Pesmerga: Vendetta Prologue
In those precious few moments when my mind is briefly at ease and I am afforded a respite of sleep, his image haunts my dreams. He stands victorious, the bodies of slain victims crumpled at his feet. His maniacal cackle rings through the air. I always am present but stand helpless as the scene happens over and over. It doesn't end when I wake up either.
I am Pesmerga. My life is a mystery, an enigma even unto myself. I remember little of my past, but that which I do is riddled with great tragedy and few joys.
As a young boy I was alone, always fending for myself. My family had long since abandoned me; at least, that is what I believed. I have never found anything to prove the contrary. I lacked purpose and direction; only day-to-day survival was my goal. That was all to change.
When I had nearly reached adulthood, I was unwillingly "recruited" into the Black Knights, so named because of the color of their armor. On my journey to the Dwarf Village, hoping to get a metalworking job and add some much-needed stability to my life, I was ambushed by a small squad of Black Knights, knocked unconscious, and dragged back to their secret stronghold. When I came to, all I saw was blurred. Shapeless forms stood huddled about me, muttering in a strange tongue. I couldn't understand what they were saying. Was it about me? Everything came back into focus, and I saw soldiers guarding me. I was terrified; I felt like a caged animal and, as such, lashed out. I grabbed a sword from a nearby guard and cut a swath to the main gate, mercilessly slaughtering any who tried to stand in my way. Before I could leave, I was stopped by an unexpected sound. From the shadows an onlooker applauded my performance. He stepped out into the light. He was clad in a suit of ornate plate mail, a large sword resting in the scabbard on his belt. This was the general. I knew better than to try this one in combat. I was young; I wasn't a fool. He was impressed with my inherent ability and even greater potential. He told me how they kidnapped derelicts, like myself, to become members in this new cadre of warriors. I asked him to continue. He said if I joined, I would be provided for and taught in the ways of battle. An attractive proposition. I had no interest in fomenting camaraderie, but steady provisions and skills that would prove useful were enough to warrant my attention. After all, what had I to go back to in the world outside? I agreed and was inducted into the Black Knights as a novice squire.
I took to the routine easily enough. At daybreak, all the new recruits and myself were awoken and led to the barracks for arms training. We sparred against one another, as well as the higher-ranking officers, with wooden versions of swords, knives, and other assorted weapons. I personally excelled in the use of a two-handed long sword. I had even bested the general after only a few weeks of training. The general was astounded at this, as was I. He said I was born to fight. It seemed apt enough; since youth I had been weaned on combat. After that, we went into the fields and did marching drills as well as bare handed fighting. We then returned to the barracks and practiced acrobatics. By then it was early in the afternoon, and we stopped to eat. Following our brief rest, we were divided into two groups; one went for field strategy, the other for horseback riding and combat. We then rotated. When the general had learned of my metallurgy skill, he saw to it that my ability was put to use. I produced weapons and armor of exceptional quality. Because of my diligence, I was permitted to fashion my own unique suit of armor and sword. We, like those from the Warrior's Village, were expected to name our weapons. Often one named it after their beloved. I, however, had no such one; there was no one in my life who mattered to me in that way. So I decided to name my blade Crimson, for that is the color of the blood of my enemies that so often ran down its gleaming metal. But I digress.
It was once during these strenuous exercises I met a young man named Yuber. He had joined the Black Knights only a short while before I. A wild young firebrand he was, although his blonde hair might tempt one to think him innocent. He was loud, impetuous, brash, and given to tempers and fits of emotion. The young man had passion; I credit him for at least that much. But he lacked control-an obvious weakness. And weakness was to be destroyed or else it would destroy you. I did not learn that lesson during my tenure here; I had learned it the hard way. He noticed my skill and tried to endear himself to me as a friend. As I have said before, I had little use for others; I was only in this organization for my own benefit. Still, the youth engendered from me a certain degree of respect; he was the only one, save myself, who showed a superior ability compared to those of our comrades. As time passed, however, he grew jealous as I surpassed him in every way with only the slightest of effort. He doubled his efforts to reclaim his position as the most skilled, and therefore most valued, of our group, but, alas, it was all for naught. I was knighted well before him, and when he finally was knighted, I was assigned as his commanding officer.
