By: Thorus Posted on: August 27, 2006
The searing glare of the sun pierced the black veil suppressing his consciousness. "Where am I?" he groggily croaked as his eyes slowly opened and surveyed the area. Gradually his vision cleared and the young human could see the desolation spread out before him. Sand dunes stretched to the horizon and a few stones were the only distinguishable objects for miles. The dreary scenery, blazing heat and dusty wind answered the young man's first question. He was in the desert, but how had he gotten here? Mind racing furiously, he desperately tried to recall how he'd arrived but soon realized that the search was pointless. All that he could recall was that his name was Narm and he had journeyed from Loom Island to search out a man named Certimene in Delos. His knowledge of Sapience's landscape was limited, but the young man knew that the desert was far from Delos. Beyond that his mind was overwhelmed with a fog that blocked any semblance of a memory.
Aggravated, Narm shook his head and slowly rose to a sitting position, glancing about himself as he shifted. Immediately a searing pain erupted in his abdomen as fresh blood began to seep out of a tear in his cloak Frightened, Narm clutched his hand to his stomach to stop the flow, laid back down and began taking deep breaths in an effort to calm his mounting anxiety. After a few gasps the fear began to subside and he decided to see how seriously he was hurt. Staring up into the empty sky, he grasped at the opening in his cloak and began to slowly prod beneath. His fingers grazed along a crusted edge and he felt them moisten as he pushed on and penetrated the center of a deep, jagged gash. The pain returned in waves and Narm removed his hand and gasped suddenly as he caught sight of the appendage. Thoroughly covered in blood was what appeared to be his arm, except that it was a withered, shrivelled mess. Rotting flesh barely clung to his shrunken arm bone and his fingers were deformed and clutched into a hideous claw. Narms stomach churned, his eyes rolled back into his head, and soon darkness began to trickle through his mind until he felt nothing at all.
"Sir! Wake up, sir," came a soft, soothing call through the darkness. Narm listened intently and tried to fixate on the source, unsure if he was dreaming. "Wake up, sir! came the voice again and this time he followed it out of his reverie. Opening his eyes Narm was greeted with the relieved face of a young Tsol'aa male. "I am glad that you are awake," said the stranger with a smile, "I had feared you were dead."
"Almost," Narm tried to reply, though all that came out of his chapped throat was a dry crackle.
"Drink this," the man said as he tilted a flask into Narm's open mouth. The cool water soothed his throat and Narm glanced at the stranger as he drank. His head had no hair or blemish, save for a small tattoo of a boar on his forehead. The face was quite plain and unmemorable, but the more that Narm stared at it, the more he began to feel an appreciation for the simple beauty of it. Even the stranger's attire spoke of simplicity as he was adorned with a plain brown robe and hood. There was nothing threatening about the man's visage and when he smiled Narm could feel some of his anxiety melt away.
“My name is Jonah,”he said softly. “I am Narm and I am in your debt,”he replied clearly, but painfully.
“I am glad to help, though I fear you require much more than my basic aid,”Jonah smiled as he finished wrapping strips of cloth around Narm’s withered arm. “Might I ask what caused these grievous wounds?”The question sent Narm back into the fog of his mind once again but the results were the same as before. Instead of an answer, a myriad of questions presented themselves.
“I don’t know.”Narm replied shaking his head in frustration, “I cannot recall anything besides my name."
“I am sorry to hear that sir. For the time being perhaps we should concentrate on soothing your ailments instead of worrying about their origins.”Once again Jonah’s intoxicating smile engulfed Narm and he relaxed. “I have stopped the blood flow from your stomach for now, but we must make our way to someone with more skill the healing arts. I will watch over you as you rest for a bit, and when you awake we shall depart.”Narm struggled to sit himself up, but he quickly realized his efforts to be pointless. He settled into a deep slumber where he was tormented with images of long, sharp spines dripping in acid, and the wavering, horrified face of a withered old man.
Narm awoke as stygian darkness crept through the desert, the chill night breeze biting through the meager protection his clothing offered.
“How do you feel?”asked Jonah, kneeling beside him.
“A little better”Narm replied gruffly as he attempted to once again get up. This time he was relieved as he felt Jonah’s gentle touch on his back, aiding the ascent. After a few pain filled moments Narm was able to lean his arm around Jonah’s neck and stand upright.
“Drink this health elixir, it will allow you to walk on your own with less pain for now.”Jonah said, presenting Narm with a slim vial. He gulped what remained at the bottom, and was instantly gratified with an invigorating feeling of vitality. No longer needing the support, Narm removed his arm from Jonah’s neck and took a few tentative steps on his own. He could feel a dull, throbbing ache throughout his body, but was relieved to be able to maintain his own weight and walk around.
