He shifted. There was a faint clank of metal upon metal and the tinkling of chain. He opened his eyes. The world was dark, or after a moment, he realized he was in darkness. He made the mistake of trying to sit up, but he was enclosed in something. He moved his hands, which were encased in gauntlets that seemed large, but did not feel heavy. In the small space, he punched upwards. His fist making a hole in the lid of what enclosed him. Dust swirled in the pale beam of light that now filtered into… Coffin. The thought came quickly through the murk of his mind.
He’d been dead?
This thought didn’t seem to surprise him. It was the tense that his thought had used that puzzled him. Why hadn’t he thought he was dead, rather than had been?
He shoved the coffin lid, or rather stone sarcophagus lid aside, and sat up. He deftly leaped from the sarcophagus, trying to recall how he came to be in it.
Nothing… He couldn’t remember. He couldn’t remember anything before waking up in the sarcophagus. It was just darkness, just… Nothing.
In the dim light filtering through the mausoleum’s broken stained glass windows, he finally saw himself. The metal clanking and the chains tinkling were parts of the armor he wore coming in contact with each other. The spaulders were massive and carved with fanged, winged skulls. His breastplate, mostly hidden by the tatters of a red cloak, also held the same visage as his spaulders. It would seem this motif was on all the pieces of his armor, his belt, his knee guards, and the large gauntlets. The armor made him seem much larger than he really was, but he did not know if he was a big man already. He had no comparison. What he did know, was that the armor did not feel heavy, as he circled the sarcophagus to see the inscription, he moved as if he wasn’t wearing it.
Here Lies Lukas Faust,
But soon he’ll roust,
For the truth he could not oust.
Lukas Faust? The name did not seem familiar to him at all. Was that his name?
He moved to pick up the sarcophagus lid which had nearly shattered when he’d shoved it to the floor. It was carved with a likeness of a… gentleman. The word drifted into his mind. He was not dressed as this man carved on the lid, and he had no mirror to compare features. Still. He would take the man’s name of the sarcophagus he’d awoken in until he could discover who he really was.
Lukas turned to the door and noticed it was barricaded from within with a large… The term sword did not seem to do it justice. Claymore also seemed to be an understatement. It was nearly as long as he was tall, the hand guards massive wings from the skull that the blade seemed to be vomiting forth from. The blade, was smooth edged on one side, and jagged, not from misuse, but the purpose of it was that if you impaled someone, when you jerked the sword back out, it would do more damage than going in.
He slowly wrapped his fingers around the hilt, a red ribbon, like something a girl would wear in her hair, was tied to it. It was the same color red as the tattered cloak he wore. Lukas released the hilt to slowly finger the ribbon. It was satin and to his surprise, brought to his nose, sniffing it. He could smell faint traces of lilac. He was filled with sorrow and anger at the same time. Lukas released the ribbon and, gripped the hilt again and lifted it, with one hand, as easily as he wore the heavy armor, from the hooks that held it across the door.
The sword wasn’t just barricading the door, it also seemed to be that the sword was holding the door up, for when it was removed, one of the doors fell over, it’s hinges were broken or that badly rusted. Lukas had his first look at the world beyond his tomb.
With no memory of his life before awakening in the mausoleum, he had nothing to compare what he saw as worse. For all he knew, the landscape was an improvement on what it had been before, but there was room for doubt on that concept. For the landscape to be worse than what he saw, it would have to be… A world of ash.
Lukas expected to be in a cemetery and he had not been disappointed in that regard. The sky was overcast, and maybe this was what made everything seem… muted. Lukas looked at the sharp red of the tattered cloak that hid some of his, now that he was outside the mausoleum, was rather shiny armor. As if he’d been freshly polished before being interred and that his armor had never dulled or rusted.
Most of the ground was bare brown, dust, as if the graveyard had underwent a bad erosion then drought. A few patches of scraggy, browning, but determined grass were around a few of the tombstones that jutted up like misshapen teeth. A few dead trees gave sparse shade over the dead, and were rather laden with crows. They fluttered and pecked at each other, but most seemed to be watching him. Even their normally iridescent black feathers were dulled, their caws sounding weak, those that did take to the air had jagged wings.
Lukas realized he was the brightest thing in the graveyard. The most vibrant and other than the crows, the most living.
