White Duel of Judgement (Priscilla)
|White Duel of Judgement (Priscilla)|
|Date of Cutscene:||12 June 2017|
|Synopsis:||Priscilla initiates a duel of honour with Allfather Lloyd. Being hands-off was the wrong approach. Anor Londo must know her strength, and that of the Multiverse.|
|Cast of Characters:||Priscilla|
Never in her long, long life had Priscilla imagined herself here. Though the same thought had become so common in the last few years, where she had found herself leaving the painting, at the strangest places of the Multiverse, finding her way back home, at the very Kiln of the First Flame, and then taking the throne of Anor Londo itself, here and now it still strikes her as so very surreal -- almost dreamlike. Perhaps it's only a similar feeling that twists her gut, masquerading as the same, because it isn't the place that surprises her, or what it would mean, but it is that she has to do.
Never before has a crowd gathered so, at the steps and balconies of the Citadel Palace's Hall of Judgement. Duels of honour were always rare between gods in the first place, when the manifest destiny of Gwyn's people held them together. Duels to the death were vanishingly so. When the custom is that the victor takes the defeated's soul, why should an immortal risk an infinite life? A duel called for by the reigning Lord upon one of their subjects . . . never. Not in the entire history of Lordran. Who then could be blamed for cramming themselves into the gargantuan hall of marble and onyx? Where it would ordinarily be so spacious as to be oppressively austere, humans have taken to seating themselves on railings or squeezing themselves into staircases to watch; anywhere to claim space that legions of gods, knights, and other giants have not already taken. The hall was never designed for them, after all, for normally it would never be their place, or even their interest, to observe the squabbles of honour of their superiors. It is a first as well, that humanity would care to see the actions of their Lords.
And yet, what crosses Priscilla's mind, standing barefoot at one end of the long, spartan plane of polished, glass-like stone, is only this: “Good. Let them see.”
Though the glow of white marble under the midday sun is almost blinding, Priscilla can't even blink. It all feels like slow motion. A dream. Entering across from her is Allfather Lloyd, flanked by his clerics, and clutching his grand golden sword, glittering in the sunlight in the same way as his crown. The announcement of his obvious arrival is only so much echoing warble in her ears. The fact that she had ceased breathing a long time ago spares her the reek of incense. The pomp and ceremony of the great leader of the Way of White, close relative to Lord Gwyn, is perhaps fitting. It was he who originated this whole practice, and thus whom others rightly feared to cross. Many would do anything to prevent their transgressions from placing them in this exact spot, trembling and sure of their death at the end of his dueling blade, in a trial of judgement which he had never lost. Certainly, as a child, she would never have dreamed of anyone besting her revered great uncle. Almost like a hallucination, Priscilla can see another of herself in the stands, cheering for the bearded and wrinkled titan in his white robes, like the Book of Heaven had shown her years ago.
Instead, she feels the ice in her blood melting away, slowly starting to boil at the mere sight of his face, minted on every golden coin in the outside lands. The fact that he still wears his finery and jewels; that he wears his pretentious crown and still holds a sword gifted to him by Lord Gwyn for his loyalty, is offensive to every part of her. This figure, still so loved by the people he had abandoned; so worshiped by the masses of humanity that he had not only left to rot as Undead, but persecuted and hunted, had thought his “right” to the throne so great that he could openly condemn both her, and the Multiverse, that had allowed him to come crawling back to this city and his Cathedral in the first place.
The clerics begin listing the many, many battles, and equal number of victories, her foe has fought, recited from well-rehearsed memory. Some of those names would be cause for any contender's heart to plummet. They certainly set some of the crowd murmuring, though none would be so crude as to wager. Instead, Priscilla finds herself tuning it out, her fingers absently tracing the ring of diamond-like scales at her throat, where her fingernail finds the sunburst scar engraved at her collar, and upon her soul. She finds her hand falling, only to land upon the vacuous eye stone that hangs as a jewel from her neck, which she had wrested from the demon of causality that had invaded even Lordran through time. The memory makes her eye ache; the one which she had ripped from the corpse of Kalameet in vengeance, through which she had seen the end of the world at the top of the Clock Tower. The icon of the Concord feels warm and heavy where it rests, conjuring visions of the fallen Njorun in her mind. All of the memories that come to her now are horrific, plagued with strife, death, pain, and lost friends, but even so, as the recitation of the ancient rites finally ends, snapping her from her stupor, she can only feel a calm, malicious confidence settle over her.
Her own Elites of the Concord had just shown her yesterday. He is a fraud. A derivative hack. A complacent, arrogant fool, resting on the laurels of feats he hasn't lifted a finger to emulate in centuries. A list of duels, compared to a mountain of corpses. She wishes to laugh. Kord certainly had, and rightfully so. Even Medusa had, without any other context needed. Thinking back to only the day before, she can imagine now, Staren sat in the balconies, insisting on his powered suit, bluntly jabbing at people that the duel is no contest. She thinks of the Kid, admitting how embarrassing it would be if she lost. Kushiko hadn't even spared the thought.
