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The Imperfect (work in progress)
Chapter 1: The Forbidden Emotion
“This can’t be the end…after all we’ve gone through to find you again…you can’t leave us again…please…”
Twelve years. It’s been twelve long, lonesome years since that dark day when the members of the Imperfect were forced to say farewell to their beloved, benevolent creator Lucian. The memory of his gaunt, pale face growing still, his frosty blue eyes growing pallid and vacant, and his breath becoming nonexistent, while the prison guard gripped his now lifeless body in one hand and flung him into his chamber still haunting her mind, Levana awoke with a startled cry.
“Are you alright Levana?” whispered a gentle voice from across her bedroom. In the darkness of her room she saw the glistening of icy grey eyes staring at her. As her vision focused more, she saw that it was Asphodel, one of the older Imperfects. He had been woken by her scream, and was now wide awake. His long white hair lay in a mess over his eyes, slightly obscuring his vision, but they glistened in the moonlight like two full moons in the night sky.
“Y-yes…I’m fine…I just had a bad dream…” she stuttered, still trying to collect herself. She looked into Asphodel’s cold eyes and was met with a confused stare.
“Dream?” he said, not fully able to comprehend what his rattled friend was shaken from.
“You don’t know what a dream is? But how? Everyone dreams, don’t they?” she asked him, surprised he was clueless as to what she meant.
He continued to stare; Levana could read in his face that he still had no idea what she was talking about.
“Never mind…I’m going to try going back to sleep. Good night Asphodel…” she muttered then lay back down. Her head was swimming with the memory of the dream she just had. While she herself was still unsure what it meant, she was baffled that Asphodel looked at her like she was barking mad. She remained wide awake the remainder of the night, unable to get back to sleep, staring at the ceiling as if the answer would materialize in her mind for her.
The following morning could not come soon enough, and with answers still nonexistent, it was an unwelcome dawn.
As Levana laid in her bed, having been unable to fall back asleep, still in trauma and confusion from the events of the previous night, the sun’s first rays crept into her room. She sighed as she rose from her bed, staring into the mirror hanging on the wall.
The effects of her dream were readily apparent on her face. Her pale green eyes were bloodshot and exhausted. Her flowing white hair was a mess around her equally pale face. If she did not know any better, she could’ve easily mistaken herself for a ghost.
“Master…” she whispered beneath her breath, which was short and ragged, holding back sorrows that she knew were just waiting to be cried, “I know you cannot hear me, but please forgive me for disappointing you. You gave me this life, and I failed to repay you for that gift. Forgive me…” As she rose, the sound of Lucian’s weak screaming still echoed in her mind, and a single tear crept from the corner of her eye and slid down her soft pale cheek.
The morning assembly gathered as normal. The twelve members of the Imperfect filed into the room silently as always and took their respective seats at the table. Levana took her seat silently, keeping her head down as to hide her weary face from the others.
Their leader, Renu, took his post at the podium in the front of the room. His narrow grey eyes looked troubled today, and he bore a grim look upon his face.
“So as many of you may or may not be aware of, the previous night has brought to our attention a small riot in a small village near the Western Isle that needs silencing,” he said in a solemn tone, “Many of us have our own devices to attend to in this world on this day, so Levana, may I enlist your assistance in this matter? It should bring you no trouble, so I assume this is as simple enough a task for the day. You and Asphodel can go together to take care of this.”
Levana, still in her trance-like state, remained silent and sat in her seat staring absently at her boots.
“Levana?” Asphodel whispered sharply to her, snapping her out of her daze, “Did you hear what Renu had said? You and I are to go to the Western Isles to handle a commotion, do you understand?”
Levana looked up groggily into Asphodel’s cold and staring eyes. Realization dawned in her eyes. She stood up, suddenly bursting with energy, a stark contrast to the zombie-like state she was in mere moments earlier.
“Yes milord! I’ll get on it right away! Let’s go Asphodel!” she proclaimed, and with a heartily faked enthusiasm, she quickly marched out of the room.
The rest of the group just stared at her puzzled as she rushed out of the room.
