Moments of Loss
Memories of Loss
Written By Patrick F. Perring
- 1 -
The ash covered rocks Tudi used to clamber up crumbled at her touch. After minutes of climbing the rocky slope she was covered in seven layers of ash and dust with a top layer of sweat mixing it all together. Tudi looked down at her six friends climbing behind her, they were all exhausted but with a glint of determination in their eyes they continued. After another 5 minutes they reached the flat top of the craggy peak. It was a dark polar night, but they had light provided by a burning tower located on the other side of a deep crevasse. The sudden light from the fire blinded them for a moment but like a moth to a flame they walked to the edge and stared at the burning tower.
"They really did it! Those crazy bastards.” Said Jericho as he brushed dust off his holy symbol.
“Boy I never liked your cult, but damn can they invade an evil fucking castle.” Responded Theodore as he sat down by a comfortable rock.
After a moment, everyone but Tudi stepped away from the edge to get situated for the night. The young woman was frozen looming over the edge.
I’m sorry. If we were quicker maybe… We’ll get them, we’ll bring them all down.
She looked back at the group as they placed bedrolls for a well-deserved rest. She considered stopping them for a moment. She wanted to scream at them to get up and stop wasting time, but she knew what the outcome would’ve been. She would’ve wasted precious energy arguing with Theodore, then after an hour would’ve sat down and refused dinner out of protest. They’d been climbing for hours and barley had the energy to stand, let alone run headfirst into a burning tower.
She released her grip and stared at their surroundings. They’ve been traveling on this unyielding rocky plain for a solid week now. The group knew Crater Valley for its firestorms, but they certainly weren’t prepared for multiple storms during their journey. This harsh environment has destroyed their shoes, socks, feet and spirits in more ways than one. The fact that they must travel during a polar night hasn’t made it any easier. They’ve manoeuvred around hundreds of deep holes and large spike pits with the aid of a small lantern. On occasion they’ve run into unwanted company in the forms of large rats and pterodactyl sized bats but now it’s comforting for her to know that they’ve reached the peak of their journey.
After this moment of peace, she wanted to turn around with a smile and give one final heroic speech before their final dinner together. Unfortunately, this isn’t what happened. She turned and fell into the darkness of sleep. Peressa caught her and laid her head on a pile of blankets originally prepared for herself. The last thing Tudi heard that night was the sweet song of Miss Perrilove.
Hmm… Hmm… Hmmm
Please listen to my lullaby
I will keep my eye nearby
Let your dreams prevent your cries
Hmm… Hmm… Hmmm
When you rise
We’ll be by your side
So, don’t you cry…
Maybe because of Peressa’s song or from complete exhaustion, she dreamt of home. She could feel the uncut grass under her feet, with each blade wrapping around her toes cradling every step. The smell of freshly cut wood permeated the air as her father stood next to their family cottage. His burly arms open wide for her embrace and his bright amber beard glowed in the sunset. The Timber’s Timbers sign creaked above him as the wind blew it back and forth. Feeling real or not she didn’t care, she just wanted to be there. She just wanted to be with him. She just wanted him to tell her the journey was over.
But like most pleasant dreams it ended before it could begin.
“We gotta get moving T.” Said Jericho in a sympathetic tone, secretly hoping she wouldn’t hit him.
“Sorry I was just dreaming of…” Tudi began to say.
“It’s okay. We all dreamt of home too.“ He said with a smile that reminded her of a younger Jericho. “Don’t tell Theodore but I’m pretty sure it was a sign from Nora, that we’ll make it back okay.”
“Yeah I’m sure you’ll all be fine” Tudi responded rubbing her eyes awake.
“No. We’ll ALL be fine, I promise. Who better than I to decipher Nora’s meanings.” He insisted with a stern look. Tudi nodded knowing it would make him feel better.
“Oh, before I forget call me when you’re ready for True Memory.” Said Jericho as he walked off towards breakfast.
As Tudi arose from her stupor the first thing she saw was the leftover aftermath of the tower invasion. The eerie silence from the partly destroyed tower wasn’t what she was hoping for. As she scoured the landscape, she noticed the paladin campsite off in the distance. Her eyes darted from the war camp to the tower and back again, no sign of life was seen. Little of last night’s raging fire remains outside the tower except a few warm embers lining the brick walls surrounding the lone tower.
Tudi looked over to the others as they began packing up. Everyone except Laci didn’t set up more than a bed for the night. Laci was determined to set up her kitchen knowing they’d all be hungry in the morning. Tudi walked over to Laci and received her portion of soup for the morning.
“Hey Laci. How’s Harvey doing?” Asked Tudi as she peered around the cooking pot to get a glimpse of the young man.
