The Perfect Ouroboros, e6 special
[table=2,1][r=1,1][CENTER][IMG][/IMG] [FONT="Garamond"][COLOR="Gray"][SIZE="1"]Picture by Jessica Elwood[/SIZE][/COLOR][/FONT] [/CENTER][r=2,1][FONT="Book Antiqua"][CENTER][SIZE="6"][I]The Perfect Ouroboros[/SIZE] [SIZE="4"]Known of Leviathan, White Knight of the Deep[/SIZE][/i][/font]
[INDENT][FONT="Book Antiqua"][I]"I have a destiny, a purpose, a fate."
"Everything changes, everthing stays the same, and everything returns."
"If I matter, everything matters."[/I][/FONT][/INDENT]
[INDENT] [fieldset=][B]Sex:[/B] Male [B]Race:[/B] Human [B]Classes:[/B] [ooc=Crusader]Crusader 6//Factotum 3/Swashbuckler 1/Swordsage 2[/ooc][/fieldset][/INDENT][/CENTER][/table]
[table=2,1][r=1,1][fieldset=Background][center][Spoiler=Amongst the Raised Houses]In the far reaches of Soldia lies a rocky penninsula - a stretch of rock extending into the dark ocean. As the Leviathan moves, tides come high, often submerging the warm stretch of land entirely. There, in this far land a people live, eking out an existence in the shadow of the great water elemental. They cut bamboo and reeds, building houses elevated above the highest tides. They row outrigger canoes made from the same woods, boats that can survive violent seas and bring fish back to the upraised houses.
The people there are happy, finding peace and protection in the face of terror and chaos. It is here that the Perfect Ouroboros was born, albeit to a different name. He was perfectly unremarkable, a fishermen clinging to the stormy coasts, never straying far enough to bring the Leviathan's wrath upon his head. He mended nets in the evenings, threw the nets in the mornings. He slept on rushes laid upon bamboo slats.
The coastal folk knew of the danger posed by the Leviathan, and had their own little rituals and sacrifices to try and keep the unknowable thing appeased. In addition to the little daily offerings there was a yearly offering on the lunar new year. A boat was made, painted blue and green, and piled with wood. On it was also placed a small vial of rich earth and an empty bottle sealed with wax. The local shaman would trap elementals within the offerings, and use a fire creature to ignite the wood. Finally, with the spirits trapped on the outrigger, it would be set free with the tide to sail unmanned into the Leviathan - inimical spirits devoured by the greater power.
For all its grim overtones, the yearly offering was something of a celebration for the people, an opportunity to put down their nets for a day and work together. Teams of men sang as they harvested mangrove and cypress wood for the fire, the women laughed and gossiped as they bound long bamboo poles across the painted canoe.
The Perfect Ouroboros was loading logs onto the craft in the evening, helping stack the wood high and haphazardly against the slender mast. In the dim light he was struck by an errant stick, thrown from ashore. Knocked senseless, he was quickly buried within the growing pile of fuel. Unbeknown to the people, he was still aboard when their shaman said the offering prayers and sent the outrigger on its final journey. [/spoiler] [spoiler=Upon the Forgotten Offerings]The Perfect Ouroboros woke some time later - the wood above burned merrily as an oblivious fire elemental went about consuming its fuel. By now, land was out of sight, and the Perfect was farther from the shore than he had ever been. Surely his death and consumption from the great Ocean God was near. He found himself a place on the bow, away from the fire, and waited for his end as he sailed.
Days later, still he sailed. The fire elemental had died after the wood it that bound it was consumed. Shortly after, in desperation he shattered the glass bottle, releasing the air spirit; he threw the soil into the ocean, consigning the earth spirit to an unknowable fate beneath the waves. And still he sailed.
He had seen the Leviathan's maw devour boats that strayed to far from home or shore before, knew of the creature's vicious jealousy of the sea. It was unfathomable that he had been unnoticed so far. Was this what had always happened? Had his family's request for mercy from the Ocean always been ignored? His thoughts raced with fervor as a lack of water and unending sun began to affect his mind, but still he sailed.