“Um…Master Asphodel?” Renu said blankly as he stared at the door closing behind Levana, “Would you pardon my asking and please make sure Lady Levana doesn’t hurt herself? I’m rather concerned about her…she seems…distant today. I’m sensing some distress in her and I’d like to know why, and it would help me greatly if she were to return to us in one piece.”
“Fine…” Asphodel moaned as he got up to his feet lazily. He slumped his way after Levana.
The Imperfect were no longer humans like their fellow peers. Castaways of society, they were created by Lucian as a means to control the passing between the worlds of the living and dead. Every one of the Imperfect had been at one point, average, normal human beings. But, fate would have swayed them to another path, as an untimely demise had met each and every one of them. Lucian, being a necromancer of sorts, had managed to resurrect them, albeit their physical appearance had been altered.
Their skin and hair both had grown pale, their hair a silvery grey, not due to age, but as the result of dead flesh being contaminated with dark magic. Their eyes also shone a pale grey beyond their normal color like two full moons that stood out even in the darkest nights. They did not age, as an almost eerie beauty emanated from their faces. They were neither dead nor alive…they simply existed…no warmth, no feeling…just being. Lucian organized them to serve as liaisons between the worlds of the living and dead, as they were comprised of both live and dead energy, they could phase between worlds.
Asphodel had gotten out into the courtyard when he caught up with Levana. She somehow managed to get pretty far at the pace she was walking at.
“Levana! Wait up!” Asphodel panted as he caught up with her, “You walk far too fast…slow down and let me catch up for once…”
“Oh! I’m sorry Asphodel! I forgot you were to accompany me! Do forgive me…” she said, exasperated, “Do you have everything you need? I’d rather we not have to return for something you forgot again. Do you have your medicines, your tools?”
“Yes Levana…I’d rather we try going one mission without you talking to me as if I were your child…I get more than enough of the trained pup treatment from Renu as it is…” he moaned as he caught up with her finally, “Can this time we keep our objective in mind? Do you even remember what we were assigned to do, or did you take your leave in such haste you did not hear Renu?”
A blank look spread across Levana’s face. She laughed halfheartedly and shook her head in a “no.”
Asphodel sighed. “Listen. There’s an uprising in a town close to the Western Isles. It’s our job to go and resolve the situation before it gets any further out of hand. Do you follow me?”
Levana nodded. “I take it we’re to be peacekeepers then? Any word on how violent this uprising happens to be?”
“No word on the state of things there, but Renu had said it was not of great importance, so I assume this is merely busy work to keep us from getting bored” Asphodel nodded, “Now, let’s get going. We’ve a ways to go, so we’d best cross over and make our way to the village soon before it gets dark here. The earlier we get to the village, the better. We can survey what damage is caused, if any, and find the cause of the uprising and put an end to it.”
“Good idea. Let’s get going,” she said as she took his hand.
A soft white light began to glow around their feet. Both closed their eyes and felt a sharp feeling in their chest that felt like their heart was being clenched in a tight grip. Levana and Asphodel were used to the feeling, as they’ve crossed over many times between worlds. Kulumaa, land of the afterlife, was waiting for them, and they were well on their way.
Chapter 2: Kulumaa
As suddenly as the feeling appeared, it was gone. Levana found her and Asphodel standing amidst what appeared to be a run-down church. She knew this place from her previous visits to Kulumaa. Standing in the same altar as she did so many years before, when she first crossed over from the land of the living, Elvinma. She saw the stains on the marble flooring where she had gone into hysterics the first time and caused herself to bleed from the pain of transition. Suddenly, she felt the same sadness she felt the previous night after waking from her dream.
“Asphodel,” she whispered, her voice weak with dread, “the day Master died, do you know where he went after? Did he—come here? To this world?”
“I don’t know Levana. If memory serves, Master was imprisoned for creating us imperfect. I can’t imagine that the overseers of his judgment would allow him to carry on in either world. Do not let it escape your mind what we are. We are…abominations of all that is natural. We are fabrications. We are different. That is why we hide as we do. The actions Master had done in creating us, cannot be forgiven, overlooked, nor fixed. So, I cannot say what fate befell him.”
Levana remained silent, her eyes somber and teary with the thought of the loss of her master.
