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Chapter 4


“What does it mean to Fall from the Path you ask? Well, it means to suffer a loss of almost indescribable proportions and as such, is considered the worst nightmare that can befall an Incarnate. In the very best of cases, a Fall from the Path means to lose a substantial amount of one’s Incarnation – be it a meld or two, the stability of one’s Nexus, or an entire stage of one’s progress. In the worst of cases it is to lose most if not all of one’s melds, to have one’s body become riven, to rupture or lose one’s Nexus, to lose multiple stages of growth, or for one’s soul to suffer an injury so great that the light of awakening completely fades from it.”

— Reflections of the Soul, Morgan Mossgrove, the Age of Tyrants, circa 3834

“Are you okay, Ascendant?”

It took a moment for the words to pierce through Vincent’s revelation, his unfocused eyes turning as they moved to glance up at Theo, who he belatedly realized had been the one to speak.

“No.” Vincent said simply as he banished the image of his soul, as if not seeing it would make the truth easier to bare. “I…am not. I’m afraid I can’t remember…much of anything. Let alone anyone who could help me.”

He paused for a second to consider all that he had experienced since awakening and finding himself here. 

 “And what I memories I do have, barely make any sense. One moment I was…somewhere else, and then the next thing I knew I was in a cart, being rushed through a city by two men. Then after that, we were falling.”

“Is…that so?” Theo stated, a look of realization suddenly spreading across his face as he glanced over at his father then back at Vincent, the expression on his face tightening. “Does…does the Shadowed Hand mean anything to you?”

“The…what?” Vincent asked, it taking him a moment to process the abrupt change in subject. “No, I’ve never heard of it before? Why? Who are they”

“Because we discovered two men with markings signaling they belonged to the Shadowed Hand inside the creature after you both washed ashore,” Ayre answered, his tone suddenly sounding even more careful and hesitant than it had even before. “As for who they are…well, they are a underrealm guild who have a reputation for trafficking in…uh, well, people, often for the darkest of purposes.”

The simple statement combined with what he’d seen within him was enough for understanding to abruptly rush into Vincent’s mind.

“You mean they’re Soul Thieves,” he stated in a suddenly angry tone at not only the violation the term implied, but that anyone would even dare do such a thing to him of all people. 

“That and many other things,” Ayre said in a gentle tone just above a whisper. “Their reputation is among the ghastliest that the underrealm of our city has to offer and I myself have witnessed firsthand the result of their work far too many times already. So if you were to have found yourself in their company unwillingly…”

The mender’s voice trailed off as he looked at Vincent apologetically.

“…then that means that they took something from me,” Vincent finished, only then remembering what he’d overheard during his abduction. “That…that explains why they called me a bounty, they were going to carve me apart. Or rather…continue carving it apart.”

“I see, I am sorry, truly,” Ayre replied, his voice full of sympathy as he immediately understood what Vincent had said. “Would you care to tell us what they took?”

It was a question that Vincent was easily able to answer as he once again swept his Will across the wound in his soul, finding two distinct gaps where he would have expected to find glowing seeds of light, “the Loci belonging to two of my mental soul melds. Worse…when they took them, they took all that was around them.”

“Your memories then,” Ayre said, the expression on his face only deepening.

“My memories,” Vincent agreed as he released his Will and banished the mental image of his soul, which in addition to all the damage it had suffered appeared dull and weak.

But even if I account for these thieves…it still doesn’t explain what happened to the rest of my soul. What could have possibly happened to me to cause this much damage? Did…did I lose against Malvis? Vincent wondered silently as he considered his situation, desperately trying to piece together how he’d gotten here.

However no sooner did he reach that last and final thought did he immediately shy away from it as if he’d touched a hot iron, refusing to believe it was even possible.

