“Veron, I wish to discuss with you something very important,” Damian continued after his office door was closed behind Veron and the rest of the members began conversing again. Veron listened closely, nodding his understanding.
“I am offering you a place here at Terrasylvae, this includes being a part of the Order of the Rose and have your own house within the village. Does this interest you at all?” Damian watched Veron’s expression closely, then added. “You’re someone I want to include in our great membership, and I see great potential from you.”
Veron only hesitated slightly, what of his father? It was after that brief thought that he decided it would be good to join another group, considering their band of monster hunters abandoned them. Perhaps a few of the members currently within the Order of the Rose would help him, assuming he became friends with any of them. He gazed back at Damian after his brief lapse in thought, and responded, “I would be honored to join the Order of the Rose.”
“Great! Now that’s settled, let’s check which houses are available in the village. Oh I’ll need you to sign this order forum for me, you know legal stuff,” Damian handed Veron a pen and a piece of parchment which detailed everything to do with the Order of the Rose and what to expect as well as what was expected, while Damian looked at a map that detailed every building within Terrasylvae. Veron did not notice the map before and assumed Damian had it on his person at all times. He looked back at his parchment, read at the bottom where a ‘sign here’ was scrawled across with a line depicting his participation.
He signed his name while Damian pointed out several empty unoccupied houses available within Terrasylvae which then turned into a tangent for when he first joined the Order of the Rose way back when. Describing how young the village and the forest was, how few people were a part of the order, and how only within the last few years the now prominent chapel had been built.
“Oh speaking of chapel’s, Veron, I have an important task for you and I very much wish to accompany you now that you are a member of the Order of the Rose,” Damian, who was relaxing comfortably upon his chair with his feet propped up against the office desk while recalling stories from the past, but now sat up straight, realizing the time and his forgetfulness over the task he was going to ask Veron before being distracted.
“Ul’vade, and the other rangers have been noticing a lot of scouts and strange people coming and going from Haute’s Den, we can only assume this is Blackkoven’s work. Now, because you’ve been the only one brave enough to confront Haute and actually gain reputation with him, we feel it best to follow you mostly into Woodland, far enough to his den, and see if we can find out what is going on. Most of the scouts are reminiscent of Blackkoven’s band and we’ve grown worried about their presence so frequently in our forest lately,” Damian said, gathering a few items that were buried under papers, or otherwise hidden while waiting for Veron’s response.
“I don’t mind going to Haute’s Den. Besides, I have a few questions of my own for him as well,” Veron replied, standing as Damian smiled at his willingness.
“Awesome, let me grab a few things,” He mumbled as he went, peering his head out the window just behind his office chair which was slightly ajar and could faintly hear the ringing of practicing rapiers. He yelled out a few names, grabbed a few more items that he seemed to at the last-minute remembered, then led Veron out of his office, Veron noticing the common room was empty. How long were they talking for?
The few people he summoned came up to the common room while they were exiting his office. Damian introduced each of them; the first was Evanlyn, she bowed before Veron, and greeted him with a smile. She was well equipped and beheld a bow against her back, arrows accompanying her belt, a few other pouches were also slung against her, along with a hidden dagger that barely flashed. Damian then introduced Otiliah Vuhs, which she commented, saying Tilly is just fine. She had a sword hung at her side, with a small buckler against her back along with a bow and quiver of her own. Her eyes flashed with bright intent and held an eagerness Veron hadn’t seen before. And the last person Damian introduced was Jai’ka, who nodded his greeting toward Veron. He had two swords similar to Veron against his back, his cautious nature hung close to him as the party conversed with each other.
After introductions were established, Damian led the party out of the order garrison and away from the court-yard, turning to prepare the group for the small journey to Haute’s Den. He explained to everyone a similar task he already mentioned to Veron with, except the task for everyone else was to not approach, unless otherwise needed. With understanding throughout the group, Damian led the journey into the forest, where it would be a few days later that Haute’s Den loomed only a few feet before them.
Veron seemed to remember his den being somewhat closer than before, and was about to ask Damian this, before Damian interrupted his attempt.