Years passed and I rose to prominence within the Black Knights' ranks. Yuber had long since disappeared. I can't say I know how, when, or where he went. I wasn't saddened very much though. My skills as a soldier and a warrior were renowned throughout the land. Long had I forgotten my own selfish ends.
Often I was appointed to lead squads on missions of the utmost importance. Once during our return from a long campaign, we witnessed the Jowstown Army laying siege to one of the Empire's towns. Though we were no friends of the Scarlet Moon Empire, the Jostens were a hated enemy and the modus operandi of the Black Knights was of self-gain, not the death of innocents. We fought them off valiantly, none of our own felled in the battle. We took to scouting the wreckage for survivors. I heard a cry for help, faint and growing ever weaker. I rushed toward the sound and I was faced with a home that had collapsed in on itself. Again I heard the cry. I moved swiftly, my arms moving the debris out of the way as quick as I could force them. A delicate hand peered out from beneath the rubble. I moved all the faster. With the rubble cleared, I could see my objective. A young woman lay face down, her body battered and bleeding. I carefully picked her up and held her in my arms. Her eyes clenched as they were greeted with sunlight and opened. She looked up at me, smiled, and whispered "thank you." She then fell unconscious. When our eyes met for that brief instant, I felt something totally unfamiliar. My body tingled, my skin crawled, my heart raced, I fell short of breath. My legs felt weak but I stood firm lest I drop the lady. After all the survivors had been unearthed and tended to, we returned home, the woman accompanying me.
After we had returned, I made certain that she was cared for. She recovered in a few days but to me, the time felt like an eternity. I visited her after her recovery. She remembered me. I entered her chamber and there upon the bed she sat, running a brush through her long, luxurious hair, the tresses a deep shade of brown. Even the most beautiful figure your mind could conjure up would pale in comparison to the vision of heaven I saw, like a single match to the burning sun. She looked up, her blue eyes shimmering radiant pools reaching far into her soul and gazing straight through to my very core, and when she recognized my face, got up, ran toward me, and threw her arms around my neck. Again the feeling overtook me. I wished time would stand still, this moment never to end, her silken skin pressed against mine for eternity. Still, I must have been blood red with embarrassment. After she let go she stepped back and gave a little giggle. She didn't try to hide the fact that she saw my embarrassment.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to do that. I just wanted to thank you for saving my life," she said, turning away. I thought I heard her voice quiver but it must have been just my imagination.
"You're welcome. It's my job." You idiot. Why can't I say what I'm feeling? Because I'm not entirely sure myself.
"I'm Miranda," she said in her nectar-sweet voice.
"Pleased to meet you."
I took her hand and, in a simple gesture of chivalry, gently kissed it. A sensation of warmth coursed through my body, the press of flesh upon flesh stirring the blood in my veins. She must have felt it too or else she was just surprised; she jerked her hand back, flashing a radiant smile.
"I was lucky you came when you did. What were you doing in a backwater town like that anyway?"
I was taken aback by this question. I didn't understand why anyone would be interested in the life of one who has stared death in the face so often. I told her and she relished every word. It lasted until nightfall when I left her company, promising to return and complete my story. When I had finished, she longed to hear more. I related many of the campaigns I had ventured on. She wept as I described comrades who had gone long before their time. She cringed when I told her of battles with hopeless odds against us and beamed when I told of glorious triumphs.