“Excellent!”Jonah delightedly exclaimed, “Follow me. We must make haste before the pain returns.”He made a beckoning motion at Narm, turned and walked briskly into the distance.
They traveled into the night, the scenery changing little throughout the hours save for a sprig of cactus weed or bits of rocks and debris scattered about the ground. Time seemed nonexistent for the pair and before he knew it, Narm could see the sun beginning its ascent over the horizon, its warm glow revealing grasslands in the distance ahead. By midmorning the pair were strolling through the knee-high grass, and at noon they stopped for a rest by a raging river. Overcome with exhaustion, Narm slumped on a rock and the dull ache in his side quickly became sharp, intense pain. “I think that the elixir is wearing off,”he said through clenched teeth.
“That is alright. My mentor is nearby and she can help,”came the reply from the river as Jonah filled a flask. Moments later, a screeching noise pierced the air and a swirling portal opened up right in front of the pair. Narm jumped a bit at the invasion, but he settled as Jonah smiled and motioned towards the portal. He struggled to his feet accepting Jonah’s outstretched hand, and closed his eyes as they stepped through the swirling vortex.
An instant later, Narm opened his eyes to discover that the river had disappeared and he now stood in a gloomy cavern with low burning torches adorning the walls. He heard running water from one of the shadowy corners of the cave, and in the center he noticed a huge flat stone slab with padded wooden benches running along the sides.
“Greetings Narm,”came a voice from behind him, “Jonah has told me of your plight and I hope that I can help to ease your pain. My name is Marilsa.”She bowed low, her black silk robe barely making a whisper. She stood five feet tall with flowing blond hair and piercing blue eyes. Her robe clung to a voluptuous figure and Narm felt his heart beat a little faster as he gazed. Her radiating beauty made him think of the Loom Island folks talking about the seductive sirens they had met in their travels, and while their stories seemed farfetched at the time, he could see that they were very true.
“If you can help then I will be eternally grateful to you Mistress Marilsa.” Narm managed to reply. She helped him to the ground and knelt by his side, slowly unraveling the bandages that covered his stomach and arm. She produced a small wooden vial from the folds of her robe, uncorked it and poured some of the liquid down Narms throat. Instantly he could feel that familiar vitality return to his body and he smiled. Marilsa then took out a smelly salve and rubbed it along his deformed arm. He watched as it worked itself into his skin and soon the withered appendage slowly transformed into a functional arm and hand. Marilsa then fixed him with a peculiar look and placed her finger upon the gash on his stomach, “This is going to hurt,â€ she whispered. Searing pain shot through his body for what seemed like an eternity, his stomach burning as if a torch had been plunged into it. Within moments, she removed her finger and begun carefully rewrapping the wound. “That one will take some time, but you should be fine otherwise”she said, rising to her feet.
“I am indebted to you Mistress,”he said solemnly. “Not at all Narm”she replied nonchalantly, “I am more than glad to lend aid to those in need. Perhaps you may repay me by remaining with Jonah and myself until you are fully healed?”Narm nodded his acceptance, amazed at the continued generosity of the strangers. He tried to voice his appreciation, but was interrupted as a mighty yawn overtook him. “You need to sleep now. Jonah will take you to rest and we will speak more later on.”Marilsa turned and strolled out of the room as Narm followed Jonah to an antechamber filled with bedrolls. He eased himself onto the plush fabric and quickly fell asleep...
Though a restful sleep was not waiting for him. Familiar flashing images of acid dripping spines overwhelmed him, but this time the nightmare intensified and more was revealed. Towering in front of him stood a massive, grinning demon with huge wings and a stained loincloth. Thousands of long spines protruded from its leathery, muscled skin and Narm could hear the sizzle as liquid fell from their tips and hit the floor. He could feel its eyes upon him, and it seemed as if they were staring right through him. Within its orbs Narm could see himself being rent limb from limb by an unseen force.
Terrified, he tried to wrench his gaze away from the monstrosity but his eyes were drawn to a blade floating above its grotesque head. Narm examined the wickedly serrated daegger as it hovered before him, emanating a soft humming noise. He stared along the length of the blade and finally rested his eyes on the dull white hilt, which appeared to be made of twisted bone. As he was about to look away, a pair of bloodshot eyes appeared on the hilt and fixed their wicked gaze upon him. Narm shuddered and felt his knees buckle beneath the weight of the stare. A brief glint within the eyes alerted Narm to the blades evil intentions and he let forth a blood-curdling scream as the malevolent daegger sped towards him.
