Tiny rays of moonlight escaped the cracks of the ceilings above, shining, making visible the drizzle coming down.
Cobbler laid flat on the bloodied stones scattered with his dead rotting rats.
Draped in a shoulder cloak, hooded, masked, donning a black Saverian gambeson, and a satchel with all his tools slung on him.
He was shivering uncontrollably with his fever. Reluctant tears flowed out of his eyes as he tried tightening his weak trembling fist in a vain effort to harden his convictions.
He can't die in this crypt, it would be too ironic if he did, an ancient crypt now to become his fresh grave.
His strained nerves forced him to deliriously repeat this obnoxious joke as the fever, the cough, the aches, the chills, and the shaking rendered him useless and terrified. Vague nauseating sensations. Violent gut pain.
Muscle aches sharpening into a feeling that felt permanent; he was becoming convinced it was never going to stop and death was the only way out. He laughed softly with tears in his eyes.
The blurring vision of the triangular-structure, the pillar barely visible in the moonlight, and what he so desired resting on it.
He could see it. He extended his hand outwards, feel it within reach, that's when he laughed harder as he closed his fist and grasped nothing.
Too feverish to differentiate delusion from reality as moments after telling himself that it wasn't real, he genuinely thought he had it in the palm of his hand through some miraculous occurrence.
The impending sense of doom echoed in every part of him. His body weighed like the world and he can't carry it. Part of him wanted to die, but the other part was focused on his ambition.
Flies were already circling his sickly and rotting body. Even as his final strength dissipated, he was still trembling uncontrollably, all that left was these movements he couldn't control.
The tiredness forced him to desire sleep and the pain forced him to desire relief. Neither neutralized each other, both only served to mount his suffering.
Yet the relic which stood in the center of the field that linked itself to the rise of kingdoms and wealth did not disappear in his mind. His delusions of grandeur did not die.
The number of times in which he had come in contact with death in his thievery hasn't dulled the impending sensation of that; it has only risen it.
The thoughts should have been gone by now yet it still infested his mind, multiplying his despair and pain. He was so close. So close to the knife.
The last rat dipped in mercury died in the open field as the fleas dropped from the air. The magic of the crypt, once alive, was now dead. And he had killed it. He felt a little proud of his accomplishment even if it was fleeting.
He gritted his teeth through the agonizing sickness as his sunken brown eyes sharpened and enlarged.
Pushing against his heavy eyelids as tears flowed out of his eyes, he could feel the phantom pain of his missing ring finger again, he looked back at the locks and traps he overcame.
He smiled pridefully and painfully with his gloved hands flat on the ground trying to get up, still trembling uncontrollably even as he willed himself not to.
The antibiotics he took, it felt like he didn't even eat them even though he could still taste the bitterness so clearly in his mouth.
He couldn't stand. So he relegated himself to crawling, his elbows grinding against the drying bloodied entrails of the dead rats, tasting the bitterness in his mouth again.
Seemed like this time he just puked in his mouth. He was drifting away, slowly approaching oblivion, his vision darkening as the world spun.
There was no force to push him forward, every time death approached, narrowly passed him, he never felt relief, he only feels it getting closer and closer.
But yet death wasn't what concerned him the most. He fears death all the same as most but he was attempting this dangerous grave robbery in his own volition; no one forced him.
He needed to reach it, reach what he set out for. Not being able to grasp and reach his ambition.
That was the truly most terrifying thing, maybe in a way even more horrifying than suffering and death.
So he stopped thinking and kept crawling forward.
When he finally reached there, he climbed. Trembling elbow lifting his body up, collapsing down as he ascended a step.
He laid there, gasping, breathing weakly before gathering his strength again, lifting his next elbow up the stone stairs, his legs scraped up the stone steps painfully.
At long last, he reached the small platform, stumbling forward, standing only briefly before falling on his knees again, holding himself up by trembling hands, staring into the ground, vision spinning, darkening and blurring, while his focus remained unflinching and unmoving, not a stray thought to disturb the castle that was now his mind.
