It happened when I was nine years old.|
My father and I had stopped into a tavern to eat our dinner. He was taking me on my very first trade run, Allstone to Fallstaff, but our trip was cut short on the very first day. There were reports of a gang of orcs or some such prowling the roads, and all traffic due north was under strong advisement to stay in and sit still until the patrols managed to clear things up.
The air in the tavern that night felt charged somehow. It was nothing I could put my finger on... but nevertheless, there was something strange in the air that night.
At first, it started as a buzzing in the back of my mind. Like a whisper of a whisper. I must admit, its really quite hard to describe unless you've heard it for yourself. Its like someone is watching you, sitting right behind you, but you know that there is no one there.
I looked to my father to see if he felt it too, though I saw his attention was turned elsewhere. An old trading partner of his had shown up and they had taken to discussing the particulars of something or another.
I can't say why I decided to take that moment to get up from the table. That whisper in the back of my mind urged me on, not with words so much as compulsion. It felt like I was dreaming everything, and, to some extend, since that day the dream has never quite come to an end.
The kitchen door loomed before me, some giant monolithic portal to who knows where. I had to go there; I knew there was something there waiting for me.
Carefully, I opened the door and peeked inside. There was a pot of stew boiling on the stove, a cut of steak with the knife still in it, a spilled mug of ale. The floor was slick with blood, and a strange man in beggar’s robes was bent over the body of a woman. His skin was… slick… a pale color, almost transparent.
I heard an awful slurping noise, and the woman began to convulse. The man’s back seemed to arch for a moment, as of drawing something into himself.
The feeling in the back of my mind warned me of danger. It told me that there was something... wrong... very wrong... with this entire situation. This blood, this man, this strange feeling of dread that came over me; everything sane in my body told me to scream maybe, or to turn and run.
As quietly as I could I stepped forward into the room, letting the kitchen door close silently behind me.
I inched my way forward, my body driving my movement more then my mind. My eyes were still fixed upon the man’s back. Again came that horrible noise, the arching of his back, and the convulsions of the woman's body.
My hand reached to the table near me and pulled the cutting knife free from the side of meat lying to my side.
I'm sure at that moment that I hadn't made any noise, but the creature’s body startled. There was a horrid sucking noise, and the woman's body fell to his feet. He... no, it... It turned to look at me. This was no man. Its face was misshapen somehow. Its one good eye was huge and bulbous, milky white and without pupils. Where its other eye would have been was a huge gash that bled forth a deep green ichor down from its huge head over its robes. Its mouth... where its mouth should have been was only a grouping of tentacles, each marked with thick red blood.
I stood there, frozen by terror for what seemed like an eternity as the creature stood to its full height, dropping the woman's body fully to the floor. It looked at me then: don't ask me how I knew it was looking at me, for it had no pupils, yet I knew it was gazing at me. It was somehow looking behind my frozen face, looking into my thoughts.
The world froze for a moment then. I'm sure it looked at me for what was only a few seconds, but to my entire mind it seemed like forever.
I screamed as loud as I could, raising the cutters knife above my head and charged forward at the thing. Rather than dodging to the side... it just stood there, almost perfectly still. Its tentacles writhed against its face, its body poised against some invisible force.
The air in front of the creature seemed to shiver and displace, like a thousand raindrops falling into a still pool all at once. I felt something pass through me, something cold and shrill stabbing at the core of my being; icicles driven into my eyes. It was like nothing I had ever felt, and nothing I ever hope to feel again.
My body continued forward into my own field of vision. I watched myself dive onto the creature, its one good eye wide with shock. With both hand on the hilt I drove the knife deep into the soft flesh of its skull. There was little resistance and the knife split its face open, spewing forth more of the brackish ichor which I could only surmise was the creatures blood.
I don't remember much of the next day. I remember the monsters still body, a shard of steel protruding from deep within the fleshy matter of its bulbous head. I remember seeing the woman's body, her eyes staring off in frozen horror, the strange marks on the side of her head, the blood running down from her nose, staining her blouse. I knew that my father was there, there were guards as well. Questions were asked to which I didn't know the answer. What was that thing? Who were we? Why was I in the kitchen at that exact moment? I was driven numb by my experience.
