BANG! CRAGAKUNG! CRASH!
Clash of swords rigged through the empty desert for what felt like days now. On the one side of the ruined wasteland stood an individual, clad in what resembled a knight's armor but bearing hideous burns and contortions. They stood high, body tense with the firm grip on the great sword of a long-lost hero of the past, as they glared at the humongous form of the red goliath who served as the adversary.
The wind blew through the remains of what was once Ringed city, now long lost to the past, buried deep within the sands of the time. At the edge of the ruined world, two remaining warriors crashed with each other mercilessly. Their swords screamed in the union as they both battled with their lives on the line until-
The loud crash swiftly followed Ashen One's Great Sword as he smashed the blade into Gael's Face, sending the frenzied fellow undead across the sand field.
Gael stood and crawled up on his four and stared at the blade that was beneath him.
The droplets of his blood adored his blade.
"Is this the blood…?"
Gael's Body slowly began being engulfed in a sinister aura as the process of hollowing was reaching its final stage. The Ashen one could see it, feel it. the Hollow slayer great sword cried out deep within the twisted flames of his soul to be brought forth and be used for its duty.
"The blood of the dark soul?"
Slowly, the last of Gael's consciousness faded away, and in his place, the hollow rose on its two feet.
"Gael…" Ashen one silently grieved the passing of the old knight as he stared at the hollowed remains of the former undead. Wolf Knight's Great sword in his hand engulfed into flames and soon got replaced by the hollow slayer as the flames faded away.
The wasteland darkened as the raging storm took over. The lighting from the sky danced across the sand numerous times and the two adversaries sized up each other. Gael's hollowed form took the first step and charged at the Ashen one. Soon, the clash of the sword resumed.
The battle was far more intense and gut-wrenching than the previous one, yet it came to the end soon enough. In his deranged and damaged state, hollowed Gael summoned forth the power of the dark souls and leaped in the air. Ashen One watched Gael Charge at him at full speed and stood his ground. He already expected him.
Freeing the hold of his left hand over his blade, Ashen One charged up the great chaos fire orb and slammed the incoming Gael in the face.
The Chaos flames eat away Gael's cloak and face as he slammed and rolled across the sand from his previous momentum. The hollow twisted and turned, scratching away at the flames. By the time he got rid of them and stood back up with a grunt, it was too late. Ashen One was already next to him.
With a swift stab, Ashen slammed the tip of a hallow slayer into Gael's chest.
"M-my… Lady's painting…"
His body crumbled into the ground lifelessly. Ashen One stoops silently, unmoving, frozen. Waiting patiently for Gael's soul to be absorbed within his consciousness, and soon enough it did.
"The blood… The blood of Pygmies runs dry."
He expected this. His lady's painting wouldn't be completed without his sacrifice after all. Ingesting some much raw Dark soul would sure twist his already fractured mind further. The creature he would become… No matter. His Lady's painting must be completed no matter what. So that world would be saved. so that what remained of it would be saved.
Gael was calm. He knew the sacrifice had to be made, but he was at peace because, Surely, He would overcome whatever fates twist him into. He will be the one to help his lady finish her painting. The one to save those still breathing.
Pygmies screamed as Gael tore through them.
Ashen one breathed out as he absorbed the memories.
"Gael…" He glanced at the sword left behind by its previous wielder. It was covered in the blood of its owner. The blood of the dark soul. The last piece of the puzzle. Ashen one softly grasped the handle of the blade and lifted it up.
"Your sacrifice won't be in vain."
He glanced across the endless sands.
"That I promise."
Fire Link Shrine.
Firekeeper kneeled before the bonfire. Her hands softly clasped against her lips as she prayed softly. Next to her, Irina softly ran her hands across her back. Behind them, Andre and Handmaid stood silently. Karla sat on the staircase, not too far away from Cornyx.
Outside the shrine the sky has darkened. where was once the sun, now has been replaced by a bleeding purple mark of hollow in the sky. All of them knew what that meant.
"So, the bastard of Ash goes on and becomes Lord of bloody Hollows, eh? Hmm. For what it's worth, he gone and went with something original, Unlike the sorry cesspool of so-called lords of cinder who threw themselves at the flame time after time again. Ha ha..." Eygon chuckled sarcastically as he watched the sorry state of fools in front of him,
"Bite your Tongue this instance!" snared Sirris at him.
"Ah, the loyal knight of the sad bastard. You must be feeling quite an itch right now. More so than the others. The once dark moon slave now serving a new master who goes and becomes the lord of hollows of all things. Must be quite the irony, eating you from within, eh?"
Sirris didn't say anything, but the tense muscles on her face and murderous glare was than enough to know what she wishes to do with him.
"Enough, please…" Irina silently begs both of them.
"Now is not the time to argue with each other."
"Hmph." Eygon doesn't say anything and simply looks away. Sirris shares his silence.
"I feel the agitation within the air is, misplaced if only a little. Just because he did not link the flame, doesn't mean he has suddenly become someone other than the man we know. Conversing with him, Is the key to understanding his side of events. " said Karla after the short silence.