Narm awoke with a start thoroughly drenched in his own sweat and gulping for breath in a panic. What did the dreams mean? The question reverberated in his head, but before he could seek an answer the images slowly began to fade, until all that was left of the nightmare were long spines dripping acid. After a few minutes to regain his composure, Narm emerged from the sleeping chamber still fatigued and feeling dehydrated from the excursion through the desert. The trickling water from the shadowy corner beckoned him and he started towards it. As he approached, the darkness receded a bit and he was able to see water seeping through cracks in the cave wall and emptying into a pool in the floor. Narm knelt down and scooped handfuls of the crystalline liquid down his throat until he felt refreshed. He then scrubbed his face with the cold water trying to eliminate all of the encrusted grime.
Finally satisfied that he was clean, Narm sat down beside the pool and focused on the soothing sound of the water coming down the wall. The trickle relaxed his mind and he decided to meditate to alleviate some of his confusion but before he could clear his mind, faint voices brought him out of the daze. It sounded like Marilsa and Jonah, except the voices didn’t have their usual melodious tone.
“You are sure that he doesn’t remember anything?”Jonah inquired. “Yes! The fool knows nothing. I even confused him a bit just to be sure.”came Marilsa’s sharp retort.
“Why did you heal him if we are just going to kill him?”The last two words struck Narm right in the heart rendering him dumbfounded. Numbly, he heard Marilsa reply.
“I gave him a sip of a health elixir, and then decayed his wound a bit,”she chuckled sadistically. “Besides, his screams of anguish will please Lord Apollyon more than if he is barely coherent. He must suffer for his foolish escape attempt.
The word echoed through his head, and he was overwhelmed with a flood of memories. Visions of him arriving on Sapience and being kidnapped by Marilsa and Jonah flashed through his head. Images of them cruelly torturing and beating him swept through his mind. He recalled the agony he experienced as Marilsa used his vulnerable, splayed body to teach Jonah the intricacies of vivisection. Jonah was an apt pupil, and Narm could see the evil grin spread along the students face every time he made his victim scream in pain. Gone was the intoxicating charm in that smile, instead replaced with wickedness and malice. The memories brought an intense anguish to Narm, and he knew that he had to get away at once.
He stood up quickly and turned to run, but was horrified to see skeletal hands sprout from the ground and grasping his ankles tightly. He tried to resist against the manacles but they held firm, stealing his balance.
“I tire of your endless struggling Narm,”Marilsa’s voice echoed in his ears “If you would accept your fate, then perhaps we would go easy on you.”
Cruel laughter erupted from behind, mocking him. He started a little as he felt Marilsa’s warm breath on his ear and her hand on his shoulder.
“Suffering is the path to perfection. Your inherent weakness must be purged,”she whispered into his ear as she tightened her grip.
Narm could feel his lifeforce draining slowly from his shoulder into her hand and yet he could not move. He glanced down into the rippling water and gasped as he could see the withered specter from his dream staring back at him. His face wrinkled and aged before his eyes until Marilsa released her evil grip. Narm’s body was wracked with pain right through and his breath came as a labored wheeze. He felt the grip upon his ankles tighten as the ghastly hands jerked slowly, turning him to face his captors.
Their faces were contorted into an odd mixture between laughter and rage as they viewed the horrified expression Narm wore when he realized that the rest of his dream was now unfolding. The demon towered in front of him, its maw stretched wide in a malevolent grin as Marilsa ordered it to sear her prey. Narm screamed as the flames enveloped his body, the unrelenting heat melting his flesh. Marilsa continued her taunting laughter as she moved beside him and grasped his arm. Pain shot right through his hand as Narm watched his arm shrivel from her touch. After a few excruciating moments she let go and his arm fell limply to his side. Agonized screams escaped Narm’s trembling lips as he pleaded to Lady Maya for the pain to end.
“You are the weak Narm, and your kind must be eliminated from this land,”Jonah’s voice penetrated his veil of agony, “Your body has allowed me to perfect my craft and now your essence will help Lord Apollyon to rid Sapience of all its inherent weakness."
A feral snarl escaped Marilsa’s lips as she closed in on him, her daegger in hand. Narm barely noticed the bloodshot eyes of the daegger staring at him. He saw the familiar glint within the orbs and screamed in terror as his fate was presented to him. His agonized yell was interrupted as he felt the daegger plunge into his chest, its serrated edge carving his insides. Narm could feel his lifeblood spouting from the gaping wound, tainting the clear water behind him and he knew that it would soon be over. Red fog seeped into his consciousness and before his eyes closed for the last time, Narm could see the daegger hovering in front of him with his dripping heart impaled upon its wicked blade.