3:46 am. My heart is racing as I sit up in my bed, sweat pouring from my brow and mixing with the tears rolling down my cheeks. I reach for the glass of water on my bedside table, but my hands are shaking so violently that I fear I might drop it. My lungs ache as they strain to take in air. My chest feels like it's going to explode. I don't recall the last time I slept through the night. Perhaps there was a time, many lifetimes ago, where the images that plague my mind gave me some respite, but none that I can remember. The haze of the newly-awakened begins to clear and I place my bare feet on the cold tile floor. Sitting there, alone in bed with my head in my hands, the guilt begins to fade into a sort of emotional numbness a broad, creeping sorrow which is painful in its familiarity but mercifully non-specific. I stand up, the cool night air wafting in through the window as the full moon casts eerie shadows across the linoleum. Walking to the bathroom I turn on the light, whose bright and searing fluorescence hurts my eyes but provides a welcome distraction from images fading from my mind. As I squint trying to adjust to the brightness of the white walled room, the last traces of those images dance before me. A child, bloodied and beaten by my own hands, lying in the street clutching a doll with only one arm. A man, bound and half-dead, rocking back and forth and shivering as blood flows from his open wounds. The burned husk of a woman, her mouth open as though she were still screaming... screaming... screaming... screaming. I feel my insides knot and convulse as I come close to vomiting. Reaching out I run the taps ice cold water pouring in a torrent down the white porcelain sink and into the drain's murky abyss. Quickly I cup my hands to collect the clear streaming liquid and leaning forward I splash it over my face. The water is cool, and it washes away the mask of sweat and tears which hides the monster beneath. Gripping the sink with both hands I slowly raise my heavy head to gaze into the mirror. Who is that looking back at me? He seems a stranger, and I need to run my thick hands across its worn features to prove to myself that it is me. How easy it must be for others, lost in the illusion that the person you are is the whole of your being, that the life you lead is the whole of your existence. I have had so many faces, so many lives that I no longer know just who I am anymore. My hands still tremble and my knees feel ready to collapse from beneath me as I draw a deep breath and look once more into the mirror. It would be too easy to quit, Horatio too easy to succumb to the pain and the fear and the despair. You have been given a special gift a second chance to make right that which went horribly wrong. You owe it to those who would suffer for your weakness. You owe it to those who would die by your hands. You owe it to those whose spirit you would trample. Walking back into the bedroom, my nightly affirmation fresh in my mind, I resign myself to my duties and begin my regimen anew.
The Experience of 100 Lifetimes
I walk to the window and pull aside the flimsy white curtain already slowly dancing in the breeze. Looking down onto the darkened streets of Lowtown I spy a man and ordinary man by all appearances strolling calmly down the sidewalk. How curious it must be for him, to be so unaware of the great karmic cycle of life he is subject to. As I watch him walk, idly kicking an errant bottle into the street as he goes, I stop to ponder the blessing that is my curse. Why is it that I of all people have access to the akashic memory, the memory of one's soul maintained through each incarnation? My remembrance of my many past lives are all but erased upon each rebirth, but still I am aware of their passage. How much of who I am has been shaped by who I was? I feel the presence of my former selves in these quiet moments, as though they are watching me over my shoulder, guiding my actions and feeding my knowledge. Each has a lifetime full of experience birth, childhood, life, death and all things in between each life adding to the whole that is me. There are times, as I combat the evils of this world, that I can feel them like a warm palm gently stroking my cheek comforting me and protecting me, allowing their cumulative experience to guide my actions. My past lives, anonymous and loving, flow through me and into the world, as this life will one day do for the next.
