, and nobody believed my tales about an Eliatrope with inclinations to self-harm.

“Name?”
“Double.”

Scribbles. Sounds of a chair, suffering from the weight of the corpulent officer.

“Class?”
“Xelor and Sram.”
“Both? Do you think you are interesting, or what?”

It was a pretty dim room. In this lighting I had a serious problem to see anything at all. I could sense the officer's form, but I wasn’t facing him, I was a little afraid to do it. My hands were tied and I was starting to feel uncomfortable.

“Look at me when I talk to you, child-abusing fiend,” he snarled.
“I’m sorry, officer,” I tried to be as polite as possible,
“I’m visually impaired, I cannot see you.”
“Visually.. impaired..” He chewed the words with disgust, like a piece of rotten meat.
“We had a lot of the disabled ones in here, ad they all became perfectly healthy after our prison medic got to them. In fact, so healthy, there was no reason they couldn’t commit what they were charged for.”

He asked me for more personal information, and then I was taken away to my cell.I was slowly getting more and more worried, and I somewhat hoped that Dingane will appear in my cell and take me with him, but the Eliatrope never came.
Who came, though, was the prison medic, and he took me into his realm to, as he said, prove that I’m not pretending my disability to get away with what I did.

We walked through a narrow corridor that was dark despite the fact it appeared to be painted with white paint. I had hands tied behind my back once again, and he was holding me by the knot that tied them together, and in this configuration we entered his office.
He sat me on a stiff bed, not bothering to untie my hands. Maybe safety reasons?
He stretched his hand to my mask and I knew exactly what he is about to do.

“Please! ... don’t… I-i-i... cannot...”

I twitched, but he didn’t care. Does being a prison medic qualify you to be a sadist as well?
My vision shifted as he took the mask off, and I felt tension as the connection of Count Harebourgh’s eye stretched to it’s maximum. I felt the heat of his face as he examined my own one closely.

“Hmm…”

I could imagine what does he see, I examined my face many times while pondering about what’s left of me… Probably pink, structureless, skull-like thing, smooth and shiny as the burns healed over the time. The mouth without lips, unable to hold saliva inside effectively, frozen in a permanent toothy grin. Nose almost missing, yet still with separated nostrils that trembled as he approached me. Empty eyes covered by useless, deformed eyelids. Blonde hair, I knew it was pretty dirty already, falling down as if in a futile attempt to cover it all.
He was unfazed.

He reached hand...

And he cut the connection I had with the eye of Harebourgh.

“This stays here,” he said as he put the mask aside.


9. The Black Black Club

It was the last straw that broke me. Back in the darkness, I spent my time curled in the cell, rocking back and forth like a lunatic. I wasn’t alone in here, but I didn’t care much about the other “residents”.
Or at least not at first.
Later, when I didn’t drown myself in the self pity anymore, I found out they are quite… interesting to talk to.
One of them, a Panda, was a member of Brakmar criminal syndicate called the Black Black Club, and unsurprisingly, he wasn’t here for anything else but for getting drunk in public and making some mess in the process. He claimed that his boss’ second in command, well-known Mr. Bad, the face of the syndicate, will come to get him out really soon.

“Does he have such power to just come and take you out?” I asked, sipping water from a big enameled mug.
“He’s a great talker, and he cares about us.”

I started to feel nervous and my cheeks got uncomfortably hot, so I splashed some water on my face.I wasn’t sure what they, the Black Black Club, actually did, only info I had from the villagers was that they are strong and they kill people for fun.
I came into conclusion that the worst thing that could ever happen to me is death at this point.

“Do you think… I could join your club?”

I guessed he was looking at me and estimating my value, then he just laughed, like I said some really funny anecdote.

“You? Join the Club?”He laughed again, and the other prisoners in the cell murmured something between themselves.
“I guess I know what you think,” I said, cursing my muffled, weak voice.

I couldn’t convince him by talking, I knew that. I put aside the cup of water, focused on the form I was sensing in the front of me, and willy behind him without even standing up, froze the fabric of the prisoner clothes on his back with clock and leaned close to his ear.

“I want to learn,” I whispered before his fist hit my face and I fell on the ground, while the prisoners laughed ad my futile attempt to “assault” the Panda.

I thought I lost my chance, but oddly enough, when Mr Bad came, I was allowed to take my personal possessions and depart with the two.I grabbed my mask with relief and satisfaction, silently hoping It’s not too late, and I’ll be able to reconnect back to it…
It didn’t even work too well to begin with, but I needed to see light again, it was the only thing still giving me hope.
The moment we got to the Headquarters of Black Black Club in Scara Pass, I sat down and shoved the steel cable of Harebourgh’s eye down my eye socket in desperate hope the automatic will kick in once again and it will miraculously work.

Well... something definitely happened…I felt the electricity zap my brain, but it was much weaker than before. I shivered.

“What are you doing there?” asked the Panda from behind.
“Nothing important,” I murmured, putting my mask back on.

I was really worried when I reached my hand to the eye to turn it on. Light flooded my head once again, and I was waiting with anticipation for it to start working again.

“Creepy” he said. I could hear him drinking from some sort of barrel, according to the echoes of it, then he put it down and burped.
I waited and waited.. but the shapes and colors never returned. Only thing I could recognize was the light and the dark. I was disconnected for too long…I turned the eye off and begun to sob quietly, doing my best to keep it for myself.

