In The Midst of Black Seas
The Man Who Creates Himself Owes Himself to No One.
There is a place beyond the Sands. It is a small place, caught between two hells, sparsely populated and constantly attacked. It is a haven called Blestera and it was once my home.
I used to have the name Merh Delvu when I was a boy there, son of a man once known as Geran Delvu. Because of the constant attacks by monsters and marauders, the city-state has a rather large and well-trained standing army. My father held a special position in this army called Honor Troop, a unit that ally morale while discouraging enemies. My father did this by disarming opponents and defeating them with their own weapons. As I was following in his footsteps, he trained me in this, as well as taking me out on expeditions into both the desert and wastelands and showing me how to survive.
I loved this life. Soldiers were treated with respect and love. Our work was exciting and valorous. Fellow soldiers would die daily, but the rest of us lived. It was nothing you could get used to and it was amazing. I carried on with this life for twenty or so years before it ended abruptly.
My father had been sent out on a routine expedition into the Dark Wastes to destroy any enemy encampments near Blestera. These trips usually took one or two weeks to finish so for that long I thought nothing of it. When he was gone for a third week, I began to worry. On the second month, I had lost hope of ever seeing him again. I was ready to mount up into the wastelands to exact revenge on whatever took him when he came walking through the walls of the town alone, covered in dirt and blood.
I could tell immediately something was different. His fear and anguish seemed forced, his response to the comforts we provided to him unnatural. He seemed somehow alien. It was as if the was not he, but someone wearing his skin.
It became apparent that he had changed a few days after he arrived back. Swarms of all sorts of evil beasts and men crowded around the walls and, when the doors were opened by an unknown source, stormed the city-state. It was very clear soon that the one who had opened the doors—and who now lead the charge—was my father. He killed with the ferocity and coldness of those barbarians that he now lead. Blestera was nearly decimated.
After hours of fighting, the city guard managed to push the enemies back to the gates. I had found and engaged my father in battle and was slowly waring him down. Finally, I saw a very clear chance to cut him down and be done with this evil. But of course I couldn’t. This man was my father and though he killed many of my people, I couldn’t just kill him. Thus, he got away with the rest of the hoard.
The city council was furious with my actions. How could I just let something like that get away? He was nothing more than a rabid dog now, they reasoned. I couldn’t argue. I could only take my punishment. They first stripped my father and I of our names. They then sentenced him to death and me to exile.
The turned me to the Sands of Illestrium with nothing but a thick cloth to cover my skin with and closed the door. Without a second thought, I walked out into the desert. I had little trouble surviving; my father had taught me well. It was the loneliness that made it hard to live. Everywhere I looked was a vast and baron emptiness. It wasn’t until I started looking closer that I noticed the life in it. It was somewhat astounding, really. Even in this lifeless desert, creatures and plants somehow found ways to survive.
I began to see myself in the Sands. An empty shell, a meaningless plain of loose soil, left without the means for life—and yet, life. Blestera too; a bastion that blossomed between two of the most hostile places known to this world, fighting for life and prosperity. I was that too—but not anymore. I’ve lost that whimsy and naiveté.
It was ironic; Blestera exiled me so that I would die—and, indeed, the boy once named Merh was dead. But these sands, this unlikely mother, has given me a second life. Soon after my revelations, I came to call myself Nikos. It was just nonsense, no meaning behind the name whatsoever, but it felt right, and it was a name I gave myself.
When I reached the other end of the desert years later and began traveling the world, I found myself nostalgic for the Sands, though still unwilling to go back. It was not for familiarity that I live now, but for a discovery of new self in these lands.
I now find myself in a town called Dirganis. Walking with the dead has left me thoughtful and lazy and soon I will have to shake off these cobwebs. Though I have gotten a bit tired of traveling alone. It makes meditating on life easier, but makes the life itself boring. So I suppose the task at hand now is to find a traveling partner.