In the end, he grew tired of waiting. If he was to be a sacrifice, he would throw himself upon the altar - it was not for him to merely wait like a lamb for an inevitable end. He unbound the reeds holding the pontoons of the outrigger together, scattering the pieces of the craft as much as he was able without tools - even breaking the wooden slats as he was able. He slashed both hands with sharp splinters until the blood ran freely, then threw himself into the water, and he sailed no longer.[/spoiler] [spoiler=Lost in Hidden Places]The Perfect Ouroboros drowned. He was eaten. He was consumed by spirits. He ended in every way imaginable. And yet, something in him was merely touched, not destroyed. Even as his body was torn, consumed, absorbed, his own spirit drew power from the forces about. He himself doesn't know what happened, or why. He still dreams of being lost in and endless submerged void watching a majestic blue dragon circle endlessly. Other creatures and beasts drifted, some fleeing from the dragon, others conferring with it, though flight and conference often seemed to be the same action.
As he floats in his dreams, his form changes. Bits break off, taken by the circling dragon or the others in the void. Others within the void are consumed by the Perfect. Sometimes he grows to phenomenal size, filling every corner of the watery space, the the blue dragon is always larger. Sometimes he shrinks until the smallest scale appears as a world unto itself. Nothing remains the same, nothing changes. Everything has meaning, and yet every portent is subtle to the point of madness.
And through it all, the dragon circled. It ate all it encountered, and everything was a part of it. Just the same, Ouroboros became a part of everything, even as he partook.[/spoiler] [spoiler=Found on the Horizon]After an eternity, after an eyeblink, the Perfect Ouroboros was aware again. He stood high on a cliff, on the summit of a mountain being slowly eaten by the sea. He could see the sea stretching out endlessly before him, and a view of Soldia resplendent in the sun lay behind him. The cuts on his hands were gone, healed perfectly. His salt-starched fisherman's rags were gone, replaced by a rich blue tunic over impossibly fine chain mesh, and a heavy chain was wrapped around his left arm.
He had no memory of how he came to the shore, no memory even of his name, no memory of his family, or of the inside of his old home. He did, somehow, remember the experiences of a nymph swallowed up by the sea in ages past, he remembered the terror of a sailor lost to a storm.
He stood on that peak above the roar of the surf for days, weeks, months. He pondered his new memories, his new clothes, and his lost history. He could recognize that he had been marked somehow, given a destiny that the poor fisherman had lacked before. But he was no longer that fisherman, he was something new.
Finally, he named himself anew, and decided to find others, in the hope of discovering his purpose. More surprises met him when he reached the nearest settlement - a small watchpost for the Soldian army. Where once his face had been tanned by the sun and lined by the wind, now it was smooth and pale. His lips and the beds of his nails were blue as though with cold, and his eyes were gone, replaced by globes of irridescent water. There had been more changes to his body and mind, but he had yet to discover all the changes.
Fortunately the soldiers accepted him well enough, despite his slightly unsettling appearance. They were understaffed already, and they were removed enough from the perfect formalities of the capital to appreciate a friendly demeanor over a polished appearance. Of course, his tongue was mannered enough; though the Perfect didn't know whether that talent came from the strange infusions he had experienced or from listening to stories around a cook-fire as a child.
The Perfect worked for several years with the guardsmen and soldiers in that small fort. Without a name or heritage in Soldia he was just a peasant, a slave of sorts despite his silvery armor. He mucked stables, groomed horses, polished armor. He loaded carts, ran courier messages, and hauled firewood. Sometimes, when the men felt generous, he drilled and practiced with sword and bow and ran exercises with them. After years of labor, he was content as a mascot to the men - a popular orderly for the officers despite his age. [/spoiler] [spoiler=Wading through Bloody Ends]While the Perfect Ouroboros was working tirelessly and without complaint through the days, he spent his nights in study. He haunted the fort's small library through the night, and would go to the drill field to perform strange drills and small rituals, looking deep within himself. The unit's battlemage, Kyros, was the only one who recognized the Perfect's latent ability, and the old man worked with the Perfect to discover his true heritage and powers. All this work remained unrecognized by the soldiers as a whole, since an unnamed man unrecognized by the people of Soldia could not possess anything worth recognition.
Now, the fort was there for a reason - it guarded Soldia on the border between their frontier and Agnis's frontier. Though technically the land beyond was claimed by the Red Dragon Army, in fact it was uncivilized and uncontrolled wilderness for several hundred miles - taken by Agnis only because Soldia made no claim. From time to time raiding parties of various types came out of that land, and in the Perfect Ouroboros' fourth year at the fortress a horde came boiling forth to burn, plunder, and conquer.
