It was night when I disembarked from the airship at Port Bastok. I looked up and saw a full moon hanging low in the sky. My heart ached. How many times had Treali and I looked up at that same moon together? I wondered if somewhere in the world she was looking at it right now just like me. Then I remembered the dream that so vividly confirmed she was no longer part of this earth. And yet, my heart refused to listen to my head, and believe she was gone.
I sighed as I noticed the dawn's glow reaching above the buttes that surrounded Bastok. I had been standing on the dock contemplating my sorrow for some time. I shook off the feeling and steeled myself for my confrontation with Gumbah. Now was not the time for mourning, now was the time for action. I would not rest until the evils perpetrated by my brother were vindicated. I would not acknowledge Treali's loss until Lochren paid for his crimes. I set off for Bastok Mines to begin the next stage of my initiation into the ways of the Dark Knight.
* * * * *
When I reached Gumbah's residence I didn't bother knocking. I was tired of these games and I would have the answers I sought, one way or another.
He was standing in the doorway as if he was waiting for me. "You are not ready", he said flatly.
"Enough of these games, Gumbah! Either admit me to the trials or leave me be!" I yelled.
"Very well", he said, appearing to not take offence. "You must go to the Palborough Mines and find Zeid. He will provide you with further instructions."
I said nothing, but turned on my heel and left the house. I was eager to begin the trial and had no patience to continue the conversation any longer. I heard Gumbah call out to me as I walked away, "If you fail, it will mean more then your death." I did not stop to find out what he meant by that.
* * * * *
I spent the better part of fours hours wandering though Palborough looking for this Zeid my frustration growing by the minute. In truth, I had not taken time to ask Gumbah what he looked like. Had I come across anyone besides the Quadav inhabiting the mines, I wouldn't have known who to talk to anyways. But, as I got out of the boat on the far end of the underground river, I saw him. Standing in front of me was one of the biggest Galka I had ever met. His armor was intricately carved with shapes that seemed to change before I could make out a discernable form. Spikes jutted from the shoulder and the color was so black that it did not reflect. It almost seemed to absorb the light. There was little doubt that this was Zeid.
"Gumbah sent me for the trial", I stated.
"I see", Zeid replied pensively. "I sense much hate in you and I can understand why you have chosen this path."
"I did not choose this path. It seems to have chosen me", I replied.
"Ah yes, of course. As it does for all of us", said Zeid. "I have known you were coming for some time. I have caught glimpses of your fate in my dreams."
Seeing the puzzled look on my face he explained, "Yes, all of our kind have these dreams. Sometimes it's of our own fate, sometimes it's the fate of others whose path we cross. Be careful when you dream, it is where you are most vunerable."
Zeid continued, "It is said that the blade of a Dark Knight has a soul of its own. It feeds on the hate of its master and the souls of those it kills. Most Knight's hate is directed at a nation of people or the hordes of beastmen for atrocities committed on their loved ones. So, their blade's hunger can be satisfied over and over again by the deaths of many different foes."
"But you, your hate is for one man alone. Your blade will never be truly satiated until it tastes his soul. Be wary Norsalik, while you will learn to control your hate, if you engage this man in battle before you are ready you will lose more then your life. For if he bests you and you are unable to feed your blade with his soul, it will dine on yours."
Then Zeid produced the sword I saw in my dreams. It was as dark as the blackest midnight and I could feel the life force emanating from it. "This blade has lain dormant for some time waiting for the right master to come along. Take care that you learn to wield this blade and that it does not wield you. It will need to feed a great deal since it has been asleep for so long. This is the trial you are seeking. Embrace your hate, let the sword feed upon it, but be sure you become its master. Otherwise, it will mean your death…and more."
I had no words to respond after what Zeid had just told me, so I reached out my hand for the sword. As I grasped the hilt, it seemed to settle into my hand like a dog cuddling up to it's master. I shuddered at the feeling and the thought of what I must do. To enter in to a symbiotic relationship with this vampiritic blade went against all that was good and holy in this world. And then the memory of my brother's laughter, and his whispered words, entered my head, "You do not have the strength..."
Satisfied that I would not die on the spot, Zeid moved to leave and said, "Meet me in Beadeaux when you feel you are ready and I will judge whether or not you have truly become the master."