“Uhh he’s…” Answered Laci as she turned to look at her brother. Harvey was sitting silently dangling his feet over the slope they climbed yesterday. “Don’t you worry about him. You should be more worried about paying attention to Theodore. He’s been in a right tiff all morning, trying to get everyone organised so he can start one of his mission briefings.”
“Oh, sorry I hope I wasn’t the cause.” She apologised motioning her head towards the blankets she slept on.
“No no no. We all saw how tired you were. We agreed to let you sleep in a little.” Laci said scooping extra soup for Tudi.
“Well thank you for that and this.” She smiled and gave a gracious bow while moving back to the group. Peressa was combing the last bits of dirt and ash out of her hair while she ate. Something she’d gotten exceptionally good at over the last few days. After she was done, she offered to comb Tudi’s hair as she ate.
When everyone was ready Theodore gathered them all up to start the briefing.
“ Now we have a lot to discuss in a short amount of time. When I awoke this morning, I did a bit of scouting and saw a few Loss hanging around. I think they were just hunters, but until we can get Tudi inside let’s be cautious getting over there. Has everyone been spiked?”
“I just need to do the twins and Tudi and we’ll be ready to head out.” Said Jericho as he finished his soup.
“ Good now we need to discuss plans A to D just in case something unexpected happens. Kat do you have the plans ready?” He looks over to Kathrine as she stares down the crevasse.
“ I wonder….” She ponders while leaning quite far over the edge.
“ Kat! Get away from the edge!” Shouted Theodore as his face quickly turned pale. Kathrine jumps back and snaps her head around to face everyone with a slight look of embarrassment.
“Sorry I just… sorry Theo.” Kathrine spoke in an almost whisper.
“Can you read the plans please?” Said Theodore calmly as the colour returns to his face.
“ Uh yeah I can do that.” She replies in an almost excited tone.
“So, I spent the climb yesterday assessing the environment and I think the stones on the other side should be stable enough for a grappling hook. The heat from the storms only weakened the integrity of the rocks over there. The slope acted like a wall protecting the lining of the gap and the tower. That part is fortunately straight forward but from here on out it gets tricky. Especially now that we’re unsure where the paladins are. If they’re…” She softly glances down at Jericho before continuing. “If they’re dead it means we know two things. One, we won’t have any support entering and leaving the tower. And two we have no clue how many Loss are inside.” Kathrine takes a sip of her soup as Theodore raises his hand. “Yes Theo?”.
“ Okay, let’s say second worst-case scenario.” He answers perching himself on a nearby boulder facing the tower. “Most of the Loss are still alive and the paladins have been captured. What is our line-up when we enter the tower?”
“Two, one, three, one?” Responds Harvey coming out from behind Laci’s shadow. Theodore turns his head with a smile.
“You’re learning kid. Alright if your stepping up, who’s going where and why?”
“Don’t call me kid, you’re only 4 years older. If it was up to me, I’d put me and Laci up front. Laci’s effective in melee and I can weaken them with Glup. Next should be Tudi, putting her in the centre will make it easier to defend her. With no one next to her she can still be effective in combat while being protected. Third row will have Peressa in the centre with Jericho and Kath on the wings. This gives Peressa more protection and the wings more of a viewing angle.”
“Then me in the back?” Interrupts Theodore as he gets off his perch. Harvey nods in response. “Well that sounds like a good line-up to me. Does this effect our plans Kath?”
“Shouldn’t.” She replies tilting her head in thought.
“Good. Give me plan A starting from the tower entrance with the situation previously defined.” Instructed Theodore as he stands to attention. Katherine clears her throat and starts.
“The twins open the door. We scout the bottom floor and eliminate any wandering Loss. Proceed up the stairs skipping every even floor number. Judging by previous towers that’ll be floors 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12. On every other floor we clear the area and search it for the paladins. Then I and Jericho will prepare it for an emergency use of Santuary. Do you have the components needed Jericho?”
“Yeah it’s all prepped. We’ll just need time for you to cast.” Jericho responds showing Kathrine his bag of components.
“If you need time, I’ll take your position in the line-up so you can get that done.” Theodore says in his most commanding tone. She nods in agreement and continues.
“When we get to the top Tudi will be positioned front and centre preparing the potion.” Katherine looks over to Tudi. “You drink that potion the moment you confidently memorize it’s voice and physical appearance. We can’t half-arse this one.” In response Tudi gulps with a nervous smile.
“Good, now let’s go over the backups.” Said Theodore as he digs out a fresh set of arrows from his bag.
The rest of the briefing was detailed with multiple backup plans and leaving everyone with a good sense of confidence. With that finished they had one last thing to discuss.
“We should say our goodbyes.” Theodore said waving everyone to stand up. Jericho didn’t move at first, he just scowled at Theodore, but no one noticed his sign of bitterness. “I’ll go first because I don’t want to cry in front of you all. Tudi you were… I-I mean…You gave me a purpose and that’s all I ever wanted. When this is all done and the time comes, is there anything I can say to you, to ease the processes?”
