26th of Zi’da, 716
It was like Paradise. There he was, a worm born in the mud, evolved, improved. No more bound to squirm and twist in the soil, or live underground like the creature he was. Now, Kovic got to fly. His wide open wings made him glide in between clouds, avoiding the puffy obstacles with dexterity, for he wished not to crash on top of them just yet. Instead, he wanted to experience the winds, to feel the warmth of the sun increasing the further up he flew. Even the birds envied him, for they flew below him, unable to reach his current heights. The seagulls, declared enemies of Kovic, hid as he surfed the currents, for every black feather of his wings roared whenever they flapped, and even hunger shivered as the vulture of vultures dominated the skies.
Kovic laughed and smiled, even if there was nobody around him, even if he was not portraying any character. He laughed and smiled because he was happy, perhaps for the first time in his short life. No more characters were necessary, for Kovic was finally complete.
“I’m done,” announced a voice behind him.
Kovic was buried deep down, and Paplo, the character, was reborn. Back into reality, the male found himself panting and coated in sweat. Looking back, he smiled.
“Did you have fun?” he asked.
“I did,” said his peer, laughing. “Come on.”
Paplo stood up, a hand running over his bearded features. He armed himself with a cloth and began cleaning himself up, eyes fixed on his companion.
“Are you sure you don’t want some coin?” asked the male, whom was dressing himself up.
“I told you what I wanted,” said Paplo, dressing up as well.
“Alright, alright.” The male moved towards one of his drawers, and from it he extracted a small pouch. He opened it, and two small pills flew straight into his palm. “Here it is. One of these should be enough. Complete blackout for eight breaks or so, and partial or complete memory loss for the half the trial.”
“Partial or complete?” asked Paplo. He did not like uncertainty.
“It varies on the individual. Use the second pill and it’ll definitely be complete.”
As Paplo left the individual’s home, he was met with the usual cold of Zi’da, which swept upon the Outer Perimeter of Etzos. Outside the walls there were few barriers to halt the midnight breeze, and his teeth started clattering almost immediately. He walked for a while, and eventually reached one of the few locations that apparently never stopped working.
The Citizen’s Market was very active both during the day and during the night. In the day, one could find almost anything in the various stalls in the plaza, be it spices, foods, clothes or tools needed to carry out one’s profession. However, during the night, what was once a standard market became a place for delinquents and undesirables to gather – at least, morally speaking. Mercenaries, assassins for hire, prostitutes and the few slavers that passed through Etzos all gathered there, feasting in the night like worms in the mud. Having visited the location a few trials back, Paplo somewhat enjoyed strolling through the dubious crowds that moved down the frozen soil.
There was a slight anomaly on the night, for a crowd had gathered behind a building, worry and anger present in everyone. After making his way towards the improvised circle, Paplo was witness to a body. A female, human, laying dead in the soil, brutally murdered. Each of her limbs had been shattered by the articulations, something quite obvious for her lower legs and forearms all bent in unnatural ways. Her torso had been split open by what Paplo imagined was some sort of blade. Her head, and all her digits, were missing, amputated and apparently not found.
“It’s the Ripper,” announced a male from the crowd. “I told you we hadn’t caught him.”
“I bet it’s one of those cults,” said someone else. “We should close the borders and avoid all these Immortal-worshipping cunts from coming here.”
“Has anyone called the guards?” asked some female.
“Like they can be bothered,” replied someone else. “They’ll most likely come in the morning, bag the body and toss it in the river.”
“I hear they chop down the bodies and use it as fertilized for the fields.”
“My aunt told me they feed them to the refugees coming from the south.”
Paplo lost interest fairly quickly. A loose murderer was something he wasn’t concerned about, and the desperate call of attention that was the body announced how unprofessional said individual must be. Leaving bodies behind was evidence, and that was far from optimal if one wished to escape the authorities. The ego of the mortals was a great weakness Paplo did not share. Nonetheless, he remained on the spot, listening to wild theories and gossips coming from the ruffians, for it was all they really did.
Nobody seemed to care about the body, for Etzos did not care either.