* * * * *
I made my way back to San d'Oria. I could sense the sword's hunger all the way and it chilled me to the bone. While I did not subscribe to the belief of the Church of Altana, there were powerful clerics at the cathedral and I reasoned that if something went horribly wrong, they might be able to help. Once I arrived though, I could not bring myself to inform anyone of the deed I was about to commit or about the demonic sword slung across my back.
I made my way out the gate into West Ronfaure and I could feel the sword's hunger pushing me to feed it. I hadn't slept in nearly two days and I wondered if I even had the strength to hold the blade upright. The sword would have none of this though and urged me to draw it and begin the killing.
As I slowly drew the blade, I felt a surge of energy course through my body and I could sense the sword trying to tap into my hate. Images of my brother, the cries of my clan, and the memories of the pain he unleashed on us all came flooding into my mind. But the image of Treali's face is what burned into my brain more then the others and caused the hate to erupt from my very soul. There were so many reasons to hate my brother, but this was the only one that truly mattered. He had taken my love away I would not rest until I knew his soul would suffer for all eternity.
I became a mindless barbarian as the slaughter began. While I shared my hate with the blade, it shared its hunger with me. Our bloodlust seemed insatiable. Every beast we killed only whetted our appetite for another. Through the rest of the day and well into the night the killing continued. The sword gave me strength beyond what was natural so that I could continue to feed it's hellish hunger.
At some point I became aware that a battle of wills was also raging and I remembered what Zeid had said. I must be come the master of the sword before it masters me. I realized then that I must assert my will to stop the killing because the sword would not, It would drive me until I was killed and then feed upon my soul. It took all of my strength to stop the blade mid swing and plunge the tip into the blood soaked ground.
"Enough", I said to no one in particular, "It ends now." I could feel the sword's will imposing itself on me and I pushed back, asserting my own will, determined to retain what was left of my sanity. I felt it give a little and then back totally away. The sword had ceased to be any thing more then a sword. It was now just a piece of metal stuck in the ground. "Mourning, you shall be called Mourning", I heard myself say as I collapsed into the pooled blood on the ground and in to the blackness of unconsciousness.
* * * * *
I know not how long I lay out in the wild. It was a miracle that some hapless beast had not come along and devoured me. Perhaps the congealed blood all over me had thrown off their scent and they left me for dead. Left me for the carrion eaters. Perhaps that would have been fitting as I felt little better then worm food at the moment. I was exhausted and every muscle in my body ached. Then there was the stench. The stench of death was all around me. I picked up Mourning, now dull and lifeless, and made my way over to the Cheval River to clean up enough so I could enter the city.
Once I was moderately clean, I headed to the Chocobo stables, anxious to be on my way to Beadeaux and meet up with Zeid. The journey was uneventful and gave me time to contemplate what had happened. My path had become clear but I knew it would take time. I would seek out my brother and make him pay a thousand times over for what he had done. I also knew I would have to grow much stronger before I could face him. I could now control my hate because I knew where to direct it, but I would have to be able to control it in the face of that particular adversary.
Zeid was waiting for me as I entered Beadeaux. He hailed me and said, "I see you are a bit worse for wear but alive. That would not be so had you not mastered the blade. Welcome to the Chaos Brotherhood, Norsalik. Welcome to the chosen few who call themselves Dark Knights."
"Thank you, Zeid, I think..." I replied.
He chuckled and said, "I understand how you feel. But know this Norsalik, you are one of us now. You have but to call on your brethren and we will be there to help. For no one else understands what we have to live with."
"Aye, that is true Zied", I said, "No one can know what it's like to battle wills with your soul at stake. Mourning was very strong but I would not let it best me."
Zied's eyes open wide as if I had slapped him. "You named it? You named your sword?" he said incredulously. "Do you have any idea what you have done?"
When I looked at him quizzically his shoulders slumped and began to explain. "By naming the evil that dwells within the blade you have given it substance. You have given it form. For now, it will remain trapped in the prison of the metal. But you must be constantly on your guard. If you should ever falter, the demon could be loosed on the world."
He walked away as I brooded over this revelation. What have I done? Have I unwittingly unleashed an evil greater then anything my brother ever has? In the depths of my despair I sank to my knees and began to weep...
Edited, Fri Dec 2 23:42:26 2005 by Norsalik