Every muscle in Liam's body ached, yet he was oblivious to anything outside his purpose. He'd seen little rest in the time since he left Harrisvale, but trivialities such as eating and stopping to rest only served to slow him down. All around him were the sounds of wildlife; bird song ringing out overhead as countless insects droned on as a single legion of sound. Pushing his way into the mire as he held his sword aloft, the young warrior gritted his teeth against the cold water that bit through his armor and into his skin.
He saw his father's face then, sad and mournful despite his kind eyes, and it was the first time he'd ever been consciously aware of his dad attempting to be strong for him. He seemed so much taller back then, a towering guardian that would see the world burn before allowing any harm to come to his family. He embraced Liam tightly to his strong chest, and though his voice was reassuring Liam was almost sure he was choking back tears. "Your mother passed in her sleep, buddy. I don't have any words that can make this right, and it's…I know it's hard. But I promise you I won't leave you Liam. I love you." They wept long into the night together, but Liam knew his father would do anything to uphold his word.
He was trotting on legs begging to give out now, the muck and barely solid earth sinking with each heavy footfall. His stride was like lightning, striking at random and haphazard intervals into the mud that had seemingly never been touched by any sort of civilized folk. His calloused hand gripped the hilt of his well-used blade, but it was still slick with the humidity of this dreadful place. His stride began to break, yet even now the young warrior's icy blue eyes scanned the wilds sprawling in front of him. After a moment of peering into the trees, he made out another spindly totem made of bone; carved in the profane symbols of The Glutton. Another vile monument to the patron that even to this very moment was siphoning life from the only family he had left in the world. Another taunting gesture left by the dark one, the one that told him that no matter what he did, his world would starve and fade to darkness just as his father had. He saw red.
Fields of red. He was with his father, walking among the poppy fields of the Johann Farmstead. Erich Johann was a good man, and a friend of his father; he sometimes came to dinner and always brought baked goods from his wife. When they came to repay the favor, they'd often fix broken tools and help drive off wildlife from the fields. Jarrod suddenly went silent, grinning and motioning for Liam to do the same. He silently leaned down, his hands cupped and patient up to the moment where he sprang into action. A moment later he held out his catch to his son. "Gentle now, he's pretty spooked. We'll take the little guy off the farm so he stops nibbling off roots." The field mouse was terrified, but it's fear prevented it from moving from Liam's young hands. He always remembered that moment; how he was so astounded that his father, a man who'd never spent a day without work and had the muscle of an ox could be so gentle. It was just the way that Jarrod was. They laughed and had a great day then, setting the mouse free after they had well and cleared the farm. Liam wasn't even old enough to shave at that point, but he wanted to be just as strong and kindhearted as his father. He was his hero.
Liam looked down at his hands, suddenly aware of the slowly bleeding wounds he'd acquired. He had completely dismantled the totem, jagged bone and sharpened wood all the same as one ripped down Festival Day decorations. It all came in a sudden, great wave; picking up one of the shattered bones and hurling it into the swamp with a great yell, he let it catch up to him. He began to weep angrily, falling to his knees as he pummeled the ground with a hand still slowly oozing blood.
He was in their house, then. His father had never rearranged the furniture in the room he had shared with his beloved wife. It had never felt this empty though, not even after she had passed. He swallowed a bitter laugh at the doorway to his father's room before entering. The scene was all too reminiscent of how his father had been nearly whole two decades ago. The dark room serving only as a backdrop to the bed holding a parent riddled with sickness. Only now, Liam stood where his father had for his mother, and his father's illness was just as infuriatingly without cure… But in no means natural. Jarrod looked like a skeleton, his skin and muscle hanging off his frame like a pastry suddenly pulled empty of all it's contents. His fevered eyes searched wildly around the room as Liam kneeled next to him. "P-paula..? I can't see you honey.. I think I've the flu. Don't let Liam c-come in.. Don't wanna get him siiick.." The last word transformed into a low groan. Rogni had said that it seemed the curse was due to the actual focused will of a very evil, very powerful force- completely irreversible. All they could do was sit and watch him die. "I'm here, da." Liam choked back tears much as his father had those many years ago. He was never good at farewells. He tried to get his father to drink some water, but it dribbled and spilled from his wracked and all-too-thin lips. "Li-liam..?" His father smiled weakly then, but his eyes saw nothing but memory. "Gonna be a good year for potatoes.. Did we get the seeds from Marston yet…? I'm going to teach you how to work the field…" Jarrod somehow looked even more tired at this point, his head weakly falling against the pillow. Liam's voice nearly broke, but he put a strong hand over what remained of his father's. "We sure did da.. I'm going to go over to Erich's for awhile, alright? There's a snake that came up from the Floodplains. No, no, shhh. You're sick. I'll be back, da, I promise." He squeezed his eyes shut tight, letting the tears fall onto the blanket. His hand gently pressed against that of his father; it felt like holding bone. "I love you da. I promise I'll be back, and we'll take mom for lunch out to the hilltop." Looking into his father's vacant stare, he sniffed as he embraced his father a final time. Jarrod's frame was light as a feather, and it suddenly took him back to the second worst night of his life. He briefly wondered if this was how his father had felt back then. Finding a well of resolve deep in himself, he gave a final squeeze before standing. More to the darkened room than the man wasting away in the bed, he said firmly; "I've got to go deal with that snake first though. I promise I'll be back." He then turned and walked out of the room, but paused at the doorway. He called softly into the darkness then, only half-looking over his shoulder at the husk of his biggest hero. "Rest well, da…" He had stormed out into a fading dusk, grabbing his blade by the door. There were a few things to take care of before he left, but a newfound fire rested in his belly. He would make them pay for what they did to his father.
He was pulled from his memory by a distant, mocking laughter. He'd yet to come face to face with the hooded man his fellow company members had spoken of, but he recognized it from his nightmares. Now returned from the world of memory, the swamp had turned silent around him. He looked up to the gray sky as the clouds burst, beginning to rain over him. At first it stung against his hands and other small cuts, but it was a cool relief in the hot musk of the mire. Rising on legs feeling like snapping wagon-axles, he picked up his blade. He'd find a place to rest and wait out the rain, then his hunt would continue. He'd find the hooded man if it took him to the end of the world. Then he would avenge his father, with the blade that had been in their family for generations. Stubbornly, he slammed the blade into his scabbard and began to make his way forward once more. He had a promise to keep.