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The Hollowing of Mild Mannered Pate

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Chapter 1

Golden eyes shined expressionless in the misty forest.

Pate stared at the two figures approaching him. The slight rain that drummed lightly on his shoulders wasn't heavy yet, and his helm mostly kept his face from getting wet. Still, the two men were slow, and he wasn't exactly thrilled about the pace. Suspicious of him, no doubt.

Pate sighed, trying to calm himself to get more comfortable on the stone he was sitting on. But he was anxious. Had been, more and more.

The travelers finally stopped, a good distance to him.

Pate lifted his chin and smiled, no joy on his face.

"Hello there."

Should have been an easy job. He was running out of both healing gems and other wares. The still-sane fools adventuring in Drangleic were always well-equipped, and mostly an easy prey. But hunting the oblivious travelers hadn't been the same anymore.

Just get them inside the Keep. Lure them. Let the trolls eat them. It's not that hard.

He got them to follow him. The bigger fellow behind him, the shorter in front of him. Both still suspicious, and the shorter, bald warrior with a dark northern ponytail asking Pate questions of this "treasure".

Pate was anxious. Or maybe irritated. This was taking too long, they weren't even at the gates yet. He could still play charismatic, could smile, could put on that adoring voice of his, but this prolonged loneliness had eaten his edge away. He was at loss of his patience.

He gave a charming laugh as a reassurance of the treasure promised. They didn't buy it. Too sloppy. Shit.

Pate lost his composure for a moment. For a second showed himself completely expressionless as the bald man stared at him.

He attacked the man in front of him. Put all his strength to swing his spear and impale him, to pierce the bald man's throat. As he made his move, Pate felt his arm being yanked from behind. He wasn't fast enough, the spear barely missing the man's throat. The brute behind him had been closer than he had thought.

Pate drew in breath and coughed as he was lifted and punched at his torso, air escaping his lungs. He was thrown to the ground, spear ripped from his grip, shield kicked away. Impatience turned to fear, and he quickly crawled away, trying to get onto his knees and-

His head dropped down, hitting the ground. His ears rang. They had kicked him at his helmet. It took him a while to really register it, and it gave them both time to start stomping on him, turning him around with their feet, getting him on his back. Blood tasted strong and warm in his mouth.

The men had weapons. A large hammer, and a sword. They could have killed him in an instant. Could have.

His sight faded for a short moment as he took the same metal boot to his chin. Pate could feel his jaw dislocating.

"Wai-..." Pate tried to plea, but his voice was wet from the blood, low. His mouth didn't close properly anymore.

Another kick. And another. His body twisted and turned from the impacts. They stomped on his stomach, his chest, at his face, his privates. Stomping on his shoulder and fingers.

Pain kept piercing him, first throbbing bluntly, then electric, sharp. Pate panted, sucking in breath and drooling blood, and somehow got onto his side, trying to shield himself. In his blurry vision he saw his fingers pointed unnaturally into strange directions. They were completely broken.

Another kick at his face. Blood bursted from his mouth, his chin covered in it, face wet from the rain and gore. More ringing. He couldn't hear properly anymore.

It hurt.

"Shto-..."

He tried to reach out to the men, feeling the bones in his shoulder moving abnormally, but his arm was crushed back down. The black spots in his vision darkened. His breathing was shallow and painful. Every breath slit something deep within him. His joints were too badly twisted, his insides swollen. He lied there, unable to move anymore, completely exposed to the trampling.

Kick. Stomp. Stomp. At his nose. At his chest. At his abdomen. His head twitched. His legs jolted badly. But he barely felt it anymore. Not any connection to his body. Just pressure increasing around him.

His labored breathing got slower. And slower.

The men stopped. Maybe. He couldn't see. He couldn't open his eyes.

The pressure continued.

Unnatural clicking sound left from the side of his lungs.

He sunk further into feeling nothing but pressure.

It squeezed all around him. Making him smaller.

The clicking sound was lower. Deeper.

It got darker. And darker. And darker.

...

No, there was...

He saw something. A flash of light. And

 

 

Something rang in his mind.

 

 

"PATE!"

 

 

Creighton panted frantically as he rushed towards the man towering over his partner and roared as he swung the axe at the bastard's back. The man quickly evaded it, raising his shield in surprise, but Creighton didn't stop. He hacked with his axe like possessed, over and over into the shield, not giving his enemy a chance to strike back. The metals clanked together, and soon the man's guard gave in. Creighton hit through the shield.

