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The forest was dark, damp, and gloomy. A frozen wind cut through the protective shell of metal between myself and the world. Chilled rainwater seeped through the cracks in my armor and soaked into the leather and cotton beneath, slowing draining what little warmth I had left in my body.

Clad in ornately engraved black plate armor and a matching shield, a black hood and cloth hiding most of my face, I strode through the damp forest resting a gigantic exotically crafted and decorated great sword once wielded by a great hero who had fallen to an evil power known only as “the abyss” on my shoulder. The downpour of rain accompanied by distant booms of thunder were the only sounds that could be heard besides my splashing footsteps as I slugged through the muddy forest floor.

I hated the rain. It made everything rust, soaked me and the rest of the world, obscured my vision, turned the ground to impossibly hazardous mush, and generally made life worse than it already was. I’d been wandering through the damned forest for a day at this point so I’d grown sick of seeing nothing but trees all the time, squelching through miles of mud, and tripping on a root every two feet. I hadn’t seen someone who had tried to kill me in weeks, though I suppose that was probably because I either tried to kill them first or steered clear entirely.

I’d been tasked to kill a man called Lord Gwyndolen, the keeper of fire, and replace him in his duty. I cannot remember who gave me this duty or why, nor can I remember why it infatuated me so. I was traveling to a place called New Londo, which wasn’t all that nice of a city, what with all the undead, ghosts, and piles upon piles of bodies. I couldn’t recall how I knew its name, only that I’d been there before. Quite the disturbing place to be honest.

I felt I’d accomplished this task before, but for some odd reason I always found myself right back at the start every time I did. Everything I saw and did seemed familiar, as if I’d relived it countless times. The definition of insanity comes to mind when I think deeply on my predicament, to do the same thing over and over expecting a different result. I shook my head to clear such maddening thoughts from my mind, thinking was dangerous.

Light flashed and the trees groaned as they bent from a sudden gust of wind, the ground shaking violently. Lightning, I could smell burnt wood as I walked. It must have struck directly ahead of me.

“Hello?” I froze in alarm for an instant, jumping behind a tree, pressing my back against it I stared out into the downpour. I watched and listened for the slightest change in the forest, tuning out the sounds of rain and the drumming of thunder. “Hello?” I brought my shield up and stressed to merge with the tree, readying my sword,  “Can anyone hear me?” The voice sounded female, and was coming from beyond the other side my tree of solitude. I slipped around its trunk, squinting through the rain, straining to spot the speaker, “Please! Someone!” She sounded afraid, confused, lost, I smothered the urge to reply. There was no margin for error, I had not found a bonfire in days. Abruptly, a woman stumbled out from behind a tree trunk.

She had flowing red hair, pointed ears, a beautiful face, and body bare of all form of modesty. She was naked. Stunned, I gazed out from beneath my black and dripping cowl, gobbling the spectacle up with extreme prejudice. She was grossly incandescent, utterly perfect, shining with a beautiful light that warmed my cold and clammy limbs and lifted the heavy weight of my equipment from my shoulders.

A great blazing sun blossomed in my chest, the rain’s influence evaporating along with my dour and suspicious mood. I was fixated upon her, never before had I seen such a creature. Shaking my head roughly I regained what little logic and sense I could after such a rattling experience. I reattached my shield to the harness on my back and sheathed the oversized greatsword,

“Hello?! Anyone!?” I yearned to call out to her, the words scorching my throat, burning to blast out into existence. I clawed at the tree bark, biting my lip. She stumbled away, clamoring over branches and roots, splashed through puddles, wading through the mud and rain. I followed blindly, something in my chest twitched every time she fell or cried out and my feet seemed to follow after her no matter what I told them. Her flaming red hair began to dim with the mud and rubbish that encroached upon it, yet a brilliant halo shone around her no matter how dirty and marred her appearance became. “Hello?” I blinked. A pair of green eyes had locked with my own, piercing straight into my consciousness, seizing me in a forceful yet kind embrace that enthralled me. A pale hand extended weakly out to me, dripping with mud. Instinctively, I reached my own out and gingerly took the frail thing, holding it with the care a mother would to a freshly born child. It was so small, so frail, so weak, as if just touching it threatened to shatter it. The black gauntlet encasing my hand seemed so out of place, holding such a beautiful little thing so softly, so lovingly, “Who are you?” She cooed.

A door slammed on my euphoria, and before me was a dirty woman caked in mud, staring up at me with the eyes of one lost in an unfamiliar land and begging for the help and assistance of another. She looked a long since dulled diamond that had just been pried from a pile of rot and junk.

She knelt before me, slightly hunched, staring up at me with the innocence and frailty of a lost child who had just found a potential escape to the horrors it had experienced. I was that escape. A hulking man of black metal with a hood and cloth obscuring his face and a massive greatsword that seemed to be pulled straight from legend. I looked down at her with the authority of a god, a flick of my wrist could end her story.

“Help me.” Those words fell mutely upon my ears, like snowflakes on skin, barely noticeable but holding a strange wonder, “Please.” Liquid streamed down her cheeks, “I don’t know where I am.”

When had someone ever talked to me, besides a grunt, hiss, or the taunting my foes usually screamed as I crossed blades with them. I felt a pressure through my gauntlet as she gripped its unrelenting shell, “I don’t know what’s going on.” She inched closer, “Who are you?” A light of hope began to shimmer in those bright green eyes, “Are you him? Are you the one I’m to meet?”

Thunder rumbled in the distance. It posed a question to me, and I cocked my head in thought, entertaining the idea.