The relic on the low pillar in the middle of the platform. His shaking outwardly extended hand in his sight, struggling to stand from his kneel. Placing his feet up, he finally grasped the blade that rested on the low pillar.
It felt like his agony ended for that brief moment when he could feel the pulsating blade in his hand.
He doesn't know if it was his blood or the knife itself pulsing, but the fact he knew he was actually holding it, that excited him so much he smiled. This time with genuine happiness.
The shaking still remained but he was finally able to stand as his eyes gleamed, drawing the silver knife out of the silver sheath. Under the moonlight and drizzle, it shone dimensions and stars, worlds beyond his comprehension, colors unseen, and the infinite mystery of perception. He ignored it all, the only thing that mattered to him was the singular purpose he designated it could do.
The rain came down heavier, like pebbles, breaking upon touching him, he felt pain from how hard it was hitting him against his current infliction. He stared at the knife in a daze before tumbling down the steps, his vision blurred at the reflections of the moonlights on the ripples of the small puddles, he took a deep breath, then violently coughed blood. He watched it turned the moon red in the water.
His eyes widened; he has to keep crawling.
In his delirium, it felt like he barely experienced navigating out of the crypt. By the time, he saw moonlight again, he had no recollections of what happened.
For a full minute, he leaned against the walls with half-shut eyes watching groups of hooded monks walk by in the heavy rain, coughing men grasping the reins of tired horses frantically carting bodies away, rats scurrying beneath his feet and roaches crawling up his hands.
He almost forgot what he was doing there until he lifted up the relic instinctively. The urge grew and he doubled up, pulling down his mask and violently throwing up, almost shitting himself in the process.
Unevenly stumbling through the gas-lit street, the lamps flickering against the windy rain, he vaguely resembles a lost novice trying to find his congregation.
Finally, he fell next to a pile of bodies by the side of the road. He could feel himself being lifted up into the wagon. Bells of the Magic Academy were being rung, if he moved down now, he would be as dead as these corpses.
As the cart moved along the gravel towards the muddy road outside, speeding up, Cobbler realized that he was staring into the eyes of the dead man, his face pressing against his.
For a long time, he just stared at them.
He felt like the world was spinning, and that pair of cloudy dead eyes were telling him that there was no truth in this world other than the inevitable, and nothing but the red hell was waiting for him.
The more he looked at the cloudy eyes of the dead man, the more infuriated he became at what they were telling him.
"You are dead...of course...of course, death and the red hell is the only truth to you, you fool...you-you are envious of me...I am alive, and you are dead...DO I LOOK FUCKING DEAD TO YOU?"
Yelling defiantly, his head pounding violently, he could feel his heart weakly beating in his chest as he began standing up from the corpses with all his strength gathered, unbalanced, feverish, and with his dark eyes wide-opened.
Still looking right at the particular corpse that he thought was speaking to him, yelling at the top of his hoarse broken voice, utterly delirious and burning up.
"I-I AM NOT GETTING TRICKED...BY YOUR TRICKERY! I MAKE TRUTH, YOU DEAD FUCK!"
The two men on the horse heard the commotion, turned back, and glimpsed at the hooded figure standing up on top of the corpses, rambling incoherently as the lightning flashed and thunder roared, it was the most horrifying sight they saw.
"RIDE! RIDE! THE DEAD HAS RISEN!" Panicking, one of them violently twisted their rein, steering the horses off the road.
Cobbler lost his balance, tumbled off the cart and slammed down into the muddy grass. He laid there, his head pounding, shivering. What was he doing yelling at a corpse?
His eyes scanned his surroundings, mud in it, seeing double. He regained some amount of cognition after throwing up again, he realized he was already far away from the city, judging from the road. Now to find his camp.
It was cold and raining while he was burning up from the fever, his body temperature would be perfect.
He smiled while still muttering nonsense as he got up and stumbled along the dirt road, he needed to get to safety, back to the hut to rest, but all of these felt like it won't go away.
At this point, he had realized that the delirium was twisting his mind strangely, but if he did something stupid like that again, delirium or no, he deserved to die.
He threw up again and almost choked on his vomit, hacking uncontrollably.