As was their duty, the fort stood fast. The goblins, orcs, and giant-kin laid siege - relentlessly sending assault after assault at the walls. One by one, the soldiers fell, and the perimeter weakened. Finally, an assault was able to bring and apply a ram to the gates and open a breach. Monsters swarmed that breach, cutting down the valiant warriors of Soldia. The Perfect had been running messages and orders back and forth from the captain to his men, carrying arrows and other supplies. On his run he was caught in the swarm bursting through, and for once he had no choice but to fight.
And he fought. For the first time since his awakening he put his entire essence into a purpose, pushed his body and soul as hard as nerves and sinews allowed; and his body obeyed with perfect discipline. His chain loosened from his arm, and the hooks and barbs cut through discolored flesh, licking and tearing at all who tried the gap. He danced through arrow and spears, barring the way with nothing speed and agility. The monsters redoubled their efforts, knowing that a single man, no matter how powerful, could not hold the gap forever. Even if the man was stronger than each and every fighter in the ravenous horde, eventually that man would tire, stumble, fall.
And yet he did not tire. He did not stumble. He did not fall. The Perfect Ouroboros finally discovered why he had chosen his name, pretentious though it may be. When an arrow or blade made it through his guard he did not feel the pain, he only returned it in kind. When his muscles began to tire as energy left, he found more power within the blood spattering about him. When mighty foes tried to overwhelm, he threw their power back and broke their ranks. In the end, he fought unceasingly for seven days.
Seven days of blood unceasing. Seven days of anger swallowed into a perfect peaceful pool. Seven days before the mighty army broke, crumbled beneath the ceaseless erosion of a single man, a single weapon, a single mind. Seven days in which the soldiers watched in awe, seeing a god, a mighty spirit protect them. Kyros smiled, seeing both their salvation and the understanding unlocked within his erstwhile student.
The Perfect Ouroboros fought as the sea, quickly finding every gap and hole, absorbing every wound without a mark, patiently enduring while fathomless power lurked.[/spoiler] [spoiler=Listening to the Quiet Roar]After the battle, despite the slack awe of the men, the Perfect Ouroboros simply returned to the chores that had been interrupted by the battle. As the men went about cleaning up the walls, tending to the wounded and laying out the dead, Kyros wrote a letter. His message told the Crown of what had happened, told the king about the feat of phenomenal endurance and violence done by a single lost soul.
After writing out his message and finishing his responsibilities to the captain, Kyros found the Perfect Ouroboros grooming the battlemage's horse in the stables. The two talked, for some time, about what the younger man had discovered during the seven days of glorious storm. In the end, Kyros gave the Perfect the sealed letter, and sent him to Soldia City to deliver the letter directly to the queen.
The Perfect took the letter, and headed down the road towards more civilized lands. With his back to the frontier and sea, he moved unceasingly towards the city. Once he arrived, he headed without pause or rest to the palace, and delivered his message. The queen read Kyros' words, and looked at the man before her. The Perfect Ouroboros stood quietly, expressionless. His silver chain was hooked and wrapped about his left arm - almost looking a part of the meshed chain that showed beneath an immaculate blue vest showing the image of a blue dragon. Two solidly blue eyes looked out from a pale and unmarred face, watching the queen even as she watched him.
The contents of the letter were unbelievable on their face. Here stood a man who had touched the great Leviathan, and lived. Here stood a man who had fought without sleep, food, or rest for seven days and stood victorious. Here stood a man who returned to hard labor after performing one of the greatest feats of physical prowess possible. So, she determined to test the Perfect.
He sat at the bottom of a pool for days, without drowning. He was beaten by the guards, clubbed and whipped until he should have collapsed senseless. He was ordered to run around the city walls until his watchers lapsed into sleep. He was subjected to spells and magical attacks, testing the limits of his endurance and connections to the water. Finally, she had no choice but to accept the truth of Kyros and the Perfect's words, and gave him over to the people for acclimation.
