Chapter Description: After his battle with the spiders, Adrul finds himself in an open field, where he meets a stranger who has a surprising amount of influence over his life.
Adrul found himself lying in a vast, endless field. He hoisted himself into sitting position and felt a light, cool breeze blow the sweat off his brow. Back in his soldier days he would have collapsed on the flat of his back and savored the moment. He had to move on. He had been unsuccessful in slaying the Sorceress for a second time and doubted he’d be able to at this point due to the intervention of that strange, mysterious power that had intervened on her behalf. Her protection aside, it would be pointless to try now as she had recovered enough of her magic to make short work of him, should he try anything. Still, slaying a Sorceress would be a feat worth accomplishing and would definitely attract the higher-paying clients. He rose to his feet.
Adrul was satisfied with his swordsmanship. It had kept him alive against all his human adversarries and his dark aura kept the rifraf away. He needed more power. The only way to get that power, that he knew of, was to contract with another demon for its power. Sacrifices would have to be made, but that was the price to be paid for unnatural power. His first contract had granted him his unnaturally huge, hulking figure. Upon the completion of the pact, he slew his demonic benefactor at the first possible moment, which had granted him his freedom. There were many among his kind, who, like him, had slain their master. That was something every Hunter knew to keep to himself. The world didn’t need to know, in fact most mortals had no idea that Demon Hunters were mortal men who pacted with Demons for power. Adrul gazed at the endlessnes of the field. It would take some time, but he’d eventually figure out where he was.
He started to walk, "Wait, don’t go." a small pair of hands grabbed his massive wrist from behind. The voice that the hands belonged to was soft, sweet and innocent. Adrul turned to look at his reception. The woman looked very small, was dressed in the most beautiful of white gowns, had long, golden hair that ran all the way down to her waist, and had the warmest, most welcoming smile Adrul had ever seen.
Adrul was puzzled. His dark aura that had inspired fear in the masses kept almost everyone away. Only the most desperate of clients dared speak to him. He considered how easy it would be to beat her to a bloody pulp, he wouldn’t even have to draw his weapon. She seemed so frail; it was puzzling to consider that she wasn’t even phased by their difference in size. This woman, who obviously had no affiliation with his kind whatsoever seemed unaffected by the darkness he exerted on his surroundings. Her eyes were the deepest blue he had ever seen. "Stay and talk with me," she insisted. She coaxed Adrul into taking a seat in the grass, she then took her own seat beside him.
Adrul was completely lost for words. This experience seemed familiar, yet very foreign to him. In his soldier days he’d had such experiences, but that was all another life to him now. He’d given up companionship in exchange for survival. After his army had been wiped out, he soon discovered that war was the one thing he could do and had taken things a little bit far in his quest to become stronger. Adrul found the woman interesting and curious. He didn’t know what to think of her. She’d either have to be bold or stupid to talk to him, but regardless of her reason for wanting his attention, she had it. He heaved a sigh, throwing his weight down as he collapsed once again onto the flat of his back, atop the grass, releasing all tension in his muscles as the ground shook beneath him. "What do you want?" he asked, not knowing what else to say.
"What’s your name?" she asked.
"What’s it matter?" Adrul countered. They both stared off into the distance.
"I’d like to know who I’m talking to," the girl imposed.
Adrul shook his head. It didn’t seem to matter at this point if she knew his name. "I am called Adrul." he relented. He didn’t know what it was or how she was doing it, but this stranger was resisting every feature about him which caused normal people uneasiness and fear almost as though it weren’t even there.
She laughed, "No, I’m not talking about the name given to you by Demons. What is your real name?"
Adrul was stunned. This girl seemed to know everything there was to know about pacting with a demon, down to the renaming of the servant. The silence seemed to last forever until he mumbled, "I don’t know." It had seemed important back before he pacted, but it had been so very long ago that it didn’t seem to matter that he couldn’t remember his own name.
"I see. Adrul sounds like a dog’s name though... mind if I call you Addy for short?"
Were it not for the last few days, Adrul would have just burst into a fit of laughter and left. Adrul was now wary of her. If his suspicions were correct then she was somehow connected to Vanessia. "I’ve been called that a lot over the last few days." he admitted.
"Do you like it?"
"No. Sounds too much like a child’s name."
"And such a perfect child you made. You barely cried at all. I was impressed." she praised him in a matter-of-factly tone, "But I will grant that you have been rather spoiled compared to most babies these days."
Adrul was beyond agitated at this point. "Who are you?" he asked. In spite of his agitation, he felt like was being pulled into a captivating trance. It was as if another presence were invading his mind. Every instinct he had told him that he should leave now, but he had to know how she knew all that information about him. He felt his guard against her drop considerably, but he didn’t care. It would be easy to figure out what he needed to know and then be on his way.