He supposed it was habit that he moved the sword up over his head and to his own surprise hooked it on it back. His hand had not fumbled to the frog that held the sword, he had done it, as if he’d done countless times. As if removing and returning the sword to its proper resting place were as well learned as walking.
Lukas removed the sword with a fluid movement, bringing it down to slash. The tombstone that had been nearest to him, and in the line of that slash, wobbled, then fell over, sliced cleanly in half.
A sword that could cut through stone as if being swung through air?
Who was he?
The crows suddenly all evacuated the trees. They blackened the already gray sky. Lukas could sense something was coming. Not a large something, but something that intended to eviscerate him and feast upon his entrails.
Lukas expected a feral animal of some sort, he was after all, probably the first thing that could even be labeled as “food” to come through this cemetery in what seemed like… Centuries?
The creature that galloped towards him, mouth agape, tongue lolling across jagged teeth that should’ve sheared it off, taloned paws digging into the already abused earth, was not anything Lukas could recall ever seeing before. The concept of this being an odd thought only flashed across his mind for a second since his only experience with anything was only minutes long. It had a row of spikes down it back, and no eyes, but a long doggish snout and lizard scaled skin. How the creature perceived Lukas could have only been by smell, or did blind lizard dogs have some sort of sixth sense?
Lukas automatically took a stance; half stepping back with a heavily booted foot and brought the sword up as he prepared for the blind lizard dog’s leap that he was certain was coming. Lukas again had not been disappointed. The dog hurled itself at Lukas, jaws snapping in anticipation of tearing off chunks of flesh, snarling.
He pivoted on one foot, and brought the sword around. It was almost as if time slowed. The sword slid easily enough across the dog’s neck, black blood spurting in its release from being trapped by the lizard skin. The body dropped, its momentum depleted. The head continued its arc without its body, the jaws still working momentarily. It bounced in the dirt, rolled.
Lukas watched as the head and body seemed to smoulder, then char as if being burned by some inner fire, sparks fluttered up like tiny orange bees as the creature turned to cinder. Lukas prodded the body with his foot, it collapsed into an unrecognizable mound of ash.
“What in hell?” Lukas heard himself speak for the first time.
“No, not in Hell. On Earth,” spoke a girl’s voice behind him.
Lukas rehooked the sword on his back and turned to face the owner of the voice. The sense of there being a threat had vanished when he’d killed the blind lizard dog. He did not feel the sensation at the presence of the… Girl? Woman? She looked to be caught between that transition. She was thin, suffering extended famine thin, and dirty. Her face, her hair, her clothes, were all dusty. Under the dust probably would’ve been a someone Lukas might have thought of as pretty. Her eyes were large, and true blue, not summer sky blue, not deep water blue, they were the color that dyers prayed to get material the same color of.
She wore clothes that were strange looking to him, once again, he had no comparison but was relying on gut feelings. Her shirt was maybe once white and blue, possibly the same color blue as her eyes, which like Lukas, were startling vibrant in the drab world. The sleeves were lined with fringe, much like one would put on a horse to keep flies from its eyes. The fringe was missing in places, all of her ensemble looked old, well worn, muchly washed, and repaired where it could be. Her skirt came to mid-calf, also lined with the same fringe as the shirt, but more of it was missing than the sleeves. She wore pointed, hard leather brown boots.
Her hair was brown, could’ve been dark blonde, the dust made it an almost indeterminable color, but it was in a loose braid with strands having escaped to hang around her face. He was going to ask who was she, but when she suddenly flickered, as if her visage was no more than the light cast on the wall by a candle in a draft.
“What are you?” He asked instead of ‘who.’
“A reflection of yourself, the mirror image of someone from your past, I am all that you have forgotten, locked away. Some have referred to me as a spirit guide, but I am much more than such to you.”
“Do you have a name?” He asked.
“You may call me Eleanor,” she said to him, flickering again.
“What is this place?” Lukas thought he was asking closer to along the lines of ‘where was he,’ but he wasn’t prepared for the answer.
“All that is left of an unredeemed world,” Eleanor said with a wave of her arm towards the hill of tombstones and crypts. A crumbling brick fence surrounded the graveyard. The crows were slowly fluttering back into the trees now the threat of the dog was gone.