Dungeon Codex

Precious - Innocence

Innocence
Innocence
1. A Gift In Death // "I Will Take Care Of You, Always"
2. Seeking Shelter, Stealing Food // "I'll Keep You Fed And Warm"
3. Plagued Bodies Falling From The Sky // "I'll Hide You"
4. Roads Lined With The Dead And Dying // "Don't Look"
5. Escape Through The Siege // "I'll Get Us To Safety"
6. Hooded Figures // "Please Go!"
7. Refuge, Comfort, and an Embrace
Total Time
23:00
Released
July 13, 2019
Additional Details
It was said that blood ran gold through the veins of the forest monks—molten and magical, a fiery sea that coursed between skin and bone.


The peasant woman knew that not to be true. She had laughed with them, cried with them, and tended to their wounds with the supplies she brought to their order at each full moon. She had seen them live and witnessed them die. And she knew, for all their quiet kindness and gentle spirit, that they bled crimson like any creature.


Her monthly journey to the monastery was more treacherous now. Hordes of troops had begun to roam the wilds surrounding the castle, their weapons glinting as menacingly as the bloodlust in their eyes. It was impossible to ignore the restless soldiers garrisoned upon the castle walls, and the peasants confessed fears of war by candlelight long after the children were tucked into bed.


Her next delivery would be her last, she decided. She could not risk leaving her daughter motherless in times of impending hardship.


“Fear not, little one,” she whispered as the moon grew full, kneeling before her young daughter on the stable floor. She cradled the girl’s face in her hands, wiping swollen tears from sunken cheeks. “I will return in three days’ time. I promise.”


She rode hard through the plush darkness of night, navigating through the thick coniferous forest by the light of the moon glowing through the gnarled treetops. As was customary, the monks met her at the mountain pass and led her back to the order.


They were not surprised to learn that this would be the woman’s final visit; their grateful goodbyes were bittersweet. “For your daughter,” one monk murmured, attaching a small wooden cage to her saddle as she prepared to leave. Inside was a small black and white rabbit, its nose twitching curiously as the woman peered through the bars.


Two monks escorted her silently back through the pass. The eastern horizon blushed pink in the presence of lingering stars. At her side, the rabbit slept.


They did not hear the men approach. A strangled scream escaped her throat as the arrow lodged itself in her abdomen, and she doubled over in agony. As her terrified horse carried her away through the trees, she looked back just in time to see that when the grinning soldiers drew their blades across the throats of her escorts, the monks bled crimson…as did she.


---


“Take her. She is for you.”


The girl flinches. Her wounded mother’s voice is raspy, and the red blood blossoming over her belly scares her.


“Care for each other…”


A sob rattles the girl’s thin frame as the life fades from her mother’s eyes. Clutching the rabbit gently to her chest, she retreats into the stables, watching unseen from the stalls as the guards remove the body.


Orphaned and alone, the girl keeps her fear and grief at bay by caring for her rabbit. “Don’t worry,” she whispers to her companion, stroking its velvety fur, “I will take care of you. Always.”


They take shelter where they can—darting through the spokes of wagon wheels, fleeing the rain in the blind shopkeeper’s shed, and spending nights on beds of hay in the stables. The food she steals from the merchants is always split evenly with her rabbit, even if she must go hungry herself. It’s what her mother had always done for her—and what she must do now for her friend.


But it becomes harder and harder to ignore the hunger gnawing at her stomach. She begs for scraps in the streets, but there are simply no scraps to be had. Grown men fight in the street for morsels barely large enough to chew, while skeletal women comfort whimpering toddlers with bloated bellies.


The little orphan girl has no one to fight for her. Weak and desperate, she grows numb to the skin-and-bone corpses rotting in the gutters. She steps around them, taking comfort in the warmth of the rabbit tucked carefully in her tattered dress.


A sudden crash startles her, and a crowd gathers near an abandoned merchant stall. Soon, another crash, and then another—like strange thunder. A woman screams, and distantly, soldiers on the stone walls shout. The girl elbows her way through the group, then stops suddenly in her tracks. The naked body of a man, his skin pockmarked with oozing sores, lay broken upon the splintered roof.


More bodies rain from the clear sky as the army outside the walls pull their catapults ever closer. The girl clutches her rabbit to her heart and sprints back to the safety of the stables, tears streaming rivulets down her dusty face.


The stalls are empty now; the livestock had been killed for sustenance or had starved to death themselves, leaving behind half-full troughs of dirty water and piles of moldy hay. Terrified that her rabbit might meet the same fate, she stops venturing out during the daytime lest someone discover her black-and-white companion.


Disease from the bodies spreads like wildfire, infecting a population too weak and impoverished to stand a chance. Men in strange masks perform rituals to banish the sickness, but death and suffering abound. The girl and her rabbit remain isolated in the stables, eating the straw and sipping the sour water to survive while the ravaged city succumbs to famine and plague.


One morning, the girl is roused from fitful sleep by the sound of war drums. Blazing arrows rain down from the sky and a battering ram pounds at the castle gates. The army breaches the walls, swords gleaming in the archers’ hellfire, and spare no one as they advance. Blood paints the cobblestones.


Her nostrils fill with smoke, and she realizes with horror that the stables have caught fire. Eyes wide with fear, she tucks her rabbit once more into her dress. “I will take care of you. Always,” she promises, then bursts through the flames and into the open air.


She does not stop. She cannot stop. Her bare feet slip on the blood-soaked cobblestones, but still she runs—through the smoke, over the bodies, past the skirmishes, through the broken gates. She stumbles into the verdant forest, hardly feeling the cuts on her limbs as she tears through the brambles.


The landscape changes. Jagged mountains rise like teeth from the maw of a wide valley. Her frail shoulders spasm with sobs until she is too exhausted to cry any longer. It is only when a hooded figure steps from the shadows of twilight that she pauses, ready to flee in the opposite direction.


But another figure lurks behind her, and she knows, suddenly, that she is going to die.


She drops to her knees, a mess of tangled brown hair and sharp bones, and gently sets her rabbit on the moss. “Go!” she cries, her voice as hoarse as her mother’s had been upon her dying breath. “Please go!”


But the rabbit does not leave her side. Instead, the creature nuzzles the trembling girl’s hand and slips under her arm. The last thing she sees before consciousness slips away is the silhouette of a hooded figure reaching down to kill them both.


---


The girl wakes slowly to the gentle crackle of a fire. For a moment, she believes she is back in the burning stables. She gasps and sits upright to save her rabbit, crying out against the pain in her muscles and feet. She kicks out, realizing her legs are tangled in blankets.


“Hush and be still, child.”


The voice startles her. She blinks away tears to see a man in a heavy brown robe kneeling at her side. Slowly, she pieces it together—these were the monks that her mother used to visit. Somehow, some way, she had found their monastery.


The monk smiles and points to the rabbit, who sits next to the warm fire with a meal of bright leafy greens. “You are both safe here,” he reassures her.


The girl scoops her friend into her arms. The tears that fall from her eyes are happy tears for the first time in her short life. She picks up a leaf of cabbage, tearing it in half—and, as she always had and always would, gives the larger piece to the rabbit.
Editions
Cassette
July 13, 2019
Digital
July 13, 2019
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Added By: Opsiuscato
October 29, 2019
Edited By: Naginah
October 30, 2019
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