I didn’t have much time to ponder. I had to work on my skills to be a valuable member of the Black Black Club. I trained hard and some evenings I went to the streets to test myself by murdering a random person, in which I succeeded maybe three times, but my hands were shaking even days after that.
Mr Bad said that’s the way of the Club, and he helped me personally with the first, but after that I was left for myself.
It took me a long time until I realized that no matter how hard I tried, I will never be a real part of the Black Black Club.
No matter what I did...
I became almost on par with the others, even that my eye was only a fancy light detector now, but I stayed an outsider anyway.
Hustler, the leader of the Club, had his men and there was no place for me in his team.
Now, that I finally found something I loved to do…
Yes, it might sound harsh, to claim that I grew to love fighting and killing people, but...

No buts.

No justifications.

All that stuff I went through, it probably messed up my mind. Or, in reverse, did it free my mind? I finally knew who I was supposed to be, and I had the tools to realize it.
No, I probably wasn't a good person. It was time to stop pretending I'm one.
And I decided to leave the Club in search for a place I could call home.


10. The Justice Himself

I spent some time in the Brakmar army, but the time was so short I cannot even remember anything from it.
I became obsessed with history while in there and spent every bit of my free time in the library trying to find out more about it. I had to ask people for help, but it didn’t discourage me at all, and sometimes I found someone who had something to say to the matter.
One day I met here Lord Varuru Vi Britannia, a sram so old that he remembered the Bonta crisis, which was something I found absolutely astonishing.
We talked a lot and became really close. He had an odd way of speech, every word of his sounded like a title of a chapter in an ancient book of wisdom.

“Lord Varuru Vi Britannia Of The Holy Empire Of Sufokia 1st Of His Name 4th In Line To The Throne Commander Of The 6th Legion Keeper Of The Ancient Flame Seeker Of Truth And Purger Of Filth Is Who I Am”

I was so fascinated with this old Sram, that I decided to leave the army and follow him to Sufokia to join his Order of The Shushu. While Varuru was the one who created it, it was ran by a woman called the Apple Juice at the moment.
Liking the history of any kind, I asked Varuru to bring back the old ritual of Shushu initiation, long forgotten.
It was basically: Defeat Varuru and we will accept you. I liked the sound of that.

“But I’m So Rusty” opposed Varuru, who didn’t fight for an eternity.
“And I’m really bad,” I said and the duel begun.

I decided that I’ll go with a full Xelor style, since I was fighting a Sram, but at the end I managed to win and I finally felt like I belong somewhere...
It was a nice time, until Apple Juice decided to send away all young members and purge the Order, I was not even sure why…
I was offered to come back, but somewhat… didn’t feel like…

I was tired.


11. The Unidentified

It had to be years, but my mind is so hazy I can barely remember…
I returned to Brakmar, because the nation of fire and ores was the closest to home I ever had. I didn’t care about myself, didn’t even look for a job, just sat on the streets, slept in the empty lofts, I was tired of life. I hoped I’ll die, yet I was too afraid to kill myself.

I didn’t care about anything anymore.

Some days I spent walking in the streets, slowly, tapping my cane on the pavement and sneakily watching the shapes of people, their life forces, and imagining I’d kill them all to somehow make myself better...
I sat on the border of the sidewalk, holding the cane in the front of me. There was a café nearby, I heard people cheering, teaspoons stirring in the mugs, and strangely, a guitar.
Someone was playing a song I almost forgot I knew, and the memory suddenly flashed in the front of my blind eyes.
Me, my father, and a radio.

“This one is great!“ he said and hummed the melody alongside the singer...

I moved towards the café, and immersed in the music, I didn’t realize that I’m crossing a busy street.
Someone kicked me from behind and then jumped on me, I dropped my cane and only then heard how it broke under the carriage that would hit me if it wasn’t for the man who pushed me away in a brutal, but effective manner.
My hand slid over his face by accident, I could feel he wore a wooden mask, and his limbs were strangely thin for the strength that I just witnessed.
“Be careful where you are going,” he growled and stood up, pulling me with him to make me stand too. He was holding my clothes on the back of my neck, like I was a kitten.
His voice was strange, reminded me of my own in some sense, as it was quiet, almost a whisper, but unlike mine, it was packed with power.

“I’m sorry.. I got interested in the music.”
“Wanted to listen to our Nick Wilde, hmm,” he said and turned me around, presumably to look in my face.
“You don’t look too good, honestly,” he added, then grabbed me by my arm and dragged me with him so I won’t fall under any more carriages, or so I guessed, since he didn’t say anything more.
“Mauquai, what did you find?” someone laughed.

I raised hand.

“Hello, I’m Double.”

Someone gave me a cup of cofee, and I drank it awkwardly, enjoying every bit of cream that came with it.
It was Unidentified, spending some time off in this lazy café before they would return back to the duels and training, but that I would find out only later.
And yes, only later I would join them on a trial period and get to know them all, resume my own training and spend days in duels, getting better and finally feeling like I had a family to live for.
For now, I sipped the coffee and listened to the guitar, resonating under the virtuous fingers of the Ecaflip.
“So now a little bit of improvisation,” said Nick Wilde and started a long, complicated riff that sounded like as if heaven and hell crashed into each other.

The end.



 
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