“I am afraid that this is as good a time as any for us to have a rather…difficult conversation, Ascendant, that is before we go any further,” Ayre said, breaking the brief silence that had fallen over them, his hands moving to clench one another as he continued to speak. “Neither my son nor I have the skill to mend your riving, or truthfully any facet of your Fall, in fact…given the severity of what I see, I do not believe…”

The Mender’s words trailed off slowly as Vincent began to shake his head, a part of him simply unbelieving of what he was hearing, while another was once again put off by the obvious fear and worry that he heard in the man’s tone yet again.

“I can mend myself,” Vincent stated simply, taking extreme care to make his voice sound calm and even, despite feeling anything but on the inside. “It will be difficult, and it will take time for me pare away the damage my soul has suffered, but I remember enough to know that I can do it.”

Yet if Vincent had expected his words to calm either of the two Menders, it very clearly did anything but, with both Ayre and Theo turning visibly pale at the statement.

“Wouldn’t…wouldn’t that kind of spiritual surgery take at least the Will of a Tempered to do, if not greater?” he heard Theo whisper a second later to his father, the young man even going as far as to take half a step away from the bed. Though as soon as he did so, he realized that he’d been overheard, wincing quickly before turning to look at Vincent and continuing, “do you have any recollection if you were a Tempered or perhaps even a stage higher?

“I have no idea,” Vincent replied, the title being one he had no frame of reference for. “But I am certain I can heal myself. Or if not, then I at least need to try to.”

“Then…if that is truly the path you wish to take, how can we help you?” Ayre asked, the two menders recovering quickly from whatever shock and surprise that Vincent had accidentally inflicted on them. One that he noticed hadn’t extended out towards Norin, who had simply remained calm and impassive throughout their exchange, waiting to be called into service. “It is…the least we can do as menders, as people to one who has suffered from the Shadowed Hand’s designs.”

“Well, I have some questions to start,” Vincent said after a second’s pause to collect his thoughts in that regard. “Such as where exactly I am. I remember seeing a city…but not one I recognized.”

“A good question, and certainly the best one to start with,” Ayre replied with a nod, the stress and anxiety from before still visibly draining out of him. “To begin at the largest scope, you are in the kingdom of Avaloria, in a territory known as the Dutchy of Crestwyn. The city that we are all in is called Everness, and it is the not only the capital of our dutchy, but is perhaps the second or third largest city within our Kingdom’s borders. Outside the city we are surrounded by countless farms and smaller settlements, with the distant forest of the Eldenvale bordering that some many, many miles away.”

“I see,” Vincent replied with a nod, pausing, and waiting to see if a memory came to him, but to no avail. “I’m sorry, none of that is familiar to me.”

“Then perhaps working from the other direction may be better?” Theo suggested before Vincent could say anything else. “Do you remember anything of where you or who you might have been with before your memories become fragmented?”

It was a question that Vincent immediately found himself hesitant to answer, if not exactly because he felt like he had something to hide, but because of how surreal he remembered the place being and the unknown circumstances of his being there. But then again, right now he had nothing to lose by sharing.

“I…think I was in a place, a Domain called Elysium, with a woman named Zera, battling against a man named Malvis,” Vincent said slowly, while trying to watch everyone’s reactions at once when he mentioned the names. However, though if he was expecting his words to unleash some sort of grand revelation, he soon found himself disappointed when all he received from the men, including Norin, was a simple widening of the eyes.

“You last remember being in a hidden realm? That…is astonishing, and far beyond anything in my experience,” Ayre stated before glancing over towards Norin who simply shook his head in response.

“It’s certainly not one of the ones I’ve read about,” Theo added, sounding more than a little bit awed by the revelation. “Though…you said that there was a battle with this…Malvis? Do you know why the two of you were fighting? Could he have been responsible for your…um, injuries? Perhaps he was the one who gave you to the Shadowed Hand?”

That was another question that Vincent didn’t know how to exactly answer, if only because he now lacked any context that he might have once had, such why he and Zera were in the City of the Gods in the first place. Yet even with the fragments that he had pieced together so far, he simply couldn’t see how Malvis could be involved, certainly not with something as trivial as turning him over to a band of soul thieves after trying to break into what was supposedly Heaven itself.