Tudi raises a hand and places a finger on her chin.
“hmmm surprise me.” She replies with a smile.
“No really. What can I say to you."
"Theo, It's you. You'll know when you know, don't push it." Theo moves in for a warm hug. Tudi could feel a slight tremble in his legs. He backs up and moves over for Laci to jump in to give Tudi one of her world-famous warm hugs.
“You better still like my cooking, or I swear to Nora the lass herself. I’ll reach a hand into that skull of yours and pull your mind back into place. To hell with the consequences.”
“Laci since this will be my last chance to say goodbye, I’ll have to be honest. I’ve never liked your cooking.” Tudi said with a smile she couldn’t hold back.
“Hey! you're alive aren't ye." Laci replied through waves of tears. Eventually removing herself from the hug to stand next to Theodore. He gave her the hug she needed. Next in line was Harvey.
“I know I’ve known you for the second shortest amount of time, but I’ll miss ya.” Harvey places a hand on her shoulder, and they stare at each other for a brief moment. In the stare they shared small nods that said all the words they wanted to say but couldn’t. Harvey moved along to finish packing. Jericho moved up next, his bitter expression is now hidden by a smile.
“Can’t believe we’re here.” He says while looking at the surrounding area.
“It’s certainly quite a lovely place.” She responds in a gleeful note. Jericho raises an eyebrow.
“Haha you’re right it’s a bit shit isn’t it.“ With a slow drop of the smile she looked straight into his eyes. “Hey, I know you’re being courageous and optimistic about all this but if something does go wrong, please don’t force religious procedures down my father’s throat. He could barely tolerate that from mum and you certainly aren’t her.” Like her his smile dropped for a moment.
“T we’re going to do this. We’ll all be okay. Then we can go home and forget about this whole adventure.” His smile returns as if reacting to a joke. Tudi didn’t laugh nor did her smile return. She just stepped back and let him join the others. Kathrine like Laci gave Tudi a hug. Her white hair flicking Tudi in the face.
“*uh ack* Could you *cough* get your hair out of my face.” Tudi tried to say while choking.
“Nope. If I must be choked up all night thinking about you, you’re gonna have to deal with it.” She said while squeezing Tudi harder.
“Kat it’ll be alright. You’ll have my back in and out of there.” Neither of the women wanted to break the hug but eventually Peressa stepped forward and joined them in the embrace. “Girls I’ll miss you the most, haha but I don’t know who out of you two I’ll miss more.
“Liar.” Said Kathrine.
“We know you won’t miss us the most.” Agreed Peressa with a giggle.
“We both know who you’ve saved for that position.” Said Kathrine trying to restrain the urge to giggle as well.
“You two, I swear.” Sighed Tudi as they continued the embrace.
- 2 -
CLINK! Theodore’s grappling hook bounced off a rock and snagged on a curved spike protruding from the rocky wall.
“Nice shot!” Shouted Katherine.
“huh I didn’t think that would catch.” Said Theodore as he tugged on the rope for reassurance.
“Told ya it would work. I assumed it would take less than 10 attempts, but I guess I can’t be right about everything.” Kathrine said in a gleeful tone.
“Well that’s sorted now isn’t it. Get movin’ slow poke.” Laci said while kicking Theodore in the backside. He turned back to give her a glare, but she had already started queuing people up behind him. “Peressa ya gotta get up. Time to move.”
“Shit. Guys wait I gotta True Memory the twins and Tudi before we move on.” Said Jericho.
“Really man? You had all this time. Fine, quickly now.” Theodore said in disbelief. Jericho motioned Laci and Harvey over. They both obliged but Laci did show a second of frustration. With a small poke to both their foreheads they swayed back for a moment as their eyes turned a bright white. Their tired faces for a moment showed an expression of pure terror as they bounced back to reality. They shook their heads and re-joined the line.
“Tudi your turn.” Jericho said while taking out a small bag from his robe pocket.
“What’s with that?” Tudi said pointing at the bag.
“This is to improve the talents effectiveness. Unfortunately, it’s quite expensive so I’ve had to save it for this moment.” He informed while dropping a lit match into the bag. The contents caught fire causing white smoke to emanate from the bag.
“And the smoking part, that’s normal is it?
“Yes, quite normal.” He replied while swinging the bag around.
Her vision began to shrink, or was it moving? Before she could begin to comprehend she…
Found herself in a dark void with small pictures circling her.
The pictures were of moments in her life.
Mostly of home and friends but in front of all of them she saw recent memories.
In the distance Tudi could hear something coming from deeper in the void, meters behind the glowing pictures.