“Well, off you go, then! We’ll be here listening and watching for Blackkoven’s men if any approach. Good luck, Veron,” Damian gave Veron a cautious worried look before dispersing the party and disappearing into the nearby forest. The act of this led Veron to believe that Haute held a reputation of being untrusted, almost unwanted within the Terrasylvan company.
Regardless, the den was buried within a dense part of the forest that shadowed before him. Currently there were songbirds chirping happily nearby, yet when Veron entered what seemed to be Haute’s territory, those melodic notes faded almost immediately, while mid-day turned into midnight with each step. The surrounding trees visibly shook as the anticipation for winter came quicker within his realm than anywhere outside of it. Veron could make out the boulder he almost died upon a few months before which sat in front of the entrance to Haute’s cavern. Veron could sense an emptiness throughout the outside of Haute’s territory, yet called out to him even still, hoping he would respond. The cave before him did not seem inviting whatsoever. He hesitantly peered into the cave, the smell hung along the walls drenching the floor with a strange ooze-like substance.
Or was that his imagination?
He stepped onto the strange ooze, it dissipated away from his footfalls like fog. Curious he continued, hearing strange shifting noises, and quiet laughing echoing far before him. For how dark the cave was, Veron needed little effort to see clearly, another trait of his power.
“Toward the dark of night,” a whisper haunted him to his right, he jerked left, trying to discern the phantom. He continued forward after dismissing the thought, the cave veered left, hanging roots crowded the way, and upon touching their slimy coated earth-like rough surface forced his relapse against touching them and pressed through them swiftly.
“She escaped with fury, and fright,” another voice, Veron identified the breath. The cave dropped slightly and suddenly, cold water greeted his foot and startled his nerves.
“Intending to cure, that which wasn’t pure,” a cackle haunted behind him, he gazed before him stepping into an empty hollow space dimly lit from a small crack from above, although the origin of the light was confounding to Veron, considering the lack of light from outside within Haute’s territory.
Suddenly Haute appeared before Veron smoke trails accompanying his presence, his eyes were bright with excitement, and somewhat violent intent, “you must behold a thirst!”
He gazed down at his visitor and realized who it was. His countenance changed dramatically, his voice turned soft and quivered slightly, “Veron, I wasn’t expecting you.” Veron followed Haute’s steady hovering to slowly become eye-level with him while Haute’s countenance went from annoyance to worry, and then he smiled somewhat uncomfortably for Veron. “You look really pale! And so strong! But, you have something that is bothering you. There are also spies just outside my territory. Speak.”
Veron took a shallow breath, he wasn’t sure where to start, “Those that are watching from outside are concerned for whether you are conversing with their enemy and collaborating with them in some way.” He watched as Haute created a strange taken-aback look, then silently laughed to himself.
“No, my dear boy. If anything, I have been waiting for you, and you alone. I am curious of how my prize is treating you, and how you are treating her,” he gazed at him, trying to peer into his soul, assuming he still had one.
“That was my second point of discussion,” Veron sighed heavily, suddenly a strange-looking chair appeared behind him. Haute invited him to sit, sensing something in Veron’s voice.
“Was there something you did to her? She is possessed with two souls. The demon possessing her is very devastating and violent, which leads me to believe this isn’t something you intended,” Veron watched as Haute buried his face in his hands again, seeming to try to decide whether he wanted to tell Veron the truth of the matter.
“This isn’t something I can easily describe to you,” Haute complained.
“Try me, I am no longer mortal because of you,” Veron responded.
Haute heaved a huge sigh that he expelled for some time, then collected himself and prepared to reply, “Alright, I can show you, but I cannot simply tell you. You must allow me to briefly possess you in order to do this. Do you trust me Veron?”
Veron paused a moment, considered the requirement. If anything went wrong and he could not rid himself of Haute, at least when he left his Den Damian and his party would be there to collect Veron after realizing the possession. But what would Haute want as payment in return for this?
As if Haute had already possessed his body, he replied to his question, “For this I do not want payment. I am helping a lost soul reclaim her right to be free, and because she came to me, it is only fair to fulfil my end of her bargain by having you help me. If anything, this is a means to help her and has nothing to do with you, except that you’ll be the vessel to carry out the deed I require completing to help her.” Haute watched Veron, who’s golden-red eyes blinked several times in slight disbelief.