“Not…entirely,” Vincent said with a shake of his head as he tried to put his whirling thoughts into words. “All I can say with certainty was that he was trying to steal something that wasn’t his, to open something that was best if it remained closed. I can’t see at all how the Shadowed Hand could fit into that.”

It was as those words left Vincent’s mouth that he realized that there had been a line of thinking that he hadn’t yet considered, mentally kicking himself that it hadn’t come to mind first. Especially since it was something he actually remembered with perfect clarity. 

“Wait, I…we are in Mythranor, correct? This isn’t somewhere else…is it?” He asked abruptly, uncaring of how the question would make him sound. After all, there was really no easy way to ask if you were in the same realm that you thought you were without potentially coming across a little mad or unhinged, even if your memories were damaged. Fortunately Vincent’s worries were for naught as Ayre nodded back to him.

“You have nothing to worry about, for you are indeed within Mythranor,” he said in a gentle tone. “Though maybe such a line of thought could be worth pursuing as there are many unclaimed and lost Domains in our realm, to say nothing of those that belong to the powers above us. Perhaps you were part of an guild or band exploring a newly found one? Or maybe you were in service to a Paragon? Does that perhaps awaken any memory?”

“Truthfully, I don’t know,” Vincent replied with another negative shake of his dead despite feeling relieved that there at least one familiar thing for him to latch onto, especially given the scope of magic that he vaguely knew Malvis had been attempting to wield. Though at the same time, Vincent wasn’t sure what to make of the second half of the mender’s words which for some reason he couldn’t place sounded wrong to his ear.

Domains aren’t supposed to be common things, are they? He asked himself, his memories remaining frustratingly silent on the matter.

“Then perhaps there is another track better for us to explore,” Ayre continued, oblivious to Vincent’s thoughts has he took the discovery of the mental dead end in stride. “Perhaps there other questions that you might have for us?”

“Far too many,” Vincent answered with a shake of his head, his mind struggling as what would be best to ask next. He was torn from demanding to know more about the Shadowed Hand who had ravaged his body, to asking more about the city itself, let alone where he was now exactly within it. Yet as he considered those questions, he found them all hollow and insufficient, at least when it came to the long term.

I need to find my feet and ground myself before I can truly think or do anything else, he realized after a few seconds of thought. With how fragmented my memories are and how riven my body is, there is simply nothing else I can do other than focus on that right now. Everything else…well, everything else can wait until later.

With that decision made, Vincent was then able to easily pare down the demands that his mind was making, reducing them to one of the most basic and simplest ones that a person in his place could want to know.

“What is the date today?”

 “The date?” Theo repeated, both him and his father needing a moment to refocus at the simplicity of the question. “Well, today is the twenty-fifth of Manur and the day is Hiesday.”

“And what about the year?” Vincent asked eagerly as a trickle of memory flowed free, allowing him to not only identifying the month and day, but recognizing as being somewhere around mid-spring.

“Ah, you want the full date?” Theo asked, taking his request in stride. “In that case, the year is forty-nine-hundred-and-ninety-two.”

Vincent froze as he heard the Mender’s words, his eyes opening wide as yet another surge of memory flowed into him. “Forty-nine-hundred-and-ninety-two?”

“That’s correct,” he replied with a half nod that stopped suddenly when he noticed something in Vincent’s expression. “Is there something wrong?”

“I-I…” he stammered, the memory that had hit him doing so with enough force as to render him silent for several seconds until he realized everyone was staring intently at him with growing concern. “I’m sorry, I-I think…I need to pee. Right now.

“Oh. Oh!” Theo said as everyone abruptly clued into his mock distress, Norin taking a step forward to pull the blankets covering him away from the foot of the bed. “Then let’s get you on the pot before it’s too late. Do you think you can stand?”

“Y-yes,” Vincent replied only half hearing him as he was half lifted and half climbed out of bed onto unsteady, riven feet, his heart hammering wildly as the memory faded away into nothingness, leaving only the date he’d associated with it.

A thousand years, he thought numbly. Why is the last date I remember almost a thousand years ago?

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