"My name is Cynthia," she looked into his eyes as she answered. The invading presence seemed to resonate within him as he began to feel significantly smaller, she looked about as big as he did now. Just moments before he had been towering over her but now their eyes were about level with each other, she continued, "but you have also known me by the names Vanessia and Heather. It’s all the same to me. Call me whatever you want." Adrul had to blink several times before he finally accepted that she was about the same size as him, "This field we’re in is actually a scene from one of my distant memories, I felt it appropriate that we formally meet here. In case you still haven’t pieced it together, you fainted during the battle with those spiders. I’m just using this opportunity for us to become better acquainted."
Adrul couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He didn’t sense any darkness coming from Cynthia at all, but more importantly, he couldn’t be trapped inside her mind, "Yeah, right," he scoffed. He gasped as he heard his voice, it sounded like a regular man’s voice, as it had before his pact. He now recognized the other presence that shared his mind as that light that had possessed him after his defeat at Vanessia’s hands. He tried to fight it, but it was too late; the light had already taken considerable hold on his mind and was expelling his inner darkness, wherein he drew his power.
"It’s true," Cynthia looked deep into his eyes, her eyes were honest and pure, "I was once a priestess, but that was a very long time ago."
Adrul had heard of priestesses before. Humanity had quit practicing organized religion, but it was rumored that the priestesses all had died out with humanity’s last church, which had given rise to Sorceresses, powerful avatars of the Demons. He desperately shook his head as he tried to exert his dark aura, but at this point he might as well have challenged Vanessia to a rematch for all the good it did him. "What are you doing to me? How are you doing this?"
Cynthia ignored his question as she continued, "Back in my day, the church would conduct researcch on how to battle with Demons. I was one of the rare few born with enough power to rival a lesser Demon." she continued, maintaining Adrul’s gaze. Adrul’s internal battle had officially gone south; he had no more strength to draw upon. Cynthia seemed a lot bigger than him now. Adrul couldn’t wrap his mind around how Cynthia could make him physically younger during their conversation, seemingly without lifting a finger. She offered him a sly smile as he now looked up into her eyes.
Cynthia pulled Adrul into her lap, he felt very small as her lap seemed to accomodate his size with ease. "I need you to accompany me on my mission to finish what I started," she whispered into his ear, rocking him from side to side. Adrul couldn’t even seem to host his own thoughts anymore. He was now pulled completely into Cynthia’s trance.
As much as Adrul tried, he couldn’t fight her hold on him, her presence continued to dull his senses, making him unable to exert the tiniest shred of his darkness, which he knew to be his last chance to restore himself to his former power.. Adrul found that all he could do as he started to fade into complancency was ask, "Who Vanessia? Why she hurt people?" he accepted his high-pitched toddler voice as though it were nothing out of the ordinary. He just had to squeeze out any information he could about Vanessia before his next confrontation with her.
"I, a priestess of light, had been successful in defeating a Demon. As I absorbed its power in order to harness it and become stronger, darkness entered my soul. Since I reject the darkness, a new presence within me was born, and would possess my body and mind during my moments of weakness when I was vulnerable. Vanessia is my dark half incarnate. Now all I can do is pull the strings from behind the scenes and prevent her from some of her vile acts, which cancels both our powers and results in neither of us controlling my body."
Adrul couldn’t comprehend what she was telling him at ths point. The gravity of the entire conversation now seemed as trivial to him as picking out the clothes he wanted to wear to bed. He felt as though his entire mind had been swallowed by her consciousness, and that he was now but a small child by comparison, a mere wisp of his former self. "You save me from Vanessia." he babbled childishly.
Cynthia chuckled as she ruffled his hair while continuing to rock back and forth, "I’m saving you from yourself, little one."
"Why you make me liddel?" Adrul was grasping at straws at this point. What was left of his mind felt as though it were being lost and replaced by something else. It was all he could do to keep himself grounded.
Cynthia squeezed him tight, "That’s a topic for another day." Addy felt himself grow smaller still as he reverted back to infancy in her arms, there was nothing left of his previous mind. All his previous thoughts, ambitions, and desires were now lost to him. It was as if he, himself, had been erased in the clutches of this woman’s arms. "Go to sleep, little one. The journey ahead will be long and treacherous." Cynthia rose. She held the now tiny infant in her arms. The wind blew at her golden locks as she stared off into the dark horizon.
Addy woke up in Heather’s lap. His bitter thoughts toward his caretaker seemed to have dispersed during his long sleep. He cooed as any happy waking baby would. They were in a new carriage. Apparently Heather had been at work securing a new one during his deep sleep. He tried, but he just couldn’t remember what they had set out for or even what he was doing there. In the end, he concluded it had always been like this. He truly was Heather’s son.
Heather beamed down at him, "Oh, my little baby’s finally awake! You had mommy really worried, little one." Addy happily laughed at the attention he was receiving, completely unaware that this was not what he wanted. As Heather played her games with him to pass the time, Addy decided that he liked Heather, and he wanted things to remain as they were.
NEXT: CH4:THE SEAL
Stories of Age/Time Transformation