He was cheered, celebrated, and knighted. The ceremony, unfortunately, was short; while the grateful feelings of the queen and people were genuine they were short lived. The kingdom often was threatened by raiding armies, and while having one of those armies turned aside by a single man was an event worth celebrating, there was more distractions take the attention of the court and mob, and the Perfect was soon left to his own devices.
As many and varied as his talents were, he had difficulty finding his place in the great city. It was now his duty to await the need of Queen and country, and he could not simply return to his life on the frontier. After months of careful thought, he decided to build himself a comfortable place.
He started small, taking over a plot of land near the river that passed through Soldia City. He built a spacious bath-house. A large stone and wood building filled with pools, tubs, and saunas. The large main room was open to the public, several fountains and bathing pools that even the poor could use. A series of smaller rooms with heated water and other amenities were available for a small price, as were more large pools on the second floor. The Perfect Ouroboros kept a simple chamber near the roof, a comfortable and quiet place for him to rest and think.
Since then, the great bathhouse has become a landmark in the city of Soldia. The public pools and steam rooms are one of the few places of luxury that most of the peasantry are ever able to experience. Even the nobles often bring their patronage to the public areas - using it as an opportunity to rub shoulders with the lower classes that daily life and protocol doesn't allow; the private areas and special favors that a purchased membership give them the excuse that many need to associate with those of inferior standing.
Thanks to his gift to the city, the Perfect Ouroboros is rather popular among the people. As the Master of the Bathhouse he often acts as an intermediary between nobles and small-folk needing patronage. He has even become something of a patron to the poor - when they are confronted by accusations or troubles that they are unable to deal with on their own he sometimes acts as their champion. When he believes in the merit of their claim he will often take the field - though he is not one of the truly preeminent warriors of the realm, he is still a far more puissant fighter than any of the poor folk could possibly afford.[/spoiler][/center][SIZE="1"][/SIZE][/fieldset][r=2,1][fieldset=Personal Information][CENTER][spoiler=The Flow of Thoughts and Action]The Perfect Ouroboros is excitable and yet phlegmatic. As a general rule, it is almost impossible to truly rouse his emotions - surprise, taunts, violence, business success or failure; few ordinary provocations ever set him off. But when he is aroused he can be nearly implacable. When he draws his weapon he fights until his foe falls; when he embarks on a task he works tirelessly until finished.
Just as he fought in the broken gate of that frontier castle tirelessly for days, he works ceaselessly at everything. When building the bathhouse he aided the workers, hauling stone night and day for so long as it was needed. When sent on a courier mission he walks night and day without stopping for rest or food until the message is delivered. However, when there is no purpose at hand, he will pleasantly sit alone in his chambers for days and weeks on end with little movement.
At times, he feels somewhat lost. His only purposes in life are fulfilling his duty to his Queen, and his exploration of the changes granted by his experiences. However, that duty is rarely called upon, and despite all the abilities and powers given he had little aptitude for study or even self-introspection. So, despite the difficulty he finds in arousing his emotions, an opportunity to instill purpose in his existence almost always taken.
He talks slowly, as though tasting the words as they leave his mouth. Often he chooses his words expressly for their feel in his mouth and ears, and that odd choice of words can be confusing sometimes. His face is expressive and he has little talent for concealing his thoughts as they pour across his nerves; fortunately that very speed can make him somewhat bewildering to those he interacts with. [/spoiler] [spoiler=The Play of Light in the Eyes]The Perfect Ouroboros is long-limbed and slim. His light blond hair is of a medium length - just long enough to move freely with wind or motion but not so long as to interfere. His skin is pale and unmarred by scar or line, and a fine aquiline nose looms over a well formed smile. His eyes stand out most to those who meat him - they are a solid blue with no white or pupil. Looking at them they almost appear transparent, as though one could see within to unknowable depths.
He carries a fine chain, formed like a piece of jewelry. The ends of the chain are marked by great hooks, barbed and sharp. One end of the chain is attached to a shirt of silvery chain at the sleeve. That armor is made much the same way - cunningly crafted links of chain joined so that they look more like scales of a fish than like actual chain-mail. Both the weapon and armor are far finer and greater than those ordinarily crafted by even the greatest smiths and artificers. Kyros examined the gear ceaselessly, and determined eventually that they were Gabilbund of a sort. He couldn't identify its provenance, not the craftsman who made it or the nature of the souls that empowered it. It was clear that something powered the chain and armor, something greater than what smiths usually imbued their masterpieces.[/spoiler] [spoiler=The Head of the Font]Both the Perfect Ouroboros and Kyros think that the powers and armor come somehow from the Leviathan, as uncharacteristic as that may be. However, in his darker and more private thoughts, Kyros has other ideas. The Leviathan has never been known to give up power for any reason, and to give up an artifact like the chains is almost unthinkable.
