Day 7: Awake.
His eyes snapped open at once, and he promptly screwed them shut again. The slight light filtering through his window was just enough to aggravate his pounding headache. Wait a second, his window? His head wasn’t clear enough to piece it all together quite yet, so he lay still for a few more minutes. His headache had lessened by then, and then he was able to piece together that he was somehow back in his room in Piore. The clues were normally subtle, but his headache amplified every sound to a painful volume; the leaves rustling in the wind outside his window, the drip of the water tap, the springs in his mattress that creaked with the slightest movement; all contributed to the cacophony of agony ringing in head.
After another hour in bed, he could move with a reasonable amount of comfort, so he got up to get cleaned up.
…And stopped dead in his tracks.
Staring back at him from the mirror was the terror he had killed. There was something different, though. It had his face, and moved when he did. When the reality of the situation struck him, he was oddly calm about it. Rather than feeling fear or dread, like any normal person would, a smile of smug satisfaction began to creep across his face. By the time he walked out his front door, he was grinning like a madman.
He sauntered over to the tavern, confident that he would have no trouble finding work now. As he walked, he couldn’t help but think about how the army hadn’t paid him. He thought he deserved a bonus, too, for killing the thing. He reached the tavern, opened the door, and almost immediately, all conversation stopped. All eyes were on him. He stood in the doorway for a few seconds and glanced around at the people inside, slightly annoyed.
They were obviously uncomfortable with his appearance. He gave a low growl and stalked over to the bar to take a seat. It should have come as no surprise that he was soon all alone at the bar. Even the bartender had left with a hurried excuse. He said nothing and simply stared at the counter he was sitting at, and soon conversation began to drift back into existence. He had no idea how long he sat at the bar, motionless, waiting for someone to grow a pair and approach him.
It was late afternoon by the time he became aware of a presence behind him. He glanced over his shoulder and gestured that the person should take a seat. A thoroughly distraught woman took the seat next to him. Her need obviously had to pretty dire if she was approaching him. “So? Whaddya want?”
“Um… well…” She struggled for the words, on the verge of tears.
“Cmon, I don’t have all day,” he snapped.
“W-well, my father… he went missing this morning. I don’t know where he is… I think the bandits took him, but-“
“How much?” he interrupted.
“Umm, I don’t know. We don’t have much…”
“How about I take one thousand, hm?”
She choked. “I-I can’t spare that much.”
“Then I guess you can live without your father.” He made as if to get up to leave.
“Wait! Okay, okay. I’ll pay. One thousand. Just please, find him.”
“Yea, yea.” He could almost feel the tension in the tavern lessen as he got up to leave. He spat on the ground in disgust and stormed out.
Kill them. Drown the village.
He staggered at the voice and grabbed onto the nearest thing he could find, which happened to be the outside wall of the tavern. “…what?”
Prove yourself. Kill them.
You will serve.
He stood where he was for a few minutes, breathing heavily. What in the world was that? The presence seemed familiar, somehow. As if he had known it before. Either that, or he could be hallucinating for some reason. Either way, it wasn’t a good sign. He could worry about that later, though. Right now he had to focus on his job. It would get dark soon, so he had to get it done quickly.
There was really only one place where the woman’s father could be located. Over the years, the mercenary had become aware of a large group of bandits in the woods that holed up in a fort. They were the only really organized group he had seen in the area, and kidnapping was their trademark. Up until now, He couldn’t do anything about a group that big by himself. Of course, that would change today.
The fort wasn’t too far away from the town, and it only took him about an hour to reach it. The fort was bigger than he had thought. It was made entirely out of logs, and from what he could see, there was a main courtyard flanked by two towers. The place was too heavily guarded for stealth to be an option, so he was left to his favorite option: Brute force. He walked right up to the two bandits guarding the entrance. Almost immediately, one of them challenged him.
“Hey! Get out of here! This place is off-limits to you… whatever the heck you are, freak." The two mercenaries appeared to be average grunts; in other words, no challenge.
He grinned sadistically in response. “Didn’t your mother teach you that if you had nothing nice to say, then don’t say it?” A ball of red water formed between the two bandits, and promptly exploded. Droplets were sent speeding out at high velocity, and the bandits were torn to pieces faster than they could blink. “Apparently not, I guess.”
A rush of water tore the wooden door off of its poorly-designed hinges, and he came slowly walking in after it, splashing in the shallow pool that had formed. He paid little attention to the old man that was bound and gagged in the middle of courtyard and proceeded to scour the fort for any more bandits, leaving dripping corpses in his wake. He was only slightly aware of the havoc he was wreaking. Instead, his mind was musing over the sheer power he was wielding. Normally, something like this should be harder to attain. Perhaps he had just had a lucky break.
He snapped out of his musing several minutes later to find, much to his disappointment, that there were no more bandits left to kill. He sighed and walked back to the main courtyard to find a bound, gagged, and trembling old man. “I wouldn’t suppose you’re the one I’ve been tasked to recover, hm?”
The old man bobbed his up and down fearfully.
He smirked. “Alright then, I’ll just untie you and we can go.”
He did as he stated, and soon the two were walking back to the town, with the old man making a visible effort to keep his distance. As they strolled, the mercenary suddenly became aware of something. He sort of liked the situation. No, that wasn’t exactly the case, he thought. He liked that the man was scared of him. He liked being feared. Yes, that was it. He grinned at the realization, and wondered why he hadn’t figured it out sooner.
The mercenary wore a perpetual smirk as the two walked the last mile to town. Within a half hour, they came around a bend in the path and the town was suddenly in plain view. Almost immediately after, he was doubled up in pain and clutching his head.
Kill them. Flood the village.
“Who are you?!”
Drown them all.
“What? No, I can’t.”
You cannot resist.
“But…” He couldn’t finish his sentence before the pain receded, and he was left kneeling on the ground, panting heavily. He cast a glance to his side to see the old man cowering a good distance away. “Coward,” he growled, and continued to the village.
The handoff dragged on for what seemed like an eternity, and at one point he was on the verge of stabbing the woman in order to stop her from continuing to blubber out her “thanks you”s and “we can never repay you”s. He took the money without much interest and went straight home. It had gotten quite dark, and he felt absolutely wiped from the entire day. He didn’t even bother taking off his armor this time before flopping into bed.
Then the nightmares began.
He saw the tavern. People were drinking, chatting, and laughing as they always did. Flash. The tavern was filled with water. Not just water, he noticed. Bodies were floating in it like so much seaweed.
Quick flashes followed. Each glimpse was of a gruesome death, and each victim was a member of the village.
You cannot resist. Obey.