“No tricks.” she says out loud, automatically.
“No spells.” Lloyd follows, in ritual order.
“Only one's own strength.” she forwards.
“Only one's own skill.” Lloyd finishes.
Priscilla isn't sure when she called it, but only now can she feel the gently frigid touch of the Lifehunt Scythe in her hand. Her only constant companion through all the centuries of suffering she had endured, trapped where the gods wished her forgotten, and at the mercy of a realm that denied she ever existed.
She hadn't expected to feel such a flash of white-hot rage. She doesn't even think of turning invisible before her feet move on her own. The marble cracks beneath her toes on her surge forward, where she becomes little more than a silver streak of motion. A gold-clad, lion-helmeted knight stand from his seat. Lloyd's face is a point of clarity in the world that blurs in the corners of Priscilla's vision. His shock is visible. but his reflexes are solid. The golden sword shimmers through the air, and clashes with a metallic peal against the scythe. Sparks fly, but they are of shredded gold and steel. She feels her momentum shifting with an adroit twist and flick of her blade. The haft of her weapon swings upwards while the blade travels backwards, slamming into Lloyd's gut. The wind is driven out of him with a silent gasp, but he doesn't double over. The scythe spins, seemingly of its own accord where Priscilla's fingers barely move. Revolving downwards, it shatters the floor, spraying shards of stone into Lloyd's face. It shrieks upwards. The sword meets it again, repulsing it to the side. This time Priscilla cracks him across the jaw with the butt. She advances as he staggers. Lloyd reaches for the haft of the scythe, but it's already gone again, sinuously revolving around Priscilla's body as if it weighed nothing. The edge seeks him again, hungry for blood. Sparks fly. Again. Metal screams. Again. Stone cracks. Again. Priscilla feels her feet flying across the floor, almost stepping on Lloyd's toes for as fast as he can stagger back. Her braid has come loose, and her hair flies wild in her face, like the days of fighting life and death alongside the Union. The scar burns at her throat. Lloyd's sword lunges gleaming from the dust. It feels slower than it is. Priscilla only has to twist to let it past. She continues forwards, rolling across his shoulders as if paired in dance. He responds to lock her in close. A vicious headbutt goes to his skull, puncturing his flesh with her horns. Blood streams into his eyes, blinding him. The Lifehunt scythe sweeps low, the air shrieking like a thing possessed. Blood sprays again, painting the marble lengthwise. His feet are gone at the ankles. Lloyd starts to fall. The scythe reverses instantly, revolving once more, and strikes his arm. It comes off like wet paper. It felt like it took too little effort. Like she were only dreaming it, for the lack of impact. The black blade winds up beneath him, and catches his fall, sprouting through his chest. Priscilla heaves it over his head, Lloyd taken along. Twisting around, she slams it back down on the opposite side of her. The ground shatters. A torrent of blood fills the cracks; explosively, as if it fled Lloyd in terror. She lifts her weapon, and brings it down once more. Then again. Then one more time, before she realizes she's hitting a corpse. Withdrawing it through the god's shoulder bone, Priscilla pushes the hair from her eyes, and takes a deep breath. Lloyd's soul fills her lungs.
The Judgement Hall is dead silent. As the great, long-lived god's body begins to disintegrate into wavering, ephemeral motes of light, the expressions painted across every visible face are mixtures of shock, horror, nausea and awe. It strikes Priscilla as odd, until she realizes that in her attempt to be hands-off about her reign, none had ever seen her fight. They had been expecting the dignity and pride befitting a god. They had gotten the savagery they themselves had instilled in her, when they forced her to fight for her survival after they'd turned her painted world into an undead hell. They had gotten the viciousness she had employed against Viridian Sunrise, and the Causality Demon. Against the Marble Guardian of Lostrata, and on Aincrad's 75th floor. Against the Dream Witch Shiori, and the Black Dragon Kalameet. The difference between a duelist and a killer -- one who fights for honour, against one who fights to win-- is obvious. Too late, Priscilla notices Gwynevere in the crowd, her face pale and grim. She can only feel relief that her mother has clapped her hands over Yorshka's eyes.
The silence is broken when one man stands up, still wearing his bucket helm and sun-emblazoned tunic, that the silence is broken. He declares the match over, softly, and without missing a beat. Unexpectedly, Priscilla can hear applause. Looking upward and to her left, she can spot a knight wearing ragged blue and black, clapping his gauntlets together. Next to him is the one in gold, doing the same. A giant is seated behind them, most of the bandages finally gone from his face, joining in. A woman in an ivory mask is seated atop his shoulder, following suit. A man who had fought the Abyss and lost. A man who had fought the Multiverse and lost. A creature who had fought Dragons and been betrayed. A woman who had slaughtered traitors by the hundreds. They understand. Far better than any nobility.
For a strange, fanciful moment, when Priscilla closes her eyes, she imagines tiny little lights in the dark, dancing about in such a hypnotically playful fashion that all her tension, fear and apprehension drains out of her. She daydreams that they spoke to her. The meaningless words:
“Shalt thou partake?”