Prologue: 1716 DAY 27, Tomb of the Unknown King Main Chamber
"O cruel one, bestow on me
Some taken of your sovereign sway,
Which I may follow earnestly,
And never from its precept stray.
If you would have me fade away
In silence, then account me dead,
But if you'd hear my ancient lady,
Then Love himself my cause shall plead.
My soul to contraries inured
Is made of wax and adamant,
And well prepared for Cupid's law.
Whether soft or hard my heart is yours,
To grave it leave to you I'll grant,
And to your will I'll bow with awe."
Don Quixote of La Mancha
He was bleeding.
From the way that it felt, it had to be pretty bad. Under his shirt, there were, no doubt, multiple punctures, through which he could feel the red fluid seeping out and soaking his white shirt. Had he his wits, he might have realized that he didn't have much time left before the end.
Nothing seemed to be happening. The drumming in his ears was silent but somehow concurrently more intense than it could ever have sounded in reality. His mind couldn't register too many thoughts at once; he could only connect a small number of them; his movements were sluggish; his limbs were nowhere to be found; the world was now at rest, now swirling; now muddled, now clear.
He'd been in combat long enough to recognize these symptoms. He was in shock.
Looking down, he caught a glimpse of his completely red shirt and coldness seized him.
She betrayed me!
He could not get over that thought, he, crouching there, arms pulled in close, shivering in his bloodstained uniform. The image of the girl running out from the cavern played itself over and over in his head. He tried to stop it, but his memory refused to obey, forcing him to revisit the blue, the flapping, waving blue that she had down over her back. The blue she had that was so visible as she ran away.
He grimaced as different parts of his body began to throb. He had to remember; he had to go back further. He saw fire, he felt his body being pierced from all sides, he perceived his initial fear, he stomached the onslaught of doubt, daunt, and imminent death, but only after the blue forced itself back into reminiscence did he feel obliterated.
He closed his eyes and shook his head violently, desperately trying to recall what had just happened. All the world seemed to bob ineffectually in eerie limbo.
She betrayed me!
He had to get beyond that. There was something else, something he was missing. If only he weren't trembling so much, if he could shut out the pain, flooding his system and ripping into his muscles like a jagged saw, twisting from where it was nestled as to hook more sinews on its way through his body. The imagined sound of his flesh being torn off by strips nauseated him.
His eyes shot open. It had come to him.
I was buried alive.
He tried to look around, focus his eyes, and find something that looked familiar. He wasn't certain if the noise exploding in his ears was someone's screaming or a great tremor sent by Nature herself. Just as his mind began to question the seemingly inert passing of time, his vision cleared and his eyes seized a target.
It was Rinoa, standing above him with a wicked-looking dagger that she was raising over his head.
Am I to die? he wondered as the feelings of loneliness and dread washed over him.
In response to that question which he had forbidden himself to ever ask, a dark phantom appeared from overhead and ominously called his name, beckoning for him.
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