Exerpt from Solsarin Ilduan's journal, dated: 7 Saun, 716
I often muse at those first days of feigned freedom. Had I chosen to speak, perhaps to beg those knights for their indulgence might I have been shown mercy? I think not. Murdered, I suppose, as I did unto them. So taken was I with the Flaying that I did not understand my limits; everything had come so easy at first, I did not guess at the power the addiction held over me. The Harvester knew; it warned me, I realized, yet also guided my hand to draw as much as I could, for as I found new heights so to did it. I knew then that I could trust no one. Why then did I follow into such blind idiocy? Did all our lives matter so little?
Unknown Trial, Ymiden, 713
Sol rubbed the fatigue from his eyes. The fat fellow he followed, Gerald he called himself, carried himself with a certain sort of confidence in his advance. How fortuitous the man found work as a guide, and Sol's dismemberment of previous clients left a gap in his work schedule. He recalled the fight - a brief struggle moreover - the sphere's heinous advantage, his callous murder of two Knights. No, they attacked first. Though did not his fault lay in the aggression of the legion? Bah. Sol swatted at thin air, physically wiping the thought from his mind. His legs burned. The strain of his recent ordeal played hell with his muscles; when was the last time he slept for more than a few hours? Suddenly his pack weighed him down, his shoulders hunched. Sweat dripped from his pale, wrinkled forehead. Now was not the time to stop. Sol grunted, shifted the weight of his gear and limped onward, favoring his left side now. The mind overpowered the body. Raw will kept him upright.
In the distance a treeline loomed. Above it thick, dark clouds cast out the sun and a grey sky expanded in all directions. Rain soon. Sol's ignorance of the land forced him to trust in this guide, this Gerald. This wood appeared healthier than the last. Lush, green trees greeted them; even so far as they were Sol made out bird song. Life. A gentle smile spread out over his countenance and for a moment his eyes lit up. The wind picked up about him, buffeting his form with a calm zephyre. Sol swayed with the breeze, catching himself before falling over entirely.
"Watch it now, Imperial. We'ven a ways ta'go yet, eh?" Gerald grinned over a shoulder at the man. "Stay'n on your feet will help." Sol's joy soured. Something about the man wreaked. He recalled the reaction, first fearful, but once Sol showed no signs of harm the fat-one retained an instant ease. Neither paid much mind to the fresh corpses then - a warning sign if any, but the power, the addiction drew too much of his attention. Stupid. "Here!" Fatman tossed some jerked meat behind him. It hit Sol square in the chest then dropped to the soft, grassy floor. "Keep'n your strength!" A groaned followed his body as he leaned over and liberated the food. Ah, more unflavored, chewy beef. His favorite.
A short trek brought the two of them to the base of the forest. Ahead several strings of bone hung from low branches. Each rattled in the wind sending a chilled music into the air. Beware, it said.
"This is the way to Andaris?" Sol's rasp of a baritone dripped with doubt. He rested a hand on the hilt of his blade, his eyes darting about. No road, not even a path. The occasional, spotted tree dotted the landscape up until the forest where mulch and bushes dominated below the canopy. From within a waft of birch and ash carried out with the wind. Natural scents. No rot, blood, or unwashed man. Still, Sol frowned and felt his shoulders stiffen.
"Aye," Gerald nodded. "The roads run'n risk'a bandits, an' its too long. Ya need a bed, fellow."
He lies, Devourer. This place masks a darkness.
"That is obvious." Sol mumbled to the expansive shadow behind him. "What choice do we have? We'd be lost."
"Eh? Speak'n up! Canne hear'ya mumblin'." Sol waved the man off. They shrugged together and the fat-one continued his ascent, stepping into the treeline with a jovial sort-of crunch. Sol blinked. He wiped the sweat from his brow and advanced, cursing under his breath all the way. He ducked beneath a string of bone and took a moment to study the decoration. The bottom held a human skull, while the rest consisted of the occasional arm-bone. A femur. How pleasant. He did admire the craftsmanship, for the thin wire made a poor host for such weight. Impressive, really.
The two crunched along the forest floor. Though their clumsy footfalls sent most of the forest beasts away, Sol found himself taken by the sheer vibrancy of life here. A pair of deer watch them from afar - accustom to the prattle of humans, apparently, but still poised for egress. What he thought were deer, anyway, his vision grew hazy. He found himself stumbling on more than one occasion, taking a moment to lean against a tree to catch his breath from no more than walking. Cramps wracked his body. His joints screamed for release. No. Still a ways to go yet. Sol inhaled and pushed himself upright, his head turning toward his fat guide. The man disappeared. Son of a bitch. Sol turned to his right, his left. He spun his head about in a wild search, his eyes widening.
"Gerlad?" Sol's call echoed across the tress with no response. Damn it.
Something approaches. The urgent hiss of the Harvester drew Sol's attention. He spun about, hand posed on his blade. His vision met with a cudgel with enough time to feel a fool before it cracked against his skull and the world faded to black.