The Teachings of War
Sword Master: Supreme
As the man walks out of view, the blessings of my akashic knowledge fade and give way to their curse. The memories begin to once more cloud my brain despite my attempts to dissuade them. For all my many lives, it is only the first which I recall in any detail, and even that fades with each passing rebirth. I was a great swordsman once, a soldier with many men under my command. Sweeping across some distant land and fighting unknown foes for long-forgotten causes, my thirst for power and blood grew unchecked. I was a monster - an evil tyrant who took pleasure not just in the domination of other people, but in their absolute suffering. I was a moral vacuum an intolerable blight on existence with no goodness in my soul. As I remove the wooden practice sword from its place above the mantle I am reminded of the man I once was the man I may one day still be. I swing the dull blade with practiced simplicity parrying, thrusting, sweeping blows against imaginary opponents with an all too familiar ease. As I engross myself in my ritual, I feel sick to my stomach at the thought of the agony such motions once inflicted. Visions of blood splattering the walls of my room try to distract me from my work, but the memories serve only to heighten my resolve. As confusing as my knowledge of my first life can be, it pales in comparison to the startling truth which accompanies it. My life as the tyrant does not lie in the distant past, but in the near future. With each passing incarnation I draw closer and closer to that of the monster which haunts me, and the memory of what I could become slips further and further from my grasp. As I complete the practice of my art I am struck by the notion that by the time my karmic journey comes full circle, I may not remember its foul beginnings. Tears again form at the corners of each eye as I accept the possibility that all my work may be for naught that my hundreds of years spent atoning for my original sins may not be enough to prevent the circle from beginning anew... a deadly, never-ending cycle powered by the deaths of my victims.
Bullets and Sadness
Placing the wooden sword back above the mantle, I sit once more on the edge of my bed. My tears have stopped, for now, and idly I open the drawer on the bedside table. From within it's cramped recesses I remove the small revolver I keep at the ready. Desperately seeking an activity to occupy my mind, I begin disassembling the weapon into its components for cleaning. Fetching the cleaning kit from the drawer, I begin the diligent task of removing the grime and residue from the aging pistol's parts. The exercise is pointless, given the nature of my abilities. There really isn't a need for me to have the gun there at all. Somehow though, its presence gives me comfort as if deep down I feared that my special and wholly undeserved gifts will one day be taken from me. My mind is blissfully free from the memories as I busily put the revolver back together again, but as I complete the work, my brief respite ends. A horrible image returns a dark and sinister scene which causes me to close my eyes in fear, though I am forced to watch within my mind. I am on some sort of platform raised above a small town ripped asunder by my troops surveying the extent of our victory. Black plumes of smoke rise up to the heaven's in some twisted call for divine intervention which never comes. Homes smoulder and my soldiers herd up their frightened occupants, blackened by soot and ravaged by war, like cattle. One in particular catches my eye one woman amongst a throng of helpless, frightened victims. Her beauty is remarkable the kind of beauty that not even the horrors I had inflicted upon her and her people could stamp out. For an instant, I see in her eyes the humanity of those I subjugate. I see them not as obstacles to my growing empire, but as people as mortal and as vulnerable as I... and I hate her for it. I wield a rifle, now aiming at this light amongst the darkness, this thing of beauty amongst the ugliness of tyranny... and in an instant she is gone. As the scene recedes from my thoughts and slinks back into the depths of my mind, I raise the revolver to my temple and pull back the hammer. Tears once more roll down my face as the guilt of what I was what I am to be pierces my heart like a dagger. I cannot go on like this. I cannot face these horrors each and every night. I just want to die. Shaking, I open my eyes and yet still see the woman's face so beautiful, so serene. I click the hammer back into place and lower the revolver, dropping it onto the bed. Pulling the trigger would be too easy as easy as it was for me to fire that rifle. No matter how painful the memories are, no matter how much suffering I endure, no matter how many lifetimes of sorrow I must live through... it is all far less than I deserve.
