``You should really consider attempting to pick purses of more inebriated patrons.`` his tone was exactly what one would expect when they saw him: gentle, wise, nuanced. He seemed to be a lot older than his figure gave out and even though that is to be expected from those who don the robes of the casters allowed into the ranks of the faithful. He had no walking cane, no priestly staff, no discernable weapon. Without a staff, he wore the ranking sigil of his patron deity around his neck. The sigil itself was not made out of gold or silver or lavishly adorned with numerous gems and jewels. Instead, it was smaller and made entirely out of glass. And as odd as the chosen material was, even more interesting was the incredible detail of craftsmanship. As his hand tightly gripped my wrist, I could do nothing but remain frozen, with my eyes fixed on his sigil.
Like most of such stories, this too starts in a Tavern. Well, truth be told, this chapter does anyway. I could also say that it starts with a recurring blurry dream I had had many nights in a row. It involved rain, lightning, blood and a voice thanking me. The only clear detail of the dream is my response after which the dream ends.
He had entered the tavern and moved like a man exhausted from walking. Slow steps that dragged his body along. He ate a moderate meal and drank two mugs of ale. Most men would be sleeping while standing after such a menu. Not him.
I crept behind him and reached for his money purse. I had done it dozens of times before on more sober and cautious victims. I reached out with a steady hand and in an instant he had seized it. This was the first time I had been caught since my training as a Thief had ended. This wanderer… had caught me.
``Unhand me if you value your life, Priest!`` I hissed a whisper under my breath. A howling fear roared at the gates of my heart and my mind, trying to overcome me. This was not the time. The slightest hesitation, the slightest tremble in my voice, any acceleration in my pulse, any of these would show this man that I was terrified. And that would be my doom ``My dagger has fell more worthy of an opponent, it would be a shame to stain its blade and your robes with the blood of a clergy man.``
``Heh, you`ve a sharp tongue, too bad your wits are dull. I wonder which of the two the blade of your dagger resembles.`` he spoke, neither softly nor loudly. His hood covered most of his face but his chin, his mouth and especially the almost taunting arrogant smile fixed on the latter were visible.
``Wouldn`t the dull wit be suited more for a tired old priest that would challenge one such as I, especially since my blade is sharper than my tongue and it`s practically screaming to cut. Should I quench its thirst with your blood? How badly do you want to die, old man?``
``So without any hesitation or remorse you`ll strike down an unarmed old man, a herald of the gods nonetheless?``
``I will if he doesn`t shut up. And I`ll enjoy it too!``
``As threatening as that may sound… I`ll stick to my opinion that your all bark and no bite.`` he said and released my wrist from his grip. For a moment we both stood there, looking at each other. ``Well? Aren`t you going to run away?``
``No.`` I calmly answered.
``Have a shot at me?``
``Good.`` he said and smiled again, this time a bit more friendly. ``Have a seat, I `ll get some food for us.``
``Us?`` I said while pulling up a chair ``You just ate!``
``Mael, trust me I can eat for three people and still have room for desert.`` he said and smiled.
``You… you know my name.``
``I know a lot more than your name, Mael. I know YOU.``
``You`re not a regular old Human, are you?`` I asked and moved my hands under the table. They were white and cold and slightly shaking. This wanderer… was very creepy.
``Mael, you should know very well what I am because I am exactly what you are as well.`` he spoke and through the darkness of his hood, his eyes seemed to flare red for a moment.``
A long moment of silence slowly crawled by. Plates of food were brought for us along with drinks.
``Have you come for me? Have you come to take me back?`` I asked, looking down at my food. It smelled heavenly.
``Isn`t that why you ran away? To see if somebody will come for you?`` he simply spoke between mouthfuls of roasted piglet and potato salad. I had no reply to this, so much time had passed, so many events had occurred, I no longer knew the true answer to that question.
``I`m not going back with you.`` was my reply.
``Of course you`re not. I`m not here for that… I`m here for something else. And by the time I am done talking, you`ll wish I was here to take you back. You have spent the last three years of your life, running away, haunted and hunted by your memories, evading those of your own kind. You saw life as a jungle and small villages, towns and taverns as your only source of survival. You always took what you needed and then moved on. But Mael, while this was ensuring survival at a minimal, I assure it has stumped your growth. I say this because I can see a part of your destiny`s aura. However… this night, this hour is a crossroads for you. I am here because I am the one meant to give you your choices.`` he told me and then sighed.