It was the sound of little nails hitting the floor.
As it got closer the sound became louder and more pronounced.
The sharp metal sound became more of a rumble as if a horde of rats was closing in on her position.
The cause of the sound eventually reached the floating pictures.
She could see them clearly now; it was the faces of her enemy emerging from the darkness.
The four imposing creatures stepped out and stood over her, vile liquid flowing out of their maws and down two separate bone like mandibles.
Their hard-crustacean shells swayed with heavy breathing being held up by large beefy spear like legs.
Deep in her mind she could hear Jericho whispering to her.
“Remember me… I’m here… Come to me… I’ll protect you.”
*POOF* Tudi’s mind was back in reality with almost no recollection of what occurred inside her own mind. The only remnants of the last 30 seconds came in the mental image of the Loss.
“Is that it?” She questioned waving the rest of the smoke out of her face.
“Yeah that’s it. Do you remember what they look like?” He said placing his symbol of Nora back under his robe.
“Unfortunately.” She replied wishing to forget the image burned in her mind. By the crevasse Kathrine started waving her arm to get Tudi’s attention.
“Come on then, your turn.” She said shaking the rope for Tudi to get on.
“Wowowoow, Kat what the f—” Said Theodore as he clung to the rope halfway across the crevasse.
“Oh, snap, sorry Theo I wasn’t thinking.” She gasped jumping a foot away from the rope.
“Clearly!” He shouted as he readjusted himself. Tudi approached the rope taking out her gloves and putting them over her calloused hands.
“Careful now.” Kat said placing her hand on Tudi’s shoulder
“The top is clear. Theodore ya gotta block the stairs when we get to the door!” Shouted Laci as she grabbed Tudi and pulled her up the stairs. “Honey, we have no time to stop. Prepare that potion and get in there.” Laci’s eyesight darts to the bottom of the stairs. “Harvey!” Tudi's attention turns to look down at the mass of bodies but is stopped by Laci. “What are you doing! Go!” Laci screams shoving Tudi towards the closed door and leaping down the stairs. Tudi scrambles to grab a pink flower petal out of her pouch. The screaming of her friends distracts her for a moment but with a swift motion she drops the petal into the premade potion. She tightly grasps the bottle and begins reciting 4 names while pushing the door open with her foot.
“Dagan, Heget, Zoras, Kellosh… Dagan, Heget, Zoras, Kellosh…” As the door swings open she’s greeted by a huge black gold tub. The height makes it difficult to see into, so she approaches with caution. “Dagan, Heget, Zoras, Kellosh… Dagan, Heget, Zoras, Kellosh…” She continues.
“You dare speak the names of my brothers and sisters!” Announces a croaky voice coming from the tub. “I know you’ve come here to steal me away. To end this tyrannical rein of me and my people.
“Dagan, Heget, Zoras, Kellosh… Dagan, Heget, Zoras, Kellosh…” She replies louder than before while continuing the approach towards the tub.
“Tyrannical! We let you live the lives you wanted. You never had to think about the bigger picture because we were HANDLING IT! We have been supporting you and your race for hundreds of years, and here you are ruining your own life for the freedom we already gave you.” Tudi’s heartbeat faster and faster. She slowly peers into the tub and sees the last thing she expected. A small defenceless Loss hooked up to a dozen pipes feeding it with a white liquid. Its mandibles had clearly broken off a long time ago and its body looks dry unlike the other Loss they’ve seen.
“We are survivors. Do you think you’re special? You’re not the first and you won’t be the last. We’ll be back and you won’t even know it.” Tudi stares at the creature and for a brief second stops, just stops. She couldn’t hear nor smell the stale air surrounding them. She could only watch as her enemy is reduced to nothing but a small child in her mind. A child whining about not getting what they wanted. A child who knows nothing about the ants under his feet. A child who’s been hurt and needs they’re parents… It might’ve been seconds, but it felt like hours.
“You act high and mighty but you’re not. You’re probably influencing my mind as we speak but you know what. You killed two people that I love and to stop others from feeling this pain I must stop you. To stop you I must forget about the two people I lost and that’s not fair. So, fuck you Galel.” Says Tudi as a tear forms in her eye. She grabs the potion and downs it in one go. She shuts her eyes focusing on the five head Loss. Her mind begins to go blank. She can’t even begin to comprehend what she remembers before it’s gone. Barely standing she closes her fists in determination not to screw this up.
Memories begin to fade quicker and quicker until she’s left with six thoughts.
She stops focusing on Heget… gone.
She let’s Dagan go.
She focuses harder on four thoughts.
Then Zoras after that.
She’s stuck between 2 vivid and important memories.
Galel and jack…
Her vision begins to blur and her body starts to lean over.
Tudi catches herself on the tub for balance.
She whispers as she crumples to the floor.
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