Weapons Creation: Supreme
- Ranged Attack Only
- Ranged and Melee Attack
Standing in the middle of the room, I focus my thoughts. This is always the most difficult part of my penance but one I must endure if I am to make right the wrongs I may one day do. I spend every single moment of every single day of every single lifetime trying to keep the memories at bay trying to fend off the despair and guilt they bring. In these moments, however, I am forced to remember. I think back to the images which haunt my dreams and pluck from them an instant in time a horrifying moment from a life not yet led. I am running down a street, my loyal troops behind me, chasing a mob of people. Who are they? I am unsure... but they are frightened and unarmed. In my hands I hold a small automatic weapon of some kind, and it is firing wildly. My hands grow clammy and cold as the memory of the destruction they wreaked flashes before my eyes. Men, women and children falling one after another cut down by bullets to the back. The weapon feels heavy in my hands as the constant recoil serves to remind me of the sheer volume of bullets I set loose upon the crowd. A shift in time and I am standing there, lording over one these victims who, despite bleeding from a dozen wounds and quickly dying, still struggles to pull himself down the road on his belly. Slowly I remove my great sword from its hilt as I step on the small of the man's back, holding him in place as I raise the blade skyward. Back in the present, I fall to my knees as the image of the sword plunging into the man's back fades. Though the vision recedes, I can still hear the sickening gurgling sound of the blood filling the man's lungs as though he were there in the room with me, bloody and dying. Catching my breath, I look down at my hands. In the right is the assault rifle that cut down my victims, and in the left is the sword, mercifully free of the man's blood. As I place them onto the bed in preparation for the evening's work, I wonder if they too are part of their own karmic cycle. Perhaps I am able to summon the tyrant's many weapons because they too are seeking absolution redemption for the evils they committed in my service. As I strive to make amends for my transgressions by helping those in need, these weapons, once feared by the defenceless masses, now serve as my apology to them. Never again shall they draw an innocent's blood.
Body Armor: Supreme
Standing in the bathroom again, I find the cramped space even more confining now. As the tyrant's weapons are summoned so too is the gleaming golden armour he would one day wear. As I look into the mirror, I can see clearly the man who haunts my memories who launched my karmic journey of suffering and redemption. The bright lights of the room cascade off of the ornate, regal armour, intricately etched and polished to a mirror-finish. It is uncomfortable, though I have never been sure if this is due to the way it fits or the images it evokes. I look so much like him now, with my face partially shadowed by the high plumed helmet, but I am not that man. Though I may look the part, I am not Horatio the Tyrant. I am Horatio, champion of the downtrodden, defender of the weak, Sentinel of Liberty and Justice. Where once this armour struck fear in the hearts of man, now it gives them hope. Where once it protected the tyrant within, now it protects the innocents without. In this life, in this place, I am a hero but my quest is not simply about atoning for my actions by doing good deeds. The great truth that I have come to realize is that karma is not about the actions you take but rather about the person you are. It was not my deeds that condemned me to this fate, but rather the flaws in my soul that lead to those actions. I know that one day I will be reborn into the life of the great tyrant, but that I will not recall my millennia of rebirth that I will live without the knowledge of what I have done and may one day do. But perhaps this is the point of my journey. Perhaps it is too easy to simply be reborn into my first life knowing what I must do to avoid the atrocities I have enacted. Perhaps instead, I am to resolve that which made me what I was to remove the evil, guilt, vanity, insecurity and hatred from my very soul so that when I once again live my first life I will be a man of righteous goodness instead of a bloodthirsty warmonger. In this way, this armour serves as my reminder that it, like the atrocities I committed in my first life, is nothing but a shell a mask that conceals the true person within. The good I do in this life are as meaningless as the evils I committed in another. What truly matters is whether the man within the armour, and the soul within the man, are virtuous enough to stay on the path of righteousness. As I gather my weapons and exit the open window to the fire escape, I find myself unsure as to whether or not my soul will pass the test when the time eventually comes. I have only this lifetime and the few that remain before the time of the first to be a better man to rid myself of the cancers of the soul which led to the suffering of millions before it is too late. In this life, however, I find myself here, in Khazan, and it is here which I must make my stand for my life, for my soul and for the lives which will one day hang in the balance.