“No.” I croaked, my vocal cords shaking off the dust that had gathered upon them, I hadn’t spoken a word in what felt like years.

“Then,” She trailed off a moment, looking around vainly, “Who are you?” To that, I could only shrug indifferently. I’d long wondered who I was, whether I had a name, how I’d come to live in this forsaken land yet as most thinking I did ended I forgot the reason I started thinking in the first place. I’d forgotten everything about myself, or if there ever was a me.

I had to clean her up though, dress her, something. I shook off her hand and stepped under a large tree, sitting on one of its beefy roots. Beckoning the woman over I opened my bottomless box, withdrawing an old set of knight armor I’d used quite extensively long ago, as well as a large rag,

“Here.” I said, offering her the rag and armored apparel, “Take it.” She frowned,

“Why would I need such dirty and inelegant cloths?” She pointed at the armor, “And that isn’t clothing, that’s just rusty and dented plate armor.” I nodded down at her naked form and she squealed, snatching the rag and armor, “Why didn’t you say anything?!” She waved a hand at me, “Turn around fool!” I cocked an eyebrow and replied,

“No.” She gasped in shock,

“How can you call yourself a gentleman?!”

“I don’t.” I said bluntly,

“Well you’re a knight aren’t you?!” She snapped, “Why won’t you act like one?” I looked down at my engraved and admittedly extravagant black armor. To be fair, her observation held some truth, though that would kill her in this world,

“Never judge by appearance.” I mumbled, “Or you die.” She stepped back, clutching the armor and rag tightly,

“Stay back.” She snatched up a stick, pointing it at me, “Or else!” Her voice quivered and her body shook. I watched her beneath my hood, watched her body tremble in from the cold weather and her own terror. Her hair fell about her in wet and muddy hunks, clinging to her fair and silky smooth skin that seemed a flawless canvas, save the spots of dirt and mud. Her eyes darted about, her green irises glinting in the dreary light, pupils waxing and waning. She was the strangest thing I’d ever seen, at least the strangest thing I could remember seeing,

“Who are you?” I asked, my head swaying side-to-side. Her eyes narrowed,

“I,” She raised her chin and looked down her nose at me, “Am Princess Orlai, of Antiva, first in line for the Sunburst throne.” I raised an eyebrow,

“Never heard of it.” I replied levelly. She scoffed,

“Well you must have been born beneath a rock and educated by insects!” I smiled behind the cloth, she was amusing,

“How did you get here?” I jerked a thumb over my shoulder, “You exploded.” She watched me suspiciously for a moment before stepping behind a bush and wiping herself down with the rag I’d given her,

“I was sent here.” She ran her fingers through her hair, removing whatever muck had found its way into her locks of red, “For a very important reason.”

“Naked?” I grunted humorously,

“No!” She scoffed, “I had the finest combat dress and my mother’s own enchanting staff as well as four faithful knights to accompany me on my quest. I came here for someone called ‘Chosen Undead.’” I twitched, something deep within my mind quivered, “I am to retrieve him, and end the false world he inherits.” She grunted as she lifted the large breastplate of her new armor, “And I cast a spell to come here, however it appears someone did not acquire the correct catalyst I needed for the spell.” She dropped the breastplate to the ground with a dismissive scoffing sound, picking up the leather and animal fur coat meant to be worn beneath the armor, “This smells.” Her nose curled as she slipped into the coat, “And it’s stained.” I ignored her, turning to my own thoughts. What were my own thoughts at the moment?

This woman was strange. What of her companions and equipment? Was she a magician? And why did I suddenly feel an overwhelming interest in her? Also, who was this “Chosen Undead” she spoke of that seemed to affect me so greatly?

“Hello?” Orlai’s face filled my vision. I jumped to my feet, grabbing at the handle of my sword, “Whoa wait, calm down!” She screamed, falling over and raising a hand defensively, “You stopped talking so I wondered what was wrong!” I grunted, stepping back and releasing my grip on the greatsword. She’d managed to equip the entire set of armor to my surprise, though it was quite bulky on her. Her expression changed, anxiety twisting her lips, “Now what?” A good question,

“Can you use a sword?” She laughed at me, but I could not detect an ounce of humor in it,

“Of course I can!” She stretched out a gauntlet, “Hand me a sword and I’ll show you my skill.” I shrugged, reaching yet again into the bottomless box, and picked out a simple broadsword. She snatched it away, swung it about several times, and viciously stabbed a tree trunk. She held its point to the sky and eyed her reflection on the flat of the blade. After a moment she nodded to herself, “It’ll do.” I shrugged, handing her its sheath which she buckled around her waist, “So,” She looked up at me, “What is your name then?”

“Dunno.” She frowned,

“You don’t know?”

“Forgot.” I replied, nodding. She shook her head in disbelief,

“How could you forget your own name?” I shrugged in reply, “Then what am I supposed to call you?” I shrugged again. She put a hand to her forehead, “You must be the greatest of fools to have forgotten your own name.” A pang of anger stabbed at me,

“Call me whatever you want.” I growled. I turned away and began marching through the trees, resuming my trek,

“Where are you going?” She called, hurrying after me,

“New Londo.”

“Where?”

“A bad place.” She balked at that,

“What do you mean?” I glanced at her smugly,

“Lots of undead and ghosts, water everywhere, smells awful.”

“Why are you going there then?” She asked nervously,

“No idea.”

“What?” She sputtered, “What do you mean ‘no idea?’”

“I mean, ‘no idea.’” I spat.