``A choice? Destiny? Do you actually think I believe in dumb abstracts like that?``
``Yes, Mael, I`m sure of it.``
``Damn it! Can`t you just not call one of my bluffs?``
``Not this time.`` he replied and took off his sigil ``This is your first choice: honing your skills to the maximum. You take this Sigil and after a 40 day and 40 night journey you shall find the cathedral. Inside, people will be waiting for you.`` he then reached into his inner robes and pulled out a quite large bag of what seemed to contain gold coins ``This is your second choice: remain a wanderer. There is enough gold there to allow you travel further East. This sum will also last you for 40 days and 40 nights.`` and finally, he reached into his sleeves and drew out two very beautifully crafted daggers. Their blades gleamed in the lighting. ``This is your third choice: altruism. Outside this tavern there is a young girl who is an epitome of innocence. However, tonight that will all change. A man is following her and his thoughts are all but innocent. He has done this to many other girls he found. Take the daggers, run, wait for him to make his move and then kill him and thus, helping somebody else for the first time in your whole life.``
As soon as he finished talking I grabbed the bag of gold and weighted it with my hand.
``40 days and nights, you say? That`s not that bad. How about you take your sigil and those nice daggers back and you go kill the stalker. You`re the one who probably fixed this whole thing up anyway.``
``Oh, I won`t interfere with the girl. I don`t care if she lives or dies, in the end, it won`t make much of a difference. However, if you do plan to take the gold, might I suggest buying a very heavy and water proof travelling cloak? It`s going to start raining in a few minutes… and it`s not going to stop very soon.``
``Oh yes, worst lightning storm in over 70 years.``
I never had a déjà vu before. I had heard about them before but never gave it too much thought. I had heard that some déjà vus are so intense that they act like a voice in the back of your head and that you`re overtaken with an unreal feeling that what your doing is exactly what you should be doing. That`s what I felt anyway when I put down the gold and grabbed the daggers. The wanderer was as surprised as I was about this and tried to run after me. A pure white bolt of lightning made the black night sky seem like dark marble breaking into pieces. The blanket of rain that followed furthered the feeling. The large drops were horribly loud as the smashed against the ground, the trees, the tavern`s roof and the roofs of all the nearby houses. My feet ran guided by the voice of the déjà vu, my hands armed themselves with the daggers, heeding the same voice.
``Mael! Her name is Lizzie! Call out to her if you get lost!`` the wanderer`s muffled voice came from behind me. But how could I get lost when my feet seemed to know exactly where they were going.
A few buildings later down, I heard her scream for help. I called out her name and she screamed louder. In order to gain better momentum, I found myself jumping from the street unto the lamppost and then unto the alley wall. The wet wall was slippery, but somehow felt more stable than the muddy ground. I wall walked and leapt plunging a dagger into his right shoulder. I felt his body react and I instantly withdrew the dagger and stabbed him right in the middle of his back. As I felt his spine shatter, I pulled him away from her and used the second blade to cut his throat.
As I threw both daggers unto the ground, another web of lightning lighted the entire scene: a beautiful blond girl in the alley corner, a corpse, rain mixed with blood.
``Thank you! Thank you so much!`` she said and as I looked at her, I could indeed see all her innocence. For the first time ever since I first dreamed the recurrent dream , my response made sense. Looking up at the rain, I began to laugh. I looked at her and smiled, a true sincere smile.
``I can`t believe I gave up all that money!`` I told her and I laughed.
The déjà vu ended. The wanderer… gave me my choice and I took the right one.
``Well done, Mael!`` his voice came from behind me ``To tell you the truth, this was not what we had expected.`` he added and picked up his daggers from the alley floor. He wiped them clean on the corpse`s clothes and returned them to his sleeves ``I`m going to bend the rules here and tell you that there will come a time in the future when you will need us. Whenever the two of you are truly ready for this, seek out the Cathedral.`` he finished and then bowed. Turning around, he raised his hands to the sky, letting the rain come down on him. He took off his hood and in the darkness I could see that his head was either entirely bald or shaved that way ``Oh, and Mael…`` he half turned his head to the right as he spoke and as he did so another arc of lightning shone half of his face and revealed a raging red right eye and an odd dragonmark that covered his entire scalp and spread towards his right ear and his spine ``Until you are TRULY ready, it would be best to avoid us altogether, we tend to be vicious.``
``And then he ran off.`` Mael said sitting down on the bed. All the time he told his story, Krop did not speak. He just listened ``Back then, I thought he meant Lizzie and me. But after more current events, I actually he spoke of me and…``
``… and me!`` a red-eyed version instantly continued talking ``He said `the two of you` and I for one am pretty sure that`s what he meant. Mael has doubts about it but you know him…``
Krop smiled. He never expected to see Mael`s Savage side social and friendly. He considered it being a trick but for the time being, he didn`t mind.
``Thanks for trusting me with this story, Mael. Er… guys. Of course, I`ll try to help you as best as I can whenever you ask me to.``
``Thanks, Krop.`` said Mael as the red rage in his eyes washed away ``Erm, if you don`t mind I`d really REALLY appreciate it if you kept all of this hush-hush and confidential. I don`t plan on running away to find the Cathedral anytime soon, not alone anyway.``
``Er… I dunno…``
``Other me promises not to stabby-stabby at you while you sleep as long as you keep your mouth shut.`` Mael added and grinned.
``A secret it is. We`ll just tell them that your other you hugged me and said that he`s friendly.`` Krop smiled.