Kyros has privately concluded that there are two real possibilities. First, he thinks that the Perfect Ouroboros' gifts come from some other power - a Dragon God, or perhaps some cosmic entity with its own ineffable purpose. More frightening is his thought that the power did indeed come from the Leviathan - the hooked chain and the scales seem to not only be powered by a mighty soul, but to actually collect and capture additional elemental power through contact. If such is the truth of the Gabilbunds worn by the Perfect Ouroboros, it seems likely that the Leviathan is attempting to accelerate its gain of power by turning the Perfect into a hook to fish for souls. Who knows what will happen when the great sea-beast draws in its line?[/spoiler] [Spoiler=To Catch a Self-Devouring Dragon][list][*]He always follows the orders of the Queen. [*]He will take any opportunity to discover more about his past and powers. [*]Not knowing his true name continues to fester, though the pain of this loss is entirely unconscious. [*]Kyros the Battlemage is the closest thing that the Perfect has to a father, though their relationship still bears little emotional attachement. [*]The Perfect will often accept a mission or quest simply for the sake of an activity. He often spends time learning a trade or vocation in a vain hope of discovering a higher purpose to his life. [/list][/spoiler] [spoiler=Day in the Life]The sun was just beginning to brighten the sky. Black was turning to gray was turning to blue, all visible through the shuttered skylight above. A man sat cross-legged on a cushioned pedestal inside a small room. He wore chainmale, bright and polished like fish-scales, an open blue linen robe draped across his shoulders. His eyes were open, unblinking as they stared out the window at the awakening city.
From below emanated busy noises, splashing, squealing of children and a bustle of people coming and going. A proud smile flitted across the man's face as he thought of the people who began every day in the waters of his home. Suddenly, he stood in a smooth and easy motion, facing the door. He belted the robe just as a firm knock came at the door. [B] "Enter"[/B]
The door opened, and three men came bustling in, all wearing matching blue robes. Two of them carried trays with a selection of fruits and cut flowers, which they set down on a mahogany desk in the corner. The third waited patiently for the other two to finish and leave, then cleared his throat meaningfully. [B] "Yes, Kort?"
"Would you like the daily report, Milord Perfect Ouroboros?"[/B] The man pulled a scroll from a pouch with a meaningful glance, somehow scolding his master with a single arched brow. [B] "Has there been an emergency? Anything other than a list of expenditures and purchases?"[/B] He stretched, arching his back and arms wide, and he strode out of the room, followed closely by the bustling manager.
"If we can still pay the attendants and buy fuel for the furnaces below, you know I care little for this frivolity. Rather, I care about a different frivolity. I trust we are prepared for the tournament? We will need more attendants, and likely a greater store of towels and oils for the dignitaries who might grace us with their attendance. Remember, knights of..."
"Soldia as well as noble emissaries from the other nations are not to be charged but will be treated as though they are your own person, Milord Perfect Ouroboros. Milord, the queen has already informed us that she will reimburse all hospitality shown to visitors in this city." The major-domo went on with a long-suffering air.
"Yes, yes, Kort. I should know better than to try and manage my own home. Carry on, you know best." He spun on his heel and descended the stairs with a habitual smooth grace. Without pause, he entered the large deep pool in the frigidarium and dived in among the bathers without a splash. He sat at the bottom for several long moments, then swam back up to the surface with easy strokes. He found a place near the edge and relaxed in the cool water, watching the growing crowd. Even at the edge he had to paddle a bit, as the slow current of the pool kept the water clean.
As the morning lightened, attendants moved through extinguishing oil lamps set on the marble pillars. As they passed their master, they would bow briefly, acknowledging the Perfect without pausing in their morning tasks. As always, he drew sideways glances from the bathers, attention directed towards a noble of the city. A few of the more bold peacocks would approach and greet him by name while their friends giggled in the distance.
It was shaping up to be a good day. [/spoiler][/CENTER]