"The day black witches becomes the voice of reason…" Muttered Eygon.
"She is right. We need to speak with the Pupil. I have known him for a while now. He is not a man to make such important decisions so hastily, there must be a reason. Something. " Said Cornyx as he crossed his arms.
"He was a little agitated and even tired the last few days I saw him. As far as I can tell… Something was on his mind, but perhaps he was too afraid to share his inner burden with either of us and we have not noticed it? " Muttered Karla as she remembered her previous interactions with ashen one.
"If you ask me, this is all that manipulative snake's fault. She was always crawling around him, whispering all sorts of blasphemous things within his ear's reach. " Snarled Sirris.
"The choices ashen one maketh aren't madeth hastily. He cares for us, for this world… " The firekeeper finally speaks, grabbing the attention within the shrine with her soft words.
"I believeth in him as shouldst we all. To this endeth, we must remain calm and await Lord's return."
Her hands clasped together with Irina's. The two fire keepers and the residents of the shrine fell in silence, as they waited for his return.
Ariandel Chapel, Painted World of Ariandel
The painting lady is set in silence. She kept looking at the giant canvas in front of her, as she had been doing so in her wait for her uncle Gael. Her ears twitched as another presence joined her.
"Ashen one, I smell Uncle Gael's scent upon thee. Has he finally returned?"
The Lord of hollows stared at the small frame of the Painting lady. Her eyes shone with curiosity as she kept looking behind him. Ashen one remained silent. In the end, he decided to be honest with her.
"He is not coming, little one."
The painting lady froze. she stopped glancing behind him and looked at him. Her lips softly formed a thin line as she cast her gaze down to the floor.
She glanced at the canvas again.
"Has uncle Gael left me alone as well in the end?"
"Gael lost himself in his search for the pigment. He was determined to fulfill his task for you until the very end."
Ashen one couldn't see her face, but he noticed small droplets of tears under where the chair she sat. Slowly, he reached behind his back and grabbed the slave knight's abused weapon that once was used to be a great sword. it couldn't be called that anymore.
"But he has fulfilled his given task before the cruel fate got to him."
The painting lady dried her eyes with her sleeves and looked at him and then at the remains of the sword in his hands.
The remains were drenched in Gael's blood.
"The blood of the dark soul. I can feel it. My thanks, Ashen One. With this will I paint a world." She looked up at the canvas again.
"If I may, little one?"
She glanced back at him.
"I do not believe this canvas will be necessary for your new painting."
"But without canvas, how will I create a painting?"
"You could create a painting upon it if you wish, but would It differ much from the one created by ariandel? Soon enough, it too, shall reach its limits and shall begin to rot as the one we are within already has. The world outside the painting shall crumble soon enough, and by the time rot takes place within the painting, there won't be any more bearers of the dark soul to create pigment from."
"But…What else can I do? "
Ashen one fell silent for a few seconds.
"I can give you a new canvas."
"A new Canvas thou speak?"
"Indeed. One that shall not rot and shall withstand against the time far longer than the one created upon the canvas in front of you."
The painting lady's eyes shone with curiosity and interest.
"Where is this canvas thou speaks of?"
"you are looking at it."
"I… I do not understand Ashen One."
The painting lady replied, confused. She couldn't see him holding any sort of canvas within his grasp. Lord of hollows slowly raised his hand and placed it on his chest. His charcoaled armor suddenly becomes embered. The pressure within the room rose as did the temperature. A small blaze danced across Ashen One's shoulders before his body become lit on fire. Paining lady gasped as she felt his power.
"The first flame blazes within my soul, as I have usurped it from its kiln. I was meant to be Lord of hollows and lead the new dark age of humanity but… There is no point. What exists, is already crumbling. The abuse caused by linking the first flame for centuries has taken its toll on the world. Returning the world to its natural order and accepting the dark will not save it. Nothing will."
He glanced at her.
"The painting created by you, is the only hope people of this world have left to survive. My body is mere unkindled undeath's no longer. I ask you, paint your painting upon my flesh and use this flame within, in conjunction with my dark soul and this pigment and create the new painted world." He revealed his plan to her.
The painting lady stared at the lord of hollows in astonishment. What he was asking her…
"To become the living canvas… Does thou understandeth the meaning behind thy words? The painting will birth the world within thy soul. Is that what thou wishes?"
"Yes." Ashen one replied firmly. The painting lady looked at the charcoaled helmet of the lord for a while before giving him her answer.
"I… Accept. I promised Uncle Gael I would paint the world that would one day become a goodly home for those in need. It is a promise I dearly wish to fulfill. Thy generosity to offer flame as the canvas… It shall create a world far lovely and warm than the one I have imagined."
Ashen one smiled. His body becomes engulfed in the flame. As the flame faded away, so did his charcoaled and burnt armor that once belong to the soul of cinder. Soon, he stood bare in front of the painting lady.