The axe sunk into the flesh with a satisfying soft, wet sound, stuck into the bones with a crunch, Creighton having to kick the filth off of his axe's sharp end. The man dropped down, his insides still attached to Creighton's weapon. The masked knight turned up his nose and huffed before swinging the Forossan axe one more time in the air, removing the insides stuck to it.

Hmh. Bastard got what he deserved.

Creighton turned to his partner lying in the mud. "You okay?"

The treasure hunter didn’t respond. Creighton stared at him a while, then quickly moved closer to him. Shit, was he…? “Pate?”

“You’re not crying for me, are you?”

Creighton cursed. Pate showed a slight smile to that, but gave his hand to Creighton when this reached for him to pull the thief up to his feet. Pate wobbled a little, and from Creighton's stare he realized his clothes were a bit of a mess, this time not by his own will. He turned his back on the warrior to fix himself and fasten his belt.

"Getting pretty dangerous", Creighton grunted, shoving Pate's thigh lightly with the axe handle. "Could have ended badly for you."

"Well", Pate sighed and turned to his warrior. "Thankfully I have you, to ever so gallantly watch my back." A slight hint Creighton could have come a bit earlier to the rescue, though Pate doubted the warrior even picked up on that. Would have saved Pate some trouble with the sadistic traveler getting too handsy with him.

Creighton huffed to the remark, but Pate saw the man was pleased. Maybe he had earned a compliment or two, after all. It's not like Creighton had any obligation to come and help him. The man really had probably gotten worried for him, thinking Pate had gotten himself into a real danger while trying to fetch some items on his own... or maybe he thought Pate had ran off and the warrior had marched around in his anger, hoping he could find the treasure hunter first to have a word with him.

"Are you 'urt?" Creighton mumbled while searching around his chainmail armor, eventually handing something to Pate. "'ere."

"Oh", Pate said slightly surprised at such generosity, but took the item and crushed the life gem in his palm, taking in the euphoria of his bruised body healing up. He breathed out from the pleasurable feeling, giving Creighton an adoring smile. "You worry so much for me."

“Yeah right”, Creighton barked. “Don’t ya start expecting me to save yar ass at a call. I couldn’t care less what ‘appened to you.”

Pate smirked, but it stung a bit. Maybe a part of him hoped Creighton would have lowered his guard a little by now, but he wasn't exactly surprised. He had grown accustomed to Creighton's doth-protests. And it wasn't like it didn't have a hint of honesty. Their partnership was based on a mutual desire to survive. Of course looking out for each other was beneficial for both of them, but if leaving the other behind was better, so be it.

Pate understood that. He knew it very well.

“Oh believe me, I don’t”, Pate said, trying to make his tone light, but his laughter was strained. "I do appreciate your attempts at help, but trust me, I don't need you, Creighton. I’m fine on my own."

 

 

                                                                       Why did you say that?

 

 

“Good”, Creighton gruffed, but his posture was slightly hunched, tired. “It’s every man for themselves.”

 

 

                                                                 No. Don't go, Creighton, don't

 

 

What

 

 

What is this.

Why was he... standing up?

What had...?

Pate opened his eyes. Or rather, focused his sight. He had already been staring into the light, the bonfire before him, but now he finally saw it. He was at a bonfire.

The fight was over? Had the men been killed? Had he been unconscious? Disoriented?

Creighton was... was he here...? Where was Creighton, where...?

He felt odd. He had expected the bruises to ache on his body, he certainly remembered vividly the men's rage towards him, but... there was no pain. In fact, there... he... didn't really feel anything at all.

Horrified by the thought, Pate quickly pulled his glove off and examined his hand on the bonfire's light. Sure enough.

He had died. Had died like an idiot. His skin was decaying, fast, turning to ugly green like a bad bruise, black spots on his skin, dead blood clotted in his veins. Maybe he had stayed dead for some time before his inevitable resurrection. His armor sure had hard dirt prints on it.

All of this, because he couldn't be careful. Because a part of him had still expected Creighton to be there. To watch out for those he couldn't see, to help him when things got too heated.

It was just a memory now.

Pate gritted his teeth.

Relying on that idiot had made him weak, he knew that, and now he paid the price for it. It'd take some time, but he'd get there, eventually. Become as dangerous as he had been before Creighton.

But he had no chance of that in his hollowing state, to be alone like this. He had to preserve his humanity, regain his edge. Find someone who still trusted him enough to help him, to share their wares with him. He hadn't had a human effigy on his person in ages, he... didn't remember what he had traded the last one for, but he hadn't had been too worried back then. Thought he'd find another effigy surely, if he needed one. He had been confident in his abilities.

Now, he only felt nervous. Anxious.

But couldn't feel his pulse to start drumming.