Veron shook his head, he hated trusting demons. “Let’s do this, then.”
The cave was so bright he forgot what darkness meant. It wasn’t until a moment later that pitch black enveloped his vision, and a small cackle filled his mind.
His heart sank slightly, being unable to see anything, but he was unable to fight the process. Slowly something appeared before him, he was within a field full of sunflowers, and off in the distance stood a dense forest that crawled up along the rocky mountain-side. It was here Veron did not recognize, but there was something else within his mind that felt like a strange twinge. Is this what it felt like to share with someone else the same body?
Haute’s presence nodded silently within Veron’s mind. This is exactly what it feels like to have someone else share your body.
Veron tried to lay out some ground rules about going over his past and memories to Haute, but Haute dismissed them, he wasn’t really caring for anything Veron beheld as memories as they were not worth bothering to delve into.
This was for Zarka.
Veron paused, that’s her name?
Yes, now pay attention, this was where I was when I felt her presence. Veron understood this place was where Haute would go in an attempt to feel as though he left his cave, when in reality it was another pocket dimension Haute created himself. Veron admitted it was very peaceful and beautiful for he knew nothing of anywhere liken to it. Haute inwardly smiled at his compliment and continued the story.
It was then Veron noticed a strange visible line of silver quickly approach him, as though the wind had an identifiable color. Inaudible sounds and strange noises came from the strand, which also strangely stopped near Veron while he investigated the origin. Haute explained this was how he can interpret prayers from distant dimensions, or for this case, across the galaxy.
The scene changed, Veron could make out buildings glowing with white lights. It was at the pitch of night, and crickets chirped their merry tunes within sparse vegetation dotted throughout the city. The building he was introduced to was tall and beheld several windows, the entire thing made from a very dense stone-like substance. Haute mentioned this was where the prayer had brought him to this specific structure. They entered within by melting into the side of the wall, once the feeling of shifting through dense stone surpassed Veron, he noticed someone sprawled along the floor, seeming helpless, but begging pitifully whilst sobbing uncontrollably.
There was another presence who was watching uninterested. He grabbed the hair from the girl who screamed in response, unable to fight back and dragged her into a strange capsule-like device.
“Stop sobbing, you should be proud of yourself to be a part of this glorious gift you are about to be given,” the voice came from the demeaning man who dragged her, his voice was low hollow and almost monotone.
Again, a silver strand drifted from her, reaching for Veron and twisted around him. However, there was nothing he could do, he had no jurisdiction over this world, or anything to do with it, except to watch and wait. The realm he was participating in purely allowed him to visit and watch, no action was allowed. At least that’s what Haute’s explanation was to this encounter.
The scene changed again, the same place, except now she was gone, and in her place a strange mutagenic pulsating sack of some kind that seemed reminiscent unto an egg, only human-sized. The man from before was watching behind a strong glass wall that completely enclosed the room the strange egg was encased within.
“Begin the process, her infusion is ready. Let the world know of our success, we will be able to control this creature, unlike the other failures,” the man spoke to someone else who bowed and left the room. He pulled a lever which seemed to cause the mechanism to begin absorbing electricity, among other strange powerful substances that Veron noticed were being sucked into. Haute mentioned some of the substances looked akin to powers that only immortals were given by the gods, or the gods themselves beheld and never shared. The amount of power being drawn to cause that much of substances to even be absorbed was something Haute could still to this day not understand fully. How could mere humans be able to control the ebb and flow of power with a strange-looking machine? Veron agreed, something seemed off about the machine, or maybe the dimension they were in, or, as Haute reminded him, the planet they were on.
Another lever was pulled, and he was able to enter the encased room as though the glass was no longer there, yet it was. Suddenly he was stripped of his clothing, revealing not a human, but glowing of dark power, almost black and smoke-like. He opened his appendages that Veron assumed were arms and allowed the mechanism to absorb him, disappearing easily into the now crystallized beam that continued to grow, only now was beginning to spark with blackened lightning. The whirring of the machine finally ceased when the crystal completely enveloped the egg. Strangely, the egg completely absorbed the crystal and grew around it, then shattered open to reveal the creature Veron recognized from the forest. Haute said it was at this point that within the creature was two souls, yet at this time, she was not in control and was unconscious for several years before she was able to come into contact with Haute again.
