The Adventures of Tut: Genesis by Auoua
Runner-Up for July 2022
"Careful steps, young Paladin. Careful steps as you walk through along your fallen. Do you see them? Do you see the spectral reflections of life once lived? Do they frighten you? Yet here you are, marching to Magnagora."
"How long has it been since you left? How long has it been since you've set out to prove yourself? Your father's claymore was used during his defense of Celestia and the Supernals, and now it drags upon the dusty ground as you seek vengeance. Are you strong enough?"
"What's that, Paladin? Fear? Oh yes, there should be. You stood behind the barricade as he fell, head taken clean off. Did you think it would be like each time before? Did you think that the Fates would save him? Foolish. Why do you think we turned our backs on Them? The Fates watch, They claim never to interfere, yet they reweave us to Their amusement."
"Did it hurt to see them take their last breath? Did you look in his lifeless eyes as they dimmed from the First World? Did you even have time before he became a trophy for our Warlady?"
The young Paladin's eyes finally overflowed with tears that had welled up at the taunts, "Leave me Dreamweaver, or I will add you to my list."
The Paladin had finally reached the Sea of Dispair, the choppy waters crashing against his plate as he walked across the rough sea. Magnagora was slowly beginning to come in sight. His face twisted in disgust behind his angelic helm as he observed the industrial Engine's smog.
"What is it you expect to do?" the Dreamweaver laughed as she slowly began shifting the sea into a grand illusion, showing the Paladin that horrible scene over and over.
As far as he ran, he could never escape this trauma. "Fight me with honour, you coward." he snorted in anger, eyes squeezed shut as he tried to dispel the illusion.
"Poor child, will you stand before them? The demons, the wyrms, the hounds? You will be ripped to shreds by their servants alone. The beggars will likely overpower you to steal that golden armor. I could keep you in this nightmare forever if I wished; I am showing you mercy."
"Mercy?!" the Paladin roared, his eyes snapping open; the illusion is now gone as he returns to waking. He's at the docks; that's all he can determine as his mind races. "I will march to the Megalith and slaughter all those who raided my home."
A long ethereal chuckle ticked the boy's ears as the Dreamweaver whispered in his mind, "As you wish."
And so he marched to the north, along the Bitter Road. He gave no glance to the marvelous i'Xiia tower and began a half-hearted jog down Gorgaliel Boulevard. As he approached the intersection, he could see the Megalith of Doom. The dark and tainted energy was calling out to him, the corruption of the Engine strong within his mind. He shook those impure thoughts from his head, continuing down Wraith Lane, and stopped within the library.
"Paladin, you have found me." the Dreamweaver said with a chuckle, snapping shut an angel-skinned booklet. She looked over the boy with an appraising eye, tilting her neck to the side, "Make it clean. When I reform from my lichdom I don't want a nasty scar."
"What?" the boy said in confusion, looking bewildered at the Dreamweaver.
"Yes? Did you think I'd fall like your father? No, you fool, we have contingency plans. We have taken our fate into our own hands. Should I ever fall, I will rise again as an ordinary living being, but I am for now a lich."
She explained this concept with a motherly voice, despite her condescending words. A gentle patting of the elderly Dreamweaver's hand invited him to the couch, "Come, boy, humor me before the violence."
Even the Paladin didn't know why it was that he took a seat next to the flawless elder. Her beauty was stunning, and he hated to acknowledge it. He was so enthralled with the grey-haired viscanti that he barely heard her speak.
"What brought you here, boy? Did you really think you'd beat the warrior who slew your father?"
"I hope you're smarter than that."
"When I first set out, I was filled with rage, and I could see nothing but red. I set out to bring the head of my father's killer to my mother. I still want to achieve this, but... I see so many of your warriors there... all the demons." His words were broken and distraught as he looked at the gather just to the south. "Were they waiting for me?
"Of course not," the Dreamweaver ensured, "They are having a chat about the merits of pain and growth. Perhaps you will join their discussion?"
The Paladin snorted in derision, dispelling the possibility. "Never. I'd never join those savage brutes who slaughtered an innocent man."
"Perhaps then you'll join me here. What is it you're actually angry about, hmm?" The elderly Dreamweaver folded her hands into her lap politely as she looked over the boy once more, assessing him with a dispassionate gaze.
"I feel so powerless. I should have run out to save him, or at least tried. I sat powerless as your tainted warriors crucified him and took his head. I saw him bleeding out, fear in his eyes. Why would they do that?"
"You feel powerless, hm? Still? After your journey here, across the seas, and through our streets. Perhaps you should study the Necromancers> You would have been able to bring him back."
"I could have done that in a more pure way." the Paladin asserts.
"Yet he's dead all the same, isn't he?"
The words stung.
His gaze scanned across the floor as he muttered to himself. "Why weren't we strong enough to hold you off?"
The old Dreamweaver smiled faintly, "The Engine can not be stopped. Once we have set our goals, we will achieve them. We had been paying back the attacks on our villagers. We can not stand to look weak. Surely you understand, little one. Your journey here shows you want to be seen as strong."
"Come, come to the Megalith and cast aside your burdens. Even a merian such as yourself can be useful."
The Paladin tilted his head curiously, "You don't revile me for my race?"
"No, and not all will, just most. Every cog will find a use."
The two rose and stepped to the Megalith of Doom, surrounded by demons and adventurers alike. The Warlady came forward to command the merian to kneel, "Speak your name, fish. Speak your intentions."
"I am Tut, a Paladin from New Celest who wishes to start anew. I am sick of living in fear that I will be crushed. Celestia won't be able to protect me, and the Supernals are so easily slain. I need a new life."
"Very well." the Warlady says as she welcomes Tut into the Engine of Transformation.