Thus was my courtship of the lovely Miranda. I told her everything of my military career and she hung on every word. Afterward we'd take a walk in the outlying fields of the castle. We'd lie down and stare at the twinkling stars of the twilit sky, talk idly, or merely sit together as I gazed into her sparkling blue eyes. Our eyes would close, our lips would touch, and all the world would melt away, leaving only an encompassing feeling that can only be described as pure joy. It continued in this manner until the blessed day we were wed. We were joined now as one, man and woman united in love. She was so innocent, so carefree. She balanced me, made me feel complete. We lived together in utter bliss, wanting for nothing for we had all that we ever needed-each other. Trite as it may sound, it's true. I'm not one given to lying. Tragically, it was not meant to last.
My military exploits took me all over the world, despite my best efforts to stay close to Miranda and home. When I alone returned from a brutal campaign, I found our entire fortress to be in ruins. The castle showed evidence of a siege-the stone walls were crumbling, the cast-iron gate destroyed, bodies mangled beyond recognition lay strewn about. Their deaths had been slow and painful; their expressions of agony told me that much. As I looked about the devastation, one thought suppressed all others.
I darted to our chamber as quick as my legs would carry me. I burst into the room and there she lay, a gaping wound in her stomach, blood caking her hands and clothes, still spilling outward. She was alive but not for much longer. I took her hand in my hands and whispered softly to her.
She coughed feebly and opened her eyes. Much of the color had drained from her face and her eyes began to lose their luster.
"Pesmerga. I was afraid I wouldn't see you before "
"Shh," I whispered, pressing a finger to her lips. They felt cold and lifeless. "Don't say it." I couldn't keep the tears from streaming down my face.
"Do you remember our wedding night? You held me close and said you wouldn't let me go?" I nodded, all ability to speak had been choked out of me. "Hold me, like you always have." I drew her close and squeezed my arms tightly about her.
"And always will," I whispered.
She pulled me toward her and we kissed. She died before I drew away. I screamed in agony; my love was dead in my arms. My home was destroyed, the only one I'd ever known, my friends dead, the first who ever mattered to me. What more reason had I to go on? I got up and drove my fists into the stone walls until my knuckles bled. I sank to my knees and wept uncontrollably.
It was then that I heard it-the laughter that was to haunt my slumber, disturbing even my waking hours, even to this very day. I dashed outside, my sword clenched tightly in my hands. There, floating in mid-air, was Yuber, a sadistic grin spread across his face.
"Pesmerga, you like my handiwork?"
"Yuber. It was you " My fingers wrapped tighter around the hilt of my blade; I would have cut him down if he had been anywhere near the ground.
"Yes, me. I figured if I can't have it, neither can you."
"What are you talking about?"
"Come on, even you can't be so stupid. Living in a fancy castle, successful knight captain, lovely wife. Face it, you lived a life most men only dream of."
Frankly, I wasn't listening any more. I was consumed with rage. I wanted him to come down to earth, then I wanted to slice him open, to let the blood run freely out of his body. And when he would beg for mercy, I would deny it to him, as he assuredly did to his once and former comrades-in-arms.
"But now I have more than you'll ever have. We'll meet again. Be sure of it."
He then vanished into thin air. I spun around, looking in every direction but he was nowhere in sight. The hunt had begun.
I would have started off after him right then and there but I had more important things to attend to. I took all the bodies of my Black Knights comrades and placed them on a pyre. They created a magnificent blaze befitting of their greatness. Then I fashioned a lovely pine box for my beloved Miranda. I dug a large ditch and laid her into the box. I then placed the box into the earth. After re-earthing the hole, I went to our chamber, for the last time, and took out the yellow veil Miranda wore on our wedding day. I fastened the veil to my armor as a momento of her I cherish even now. I then began my search.
I recently heard Yuber was spotted at Neclord's Castle. Perhaps I shall travel to that place. The sun has sunk and dusk has begun to set in. I wish I could write more, but, alas, I grow weary. I do not wish to sleep; it is then that the dream is most vivid. I shall write again soon. For now, I take my leave.