Yorick the Hunter — Part II
The conclusion to Yorick’s Tale
In the unyielding black, Yorick’s mind coalesced and stirred. Fragments of awareness swirled together and condensed; the sensation was not unlike awakening slowly from a deep slumber.
And yet, no eyes opened.
Yorick commanded himself to rise, to lift his eyelids, to move. With every increasingly panicked attempt at movement, though, the sensations of motion, and control, and finally of touch itself faded into phantoms; he was adrift in a void.
No light, not even the subtle glow that rests over closed eyelids reached him. The panic that had blossomed in his mind became unsustainable, and it abated. When his racing thoughts slowed, he felt too a vast, suffocating silence. The pumping of blood in his ears, the subtle beat of his heart - all of the faint hums of life that marked a body as inhabited were absent.
Fear swelled within him once more, and broke over his mind as the emptiness closed in upon him. He tried even to return to slumber, to hide from the eternal, starless night that he had become encased in, but his mind would not rest. He was trapped in consciousness, forced to confront a quiet and empty eternity.
The only anchor to sanity that remained was his mind, and so he cast himself back into memory, where at least the facsimile of sensation lay. He remembered, and imagined, the warm, rough touch of sunlit bark, and the soft sighs of water tumbling through a river. He walked through moments of his life, following himself from childhood, to adolescence, and finally to adulthood. He heard the soft, firm whispers that led him on a journey, and could almost - almost - feel the cool, smooth touch of his bow-
A torrent of memories fell upon him like a waterfall, and he pieced together his last few waking moments as best he could. He remembered a bite of steel, and the steady drain of his life onto a library floor.
Was this death? Was this lonely madness what waited at the end of existence?
He replayed the memory of the ritual over and over, trying to understand what had happened, cycling hopelessly between confusion, despair, and anger. Had he made a mistake, missed some crucial word that would have kept him bound to the world? Had he failed the Voice, and burned the visions of his immortality from the fabric of possibility?
The tortured cycle of recollection consumed him - so much so that when he was eventually wrenched from dark eternity and thrust back into stark reality, it took a moment to register that his torment had come to an end.
His parched senses drank in the scents and sounds and sights around him, and the sudden stimulation gave him a rush of euphoria. The musty odor of forgotten books filled his nostrils, and sounds he would have once dismissed as mundane noise filled his ears like a symphony. Even the dim, grey hues of the library seemed like a vibrant hallucination after the utter black he’d experienced.
He’d returned to the world.
Yorick felt himself buckle with relief - but his legs did not fall. And while a tear had sprouted from the edge of his eye and flown down his cheek, his face remained still, refusing to reflect the maelstrom of emotion that raged within him. An arm moved to wipe away the errant tear, but he was not the one in control. He could feel the cool wood of his bow in the other hand, but could not lift it.
As this realization grew, he found the senses that he’d returned to fading away again, as he fell further and further away from the outside world. What rushed in to replace his senses was not the abyss from before, but a dreamlike scene rendered by an impressionist’s hand.
He was trapped in a glass marble, suspended in a vivid sea of color and sound. His senses remained, but were hollow, dreamy echoes of reality. Whispers crept around him, and ethereal scenes passed before his eyes - eons of knowledge and digested experiences flashed before him. He had toured his own life’s memories in the abyss, and their sum was excruciatingly insignificant next to the scenes he now witnessed.
He worried that he had finally lost himself to madness.
But he focused on the whispers, and the visions, and came to understand: he was a passenger, trespassing in the body of some other being. These were its memories, its hints of thought. For that first brief instant, he’d glimpsed through the windows of this new vessel, but now the inhabitant had forced his presence down within its own. The mind that contained Yorick was vast - almost as expansive as the void. The whispers, seeds and shards of subconscious thought, fell away in the wake of words with true intent:
The Voice. His guiding light. At least, the first one was. The second bore the same timbre, but the tone was different - as if the vocal chords were an instrument shared by two players of distinct styles.
“Can you hear me, Yorick?”
He needed only think the word, and he could feel this other presence digest it. Bubbles of emotion emanated from the mind that surrounded his own - curiosity and cold observation, even a touch of amusement.
“So he is still there.”
“But his mind, his thoughts - he’s cracked, barely hanging on, and it’s hardly been minutes.”
“But he’s there. He survived. And now we know.”
“True. You were right. Interesting indeed.”
“As I theorized.”
“And as I shall record.”
“What’s happened to me? Where am… did… did I die?”
The thoughts rushed out of Yorick, and he hated the desperation that he heard in them. He felt the other mind turn its full attention on him; he was naked, exposed before its focus.
“Quite the opposite. You’ve accomplished your quest.”
“Immortality is yours. Your soul is sequestered from time. Hidden in this.”
Yorick was granted sight once again, and was looking down towards the hand that grasped his bow. Its color had shifted from the warm earthen brown of wood to a deep oily black, tinged with crimson.
“But — my body-”
The gaze lowered to a prone form, lying in a pool of blood.
“The price for the ritual, it seems.”
The shock sent Yorick reeling. The abyss, the endless expanse of nothing — it was because his soul was trapped in senseless wood. A prison with no link between its inhabitant and the world outside. He could not die — his soul was no longer bound to a decaying from — but he also could not truly live.
The horror of this overwhelmed him, mingling with rage at the Voice. A cruel sense of betrayal flared up in him and bled into the mind that surrounded his own.
“Mortal short-sightedness. You sought an escape from death, and we sought a willing participant for the experiment.”
“We gave you what you searched for — you never did bother to ask how it would happen.”
Yorick’s rage boiled over, and he lashed out against the walls that contained him. Fear of the void that he’d been trapped in fused with despaired anger, and he pounded with animal ferocity until cracks split and blossomed. If his body was gone, he would seize this one and his immortality would be-
“Goodbye, Yorick the Deathless.”
Sier — Known also as the Dual God and the God of Knowledge. Usually depicted as a single being with two faces: one, the Visionary, patron of theories and experimentation, and the other the Archivist, patron of libraries and stored knowledge. Holds dominion over Tierum, and is said to reside in the Southwoods.
“Plateau Histories”, Chapter 3, ‘Deities and their Domains’
The bow clattered to the ground, and with it went the small fury of Yorick the Hunter.
The ritual had succeeded, then, pondered Sier. And though Yorick’s mind wouldn’t survive intact long, perhaps one of greater mental fortitude would.
“This ritual — a new reward perhaps, for our most worthy students? Those who would choose to risk it?”
“They do so love to be acknowledged.”
“They’d make powerful pawns, perhaps paired with a body that’s been wasted on a weak mind?”
“That duality appeals to me.”
“To me as well.”
Cursed Artifact, middling danger
A longbow containing the sealed soul of a mad being named “Yorick”. The bow fuses with any flesh that it comes into contact with. If the fused creature is sentient, Yorick will attempt to wrest control of its body. Even minor exposure to the madness that lurks within the bow inflicts severe mental trauma.
No information has been gleaned regarding this “Yorick” himself. The method of sealing is clearly arcane, but inscrutable.
It’s first recorded appearance was in Gundar, after being extracted from a bandit’s arm. The bandit had slain her entire crew, and alternated between catatonic states and fits of insanity. She did not survive the extraction.
The artifact was transferred from the Markesh Outpost in Gundar, following an attempted break in and theft during the Fifth’s Cult Mutiny. Guards speculate that the thieves left the artifact once discovering its nature.
Entry from the Record Book of the Cistern, 120th year, 11th of the Amber Harvest