Haute changed the scene again to reflect five years had passed, Veron stood upon a completely different planet altogether. For miles he could see no vegetation, no human structure, and nothing earth-like, except volcanic ash, magma, and obsidian spires traversing the land. They met the creature Zarka again, except she was within a weird living creature that Veron could honestly not describe, and Haute ignored, considering her plea for help once again slipped out from her, the smallest strand Veron had seen, except this time, the demon noticed Haute.
“You,” she breathed, except it wasn’t Zarka in control. The voice was deep, guttural and void-like. She was looking at Veron, who was in place of where Haute would have been in this memory. He stepped aside to watch the memory of Haute while the scene progressed.
Haute’s memory seemed to smile tauntingly, “Why hello there, and what is your name?”
“I know what you are, you stay out of this, it is my realm, I am in control, and you cannot stop me,” she continued, her eyes glowing with the dark smoky color that Veron remembered seeing before and holding her wing-appendage which was glowing a bright white close to Haute’s face. He hardly seemed phased by this as he chuckled.
“You do realize I cannot be harmed at this state, right? I am merely a spectator for your realm, and have not been contracted yet,” Haute’s memory replied, and watched as she tested his theory by thrusting her wing into him, which passed through him harmlessly.
She scoffed at this, trying to play off the embarrassment, “Why are you here, then?”
Haute’s memory continued to hold the sly smile that somewhat taunted the creature, “You have someone you are suppressing that would love to speak with me. If you would humor me for a bit, I can offer you another world you can control.”
She seemed to look interested, nodding slowly, “I know what you are trying to do, lesser demon. Don’t toy with me and speak to me, not her. She does not deserve your attention.”
“On the contrary, I believe she can be of use to you, and if you let me speak with her I can prove you otherwise,” at this point Haute’s memory was slowly moving closer to the creature, who continued to look intrigued.
“Fine, but if I sense any trickery, your intestines will be my plaything,” she venomously threatened Haute. And then her eyes began to glow purple and grew brighter.
“W-wh—,” Zarka began, she looked at her hands, her body was no longer what she remembered. What happened? Haute’s memory brought himself down to her eye level and startled her. “A.. are you..?”
“No, my love, I am not the demon you are seeking to control, I am here to help you, you have been praying for help, and unfortunately I’m the only one able to receive this task,” Haute’s memory smiled softly, as though he noticed a beautiful flower that only just bloomed. She found her new appendages and forced them forward into Haute who still was only a spectator, which startled her again.
“What have they done to me,” Zarka whispered to herself in horror now looking at her new appendages; everything she knew and remembered was gone, and nothing was the same.
“Five years can do a lot to someone, especially someone who has been unconscious for that long,” Haute’s memory replied, watching her expression as it went from confusion to horror.
“F—five years,” she stammered aghast at the amount of time that had passed. For that matter where was she and what is this constant nagging at the back of her mind?
Haute’s memory tried to get quick to the point, he could tell he was losing her, the demon was losing patience and didn’t want to be trifled with, “I have a proposition for you, however you have to accept my offer before I can help you.” She looked at him, eyes glowing interested. “I will provide you a bit more power to control this demon you possess and promise to provide you a way to rid yourself of it, in exchange for something you feel is worth this price.”
She thought for a moment, but the nagging continued, and forced her quick decision, “Okay, I will accept your proposal.”
Haute’s memory seemed to fade in quickly, knowing the deed had been sealed. He infused the power he promised into her, and Veron noticed a slight silver color between the exchange. She seemed to become more confident, but relapsed quickly as the demon took over violently, a raging roar emanating from her as she made quick attacks with both of her appendages toward Haute, who dodged each attempt with ease.
He cackled, enjoying the exchange, “My dear, I haven’t forgotten our deal. I promised to provide a world to quench your thirst.”
The demon paused, her eyes angrily watching Haute, still unsure if this was the case, “Provide me the section of the galaxy, and I will make my way there promptly.”
Haute giggled, “I’m not sure of what you speak, but I will provide you this world in given time. I will prepare it and plump it up for you, my dear.” At this he disappeared, cackling loudly.