I was lost into myself for several days afterwards. My father tried to comfort me, but to little avail. Something had changed inside of me, back in that tavern. That monster had done... something... to my mind. The world around me seemed stranger, somehow.
That was when I was nine years old.
As the months began to unfold around me I found that it wasn't the world that had changed, but rather it was something deep inside of me. That whisper or mental inkling or whatever you might call it, it never quite went away. Sometimes I would know what people were going to say before they said it. Nothing more than word or two, but I knew. I was lucky, more so than you might guess. There was nothing overt about any of it, and for a while I thought I was going mad, that the monster had done something horrible to my mind, something that was like a disease or a cancer, something that was growing in my mind, silently killing me. I began to have horrible headaches; there was a great pain in my mind, like A thousand whispering voices each seeking release. My father was beside himself with silent grief. He had lost my mother to some kind of brain fever. I could tell he was terrified that I would be next.
There were doctors, oh so many doctors. Even clerics from the church, my father would spare no expense to ensure that I would survive. One after another they came, each one with some new take on what was wrong, each one failing in their own unique way.
It was a hot, still summer night that Elemil arrived. My father had fallen asleep beside my bed, watching me through the night to see to my needs or comfort me if I began to cry out. I remember that moment very clearly. Elemil seemed to hold himself strangely, hidden beneath a great black cloak even in the oppressive yet waning heat of that summer night. His eyes flashed with subtle light beneath the heavy folds of his hood, and he turned to regard me with an intense stare. I realized, then, that I felt at peace. My mind had calmed itself; the world fell into sharp focus. I could feel each bead of cold sweat on my skin and hear the distant sound of a summer storm approaching.
"I've come seeking you out, Evendur." he spoke into my mind. His lips didn't move, but I knew his voice. I knew that somehow, he was like me. We were the same.
"There are very few of us on this world, but with each passing year our numbers grow."
"What..." I stammered out loud, my voice, raw and parched, crushing the relative silence like sandpaper. "What are we?"
My father, sensitive to my moods, thus began to stir. His eyes fluttered open and immediately fell upon the intruder.
"Who... what..." he managed to stammer before I reached out to calm him.
"Father," I spoke in a clear voice. "This is Elemil. He's come here... well, he can help me. I know he can."
My father, startled by the sudden clarity of my voice, turned to look at me with a look of disbelief in his eyes. He could see that my strength had returned. He could see the calmness in my face, unmarked by the twitches or sudden, wild eyes that had so defined me for the past few months. My father clutched me to him, laughing out loud with joy.
A few weeks later I left that world behind for the on in which I now dwell. Elemil has told us that I was, different, from the rest. It wasn't magic, exactly, it was something else. There were other like me, we were learning to band together and control this power that came from somewhere deep inside of us.
Elemil and I traveled the lands, searching for others of our kind.
Occasionally we would be met by a few of his friends, and even on one or two occasions we would discover someone new.
The years wore on, and I began to develop my own abilities. I was never one for deep meditation; it wasn't a part of who I was. Growing up I was always a student of action rather than thought. This by no means hindered my progress, however. I learned to combine my actions with my thoughts, forging my spirit into a single whole. Movement and contemplation became as one, the mind and the body working on concert.
The day came, of course, when I decided that I needed to venture forth on my own. Elemil nodded sagely and smiled. "We each have to follow our own paths." he told me. "Experience nurtures us, the act of discovery opens to avenues to us at each turn. We each grow in our own way, and your way now lies apart from mine." He clasped his hand upon my shoulder, a smile passing across his usually impassive face. "Good journey, Evendur. Be true to thy self and the world's secrets will unfold about you."
And so I seek my place in the world, or more aptly, the worlds place in my own perception. A wealth of new encounters lies just beyond the edge of the road, and each day holds some new fascination, some new key to explore the depths of my own psyche.