“I still remember the sight of Master’s eyes the day we were born. They were so lively, so full of joy. I remember him holding me close to him and saying how happy he was to finally meet me. The feeling of his warm chest against me, his heart beating against my hand…it was the happiest moment of my life…” she said, holding back the tears that were creeping into the corners of her eyes once more, “When I last saw Master, he looked so different…his eyes were distant and weary, his body emaciated…cut up and bruised from the abuse of his guards…I still am haunted by the sight of him like that…”
“Levana…” Asphodel looked at her, held her close to him and hugged her as she broke down crying.
“I’m so sorry Asphodel…this place…it just brings back such sad memories of Master…” Levana choked back tears as she held him tight against her.
Asphodel looked at her with a surprising warmth in his eyes. “Levana, you truly are something. The whole lot of us are the misfits of the world, and we’re a bunch of cold statues. But you…you have something more. I sense warmth still in you…”
“Huh? What do you—“ Levana stuttered as she wiped her tears.
“It’s fine.” Asphodel said calmingly, “Let’s get going, there’s work to be done here.”
Chapter 3: Zephyr Sage Departure
“Milady, are you awake yet?”
The dark green curtains in the room were pulled to let the light pouring in from outside reach Freya in her bed, waking her abruptly from her sleep.
“Mona, would you please do me a favor by heeding my words and waking me before you open my curtains? The morning sun is too intense for me when I first wake. How many times have we discussed this matter?” Freya groaned sleepily as she moved from her bed.
“I beg your pardon for being so abrupt, milady, but your mother insisted I wake you. She said she bore news of his Highness your father, and she wanted you awake bright and early to inform you at the break of dawn.” Mona said, quickly making the bedspread.
“It’s always a celebration for Mother. Ever since Father went off to lead his army against the rebels in the west, each day is just more cause for her to celebrate. Victory this, hero that. It’s all the same to me…just more to boast about…one would think Father need not compensate, but alas...” Freya said half-heartedly to herself.
Freya walked down the stairs from her room, Mona following hurriedly after her.
“This had better be worth waking me Mother,” Freya shouted as she entered the dining hall.
“Freya, darling, come sit. We’ve much to discuss,” her mother said in a solemn tone, much unlike her usual cheeriness. Freya took her seat beside her mother as Mona and Kanako took their places behind the two.
“I bear ill news. The daily scouts your father sends had today told me a terrible, terrible story this morning. It seems your father, our king, has fallen to the rebel army. As for our throne, for the time being, you shall take his place. You understand what responsibility has befallen you?”
Freya could not believe what she had heard. “Father…is he alive? What of his men?”
“It was a betrayal. There were some traitors in his command who turned the others on him, and captured him for the rebel commander. I heard nothing of his condition. His life may yet be his own, but I cannot tell,” her mother said calmly.
Freya sat silent for a moment, then stood up and turned to Kanako and Mona. “Kanako, Mona, retrieve your satchels. We ride to my father’s aide at once!”
“Freya let’s not act so rash. Your father shall be fine. He is a strong warrior, and the other kings of our realm shall not stand for this.”
“I care not for rashness, Mother. I care for my father being here where he is safe and where he belongs. I am to find him and rescue him. I am not the son he wanted, but I will suffice as the successor he needs. You sit here and keep an eye on things. My friends, let us make haste to the Western Isles!” Freya boomed, then her, Mona and Kanako all hurried out of the room.
“You are your father’s son, my young Freya. Even if you carry not the name of ‘son’ but ‘daughter’.” Her mother said to herself calmly.
Chapter 4: Deeper Shadows to the West
Levana and Asphodel hurried through the forest just outside the church they arrived in to find a small village in a blanket of fog that was where the rebellion was said to have sparked. As they walked among the silently smoking homes, they could see that rebellion and unrest had left its mark.
“These homes…” Levana whispered to Asphodel, “they scream in agony…broken down doors, burnt down walls…shadows have touched this place. I can feel such pain here…I see no signs of any people even left in this town. Corpses are here, yes, but none that have still life left in them…”
“Hold one moment, Levana, someone approaches. Quick, behind that caravan!” Asphodel whispered hurriedly as he tugged her behind an overturned caravan. Just as they were safely out of sight, two figures stepped out of the fog. Draped in black robes, they were almost like shadows looming from the night, creeping among the ruins of the village.
