Quintessence of Loss
Prior to the current era, in a distant land across the vast and open seas lived a young man, whose innocent heart belonged to the lands about the coast. Over those last two months, Randolph Béàrlas had fought for the defense of his beloved country. A dark warrior by the name of Artoria had laid waste to the countryside and destroyed countless citizens. Lord Béàrlas nevertheless battled Artoria with all his being, driving him steadily back to the coast. As it happened, Artoria's loyal army was subjected to a certain rumor of their leader's claim of complete responsibility for the destruction of such a rival people. The formidable force, which had one pledged allegiance to his command to destroy the kingdom, turned at once upon a new target. Aggressive warrior Sinon leapt down upon Artoria and ripped from him the very life, which had stolen so many others, from that powerful general.
After returning to his home country, he was worshiped as a god and received visits from various figures, including a certain merchant named Robert Sèvres. This traveler told the young lord stories of a land far to the east and of great danger that would be surely befall him should he stay. Following the spread of popular tales of his victory over the bloodthirsty warlord, in the hopes of returning to his uncle's kingdom and retiring to his home, the magnificent manor Château de Rien, Randolph, led along by the veiled whispers of numerous travelers and seamen of sorts, was brought to a shocking realization that a much larger force of soldiers would soon arrive at news of Artoria's death to destroy his homeland in order to eliminate Lord Béàrlas's threat to the neighboring alliances. His thoughts fled from a wish for peace in the kingdom to a critically serious prayer to secure safety to his life. In desperation for answers, he turned to the tales of a mystical prophetess, who lived in a remote cave of Italy near Lake Avernus, that fabled place where the Sibyl of Cumae once resided. There, amidst the mists, he sought to uncover the shrouded truth of his destiny. For that, Béàrlas would need the guidance of that Diviner, whose name was none other than Ariani, the only descendent remaining of the ancient Sibyl, who still practiced her original teachings. With renewed resolve and minor paranoia as to the nature of his fate, the young lord gathered what men he could and took to the seas with a band of seven ships in search of that sacred place.
That cluster of marvelous sails had only just navigated about the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula, via the Strait of Gibraltar, when they were ambushed by an armada of resolute sailors, who had obviously gained no word of the great and despicable adversary's treachery and sudden death, for they still allowed that cursed flag of Artoria to billow atop the masts. The convoys sailed directly passed each other slowly in the narrow passage. Mounting tension took hold of both parties. Cold eyes stared out across murky waters from both sides of the passage. With little warning, Béàrlas's fleet met with Aeolian winds and swayed drastically toward starboard as that ghostly procession did unleash a blast of the cannons, each messenger hidden as steel delivered deadly secrets unto the passing ships under the cover of dense and stifling smoke. Amidst the ghastly calamity about him, Lord Randolph's head snapped around as the smoke cleared, revealing six of his fleet destroyed, dying friends strewn across the open waters while the billowing sails, as butterflies whose wings are rendered useless, fought to grasp hold of the fleeting winds and save their lives from doom below in dark Abyss, whose mouth forever longs to devour the silently stalked and unsuspecting prey. Distraught and dreadfully depressed, Lord Béàrlas gave the call to what men remained and fled with great speed, hoping to avoid further catastrophe with his identity still undiscovered. His soul ached for lost friends, for brave warriors, and for the precious kingdom he had since abandoned to the ruthless talons of the enemy. He placed his lacerated hand upon the wooden railing, worn with age, and peered over the edge into the water below, warm tears sliding down his face to mingle with the salty spume on the surface below; however, despite his aching heart, like a true hero, Lord Randolph stayed the course and found his way into a small port as fingertips of rose touched lightly the horizon in the distance.
After urging the rest of the crew to remain at the harbor, brave young Randolph set out in the direction of the ox and tiger1. Once across the rolling hills beyond the port, he fixed his eyes upon a monument across the expanse of vibrantly colored blossoms. Fiery salvia and gentle violets blended in a silent dance as wind strolled through the field. Those wondrous flowers beckoned him forward amongst them and led him to a strip of ground where no plants would grow. Standing in that space, a sudden chill came upon him, a haunting sensation the likes of which he had never felt before. Near his feet, he followed a trail of shattered rock and wood to the crumbling structure that had once been a house of worship in a bygone era. Apollo's dwindling rays sent the warning of imminent darkness from the sky, and Béàrlas felt it best to press on so that he might reach the dwelling of the Sybil before Luna could take her place overhead. At length, he arrived at a small alcove just as nightfall descended upon the land from behind the western mountains. With new darkness about him, a faint light in the distance beckoned him closer to an imposing cavern. Béàrlas rushed inside where he was greeted by a miraculous sight: a beautiful enchantress appeared before his weary eyes. Her vivid auburn tresses were layered delicately about her alabaster visage and gleamed softly in the dim light as she sat amongst a large room, the floor of which was covered with leaves and flowers of countless varieties, which also aided in completing her unique and graceful countenance. Before he could turn his thoughts to words adequate for expression, she stroked her fingers ever so gently across her golden lyre, which lay before her next to a stack of books of prophecy near her other hand. Certainly this was that silent prophetess, of whom so many legends are told, for as she plucked each chord and the melancholy melody poured forth, the sweet sounds of each note melted seamlessly into a spectacular vision, which revealed itself unto his eyes, presenting to him a view of an elegant church. That sacred temple he recognized was relatively nearby since his walk had taken him past that very site. The magnificent building cast its shadow about the grounds as a young girl methodically collected a cluster of flowers from the gardens when the doors burst open to reveal a quiet and wraithlike funeral procession issuing forth from the hallowed halls within. As the notes played on, the vision grew steadily clearer, and the young lord recognized himself inside that wooden casket, all traces of skin stripped from his body and a book of prophecy open across that hollow chest.