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An Exile’s Tale

Here is a short story I’ve written about Path of Exile. The illustration above comes from Asahisuperdry.

All over Wraeclast, you can hear the tales of Kaom, Piety and Malachai, but you’ll never hear anything about the fate of the exiles. Their victories aren’t sung, their deaths aren’t mourned, they weren’t sent here to be remembered. But this story is different, I don’t want to forget it. This is why I’m leaving this for anyone to read at the board of Lioneye’s watch, for this tale belongs to this town.

The night had fallen over Lioneye’s watch and the few exiles who had made it back before the dark were scattered along the walls, hiding themselves from the wind and the rain. Exiles don’t sleep in cosy inns, the cold and wet stones of the sanctuaries are their only beds. Some gather in small groups but most stay alone, haunted by the horror of their memories. A few hours had passed since the light was gone and the place was silent, only the wind could be heard. Even the traders were falling asleep… As for me, I haven’t had a normal night’s rest since I was sent to this cursed place. Everyday, I manage to rest a few hours, dreaming with my eyes open. My instincts don’t let me drift too far and I suspect that they won’t until I have completed my journey.

A terrifying scream boomed through the place. It was coming from the beach and it was so loud that the ground trembled beneath us. At first, we all looked at each other in search for an answer: what kind of creature could make such a sound?

A small group of warriors ran to the beach but everyone else seemed undecided about whether they should go or stay behind the protection of the town’s heavy walls.
And me… I wanted to gather my gear, but I was just as panicked as the others. I had been fighting monsters and things that walked even though they shouldn’t but never had I heard such a scream. At that moment, amidst the chaos, came to me the certitude that if I didn’t go to help the warriors, the fate of this entire town would be sealed.

As another scream covered the sound of the storm, I broke out my stupor and started to motion toward the beach. That’s when I felt her hand on my shoulder. As I turned, Navali peered into my eyes and told me a prophecy, “Tonight you will make a friend. Tonight you will betray a friend”.
Puzzled, the only thing that came to me was “never, I don’t betray friends” but, before I could speak, she was back at her place, staring into emptiness, as if nothing happened.

Another scream and I began to run… The beach was covered with corpses, the warriors had passed before me and had cleared a path. I could see fire and movement ahead. Then, I tripped over a piece of armor covered in blood and pieces of flesh. I recognized the gear of one of the warriors. I looked around me and there they were, dismembered and scattered over the sand. What kind of monstrosity could have done that?

As I got closer, I saw it, towering over a horde of revenants. It was at least 5 times their height, a creature from the sea unlike any I had ever encountered. It had giant legs and tentacles were coming from under its shell. Its body was as large as half Lioneye’s Watch and two yellow eyes were staring angrily at the crowd surrounding it. It was cornered between two sides of a cliff and, at its feet, were laying the corpses of its children. Other smaller creatures were caged and kept captive by a few dark shamans. These evil summoners had been using reanimated corpses to capture the monster’s progeny. That’s probably how they forced it out of the sea. Now, they were trying to tame it. Against such a beast, Lioneye’s watch wouldn’t stand a chance. I wouldn’t last very long either… Maybe, if I could get rid of the summoners and release the babies, the giant monster would go back where it came from. It was worth taking the chance, not that I had many choices anyway…

I fired an arrow, then another and entered full motion, killing the five shamans one after another, the revenants were too busy trying to contain the raging creature, they didn’t pay attention to me. I quickly opened the cages but the toddlers were already dead.

Without the shamans to resurrect them, the revenants didn’t last long. The monster got free and walked in my direction, the ground was trembling under its weight. Only a few feet away from crushing me, it stopped and looked down at the cages, then it stared at me. The rage in its eyes made way for gratitude, probably because I had ended its torment. Then the sadness came back, it lifted up its giant head and moved toward the sea.

I had made a friend.

But then, I saw it. The shell that was covering its entire body had a weak spot in the back. That’s probably why it had been standing against the cliff, to remain protected. What was I to do? Let it go and take the risk that other evil creatures would come and would try to use it against us?
One more time, I fired an arrow, then another. Soon, arrows were storming in the direction of the crack in the shell. Little by little, the armor broke and my projectiles penetrated its flesh. As I was running around keep facing its its back, guts and blood were raining on me. It let another scream out, but this one wasn’t anger, only sadness. It knew that it had been betrayed and that it was going to die.

A few moments later, I was alone on the beach, covered in gore, walking back to the town. Not happy, nor triumphant. I had just killed a friend.

I was expecting Navili to look at me, her prophecy had been fullfilled, but she didn’t even see me as I entered Lioneye’s watch. She was already busy looking at the fate of hundreds of other exiles.

Bestel offered me a reward for my deeds, but I never collected it and I never will. The only reward I deserve for such a victory is this tale, the memory of the day when I betrayed an ally.

Such is my fate, such is the fate of the exiles.

Thanks to Stijn “The Sharp Dressed Man” Vijverman for the (much needed) proofreading.

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