The stench, the agonizing aches, the exhaustion, and the mounting anxieties, it would be unbearable if he wasn't still thinking about his end goal.
A blue ball of light shone through the fog of rain, illuminating the falling threads of rain, it was a piercing thing amongst the darkness as Cobbler slumped down against the tree.
The floating machine emitted a blue light into Cobbler's iris.
The syringe fell from the machine down on the patch of grass in front of him. Cobbler blinked and stared at the light for a while, then at the glisten of the syringe, contemplating the words of the priest.
He finally reached for it, removing the cap covering the needle with his mouth, he steadied his breathing to stop his hand from shaking, unbuttoned his gambeson and rolled up his shirt, sank the needle into his arm, and injected the heretical concoctions into himself.
He could barely feel that little prick amongst everything else. He kept the syringe in his satchel after the injection, looked up at the barely visible clouds, the rain still coming down on him.
The machine's hum slowly died down as it backed away, rising to the sky.
If he asked help from those heretics again...He tried not to think about it. Even if he does go to hell...Maybe it would be worth it. What else was there to do?
Rain. More rain. He thought as he waded through the bushes in the woods.
He reckoned he was far enough to rest. The sensations of sleep keep welling up, but he just had to make sure.
He fell on his knees, then on his chest and laid in the mud, staring at the grass. He laid there for a while, and it just felt good, not having to move.
Finally, he thought he might drown if he slept like that if it keeps raining, so he pushed himself up wiping the mud off his face, grunting heavily, and laid his back against the nearest tree.
Scanned his surroundings cautiously, getting up again to look behind the trees, slumping down again only after looking very carefully behind even through his blurred and spinning vision, he slowly closed his eyes and finally drifted off.
Birds were chirping and the sun was shining overhead, a young boy seemingly no older than ten was galloping on a wild mare through the open grass field, his small hands grasping firmly on its mane.
Scattered banners and flags of Whitewater, Helmarsh, and Vermilion, rustling and wavering overhead of the bloodied grass littered with corpses. In his bag were daggers, jewelry, and slung on his bag were treasured swords of knights.
"Robbing from the dead, have you no shame, boy?!"
"THE DEAD HAS NO USE FOR THESE, I DIDN'T KILL ANY OF THEM! YOU PEOPLE DID! I AM NOT GOING TO HELL FOR THIS, YOU PEOPLE ARE!" He yelled back louder.
They cut into the forest and the boy pulled at the mane, the mare reared as he rolls off, slamming face-first into the mud, he quickly got up, slaps the horse's back and it galloped away.
He threw off the treasured sword of the Vermilion King, a few more daggers and only left himself enough for him to get away safely without hindrance.
This scavenging run has thus been useless.
He woke up coughing but his breathing feels clear and his nose no longer feels clogged.
The sun was as bright and warm as in his dream. He moved his body and his bones no longer ached. He looked around again and saw that he was right where he wanted to be at.
He ruffled through his satchel and produced the rusted pocket watch. Ticking little by little, the dial pushing heavily against the brown rust. He saw that he had slept for more than twelve hours.
Getting up, he wades through the wet bushes again, found the shovel amongst the soil, and began digging for the camp he kept here. The firewood wrapped in layers of cloth was untouched by water, he gathered and fix it up. Pouring the fuel onto the wood and lighting a match.
The campfire warmed his hands and body, he bit into the hard piece of salted meat kept in his satchel and chewed slowly, staring at the spotted fawn that still didn't notice he was within her proximity or did and just didn't care. He would have gutted her for her pelt and meat a few years ago.
Cobbler realized that he has done so many things in the fourteen years that he has been alive, from poaching to grave robbery yet he was still worthless.
Each failure dyed itself onto him, making its color part of him, bleached him like dirt and shit.
Maybe he should have been a Cobbler after all; he thought as he stared into the crackling flames, still chewing on the tough piece of meat, he was such a failure he can't even swallow a piece of damn meat.
He smiled at his own joke and looked up at the sky, the white sun, so bright.
Today is a good day to be alive.