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Shadow Isles The Crater
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Short Story • 4 Minute Read

Last Rites

By John O'Bryan

"Help… me," begged the shipwrecked man.

Lore

"Help... me", begged the shipwrecked man.

Yorick OriginalSquare Yorick couldn't say how long the survivor had been lying there, bones broken, bleeding into what remained of his wrecked sailing vessel. He had been moaning loudly, but his cries were drowned out by the multitude of wailing souls that haunted the isle. A maelstrom of spirits gathered around him, drawn to his flickering life force like a beacon, hungry to reap a fresh soul. The man's eyes widened in horror.

He was right to be scared. Yorick had seen what happened to lost spirits taken by the Black Mist, and this - this was warm flesh, a rarity in the Shadow Isles. It had been how long - a hundred years? - since Yorick had seen a living being? He could feel the Mist on his back quivering, eager to wrap this stranger in its cold embrace. But the sight of the man stirred something in Yorick he had long forgotten, and whatever it was would not allow him to surrender this life. The burly monk heaved the damaged man onto his shoulders and carried him back up the hill to his old monastery.

Yorick studied the face of the injured man as he groaned in agonized protest with each step the monk took. Why did you come here, live one?

After completing the climb, Yorick carried his guest through several corridors in the abbey, before coming to a stop in an old infirmary. He eased the shipwrecked man onto a massive stone table and began to check his vitals. Most of the man's ribs were shattered, and one of his lungs had collapsed.

"Why do you waste your time?" asked a chorus of Eulogy of the Isles voices, speaking in unison from the Mist on Yorick's back.

Yorick remained silent. He left the table and made his way to a heavy door in the rear of the infirmary. The door resisted as he pushed, his hand doing little but leaving a print in the thick layer of dust. He pressed his shoulder against the wood and heaved his entire weight into it.

"So much effort for naught", sneered the Mist. "Let us have him."

Again, Yorick answered it with contemptuous silence as he finally forced the door open. The heavy oak dragged across the stone tiles of the monastery floor, revealing a chamber full of scrolls, herbs, and poultices. For a moment, Yorick stared at the artifacts of his former life, struggling to remember how to use them. He picked up a few that looked familiar - bandages, yellow and brittle with age, and some ointment that had long turned to crust—and returned to the man atop the stone table.

"Just leave him", said the Mist. "He was ours the moment he came ashore."

"Quiet!" snapped Yorick.

The man on the table was now gasping for breath. Knowing he had little time to save him, Yorick tried to bind his wounds, but the rotten bandages fell apart as quickly as he could apply them.

As his breath grew more ragged, the man convulsed. He grabbed the monk's arm in agonized desperation. Yorick knew there was only one thing that could save the man's life. He uncorked the crystal vial at his neck, and considered the life-giving water it contained. There was precious little left. Yorick was unsure if it was enough to save the man, and even if it did...

Yorick was forced to face the truth. In trying to save the man, he was just chasing the memory of his former life, when this cursed place was called the Blessed Isles. The souls in the Mist had taunted him, but they'd taunted him with the truth. This man was doomed, and if Yorick used the Tears of Life, he would be too. He closed the vial and let it rest against his neck.

Stepping back from the table, Yorick watched the man's chest rise and fall one last time. The Black Mist filled the room, spirits clawing out from it in anticipation. The Mist shivered eagerly, then ripped the dead man's soul from his body. It uttered a faint, feeble cry before it was devoured by its new host.

Yorick stood motionless in the room and uttered a barely remembered prayer. He looked at the soulless husk on the table, a bitter reminder of the task he had yet to complete. While the curse of the Ruination remained, anyone who came to these isles would suffer the same fate. He had to bring peace to these cursed islands, but after years of searching, all he had found were whispers about a Blade of the Ruined King item ruined king.

He needed answers.

With a single motion of Yorick's hand, a thin strand of Mourning Mist Mist poured into the man's body. A moment later, it rose from the table, barely sentient. But it could see, it could hear, and it could walk.

"Help me", said Yorick.

The body shambled out the door of the infirmary, its sloughing footsteps echoing through the halls of the monastery. It continued out into the foul air of the cemetery, walking through the rows of emptied Awakening graves.

Yorick watched as the corpse trudged toward the center of the isles until it disappeared into the Mist. Perhaps this one would return with the answer.

References

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