“So it seems this village is the first pawn to be taken in our little game is it? How very amusing. It’s an appropriate start to our countdown to checkmate,” said the taller of the two figures, his voice a mere whisper, but still sharp and piercing through the dense cloud of silence, “and what of the survivors of the townspeople? Where are all my children playing now?”
“Survivors? Ha. Don’t make me laugh. You know your wretched underling Vithe knows nothing of survivors. You made the mistake of charging him with the inception of this rebellion, you should have known he would leave no one to escape,” the second one said, his voice coarse and grating and seething with disgust.
“I chose Vithe for this task not because his sadistic pleasures in killing. I chose him for his charismatic manipulative side. I knew that he could seduce the enemy into siding with us with his humorously honeyed words. Those fools ate it right up, and the moment he opened his mouth, this village was done for. This is only the beginning. Soon, other regions of Kulumaa shall fall, and eventually, our master’s work shall be realized,” the tall robed figure hissed, “Now, we must travel to the mainland, where Aaron’s forces should be beginning their move on the knight in our game of chess—Vedran. Once Vedran falls, the vein to this world’s power shall be cut, and we will watch it bleed slowly until we can put it out of its misery once and for all.” And with that, a cold breeze blew from the south, and the two were gone.
Once the coast was clear, Asphodel turned to Levana with a grim look on his face.
“This sounds as though there’s far more to this rebellion than what Renu must have heard. This is bad. We must ride for Vedran and pray we arrive in time to prepare them for what is coming their way,” he said as he began heading towards the edge of the village.
“What’s coming their way, Asphodel? I can’t sense anything in this village that would point to anything that might pose a threat to Vedran. All I can sense is this powerful anguishing darkness…it’s as if all of the world’s sorrows are concentrated here…the ghosts here are alive with pain…it’s almost unbearable. What are we to do?” Levana said, gently lifting a slightly seared toy dog that lay at her feet. It clearly belonged to a child, yet the child was nowhere to be seen; chances were that child was dead.
“We warn Vedran’s people and pray they believe us. If not, that town may end up like this one…I’ve friends who are settled in Vedran who may be able to support our cause. Whether or not they’ll be happy to see me, that’s all up to fate now.” Asphodel said as he took out a small candle and placed it on the ground where the toy was, gently pinching the wick, and a bright green flame sprouted, and slowly the fog surrounding them cleared.
Chapter Five: A Dreaded Reunion
After journeying for what seemed like an eternity, the forest Levana and Asphodel had been venturing through gave way to a magnificent view. Far below the cliff they had reached, laid the for-now slumbering city of Vedran. One of the ruling territories of Kulumaa, it was home to the Autumn Priestess Amaranda. Its people, and the village itself, emanated an overwhelming sense of serenity. From their perch high above, both Levana and Asphodel could feel its presense.
“From the looks of it, those two hooded men haven’t gotten to Vedran yet. Everything seems to be intact, for the moment.” Asphodel surveyed.
“Well, rather than scouting from up here, what say we get a bit closer?” Levana said, looking down the cliff.
“Levana, are you sure this is a good idea?” Asphodel said uncertainly, “This cliff seems rather steep don’t you think?”
“That’s why I have this,” Levana said as she reached into her bag and pulled out what appeared to be a small vial. She opened it, releasing a small blue butterfly, “Did you think I’d try jumping?”
The butterfly began to grow larger; its body began to change. Its six legs became talons. Its beautiful blue wings grew feathers. The two antennae grew together and melded into a beak. Before they knew it, a massive, magnificent falcon stood before them.
“Levana, where did you--?”
“It was a gift I got many years ago from the Falcon Prince. He was quite smitten with me, I must say. But unfortunately, life was too short for me, and I had left him behind before we could be together forever. This was such a sweet gift from him, so I kept it as memory of our moment. Shall we?” Levana motioned for Asphodel to mount the falcon behind her.